“Everything,” he says.
“Everything? Even anchovies?”
“Well, no, that’s not standard pizza topping though.”
“So to qualify, everything standard,” I grin.
“Quit being cute,” he warns playfully. “Order whatever you want, I’m sure I’ll eat it.”
“I don’t think you’d like the way I order pizza so I’ll order half your standard way and half my way.”
“Now I’m curious to see what you order on yours,” he says, as I turn to pick up the telephone.
Suddenly tonight holds a lot more promise than it did when I left work.
“Your half of the pizza looks… sad.”
“Allen, I don’t think pizza can look sad,” Jessie laughs, staring at the opened box on her coffee table.
“It doesn’t have any cheese.”
“I don’t like cheese,” she says, now she’s staring at me.
I know, because I can’t pull my gaze away from her face. She’s so beautiful. There’s a light that comes from her that shines so bright that I’d swear it somehow warms up the darkness inside of me when she’s close by.
“There’s no pepperoni on the pizza either, Mouse. I don’t think I’ve ever seen pizza without pepperoni.”
“There’s sausage,” she says, grinning. “I like sausage.”
“You’re beautiful,” I whisper.
I didn’t mean to say those words, they just slip out, but I don’t regret them—especially when I see the way her face softens with pleasure.
“Maybe you should get your eyes checked,” she mumbles, blushing deeply.
“I’ve got twenty-twenty vision, Jessie. I definitely know when I see beauty staring at me.”
“You don’t have to do that, Allen.”
“I know who I am. I don’t need you to try and boost my self-esteem. I’m never going to be pretty.”
I stare at her, wondering who on earth would ever make her feel like she wasn’t the most beautiful woman in the world. She is to me.
“Who was he?”
“Who was it that failed to make you see how special you are, Mouse?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t lie to me, Jessie. I see it in your eyes.”
“Isn’t this kind of… serious talk considering we don’t really know each other?”
“I think this is part of getting to know each other. I’ve been through shit, it makes me serious most of the time.”
“What kind of shit?”
“We’ll get into that later,” I tell her, and even as I say it, I’m pretty sure we never will. I don’t want her to know about my past. There are just things that you don’t burden a good woman down with—and Jessie… she’s good. Good and clean. I know it.
“That’s kind of a double standard,” she points out.
“Quit stalling, Mouse.”
“You’re very bossy,” she mumbles.
“You have no idea,” I respond, unable to stop my smile.
“There honestly wasn’t anyone, unless you count my father. I don’t think he liked me.”
“You don’t think?”
“He said shit all the time, but it’s kind of… murky in my brain.”
“I’m serious. He didn’t stay around along, he left when I was pretty young, so it’s not like I have a lot of memories of him. The ones I do have, weren’t bad… they just weren’t very good either.”
“Do you know what happened to him?”
“I saw him at my grandmother’s funeral.”
“Did you talk?”
“He said he was sorry about Nana. I said me too. Does that count?”
She’s trying to be flippant and forcing a smile, but I can tell that she’s hurt by the memory.
“I’m sorry, Mouse.”
I slide my hand along the side of her neck, her skin soft and warm. I drag my thumb against her pulse. I stare into her eyes, then lean down to kiss the crease on her brow that betrays her sadness.
“I’m sorry,” I tell her again, because I have no idea how to make it better. “It might not be the same, but you stopped my breath from the first moment you spoke to me. I saw you and my world tilted on its axis.”
“If that’s a line, Allen, it’s a really good one.”
“It’s not a line, Mouse.”
“Can we revisit the whole nickname thing? Something sexy and exciting. I mean if I have to be an animal, can I be exotic? A gazelle or something.”
“A gazelle?” I ask, unable to stop my laughter.
“What the fuck is a gazelle, Jessie?”
“Umm… I think it’s like a deer with striped horns.”
“You’re not sure?”
“It’s not like I go on safaris and things,” she mumbles, looking so unbelievably cute I lean down and take her mouth before I can talk myself out of it.
It’s probably the best kiss of my life. It’s sweet and spicy at the same time. It’s peace and heat. It’s touchable. Our tongues slide against each other in perfect harmony, as if they were meant to… as if they were made to.
When we break apart, Jessie’s eyes begin to open slowly. I like that, it’s like she was so deeply affected by our kiss that it takes her time to come down from the high. I have that effect with drugs. I’ve never had that effect with a kiss, and it’s a fucking million times better. It makes me feel… alive in a way I haven’t before… not once in my life, not since the devil got his hooks into me…