Punching the wall made me feel better, only slightly though. Only a hug from Clay would really make me feel better. I had rushed to my room afterwards to grab Clay some clothes. I didn't want to admit it, but the thought of Clay wearing one of my shirts made my heart burn in mad desire. No, I couldn't think about that right now. Not with all the worry -and relief- still flooding my system. I wanted to be mad at Clay for being so irresponsible, but I couldn't find it in my heart to do so. The anger, well. The anger had been jealousy more than anything. Even the thought of Sheri being near Clay made my blood boil, but I had to let that go. I had no claim over Clay, sadly. I picked out one of my favorite shirts, a pair of boxers and a pair of joggers that would certainly be too short for Clay's long legs. But neither of us would mind. I gently knocked on the door to the bathroom, suddenly reminded of the fact that Clay must've surely heard me hit the wall.
'Clay? You okay? I put some clothes just outside the door.'
'Thanks. I'm good. I'll be out in a sec.'
'Take your time.'
I tried not to imagine Clay in the tiny bathroom, showering. I couldn't though, the images would surely follow me as soon as I went to sleep. In a desperate attempt to get my mind of things I shuffled back into my room and put on some music before settling behind my desk and rubbing my eyes. Clay. Always on my mind. My mad search for him this afternoon had made me realize that I would not be able to hide my feelings for Clay any longer. I had to tell him tonight, even if the thought alone made me want to rush out of the house and drive straight into space. A cough shook me out of my frantic reverie.
'Thanks for letting me borrow the clothes.'
Sweet jesus. The shirt looked better on him than I could ever imagine, it looked... Natural. As if he always spent time around my house, in my room, chilling in my clothes. My heart warmed at the mere thought of that. I hoped, that one day maybe that would be our reality but I was too nervous to even think about that. That was all about my wishes, my wants, my needs. I knew I always needed to put Clay first. Odds were, Clay would have no feelings for me whatsoever and I would just have to suck it up. And I would, gladly so, if it meant I could still be around Clay. Telling him that I liked him -loved him- was a huge risk, but not telling him wasn't an option anymore. I wouldn't be able to hide something like that, I knew he already suspected something, even with him being as oblivious as he was. I focussed on Clay again, taking the time to memorize the image in front of me before speaking up.
'This shirt looks better on you. You should keep it.'
'No I couldn't possibly. Besides it looks great on you. I always love when you wear this shirt.'
I couldn't help but smile at that, oh how oblivious Clay was. And how I loved him for it. Clay wasn't shivering anymore but I knew he needed a hot meal to feel better after being in that awful storm.
Have you eaten yet? I'm sure you haven't. I'll make you something. You need to get warm.'
'Oh no. I wouldn't...'
With Clay behind me I made way for the kitchen and started getting supplies as the gangly boy went to sit at the dining table. I wanted to talk about Sheri, and his afternoon more but I knew that would only result in Clay getting closed off and emotional again, so as I prepared some food I thought about how I would tell him that I liked him. There was always the simple 'I like you', but that felt wrong in all kinds of ways. My feelings for Clay weren't as simple as that, they had never been. No simple words could describe exactly how Clay Jensen made me feel, and our history wasn't exactly simple either. I needed to tread carfully since the situation we were in was anything from normal. I didn't even knew if Clay could ever like guys, or me for that matter. And there was Hannah. Always Hannah. Even in the afterlife, Hannah made a point of torturing every minute of my existence. I knew that wasn't a fair thing to think but how could a dead girl make my life this difficult? I loved Hannah, in my own way. And I had always wanted to honor her wishes, but I felt as if it was time to at least try to get back at somrthing that resembled a 'normal' life, I knew Clay needed that as well, desperately so. The events from a year ago had been scarring enough already, we needed to enter a time of healing. I became aware of burning eyes all of the sudden, and I looked around to find Clay looking at my exposed abdomen. For a moment I felt as if my eyes were deceiving me, but no. Clay Jensen was checking me out, and my heart raced at the notion. Suddenly feeling daring I lowered my arms slowly and said something I never thought I would say to Clay.
'Enjoying the show?'
Clay's cheeks reddened and mine did as well, but not from embarassment, no. From pride. There it was. Suddenly, and unexpectedly so, Clay did something to make me gain a small bit of hope that there might be a future for us romantically. I couldn't think about that though, Clay wasn't feeling pride, he was embarassed and probably not in a good way.
'Calm down, Clay. Just making a joke.'
Clay didn't respond, his eyes cast downwards, inspecting the kitchen table with a sudden interest. His cheeks were still red and I could see his fists clenched under the table. I wasn't sure how to proceed, worry flooding my mind just as harshly as the pride had mere moments ago. Clay was the most important, but then again, he didn't seem to be angry or anything, despite his clenched fists the look in his eyes was soft and questioning. I needed to make sure he was alright though.
'Hey Clay. You okay? I honestly was just making a joke. I'm sorry.'
'No, no don't be. I'm sorry.'
He unclenched his fists and I felt relieved. The relief daring me to take it one step further, and perhaps one step too far. I couldn't help myself though. Spurred on yet again by hope.
'I don't mind you looking, though.'
Clay spluttered and looked utter flabbergasted at my words. He tried to form words several times and I knew I would have to tell him about my feelings right then and there. I turned around and took the pan off the stove before moving to sit next to Clay at the kitchen table. I tried to stay calm but I felt myself getting nervous as well.
'I need to tell you something, Clay. Something I should've told you a lot earlier. And I'm sorry that I didn't, but I didn't want to ruin our friendship and I didn't want to put you in a tough spot. You are always my priority and I want to do everything to make you feel as safe and comfortable as possible...'
Clay was listening intenly, his doe-like eyes wide and curious and the redness fading from his cheeks as he realized I was saying something important. I was spurred on by his small nod.
'However, it's not good for either of us that I keep this a secret. I know it might sound egoistical, and I feel bad that it might even be egoistical, but I can't not say it...'
'Tell me then, Tony. You are the least egoistical person I know, I doubt that what you want to say will change that.'
'I like you Clay, not just as a friend. I've liked you for a long time. I have loved you for a long time. You are the most important person in my life and I want to take care of you and be with you. And I know you probably won't feel the same way, and that's okay because I can still be your friend. I will never do anything to jeopardize that. I care for you too much for that, so whatever happens just know I'm always there for you, in whatever way you feel comfortable with, that is if you still want me to.'
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