He’s with a girl the first time it happens.
Richie’s twenty-three and it’s been a long time since he gave up on college. In the dream, he’s in a dirty house that’s falling apart, cobwebs surrounding him and floorboards creaking even though he’s the only person in the room. There are children laughing outside and everything seems awfully familiar to Richie, who doesn’t move an inch. He feels like he recognizes this place and the children outside, but when he tries to remember his brain becomes fuzzy and Richie gets dizzy.
“Hello,” someone whispers behind him, their breath hot and minty on the nape of his neck. Richie tenses. He knows this voice. He can’t place it and he can’t name it but he knows it, he knows it like the back of his hand. “Richie.”
A hand snakes up his shirt, and Richie can’t help but shiver. He feels cold fingertips touching his ribs and his stomach, feeling every inch of skin. Richie closes his eyes involuntarily, opens his mouth a bit and sighs through it—this isn’t the first time this’s happened, he reckons. He’s seventeen again. He knows this person’s hand and he recognizes their breath, still against his neck. It’s like an old memory, the dirty house and the hands and the whisper of his name. For a split second, Richie thinks he can picture the day this happened—they were back in Derry and they’d been talking and then Eddie—
He gasps when he wakes up. There is sweat on his forehead and he feels like he’s going to puke—his hair is sticky with sweat too, and his hands are shaking so bad Richie can’t even hold the blanket to calm himself. Rebeca stirs in her sleep but she rolls around and keeps sleeping, as if Richie weren’t freaking out just next to her.
Eddie. Who the fuck is Eddie? Richie gets to his feet and to the bathroom in a daze, his movements automatic and robotic. He has the weirdest dreams, but he’s never—he’s never dreamt something so vivid, something that feels almost like a memory. Holding the cold ceramic of the sink, Richie looks at himself in the mirror and tries to calm down.
But he can’t. His breaths become rapid and small; he’s hyperventilating. He’s never… no, he’s never been with a boy in his life. Not at seventeen and not at twenty-three. What the fuck, he doesn’t even like boys, he doesn’t—he doesn’t—
“Richie.” Rebeca knocks on the door. Richie closes his eyes and tries to will her away, tries to hold his breath so she doesn’t hear him have a panic attack. He feels the cold tiles under his feet and hears the water tap-tap-tapping because the tap is broken and then there’s Rebeca, calling his name again and again and again, Richie Richie Richie. “Are you all right?”
“Aha,” he manages to get out. Richie recalls the dream, warm hands against his skin. Eddie. Eddie. He feels the name on the back of his mind, calling and reaching out to him, but Richie can’t seem to grasp at it. He knows it wasn’t a memory because he would have remembered, god, he would have remembered being like that with a fucking boy. But he doesn’t remember. Fuck. Rebeca hums and Richie hears her steps as they get further and further and then it’s silence again.
Except he can’t stop hyperventilating. His tongue is numb and his legs are about to buckle under him, so Richie just crouches without letting go to the sink. He feels his pulse skyrocketing, his heart about to leap from his body.
“It was a dream,” he mumbles to himself, closing his eyes again. “It was just a dream. I don’t know any Eddies—”
As soon as he says it his head starts pounding so hard Richie loses his grip on the sink and falls sideways to the floor, his skin against the cold tiles, his head against the floor, his eyes full of tears. He doesn’t know any Eddies, he tells himself again, but the panic attack only gets worse and worse and worse and Richie swears he’s going to die. He hears Rebeca fumbling around the room, probably looking for her clothes, and then he hears the door opening and closing. He hears birds as morning comes and then he hears children on their bikes and people saying good-morning from the window of the bathroom.
But Richie can’t stop thinking about this Eddie he remembers but doesn’t, hands skidding around and playful fingers bopping his nose, laughter and kisses he’s never had. There’s a moment when Richie thinks he might actually remember, but then his head spins and the moment is gone.
Eddie. Eddie. Who the fuck is Eddie?
“I think it’s stupid,” Eddie mumbles.
“Huh?” Richie mumbles back, the cigarette hanging from between his lips. “What’s stupid?”
Eddie looks sideways at Richie and scrunches his nose at the cigarette, like he always does. It drives Richie nuts, because he knows that Eddie smoked once and he liked it, though he considered the nicotine far too dangerous and decided to never smoke again. He rolls his eyes and blows smoke at Eddie, who crouches to evade it. Even now, at sixteen, he’s so little Richie doesn’t think he’ll ever hit his growth spurt.
“This,” he says, nodding in the direction of the bridge. The Kissing Bridge. Richie opens his mouth to answer but decides against it, instead putting the cigarette to his lips again. “I mean, what’s the point? If you like someone, you should say it. Why come here and carve your initials or whatever? It’s stupid.”
Yeah, Richie thinks, so stupid. He then thinks about their initials carved somewhere over there and cringes internally. He was so fucking dumb when he was thirteen—what did he think he would accomplish anyway, coming alone to the bridge and carving R + E? What if someone had seen him? What if someone did? He still thinks about Bowers calling him names at the arcade. He cringes some more.
“I mean,” Eddie says when Richie doesn’t comment. “I wouldn’t do it. Would you?”
“Maybe,” Richie says because, as stated before, he’s fucking dumb. “Who knows?”
Eddie shakes his head but he’s grinning. He sticks his hands up in the air as if to say whatever, and Richie cannot help but look at him, at the dimple in his right cheek and his hair, which really needs to be cut. He thinks of offering to cut it even though he knows Eddie wouldn’t let him, in a million years, do it. Just because. Richie thinks about tangling his hands in Eddie’s hair, ruffling it until Eddie’s screeching and laughing at the same time.
“Your hair needs a cut.”
“Yes, I know.”
“I can cut it.”
Maybe Richie’s imagining it when he sees Eddie hesitate for a second. “Fucking no, Richie.”
Richie blows smoke to his face again. “Fine.”
Eddie sighs and closes his eyes, throws his head back and inhales. Richie stares at his exposed neck, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallows and his hair shaking with the wind. He’s wearing a red polo shirt and khakis, his white sneakers more gray than white. Richie closes his eyes, too, and imagines himself pinning Eddie against the bridge, just against the R + E, and kissing him senseless.
The he forgets it.
“Why did you bring me here anyway?” Richie asks. He sounds a little harsh but he doesn’t care, he’s angry at himself but he’s angry at Eddie too for pointing out how stupid and pointless it is to carve initials in the fucking bridge.
Eddie takes a moment but eventually he looks up at Richie and asks, “You were with Annie, right? Last summer?”
Richie nods. Eddie blushes. “Did you… like, did you do something? Like…”
“Jeez, Eddie,” Richie says, trying his best to grin and act like this doesn’t bother him at all. “If you’re asking if we had sex yeah, we had.”
It was the worst mistake of his fucking life, Richie reckons. He’d do anything to forget it. He nudges Eddie with his shoulder and asks, “Why?”
“I’ve been, like. Fooling around. With a girl. And she wants to do… something, but I don’t even know where to begin—”
Richie thinks he deserves an award for not cringing. He wants to throw himself out of a window, to slam his head against the asphalt until he doesn’t feel anything. But what he does instead is drop the cigarette, step on it and pat Eddie on the back. “Amigo, you’ve come to the right person.”
Richie’s on his bathtub the next time something happens.
It’s been a weeks since the Eddie Incident and Richie still doesn’t know who the fuck Eddie is. He tried calling his mom and asking her if she remembered any of his friends back from Derry because Richie sure as fuck doesn’t—he doesn’t remember anything from Derry, actually, which is weird to say the least, but he doesn’t dwell much on it. Maybe something traumatic happened and his brain made him forgot, or maybe his childhood and teenage years were so boring that Richie didn’t even bother to remember. Whatever.
His mom didn’t remember Derry, which was weirder still but Richie didn’t dwell on that either. Their conversation went, more or less, like this:
“Rich! How are you? Are you eating well? You don’t call us anymore and when we call you don’t pick up, how is Los Angeles treating you? Are you—”
“I’m fine, mom. But I’m busy right now, I just called to ask you about my friends in Derry.”
“Yeah, you remember them? Do you remember if there was an Eddie?”
“Eddie? Sweetie, it was a long time ago. I don’t remember very well, I’m sorry. But tell me, are you eating well?”
Richie insisted, a couple of times, if she remembered Eddie. But it was pointless: she didn’t remember any Eddie and she didn’t remember anything else, by that matter. Richie’s parents moved out of Derry two months after Richie, and they left almost everything behind: friends and family, his dad’s dentist, their house. They wanted a change of scenery, they said. Richie wishes they’d at least saved some of their friends’ numbers—he could call someone and ask about Eddie. If the dream wasn’t a dream and Richie did know Eddie, someone must know him. In Derry. But Richie isn’t coming back, no fucking way, and he doesn’t know what else to do. It’s not like he has a surname or anything to go by.
He looks at the razor in his hand and sighs. Rebeca told him she’d rather he shaved his legs, it’d be much better, Rich, c’mon! You’ll like it too. But Richie hasn’t shaved his legs since he was fifteen and he’s already cut himself two times. The water is a little red.
He puts the razor aside and closes his eyes. He tried wearing his glasses to see something but they became foggy from the heat of the water and were useless, so he put them off, so he can’t see shit. It amazes him, sometimes—especially when he’s stoned as fuck—how utterly blind he is. He’s almost blind, for god’s sake, can’t even see his own toes even if he squints.
When he opens his eyes again he’s not in his bathtub anymore. Well. He’s in his own, but it isn’t the one he owns right now. It’s the bathtub they had back in his house in Derry, brown and old as fuck. Richie stills, feeling his breath catch, and tries to calm himself—Rebeca was here earlier, maybe they smoked something and he doesn’t remember? Maybe he’s just hallucinating.
He hopes he is, because the next thing that happens is that someone is shouting, “Richie! Get the fuck out of there, we have to go!”
It’s the same voice. Richie could recognize it anywhere, he thinks now as it keeps telling him to get up and move. It’s Eddie. There are several angry knocks on his door and Jesus fuck, this has to be happening right now because it doesn’t matter how stoned he is, he couldn’t make this shit up even if he tried.
“Stan’s going to get mad, Richie, c’mon!” Eddie keeps saying. Richie feels tears well up in his eyes but he doesn’t even know why, he doesn’t remember Eddie. “Richie! I’m going to enter!”
It’s the voice of a kid, Richie realizes. Then the door opens, he swears to god he hears it creak as it opens even though he lives alone and nobody else has keys. But it opens, Richie sees it behind the curtains, and then there’s the shape of a small kid walking towards him, Richie can see his shadow even without glasses.
His hands start shaking just as Eddie says, “Get your ass”—he grabs the curtains and pulls—“out of there!”
Richie pulls the curtain back and searches frantically for his glasses, but no one is there. The door is closed and as he runs naked around the house, turning on the lights of every room and looking around every corner and under every bed. But it doesn’t matter because he ends up crying on the floor of his bedroom, without Eddie and alone.
Eddie is sprawled on Richie’s bed, reading a comic and giggling to himself, when Richie comes into the room with watermelon that his mom cut for them. “What’s so funny,” he asks, plopping down on the bed besides Eddie.
Eddie’s wearing a pair of Richie’s socks because his own had a hole and Eddie claimed it bothered him. Richie shrugged it off when Eddie asked him if he could, please, borrow some socks but really he’s feeling giddy just seeing Eddie, little Eddie, with his stupid short shorts and his polo shirt wear clothes that belong to Richie.
“Nothing,” Eddie answers, stifling a giggle. He reaches out to grab a slice of watermelon and closes his eyes as he bites a chunk off it. “I love watermelon,” he says, “I could eat it every day for the rest of my life.”
“Weirdo,” Richie mumbles, but he’s grinning. He’ll miss being like this with Eddie, when he goes to college next year. He knows they’ll keep in touch—at least he will. Richie would find a way to talk to Eddie even if he didn’t have his number or his address or didn’t know his surname. He would look and look until he found him.
Richie doesn’t like thinking about going away because he doesn’t like to think what that means: he won’t see the losers every day like he does now, he won’t talk to them as often, he won’t get to keep joking like he does now because people out of Derry don’t know him, don’t know about his mannerisms or about his jokes. He’ll have to make new friends. That, he thinks, is one of the worst parts of it.
But the worst worst is that he won’t get to be with Eddie like this anymore, their legs touching and their hands brushing as they take slices of watermelon, breaths intermingled when they are reading the comic and laugh at the same time. Richie pretends that they aren’t friends now, but something more—something he still can’t trust himself to say out loud. He’ll miss a lot of things about this cursed town, but he’ll miss Eddie most of it.
“Richie,” Eddie says then, his hand about to turn the page but frozen in place. He’s chewing on his lower lip. Richie wants put his thumb over his lips, to stop Eddie from drawing blood but he doesn’t dare so he just waits for something else. Eddie opens his mouth but closes it and then opens it again. He closes it. Opens it. Minutes pass until he finally speaks: “Remember about that girl? The one I hooked up with last year?”
God. Richie does his best but he can’t help it when he sighs, deep and tired. He doesn’t want to talk about girls. He tells Eddie this: “I don’t want to talk about girls now, Eds.”
“Don’t call me—shut up, Richie, and listen to me. Remember about her? Carolina?”
“Eddie I swear to god,” Richie says, “I’ll kick you out.”
Eddie grumbles and presses the heels of his hands to his eyes. It looks like he’s got something important to say but Richie is too tired of hearing all his friends talk about girls, how good they look when they are not wearing any clothes, how good it feels when they touch their breasts, how many of them they are going to fuck when they leave Derry and go out to the world. And all the while, Richie nods and pretends that he likes sucking face with them and that he really likes it when they top and how fucking great it is to be with a girl, when all he wants to do is fucking cry.
And maybe it’s too obvious but what does it matter anyway, Eddie is being a pain in the ass and Richie is sick of pretending pretending pretending.
“I’m not going to tell you about sex right now, okay? Work it out by yourself.”
“I don’t—fuck you, I’m good at sex.” Eddie is babbling, saying the first thing that comes to his mind. It’s kind of fun, seeing him blurting things out like this. “And that’s now what I was going to say!”
“What?” Richie asks, grinning. He rolls until he’s lying on his stomach and props himself on his elbows, his head on his hands. “Are you having… a hard time when you have sex, Eddie Spaghetti?”
Eddie growls and sits up. The comic falls to the floor and the plate with the watermelon is about to fall too, but Richie doesn’t move to get it. Eddie drags his hands over his face and then presses his hands against his knees. His face is red as a tomato.
“Richie,” Eddie tries again. Richie rolls his eyes, which upsets Eddie even more. “Listen to me!” He yells. Richie is glad that his mom is downstairs and his dad is at work. “I was gonna—just answer me. Do you remember Carolina?”
“God, Eddie.” Richie stops looking at him. He’s so fucking annoying, he thinks. Why does he even like him? He feels a sting behind his eyes, tears ready to spill. Why does Eddie want to talk about girls so fucking much, why does he even—why can’t Eddie like him? Why can’t he just like him like he likes this Carolina girl? They would get out of Derry together, live together and Richie would tell jokes and Eddie would laugh and they could be the happiest people in the fucking planet. “I don’t want to talk about girls, fuck y—”
Eddie bends down and takes Richie’s face between his hands. Their faces are so close that Richie can count all the freckles on Eddie’s nose. He can even see his fucking pores. He licks his lips and waits for whatever.
“You’re an asshole,” Eddie chides. His breath smells of watermelon, and for a second Richie panics and tries not to breathe because he knows his breath smells of nicotine because he smoke while his mom was cutting watermelon. “You’re a fucking asshole, you never know when to shut up,” Eddie goes on, his cheeks pink and his eyes looking everywhere but Richie, “I was going, I wasn’t going to tell you about sex with Carolina, dumbass. I was going to say, like something like, remember Carolina? Remember when last year I asked you about sex because she wanted to? Well I was going to tell you that I fucking hated it, Richie!”
Richie doesn’t breathe. He feels his face grow hotter and hotter, especially where Eddie’s hands are touching him—there his skin fucking burns.
“Eds,” he mumbles, because Eddie has fallen silent and he doesn’t know what to do.
“Yeah,” Eddie says suddenly, like out of a trance. He locks eyes with Richie. “I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it, and I, Richie, fuck.” Richie notices, then, that Eddie is about to cry. He doesn’t exactly know how he knows, but he does.
“Eddie,” he says again, but Eddie doesn’t acknowledge him.
“I can’t stop thinking about you, Jesus fuck, I don’t want to!” Eddie blurts out. Richie freezes, his mouth open in an O. “It’s like, I’m riding my bike and I’ll be thinking that you told a really good joke the other day, or I’m getting ready to go out and I’ll be thinking that I wish you were with me right now, or I’m with you and I think, god I wish I could just kiss him.”
“Fuck,” Richie says, because he doesn’t know what else to do.
“Yeah,” Eddie says back. “Fuck.”
“No, I don’t want to hear it. You can hate me if you want to.”
“Shut up, Richie.”
“I said, shut the fuck up, R—”
Richie doesn’t think—he absolutely doesn’t think at all, because if he’d thought about it before he actually did it he would’ve thought that the door was unlocked and his mom could come in at any moment, or that the position they are in is, like, super uncomfortable, or that maybe his glasses would get in the way. But Richie is definitely not thinking when he presses his lips against Eddie’s in the most uncomfortable kiss in the history of kisses. Eddie gasps and Richie doesn’t close his eyes, so he can see that Eddie has his eyes open wide as saucers. Which is funny, which makes Richie opens his mouth in a smile, which makes their teeth clack. This makes Richie laugh, and his laugh makes Eddie laugh, and in less than five seconds they are sprawled on the bed again, laughing like children.
And all Richie can think about is that he’s had sex with girls and all that jazz, but this kiss with Eddie tops all of that.
Rebeca is shaking him when Richie wakes up at 3 in the morning. She’s got this panicked, wild face and is looking at him like he’s crazy.
“What,” Richie asks groggily, because he’s just woken up and he can’t even see her face without his glasses.
“Rich,” she says to him. She reaches out but then holds back. “You were, um. Saying something. A name.”
“Who’s Eddie?” She asks. She’s naked. Richie can’t look anywhere but at her face and he feels so uncomfortable in his own skin he wants to vomit. “You were screaming, Eddie! Eddie Kaspbrak! Edd—”
“Wait,” Richie says. He feels like he’s swallowed a whole bottle of rum; his head is spinning spinning spinning. “Eddie,” he says, more to himself than to Rebeca. She touches his elbow but Richie bats her away. “Eddie Kaspbrak.”
“Richie,” Rebeca says, but at this point her voice is just background noise.
Then it clicks. Richie gets to his feet but he collapses to the floor a second later. It all clicks. Derry, the losers—Eddie. Richie begins to sob, memories long forgotten flowing back. Rebeca is calling his name but she doesn’t exist anymore, she’s not important, it’s just—how?
How could he have forgotten Eddie?”
Eddie presses him against a tree. Richie giggles and Eddie sighs, rolling his eyes as he gets his hands inside Richie’s shirt. The tree trunk is going to bruise his back, Richie is sure of it, but he couldn’t care less.
“You’re a gremlin,” he whispers against Eddie’s ear. Eddie giggles, too, and then presses a kiss against Richie’s neck. “Are you gonna eat me?”
“You’re so fucking stupid,” Eddie grumbles, pulling Richie’s shirt up. Richie pouts but helps Eddie with his shirt.
“We could do this at my place,” Richie continues, because he’s talkative even when he’s like this with Eddie. He just likes to annoy him. It kind of turns him on, a little, when he bickers with Eddie. “You’re so kinky.”
“Oh my god, Richie,” Eddie finally snaps, hitting Richie with his hands. Richie laughs, an honest to god laugh that sounds throughout the whole forest. Eddie keeps slapping him until Richie catches his hands and turns them around, pressing Eddie against the tree instead.
Eddie glares at him for all of a second before he kisses Richie. And Richie loves it, he loves this more than anything he’s loved in his life. He bites at Eddie’s lip and then licks it, presses his fingertips against Eddie’s scapula, making him moan. Richie doesn’t trust himself to say it out loud—not yet anyway—but he’s sure as fuck that he loves him, that he’s loved him since a long time ago.
He smiles into the kiss as he thinks about it. About Eddie wearing his short shorts and Richie’s socks, Eddie shrieking on his bed when Richie tickles him, Eddie under him as they kiss, Eddie rolling his eyes when Richie says something stupid, Eddie giving him looks when they are with their friends, Eddie throwing him folded pieces of paper in class that have messages like youre a dumbass or i like your hair or lets meet later at your place. Richie revels in the fact that they like each other like this, that they can kiss and make out like this, even if it’s in the forest without anyone looking.
“Richie,” Eddie mumbles when Richie mouths at his neck, pressing his tongue against Eddie’s skin.
“Do you,” Richie begins, but cuts himself off when Eddie puts his leg between Richie’s. “Do you know,” he tries again, “that I, I carved our initials? In the bridge?”
Eddie pulls away immediately. Richie whines but Eddie puts his forefinger over Richie’s lips when he leans on for a kiss. “You what?”
“I was thirteen,” Richie says, as if that explained everything. It was only five years ago, his brain supplies, but Richie ignores that. “I thought it was a good idea.”
“Richie,” Eddie says. His eyes are shinning and his lips curl up in a smile.
Richie feels his cheeks growing hot—maybe it wasn’t a good idea, to tell Eddie. “Y’know what, forget it. I didn’t say anything.”
“You liked me when we were thirteen?” Eddie asks. His thumbs are drawing circles over Richie’s hipbones. “Richie,” he repeats. “That’s so sweet.”
“Fuck you,” Richie shoots back, but he’s smiling. Eddie pecks him on the lips and then, unexpectedly, hugs him. He hides his face in the crook between Richie’s neck and his collarbone and doesn’t speak for a while. “Eds?”
Eddie shakes his head. “Shut up,” he mumbles.
“Hey. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I. I just. Shut up.”
“It’s just,” Eddie says, “I like you a lot, okay?”
Richie feels his chest swell with emotion. He almost feels like crying. “I like you a lot too, Eddie Spaghetti.” He tangles his hands in Eddie’s hair like he wanted to do so badly all those years ago and pretends he doesn’t notice when Eddie starts crying.
After a while, Eddie slides his hand inside the pocket of Richie’s trousers. “Um—”
“It’s something I wrote,” Eddie explains. “Read it later. When you are alone.”
“What is it?”
“Later,” Eddie repeats. Then he kisses Richie.
“Rich,” his mom says, a little worried. “Richie. Sweetie. What are you doing?”
Richie shakes his head as he looks frantically around the boxes in the attic, throwing stuff away as he looks for the goddamned letter. He knows he had it when he moved out of Derry and he knows it has to be here somewhere, in his parents’ attic. It has to be. It’s the missing link, the last piece of the puzzle.
“Richie,” his mom repeats. “You broke up with your girlfriend? She was so sweet.”
“No, mom, no.” He says. He wipes the tears away and keeps looking, he looks everywhere but the letter isn’t anywhere to be found. “It isn’t here,” he mumbles. “It’s not.”
“Richie.” His mom crouches beside him and puts an arm around him, rests her head on his shoulder. “What’s wrong? You sounded happy the other day on the phone. What happened with Rebeca?”
It’s just like he’s back in Derry, when he was thirteen and everyone wanted to know why he couldn’t get any girlfriends. Richie always wanted to scream, because I don’t like girls! And then he wanted to say, because I’m fucking Eddie! But he didn’t because he was afraid of what the others might say, of how they might react. He’s been trying for the past ten years to pretend he was something he wasn’t, he’s been trying so hard. But he’s so tired. He’s twenty-three but he feels like he’s sixty.
“Mom,” he says, teary-eyed and shaking so hard Richie’s afraid he’s going to break down. “I like someone else.”
“Oh, but that’s okay, you—”
Richie sobs and shakes his head, letting her hug him. “It’s a boy, mom. I like—another boy.”
His mom is silent for a couple of minutes and Richie thinks this is it, this is the part where she throws me out of the house. But she only hugs him tighter and plants a kiss on his temple. She murmurs, “Is it Eddie?”
He opens his mouth to answer, but when Richie tries to force out his voice he only manages to gasp and sob some more, so he nods. Up to this moment, Richie hadn’t realized how bad he’d missed Eddie. Now that he remembers him he remembers everything, the way they held hands when no one was looking and the way Eddie looked at him whenever Richie called him Eds or Eddie Spaghetti, a mix of anger and fondness, how Eddie made him feel when he was at his lowest, how he stupidly carved R + E when he was thirteen.
“I really love him,” he splutters to his mom, words he’d been too afraid to say back then but that now he wishes he’d said. Richie remembers everything so clearly his head hurts, but as hard as he tries he can’t remember what the letter said.
“Oh, Richie,” his mom says, brushing his hair with her fingers. “I remember you two, always inside your room laughing, but I never thought you felt like this.”
Richie stills for a moment. Then, “You remember?”
“Yes. I—well, I think I saw but I didn’t believe it. You were seventeen I think, and you told me you liked a girl… Carolina I think was her name.” Richie told her he liked Carolina because he didn’t want her to worry because everyone had girlfriends and he didn’t. “And one day Eddie came over and you two were in your room; I was going to bring you watermelon because I knew it was Eddie’s favorite, but the door was half opened and you were talking in whispers and I couldn’t help myself.” A pause. “You were kissing, I think. I couldn’t hear you but I saw how you held hands, and then you were kissing. I didn’t want to interrupt. I can’t believe I couldn’t remember until a few days ago.”
Richie splutters, his face growing hot. He can’t believe his mom saw him and Eddie kiss. But she’s not done talking.
“I remembered a couple days after you called. I’d meant to call you back but I forgot. I came to the attic to look for some things because I got nostalgic and found interesting stuff. Now,” she says, pulling Richie back to look him in the eyes, “tell me what you’re looking for.”
Richie sniffs. He’s too embarrassed to even care at this point. “He wrote me a letter. Before I went to college, Eddie wrote me a letter.”
“A letter. What did it say?”
“I can’t remember.”
His mom smiles softly, her hand cupping Richie’s jaw. “Sweetie, I think I found it.”
Richie yawns as he waits for Eddie to get the phone. His head has been bothering him for a week now, but he’s not going to miss a call with Eddie just because he feels like he might puke at any moment.
“You’re early,” Eddie says when he picks up the phone, but Richie can hear the smile.
“Hello to you too.”
“Have you forgotten me yet?”
“Me? I think you mistook me for someone else, Eddie Spaghetti.”
“Yeah? And why’s that?”
“I couldn’t forget you,” Richie whispers to the phone, “in a million years.”
“Nope. I don’t think I could even if I tried.”
“You’re so sappy, Richie.”
“But you like it, right?”
Eddie hesitates. Then he laughs. “Yes,” he says. “Yes, I love it.”
Richie is biting his lower lip so hard he draws blood. He doesn’t think he’s ever been this nervous. He waits and waits and waits and thinks that maybe Eddie doesn’t have the same number anymore, that maybe he never gets calls from strangers, that maybe he remembers Richie but doesn’t want to talk to him. Maybe maybe maybe. Richie is starting to think that he’s about to crawl out of his own skin when someone says, “Hello?”
“Hello?” Richie answers, desperately. It’s him, he recognizes his voice, it’s him it’s him it’s Eddie. “Hello? Eddie? I’m, it’s, it’s Richie. Tozier. I don’t know if you remember, but—”
“No,” Eddie says.
“No,” he repeats.
“Eddie, listen, I didn’t remember until—”
There’s a sob. “Richie?”
Richie opens his mouth, but he can’t bring himself to say anything. Eddie continues, “Is this really you? Richie from Derry? Richie?”
“Oh my god,” Richie cries. “Oh my god.”
Richie thinks back to a couple of hours ago, when he and his mom were looking through the yellow pages of New York, desperate to read Edward Kaspbrak. Richie thinks back eleven years ago, when Eddie kissed him properly after the mess of their first kiss, and new tears flow to his eyes when he remembers that Eddie choke on his own spit—or maybe Richie’s—and had a coughing fit. He thinks back when they were eleven and Richie didn’t know what to do with his crush so he just joked about fucking Eddie’s mom. He thinks back when they were eighteen and Eddie kissed him goodbye.
“Richie?” Eddie asks.
“When can I see you?”
“When I was five I ate a butterfly.”
“Ew, gross. When I was eleven I hit myself with a rock,” Eddie says.
“When I was like five I went out without a coat and ended up in the hospital with pneumonia.”
“When I was thirteen I almost got eaten by a clown.”
Richie giggles. “That isn’t fair. It happened to me too.”
Eddie rolls around until he’s on his side, facing Richie. “You’re a big baby.”
When Richie sticks his tongue out at him, Eddie scrunches his nose and tells him, “Your breath smells like nicotine.”
“You love nicotine,” Richie tells him. He takes Eddie’s hand under the comforter and squeezes. “I’m starting to wonder if you only kiss me because I taste like nicotine.”
“Fuck, you got me.” Eddie puts a leg over Richie and presses closer to him, their faces inches apart. “I’m sorry Richie, this can’t go on any longer.”
“Ah, I knew it. Fucking nicotine.”
Richie leans on and, cradling Eddie’s cheek with his free hand, he kisses him. They have gotten better at it over the past months, and now Eddie doesn’t giggle every time something sounds weird or when one of them moans. When this started, Richie couldn’t get a kiss out of him because Eddie would start laughing as soon as Richie put his hand on Eddie’s waist or when Richie moaned too loudly.
But now they kiss and kiss and kiss and it doesn’t look like it’s ever going to stop.
Richie’s waiting by the Starbucks when he sees Eddie walking towards him. Richie’s hands are shaky and he drops the cup he’d ordered for himself to the floor, coffee spilling all around him but he can’t take his eyes off Eddie, taller but still short, his suit and his tie and his hair, his freckled face and his eyes, wide and shiny. He can’t move and so he can’t stop himself when he starts crying.
Eddie walks to him, and the first thing he says when he’s in front of Richie is: “It’s you.”
Richie snaps out of his reverie and laughs, an honest-to-god laugh that he could swear brings life back to his body. “Fuck you, Kaspbrak. Who do you think I was?”
Eddie shakes his head but laughs at the same time he wipes the tears out of Richie’s eyes. “You’re still an asshole.”
“Hey,” Richie protests, grabbing Eddie’s tie and pulling him closer. “I’m the one that found you.”
“God,” Eddie mumbles, “Richie.”
Eddie leans on for a kiss, but Richie stops him. “Wait,” he says. Eddie rolls his eyes. “I’ve got to say something first.”
“What is it?”
“Eddie Spaghetti,” he says, “I’m completely, entirely in love with you.”
Then they kiss.
I know you think letters are lame, but since we’re are going our separate ways in a couple of months to go to college I wanted to give you something special. And since I don’t have any money, the letter came to mind. You can read it if you ever miss me when you are in Los Angeles if you want. Or you can throw it away after you read it, I don’t really care what you do with it.
This is going to sound super sappy and I wanted to tell you in person but every time I as much as think about it I get all flustered and you laugh and then we always end up kissing and I can’t tell you, so: I really, really like you. Like, a lot. We’ve been… dating… or whatever for a year now, but I want you to know that I’ve
loved liked you ever since we were, like, thirteen. Only I didn’t exactly know it was that until a few years back when you started hooking up with Annie and I got so mad I almost kicked you in the balls when you told us you were kind of dating her.
But anyway. I’m going to NY to college, they gave me a scholarship and I think it’s a good place to start anew. I suppose I’ll tell you this in person but I also wanted to tell you in this letter, in case you ever forget where I am. Because sometimes you are very intelligent, but other times you are so dumb you make me question my life choices.
This is the part that really makes me nervous to say out loud. Richie. Can you promise me that we’re always going to be friends? I don’t know if we’re always going to be
boyfriends like this because you saw how well that ended for Bev and Bill, but promise me we’ll always be friends. I don’t think I could ever find someone as fantastic as you, someone whose company I enjoy as much as I enjoy yours. It doesn’t matter if we don’t talk in ten years, you’ll always be my best friend. And I hope I can be yours.
So. That’s all.