Claire and I sat on the couch in silence, she was slouched down with her head leaned back against the back of the couch her eyes closed in the first moment of peace since we woke up this morning. After such a crazy day of school, having it close early and trying to track down Molly, and then trekking through a foot of snow to make it back home, we were both exhausted and ready to just rest. The weight of responsibility always seemed to rest so heavy on Claire's shoulders, it made my troubles seem so minor and insignificant in comparison and I just want to take it all away from her and encourage her to just be the seventeen year old girl that she deserved to be.
A quick glance outside revealed that the snow was still falling heavily, by morning there will likely be about three feet of the stuff. School was already cancelled, and now the wildcard was Claire's mother, and whether she would make it home at some point. I could only take so long in that tiny closet of hers before I would go nuts. Maybe a closed and quietly locked door would keep her away but I'm not sure if it's worth the risk. But it was best not to worry about that just yet. One moment at a time, and at this moment I really just wanted to make Claire smile.
"Hey, Molly's asleep, let's go out for a bit," I say to her, standing up to go find my coat.
"Out in the snow?" she asks, her head cocked to the side and her green eyes telling me that she thinks I'm crazy.
"Yeah, why not," I smile that carefree version of my smile that convinces people to give me what I want, "it'll just be for a few minutes. Common!" I grab her hand and yank her up from the couch, I pull all of her body weight as she refuses to help me, but once she's on her feet she moves to put on her boots and her winter coat.
"Grab your gloves too," I say and walk out the door.
We walk down the street, and I spot part two of my mission; the kid who lives at the end of the street has left his sled out, just like I figured he would since he's always leaving something out in his front yard. I walk up the yard, leaving very telling footprints in my wake, but I have no intention of stealing the sled. We're just borrowing it for a minute or two.
With her eyes squinted, Claire starts to protest, "Ethan, I don't ..."
"Don't start, Claire, it will be fun! Lets just have a moment of fun." Giving in, she grins at me and we jog over to the park down the street that is at the bottom of an overpass, creating the perfect sledding hill. We cautiously make our way to the top of the hill, our feet slipping and sliding a time or two, mine especially since I'm wearing an old beat up pair of sneakers. When we finally make it to the top I sit on the orange plastic sled that is built for two, and pat the seat between my legs inviting her, "climb in."
I didn't anticipate how this would feel though, I didn't think it through at all. As Claire climbs into the sled I catch her lavender scent, but when she positions herself between my thighs, her back pressed up against my front, I swear I heat up enough to melt all of the snow around us. My breath catches in the back of my throat as I attempt to push these emotions down. We are living together, we are helping each other out, never did I ever want to take advantage of this situation. But her scent and her softness and her being inside my personal space, it was beating down my reserve with each beat of my heart.
I lean forward and breath into her ear in a voice so ragged I hardly recognize it as my own, "you ready?"
Maybe it's my imagination, but Claire's voice is equally as strained when she responds, "yeah, let's go."
I nudge forward causing the sled to tip over the top of the hill and glide down quickly, air rushes by, and I feel a grin stretch across my face as my hands grab onto Claire's waist and pull her deeper into the shelter I’ve created with my arms legs and chest. I don't think I've ever been happier. When we’ve reached the bottom of the hill I lean to the right, causing us to wipe out and tumble into the snow. Both of us sprawled out on the cold cloud, I look over at Claire, and she’s already looking at me, breathing heavily, the auburn hair that isn’t tucked into her hat is a dark flare across the snow and the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on her spreads across her face as the falling snow finds a soft landing on her cheeks, eyelashes, mouth; making me jealous.
“That was amazing!” she exhales.
“Yeah, it was pretty great,” I smile back at her. I stand up and extend my hand to help her up, “lets go again.”
“Alright!” She grabs on to my hand and I pull her to a stand which brings her much closer than I anticipated. Her body is inches from mine, and although we are heavily clothed in winter coats, I can feel her presence on every inch of my skin, its like the closet all over again. I look down into her eyes, and she is the most beautiful angel I’ve ever seen, snow sprinkled through her hair and falling all around us, creating a winter paradise that even I can admit is very romantic. So I go and do the one thing I’m not suppose to do; I close the inches between her face and mine, and I kiss her. Her lips are cold, but soft and though my eyes are closed, this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. As I back away from her and slowly open my eyes to look at her face, Claire has an expression of awe in her eyes, and a mitten clad hand pressed to her mouth.
Now I know for sure that I’ve never been happier.