He couldn’t see her in the tiny storage closet, but he could smell her. She smelled like home. Not his home, which reeked of greasy pizza boxes and inside-out underwear, but home. She smelled of sweet pea body wash and the mint chocolate-chip gum she always kept a pack of in her purse. That was home. She was home. When he was with her, he was at a home that was like a heaven. She would always be home whether they were in a car, at the park, or in a cluttered, dark closet in Paris about to lose their virginity to each other.
“What do you like about me?” she asked, stuffing a patch of her thick black curls behind her ear.
“You,” he whispered, kissing her forehead.
“What’s beautiful about me?”
“Who am I?”
“What does ‘you’ mean?” she said, placing her hands on his shoulders.
“You. I love you.”
She could hear him smile as he gave her those three words. They said it within their first month of dating. They had already been best friends three years before and already knew it and felt it though. He didn’t ask her to be his girlfriend until orientation for senior year of high school. And for graduation, their parents pooled their money together for a big family vacation to France. Now here they are, in the most romantic city, and the only place they could find alone time for a special moment is in a storage closet in the basement of a hotel. But Paris couldn’t be more romantic. She wondered what else has gone on in this closet amongst the dust, brooms, crusty mop buckets, and mold. She also wondered what would happen after Paris, after summer, when they would part ways and go to different colleges. But his cold fingertips caressing her spine kept her mind from too much wonder.
“I love you,” he said, kissing her inquisitive lips. Then he unhooked her bra with his thumb and index finger like he’s done it before.
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