Chapter 19 – Written in Her Skin

 

Anson tried to force his way through the crowded hallway back to the dance floor but the wall of people wasn’t cooperating. He leaned against the bricks, smiling; his lips still pulsing with a dull, pleasant throb. He couldn’t help but smile thinking about Cordelia. This girl that he wanted to be with all the time. To listen to her stories or watch her expressions when she was really into a book. He kept hearing stories of how quiet and reserved everyone said she was, but he couldn’t believe them.

When they were together, she was so confident and comfortable. She talked all the time. And when she didn’t, it was by choice. His mind drifted back to the events of the picnic table. She was so tentative about anything physical. So unsure of what she wanted, but she was figuring out what she was comfortable with. Doing it with her, made it different for him. He smiled as a pair of arms wrapped around him from behind. Her face pressed against his back.

“Fancy meeting you here.” Her voice mingled with the thrum of the crowd, vibrating against his back. “I thought I’d lost you.” Her breath was hot through the thin fabric of his t-shirt. Her lips pressed into his back. Her teeth grazed his shoulder blade. A moan involuntarily slipped through is lips. This was an unexpected treat.

“You’ll always be able to find me. Especially if this is my reward.” He felt her raise up on her tiptoes and press her lips into the base of his neck. A light cool breath blew over where her lips had been. His skin tingled instantly.

The side of his mouth hitched up into a smile as he ran his fingers along her arms. The skin felt different, covered in a thin layer of sweat from the heat of the club, but there was more. The weird scar, running an inch long just under her elbow wasn’t there. His fingers always found it, even without being able to see it. His thumb would trace the line. He looked down at the arms wrapped around his waist. Their colour was just a little bit off. Paler than normal. He couldn’t put his finger on exactly what was bothering him. Until she began playing with the zipper of his jeans instead of tracing her finger along the line of his waistband. The fingers were wrong. The polish on the nails was bright red. Cordelia had been wearing blue when he left her ten minutes ago.

“What the fuck?” He broke her hands apart and spun to face the person he now knew wasn’t his girlfriend. “I should have known it was you.”

“But you didn’t. All you knew was that you liked the way I made you feel. Instantly.” Danni pressed a hand across the front of his jeans. He jumped back as far as the space would allow.

“Do not touch me! I thought you were Cordelia.” He crossed his arms. Glancing over Danni’s shoulder, he saw Cordelia standing just a few steps behind them away. Her face a stony mask of anger. Her cell phone gripped firmly in her hand. He opened his mouth to speak to her, but she shook her head and signalled for him to keep talking to Danni. Unsure what she was trying to accomplish, he returned the situation at hand.

“You think that little wallflower would actually do something like that.” Danni refused to back away, leaning towards him. Her shirt falling forward, revealing a lacy yellow bra. His eyes involuntarily flicked towards the flash of colour. “You think your girlfriend will ever let you in like I would? Think you’ll ever get more than hand holding and a little kissy face with her? That can’t be enough for a big strong boy like you.” She played her fingers across his chest.

“Even if Cordelia never let me do more than stand near her, I’d still rather be with her than you.” Anson clenched his hands, forcing himself not to hit her. He knew that no matter what she was doing, everyone in the hallway would attack him if he pushed a girl. “Even if she never looks at me again. If she walks away and says she never wanted to be with me. Even if she takes you back, I will never, ever be with you, Danni. Understand me clearly. Or with your new friend Robyn. So stop whatever it is you’re plotting. It will not work.” He shifted his gaze to Danni’s left, speaking directly to Cordelia. “I am crazy about that little wallflower. I’d spend the rest of my school career celibate before I’d choose you over her.” His eyes flicked back to Danni. “Got it?”

“I don’t think you understand what you’re giving up.” Danni stepped towards him, pressing herself against his body, trapping his hands between them. “I do have certain talents.” She shimmied her hips against him.

Anson pulled his hands free and placed his them on her shoulders. He pulled her closer, leaning in towards her ear, lowering his voice and positioning them so that Cordi couldn’t see what he was saying. “You disgust me. I have no idea what kind of person you were before this whole thing went down. I have to believe you were better. But I think you are worthless. Do you understand me?” He tightened his grip when she started to pull away. His fingers dug into her skin ever so slightly. “If you ever, ever try something like this again, I swear to god that I will hurt you. You won’t have to worry about Bianca. I don’t care that you’re a girl. You are a terrible person.” He dropped his hands and slipped out from between her and the wall.

In a few steps, he had Cordelia’s hand in his own and was forcing them through the throng of people. Cordelia threw a glance over her shoulder to see Danni, in an outfit she never would have worn before, standing there with her mouth hanging open. Cordelia felt a twinge of pain when she saw the expression on her oldest friend’s face. She couldn’t leave things like this. She wasn’t this person. She had to go make things better. She loosened her grip on Anson’s hand and was about to let go when Robyn walked up beside Danni. Her hands on her tiny hips, she said something that made Danni’s face split in a devilish grin. Cordelia tightened her grip and turned her back on her friend.

When they reached the table, everyone was laughing and joking during the break in set. Bianca was propped up on a stool, her arms wrapped around Greg. When she saw her sister walk up, the grin fell from her face. She jumped off the stool and stepped towards Cordelia and Anson.

“What?” Bianca looked into the crowd behind them. “Danni?”

“Can’t be. She’s on house arrest. The highest level of grounding. Mom is pissed.” Caleb tilted his water to his lips.

“You sure?” Zack’s pointed towards the dance floor. They all watched as two girls made their way to the centre of the dance floor.

“What the hell is she wearing?” Caleb’s voice dripped with disgust. Danni’s low cut top hung loose off her shoulder, ending inches above her belly button. Her skirt was black and skin tight, and very, very short.

“She’s wearing a jet skirt.” Kyle snarked, her arms crossed over her chest.

“A jet skirt?” Caleb raised an eyebrow. Everyone looked towards her expectantly.

“Yeah, you know, you can see her cockpit.”

“If that wasn’t my sister, that would be hilarious.” Caleb choked on his drink and laughed. “But that, that’s not so funny.”

The music had changed to some r&b song that encouraged dance floor bumping and grinding, and that’s exactly what the two girls were doing. Robyn was pressed against Danni’s back as they put on a show for the boys around them. The friends watched in silence as the girl they’d been friends with transformed into a completely different person right before their eyes.

Caleb jumped out of his chair as Danni grabbed Robyn and pulled her into a long, deep kiss. As the two girls continued to grind and make-out, a couple of random guys joined in. Caleb bolted onto the dance floor before any of them knew what was happening. He grabbed Danni’s elbow and pulled her away from Robyn. The guys dancing with her started to protest. “She’s my sister!” He snapped and they backed away. He pulled her through the parting crowd to a corner.

“What the hell, Caleb!” Danni shook off her brother and rubbed her arm. “What is your problem?”

“What is my problem? My problem? What the hell is wrong with you?”

“I’m just dancing with my friend.”

“Your friend? Since when is Robyn your friend?”

“Since the rest of you decided it was more important to coddle little miss Cordelia than to have my back.”

“But Robyn? Robyn?”

“Yes, Robyn.” Danni jammed her hands onto her exposed hipbones. “I don’t know why you guys can’t see that everything that’s happening is Anson’s fault. Anson and Cordelia. You’re throwing this away for a guy you barely know.”

“So you make out with a whore in public?”

“You don’t get to call my friend a whore.” Danni smack her brother on the chest. Not playfully. “You don’t even know her.”

“I don’t understand how you think that this the choice that is going to make things better.”

“Things will never be better! Never.” Danni’s voice began to rise. “Talk to Anson. Ask him what he said to me. What he called me. Things will never get better.” Danni pushed her way around her brother. “So now I’m going to go dance with my new friend. Maybe make out with some more people and try to find some beer so I can stop thinking about how horrible everything is!” She walked away and quickly sidled up beside Robyn again.

Caleb watched his sister, torn between running after her and leaving her for good. He was so mad at Danni. Madder than he had ever been. But she was his sister. He had sided with her for so long that he needed to know what had happened between her and Anson. He stalked back to the table, lost in thought.

“Caleb?” Rayne placed a hand on his arm. “Is everything alright?”

“I don’t know.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “Anson, did something happen between you and my sister? Tonight.”

At that moment, the room darkened and Fyvie stepped back on stage. The music thumped through the speakers, conversation no longer possible. Cordelia held up her finger, quickly typed on her phone and held it up. “I have something to show you. Can we go to someone’s house?” was typed on the screen. Blaine raised his hand and they followed him out of the club.

Cordelia threw her head back onto the headrest in Anson’s jeep. “Every single hey, maybe this is going to blow over, something worse happens. God damn it.” She closed her eyes, pressing the heels of her hands into them. The tears came without warning. Hot, salty tears flooded down her face. She didn’t realize Anson had slid out of his seat until he opened the passenger door and put his hands on her knees.

“Alright, I’m getting kind of tired of seeing you cry about that girl.” He sighed.

“I get to cry over my friend if I want to.” She snapped from behind her hands.

“Sorry. That was insensitive.” He gently tugged at her wrists. “And it’s not what I meant. It’s just, I’ve seen you cry almost as much as I’ve seen you laugh. And I can’t help wondering if I’m the cause. If you’d’ve been better off if I’d never moved here.”

“God, Anson. I hate crying.” She smiled at him through her tears. “You’d never believe me, but I never cry. Seriously.”

“You’re right. I don’t believe you.” He laughed.

“Shut up, jerkface.” She swatted at him. He caught her hands and pulled her towards him. She grabbed his face and pulled him into a kiss. “You’re still a jerk.” She chuckled as he slid behind the wheel and started the car. “And I would not have been better if you’d never moved here. I’d either been happily suffocating in my friendship with Danni or something else would have gotten in the way. These are tears of inevitability.” He reached across and took her hand, entwining their fingers. They drove the rest of the way in comfortable silence.

They trekked into Blaine’s empty the basement. Cordelia pulled Anson over to one of the big armchairs and pushed him down onto the cushion. “I’m going to do this sitting on your lap thing that people do when they’re upset. If I’m too heavy, you will tell me. Understand?” She stood in front of him, cocking her hip to one side.

“Ma’am, yes ma’am.” He saluted her.

“What’s with the sudden wave of bossypants?” Bianca laughed as she plopped down next to Greg on the couch.

“I am damn tired of having no control over my life.” Cordelia settled on Anson’s lap until everyone was settled.

“Uh oh, the new Cordelia is fiesty.” Bianca laughed at her sister. “You said you’ve got something to show us?”

“Okay, everyone and ready? Cause I’m only going to show you this once and then I’m deleting it. After that, I am done with Danni. For good. I am no longer interested in repairing our friendship.” No one knew what to say. They simply nodded. “Okay. I took this earlier tonight. Figure out how you’re all going to watch this at the same time. I never need to see it again.”

“Is there sound?” Blaine held the phone as the others all leaned in to see what Cordelia was showing them.

“It was loud in there, and I couldn’t really hear anything, so I doubt it. But the mike on this thing is pretty good, so maybe. You don’t really need to hear to know what’s going on.”

“From the hallway?” Anson asked her in a low voice as Blaine activated the video. The audio was mostly mumbled talking, but there were some occasional snippets of Danni and Anson’s voices. She nodded, running her fingers through his hair, trying to ignore the sounds of the video.

“Damn it, Cord. Why did you record that?” He sighed, leaning into her hand.

“Recording it was like proof. Something tangible. I could take everything else twist it until I somehow made it my fault. But this I couldn’t. There’s tangible proof.” She paused as she heard Anson say he was crazy about her on the video. “Really?” She grinned

“Really.” He pulled her into a long, slow kiss. “Really, really.” His voice low, meant only for her. She smiled down at him and shifted her position, worried that she was hurting him with her weight. His fingers traced along her arm. His thumb finding the scar on her arm. “It was this you know.” He tapped her arm.

“What was what?”

“Your scar.” He pressed her palm to his lips. “It’s how I knew it wasn’t you.”

“From my inability to use an exacto knife?”

“Clumsy is charming.”

“You guys decide what you want to do about Danni. Anson and I are done talking about it. We’re going to go for a walk.” Cordelia jumped out of the seat, pulling Anson with her. Dragging him down the familiar hallway of Blaine’s basement, she pulled him into an open room on the left.

“That was short walk.” Anson smiled down at her.

“It sure was.” She closed the door behind them and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Remember earlier tonight in the smoke pit?”

“You mean how cold it was? Yeah, I remember that.” He joked.

“That’s it?” She smirked.

“I could use a bit of a reminder.”

“I think I can help.” Cordelia backed towards the other side of the room. Anson leaned against the wall, arms crossed in front of him, grinning. Cordelia inhaled gently before pulling her shirt over her head.

“I don’t remember that.” He sucked in his breath, staring at his girlfriend standing in front of him in only her bra and jeans.

“Are you going to come over here, or am I going to start feeling more ridiculous and put my shirt back on?” She wrapped her arms around her bare stomach, suddenly feeling exposed and unsure of herself again. Aware of how her excess skin sat on her waistband. Like she had so many times in the past. Maybe Danni was right and he was just being nice. Maybe this was what would drive him away and into the arms a skinnier girl.

Anson closed the distance between them in a single step. He pulled her close, his lips pressed against hers hungrily. The feel of her soft skin beneath his fingers made him pull her even closer.

“Just so we’re clear,” She pulled back a tiny bit.

“No talking.” He mumbled into her shoulder. His lips tracing the skin of her collarbone.

“I just…”

“No talking.” He brought his lips back up to hers.

“This is important, Anson.”

He paused and looked up at her. “Quickly.” He growled playfully and went back to her bare skin.

“If you… if you don’t think I’m pretty enough, or whatever… or you realize that I’m not small enough…you don’t have to… I’m giving you an out.”

He cut her off with a gentle finger over her lips.

“Remember when I said there were only a few things that make me mad?” She nodded. “Then don’t say it again.” He pulled her into him so that their bodies pressed against one another. “If I didn’t want to be here, I wouldn’t be here.” He slid the strap of her bra down her shoulder and traced his lips along her skin.

“One more thing.” She brought his face up to look at her.

He sighed. “Go ahead.”

“We’re not going to sleep together tonight.”

“You don’t have to tell me that every time we do something new.” He grinned at her and stepped back a little. “Can I tell you something?”

“Of course. I tell you like everything. All the time.”

“You’re not the only one who’ll be making that choice.”

“You’ve never? But you’re so… attractive.”

“I’ve dated.”  He shrugged. “I’ve done stuff. I’ve just never actually had sex.”

“Oh!” Cordelia’s eyes widened. “I just assumed.”

“So, we’re in this together. When you’re ready, you’ll tell me. And if we both want to, we’ll do it. Until then, we both know where we stand.”

“I’m glad we’re on the same page.” Cordelia slid her hands under his shirt. Anson grinned and pulled his shirt over his head. Her breath caught in her throat. She watched her fingers, pale against his skin, trace down his chest to the waistband of his jeans.

“Can we stop talking now and get back to the making out?” Anson smiled and gently pushed her back onto the bed. She giggled as the mattress bounced beneath her. She tried to sit up but was stopped by his hands. Her breath caught as his lips met her stomach and she succumbed to new feelings.

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