My gaze lifts to his.
“Are you asking me to be your girlfriend?” I tease, but those butterflies are swarming into a frenzy. I’ve asked him this question before, and his answer has always been no.
This time, he gives me a soft smile and says, “Are you saying yes?”
“Do you always have to be so difficult?”
He laughs and kisses me playfully on the mouth. “Do you?”
“Yes,” I say, and he furrows his brow at me.
“To the girlfriend part, or to the being difficult?”
“So you admit you’re asking me to be your girlfriend,” I say, and Joel laughs hard.
“Fine. Yes. Deandra Dawson, will you please for the love of God be my fucking girlfriend?”
I lace my fingers behind his neck and give him a smile only he can bring out of me. “I thought you’d never ask.”
IN A MOSTLY empty bedroom, I tap my finger against my chin and point to a corner. “There.”
Shawn and Mike begin carrying my dresser to the spot I indicated, and I shake my head. “No, there.” I point to the other wall, and they huff and change direction.
“Tell me again why I have to get you a housewarming present when I just got you a going-away present?” Shawn asks, quickly adding, “And I just got you a housewarming present for your last place a few months ago?”
“That was a birthday present,” I scoff, ignoring the part about the housewarming present.
“Tell me again why I have to get you a housewarming present when I’m living here too?” Joel asks, and I smile and wrap my arms around his neck.
“Because you love me.”
He lowers his mouth to mine in a single kiss that makes my insides flutter, and then he pulls away and curses himself. “Damn it.”
I give him my sweetest smirk, someone behind us gags, and we all get back to moving my things into Joel’s bedroom.
Yesterday, after I burst into his place, threw a poster tube at his head, and agreed to be his girlfriend, I remembered that I was moving six hours away. Reality settled heavily in my stomach, and I told Joel it didn’t matter if we wanted to be together because someone new was already set to move into my apartment and I was in the process of moving back home. I told him about how wrong college was for me, how I was thinking about going to fashion school, how popular the T-shirts were getting, and most importantly, how I had to move back home because I had no other options. Rowan had already told her parents about her living with Adam, so even if I could find another apartment in town, we couldn’t keep lying about living together. I’d have to find a roommate, and I had no idea how long that would take.
“Move in with me,” Joel had said, interrupting me mid-rant.
The only response I could muster was, “Huh?”
“Stay here,” he answered.
“If you think I’m letting you go again, you’re even crazier than I give you credit for,” he challenged, and I ignored the taunt since, for once, I didn’t feel like fighting.
“You don’t think it’s too fast?” I asked, and his voice softened.
“I think that all we do is fast. When we try to slow it down, we mess shit up.”
When we emerged from his apartment, after the hottest make-up quickie I’ve ever had, everyone from my birthday party was already gathered in the lobby anxiously waiting for me. Rowan, who was gnawing on a fingernail, lowered her gaze to our clasped hands, and her hand fell away from her mouth as a big smile lit her face.
“Shut up,” I warned, but I couldn’t stop smiling and she started laughing.
“Her stuff is already packed up?” Joel asked the guys.
“Yeah,” Shawn cautiously answered. “Why?”
When Joel announced I was moving in with him, Adam burst out laughing, Rowan’s jaw dropped, and Leti grinned like a goofball. From the expressions on everyone else’s faces, they thought we were batshit crazy. And maybe we are, but it’s either go crazy with him or go crazy without him, and that choice is finally easy for me to make.
This morning, I called my dad to let him know I was going to move in with Joel instead of moving back home.
“Are you there?” I asked in the long moment of silence that followed my announcement.
“Yeah . . . Give me a minute, I’m trying to figure out how to feel about this.” I gave him what felt like the full minute, and he finally said, “Is Joel with you?”
I cast a worried look at Joel, who was sitting next to me on his couch. “Yeah . . .”
“Put him on.”
“Because my little girl is moving in with him and we need to have a talk first.”
I worried my bottom lip. “Dad?”
“There’s something you should know first . . .”
Another long moment of silence passed while I tried to work up the nerve to tell my dad I’d fallen in love, and he interrupted it by stating matter-of-factly, “You’re pregnant.”
“No!” I shouted into the line, my outburst making Joel flinch. “No! Oh my God, no! NO.”
An audible sigh of relief sounded from over three hundred miles away. “Thank God.”
“Jesus, Dad. What the heck?!”
“I think I just aged thirty years.”
“This is ME we’re talking about!”
“YOU are acting strange lately,” he argued. “Now what were you going to say?”