Just to Hold You Close and Tight

More Than I had Ever Hoped for


I woke up and stumbled out of bed. After my shower, I realized I had slept through the whole night. I felt more rested than I had in days. I called Ray just before going to school. We talked briefly, but I couldn’t be late for my first day. After he promised to call me right after school, I closed my phone.

It was like my first day of school in Denver all over again, except that I wasn’t quite so invisible. Many kids and even some teachers recognized me. Only a few teachers made me introduce myself in front of everybody.

I had my first clad with both Gabby and Chelsea, with an additional class with Gabby right after lunch. It wasn’t so bad.

The week went by much more slowly than I could bear. Most afternoons my friends would find ways to distract me. My mom called me a lot too; she was a little annoyed that I hadn’t called her sooner than Monday.

I was also occupied by a load of homework. I guess that’s what happens when you transfer schools in the middle of the semester. Ray helped me with some of it over the phone, but I was stuck with the rest.

I tried keeping up my happy charade the whole time I was at school, but by the middle of the week I started slipping. I began to save my energy for when I was in front of my friends.

My phone conversations with Ray become more and more desperate throughout the week. Once Saturday rolled around, I was on the verge of going insane. I convinced Chelsea and Gabby that I had too much homework to do anything, locked myself in my room, and used up all the minutes on my phone.

On Sunday evening, Ray had to go get his casts removed. I didn’t call him before I went to bed, even though I was strongly tempted to do so. I knew he was catching a flight very early in the morning, so I hoped he would be able to get some sleep. I, for one, didn’t. I was almost bouncing off the walls.

I got up very early and called Ray, who informed me that he was indeed in Miami. I already knew, though. I could feel in my blood that he was near me.

I tried to hide my jumpiness when I walked into my first class and sat next to Gabby and Chelsea, but Gabby noticed.

“You’re really on edge,” she observed. “Is everything alright?”

I took a deep breath to relax myself. “Yeah,” I assured her. “I guess I just have a lot of energy.”

Class still hadn’t started yet. All of a sudden, I felt something pulling me, like an invisible string. I turned around and nearly fainted. Ray had walked through the door and up to the teacher.

I was frozen. He looked more like him than I had expected him to. His hair was his original brown, as were his eyes. But it was his other facial features that made the difference. His lips were fuller, and his nose was a little wider.

His eyes caught mine, and the corner of his mouth pulled into a grin before he looked back at the teacher and handed him a piece of paper. It took all my self control to stay seated. I wanted more than anything to run to him and embrace him.

I couldn’t believe my luck. He was in the one class I had with both of my friends. It would be the perfect place for us to ‘meet’ each other.

He obviously had the same idea. He came to sit in front of Chelsea. “Hey,” he said to us, dumping his books on his desk.

“Hello,” Gabby said. “Are you new here?” She smiled flirtatiously.

I gritted my teeth, but he turned his gaze to me. “Yep. I’m Ray. Do you mind maybe showing me around?”

My friends looked at me cautiously, trying to see how I would react to his name, I guessed.

I winced and frowned slightly for their benefit. Then I fixed my face. “Not at all,” I said, batting my eyelashes. “I’m Amber. This is Gabby, and this is Chelsea.” I gestured to each of them in turn.

The teacher started talking. Before Ray looked away, he winked at me, even though my friends were still looking. I blushed and looked away. Chelsea examined my face carefully, but I didn’t look back at her.

As if God had finally decided we had had enough bad luck, I had my next class with Ray too. I tried to keep space between us; after all, people had to believe we just met. It was hard, though, and it wasn’t really fair. I ended up walking very close to him, brushing my arm against his often.

He had the same lunch period as us, and Chelsea invited him to sit with us.

“So where are you from?” Gabby asked, leaning closer to him over the table. He had chosen to sit next to me, with Chelsea and Gabby across the table.

“I moved down from Atlanta. My mom just died from cancer, and my dad… well, I never really knew him. I moved to be closer to my grandparents,” he told her.

“I’m sorry,” Gabby said, and Chelsea and I nodded.

I raised my eyebrows slightly. So this was the story? Couldn’t he have picked a happier one? “You’ll probably have a lot of homework,” I warned him. “I just transferred here last week, and I know I did.”

“Really?” he asked curiously. “Where did you come from?”


“Did you live there your whole life?” he asked. I thought he was playing up the whole ‘just met’ thing a little too much.

“No. I actually lived here until the beginning of this year. My dad got transferred to Denver, and I was there… but I didn’t really like it,” I explained, feeling annoyed that I had to tell the whole story even though he knew more than my friends did.

They were both staring at me in awe. I wondered why, until I realized that the emptiness in my eyes had totally evaporated. I tried to ignore them.

“Hm,” Ray said. He saw how my friends were looking at me.

“About that homework…” I said slowly. “Well… do you think I could help you with that tonight?”

I saw the amusement on his face – he knew that if anyone would need help, it would be me. “I could probably use some help, actually.”

I smiled and nodded.

“Did you just ask him on a date?” Gabby hissed at me on our way to the one class we had together.

I shrugged. “I guess I did.”

She shook her head like she couldn’t believe it. “Doesn’t his name… bother you?”

I grimaced, saying, “A little. But it’s not his fault he had the same name as…” I trailed off.

She patted my back. “Sorry I said anything.”

“It’s okay,” I said.

Ray and I had two more classes with each other. I though maybe our luck was turning.

“So I’ll see you soon?” I asked after the last bell rang.

“Definitely,” he replied. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

So I drove to my apartment – home, I guess – and I was barely able to concentrate. I sat on the couch and waited, without even turning on the TV. I just sat there and stared at the wall.

I jumped up immediately when there was a knock at the door. I scrambled to go get it, hitting my knee on the coffee table in the process, but I didn’t stop. I threw open the door and jumped into Ray’s arms.

He grunted and staggered backwards. “That was even more enthusiastic than I expected.”

I laughed and pulled away from him so that I could look at his face. He looked very pleased with my greeting. “Can you blame me? I missed you!”

“Not as much as I missed you,” he replied. Before I could object, he continued, “Can I come in?”

“Of course!” I exclaimed, offended. I pulled him into my apartment by his arm and shut the door behind us.

I wrapped my arms around his waist and crushed him into me. He held my head to his chest. Suddenly, he lifted my legs out from under me and picked me up bridal style. He carried me to the couch and set me on his lap.

I sighed in content and put my ear to his chest. He kissed my forehead, but that wasn’t enough for me. I was tired of waiting for him to look completely like himself, and I decided it didn’t matter. I lifted my chin so that my lips were inches from his, and tried to close the gap.

When he realized what I was doing, he hesitated. Then, without moving away, he put one finger to my lips. His eyes searched deep into mine. “Are you sure?” he mumbled. “I’m still not completely me yet. You were determined to wait.”

I pulled his hand away. “I don’t care anymore,” I whispered. Then I pressed my lips to his, and I knew it was right.

It was very right. They were Ray’s lips, not Ben’s. It was Ray’s lips that moved with mine, gently at first, and then more roughly. It was Ray who held me close to him, his hand that brushed my cheek. His skin was warm and soft, and I knew this was all that I needed. It was more than I had ever hoped for, and all that I had ever wanted.
♠ ♠ ♠
The end.
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