Soundtrack: Beating Heart, Ellie Goulding
“So, that’s basically it,” Roman told me as he closed his book and uncrossed his legs. Thank goodness! We’d been studying for close to two hours, sitting cross-legged on the floor, knees touching, and we hadn’t spoken to one another any more than had been necessary. I couldn’t have concentrated on Chemistry if it was my favorite subject. It definitely wasn’t.
Now that our study time was almost over, I wasn’t ready to let him go yet. I wanted to spend more time with him, maybe get to know a little about my lab partner besides the fact that he obviously knew a crap-ton more about Chemistry than I could ever hope to learn. I checked the time on my phone: 6:52. We had at least three hours before my parents would be home. I always hated being alone in this big house at night, but it seemed like they were always away at some function or dinner.
“Hey, wanna get a pizza? I’m starved.” Was my voice a little too loud? The last thing I wanted was to come off as desperate for him to stay. Even if I kind of was.
“Uh,” he glanced at his watch, “sure.”
“I’ll order. What d’ya like?” I dialed the number even while I was asking the question. Was it weird that I knew the number by heart?
In minutes, I’d placed the order, and we’d fallen into an awkward silence. I wracked my brain trying to think of something to break the tension. Finally, “Hey, have you seen The Hollow Effect?” Did he even like horror movies?
“I haven’t yet, but I’ve been wanting to.”
“Yeah, me too! I’ve been thinking about renting it. Wanna watch it?” Hopefully, I sounded calmer than I felt. I was already picturing cuddling up to him in the dark, burying my face in his neck at the scary parts.
“Yeah, okay. That would be cool.” Talk about a lukewarm reaction. Suddenly, I was losing my nerve. Did he really want to be here? Maybe he just felt sorry for the weird girl who was so klutzy she’d fallen all over him in front of thirty other students.
I tried not to think too much about it as I led him to the media room. But, by the time I had the movie ready to stream through the projector and turned to face Roman, he’d bypassed the twelve single-seat leather recliners and opted for the only loveseat. Maybe he’d picked the seat because it was front and center, and admittedly the best seat in the room. He had his shoes kicked off, one arm folded behind his head, and when he noticed me watching him, he patted the seat next to him in invitation. Maybe he was interested. I flipped off the light, grabbed the remote, and joined him on the loveseat.
He was all heat next to me. His breaths were coming in nearly silent, shallow bursts. It was a short, nervous sort of panting, like prey caught in a trap. I ran a casual hand through my hair, then let it fall to rest on the black leather between us, barely an inch from his own hand.
I feigned an interest in the movie, even though I couldn’t have concentrated on anything but Roman and how close his hand was to my fingertips. When his breathing evened, I shifted just a fraction of a hairsbreadth so that my pinky rested over his thumb. He shivered under the touch, but kept his gaze locked on the screen.
Sliding over in my seat, I pressed my arm against his. When he didn’t pull away, I laid my head on his shoulder. A moment passed, then two. Finally, Roman turned his head and shifted in his seat just enough to look down at me without breaking the contact between us. I tilted my face to look up into his eyes and sucked in a nervous breath. His eyes closed to half mast, and I was almost certain he was about to kiss me.
Buzz. The intercom to the front gate buzzed. Someone was here. Whoever it was had the worst timing in the world. As I looked up at Roman, he licked his lips nervously. Maybe he was just as aware of me as I was of him, but was just better at pretending not. I considered ignoring whoever was out there. Until the buzzer sounded again.
I practically fell out of the loveseat on my way to the intercom and all but slammed my hand down on the button. “What?” Did I sound as frustrated as I felt?
“Pizza,” a young, male voice called through the speaker.
I rested my forehead on the wall next to the speaker and sighed. I’d forgotten all about the pizza. With a quick and apologetic look over my shoulder to Roman, I buzzed the pizza guy in and headed for the front door to meet him.
My best attempts to not stare awkwardly at Roman while I stuffed my face with pepperoni and cheese were failing miserably. Every time he licked his lips, I imagined having those pink lips pressed against mine. He seemed to be trying just as hard to not look at me -- only he was succeeding. There was something about Roman, something different from other guys. He wasn’t aggressive like they were, didn’t try to get to second base the minute we were alone. And he’d seemed almost relieved when the delivery guy interrupted our almost kiss.
We ate in silence, and the whole time, I was wracking my brain trying to think of something halfway-intelligent to say. I finally settled on humor. “So, that’s the hottest horror movie I’ve ever seen.” I gestured to the projector screen across the room, where the movie we weren’t really watching was paused.
Roman flushed an endearing shade of rose pink and nodded. Then he quickly shoved another bite of pizza into his mouth. I couldn’t tell if that meant he enjoyed what had almost happened or was busy trying to think of a way to get out of there.
Our silence was interrupted by a series of tinney, cartoon-like chirps sounding from the vicinity of Roman’s pants. I eyeballed the offending area in an attempt to figure out what the noise was, realizing just a moment too late that I was giving him the creepy-stare. Roman set his paper plate on the seat next to him and fished his cell out of his pocket.
“Hey, Pop?” he answered. I could hear a voice on the other end, but couldn’t make out the words. “Yeah, sure. I can be ready in a few minutes. I’ll text you the address.”
He was leaving.
Roman ended the call and sent a quick text before shoving his phone back into his jeans. Then he smiled at me apologetically. “That was my dad. He’s on his way home and said he could swing by and pick me up so I don’t have to take the bus home.”
“Oh, well, do you live far? I could drive you...” Did I sound too needy? Truth was, I wasn’t all that altruistic -- I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet.
Roman seemed to consider my offer for a moment. “No, that’s okay. He’s probably almost here now.” He stood and reached for his sneakers, slipping them on without untying them. When he’d gathered all of his stuff, I followed him to the front door.
I opened it for him, using it to hold myself up as he stepped over the threshold. “Thanks for coming over.” I prayed I didn’t sound as deflated as I felt.
Roman turned to look back at me, illuminated by the porch lights framing my front door, he looked almost angelic. “It was fun. Maybe we could uh… study again sometime.” Was he blushing when he said that?
“I’d like that.” Headlights cut through the wrought iron bars at the end of the drive, and I reached behind the door for the button to open the gate. “Well, I guess I’ll see you at school on Monday, maybe.” I mentally berated myself as soon as the words were out of my mouth. Our school was on the block schedule, which meant I wouldn’t have a class with Roman until Chemistry on Tuesday. Did I sound desperate hoping to see him on Monday?
He nodded and turned to jog down the steps toward his father’s car. I watched as they pulled away, and shut the gate as soon as they were out on the street. Then I shut the front door and leaned back against it. What was it about Roman that had me acting like a prepubescent girl with her first crush? He definitely wasn’t the type of guy I usually went for. So, why couldn’t I get him out of my head?