It wasn’t the whisper of leaves along the concrete that pulled the hug apart and spread sheepish smiles across their faces. It was the passing question of a pizza delivery man: “Could you let me in?”
After he was in the building, it was the footfalls of strangers who rustled papers and clinked their keys in the pursuit of misplaced student IDs. She felt each gaze land on them like a curious butterfly and then alight with quiet judgment, but she was looking at the reflection of the lampposts in his eyes, little sparks in dark almond-shaped pools. She wondered if he could sense her hesitation, the budding fear in her stomach that at any moment might blossom into rejection. A light wind picked up, sending the leaves dancing down the sidewalk towards them again; she pressed her fingers deeper into the warmth of the space between his cotton shirt and his wool pea coat, hoping to cloak herself in his acceptance.
“What are you thinking?”
“Nothing,” she lied. She was doubting.
She trained her eyes on the quad over his right shoulder, hiding her mouth in the dip of his collarbone. Two nights ago he had accompanied her to a baseball game, and she had blushed when a friend suggested the pair would end up on the kiss cam. He had hugged her closer and replied without missing a beat, “They wouldn’t put a mixed couple up there.” His voice was matter-of-fact, with no trace of resentment. It broke her heart even more to think he was right, and she could agree to be his girlfriend, but it wouldn’t make their faces light up Turner field. He was right, yet that’s how she felt with his arms around her: full of forbidden energy, photo-illuminate. He was right for her, and maybe that would make up for everything that could go wrong.
The pizza delivery man came down the steps, empty black bag tucked under his arm. He got to the end of the sidewalk and turned back around, facing them.
“Y’all are adorable,” he said, loud enough to carry his words across the length of the sidewalk. The girl tensed, unsure of what might come next, unsure of how she might respond. “My wife and I just divorced after four years together. But I didn’t look at her like that.” He paused. “Don’t let her go.”
“Thanks, man,” the boyfriend replied, waving as the pizza delivery man disappeared into the night. Then he tightened his arms around his girl, and she smiled at the way her white skin seemed to glow against his black.