“Let’s go somewhere,” I say, my head resting on Hannah’s shoulder. Her skin is warm. We’re lying in bed at my Somerville apartment. The November air is frostbitten. A cold draft seeps through the window as I interlace my feet through Hannah’s legs.
Hannah gazes down, oval face, green eyes. “Where do you want to go?”
I rest my forehead on her nose. Even the parts of her exposed to the air are hot to the touch. The heat muddles my thoughts. I want her alone, but I also want adventure. This is new between us, these emotions are raw, and I feel a child-like glee to experience the world anew with her in tow.
She shakes her head. “That’s not an answer.”
“I don’t know.”
Hannah grasps the back of my neck, her lips in a mirthful grin. I desperately want to kiss her. “We’re not doing this again.”
She jumps out of bed and walks across the bedroom.
“Where are you going?” I say. She picks up a beige cable knit sweater and throws it on.
“Home,” she says, jumping into a pair of jeans, “Unless you can make a plan. For once.”
The laundry overflows on a chair in the corner. Snow floats onto the windowsills. Books litter the ground. Zadie Smith’s Swingtime, Lauren Groff’s Delicate Edible Birds, 2016 Best American Short Stories, How to Win Friends and Influence People.
“Danehy Park?” I ask.
“In this weather? You’re insane!” She grabs her black winter jacket and pulls it across her chest.
“Come on. It’ll be fun.” Her eyebrows knit together as she zips up her coat. “I promise.”
Before Hannah can protest, I get out of bed, put on gray and pink checkered pants and a black top. Having romantic feelings for a woman is new territory; her laugh is all I can think about.
My backpack is open and I dump the contents - a patterned journal and a few Papermate pens - to make room for the fuzzy yellow blanket on the edge of my bed. As I move down the narrow hallway and past my three roommates’ bedrooms, Hannah’s lips part as if to ask a question. A cheap, chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio stands in the fridge. I hope this move – chilled wine - gives me more credibility as a potential girlfriend.
Hannah confided over the summer that she had a girlfriend in college. Their relationship was shared with only a handful of close friends, built on a foundation of lies and jealousy. It didn’t help they went to school in southwest Virginia where you often find a Confederate flag hanging off the back of a pickup truck. Since that relationship, Hannah has dated both men and women and has been open with friends about her dating history.
We walk in step to the park, quiet in the darkness. The playground is inside the metal gates. I take her hand, lead us to the swings. She laughs as we pump our legs in unison. I dismount onto the wood chips, run to the monkey bars. When she catches up, I cup her waist, lift her to reach the apparatus. I hold on tight, my hands steady, as she makes her way to the other side. When she finds the last rung, she releases her hands, allowing me to ease her back to the ground. Her face has an infectious flush and it reminds me of the first night I met her at Orleans, Wednesday Trivia, a year ago. My friend Sarah, Hannah’s coworker, invited her to join me, my cousin Margaret, and our friend Maggie. The five of us quickly became a team. Hannah was in a step challenge for work. She wanted to deliver every answer to the host to gain as many steps as possible. Her face was forever flushed.
I lead her to the plastic blue slide. She sits down first and I slide in behind her, our bodies holding on to one another as we glide to the bottom.
“Let’s stargaze over there!” I say, pointing to an empty turf field.
We jog across the park, my cheeks hurting from the never-ending smile. I lay out the blanket and grab the bottle of wine. When we’re settled, I drape an arm around her shoulder, pull her into my chest, and kiss her cold cheek.
“Do you want some wine?” I ask, sipping from the bottle.
“Is that even a question?” she laughs, snaking her hands through my blonde hair, covering my face in light kisses.
A sharp wind nearly knocks the bottle out of my hand. I cradle her stomach, cementing us to the ground. A maintenance worker tinkers with the lights in the distance. I bite my lower lip, bury my face in Hannah’s hair. We’ve never been this public.
I stop myself from asking the one question that shrouds my thoughts — what are we?
Her kisses tingle my cheek and I press a hand to my face, wanting to grasp her affection. In the darkness, I remember her vulnerability one night in late July as she stumbled to my Toyota Camry, placed her head against the warm passenger side window. I thought about reaching out my hand, clasping her fingers throughout the drive, but it didn’t seem the right time. I dropped her off at her apartment in Harvard Square, watched her sway up the concrete steps. On the way back to Somerville, I craved her presence, her reserved, but playful disposition. The next day I texted her to check in and since then we haven’t stopped talking. That night solidified my feelings. She wasn’t just my best friend. She was my crush. It was a weird realization. I had never experienced a crush. I had been in one serious relationship in college, but I never felt the longing for him the way I did for Hannah.
Hannah lays back on the blanket. I wonder what she’s thinking. I drop the bottle of wine onto the turf, allow the cool air to chill the bottle. She inches closer and our knees knock together.
I look across the field at the opposite end zone. I close my eyes and replay a scene from early October. We sat huddled together by the goal post, sharing an oversized hoodie. I leaned into her shoulder, sharing her warmth as we watched our teammates compete in the kickball game. Our friends hovered above, cheering on the squad. I don’t remember the score. I only remember watching Hannah watch the game.
“You were right,” Hannah says, taking another sip from the bottle. “This is perfect.”
I rest my head on her neck, my heart pounding in my chest. Her soft skin is comforting and I lace my arms around her belly. We sit in silence, listen to the wind warp the trees on the periphery of the field. My question sits on my tongue, my breath slow.
“What’s on your mind?” she says, peering down.
I shrug and take a final swig of the bottle. “Nothing.”
The alcohol fills my limbs. I crave the warmth of her body; want to explore the places I’ve never touched. I’m reminded of last week, the night of our friends’ Halloween party.
I arrived late, dressed in regular clothes, and found Hannah in the kitchen, pouring a shot of vodka. She was dressed as Angela from The Office. When she saw me standing in the doorway, she ran to my side. We were inseparable the rest of the night. At the peak of the party, I asked Hannah to come back to my place. She nodded and we left with few goodbyes. We fell into bed, our bodies nearly touching. Right before I closed my eyes, she swung her legs across my hips and kissed me on the lips. I pressed hard, loving the feel of her soft tongue in my mouth. In the morning, I stared at the ceiling, trying to remember the end of the night. Had we kissed? If so, I wanted more. When she woke up, a dumb smile painted my lips.
“What happened last night?” I finally muttered.
“What do you remember?”
“Did we kiss?”
She nodded. “Did you like it?”
My heart flew out of my chest. How was I supposed to answer that? I hid under the covers and Hannah joined the darkness.
“Yeah,” I finally said, “It was really nice.”
She smiled. “I thought so too.”
My breathing slowed. She felt the same way.
I sit with the memory, holding onto Hannah and her natural warmth. The snow subsides, a fresh dusting settling onto the earth.
“What are you thinking about?” she repeats.
I let the question fade into the snowflakes.
My feet carry me to the middle of the field. With mushy shoes, I contort my body in the air, my back arching into a round-off, my feet whipping around to complete the trick. Hannah claps and envelops me in a hug. I stare at the sky, find the Big Dipper. I listen to Hannah’s breathing against my neck, smell the wine on her lips. She clutches tighter, her fingers pressing into my back.
We eventually make our way back to Somerville. The road is covered in a light dusting of snow, the wind nonexistent. We trudge across the railroad tracks, turn onto Massachusetts Ave where cars pass by, their headlights muted from the weather.