With You All the Way - Cynthia Hand


“My mom isn’t home,” Leo says as he opens the door.

That’s when I know that he wants to have sex.

“Oh” is all I can think to say.

“She’s out of town until Tuesday.” It’s Friday afternoon. He definitely wants to have sex. We’ve been dating since February (this being mid-June), kissing a lot, making out whenever we can find somewhere private to hide away. Sex is the obvious next step.

“So we’ve got your place all to ourselves,” I say giddily. I’ve been thinking about Leo all day, wondering when I would get to see him, daydreaming about the smooth warm feel of his lips against mine. When he texted that he wanted to hang out this afternoon, it was the best kind of surprise. And this, well, it feels like I’m having a sexy dream about Leo.

Only this is real.

Leo smiles, a little-kid-about-to-open-his-birthday-present type smile. “You could even—I don’t know—stay the night?”

I laugh, that giggle I hate, the one I do so often around Leo. Stay the night. Wow. How can I even pull off being gone all night? My parents will notice if I don’t come home. Pop will notice, anyway. Mom probably wouldn’t notice if I went missing for a week.

“You could tell them you’re sleeping over at a friend’s house,” Leo suggests. That’s the obvious play. My best friend, Lucy, will go for it, too; she’s so excited that I—quiet, nerdy Ada—finally have a verifiable love interest. At first they teased me that I made Leo up, this perfect boy I kept talking about. I had to practically beg Leo—who hates high school dances—to take me to prom, just to prove he was real. Ever since then my friends have been referring to Leo—popular, non-nerdy Leo—as “The Miracle.” And this—him wanting to have sex with me, not just once, apparently, but all night long—seems miraculous, too.

I nod. Laugh again. “Okay.”

His smile grows wider, kid-on-Christmas-morning level excited. “Okay? Really?”

I try to act like my heart isn’t thudding in my chest. “I mean, Friday’s family night, which is seriously sacred to my stepdad, but I can miss it. We’re going out of town next week, so we’re going to have a lot of family time, so—”

“I’m going to miss you,” he says, “when you’re in Hawaii.”

I smile. “I’m going to miss you, too.” Stupid compulsory family trip to Hawaii. “So yeah, I guess, I can stay the n—”

“So you really want to?” he asks.

“I do,” I say breathlessly. I get out my phone and text Lucy, who enthusiastically agrees to be my alibi, and text Pop that I’m having a sleepover at Lucy’s.

Have fun! Pop texts back.

Then Leo takes my hand and leads me toward what I’m guessing is his bedroom.

His house is in Santa Clara, a few train stops before San Jose. It isn’t a large house. Three bedrooms, two baths. From the street it looks tiny, especially if I’m comparing it to my own house in Redwood City. If I’m being nice—and my default setting is nice, I can’t seem to help it—I’d say it was “refreshingly minimal.” When I picture myself as an artist (like Leo’s mom, who’s a famous local sculptor) I can imagine living in a house like this.

I’ve never seen Leo’s room before. He’s invited me over a few times since we started going out, but his mom was always home. There was some unspoken understanding between them that we wouldn’t hang out in his bedroom, so we stayed in the kitchen or streamed movies on the living room sofa. Now, as we move down the hallway toward the inevitable (!!!) sex we’re about to have, I pause to look at the framed photographs hanging on the wall. Most of them are of Leo and Diana with various people I assume are relatives. I point at the photo of a toddler with something bright red—beets? tomato sauce?—smeared all over his face. “Aw. Look at you.”

He cringes. “My mom won’t take it down. She loves to humiliate me.”

“I think it’s cute,” I say.

“You’re cute,” he counters.

We come to a room crammed with tables and sculptures in various states of progression: his mom’s studio. She works with wax and clay in there and then takes it to a place in the city to cast it into bronze. I barely resist the urge to go inside and attempt to absorb some of her genius.

Leo, however, is not impressed. He tugs on my hand to get me moving again, toward a smaller bedroom at the end of the hall.