Lachlan has this strange mixture of mysterious bad boy with southern gentlemen with rockstar charm. I can’t keep up with him and he has me spun around so many times it’s hard to keep track of what I like about him and what I don’t. Sometimes they overlap.
Okay fine, they always overlap.
I am watching him as we fold towels in the shelter’s basement laundry room. It’s steamy and hot. The faint smell of fabric softener mixes with the thick, musty air and it’s hard to breathe without tasting it.
Lachlan’s sleeves are pushed up and his tattoos flex and stretch as he moves. It’s like a mural, arranged in no particular order other than to flow from one to the other in a lucid and dreamlike swirl of colour and shape. I try to pick out different elements, but he moves so fast I can’t focus on anything but that wristband. The wristband that covers the huge scar across his inner wrist.
“You never did tell me what that symbol meant.” I lay a towel on top of the one he just folded and we both grab another one.
He doesn’t even look over at me and I seriously want to stomp my foot. How immature is that? But I can’t help it. I roll my eyes instead.
“Are you ever going to?”
Lachlan places his folded towel down on the washer and flips around to face me. He leans on the machine and crosses one foot over the other.
Here we go, tough guy, I think.
“Are you ever going to tell me why you’re so rigid all the time?”
I step back both literally and metaphorically. “I’m not rigid,” I say, my voice hard. My body stiffens, which totally doesn’t help my case. “And that’s a very personal question.”
“So is this,” Lachlan holds out his arm.
I stumble over words that form in my mouth. I forget them as soon as they dissolve on my tongue. I have no idea how long we stand there with my jaw wobbling like one of the wind-up teeth that chatter.
Lachlan laughs, the arrogant one that slides it’s way under my skin and leaves me both hot and cold. He stretches his arms up in the air and casually grips a thick solid looking water pipe that hangs from the low ceiling. He lifts himself up like a monkey and dangles in the air. I can see his stomach and the top of his boxer shorts and I try to look away. He sets himself down on the washer and not once has he moved his eyes from mine. He’s taunting me. Making fun of me, but I can’t figure out how, or why, yet. I also don’t know where this display of male attitude is coming from, but it makes my stomach flutter.
“Tell me, Hat Girl,” Lachlan’s voice gets lower, huskier. Dare I say it, sexier, “Have you ever done anything bad in your life? I’m not talking, like, stole a candy bar as a kid, bad…”
My heart pounds and my breathing speeds up but this is definitely not a panic attack. This is totally different. Exciting.
“I mean really bad,” he continues.
Lachlan spreads his knees apart and leans forward slightly, using the pipe just above his head to brace himself.
My jaw feels like it’s disappeared altogether and my cheeks fill with heat. I stuttered over a few things that could constitute as bad, but I stop myself because I know that’s not what he means.
I take a step toward him, my feet moving without my permission.
“Bad?” I finally push out, but my voice squeaks. I am too flustered to be embarrassed.
His smile widens and his eyes darken behind his fringe of curls. I am standing and staring like a total idiot surrounded by laundry, with nothing but the swishing sound of the washing machine to cut the tension.
“Like, I don’t know, make out with the guy who has the worst Juvie record in town? In the basement of a homeless shelter? On a washing machine?” Lachlan says, raising one eyebrow.
I try to swallow, but I fail and a bubble of air gets stuck in my throat. I cough and Lachlan laughs again. I really want to be mad at him, for putting me on the spot like this, but as soon as the word ‘make-out’ comes out of his mouth I can’t stop staring at his lips. Everything else forgotten.
“Come here, Hat Girl.” He is still leaning forward, bracing himself on the pipe. He taunts me with his eyes. I hesitate and then take a step.
This is such a bad idea.
“Clos-er,” he drags out the last part. Definitely a really bad idea. I take another step. My sneakers are silent on the concrete floor because the step is slow and tentative. My steps are the only thing that’s moving slow though. My heart is racing, my legs are shaking, and my mind is spinning.
Why does he always do this? Why is he always pushing me?
I feel him though, pulling me toward him with his eyes, his lips, his crooked nose and perfect teeth. The way he leans forward, the way his fingers loosen and tighten their grip on the low hanging pipe, the way that he slides to the very edge of the washing machine, all tell me he’s serious.
Is this how he picks up girls?
I take another step. I’m standing in front of him. I shouldn’t be. Both sides of my brain were screaming so loud at the other I couldn’t tell anymore. I want. I don’t want. I desire. I fear. It all happens at once.
“A little closer,” he whispers now, his voice drips with confidence. He knows he has me.
His knees spread even wider apart and I step in between them. He’s leaning over me and I feel his breath on my face. My arms are locked at my side.
“We shouldn’t, Lachlan.” My head is angled down. My voice is breathy, it matches the light but also heavy feeling in my chest, my stomach, my knees. I feel like I’m floating and sinking at the same time.
“I know we shouldn’t,” he touches his forehead to mine, “But I want to.”
I look up at him our foreheads are still touching. My nose brushes against his. He leans further into me. I tilt up a little more and my lips touch his. Softly.
My hands reach out and I brace myself on his knees so I don’t fall. For a second I feel like I’ll faint, which is stupid, I’ve kissed boys before.
But not this boy.
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