HE STARES AT ME INCREDULOUSLY, his mouth damn near the floor.
"What?" I arch an eyebrow at him and sink deeper into the lumpy cushions, angling my body away from his. Sometime while we were talking he had moved from his uncomfortable chair to my uncomfortable booth and I am trying to keep a friendly distance between us, but his body radiates a warmth that is making it very difficult. Suddenly he bursts out laughing, clutching his stomach and dropping his head back against the wall. "It's not that funny."
"It's pretty funny. I can't believe your brother pushed you off a boat." His eyes twinkle with a contagious mirth, and I have to force my lips down to keep from smiling like an idiot.
"I got stung by jellyfish!" I huff exasperatedly, thinking back to my brothers smug face as he laughed at me thrashing in the ocean. We were about to go snorkeling, and before I could properly put on the gear, I found myself at the bottom of the sunny sandbar. Then my dad forced him to haul me back up onto the deck where he proceeded to suggest he piss on me to relieve the stings. "I mean, granted, he didn't know there were any there, but he likes to do idiotic things like that. And it didn't really hurt that much. But still! It's the principle of the thing."
"Yeah, it's definitely something a brother would do." Tom nods and grabs his chin dramatically.
I swat at his hand as he breaks out in a giant grin. "Tell me the worst thing you've ever done to one of your brothers." I raise my eyebrows challengingly, smoothing my hands over the dark blue of my jeans.
He sucks his teeth and looks up at the ceiling, making a humming noise in the back of his throat. "There's so many things, I don't know if I could decide."
"Okay, not the worst then, just something mildly terrible. 'Cause I know deep down inside you're as messed up as any of us."
"Not true," he says, looking down at me with a cocky smile, "haven't you heard? I'm perfect." I stare back at him blankly and he sighs forcefully, shaking his head as the corners of his mouth twitch. "Okay, fine. One time a couple years ago, my parents went out for a couple hours while Harry was at a friend's house. While he was gone, the rest of us took his room apart and switched it with Dad's office furniture and then locked the office door. Then when he got home we pretended like we couldn't see him for hours. It was funny—up until he started crying." He shakes his head, a pained grimace on his face. "I still feel bad about that. But he got me back, of course. Got rid of all my clothes and replaced them with dresses, which wouldn't have been too terrible except they all had Justin Bieber's face on them. I had to wear one to an audition I went to. Weirdest hour of my life."
"Damn," I say, looking up at him through my eyelashes, "boys are mean."
He shrugs as if it was something that happened every day—which it probably was, or close to it. "We're just us. No matter what one of us does, we always love each other. And I would died for my brothers, if it ever came to that." Tom nudges me in the ribs and my gaze snaps to meet his. "I'm sure despite everything your brother's done, he'd do the same for you."
"Maybe, but—shit!" My eyes wander over to the board across the room where the time displayed above it reads 15:48. "The plane's supposed to be here in ten minutes, if it isn't delayed or here already." I quickly shrug on my jacket meant to keep me warm on the plane and slide my purse over my shoulder. "Either way, I think it would be a good idea if I say by my gate."
"Yeah," he nods, sliding out of the booth quickly and allowing me to follow suit, "I probably should too."
I extend the handle of my suitcase and drag it out from underneath the table so it's resting at my feet. "it was nice meeting you," I say, shifting my weight on my feet and rolling my shoulders out. "I, uh—yeah."
We stand there awkwardly for a moment, just staring at each other, when I lean forwards and wrap my arms around his neck without warning. He stiffens in surprise for a moment, but then he melts into my arms and snakes his own around my waist. "Nice to meet you too, Thea." He pulls away slightly, his hands resting gently on my hips and that dazzling smile finding its home on his lips.
I shook myself out of my daze and pull my carryon closer towards my legs. "Well, I guess, have a good flight. Thanks for the help and the company."
"Yeah, you too." Tom's hands drop from my body and into his pockets.
Then with one long last look, I wave and take off in the direction of the board to check the gate and see that the plane has landed and will begin boarding in ten minutes. I speed-walk down the halls, weaving in and out of the various groups of people talking or walking far too slowly for my liking, until I reach my gate and get in line between the hundred or so other people anxiously waiting to leave.
Despite the amount of people on the flight, it takes only twenty minutes until I'm stowing my suitcase above my head. Just as I'm sitting down in the semi-comfortable economy seat, my phone chimes with a new notification. Curious as to what it is, and not wanting to have to wait eight hours until I'm back in the states, I slide open the phone and pull down the notification center.
The words across the screen, greet me with a smile and my stomach does a little flip-flop in my abdomen, and my day feels infinitesimally better:
Tom Holland (tomholland2013) has started following you.