Going Under, Page 22Georgia Cates
When I arrived for the game, the players were already on the field warming up and my eyes immediately sought Jessie in the number seven jersey. I became mesmerized as I watched him throw to Cooper so I was easily startled when Payton walked up behind me and said, “You know, I think you should punk him tonight. He’s already in love with you, so there’s nothing to be gained by taking this any further besides a waste of your time and energy. Dane’s party is the perfect place for it happen because everyone will be there. ”
I thought of his words of love for me and I wanted to run to him as I recalled his plea for me to choose him. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from him as I lied to my best friend. “I’ll think about it. ”
“If you don’t decide to punk him tonight, maybe you should tell him how much you love him because it is so terribly clear. ”
“I wish I could,” I confessed in my daze of watching Jessie, then gasped and slapped my hand over my mouth. I wanted to eat the words, shove them back inside the moment they escaped, but it was too late. The wicked trixter had tricked me into admitting my love for Jessie Boone.
“Good grief, Claire. Did you really think you could fool me? I’m the player that recognizes the game. How could you forget that?
I panicked, trying to decide if I should pretend I was trying to punk her or own the crazy, beautiful love I had for Jessie. I decided to go with my heart. “I didn’t mean to fall for him, Payton. It just sort of happened as I spent time with him and we were so wrong about who he is. ”
Payton looked at me like she wasn’t quite sure what to think of me and I told her my plan. “I’m telling him tonight at Dane’s party. ”
“Are you sure you want to jump head first into that?” she questioned.
“Payton, he pulled me into the closet in the school library and kissed me until I was senseless. He asked me to choose him over Forbes. He told me he had fallen in love with me. ”
“What if he’s playing you to get at Forbes?” she suggested.
“He’s not. I would know if he was. ”
* * *
When the team was about to run out onto the field, Forbes began to walk toward me for his traditional good luck kiss and I acted as though I didn’t see him coming. I quickly told Payton to put me up in a shoulder stand to prevent the awkwardness of kissing him in front of Jessie. After I went up, Forbes turned and joined the rest of the team behind the run through sign and I felt a sigh of relief.
As I stood on Payton’s shoulders holding one side of the sign, my eyes found Jessie in the group and he was looking up at me. I mouthed the words, “Good luck,” to him.
He smiled and mouthed the words, “Thank you,” then the team ran through the sign, tearing it to shreds.
East Franklin scored only minutes into the game when Jessie threw for sixty yards to Cooper in the end zone. He did it again in the first quarter, then a third before half-time. He threw a fourth completed pass resulting in a touchdown before the end of the last quarter and Dane made good on every kick, so the game was a shutout of 35-0 against Nortonville.
While Coach gathered the team for the post game talk, Payton and I took the opportunity to hurry to my house to get ready for Danes’ party. I changed into a casual black dress and sandals, then brushed my hair before I braided the front and secured it with a bobby pin above my ear. I fluffed the back of my hair after curling it loosely, then freshened my make-up before spraying myself with my favorite body spray.
Payton whistled at me. “I hope you know CPR because you are going to take Jessie’s breath away. ”
I did a spin around for Payton. “Do you really think I look okay?”
She nodded and raised her eyebrows. “I think you look awesome and I know Jessie will, too. Do you want me to drive so you can leave with him and not have your car stuck at Dane’s?”
“That would be so perfect if you don’t mind. ”
She looked sad, but happy at the same time. “I don’t mind. I want you to be happy and if it’s Jessie that does that, then I want you to be with him. ”
Even if I hadn’t admitted it to myself, I desperately wanted Payton’s approval and I couldn’t have been happier when she gave me her blessing. I hugged her tightly and said, “Thank you, Payton. You’re support means the world to me. ”
She returned my embrace and said, “Anything for my Claire Bear. Now, let’s go so you can go get your happily ever after on. ”
When we arrived, I was nervous and excited at the same time about the decision I had made. We walked into the foyer and saw kids all over the house dancing to loud music while drinking beer from plastic cups and I knew Mrs. Wickam would have a fit if she knew what was going on in her house right now.
I searched the crowd for Jessie, but couldn’t see him anywhere. I heard my phone alerting me to a new text message and I pulled it out to find a text from Jessie telling me he was out front waiting for me.
After I said goodbye to Payton, I left through the front door. I saw Jessie waiting for me in his truck in front of Dane’s house and I ran and jumped inside with him. “Are you the getaway driver?”
We were parked under the streetlight so I could clearly see the worry on his face and I was eager to put it to rest. “Yeah. I guess I am if you’re wanting to get away from here. ”
“I do want to get away from here. Where are you taking me tonight?”
He looked so uneasy. “Where do you want to go?”
I smiled, hoping to bring a little reassurance to his mind. “I don’t have a preference-just anywhere but here. ”
He slowly pulled away from Dane’s house and said, “I think I know just the place, but you might think it’s a little weird. ”
He had my curiosity peaked. “I can handle weird. ”
“I don’t know that weird is the right word. Maybe unexpected describes it a little better. ”
He turned on the radio to drown out the silence between us as he drove me to the unexpected destination. We pulled up at a car garage and I was momentarily confused until I remembered that Jessie worked at his dad’s garage.
“Do you mind pulling in for me?” he asked.
It was an automatic so surely I could do it. “Okay. ”
He got out of the truck to lift the garage door and I slid into the driving seat. I put his truck in drive and pulled into the shop. He lowered the door behind us and it felt like the world outside these four walls disappeared. I slid back to the passenger side and he got back in his truck. “Not what you expected, huh?”
I laughed and said, “Nope. Not what I expected, but after the playground and the football field I’ve come to expect anything out of you. ”
“When I wasn’t on the football field, I was here with Earl. He was always teaching me something about engines. ”
I was suddenly all nerves as I began to fidget my feet. I looked around like I was taking in the inside of his dad’s garage, but I really was avoiding looking at him and approaching the subject he brought me here to discuss.
He rolled the ignition key back, then turned the radio on like he did the night we danced on the old football field. “Is this station alright with you?”
It was a soft love song and I thought it was the ideal mood setter for the things I wanted to say to him. “Yeah, it’s perfect. ”
“You’re fidgeting. Why are you so nervous?”
I stopped twitching my feet and shrugged my shoulders casually. “I’m not nervous,” I lied.
“You’re a terrible liar. ”
I felt like I was standing half past the point of no return, but the unknown of being with him no longer frightened me. I had fallen in love with him and the time had come for there to be no more camouflage. I was ready to be exposed.
“I want to thank you for giving me the time I asked for because you didn’t have to. You have been such so incredibly understanding this week and although unintentional, I’m sorry for any p
ain I caused you. ”
I watched him squeeze his eyes tightly, bracing to hear what he had mistaken as the beginning of a goodbye. I slid closer to him, across the bench seat in his truck. I took his hand and brought it to my lips. I placed a feather light kiss upon it and said, “You are so much more than I expected, even more than I dared to hope for. ”
I leaned closer and pressed a light kiss on his lips and whispered, “I feel myself…going under. I’m drowning in you because I am so hopelessly in love with you. You’re the only one I want. ”
A smile replaced the worried look on his face as his fear vanished. “I was terrified that you wouldn’t want to take a chance on someone like me. ”
“It doesn’t feel like taking a chance. It feels right, like it’s what I’m supposed to do, but I still have to break up with Forbes. ”
He put his arm around me and I laid my head on his shoulder as he began to stroke my arm. “I want you to as soon as possible because I can’t stand the thoughts of you being his for another minute. ”
“You can take me back to Dane’s so I can do it tonight, but that means giving up this time together. ” I lifted my face and kissed his stubbled chin. “Do you really want to do that?” I raised up and moved my lips along his jawline until I reached that sensitive place on his neck below his ear, the same spot he kissed me when he drove me into a stupor. I heard a moan escape his lips, telling me we would be staying right where we were so my attempt to persuade to stay with me was successful.
Sitting side by side in Jessie’s truck was cumbersome and prevented me from feeling him the way I wanted to, so I told him to scoot to the middle of the seat away from the driver’s side of the truck. I climbed on top of him with my knees on each side of his hips because I was desperate to feel his body pressed against mine. He put his hands on my hips under my dress and pulled me hard against him while I reached behind his neck and tightened our embrace. His mouth abandoned my lips and trailed kisses down my neck, onto my chest and I felt him trembling beneath me.