I resorted to leaning my forehead against the cool metal, holding the tray of drinks tightly to my chest so that they wouldn't fall out of my numb fingers. Completely defeated by the thought of buzzing the doorbell again—in fear of waking up my wonderful roommates, because I forgot my keys. And suddenly, I couldn't breathe. Whatever oxygen was in the small two-door entrance disappeared, leaving me with those delicious, frosty treats and that horribly painted buzzer, painted red for: do not touch. My heart caught in my throat, a hard lump of disappointment on my part, and my fingers shook as I heaved another painstaking sigh. Just to keep from crying. I was a lip quiver away. Don't cry, don't cry. I repeat that mantra to myself so many times in the run of a day that the words start running together until it's just one fluid sentence. I tried to focus on something, anything else apart from the fact that I'm stuck outside of my apartment with these treats—ruining everything, and nothing, and resisting the urge to cry. Only babies cried; grown men didn't. The mantra is quieter now, the words fading into the back of my mind and I realized I've stopped listening to it. A comforting voice broke through my solemn thought process and I swiped my eyes with the back of my hand, hoping that they weren't swollen and puffy.
Kaida—in all of her superman, life-saving glory—wearing a shirt that I didn't really recognize. Not that I knew what her entire closet held, but I was pretty sure that the shirt didn't belong to her. Whenever she needed advice on feminine clothes, I was there. She always needed different outfits to pick up cute, shy girls; she swore, she loved them. I couldn't help but return the grin, shrugging my shoulders helplessly as I let her help me hold the drinks. All of the hopelessness I'd felt before melted and I resisted the affectionate urge to hug her; it would've been hard holding those drinks, anyway. “Ah—,” I sighed, a little more shaky than I'd hoped. “Thank God, I forgot my keys and I don't know if their awake.” Every day I thanked whatever the hell was out there for Kaida. She was the strength beneath all my actions, the driving force that made me less of a coward. And not only that, but she was deep and cool and still and steady; everything I wanted to be, but couldn't. She was enough of that for the both of us. A coy smile dipped across my features and I leaned forward, plucking the collar of her shirt so that I could sniff it with exaggerated glee.
“Smells pretty good,” I teased, clicking my tongue and retreating away. “What was she like? Cute—freckles, maybe?” With my free hand, I flicked long navy bangs from my eyes, and laughed. “Blonde hair?” I always loved teasing Kaida about her exploits, but I hoped that someday she'd find a beautiful girl who swept her off her feet, or vice versa, and then they could be happy. Anyone could fall in love with her; she was all clenched fists, easy smiles and oozing confidence. It was only when the buzz returned that my eyes lit up with renewed hope, as if the world depended on being let into the apartment building, and I held the door open for Kaida with all of the gentlemanly, unmanly manners that I could muster. At least that was something I could manage. Being the hopeless romantic that I was, I craned my neck and pouted, “You've gotta tell me all about it, Kai, or else I won't give your smut books back.” I'd hold them hostage as long as I could. No doubts, everyone else in the apartment thought they were mine, anyway. Tucked secretively under my bed, it seemed like it. I didn't feel like correcting them.
I closed my eyes for a moment, reconciling that everything was fine; Kaida and I would go in, pass out the drinks and figure out what we were doing today. I heard the door swish open and opened my eyes, expecting my roommate, Tailor. Expecting Luke. Expecting someone familiar, but mostly Tailor. Luke was usually out running blocks because he was always sore—always doing something for someone else that made him exhausted; happy but exhausted, nonetheless. “Hey, Tai—...” I greeted cheerfully, grin cocked and ready. I'm in love you, I am. When my eyes fluttered open, I wasn't facing Tailor or Luke, not even Cayman. I was facing the handsome, sharp-featured hellion (well, that's what I'd heard from Tailor, anyway) who'd seen me naked; I immediately flushed, and greeted him as quietly as I could. His eyes are blue. Mine are grey. Grey eyes do not pierce you and pin you to the spot and make you want to die. I'd looked into those kinds of eyes before, and they made me want to cower in the corner because those were the kind of eyes that hurt you, and left you drowning.
“Thanks, Evans.” I managed to say. Even if I didn't want to remember someone's name, I always did. Knowing someone's name made you that much closer to becoming friends, because people liked it when their names are spoken. It creates a pseudo-bond. Etiquette lesson number one for you; the ladder of social interactions, or something like that. My father was strict when it came to creating social circles and keeping them, just in case you needed them. But I wasn't like that, I really, really wanted to know everyone and I wanted to honestly, genuinely help them. Evans didn't need my help, but the least I could do for him answering the door was thank him, and remember his name. I laughed awkwardly, brushing past him with my tray. Too close. Heat rose against my cheeks and coloured my ears. Thankfully, I was facing away from him and already tiptoeing towards the apartment door. I thought I saw Cayman's slip through the door—I only saw red hair, but who else came over consistently? “Thought I was gonna' be stuck here for awhile; you saved me.” I can't breathe with you looking at me like that, so just, just stop.
Balancing the tray, minus two drinks, I opened the door to the apartment and held it open. I managed to peek inside in time to see Tailor wandering around, holding the phone captive to his ear. Fluttering butterflies flexed their wings in my stomach, and another tell-tale smile crossed my lips. I looked towards the dining room and saw feet hanging over the couches' arm and knew it belonged to Luke. Being home felt good. Cayman's shaggy red hair caught my eyes and I laughed, leaning against the door frame while I held the door for Kaida and Evans.
“Cay! Guess what I gotcha'?”
I freed the caramel mess from the tray, holding it up.