More than words
Claimer: Proud owner of Lissa, James, and even that crappy old Chevy truck.
Disclaimer: I don't own the song Teenage Dirtbag, it belongs to Wheatus.
A/N: Just a sweet little one-shot I wrote on holiday. Credits to my best friend Nikki for the perfect summary *glomps* (; Shamelessly inspired by the song Tim McGraw by Taylor Swift, gorgeous song, on her first album which didn't get nearly as much attention as it really deserved. It's a long one, but it's probably my favourite one-shot so far, out of the ones that I've written. Enjoy!
I hurry through the cold, bustling streets, almost bumping into several people, but not stopping to apologise: I can't be late. It's been so many years since I last saw him, it'd be so ironic to be late now. Just hearing from him had been a miracle: finding out he was in town so soon after that first email was... indescribable.
The café is warm, the heat hitting me like a brick wall. My eyes immediately scan the tables, stopping on a guy with familiar blonde hair that's too long for his face. As he glances up from his newspaper, he smiles. The boy from my childhood. The boy I've spent so many Summers with. Cheeks heating up involuntarily, I slide out one of the plush seats opposite, looking at the coffee in front of me with eyebrows raised.
"Decaf?" I test.
"One sugar," he grins. "I remembered."
I take an experimental sip, then nod: just the way I like it. "Lets face it, I'd kill you if you forgot."
He laughs, his stormy-blue eyes crinkling. "God, remember that time the truck broke down? We almost died then."
"In the middle of the road?" I glare. "How could I forget?"
10 years ago...
"Slow down!" I screeched, hitting him from the passenger's seat: I always called shotgun, loudly, even if it was just the two of us, which, much more often than not, it was.
He laughed at me, his eyes twinkling in the bright Californian sun. "No way!"
I folded my arms stubbornly and turned away from him, glaring out of the window. "You're pushing when we break down."
"If," he corrected, his reflection glancing over at me.
"When. This thing's a freaking metal death trap."
"Leave the Chevy alone," he said defensively, as he always did when anyone dared insult his beloved truck. "It runs, doesn't it?"
He rolled his eyes, then averted his gaze back to the road as he turned onto the motorway, like he always did to get to the nicest beach here in California.
Both of our families always holidayed here, out in the sun, and far away from the typically British rain. Each year we stayed in the same hotel, went to the same beaches - hung out with the same people. Which was why, for the third year running, I was stuck with him, the only other eighteen year-old around. This was, though, the first year he owned both a car and a driver's license, meaning I was also stuck with his crappy old Chevy truck, which I swear broke down every other day.
"I give you five minutes," I said, turning away from the window (I was bored of the sunshine, honest. He didn't win).
"'Till what?" he replied, distracted by the car trying to overtake us.
"'Till we break down."
"Not gonna happen."
"Just you wait."
As if on cue, the truck shudders a couple of times, throwing me forwards, then slamming me back into the cracked leather. He reaches out an arm protectively, to stop me going through the glass, then grins.
"Still haven't broken down."
"Famous last--Holy shit!"
I'm vaulted forward one last time, straight into his tanned arm, before the truck grinds to a halt. In the middle of the motorway. With about twenty cars behind us. Real good going, James.
"You okay?" he asked as he brushed his floppy hair away from his eyes, trying to jump-start the truck with no success.
I couldn't help it: "Told you so."
"You didn't even help me push it to the side," he says, taking a sip of his coffee, smiling at the memory.
I shrug. "You really think I was going to touch that dirty old thing?"
He gasps, hand on his heart. "I still have that 'dirty old thing'!"
"You're kidding me?" I say incredulously. "Man, seriously?"
"What, right here?" I'm seriously beginning to doubt his sanity: an old Chevy truck, with cracked paint and around a million engine problems, in the middle of New York? I'm thinking not.
He rolls his eyes like I'm the mad one here. "No, you idiot. Back in Cali."
I raise an eyebrow. "You own that place, or something?"
"I bought it a while back," he says, shrugging modestly and taking another sip of his coffee that'll be long drained before mine at this rate.
"How's your job, then?" I ask, once it becomes clear he's not elaborating on the subject. I'm curious as to how he raised the money, though.
He sighs. "You really want to know?"
"Am I going to regret asking?"
"Unless you like hearing about asshole bosses and crappy pay, yes."
"Nothing out of the ordinary, then?"
We both laugh, both at the easy banter, and the way we slip back into it so subconsciously, so easily, just like it was when we both fourteen, meeting for the first time.
14 years ago...
"Come on, Liss!" my mum yelled from far ahead, a small figure waving on the beach. My little sister, Millie pulled at one of her hands, and they disappeared behind one of the huge dunes. In the distance, the deep blue sea winks at me in the heavy sunlight, and I unwillingly pick up my pace, if only to dive into that cool water: the sand is like burning crystals under my bare feet.
Once I finally caught up to them, I found Mum deep in conversation with another woman, shadowed by a boy who looked around my age, fifteen. My eyes raked up and down him, drinking him in while I was still unnoticed. He was tall, taller than me (something he took great delight over later), with long, long light blonde hair that flops down into his face, effortlessly annoying. One eye twinkles, a fascinating grey-blue colour. By this time, he'd noticed me, and was smiling, turning towards me.
"Hi," he said, nodding at me. "I'm James."
"Lissa," I replied, automatically looking around for Millie to introduce her too, since she was so chronically shy it was incredible, especially since this was the girl who danced around on our kitchen butt-naked when she was three, especially for me, on my thirteenth birthday. Needless to say, it was a real surprise. I couldn't find her, though, and figured she must be in the sea.
He nodded again, searching for something to say while I tapped my foot irritatingly (or so Millie shouted as she stomped on it earlier). "I'm fourteen."
"I figured," I said, not exactly throwing him a lifeline. "Ever thought of getting a hair-cut?" What can I say? I was sarcastic, even then.
"Oh, no," he replied, smiling obliviously. Or so I thought. "My Mum cuts my hair."
I raised an eyebrow, trying not to snort. "With what? A bowl?"
"Of course not," he said, rolling his eyes like I was insane (not clinically proven, as of then). "A camel."
I giggle involuntarily. "Naturally."
"Don't knock it."
"Wouldn't dream of it."
And just like that, we knew we were going to be pretty good friends. Especially thanks to his Green Day t-shirt. I'm a sucker for Billie Joe.
"What are you doing, then?" he said, pulling me back to the steamy surroundings of the little café.
"I'm a reporter," I say, a little proudly. Hey, I worked for years to secure a decent job on the paper. "Slash coffee maker." Okay, half-decent.
He grins, "You always were ruthless." I raise an eyebrow, taking an ominous sip. "I mean, charming." I smile, satisfied. He rolls his eyes, raising his own coffee to his lips.
We sit in silence for a few moments, drinking, before his face completely lights up. It's a nice sight. I raise an eyebrow, though, curious. Please don't be his wife, or girlfriend, walking behind me. His ring finger is bare, though, so maybe...
"It's our song," he says excitedly, and just then I hear what he hears.
11 years ago...
"'Cos I'm just a teenage dirtbag, baby!" I sang, completely out of tune with the music, and, for lack of a better term, not giving a shit, jumping up and down around the small lake.
"Listen to Iron Maiden, maybe," James joins in, fingering his air-guitar furiously, on top of a moss-covered rock I was just waiting for him to fall off of.
"Oooh!" we both 'harmonised', then collapsed in laughter. He jumped off his rock (damn) to land beside me, and grinned.
It was something like three am (we'd lost track at around one), and we'd been dancing to this one song all night around a lake five minutes walk from both our rented houses. Our fingers were aching from the epic air-guitars we'd been playing all night, heads reeling from the head-banging, and our legs sore from all the jumping. I really think we might have a future in the air business, though. honest. We'd come out here at eight for a late picnic before we both went back home. It was our very last Summer night together, at least until next year - we already had the plane tickets booked, the dates circled.
The best part about our claimed lake? It was far enough away from civilisation that we could crank up the music and shout our hearts out, but wasn't so secluded that the water didn't catch the moonlight. In the darkness that surrounded us, the moon was like a spotlight on the lake, illuminating it beautifully so that even we noticed how gorgeous this little place really was.
"Best song ever," I gasped, sinking down into the long grass, James soon following suit.
"Agreed," he said, pulling out several pieces of grass and plaiting them with long thin fingers.
I smirked. "Making yourself a pretty little bracelet?"
He shot me a glare. "Real funny."
"Aren't I just?"
"You've got a real big mouth for someone so small, you know," he said, like it was more of a scientific observation than an insult. "Dwarf."
I slapped him, making him drop the grass and fall onto his side. "Oh, it's on."
We spent the rest of the night giggling, fighting and playing that one song over and over again on a never-ending loop, finally falling asleep to it, my head on his chest. We'd have hell to pay with our worried mothers' the next day, but hey, as Wheatus so brilliantly put it, I'm just a Teenage Dirtbag. What could she expect, really?
"I'd offer you a re-match of the guitar battle," he grins, remembering the fight we both swore blind we each won, "but I don't want to scare the staff."
"Correction," I reply, "you don't want to get your stupid hair messed up."
He rolls his eyes, brushing his hair back, in, if I'm not mistaken, a slightly protective manner. "Mum thinks it's cool."
"Remember the time I tried to cut it off?"
"I still have nightmares."
10 years ago...
"I'm begging you!"
"I don't see you on your knees."
I shot him a dark glare, before sinking to my knees. "Happy?"
"Nope," he said, then pushed me over.
I sprang back onto my feet, using his t-shirt as a hand-hold, smirking at the dirt marks I left (deserved, since my hands only got dirty after we had to push that truck out of a ditch). "I could've been seriously injured then, you know."
"Please," he snorted. "On a carpet? Whatever, Liss."
I brandished the scissors again, grinning. "I'm gonna do it."
"You look like a maniac."
He ran off before I could grab him and snip all of his hair off, like I'd been threatening to do for four years. I'd finally gotten the opportunity (his mum was out shopping with the rest of my family, leaving us alone, in his house, with unlimited access to the scissors, much to my glee), and now he was running away. Oh, how he would pay.
"Is it because that side of your face is hideous?" I yelled as I thundered up the stairs after him.
"Nah," he shouted back. "It's too beautiful for human eyes."
I snorted, diving through a doorway before he could slam the door. "You wish."
"Liss, if I had the luxury of a wish, you'd be long gone."
I gasped, launching myself at his jean-encased legs, grabbing them with satisfaction and sending him flying, me sinking down beside him once he'd hit the ground. "You deserved that."
Of their own accord (or so I told him), the scissors made their way up to his hair. Just as I was about to snip, he shoved my hand away, and I ended up cutting at my dress. I glanced down at the small, but noticeable, hole, then back at him, glaring.
"Sorry," he said, holding his hands up in surrender. "Really."
I rolled my eyes. "Right."
"I can fix this..." he said, reaching for the scissors. I leaned away from him, holding them way out of his reach. "Liss."
"James," I mocked.
He rolled his eyes, "Just give them to me."
I relented, placing them in his hand before folding my arms, eyebrows long raised. "Amaze me."
"Or what?" he stupidly asked.
"Or die." I mean, duh.
He gulped. "Oh. Right."
For the next half-hour or so, he snipped away at my dress, pieces of it falling away under his eye. Once he was done, he directed me to the full-length mirror in his Mum and Dad's room, grinning.
"Well, Mum'll be pissed," I replied. And she would, as well: he'd managed to turn a knee-length black dress into one that just about came to mid-thigh.
"Hey, I think it looks good," he said defensively, biting his lip. "Right? I'm no fashion designer. You should be paying me millions for this shit!"
"Dream on!" I snorted, surreptitiously reaching for the scissors lying on the bedside table.
"Hand it over, Liss," he grinned, completely oblivious to the scissors behind my back. At least, until I brandished them in his face, snipping. He sprinted off, and, cursing, I followed.
Subtlety wasn't always my strong point. But that little black dress went down in legend, in our books at least.
"That black dress..." he sighs, evidently reading my mind as he always used to do.
"You never paid me back for that dress," I say, glaring slightly. "And it was so your fault."
He gasps, though I can see the smile on his face. "You never paid me for my work."
"I'm not that sad."
"That's what you think."
For a moment, he struggles to think of a come-back, but then he gives up, drinking instead. I grin victoriously, and the silence creeps back. Should I ask? Sod it - I might as well...
"You're not married?" I enquire, gesturing to his bare finger and taking a sip of my coffee so he doesn't force me to elaborate.
"Nah," he replies, running a hand through his hair perplexedly. "Girls. They hate me."
I roll my eyes. "I wonder why..."
He rolls his own eyes, and I stick out my tongue: once a child, always a child. "You're not married?"
"Girls hate you?!"
""No, you..." I trail off, choosing instead to strangle the air.
"Hate to break it to you, Liss, but you're not the next Homer Simpson," he grins, irritating as ever. "Hey, I almost forgot. I have something of yours..."
I raise my eyebrows as he reaches into his coat pocket - his tone was almost nervous. He fishes around for a moment before he retrieves a tattered, clearly opened envelope and throws it on the table before me. I can't help a gasp: I know exactly what it is, know the letter inside word-for-word. How could I not? I've had an exact copy stashed under my bed for ten years now.
hi. I hope you get this before you go - we're leaving the day before you, so email me, if you do get it. Actually, don't. I really don't know.
I don't have a clue how to write this... love letter? Oh God, no, that sounds awful. I'm really just writing to say goodbye, and, uh, confess my real feelings... Goddammit, that's even worse! You'd think after so many English assignments I'd have learnt to write in pencil so I could at least rub this shit out... cue nervous laughter.
Okay, whatever. I'm rambling, like always (you always do say I talk too much), and Milllie's trying to break my suitcase. Nine year-olds' these days, I mean, honestly.
So, I just wanted to say...
I guess all I'm trying to say is...
When you really cut to the point...
Oh for crying out loud, I like you, okay? And no, I don't mean like a friend. As in, I LIKE you, get it? Yeah? Thank God.
Okay, so now that that's clear... ugh. Millipede's just read that over my shoulder (she was decked, don't worry) and told me that a) it took me long enough, and b) that's not good enough. Stupid sister. This letter's already way too long...
And that paragraph was completely useless.
As was that one. Look, I'd like to go out with you. Good enough? I know it's difficult, with the distance, and all, but I'm thinking of going to university up there, so, maybe? I just... I don't know what to say. You'd think that for someone who talks so much, I'd be good with words. But obviously, I'm really not.
I guess this is goodbye - we're not coming back next year, so... I'll miss you, you know. Just a little. Stay in touch, okay? Promise? I hope we'll see each other again, someday. I really do.
"You never emailed," I say, smiling sadly, eyes on the envelope.
"I lost your address."
"...I knew yours off-by-heart." I look up and meet his eyes, and know he's lying. "Tell the truth."
"I am," he protests, but it's usless.
"Oh leave it out," I roll my eyes, even though my heart's beating a million miles a minute. "I can read you like a freaking book."
"Fine," he says, sighing. "I didn't know, okay? I wasn't sure that I felt the same way back then, and I mean, I was eighteen, Liss, the distance seemed like a lot more then than it does now."
"You haven't changed a bit," I counter, looking away.
"Have you?" he leans forward, trying to catch my eye.
"What do you mean?" I glance at him, then look away again.
"Do you... still feel the same?"
"Oh no," I finally meet his stormy eyes with my green ones. "I made all the effort last time. Now it's your turn."
He answers with the kiss I've been waiting for for fourteen years.
A/N: (: Aww. Fluffy cuteness. Hope you liked it!
Reviews are greatly loved.