Tuesday, January 12, 2010

22.) Staring into Space

Soundtrack Song - A Dream Too Late, Intermission to the Moon

I wasn’t ready when Kris stopped by to pick me up. Groaning, I threw open the door and said, “You were supposed to call!”

“I’m sorry?” he apologized sheepishly. I noticed he was dressed in jeans and a black pea coat.

“It’s okay. I’m still going to be a few minutes,” I replied, waving for him to step inside. “I just need to make the hot chocolate.”

“Hot chocolate?”

I nodded at him, rushing into the kitchen to put the kettle on. I had wanted to make sure it was still warm when we got there, so it was going to be the last thing I had to do; everything else was packed and ready to go. If Kris had called, I would have done this earlier and we wouldn’t have had to wait. “And you’re wearing tennis shoes, right? Sneakers?”

“Uh, yeah,” Kris replied, looking down at his feet. “You said comfortable?”

“Yup. Just checking. I didn’t want you to get mad if your shoes got ruined.”

“What are we doing that I need to be worried about my shoes?”

I smiled. “You’ll see. I don’t want to give it away. Do you want snacks or anything else?” I asked, wondering if I could fit anything else into my bag. It was already stuffed past capacity.

“Um, no. I’m okay.”

I went back to work, opening a couple packets of Swiss Miss hot cocoa mix and dumping their contents into my giant thermos. The water whistled, and I poured the steaming liquid into the container. Then I screwed the lid on tight, grabbed the half-empty bag of marshmallows, and I packed it all into my backpack. “Okay. I think that’s everything. Are you ready to go?” I pulled my hoodie on over my baggy tee shirt and then pulled my hair out from underneath the sweatshirt.

“As ready as I can be, if you’re still not going to tell me where we’re going.”

“Are you scared?” I laughed. “Worried that I’ll get you into trouble?”

“If I tell you that maybe I am, just a little bit scared, will you hold that against me?” he teased, locks of his hair falling over his forehead into his eyes. My hands itched to reach out and push his hair away from his face, but I resisted the urge.

“Nah. I’ll just make fun of you a little bit, though,” I joked right back. I grabbed the bag and we headed out the door. Even though I had offered to drive my car, since this was all my idea, Kris insisted. I told myself that he was just trying to be gentlemanly and that he was doing it since it was my birthday, but part of me also couldn’t help but think that he wanted to ensure his own safety by controlling the drive.

I gave Kris directions, and we pulled out onto the highway and headed out past the airport. He’d look over at me as we rode, and I could tell he was a little uneasy, but I didn’t want to ruin it. Even though this was for my birthday and not a surprise for him, I still reveled in keeping him in suspense. It was fun to watch him squirm—all in innocent fun, of course.

We made it out toward Raccoon State Park, and I instructed him to pull his car over to the side of the road. “In the middle of nowhere?” he asked, looking at me with a little bit of panic.

“It’s fine, Kris. I promise.”

He sighed and turned off the engine. “What are you getting me into?”

“Nothing bad,” I said, trying to assure him. I added a little more quietly, “I used to do this with James. We used to come up here all the time the summer before our senior year.”

Kris nodded, and he tried to give me a comforting smile although he was still unsure. “We’re not going to get arrested, are we?”

“What are you so worried about?” I laughed, sliding out of his car and grabbing the bag before I closed the door and started toward the gate. “You’re a professional athlete, so I’m sure you can run fast. And you’re wearing sneakers.” His face fell, and I had to laugh again. I grabbed his hand and tugged. “I promise, we won’t get arrested.”

Laughing nervously, he followed and laced his fingers with mine. “Why do I still have the feeling we’re doing something we shouldn’t be?”

“Because technically, it’s trespassing.” His eyes got a little wide, and I tried to explain. “The only people who are allowed to be here after dusk are campers, but it’s the only place dark enough to really see the stars.”

“Oh. Is that what we’re doing?”

“Yeah. Honestly, Kris, what were you thinking?” I laughed, and we easily climbed over the gate. Digging through my bag and finding my flashlight, I led Kris up to the top of a grassy hill. Once we were at the crest, I pulled out a blanket from my bag and laid it down for us to sit on. I also pulled out an extra fleece blanket, in case it was cold, and the thermos of hot chocolate.

“This is what you wanted to do tonight?”

I shrugged. “Yeah. I used to do this a lot. If I’m going back to school, I figure I need to brush up.” Easing myself down on the blanket, I patted the area next to me for him to do the same. “Do you know any of the constellations?” Kris shook his head, so I leaned toward him and pointed into the sky. “There’s the Big Dipper. Did you know that it’s not even a recognized constellation? It’s an unofficial star pattern, but really it’s part of Ursa Major.”

I looked over at Kris, who was intently following my fingers as I pointed things out to him. He would nod and hum, encouraging me to keep going.

“Okay, do you see the two stars that form the outer edge of the cup of the Big Dipper? If you follow the way they point, from the bottom of the cup to the mouth, then it draws a straight line to Polaris, the North Star. It’s the last star of the handle of the Little Dipper.

“And if you look over there, at that bright star further west, that’s Vega,” I continued, relieved to find all this information rushing back to me. It was as easy as closing my eyes and conjuring up the mental images of whatever I had read and seen. I was surprised that I hadn’t forgotten it from lack of use. “It used to be the pole star, but because the Earth kind of wobbles as it rotates, it doesn’t point due north anymore. But in about another twelve thousand years, Vega will be the pole star again. It’s called the procession of the equinoxes.” When Kris didn’t say anything, I turned my head and looked at him—to find him looking right back at me. “What?”

“How do you know all this?”

I laughed, inhaling the cool air around us. “I wanted my concentration to be in astronomy and astrophysics.”

“What, so you wanted to be like a rocket scientist?”

“Not quite,” I chuckled, rolling over onto my left side to face him, but I was too sore to stay in that position so I sat up and crossed my legs. “I wanted to be able to look through those really big telescopes in the observatories in the mountains and peer into universe. Figure out how it all started and why.”

“That’s a pretty big aspiration.”

“So’s making it to the NHL,” I retorted. It probably came out with a little more attitude than I had intended.

Kris shrugged, raising up his torso and leaning back on his hands. “It takes a lot of work and dedication. But I’m a firm believer in that anyone can make anything happen as long as they put their minds to it and work hard.”

“Are you talking about you, or me?”

“Maybe both,” he replied, the corner of his mouth curling upward in a lopsided smile. It was such a gorgeous sight to behold, and I felt my chest tighten just a little. To keep myself busy, I reached for the thermos and marshmallows. “Do you want some?”

“No, thanks.”

“Good,” I teased, rambling a little bit. Why the fuck was I suddenly feeling so nervous? I didn’t have any reason to be so nervous, because I was always frank around him. I didn’t believe in beating around the bush, and I had openly told him that I liked him. So why was I on edge? “Because I forgot to pack mugs.” I poured some of the hot chocolate into the lid, which doubled as a serving cup. I enveloped the cup in my hands and held it close to my body, absorbing the warmth.

“Are you cold?” Kris grabbed the spare blanket and unfolded it, draping it across my shoulders for me. “Is that better?”

“A little,” I lied, still feeling a bit of the chill. The weather was still mild for late October, but the clear night was cooling off quickly.

“So, what else is there?” He pointed toward a particularly bright light in the sky. “What star is that?”

“That’s actually Jupiter.” Kris looked back at me as I said that. “It’s too bright to be a star. And if you keep watching it, it’s going to move in relation to the other stars. If we had a telescope, we’d even be able to see the four big moons that revolve around it.”

“Oh. Wow. You know, I never even think about this stuff. I mean, sometimes I think we get so caught up in what’s going on here on Earth that we don’t really even think about all that stuff going on up in space.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” I sighed. We sat in silence for a few moments, gazing up at the sky and looking at the lights. I drank the rest of my hot chocolate, enjoying the warm sensations in my stomach. When I put the cup down, I clutched the edges of the blanket and wrapped it further around me.

“Are you still cold? Here, come here,” he offered, moving closer to me. I scooched over in his direction, thinking he was going to share his body heat with me. Which is what he did—he sat behind me, with his legs on either side of my body, and he adjusted the blanket so it was pulled across my front.

I instantly felt warmer, and I shivered as the sudden heat overtook me. I leaned against his chest, and his arms snaked around my waist. “My God, this is comfortable,” I mumbled, resting my head against his shoulder. “You’re like a human space heater.”

“I’m glad you think so,” Kris laughed, his body shaking and making mine move similarly. “I can feel how cold you are.” He tightened his grip around me, and I shrunk from his touch and yelped. “Are you okay? What did I do? Jo?”

“It’s fine,” I eked through gritted teeth. “It’s my new tattoo. It’s just kind of sensitive.”

“You have a tattoo?”

“Uh, yeah. Just got it inked today. Tubby paid for it, for my birthday. I got it on my ribs, and it still hurts.”

Kris hesitated before asking, “What did you get? Can I see it?”

“Maybe after it heals a little. I haven’t even taken the bandage off yet. It’s like a memorial tattoo. For James.” It had taken a lot of thought, but I knew I had wanted to get one for him. Getting it done for our birthday just seemed like the right thing to do. And it would never be one I would regret, so there wasn’t any reason to not get it done. “It just seemed appropriate, because I don’t ever want to forget him, no matter what’s going on in my life.”

“Jo, I don’t think you’ll ever be able to forget him, tattoo or no tattoo. He was your brother. Your twin. He’ll always be a part of you.”

“Now he really will be.” I moved my hand to that spot on my side, more to protect it from another accidental touch than anything else. “Even though I’m thinking ahead and looking forward, I just... I don’t ever want to get caught up in the bullshit of the day-to-day and forget how short life is. No matter what, I want to enjoy every minute, for no other reason than I’m alive. I don’t ever want to become complacent and settle for whatever comes my way. I still want to live every moment to the fullest. It’s, like, the last thing that James taught me.”

His breath hit my ear as he spoke, his mouth so close to me. “Sounds like he was always watching out for you, then.”

“Or that’s the way I interpreted it. Just like the way the ancient Egyptians and Greeks assigned meaning to the stars by picking out patterns and naming them, making sense out of the randomness of space, that’s what I did.”

“It sounds better before you try to explain,” he teased.

I laughed with him. “Yeah. Imagine what happens when you start thinking about dark matter and the big bang theory and that space really isn’t random at all. Even if we don’t know how it all happened, we know why the particles act and react.” Leaning back against him and relaxing again, I trained my eyes on the flashing lights of a passing airplane.

I liked our sense of closeness, both physically and mentally, although it was also a little terrifying, too. The way he'd broken through my force field, conquering and beating down my defenses, was alarming. It was physically impossible for me to keep him at arm's length. Then I realized that even though it was a little frightening, how he already knew me so well after only meeting so recently, it was that good kind of scared and anxiety. I didn't want to exchange those butterflies for that sense of peace I thought I had by walling off from everyone.

“Jo,” Kris started quietly, making me turn my head to look at him when he never finished his thought.


His face was so close to mine. It couldn’t have been by accident—or rather, I really hoped it wasn't. I stared at his mouth for a few seconds before I looked up into his eyes. They were intensely focused back on me. I wanted him to kiss me; I liked Kris so much, and I was ready to take it to the next level. I thought about asking him, but that would have ruined the moment. I'd already kissed him, and I wanted him to reciprocate and make the gesture. In my opinion, if you want to, you should just go for it. No asking permission, no demanding—just do it. Luckily, for whatever reason, he didn’t ask and read my mind, lowering his lips onto mine.


  1. I don't know...I feel weird about this. I suppose I'm glad it happened, though.

  2. Ok first off, I love how playful they are at the start... it just makes me feel so giddy. Like, when you see kids that have gone through a really rough time, and then they just get to be kids again? That's kind of what this feels like... only not really... if that makes sense? Rant? lol

    "We made it out toward Raccoon State Park, and I instructed him to pull his car over to the side of the road. “In the middle of nowhere?” he asked, looking at me with a little bit of panic."
    ^^ Bahahahahah ok all I can think is... Kris thinks they're gonna have sex, and is terrified. Maybe that's not what he's actually thinking... but in my mind it is... and in my mind it's fantastic!

    “Are you still cold? Here, come here,”
    ^^ Ummm geez, I'm all excitable tonight. He said that and I was like... o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o!!
    /sigh I love how intimate this situation is, without being all out 'intimate'. It's so cute that they're just sitting there, looking at the stars together and chillin.

    YAYAYAYAYAYAYAY THEY KISSED!!!!!!!!!! Or... HE KISSED HER!!!! Even better lol.
    I was so excited when she kissed him, but I'm even more excited that he kissed her... oh god... I'm getting all the dirty, inappropriate Tanger thoughts in my mind again... = /

    More please!!! =D lol

  3. Awww. I love this. So romantic in an offbeat sort of way.

  4. Okay not going to lie... I just fist pumped Jersey Shore style in excitement. I am SO excited for them and this whole chapter had me feeling ooey gooey inside and happy :) Great chapter!

    Also, I am SO sorry that I ruined "Up in the Air" for you. I had a dumb blonde moment and didn't think about the fact that I would be ruining it for people. I promise that there is more to the movie than how I described it and I hope you enjoy it! Sorry again :)

  5. This was the cutesy fucking thing ever!

  6. i better see more sooonnnnnnn
    ive been waiting for this mommmenttttttt

    ok i'll calm down now

    but seriously


  7. gahhh YESSSS!
    HE finally kissed HER! took him long enough!!
    dfgdkfghjkdshkjf yayyy!
    now i need another chapter to see where this is going!

  8. YES!!!!!!!!!
    This completely made my day!! They kissed they kissed they kissed! Happiness!!!

    I LOVED their dynamic at the beginning, so relaxed and cute. I also love this other side to Jo, she's so adorable in this chapter and so is their date!!

    *Sigh* So, so, happy right now. I need a Kris ;P

  9. Jay- You have done it again.....I find myself looking forward every afternoon to lose myself in this story......They just keep getting better and better....Keep it going!!!!!!

  10. Sweet, sweet, sweet...loved how they spent her birthday, and loved that he kissed her...woohoo!