Just One Night - Josh & Bailey

By: Melanie Shawn

The first time they met had been at the cemetery. He’d been there visiting his mom, who’d passed from kidney failure two years prior, and she was there at her grandpa’s funeral. He remembered sitting cross legged on his mother’s grave when a shadow fell over her tombstone.

He’d looked behind him and for a split second, he thought that he was seeing a real-life angel. Her long, blonde hair fell down to her waist and the sun shone behind her, giving her an ethereal glow.

“Are you a…”

“Ghost?” She’d smiled. “Yep. See? Try to touch me.”

She’d reached out her hand and he’d lifted his, fully expecting his fingers to pass through hers like he’d seen in movies. When his skin touched hers, he’d jumped so high, his legs came uncrossed.

Her head fell back and she laughed and that moment was the first one since his mom had passed that he felt like things might actually be okay. For years, he’d believed that his mom had somehow sent her to him. He hadn’t thought that she was a ghost, he’d believed she was an angel. And to him, she was. His smart-ass angel, but still.

Bailey was so much more than people gave her credit for at first glance.

At first glance, she resembled a cheerleader, or a Barbie doll. But beneath that picture-perfect exterior was a brilliant mind, sharp wit, and a soft heart. Or, at least two of those three things. He wasn’t even sure she had a heart.

Still, he couldn’t just get back on his bike and leave.

His steps were heavy on the gravel and he knew her feet must be killing her. “I’m not leaving you out here. Alone.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“Yeah, I can see that,” he commented beneath his breath and immediately regretted it.

She stilled for a second and he braced himself. They’d only had a handful of fights during the three and a half years they were together. All of them stemmed from her independence being challenged.

Bailey Rossum did not like being told what to do, being underestimated, or having even a shred of her independence challenged. It had been the single contentious point in their relationship.

What he did naturally, out of love, she saw as him treating her as if she were weak. In reality, he’d just wanted to protect her, take care of her, love her. Not because she was incapable, she was the strongest person he’d ever known. All of his actions were born out of a primal need to show her how much he loved her. He wanted to demonstrate that she was the most precious thing to him. She rarely saw it that way.

He’d try to give her his coat when it was cold out or raining, she told him that she didn’t need one. He’d tried to make sure she ate, because she had a tendency to forget to, she told him he wasn’t her mom or her dad. He’d remind her to wear the glasses she hated when she read because he knew that she got headaches, she’d tell him where he could put the glasses.

Those things all happened a long time ago, but he doubted that she’d mellowed with age.

The moonlight bounced off the bare skin of her smooth shoulder as it lifted in tension and Josh saw her fingers curl into a fist.

Hoping to smooth things over, he explained, “I know you can take care of yourself. And you know I can’t leave you out here.”

She glanced over her shoulder. “Thank you for stopping. I don’t need a ride.”

“Bay, I’m sorry.” His apology and the nickname he’d called her was a knee-jerk reaction.

It irritated him that it came out of his mouth so naturally. Frustration replaced any regret he’d felt. It shouldn’t be so easy to fall back into that pattern with her. Talking to her again after sixteen years should feel awkward and unsettling, not familiar and natural.

Mad at himself for letting his guard slip, even for a split second, he gruffly stated, “This is stupid and you’re not stupid. Just get on the bike. I’ll take you to the country club.”

The moment he saw her lip twitch, he knew that he’d gotten his way. He used to call it her “Elvis tell.” Whenever Bailey was about to do something that she didn’t want to but knew she had to, her lip twitched. The last time he’d seen it was when she’d opened the door to her dorm room sixteen years ago and had seen him standing on the other side of it.

She yanked the helmet out of his hand and placed it on her head. He watched for several moments as she fumbled with the clasp beneath her chin and one of the shoes she was holding in her hand tumbled to the ground.

He bent down to retrieve the heel and when he straightened they were face to face. Her breath was warm as it fanned his face and he could hear his heart pounding in his head. Without thinking, he reached up and grabbed the prongs. Their hands met as he clicked the two pieces together beneath her chin. He tried not to notice how soft her skin was as it brushed against the back of his fingers. Or how her breath hitched at the contact. Or how her cheeks flushed when he touched her.

Unfortunately, his attempt to ignore all of those things was an epic failure. His heart slammed into his chest and he dropped his arms as soon as he was sure the helmet was secure.

They both froze, staring at one another for a silent beat. They may not be talking, but there was a lot being communicated. As he looked deep into her big, brown eyes, for a moment, just a moment, he was fifteen again. Like he’d traveled in a time machine, his entire body felt transported as his eyes locked with hers. It was just the two of them. No one, nothing else existed. He’d forgotten what that felt like. To be so connected to another person. He was drawn to her in a way that didn’t even feel real at times.