My Freshman Year: Day 116

Days as a Freshman: 116

Mood: Startled

“Not many girls would jump up and down in the middle of the woods at ten at night.”

Justin and I were walking back through the dark path towards campus, my fingers occasionally grabbing onto his sweatshirt for support as we dodged shadowed roots and branches. I could have stayed in that starlit clearing with him forever, and probably would have, if Rebecca hadn’t called me, worried and wondering why I wasn’t back in our room.

Realizing we had been outside for over an hour, Justin decided it was time to go back. I wasn’t sure if he had been caught off guard by the quick passage of time like me, or if he just really wanted to get warm, but whatever the case, when he stood up and started back towards the dorms, I followed.

“You’re a good sport with putting up with my weirdness.” Stepping over a root, Justin reached out to help me do the same. “I usually don’t let people see how awkward I am until I know them really well.”

“Well, I’m perma-awkward, so you’re in good company.” I grabbed his hand and hopped over the root, but the contact of his skin against mine rattled my head so much I let go too soon and almost toppled over.

“Whoa, you okay?” Catching my arm, Justin stopped and waited until I was standing steady again.

“I told you, perma-awkward.” I laughed to cover my embarrassment and was glad the night hid my burning cheeks. “I can’t even walk right.”

Justin chuckled. We stood facing each other for a moment, one of the longer moments in my recent memory, until Justin let his eyes fall to the ground.

“Weird…” His voice was slightly quieter than it had been. “This situation is just…”

“What?” I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. I could hardly hear him. Why wasn’t he looking at me?

“I’m really glad I got to know you, kid. I just wish the reasons behind it…” He looked back at my face, “I just wish they weren’t so sh*tty.”

“We don’t always have to talk about it,” I offered, blinking a little too much. His eyes were making my heart do that thing again; that hamster running on a wheel too fast thing in my chest. I wondered if he noticed how my voice was shaking. “We can put it behind us…ignore it. It’ll blow over soon anyway. Everything always does.”

“It’s not…that simple.” Justin hunched his shoulders again, from cold or frustration, I couldn’t be sure. “I hate it when people say sh*t like that, but this time…it’s kind of true.” His face had gone tight and taunt. “You and I are kind of stuck.”

“At least we’re stuck together.” The double-entendre hit me only after the words came out of my mouth, and I blushed again.

But I wouldn’t let myself take it back.

“I just wish…” He sighed, his gaze traveling over my face. “This is hard.”

“What is?” Somehow I was closer to him. I couldn’t remember if I had stepped forward or not, but our faces were close enough to touch.

“You know, don’t you?”

His breath was warm against my freezing cheeks, and smelled faintly of mint and maybe chocolate. It was the best thing I had smelled all day.

“I like you, Grace. I don’t know when it happened.”

Without thinking—and I mean, really without thinking—I leaned up on my tiptoes and kissed Justin. I couldn’t handle being that close to him and not doing anything about it.

His lips were warm and chapped, and covered mine with warmth and force until one of us—or maybe both of us—pulled away.

We stood staring at each other, my breath coming out in quick, white bursts and his longer and slower.

I couldn’t believe what I had just done.

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