Motion (Page 41)
“Hey,” I called out disgruntledly after he settled in, raising my voice over the action of the film.
He lifted on his elbow and twisted his neck to look at me. “What?”
“You took the popcorn.”
He held out the bag with his other arm. “Come take it if you want it.”
My frowning gaze flickered between the bag and his face. He’d made the popcorn. It didn’t make sense for me to take the whole thing. I could go to the kitchen and get a bowl so the popcorn was split evenly, or I could take several trips (up to where he held the popcorn hostage) several times during the movie to grab handfuls, or I could—
“Or just sit up here with me. Whatever.”
Well. Since he suggested it.
Clearly self-destruction autopilot was still engaged, because I crossed to the love seat, scooched back until I rested against the sofa cushions, my legs stretched out in front of me, and stuck my hand in the popcorn bag between us.
Around the halfway mark, my eyes glanced over at Abram. The popcorn was gone, so the bag wasn’t between us. His ankles were crossed. He had a hand on the T-shirt covering his stomach and an arm behind his head. His eyes were on the screen and a smile was on his mouth. A sliver of skin where his T-shirt hem had lifted away from his jeans was visible, as was the gray-and-black waistband of his boxers (which might have been boxer briefs, more data were required before a definitive classification could be made).
He looked comfortable, relaxed, happy, and I felt an answering desire to an unasked question: I wanted to be as he was.
In his own way, but in a way that was entirely alien to me, Abram was stunningly pragmatic and rational. Here he was, in a state of disappointment, and yet also in a comfortable, relaxed, and happy state. How did he do that? How could one state follow the other so seamlessly? Or exist in tandem?
I formulated no hypothesis, because a second later, he caught me staring.
As usual, I quickly tore my eyes away, a blaze of self-consciousness rushing to my cheeks. His eyes were on me. I felt them, but I also confirmed this sense with a quick glance in his direction. His eyes were on me and it wasn’t a quick scrutinizing. Now he was staring. Unabashedly.
“Hey,” he said after a protracted moment, lifting his hand from his stomach and placing it on my back. His palm moved in a slow circle over the thin fabric of my tank top. “Are you comfortable? You wanna lie down?”
I wasn’t comfortable only because I wanted to lie down. The logical path was to remain in my present position as lying down felt a little stupid and dangerous, like acknowledging the slipperiness of the slope and attempting the slope anyway.
Even so, self-destruct autopilot engaged, I nodded and lay down. His arm behind me didn’t move as I readjusted myself, which meant my head rested on his bicep when I finally reclined. The butterflies in my stomach made concentrating on the film difficult, so when his arm came around me, squeezing me to his chest during a particularly funny part, I only knew it was funny because he was laughing so hard.
That was the moment my head ended up over his heart. Instead of listening to Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi tell me about their mission from God, I counted Abram’s heartbeats, slowing my breathing to see if I could match his pulse to mine.
Tangentially, I realized that listening to Abram’s heart had been a terrible idea, a critical error in judgment. Now—even with the tempo still filling my ear—I knew with absolute certainty I would never tire of the sound. In fact, I would crave it for the rest of my life, from this moment forward.
Our society warns us from an early age to eschew drugs that might be addictive, or habits and hobbies—like gambling or video games or fantasy worlds—that employ Skinner box tactics meant to target addiction-causing pleasure centers of the brain.
But no one tells you to avoid the sound of a heartbeat.
This was also the moment. Laying here with Abram was the memory I would keep, the one I would retrieve on rainy days, the one that would inspire wistful daydreams. And as beautiful as he’d been in the pool, as utterly perfect of an exterior he possessed, I wouldn’t be thinking of his body when I missed him, I would be thinking of his heart.
By the final musical act, the entire length of me was pressed against Abram’s body, one arm draped over his stomach, my other arm tucked between us, our feet tangled, his hand lazily moving up and down my side. When the end credits rolled, I didn’t notice.
“Hey,” he said eventually after the final credit had scrolled, the screen had faded to black. “The movie is over.”
“Yep.” I tightened my arm around his torso, holding on and squeezing my eyes shut. Maybe if I refused to acknowledge the existence of reality, reality would cease to exist. All hypotheses are worth exploring! Even the crazy ones.
He took a deep breath, his chest rising and lifting my head as he filled his lungs with air. I clung to him.
“Lisa.” I felt him shift, his hand that had been supporting his head came to my forearm and he caressed the length of it with his palm. “Do you want to get up?”
He chuckled, and then sighed. “Okay. Do you want to talk?”
Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten . . . I was counting the beats of his heart between questions and noted with some interest that his pulse had just increased. His heart was beating faster, which meant mine—which had been in sync with his for the last quarter of the movie— also began beating faster.
“What do you want to do?” His voice deepened, and there was no mistaking the grumbly, suggestive quality to it.
“So many things,” I whispered. My leg constricted over his thigh, my arm around his waist now squeezing, I scrunched my eyes tighter.
He waited, his breath becoming shallow.
Twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two . . .
And then he waited, his breath returning to normal.
Forty-seven, forty-eight, forty-nine . . . Inexplicably, his heart rate slowed. Mine fell out of sync, because mine was still racing.
Abram took another deep breath, speaking as he exhaled, “Okay. We have time. When you’re ready, I’ll be here.” His arm around me tightened briefly and then relaxed. He kissed my forehead. “I’ll always be here.”
As his words sunk in, a small, silent huff of bitter amusement escaped my lungs.
No. We had no time. Lisa was due back any day. There was no more time. Time was up.
Here he was. Here we were. Here was I. Experiencing the first and only time in my life where I didn’t want someone to ask permission or for instructions prior to touching me, and that’s exactly what he does.
Oh. The IRONY!
Hot tears of frustration pressed against the back of my eyelids, stinging my nose and throat. I rolled my lips between my teeth, firming my chin to keep it from wobbling. Meanwhile, Abram’s heart had returned to its steady beat, his hand still smoothing languidly back and forth along my forearm, his breathing regular and even.
My mind worked to extinguish this reality and replace it with an alternate one, one where he knew I was Mona, but we’d still found ourselves at this singularity in time.
I wanted it so badly, so badly. If wanting were a means by which travel between dimensions was possible, surely my want would have carried us there. But the gulf between wanting and reality was just as vast as the chasm between wanting and action.
Not insurmountable, but well beyond my reach.
Unless . . .
Unless I actively made a choice to betray my sister by telling Abram the truth, or betrayed Abram by taking what I wanted with the lies between us. Those were my options. Neither were the logical path forward and both would fundamentally change who I was, thereby changing my reality.
These were the circular thoughts in my head as I fell asleep in Abram’s arms. I didn’t remember falling asleep. But I must have drifted off, because I was awoken from delightful dreams of alternate realities—where I told Abram the truth and he forgave me at once, offering to help with Lisa’s plight just before removing my clothes—by someone holding my nose closed.
It was a peculiar thing, something Lisa and Gabby and I used to do to each other during sleepovers as children. As such, I wasn’t able to incorporate it into my now deliciously dirty dream and it woke me at once.
Blinking scratchy eyes open, I squinted at the face above mine.
Her eyes were wide and she was mouthing something. I frowned, not understanding.
She huffed and then pressed her index finger to her lips, tilting her head to my right, her left while shifting her eyes meaningfully. Clearly, she was indicating to something on my right, so I glanced that way.
Oh. Oh yeah!
Understanding at once that she wanted me to be quiet so as not to wake my sleepy, messy Adonis, I nodded faintly, lifting the hand that rested on his stomach to gesture that I was getting up. This seemed to immediately relieve whatever anxiety she was feeling, because the crazy quality behind her stare ease and she nodded.
Rubbing my eyes, I scooched to the end of the couch as unobtrusively as possible, making careful movements so as not to disturb Abram. I met Gabby just outside the entrance to the theater, where—again—she pressed her index finger to her lips and waved me forward toward the hallway that led to the stairs.
Fuzzy headed, I followed, up the stairs, past the kitchen landing. It wasn’t until the second flight that I spoke, asking and thinking at the same time, “How did you get in?”