Welcome Noah, We Missed You

Chapter Eight

I think back on those days, how endless they seemed though they came to a sudden and halting close. I thought at the time that it would always be you and me. We had four years of high school to look forward to and four years of living across the street from each other. That was four years of passing notes in Algebra class, and eating lunch in the cafeteria together, and hanging out in our fortress and four years of memories to make with four years worth of collections.

It hadn’t occurred to me that our time could be cut short, that I would be denied those four years with you. My four years. Although I did think about losing you, once, before you squashed the notion with one simple, single-syllabled word.

I remember the panic of that moment. It was just one of those days of school, nothing unusual about it, until Nicky Ross, passing by us in the hall, gave you a head nod and said “Hey” while we were putting our books away before lunch. Nicky Ross, the junior who had about four inches of height on me, and was at least four times more attractive than me. I’d seen the way girls looked at Nicky, how their knees buckled and they had to lean up against their lockers to keep standing when he walked past. And you turned to me, made a face of disgust, and said, “Blegh.” And I thought this could be forever. We could be forever.

Even though you seemed disinterested in Nicky Ross I knew, somewhere in the back of my head, that I could lose you to another guy. Not that I had you, not in that way. But I didn’t doubt that when the right guy came along and you liked him enough he’d replace the friendship we had. And it would be okay because he would offer you more than I could. His fingers wouldn’t shake when you grabbed his hand to hold on the metro and he’d match your interests like he the right puzzle piece to connect with you. He didn’t need be exactly like you because that would be how you two fit together; he’d have tabs where you had blanks and you’d fully interlock. He’d be a man about things. Like he wouldn’t flush at the sight of your smile, or get nervous whenever you were alone together. He’d know how to be your boyfriend.

But then there was that one day in December; my parents were throwing their annual Christmas Eve party and your family had been invited. It was an adult party and I’d always shown my face for no longer than an hour before going to my room to read a book until I fell asleep. But you were coming, and that changed everything. Even my mom was excited. I remember her saying as she walked into my room, “I’m so happy the Lynn’s are coming.” She had walked over to me, reaching out to adjust my tie as she added, “You and Sawyer seem very close.” I didn’t understand at the time what she was suggesting. Of course, I remember thinking. Sawyer’s my best friend. But my mom was looking at me with softly suggestive eyes.

I had paced anxiously in my room. Social gatherings always made me nervous and now that I knew you would be there, too, the feeling intensified. I fidgeted with the sleeves of my suit, buttoning and unbuttoning it cyclically. And then there was a knock and you cleared your throat. My mom hadn’t closed the sliding panel when she’d left, not that I had expected her. Though she seemed more relaxed when it came to my health, something I no doubt could attribute to you, she still took precautions. “Hey, your mom said I could come up,” you said and I stalled.

All I could do was stare at you. Because there was Sawyer in the St. Peter’s uniform, and there was Sawyer in big sweaters and converses on the weekends, and then there was Sawyer who took my breath away. I always stared, it was a problem that you never pointed out or seemed disturbed by, but this time you blushed. You were always beautiful to me, in a very apparent, my age, fully attainable kind of way. But then you were Christmas Eve and Christmas and the Awakening. Sawyer, you were wearing heels, and it was such a confounding image.

“You’re beautiful,” I finally said, the words tumbled out of my mouth before I could even be embarrassed by them. You smiled, then, walking into my room, and reaching out for my hand as you said, “You look very handsome, Noah.” And then you dragged me downstairs to join the party. You were much more excited about it than I was but then you had no idea what to expect. But by the hour your excitement had dwindled, talking the my parents’ friends became boring, although your brothers blended in seamlessly, slurping down the adult Eggnog like it was the elixir of life, and we went searching for food in the kitchen.

We had to pass through the dining room to get to the kitchen. There was an archway between the two rooms. You stopped me there, tugging me back by my hand. I glanced at the kitchen; it was empty, and there were trays of different hors d’ourves that beckoned me. But you remained planted in the archway. “I have a question,” you said quietly and I thought instantly that you’d seen them. I glanced down but the sleeves of my shirt were cuffed securely around my wrists. You were standing close to me; so close if I put my hands around you we could’ve been slow dancing and breaking the St. Peter’s “foot between” slow dance rule.

“Have you ever,” you paused looking into the dining room. It was empty. “Have you ever…kissed anyone?” It was one of the only times you’d ever been anything but bold. When you wanted to know something you asked expecting an answer, but somehow I knew that I could not respond and you’d accept that, too. And it could’ve been because of the nature of the question, but then you’d asked personal questions before.

My pulse was a force to be reckoned. I could feel it in my thumb; it made my palms itch and I had to flex my fingers to manage the feeling. I had cleared my throat, shaking my head. “No—I…no.” I started to chew on the inside of my lip, pulling it to one side in thought. “Have…you?”

You weren’t smiling and that was something to be noted because while it was notable to be smiling the opposite could be said about you. You were always smiling. You shook your head very slowly as if you were trying to make it clear. You had never kissed a boy. And somehow that didn’t seem surprising although you were a very pretty girl. But I could imagine you rectifying this decision. There were more pressing matters to attend to than kissing boys. That was what I imagined you say as justification.

You cleared your throat and what – was – going – on? You glanced upwards once, started to speak, and then glanced up again. I looked up and it hit me forcing me to step back, or attempt to but you held onto my hand, keeping me planted. The mistletoe twinkled mockingly. I went into A-Fib. You looked at me with the heaviest of questions in your eyes. I thought about moments, how they come up and how if I kissed you right then it would be a moment and we’d remember it not just because it was our first kiss but also because I was wearing a suit and you were wearing a dress and there was mistletoe above our heads and how often do opportunities like that arise?

But you see, a moment is simply a unit of time. There are 40 moments in an hour. So one moment lasts 1.5 minutes. That’s 90 seconds. I had 90 seconds of that moment, 90 seconds to kiss you. But I needed more time. And then my dad walked into the room, holding two empty glasses of wine, and startled us so that we both jumped away. You let go of my hands, stepping into the dining room, and my dad laughed, saying, “Just gonna’ refill these.” He looked above our heads before briskly walking into the kitchen but not before he winked at me.

And I knew I’d screwed up. I’d lost my moment.

My dad walked by us again, leaving us alone in the dining room, and you stared at me with nothing in your expression. You needed someone who knew how to be your boyfriend and that was not me. Realizing this, I coughed and said, “I’m not really feeling all that great…I’m just going to go lie down. I’ll see you later, Sawyer.”

You went to stop me, saying, “Wait—Noah.”

But I’d already started backing into the living room. “Oh and uh, Merry Christmas.” I was a mess as I fumbled through the crowd of people, tripping on my way up the stairs until I was tucked under the blankets of my bed, squeezing my eyes shut in attempt to wash away the image of us standing there in the archway. It wouldn’t go away though, and the more I thought about it, the worse I felt. “You’re – so – stupid – Noah!” I had snapped at myself, pounding my palm into the side of my head. “You wimp. You’re…you’re a pussy. That’s what you are. Everyone was right. You weak, worth…” I’d trailed off, wondering what good it was going to do beating myself down.

So I sat there in silence, and the party went on, and then the party ended, and my parents went to bed and 40 moments had passed. It 40 moments for me to realize that I had to try again; I got up and went downstairs with this intention and then I showed up at your window, knocking on as lightly as I thought you’d be able to hear. Standing on your back porch at your window suddenly seemed like an absurd idea, and I turned away, ready to make a mad dash for my house, but then you said, “Noah.”

And the way you said it made it a moment.

I turned back around, shoulders hunched up to my ears and I looked at you, wearing this long tee shirt with Elvis Presley’s face on the front of it. It was late and I’d probably woken you up but it was still a moment because it was snowing, tiny flakes melting into my hair, and in the back of my head I heard that song that I used to listen to with my mom on the record player and we’d sing along to it and…

Jesus, it was such a moment.

So I held up some mistletoe above our heads and leaned forward to kiss you.

It felt like 40 were occurring in 90 seconds, then. I kissed you all close-mouthed and chapped lips and you said, “Noah” and we tried again. My face warmed with your hands planted on my cheeks and I set the mistletoe down so I could hold onto the seams of this moment.
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This story is really hard for me because it takes a while to get into the mindset of Noah so that I can write like Noah and I went someplace really quiet to write this, fully intending to get this chapter done, and IT WAS HAPPENING I was writing the chapter and then I had to stop right before the moment scene because I had a meeting to go to. -_- But I'm glad I got it done, this is probably my favorite chapter of this story and also there's probably only going to be two chapters left so