I climbed up to the window as I had done countless times, though not for a few years. Being that the window was on the second story, it had its complications, but luckily for me this particular window looked out on the roof of the patio in the back. Damien's form came into the room, and he slid the door shut behind him. Within a second, his shirt was off, and he was starting for his jeans.
Damien, easily, is the kind of guy girls would go crazy over. 24 years old, he had a perfect smile -- pearly white teeth, perfectly straight and even, the whole nine yards. It was coy, charming, mischievous, and heartwarming, sometimes all at the same time. He had a dimple in his chin, only adding to the overall charm.
His hair was a huge focus of many. It was so black that it was almost blue, it did whatever he wanted it to, and looked good longer with the just-rolled-out-of-bed style or buzzed short when he was too lazy to deal with a barber. It was the kind girls just wanted to run their fingers through, and currently was set in the former style.
The deep rumbling voice was a mark in his favor, giving him a bit of a mysterious/bad ass edge. He stood a bit over six feet and sported a perfectly chiseled body-six pack abs, strong arms, but he was lean like a swimmer rather than bulky. More than a few tattoos found their place on his arms, back and torso. Finally, the eyes they were bright green and full of emotion. The kind of eyes that could get a girl in trouble, and they only lit up further when he smiled.
I was more of what might be considered pretty in a plain sort of way -- if you could even count me as pretty at all. My dark brown reached past my shoulders, almost mid-back, but no one would ever know because it was always balled into an old lady bun. I was only about 5'5" and a bit underweight, on a good day maybe reaching 110lbs. I was a bit curvy decent ass and breasts that were a little out of proportion to my small frame again no one would ever know because I was always hiding in my clothes. I can't describe myself as toffee, or caramel, I'm more the color of a brown paper bag. My eyes were my favorite feature, dark brown with flecks of gold and eye lashes thick like a mascara commercial, and I had been told more than once that my smile could light up a room. It was just a little past my 20th birthday.
Since I was still perched outside his window and he was still undressing, I decided I did not want to be taken for a peeping Tom and tapped on the window. Damien looked up from his undone jeans and squinted towards the window. Even knowing he wouldn't be able to see me until he turned the light out in his room, I waved, thinking who the hell else would be perched on a rooftop in the middle of the night- on a night in the middle of winter no less. Finally, he turned off the light and was able to get a good look at me. One of his charming smiles spread across his lips causing me to smile in return.
After refastening his jeans, he rushed towards the window, unlatched it and threw it open; I fell through it and straight into his arms. "What are you doing here?" He asked in his deep rumble. "Aren't you freezing? I think you've graduated to using the door."
"Hell yeah I'm freezing." I responded with a bit of a laugh. "I'm not ready for the door hurry up and close the window."
He reached behind me and slammed it shut while I rubbed my hands together for heat "Come here." He turned to me and wrapped his arms around me again. It had been years since I felt a hug from him, and it was a sensation I missed every day. Even better, his body was warm against my cold skin. Damien let out a sigh. "It's so good to see you, Nikki."
"You, too, Damien. Jack ass I still can't believe you left this town without me." We both laughed, pulling out of our hug. "How are you?"
His smile faltered, and what was left was habit without a hint of truth or joy. "I'm good. I'm ok, hanging in there."
"Don't lie to me, Damien. I didn't just climb on top of a frozen fucking rooftop for that. There's no way you're okay." Damien's mother had been killed by a drunk driver less than a week earlier. He was the youngest of three brothers and easily the most fragile, though he tried to play it off that this wasn't true and was constantly trying to live up to David's- his oldest brother's- "accomplishments" and tough guy attitude.
Damien sat on the bed, looking down at his hands. After a few quiet seconds, I sat down next to him, resisting the urge to curl into a ball or wrap his blankets around myself. The bitter cold was clinging to my clothes. I put my hand on his arm, trying to be comforting. He pulled away sharply, with a slight gasp. "Sorry." He chuckled a bit. "You're hands are freezing. Get out of that coat it's keeping in all the cold air." Jack glanced around then picked up a fleece blanket. "Here, take this blanket." I shook out of my snow covered coat and pushed my shoes off my feet. He wrapped a blanket around my shoulders as I curled into myself. I guess I didn't have to resist that urge for too long, he must've been reading my mind. Damien kept both of his arms around me, rubbing his hands up and down my arms through the blanket trying to get me warm.
I caught his eye while he looked down at me and we both smiled. "I've missed you like crazy you know." Silence followed my deepest sincerity. It was the one absolute certainty in my life. He stopped rubbing, though his arms stayed around me, more out of lack of movement than conscious choice. His eyes did not catch mine again. Rather than remain in the nothingness, I broke the tension with a repeat accusation. "You always promised you'd take me with you when you got out of this rotten ass neighborhood."
He slid away from me and picked his shirt up off the floor, beginning to pull it back on. "Nikki you know I would've taken you with me if I could've but you had school, and I didn't even know where I was going to end up. I was running around the east coast with some shitty band trying to pretend I was about to be a rock star." His voice was soft. He wasn't growing annoyed or short tempered, but merely stating what he saw as facts.
"I could have been the world's best traveling fan." I said with a smirk.
"And when did you ever care about something as mundane as school, Damien?"
"Since my best friend turned out to be one of the smartest people in this neighborhood. Someone who could actually make something of herself if she stayed at it. Someone who could do better than what this neighborhood had to offer her. Someone utterly brilliant in every way. Someone who deserved more."
"Man you sure know how to flatter a girl."
He looked me straight in the eye as he spoke, but as soon as he was done he looked away. His eyes searched around the room. My stomach flipped at his admitting to thinking of me as his best friend. I was nearly four years younger than him, but from the time I was 12 and he first moved to the neighborhood, I spent more time with him than anyone else.
I was 14 the first time I crawled through his window, my parents constantly too doped up or drunk to notice or care that I spent my nights sneaking into the bedroom of a 18 year old boy. Of course, any concern they would have had would have been misplaced. He and his brothers were the siblings I had never had. They teased me and looked out for me. I imagine his mother even knew that I spent nights there, one of us sleeping on the floor; nothing ever got past her. She allowed it, though. I suppose because she felt bad for me my parents' antics were notorious. Nothing had ever gone beyond friendship between me and Damien.
I hadn't noticed until he sat down next to me again that I had allowed myself to disappear into a day dream, remembering the past. When he looked at me again, I couldn't help but smile. "So, where did you go? What did you do? I want to hear everything."
He began to tell me about everything he'd done in the past few years. Occasionally I would press him for more details, or call him out on obvious fabrications. We poked fun at ridiculous things that had happened, and I scolded him for any time he got himself into trouble. All the while we kept our voices down as to not bother any of his brothers in the house. It was exactly how things were before. We even sat cross-legged like children across from each other on the bed.
It finally came time for me to ask him the question that had been on my mind, though the answer was something I was not particularly anxious to receive. "So, how long are you staying?"
All of the laughter went out of his eyes, and it became obvious that the answer was something he was not anxious to give. "I don't know, but I'm definitely not leaving until the end of the trial. If he gets off then me and my brothers will..."
"Damien." I wanted to reach out to him, but held back.
He shook his head. "Nikki, he killed my mom. How could we let that go if he doesn't go to jail?" His eyes began to shine with the onset of tears and endless pain. "She was crossing the damn street..."
"No you don't!" I was taken aback. He had never raised his voice toward me before, but when I saw the tear fall from his eye I knew that he wasn't truly angry with me. He took a deep breath, wiping the water from his eyes, and looked at me. "I'm sorry." Damien moved toward me and shifted himself around so that he sat directly next to me with his back and mine sharing the headboard of the bed. There was nothing else to be said at that moment. So we sat in silence.
I looked down and noticed that I was half under the covers of his bed. Strangely enough, I had no recollection of pulling them over myself. "You're staying tonight, right?" Again my stomach lurched, though I tried to give nothing away in my face. "I mean, for old time's sake." He clarified. This only slightly lessened the excitement going through me at the thought of him wanting me there.
"I guess you know no one will miss me at home." We sat up for nearly an hour after that, talking, joking, and catching up some more. We avoided any more serious conversation, the closest thing being reminiscing about life before he went away and the good times we'd had with his mom.
At some point he picked out one of his t-shirts and an old pair of shorts for me to change into. They were both way too big for me, but they smelled like him and were much more comfortable than my jeans so I was glad to change. The entire time, I was very aware of his body next to mine. He was warm, as always, and sat a bit closer to me than would have been necessary on his full sized bed. A few times, his arm would brush mine, sending a jolt through my heart, but mostly I felt the rumble of his voice through the mattress.
He was just finishing up a story when my head began to droop and my eyes grew heavy. His words turned to mush in my mind. I was almost lost from consciousness when I felt his body move away from mine on the bed. Most logically, I thought that he was moving to the floor, as one of us had always done when the other fell asleep. Instead, his arms moved under my body and slid me down until I was flat on the bed, no longer propped up against the wall. His touch was gentle. He pulled the blankets further up around me and then, with a moment's hesitation, climbed back onto the bed, staying above the covers.
"You know your virtue is safe with me it's safe for us to share the covers." I yawned.
The movement of Damien getting settled pulled me out of sleep a little, but I was quickly returning. Damien's breath steadied, and I assumed he was already out. Then, as if making a last minute decision, he rolled to face me. My eyes were closed and my breathing was even; all signs pointed toward my being asleep.
He ran a finger across my face, anyway, his breath warm against my cheek. "I missed you, too, Nikki." He whispered. "More than I could ever explain. I'm so glad you're here." With those words, we were both taken by sleep. His hand still on my skin.
In the morning, I was awakened by the sound of a door opening. Only the tip of my head was exposed from under the covers. The door closed again. My guess was David had come in to rouse his lazy little brother out of bed and was confused to find the form of a girl in bed with him. Lifting my head, I saw the clock. It was only a bit past eight in the morning. The thought had barely passed through my mind that I should get up before my head was back on the pillow and I was asleep. About an hour later, I woke up again, this time ready to rise from bed. I picked my clothes from the night before and exited the room going to the bathroom. I started a hot shower and stepped in, enjoying the felling of the water against my skin. Being used to a very limited water supply, and limited time, I washed quickly.
I was just rinsing the last of the shampoo from my hair when the door opened. "Hey." David's voice rang against the walls. "I don't know what Damien told you but this isn't a flop house so when you're done you're out."
I laughed a bit to myself. "Oh, come on Davey don't be like that. You really think Damien picked up some chick and let her stay the night. Very unlikely." Finished with my shower, I shut the water off and twisted my hair back into a bun.
"Davey?" He muttered to himself. "Listen, chick, I don't know... Oh, shit. Nikki?"
I slipped my head out from behind the shower curtain, reaching for the towel against the wall. "Who else?" I gave him a smile as I wrapped the towel around myself and stepped out of the tub.
"I'll be damned." He looked at me squarely. "I should've known you'd be showing up here. I like the way you only come around when his ass shows up. I'd give you a hug, but you're a bit under dressed."
We both laughed as I began to dry myself, carefully not baring anything that wasn't meant to be bared. It was a magical gift most females seemed to be born with. "Oh come on, Davey, you know you can't keep your hands off me." For the last few years he had been around, before all the brothers split, he and I had joked around about such things.
As he was over ten years my senior (me being freshly 18 at the time that they left), it was just meaningless banter. Even now as I stood almost naked in front of him, fresh from the shower, I meant it nothing more as a joke and knew that he saw it only as such.
"Come to think of it, you are over 18 now. I guess that makes me less of a creep when I have dirty thoughts of you." I lifted up the nearest object, a tissue box, and threw it at him. He caught it with a laugh and pretended to throw it back, nearly causing me to lose my towel.
David started to walk away, but turned back at the last moment. "Hey, uh, how's he doing? He was always such a momma's boy he's taking this the hardest."
"You know, David, it wouldn't kill you to be easy with him. He thinks the world of you and just wants to be as tough as you and Darren. Half the shit he does is to impress you or prove himself to you. And as for how he is, I have no idea. He won't talk about it."
"Not even to you?"
"Not a word."
"Well, if you can't get that out of him, at least see if you can be a bit more successful at getting him out of bed"
"Sure thing, now get out of here. Wait will you find me a brush or comb. I need to get dressed and run a comb through this mess." He started to make a joke, but chose to leave the room instead.
Then, right before he closed the door, he turned back one last time. "You know the other half is for you, right?" My expression showed that I didn't understand. "Half the shit he does is to prove he's good enough for you. The kid loves you." Then he was gone.
I got dressed, put up my hair and returned to Damien's room. When I saw him, I couldn't help but think about hearing him admit to missing me and then his brother saying that Damien loved me. The thought was silly, though. Love me like a sister maybe, but definitely not anything more than that.
He was still sleeping, sprawled out on his back with an arm over his eyes, blocking out the reflection of the sun off the snow. I went and sat next to him, poking him in the side. "Hey sleepy head. You brother has charged me with the task of getting your butt out of bed."
He groaned at me and started to roll over, but I grabbed his arm. "None of that, now." He stuck his tongue out at me. "Very mature. How old are you, again?"
"24 and a half." I continued to poke him. Damien grabbed my hand quickly to keep me from continuing. I was so distracted by the electrifying feel of his hand on mine that I almost didn't hear his next words. "How's this for immaturity." He latched onto me then and started a tickle assault on my ribs. I squirmed and fought against his arms, but there was no way I was going to be any match for him. Not that I'd actually want to get away. I loved the feeling of his hands on me and the closeness of his body. For a second, I managed to tickle him back -- I had always loved the fact that a big "bad ass" like him was ticklish -- and he lost his grip on me allowing me to start to roll away. That, obviously, didn't last for long.
With my back to him, he wrapped his arms around my middle and pulled me on top of him, pinning my back against his stomach and really attacking my sides. There was absolutely nothing I could do but thrash back and forth and laugh, trying to catch my breath and trying to not kick him in the balls. A minute or two passed, and he was not letting up. "Stop! Stop, you win." I cried.
Finally, he stopped tickling, but did not let me move. I was panting and my chest heaved. "No more questioning my maturity?"
"None, absolutely not. You are the most mature person on the planet." He grabbed at my ribs quickly. "Ah! What?"
"Your sarcasm is unappreciated."
"Okay. Okay! No more questioning your maturity, and no more trying to get you out of bed for David if it can be avoided. I'll just leave that to him from now on."
I looked down toward Damien and his face changed to one of contemplation. "That actually sounds like a terrible idea. There tends to be cold water involved on David's days, and that's when he's being nice. It'd probably be better if you kept with the wake up calls. This one was actually quite effective, not to mention enjoyable." He slipped me to the side so that I slid between him and the wall, my body still pressed up against his. His arm was underneath me and he was also breathing heavily.
He rolled a bit, then, to look at me. My heart was racing, no longer because of the tickling. Our faces were only a few inches apart, and he looked straight into my eyes. For the longest second of my life, we both lay there, breathing heavily and looking into each other's eyes. My gaze dropped to his lips. Too soon, he broke the moment. "I should, uh, probably get up." With that, he slid his arm out from under me and moved away, getting off the bed. "I'm going to shower." And he left.
It would be an understatement to say that I was disappointed, but, with a heavy sigh, I accepted defeat and got up.
I spent the next week at the Hawkins' house. I cooked and cleaned trying to help where I could. They went out every day back and forth from court and the jail answering all kinds of questions. Sometimes David would tell Damien to stay at the house, which Damien took as them treating him like a baby, but I knew that it was just David's way of showing that he cared and didn't want him to get hurt or have to keep reliving that moment over and over again.
One of those nights, Damien and I were alone in the house. I sat looking through the small collection of movies under the television while he paced, speaking -- to me or to himself I'm still not sure. "This isn't fair. She was my mom, too. Fuck, I should have just ignored David and gone anyway. This is stupid; I'm going." He grabbed his coat from the side of the sofa and started toward the door.