Skylines

130923
Escape, relocate, adapt. The agenda is set for 21-year-old Tallis Ravens as she seeks to master the evasion of her turbulent past.

In a new city, a new school, and with new acquaintances, Tallis is looking to make her last two years of college bearable as she juggles school, making friends, and staying sane.

Navigating through friendships and romances, trying to balance her efforts, and work out the lines between right and wrong and 'what was I thinking?', Tallis finds herself torn between her new existence in New York and the recent events of her past, always lurking right behind her. Nothing lasts forever, and eventually, even the fastest sprinter will be overrun by exhaustion, as Tallis will soon discover.

https://www.wattpad.com/story/162264423-skylines

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1. welcome to new york

 

Tallis
There was a time when I thought of myself as the kind of girl who would one day step through a doorway and shut everyone in the room up. Not because of looks or height or perfectly perky breasts, but because people acknowledged me. That was the kind of person I wanted to be.

When I walk through the doors of a large mansion belonging to someone whose name I do not know or care to remember, no such thing happens, and I couldn't be happier. Things have changed.

The second I cross the threshold into a beautifully lit hall, the sound of glass shattering against the tiled floor makes its way to my ears, only barely audible over the loud music. A large banner is draped from the marble stairwell, reading: "WELCOME TO NEW YORK" in big, bold letters.

And what a welcome. 

Swiftly manoeuvring among couples dancing, kissing, chatting, I make my way to the dining room, finding a dark mahogany table lined up with liquor bottles that is probably someone's parents', and I immediately grab myself a very large glass of the most expensive-looking scotch I can find. I have barely settled into a corner to analyse the scenery before a girl walks up to me.

"Hi!"

Her red hair is tangled and all over her face, freckles covering her long nose, and she is wearing a wide smile, highlighting her big brown eyes. "Are you a freshman?"

"Junior," I yell back over the music.

"Oh, sorry! I just haven't seen you around before. I'm Maggie, I'm a senior. Mathematics."

I shake her hand. "Tallis. Art."

"Are you new in town? I don't think I've seen you around on campus."

I nod. "Moved here this week."

"Great city, isn't it? I think you'll really enjoy New York. Where are you from?"

"Minnesota."

"Jesus, that's far away. Your family move here or something?"

I hesitate. "Not exactly."

"All on your own in a foreign city. I must say, that takes balls."

"Thanks."

"Have you found a place to stay yet?"

"Yeah, I have. Besides my landlord creeping in my window whenever he is on duty and the rent being completely unaffordable, it's great. Just have to settle into the habit of not walking around naked before dinner."

She laughs, though I wasn't trying to make a joke. "Let me get you another drink, and I'll introduce you to some people! It can be rough transferring schools. I did in high school, and it was difficult to get to know everyone if you were just a little bit shy." 

She keeps blabbering about the school as we top up our drinks, and I listen and laugh and smile politely as she relocates us to one of the living rooms. Crystal chandeliers are hanging from the ceiling, and the wooden floor is newly polished, though most of it is covered by a large, expensive looking carpet that would probably feel like a silky cloud of candyfloss against bare feet.

"It's Michael Evans who is hosting this party, by the way. He is a senior, too, though I think he has retaken a year or two. His parents are crazy rich, which you may have noticed. He puts a lot of effort into the freshmen and other newcomers every year, it is kind of sweet." 

She pauses for just a second to scout the area. "I'm trying to spot someone I know ... the freshmen are all new to me, too, but – oh, there's Bree!" 

She disappears from my side, elegantly darting between the couches and armchairs to get to the fireplace, touching the arm of a tall, blonde girl who looks like she owns the room.

"This is Bree," Maggie says, as if I am a little slow. "She is in my class. She knows everyone in this school, even the freshmen, I am constantly amazed."

"Bree," I say as we shake hands, "like the cheese."

Bree smiles when she shakes my hand, but then her expression falls back to her resting bitch face as I make the joke. Not into puns, I am guessing. Noted.

We spend a few minutes chatting with Bree, whom I immediately dislike because of her hostile disposition, and then Maggie grabs me by the arm as she spots another one of her class mates. They are all very social, already proving my prejudice about math-fanatics never leaving their room outright wrong.

"Oh, Tallis, there's one last person I want you to meet!" Maggie exclaims, as if it just dawns upon her. "He can tell you about the school if you have any questions, because I actually kind of have to go." She looks up from her watch as she leads me around the kitchen for refills. Chatting makes me thirsty.

She goes around the mansion, scanning all the rooms until she finds what – or who – she is looking for in one of the smaller living rooms. "Cody, hey! There's someone I'd like you to meet."

A tall, dark-haired guy turns away from his conversation as we march towards him, looking a little confused. "Hi." His dark eyes give away curiosity, though he just smiles politely.

"Cody, this is Tallis, Tallis – Cody. Cody is a senior, as well, though he's not in my class. He can fill you in on the details himself, because I have to run – oh, tell her how we met! That's a funny story. See you around." And then she is gone.

"Pardon," the guy, Cody, says, "I didn't catch your name." He is British.

"Tallis," I say and hold out my hand. "And yours is Cody, unless the crazy girl was lying."

He grins and shakes it. "Yes. She is a little overly excited sometimes, but she is not crazy, don't worry."

"I wasn't. I like the crazy ones the most."

"It's your lucky day, then."

We are silent for a while before I speak up again, since he clearly is not one to initiate conversation. "So, how did you two meet?"

"Oh. She kissed me once because she thought I was her boyfriend. Then her boyfriend showed up and punched me in the face. He did look an awful lot like me. But that is just to say, Maggie's friendship comes at a price. Unfortunately, that price was my nose."

"Well, it looks fine to me."

He laughs. He has a dimple in just one cheek, making his smile look rather crooked. "Yes. It was a long time ago." Another moment of silence before he continues. "I'm assuming you're a freshman?"

"Junior, but thank you."

"Oh. Sorry. I haven't seen you before, so I was just assuming you were new."

"I am. I moved here this week."

"That makes more sense. How come?"

"It's a really long story. I wouldn't bore you with it."

"Another time, maybe."

We are both silent for a long while. I finish my drink, and he sips his beer. 

"So," I eventually say before it becomes too awkward, "is there anything I should know about this particular school? I am not an idiot, but if you can give me any cheat codes, it would be appreciated. I mean, that's the reason you are here, right? To fill us in on the madness we have signed up for?"

"I guess," he says indifferently, "but there are things I'd rather do to be honest." He holds up his beer before taking a sip. "You're the first one to really seem interested in talking school."

"I'm actually not," I say, "I'm just trying to be polite."

He giggles – yes, really giggles –, though I'm not sure why that was funny. "You don't hold anything back, do you?"

"No, I enjoy truths."

"I like you," he says, still smiling. "What's your major?"

"Art."

"That's cool. What do you do, draw, paint, sculpture? Oh, please tell me that you do croquis paintings."

"As a matter of fact, I do. Do you want me to draw your girlfriend a picture of you naked? I think it'd look good, you're quite handsome."

He looks a little perplexed, and it takes a moment for him to respond. "I don't have a girlfriend, and I don't think I'd make a very good model either."

I shrug. "I'd still like to draw you, I like your features. And you can keep your clothes on if that makes you more comfortable, though I would like to note that I have seen a lot of people naked during my artistic career. I can be professional, if you don't want me to stare." The last part was a joke, but I don't think he caught onto it.

"Uh, well, sure. This is going to be awkward."

"You don't strike me as an awkward kind of guy."

"Thanks."

I smile genuinely for the first time that evening as I reach into my backpack and grab my sketchbook and a pencil.

"Hold it, you want to do it now?"

"Yeah, when else?" I say as I try to find a blank space in my book. It has become quite a difficult task since it's filled with random doodles, mostly half-finished sketches of naked people.

"Blimey. Oh, well, sure?" He sounds confused.

"Let's go somewhere quiet," I say and head upstairs, grabbing the bottle of scotch on my way, him tracing behind me.

"You know," he mumbles into my ear as we push past the crowd in the hall, "everyone is thinking we're going up here to have sex,"

"I don't care," I say as I pop my head into one of the bedrooms upstairs, but I quickly dart out again after seeing too much of strangers' skin on the bed.

We end up in the smallest bathroom, which is still huge, because people are occupying all the bedrooms even though there's five of them. Even the childish room at the end of the hall is occupied by two drooling teenagers.

I decide to draw him in coal, but it is difficult since he is very uncomfortable with the situation and keeps shuffling around. I try asking him questions to make the situation bearable for him, asking about his family, friends, pets, and it seems to be working, as he relaxes more and more. Or maybe it is just the bottle of scotch, constantly passing between us.

I find out that he's from Brighton, and that he moved to America with his family when he was sixteen. He has a twin sister who travels a lot, and the two of them don't always see eye to eye. His parents moved back to England last year, and he lives a few blocks from the school. He likes apple pie but hates tea, which makes me laugh – what kind of Englishman are you if you don't like tea? When I ask him why he didn't move back to England, he just says that he likes it here. "And I don't miss England's 363 rainy days a year." He works in a bookshop downtown and likes dogs, and I tell him that I'm more a cat person.

As the contents of the liquor bottle slowly disappears, each of us taking turns taking a sip and asking the other a question, I give up on my drawing – I made a decent sketch which I'm going to finish at some point.

"Tell me about the first time you had sex," I say, offering him the bottle. I sit very awkwardly under the sink, my head banging against the porcelain repeatedly whenever I try to sit up straight.

"Jesus," he says, an awkward grin to his face. "You're straight-forward."

"Was it that bad?"

He takes the bottle from my hand but doesn't take a sip. "Depends."

"When, where, with whom? I think that if you've spent the last two hours in the bathroom with someone, the least you can do is tell them the story of how you lost your virginity."

"Please, don't use that word." His body shivers, like it genuinely disgusts him.

"Okay," I say, "the first time you had sex. Go."

He sighs and sits up straight, his legs crossed in front of him. "My former girlfriend, I think it was ... sophomore year of high school? I was 17, anyway. And a bunk bed in her parents' cottage."

"Please tell me her little brother wasn't sleeping in the top bunk."

"Fortunately, no."

"Oh. That's it? That wasn't so horrible. It actually almost sounds nice, if I quit thinking about the blood and pain and misery for a while."

"Yeah," he just says. "It wasn't that bad. She cried a lot, which made me question everything I had ever done in my life up until that point, of course, but then her parents came in and comforted her and sent me home. So, you know, not a big deal."

I laugh. "Okay, that deserves acknowledgement. I hope you were at least wearing clothes at that point.

"Nope."

"Christ. I'm sorry." I do mean it, but I can't help laughing at the thought.

"What about you, then?" he asks when I have calmed down enough to hear him over my drunken laughter.

"Me?" I ask.

"Yeah, I think this one deserves a follow-up."

"As I said, it hurt."

He waits for me to say something more, and when I don't, he asks, "when?"

"High school, freshman year. I was 15."

"With whom?"

"My math tutor from senior year."

"Where?"

"In his car."

He cocks an eyebrow. "Frisky first time."

"It was not completely consensual, either," I say, trying not to sound too pitiful.

"I'm sorry," he says, his tone of voice suddenly softer. He hands me the bottle, and I take a sip.

"Don't be, it's not like it's your fault."

He shrugs. "I know, but it still makes me bitter."

We turn the subject, and he asks me about my family. I tell him that my mother is back in Minnesota, and when he asks about my father I tell him that I don't like to talk about it, and he understands. I discover that we have very similar taste in music, and I tell him how I drove over my brother's cat right after I got my license and how I hadn't told anyone ever, not even my mother. I tell him how my mother and I aren't currently speaking but fail to bring up my brother, since I already told him more than I have ever told a stranger before, and he doesn't ask.

Someone pounds on the door, startling us both since we weren't expecting to be found here in our not-so-private hideout. I bang my head against the sink again and curse under my breath before getting up. The pounding continues.

"Would you stop that?" I yell, but whoever is on the other side is very desperate to get in.

Cody has gotten up, too, and is towering over me, holding the almost empty scotch bottle in his hand. "Guess our séance had to end eventually."

"Yes. Try not to look like you just rammed me against the bathroom wall, please."

This takes him aback, a perplexed look spreading across his face, and he stays silent as I open the door to find a broad-shouldered freshman with his hand still outstretched, ready to pound the door again. "That was about time, lovers," he says grumpily, pushing past us, clearly in a hurry.

I put my sketchbook into my backpack again as I venture down the marble staircase and into the night. To my surprise, Cody follows me, his jacket now slung over his shoulder, since the mid-summer air is still hot and humid.

"Can I kiss you?" I ask, a sudden need to touch his lips overwhelming me as he comes down the porch stairs towards me.

He doesn't answer. Instead he locks his hand behind my neck and touches his mouth to mine, his tongue parting my lips insistently. He tastes like booze and smells like day-old coffee and cologne, and I take it all in as our mouths work on the effort of never leaving the other's.

"Can we have sex, too?" I ask when he finally pulls back.

He looks at me with a grin, his hand still on my neck. "Very straight-forward. I like it."

He tells me that he doesn't live far away, and I believe him, but it takes us half an hour to walk to his place, and I fall into my own drunken trap and smoke four cigarettes on the way. When I offer him one, I learn that he has never smoked a cigarette, and I tell him not to.

When we finally get to his apartment, which is larger than I'd expect of a college student, he kisses me again, and since the couch is closer, we collapse onto it, him on top of me, limbs tangled together.

 

Tallis
There was a time when I thought of myself as the kind of girl who would one day step through a doorway and shut everyone in the room up. Not because of looks or height or perfectly perky breasts, but because people acknowledged me. That was the kind of person I wanted to be.

When I walk through the doors of a large mansion belonging to someone whose name I do not know or care to remember, no such thing happens, and I couldn't be happier. Things have changed.

The second I cross the threshold into a beautifully lit hall, the sound of glass shattering against the tiled floor makes its way to my ears, only barely audible over the loud music. A large banner is draped from the marble stairwell, reading: "WELCOME TO NEW YORK" in big, bold letters.

And what a welcome. 

Swiftly manoeuvring among couples dancing, kissing, chatting, I make my way to the dining room, finding a dark mahogany table lined up with liquor bottles that is probably someone's parents', and I immediately grab myself a very large glass of the most expensive-looking scotch I can find. I have barely settled into a corner to analyse the scenery before a girl walks up to me.

"Hi!"

Her red hair is tangled and all over her face, freckles covering her long nose, and she is wearing a wide smile, highlighting her big brown eyes. "Are you a freshman?"

"Junior," I yell back over the music.

"Oh, sorry! I just haven't seen you around before. I'm Maggie, I'm a senior. Mathematics."

I shake her hand. "Tallis. Art."

"Are you new in town? I don't think I've seen you around on campus."

I nod. "Moved here this week."

"Great city, isn't it? I think you'll really enjoy New York. Where are you from?"

"Minnesota."

"Jesus, that's far away. Your family move here or something?"

I hesitate. "Not exactly."

"All on your own in a foreign city. I must say, that takes balls."

"Thanks."

"Have you found a place to stay yet?"

"Yeah, I have. Besides my landlord creeping in my window whenever he is on duty and the rent being completely unaffordable, it's great. Just have to settle into the habit of not walking around naked before dinner."

She laughs, though I wasn't trying to make a joke. "Let me get you another drink, and I'll introduce you to some people! It can be rough transferring schools. I did in high school, and it was difficult to get to know everyone if you were just a little bit shy." 

She keeps blabbering about the school as we top up our drinks, and I listen and laugh and smile politely as she relocates us to one of the living rooms. Crystal chandeliers are hanging from the ceiling, and the wooden floor is newly polished, though most of it is covered by a large, expensive looking carpet that would probably feel like a silky cloud of candyfloss against bare feet.

"It's Michael Evans who is hosting this party, by the way. He is a senior, too, though I think he has retaken a year or two. His parents are crazy rich, which you may have noticed. He puts a lot of effort into the freshmen and other newcomers every year, it is kind of sweet." 

She pauses for just a second to scout the area. "I'm trying to spot someone I know ... the freshmen are all new to me, too, but – oh, there's Bree!" 

She disappears from my side, elegantly darting between the couches and armchairs to get to the fireplace, touching the arm of a tall, blonde girl who looks like she owns the room.

"This is Bree," Maggie says, as if I am a little slow. "She is in my class. She knows everyone in this school, even the freshmen, I am constantly amazed."

"Bree," I say as we shake hands, "like the cheese."

Bree smiles when she shakes my hand, but then her expression falls back to her resting bitch face as I make the joke. Not into puns, I am guessing. Noted.

We spend a few minutes chatting with Bree, whom I immediately dislike because of her hostile disposition, and then Maggie grabs me by the arm as she spots another one of her class mates. They are all very social, already proving my prejudice about math-fanatics never leaving their room outright wrong.

"Oh, Tallis, there's one last person I want you to meet!" Maggie exclaims, as if it just dawns upon her. "He can tell you about the school if you have any questions, because I actually kind of have to go." She looks up from her watch as she leads me around the kitchen for refills. Chatting makes me thirsty.

She goes around the mansion, scanning all the rooms until she finds what – or who – she is looking for in one of the smaller living rooms. "Cody, hey! There's someone I'd like you to meet."

A tall, dark-haired guy turns away from his conversation as we march towards him, looking a little confused. "Hi." His dark eyes give away curiosity, though he just smiles politely.

"Cody, this is Tallis, Tallis – Cody. Cody is a senior, as well, though he's not in my class. He can fill you in on the details himself, because I have to run – oh, tell her how we met! That's a funny story. See you around." And then she is gone.

"Pardon," the guy, Cody, says, "I didn't catch your name." He is British.

"Tallis," I say and hold out my hand. "And yours is Cody, unless the crazy girl was lying."

He grins and shakes it. "Yes. She is a little overly excited sometimes, but she is not crazy, don't worry."

"I wasn't. I like the crazy ones the most."

"It's your lucky day, then."

We are silent for a while before I speak up again, since he clearly is not one to initiate conversation. "So, how did you two meet?"

"Oh. She kissed me once because she thought I was her boyfriend. Then her boyfriend showed up and punched me in the face. He did look an awful lot like me. But that is just to say, Maggie's friendship comes at a price. Unfortunately, that price was my nose."

"Well, it looks fine to me."

He laughs. He has a dimple in just one cheek, making his smile look rather crooked. "Yes. It was a long time ago." Another moment of silence before he continues. "I'm assuming you're a freshman?"

"Junior, but thank you."

"Oh. Sorry. I haven't seen you before, so I was just assuming you were new."

"I am. I moved here this week."

"That makes more sense. How come?"

"It's a really long story. I wouldn't bore you with it."

"Another time, maybe."

We are both silent for a long while. I finish my drink, and he sips his beer. 

"So," I eventually say before it becomes too awkward, "is there anything I should know about this particular school? I am not an idiot, but if you can give me any cheat codes, it would be appreciated. I mean, that's the reason you are here, right? To fill us in on the madness we have signed up for?"

"I guess," he says indifferently, "but there are things I'd rather do to be honest." He holds up his beer before taking a sip. "You're the first one to really seem interested in talking school."

"I'm actually not," I say, "I'm just trying to be polite."

He giggles – yes, really giggles –, though I'm not sure why that was funny. "You don't hold anything back, do you?"

"No, I enjoy truths."

"I like you," he says, still smiling. "What's your major?"

"Art."

"That's cool. What do you do, draw, paint, sculpture? Oh, please tell me that you do croquis paintings."

"As a matter of fact, I do. Do you want me to draw your girlfriend a picture of you naked? I think it'd look good, you're quite handsome."

He looks a little perplexed, and it takes a moment for him to respond. "I don't have a girlfriend, and I don't think I'd make a very good model either."

I shrug. "I'd still like to draw you, I like your features. And you can keep your clothes on if that makes you more comfortable, though I would like to note that I have seen a lot of people naked during my artistic career. I can be professional, if you don't want me to stare." The last part was a joke, but I don't think he caught onto it.

"Uh, well, sure. This is going to be awkward."

"You don't strike me as an awkward kind of guy."

"Thanks."

I smile genuinely for the first time that evening as I reach into my backpack and grab my sketchbook and a pencil.

"Hold it, you want to do it now?"

"Yeah, when else?" I say as I try to find a blank space in my book. It has become quite a difficult task since it's filled with random doodles, mostly half-finished sketches of naked people.

"Blimey. Oh, well, sure?" He sounds confused.

"Let's go somewhere quiet," I say and head upstairs, grabbing the bottle of scotch on my way, him tracing behind me.

"You know," he mumbles into my ear as we push past the crowd in the hall, "everyone is thinking we're going up here to have sex,"

"I don't care," I say as I pop my head into one of the bedrooms upstairs, but I quickly dart out again after seeing too much of strangers' skin on the bed.

We end up in the smallest bathroom, which is still huge, because people are occupying all the bedrooms even though there's five of them. Even the childish room at the end of the hall is occupied by two drooling teenagers.

I decide to draw him in coal, but it is difficult since he is very uncomfortable with the situation and keeps shuffling around. I try asking him questions to make the situation bearable for him, asking about his family, friends, pets, and it seems to be working, as he relaxes more and more. Or maybe it is just the bottle of scotch, constantly passing between us.

I find out that he's from Brighton, and that he moved to America with his family when he was sixteen. He has a twin sister who travels a lot, and the two of them don't always see eye to eye. His parents moved back to England last year, and he lives a few blocks from the school. He likes apple pie but hates tea, which makes me laugh – what kind of Englishman are you if you don't like tea? When I ask him why he didn't move back to England, he just says that he likes it here. "And I don't miss England's 363 rainy days a year." He works in a bookshop downtown and likes dogs, and I tell him that I'm more a cat person.

As the contents of the liquor bottle slowly disappears, each of us taking turns taking a sip and asking the other a question, I give up on my drawing – I made a decent sketch which I'm going to finish at some point.

"Tell me about the first time you had sex," I say, offering him the bottle. I sit very awkwardly under the sink, my head banging against the porcelain repeatedly whenever I try to sit up straight.

"Jesus," he says, an awkward grin to his face. "You're straight-forward."

"Was it that bad?"

He takes the bottle from my hand but doesn't take a sip. "Depends."

"When, where, with whom? I think that if you've spent the last two hours in the bathroom with someone, the least you can do is tell them the story of how you lost your virginity."

"Please, don't use that word." His body shivers, like it genuinely disgusts him.

"Okay," I say, "the first time you had sex. Go."

He sighs and sits up straight, his legs crossed in front of him. "My former girlfriend, I think it was ... sophomore year of high school? I was 17, anyway. And a bunk bed in her parents' cottage."

"Please tell me her little brother wasn't sleeping in the top bunk."

"Fortunately, no."

"Oh. That's it? That wasn't so horrible. It actually almost sounds nice, if I quit thinking about the blood and pain and misery for a while."

"Yeah," he just says. "It wasn't that bad. She cried a lot, which made me question everything I had ever done in my life up until that point, of course, but then her parents came in and comforted her and sent me home. So, you know, not a big deal."

I laugh. "Okay, that deserves acknowledgement. I hope you were at least wearing clothes at that point.

"Nope."

"Christ. I'm sorry." I do mean it, but I can't help laughing at the thought.

"What about you, then?" he asks when I have calmed down enough to hear him over my drunken laughter.

"Me?" I ask.

"Yeah, I think this one deserves a follow-up."

"As I said, it hurt."

He waits for me to say something more, and when I don't, he asks, "when?"

"High school, freshman year. I was 15."

"With whom?"

"My math tutor from senior year."

"Where?"

"In his car."

He cocks an eyebrow. "Frisky first time."

"It was not completely consensual, either," I say, trying not to sound too pitiful.

"I'm sorry," he says, his tone of voice suddenly softer. He hands me the bottle, and I take a sip.

"Don't be, it's not like it's your fault."

He shrugs. "I know, but it still makes me bitter."

We turn the subject, and he asks me about my family. I tell him that my mother is back in Minnesota, and when he asks about my father I tell him that I don't like to talk about it, and he understands. I discover that we have very similar taste in music, and I tell him how I drove over my brother's cat right after I got my license and how I hadn't told anyone ever, not even my mother. I tell him how my mother and I aren't currently speaking but fail to bring up my brother, since I already told him more than I have ever told a stranger before, and he doesn't ask.

Someone pounds on the door, startling us both since we weren't expecting to be found here in our not-so-private hideout. I bang my head against the sink again and curse under my breath before getting up. The pounding continues.

"Would you stop that?" I yell, but whoever is on the other side is very desperate to get in.

Cody has gotten up, too, and is towering over me, holding the almost empty scotch bottle in his hand. "Guess our séance had to end eventually."

"Yes. Try not to look like you just rammed me against the bathroom wall, please."

This takes him aback, a perplexed look spreading across his face, and he stays silent as I open the door to find a broad-shouldered freshman with his hand still outstretched, ready to pound the door again. "That was about time, lovers," he says grumpily, pushing past us, clearly in a hurry.

I put my sketchbook into my backpack again as I venture down the marble staircase and into the night. To my surprise, Cody follows me, his jacket now slung over his shoulder, since the mid-summer air is still hot and humid.

"Can I kiss you?" I ask, a sudden need to touch his lips overwhelming me as he comes down the porch stairs towards me.

He doesn't answer. Instead he locks his hand behind my neck and touches his mouth to mine, his tongue parting my lips insistently. He tastes like booze and smells like day-old coffee and cologne, and I take it all in as our mouths work on the effort of never leaving the other's.

"Can we have sex, too?" I ask when he finally pulls back.

He looks at me with a grin, his hand still on my neck. "Very straight-forward. I like it."

He tells me that he doesn't live far away, and I believe him, but it takes us half an hour to walk to his place, and I fall into my own drunken trap and smoke four cigarettes on the way. When I offer him one, I learn that he has never smoked a cigarette, and I tell him not to.

When we finally get to his apartment, which is larger than I'd expect of a college student, he kisses me again, and since the couch is closer, we collapse onto it, him on top of me, limbs tangled together.

 
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