The cursor in the IM window blinks back as I think of something cleaver to say, “I’m sorry I can’t come to the screen right now, but if you leave a message, I’ll get it. BEEEP!” My fingers tap lightly on the keyboard as I awaited her reply.
“jcoop10: um, okay, hey sara, its jesse. jesse cooper. uh, i want to apologize for being an ass earlier today. i didn’t realize that you were…uh, involved, so i’m sorry for making you uncomfortable on the floor….uh…under me….and stuff. so, that’s all. bye.”
Laughing, I write back, “I’m involved?”
“oh, you’re home. i was just leaving a message. from what happened earlier today, i just assumed you were.”
I know she’s fishing for information, but I’ll go along, “Well ..I presume you think I’m involved with Sam. Which means that you’ve made quite a few assumptions in one fell swoop.” I find myself anxiously awaiting her response by holding my drink in one hand and my chin in the other.
“yeah, i thought you might be involved with sam. what other assumption did i make? was i wrong?”
“By assuming I’m with Sam you assume I’m gay.” I click send and try to imagine her face when she reads my message. She’ll respond with shock, I’m sure.
“i didn’t have to assume that, i already know you’re gay.”
“What?” I ask out loud to no one. Genuinely stunned, I reply, “You do? How’s that?” It takes her much longer than I anticipated to respond.
“aw, hell, sara, i don’t know. the same way you know i’m gay!”
“no, i’m not, actually. it’s a coincidence that i spend most of my time banging up against other girls to get to a hole first.”
A loud laugh echoes in my empty room and I clamp my hand over my mouth, but I can’t stop laughing. Once I manage to get my breathing under control, I respond, “Okay, I’m gay. You’re right. But I am *not* involved with Sam.”
Then, as an afterthought I add, “Or anyone else, for that matter.” I wait for a response by turning on music. The song’s just getting started when her response pops up.
“point taken. you keeping your options open? or have you got your eye on someone special?”
I smirk and sigh aloud, “Oh, you can try and play innocent, Cooper, but it’s not going to work.” My fingers fly over the keys as I respond, “Well, I have kept my options open for 2 years now. And I’m sure I’ll find someone special one day, but I’m here to play basketball.”
“ah, so you’re here to bang against girls who want to get to the hole, too, huh? : – )”
Shaking my head and chuckling, “I suppose you could put it that way. But I’d like to think I’m a better catch than just any old girl who ‘bangs’ around in the paint.”
After a pause, “well of course you’re better than that……to most people.”
Gasping, I question her, “What is that supposed to mean?”
“forgive me for not jumping on the ‘sara mayze is the best in the world’ wagon, but i’m gonna need some proof that you’re better than that.”
Something about that line lights a bit of a fire in my gut, “what kind of proof?”
“meet me in the north stairwell in 10 minutes and i’ll tell you.”
I scoff, “No, tell me now! I’m not meeting you in a dark, secluded corner!”
I wait for an answer. After about two minutes have lapsed, I start typing again, but a message pops up, “why not? you scared?”
My eyes narrow into slits and I stand to type, “8 minutes, Cooper, be there.”
* * *
I’d be lying if I said that I’m not worried she won’t show up. I walk down the hall to the end and put my hand on the door handle. Something stops me…probably fear of rejection. I stand and wait, hoping to hear her heavy footsteps from the third floor. I say a silent prayer that she beat me to the alcove and open the door.
The darkness is almost overwhelming and it is just then that I remember the lights are out in this stairwell. The only light comes from the dimly lit “exit” sign. My eyes adjust to the dark as I lean against the wall and wait. It’s so quiet here that my heartbeat is deafening and my breathing seems absurdly loud. To distract myself, I sing a song under my breath. I check my watch as my heart slowly sinks with the realization that I’ve been duped. The sound of her voice scares me half to death.
“They say that character is what you are in the dark.”
Instinctively my hand flies to my chest, “Jesus! You scared the hell out of me!” I try to focus in the darkness, but I can’t see her at all, “Where are you?”
I hear the soft laugh, “I figured this is best because if you can’t see me, it’ll be easier for you to talk to me.”
“No it won’t. I’ll talk to you just fine face to face.”
“No you won’t, Mayze. If I’d waited to bring up your sexuality in person, it’d have taken me 6 months to drag it out of you.”
I hang my head a bit because I know it’s true. There’s something about not having to look into her eyes that’s strangely comforting right now. I swallow my pride, “I guess you’re right. But don’t you feel the same way sometimes?”
There’s a pause, “Yes, I suppose there are times that not seeing your opponent is helpful.”
“Opponent? I’m not your opponent.”
“Aren’t you? Considering our situation here, I think you’re the biggest rival I have.”
“Rival at what? What are we fighting for?”
“Well,” her voice trails a bit, “I’m fighting against your fear…with your heart as the prize.”
I scoff at the ridiculousness of that statement, “How the hell are you fighting me for my heart? I don’t want to be in love with myself!”
She laughs now, “I’m not saying you want to be in love with yourself, but you certainly aren’t okay with anyone else being in love with you. And that’s why I have to fight you.”
I wince at these statements because they’re true. But I’m not going to let her know that she’s read me so well in such a short time, “And here I thought you’d be worried about competing against Sam for my affections.” I know it’s strange, but I can almost feel her smirk.
“Hardly. Not to sound cocky, Mayze, but,” she pauses as she steps out of the darkness under the stairs, “I’m confident I can make you love me.” She approaches me slowly, in a tank top, with her thumbs hooked in the waistband of her basketball shorts, “I think we’ve already proven I can make you want me.” She stops in front of me, every muscle in my body taut with the closeness of her, “Can we agree on that?”
My gaze flies from her bare feet to her eyes, I take a deep breath and all the words I’d thought of to use in a response are pushed aside to allow a single one through, “Mocha.” She blinks at me and I snap out of my reverie to explain, “I’ve been trying to figure out what color your eyes are and it hit me just now that they’re the color of mocha.” I shake my head at my own silliness, “I’m sorry. I…” Sighing, I admit defeat, “Yes, it’s accurate to say that you’ve made me want you.” Having to admit this makes my face flush red with anger. I’ve lost control of the situation and I do not like losing control, “But you want me just as much.” To prove it, I peel my t-shirt off, revealing my own sports bra. I kick off my sandals as I pull my shorts down just enough to leave them hanging off my hips, showing a bit of flesh that’s typically hidden. I lift my arms wide and step up to her, “Right, Cooper?”
I watch her swallow hard and drag her eyes from my head to my feet and back again, “Yes, it’s safe to say that the feeling is mutual.”
Embolden by her admission, I lift my chin a bit, the fire of desire fanning the flames of shameful anger, “And, if I wanted to, Jesse, I could make you love me, too.” I step even closer, causing her to step backwards, “I could take you right now, right there on those steps, and you’d beg me for more.” Her back is against the wall now, and there’s nowhere for her to hide. I press against her, “You know that, right?”
Her eyes flash with desire and her jaw clenches, “Probably so.” My victory at hand, I almost step away from her, but I freeze when she adds, “So do it.”
Her head tilts to the side, she licks her lips, and when I inhale, the breath I take is the last barrier between us, “Take me.”
I reach up and slowly rub the pad of my thumb over her bottom lip. They are just as soft as I thought they’d be. I wonder if they’ll taste as good. I look back into her eyes, “Are you sure?”
Suddenly she’s not big, bad Jesse Cooper anymore. She’s Jesse, the girl who wants me to kiss her…the girl I want to kiss. She manages to breathe, “Yes, more than anything.”
Seconds later, our lips meet for the first time. Her hands grip me and pull me against her, helping me stand. I pull back and whisper, “Well, I hadn’t expected that to feel quite that way.” My insides shiver a bit when she exhales a ragged breath and pulls my hips tighter to her own.
Her mouth opens and, for a moment, she doesn’t say anything. When the sound comes, it drips with passion, “You make me so hot.” Her eyes close as if she’s shocked she uttered the words.
I press my palms against the cool cement wall on either side of her head and ask, “I make you hot, huh? Where?”
Her eyes fly open, “Huh?”
I lower my voice a bit and lick my lips deliberately, “Where do I make you hot, Jess?” I will not make this easy for her.
With a look that’s almost convincingly confident, “Everywhere. You name it, it’s hot.”
I smirk, “Oh yeah? Everywhere?”
She nods and I press further by slipping my arm around her waist and lightly stroking her back with just the tips of my fingers, “Here? Are you hot right there, Jess?”
She arches her back and her breath catches just before the chills spread all over her, “Yes,” breathless, her words are just barely audible, “there.”
Testing her, I lean in, my lips very, very close to her collarbone and breathe, “What about here, Jesse?” My tongue darts out and lightly licks along her collarbone before I ask again, “Are you hot here?”
She’s tipped her head back and pressed it against the wall. She looks up at the ceiling, almost as if she’s praying for something with every ounce of her being. She whispers, “Yes, even there, Sara.” A groan erupts from her throat as she brings her head down to mine. Her hand buries itself in my hair as she crushes my lips with her own. She turns us around and presses me against the wall. Her lips cover my neck in hot, wet kisses as her hands roam over me with abandon. Then, just as suddenly as she began, she backs up, “Oh my god.” Her voice is trembling, and different from before, “Oh my god, I’m sorry.” She reaches out for me but then darts up the stairs, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I’m sorry.”
I listen to her cover the stairs with blazing speed and then to the 3rd floor stairwell door slamming closed behind her. Stunned, I reach up and brush my fingers over my lips, “What the hell?”