It had been months since the last time Josh had visited his brother back at his place- months, literally. He was working hard because he wanted to make it, make everyone proud, true, but grades weren’t the only reason.
The truth- the actual truth- was that he was avoiding a certain blonde… well, hurricane (because he really didn’t know how to else describe one Miss Maya Hart), because he was confused (and also, he felt like an idiot: who, at 17, gets all weird and shy and awkward looking at a 14 years girl he had known since she was, like, 3 years old?).
On one hand, he liked her (as in, like-like), but on the other hand, there was the fact that she was 14 and he was 3 years older than her; in a matter of weeks, he would have turned 18, and then, even stealing at glimpse at her would have meant jail- which wouldn’t have been any good for his academics, let alone life in general.
But… but, there was this one, huge thing he had considered again and again and again and… well, yeah, after hearing from Cory that she was dating Mister Perfect Blond (at the expenses of that silly girl who happened to be his niece) he had started to see red. Because… he knew the issues. But he also liked her. And he couldn’t hide it any longer.
At first, he had thought about keeping his trap shout; it would have been the best option for everyone involved. But then, Topanga had asked him not to come over- but simply where he planned to spend New Year’s Eve, stating how at midnight it meant the world to be with the right people, the ones you truly care about instead of strangers at some random frat party at his dorm.
At first, he didn’t want to go- even if he had been able to see her death glare from the phone (and no- it wasn’t a video-call, but Topanga Matthews had a way with words and glares, and there was no need to actually see her glaring to, well, see her glaring)- and had considered all the options.
His parents? No. It was the first New Year’s Eve they were having for themselves in 37 years, and he wasn’t going to ruin it for them- especially the Old Man.
Eric? Nope. The former mayor of St. Upidity was busy with the Senate- and, quoting his eldest brother, “partying hard the senatory way” (even if he doubted that senatory could be an actual word) with a reformed Jack and TJ.
Random people at his dorm? Yes, he could have, but Cory would have looked like a lost puppy, and Topanga would have never forgiven him for having broken her innocent, little husband’s heart. Of course he didn’t like the idea of being the… odd wheel, with his brother and his wife, Riley and the guy she was dating, and Farkle and his girlfriend and then Maya and Lucas, but, who knew? Maybe he would have been lucky, and Auggie wouldn’t have been followed around by Ava, making the two of them singles- at least for the evening.
But… if he had to be honest… when Topanga had implied being with someone he cared about at midnight… well, the first face that that hopped into his mind had been Maya’s.
But then… then, he had arrived on the rooftop, ready to tell her at midnight that he liked her, and that maybe, just maybe, it meant letting her go- for now- because they were too young, but then… then he had seen her with Lucas, all close and everything, and he didn’t know what was wrong and right any longer: he just knew that he liked her too much, cared too much to ruin this for her, and he wasn’t going to be selfish about it.
He was going to let her go, and who knew? Maybe one day, when they would have been both in college…. They would have met, and fallen in love in the right way. If it was destiny. If it wasn’t, they would have grown up from the experience. Eventually. Maybe. Or, who knew, maybe not. He was a little broken-hearted, after all.
Midnight came, and not even his nephew was alone- he was sitting at the side of Riley’s date, who had turned out not to be her date after all- and he wondered if getting to his niece, but then decided against it, because she still was with her friends, and he didn’t want to intrude. With a grim smile, he went back into the darkness of the staircase, ready to retreat to the apartment and fall asleep on the couch, or maybe just get a taxi and forget about it for the rest of his life, but then…
Then, someone grabbed him for his arm, not with strength, but delicately, like they weren’t’ sure of their actions, and when he turned, his eyes met with Maya’s trembling ones.
“Were you really leaving? Without even saying a word?” She asked, her voice low, sad; her eyes were now fixed on the concrete, and he wondered how the hell he managed to keep breaking her heart again and again and again, even if he didn’t mean to- this time, in particular. How can she not see that he was trying to do some good? That he wished for her to be fine?
“I… heard about Lucas.” He simply said. He mentally slapped himself: what was he saying? Why was he saying that? And… strange enough… she got mad because of his words. Or at least he guessed as much- if the slap meant something. “Ouch. What was that for?”
Maya closed her eyes, took a big breath, but he could see she was fuming. “You know what the problem is? Peer pressure! Just because I care about Lucas and I dare to show it, suddenly everyone wants for us to be together! And has anyone asked me what I think about it? Nope! They just want me to jump into this, assuming that they know how I feel and that they can tell me how I feel!” she took a step forward, and at the same time, still massaging his face, Josh took a step back. “What are you doing?”
“Retreating? You carry a mean punch for such a short-stack of pancakes.” She took another step forward, sending him directly against the wall, and lifted her closed fist, menace clear in her light eyes. “Sorry?”
She lowered her fist, looked at him, with a sad smile. “What are you doing here, Josh? Really?”
She was so sweet, and delicate, and innocent and vulnerable in that precise moment that he knew he couldn’t pretend, couldn’t lie to her any longer. Not now. So, he lazily took her hand in his own, and massaged her knuckles with his thumb, looking at his finger drawing invisibles circles on her skin.
“I guess… I wanted to be with someone who mattered? But then I saw you with St. Huckleberry The Perfect and I guessed you already had…” He froze as he saw her smirking, her face turning into a grin. “What are you doing? Why are you smirking? Are you going to hit me again?” He asked breathless, the words merging into one only.
“Ok, let me get this straight. I like Lucas. And I love him. But I don’t like-like him, and I’m not in love with him. You got it?”
“Yeah?” It sounded more like a question, which Maya didn’t appreciate. “I’m sorry, but I fear that you’ll hit me anyway. Was it the wrong thing to say? I feel like it was the wrong thing to say.”
“Ooohhh… Uncle Boing is scared of me!” She chuckled. “You know, I like that in a man.”
“Yeah?” He asked, clearing his voice and taking back a little bit of control. As she nodded, he smirked a little, and, re-straitening his clothes , he took a couple of steps closer to her, making Maya gasp in surprise- and blush. A lot. “Well, I don’t like being called Boing. Or uncle Boing. Especially by you, gorgeous.”
“So… what was that? A “another child took my toy” thing? Because if it is, I don’t think I want to have anything to do with it, because frankly I’m far too good for….” But her rambling was stopped by his lips on her owns, a quick, soft kiss, a little bit more than a peck, but enough to… well, give her hope.
Josh smiled, happy, his cheeks a little flushed. “Happy New Year, Maya.” He said, a bit shy, his hands in his pockets.
“Ok, you know what? The hell with it!” Maya thought at loud; she grabbed him for the lapels of his jacket, and brought him down to her level, and properly kissed him on the mouth like she meant business, almost ferociously; Josh, at first, was too surprised to do anything about it, but then, Maya grinned against his mouth, and her curious tongue teased his mouth and he couldn’t help but moan and start participating, his fingers suddenly running through her soft locks.
And then… as soon as it had started, the kiss ended, with Josh, a little scared, a little panicking, with his back against the cold wall. “Wait… we can’t do that again! Because… I know we like each other, but there’s still the fact that I’m 3 years younger than you and I a few months I’ll be 18 and, Maya, I like you, a lot, and I know you are far more mature than many people your own age, and I know it doesn’t feel like we are 3 years apart, but… I’m really scared of Shawn. And your mother. And Topanga. And jail.”
Maya lifted her fist again. “Josh, I’m giving you to the count of three to kiss me again, or I’ll hit you again, and I remember you saying something about a mean punch.” But Josh didn’t, he mumbled something incoherent about turning 18 and love and jail and rap sheets, and all she could do was grunting, frustrated. “The Romeo and Juliet Law.” She said, her voice law, so law he barely heard her speaking at all.
“The what?” He asked, his eyebrows lifted quizzically.
“The Romeo and Juliet Law! If it’s the fact that you’ll be 18 in a while that scares you, than don’t. Because there’s the Romeo and Juliet law, that says that since as of today we are both still under the age of 18 it’s gonna be all right even when you’ll be past it.” He looked at her more quizzically. “Look, I know that it’s shocking, but I can study when I’m interested in the subject. And no, you can’ tell anyone it- especially Mister Matthews. If someone ask, either Farkle or Mrs. Matthews told us.” She pointed a pointy, red-polished fingernails in his direction, and he didn’t doubt, for not even half a second, that she meant business- and, were they to enter into a relationship (and, apparently, they were), she would have been the one wearing pants.
Josh shook his head and smirked, and then took the last few steps separating them; he looked down at her, his hands on her shoulders, Maya smiling on tip-toes, and then, without allowing her to count to 3, he kissed her.
Again, and again, and again.
Like he meant to do for the rest of the year.
And, if he had any saying in that- for the rest of his life- their lives.