The air is cool and crisp, its cold palms touching my skin like freezing spikes of metal, but you offer me your side of the blanket and goosebumps trickle up my arms. We share our space, hand in hand, as stars wink down at us.
The cold cement pushes at my back, the blanket so thin a barrier, your hand supplying only a sliver of the warmth I need. The stars trickle in the sky, staring down at us, as we lay together on the slab of driveway next to my parent’s house. We’ve spent weeks together, day after day of “not enough time” and “don’t go yet” and “stay by my side.” We stick together like red to an apple, like shine to the stars. We are comfortable enough around each other to engage in petty arguments, small disagreements, small kisses of “I’m sorry” and “It’s okay.”
My palm presses against yours, and you press back. A shiver rolls up my body, but not from the cold. I can feel my heart beating; I can hear it between my ears. I open my mouth, but shut it. I want to say it. I can’t. I think it, and I think it, and I think it.
I love you, I love you, I love you.
It’s only been a few weeks, can I really say it? A thought crosses my mind of “Do I really love you?” and it passes like an orange traffic light to red.
Does he love me? No, he can’t possibly.
But he might.
But, no, a girl can’t say it first. The boy does, right? My jaw tightens, and I roll closer to your body to soak up the heat.
“Look! A shooting star!” Your hand snaps up toward the sparkling sky, a thick white flash trailing its tail above us, coming closer and closer.
I squeeze my eyes shut; I hope he says it, I wish he says it.
“I made a wish,” I smile in the darkness, even though you can’t see it.
“Me too,” you say.
“What was it?”
“Well, of course I can’t tell you.”
“Why?” I frown.
“Fine, you tell me yours.”
My cheeks feel hot. This is my chance. But what if he hears the words, stale in the air and brushes them away, revs his car, and leaves the winking stars to myself?
“You’re right. It’s a secret,” I say.
You open your mouth, taking a deep breath, “I luh--,” you stop, exhaling your full lungs, leaving them crinkled and gasping for air.
“You what?” I ask.
“I… nothing,” you say.
I knew what you would say. You were going to say it. But what if I’m wrong? No, I can’t possibly be wrong. But you didn’t continue on, you didn’t tell me those big three words, you let them fade in the air. So, you must not mean it. But you do. I know you do.
We kept quiet; the stars supplied shooting star after shooting star, wish after wish, hopeful opportunity after hopeful opportunity. They frowned on us. We were too scared to say it, too afraid of what the other would think.
Even though we didn’t say it, it was that night I realized the depth of my love for you. Only a few weeks after first seeing your face, I knew. You knew. We were scared and quiet, yet fearless and loud, bursting at the seams to engulf each other in the love we had prepared for this night. I won’t forget it, and I won’t forget the bubbling happiness in my stomach and the immediate sinking feeling you created when you teased me with “I… I…” with no ending. But I can say it now, fearless and loud.
I love you.