By Jenn and Jessie
After that night, I didn't see Tess at school the next day. Or the day after that. She was avoiding me...but then again, I wasn't doing much in the way of changing the situation either. I could of gone to her house...to see if she was all right. But I didn't because I'd seen her leaving the Crashdown, Monday afternoon with some guy from school. Then Tuesday afternoon, I'd seen her leaving with Kyle. She'd been flirting with him alot - giggling and such - acting like the valley girl type.
I remember wanting to be sick.
Tess was at school today though. I guess she decided that she couldn't miss any more days. We only have a couple classes together and somehow she managed to sit as far away from me as possible. But then we had P.E...and uncomfortably enough, we had to play volleyball, got paired up on the same team. Then, to top it all off, the coach placed us side-by-side on the court. Needless to say, I think our team suffered from this, terribly.
After we had all changed, Stephanie Baker...one of the other girls from gym class, stopped me to ask why Tess and I weren't talking. Then she told me that she'd heard a rumor that we were fighting over a guy. She couldn't of been any farther from the truth...and I wondered briefly how that rumor got started, then brushed it off by telling her that it was nothing.
By the time the day was over, I was ready to get home. I've never had anyone actually avoid me before..and from living through three days of it..I could tell how shitty it was.
As I walked out the front double doors of the main building, I heard Alex calling after me. I wanted to keep walking, to pretend I hadn't heard him. Instead, I stopped just outside to wait for him to catch up. Not surprisingly, he came bursting through the doors, then paused to catch his breath. I stood there looking at him expectantly, wanting to get this confrontation over with already.
"I was thinking," Alex finally said, gripping the straps of his backpack nervously.
"You're always thinking, Alex." I said before I could stop myself.
"You've been really quiet the past few days," he paused. "so I figured you probably needed some space, ya know.."
"Thanks," I said absently, glancing around the quad to see who might still be hanging around, so that I might be able to escape this mock-water-torture. I hated being rude and cruel to Alex, because he was basically a good guy. He was just...always there.
"So I was wondering..if you might want to go grab a burger, you know..at the Crashdown or something."
"Alex...really. Thanks for the offer, but I-"
"Yeah, Isabel. I already know that you want nothing to do with me romantically." Alex interrupted, nodding his head. "And honestly...I've already accepted that. But now, I'm just trying to be your friend. I was on my way to the cafe for food, anyway. I saw you moping again, for the third day in a row and thought I'd invite you along."
I looked around again, as I listened to Alex's declaration, and just as I was about to politely decline, I saw Tess walking out the door of the schools library, arm-in-arm with Kyle, once again. I turned abruptly to Alex then...a fake smile, present on my face.
"Sure Alex. Let's go." I said in mock cheer. "I'm starved."
When we got to the Crashdown, Alex sat down in the booth closest to the front windows. I was about to sit across from him, when I saw Tess and Kyle approaching the door....so I slid in next to Alex, a little closer than necessary. I pretended to lookat the menu, but watched Kyle and Tess out of the corner of my eye and saw her glance in our direction. I watched as Kyle allowed her to choose their seat, which turned out ot be on the opposite side of the restaurant..the back corner. Facing me and Alex. I eyed her cautiously over the top of the menu, completely ignoring Alex's attempt at conversation. I looked away quickly when Tess looked up and over in our direction.
I don't know what made me do it...but when I was sure that she was still looking, I scooted closer to Alex and batted his arm playfully, pretending to find the joke he'd just made, funny. When I looked back to make sure Tess was seeing us..she didn't look away. The smile immediately drained from my face, when I saw the hurt in her eyes.
I'd say that I hadn't meant to hurt her...but in some twisted sadistic way....I had. I wanted her to realize how much her avoidance was hurting me. And I don't know if she had intentionally been throwing herself at Kyle and that other guy, to avoid having to confront me..or...well, that was really the only plausible explanation I could come up with. And I hated that I was feeling like this. That I was feeling vulnerable.
I miss her. That's what I hated the most. The fact that I'd gotten attached.
I must of been completely zoning out, because when I felt Alex tap my arm, I looked up to see Maria sitting our food onto the table. I didn't even remember ordering. Alex must of been the one who told her what we wanted. But that was the least of my worries. As I sat here, looking down at the food on the plate...none of it seemed too appetizing anymore. All I could do was push the fries around and pick at the sandwhich with my fork. The thought of hunger was long gone from my mind.
"It's okay if you're not hungry, Is." Alex said, taking a bite of his cheeseburger.
"I'm sorry Alex," I mumbled, pushing the plate away, wishing that I couldn't even see it. "I thought I was hungry..."
"That's fine.." he nodded, popping a fry into his mouth, then turning back to me. "I-"
Alex paused then, looking at something on the other side. When I turned to see what it was...there was Tess. Standing next to our table. I didn't know what to say, or what she was even doing for that matter. Alex was the first to speak.
She didn't return the greeting, but instead looked at me and spoke.
"Can I talk to you, Isabel?" she asked quietly.
"Go ahead." I said, calmly.
"I'm sure that anything you need to say, Tess, can be said right here." I didn't mean for that to leave my mouth, but it did.
"I really...don't think it can, Isabel." Tess glanced at Alex nervously.
"I can..go," Alex looked at me as though he expected me to get up so that he could leave. "You know..to talk to Maria..or..Liz.."
"No, Alex," I said, placing my hand on his arm to keep him from moving, then turned back to Tess. I watched as she stood there looking back and forth between me and Alex.
"I really think we need to talk about what happened the other night...I-"
"I really think that I should-"
"Stay. Alex." I interrupted him again. My voice a little more stern than before. Then to Tess I asked, "What did happen the other night, Tess? Cause..I'm still really confused about what went down."
"We both know what happened, Isabel...."
Just then, Max walked into the Crashdown. When he spotted us, he moved to come over, but the look I gave him, caused him to turn around and head towards the counter instead.
"Yeah. Well, you're the one who's been doing the avoiding." I said, standing up to leave. Tess moved in front of me, blocking my path to the door. "What? Do you just do stuff like this for fun? Mess with peoples minds?"
"First Max...now me?" I raised my voice. "Who's next, Tess? Who?"
I had to cross my arms in order to keep myself from grabbing and shaking her.
"It wasn't like that, Isabel." Tess said, standing up a little straighter. "I didn't mean to....to.."
"To what?" I paused, taking a deep breath. "You didn't mean to what? To kiss me like you did? To make me feel all of those things that you made me feel?"
Tess's eyes grew wide, then...and I realized, too late, exactly what I'd just done. I tore my eyes from hers, and looked around the now crowded restaurant. Everyone was, shock, still. It was like someone had pushed `pause' on the worlds remote.
"Oh god..." I breathed, just before I turned and ran out the front door.
I spotted the jeep parked just outside. Rushing over, I checked for the keys. They were gone. Max had a tendancy to leave the on occasion, and unfortunately this wasn't one of those times. Then it came to me. I didn't need the keys at all. So I hopped into the driver's seat just as I saw Max run outside. Placing my hand over the ignition, I concentrated on starting the Jeep. Finally it turned over and I threw it into reverse, pulling away from the curb and speeding down the road by the time Max reached the spot where he'd parked. He'd find a ride home...eventually.
I got home in record time..and I probably broke every possible driving law, in my haste. It was a blessing that the sherriff hadn't been out cruising, looking for people to bust, or I would of been in a lot of trouble. Not that that was my biggest concern. What I was really worried about at the moment, was what I just did back there at the crashdown. The place had been packed with tons of people from school. Not to mention, plenty of adults. Friends of my parents and such. I could say that it was probably good that they'd only heard the tail end of the argument, but then again, I supposed that would only make things worse, if they talked about it, not knowing the whole story.
As I let myself into the house, I absently pinched the bridge of my nose, squeezing my eyes shut. I realized, then, that I was crying. Thankfully mom and dad were still at work. I really didn't feel like seeing or talking to anyone right now. I just wanted to be alone in my mistery. My pain. My....my heartache.
Just as I finished that last thought, I heard car doors slamming out front. I glanced out of the front window and saw Tess's gray Kia Sportage, in the driveway. Max was with her, and they were both headed for the front door. I didn't want to deal with either of them. Ever. So I ran up the stairs, into my room. I promptly locked my door, then threw myself onto my bed, sobbing lightly. Then I heard the front door open..Max yelled for me. When I didn't answer, he yelled again. The next thing I heard, was a knock on my bedroom door.
"Isabel?" came Max's voice from the hallway. "Isabel, let me in."
"Go away Max." I insisted. "Just leave me alone."
"You know if you don't unlock the door, that I'll just do it myself."
And he was right. I knew when I locked it that it wouldn't stay that way for long. I don't even know what the point was, in having a lock on my door, because it never kept him out. At that thought, I heard the lock, click, and the door being pushed open.
"I don't want to talk about this with you, Max." I said quietly.
Max didn't listen. He never listened when it came to stuff like this. Most of the time I was grateful..but right now, for a change, I had really meant it when I'd told him to go away. But he didn't. I felt my bed dip dow when he sat next to me. Instead of talking right away, Max only ran his hand over my back in an attempt at being comforting.
"Don't touch me," I snapped at him unintentionally.
"I don't know what happened, Is." Max paused taking a breath. "I didn't even hear what was said. I...I was talking to Liz and all of the sudden, the whole place got quiet. And the next thing I know, I see you bolt out the door. And Tess was standing there crying. When she brought me home, she was so upset, she couldn't tell me what was going on."
I rolled over, when Max said that. Had I really made her cry? I guess that wouldn't surprise me. Afterall...I had been crying too.
"Look," Max said, standing up. "You don't have to talk about it...but you know I'm here for you. No matter what."
"Just...please go away Max." I said, sitting up on the end of my bed. "I just want to be by myself right now."
Max stopped in my doorway as he was leaving.
"One more thing.."
"What?" I sighed, burying my head in my hands.
"Tess. She..uh...she's downstairs and-"
"And you can tell her to go home." I said sharply.
"Don't `Isabel', me, Max. Not now. I don't want to see her. I don't want to see you. I don't want to see anyone for that matter."
Then he left. Without a word..without arguing with me at all - he just left. I stood up, pacing around my room for a few minutes. It was getting hot in here. Almost suffocating. Since I wasn't planning on going anywhere tonight, I decided to change into my bed clothes. Something more comfortable than the skirt and tight blouse that I was wearing at the moment. I walked over to my dresser and pulled out a pair of grey sweatpants. I quickly changed into them..then began looking through my closet for a shirt. And just as I was about to switch shirts, my bedroom door opened once again.
"Max. I said go-" I trailed off as I turned around to see Tess standing just inside my door. I stood there looking at her for a few minutes, then turned back to my closet. "What do you want?"
"To apologize for what happened back there..." Tess said gently.
I didn't say anything. I just went back to what I had been doing before. Once I got completely changed, I walked over to my vanity and hit the play button on my cd player. I didn't know what was in...but it was soft, thankfully. I don't think I could of taken anything loud right now. Grabbing a bottle of black nailpolish, I climbed onto my bed and began to paint my toenails.
"Isabel...we really need to talk."
"Then talk," I shrugged. "I don't have anything to say..but, hey, if you do...I really can't stop you."
Tess sat down on my bed, but I refused to look up at her.
"When uh...when I saw you with Alex, today..I got scared Isabel. I was worried that..that maybe you were getting together w-with him. You know? I saw you..flirting with him and sitting so close. And I got jealous."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I couldn't believe that she actually had the nerve to sit there and say all of those things to me. It made me mad. Partly because I remember wanting to be sick, seeing her with Kyle before. Though, it was mostly because of the other night when we had kissed, and she had told me tht it shouldn't happen again. Yet, here she sits on my bed..not a foot away from me...and she's telling me that her seeing me with someone else, made her jealous. But before I could say anything about it, she started to talk again.
"I guess...what bothered me the most..was that I think I wanted it to be me." she took a deep breath. "and I don't know what's gonig on with me..or where any of this is coming from. But I know what I feel."
"So let me get this straight," I capped my nailpolish and absently tossed it to the floor. "You're saying that you feel something for me..." I paused again. "What makes you think that I feel something?"
"Don't you?" Tess questioned, turning to face me. WHen I didn't answer, once again, she continued. "That first day I met you...I remember, I was walking across the quad..looking for somewhere to sit. I remember thinking that you looked bored sitting there with that guy. Which, Alex doesn't like me much now...probably for numerous reasons. And I didn't know anyone, since it was my first day. But I wanted to know you."
"I got flashes.." I said quietly, finally speaking.
"When we met?" Tess sounded confused.
"When we......you know. When we, uh, kissed."
"Flashes of what? I thought that only the guys got flashes."
"So did I..."
We were both quiet for a few minutes. I didn't really know what I should say.
"I got them too, Isabel." Tess whispered almost inaudibly. I looked up at her, surprised. She looked nervous. "There were so many of them. I saw so many things...and..I felt them too." she paused. "I've never had that happen. So I didn't say anything."
"That was the first time?"
"No. I got them from you before. I mean, I know I just said that it had never happened...but I meant that it hadn't with anyone else."
"You saw alot?"
"Yeah," she nodded. "A lot...what about you?"
"It only really happened that first time..and we were only connected for a few seconds. But..I saw enough."
I thought about what I should say, carefully.
"Enough to know that..that you're telling me the truth, I guess."
"Everything is so complicated. And I can't stop thinking about what all of this means. I just..nothing is right anymore." I shook my head, trying to clear it.
"I know that this is going to sound totally cheesy..but, if this is all wrong...then I don't want it to be right, Isabel. I hated myself at first..and even more so when I actually kissed you. Mostly because I'm scared of what this makes me..us. And I'm trying to deal with it...but I'm even more afraid that-that I can't deal with it alone."
I nodded understandingly. Then without thinking, I took Tess's hand in mine, lacing our fingers together. She looked up in surprise, our eyes meeting. I found my free hand caressing the soft skin of Tess's cheek. She let her head rest in my hand...then I gently ran my thumb across her lips. And I wanted to feel them on mine.
"You don't have to..." I whispered, leaning forward until our fourheads met. "I won't let you."
I pulled back a little to make sure that she was doing okay. When she looked up, it was all I could do, not to take her in my arms and pull her down onto the bed with me. To run my hands through her hair and pull her mouth to mine. To lose myself. But I didn't. I didn't want to rush anything. This was something new for both of us, and it needed to be done right. It needed to be taken slowly. So that's how it was going to be.
What was so hard for me to believe, is the fact that maybe this is what I've always wanted and I just didn't know it. Maybe it took Tess, showing up, to make me realize....to make me see that this is how it was really supposed to be. I felt her hands on my arms then. Touching me ever so lightly. Ever so..gently. I knew then, that she must be feeling the same about taking things slow. But I missed the feel of her lips on mine. I was almost starting to forget. I couldn't let that happen. Ever. I never wanted to be without her. I didn't want to forget the feel of her hands..touching me. Or the way they fell so easily through my hair.
Tess's hands moved, slowly, down the length of my arms until she reached my hands. Then she laced her fingers with mine. We sat there watching each other intently. After a moment, something...something passed between us and we both began to lean in - much slower than the times before. And when our mouths were only centimeters apart, we both paused, breathing each other in, engraving this moment in our minds.
When our mouths touched, our tongues pushed, hesitantly, past each others lips. There was something about her that tasted so..different...so, good. Instinctively she began to lay back into the mattress. I don't know if I was the one who initiated the move or if we both just thought that it was the thing to do. It didn't matter. All I knew, was that, I wasn't going to deny her anything.
When her back was flat against the bed, her hands broke free from mine, and she placed them on my sides. Holding myself above Tess with one hand, I was touching her face....and her body, with the other. Her skin was soft. Extremely delicate. Finally her hands left the safety of my belt loops, as she began to let her fingers do some exploring. At first she only touched my face and my arms..then slowly she began to tug at my shirt, loosening it so that her hands could feel the bare skin of my stomach. My hands, however, weren't nearly as patient. it was all I could do, to keep them from roaming too far. I had to keep reminding myself to go slow.
My mouth left hers, to begin placing a featherlight trail of kisses across her jaw...to her ear...then down the curve of her neck. Her shirt prevented me from going any further, so I moved to kiss my way up from the bottom of her throat and I felt her neck arch beneath my lips as I reached the underneath side of her chin.
I pulled back, looking down at the smaller girl. She looked a little shaken and her lips were slightly swollen from our kissing. Her eyes seemed to be searching mine and were filled with so many questions. Tess rolled onto her side as I moved to stretch out next to her.
"Are you okay with this?" I asked in barely more than a whisper.
Tess nodded reassuringly. "More than okay..."
We lay there, on my bed like that, for a while. Talking mostly...kissing on occasion. And since the days were shorter right now..it had long since grown dark outside. It had been a long day and I was definately looking forward to that relaxing bath, before bed, that I had been planning all day. Actually, that kind of gave me an idea.
I stood up, and offered a hand to Tess, which she took, her eyes searching mine. I led her to the bathroom, kneeling in front of the bathtub and looking at her questioningly - I didn't want to her feel as though she was being pushed into anything.
Her eyes told me it was okay, though, and I turned on the faucet, letting the warm water fill the tub. I added several bath beads and a capful of bubble bath, until the tub resembled a lavish ensemble from a celebrity home magazine.
I stood up, my eyes locking with Tess. She was the first one to break the gaze, her eyes skimming the tub and then looking back at me. She bit her lip..
"Isabel ... my clothes ..." she stopped short, as though she thought I would be offended. In actuality, I was a little relieved.
"Shhh ... I know," I murmured, and I led her back into my room. I opened my top drawer and removed two bikinis - one that fit, one that had shrunken several sizes in the wash.
Tess made her way into the bathroom and shut the door, so I changed in my room. I couldn't remember the last time I had taken a bath with someone - I think it was with Max, when we first came here and were too scared to be apart.
I knocked gently on the door, and Tess opened it up. My breath caught in my throat. She was beautiful, standing self-conciously in my pink-and-white bikini, her arms wrapped around her stomach. The steam in the room was making her hair frizz around her face, like a little blond frame.
At that moment, I became keenly aware of the fact that she was looking at me, in my skimpy green boy-cut bikini, and I nearly blushed. But I didn't, because it was Tess. Who I loved.
Loved. It was such an amazing feeling - one I never expected to experience, especially with another woman - but now I was, with Tess nonetheless.
Her voice interuppted my train of thought. "Should we...?"
I nodded, smiling, stepping into the tub and watching as she joined me. The tub was in no means small - in fact, it was larger than most bathtubs - but with two of us, it was a tight fit.
She turned so her back was to me, cautiously leaning her head back against my chest. I could feel how rigid she was, but when I reached down in the water and caught her hands in mine, she instantly relaxed.
We lay like that for awhile, my head against the wall, her head against me. Her smooth skin rubbed against mine and all I could think was how right it felt.
She turned her head to look up at me, and before I could think about it, I was kissing her, our tongues playing an intimate game of tag. When she finally broke the kiss, we were both gasping a little, and I smiled at her. She smiled back, placing a kiss on my collarbone, then lower and lower.
The bikini top went lower than my shirt had, and she was able to reach my breastbone before she stopped and pulled away. She must have thought I was upset with her, because she didn't look at me as she mumbled, "Sorry."
I was bewildered. I had the most gorgeous thing in the world, in my arms, and I loved her, and she was worried that she was upsetting me?
"Tess." It was all I said, and yet it said everything. I knew she understood everything, too, because of the way her eyes brightened.
With a wicked smile, she slouched down in the water until the bubbles were up to her chin. I frowned, wondering what she was doing. When she lifted one hand out of the water, my eyes nearly fell out. She was holding the little top in one hand, which meant...
Which meant she wasn't wearing anything in the water.
I was torn between choking on my breath and just looking at her. In the end, I chose neither, giving her a sly smile. Two could play this game.
I reached behind me and unclasped my top, taking it off and dangling it in front of her eyes. She ran her tongue against her lower lip seductively and then leaned back again, her ringlets taunting my, now, bare breasts.
We lay like that, in intimate companionship, for what seemed like eternity, until our skin was creased and the water was cool. Only at that point did we stand up, each wrapping ourselves in fluffy towels.
I gave Tess a look, but said nothing. She giggled, biting her tongue gently, not saying a word.
I can't remember the last time I felt this comfortable around someone. But the more I thought about it, I've been completely comfortable, around Tess, since the moment she showed up at lunch that one afternoon. I leaned over, picking up the top to my bathing suit and turned my back to Tess as I dropped my towel, to put it back on. When I turned around, I found that Tess had put hers back on, just as quickly.
Earlier I had heard my parents come in from work, and now that I thought about it, I wasn't so sure how we were going to get out of the bathroom without anyone noticing. When I opened the door, to make sure the hall was clear, I found my mother standing just outside the door.
"Isabel..honey," she paused, looking over my shoulder, then back at me with a strange look on her face. "I was looking for you..um.....what's going on?"
"Nothing mom," I was quick to answer. "We were just, um...going swimming."
"Swimming?" she repeated. "This late?"
"Yeah..it was really hot earlier, Mrs. Evans." Tess added, with a nod.
"Okay..." My mom nodded. "You girls have fun then..."
Once my mother was gone, I turned back to Tess, relief falling onto both of our faces. I laughed lightly, realizing how crazy things were getting.
"That was...." Tess paused. "I don't know what that was...."
"Close..." I answered. "Funny...but close."