Penny and James were picking up red solo cups that were literally everywhere, James carried two trashbags while Penny carried a dustpan. She walked over to him.
She said smiling towards him.
“Thanks again for helping me, I don’t think I would have managed on my own!” James also smiled, he turned to Penny, his eyes meeting her dark amber-color ones.
“Of course and besides I was tempted to throw a match at it before you asked anyway.” Penny laugh, James felt his cheeks grow slightly hot as he was blushing, he had always loved Penny’s laugh, it wasn’t forced, it was sincere and soft, it was peaceful. Penny grabbed a fistful of solo cups and jammed them in the bag, she sighed, dropping the bag and running her hands through her long brown hair, closing her eyes.
“Ugh, I’m so SICK of doing this, I need some air.” James nodded. He grabbed her garbage bag and started picking up faster as Penny left the apartment to go outside, James saw her sit on the steps and take a few deep breaths of the evening air.
She needs a break James thought to himself.
We’ve been cleaning up since 12:00 it’s now exactly 7:00. He couldn’t believe how many people there had been at Penny’s this morning. It had been her birthday, today she had turned 18. James’s birthday was later on in the year, November 23rd, he would be 19. James kept shoving the cups and napkins and paper plates that littered every surface in the small living room, beer bottles scattered the floor, he stuffed them into Penny’s overflowing recycling bin. Penny came back inside just as he was sweeping up the last of the broken balloons and the glitter.
“Oh! Thank you so much, James!” She gasped, Penny rushed to hug him and as she did so, James felt calmer more relaxed, her arms around him felt right. It was something he had never experienced before due to the fact that he was constantly being moved from foster care house to foster care house. Penny broke away from him, she frowned at the shocked expression on his face.
“Are you ok James?” She asked gently touching his hand.
James nodded breaking away from his thoughts.
“Yes, I’m just tired.” Penny giggled.
“I know i”m beat to.” She flopped down on the couch and turned on her tv yawning.
“Oh! I didn’t realize it was so late, sorry that you had to be here forever!” James shook his head.
“No, I wanted to help.” Penny smiled.
There was an awkward moment of silence, then James grabbed his backpack which had been lying by the door.
“Well, I better get going!” he said turning to the apartment’s front door. Penny jumped up.
“No, please stay with me!” James shook his head again.
“I really shouldn’t, I should be getting back.” Penny rushed towards him, her delicate hand wrapped around his, he wicked slightly at her warm fingers, his were cold. Penny realized this too, she looked down and said,
“James, your fingers are freezing!” James nodded.
“Yeah, that happens once in a while.” Penny shook her head.
“No, I don’t want you getting sick from how hard you’ve been working! Come, come sit down!” She pulled him towards the sofa where the tv’s light was gently reflecting off the wall behind it.
James sighed, even if he hated the idea that Mrs. Hicks the foster care nurse would be upset with him because he hadn’t been back before his curfew, Penny was right, he needed to lay down, he could feel the day’s weight pressing down on his shoulders. James crawled onto the couch next to Penny, setting his backpack down in front of it. Penny kept looking at him like she was hinting at something he wasn’t picking upon.
“James?” she finally asked after what seemed like hours of the butterflies moving around in his stomach. Jame turned to look at her resting his hand on the back of the sofa.
“Yeah?” he asked partially yawning. Penny blushed.
“Can you lay your head in my lap?” James drew in a breath, Penny stumbled over her words upon hearing this,
“I-It’s just like since we’re friends and f-friends only, you look exhausted and I- James quickly leaned forward and place his head in her lap. Penny smiled and she began to gently stroke Jame’s hair, they didn’t speak at all, they just sat together in silence watching the episode of Shark Tank that was playing on the tv.
James eventually began to feel his eyes start to close and he let out a big drawn-out sigh, Penny stopped stroking his hair.
“You alright James?” James nodded.
“Ok,” she replied. Suddenly, a very important thought flew across Jame’s mind, he lept up, zipping open his backpack.
“Oh! I almost forgot!” Penny looked up, her eyes had also been about to close. James dug around in the pocket until he found a little box wrapped in pink-colored tissue, Penny’s favorite color. He pulled it out and place it in her palms.
“Here you go, I bought it yesterday but with the cleaning, I almost forgot to give it to you.” Penny’s face had suddenly turned quite pink, smiled and as she did so, James noticed the smallest imperfection on one of her front teeth, it was a scrape he had never noticed before, he had always thought she had been absolutely perfect but now since he had noticed this little minority, he felt his heart grow for Penny, even more, it started to thump faster as she began to unwrap the gift and when she opened the small black box, revealing two yellow flower earrings, she gasped and then to James’s disbelief, she began to cry.
“What? What’s wrong is it not what you wanted?” Penny abruptly turned her head and said.
“No, they’re perfect, they’re so beautiful!” James felt a wave of relief wash over him, smiling he replied.
“There dandelions, remember it was the first time I met you, I picked you one of those?” Penny nodded sniffing and wiping her nose on the sleeve of her jumper.
“They’re beautiful, Jame you didn’t have to!” James shrugged.
“It’s your birthday, of course, I had to!” Penny smiled and said.
“And I couldn’t ask for anything more!” James blushed. They sat there looking at each other and then, Penny closed her eyes and started to lean towards him.
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