“No, you’re not. We were probably fooling ourselves thinking we could treat this casually. I can’t.”
I smirk. “Then we’re even.”
Wiping away her tears with the backs of my fingers, I say, “So everything is out in the open, I was going to tell you that what you accused me of last night never happened.” Her eyes are glassy and filled with curiosity. “From the day we met, I have never eaten a grilled cheese sandwich with anyone but you.”
Hitting my chest, she looks away, determined not to laugh. She can’t resist, though. “You scared me. I thought you were going to say . . .”
I take hold of her hips and swivel them my way. “What’d you think I was going to say?”
The laughter trails off, but the happiness remains. “I thought you were going to tell me we shouldn’t be together.”
I take advantage of the situation and kiss her again. “I could never say that.”
I thought our bubble was smaller, but between the hospital, the restaurant, and our apartments, my place is the outlier. I would have been fine taking the subway, but Joshua insisted on a car—together. Guess it saved me a walk of shame despite still wearing his sweatshirt over my outfit.
We talked. Granted, there was still a lot to be said, but this morning felt like a breakthrough of sorts. I’m not sure where we go from here, but knowing that we can talk openly and honestly makes me think that the journey is possible.
Sitting in traffic, I pull the shirt away from my chest, and say, “I’ll wash it and get it back to you.”
Sometimes when he looks at me, I see an emotion that teeters between entertained and grateful. This morning, I get a flash of hope in there as well. It looks good on him. “You can keep it.”
“You can’t give it away before you have a chance to wear it.”
He spreads his legs a little wider to accommodate his size in the cramped back seat of the car. “I never planned to.”
There are so many undiscovered sides to this man that I don’t think I’ll ever not be utterly fascinated by him. “I don’t understand.”
Since we’ll be here a while, he seems to settle into sharing a story by relaxing back, still holding my thigh. “When I worked at the diner, kids used to come in wearing their Yale shirts and sweatshirts, the logoed stuff. The expensive shirts I could never afford. I mean, eighty bucks for a sweatshirt is fucking insane.” I know what he means now, but I didn’t understand then, when money wasn’t something I thought twice about. Now, I relate. I wouldn’t be able to justify it now on my salary. Things were different back then, though.
I pluck the front for levity. “Yet here we are.” I appreciate the chuckle he sends. I may not be the funniest person around, but he’s a great ego booster. I joke about his ego, but Joshua has always been good for mine. I tickle the back of his neck with my nails, and he continues that smile.
“I bought it because I couldn’t back then.” Shaking his head as if he’s embarrassed to admit that, he looks at me. “You should keep it. You earned it.”
This must be so hard for him. I can’t imagine. “You earned yours, Joshua. You were only a few credits from finishing when . . .” I clamp my mouth shut before I say too much and upset him. I don’t want to be that person to him. If that means finding contentment with the peace, I’ll do that and never bring it up again.
The car finally starts moving again, and he replies, “I broke their code of conduct. My father even called. Despite being legacy, the board wouldn’t allow me back.” His hand tightens on my leg just enough for me to notice but not enough to do any harm. The stress flows between us on the delicate subject. He continues somberly, “Yale was his redemption for the biggest mistake he ever made. It’s funny that once that dream of me getting my degree died for him, I might as well have, too.”
I rest my head on his shoulder, and his arm comes around me to hold me there. Even though he’s trying to hide it, I can feel pieces of his pain. “I’d like to say I don’t know how a father could be so cruel, but I can’t.”
“I’m sorry you can’t.” The comment isn’t said in malice, but I guess it’s something else that bonds us. The car pulls in front of my building, and we get out. Joshua spends a few seconds checking out the neighborhood and then my building. “It’s safe enough.” I shrug and walk to the door to punch in the code. Holding the door open, I say, “Come on in.”