This time, though full of breakfast food and still somewhat drunk, they didn’t pass out when they hit Tessa’s futon mattress. This time, though she still stripped down to her boy-shorts and sports bra, Tessa lay on her side and talked to him. Ty kept his clothes on at first but soon grew uncomfortable in the warm apartment. Doing so slowly, checking Tessa for any sign of discomfort, he finally stripped off his shirt and jeans so he was lying next to her bare-chested and wearing only boxer briefs.
The lights remained on and neither of them made any move to change that, so Ty got a good look at Tessa, her face only about two feet from his. When he stared at her, she stared back, right into his eyes like babies do, completely without artifice or pretense. Ty wondered whether she would ever look away if he didn’t.
Her eyes were dark, dark brown, like burnt molasses. Her skin was the color of warm caramel and so smooth he wanted to touch it to see whether it was real. And her hair … Ty could imagine wrapping his hands in strands of her hair, which was as wild, uncontrolled and beautiful as its owner. On a whim, he reached out, slowly to see whether she would flinch. But she didn’t. Instead, she just blinked and smiled with her eyes when his hand made contact with her hair. It was soft and coarse at once, each strand thick and substantial, not silky like his.
Ty twisted several strands about his fingers and brought the hand back to his face and sniffed. Coconut. He smiled.
“Why didn’t you show for the brunch?” he asked, not even knowing he was about to.
“I didn’t want to be there to see it if your parents hurt or embarrassed you,” she said. And she seemed surprised by her own answer as he had been by his question.
Ty let his eyes drift away from hers, then he closed them and took another whiff of her hair. The scent was calming.
“They didn’t embarrass me,” he said.
“I’m sorry I didn’t come,” Tessa said. “If it mattered to you that I wasn’t there.”
She took a breath and opened her mouth to speak, pausing for a moment before continuing. “I’m not the best friend to people who befriend me,” she pronounced.
She didn’t just say it, she pronounced it, as though it was in capital letters and she wanted him to take note.
“That doesn’t sound true,” Ty said.
“It is. I’m the friend you hang out with on Friday nights who’ll get you fucked up; the one you call when you want to do something crazy like scale the side of a city monument at two in the morning.” She stopped for a moment and caught his gaze again. “I’m not the friend you call if you’re stuck at the airport and need a ride. Of if you were stranded at the Mexican border with no money in your pocket. I wouldn’t show up.”
“That sounds like bullshit,” Ty said. “It sounds like something someone said to you and now you believe it, even though it’s not true.”
At that, Tessa gave him a wry smile. “No,” she said with complete certainty and more than a little sadness. “It’s not bullshit. It’s true.”