I have added onto my piece that I have titled – as of now – “Caramel Cigarettes.” If you haven’t already read the first part, click here. Please leave comments below, especially if you want me to continue this piece.
* * *
“Guess what I just did?” Nicky called me that weekend.
Her phone call woke me up. I knew I dreamt of her that night – although I didn’t see her in my dream, I could smell her lemongrass. We were close enough to have exchanged numbers, but not dreams.
She giggled. A laugh I didn’t recognize. She sounded like she was actually “tee-heeing.”
“I got my lip done.” She tee-hee’ed again.
“That is -“
“You busy right now?” She cut me off.
I didn’t mind her interrupting me that time. Many words came to mind; a stutter brewed in my mouth.
“Uh. I mean. I kinda have to -“
“You wanna come to my place?” She cut me off again.
Sitting on the edge of my bed, wearing a pair of blue boxers and a white wife beater, I wondered if she’d care. “Sure. But I gotta get ready.” I stood up. “Give me an hour?”
“Hurry.” Her tone lowered.
The piercing ornamented the center of her bottom lip. When she opened the door, smiling, I kept my eyes on her lips.
“You like?” she asked when closing the door.
I wanted to press my lower lip against hers, just to feel the cool metal. “I love.”
She grabbed two lemonades from her mini-fridge.
“You can sit on my bed,” she handed me one of the lemonades.
Her comforter had a cheetah print. The sheets and pillow cases were a light brown, almost like coffee ice cream. I sipped my drink before sitting down.
Nicky sat beside me. She crossed her legs: bare, with three freckles below her left knee that formed a triangle. She was wearing denim shorts and a red tank top.
“Nice shirt, Kell,” her finger traced the v-neck. “Purple looks amazing on you.”
“You look cute all the time anyway.”
We had just met four days ago and she thought I was cute. I barely had the guts to thank her for the drink.
“Why are you taking chem?” She bit down over her lip ring. A string of saliva stretched between the ring and her upper lip.
“Cause you’re taking it.” My ears felt hot.
“That’s a good one, Kell.” She jabbed her left elbow into my side.
“I wish that was the reason.”
We were quiet for a minute. She didn’t ask me to leave, so I believed she got a kick out of this.
“I don’t want any gen ed courses my senior year.” She uncrossed her legs. “I might as well do them now.”
“What year are you?”
“Junior” she said.
“Wow. You’re two years older than me.”
“Holy shit!” She stood up. “You can’t be a freshman.”
I nodded. “Can’t believe you’re a junior.” I thought about how many more semesters I had left compared to Nicky. At that moment, I started missing her.
Nicky took me out for dinner that night. We took her car – a black Chrysler LeBaron – which reeked of cigarettes. The backseat was cluttered with receipts and plastic bags. She turned on her car and a Chris Brown song played. She pulled her hair back and put on blue aviators before rolling down the windows. “Tell me if you get cold, k?” She fumbled with the a.c unit.
I looked out the window and opened my legs slowly like jaws. My hand rubbed out the wrinkle in my denim. I was wearing jeans, she was wearing short-shorts; we were so different.
We took the window seats: a cherry wooden table with an unlit candle in the center, surrounded by two generic library chairs (brown leather, sensitive springs within the seat cushion). As soon as I sat down, my seat spoke with a squeak; it wasn’t a chew toy squeak, more of a loose floorboard in a haunted house squeak. “Excuse me,” I mumbled. Nicky laughed. This time I joined her.
The back wall of the cafe was decorated with shelves gargling paperbacks, posters promoting local bands or job openings, and framed pictures of writers such as Robert Frost and Edgar Allen Poe. Putting down the menu, she said, “I found out about this place my freshman year. I like to come here at least once before Thanksgiving break.” She took off her aviators and placed them on the window sill. “Fuckin’ freshman raid this place like crazy come second semester.” She rolled her eyes.
“I’m a freshman, though.”
“Well I didn’t know that, Kell.”
We both were silent.
“I’m kidding,” she reached over and tapped my arm. “Besides, didn’t you say you were a writer our first class? I thought you’d like the feel of this place, ya know?”
“I know it’s weird.” She laughed – not a tee-hee. “I remember the littlest things.”
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.” My voice deepened.
We made eye contact. She smiled. When parting her lips, another string of saliva stretched between her lip ring and upper lip. It was like she knew I noticed the first time. I ordered a ham and cheese panini; she ordered a chicken caesar salad.
“Have you ever noticed how often Professor Wilkins uses the word ‘k?'” I asked.
She dropped her fork onto the plate. “Oh my God. I thought I was the only one.”
“I keep tallies of how often he says ‘k’ in my notebook,” I sliced down the middle of my sandwich.
“I literally have no notes in that class. My whole notebook is full of tallies, too.” She excavated through her salad; pushed some croutons to the side, stirred in more dressing as she giggled.
I wanted to tell her that I thought she was cute. At this point, I had lost count on how many times she said I was cute. I was afraid to say it; I feared saying too much. Sitting there at that table, I could not stop thinking about the three freckles below her left knee, and wanted to connect the dots with my fingers and feel where my hand would take me. The strands of her hair that escaped the tight grasp of her elastic, curled behind her ears so perfectly. There was a tear in the upper, curled cartilage of her left ear, like she ripped a piercing out. There was no noticeable scar, just a small rip. The split cartilage was her only flaw, which I still found beautiful. If I were to call her cute, I knew I would be lying. She was better than that.
She ordered a chocolate chip cookie for us to share. The waitress exchanged the cookie – its baked backside puffing white steam – for the candle. “Every time I come here,” Nicky said, “I get a cookie.” She broke the cookie in half with her hands. “Damn it.” She leaned back in her chair. “I hope you’re not a germaphobe. I can order you another one.”
I reached across the table and grabbed her hands. They were warm; her palms were callused. I shifted my fingers closer to her wrists. Her pulse quickened.
“Kell,” she exhaled. “What’s up?”
I wanted to tell her that I cared. She brought me to a writer-friendly cafe; I didn’t doubt that she cared even a little bit about me. Imagining the cool metal from her ring on my lips, I smirked. “Thanks for the cookie.” I let go of her hands and broke off a piece.
“You’re so crazy,” she whispered. She too, broke off a piece from her half.
Nicky took slow, gradual bites. The chocolate chips – soft, melted within the batter – drooled onto her thumb. She sucked it off. Chocolate – dry and chalky – outlined her bottom lip and trailed down her chin. I thought of giving her my napkin to use, when suddenly, she stood up and stretched her hand over to my lips. Her index finger caressed my upper lip and curved down to my lower. She sucked on her finger, when sitting back down. “You had a little bit of chocolate on you.” She laughed. “You told me you weren’t a germaphobe.”
I brought my thumb up to where her finger tip sashayed, and wondered what she was going to do next. I slouched deeper into my seat – legs open, hungry, waiting – and felt our knees budge. Imagining, and hoping, it was the knee with the three freckles, I smiled at her.
“You seriously have the greatest smile.” Nicky said, fumbling with her purse as the waitress approached us with the check. “Too, too cute.”
I simultaneously retrieved the check from the waitress, and my wallet from my back pocket. “You’re probably the cutest person I’ve ever met.” I grabbed two twenties, with check still in hand, and gave them to the waitress. “And to be honest, that’s an understatement.”