I stepped outside, the chilled night air lightly nipping at my skin. I pulled my jacket tighter around myself as I walked around the outside of the building. Cole would be here somewhere. Far away enough from the entrance that no one would bother him, but close enough that the smell from the dumpsters at the back of the building wouldn’t carry to his hypersensitive nose.
I found Cole standing in a small alcove in the side of the building, leaning against the brick wall. He looked relaxed, but I’d had seen this exact scene so many times that I knew that might not be the case. Cole had his necklace in his mouth – a red circle with a bite taken out of it, like an eclipse – and was turning his forearm quickly, so that a clicking noise was made when his fingers hit the palm of his hand. It doesn’t have to go how I planned. There’s always more time, right? Not for Cole, but I tried not to think about that. We still had, what, three years? Three years. I didn’t need my notebook to remember that.
Cole briefly glanced at me. He took his necklace out of his mouth and tucked it inside his shirt. I almost told him not to, but remembered we hadn’t had that conversation yet. The thought of it made my stomach twist. Cole had asked if he should ask Emma out, and I said yes. I’d already seen what happened when I tried to convince him not to. It was always the same. Maybe this time – maybe now that I thought I had my feelings figured out – it would be different.
“I brought your jacket.” The last couple time loops, I hadn’t realized he’d left his jacket inside, so we got interrupted by Hank.
Cole slipped it on wordlessly.
Next was the waiting. After… I didn’t know what would happen. We’d never made it past that. Would we just get interrupted again, for some other reason I hadn’t thought of, or would I actually get to say it? It really didn’t matter – three years, and I’d get another shot – but I’d been mentally preparing himself for today, playing the conversation over in my head, trying to get the words right. It had to be today.
Cole pushed his bangs back. I don’t think that’s happened before... I almost reached into my pocket for the notebook. No, I have to do this on my own.
“Cole… can we talk?”
“Us. Our relationship.”
“What… what do you mean?”
Every fear came back. What if he doesn’t like guys? What if he doesn’t like me? What if this changes everything? What if this doesn’t work? What if he’s too into Emma right now? What if he finds out what’s going on with me, what happens to him? What if he learns everything, and doesn’t believe me?
Three years and he’ll forget. But I’ll always remember.
“Damian, are you okay?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.”
If this is going to work, he can’t find out. He can’t know.
I wiped the tears out of my eyes and pushed back a couple dreads that had come out of my ponytail. There wasn't time for this. “I’m in love with you.”
“Me? Are you serious?”
“Yeah. Of course I am.” How could I not be, after spending these years with you over and over again, only for you to die every time?
“You’re in love with me.” He started clicking his hand again. “I wasn’t expecting that.”
I waited for him to figure out what to say. The first time I’d lived through these three years, I hadn’t known how hard it was for him to put words together sometimes. I hadn’t known that one day, someone who’d always been there, who you always thought would be there, could just be gone. There was so much I didn't know back then.
“I guess I never thought about you like that before.” At least now I know. “But I’ve had a feeling lately… I think it’s a crush.”
He likes me. He actually likes me.
“Can I kiss you?” Cole asked.
We leaned toward each other. “Wait a sec – you cleaned off your make-up, right?”
“With extra remover wipes, just to make sure.”
“Thanks.” His smile, right before we kissed, was one I’d never seen before. And the kiss – the physicality of it wouldn’t do it justice. It was a promise, that I would be there until the end. Until the three-year expiration date, when he’d die again, when I’d be thrust back to just a few days before this one.
Unless it all changed, because of this. I could only hope.
“Will you go out with me?” He asked. “I can’t promise I’ll be any good at this, but I’ll try.”
“Yes.” I’d been waiting for so long to say that word, to possibly change something.
He reached for my hand. I intertwined my fingers with his. I was never going to give up on him. “Is this okay?”
“Here it is. Maybe out of sight of my parents. I’d rather tell them once we’re back home.” I didn’t need them worrying about me being distracted.
“I didn’t think about that. That’s probably a smart idea.”
We stood there, holding hands, as the stars started coming out. “Emily told me once that girls from other teams tell her she’s really lucky to get two guys on her team.”
“Really? We compete, too!”
“It’ll be funny when they find out the two guys are dating.”
“Can I kiss you again?”
As long as you’re alive.