Falling into Us Read online
I could already see the down-shift in his mood happening. “Ben, you know that’s not true,” I said, my voice soft and careful. “I know I don’t know what it’s like for you, but the way you’re dealing with it isn’t healthy. ”
Ben blew out a frustrated breath, pocketing his things again and heading for the door. “You’re not a doctor yet, Becca, so quit trying to fix me. ”
“Ben, wait. I’m sorry. I just—just—I want you to be happy. Th-that’s all. ”
He stopped in the doorway and glanced at me through a curtain of stringy hair. He gave me a look that was deeper than I thought Ben capable of. “The problem is, when I am happy, no one can handle it. And when I’m not happy, they can’t handle it. It’s not that I don’t care about my life or my future, Becca. I do. I just know that I’m limited, okay? What happens up here,” he tapped his temple, “inherently limits what I can do in my life. Drugs, no drugs, pot, no pot, there’s just no good way to handle my shit. I’ll never accomplish important stuff like you will, Beck. I know that. I’ve accepted it. I’m just gonna live it up and enjoy my life as much as I can for as long as I can. Eventually it’ll all catch up to me. I know that, too. But it’s my life, my choice, and no one else’s. ”
“Just be careful, okay?”
He nodded, smiling at me. “Sure thing, Beck. ” He turned away and closed the door, then poked his head back through. “Hey, by the way, if you ever want help sneaking out to see Jason Dorsey, let me know. I’ll cover for you. ” He winked and was gone before I could reply.
* * *
I’d barely even seen Becca twice in a month, and those were both fleeting glimpses in passing at school. We didn’t have any classes together this semester and we had different lunch periods, too. She caught up to me at my locker right before I was heading out to practice one Friday in mid-October. It was cool outside, so she was wearing a floor-length blue wool skirt, a white V-neck T-shirt, and an unbuttoned gray sweater. Her clothes were cut so that they clung to her curves without being overtly revealing, and I found this the sexiest thing ever. Any girl could put on a push-up bra and a low-cut shirt so she spilled out. It took class and style to look deliciously sexy without looking skanky, and Becca pulled this off with every outfit she wore.
“Hey, Jason. ” She leaned against the locker beside me, mere inches away, so close I could smell the conditioner in her hair and the body lotion on her skin.
I wanted to bury my face in the hollow of her neck and smell her, bury my face in her springy hair. I didn’t, though, because that might come across as slightly forward in this stage of the game. I tossed my history book in my backpack and zipped it shut, then hung it off one shoulder before pivoting to lean against the locker, facing Becca.
“Hey, Becca. ” I crossed one foot over my ankle and my arms across my chest. I felt a glimmer of pride when her eyes followed my arms and traced the bulge of my pecs. She liked what she saw, which meant I’d be pounding the weights extra hard today.
“I’m sorry I never got a chance to see you again. Father has me on lockdown. ” She tugged on one of her curls, making it bounce up and down.
I made an irritated face. “He really keeps you on a short leash, doesn’t he? Damn, that sucks. ”
“I did lie to him, Jason. ”
I huffed in irritation. “You’re a teenager. It’s par for the course. We’re supposed to sneak out and lie to our parents. We weren’t doing anything bad. You shouldn’t have gotten grounded for this long. ”
“Yeah, that’s what Ben told me, too. I just…I’m not sure I’m ready to openly defy him. Besides, my bedroom is on the second floor. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to sneak out that way. ” She hiked her backpack higher up on both shoulders. “Ben said he’d help me sneak out, but…I’m just not-nnn-not sure. ”
I was realizing she only really stuttered when she was nervous about something, and I hated hearing her struggle. I could see how she berated herself mentally after every fumbled word. “Hey,” I said. “It’s fine. I’m not trying to encourage you to, like, become a delinquent or something. I want to see you, yeah. But I don’t want to be the cause of adding more trouble to your life. ”
She smiled at me. “You’re sweet. I’m in no danger of becoming a delinquent. I’m just considering a few white lies so I can hang out with a friend. ”
“Is that all I am to you?” I said, only half-teasing. “A friend? I’m wounded. ”
Becca either didn’t catch the humor in my voice, or chose to ignore it. “What did you have in mind, if friends isn’t enough?” Her eyes were wide and fixed on mine, serious and so brown they were all but black, shot through with streaks of lighter brown around the pupil.
I tried and miserably failed to pull my gaze from her mesmerizing eyes. “I don’t know. More?” I swallowed the ball of hot embarrassment in my throat and went for broke. “My girlfriend?”
Her eyes went even wider, and her mouth dropped open slightly. She sucked in a long, hard breath, and I couldn’t help but admire the way the sudden inrush swelled her br**sts in the soft cotton of her white shirt.
“Y-your g-ggg-girlfriend? Ww-we wwwww—damn it. ” With each stuttered word, she blinked hard, as if a circuit in her brain was catching on a loop; she closed her eyes and seemed to be counting mentally. “We went on one date, Jason. ” Each word was carefully enunciated and nearly monotone, as if she was reading something out loud.
I made sure to not show any reaction to her struggle, just waited until she said what she had to say. It was painful to watch her struggle with both her words and her embarrassment.
“But it was a really awesome date,” I said.
When she responded, her words were smoother and more natural, but some beginning syllables were slightly drawn out, like a stutter corrected midway. “True. But shouldn’t we go on another date before we make anything official?”
I shrugged. “Sure, if you want to do it that way. Won’t change anything for me, though. I really like you. ”
She didn’t speak for so long I wasn’t sure if she was going to. She seemed to be either scripting out her next words, or considering whether to say them at all. Eventually, she did speak, and it all came out in a rush, as if she was spitting out the words before she could take them back or chicken out. “I’ve had a crush on you since fourth grade. ” She looked away, her dusky skin pinking slightly with a blush of embarrassment.
“Fourth grade? Nell told me seventh. ”
Becca huffed and sputtered in anger. “She told you? I’ll cut a bitch!”
I laughed so hard I snorted, which only made me laugh harder. “You’ll cut a bitch? Oh, god, Beck, you shouldn’t try to talk street. Make it stop!” I sucked in a breath, then made the mistake of glancing at Becca, who had her arms crossed beneath her br**sts and was glaring at me with a complex mix of emotions on her face. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. It’s just too funny. ”
“Are you done yet?” Becca spat out the words.
I breathed deeply and tried to compose myself. “Yes, I’m done. I’m sorry, that was just the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time. ”
Becca couldn’t stop a smile from creeping over her lips. “Ben says that all the time, and it’s funny. I guess I can’t pull it off as well as he does, though. ” She sobered a bit. “I still can’t believe Nell actually told you I had a crush on you. ”
“In her defense, it was only to convince me to ask you out. I wasn’t going to, mainly because I had a feeling you’d react pretty much exactly the way you did. ”
“How else was I supposed to react?”
“I don’t know. I can’t imagine there was much else you could do. It was a pretty odd situation. ”
Becca inched slightly closer to me, close enough that she had to stare up into my eyes. Her br**sts were brushing my chest, and I had to use every ounce of willpower to not crush her against me and kiss her.