9.) Sweet Confession

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9.) Sweet Confession

From the roof of Marilyn's three-story recreation building, the night's black sea stretched smoothly for miles, reflecting the moon's pearly light. A small island in the center sat atop the water as a forested queen, and in the distance, skyscrapers circled the water's edge like a shimmering necklace. Thanks to its sheer beauty and the mostly retired old folks who lived here, keeping it nice and serene, this place had long been an official spot for me and my love interests, though we'd always enjoyed it with Mar or in a group. But on this warm, Friday night, for the first time ever, I share this perfect place alone with Chris.

We stood, leaning against the ebony railing. Chris, in a beige button down that highlighted his olive complexion, could pass for a model posing before the luxurious backdrop. "It's beautiful out here. Thank you, and Marilyn, for letting me come." He turned his face and smirked. "She seems really cool."

I peered behind at the white condo tower. Sure enough, Mar stood on her twelfth floor balcony, peeping like Mom would.

My face burned. Though I told her it was okay to check in, getting caught wasn't apart of the plan. I tried to play off my embarrassment with a wave. As she waved back and then walked into her condo, Chris's smile widened.

"I didn't tell her to do that," I said.

"Sure you didn't."

"Anywaaays." I playfully backhanded his hard bicep. "I love it here. It's so peaceful."

"Yeah." His smile gradually faded and his tone became serious. "Especially when I'm standing next to you."

Heart-rate climbing, I shifted my stare to the gently rippling water. "Chris, have you...always had feelings for me?"

"What do you think?" His raspy voice mirrored the calm bay.

I wiggled my sandaled, hot-pink toes. With that whole pleased/amused smile he'd always given me, I did have my suspicions, but I could never quite figure him out. I really thought he just used me, maybe from boredom or for attention. He did kiss me and then bolt. He'd always tease but then fail to commit, never finishing what he started.

I looked at him. "Then why did it take you so long to pursue something with me?"

"I wasn't ready." He gazed ahead. "I wasted so much time on my exes, and when we broke up they hated me. None of them wanted to be friends after." Tears gleamed in his eyes, sad and pensive. "So many people have left me, and I know I've hurt you, but you're still there for me. You've always been there for me. For whatever reason, you didn't give up on me." He turned to me and gently grabbing my arms, he pulled me into his sweet-fragranced embrace. My head nestled perfectly against his firm chest, so warm and inviting. It felt like I belonged there.

I clung to him. "I don't think I'd ever give up on you." I held him tighter as his soft lips pressed tenderly against my temple. I wanted to protect him from the pain of this world. If I could be that safe place for him, that one person he could trust and rely on, I would be, always. I didn't care that he'd hurt me; he had started making up for it now. Something was different about him—about us.

As we stood there in the pearly light, holding each other, I knew that Chris had changed. Something—or several things—had happened to him over the year that finally brought him to this place. Maybe the breakup with Christina wasn't because he'd gotten sick of sex with the same girl. Maybe it ended badly, like he alluded to by saying none of his exes wanted to be friends after. So that pain caused him to shy away from anything serious. He feared getting hurt again, and perhaps that's why he pushed me away. Because he had always liked me, he knew I was someone who could hurt him...

My phone rang.

Dammit. I wavered before pulling away from him and walking to the ivory lounge chairs where my phone laid by Chris's long-board. I picked it up. Mamatu. God, she really has a knack for interrupting. I'd thought about blocking her while I'm with Chris, but she'd probably have a heart failure or call the cops.

"I have to go home. I have my dad's car so my mom doesn't want me out too late."

Chris sighed and took a seat on a lounge chair. His arms slipped around my hips and he drew me in until his cheek pressed against my stomach. "When you hold me I feel safe."

Every muscle in my body relaxed as I clasped the back of his warm neck. Ugh, why can't the night be as long as the day?

"We have to go..." I hated my words, and though I wasn't a perfect angel always honest about her whereabouts, I couldn't do what Natalia did to my parents...

"Okay." Chris slowly released me and grabbed his longboard.

I peered up again at Marilyn's balcony and through her sliding glass doors where she stood. Giving me a thumbs up, she closed the blinds. It was really cool of her to leave us alone together—unlike Landon. I seriously don't know what I'd do without her.

"You think you can take me home?" Chris asked.


"Thanks, Tasha."

I smiled. Though not very fond of that nick name, every time he spoke it, it sounded like music. Actually, everything he'd been saying lately sounded melodious.

We strolled hand-in-hand to my dad's beat-up burgundy Intrepid, the light of the moon kissing our skin. I glimpsed at his plump lips. Though I'd agreed to taking it slow, one kiss wasn't too fast...was it?

We sat in silence as we drove to his condo. I turned on the radio to snuff out some of the awkwardness. Maybe he tried to be more mysterious since he'd opened up to me before. Or did he feel afraid because he admitted all that stuff; because he allowed himself to be vulnerable with me...the girl who could hurt him...

We stopped at a red light a few blocks from his place.

"You can drop me off here and I'll skate the rest of the way," he said.

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, it's cool. I wanna skate."

My heart sank, wanting to spend every remaining second I could with him. "Okay."

"Thanks, Tasha. I had fun tonight." He smiled before leaning in to kiss my...cheek. As he drew back, I spoke faster than I thought.

"Wait," I said, his mouth three inches from my face. "What do you want to do?"

His eyes jogged back and forth between mine. I braved his penetrating gaze. Please let him kiss me, please let him kiss—He leaned in again. His thick lips found mine. My heart pounded. The hair on my skin rose. My head warmed. My body weakened—Beep beep!

He broke away from our kiss. I glanced in the rearview mirror at the white Benz behind us and then ahead at the green light above. Whoops.

Chris chuckled, and with one last look in my eyes, hopped out of the car and skated away like he belonged on the streets of LA. I smiled at him as I drove past. I always thought it was other people getting in the way of us—or blamed myself. But despite being so hot and confident on the outside, it was Chris; his own fears and insecurities that caused him to guard his heart.

Well, he was beginning to give me that key, and I would make sure I'd keep it safe.