Amber calls from the driveway. "I think I am here."
I rush to the second floor porch, sans shoes. "You are!" I shout from the edge.
Amber gets out of her car, wearing a scoop neck brown shirt and jeans, adorned with one of the acorn pendants she makes. "We could reenact the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet," I suggest before she has made her way to the stairs. "You start."
She opts, instead, to be led inside.
I say, hand on the doorknob, "I would like to remind you, before I open this door, that I am of the species 'impoverished writer'. You mustn't judge me."
She smirks. "I am an artist and I live with my mother, let me in."
I give her the grand tour by sweeping my arm once. She looks around at the studio that constitutes my living space and then asks what I would like to do. I laugh and say, leaning against my sofa, that I would like to be kissing her. She reaches for my face and we kiss, long and sweetly. "Now what?" she asks, grinning as though she were in a pleasant daze.
"What" as it turns out, is sitting on my sofa and kissing until she can come to some decision as to what to do next. She settles on watching movies, though I am disappointed to find that The Orphanage is no longer instantly available. I rummage through my DVDs, telling her that she cannot look because I have neglected to ever throw out the kitschy porn movies left to me by a previous lover in the breakup (one never knows when one will be asked for an interactive movie featuring a naughty genie). It is not a level of embarrassment I care to have be the feature of our second date.
I have few horror movies, since they tend to be spur of the moment decisions to watch rather than films I opt to buy. I know that simulated fear raises the levels of serotonin and oxytocin in the brain, which will make Amber unconsciously fonder of me. Though, given the keenness and frequency of her kisses, this may be a moot point. I may reiterate that we are "friends who kiss" and there is no pressure, but I think she is coming to feel for me as I do for her.
I offer her a stack of potential movies and she shrugs, palms raised upward in affected uncertainty. This is a gesture of coy ambivalence that is to repeat so often in my presence today that I threaten by turn to hold her arms down when she attempts it, kiss her so she forgets to be indecisive, or outright fetishize it so as to remove its sting.
We watch MirrorMask, as we had previously discussed its writer, Neil Gaiman. The movie - as with most movies a newly dating couple watches - is irrelevant. It serves as a reason to sit together - for her head to rest on my chest, for me to breathe in the clean scent of her skin - without fully admitting that is mostly what we are doing. (Also, it need be said, MirrorMask is hardly Gaiman's masterpiece.)
After the movie ends - happily, if weakly and predictably - I ask if she would like dinner, because I intend to satisfy any urge that would otherwise pull her back home. Again, the shrug, which I opt to no longer tolerate. I gather her in my arms and carry her into the kitchen, cradled against me. "I am not putting you down until you make a decision," I pronounce, the benefit of dating someone tiny. However, the flaw in my plan quickly presents itself: with her in my arms, I cannot open the cabinets or refrigerator. "Would you mind terribly opening that?" I ask.
Amber obliges but it is obvious her choices are between pasta or air. She allows the former. A man of my word, I place her back on solid ground. A man (period), I then push her onto my bed and cover her face with kisses until the urge to do more, the magnetism of her small hand pulling at me, becomes almost overwhelming. To cool off, I begin dinner by spilling half the box of dry spaghetti on the ground in my subdued frustration.
As we eat, we begin watching Amelie. We rapidly forget about our food, instead preferring to cuddle to the romantic French movie and leave our mouths free for kissing.
We are getting just to the conflict in the movie, when Amelie turns do-gooder. There is more than a half hour left of the movie and less than that before Amber must leave. I pause the film and look into her placid blue eye, like the lake of a matte painting. "We could keep watching - we won't finish - or we can go to my bed and kiss this time memorable."
I cock an eyebrow and tell she can go to my bed of her own volition or I will carry her there. She smirks and stands at the foot of my bed. I kiss her once, softly, then push her on the nest of blankets, as I had done before. Kissing her is electric, but having her tangled in my bed sheets - so eager and yet largely off-limits by my own decision - makes me feel as though my lungs can't get enough air. I want to place my lips on every bit of exposed skin and, having done my best to sate this, I want even more.
My hands are on the waist on her jeans, my fingers transcending the boundary and touching the skin of her stomach and tracing the metal of the clasp. I have been thinking of the skin on her left thigh that was revealed by the run in her stocking the night before, focused on how much I want to kiss it now that she is reclined on my bed. For hours, these few inches of skin, this revelation of bareness, has flitted into my mind, provoking a thoughtful sound from my throat every time it does. But to kiss it would mean to remove her jeans and I had battled against this delicious urge for the sake of propriety and so as to keep our friendship on safe ground. Finally, knowing our time is drawing closed, I fumble at the button to I can free her lovely, thin legs and satisfy my curiosity.
"No," she says quietly, almost pleading.
I sit up and smile, amused this is what finally provoked her to state a decision. "'No' it is. When it comes to removing your clothes, anything other than a shouted 'Oh gods, yes!' is a no." I kiss her, once on her lips, once on her brow, and hold her tightly against me. I like her better for her "no".
She is promised to a diner and her friends at nine thirty. At nine, we straighten clothes and hair and I gently point out that I have left a small mark on her shoulder. She shrugs and is not unhappy that our dalliance has left evidence. She invites me to join her in meeting her sister and friends, but it seems too soon. Today has been lovely, holding her divine, but I don't know that I am ready for family to know about me in three dimensions.
I walk her to her car and we have a drawn out goodnight kiss. Then she turns back. "I don't think I have my keys. Are they in the house?"
We check, but no. In fact, they are in the ignition of her car. I call AAA to break into her car. In the hour it takes them to arrive, we sit on my porch and I read her poetry, mouthing things I feel I may want to say to her but do not wish to rush.
Soon in Xenology: Amber.