It didn’t hurt nearly as bad as I thought it would, although maybe that’s just because my entire body has gone numb. I open my lips to cry out for help, but no sound escapes.
They always said that right before you die your entire life flashes before your eyes. Well, I think bitterly, the only thing that flashed before my eyes were the oncoming headlights, so I guess they’d been lying.
Unless, of course, by some miracle, I haven’t died.
I realize that this is impossible. There is absolutely no way that anyone could survive this, least of all me. God, if he even exists, would never be that generous. After all, whatever force controlled my life had already given me everything I could possibly wish for.
Dwelling on that thought, I slip away into the unknown.
The phone rang the next morning, startling me awake from yet another dream of death. It was the first I’d had since Griffin and I had kissed, and I had almost thought that perhaps he had scared them away. No such luck, though.
“Hello?” I answered groggily, running a shaky hand through my bedraggled black hair.
“Which apartment number is yours?”
Griffin’s cheerful voice washed over me, the polar opposite of my own pessimistic voice.
“Uh, five-twelve,” I replied in that same sleep-filled voice. “Why?”
“I’m in the lobby of your building right now,” he answered.
I swore under my breath and rolled out of bed, reaching for the closest outfit I could find- a long skirt embroidered with golden beads and a simple black tee. Holding the phone with my shoulder, I tore off my black sweats and slid into the dark material.
“The, um, elevators are out of order, though,” I lied into the phone as I ripped a brush through my snarled hair. “So you’ll have to take the stairs.”
I was sure that Griffin could see right through my fib, but still he said, “Alright, I’ll take the stairs. See you in a few.”
I figured that this bought me about six minutes, which was all I needed to throw myself together. I grabbed a plain black three-quarter length shirt out of my drawer, pulling it over my head as I practically ran to the bathroom. I scrubbed at my teeth, spritzed myself with Moonlit Path, my favorite Bath and Body scent, and traced a thick ring of eyeliner around my eyes.
I finished just as Griffin knocked at the door.
With an overwhelmed smile, I pulled open the door. Griffin was standing in the hallway with his eyes downcast and his hands drumming on his thighs.
“I think I may have a stalker,” I said, grabbing Griffin by the wrist and dragging him into my apartment. “How did you find me?”
“Cordelia has connections,” was all he said.
“So what do you want,” I asked in a faux snappy voice. “I was asleep.”
Griffin made himself right at home, pulling himself up onto the barstool that was usually occupied by Mark.
That was when it hit me- I was home alone. With Griffin. My parents would kill me it they ever found out. Luckily, they were both working overtime on an upcoming trial.
“Just dropping by,” Griffin answered. “I was in the area.”
I knew that it was highly unlikely that Griffin was just “in the area” since residents of Manhattan were seldom wandering around in Brooklyn.
“You know what I think,” I said in a teasing voice, hopping onto the barstool beside him and angling my body towards him. “I think you missed me.”
Just as I had done when Griffin had asked to draw me, he pretended to be contemplating this suggestion. Part of me feared the answer, while the other part was going crazy in the suspense of not knowing.
“Maybe a little,” Griffin replied at last.
I stuck out my bottom lip. “Only a little.”
I was surprised by my own boldness. Since when I had I been able to talk to boys this way, especially Griffin? I thought back to the first day I’d met Griffin, and how I hadn’t even been able to strike up a conversation.
Griffin couldn’t stop himself from cracking a smile. “Well, maybe a little more than a little.”
I’d never been very flirtatious, and I was surprised at the immediate response it seemed to have. Sliding off the stool, I came up behind him and put my arms around his neck, kissing his cheek.
“Well, I missed you,” I whispered into his ear.
Griffin craned his neck, trying to catch my eye. “This is a new side of you, Arielle,” he mused. “I kind of like it.” He turned his body on the stool and pulled me up onto his lap.
“We have a couch,” I mumbled unsurely.
“Okay.” In one swift movement, Griffin scooped me up like a baby and carried me into the living room. He dumped me onto the cream suede couch, sat down beside me, and then dragged me back on top of him.
Griffin absent-mindedly began to twirl a strand of my dark hair around his finger. My head was rested on his lap and his left hand was clasped in both of mine.
I brought his hand to my face, running his fingers down my jawbone and then pressing my lips to his tattoo.
“Are we… together?” I asked hesitantly.
Griffin pulled the hand that I’d been holding away, causing my heart to jump in my chest. However, he only moved it under my knees, pulling me up so that I was sitting atop his lap instead of lying. Without words, he cupped my face in his hands and brought it to his own, so that we were merely a centimeter apart.
“You tell me,” he breathed.
And then he kissed me like he had never kissed me before. Deep, passionate, and filled with more emotion than I’d ever imagined. I moved my own lips against his, listening to my heart thumping in my chest, wondering if he could hear it too. When he pulled away, his hands still on my cheeks, a smile broke across both our faces.
“I think so,” I whispered before leaning in and kissing him again.
So this was it.
I’d taken the jump, and now I could either fall or fly. The choice was all mine. And if I fell, I took Arielle down with me.
We spent most of the day sitting on her couch, silent except the sound of our own heavy breathing and racing hearts. Neither of us spoke. Words couldn’t capture the moment anyway.
Every few moments, Arielle would turn her head back to gaze into my green eyes, her own filled with a mischief that took the edge off the sorrow lodged there. I would flash her a devious grin of my own and press my lips to hers.
Every kiss filled my heart with a joy I hadn’t known I could ever feel again. Arielle was perfect in every way in spite of her flaws. Imperfections mattered little. Weakness was the one thing everyone had in common, and yet it was the one thing that everybody based their judgments on.
It grew later, and I knew that I had to be on my merry way. I didn’t know when Arielle’s parents would be home, and I didn’t want our first introduction to be when I was alone with their daughter on the couch. It might give them the wrong idea.
Sighing heavily, I slid Arielle off of my lap, watched her eyes go wide as she stared up into my face. “Don’t leave,” she whispered. Her voice damn near broke my heart.
“You know I have to go.”
She made no sign of movement. And then, all at once, she flung herself at me, sending me crashing back onto the couch.
Arielle pressed herself into me hard, kissing me fiercely as she did. My eyes dropped closed as my hands wound their way around her waist. I loved her, every part of her, and I wanted her in every way imaginable.
Her tongue slipped into my mouth. She was so cautious, trying to hold back and race forward all at once. I groaned as she entangled her hands into my black hair. I moved my own hands up her back to gently press her into my even more.
Arielle broke away with a sudden gasp. My eyes shot open, our gazes locking instantly. We lay there in silence, trying to catch our breath.
“Sorry,” Arielle whispered, slowly sliding off of me.
I pulled her back before she could completely get away. “Look at me,” I said with gentle firmness, and she did. A million expressions played out across her face.
“Never say sorry for something you feel. Never try to cover up your feelings. Not with anybody, and especially not with me. You yourself are perfect, and I wouldn’t have you any other way.”
Arielle grinned at that. Unwillingly I released her. I pushed myself off the couch, giving her one more long hug and quick kiss before turning to go. Twice I almost turned around. Twice I didn’t, because I knew if I did, I’d never want to look away from her again.