Can we kiss?

a short story by Sean Harris.

The text message read that her parents had gone to the pub for about an hour and that he would have to be very quick. He ran out of the house so quickly that he put on two similarly odd shoes in the dark of the porch and only realised when he was too far to turn back.

He darted across the road and sprinted straight through the dark little field and down into the pitch-black woods, running more slowly here because of the poor visibility; and he crossed the old stone footbridge over the stream, hearing it trickle and the electricity pylon buzzing faintly and still not being able to see it in the dark even though the structure was huge.

 He climbed up a steep lane and hopped through a meadow. Then he saw the lights of her house backing onto the woods and the grass, and he felt a shiver go right through his body.

As he saw the lights of her house backing onto the woods, he felt a shiver go right through his body.

Remembering what she had said the night before, he bent down to slide over a giant rock and there, a set of keys lay in a little plastic bag. He took a second to calm his violently beating heart. He used the keys on the double-bolted lock of the tall gate. When he had removed the locks and stepped forward into the garden, he saw her straight away sitting on a swinging bench up on the decking under a gentle floodlight.


‘All right.’

They stepped up inside the house, while lingering for half a minute in the kitchen as she closed the back door. They stood next to each other for even longer in this simple state of awkwardness, until she said:

‘We have to be quick.’

They ran upstairs to her bedroom at that moment; although on entering the bedroom, (a proper girl’s bedroom, he thought) they stood self-consciously once more in the middle of the room and said nothing.

‘I use conkers, as well,’ he said, looking at the dark red conkers placed on the floor in the corners of the room. ‘They actually work.’ 

‘Yeah,’ she said. ‘We get so many spiders. It’s because of the woods.

‘I’m terrified of them—absolutely terrified.’

‘I know,’ she said. ‘I know that.’ 

He sat down on the edge of her bed. Although it took her a while, standing there with her arms crossed, she eventually joined him and rested her hand on the fabric of his grey jogging bottoms. She put her hand under the thick waistband of the pants and without looking at him at any point, she carried on being busy with her hand, until she thought she heard him say something. She did not want to speak and ignored whatever he muttered.

‘Can we kiss?’ he said again.

At that, she took her warmed hand out from under the waistband and, not sure what to do with it, sat on it. She did not say anything for a few seconds, still not looking at him. 

‘No,’ she said. ‘I don’t think so. It’s weird. You’re like my best friend.’

‘Well,’ he said. ‘This isn’t just about getting experience for me.’

She looked at him.

‘I—I really like you,’ he stuttered. ‘I have feelings for you.’

‘I don’t feel the same. I’m sorry. You’re just like my best friend. I just wanted to help you.’

He nodded, and he saw that she was crying. He was about to cry himself—he couldn’t help it—when he saw a massive black spider crawling with its long legs over the carpet in front of them. He screamed boyishly and shot his feet up off the floor, putting his legs out across the bed.

‘They come in from the woods,’ she said, jumped up, and put a notepad under the big black spider and a glass on top of it and dropped it out of the open window while screaming under her breath. ‘I’m scared of them,’ she said, ‘but not that scared. I just hate the idea of them crawling on me at night or getting in my ears or something. The conkers usually work.’

He was still aghast and, looking at his face, she managed to laugh. He laughed as well and stood up from the bed. They were in front of each other, both red, both looking down at the blue carpet on the floor.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said.

‘No,’ she said. ‘I’m the one that’s sorry.’

They stood there for half a minute longer and she said, ‘My parents will be back soon.’

‘I’ll go now,’ he said.

Despite this, they trudged down the staircase slowly and lingered on the back porch for another minute without saying anything. He took her in his arms and held her for what seemed like, to him, an eternity.

There was a sound at the front of the house. The door was opening out into the porch and some voices echoed along through the kitchen.

 ‘That’s my parents,’ she said. ‘You have to go right now.’

‘I’m going.’

‘Lock the gate and put the keys back in the bag under the two rocks. You have to go right this second—now.’

Running down the length of the garden, he did as he was told. He looked through the bars of the metal gate back up through the garden and saw that she was still standing there with her arms crossed. She was looking down in his direction. But he was unsure whether he could see her or not in the darkness of the night. She looked so angelic and radiant to him under the soft floodlight in that moment—and he had to tear himself away.

He walked back through the pitch-black woods, over the footbridge and the trickling stream, and he crossed the road back over to his house. He used his keys on the front door and climbed the stairs slowly, seeing as everyone else was already asleep. 

Inside his bedroom, he climbed straight into bed and lay there with his head on the pillow. 

After a while he felt like he could hear something scratchy inside his ear —and he was suddenly very worried that it might be a spider. He listened to the strange sound for quite a while, and he stuck his finger in his ear searchingly several times— and he found nothing. He decided finally, then, with what he was feeling deep down inside, that the sensation was nothing more but the pulsing blood rising up powerfully from his aching heart.

all pictures by Martina Stapf, edit by Gaia Scamuzzi.

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