White lights twinkled above us as we danced under a European sky. Time seemed to stand still even though I know that wasn’t possible. Our time here as lovers was coming to an end and we were both clawing at our last moments. Hungry and passionate, unwilling to let go, to close the door.
What led us here was a normal “argument” between Oliver and I. The banter and flirting had reached a boiling point and one verbal sparring match found us nose to nose breathing each other. We were so comfortable around each other it was almost as if it was just that easy to always be around him. Normally we shook these moments off but this time, this time we were unable to deny what we felt. It was plausible, like another person standing in the room so it wasn’t something that we could sweep passed with a giggle or a shrug. Not any more. This moment was our tipping point.
His body responded to mine as mine responded to his. My lower lip lodged between my teeth and I took a deep breath. Then I closed whatever little space was left between us. His head sank to my neck, his lips gently touched my skin. My arms immediately encircled him, my hands slid into his hair, a moan escaped my mouth. I burned to be closer. I wanted more of him, I needed more.
Then Oliver broke our connection.
He ran his hands through his hair, a look ran across his face as if he had committed the worst crime.
"Jude, it isn’t you. I don’t know what I’m doing lately. When you’re around, things I don’t normally think about are things I can’t stop thinking about. I just don’t know what I am doing."
"I know what you were doing and so do you. I know what we were doing, Ollie. I know I wanted to continue to do it too. Do you feel the same way?"
He looked at me with fire in his eyes, I wondered what he was going to say but he just looked. Stared. Licked his lips.
"Oliver, what are you thinking?"
"Spend the weekend with me. Away from this. From everyone."
Often throughout our childhood we struggled to separate ourselves from our families. It was the one thing we both wanted, to be out from under them and to make decisions about our lives that didn’t warrant the grand inquisition. Our families were intertwined, so much so that even now as adults we spent holidays together. We were all that close.
But Oliver and I had developed a kind of rhythm I couldn’t explain. He kept me on my toes while still being sharp as a whip. He was brilliant, painfully so and he never passed up the chance to show me just how smart he really was. He was comfortable and had taken care of my broken heart more than once.
I was deliriously happy at the proposition. My mind raced with the implications of this - we were friends. Friends with obvious chemistry and feelings for one another. But still… friends. Almost family. Oliver was important to me, then and now. I knew I held some sort of esteem in his life too.
This would either make us or break us and I would never forgive myself if I didn’t try. I would never forgive myself if I was too scared to let him love me the way I knew he could. More importantly, I needed to let him love me because it was what I deserved.
I smirked at him.
"Just a weekend? I don’t think you can thoroughly prove any theories in a weekend."
"You underestimate me. Keep doing that, it makes you easy to impress when I am pulling out all the stops."
He began closing the space between us again, the air sparked and I began to feel his touch even though his hands were at his sides. Butterflies tumbled low in my belly and a steady thrum settled across my abdomen.
I wanted him to touch me.
"A week." I said.
We were best friends. But maybe we should be lovers. And a week would put the thought to rest or fan the flames of desire. Either way, it was something we both wanted and needed.
I knew Ollie well - his behavior when faced with a challenge could be described as nothing short of barbaric. He was take no prisoners, he would go to the farthest length and do just about anything to win.
"Two weeks. Do you have paid vacation at your shithole of a job?"
"You’re such a jerk. Yes. I have FOUR WHOLE PAID WEEKS." I enunciated the last part of the sentence, waving my hands wildly to knock my point home.
"Four weeks. Perfect. How long do you need to request such an amount of time?"
He was being an ass. I knew he was. So I played right into the role as I always did.
Oliver was a money man. He had a strange dry humor that most people found, sarcastic. He made a lot of it and in turn helps other people make a lot of it too. You had to be a certain kind of person to deal with the people he did on a daily basis. He’s a man’s man, a regular ol’ athlete - likes the gym, sports, beer. I like those things too so I guess it has always felt normal to be by his side.
But was it normal to want to be there forever?
We shared a life as it was now. Oliver, nor I had ever had significant others come for holiday celebrations even though we had both been in one or two serious relationships. It never seemed right to share our family with those people, we would rather just be together in our own little swirl of holiday madness. It would always be Oliver and I at the end of the night, sitting on the couch, my feet in his lap laughing and talking until the sun came up.
Some of these memories are the best ones I have.
This could be real. I felt warm. Loved. But most of all, I felt wanted and feeling this way made me want to prove to him that I wanted him, and this, too.
"I can ask right now."
He laughed, the smile lingered on his face and laid across his eyes.
"Your little Robin Hood Agency can spare you for a month at such short notice? You aren’t very good at what you do are you?"
I walked closer to him and laid my hands on his chest. His heart raced underneath my palm and I looked up into his eyes, blinking very dramatically for comic relief.
"I am going to show you just how good I am at what I do."
I stepped back as he leaned into me and he stumbled. I laughed. He laughed.
"Show me how good. Do you promise you will show me everything you are good at Jude?"
"Yes Oliver, I will. And probably more than once."
He reached out to grab me again and I slipped from his reach, retrieving my phone, I wiggled it at him.
"I am going to make some calls now. I suggest you do the same. It seems like we have some time off to request."
Twenty minutes later I had the next month off and Oliver was closing up shop for a month and giving his two loyal employees a month off. With pay. They offered to keep things up and running for the month but he refused, he couldn’t relax if he was worried about the things that were going on back at home.
It wasn’t the nature of his business to hand clients over to other agencies but he had to prove that he could walk away as easily as I proved I could. That competitive streak I told you about was blazing hot.
The Robinson Group would go on without me for a month. Our patients would see my partner (and brother) Tristan. We counseled together often so everyone was comfortable in case one of us was indisposed of. Tristan knew he could reach me in the event of a major catastrophe but I trusted with his name above the door, that things would be just fine.
A full two hours later as we sat and teased each other mercilessly, he was free to go.
I nodded, “A month.”
He stood up and walked toward me. Reaching his hands out to me, I took them and let him raise me from my seat. He leaned down and hugged me. As soon as his arms were around me it felt different. As if the decision we just made registered with our bodies. We melted together and I felt the tension of the discussion as it fell away.
He leaned back, resting his hands knotted at my lower back.
"Now where to?"
"Tropical or touristy?"
We both looked at each other. I knew I wanted quiet. Seclusion almost. I wanted to be with this man with no distractions, no interruptions. I wanted to walk away from life for one month and share all of that time with him.
"Something quiet and romantic. Maybe Italy or Spain."
The decision was fairly easy, we had both been interested in going to Europe so it made sense. I had a travel fund I contributed to monthly so it was fairly padded and I felt like this might be the trip of a lifetime. We pooled airline miles and points - we were financially comfortable but still cared about decent prices. Once all the arrangements were made the sun had set and we had just a few hours to go before we boarded a plane to Italy.
"So we have to wait eight hours to leave. It is going to be a long eight hours."
I understood exactly what he meant. Now that he had touched me I didn’t know how I could go without him touching me. I craved his hands on me like that again, his lips at my neck.
"We shouldn’t talk until we get to the airport. I have tons of things to do and so do you. Let’s go our separate ways and I will see you in the airport. Preferably at the gate, all checked in for our romantic getaway."
"Really? We just decided to go to Europe, alone, for a whole month and you don’t want to see me? And you just called it a romantic getaway! Shouldn’t we celebrate by, I don’t know - having sex. That sounds like an excellent idea."
I grabbed my purse from behind him and placed it on my shoulder. “I figure we have a whole month together. We can talk, discuss and even have sex then. I waited a long time for this, I am not going to have a quickie when Italy is waiting.” I stood up on my toes and kissed his cheek.
Six hours later I made my way through check in at JFK airport. Everything went smoothly and as I made my way to the gate my phone beeped. A text from Oliver read:
"You look beautiful."
I smiled at the screen and typed back, “Creepy.”
I heard him laugh behind me and I turned to meet his face. He looked happy and content and perfect. I couldn’t help myself, tears filled my eyes because a part of me thought he wouldn’t be here. I thought I had imagined the whole thing and maybe I was having a psychotic break like the ones I diagnose daily. But he was here. Oliver was here, in the flesh.
We boarded the plane hand in hand.
The month flew by as I expected and we found ourselves sharing our last night together. My heart was heavy with what this really meant. I would never kiss his lips again. I would never share his bed, feel his touch. Tomorrow we would be on a plane on our way back to New York where our families waited with hundreds of questions about the last thirty one days.
The truth was neither Ollie nor I even understood yet what this trip had done for us. We had underestimated what sex would do to our relationship. We would have never been prepared for how insatiable we were for each other.
At least I didn’t think either of us knew but it turned out, he had a very good idea. About a week into our trip we had opted to stop calling them and sending pictures. Every message or photo just made all the questions worse. More prying, more crossing of lines, more invading of privacy. Their curiosity was peaked even further when we stopped responding all together.
During our time in our villa, we didn’t discuss what it meant, just often commented on how right it felt. How easy it was to be with him and him with me. There wasn’t a moment that we didn’t spend together in the thirty one days we spent there. Some days we walked lazily along the coast of Italy and sampled local food and wine. Other days, we laid in bed, our only sustenance was each other.
I woke up with him daily, first in another room in the villa, then in my bed just one day after we arrived. The first night was fitful. I wanted to feel the pressure of his body above me, to know what he tasted like, to see his face before he fell asleep.
The next night I walked into his room and laid in his bed beside him. Our first time together was beautiful, slow and sensual like we had waited for years to express these emotions to each other. I cried in his arms that night because it felt like home, even though we were hundreds of miles away from anything that even remotely seemed normal to us. We were the norm. We were what mattered.
As I stared into his eyes that night, I didn’t know what to say. I was at a loss for what I felt, the loss was something I understood that I had to accept. Something would be irreparably broken if this had to end right here but I felt like I thought there wasn’t another choice. I thought it had to be done.
"What are you thinking?"
"I don’t know. I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to face them. I don’t want to stop any of it. I want to stay here with you. Let’s stay here." I laid my head on his chest, squeezing him tightly.
"So. Why do we have to? We are adults. We can do what we want."
"No we can’t. This was one month Ollie, not forever. You and I are not built for forever. We can’t even tell our families we are together. How could this be anything serious if we can’t tell the people we love that we are here together like this?"
"I don’t know what we are built for but I am willing to try to find out. We haven’t told our families because they already know. They are just waiting. And I am tired of spending my time waiting too. I know that right now, leaving here, leaving you, doesn’t feel right. In one month, you went from being my best friend to being the best thing that ever happened to me and I am not ready to surrender to losing that yet. I can’t lose you yet. I feel like I can’t lose you ever."
His hand slipped behind my neck and I fell into him, his kiss was warm and he tasted of red wine and passion. I leaned in, knowing that I could spend forever with him. Here and like this was all I needed to make the world seem right, to make my life complete.
"I love you Jude. I have loved you since I knew what love was. I should have told you, just like you should have told me but now we have this. We have this space away from our life in order to figure this shit out. But leaving here without you is not an option because you are everything that is real and right in the world to me."
I smiled at him, my heart was beating furiously as he pushed away from me and dropped to one knee. He reached into his pocket and retrieved a box and lifted it, offering me his gift.
"Marry me. Tonight. Right now."
I looked at him and smiled through tear filled eyes, then I married the man of my dreams without reservation or question. I did what felt right, I trusted that the love I felt for Oliver was real and unclouded. He was real. He was love. And he still is.
Today, years later, we sit with our kids bouncing off the laps of our families. The shock wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be when we returned from Europe all those years ago, hand in hand, his ring sparkling on my finger. I wondered if it would work, if we would be accepted. We returned to a lot of people telling us it was about time and explaining how they knew it was coming. Oliver was right, they had known all along, they were just waiting for us to find our way.
I guess we were the only two people who didn’t know that love was really staring us in the face. It only took my whole life and one very special month to start the rest of it all, to start our journey from underneath those twinkling lights.