Friends for Life
Adelle leaned over the side table, the one with wadded up paper stuffed under one of the legs shoved up against the mauve wall, and stared at the name on her cell.
She picked up the phone and swiped to answer.
“Jenny broke up with me. Can I come over?”
She glanced up at a photo they took at Coney Island when they were both twelve, the day they hooked pinkies.
Friends for life.
“Uh, did I wake you?”
“No, it’s cool. I’m up.”
“Thanks. Be there soon.”
She lost count of the number of times he’d called to request some moral support, but he’d had three breakups to her zero. Heck, she’d never dated anyone.
Yeah, friends for life. Then hugs and giggles.
Not even ten minutes had passed before a knock echoed through the door. She urged her feet across the plush, dull-brown carpet. Her toes pinched softness with each step. She sighed when her fingers wrapped around the knob. With a quick look in the mirror hung next to the door, she smoothed down a few flyaway, ebony strands. She sighed again and tugged at the knob. His musky scent wafted up her nose and into a place of deep longing.
“You sure this is okay?” he asked. Eyes red from crying set in a face worn from grief pierced her heart.
“Yeah, come in.” She led him to the sofa and sat Indian-style.
He plopped down on one leg bent at the knee, the other leg stretched out on the floor toward her. His frown gnawed at her.
“So what happened?” she asked.
“I wasn’t paying enough attention. ‘Aloof’ and ‘lacking romance’ are the words she used. Why can’t I keep a girlfriend?”
The response froze in her throat. His question had to be rhetorical. She stared at his mouth as he kept talking, but barely comprehended a word. Her reluctance to look away was unwarranted. She’d memorized his lips enough to sketch them in her drawing pad over a dozen times. Two determined blinks brought her back to the present.
“How’s your mom?” he asked.
She gulped. “She’s fine. She and Gus are thinking about getting married. And your mom?” No way did she want to dwell on the inevitability of getting a stepfather. It had been two years since Dad died, but Adelle wasn’t ready. However, that wasn’t what bugged her. Even her mom found someone.
“She’s good. We’re talking again,” he said and smiled.
Painful memories lingered. When both moms divorced their fathers twelve years ago, she and Brandon were thrust into separate cities with their dads. That summer promise survived written letters and phone calls. Their decision to live in San Francisco for the past two years reconnected them and pulled them apart at the same time. Brandon found girls to love. She had sketches of his lips.
“Thanks for being here whenever I call.”
“What are friends for, huh?” She paused, attempting to smile. His gaze unsettled her. She refused to be scrutinized by him. “I better get some sheets. You can sleep on the couch.” He always slept on the couch. Besides, she’d passed the time when sleeping in the same bed could be considered innocent. At eight years old, that worked out just fine, but not anymore. She stood and turned toward the hallway closet.
“Del, what’s going on?”
“Nothing.” Her voice quivered just enough. She kept walking, but his warm fingers grasped her own and spun her around. Somehow, he’d wrapped his pinky around hers.
“It doesn’t sound like nothing. Should I leave?”
She shook her head. “No. I’m fine. Really.” Gazing into his eyes hammered at the bricks she’d carefully placed ever since his first breakup.
He stared at her for longer than was comfortable. “I don’t want to impose.”
“You’re not. I swear.” She smiled again and hoped this time it seemed genuine.
He pulled her close in a tight embrace. Her gut clenched. He hadn’t held her like this since that day at Coney Island when seagulls screeched above their heads. His warm breath tickled her ear.
“I notice…I notice you, but I always mess things up with girls I date. I can’t risk us. My world would come crashing down if I ever lost you.”
She shivered. She hadn’t hidden her feelings as well as she thought.
“I understand,” she said with hesitation. “I better get those sheets.” Unwelcomed emotion threatened to burst out and drown her.
He pecked her wet cheek and released her. Stepping back, he licked his lips and frowned.
She grabbed what he needed from the closet near the door and dug her fingertips into silken comfort. After spreading them out on the sofa, she faced him. “I better go to bed.”
“Are we okay?”
She nodded. “Friends for life, right?”
“Friends for life.” He slumped onto the sofa and covered his face with both hands.
Unable to share his pain any longer, she turned around, passed the kitchen, and took a left into her bedroom. Shoving the door closed, she rushed under the covers, pulling them up to her neck. She lay in her bed staring at her unlocked door for an entrance that would never come.
She sucked in a breath when a silhouette form stood in the doorway before the room went dark again. She stared at the darkness until a kiss embraced her lips, sending warmth to her face, groin, and toes. With quickening pulse, she responded.
Then, she woke to a sun-bathed room, her bed as cold as ever.