How To Love
Author: Gabrielle Young

Chapter 4
An Erratic Infatuation With Fervency

Four: An Erratic Infatuation With Fervency

“Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.”
― William Shakespeare


September 19, 2012

It’s midnight. I just got back from taking Lily home. My mom lost track of time with all the musicals. She and Lily talked through all of them, while I was trying to watch. It was like a constant commentary:
“Oh, my gosh, this song.”
“I saw this live when I was seventeen and it took my breath away.”
“I wish I could’ve seen it with the original cast.”
Don’t get me wrong, I was glad that they were getting along well but I was trying to watch this after all.
At her house, I walked her to the door and told her we’d have to do it again. She agreed.
Now that I’m lying in bed, I begin to wonder if she knows I like her. I know she’s straight but… Sometimes, there’s that look in her eye. I guess it doesn’t matter; I’ll follow through with my promise no matter what. I’ll be whatever she and her child needs for the rest of her life, forever.
My phone beeps. I roll over in my bed and check it. It’s an unknown number but when I open it, it belongs to the same conversation I was with Lily earlier. I read her message:
I decided I’m keeping the baby.
I quickly type my response:
Good. I’m proud of you.
As I wait for her response, I add her to my contacts and then stare at my phone, anticipating.
Thank you. I’m glad I have your support at least.
That comment hurts, like I’m the only one who cares. I know that’s not the case. I’m sure both of her sisters care, I know there are people at school who care but just pity her and don’t know what to say.
We small talk for a few minutes until she says that she’s going to take a shower then go to bed. I bid her a goodnight and set my phone down, thinking.
Well, what the hell right? I pick my phone back up again.
I left the roses.
I return my phone to my bedside table and roll over, my heart pounding. I feel as though I hear every little creek and crack of my house from the wind outside, waiting for my phone. It takes awhile before I begin to fall asleep.
I love that in between, half awake, half asleep. It’s peaceful. I think so, at least. You just never know if at any moment you’re going to slide into sleep or wake up. This time, I wake up. What I wake up to is a beep. Confused for a moment, I orient myself before lunging at my phone.
I know. Thank you.

While spinning my combination sleepily before first period, I’m jolted from my drowsy consciousness by human contact. Two thin arms wrap around me from behind and a forehead presses in between my shoulder blades.
I look over my shoulder and can barely get a glimpse of Lily’s ponytail, the tiny grin on her lips and her cute nose.
My heart is pounding.
After a moment, she releases me and I spin around to face her. She’s looking up at me and she is taking my breath away. She is so beautiful. Those eyes… oh my god. I would do anything she asked me to if she looked at me just like she is now.
She reaches out and touches my arm, smiling down at her fingers sliding down my forearm. I don’t realize until she lifts her eyes back to mine that I’m rooted in place, not breathing and my heart is beating like a racehorse.
I take a very slow, deliberate breath. Lily folds herself into me and I automatically embrace her. She sighs and I feel her shoulders relax.
“I knew it was you.” She says with a small giggle.
“When?”
“The day you gave me that chocolate bar. I was looking down at it and thought ‘hm, well that would make sense, wouldn’t it?’ and I thought it was so extremely cute. Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me.” I say.
“I do.”
“Well don’t.” I say, pulling back and smiling at her. “Actually, I have another rose for you and I was planning on giving it to you in person today so this works well.”
I open my locker, retrieve the rose and hand it over to her. She smiles up at me and it would be perfect if I could only… no.
I turn back to my locker and grab my things for English class. When I face her again, after closing my locker door, she is rolling the stem of the rose between her thumb and forefinger.
“Can I walk you to your locker?” I ask her.
Lily raises one eyebrow at me. “You can walk me everywhere.”
I make a show of bowing my head and offering her my undivided service. She shoves me gently.
“You should be in drama club, you’re way too dramatic for an athlete.”
We begin walking side by side. “Have you ever seen a soccer game? I need to be dramatic for all the times I get into fights.”
“You fight?”
“Yes.” I say, as though that’s obvious. “We all do. It comes with the territory.”
We stop at Lily’s locker and she asks me why. I explain how girls are really catty, so there’s a lot said on the soccer field. “Sometimes, someone just gets pushed too far. Or they get fouled really badly.”
“So, like in softball when someone used to slide into home and take me out.”
I nod. “Like that.”

I convince Lily to skip last period with me. This isn’t that great of a feat, considering she has free. I just don’t go to psych and sign out with Mrs. B. I really don’t skip school unless it’s absolutely necessary. Such as today. This is necessary.
I have to work later and tomorrow I have a game so I wanted to be able to spend some time with Lily before I can’t anymore.
We get in my car and after ten minutes of “where do you want to go?” and “I don’t care” while circling through town, we wind up at the park, walking alongside the river.
We walk for a while, comfortable small talk. Lily brightens in the sun. She looks so much better than she did a week ago. It makes me happy. She makes me smile.
She tells me about her childhood, takes me through little stories of her life. Things that, some, I had a part in. Like softball. Or how she spent the summer before ninth grade at the river with some friends, just in a different spot than where I spent it. This takes us to a slightly more serious conversation. How she lost most of her friends because of Nick.
“He was a little controlling and they didn’t like it. He always would get mad when I hung out with them so I stopped going and eventually they stopped inviting me. I know they weren’t real friends, but they were what I’ve had my whole life.”
“Maybe it’s time to make new friends.”
“I think it’s time for a lot of new things.” Lily says, looking at me. That look was meaningful.
We stop soon after this and sit down in the grass right next to the trail. I lean back on my elbow and watch her stare at the river, her fingers restlessly pulling individual strands of grass up and ripping it into pieces.
Every once in awhile she’ll look down at me, we’ll exchange a smile and she’ll return to the grass and the river, and I stay with her.
I ask her if she’s doing anything tomorrow. She isn’t. I ask her to my game. She says she’ll be there.
“Tell me about you.” She says after a minute, turning around and laying on her stomach, beside me. She turns her head to look at me.
“What do you want to know?” I ask.
“Everything.”
“That’s a lot.” I say. “Where do I start?”
She shrugs, throwing her latest mutilated piece of grass away. “Start at the beginning.”
So I do. I tell her about how it’s always been my mom and I. I talk about my mom, then my childhood. I tell her about Beth, who started me on sports.
“Ooh, I see you’re into older women.” Lily jests.
I shake my head. “I don’t have a preference.”
We continue on through my life, all the way up until this year. I tell her that since our paths crossed, now she’s a part of my story.
Lily smiles a sweet little, precious smile. Her lips are so perfect.
I stand, creating distance between us. “We should go. We have a bit of a walk back to my car and unfortunately I need to be at work soon.”
I offer Lily my hand and she takes it. I help her up and when I try to release her hand, she grips it tighter and adjusts her hand until her fingers slide delicately between mine.
My heart roars with victory. I realize I didn’t actually do anything, but still. We’re holding hands. I smile.
Lily asks me if I have any pets beside my dogs that she met. I tell her no, that I used to have a parrot that I taught how to curse and my mom thought it was hilarious until she had important company come over. Lily has one dog, a yellow lab, and a ginger cat named Red.
“Creative.” I tell her with a wink.
“Shut up, it was my sister’s idea.” She laughs.
When we get to my car, I open the door for her and take her back to the school, where her truck is. There, I also open her truck door and tell her that I’ll see her tomorrow. She tilts her head in a way that says I’m the only person she wants to see.
That gives me butterflies.

Work is slow. The store is dead. There’s no rhyme or reason as to why this randomly happens. One of my co-workers, Jenny, and I end up playing floor hockey in front of our registers. Yeah, I said hockey. Granted, we are using those plastic kid toy hockey sticks but who cares? Not my manager.
A few customers enter and Jenny and I hide our hockey sticks under our registers. I am checking a customer out, the town clerk Mr. Miller, when I catch a glimpse of a familiar curly ponytail. I almost give myself whiplash by turning my head so quickly. Behind Mr. Miller, there is Lily, standing in my line with a sexy smirk on her face.
When Mr. Miller takes his bags, she sets a chocolate bar on the conveyer and walks up so that she’s standing in front of the card machine.
“Hey.” I greet her, with a smile, ringing up her chocolate bar and reaching under my register for the cash to pay for it.
“I wanted to see you.” She says as I get my hands on the five. My stomach flips. I stand up.
“Oh yeah?” I ask.
She rolls her eyes. “Yes.”
Lily tries to argue that I’m paying for her chocolate but I refuse to even hear it. I hand her the chocolate bar and tell her to have a nice day, dismissing the conversation.
She reaches over the barrier between us and grabs one of my belt loops. She yanks me closer to her and slides something slowly into my front left pocket. When I go to reach for it, she slaps my hand away.
“Not until I’m gone.” She says. “That’s the rule.”
She turns on her heels, chocolate bar in hand and walks away without looking back. I watch her go until she disappears out the front door.
I reach into my pocket and read the note:
Pick me up after work?
She added a smiley face and a heart at the bottom of the paper.

The rest of my shift drags even more than before. I’m anxious to see Lily again and so excited that she wants to see me too. I race out of work, jump into my car and wait long enough to shoot her a text telling her I’m heading over before I speed towards her house.
When I pull in the driveway, Lily is sitting on her side porch. She hops up and meets me in front of my car. She jumps into my arms and I catch her, spinning her around twice. She giggles, clinging to me. It feels good when she’s close.
I return her to her feet but she doesn’t let go of me and neither do I. She nuzzles into my neck and I feel her velvety lips brush my skin. Was that on purpose?
“Where to?” I ask her while she’s still securely in my arms.
She giggles again. “Somewhere we can be alone.”
I release her and step back. “I know just the place.”
Where I take Lily is a secret place. It’s not exactly a secret, but it feels like one. It’s outside of town. It’s an old farm. It has a small, rotting cottage and a huge, old barn. From the road, you can’t even see it. It’s in a clearing of forest, almost twenty yards from the road. If you turn down a dirt trail and follow it, you’ll burst out into the clearing and see the vast expanse of overgrown field, the barn and the cottage.
This used to belong to my mom’s side of the family. It’s ours now, but we haven’t been farmers for two generations. It’s mainly used for storage, but a portion of my income I put towards hay. I keep the hayloft in good condition because when I was a kid, I used to ride my bike here when I was upset and la up in the loft, looking through the crack in the ceiling at the stars.
It’s not dark enough yet for stars, but that doesn’t matter. I share this story with Lily as we head towards the barn. I open one of the big doors and help her in. I flip on a switch and a few old, cobwebby lights flicker on.
Let’s say that it isn’t exactly a pretty place, but my hayloft is what I’m here for, not the first floor storage. I tell Lily to be careful as we climb up to the loft. I go up behind her, close enough so that she can feel me and know that she’s safe if she slips.
At the top, I turn on another light, which illuminates my space. It’s full of hay, as it should be. It’s mostly fresh. I grab a pitchfork and tell Lily to give me a second. I disturb the hay, making it slightly fluffier and then I go over to the one thing that doesn’t quite belong up here. A trunk.
I pop the top open and pull out a huge quilt blanket that my mother made me.
“Lay down.” I tell Lily.
She finds the biggest, fluffiest pile of hay and plops down onto it. I do the same and cover her up with the blanket. She leans back and I say seated, looking down at her. She’s smiling.
“I like it here.” She says.
“So do I. It’s my place.”
“Thanks for sharing it with me.”
“Of course.” I say, sincerely. I mean it.
Lily closes her eyes, a faint smile on her lips and I stare at her beauty. She’s perfect. I wonder what she’s thinking behind those slightly twitching eyelids. I don’t want to disturb her by asking she looks too peaceful.
I don’t decide that I’m going to do it, I just start leaning down before my head catches up with my body. I’m not following my head this time. No, this is my heart leading the way. Once my head finally does register, I’m too close to stop myself and I don’t want to.
My lips brush hers gently before I actually kiss her. She kisses me back. I pull away only an inch.
“I’m…” I was about to say that I’m sorry, but I’m not. “Was that okay?” I whisper.
Lily’s eyes are closed and her face is frozen in a picture of bliss. She reaches up, puts her hand gently on the back of my neck and pulls me down for more.
I get completely, utterly, hopelessly lost in Lily. Her lips fit with mine, and her hands in my hair and on my back are perfect. I am stroking her face and now she is kissing my neck. We are together, time stands still and there is no world. There is she and I and that is all.

 

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