I keep my eyes on the paper and continue to write the words I honestly wish I didn’t feel.
I see you in places from time to time
You keep to your business and I, I keep to mine
But you know that I, I want to be
Right by your side where I ought to be
And you know that I, I want to see
The way that your eyes seem to follow me
The second I’m finished writing, I’m so worked up I don’t allow myself to witness her reaction to the words. I quickly hand her back the notebook and pull my guitar around and begin playing so she can work through the chorus.
He’s not looking at me. He doesn’t even know I’m not singing the lyrics. I can’t sing them. I’ve listened to him play this song dozens of times from his balcony, yet it never held emotion or meaning until this moment.
The fact that he can’t even look at me makes the song feel way too personal. It feels as if this song somehow just became his song to me. I turn the notebook over, not wanting to read the words anymore. This song is just one more thing that never should have happened, even though I’m positive it’s my new favorite.
Me: Do you think Brennan can make a rough cut of this one? I want to hear it.
I nudge him with my foot after I send the text, then nod toward his phone when he looks at me. He picks it up to read the text and nods. He doesn’t reply or make eye contact with me, though. I glance back down to my phone as the room grows quiet in the absence of the sound of his guitar. I don’t like how awkward things just got between us, so I attempt to make small talk to fill the void. I roll onto my back and type out a question that’s been on my mind for a while to break up the stillness around us.
Me: Why don’t you ever practice on your balcony like you used to?
This question gets me immediate eye contact from him, but it doesn’t last. His eyes flicker across my face, down my body, and finally back to his phone.
Ridge: Why would I? You’re not out there anymore.
And just like that, my defenses are down, and my willpower is shot to hell with his honest reply. I nervously pull my bottom lip in and chew on it, then slowly raise my eyes back to his. He’s looking at me as if he wishes he were a guy like Hunter who cared only about himself.
He’s not the only one wishing that.
I want to be Tori right now so much it hurts. I want to be just like her and not give a shit about my self-respect or about Maggie for just a few minutes. Long enough to allow him to do everything his lyrics make clear he wants to do.
His eyes fall to my lips, and my mouth runs dry.
His eyes fall to my chest, and it begins to heave deeper than it already was.
His eyes fall to my legs, and I have to cross them, because the way his gaze penetrates my body makes it seem as though he can see right through this dress I’m wearing.
His eyes close tightly, and knowing the effect I’m having on him makes me feel as if there might be a lot more truth to his lyrics than he’d like there to be.
It’s making me feel like I want to be the only man that you ever see.
Ridge suddenly stands and drops his phone onto the bed, then walks straight into the bathroom and slams the door. I listen as the shower curtain slides open and the water kicks on.
I roll onto my back and release all my pent-up breaths. I’m flustered and confused and angry. I don’t like the situation we’ve put ourselves in, and I know for a fact that even though we haven’t acted on it, nothing about this is innocent.
I sit up on the bed, then quickly stand. I need to get out of his room before it completely closes in on me. Just as I’m walking away from the bed, Ridge’s phone vibrates on the mattress. I look down at it.
Maggie: I’m missing you extra hard today. When you’re finished writing with Sydney, can we video chat? I need to see you. ;)
I stare at her text.
I hate her text.
I hate that she knows we were just writing together.
I hate that he tells her everything.
I want these moments to belong to me and Ridge and no one else.
• • •
It’s been two hours since he got out of the shower, and I can’t bring myself to leave my bedroom. I’m starving, though, and really want to go to the kitchen. I just don’t want to see him, because I hate how we left things. I don’t like that we both know we almost crossed a line tonight.
Actually, I don’t like that we did cross a line tonight. Although we aren’t verbalizing what we’re thinking and feeling, writing it in lyrics isn’t any less harmful.
There’s a knock on my door, and knowing that it’s more than likely Ridge causes my heart to betray me by dancing rapidly in my chest. I don’t bother getting up to open the door, because he nudges it open right after knocking. He holds up a set of headphones and his cell phone, indicating that he has something he wants me to hear. I nod, and he walks over to the bed and hands them to me. He hits play but takes a seat on the floor while I scoot back onto the bed. The song begins to play, and I spend the next three minutes barely breathing. Ridge and I never once break our stare throughout the duration of the song.
[[For ebook only: Click on the link to listen to “I’m In Trouble.”]]
Maggie: Guess who gets to see me tomorrow?
Me: Kurt Vonnegut?
Maggie: Guess again.
Me: Anderson Cooper?
Maggie: No, but close.
Me: Amanda Bynes?
Maggie: You’re so random. YOU get to see me tomorrow, and you get to spend a whole two days with me, and I know I’m trying to save money, but I bought you two new bras.
Me: How did I ever get so lucky to find the one and only girl who supports and encourages my transvestite tendencies?
Maggie: I ask myself that same question every day.
Me: What time do I get to see you?
Maggie: Well, it all depends on the dreaded T word again.
Me: Ah. Yes. Well, we shall discuss it no further. Try to be here by six, at least. Warren’s birthday party is tomorrow night, and I want to spend time with you before all his crazy friends get here.
Maggie: Thank you for reminding me! What should I get him?
Me: Nothing. Sydney and I are pulling the ultimate prank. We told everyone to donate to charity in lieu of gifts. He’ll be pissed when people start handing him all the donation cards in his honor.
Maggie: You two are evil. Should I bring something? A cake, maybe?
Me: Nope, we got it. We felt bad for the “no gifts” prank, so we’re about to bake him five different flavored cakes to make up for it.
Maggie: Make sure one of them is German chocolate.
Me: Already got you covered, babe. I love you.
Maggie: Love you, too.
I close out our texts and open up the unread one I have from Sydney.
Sydney: You forgot vanilla extract, dumbass. It was on the list. Item 5. Now you have to go back to the store.
Me: Maybe next time you should write more legibly and return my texts when I’m at the grocery store, attempting to decipher item 5. I’ll be back in 20. Preheat the oven, and text me if you think of anything else.
I laugh, put my phone into my pocket, grab my keys, and head to the store. Again.
• • •
We’re on cake number three. I’m beginning to believe that those who are musically gifted seriously lack talent in the kitchen-skills department. Sydney and I work really well together when it comes to writing music, but our lack of finesse and knowledge when it comes to mixing a few ingredients together is a little pathetic.
She insisted that we bake the cakes from scratch, whereas I would have grabbed the boxed mixes. But it’s been kind of fun, so I’m not complaining.
She places the third cake in the oven and sets the timer. She turns around and mouths “thirty minutes,” then pushes herself up onto the counter.
Sydney: Is your little brother coming tomorrow?
Me: They’re gonna try. They open for a band in San Antonio at seven tomorrow night, so as long as they get loaded up on time, they should be here by ten.
Sydney: The whole band? I get to meet the whole band?
Me: Yep. And I bet they’ll even sign your boobs.
Me: If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.
Sydney: How did y’all come up with the band name Sounds of Cedar?
Any time anyone’s asked how I came up with the name of the band, I just say I thought it sounded cool. But I can’t lie to Sydney. There’s something about her that pulls stories about my childhood out of me that I’ve never told anyone. Not even Maggie.
Maggie has asked in the past why I never speak out loud and where I came up with the name of the band, but I don’t like to bring up anything negative that might cause her even the smallest amount of concern. She’s got enough to deal with in her own life. She doesn’t need to add my childhood issues to that. They’re in the past and there’s no need to bring it up.
However, Sydney’s a different story. She seems so curious about me, about life, about people in general. It’s easy to tell her things.
Sydney: Uh-oh. Looks like I need to prepare myself for a good story, because you look like you don’t want to answer that.
I turn around until my back is pressed against the countertop she’s sitting on, and I lean against it.
Me: You just love the heart-wrenching stuff, huh?
Sydney: Yep. Give it to me.
Maggie, Maggie, Maggie.
I often find myself repeating Maggie’s name when I’m with Sydney. Especially when Sydney says things like “Give it to me.”
The last couple of weeks have been okay since our talk. We’ve definitely had our moments, but one of us is usually quick to begin pointing out flaws and repulsive personality traits to get us back on track.
Aside from a couple of weeks ago, when our writing session ended with me having to take a cold shower, two nights ago was probably the hardest time of all for me. I don’t know what it is about the way she sings. I can simply be watching her, and I get the same feeling I get when I press my ear to her chest or rest my hand against her throat. She closes her eyes and starts singing the words, and the passion and feelings that pour from her are so powerful I sometimes forget I can’t even hear her.
This particular night, we were writing a song from scratch, and we couldn’t communicate well enough to understand it. I needed to hear her, and although we were both reluctant, it ended with my head pressed to her chest and my hand resting against her throat. While she was singing, she casually brought her hand to my hair and was twirling her fingers around.
I could have stayed in that position with her all night.
I would have, if every touch of her hand didn’t make me crave a little bit more. I finally had to tear myself away from her, but just being on the floor wasn’t enough separation. I wanted her so bad; it was all I could think about. I ended up asking her to tell me one of her flaws, and instead of giving me one, she stood up and left my bedroom.
The way she had been touching my hair was a very natural thing for her to do, considering the way we were positioned. It’s what a guy would do to his girlfriend if he were holding her against his chest, and it’s what a girl would do to her boyfriend if he were wrapped around her. But we aren’t those things.