Arizona Skies
Author: Isabella Darcy

Chapter 25
Really?

The moment I say the words I regret them, biting my tongue, wishing I could bring them back. What do I know about love? Absolutely nothing; or at least about love of this kind. Yes, I love my dad and my brother, and those old, crazy aunts of mine, and in a way, Lindsey. And I love my friends, my cat- but I've never had anyone but Aubrey to judge this sort of love from. My only clues are the telltale signs I exhibit whenever he's near; my heartrate increases till it feels like I've been jumpstarted, the blush in my cheeks burns red into my flesh, the nervous shaking, jittery feeling in my stomach. But more than that, when I'm with Aubrey, I want to stay there- I wish we could capture moments in the wind, like the air from a fresh spring day. I want him, and his past, and his feelings and thoughts and goals and dreams!

All this flashes through my mind as I run into the house and up the stairs, ignoring him calling my name. I slam the door of my room and collapse onto the floor, cross-legged. The hot air from outside has filled my room by way of the open windows, and suddenly I feel hot, too hot. Everything is stifling, and I can't hear myself think.

I twist open the door of the bathroom down the hall and step in, the tile cool on my bare feet. The windows in here are closed, and it's dark- creamy lilac walls folding around me, calming. I shake off my clothes, screwing the old, creaky metal knob, and the water streams out in sharp, irregular rivers, shooting down to the white porcelain bathtub. I step in with a shudder and a gasp, the cold saturating my hair, weighing it down and dripping down my back, running down my sticky, sweaty skin, drawing goosebumps wherever it touches. I tilt my face up to the stream of water, letting it fill my mouth and beat on my eyelids and nestle in the hollow of my throat.

Finally, the water gets too cold, and I step out, shivering. There's no steam in this bathroom, so the dirty, worn mirror hanging above the sink reflects my own pale face back at me, clear and wan. I grab a towel and vigorously rub my freezing skin, and hear birds, water, the flap of wings. Then I realize that the shower radio is on.

Words are flying out like endless rain into a paper cup, they slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe...

I love this song, though I haven't heard it in a while, and as I wipe the remnants of water from my skin, I can't help smiling, mouthing the words along to the song.

Pools of sorrow, waves of joy, are drifting through my open mind, possessing and caressing me...

I run the towel through my dripping hair, then the brush, little raindrops showering from the tips to the drain. My clothes are lying in a heap near the hamper, I put them back on, then decide that they're too sweaty, and shed everything but bra and underwear. The radio is still playing as I walk down the hall to my room, echoing through the carpeted dark, and I hum along, grasping my doorknob and slowly turning it.

And almost have a heart attack.

"Um," Aubrey says, leaning lazily against my wall, trying to repress the smile.

"Aubrey!" I shriek, regaining my power of speech, and fruitlessly searching for a covering. Finally I just hide behind the half-open door. My face is burning with the farmiliar blush. "What are you doing here?"

His expression turns more serious, though I can see that he finds my outfit- or lack of it- amusing. "We need to talk," He says. "Though maybe I should let you get dressed first."

I brush a strand of damp hair out of my eyes and scoff. "You think? Geez, you're always springing up on me like that. I have to start closing the windows."

Aubrey gets up, nodding towards the door which I'm standing behind- the only exit from the room, his smile more prominent. "Shall I leave you to make yourself decent?"

"Um, yeah-" I edge into the room as he goes out of it, trying to figure out a way to get on the opposite side of the door without being revealed. Which doesn't really work.

"Oops," Aubrey says as he slides past me, winking, sweeping an eye over me, head down to toe. I push the door shut behind him, ignoring the muffled "Ow!", and grab a dress and slip it over my head, hastily checking my reflection in the mirror.

I sit on the bed, then decide better. Stealthily I creep up to the door, sliding the old metal lock across with a laugh.

"Are you done in there?" Aubrey asks. As he hears no movement, and only the sounds of my suppressed laughter he pounds on the door, trying to twist the doorknob.

"Aurora!"

It sounds like he might break down the door, so I come close and peep my eye through the lock. "I'm not decent yet." I say with a grin.

Aubrey stares back at me. "So this is your plan? Barricade yourself against me, refuse to let me in?"

I pretend to think about it. "Um...pretty much."

Suddenly the eye disappears and I hear a thud as Aubrey slides down the door and lands in front of it. "Then I'll stay here," he says.

I wait a couple moments, but I don't think he's budging. Or is he gone? The minutes tick by, silent. Carefully I slide the lock across and push open the door.

"Aha!"

Aubrey launches himself into my room, causing the door to fly open and bang against my wall, and me to topple right over.

"Never underestimate the power of the Aubrey." He says, catching his breath, laughing on my floor.

I roll my eyes. "I like how you refer to yourself in third person-"

"Really? Why thank you, Aurora."

"- I think it suits your pomposity." I finish with a laugh. Aubrey wags a disappointed finger at me.

"Shame, the lack of respect these days!"

"Hey, you're the one who creeped into my room while I, unsuspecting, took a shower."

Aubrey concedes, nodding. "That's true. However, I didn't just come here to bemoan your lack of respect for my considerable skills-"

I snort, but the knot in my stomach twists anyway. I can see where this is heading- my sudden exclamation of love. Suddenly I don't want to be doing this. I head towards the door, grabbing my bag.

"Hey, listen Aubrey, I kinda have to go somewhere, so I'm just gonna-"

He's up in a flash, taking my arm, dragging me back. "No, first you can listen to me," he says, sitting back down and bringing me with him. "We need to talk."

I feel the blood rush to my head and gulp, glaring at him stubbornly. "We don't need to talk. About anything. What happened this afternoon- you know, everything that was said..." I say firmly, "...doesn't matter."

Aubrey takes my sweating hand and shakes his head, his eyes burning into mine, once again holding me spellbound. "It does matter." He says, rubbing his thumb across the top of my hand. "It does. Unless...you didn't mean it?" He cocks his head, puzzled.

I shake mine, feeling the heat in my cheeks intensify, if that's even possible. "I did." Then my fiery assurance dies down with a wave of doubt, and my voice falters. "I mean- if you- you know, if you don't, um...it's okay, I'm probably just getting carried away...I mean, you probably don't feel the same way..." Why am I such a bumbling idiot? I clap my hand over my mouth and silence myself, anxiously searching his eyes.

Aubrey smiles, tracing a finger across my cheek. "You're hopeless, Aurora, you know that, right?"

I nod helplessly, caught in those glowing brown eyes, reflecting copper, green, gold. He frees my imprisoned hand and places both of his on either side of my face, tilting his head with that crescent moon smile. Even though his broken nose is bruising purple and traces of blood linger, he looks perfectly beautiful- my angel on earth.

"I'm surprised you haven't figured it out by now," he whispers, leaning his head towards mine, drawing my hand away from my mouth, our noses touching. His breath fans across my face. "I've been in love with you for a while. Nice to know the feeling's reciprocated." He winks.

Then Aubrey kisses me, and my heart explodes, his words echoing in my ears, and I taste honey and charcoal and blood, and there are swirls of gold shooting like stars in my eyes.

Aubrey loves me.

 

 

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