He paused for a moment. Remembering his dad.
“Tell me the saddest fact,” I whispered, watching him fill up a pot to boil the water in. He sat the pot down on the stove and turned on the burner.
Moving over toward me, he spread my legs and stepped in between them. “That’s some heavy dinner conversation.”
“We aren’t eating yet.”
The room was silent. Daniel stared at me, and I at him. He moved my hair behind my ear. “March twenty-second of last year.” His eyes moved to the window above the sink and he stared out toward the backyard. His voice cut like a knife. “My mom died in my arms.” My hands moved to his face and I pulled him closer. “And my dad watched it happen.”
My eyes bled with sorrow for him, and his bled out remorse. I kissed him intensely, filling him up with all my apologies for his worst day ever, wishing I could make the pain dissipate.
His brown hair fell to his face and I combed it back for him. When our lips separated, I missed his taste. I imagined that he missed mine, too, based on how he came back to rest his mouth against mine.
“How do you get over something like that?” I asked.
He shifted around and shrugged. “Easy. You don’t.”
“Do you know who did it?”
He shifted again. Not only his body, but his personality. It grew darker as he stepped backward, turning away from me.
“That doesn’t matter. It doesn’t bring her back.” He moved to the kitchen sink and stared out into his backyard.
“But it can bring her justice.”
“No!” His shout sounded like a clap of thunder shaking sparrows from the tree branches. My skin crawled by his sudden outburst. A gasp ran from my lips. When he turned to me, his face was reddening with anger—or was it guilt?
“Come here,” I instructed.
Daniel’s shoulders fell and his eye twitched. “Sorry,” he muttered, walking over to me. “I don’t talk about her. I don’t want to think about who did it to her. I want to move on.” I didn’t reply, but I pulled him back between my legs. “Can we talk about you instead of me?” he asked quietly.
He never wanted to talk about the accident, which made me sad.
I wanted to know everything.
Yet I didn’t want to scare him off. After I nodded my head, he sighed with relief.
“What is your saddest fact?” he whispered, placing his hands on my hips.
“Leukemia.” It was only one word. But it was a powerful one. One word that had put a time limit on Gabby’s and my relationship. One word that had made me cry each and every night for months. One word that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. A tear rolled down my cheek and he kissed it away. He gave me the same intense kiss I’d delivered him. His kisses tasted like forever soaked in always.
“What is your happiest fact?” he questioned.
I placed my hand in the air and he placed his against mine. “This,” I whispered, staring at our touch.
His other hand went up and I placed mine against it. We laced our fingers together. “This,” he smiled.
I inched my hips closer to him, and he began kissing my neck slowly, lovingly. “Daniel,” I closed my eyes as his kisses trailed down my shoulder.
“Yes?” he muttered against me.
“That feels good,” I sighed as his tongue slowly ran up and down my shoulder.
“I always want you to feel good.” His blue eyes looked up to me and his smile stretched far and wide. His lips landed on my forehead. “I’m crazy about you, Ashlyn Jennings.”
I inhaled deep and released my air. “I’m crazy about you, Daniel Daniels.” We stared at each other, laughing and laughing at the craziness of our situation. Was I dating my English teacher? Was what we were doing truly unethical? Falling in love? Could falling in love ever be wrong? “We’re insane, aren’t we?”
He leaned against me and I wrapped my arms around his neck. “Fucking insane.”
Fucking insane. That might have been my favorite fact about us both that night.
We were both so f**king insane.
If we run away today,
We’ll beat the sunsets.
~ Romeo’s Quest
We crossed things off the list together.
We never talked about his past, but I learned much about his present.
We kissed a lot too, because we loved kissing.
If we run away too late,
We’ll lose the sunrise.
~ Romeo’s Quest
#23. Kiss a Stranger
#16. Go to a house party
#14. Make a new friend
#21. Learn to juggle.
#15. Run five miles.
#6. Try to play the guitar.
#1. Fall in love
I’ve been thinking about something we should do,
We should fall in love around two.
And then when it becomes four,
I’ll start loving on you even more.
~ Romeo’s Quest
Our visits became more frequent. Our connection grew stronger, because growth was the only choice we gave it. After school each day, I would wait behind the library with a new book I found to share with him.
He would read to me while we made pots of macaroni. I would read to him while he hung up different paint cards around the house—trying to decide what colors to paint his parents’ home. He would lie upside down on his living room chair and read to me while I completed homework. I would recite the novels while he graded papers.
The words sounded so much sweeter, had so much more depth when they traveled from his lips to my ears. His voice heightened with the characters’ anger, lowered with their deepest fears.