Thursday, January 14, 2010

23.) Birthday Present

Soundtrack Song - Dashboard Confessional, Hands Down

My lips brushed lightly against hers. I wasn’t sure what had spurred me on to do this; I wanted to kiss Jo, but I didn’t imagine it would be like this. Under the stars was a great location, but the fun of our night had declined.

It was fun. Sitting there with Jo as she pointed out the stars and told me the myths behind the constellations was a pleasurable escape. No thinking about the game we had lost a few mere hours ago against New Jersey; no thinking about how I was a minus for the night; no thinking about how I only had a single shot on net. And certainly no thinking about how I still hadn’t scored a goal yet for the season.

This was the kind of girl that Jo was—someone who focused on the light and airy and fun and lighthearted side of life. It was her philosophy, because life was too short to think about the negative. Although, it seemed like whenever we were together, we talked about our unpleasant experiences and devastation. But that wasn’t Jo’s nature. She liked to keep things the opposite of serious, and our fun adventure of trespassing to drink hot chocolate and stargaze was the perfect example of that.

Today was Jo’s birthday, and I had wanted to spend time with her in order to keep her smiling on her special day. I knew that I was sad on Luc’s birthday, remembering him and the good times we had shared; I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like for Jo to have to celebrate her birthday without her twin brother.

So when the conversation had taken that grim direction, I felt bad. I wanted to comfort her, and that’s why I kissed her. It was an urge that I couldn’t deny any longer, and since we had already made our feelings clear.... It was only a matter of time, and now was as good a time as ever. I wanted to make her feel better, and it was the only thing I could think of.

I reached up and caressed her right cheek with the back of the fingers of my left hand. Her lips were plump and soft, inviting me to kiss her a little harder. So I cradled her head in my hands and held her mouth in place as I moved mine over hers.

At first, Jo just let me kiss her, but then she turned and adjusted her body to reciprocate. Trying to kiss her while sitting behind her was a little tricky. The more she turned, the more access I had to her mouth; however, that also gave her less support and nothing to lean against. It was a lose-lose situation, but I didn’t want to stop, either. I couldn’t stop.

Jo’s hand grabbed a hold of my jacket, and she pulled on it to keep her balance as she tilted her head back. I finally released her mouth, feeling a little out of breath. Still wanting to be close to her, I rested my forehead against hers and opened my eyes to look at her.

Her eyes were closed, and her cheeks were almost the same color as the strands of hair that framed her face. Her mouth was slightly opened before she said, “Thank you.”

“For what?” I asked back, not sure what she was thanking me for.

“For not making me ask,” she giggled, looking up at me with an abundance of indeterminate emotion in her eyes.

“Well, I guess you’re welcome.” I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant, but she was smiling and that’s all that really mattered to me at the moment.

She looked a little relieved and sated as she nestled back against my chest and pulled the fleece blanket up to her chin. I wrapped my right arm around her body again, being very careful to not touch her sensitive left side, and I checked my watch around my left wrist. It was past midnight. “Happy birthday, Jo,” I whispered, kissing her temple.

“Hmm, thanks, Kris,” she mumbled, the sound further muffled by the edge of the blanket around her mouth. “Happy birthday to me.”

“I guess I can give this to you now.” I reached into the pocket of my jacket and pulled out a small box. “Although, I guess you don’t really need it, what with your ink job and all.”

“You bought me something?” she asked, pulling away from me again and quickly turning to look at me with a questioning gaze.

“Uh, yeah. It is your birthday.” As I teased her, I handed her the small box that I had purchased the day before.

“But you didn’t have to,” Jo whispered, barely noticing the box and still focusing on me. “I mean, I appreciate it, of course, but still.... You didn’t have to.”

I sighed and half-shrugged. “I wanted to.” It wasn’t something big or lavish; it was a thoughtful little gift that I thought she might like. However, my present certainly wasn’t going to compare to her new tattoo. “So are you going to open it, or what?” I joked.

“Yeah,” she replied smilingly, taking her eyes off me and peering down at the box in her hands. Jo bit her lip as she pulled on the ribbon and then lifted the lid, spying the gold locket resting on the pad of cotton. “Oh, Kris.” Her eyes flitted up at me as she smiled and picked up the locket, opening and examining it.

“I thought maybe you'd like to put his picture in it. That way, he'd always be with you. But, like I said, you've got your tattoo, so it's not—”

“No no, Kris, I love it.” She wrapped the open chain around her neck, and I picked her hair up off her back so her fingers could close the clasp with ease. Once the locket was fastened around her neck, she tucked it under her sweatshirt and placed her hand above where it fell on her chest. “That was really thoughtful of you. I can't wait to pick out a picture to put inside.”

Still feeling sheepish about the gift, I tried to explain better. “I understand that you're sad on James's birthday. But it's your birthday, too. I just don't want you to get so caught up in your hurt that you forget to celebrate your own life.”

“Shut up,” Jo replied nicely with a smile. “I get what you're saying. And I do appreciate the gesture. So, thank you.”

There was finality in her voice, so I stopped trying to explain my rationale behind the gift. “You're welcome.” She leaned back against me, letting out a soft, slow breath. We sat like that for a while, without talking or even bothering to find some way to pass the time. It was just Jo and me, keeping warm under a fleece blanket while reposing beneath a blanket of stars. A few times, I checked to see if Jo had maybe fallen asleep, but she hadn't. Finally, I glanced at my watch again, to see that it was now after one in the morning. “So, do you want to get going? It's getting colder.”

“Sure.” Jo nodded, and we stood and prepared to leave. I folded up the blanket we had been sitting on and shoved it into her bag. She kept the other blanket wrapped around her to keep herself warm, so I took a hold of her backpack and slung it over my shoulder as we started down the hill. Using her left hand to keep the edges of the fleece together at her front, Jo's right hand reached out for one of mine. She certainly wasn't shy—I had to give her that much.

I took her hand in mine and squeezed, continuing our walk side-by-side until we reached the bottom. We hopped back over the fence and headed toward my car, looking broken down and out of place at the side of the road.

It's not that I wanted our night to end; I was used to late nights, especially after games. And it had been a lot of fun, checking our baggage at the gate and escaping into the night. The air was too cold, and we had to get back to reality.

“I hope you had fun,” she said as we reached the car and got inside. “Probably not as exciting as going out with the guys tonight, though.”

“Oh no, this was a lot of fun. The guys didn't end up going out tonight anyway. We lost.”

“I know. I watched the game. But since when did losing mean you can't go out?”

“Because there's nothing to celebrate.”

Jo laughed and shook her head as she buckled in without me having to remind her to do so. “If you're feeling low after a loss, isn't that the time to go out and laugh and have a few drinks and forget about it? If you won the game, then you're already feeling good.”

“If you're not playing good enough to win, then you shouldn't try to forget about it. You should try to think of a solution.”

“Dwelling on it doesn't help.”

“Well, I certainly wasn't thinking about it tonight,” I told her, noticing again the differences in our philosophies. I didn't think it was possible to move forward until the losses in our pasts were dealt with and handled, and a plan was formulated for how to approach it in the future. Jo, however, didn't want to spend the time thinking about the bad things.

“I'm glad to hear that.” She waited a few beats in the conversation before she added, “You played well, by the way.”

“I thought you said you watched the game,” I mumbled, pulling back onto the road and pointing the car back toward the city.

“I did,” she replied softly. “You lost, 1-4 against a hot goaltender. And you were only a minus-one with over twenty-five minutes of ice time. That's not bad, Kris. You did well as a defender, score aside.” Not bothering to answer her, I shrugged my shoulders and concentrated on the pavement ahead of us. “You're not allowed to get all cranky now,” Jo added. She shifted in her seat and reached over, running her fingers through my hair. “It's my birthday, remember? You have to be happy.”

That made me smile and laugh, just a little bit. “Then you might want to avoid bringing up that subject again.”

“I don't have a problem with that,” she continued, her fingers wrapping around a section of my hair by my ear. “There are plenty of other things to do.”

I resisted the urge to look over at her, and instead kept looking forward at the road, clutching the wheel at ten and two like a good driver should. After a few more moments, Jo clucked her tongue against the roof of her mouth, turned so she was no longer facing me, and then turned on the radio and began to search through the stations.

“It is okay if we listen to music, right? That doesn't go against one of your Safety Nazi rules?” There was an edge to her voice; she was trying to sound like she was kidding around with me, but there was something else there, too.

“It's fine,” I told her, quickly taking my sight off the road to glance at her face, but Jo was looking out the window and not really listening to me anyway. She was humming along with the song and watching the passing sights as we continued the trek back home. With each passing the mile, the ride got a little more awkward. I hadn't been trying to be rude; I knew exactly what she had been getting at, and I simply wasn't sure how to handle that yet.

She was the first to break our newly found silence. “I don't mean to be a bitch, but can you drive a little faster? I have got to pee so bad.” That was probably the last thing I ever would have expected Jo to say, and it caught me off guard. I glanced over at her, and she looked defiantly back. “Don't stare at me like that. Girls pee, too, you know.”

I laughed—a lot. It wasn't even that funny; it was more in the tone of her voice, something so frank and sincere that was so unexpected. I sped up a little, still being cautious, to hurry back to Jo's house. When I pulled up, she practically launched herself out of the vehicle and toward her front door. I picked up her bag from the backseat and slowly followed the same footpath, reluctantly letting myself in.

I set her bag down in the living room and lingered. It would have been impolite to leave now, without saying goodbye, so I waited for her to reappear, but she didn't. Even after the water shut off, there wasn't any sound of movement upstairs. I wasn't sure what I should have been doing with myself, so I headed to the second floor.

A light was on down the hall, shining through the open door, so I walked down and knocked. “I just wanted to say goodnight.”

“You can come in,” she told me. I pushed the door open, finding myself in her bedroom. She was standing in front of the mirror, her sweatshirt and shirt off and thrown on the bed, and she was peeling away the large bandage from her side.

I watched as the image was revealed, like a magic unveiling, starting from top to bottom. It was a gray-scale hockey stick, spanning the length of her side with the blade of the stick pointing to her navel. There was a ribbon of script wrapped around the shaft, and then more writing beneath; I couldn't for the life of me make out what it said. “Is that English?”

“Of course,” Jo replied, never glancing back at me. Instead she stood there, cocking her head to the side and examining the work. “Come here and see.” Obeying orders, I walked to her side, still trying to read her tattoo. “In the mirror.”

I looked into the mirror, and suddenly the words made sense. They must have been written in reverse. “Why did you do it this way?”

“Because the tattoo's for me, and no one else,” Jo explained. “I want to be able to look at it and read it for my own sake, not to display it for everyone else. The guy doing it thought it was weird, but I like it.”

I looked more closely and read the words wrapped around the stick:
Nothing's forever
Forever's a lie
All we have is between
Hello and goodbye

Below was written: James Randolph Anderson
October 25, 1989—December 15, 2007

“It's nice,” I told her, looking away from the tattoo and seeing her, finally noticing that once again, she was standing next to me in just pants and a bra. The locket around her neck reflected the overhead light. We locked eyes through our reflections in the mirror, and I wondered what the hell I was supposed to do next.


  1. Wow, that was amazing.

    I'm so glad their kind of together.

    I really don't know what to say, it was so good =)

  2. a-freaking-mazing!
    i agree with becky! i LOVE that they're sorta kinda "together"!!!
    haha kris, doesn't know what to do :]

  3. Ok let me just say a couple things.

    The tattoo broke my heart.

    Her whole "I hate to be a bitch but I need to pee" thing was HILARIOUS and made me laugh.

    "“Well, I guess you’re welcome.” I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant, but she was smiling and that’s all that really mattered to me at the moment."
    ^^ And that made my melt.

    This was just fantastic. I honestly felt like I was chillin with them in this one... I loved it!

  4. Kris is sooo adorable!
    They're such an unlikely couple, [apperance wise], but together..they just fit so well!
    Loved the tattoo by the way!

    Great Update!

  5. BAH!!! Kiss her you fool!!!!

    Sigh I loved it!

  6. I am not diggin' the awkwardness between them after such a good night together, and I loved what she had written for the tattoo.

    Fabulous, as always!

  7. Okay, I am utterly fascinated by these two. I LOVE that she is the one making the advances and he has no clue what to do about it. It's so adorable and it makes me love them more.

    I'm excited to see where the end of the chapter is going and I can't wait for the next update!