Don’t Think, Breath…


Once again, I turned in my barstool, to scan the room casually. I felt slightly guilty for doing it. She wasn’t late, I’d just gotten here early, but it was my impatience that had driven me out the door 20 minutes ahead of schedule. And I still couldn’t decide if I was disappointed or relieved there was no traffic to delay me. I ended up spinning all the way around, checking the entire room, wondering how much of a dumbass I resembled – which might’ve accounted for the grin on the face of the woman, who was suddenly sitting beside me, when I was once again facing the bar. It would’ve been hard to miss her too, since she was turned facing me, with her hands in her lap, an expectant look in her eyes. But the grin was what first got my attention.

It was certainly an amused grin, but there was more to it. I was actually most stunned by just how complicated a grin it was. Not returning it was simply not an option. In the back of my head I thought, do I hope this is Abbey, say something charming and witty to start the evening off right? Or do I play it cool and not find myself flirting with another girl when Abbey walks up? And if Abbey doesn’t have a smile like that, what then? That was a tough notion, given just how enchanting I found her words. It wasn’t so much I was worried she was unattractive. She was the type to be very honest about her appearance, even to the extent of being too quick to point out her flaws. She wasn’t exactly down on herself; she just didn’t like to point out only the positive. To her it felt disingenuous. She did have one picture on her profile, but it was only a close up of her smiling lips. From that, you’d think I could tell if this sweet grin belonged to Abbey or not. But there’s a vast difference between a two dimensional, pixilated kiss, and the live experience. For instance, you could never capture the smile of this woman in a single frame. It would lose all dimension.

It occurred to me that, though the smile had shifted a few times, she hadn’t said a word yet, and it had actually been close to a minute since our eyes had met. Then a look passed across her face, which suggested the exact same idea had occurred to her. Her eyes dropped, and she smiled to herself, like she was too charmed to be embarrassed. Wow did that start my blood pumping too, when her eye lashes fell to her cheeks. In fact, I got a tiny bit light headed. Suddenly I was terrified to know this creature’s name, in case it wasn’t one I was expecting to hear tonight.

“Jack?” She’d just suddenly looked up and blurted it out, though she’d kept a slightly cool façade over the gesture. I tried to be subtle as I sighed, but I doubt I accomplished it. Another grin confirmed my failure. In the back of my mind, all I could think was, please dear lord, do not let my voice crack.

“Abbey?” She looked like she wanted to laugh, and that confused me, but she quickly recovered, nodding her head in acknowledgement of her name. I wish I had a picture of my ridiculous smile when she nodded, so I could get a look at the dopiest version of myself. Thankfully she didn’t cringe away in fear, she only smiled brighter, and I started to wonder if I was drunk.

“Hi.” She smiled shyly. I tried not to leap up, when she suddenly stood. But I settled quickly, when I saw her pick up the bar stool she’d been perched on, and move it closer. She settled back down, in a similar pose to before, and looked a bit like a student attending to a professor. Then she stuck her hand out, shyly but with definite resolve. “It’s nice to meet you, finally.”

I honestly don’t know what made me do it. I mean, when you think about it, unless you’re meeting some belle in a ball gown, and you’re wearing a tuxedo, it’s a cheesy-ass move. But regardless, instead of just shaking the offered hand, I took it, turned it over, and placed a soft kiss on the pulse point at her wrist. For a moment, I expected her to give me a mocking laugh. The reaction I got was much better. Her eyes blinked once, I heard her breath catch in her throat, and a small shiver moved through her. That was more than enough encouragement for me to keep her hand in mine, as I finally greeted her properly. “Hi Abbey, it’s amazing to finally meet you.”

She blushed, and the next thing I knew, a couple of hours had passed.

I couldn’t count the number of topics. Movies, books, politics, religion, everything you should and shouldn’t talk about on a first date. Given the length of the emails we’d been exchanging for a couple of weeks, I was a little surprised we had so many new topics to explore. We didn’t stop talking, even when the bartender came around to offer us more drinks. We would simply nod to him, or shake our head if we weren’t ready for another round, and he would move on. His look said it all – when I managed to stop staring at Abbey long enough to notice – he had no desire to intrude on our little world.

Eventually, I realized how late it was getting, and I wondered if she’d noticed. I saw her eyes flick dear edward izle to the clock over the bar, and regretted the disappointment that her expression revealed. I decided to be bold, if for no other reason than to remove that look from her face.

“So, they’ll be closing down pretty soon.”

“Yep, so it seems.”

“It’s pretty late.”

“Yes, it is.”

“Are you tired?”

She smiled, clearly knowing where I was going. “I probably should be, but I’m not.”

I tried not to make my relief obvious, as I continued my leading questions, “I’d love to talk more, if you really aren’t tired?”

She laughed lightly, “I’m not tired.” I sensed she was about to say more, but I continued on, trying not to give her time to qualify that remark.

“I’d invite you back to my place, but my roommate is probably still up, studying for an exam he has to take for work next week. “

I waited patiently, letting her mull it over in her mind. When she finally answered, I knew that the look in my eyes betrayed how much I was counting on her response. It wasn’t the one I’d hoped for.

“You know, it is pretty late. I should probably get to sleep.”

My heart sank. It wasn’t necessarily that I was hoping for anything particular, if we’d gone back to her place. It was more that I didn’t want this night to end yet, and her reluctance left me a little self conscious of whether she’d had as much fun as I had. Though, I had to admit, even to myself, that I was longing to kiss those agonizingly beautiful lips, in a fashion that wasn’t appropriate in any public place.

Suddenly she blushed, turning positively pink. Something odd tried to form in my mind, but it was brushed aside quickly when she gave me another dazzling smile, this one almost seeming intentionally meant to befuddle my senses. Maybe it was the slight chuckle before she spoke, that made it seem so.

“It’s not exactly that I don’t want to. It’s hard to explain. But there are some things you need to know about me, before I’m willing to take that step. And I’m not quite ready to tell you those things. “My mind started racing through potential pieces of missing information; stalker ex, STD, some odd deformity, history of narcolepsy? She giggled. I had that nagging feeling again, that I was missing something, but she once again interrupted my train of thought.

“It’s nothing freaky, dangerous, or communicable, I can assure you. And yes, I am, and have always been, a woman.” She laughed, and I suddenly relaxed, following suit.

“Well I hadn’t thought of that last bit yet, but I guess the rest was written all over my face.” She gave a slight nod, though the corner of her mouth went up, as if there was an inside joke in playing in her mind.

“Jack, I probably should be more cute and seductive, or somehow play this up as some great mystery, but you know that’s not my style.” I mimicked her earlier nod, and she gave me a small smile, “I like you, a lot. Hell, I liked you before I ever stepped a foot in this place, and that feelings has grown exponentially in the last couple of hours.”

I wondered, bemusedly, if she might be blinded by the beaming coming off of my face. Whatever my expression was, it must’ve been amusing as hell, because she had to struggle not to laugh. I got self conscious again, worrying that I really did look like a tool. A shadow passed over her eyes, and she seemed to be reacting quickly, to an inner reaction I wasn’t privy too. She smiled again, leaning in to kiss my cheek. I made a snap decision, and turned to meet my lips with hers. Inside my head I was screaming, “Please let her kiss me back.”

You hear about that whole, seeing stars thing, or hearing opera. I never thought that made much sense to me. I just couldn’t see hallucinations coming from a kiss, no matter how good it was. I mean, maybe a few hours of kissing, if you’ve both been ignoring your oxygen needs, I could see it. But from just one kiss? That’s just silly.

For a split second, she seemed to just take in the fact that I was kissing her. But suddenly, she was very sure of what was happening, and as she slipped her arms around my neck, and leaned into me… fireworks exploded behind my eyelids, I shit you not. No opera though. Instead, it was like I was suddenly in a vacuum. There was no sound, no music from the jukebox, no voices from the other patrons, no whisper of air moving around me. If Bose could patent this type of sound suppression, with a pair of headphones, they would make millions.

I’ve had kisses that took my breath away, but not the brain right out of my head. Suddenly a movie quote popped into my head. It was a movie an old girlfriend had made me watch one time. Not awful, for a romantic comedy. It had some really funny parts, and the actors were both good. It just trickled through my mind, as if my sense of humor was trying to bring my brain back into focus a little bit. “What is it about you that makes a man death in the dorms izle with a 147 IQ feel like a dribbling idiot?”

My brain was yanked sharply into focus, when Abbey’s face quickly dropped, and she giggled. If I hadn’t been so completely aware of her, in that moment, I might not have heard her say it. But as it stands, I did hear her whisper, under her breath, “You’re welcome, God.”

My eyes opened wide in shock, “What did you say?”

Her eyes rose to me in panic. She looked around, as if someone else had heard her say it too, and the whole room was accusing her. She looked absolutely terrified, and that shocked me so deeply that I almost forgot what she had said myself. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When her eyes were open again, a giant exit sign flashed in her eyes.

She leaned in, gave me a short but powerful kiss, and pulled back. “I’ll call you tomorrow.” And then she rushed out of the place so fast, something told me I should’ve been left spinning on my barstool. I sat there stunned, for exactly 3 seconds. Then I quickly tore out my wallet, dropped more money onto the bar than the tab probably was, and headed for the door. I didn’t know what exactly had happened, but if I didn’t find out, I was going to spend the entire night agonizing over it. Plus, there was that odd little matter of her finishing the end of the movie quote that had started in my head. How the hell did that happen? That’s why I told myself I was pursuing her. But I knew well enough the truth. I wasn’t ready to let go of her just yet.

When I got to the parking lot I could see her leaning her head against her car, as if she was trying to force herself to do something, and hadn’t quite managed it yet. I took a single step toward her, but I stopped dead in my tracks, when she looked up, directly into my eyes. There was resolve there, and fear, and longing, and remorse. It nearly broke my heart. Then she turned away quickly, walked to the front of her car, and sat on the hood. She waited there, with her head hanging, until I walked in front of her, and leaned against the tall fence that surrounded the parking lot. I debated if I should say something, but it seemed smarter to just wait for her to be ready to speak, so I kept silent.

“Actually, I was kind of waiting for a question, but I guess it might be unreasonable to make you try to compile a question out of what’s rattling around in your head.” I gasped, and she looked up sharply, this look only of fear and remorse. “On the other hand, it’s a little more difficult than you would imagine, trying to explain this to someone, which is probably why I’ve yet to do it. Though, in fairness to myself, I wasn’t just a complete chicken shit. More often than not, I would eventually hear something in somebody’s head, which told me I couldn’t trust them with this information.”

My brain couldn’t yet process what she was telling me, so it settled on another thought instead. I wondered how many times she’d come close, been about to share her most guarded secret, about to reveal something that made her feel truly vulnerable, and been stopped suddenly by a thought that destroyed any chance of continuing on that path. How many fools had lost her over an errant thought? How many times had her heart been broken, just as she was about to give it?

“I can’t really say I’ve been keeping count, but it’s happened more times than I’d care to recall.” I had to struggle to keep my breathing even, not to hyperventilate. I had to stay focused on her face, on how vulnerable she looked right now, on how desperately I wanted those not to be tears in her eyes. She looked away quickly, dashing her hand across her eyes. It settled me far better than the tears themselves had.

I took a deep breath, walked over, and sat beside her on the car. She looked forward again, determined not to meet my eyes. I don’t know what made me do it, if it was some impulse to be absolutely sure of what she was telling me, or just a desire to speak to her in a way she couldn’t just brush aside like another unwanted tear. But whatever drove me, I consciously said, in my mind…

Look at me, please.

She closed her eyes, and her breathing sped up. Her shoulders slumped a little, and she looked slightly defeated. But at the same time, I could’ve sworn I saw a shiver pass over her. Suddenly I saw her again, as she’d been a couple of hours before, standing before me, my head coming up from wrist, as her body trembled slightly.

Her shoulder shook for a second, as she laughed silently. Then she turned to look at me, and the fear had definitely diminished from her gaze. She tilted her head to the side, as though she were appraising me. Then she smirked, and raised an eyebrow, silently egging me on. I realized now what she was doing, and I smiled back. I tried it again, wondering how sharply I had to say the words in my mind, for her to understand them as a question.

“You diary of a gigolo izle did fine the first time.”

I laughed, and that relaxed her tremendously. So I figured I’d indulge my skepticism for a second. And while I was at it, might as well get some useful information.

What color are your eyes?

“Grey, mostly.”

What’s your favorite flower?

“Sterling roses. They’re an exquisite pale purple and they don’t have any thorns.

I hadn’t asked you why yet.

“You don’t have to try, remember, you were already starting to form the thought in your head.”

Can you do this with everyone?

“Thus far yes, though it’s easier with some people than others, I don’t know why.”

Could you always do this?

“I was about 10 when I first was really sure it was happening. I would catch little things sometimes, and just imagine I was good at reading faces, or my mind was working along the same lines as the person I was talking to. And then one day, my dad took me to a magic show. And the guy was doing this trick with an audience member, and asked her to think about the card she’d picked from his deck. I found myself trying to hear her, to know what card she had, and suddenly I could hear her, and the magician, and my dad, and some of the audience members. I thought I was going insane for a little bit, until I watched the magician play out the trick, saying every move in his head before he did it, and I knew I was hearing exactly what he was thinking. There was no other explanation for it. After that, it didn’t take long to learn the ins and outs; to figure out how to filter the voices out, to listen to just one. “

“Amazing.” I was so floored, I couldn’t even be sure if I’d said that out loud or in my head. I decided to blurt out the next question as soon as it popped into my head, so she wouldn’t have time to fret over it in hers. “Do you do this on all your first dates?”

She looked down sharply, her breathing agitated. I didn’t need to hear her thoughts. The guilt was pouring off of her. I felt like a prick for saying it that way, for making her think that was an accusation, when it really was just an inquiry.

“It should be an accusation. I have tried not to, but then they’d get a look on their face, that made me nervous they were lying or hiding something, and I’d find myself checking. I justified it to myself, saying I was just being careful. I mean, a girl should use all the tools available to her right, to be safe when meeting strangers. But that was just an excuse, and I know that. When you come right down to it, it’s a shitty thing to do.”

“Well I still didn’t mean it as an accusation, and I don’t think it’s all that shitty. I mean, it is true, a girl can never be too careful in this day and age. Though, I kind of wish you’d stop. Not because I feel like you’re somehow violating my privacy, but just because I’m getting a little frustrated with seeing you look so destroyed whenever you perceive a negative reaction coming from me.”

She looked up in surprise and shock. I liked being able to surprise her. “That’s right, I said perceived. Don’t go putting thoughts into my head sweetheart.” She grinned at me, and rolled her eyes. “I won’t pretend I’m not in a bit of shock. This is a lot of information to take in, and my brain was already fairly well scrambled from that kiss.” She blushed furiously, and I found myself scooting closer. “But I’m not running away screaming either. I’m here, and at this moment, there isn’t one other place I want to be.”

She laughed, loudly. Within seconds, she was laughing so hard, she was holding her stomach. I knew I’d missed something, but I decided to enjoy the sound for a while, instead of asking for clarification. After a few minutes, she gasped out. “It’s amazing what people don’t even hear in their own heads.”

She looked up at me, and I was smiling bemusedly. “What didn’t I hear?”

She grinned, “You actually edited the word fucking out of the last thing you said.” I thought back for a second, replaying it, and realized she was right. What I’d intended to say was, “there isn’t one other fucking place I want to be.” I hadn’t even realized I’d censored myself, but I was suddenly relieved she wasn’t offended by the silent word.

“Oh don’t worry about it; I’ve been known to cuss like a sailor, from time to time.”

We were both laughing now, shaking in a fit of gaiety, and it felt so good I wanted to cry. She leaned over and nudged me with her shoulder, as if to make me stop thinking so much like a giddy school boy, falling in love for the first time. But before she could lean away, I pulled her close, turned her face towards mine, and kissed her. I’d caught her by surprise again, but this time I took complete control of the kiss. I held her face in my hands, coming off the car to lean her back against it more, and I kissed her until I couldn’t breathe. As soon as I pulled my lips from hers, we both gasped in oxygen, and I felt another surge of pleasure at the sound.

I quickly wrapped my arms around her, turned back around to lean against the car again, and pulled her tightly to my chest. She folded her hands together, behind the small of my back, and buried her face against my neck. My voice was hoarse, “So, was that a no to my request?”

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