“If you’d told me that a week ago, I might not’ve believed you.”
I nodded, resting both hands flat on the front of his chest, my elbows touching his ribs. I needed to stand on my toes a little to feel like he could hear me talk without my having to yell, but that only made my lips come up to his chin; not close enough to lean forward and steal a kiss. “I’m glad my dad told you, David—about my mom. I think I’ve decided I’m not going to yell at him. I mean, he was just doing what he thought was best for me, right?”
“He didn’t really mean to tell me, Ara. That wasn’t his intention. I lead him into it.”
My smile twisted up with a frown and I shook my head. “Is that why he gave you the touch-my-daughter-and-you-die speech?”
David’s eyes narrowed a little as he cleared his throat. “He never gave me that speech.”
He shook his head once, a suppressed grin creeping up into his eyes. “I lied.”
I dropped my arms to my sides. “I told my dad off, you know, for giving you that speech? And worse, he played along. How could you two just conspire against me like that?”
David laughed aloud, tilting his head back so his canines showed. “I’m sorry.” He shook his head, failing to subdue his amusement. “I shouldn’t laugh. But you’re just so funny when you get on a heated rant. I love it when you do that.” He pointed to my hands wedged firmly on my hips; I dropped them.
“So what was my dad saying that day?”
“He asked me to keep an eye on you, since I already knew why you were here, and you had apparently taken a liking to me.” He combed a fingertip though my hair and swept it back behind my ear. “And I told him I had absolutely no intention of letting you out of my sight.”
Hmph! “Well, it’s nice to know he approves of you. But how’d he know I liked you?”
“Something about sultanas and grapes?” David’s dark brows pulled together.
I laughed, thinking of Dad’s weird teacher lingo. And then, so many other things suddenly seemed to fit together, like a three dimensional puzzle that I assumed was only two. “So, when you said you didn’t know he was my dad, that day after History class?”
David’s smile slipped away. “He asked me to keep it from you that I even knew your name.”
I nodded slowly. “I wondered how you knew it was Ara-Rose—in the library, because no one here knew that until after History class. You sneaky little thing.” I pointed at him.
He reached down and took only my fingertips in his delicate grasp. “I’m sorry I deceived you. I meant no ill intent.”
“So, you’re not still mad at me?”
“I’m incapable of being mad at you. Well, for long anyway.” I smiled, drawing my shoulder up to my ear. “I’m glad you talked to my dad. If you hadn’t, we’d never’ve met, and I would’ve wished every day that we did.”
“Not possible. You’re not the kind of girl I could ever just pass in the street, Ara. I would’ve seen you eventually, and it would only have been a matter of time until I made myself a part of your life after that.” He cupped his hand over the side of my neck. “Tragic past or none, we would’ve ended up friends.”
“Ara-Rose!” a high-pitched and rather cross voice called from behind. Vicki stood on the back porch, her hand on her hip, still clutching a dishcloth. “Get some clothes on, please.”
“Oh my God!” I covered my chest with my forearms. “Why didn’t you tell me I was still in my pyjamas?”
David grinned, looking at my tiny pink shorts and white tank top. “Relax. You look adorable.”
“Adorable?” I said, making myself smaller. “I’m not even wearing a bra.”
He took my hand and we walked toward the house. “Yes, I noticed that.”
“What’s what one?” I called back from my wardrobe.
“Hey! Are you snooping through my iPod?”
“So, why do you have a playlist named for a guy?”
“Oh, it’s just all the music that makes me think of him. You know, the fun we had, that kind of thing.” I shrugged and shimmied out of my bed shorts.
“Not yet.” I smiled to myself, glad I saved that one as Night Fantasy—deliberately leaving off the K.
“Hm, this Night Fantasy one looks awfully suspicious.” I could actually hear the grin in his tone; I wanted to throw something at him.
“Hey, don’t look at that list.” I pulled my dress over my head quickly.
“There are a lot of sad songs on here, Ara. I hope this isn’t my playlist.”
“What if it is?” I said, stepping back out into my room.
My gorgeous boyfriend docked the iPod and a ‘David’ song came on. “Because it gives me the impression that you think I don’t like you.”
“Then, maybe, after yesterday, I need to make a new list.”
“Yes. I would say so.” He turned to face me and his mouth fell open. “Ara, that colour is beautiful on you.” He practically floated over to me. “It really brings out the pinks in your skin.”
I flattened the front of my cotton dress, closing my eyes when he ran the back of his finger over my cheekbone. “Emerald green,” I muttered, getting lost in the way the tingle of his touch made my teeth feel numb. “It’s one of my new favourite colours.”
“It’s a happy colour. The colour of the sun.” I opened my eyes. “I just refuse to think everything in life has to be all dark and gloomy all the time. So, I like yellow,” I said. “What about you? What’s your favourite colour?”
He stared at me for a moment, smiling as he looked down at my mouth, then back into my eyes—catching them in a breathless hold. “Sapphire.”
“Because, since I met you, I’ve seen nothing but magic in the world.” He gently moved his cold fingers from my cheekbone to the nape of my neck. “You might say that sapphire represents the blue of a brighter horizon—a life I never imagined.”
His fingers tangled in my hair and he pulled me slightly closer. “Being in love with you. And now, every time I see this colour, my heart skips a beat; it makes me think of everything that might be possible, that never was before.”
He laughed too. “Sorry. Does it bother you for me to speak my heart?”
“Not at all. But sometimes I feel like you’re making this stuff up, you know, like you’re just saying what I want to hear.”
He held out his pinkie; “I promise I speak only truth.”
I linked mine over his. “Then I promise to always try to believe you. But I can’t promise not to giggle.”
“Well—” he swiped his thumb down my chin, “—we both know how I feel about that giggle.”
The warm sun heated the room around us then, and the tranquil hum of the weekend filled the air, until a loud rumbling disturbed the peace.
David looked down at my belly. “You haven’t eaten yet, have you?”
“Come on, we need to feed you before the beast presents itself.”
“You know me too well, already.”
Skittles hissed, leaping out my open window, sending my homework scattering as we entered the room.
“What did you do to that cat, David?” I asked, turning to look at him. “He hates you.”
David grinned, closing the door. “Are you suggesting I threw him up that tree to get your attention?”
My arms fell loosely by my sides. “Seriously?”
She gave me ‘the glare’, then walked away.
“Looks like the cat’s not the only one who doesn’t trust me,” David joked, smiling.
“Argh.” I stomped over to my desk and pressed play on my iPod. “Why does she have to treat me like a child?”
“She’s not,” he said, tossing my stuffed dog aside as he landed on my pillow. “She’s treating you like a teenager who’s alone in her room with a boy.”
I smiled and turned the music up pretty loud—loud enough to give us some privacy. “Well, she needs to get used to you being around. After all, you are going to come meet me here every morning now, so you can make me one of those glorious coffees, aren’t you?”
He chuckled, opening his arm so my body could slide along next to his. “You liked that, did you?”
“Well—” he kissed my head as I snuggled into him, “—I’ll think about it.”
“Good.” But I kinda knew he wouldn’t. I think Vicki made him feel really unwelcome.
“I’m not bothered by your stepmother, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
I rolled up a bit to look at him; his green eyes smiled down at me. “I was. I thought maybe she’d offended you—you know, sitting with us at breakfast and all.”
“Not even a little bit.” He pressed my head until I rested it back on his white T-shirt. “I’ve dealt with a lot worse than Vicki.”
“Well, you’re pre-approved by my dad, right? So she has to accept you.”
“She does, sweetheart. Just give her time.”
I nodded, and we laid that way for a while then, music filling the silence, while a summer breeze swept through the window, circling my vanilla body wash with the fragrance of fresh cut grass and the sharp, spicy scent of David’s cologne. It was so easy to be with David. He asked me a lot about Australia, and we sat for about half an hour comparing the differences in words from the two countries, like jam versus jelly and sweater versus jumper. He thought jumper was another word for a kangaroo or a really depressed guy standing on a rooftop.
“And the food here is different, too, as in the portions,” I said. “I’ve never been so happy in all my life.” I patted my belly. “The ogre’s started raising his demands. I’m gonna get fat soon.”
David squeezed my hand. “You would still be beautiful, even if you were too big to touch your toes.”
“Gross.” I winced, but it made me smile. “That’s the sweetest thing any guy has ever said to me. In a really strange way.”
He went quiet for a second, shaking his head. “I don’t think you get it, Ara.”
“Get what?” I rolled onto my belly, resting my elbows against his chest. “Get what, David?”
With his lips pressed together, he smiled, studying my face. “Never mind. So, what’s your favourite genre of film?”
Seriously? So we were playing the withholding game again. I deliberately slumped myself a little too heavily onto my back against his chest again. “Favourite genre of film? I guess it used to be action. The nineteen-eighties kind. But, now—”
“Now?” David led when my silence lasted too long.
“Now, I like comedies. You know, it’s like—” I huffed through my nose, “—I’m always so unhappy. If I can find something that makes me laugh and forget about my life for a while, that’s what I like to do. So, comedies.” My shoulders lifted once.
“Romantic.” I smoothed my fingertips over David’s ribs. “What about you?”
“Horror,” he stated, cupping his hand over mine, stopping it from lifting his shirt.
“Not for me. I love a good, scary horror. I have this thing for blood; can’t get enough of it.”
Well, I never assumed that one. I just couldn’t believe my ears. Sweet, kind David? Liked blood? It just didn’t fit. I rolled onto my belly again to study his face. “Really?”
He just smiled and placed his hand under my shoulder blade, making me feel so grounded and so real with the weight of his touch. What was it about him that could come across as so harmless, when all I’d heard were stories about his bullying antics, and now he was telling me he liked horror?
“Gore, horror. All that stuff. I can’t picture you watching things like that.”
He just laughed. “Guess we won’t be having many movie nights then—since we have such different tastes.”
“Oh, no way, we so will. You’ll just have to watch chick flicks.”
His smile widened. “I look forward to it. Of course, I would like to watch a horror with you—” He motioned to my hand on his chest, “—if it meant you’d snuggle into me to feel safe.”
I rested my cheek on his shirt again. “We can do that without the horror.”
“What about books? Can you read books with horror?”