Food, Cats, and Being in Love

I don't want to think about it
I don't want to talk about it
When I kiss your lips
I want to sink down to the bottom
Of the sea

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31. Chapter Thirty-One

Even though it was technically still winter and still cold out, the Kassem’s wanted to barbecue anyway. Mr. Kassem apparently liked to grill a lot, and his wife said that even in the dead of winter in the middle of a storm, you could sometimes find him in the backyard by the barbecue. And Erin seemed to really like to be outside, so it worked out well for everyone.

But since it was so cold, we didn’t stay outside for long. We headed back in the house so he could finish with dinner and Vincent and her mom talked while Erin led me to her bedroom to show me her collection of ponies and Star Wars droid figurines. When Vincent finally joined us, I was sitting in the middle of her bedroom floor wearing a purple cowboy hat and a feather boa. He paused in the doorway and then smiled.

“She got you to play dress up, huh,” he said.

“Binnie’s turn!” Erin decided. Then she rushed out to take his hand and forced him to sit next to me. She dressed him up next but stuck with a fez and a necklace made out of large spherical beads.

We played with her for at least a half an hour before Mrs. Kassem found us and told us dinner was ready and that hats and feather boas were forbidden from the dinner table, but Vincent was welcome to wear the necklace. And he did. We gave Erin back all her cool dress up stuff, but she insisted he kept the necklace at dinner and he didn’t argue.

Dinner was fantastic. Mr. Kassem was apparently really nervous about having me try his food since I was the “expert.” But it was really great, and he promised to send me some Moroccan recipes if I was interested. So we ended up blabbering about food for a while, and I promised to send them a copy of my book once it was published.

I wanted to stay all night. Erin was great, and her family was amazing. She told me all about her kindergarten class and her friends and her favorite songs and movies and how when she grew up she wanted to be an elephant trainer. But not because she actually wanted to train them, but so that she could commit some kind of elephant heist and set them all free. Vincent told me she had a new life plan every time he saw her and that the time before that she had wanted to be a werewolf.

After dinner, we sat in the living room talking while she put on her favorite Barbie movie and made us watch it. But she conked out on the floor quickly, and Mr. Kassem took her to bed while his wife walked us out.

“Sorry she fell asleep on you guys,” she was saying as we stepped out onto the front steps. “Her bedtime is so early because she wakes up at the crack of dawn regardless of what time she goes to bed. So she’s not used to staying up very late.”

“Oh, it’s fine. I’m just glad we got to spend time with her,” Vincent said.

“Me too. I’m glad you came. And it was so good seeing you again, Piper. I hope we’ll see more of you.”

“Absolutely. I’d love to come visit again. And send her gifts. If that’s okay,” I replied.

“She would love it, and you are welcome anytime. And you guys are an adorable couple. Honestly, I was telling my husband about it when you two were younger.” Then she gave me a bit of a sneaky smile. “I caught you guys hugging by the snack machine, and I thought ‘hmm there’s a bit more going on there.” I was momentarily startled and couldn’t say anything to that.

Vincent just said, “Umm…” but then she went into her goodbyes, and we never got the chance to correct her.

We didn’t speak about it. Mostly because we were both exhausted. Driving for a long time always made me super tired, and since I’d taken a nap and he hadn’t, it was probably worse for him. Luckily, we were just going to rent a motel room and then drive back in the morning.

But when we finally checked in and made it into the room, I suddenly didn’t want to sleep anymore. When we first admitted to each other that we were attracted to each other, I’d told him it was probably just a crush that would go away. But it didn’t mellow out at all. In fact, I’d just fallen in love with him. And I didn’t feel as guilty anymore. I usually did when I thought about Paige, but for the most part, I tried not to think about her at all. It made it easier to deal with the fact that I was falling for him. I just didn’t want to pretend not to anymore.

He went to the bathroom while I got ready for bed. We’d rented a room with two beds so that it wasn’t awkward. Since we were “just friends” and all. My bed was closest to the bathroom wall, so I sat there staring at the strip of light coming through the curtains while I waited for him. When he left the bathroom and turned the light off, I could see the shadow of him as he went to his bed.

“Vincent?” I whispered. Even though my heart was pounding and I was telling myself I’d probably regret being honest.

“Yeah?” he replied in the dark.

“I don’t think we can be friends anymore.” He was silent as he moved toward me. The room was almost pitch black except for the one strip of light, but he found his way to my bed without a problem, and I could feel him sit next to me.

“Why? What’s wrong?” he asked.

“It’s just—it’s dumb.”

“It’s not dumb. Tell me what’s wrong.” I turned toward him and reached my fingers out to find him. But they met with bare skin. He wasn’t wearing a shirt and that just made it even harder. I could feel his skin tense when I touched him, and I moved my fingers up to his neck so I could get a better feel for where his face was. Then I leaned forward and pressed my lips against his.

I heard his breath catch, but then he was kissing me back. He moved his hands into my curls and pulled my lips against his. And I’d said once that my number one best kiss was the day I’d kissed him in his car out front of my house while I was dressed like Audrey Hepburn. But this kiss beat that kiss by a long shot. Not just because we’d both gotten much better at kissing and I didn’t have metal on my teeth anymore. But because I could feel that we both wanted it badly. I could barely breathe, and every so often I heard that “mm” sound at the back of his throat that he made when he tasted my food. It wasn’t a pity kiss or a kiss to prove that I was kissable. It wasn’t a “shut up” kind of kiss like the last one.

It was real and desperate and passionate. It had built up over months of friendship that had wanted so badly to be much more than that. Then I knew for sure what had been missing from my past two relationships. It was passion. Because at that moment, for the first time in my life, I didn’t care that I was chubby and not conventionally attractive. I felt comfortable in my skin and with him and all I wanted for us to not be “just friends” anymore.

He was wearing nothing but shorts. And I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and that’s it. When I hooked my fingers in his shorts to get them off, his breath had caught in his throat again, but he didn’t stop me. He pulled his arms around me to pull me closer, and I slipped a leg over his lap to take a seat on him. I could feel his hands up the back of my shirt, and all I could hear in the dark was the sound of us breathing heavily and my own pounding heart. We didn’t speak until I moved to lift my shirt up over my head. He pulled away from my lips, and I could hear him breathing in the dark.

“Pip?” he whispered.

“Yeah?” I replied.

“Is this really what you want?”

“Yes.”

“There won’t be any going back after this. We won’t be able to change it. We won’t be just friends anymore.”

“I know.”

“Then there’s something I want you to know before we do.” I dropped my shirt to the floor and felt my heart seize. He was going to tell me something awful. I just knew it. And I prepared myself for the worst. But with Vincent, I always overthought and overreacted, and everything he said never ended up being what I thought he’d say. “I think I’m in love with you, Piper,” he said.

It wasn’t stated in a casual way like before. He said it like he meant it. Like he wanted me to know that he really did feel that way. He even used my name even though we were the only two people in the room.

It got super quiet after that. I could hear him holding his breath, and I realized I was doing the same thing. I wondered if his heart was beating as quickly as mine. So I moved my hand over his chest to feel it thump against my palm. Then I leaned down to kiss his lips.

“I think I’m in love with you too,” I whispered. And he finally started breathing again. He moved me onto my back, and his lips were on mine.

Even if we just stopped right there, I don’t think we could have come back from it. There was no thinking about Paige or anyone else or the repercussions. Just that we wanted each other and would worry about the rest when we had to. The only light came from the one strip through the curtains that occasionally moved over his face. Every time I saw him my heart would jump. But to me, he was just Vincent. Just the guy I’d been mad crushing on for months. The guy who made me forget everyone else. He didn’t belong to anyone but me. And I didn’t care if we made such a complicated mess, just as long as he didn’t let me go.

And he didn’t. Until later. When our hearts were beating in unison, and the room went quiet again. He moved to my side, and that strip of light slid across his chest and neck. I shifted to face him, and his arm came around me, gripping my bare skin.

“Pip,” he breathed into my hair. But I shut my eyes and rested against his chest.

“I don’t want to talk about it yet,” I whispered. He moved his fingers through my messy, tangled hair and pressed a kiss to my forehead.

“Alright,” he said. “We won’t.”

 

Okay so. Sorry for the delay. I sort of got into one of those "Everything is awful and you should never write ever again" funks. I was also sort of hesitant to put this chapter up because of how quickly Piper and Vincent jump into their relationship and I get really super nervous about people judging the choices that I make for my characters, which then contributes to that feeling of "you suck. stop writing forever."

But I have my reasons.

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