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Third Time's The Charm

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1) Inviting Jamie to sleep over had been questionable.

Not that it was the first time. Just the first time since she’d broken up with Eddie and run away for the summer — well, worked at a sleep-away camp. But she couldn’t deny that Eddie wasn’t the only person she’d been avoiding. Not that she’d cut off contact with Jamie completely. In fact, she’d used all of her weekly calls to talk to her best friend… and written her weekly letters, none of which she’d sent.

2) Breaking into her mother’s wine supply had been ill-advised.

Her mother, who she had yet to see. Not that she’d been expecting a red carpet reception when she’d arrived home earlier today. But maybe… a reception? It’s not like 8 on a Friday night was a unreasonable hour.

Really it had been for the best, though.

Dani no longer had to feel guilty for not speaking to Karen in over two months — since stopping for gas and using a payphone to let her mother know she was almost at camp (“He won’t wait for you, Danielle. And then you’ll be starting senior year without a boyfriend. Is that what you want?”) — and she had the house to herself.

She hadn’t even had to call Jamie to invite her over because Jamie, who’d known her for not even a year yet, had already been waiting on her doorstep when she’d pulled into the driveway. With a bouquet, no less. And that crooked smile that always made Dani’s heart melt. And a tan that Dani had… not anticipated. Which was comical, considering…

“Hydrangeas. Mrs. Harrison said I could have some, so.”

Jamie had spent her summer working around town as a landscaper. (“Glorified waterin’ can, more like.”) And over nine phone calls, it had become very clear that Jamie loved the work, even if she did have to deal with some sexist neighbors who refused to hire her for “a man’s job.”

“Jamie, they’re beautiful…”

3) Kissing Jamie had been where it all went wrong.

It wasn’t the flowers alone that sent her over the edge. Not even the wine, exactly, though it certainly hadn’t helped. A glass and a half in, and her head had felt fuzzy. “Mom would be so ashamed,” she’d thought to herself with a giggle. She’d giggled a lot, actually — which had been especially inappropriate since Jamie’s Blockbuster pick had been Friday The 13th. But Jamie hadn’t seemed to mind. Jamie had teased her with that cheeky little smirk that made Dani feel tingly. Jamie had looked at her more than the TV.

Jamie enjoyed her company for what it was. That’s the realization Dani had come to as the credits rolled, sitting on the couch with her arm around Jamie’s shoulders and Jamie’s head on her right one. So much for not being a lightweight, too… Then again, Jamie had been up since 5:30, and they hadn’t even started the movie until 10.

“Fuck. Sorry.”

Jamie had jerked her head up, looking so meek. Like she’d done something wrong. Like there was no way Dani could’ve liked it. And that’s what had finally broken Dani. That’s when she’d pulled Jamie closer, cupped Jamie’s cheek with her free hand before Jamie could turn away in shame and reassured her in the only way she could think of.

It had done the exact opposite.

Not only had Jamie not kissed her back. She’d yelped in surprise, and then gone speechless when Dani immediately pulled back — just stared at her, wide-eyed and rapidly losing color.

“Jamie…”

I don’t know what to say.

Before she could even apologize, Jamie had practically jumped off the couch, out of her arms, and run to the bathroom. Leaving Dani to slump back against the couch and add another tally to worst things I’ve ever done.

(“Danielle, I love you!”)

At least she wouldn’t have to see Eddie again until school started. The O’Mara’s always went on vacation to Lake Michigan at the end of the summer. The O’Mara’s and her, for a decade.

Not that she regretted her decision. It was the fact that she didn’t, actually, that made her feel guilty. Though she did miss him, of course. He was the closest thing she’d ever had to a brother, which felt kinda twisted to say after dating him for the past three years. But it was the truth. She’d felt more kissing Jamie just now than she’d ever felt kissing Eddie.

And wasn’t that just her luck.

Not that it was Jamie’s fault. If Jamie wasn’t interested, she wasn’t interested. God, Jamie could be straight for all she knew. When she’d asked if Jamie was seeing anyone last year — not in that way, just to get to know her new classmate, her new lockermate — Jamie had been cagey, so Dani hadn’t asked again, not wanting to make her uncomfortable.

What if Jamie didn’t even want to be her friend anymore? After all,Jamie had probably assumed she was straight.

Dani heard a click now and sat up, looking over the back of the couch. Jamie closed the bathroom door, and Dani sat back down sideways as Jamie walked back over. But Jamie’s eyes remained glued to the carpet; and when she sat down on the edge of the couch, wringing her hands in her lap, she was several inches farther away than she’d been.

“I’m so sorry, Jamie. It - it won’t happen again. I promise.”

She had to practically choke out the words, but she meant them.

“S’okay.”

Maybe she really had read this all wrong from the start. Mistaken Jamie’s selflessness for affection.

“No, it’s not. You’re - ”

“I’m fine!”

Dani couldn’t help flinching. She knew Jamie had a temper. Everyone at school did. But it had never been directed at her.

“Sorry.” She’d already forgiven her, but Jamie did look genuinely remorseful as she looked at her, finally. “Just, uh…” Jamie cleared her throat — as she often did, even over the phone. “Caught me off-guard, is all.”

Dani wasn’t sure what possessed her not to just leave it there. Or apologize again. But to smirk at Jamie.

“Or was I just bad?”

“No! I…” Jamie gulped, ducking her head. “I don’t think so.”

Dani snorted. Jamie was far sweeter than she cared to give herself credit for.

“Don’t think so?”

She expected Jamie to laugh, to relent, to resume the playful roasting Dani loved. But Jamie didn’t say anything as she looked away, quickly but not quickly enough for Dani to miss the added color blossoming on her cheeks or the way her lips quivered.

“Oh…” Dani couldn’t breathe. “My god. Oh my god!”

“I’m gonna go.”

Jamie’s voice was raspy, barely above a whisper, as she bolted off the couch, and Dani felt worse still.

“No! Wait, I - ” Jamie was running up the basement steps before Dani even got to her feet shakily. “I didn’t mean it like that!”

Only to immediately trip.

***

“Fuck!”

First, Jamie had lost her dignity. And now she’d lost her shoes. Or, rather, left them inside. Downstairs. Kicked them off so she could kick her socked feet up on the coffee table. She was trash, but she wasn’t a tool.

Well, that was her answer, wasn’t it? Anyone who might look at her funny on the walk home probably would’ve looked at her funny anyway. And she was already halfway across Dani’s lawn. Fuck shoes.

Except… they were one of her only pairs. And her favorite, tattered as they were. And… Dani liked them.

“Oh, thank god.”

It wasn’t fair, the way her heart still swooped at the sound of Dani’s voice. Breathless, at the moment. She slowly, and only partially reluctantly, turned around to find Dani stepping out onto her front porch, panting… and holding her Black Hi Top All-Stars. There was no point in leaving now, Jamie supposed, as she shoved her hands in her pockets — not until she got her shoes back.

“Thanks.”

She muttered it, not even looking Dani in the eye. But she still said it. She did not, however, reach for the shoes when Dani offered them, waiting for her to set them down on the lawn instead. Maybe Jamie had a shred of dignity left, after all. Or maybe it was just her good old self-preservation kicking in again — eleven months too late. Clearing her throat, she bent down and picked up her shoes. She could make it around the corner at least before putting them on.

“Jamie.”

She could hear it in her voice, but seeing the tears in Dani’s eyes — as she looked up, despite herself — well, it didn’t make it easier to blink back her own.

“S’all good.”

She nodded, trying for a smile. Probably not succeeding.

I’m the one who should be ashamed.”

Wait, Dani had come all the way out here just to double down? Seriously?

“I - I never would’ve - ”

Jamie felt a sneer curling her lips.

“Kissed me if you’d known?”

“Of course not.”

Well, then.

“See ya at school.”

She didn’t look back as she continued across the lawn, but she couldn’t shut her ears off.

“Jamie?”

Nor could she stop herself from rolling her eyes at Dani’s confused tone. This was how it had been all along, though, wasn’t it? She’d been a good enough distraction from Eddie, but now she wasn’t a good enough experiment. Yet Dani wanted her to stick around anyway. And she was supposed to be grateful.

“Jamie!”

Jamie flung shoes down on the edge of the lawn and spun around as her eyes burned.

“Look, I’m sorry for not advertisin’ the fact that I’ve never snogged anyone! But you came onto me! And you regrettin’ it now is not my problem!”

It should’ve felt good. Would’ve felt good, probably, if not for her starting with her deepest insecurity, throwing a voice crack in the middle and ending in tears. But, all in all…

“I don’t.”

It was so quiet Jamie almost didn’t hear Dani over her own breakdown. But even through blurry eyes, there was no mistaking Dani approaching.

“I don’t regret it.” Jamie sniffled pathetically as Dani took her hands. “I’ve - I’ve wanted to do it… for a long time.”

Even as she felt her heart swoop again, Jamie couldn’t quiet the voice in the back of her head and chuckled harshly.

“And yet you’re ashamed.”

“Because I stole your first kiss!”

Tears were streaming down Dani’s face now. But Jamie, it was like the levy breaking. She’d always been a cryer, much to her chagrin. But not like this. Not when Louise had left. Not in the group homes. Not when she’d finally been shipped off to the States because the system didn’t know what else to do with her and an American businessman had promised to come back from his trip with a child for his lonely wife.

No, she hadn’t cried like this since Mikey had been taken from her.

“I’m sorry.” Dani was holding her. Jamie wasn’t even sure when it had happened. But Dani was stroking her hair, rubbing her back, as she bawled into her shoulder, arms crossed over her own chest, pinned against Dani’s. “I’m so sorry.”

Jamie whimpered but then cleared her throat hard.

“You didn’t.” It still came out garbled, and she coughed. “Didn’t… steal it.”

“Jay.”

(“Hey, Jay… Sorry, Jay-Jamie, are you, umm, doing anything this weekend?”)

“I… wan’ed it… to be you.”

She felt Dani loosen her grip and lifted her head up, sniffling, to find Dani looking at her in… in awe? Feeling heat rise to cheeks, she ducked her head, laughing awkwardly.

“Not that I was savin’ maself or anythin’.” She cleared her throat and rubbed her face, starting to get a hold of herself again. “Never made much of an effort, though. Not, uh… much of a people person, in case ya hadn’t noticed.”

Jamie smiled a little to herself as she heard Dani let out a watery chuckle and rubbed the back of her neck as Dani’s hands ghosted over her hips.

“And I knew bein’ gay n’ all. Wouldn’t have as many options. But I dunno. I just…” Jamie cleared her throat again, looking back up as she went to shove her hands in her pockets but felt Dani take them instead. “Assumed it would happen eventually, ya know?”

Dani nodded, and the gentle yet focused look on her face almost made Jamie burst into tears all over again.

“By the time, I moved here, though… But then I met you.” Dani smiled; and, Christ, even with tear-stained cheeks, she was radiant. “And I - honestly, I figured it was pointless to hope for.”

Jamie’s heart clenched as Dani’s face fell in an instant, and she squeezed Dani’s hands as she tried for a smile again. Felt it working this time.

“But it was hope.”

Slowly, Dani’s smile came back to life, even warmer. Or was it Dani’s cheeks that were getting warmer?

“Can I, umm, can I be your first second kiss… too?”

This was her moment. This was her chance. Why couldn’t she fuckin’ do it?

“Sorry, I - ” Dani’s blush was quite evident now. “Obviously, it’s fine if you don’t - ”

“No, I do!”

To her credit, Dani didn’t laugh at the outburst. She was clearly fighting a smile, though, and Jamie cleared her throat yet again.

“I just, uh… I don’t want to… disappoint ya.”

She couldn’t make it through it without looking down, though that didn’t help much considering Dani was holding her hands.

“Hey.” Dani squeezed them. “Look at me… Jay.”

Unfair pulling out what Jamie was sure would one day be her ‘teacher tone.’ But she chuckled as she complied and found Dani smiling softly.

“I’ve wanted this for a long time.”

“So really no pressure, then.”

Dani rolled her eyes, and Jamie’s heart tripped over itself, then pounded as Dani proceed to reach up and tuck a few of her curls behind her ear.

“I’ve been waiting for you, Jamie. The only thing that matters to me… is that it’s you. And that you feel com- ”

Fuck, what was she doing?

“Sorry! I’m sorry.”

Jamie pulled her hands off Dani’s cheeks and ran them through her own hair as she folded in on herself. She didn’t know much. But she was fairly certain kissing Dani was not supposed to involve breaking her nose. There wasn’t any blood on Dani’s face, though. In fact, Dani was… grinning. Beaming, even. And Jamie couldn’t help returning it a little, even as her face burned.

“Told ya I would screw it up.”

Dani raised an eyebrow.

“Do I look disappointed?”

Jamie gulped, blushing even harder. Since when had she become such a simp?

Well, no. That was the thing. She never had been, had she? Because Dani had never once treated her as lesser than. Dani had gone out of her way, in fact, to try and prove to her that she wasn’t — whether it was slipping notes into her locker before an exam or sitting with her in the cafeteria when no one else would, including Eddie, or introducing herself on that very first day, only to get a grunt in reply.

“Ya know what they say, though…” Jamie snapped out of it just in time to watch Dani’s confidence falter. “Third, umm, third time’s - ”

Jamie bobbed her head embarrassingly quickly, embarrassingly hard. And yet she couldn’t bring herself to feel even an ounce of mortification. Only excitement. Well, okay, maybe a little nerves too. Especially as Dani, beaming once more, gripped her wrists and guided hands back to her face.

“Okay, umm, you tend to tilt your head to the left, so…”

She did? How would Dani even know that?

Dani erupted into giggles, and Jamie flushed as she realized she was literally titling her head to the left in contemplation.

“Why do you think I sat on the left side of the couch?”

What?

Dani flushed now as her smile turned sheepish, and Jamie felt the corner of her mouth curve up as her heart fluttered. Dani really had wanted it. All of it.

“Anyway.” Dani swallowed. “Since yours tilts to the left, tilt my head to the left too… Sorry, my left. Your right.”

Fuckin’ hell. Dani wasn’t snickering, though, as she let go of her wrists. She was actually looking at her quite intently, a little south of her eyeline. Jamie felt her mouth go dry.

“And then…”

“Yeah.” Dani swallowed again, as her eyes flicked back up, then smiled ruefully. “Sorry, I - I’ve never really tried to teach this before.”

Before Jamie could make a flirty quip, Dani blanched.

“Oh, god. That sounded really patronizing. I didn’t…”

Jamie leaned in, closing her eyes.

“Can I kiss ya, Dani?”

She couldn’t feel Dani’s nose at all, which she figured was a good sign — though, admittedly, she did feel rather foolish and uncomfortable titling her head almost sideways. Particularly without an answer. But then she felt a hand on her chin, another on the top of her head, tilting her closer to center. Close enough to feel the side of Dani’s nose nuzzle against her own as Dani wrapped her arms around her neck and exhaled.

Please do.”

And Jamie did.