Author: Kirsty Moseley His smile slowly faded as his shoulders tightened, so I knew we weren’t done yet. “What now?” I prompted. He sighed and looked down at his hands. “I have one last thing I want to talk to you about.” I waited for him to speak again, wondering what else I could have possibly forgotten. I thought I’d reasoned it all out before knocking on his door, apparently I was wrong. His eyes came up to meet mine again. “I hate your nightmares.” I snorted. He knew nothing of my nightmares. “Join the club.” He nodded, his eyes not leaving mine. “I have two options for you, both of them are okay with me so you can choose,” he continued. “One of them I’ve suggested already. I change my sleeping pattern and sleep while you’re awake. It’ll just be like me working nights,” he suggested. I frowned, shaking my head adamantly. “No. What’s the other suggestion?” He sighed. “I sleep on the floor in your room. Or we could get one of those pull-out sofas or something. For some reason, you seem to sleep better if I’m in the room.” The reason was obvious to me. His snoring. And yes, I did sleep better with him there. It was almost as if I could still sense his protective presence while I was asleep, and that stopped me from going to that dark and terrible place where my memories taunted me in the form of nightmares. “I guess a sofa bed might work,” I agreed. A satisfied smile pulled at the corners of his mouth as he nodded happily. “Once we get to our apartment, we can order one. Until then, I’ll just sleep on the floor,” he agreed. I opened my mouth, about to suggest that he could just sleep on the bed with me until we ordered a sofa bed, but then I remembered what had transpired between us this morning and my lips pressed together tightly. “Are you all packed and stuff for college?” he asked, changing the subject. Packed? I hadn’t even started. “Not really. It won’t take long to throw a few pairs of jeans and a few T-shirts into a bag though.” I shrugged, using my feet to start my swing off again. His gaze swept over me as he nodded. “Have you always been a tom boy?” he questioned. “Not that you don’t look good, of course, because I’m pretty sure you could make a used garbage bag look hot. I was just wondering.” “Um… well, first off, thanks for the weird compliment,” I joked, blushing profusely. I tugged on the bottom of my shirt, fingering the material that I purposefully bought three sizes too big. “It’s just easier for me this way. If I wear something fitted then guys hit on me, and I just can’t… I don’t deal well with it.” I shrugged. He reached out, taking hold of the chain of my swing and pulling me to a wobbly stop. “You have me now. You don’t need to worry about guys hitting on you. You could dress in whatever you wanted.” He pulled his cell phone from his pocket, glancing at the screen. “It’s only just lunchtime; want me to take you shopping?” I raised one eyebrow at the offer. He was right, with this new arrangement and him attending school with me, I wouldn’t need to worry as much. Maybe I could buy myself a few new things. When I was younger, I was always a girlie girl. Like any carefree sixteen year old, I liked summer dresses, skirts, shorts and heels. A small smile tugged at the corners of my mouth when I thought about having a tiny piece of me back again. Shopping sounded like a nice idea. “Okay,” I agreed, nodding gratefully. I looked out across the grass, seeing the house in the distance. “Race you back?” I challenged. He frowned, looking over at the house too. “That’s not fair, I’ve seen you run,” he protested. I shrugged. “It’s my favourite way to exercise,” I answered. I said the words but my mind flicked to my morning workout with him in my bedroom. I definitely had a new favourite now. I blushed at the thought. He looked at me curiously, making me blush harder as I worried that he knew what I was thinking. “Maybe you should try running with me sometime, it’ll build up your stamina, you’re a bit lax.” The heat in my cheeks flamed hotter as I realised I’d unintentionally just flirted with him. He raised a teasing eyebrow. Clearly he’d noticed. “I have a problem with my stamina?” “Oh yeah, definitely,” I joked, winking at him. I nodded back towards the house again. “Race? Come on, Pretty Boy, where’s the inner tough guy? Scared you’ll get beaten by a girl?” I teased, smirking at him. He shook his head adamantly. “I’m not scared, I just don’t think it’s fair that-” Midsentence, he suddenly sprang from his swing and burst forward. “Go!” he shouted over his shoulder, chuckling wickedly. I gasped, and my mouth popped open in shock as I jumped to my feet too. “You freaking cheater!” I cried, giggling as I sprinted after him. “Oh, for the love of God, can we please be done? Seriously, when I suggested shopping, what I actually should have suggested was buying a tin of paint, slapping it on a wall and watching it dry!” Ashton whined, cocking his head to the side and pouting at me. I chuckled wickedly. Things had started out fine at first, he’d followed me around, smiling and nodding as I picked up things or tried them on. Three hours later and he was checking his cell phone every ten minutes, grunting in response to my ‘like this shirt’ questions, and dragging his feet as he walked. I must admit, I did find it entertaining and was stringing out the shopping trip, purposefully picking up everything, silently considering it before setting it back down again. His reactions amused me. I looked down at his hands that were laden with my shopping bags and smiled, knowing I couldn’t push him any further. How he’d made it this long, I had no idea. He must have the patience of a saint because I’d been ready to go after an hour. “So I’ve found your weakness. You’re a shopping lightweight,” I teased. He blew out a big breath and shook his head. “A lightweight would have begged to go home an hour ago when you made me walk past that pizza joint without buying anything. Personally, I think I should get a medal for sticking it this long,” he countered. I grinned. “I made you walk past the pizza place because you’d already eaten your way through a whole supersized McDonalds, followed by an apple pie!” I’d never seen anyone eat as much as Ashton did. It was unnatural. “I needed the calories so I could carry your bags!” He held up my numerous shopping bags in evidence and raised one eyebrow. Finally conceding, I nodded. “Okay, let’s just go home now then, your whining is giving me a headache,” I joked. I’d bought enough new things to keep me going for a couple of weeks anyway. He pumped the air with one fist, and a smile graced his face for the first time in two hours. “Yes, thank you!” he chirped. His eyes flitted over my shoulder and his smile widened. “Let’s get some cookies to take back with us.” I burst out laughing, shaking my head in disbelief. Once we’d gotten back to the house and I’d hung all of my clothes up, I didn’t want to do much other than just sit and chill, so I suggested watching a movie – and he suggested popcorn. After finally seeking out popcorn from the cupboards and microwaving it, I slumped onto the sofa in the lounge, while he looked over the wall of DVDs that we had accumulated over the years. After making his choice, he put it on, turned off the lights and then dropped onto the sofa next to me, smiling wickedly. “What’d you choose?” I asked, watching as the trailers started up. “Mama.” I frowned and nodded, not having heard of it. “Is that a scary one?” He chuckled and shoved his hand into the popcorn bowl. “I wouldn’t hazard a guess.” Shifting to get comfortable, I twisted to the side and put my legs in his lap because there wasn’t much room. He didn’t seem to mind. In the flickering glow of the TV, I saw him smile as he laid his arm across my legs, scooting down in his seat to get more comfortable. As the movie played, he started absentmindedly rubbing my feet and ankles, and eventually was massaging the back of my calves with his hands up the leg of my jeans. Out of nowhere the lights flicked on and I let out a little squeal because the movie was at a particularly scary part and my heart was already racing in my chest. My mother stopped short, her hand still on the light switch as her eyes widened in surprise. “Oh! Sorry, I didn’t realise anyone was in here,” she apologised quickly. Her eyes flitted to my legs where Ashton’s hand disappeared up the bottom of my jeans. Catching on to how it probably looked to an outsider, I moved my legs quickly and sat up, clearing my throat awkwardly. “It’s okay; we’re just watching a movie. Want to watch?” I offered, feeling the heat creep up my neck and spread across my face. A small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she flicked the lights back off again. “No thanks, I’ll watch something in the other room. See you two tomorrow,” she turned and left, closing the door tightly behind her. I sank my teeth into my lip and turned to look at Ashton to see if he found that as awkward as I did, but apparently he didn’t seem to care about the interruption and was just watching the movie again. Settling back down into the warm spot I’d created. I tried to watch the movie, but I couldn’t get into it again. All I could think about was Ashton rubbing my legs, how nice it had felt at the time, and what on earth my mother had made of it. When it was finally over, he turned the lights back on while I took the disk from the DVD player. “You like that?” I inquired, clipping it back into the case. He shrugged, crinkling his nose. “Not really. It was alright,” he answered, shrugging. “To be honest, I was expecting it to scare you; I was hoping you’d be begging me to cuddle you or something. Plan didn’t work.” He smiled in my direction, so I slapped him in the stomach with the DVD case. I laughed incredulously and rolled my eyes as I picked up the empty popcorn bowl. “It didn’t work because you distracted me with all your foot rubbing,” I joked.