Chapter 18 – You are asking us if we did… What?” (New York)
Christmas is coming up. It is no longer just a question of the calendar; it is as if, let us say…it is palpable in the air. The frost on the windows, the scarves, the coats. The Starbucks coffees in your hand while you sit quietly with your classmates on the couches in the residence hall. Without making too much of a fuss, as I go down the stairs I put on my low ponytail, adjust my velvet beret leaving a couple of loose tufts on both sides of my ears―carefully curled with the pliers, of course―and adjust the high neck of my beige sweatshirt.
However, as soon as I am about to head for the corridor outside the residence, two figures cut me off without violence, but with surprise painted on their respective faces.
“Cam!” Then Kristin, whose mouth forms a perfect O, greets me. “Wow, what a surprise to see you after all this time…”
“How’d your tests go?” asks Jenny then, trying to keep a casual tone.
For a moment, I don’t know what to do while a certain feeling of shame runs down my spine. Since I started dating Moose a little less than a month ago, I’ve indeed seen my old friends less than ever―but what am I gonna do? If before there was no one to keep us apart with hot water, now I don’t think even the lava from a volcano would be able to separate us. And Kristin and Jenny have accused it of a lot.
I can’t give this up because I’m dating, I immediately chide myself. And Moose will have to start getting used to it.
“Good. Good,” I answer right away, following the tone of the conversation. “And you? How did it go?”
“Nice, too. Yes,” says Kristin with something that looks like a forced smile to me. “But, well…” ―at that moment she exchanges an eloquent look with Jenny, which unwittingly makes me suspicious. “How are you doing with your boy?”
I swallow―Kristin’s eyes are like two wells of acidity. It seems that she still hasn’t forgiven me for ditching her for Moose on Halloween, let alone for him ditching me anyway―I think she likes to gloat about it.
“Quite fine,” I answered quietly, “and Kristin, I’m sorry about what happened at that time.”
She nods and seems to play down the importance with a wave of her hand.
“Yes, you told me that back in the day. But seriously, Camille: I don’t think he deserved that second chance after the way he treated you as a friend…”
Taking advantage of the fact that I have my fists in the pockets of the coat, I squeeze them until my nails are in my palms while I force myself to smile something artificially.
“That’s my business, Kristin,” I warn her in a soft voice. “But if it’s going to impede us being friends, then maybe we should stop being so…”
For a moment, I see her hesitating at my answer and it hurts―is she jealous, perhaps? Or is she going to hate Moose for the rest of eternity? Discreetly, I look at my wristwatch. I’m still on time for our date in Central Park, but I can’t be much later.
But that’s when Jenny, without any malice, approaches me with her slanted eyes glowing with expectation and asks me:
“Hey… And, uh… Have you made it yet?”
I’m stuck in place, not being able to react―she means…? At the moment, just thinking about it makes me break out in a cold sweat, but I try to hide it by raising my eyebrows and smiling innocently.
“What thing?” I’m asking, playing dumb on purpose.
She rolls her eyes before she lowers her voice.
“Well, that, you know..Sleep together…” ―suddenly, she looks at me with a slightly strange face that makes me want to run away from there―. “You’re not…”
“Uh… No. We are not,” I quickly reply, wanting to stop explaining my personal life. “Anyway, we’re taking it slow. You know, so many years together as friends…” ―I’m giving those explanations, damn it. “Hey, girls. I’m late, I’m meeting Moose… But we have to meet one day!” I promise with joy that I hope it won’t be noticed that it’s partly fake.
Jenny and Kristin, on the other hand, choose not to pursue the subject any further and respond to me with smiles and nods. I snort.
Well, at least I’ve managed to fix this, I think with relief as I run down the corridor towards the exit.
However, the idea that has just been planted in my consciousness, whether I want to or not, hammers my skull until the moment I see Moose in the distance, waiting for me.
As usual, my mouth dries up when I see Camille appear. Only lately it seems like she does it on purpose―the grooming, I mean. It seems like every day she tries to prove to me that she can still leave me with my mouth open despite the years.
When she reaches my height, I lift my cap flap as she brings her icy face closer to mine and we both warm up with a kiss that I think would have melted the poles in a second. A month ago I probably would have thought something like that was completely crazy, but the truth is that kissing my girlfriend has become almost a drug that I can’t do without.
However, immediately, a gust of cold air that has just passed through Central Park reaches us and we are forced to separate our lips, although our bodies stick together, even more, to keep warm.
“Let’s go someplace closed”, I suggest by her neck.
She shakes her head up and down and as if we were thinking the same thing, we both head to the bar where Luke worked before winning the World Jam and going to LA with Natalie.
Nothing’s changed. Right away, we look for the back corner and, when the new waiter approaches, we order two coffees. Before we are served, however, I notice that Camille sticks to me more than usual but, considering that we have been together for a month, it is the least of my worries. When she kisses me again, catching my lower lip first, I notice how something unravels inside me and especially in certain areas of my body.
But as soon as I want to answer her, as soon as that passionate outburst arrives, Camille withdraws and lowers her head.
Stop, stop… what the hell is going on here?
Slowly, I grab her by the chin and try to get her to lift her head towards me.
“Hey, Cam…” ―she listens to me a little bit, but not as much as I’d expect, which makes an insidious little voice in my head start to sound off― “is everything all right?
Suddenly, my girl seems to be back in the real world.
“What? “Yes, of course,” she responds quickly while taking a sip of coffee without looking at me.
I worry about her attitude. But even more so because, from one moment to the next, her body has started to tremble slightly.
“Camille” ―like a reflex, I hold her hands as soon as she drops the coffee on the table― “hey, did something happens? Did I do something you didn’t like…”
I’m trying not to sound nervous, but it’s kind of hard for me. She, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to know exactly how to tell me what’s going on in her head.
“It’s nothing,” she repeats, although her voice seems less confident than before. “Or, well, nothing I didn’t know could happen…” ―I’m clueless, but I prefer to bite my tongue and not talk. Let Cam say what he has to say and that’s it. The sooner the better. “You see, today… I ran into Kristin and Jenny, and I was talking to them, and… Well…” ―for a moment, I curse those two harpies in my heart, especially Kristin. I haven’t missed the fact that every time we pass each other, she looks at me with a hawkish look on her face, about to launch herself at her prey―what could they possibly have said to Camille? But, to my great amazement, I soon find out. “They asked me if you and I had already…Anyway,” ―she makes an eloquent gesture with her shoulders that I understand perfectly, although my eyes open wide from the surprise― “you know.”
Yes. I know. But the first thought that crosses my mind is:
What the hell does that pair of witches care?
However, given Camille’s nervousness, I don’t say anything out loud. Mostly because, suddenly, just imagining that moment in my head makes my whole body tingle with a feeling that I thought had long since been forgotten. It’s also true that neither Camille nor I, are new to the subject. We’ve both had sex with someone before―in my case, although I don’t want to think about it too much, it was with Sophie―but I admit to myself that, if it was difficult for us to take the step to go out together, this could be the climb to Everest compared to that.
But one thing is clear to me―I want to be with Camille. Am I afraid? Of course, I am, but sometimes you have to swallow your pride and pull yourself together. What I can’t stand is seeing Cam so worried.
“Hey, Cam”, I’m calling her as gently as I can to get her to relax, while I put one hand around her waist. At least this way I can pretend I’m not slightly nervous either. First of all, Kristin and Jenny can put their opinions where they want to” ―she giggles and her cheeks wonderfully turn red― “and secondly… No one’s saying we’re in a hurry. I’m sure that when the time comes…” ―I salivate, not knowing if I believe what I’m about to say― “it’ll be great. I’m sure it will.”
I’m still hesitant, and I’m really afraid of disappointing her when that time comes. But the glimmer of hope that comes from those brown eyes that drive me crazily lost makes me suddenly believe every one of my statements.
“Me too,” says Cam then, before kissing me again like at the beginning of the afternoon. “I know that when we’re ready, everything will be fine. Because I trust you.”
I smile with emotion on my face and contemplate, for the first time without terror, the possibility of being with her in the greatest intimacy possible and that everything will turn out well.
“And I in you, Cam,” I affirm equally. “I will never stop doing it.”