Twenty Six: Clean


I stepped into the shower, letting the steamy hot water strike my body and race down. I wet my hair and then ran my hands through it. It felt so good, I’d almost forgotten how relaxing a hot shower can be.  I reached for Allison’s shampoo and eyed the bottle. Big Sexy Hair. Well, not what I would have chosen for myself, but then again I didn’t have much say in the matter. After shaking a small amount of the gooey substance into my palm, I smeared it all over my head and scrubbed fiercely. As if I could wash all my problems away... externally and internally.

I leaned back, letting the water hit the back of my head. I hadn’t meant to be so rude to her just then. It was a gut reaction. An invitation to a party could only mean one thing. She had a date. A real date. Not just studying. A fucking date.

Of course,
part of me argued. Did you really think that nothing was going to come out of that? That she and her man were just going to get tired of each other and then she’d be single, and therefore, free to spend more time with you? Get real, Taylor. She’s found herself a guy, you should be happy for her. You should support her. Not act like a jackass every time she brings him up.

Wow. I was right.

As I rubbed the soap on my chest and under my arms, I made a decision. While it was hard to ignore my affection for her, that’s just what I would do. Keep it to myself. Not let it ruin our friendship. I knew it would be difficult, but I also knew I had to do it. The look on her face just before she left the bathroom... I had caused that. The look of uncertainty and worry. I wasn’t doing her any good by being jealous; I was only hurting her. Which if I really loved her, then I wouldn’t be doing.

. I just said it. Love.

“Ohhh...” I groaned aloud in the shower. “I just keep digging myself in deeper, don’t I?”

I was clean... well, on the outside, anyway, even if my mind was still a jumbled, ragged mess. I picked up another bottle of bath products and inspected it. I wasn’t quite ready to leave the muggy comfort of the shower yet.

Soothing Bath and Spa Gel
. Well, I sure needed to be soothed right about now. Hmm... I lifted up the lid and sniffed it. It smelled like peaches. I read the directions aloud.

“Pour out small amount on loofah or soft sponge. Work into a lather, then spread all over body. Rinse. Repeat if desired.” I snorted. They needed to give directions for this? What idiot didn’t know how to use bath gel?

I took the lid all the way, electing to use it. I didn’t know what the hell a loofah was, and didn’t see a soft sponge anywhere within the vicinity, but I figured my hand would do just as well. I tipped the bottle, expecting thick, molasses-like gel to slowly run out. Not so.

It was a very thin substance, the way jello gets when it’s not quite frozen yet. I must have dumped half the contents of the bottle into my hand before I realized what was happening. I shrieked a little and dropped the bottle. It landed next to the drain with a loud thud. I used my other hand to catch the liquid before it seeped through my fingers and leaked over the sides of my hand.

“Shit!” I exclaimed loudly, holding a handful of the runny goo. What was I supposed to do with this? I didn’t want to waste it, but--

“TAYLOR?!” I heard a loud bang on the door and then it opened, and Allison peered her head in.

“What are you doing?” I screeched. “I’m naked!!!” Nevermind that there was one of those blurry glass doors on her shower. She could still see me.

“What are YOU doing? I heard a scream, and a thud, and then you cussing! I yelled for you like three times and you didn’t answer! I thought you’d fallen and knocked yourself out or something.”

  I peered around the edge of the door at her and she flushed, avoiding my gaze. “I’m FINE. I just dropped the bottle.”

  “I, uh.... ok, nevermind, I’ll get out.” She retreated out the door, but changed her mind for a second and came back in. “Oh, and hurry up... or I’ll go flush the toilet repeatedly.” She grinned maliciously, then dashed out.

I chuckled, closing the shower door all the way and then looking at my hands. Now. Back to the matter at hand. What was I going to do with all this mess?

Oh, just go ahead and use it.
The more the merrier, right?

I rubbed my hands together, coating them with the gel, and then spread it all over my chest and arms. The scent of peaches invaded my nostrils.

“Why isn’t this stuff getting all lather-y?” I muttered. It was still in its original form. Wasn’t it supposed to become suds or something?

“Yeech.” The smell was overpowering, and now I was all sticky. This wasn’t soothing at all.

I grabbed a washcloth and used it to scrape the stuff off my skin. I turned the heat up on the shower, hoping maybe that would help eliminate it.

“Taylor!” A voice shouted through the thick wooden door, followed by several bangs. “I’m serious, hurry up!”

“I’m hurrying, I’m hurrying!” I shouted back at her. “Give me a little time here!”

“You’ve been in there for 30 minutes! You’re worse than I am!”

“Yeah, yeah.” Some minutes later I was finally satisfied, and stepped out of the door, wrapping one of the fuzzy green towels around my waist. “Alright, I’m out. Calm down.”

“Can I come in? I want to take my contacts out. My eyes are burning.”

“Yeah, I suppose. I mean, it’s not like you didn’t barge in here before when I was exposed.”

“You’re not naked, are you?”

“NO. Come in.”

The door hesitantly opened and she stepped in, her face toward the floor, one hand scratching furiously at her left eye. “I think I got something in my eye.”

“Let me see.” I stepped closer to her, and she looked up and reeled back.



“You’re not dressed!”

I rolled my eyes. “Of course I’m not dressed. My clothes are in your room.”

“Well, go get them!”

“Let me see your eye first.”

She huffed, but agreed. I wiped my wet hands on my towel, then carefully held her face and her eye open, inspecting it. Deep down I knew it was a cheap excuse just to touch her, but I was also really trying to help. Her eyes were bloodshot from her scratching, but they were still gorgeous.

“Your lens looks all blurry,” I said softly, my face only inches from hers. I could feel mine heating up. “And it looks like you might have gotten some dust or lint or something on it.”

Her eyes were tearing up, probably from the pain and me holding them open for so long. I carefully wiped them off of her upper cheeks and right beneath her eye.

“OK.” She sniffed suspiciously. “What were you doing in here?”

I stepped back, reluctantly letting my arms fall back to my sides. “Nothing. Well, showering, obviously.” I narrowed my eyes. “Why?”

“Because you smell like peach cobbler, that’s why.” She tittered, finding that comical.

“Well,” I defended myself, “I used your bath gel. Sorry!”

“Well how much did you use, Taylor? I use it all the time and don’t smell like that. You better not go outside. The bees would be all over you.” She stepped over to the mirror and took one lens out, sighing with relief.

“Hilarious. I just used a little too much, I guess.” I moved up beside her, elbowing her playfully. I glanced up in the mirror, instantly mesmerized by our reflection.

“Didn’t you read the directions?” She turned her head and gave me her what an idiot look.

I didn’t reply. I was still staring at us in the mirror. We even looked like a couple. I stood so close to her that our arms touched. I was much taller than she, but I imagined that if we slow-danced, her head would fit perfectly on my chest and her arms perfectly around my waist. We were both light-skinned, blond, and bright-eyed. We would have beautiful children.

TAYLOR! Get a grip!!!!!

I blinked rapidly, emerging from my trance. Hadn’t I made an important decision in the shower just moments before? Yes, you did, my mind scolded, and you’re going to stick with it.



“Um.. you OK?” In the mirror, I watched her peek at me with concern.

“Oh, oh, yeah, fine, I’m fine,” I said nonchalantly. Blasphemy.

“OK... you just zoned out there for a second.” She took out her other lens and rubbed her eyes ardently. “Well, it feels better, but still not perfect. But,” she said, grabbing her glasses from the marble counter and sliding them up her nose, “I guess I’ll have to grin and bear it. Now, get dressed, and come downstairs.”

“Will you go pick out some clothes for me?” I needed a few minutes alone, pronto. “Just, uh, lay them on the bed.”

One eyebrow raised questioningly, and she absentmindedly scratched her messy hair just above the ear. “You want me to pick out your clothes? Taylor, are you sure you’re alright?”

“I’m fine,” I emphasized. I shooed her with my hands. “Go.”

“Alright, alright. Oh, and Taylor?”


“Before you put a shirt back on...I’m impressed.” She grinned mischievously.

“Impressed? With what?” I asked nonchalantly, fighting the impending blush on my face.

“With...” she dragged the word out, unbearably slowly. “That.” She reached her hand out and ran the tips of her fingers down the front of my chest. “Contrary to what I believed before, you have muscle after all!”

“Uh...uh...” her gentle touch on my skin left me a stammering idiot. She tapped the top of the sink absentmindedly, that grin never leaving her face.

“Well, I’ll go get your clothes and I’ll be downstairs,” she said pointedly. “Hurry up, hon.”

The door closed and I was finally alone, my breath caught in my throat and trembling... and wondering how much longer I could keep up my charade under these circumstances.