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STOP. KISSING. FINN - Chapter 15 + Music from Passion Pit and Wolf Alice!
“You’re right,” I said and slipped my hands into my back pockets. “I did bring you here. I wanted to bring you here.”
Chapter 14 recap: Dinner with Marlena and Bill goes exactly as Charlie anticipates: badly. They’re selling Gram’s house. Charlie takes off and meets up with Finn in the Colson’s parking lot where they decide to go back to Charlie’s house and sneak up to her room.
Finn left his car parked on a side street two blocks away from my house and drove with me the rest of the way. He stood outside on the porch while I tiptoed through the kitchen and peeked into the pitch-black living room. Gram’s quiet snore percolated steadily from the direction of the floral chair. I crept back to the door and poked my head outside.
“Just be really quiet,” I whispered.
Finn silently nodded his head and reached for my hand. I guided him through the kitchen and toward the staircase, wondering the whole time what he was noticing about my house. For the first time ever I was aware of the chip in the plastic pink caddy of prescription pills on the counter and wondered if that’s something he would remember. It was strange to think about since I hardly ever had anyone over anymore. Liz’s house always smelled a little like burnt toast, and there was a constantly growing pile of mail on the kitchen counter that just collected envelopes that never got opened. I always wondered if Liz even saw that mail pile anymore or smelled the toast, or if, to her, everything was just the way it was supposed to be.
We walked up the stairs single file and I realized that I’d been holding my breath the whole time. I forced myself to exhale slowly and stay calm. Like all the other times I’d done something I wasn’t supposed to be doing with Finn, it was just better if I didn’t think about it too much.
At the top of the stairs, I pulled him through my bedroom door and closed it behind us.
“We should be good,” I said quietly, switching on the small lamp on my desk. “You can’t hear anything from downstairs.”
Finn looked more serious than usual. He crossed his arms and looked around. “I like your room.”
I followed his gaze as it traveled over the pile of shoes in the corner, the overstuffed bookshelf I’d bought at a yard sale last year, the framed pieces of vintage fabric, my grandmother’s cedar chest, the movie posters push-pinned to the slanted walls. And then to my bed, which I’d actually bothered to make that morning.
“Everything’s sorta old school. But, it really feels like you,” he said.
“What do you mean?” I asked, placing the carnation he’d given me on my desk. I wanted to put it in water but didn’t want to risk waking Gram with a trip to the kitchen.
“I mean, it’s not, like, just a generic room. I can tell your mom didn’t buy all this stuff at Macy’s,” he stopped himself. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to bring that up...”
“No, I know what you mean. I used to go to flea markets with my grandmother a lot. Before she had her surgery. She helped, but I basically picked out everything that’s here.”
Finn sat down on the bed and ran his hand over the patchwork quilt. “Is this from a flea market?”
“Actually, my grandmother made this years ago out of fabric scraps and old potato sacks. See,” I said, turning over a corner of the quilt to show the stamped lettering on the reverse side. “This was a ten-pound bag.”
“That’s really cool. Repurposed materials.”
I kicked off my shoes. My room felt so much smaller with Finn in it.
“Hey,” I said. “We definitely don’t have to stay here if you don’t want to.”
“No,” he answered quickly and stood up. “We can stay.”
“I just...I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable. Not that you should. Really, you can’t hear anything from up here.”
“I’m not. I’m fine, really,” he said and ran his hands through his hair. “I’m just...I guess I didn’t think you’d actually bring me here.”
“I guess I didn’t think I would either,” I said and crossed my arms. “I didn’t expect anything that’s happened so far tonight.”
“So, the thing with your mom...” Finn began. “Will you have to move?”
I sat down on the bed. “I’m hoping I can figure out some way to stop her,” I said, but I wasn’t sure how much I meant it. I took a deep breath and let it out. “But, I probably won’t. Honestly, I haven’t really thought it through that far. I don’t know where I’ll go. I don’t know what she thinks is going to happen, but I’m definitely not moving in with her again.” I looked up at him. “Why?”
“Just wondering,” he said and sat down next to me.
“She wants me to go away to school.”
“You don’t want to?”
It was weird, considering how obsessed everyone was with applications and early decision at the moment, but Finn and I had never talked about what we were doing after graduation. He’d never brought it up, and I hadn’t wanted to seem like I was trying to plan our future or anything.
“I could save money if I worked and commuted from here,” I said. “Where are you applying?”
“All design schools, mostly in New York. SVA, Pratt, Parsons.”
NYU was my secret dream school. Over the summer Jackie and I had taken the train into the city and gone on a tour of the campus. Our student guide smacked her gum and disinterestedly waved her hand at the purple flagged buildings as we strolled through Greenwich Village, but I had barely paid attention. I was too fascinated by the city that surrounded us. It was like what I’d always heard – the possibilities seemed endless. At home, it was a football game or Scones or Dino’s. In New York, I could go to ten different places in one day and never run into anyone I knew. In New York, people walked with purpose, like they had something interesting and important waiting for them to do. I wanted to be one of those people.
I told Jackie that if I got financial aid I’d go. It was probably the only thing that would make me consider leaving home. And Gram.
“I have the perfect idea for how to decorate our room!” Jackie had said. But then she’d flown to California with her mom to visit UCLA and decided to apply there early decision.
I allowed myself to imagine, just for a second, walking briskly to a New York City coffee shop to meet Finn after class.
“And then there’s one school in Georgia,” he added hesitantly.
“Yeah, in Savannah. It’s a really good program.”
“You want to live in Georgia?” I blurted out.
“Parts of Savannah aren’t like, you know, the typical south. Not everyone has a gun and a pickup truck.”
“I’ve never been there.”
“I went last summer with my brother. It’s pretty cool, actually. I would consider it if I get in.”
The coffee shop fantasy quickly dissolved and was replaced with one of Finn at art school in Savannah and me stuck in suburbia. He’d meet some artsy girl. I pictured Jenna but swapped her doll clothes for a pair of paint-splattered overalls and gave her a twangy southern accent.
“But, honestly,” Finn said, interrupting my train of thought. “I want to be in New York.”
“I feel like that’s more your personality,” I said, trying not to sound too invested. “You know, more trouble to get into,” I said, smiling.
Finn reached down to pull off his sneakers and then leaned back against the stack of pillows that rested against the headboard of my twin bed. His half-grin was more of a smirk.
“What?” I said.
“The whole ‘bad influence’ thing. You’re really going with that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing,” he said and crossed his arms.
“No, really,” I said, shifting my legs to face him. “What do you mean?”
He shook his head, still smirking. “Just that, you know...you’re not as innocent as you pretend to be.”
I sat back, like he’d given me a little shove. “What?”
Finn laughed. “I mean, look at you right now. You snuck me up here into your room. This was your idea, Charlie.”
“So? So, what?” I sputtered.
“I just think that maybe you hold yourself back sometimes, for whatever reason,” he said as he sat up and leaned in towards me. “You don’t have to use me as an excuse to do the things you really want to do.”
“I don’t,” I said emphatically. “And I don’t pretend to be innocent,” I added, swatting at his arm.
“Wow, I hit a nerve.”
“You really think that about me?”
“That you hold yourself back?” he asked. “Yeah, maybe a little. Or, it’s like you hide what you’re really thinking up until the point when you explode.”
Like a couple of hours ago in the restaurant with my mother.
“I don’t know...” I said and tucked my feet under me.
“I mean, it’s not like it bothers me.” He picked up a pen from my nightstand and began to twirl it between his fingers.
I stood up from the bed and walked to my desk. “What do you feel like listening to?”
Leaning over my laptop, I scrolled through my playlists, knowing that whichever one I chose would likely send Finn some kind of message. I briefly thought of Jessica and her gift for soundtracking. I could have really used her help.
I stood facing the screen as the first song began to play.
“What is this?” Finn asked.
“Moody,” I answered over my shoulder.
“It’s the name of this playlist. I’ve named them all according to emotion so I know what to play. This one is a little bit of everything. It’s sort of unsettled.”
“This is Passion Pit. It’s an acoustic version of ‘Moth’s Wings.’ It’s…moody.”
“So, you’re telling me you feel… unsettled?” he asked.
“Or, maybe I’m just holding myself back?” I said and immediately regretted my sarcasm.
“Um, okay,” he said, looking away. He was still twirling that pen.
Everything was weird. No matter what I did, I was managing to make this night worse at every turn. And just like I didn’t want to feel like some desperate charity case, I didn’t want Finn to feel like he was my enabler for all the things I really wanted to do but was too afraid to do.
But what was it that I really wanted to do?
“Finn,” I said.
“Yeah?” he said and looked up at me. He looked confused.
“You’re right,” I said and slipped my hands into my back pockets. “I did bring you here. I wanted to bring you here.”
We stared at each other for a moment before he placed the pen on my nightstand and swung his feet to the floor.
He stood up and walked towards me. As he wrapped his arms around me, I pressed my lips to his neck. He slid his hands up the back of my shirt so that his palms rested on the bare skin of my back.
“I’m glad I brought you here,” I said quietly and kissed him on the lips. He pulled me in closer, sliding his hands up my back to my shoulders.
I pulled away slightly and placed my hands on his chest. He quickly slid his hands out from inside my shirt and let his arms fall to his sides. I paused for a second before I reached up and unbuttoned the top button of his flannel shirt. I focused my eyes on the button beneath that one and unbuttoned it too. This is a test, I thought. Until then, we’d kept all of our clothes on no matter how intense things had gotten. It had been a way to control things without having to think too much. I unbuttoned the third button, feeling like I was rewiring a bomb about to detonate.
I glanced up at Finn and met his eyes. He looked calm, but I could feel his heart beating beneath my hands. I undid the remaining buttons and slid the flannel up and over his bare shoulders. He stood motionless.
“Is this okay?” I whispered. He nodded silently.
I leaned in and wrapped my arms around his waist, feeling for the first time how thin and wiry he really was. The skin on his back was smooth, but the bones of his spine were knobby and jutted outward.
I pulled away again and studied his face. It was still calm, but his breathing had deepened.
I hooked my fingers through the belt loops of his pants. He reached down and unfastened his belt buckle before pulling off his jeans.
I could have said something about his standing in my grandmother’s house in nothing but his boxers. Something to make us laugh and turn the whole thing into a joke. It was something I would have done a year ago, or maybe even that night if things had gone differently.
I unbuttoned the first few buttons of my shirt and lifted it over my head. Before I could yank my arms from the sleeves, Finn reached for my waist and pulled me towards him. As he kissed me, he ran his hands over my back and shoulders in a way that felt more urgent than before. Bending forward slightly, he wrapped his arms around my waist and lifted me in a bear hug.
As he carried me towards my twin bed, I allowed myself a moment to think about what I knew was happening. I’d put everything into motion, and I would need to stop it myself if I didn’t want it to go any further. Suddenly I was on my back and staring up at Finn.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said.
He leaned down and kissed me, allowing his body to rest on top of mine. After a moment, he shifted his weight to his knees and sat up, a knee on either side of my hips.
“Are you okay?” he asked again.
“Yeah. I’m good,” I answered. “Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said a little too loudly. For the first time that night, we laughed.
We both grew quiet again. He ran his hands across my bare stomach and gripped the sides of my waist. His eyes met mine as he began to unbutton my jeans.
Past the point of no return, I thought for the second time in the same night. I knew it wasn’t true. I could stop this at any point if I wanted.
But I didn’t want to stop it.
I lifted myself slightly as he pulled my jeans down over my hips.
“One second,” Finn whispered before jumping from the bed. I propped myself up on my elbows to watch him rifle through his coat pocket. I knew immediately what he was looking for.
“I have some,” I whispered.
“You do?” he asked, surprised.
“Yeah,” I said, sitting up and reaching for a box from under my bed. “From eleventh grade health,” I said, feeling myself blush.
He nodded and walked back towards the bed. Sitting down, he leaned over me and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear before beginning to speak.
“Just... you don’t have to ask again,” I blurted out before he had a chance to speak.
Finn titled his head and narrowed his eyes a bit. “Ask what?” he asked.
“If I’m okay. You don’t have to worry. I am. Really,” I said.
“Alright,” he said and smiled.
I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him on top of me.
“As long as you’re sure,” he said. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”
I smiled and kissed him.
“Because there’s no pressure,” he said and kissed me back.
“I’m okay,” I said. “I’m the one who brought you here.”
Too Cold for Open Windows — @MoledyVerses Too young to be beholden Too old not to know better Too cold for open windows But I don’t protest tonight I just hand you the light And, with every lean and stretch to start your cigarette I lay here and watch your bare back. Its parts twist and mold to impressions I could try to feel with my hand. They might flinch from me in haughty, worried tension for they are delicately tuned and fit to carry only you. And your spine is never slouching. It simply rests like a flute awaiting lips and breath.
Hey reader! We’re over halfway through STOP. KISSING. FINN. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this journey so far. Leave me a comment about… well, anything!