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Shrugging, I turn toward him. “Don’t they?”
He unzips his bag. “Not really.” When I frown disappointedly, he adds, “We can pretend, though.”
“Sounds good to me. Guess we’ll have to find a rave to hit up,” I say, my voice dripping with sarcasm.
“I’ll put it on the list,” he replies, equally as sarcastic.
“Can’t wait.” I crouch down in front of my bag and grab a pair of boxer shorts and a tank top along with my toiletry bag. “Shower time for me.”
“Want some company?”
I give him a blank stare. “Really?”
He retaliates with an aren’t-I-so-innocent look. “What? I had to try.”
I shake my head and let strands of my hair fall forward to obscure my smile. I can feel Jax’s eyes following me as I cross the room and slip into the bathroom. I lock the door, hoping it will help my bubbling nerves of having to share a bed with him.
I give myself a pep talk while looking at my reflection in the mirror. “This is ridiculous, Clara, you’re a grown woman. You can sleep with a guy and be just fine.”
The terrified expression on my face does nothing to help my anxiety. Jax has been making me smile left and right during this trip, so much so my mouth actually aches. Nelli’s Little Sunshine Girl is surfacing in full form. The problem is that I’m eventually going to have to return home from this trip, back to my life, back to reality.
After I get out of the shower, I pull on a pair of boxer shorts and a white tank top, then decide to send Nelli a text to check up on things. It’s after six o’ clock in the morning back home. The two of them are early risers so they should be up.
Me: Everything going okay?
It takes her a second to respond.
Nelli: Everything’s fine. I even took her to the park and she enjoyed herself.
Me: Really? She usually hates leaving the house.
Nelli: I know. That’s why I did it in baby steps. Took her in the car to get some ice cream first. Then we sat in the car at the park while we ate it. After a while, I convinced her to get out of the car and sit on the benches.
Go Nelli. I’ve tried countless times to get my mother to do more things, but to no avail. Maybe I suck at taking care of her more than I thought.
Nelli: I know what you’re thinking and stop it. You’re doing fine. I just have the magic touch. Now, enough about us. How are you? And why are you texting me so early?
Me: We just pulled over to get some sleep.
Nelli: At a hotel?
Me: Yeah, in Indiana somewhere.
Nelli: You’re being careful, right?”
Me: Yep. Jax is a good driver and I always wear my seatbelt.
Nelli: I meant with the sex.
Oh, my God.
Me: With the sex? What does that even mean?
Nelli: It means you better be having him wrap it up.
Me: Ew, don’t ever say that again.
Nelli: I have to. Someone has to look after you.
I start to tear up, thinking about when my mother was that someone. How when I was seventeen and decided I was going to lose my virginity, she took me to the doctor to get on the pill.
“I want you to be safe,” she had said. “Make sure you’re taken care of.”
Now the roles are switched, and I’m the one taking her to the doctor for checkups and MRIs. I feel alone most days. Yes, I have Nelli, but that’s about it.
I wipe away a few tears that manage to escape then text Nelli back.
Me: I’m being careful, okay. I have to go. Text or call if you need anything. Day or night.
Nelli: I will, just as long as you promise to have fun.
Nelli: Hugs and kisses, my Little Sunshine Girl.
My eyes bubble with more tears when she uses the nickname she used to call me back before life took over.
Me: Hugs and kisses Nelli Smelli.
Nelli: Nice one :)
I set the phone down on the sink, comb my damp hair, and put on some deodorant before leaving the bathroom. When I walk out, Jax is lying in bed on his back with his arm draped over his head and his eyes closed.
Maybe I’ve lucked out, and he’s already fallen asleep.
I tiptoe over to the bed, kick off my flip-flops, then slip underneath the covers. I fluff the pillow, click off the lamp, and shut my eyes. Sleep feels impossible, though. I’m too wired. My pulse is soaring and the smell of Jax is sending my senses into a mad frenzy.
The sun is rising and soft trail light flows through the window and across Jax’s naked chest. I have the most powerful urge to reach out and trace my fingers across his smooth flesh.
I wonder how far I’d have to go down before the feel of his skin would disappear… if he has pants on or not…
I consider peeking under the covers and wonder how big of a perv that makes me.
“Your heavy breathing’s starting to creep me out.”
Jax’s voice startles me and I let out an absurd squeal. Slapping my hand over my mouth, I feel like an idiot.
Jax’s eyelids lift open and his forehead creases. “Why the hell did you scream? Are you okay?”
I lower my hand from my mouth. “Yeah, you just scared me. I thought you were asleep.”
“Were you watching me sleep?”
“No… and besides, you technically weren’t asleep, just faking.”
“You were watching me sleep.” He smirks. “I’m not sure whether I should be creeped out or flattered.”