The Making Of Us (CHO #4)

It was at that point I realised I wasn't alone, as in, Noah hadn't followed me out, but I could hear someone in the henhouse...singing to the hens. The door fully opened, and Leigh emerged, shielding their eyes against the patio lights.

"Hey, Jesse."

"Hello." They were shrouded in shadow but it made no difference. At least my heart wasn't short of a good workout or ten.

"You OK?"

"Yep." Urgh. Where the hell were my words? This was starting get really annoying. I'd liked Leigh from the start - not the instant attraction/choking incident...well, obviously, I liked them then, but I was only counting from when we were properly introduced, and I'd realised that Leigh was just as beautiful inside as out. At first, my nervousness made me talk too much, but Leigh was chatty, too, so we just kind of gabbled our way through conversations, and it had all been a bit giddy and out of control, but we were talking. Now, I couldn't think what to say at all, and I was sure it was getting worse.

"What's up?" Leigh advanced and stopped a couple of feet away, frowning inquisitively, mixed with a bit of concern. I pointed at my mouth. "Sore throat?" Leigh guessed, but that wasn't what I'd meant.

"Lip," I uttered.

"Cold sore?"

"No. Yours."

"Oh!" Leigh laughed. It was enchanting, Leigh's laughter, a breathy 'hah' and a gasped inhalation over which their smile lingered. Honestly, sometimes I could've rolled my eyes at myself, because everything about Leigh was just...perfect. To me. They poked their tongue against the inside of their lip, flinching slightly.

"New piercing?" Woot! Actual words. Go, Jesse!

"Yeah. Got it done this afternoon. Do you like it?"

It was a perfect excuse to move closer, but my shoes seemed to have stuck themselves to the ground. I settled for nodding instead. "How many's that now?"

Leigh thought, at the same time reaching up a hand and feeling their way along one ear then the other, counting under their breath. "Eight? I think one's healed over. Has it?"

They stretched up towards me, but their hair was covering their ear. I clamped my lips between my teeth in an effort to make it less obvious that my breath was juddering with nerves. I lifted my hand and brushed Leigh's hair back, trying to stay focused on their ear, overwhelmed by their closeness, their soft hair tickling my fingers, the relative coolness of their skin where our hands touched...

"Three," I pushed out.

"Is there a hole at the top with nothing in it?"

That part of Leigh's ear was still in shadow. My fingers combed through the strands of hair - shiny midnight blue in the twilight - as I moved it behind Leigh's ear. "I think so."

"Eight, then," Leigh confirmed.


"It was meant to be a snakebite - " Leigh poked at the lip piercing again, same result as last time " - but it hurt like hell."

"A snakebite? What's that?" I hadn't moved my hand away. I wasn't sure I could.

"One on either side."

"Cool." I liked piercings. They were fun, and if I'd been slimmer, or less bothered about not being slimmer, I'd have probably got my eyebrow pierced, although...maybe it would draw attention away from the rest of me.

I couldn't recall if Leigh had piercings when I first met them. I was kind of overwhelmed, and everything had gone a bit hazy and soft focus. Whether Leigh had them or not, I'd still feel the same, but the nose stud was definitely recent.

Would the one on their lip make kissing more difficult? Why was I even thinking about that?

Leigh had kissed me once. On the cheek. It was the day Matty was assaulted - by his dad. Leigh needed a shot of hydrocortisone, which they self-administered and everything was fine, but they still should've gone to the hospital to get checked out. Of course, they refused to - I didn't blame them, to be honest, but I kept that to myself at the time - and so, I accompanied Leigh home and hung around until Adam and Sol got back.

It was the quickest kiss, and it had only been to say thanks, or maybe it had been more. I just didn't know. We were both pretty shy in that respect. What if we were both also waiting for the other to be bold enough to ask us out on a date, or make a move or something? We might never get any further than this disjointed conversing that seemed to have replaced the ease with which we used to chatter.

"I'd better go in," Leigh said.

"OK." Please don't.

They turned and walked back towards the house, taking their time - were waiting for me to stop them? As they reached the door, they paused and called, "D'you need a drink or anything?"

Oh! "Er...yes, please. Diet Coke?"

Leigh nodded and smiled. "Be right back."

"Thanks!" I shouted, but they'd already disappeared inside. I swear I was gonna be Jesse the Puddle by the time they got back - why did it have to be so damn hot? Why did they?

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