Stepping back, she pulled me toward the exit door. “Let’s go home instead of studying here,” she said. I went along benignly.
“Tell me,” I urged her again. I wanted to hear what this end of the telephone chain sounded like.
“I heard he dropped out. And I heard some gossip that the lacrosse club was being disbanded, but I didn’t figure that was accurate.”
I only hmmmed. AM tried a couple more theories out on me.
When we arrived at the apartment, Ellie was there to greet us. “Guess what I heard!” she cried, throwing her arms wide as if throwing us the news.
“Is it about Clay Howard?” AM said, turning to shut the door behind me.
“Yes.” Ellie’s arms came down with a flap. “Already heard?”
AM nodded, but then she began jumping up and down and the two clasped wrists and hopped around the room like they had pogo sticks attached to their legs. I leaned against the hallway wall, not too far from where I had punched a hole, not too far from where my world fell apart and AM and I stitched it back together.
Someday I’d tell AM what I did and why. I pulled out my phone and snapped a picture of her smiling face. I’d show her this picture and tell her I’d do anything to make her look this happy.
I wanted to bask in that glow. She and Ellie pogoed their way over to me. I drew her into my arms and said, “See ya later, Ellie.” I steered AM down the hall into her bedroom.
“What are you doing?” she asked, all coy and shit.
“Oh, I have a few ideas about how to extend your happiness at this moment.” I smiled down at her.
“Did you have something to do with this?” she asked me, her suspicious look back. I couldn’t lie to her, so instead I kissed her cheek and then her ear and then ran my tongue down the side of her neck until I hit that sweet spot on her shoulder that made her shiver. I bit down and felt a corresponding shake of her body.
“I love you,” I whispered against her shoulder, pulling the collar of her t-shirt aside to gain access to more creamy skin. I mouthed the bone and skin and muscle until I felt her collapse into me.
“AN A,” I CROWED, TURNING the pages of the report we had just picked up from Professor Godwin’s office. Bo and I had had the entire thing bound at the copy center, and it looked so professional with its glued edge and clear acrylic cover. “Is it incredibly nerdy of me to love this binding?”
“Yes.” Bo smirked.
“Whatever.” I stuck my tongue out at him. Bo grabbed my hand and yanked me tightly to him.
“Stick that tongue in my mouth, why don’t you?” he teased. Who could resist that invitation? I pushed up on my tiptoes and gave him a wet, loud kiss. The unexpected nature of my public display of affection caught him off guard, and he didn’t immediately respond. I was still a little reserved in public, and Bo had generally limited himself to handholding.
But then a wide slow grin spread across his face, until the bracket on the left side appeared, a sign of his true happiness. He leaned down and returned my kiss with a wet and hot one of his own. He gripped my ass with one hand and pressed me tight against his growing arousal, and he tangled the other hand in my hair, angling my head for an all-out assault on my mouth. In the distance, I heard some hoots, but this time, I hoped that they would gossip about me. That they’d go home and say that they saw Bo and AnnMarie making out in front of the Admin building. That they’d talk about how we always looked like we were one step away from tearing each other’s clothes off. That they wished that someone would look at them like Bo looks at me, with unrestrained love and pride.
Realizing this was going nowhere, though, Bo pulled away. His face was flushed and his heavy lidded eyes were navy with desire. My entire body tingled in response. I gave him a little smile and waggled the project report between us.
“Good thing you didn’t crush it.” I dusted it off. “I’m keeping this.”
Bo shook his head at me. “What’s the point?”
I gasped with faux shock. “It’s our first project together. I expect us to celebrate our important reportaversary.”
He dropped his arm around my shoulders and kissed the top of my head. “Reportaversary?”
“The anniversary of our report,” I said solemnly.
“Is that the anniversary of the start of the project or end of the report or when we got the grade? Because I need to mark that shit down in my phone.” Bo’s response was just as mockingly serious.
“It’s all three,” I grinned.
“If you say so.” But I knew he was delighted that I cared so much about this. I flipped through the pages to admire the notes and drawings. When I got to the one showing the fully grafted plants, I noticed a small detail that I had missed previously. Bo had penciled our names, “AnnMarie” and “Beauregard,” into the stems of the plant.
“Hey,” I nudged him with an elbow, “this is really neat. Am I the stevia plant and you’re the soybean?”
“Hell, no,” Bo protested. “I’m the sugar. You’re the substance.” I peered closely at the plant, but I couldn’t tell where the root of one plant started and the other stopped—which, I realized, was the point. Together, Bo and I were stronger, better people despite our differences. I felt tears pricking my eyes at his thoughtfulness and his beautiful vision of us as a couple. Lord, I loved him. I loved him so much. Now and forever.