Pay attention to the breathing of the other person. Her breaths make your heart beat faster as if she’s asking if she could touch you. You let her. You could sleep with this. You could sleep with the warmth that her body gives you. Her hands resting on your chest. Her hair brushing against your cheek. Her forehead pressed against yours. Instead, you do not move, but open your eyes to her. You meet her, breathless, as you take in everything in front of you. She isn’t as still as she would be if she was awake; her mouth is ajar, and her lips move as she breathes. Her eyelids twitch as dreams stir behind them. Notice how her cheeks are as blank as usual and not flustered with a mess of pink emotion that you usually have problems with. You envy this self-control that comes so naturally to her, but she still sleeps next to you.
Look down at your feet, notice that your blankets are not there to protect the two of you. You only have each other. Appreciate the breeze of pine trees coming in through your open window as it gives you the gift of a reminder; you are keeping each other warm. You lift your lazy hand and use it to hold hers. Feel her pulse, it is loud to you in this quiet room. Almost loud enough to drown out the sparrows calling for the morning to wake up. But she always keeps your attention. Wake up just a little more. Taste the strawberry chapstick on your lips. Keep in mind that it’s not yours, but don’t flatter yourself.
Think: How did we get here?
Keep your right hand in her left.
Recall the night before this. The night that guided you to reveal your secret, that invited her inside, that kicked the blankets onto the floor, the night that protected you in darkness and encouraged you to kiss her—a confession that leads to this moment. After months of sitting next to her, blushing whenever you talked to her, and allowing the wings of butterflies to flutter against the inside of your stomach, you have this moment with her. This aftermath of when she let you touch her. Remember that you didn’t rush her, nor did you go much further than where you both wanted to be. This makes you happy.
You remember more clearly as she walks you back home. This gives you the impression that things are moving faster than you expected. Faster than the friendliness you showed each other over the first quarter of freshman year, the friendliness that kept you impatiently waiting for something more to happen. This is it. The night pushes you with the chilling breeze that makes you both shiver. Like a friend, it encourages you to keep going and gives you a reason to invite her in for privacy. There, it is silent. More silent than you have to be to not wake the sleeping demons that dwell in the walls of your own home. Within this silence, you kiss her. Then stop and wait for her response. Everything blurs itself into place.
She kisses you back.
Ignore any other logical reasoning or second thoughts or worries about what tomorrow might bring, ignore the fact that no one knows about this. Only think about her and how she feels like hot chocolate in the wintertime; how she is warm and bubbly as she kisses your icy lips, she doesn’t regret it, so neither do you. She is sweet, and you can’t get enough of her. This includes the strawberry chapstick that you take on your lips. You can feel your heart racing, but so is hers. You love this. You gently tug at the buttons of her sweater, but you stop. With your foreheads pressed together, you don’t entirely love that; that uncertainty, the trust that you haven’t built yet. You both silently agree to keep your clothes on, which brings you even more enjoyment in what you’re doing.
Come back to now. Come back to her in your bed with you, but more painfully, to the footsteps downstairs. Remember that no one knows she’s here and that the night can’t protect you anymore. You hear hurried stomping as it echoes throughout the house; you hear multiple people, talking and door slamming. Feel each footstep back your heavy heart into a corner, as every door slam blocks you from feeling her. Hear each voice falter in your ears, as you try to listen to see if they’re coming for you.
Look back at her with clear eyes. Your family is awake. Her eyes are closed as if she doesn’t want to pay attention to what they’re doing, as if she only wants to pay attention to you. At least try to do the same for her. Try to remember simpler times before they were awake when you could avoid them and their reaction when you must confess your secret to them. Yes, try as your throat tightens, your lip quivers, your hand intertwined with hers shakes. You overthink things you refused to think about last night.
What will our parents think?
What will people at school think?
What will she think?
Feel this fear rise inside you, but you prepare yourself once again as things are moving faster than you expect them to. Her forehead moves against yours. Her fingers stretch out as if pushing back your hand, but then they drop back to entangle themselves with your fingers once more. Her eyes are opening, they shine at you with a smile using the lips you remember well from last night. She isn’t looking at you, but she feels you there. She isn’t entirely awake yet, so don’t push her. Her face hardens with the tension as she feels how scared you are. Her hand tightens as it holds yours.
You hear her ask your name. She calls upon you to be here with her, be here with her. Look into the eyes staring right back into yours.
She asks, “Are you okay?”
Don’t lie to her—it’s not like you can. You’re bad at it, and you have to address this truth that you’re so desperate to avoid. The truth will set you free, so stop letting it eat you alive.
Be honest, “my family’s awake.”
Let her figure out what this means by herself. She’s a smart girl. She can smell the coffee beans from downstairs. Picture with her: how your family is running around like rats. Getting dressed, putting on make-up, feeding the cats, making breakfast, getting upset about how fast you are getting out of bed, stressing about how much time they have and how much time they’ve spent looking at political conspiracies on Facebook, and making the coffee. All the while you are lying here in bed with a girl they’ve never met.
Hold on to her hand tighter, you’ll need it. She takes a long breath and shakes as she exhales.
She asks, “how did you sleep?”
You don’t have to pause for too long. You ask, “What? What about them?”
“What about them?” she answers, “I don’t want to think about them. Do you?”
“But we have to talk about this,” you protest, as you remember what you were told about addressing the truth. You explain, “it’s getting late, and they’ll come up一”
Yet you are too slow.
“Later.” She interjects calmly.
“Later!” she says, visibly annoyed with you. She gives you an eye roll that tells you what she’s thinking, can you ever relax?
She moves on, “So, how did you sleep?”
Ask yourself that question before you answer, “good… I guess. I don’t really remember sleeping.”
“Oh…” She listens to you and not the faint exclamation of your name coming from downstairs.
She shares with you, “last night was pretty… sweet.” she smiles as you blush.
She smiles big and shows her braces. You rarely see them. It’s almost as if she doesn’t care about silly things like that when she’s with you. You get out of her way as she adjusts to hold your head in her arms. The sleeve of her sweater brushes over your mouth and itches your face, but you still pay attention to her. She looks down at you with a serious face.
“Don’t you think so?”
You assure her, “Of course.”
Say her name. It’s the sweetest thing that anyone can say to someone else.
Allow this to be the bearer of bad news. The slightly louder call for your name causes you to flinch and hold her hand tighter. Neither of you should have to hear this, so you take a slight moment of silence to think about what this means for the two of you. You said it yourself; it’s getting late. You know how your family is on weekdays. Would this be enough to break them from their cycle of frustration and energy that comes with their morning cup of coffee? Or would this only fuel the fire of painful disapproval that would cause them to take their anger out on you… or her?
Take yourself away from that thought. You think too much; instead, feel her rest her chin on your head as her hair dangles down to your nose and veils your eyes like a waterfall. Take a lock of her hair politely and hold it to your nose. Smell the shea butter and almonds that swoon into your senses. You forget what you were worrying about and deem it unimportant. You let go of the lock and let it fall, swaying with the rest of her hair as she lazily breathes against the top of your head. Don’t be afraid to compliment her. Simply say, “your hair smells nice.” she is still again. This probably flatters her. You sit up and look at her. Your eyes are level, she’s blushing the way you claim she doesn’t do.
You hear it. You hear them stomping up the stairs. They’re coming for you. You know this because they wouldn’t need to come upstairs for anything else. Neither of you can block this out. Her cheeks go blank, she doesn’t blink, her mouth opens to say something. The stomping stops, they’re upstairs. They are just outside your bedroom door. Your breathing fills the room as if begging for a comforting sound. You look at one another. You both want to say something, anything would suffice. This moment in time is forcing your heart to still, but it doesn’t. You lean in, inhale.
And kiss her.
Exhale back into silence and everything blurs itself into place. It’s about time you came back.
Understand this. Understand everything in front of you, even if it hurts. Feel yourself right here. It’s still nighttime. You are inside the house, and your family is still asleep. The night protects your secret inside its darkness, but she can see you. Your heart sinks inwards and makes you hold your breath. The only sound is the dust settling around you as you both wait for the other to do or say anything. She stands in front of you, but not how she was before. She is a foot further than where she stood the first time you kissed her. Or at least tried to.
You look carefully at her as if walking on a broken piece of stained glass. Her colors are scattered. The look on her face couldn’t be more suffocating; her widened eyes stare into you as they judge everything you had just revealed to her. Her mouth lays open, confused as you are, her cheeks are realistically blank. And she is still. The hand placed between the two of you couldn’t be more clear; the clarity makes you absentmindedly beg that this is the dream. You cling to the possibility that you’ll wake up in your bed with her laying asleep next to you, but then let go of that possibility. Denial makes everything all the more painful when you have to accept rejection.
Address the truth before it swallows you whole in her stare. Denial is an act of betraying yourself. Stop betraying yourself. She can’t give you what she doesn’t have. Let this hurt no more than it already has. You cannot change who she is, much less yourself, even if you would rather the complications of being with her compared to this. She isn’t into girls. Feel this wash over you with a wave of disappointment, but also with a little relief.
Denial is a fly trap—it lures you in with something you want, but you won’t ever get it. Say it to yourself again. She isn’t into girls.
She didn’t lie close to you.
She didn’t kiss you back.
She didn’t even stay inside with you.