I smile at him and lay my head back down on his shoulder. I like the sound of that. Because I’ve wanted him just as long.
I hold Jay close as the horses weave their way through the street and into the park. I’ve planned for us to ride down to the lake and have a picnic dinner.
But after only a short time, I start to smell it.
“Oh, that’s pretty strong,” Jay says, covering her nose.
I laugh it off and try not to let it bother me. “Yeah, nature of the beast, I guess. If you’re going to sit behind horses, I guess you expect it to smell.”
“Yeah, I’m sure the wind will change once we’re closer in,” she says, smiling at me.
I go to lean down and kiss her again, unable to control myself. But another waft of horse shit lands between us, and the mood is ruined.
Jay begins to cough. “God, I think I swallowed some of the smell,” she sputters, her eyes watering.
“Let me see if there’s a problem.” I try to comfort her as I get up from the bench seat and sit forward, getting the driver’s attention. “Hey, is everything okay?”
He looks back at me, and I see he’s got a half mask over his mouth and nose. “Sorry, one of the horses is having a bit of a rough go of it,” he says in a thick British accent. “Musta got in something.”
Just then I can hear the sounds of the horse relieving himself, and I don’t look down to see the aftermath.
“Just take us straight to the lake,” I say as he picks up the pace.
Leaning back, I look over at Jay, who still has her hand over her nose. “I’m sorry,” I say, hating that tonight isn’t going perfectly. “Guess our horse has the runs.”
She starts to laugh, and pretty soon I’m joining in with her. I guess sometimes that’s all you can do.
We grin and bear it as we get close to the lake, and blessedly, when we get there, the smell is gone. I jump down out of the carriage and hold out my hands, taking Jay by the waist and picking her up. Slowly, I lower her to the ground, letting her rub against my body as I do.
“I couldn’t resist,” I say, winking at her.
“And you didn’t even apologize.” Her cheeks are pink, but she hasn’t tried to pull away.
“I’ll never apologize for what I want when it comes to you.” I reach into the carriage to grab the picnic basket, and help her down to the lake.
“Thank you again for the flats,” she says as we follow the path closer to the water.
“I like when you look happy. And those heels did not make you look happy.”
I squeeze her hand, and the look she gives me squeezes my heart. God, this woman is going to break me in two.
When we get to the edge of the water, I take out the blanket and spread it out. The grass is soft but dry, and I help her sit down as I unpack the food and join her.
“I ordered takeout from the deli you like. I thought finger foods might be best,” I say, opening the containers and spreading them out around us.
She reaches for one of the cherry tomatoes and hums as she eats it. “They have the best food.”
We eat while we laugh and talk, just being our normal selves. Time goes by, and the sun begins to set, but it feels like we’ve only been here for a few minutes. I wonder if being friends first didn’t help ease us into this. I never wanted to only be her friend, but it was the best way to get her to know me. And to see that I’m not as scary as some people act.
“How’d you get your scar?” she asks, nodding at my cheek. “It’s not something we’ve ever talked about, but you seem to try to hide it sometimes.”
I didn’t realize that was a conscious maneuver, but if she noticed it then I must be doing it. I pause, thinking about how to tell her, and she takes my hesitation as something more.
“I’m sorry. That was rude. I’m sure it’s personal and—”
“No, I was just trying to think of a way to tell you without making you feel sad.” I shrug and let out a breath. “But there’s no way to do that. I’ve told you about my parents and how my mom died when I was in high school. She was hit by a drunk driver, and I was in the car with her. My face hit the passenger side window, and that’s how I got it.”
“Oh, Jordan, I’m so sorry.” She puts her hands on her mouth like she can take the question back. Then she puts her hand on my face like she can take the hurt away.