“Alright, our final pair of the afternoon: West, Allen – you’re up.”
Barry’s heart beat triple-time against his breastbone, echoing out into his finger-tips, thrumming in the roof of his mouth, as he and Iris steeped out onto stage for their audition.
Barry’s palms sweated waterfalls.
For some reason, Mrs Hudson – the drama teacher – thought that the two of them would be a good pair for the main roles. Of a play. A play in which the male lead pines pathetically after the female lead for most of the story. Sounds familiar. And this same Mrs Hudson decided that she would pick The Scene. The Scene with The Kiss. To test if those trying out had both the chemistry and the maturity for the roles. Right.
Barry’s freaking terrified.
“When you’re ready,” Mrs Hudson gave a nonspecific gesture that may have been indicating for them to begin but may have also been pointing to the wings where Barry is sure he left his body because he can’t feel it at all.
Iris cleared her throat. It had begun.
“Eli, what are you saying?” she said desperately, confusedly, hopefully.
“Sam – I – I’m saying that I love you.” Barry’s hands delicately held one of Iris’s, gently running his fingers over her knuckles.
Iris – Sam, Barry reminded himself, looked at him with eyes that told of universes.
“Sam, I’m saying that I’ve always loved you and I will always love you, even if you don’t feel the same way.” His voice was earnest – too revealing, spilling endless buckets of light all over him. He had to remind himself that this was not Iris he was talking to, and the tears in her eyes were not for him.
He ducked his head to his chest, swiping a thumb across his upper lip as he put some distance between them. Eclipsing the light. This feeling – this distance was all too familiar to Barry. As was this scenario. It was this scenario that prevented Barry from telling Iris every time he felt the urge. Which was everyday, but best not remind the pathetic sack of blood that masqueraded as his heart.
“Eli. . .,” Iris breathed, stepping closer, bracketing his face with her hands to draw him closer.
When Barry’s eyes met hers they looked desolate, defeated.
“Eli,” she repeated, “I love you more than I understand.” Her voice filled with wonder and stars began to spill out of her mouth. Her voice gathered urgency. “Please don’t doubt for a second the way I feel about you.”
Barry’s heart began going fastquicknow, marking out a tattoo on his chest as it failed to realise that those words were not for him.
“Sam,” he whispered reverently, “may I kiss you?”
“Yes, Eli,” she giggled affectionately, “I thought that was obvious.”
“I just wanted to make sure,” he said, his voice tremulous but his grin revealing part of the sun.
“Kiss me,” Iris said hoarsely, a thousand possibilities clogging her throat
When their lips touched, his world didn’t explode – his heart might’ve, but that’s a concern for later. Instead, he felt an inexplicable sense of home, an overwhelming, overpowering, yet tender love. His world didn’t turn upside-down, it turned right-side-up.
It was short, but it was everything. Barry felt inexplicable, unequivocal warmth radiating from his chest, where Iris’ hands rested, through his body, trailing bolts of lightning. His hands gently, gently cupped Iris’ face, bringing her closer, holding on for dear life because so help him he was just about done for.
As a great divide of about an inch segued between their lips, their foreheads rested softly against each other and their eyes swapped declarations of love even as their lips made no sounds.
The sound of clapping flipped his world upside-down once again.
Oh. Oh. That wasn’t real. Of course it wasn’t real, you idiot. Like you have a chance with Iris. His entire body conspired to suffocate his heart, even as Iris smiled at him, now bodily separated but for two fingers linked with his. He smiled back. Iris has that effect on him.
“Wonderful job you two,” Mrs Hudson praised, “That was simply fantastic. You really drew me in – it felt so real. You guys really know how to sell it!” Her exclamations grated down the inside of Barry’s chest but he tried for an appreciative smile. (Operative word: tried).
“Thank you Mrs Hudson,” Iris gushed, but Barry couldn’t help noticing that Iris looked a little flushed herself.
Mrs Hudson turned to address the rest of the room, “Parts will be announced on Monday. Everyone, have a good weekend,” she turned back to the pair on stage and lowered her voice, “but I think we all know who got the lead roles!”
Iris beamed brightly at her, “Thank you, Mrs Hudson. I think Barry and I ought to be heading home, my dad will be waiting for us.”
“Oh, of course,” she said, shooing them off, “have a lovely weekend, dears.”
As they edged out of earshot Barry looked quizzically at Iris and lowered his voice, “Joe won’t be home for hours.”
“Exactly,” Iris said primly.
Barry looked at her confusedly, which Iris of course wilfully ignored.
As he pushed open the front door, Barry felt his heart palpitate at the serene smile on Iris’ face.
As Barry removed his jacket, he perused the room, searching for the memories threaded through the carpet, buried under couch cushion, scratched into the dining table and stamped on the walls.
He remembers movie marathons cocooned together under blankets, wrestling matches, failed baking attempts, the time he knocked over Iris’ nail polish remover on the hardwood table, the nights talking and talking until mouths were filled with cotton balls and eye lids filled with sand.
He remembers one night, either very, very late at night or very, very early in the morning. He remembers them being about 15. He remembers talking until nothing much made sense and his words were garbled. All except for one sentence, freely unleashed as it would not ordinarily be.
“I’ll always love you, Iris,” he had said, inhibitions and walls removed like so much rubbish.
“Love you, Bear,” she had returned sleepily, fastening a tender kiss on his cheek and wrapping her blanket-draped arms around his neck as she fell asleep on his shoulder. They slept like that the entire night.
Bringing his mind back to the present, he turned to face Iris – which was never really hard; she was the magnet in his compass, his true north – in doing so catching Iris staring at him.
“You said in the car that there was something you wanted to talk about?” He prompted
Iris nodded slightly and stepped into Barry’s space, raising her hand to his chest – which, in and of itself, was not that unusual, but it was the look in her eyes that was different. Nervous, hopeful, terrified. Completely and utterly transfixed.
“I love you, Bear,” Iris said.
His heart stuttered. Oh. Oh.
“Iris-,” he said, savouring her name.
She stared up at him, eyes filled with endless oceans.
“I’ll always love you, Iris.” He planted a tender kiss on her hairline, wrapping her in his arms.
When she felt something wet land on her hair, she looked up at Barry with eyes scattering stars. He gave her a damp smile but it was absolutely radiant.
“Can I kiss you?” Iris asked.
“Absolutely,” his head shook with fervour and a disbelieving grin made his face it’s home.
This kiss wasn’t so short, but it was everything. The brush of lips and teeth and tongues. Hands in hair, on faces, backs, legs. The feeling of love wholly enveloping them.
They stumbled to the couch, Iris straddling Barry with her skirt hiked up her legs. Barry’s lips broke away and began kissing down Iris’ jawline and neck, down the centre of her chest, stopping just above the neckline of her top. He left a mark in the sensitive skin between her breast, causing delightful sounds.
He made his way back up, giving each feature of her face attention. Eyes, nose, ears, cheekbones, forehead, eyebrows were lavished in love.
Iris pulled him back into a long, languid kiss, tangling her fingers with the delicate hairs at the nape of his neck until finally placing a delicate kiss on his forehead. They pulled apart, foreheads touching.
“Love you, Bear,” Iris said huskily.
“Love you, Iris,” Barry returned, his voice pitched octaves lower than usual. Iris grinned at the surprise on his face and kissed his cheek.
“I think I can get used to this,” Iris intoned.
She was answered by the squeal of brakes from the driveway. She quickly wiped her lips, rolling off Barry to sit on another couch.
“I’m home,” Joe announced to the room.
“You’re home early.” Iris pitched her voice higher to cover the huskiness.
“Hey, Iris, Barry. What were you two doing?” His tone was suspicious.
“Just talking, Daddy.” Joe looked sceptical.
“On different couches?”
Barry was strategically holding a large pillow on his lap.
He began to walk out of the room and the two exchanged looks of relief.
Joe muttered quietly to himself, “Those damn kids thinking they have me fooled.” He shook his head and smiled.