Love Next Door

This is a short story in the making. It’s just about finished and I separated it into three different parts for easier reading. Check out “The Next Day” for the continuation of this teen sap-fest. <3

I hate the music he plays in his car, I really do. It’s nothing but this mixture of annoying sound effects set to a rhythm that changes so often it’s safe to say there is no rhythm to the damn music. There’s weird beats, a lack of lyrics and this high-pitch screeching – which only dogs can hear. He calls it dubstep and I call it shit, though I don’t tell him that. There’s a lot I don’t share with Alex, but we are amazing together all the same.

Alexandar Webb is the epitome of the picture perfect boyfriend at St. Christopher’s High School. Platinum blond hair, bright blue eyes, soft-to-the-touch skin that is so tan you could almost call it gold. Height was on his side and his abs looked chiseled from stone to perfection – but I know he works on those the most. His smile is always wide and white-bright, simply dazzling to the majority of the adults he comes in contact with. My own mother fell in love with the boy and I don’t think she even loves me. He’s the quarterback of the football team, pulling above average marks in all his classes and on top of all that; he’s a great lover.

Of course, he only looks perfect on the outside. Behind closed doors, he drinks and smokes, fights and hazes his freshmen teammates who want nothing more than to matter in the large school. Nothing that’s out-of-the-ordinary for an eighteen-year-old boy, though. I find him absolutely gorgeous and irresistible when his hands slide around my waist, pulling me close and whispering provocative words in my ear. He’s always able to convince me to slip out of class and meet him in the nearest closet or empty classroom. There are some days when I just can’t get enough of Alexandar Webb.

Tonight was one of them. Despite the terrible music and frigid air that tore through my thin coat, I adore every second that I’m with him. Snuggled close to his side, my fingers performing a suggestive dance over his thigh – nothing could get better than this. I, Rebecca Daniels, have landed the perfect boyfriend and I’m not even one of those slutty cheerleaders at his games. Nope, I’m a regular, tennis playing girl from the “lesser” part of our fair city and that doesn’t bother him. The others hated driving to my neighborhood with its pothole coated roads and shabby houses that a good storm could destroy. There were a couple of shady characters that lurked around the streets but there’s less crime in my neighborhood compared to the richest of them.

His car followed the curve of the cul-de-sac and stopped in front of my small two-story home. It was once a nice, burgundy color that is now sun-bleached and peeling. The porch wraps around the  front of the house, a broken bench swing sat on one side and the railing was untrustworthy and in some desperate need of replacing. My mother likes to talk about how she’ll call a friend or two and work on it and I let her; she’s all talk and I’m used to it. She says the same thing about the thick-trunk trees that surround our house; actually, they coat the entire neighborhood and are very good for climbing. I’ve had many fun times racing up the branches though during a storm or in high winds, the branches of those nearest to the houses caused damage.

Alex shuts the engine off, hopping out of the car as I slid over to the passenger side and exit myself. I hate the end of a great night. We just came from a party, a rather contained one for how wild some of the students at our school are. Minimal drinking, which kept Alex and I out of a fight, around a large bonfire with the closest of our friends about. There was only about twelve of us total – the perfect number to a party as far as I’m concerned. It was laid back and drama-free; what more could you ask for from a high school party?

“I don’t want the night to end,” I whined quietly. Alex slid an arm around my waist as we walked up the beaten path to the porch; he squeezed me to his side as a gesture of comfort.

“Unfortunately, all great nights have to end,” he said with a sigh and I received a thrill from knowing he didn’t want to leave me either.

I noticed my mother’s Corolla wasn’t in the drive, I could only assume she was working late again tonight. All the better; I hated it when she peeked through the curtains of the living room and watched. On the porch, I leaned against the front door, my fingers hooking into his jean’s belt loops and pulled him closer to me. Alex chuckled and leaned forward bracing his hands on the door, trapping me with them on either side of my head. His kiss was this light caress against my lips, almost pulling a sigh of contentment from me. He’s a great kisser, always knowing how to excite me when he wants to or simply say goodnight while still leaving me wanting more. I knew what his answer would be, but I asked anyway.

“Do you wanna come in? I bet my mom won’t be home for a couple of hours…”

Another soft laugh and Alex pulled back enough for me to see the full color of his eyes. The blue was almost transparent under the bright porch light. “It’s almost one in the morning, Bec.”

“On a Saturday,” I countered, moving a hand to slide up his chest. I don’t know what had me so riled up tonight but I wanted him. “We can do that one thing—“

Something metal and heavy crashed to the ground and echoed through the neighborhood. We both stood straight, separating as though we shouldn’t have been that close to begin with. Alex had a hand resting on the small of my back as we walked the length of the porch in curiosity before I realized what it was. I pointed to the house next door, specifically the light that was flooding out from an open garage.

“It’s Dakota. He’s probably working on his junker again.”

“I always forget that you live next to him,” Alex said and it made me laugh.

“I don’t know how. We’ve been neighbors since I moved here six years ago.”

“True. Maybe I just forget about him completely. Ever since the guy quit soccer—“

I reached up and tugged on the collar of his shirt which halted his words, “We don’t need to talk about Dakota. There are better things that we could be doing with our time…”

I love the grin that Alex gives me before kissing me. It’s that type of smile that tells me I’m ridiculous but he enjoys it too much to complain. Our relationship is just shy of a year old and it’s thrilling to know we’re still in that infatuation stage. We’ve been in classes together for three years and it was only this past year that we discovered our compatibility – of course, it’s more than just compatibility between us. We balance each other out in dire situations where he’ll be stressed; I can keep a clear head and sort the problem. In fights, he yells and I keep a cool tone that helps in calming him down. Alex has more self-restraint at times than me, but I own him in the common sense area. It’s a nice, level relationship. Something wonderful when you have a chaotically moody mother like mine.

Speaking of. Headlights washed over the porch and I groaned when Alex pulled back from me. His eyes drifted over the Corolla that passed the side of the house to park under the carport; Alex lifted a hand in greeting, flashing one of his award-winning smiles for my mother. Turning back to me, he placed a quick kiss on my lips, “My cue as always. I’ll see you Monday?”

“Of course,” I followed him to the steps of the porch and watched him drive off, waiting for my mother to come in from parking her car.

When the woman rounded the house, likely cursing our broken back door, I noticed how frazzled she is tonight. Her chocolate-brown hair was up in a tight pony tail but frizzy all around her forehead; small, rectangular glasses sat on the edge of her nose, dull brown eyes sparked when the porch light hit them. My mother is on the thin side, skinner than me but at my same height; it was easy to tell I was her daughter, despite my dark green eyes to her brown ones.

“Rebecca Isabelle Daniels, it’s one in the morning!” she chided the moment she was close enough. “Do not tell me you are just now getting home.”

“I’m not just getting home,” I said, letting her unlock the door instead of pulling my own keys from my pocket. “I got home about ten minutes ago.”

“Dammit, Rebecca! Even if I’m not home, your curfew still stands. Midnight on the weekends, not one!” my mother entered the house swinging the door open so hard that it clashed against the wall, shaking the frail house.

“You weren’t upset last weekend,” I challenged her foolishly, shutting the door behind me and bolting it. I pulled my key chain from my pocket and dropped it on the wooden stand next to the door. “I think I came in around two last Saturday.”

My mother dropped her purse on the same table, pulling the knot out of her apron as she glared at me over her rectangle frames, “Don’t push me tonight. I’ve had half a mind to shut off your cell for a week now.”

I restrained a groan. We had no home phone; without my cell phone I had no contact with the outside world. “I’m sorry,” I said, moving past her for the stairs just to the left of the door. I tried for the caring daughter move. “How was work?”

“Busy,” she replied curtly. Typical. With her apron resting over her purse, my mother pulled out the pins that held her hair up and I jealously watched her thick waves spill down her back; my own hair was a lighter shade of brown and not remotely as luscious as hers. My mother was thirty-four years old and on nights like this, after she worked ten hours at the busiest restaurant downtown, she looked ten years older. Lines of stress were deep around her mouth and shallow bags under her eyes proved that she was still having sleep problems. Problems easily solved without five glasses of wine a night.

Without another word, my mother left for the kitchen, a few paces to her right, and I slipped upstairs. The entire second floor was mine alone, but there really wasn’t much. A small bathroom with only a toilet and a sink along with an attic bedroom; an elongated room with a slanted ceiling and a large, double-door window set in the wall. Luckily, there was a window seat and during the cool nights I love to sit there and rest my elbows on the open window’s frame, tipping my head back to look through the trees at the stars. There are too many branches in the way for me to pick out constellations; but I liked to stare anyways.

Once in my room, I clicked on the standing lamp near the back then proceeded to open the window to air out the stuffy room. From there, I flopped back on my full-sized bed, pulling my cell from my pocket and debated dialing Jessie. She was my best friend, very risqué in nature so I could safely assume she’d be awake. She was probably the one girl in the high school with the most experience with boys, so I wanted to ask her about Alex. This wouldn’t be the first night he’s passed on heating up the sheets with me. Not that it was that big of a deal… It’s just happening too much – I fear he’s bored of me or something.

After drumming my fingers against the phone for a couple of minutes and burning metaphorical holes in the ceiling with my gaze, I decide against it. I’m paranoid. A sigh left me and I rubbed my face. With nothing else to do, a shower and bed sounded pretty lovely. It took this long for the night to catch up to me. I couldn’t help a grin when I thought about the party and its lack of drama – how nice is that?

“I love how you’re still in this puppy love phase with him.”

My heart slammed against my chest and I sat up quickly but I should’ve known. I recognized the voice well-enough, but it still surprises me every time he pops in.

“Dammit, Dakota,” I snapped quietly and crossed my legs in front of me on the bed. I pushed my long hair over my shoulder, “Can’t you knock or something?”

“Knock on the window? It was open, I took it as an invitation,” he flashed me his trademark, lopsided smirk that never failed to bring one to my lips.

“I have a phone, too. You could’ve called or texted me some type of warning.”

“I like surprising you, Rebecca, you know that.”

This used to happen a lot after I first moved here. Dakota and I met easily enough; he marched right over to our front door and introduced himself as boldly as an eleven-year-old boy could be. We became fast friends and he was the one I would race up the tree branches with. With my curfew deemed too early by our own measures, Dakota discovered how easily he could reach my window without my mother ever knowing. There were plenty of nights, years ago, when we would talk into the wee hours of the morning.

Well, up until high school began. It’s one of those clichéd, childhood-friends-in-separate-cliques type of story. Neither of us wanted it that way, it just kind of happened and thankfully we’re not bitter about it. It’s understandable. I became interested in tennis and football players and soccer took up Dakota’s time along with the gothic girls he seems partial too. When he gained his license and his uncle gave him an A-to-B car, Dakota was away from home more often at first. I used to catch rides with him to school until Jessie got her license two weeks later. That was almost three years ago. Since then, there would be moments like this when he’d pop in my window as if we’ve never gone a day without speaking.

There was always a serious reason for his visits though. Remembering that, I tried to discreetly check him for injuries but the way he straddled the window sill kept him out of my lamp’s light. Plus, his dark, shaggy hair had grown longer, practically covering his entrancing eyes. They’re this midnight blue color, so dark that they feel endless; I used to imagine that all of his secrets were kept there and if I just looked long enough, I’d see everything. Staring contests with him were my favorite pastimes.

“Maybe I don’t enjoy all your surprises,” I said after a few moments and he just chuckled. I pushed up from my bed, crossing in front of him and tried a subtle approach in my search for an injury, but a shadow fell over him and I silently cursed. Continuing across my room for the closet, I was intent on finding clothes for bed – Dakota’s presence or not, I was going to get a shower before my mother hit her third glass of wine.

“So, when does the puppy-love end and real love begin? I see way too much giggling going on between you two.”

I rolled my eyes as I yanked a large shirt and cloth shorts from my closet, “We don’t giggle.”

“Sure, sure,” Dakota waved a hand through the air and then crossed his arms over his chest and tipped his head back against the frame of the window. “You guys should quit snogging on the front porch though. It’s terribly annoying.”

I moved away from my closet, pausing in front of my door; “No one is forcing you to watch, you creeper.”

He gave a low laugh, “I’m no creeper. With that blinding light bulb your mother put in, your porch is on display for the entire neighborhood and when you two start sucking face under it—“

“Okay, okay, I get it.” I laughed lightly and dropped my hand to the door knob. “Look, I need to shower real quick. Are you staying? I’ll be like ten minutes then we can catch up.” I still had a feeling that he had a reason for being here and I wanted to know what it was.

Dakota lifted his head and gave a shrug, swinging his leg over the frame and stood up. “Why not, I can wait.” He deftly ducked his head to avoid hitting the slanted ceiling and moved to an area where he could stand straight. It was then, when he shifted into the lamp’s light, that I found the injury.

“Oh god, Dakota,” I said softly. Discarding the clothes on my bed and I rushed to him. “Let me see…”

My fingers barely grazed his chin to get him to turn his head and Dakota did so. The entire left side of his face reddened and swollen; broken skin just under his eyes and a trace of dried blood surrounded it. I bit my bottom lip and sighed, which came out more as a growl. “I hate your uncle.”

“You’re not alone,” he said rather quietly.

Something clicked for me; “Wait, that noise I heard earlier from your garage…”

Dakota’s features twisted into a grimace and he brushed past me to sit on the edge of my bed, combing a hand through his hair. “He didn’t like that I was up this late working on my Toyota. It was the handle of a wrench he surprised me with.”

I gasped. “A wrench? God dammit, that’s so wrong. You shouldn’t be—“

“Don’t,” he stopped me and actually had a smile on his face. “Spare me your little lecture. I’m eighteen next month, there’s no reason to mess it all up by bringing authorities or whatnot in.”

I nodded, brushing my hair behind my ear and I tilted my head towards the small refrigerator I bought over two years ago for these specific moments. Dakota was around a lot more often. “Ice is in there.”

“Where else would it be?” he teased and moved for the mini fridge. There were small towels on top of it as well; all for him. I was suddenly struck by how much I missed him coming around.

Restraining myself from ranting about something he refused to change, I snatched my clothes up from the bed. “Ten minutes and don’t move around much up here because my mom—“

“You’re acting like we haven’t done this before,” Dakota looked at me over his shoulder with a smirk. “I know it’s been a while but have some faith in me.”

With his smirk brought a smile of my own, always. For a response, a rather childish one, I stuck my tongue out at him and then left the room. My shower took a little longer than I originally planned. Standing underneath that steady stream always made me start thinking and I thought of Dakota. Seems a little odd to think of another guy besides Alex in the shower, but it wasn’t like that. I was remembering our childhood and how close we were. We would meet before and after school, play until dark and even more so when he started climbing up to my window. The days when we started to see each other less and less, especially for being next door neighbors, I would become frustrated and rant about it when I did see him again.

“This happens, Rebecca,” he would tell me and laugh when I became angry at his flippant reaction. “It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with you because I do, but we’re growing up, you know? Different friends, different hobbies – stop getting mad about it. We’ll always be friends.”

Dakota was always mature for his age. He expected these changes when I would try to keep everything the same. Change is welcomed, not pushed away; he taught me that.

By the time I got back upstairs, successfully staying out of sight of my mother, I felt more refreshed and less agitated about Dakota’s face. I hated it, of course, but if he refused to do anything about it then I couldn’t either. In my room, I discovered that he fell asleep in the wait for me. It was obvious from the way he breathed; his chest rose with heavy, deep breaths. He lied on the edge of the bed, one leg hanging off and looking as if it was propping him up; an arm was swung over his eyes, effectively holding in place the ice he gathered in a dishcloth. I could see a small wet spot on the pillow next to his cheek from the ice melting and noticed his shoes had bits of dirt scattered at the end of my comforter.

Had there not been a wrench upside his face, I’d get mad and push him to the floor. Tonight I just shook my head at his ability to fall asleep so quickly. I dried my hair the best I could and tossed the towel to the side and moved to the opposite side of Dakota, kneeling on the bed. I leaned over to him and noted in this lighting, his skin looked a lot darker than the usual olive color. I could barely make out any of the freckles I knew he had down his arms and when I glanced up to his face, knowing I’d see some freckles sprinkled across the bridge of his nose, I noticed a twitch of his mouth instead. And suddenly I’m captivated by his mouth, those full lips; I wondered what it would be like to kiss Dakota. Would he be any good? Tongue, no tongue?

Realizing what I was thinking about was ridiculous, I shook the thoughts from my head and sat back a little bit from him. I patted his chest lightly and held back a laugh when he jerked awake and blinked at me, looking confused about where he was. “If you’re staying, take off your damn shoes. You’re getting dirt all over my bed.”

This wouldn’t be the first time he’s stayed the night with me. All those nights his uncle would get drunk and wound him in some way, Dakota would always slip over here where I would ice him up and he would crash for the night. He never admitted the fear he harbored with being in the same house as his inebriated uncle, but I knew and I didn’t mind. Besides the time or two my mother caught him in the morning, we got away with this often in the past. There was never anything awkward about it. Dakota’s my best friend.

He stayed with me through the rest of the night, never once touching more than a soft graze when turning. That heavy, deep breathing of his lulled me to sleep. I couldn’t help but think that it’s been too long since we’ve really seen each other; over six months at least. Passing by at school and trading smiles wasn’t enough for me but I learned how to accept it. Dakota accepted it well enough, never once did he complain that we didn’t talk enough or see each other as often. But when this does happen, him appearing in my window as if it was the most normal thing in the world, it makes me realize how much I miss him.

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