- Clay, you wouldn't know where- His father's voice startled me and I jumped back, Clay doing the same thing. We stared at each other for a split second, unheeding of the battering outside the room.
Clay's breathing was hurried, his large brown eyes were wide open and the expression on his face made him look...childish almost. I couldn't even imagine what I looked like, though. Probably even younger than him, seeing as my face had the unfortunate tendency to grow from 18 back to 15 if caught unawares during an emotional moment.
- What did I tell you about locking doors?
Mr Tanner's voice came through the door again and Clay slowly got up, walked dizzily over to the door and unlocked it, looking at me the entire time.
- Ah. Beth. What had you two been doing in here?
If I hadn't been blushing before that, I was now. I pulled up the laptop from the floor. Clay had thrown it off my knees when he-
- The usual, sir. Trying to get the project done.
- Well, well... Why did you lock the door, Clay? You know perfectly well I never do that.
- I'm... I'm sorry, dad.
His voice came out hollow. I kept my eyes on him, wondering if his heart was battering just as wildly as mine was.
- Now where would my poetry collection be, Clay?
Clay looked up at his father, detaching his eyes from me for the first time.
- I... I didn't take it.
- But you did, son! You took it yesterday, said you needed it...
- Oh. Right.
Clay's voice came back to him a little, but he was holding a hand up to his forehead, trying to focus.
I slowly pushed myself back from the back of the bed and started rummaging under the bed, feeling dizzy, but wanting to hide my face more than anything else.
- Oi, careful, Clay, or your friend will see how much of a pig you really are!
- Beth, it can't be down there, I-
Clay sprung over to where I was searching, but I had already found the book.
I gave Clay the book and as I did, the blood rushed into my face. He blushed too, especially when our fingers almost touched.
Goddamn it, we had just kissed.
It had dawned on me, just now. I hadn't understood that before when the door opened, nor later, when I tried to speak normally to his dad.
Clay and I had kissed.
- See? Told you you had it. Thanks hon, I'm sorry you had to dig through all of the mess.
- No problem, sir.
My voice came out hollow as well, and no wonder.
- Say... Can I take a look at the presentation so far?
Clay glared at his father, but he didn't notice. My heart did a somersault as I realised that when Mr.Tanner left the room again, I would be alone with Clay, again.
And I felt a sea of emotions about that.
- Sure, sir, - I pulled myself together, literally - my arms pulling my knees closer to my face and putting the laptop down on the bed.
Mr. Tanner came closer, and sat down heavily on the bed next to me. He straightened his glasses, and took the laptop from me. He scanned the presentation, coughing every now and then.
His grey whiskers would sometimes rise up together with his grey eyebrows - and then fall back, apparently satisfied with what we had written so far.
Behind him, his son was standing with his back to the wall, glaring at him. I would have laughed at the situation, were I not experiencing the same kind of burning feeling that made my face glow and my soul ache for Mr. Tanner to leave.
But he apparently wasn't going to.
- Beth, dear, explain this graph to me please.
I leaned in closer to Mr Tanner and struggled for the words. Pretty soon I started speaking normally, and no one, except, perhaps, Clay could have noticed anything was wrong.
A mechanical intonation came into my voice. We had been working on this presentation for ages now, and had met at Clay's house several times.
His father, an eccentric who wanted 19-year-old Clay's door to always be unlocked, had taken an immediate liking to me, which was more than I could say for him.Seeing what his presence was doing to Clay was agony.
- Mhmm. And this one?
Clay suddenly tore himself away from the wall he had been leaning on for support and came up to the bed.
- Dad, the presentation is tomorrow.
- That's right, Clay, that's why I'm testing Beth. She'll be ready. Way better prepared than you are.
Clay sat down violently on the bed and almost tore the laptop out of his dad's hands.
- This... - he said, pointing almost angrily to one of the slides - is the data presented in a graph form. And this - he pointed to another slide - is presented in a table. We...are going to show both, just in case someone who doesn't get it one way will get it the other. Happy?
His voice was doing angry somersaults, but his dad didn't seem to mind.
- Well, at least you too, have done some preparation... You're being a great influence on him, Beth. You really are.
Mr. Tanner gently nudged his son, earning a scoff from him. Feeling Clay about to burst, I put my hand - not without blushing - on his back, and pressed a little.
Clay leaned into my touch instantly, something that I should have anticipated, but didn't. I blushed even more furiously and tore my hand away.
It was precisely at this moment that Mr Tanner decided to finally leave us.
- Oh well, - he smiled, clapping his hands on his knees. - Seeing as you two have everything under control, I'll leave you two to it.
He got up - the bed shook. He walked over to the door and put his hand on it.
- Don't lock it again, Clay. You hear me?
- I won't, dad.
Mr Tanner smiled at me once more and closed the door behind him.
His heavy footsteps retreated... and went downstairs, retreating even more, until I could hear nothing but my own loud heartbeat.
Clay and I sat on the bed, unmoving. He was staring into space, I was looking at him.
There was nothing we could say at this point, no awkward joke that would have made up for the sudden outburst we'd had that was so rudely interrupted.
I had always liked Clay, but it wasn't until we got paired up for the project that I started having uncomfortable feelings for him.
He had hugged me at school a couple of times before leaving and somehow that had changed everything.
Before that, he was just a funny, good-looking guy with a textbook-awkward expression on his face, I liked his voice.
But after that touch he had become the person I wanted to be surrounded, touched by, not let go. I felt complete in his arms - as cliche as that sounded.
But Clay had never made any attempts to ask me out or anything. His parents' home was also my idea after he had rejected meeting at my place, saying "dorms were too noisy".
It was the project we had been working on that brought us together.
The project on the computer he had ripped out of my hands so suddenly the fall might have wrecked it, almost destroying our hard work. But it was not like anyone had cared about it in that one moment.
I looked at Clay again... He was looking down at his hands, or rather staring at his messy, imperfectly made-up bed.
Three more minutes, I told myself as my heart did a small jump.
If he doesn't speak to me during these minutes, it was just a mistake, he didn't mean it, he's scared and he wishes he hadn't done it.
As shaken up as I was, I couldn't count normally, but I was sure a solid minute had passed before Clay budged - passing a hand over his forehead and sighing.
I loved his hands.
I loved how they were the exact middle between delicate and strong, china-like pale and tanned, and covered in light brown hair that went right up to his wrists and stopped there.
I took that sigh as a sign I had to leave. Getting up from that bed was probably the hardest thing I had done in a long, terribly long while - but as soon as the bed shook, he spoke.
- What are you doing?
His voice wasn't breaking anymore, it was the same soft whisper it had been before everything.
He was looking at me, and there was the same look of longing admiration in his eyes that left me absolutely breathless.
He crossed the distance between us in a moment, making me sit down once more, this time down on his lap.
It all happened so quickly I didn't feel anything except my heart - until I realised his chest was against mine and his hands were on my back, his fingers digging softly into my cardigan.
He was looking up at me, his breath on my face as I leaned slightly closer to him and touched my nose to his.
He gasped, loudly or so it seemed to my ears, as if every sound coming from him seemed to be louder than anything had ever been in my life - and locked his lips into mine,
pressing his nose hard against my face, and this time it was quieter and slower, but stronger and deeper than the first time he'd done that.
I echoed the gasp, but I could only feel myself doing that - I couldn't hear anything now, it was as if water was rushing past my ears and I was drowning in a waterfall,
with only Clay holding me and giving me air to breathe.
The shorter, recently shaved hair on the back of his head felt soft to my fingers as my hand went there, while with my forehead I felt his, smooth and feverish just like mine.
Neither of us said anything - there was no reason to.
From the way Clay's hands slipped to my stocking-covered legs, I somehow knew that he wasn't going to hurt me or do anything I wouldn't be all right with.
He stroked my knee gently, sliding down to my foot, then back up again, and somehow that made my face burn even more.
I couldn't feel my mouth anymore from the kisses and as I broke away from him, he trailed his nose down my cheek and started kissing my neck - I wasn't ready, I cried out in spite of myself,clamping a hand over my mouth in fear someone had heard downstairs.
Clay looked up at me, his eyes grew brighter and he smiled for the first time.
- My old man would be really upset if he knew we ditched the project for this.
He smiled, wildly, goofily as I shook with laughter, my hands around his neck as I thought that nothing, nothing else he could have said would have made me feel like everything was so perfect it almost hurt to exist.