(Love is Awkward)
Publication date: August 1st 2023
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Elin Axelsson is unmistakably the worst goalie in her women’s indoor soccer league. Yet each week, she laces up her cleats, pumps up her teammates, and gives it her all. At least playing soccer means being able to spend more time with her all-star goalie boyfriend, Nate. And her best friend of fifteen years—who’s a total ladies’ man—Hawk.
But when Elin catches Nate cheating, she dumps his ass, and finds herself thrust back into the weird world of online dating. At least she has Hawk to lean on. He has a new woman every week, and is a dating expert. But after a few awkward first dates with other people, Elin starts noticing Hawk in a different light. Except, that can’t happen. She can’t risk losing him, or their fifteen-year friendship if things go sour.
That is, until they manage to fall tongue-first into each other’s mouths. The two form a pact to prevent diving hormones-first into more bad relationships. They’ll hook up with each other, and compartmentalize their friendship. But there are rules: Elin sets the pace, no sex with others while the pact is in effect, and if either develop romantic feelings for the other, they must bail out to protect the friendship. It’s the perfect arrangement!
Until it isn’t.
Our gazes split as I pretend to stretch my neck, crinkling the melting bag of ice, and severing a replay of the moment at the fire pit we both refuse to acknowledge.
He leans in, and a tiny giggle flutters up my chest and out through my lips.
“What?” He asks, pulling his torso back, his voice squeaking high. “Does my breath smell?” Furrowing his brow, he huffs into his palm. With a deep sniff, he shakes his head.
I swallow down a larger chuckle. He looks over my shoulder as he bites his lower lip. Do what happened the other night. It’s simple.
I cough to cover another laugh and clear my throat. “Let’s try again.”
Hawk crosses his arms and tilts his head like a confused puppy. “Are you going to laugh at me again?”
I shake my head. “No?” Maybe.
“Well, that’s so convincing.” His voice hits a puberty high crack. “It’s only me.”
I nod and take in a deep breath. It’s only me? Does he realize what that even means? There is no one I trust more than him. Despite that, this is still new territory. There’s this tiny nag in me throwing up blocks, worried about being tossed aside when he’s bored of me.
My lips part and hover close enough to feel the gentle exhale of air from his mouth. I peek open an eye to find he’s staring back at me. Another obnoxiously loud laugh erupts from my mouth, and a pang of worry seizes my heart.
I suck in my lips and bite down as I open my eyes. Well, crap. He looks so … confused?
“You’re not okay with this, are you?” He scratches at his cheek and glances down.
The bag of ice drips on my shirt and ceases the trembling tickle in my chest. “It’s not that. It’s every time I see your face I laugh.”
“I’m that horrible looking to you?” His tone suggests a joke, but one drenched in a heavy ouch.
“Shut up. You know you aren’t ugly.” I shake my head.
“True. I’m in the realm of hideous.” He flashes a wide grin and runs his tongue over his lips. “Would a bag over my head with lip holes help?”
“You. Are. Ridiculous.”
He covers his face with wide fingers. “Better?”
“Stop making fun.”
All I want to do is see if the fire pit was a fluke, and forget all the other nonsense. Instead, I can’t stop giggling like I’ve never been with someone before. I lean in, kiss the back of his hand, and lean back.
“Oh, baby.” He rolls his eyes back, pulls his hands down his cheeks, and lets out a groan.
“This. This is why it’s weird.” A full belly laugh pulls through, filling the air. “You’re, you.” Knowing it’s him kissing me is different from seeing him kiss me. When the structured lines of his face get close, my nerves flare a warning and a protective shyness takes over.
“Wildflower, I only want to kiss you. I need to kiss you.” His hands land at his sides with an exaggerated smack and his tone shifts to serious. “Do you actually want to do this?”
The way he says “Wildflower” melts me. I nod repeatedly and pout my bottom lip. My chest holds the tingles, the desire, the pull to him. “I don’t know what’s happening. It’s like each time we get near, one of our magnets flips over, shooting us far apart.”
“Oh. Talk dirty to me with science. Two poles of a magnet repelling.” He leans back and gives an approving nod.
The issue isn’t the repelling, it’s the pull. The thing I’m stuck on from the night we kissed is, he kissed me. He scrambled the natural balance of our friendship, messing with the normally clear division line. We crossed into the unknown and he was burned. Literally. I don’t want to get burned or set our friendship ablaze in a grand bonfire. And yet, I want to be kissed—by him. None of this is logical.
Beck Erixson writes about the beautifully awkward world of navigating the journey to true happiness through friendships, love, and family—be it blood, found, or chosen. Her stories enhance the importance of positive interconnection, even when we feel lonely. She lives on the Jersey Shore, and can often be found either writing by the river, or in it in some way. Her short stories have appeared in Many Nice Donkeys, and Full Mood Mag.
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