Caramel Cigarettes [Fourteenth Addition]

Hey all!

This is another big addition. I won’t be able to write that much next week, since I’m going to be out of town. I’m thinking this will hold you guys over for a bit!

In case you need to catch up: 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

– Dahv

 

It was almost three when Jacqueline texted me:

“Just getting back now. My boss asked me to stay.”

I went to her room and sat in the hallway for a moment. Twirling my trucker hat between my hands, a strawberry scent wafted towards me. Shadows stretched from beneath her door, spilled beneath me like paint. Between my legs: her eyeglass case. Standing up, the floor creaked and moaned. Hat on backwards, I knocked. The shadows expanded past my feet to the opposite wall. Jacqueline opened the door with her work clothes still on. She leaned on the knob like a cane; free hand on popped left hip.

“How was work?” I handed her the case.

“Shitty.” She scrunched a handful of hair before running her fingers through it. “I see you got ready.” She glared at me, depositing a strand of hair behind her left ear.

I glanced at her cartilage piercing. “Purple looks amazing on you.”

Her cheeks flushed, eyes met the floor.

“I love your cartilage piercing.” As I tilted her chin up, she bit down on her lip. “I’m a little obsessed with it.”

She smiled, eyes widened. I pressed my thumb onto her birthmark. Against my palm, her jaw clenched.

“You say really silly things.” Her voice was small, almost raspy.

“You make me say really silly things.” Her kiss was cool cinnamon.

Still standing in the doorway, Jacqueline put my hat on. Wisps of hair folded over the sides. The rim dimmed her eyes and covered her eyebrows. I bent down until our eyes met. “Oh there you are!”

She pulled the rim up to her forehead’s peak. “It’s too big!” She whined. Not an upset whine but a cute one, a special one. Just for me.

“It’s not too big, you’re just too small for it.” I whined back at her.

She walked over to the mirror, placed the case down, and put the hat on backwards. She made a duck face. Eyebrows up, her forehead wrinkled like waves.

“Whoa.” I came up behind her. “How cool are you?” I took my phone out. “Let’s do it like they do it on MySpace.” I stood behind her, gesturing a peace sign with one hand, holding my phone in the other. Keeping her duck face, she flipped the bird with both hands. “We’re so gangster.” I said, looking at the picture.

Jacqueline burst out laughing. A laugh that started out as a giggle: a giggle that spiraled out into one loud laugh. Her whole face turned red, tears were in her eyes. “We look so lame.” She rubbed her eyes. Her laugh hiccuped in her throat.

I smiled, wanting to hear it again. “You look pretty awesome in it though.”

“Stop it.” She elbowed my arm. “I look awful in hats.”

“Whoever said you look bad in hats is an asshole.” She handed it back to me. “No,” I pushed it to her. “You keep it.”

“Kell.” She sighed my name. “For real?” She laughed again. “I look silly in it, though.”

“It’s my fault. I buy shitty hats.” Hat on her head, I rotated it until the rim was in the back. “You look good in backwards hats.”

She grabbed my collar and pulled me in for a kiss. We parted, but she kept her nose on mine. When she spoke, our lips grazed. “You make me happy.”

“I make you crazy.” I breathed in her cinnamon.

“You make me crazy happy.”

* * *

On Tuesday, Nicky and I were paired up for lab.

She tapped the goggles’ temple tip on her lip ring: the class’ metronome.

“Bored?” I asked putting on a pair of gloves.

She rolled her eyes to the right. She kept her eyes off of me, as she scribbled her name on the assignment sheet. She removed her red hood, releasing a tobacco waft. Dry and down, her hair was frayed at the ends. When she scrunched a handful, I swear I heard a crunch.

Reaching for her pencil, Nicky’s hand brushed up against mine. She tapped my knuckles with the eraser. “Oops. Sorry.”

“It’s cool.” I continued the assignment: measured a powder, added a substance. Fingers like legs, acrylics like heels, her hand wandered my backside as she walked by. Familiar goose bumps surfaced my forearms. I lowered my sleeves.

“You doing anything for Halloween?” She washed her hands.

“You mean Friday?” I leaned down, now eye level to the racked test tube.

“No, I mean Halloween.” There was a moment of silence. We exchanged looks. Her lips peeled back a smile that soon chewed on a laugh. “But yes,” she continued, catching her breath, “Friday.”

“I don’t know.”

“Oh,” her voice cracked. “Well, I’m thinking of going out that night. Ya know,” she turned off the sink, “to dance.”

Writing on my assignment sheet, I kept my attention off of her.

“Me and some people are thinking of going to that place.” She returned beside me and copied my answers on her sheet. “That place I took you the other night.”

“Cool, cool.” I removed my gloves and raised my hand. Making eye contact with Professor Wilkins, I nodded with a smile.

“So?” Nicky turned to me. Her hoodie was unzipped, revealing tangled bra and tank top straps and belly button piercing dangling on her midriff. Thinking of Jacqueline, I looked away. “You wanna come with us?” She finally asked.

“I’ll let you know, okay?”

With Professor Wilkins approaching, I lowered my arm.

“I don’t know, right now,” I said.

Nicky put her hood up; her hood, knit and rimmed with cigarette cough, tossed another tobacco waft. “You always say that, Kell.”

Ten minutes later, class was dismissed. Nicky retrieved her phone, equipped with headphones, from her backpack and put in her ear buds. Aviators on, she walked ahead of me and left the classroom. Jacqueline was standing out in the hall. She watched Nicky strut to the stairs and her eyes, like dice, rolled until stopping at snake eyes, snake eyes on me. I heard the door click close.

“Nice hat,” I said, watching her play with the rim: lifting it up, tilting it to the left and right.

“Thanks. Some really cute girl gave it to me.” Her thumbs tugged down on her belt loops.

“Cute, huh?” My eyes were drawn to her hipbones: bottom corners of the triangle. “Then that must make you gorgeous.” I tucked my thumbs into her front pockets; her fingers tickled my wrists. Her white long-sleeved shirt, lace spiral designs beneath the collar, looked like vanilla ice cream. Through the shirt, I saw her red bra and thought of cherries. Kissing her, I could taste chocolate.

She put the hat on me and dropped her hands on my shoulders. “You look so cute.”

“Be careful. That girl who gave you this hat might get jealous.”

Jacqueline kissed my neck. My whole body lightened: a mental levitation. Her hands were holding me down. She giggled beside my ear and whispered, “Good.”

After Jacqueline’s afternoon class, we went to the mall. She walked in a zigzag formation beside me, occasionally bumping into me or counting me off. She nervously folded her fingers into her palm and back out like a fan. When her fingers fanned out, I filled the space with mine. Her palm was sweaty; the hair on her arm was up and poked mine. With my pointer, I tickled the inside of her hand. She laughed quietly. I tickled her again and again, until her laugh grew louder. Her face broke out into a blush. I let go of her hand, put my arm around her waist and kissed her on the cheek. “You good?”

She nodded. Her blush turned to a glow. “I’m just not used to PDA.”

“Oh, please.” I hooked my elbow around her waist, tightening our embrace. “You’re all over me at school.”

“I don’t know a lot of people at our school.” She grabbed my hand and flattened it against her stomach. “I grew up near this town. My ex used to work here.”

“Oh.” I brought my arm back.

“No. Kell.” She held my hand. “Not like that.” Her thumb massaged my knuckle. “You know how I feel about you.” Her voice was quiet; eyes fell to the floor.

I put the hat back on her head. “And you know how I feel about you.” I turned to her and felt the sweat in her hand. I made her so nervous. “I got invited to go out dancing Friday night. It’s Halloween night, and it’s cool if you have plans, but I was wondering if you’d go with me.” I thought of Nicky seeing me with her, nerves fled to my stomach, buoys swayed. “I think it’d be fun.” My sweat settled in her palm. Jacqueline squeezed my hand tighter and kissed me on the cheek. “I mean,” I continued, “If you don’t wanna go, then I won’t go.”

“Is this like a date?” She bit down on her lip, which switched to a small smile.

“Sure.” My heart, beating hard and fast, tickled the back of my throat. “You’re my girl, Jac.”

She collapsed into my chest and held me tight. Letting out a small squeal that turned to an “aww,” she made me levitate. My soles felt slippery, shoes felt loose.

Eating ice cream, we sat on a bench facing a water fountain. Jacqueline mixed her strawberry ice cream and toppings: chocolate chips and coconut shavings. I wrapped my cone with napkins and passed the cone from one hand to the next after each lick, to keep my hands from getting sticky.

“Do you not like cones?” I asked.

She sucked on her spoon and shook her head. Coconut shavings glossed her lower lip like glitter. “What kind did you get?”

Chewing a chunk of cone, I said, “Mint chocolate chip. You want some?”

She shook her head. “Sounds good, though.”

I inched closer to her. Our thighs touched. “You sure?”

I brought my nose to hers. Through her smile I felt her breath: cool coconut. Keeping her eyes on me, she yelled, “Fuck!” She raised her empty hands up. Her cheeks blushed.

Bystanders and loiterers looked over.

Her cup of ice cream, dropped upside down, dribbled on her lap. Strawberry and chocolate smeared her jeans. I picked up her cup and grabbed a handful of napkins from the pile beside me.

“Fuck, fuck.” She said under her breath. “Thanks.” She dabbed her lap.

“It’s all good. You want another one?”

She shook her head. Her cheeks continued to blossom pink.

Strangers chatting by the water fountain continued to stare at Jacqueline amidst conversation.

I crunched the cone in my hand. Bits of cone and small servings of ice cream drizzled onto my lap. I opened my hand, dropping the remains. “Aw, shit!”

Everyone, including Jacqueline, looked over at me.

“Fuck me,” I said, grabbing napkins and carefully brushing away the cone crumbs, rubbing out the chocolate.

Strangers kept their attention on me and soon left.

“Kell.” She stopped my hand from cleaning. “You didn’t have to do that.”

“Do what? I honestly dropped my cone.”

She smiled. Eyes widened: irises looked like mint, pupils looked like chocolate. I could taste her happiness. She kissed me. Our tongues met and I could taste strawberry coconut.

“What was that for?”

“You offered your ice cream.” With her thumb, she touched my bottom lip. “Thought I’d have a little.”

I removed the napkin fort off of my lap. A dark spot remained around my crotch. I retrieved a quarter from my pocket and took Jacqueline’s hand. “Come with me.”

The water fountain was marble. The streams of water changed color every few minutes. Jacqueline and I sat on the edge. “You wanna make a wish with me?” The quarter hurdled my fingers.

“What kind of wish?”

“Whatever you want. Just don’t tell me.”

She closed her eyes and hummed to herself. Wisps of hair curled by her cartilage piercing. Her left sneaker was untied; her right pant leg, bottom ripped and frayed, tucked under her right heel. It was so adorable. As she bobbed her knee and crossed her legs, my heart paced like a drum kit.

Opening her eyes, she said, “Okay, I’ve got it.”

“Me too.” I flipped the quarter over my shoulder. There was small splash before it plummeted to the bottom; plummeted like the buoys that soon returned to the surface like a diver. “Jacqueline.” I took her hands. Sweat rushed to my palms. “I have to say this now before I fuck up.” Her sweat mingled with mine. “Will you be my girlfriend?”

Jacqueline’s eyes were on me, her mouth stayed closed. Her thumbs circled my knuckles.

“I’m kinda new to this too.” My stomach hurt. The flood in my stomach drained, now it was dry and sharp: knife meets volleyball. “I’ve never really been in a serious relationship.” I sighed, my stomach shrunk, the knife continued to dig. “But I wanna be with you. I wanna make you as happy as you make me.”

“I really make you that happy?” She rested one hand on my knee.

Her touch made me quiver. “You really don’t know what you mean to me, do you?” I stood in front of her. “It would scare you if you knew what you meant to me. You hold my hand or laugh or anything, and I just feel amazing. Look,” I grabbed her hand, “I know we haven’t known each other long, and if that’s stopping you from saying yes, then it’s okay.” I sat next to her, holding her hand still. “If this is changing your mind about going out Friday night, don’t worry about it. We could just go out and get coffee.” I let go of her hand. “That’s what friends do, right?” My stomach had been drained, popped and flattened. All of my nerves bundled in my gut, jumping and rolling on my stomach that sat like a beanbag.

“If I didn’t say yes, I would be lying to you.” The left corner of her mouth curved to a smile. “The fact that you think I’d say no is the most adorable thing.” She stood up and reached out. “Come.” Her voice cracked, making me think of the first night we hung out. “Let’s walk.” Her pants were marked with a dark spot like mine.

Standing up, I took off my zip-up hoodie. “Here,” I said, handing it to her. “Put this on. It’s big enough that it’ll cover the mess.”

Hood hanging off of her fingers, she asked, “Are you sure?”

“Yeah.” My eyes met hers; they brightened, her cheeks glowed. When she slipped the sweatshirt on, I wanted to tell her that she looked cute. The fabric was so baggy around her chest and shoulders. The body of the hoodie covered her torso like a dress two times her size and hid the mess perfectly.

She hugged herself. “This is so comfy, oh my God.” She put her hands to her chest, bent down and scurried towards her. Ear to my chest she said, “Thank you.”

I held her tightly and swayed. “You act like you’ve never been treated like this.” She pressed her cheek to my chest and sighed. “Tell me about your ex.”

“No, no.” She looked up at me. “Not tonight, okay?”

Her eyes were weary, corners docked tears. I stayed quiet.

Hands cradled above the center console, Jacqueline and I idled outside of my dorm.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of relationships have you been in?” She gently scratched my palm.

“You’re gonna make fun of me.”

The scratching stopped.

She turned down the music and put on the heat. “You purposely dropped your ice cream.” She said and fiddled with the buttons. “No one has ever done that for me.” She looked at me. “I could never laugh at you.”

I wanted to lure her to the backseat. I saw her, legs opened; one hanging off of the side, and the other bent at the knee and turned out. I wanted to kiss her everywhere and taste her. I was so into her. “I’ve only really been into one girl. We went to high school together, but I didn’t meet her until junior year through one of my friends. Her name was Megan. My God.” I stopped. Closing my eyes, I painted her curves and wavy hair in the dark abyss beneath my eyelids. “She was just perfect.”

“What was she like?”

“Really giggly, but intense. When we were friends, she had this chain wallet and wore these ripped jeans. But at the same time, she had her hair done perfectly. We would hang out like every weekend. It’s not that I wanted to hang out, she wanted to hang out too.”

“Did you guys ever go out?”

Head back, I laughed. “Nah. She was straight.” Left eyebrow raised, I glanced at Jacqueline. “I knew she wanted me though. Like deep, deep down. We spent so much time together, I mean, how could she not?”

Jacqueline giggled. “You’re a little cocky, huh?” She jabbed me in the arm.

“I was a little stupid. Ya know,” I brought my knee to my chest, “I wrote her a song for her birthday. Like a full-blown song, with a video and everything. I put it up on Facebook the night before. All of our friends liked it and commented on it, all like ‘you’re such a great friend, Kell,’ ‘Meg is so lucky to have you.’ You wanna know what Megan wrote?” Dried up, my throat tightened. My eyes began to sting. “‘I adore you.'”

“That’s it?”

I nodded. “Two weeks later, she went out with my best friend Nick.” Foot down, I put my head back. “They’ve been together since. After that, I fooled around with some of our mutual friends. Didn’t mean anything, it just happened.” I exhaled and it was scratchy like bronchitis.

“Do you and Megan still talk?” Jacqueline took my hand. Her hands were warm and callused.

“Come on, Jac. What would I say?” Through my tight throat, a laugh squeaked. “Besides, I met you.” I kissed her hand. “Thanks for the ride back.” I left the car.

Jacqueline rolled down the window and called me over. “You wanna sleep over tomorrow night?”

“Would love to.” I smiled and continued for my dorm.

“Are you too good to give me a good night kiss?”

I heard her door click close. She was now standing outside. She rolled up the sleeves of my hoodie. They still sagged past her forearms like sweatpants. I pushed the sleeves up her arms and grabbed her hands. “It’s impossible to be too good for you.”

“Do you write down these things before you say them?”

“I should! They’d be better if I did.”

Her kiss was coconut cocoa.

 

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