Chapter 45 The beach house

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Flora

I went to Rome with my family once. I remember visiting the arena, where ancient gladiators and lions were supposed to fight and kill each other. Our tour guide told us an interesting anecdote about how back then they would starve the lions for a week, then they would rub the smell of meat and female lions on the gladiators so that the lions would be more motivated.

I only saw the remains of the arena, but I imagined if I could look into the eyes of one of those hungry beasts, I would find what I saw in Sean's eyes that moment.

"Was it fun?" I asked. I felt flushed. My boyfriend could give me a fever just by staring at me, like one of the characters on X-Men.

"It was. Brought back a lot of memories. Including the part where Sandy's mean to me," he said and I laughed. I could absolutely imagine how that went.

I offered him the pizza again because I felt shy, which was ridiculous, but actually not that ridiculous because it was Sean before me. I hoped he got it that I really cared a lot for him by planning a juvenile date, and I thought he did.

"Pizza can wait," he said.

He leaned in and I closed my eyes. It tasted like a first kiss. Not his techniques, obviously, but how it made me feel.

Like no one else mattered before him.

I could taste the urgency on his lips, the resolution, and there was a hint of desperation behind his usually calm demeanor. He was almost aggressive. We made out until the pizza got cold, and it didn't stop there. To be honest I didn't really want him to stop. He was setting off an array of firecrackers everywhere he touched.

I was faintly aware that it would be a cascade down all the way if I hadn't pushed him off me weakly.

He let go of me immediately and jerked back. We must have realized at the same time that this was how I lost my virginity, on the backseat of a car, and the memory repulsed me.

"Baby, I'm so sorry," he started.

I sat up and straightened my skirt.

"That's so insensitive of me. I got carried away," he stammered.

"No, it's just...not like this."

He leaned back on the car seat and took a deep breath, pupils large, breathing erratic. He looked like he was in need of a cold shower.

"Can you call your parents and tell them you are not going home tonight?" I asked.

***

We drove back to my apartment separately. I went up to pack a small overnight bag, then I got in Sean's car next to him. He was still on the phone, and judging by the conversation, he was having a hard time persuading his parents to let him stay out.

Then he said four magic words, and like pressing four digits into a safe, it worked.

"Mom, but it's Flora," he made his plea softly.

The conversation ended soon after that, and I smiled in satisfaction as he hung up. "Your mom must like me very much."

"Yes, that too." He started the car. "But mostly it's because...she knew how I was when we broke up. I didn't tell her how I felt but I guess she knows me better than I thought."

I felt a pang of sadness hearing that, imagining Sean hurt and depressed. At the same time there was this undeniable sense of pride knowing that I held such an importance.

He smiled. "Anyway, we got an extension. I'm glad you're not tired of my company yet."

"Not even close." I gave him the direction and he swerved into the evening.

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