The Bklyn Times

writer. lover. woman.

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The Stillness of Movement - A Free-Write Essay

Noise and constant movement hold this space, huffs and puffs of recycled air and coughs blend with conversations.  Squeals and creaks fill my head and the sound of different languages is almost musical.  Affirmations are given through the fluid nodding of faces, the dropping of eyes and lifting of smiles.  Babies cry and move in their mother’s stomachs as men and women scramble to forfeit their seats.

Even when you’re sitting still, you aren’t.  You’re still moving, at rest but still touching which gives commuting a very human feel.  The hum of human worker bees – giggles, stolen glances, kisses and goodbyes mixed with hellos and wishes of good days and safe travels. 

Lives spill out in front of you – all around the air is filled with both discomfort and niceties.  The seat is cold under me and my feet move subconsciously, looking for a comfortable place to rest for a while.  The commute is crowded today, the crackling of the loud conductors voice a background soundtrack to the next thirty minutes of my life. 

There are women around me, they are all middle aged, save the youngest that is in her early 20’s and seems to be sitting with her older sister.  They clutch lunch bags and perspiring water bottles.  They sip from travel mugs filled with what smells like every flavor of coffee under the sun.  They are all straight haired with purses that seem to cost more than my rent and makeup that would make a clown wince. 

I realize in this throng of humanity, no one is like me.  Here I am. 

I am unable to identify with their wedding plans, scheduled meetings or hair stylists that would die if my curly head sat in their chair.  I can’t identify with any of them, except the woman in the corner.  Her white wiry hair looks like she combed her curls straight and settled them into a bun that could never hold them back.  I think she must be a quiet one.

Maybe the quiet ones read.  Maybe they watch football.  Maybe they are proud of perfecting a cupcake recipe made from scratch with not one bit of preservatives or color in it, since their child is sensitive to them.  Maybe they have the hopes and fears I have.  Maybe someone else is sick and facing a major medical procedure.  Maybe this is all they think about too. 

There are so many maybes in the faces of these strangers, so much possibility.  There is so much in my face and the face of this one woman that no one cares to see.

Life happens differently – for everyone and everything.  We all have a road, a walk, a sort of commute.  People are comfortable in their discomfort, the push and pull of human traffic ebbs and flows.  Maybe that is a metaphor for life – we have to get where we need to be, keep moving, always moving.  Every day we are expected and expecting.

We try to be solitary.  I watch as a toddler scoots in the seat next to her.  The young girl elicits smiles from all around her, her bubbliness pours forth with all its sticky sweetness.  Her blissful happiness becomes contagious in our corner of the train.  And then I realize that this, this little girl is the reason.  There is no room for doing this alone.  We need the bits of fresh air, the smiles of a small child with all their missing teeth creating random spacing in their mouths that make us all happy. 

We are all in this together. 

We have to be close to each other, in each other’s space in order to live.  People read, they listen to music, some only talk to the person they know in attempt to cocoon themselves from the outside world, a human barrier formed against other stranger interaction. 

But daily I watch the walls come down.  Sometimes I am the bricklayer, my wall built strong and high even though I know that’s not the way to live life.  But sometimes I am the demolition crew, making conversations, smiling with my eyes, making this commute just a little brighter. 

People smile. 

They laugh. 

They commiserate. 

They flirt and fall in and out of love. 

They live. 

They realize that even if you are still, you are still moving.

Filed under essay free write new post nyc commute humanity being human life living in nyc mta chronicles nycmta brooklyn the r train bay ridge

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The Right Moment

Her shirt stretches around the swell of her abdomen as small strong kicks pepper her sides and ribs.  The movements are still abnormal to her, sometimes so forceful she wonders if he is even human.

She breathes into every step and her son sits low on her bladder.  He is always pushing and moving now.  She can’t wait to meet him, kiss his face and sing him happy birthday.  She can’t wait to show him how brave she really is.  Her plan is in motion and all it’s going to take is one small click.

She wonders if he will look like her.  She wonders if his father’s features will shine through and wash over hers.  Her husband has a strong jaw, defined cheeks, piercing brown eyes.  She thinks about how it will feel to be reminded of him daily and prays her son doesn’t resemble him one bit.  She wants to forget him.  She wants to let go of this washed out feeling she has, she feels pieces of her personality drift away as her husband chops at her, wearing her down.

As this infant boy presses to make his grand entrance, she prays for his father’s final exit.  She desperately craves a life free of this man but she knows better than that.  She knows he won’t let her leave willingly.  This boy of theirs will keep them joined forever which will leave them with no way out and no light at the end of the tunnel.

Together.

To a certain degree.

This was something she could not live with.  Years of abuse pulled at her nerve and weaken her resolve, his voice echoing around the empty spaces of her day.  She would never accept a forever with him.  It was something she craved all those years ago but now in this life she wanted the exact opposite of that.  She wanted to be free of his grasp.  Free of his pull.

She wanted to come out from under his thumb.

Understanding what this meant was her first step toward leaving.  She knew separating herself from him would be an arduous process.  It needed to be easier and she had to figure out how to make that happen. 

So many thoughts flooded her brain during that time.  There were bursts of different plans, the bits and pieces of ways to get out.  She grasped at glimmers of a future without his biting tongue and steel hand.

She knew in the end what she needed to do.  Leaving couldn’t be her only option, there had to be another way.

She needed a more permanent way where she could live without his threat, without the fear that accompanied being in a relationship with him held.  She did not want her son to experience the kind of life having him as a father would have given him.

She needed to keep him safe.  This was the only way.

She packed a small bag, things she would need if the baby came on her way to wherever she ended up.  She hid the bag in the corner of her closet and sat on the bed winded and spent.  She understood it had to be any day now and her time was running out.  She could feel her son and his intense need to make his grand entrance.

The front door slammed and woke her from her stare.  Heavy footsteps echoed through the lower half of the house, the opening and closing of drawers drew her to the top of the stairs.

His face filled the space as she looked down on his dead eyes walking towards her.

"We aren’t talking today I suppose. Eventually I am going to be sick of this you know?"

He entered the room and she turned to him.

"I’m counting on it."

"Always so pleasant Margo.  Always so pleasant."

He stepped into the bathroom and slammed the door, the faucet sputtered to life making the pipes in the walls creak and groan.  She stared at her face, green tinged circles hung over her eyes, dried blood crusted at her temple.   Her bottom lip was split open and a small bruise started to form on the right side of her mouth.  Scratches peppered her arms and chest, her throat still ached when she swallowed.

The only part of her body that was its normal hue was her stomach.  He never touched her stomach.

She crouched underneath the bed and reached for her only way out.  The 9mm was heavy and cold in her hand.  Her heart galloped to life and her son’s movements were sharp and purposeful, she felt his kicks low in her abdomen and her legs ached.  She checked that the gun was loaded, shooting lessons he made her take paid off.  She walked slowly to the bathroom door, gun raised and shaking in her hand.

Sharp pains wracked her body and she doubled over, her head resting on the wood of the bathroom door.  Warmth flowed from between her legs and she watched the moisture pool on the floor.  The faucet shrieked to a close and she clamored back to the bed and slid the gun back into its hiding spot.  Tears ran down her face at her missed opportunity and when he emerged from the bathroom, she told him it was time.

He smiled.

Filed under fiction getting out the right moment mother's love domestic violence domestic abuse short story am writing

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When The End Is The Beginning

Thunder crashes overhead and the soaking rain drenches me to the core.  My teeth chatter, my bottom lip quivering uncontrollably.  Tears and rain wash together and my mascara runs in black smudges down my cheeks.

I saw him.  I saw him with her.  And in that moment, he turned and looked.  I jogged away from the window front before she turned to look at me.  I didn’t need that right now.  I didn’t need her to see me resembling a lost wet puppy searching for her master.

I got a block and a half away when he screamed my name into the street.   The rain was beating down on me so hard I could barely hear him above the cacophony.  I turned and threw my hands up.   I was wondering what exactly he expected of me, what he thought he was going to accomplish by not letting me leave.

"Bette, please just stop.  It’s pouring.  Let’s catch a cab and go home to talk this out."

He was out of breath, panting almost.  He must have run to catch up with me, to speak his piece.

"Is there anything to talk about?  I think I saw all I needed to see Abbot.  Go back to your date."

I raise my arm and a yellow taxi splashes to the curb.   I reach for the handle but Abbot pulls the door open for me, sliding in beside me.  His thigh presses against mine and I stare straight ahead, pretending to be oblivious to his presence.  My heart is racing and I am not really sure if it is the run or him.

I disobeyed him.  For the first time ever in our relationship, I disobeyed him.  And it was invigorating.

He turns to look at me and dark brown eyes stare into my face.

"Would you care to explain the scene before I jump to conclusions?"    

Suddenly I don’t care.  I am unabashedly blunt because I have nothing to lose, he is something I want to cage and keep.  But he isn’t that type of animal and I had to accept that about him and about us.

"I followed you to see the type of women you frequent outside your bedroom."

I pull my gaze from his, staring ahead.  The cabbie asks where we are going and we both respond at the same time.

"Brooklyn."  I say.

"Upper East Side.”  He says.

The frustration of the cab driver is evident when he turns to look at us.  I laugh, imagining what we must look like.  We are two people obviously in love, swimming in puddles of rainwater and memories.

"WHERE PLEASE??"

Abbot turns to look at me.  Worry etches his eyes as he reaches his hand to rest it on my wet thigh.  I sink deeper into the seat trying to slide away but his grip is firm and he squeezes my leg roughly.

"Brooklyn."  He says.

I give the cabbie my address, happy to have won even that small battle tonight.   I know his hand is on my leg is as much to keep me in line as it is to soothe his nerves.  He needs control.  Seeing me there throws his worlds off balance bringing both sides painfully close to a collision.

The Brooklyn Bridge comes into view as the rain pelts the windows.  The rhythm is almost hypnotic and I close my eyes, tears run down my face and I drift off to sleep.

I wake to his hand on my face, coaxing me awake.  His jacket is resting on my legs and I am curled on his lap.  I sit up as he pays the fare and I wait for him to come around and open my door.  I guess old habits die hard.  When he opens my door, I raise my eyes to his and meet his gentle smile.  My breath catches in my throat and I remember meeting him, getting to know him and falling in love with him all in that gaze. 

All for that smile.

And suddenly I am not sure I can be angry anymore.

He comes up to my small apartment and fills the space almost immediately.   He has been here only once since our relationship began.  We spent most of our time in his spacious loft on the Upper East Side.  I immediately begin to strip off my wet clothes because the more I move in them the colder they seem to make me.

I also understand this was probably the only way I would get the truth.  This is what Abbot responds to and his connection to me is based mostly in our physical relationship even if I believe we can be so much more.  He follows a few steps behind me, he is still fully dressed and he drips across my wooden floors.  He removes only his watch as we pass my bureau.

I slide into the bathroom and lean to turn on the hot water, as steam fills the room I set out two towels.  Purposely so he understands he has permission to enter.

To follow.

To make it better.

When I step into the stream the day edges its way off of my skin.  I feel relaxed and ready to understand where and if I belong in his life.  I need more than this.  I was clearheaded and determined because I need what that random blonde had with him tonight.

He follows in shortly after me, his eyes take in my body and I wonder if I could ever recover if we didn’t make it.  Abbot is here but I already miss him.  I was already preparing to let him go.

His mouth crashes into mine and we devour each other.  The hunger I have for him in this moment is something I hadn’t ever felt before.  It was primal, frenzied, almost scary.  His hands tangle in my hair, gripping me to him.  I lift myself on his hips and wrap my legs around his waist.  I lean into him, needing him more than I ever had.

He leans his head into my neck and drags my skin between his teeth.  Into my ear he almost sings my name….

"Bette, please…."

We spend two hours in the shower, into the stage where the water is turning cold.  We lay down on my bed, wrapped in towels and each other.  I want to stay like this forever.  I want to forget my plan and forget to confront him.  His breathing slows.

I raise my head and look at his perfect face, the man I had fallen in love with.  This was the same man who made me promise that this was just sex, just exploration, just lust.  But even if it is just those things, those things come with jealousy.  Unfortunately I can’t separate my feelings and that is something Abbot doesn’t seem to understand. 

In my defense I was honest with him when I felt it happening.  I came clean and he assured me it would be ok.  He told me it wasn’t only me and that I wasn’t imagining that there was an attachment between us.  Something we couldn’t explain.

But he needed to explain what happened tonight.         

"Who is she?"

"I don’t have to answer that."

"I know you don’t but you will because I am asking you to.  I need to know. "

"My ex."

"Your ex what?"

I needed to know if this was a relationship or an arrangement.  Right now, Abbot and I were on the very slippery precipice between the two.  It is something very different to both parties involved.

"My ex-girlfriend."

"Can I ask why?"

"No."

"Well I am.  So please.  Why?"

"It doesn’t matter.  I’m here now.  Your little show out in the rain won you the big prize of the night.  I was ending things with her for good if you must know and then we got a drink and… I’m sorry."

He was sorry but for some reason it wasn’t enough.

"You’re sorry you did it or sorry you got caught?"

Abbot looked at me, “Both.”

His honesty rings through, his face is shrouded in confusion.  I love him through it all.  But he doesn’t understand, not everything is a game and I am not a game.  This is not a game.

"Abbot, I am going to be honest.  I followed you because I needed to see with my own eyes that I was your dirty little secret.  I want you to know that I know you took advantage of where I was in our relationship to dismiss me as anything worth showing off or being with.  Instead, you fell into the arms of another woman that you left because she wasn’t enough for you.  Yet here I am but I am also not enough for you."

He shifts from under me and gathers his clothes, getting dressed in a rather annoyed manner.  He reminds me of a woman about to do the walk of shame and in my anger I raise my voice to his back. 

"You are a funny man.  I loved you.  I love you.  And I know you know that.  But you are so fucked up you have no notion of that even being possible do you?  You have deemed yourself unworthy."

"Stop analyzing me Bette.  You wanted to catch me, you did.  Now you can punish me the way you feel I punish you.  Make me pay.  But make it swift.  My patience wears thin quickly."

"I have been very patient with you though so I think you owe me the same courtesy."

Abbot turns to me and smiles, he is angry and I could tell I am annoying him.  But most of all, I can tell that he is listening to me.

"I don’t like to look at this like who owes who what.  I give you what you deserve, I always have.  I have never asked you for anything in return but you have given me more than I could ever truly thank you for.  I apologized because I am sorry.  But I can’t tell you anymore because there is nothing more to say."

I get up from the bed and slide the jacket from his shoulders that he just shrugged into.

"You aren’t leaving.  I want you to stay."

He sits down immediately, as if that is all I need to say to make him forget about anything outside my bedroom.  Now is the time, I have nothing left to offer him but my time, my love, my body.

"Abbot, I love you.  Please tell me how you feel."

"Bette.  I should leave."

"I think you should stay.  I think you should stay and prove to me that you don’t love me the way I think you do.  I think you should stay and show me just how much you have to prove.  I think you should stay because I don’t think I could take it if you left."

"You don’t have a choice.  I make the choices.  I make the rules."

Abbot puts his jacket on and turns to me.

"Love doesn’t happen because you force it to.  Don’t force it and it will show up tenfold.  I am leaving because I am not what love is, I am not what it means.  I am not worthy of it, of you and I am sorry that you felt like what we have is.  I hope to see you again, when things are clear for you and you are less hurt.  Right now, this isn’t working for me.  It has become complicated and needy and I thought you were different and that I could be different but tonight proved that I am just not capable of it.  I knew you loved me, that you were here for me.  I just didn’t care until I saw your face, then when I did - I felt bad but not bad enough to change the person I am for you."

Tears roll down my face and I launch myself at him, holding onto his neck, my tears staining the expensive fabric of his jacket.  He pries me off of him and leaves me crying in a heap of blankets and memories.  The door clicks to lock and the goodbye was sudden and overwhelming.  I drift into a fitful sleep and wake to the next evening.  I thought I imagined what happened between Abbot and I but it was true.  It was over and I would probably never hear from him again unless I decide not to let him go.

I don’t even shower when I get dressed to go to him.  I am a glutton for punishment and I know there is nothing I can do to change the way he feels.  But something in me tells me I have to try, when I wrench my door open I am looking into his eyes, his hand is raised to knock and it seems as if I had interrupted him.

“Hi.”

I look up at him, feeling my stomach in my throat, my heart pounds with both excitement and fear. 

“Hi.  I took the liberty of bringing coffee since I am sure neither one of us slept well.  I wanted to be sure you were ok.” 

He shifts uncomfortably, looking down, he never meets my eyes.

“I need coffee.  I was just going to go catch a cab, try to get to the Upper East Side.”

“Where are you going?”

“To you.  I am always going to you.”

“Not always because I am here, I came to you.  That has got to mean something doesn’t it?  Isn’t this a point for me since I beat you?”

“It’s not a game you know?  This is my life, this is our life.”

He runs his hand through his hair, flustered and aggravated at my inability to take this lightly.

“You really want this don’t you?”

“Yes, I do.  But you do too.  I don’t know very many things but the way you look at me makes me believe you want this.  The way you love me makes me feel like this is the only thing that makes sense.  You are the only thing that makes sense anymore.”

He walks in and hands me my coffee, I sip it and close the door behind him allowing him to walk back into my life.

Filed under love being in love short story am writing the end the beginning cheating stay or leave forgiveness fiction

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The Deed Is Done

She sits across from him.  The energy between them is charged and wound tight.  She wonders if he’s reading her, the slight dip of her shoulder beckoning him and welcoming his stare.  He thinks she always struggles to remain relevant so she inks her skin with violent shades of color.  He thinks she holds on to the past and it seems like its music haunts her on the breath of every breeze.  People stare at her and now at the two of them.  They don’t understand her or what he sees in her and would never consider investing the time try.

He sits across from her.  He tries to relax but can’t.  He feels her presence from where she sits, earthy and sensual.  He recognizes her scent and her memory plays in his mind, the way she sounds, the way she tastes.  He stares at her because he can’t help it, she’s mesmerizing and he wants to eat her alive.  He sees her, really sees her.  He feels her and knows every curve of her body, every inch of her skin.  He listens to her, even when she isn’t saying a word.  He hears her call and feels her pull.  He is in awe of the person she is, perfect in her unique way.

She sits across from him.  Laughter sits in his smile and she thinks it is a shame that he is easy like Sunday morning.  She knows what this is and understands these intense feelings even though the act of feeling it is something she can’t commit to.  He could feel like the best thing in the world, even if it’s new and they hadn’t faced one complication.  It was new and she could love him already.  Maybe things could be different.

He thinks the color of her life pales in comparison to the vibrant story that is painted across her skin.  He believes she is listless and is looking for something different to breathe life into her days.  She told him about the emptiness that creeps into every crevice of her soul.  She tells him how she longs to be touched and maybe even loved.  If only things were different.  She is attracted to his assertiveness, the way he commands all of her attention.   She pulses under his gaze, wanting to forget the life she chose for herself.

He sits across from her.  Her eyes dance when she’s not speaking.  It’s like there is a whole other world behind them.  He wonders what she’s thinking, what she’s feeling, what she is hiding.  He listens to her intently and lavishes her with compliments, caresses and lays small kisses on her hands.  He has learned about her, her wants and needs even in this short time.  He thinks this is what love is.  He likes how she looks when she’s interested in something with her eyes wide and a beautiful shade of green.  Her olive skin is almost golden and her dark hair falls in soft curls down her back.  She hangs on his every word, her hands sometimes reaching out to touch his arm or chest.  She is natural and comfortable in her decorated skin.

She feels like she has nothing to prove, she has made it this way.  She wants him to believe being with him is her only concern, her only desire.  She understands how to flirt with men but with him it seems real.  She wants him to feel like she can’t imagine sitting this close to him and not touching him.  He should feel like she wouldn’t think of not meeting his eyes.  She needs him to feel like she is completely heady with desire, wanting him and only him.  No matter what that meant.

He stares at her.  He lets his eyes slide over her body and hover at her lips.  She licks them softly and he wants to touch the, to rest his thumb there and feel her mouth.  He can’t stay away any longer so he moves next to her.  They both smile.  She leans into his arm and lays her head on his shoulder, her face brushes the fabric of his cotton shirt, crisp but not rough.  He lays his head on hers; turning his face to kiss her hair, inhale her scent.  She smells like lilies but tastes like apricots.  In their final moments he remembers that, her soft flesh adorned with colors that taste like a summer day.

"I love you."

He says it without meeting her eyes because all his emotion is evident in his voice.  She squeezes his arm and burrows closer to him.  She knows he does.  She has waited for him to feel this connection to her and when it happened his behavior was unmistakable like a switch had been flipped.  She is perfectly imperfect, different, odd to most. 

"I love you too."

She leans in and kisses him, softly but thoroughly.  It is their last kiss and it would mean so many things to him but nothing to her.

"I’m sorry."

She rests the barrel of the silencer against his abdomen and shoots him once.  She places it flush against his thigh and pulls the trigger once more.  His eyes widen in shock, horror as she touches his face, softly.  The conversations in the restaurant continue and no one so much as glances at them.  The front of his shirt is crimson and wet, soaked through.  He slumps toward her but doesn’t make a sound, not a whimper as he closes eyes and drifts to the other side to see what awaits him there. 

She moves through the booth, letting his body slide to the plush velvet seat.  She exits the restaurant and walks down the block.  It is only after she turns the corner that she picks up her phone and presses #5.

Ms. Blake answers on the first ring.

"It’s done."

"That took you long enough.  I will be in touch."

“Yes Ma’am.”

The line goes dead and a small smile lifts the corners of her mouth.  She hasn’t decided what tattoo she will use to represent him; all the men are there, dancing across her skin like a painted memorial. 

Filed under romance short story am writing fiction assasin love hit woman

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Three Weeks

I’m always waiting for someone or something.  I was born twenty one days late so it started a long time ago.  There will always be people waiting for me and I will always be waiting for people.

I stare at the door, my body pulses like a homing device its beacon still searching for him.  Still looking for his signal because I will always look for him.

It doesn’t come. I wait and wait and it doesn’t come.  Even though I pray for him to find me here among the ashes. To stop this.  All he had to do was listen.

It is like that when my feelings take hold.  It’s almost as if I step into someone else’s skin.  Wanting him all the time, not just the hour a day I get to writhe under him and show him my truest smiles.  That’s when I am most alive.  When the moment takes hold and I look into his eyes and believe he loves me.

But when I leave I feel a certain way.  Empty.  Broken.  Sad.

Waiting for someone to rescue me.  For him to rescue me.  He knows it.  He just won’t.  So I wait for another door to open or another role to play whatever he feeds me, I eat.

I sit in front of him and uncross my legs, my red lace panties peek out from under the soft cotton of my skirt.  It’s my favorite skirt, soft and worn with frays that tickle just the right places.  He sighs, smiles, then licks his lips.  I lean forward, my nipples tighten and I don’t have to strain for him to see.  His eyes roam my body as if he needs no permission. 

"How was your day Miss Roberts?"

I look at him coyly, a smile snakes across my mouth.  I know he is watching me, his eyes hover at the base of my throat and my pulse quickens.  It’s almost instinctual.  I can’t help my reaction to this man and the effect he has on me.

"Uneventful.  Until now of course.  You’re always the highlight of my day.  Not much happens that doesn’t find its way back to you."

He shifts in his seat.

"I would like to think you have other highlights in your day, other things that make you smile like that.  There must be other things must make you happy that have nothing to do with me.  Tell me what does it for you…."

I lean forward and open my legs, my elbows rest on my knees.  He raises his eyes to mine, attempting to stay focused on the task at hand.  I lean back, cross my legs and prepare for our spar.

"The word highlight is indicative of something major.  You, Charlie, are major.  But it’s hard to say what does it for me anymore since you, nothing really.  I thoroughly enjoy your company.  If that’s what you mean.  Do you find me pleasurable?"

His face flushes, he shifts his tie and stares slightly off to my left.

"What do you think you can accomplish with your behavior?  Do you think it will erase the things you’ve done?"

I stand up and adjust my skirt.  My thighs touch ever so gently as I walk to him.  The anticipation of his lips on mine is too much to handle.  I lean my hands on his legs and bow my head.  My breasts heave with the exertion it takes not to kiss him.  I struggle not to place my legs on either side of him and bury him inside of me.

I lean in to speak into his ear.  My hair drapes down my face and rests on his jacket.         

"Everything you will allow, Good Doctor…"

As I touch him I hear the sound of the locks opening on the door behind me.  I am jolted back to this sterile space, this office that has none of his characteristics pouring through the art or pictures on his desk.  This cold, empty space that is suddenly smaller with the press of four more bodies.  He has reported me before for being too close to him so when the orderlies appeared to carry me away kicking and screaming, it was almost expected.  I crossed the line in the little game he has decided to play with my life.

Dr. Novak raises his eyes to mine.

"Until tomorrow, Hope."

Profanity laden sentences dribble from my lips.  My hospital gown wrenches up in the struggle to reveal standard issue white briefs.  My hair hangs around my face in jagged spikes like blades of unkempt grass.  My real face, not the face I have imagined or remember, appears in the mirror on the wall of this office.

Dr. Novak leans into me, so close I am sure only I can hear and asks, “Were they red today?”

"Let me out of here Charlie!  Let me out!!  I have had enough!  I want to go home, I will say what you want, I just want to leave."

The nurses watch me with the same wide eyes daily.  I struggle as they carry me away and I hear one of them ask him why I call him Charlie since his name is Will.

But his name isn’t Will.  Not to me.  He’s my Charlie.  My savior.  The love of my life.  William Charles Novak.  The man who changed it all.

I scream out into the hall and the sounds echoes off the corridor floors, the slow ding of the elevator signals his departure.  He gets to leave and go home to her, while everyday he has made it his life’s work to keep me here, locked up and medicated.  To keep me silent.  He wants to erase what happened between him and I but something inside of me can’t let go, I can’t let him forget.

I am thrown into my room, the hiss of the airlock slides into place and opens a flood gate of emotions.  I lay in a heap on the floor for what feels like days but is only minutes.  In here time almost stands still.  For people like me, for the craziest of crazies, there is no reason to count the time because there is no getting out.

The fantasy replays in my head.  How sexy I felt knowing he wanted me again.  How I felt thinking and believing he might still want me.

I was resigned to play his game.  But maybe he was right.

A stream of clarity runs through my mind.  The first time I walked into his private office, a place where I was safe with no judgmental eyes or thoughts.  I remembered how I opened under his guidance, how he took me to place I had never been and will probably never go again.

Had I imagined our connection?  Had I dreamt up the very real feelings I had?  Maybe it never happened.  Maybe his hands never touched me, maybe his taste was never on my tongue.

Dread fills my thoughts. It was all muddled when the medicine was delivered and I laid in bed, slipping softly into medicated dreams.

His voice filled my head, racing through my dreams.

"Were they red today?"

Night turned into day then night again before I left my bed.  I missed my appointment with Dr. Novak and quickly realized I was medicated to do so.  The stupor of a hangover envelopes me and I struggle to focus.  Dizziness and nausea set in and I heave into the air, I wretch as tears run down my face.

When I can stand, I walk to the sink and wash the sleep from my face.  The airlock hisses and I turn to see him standing in my room, holding a tray of food and my nightly dosage of sleep in a little plastic cup.

"I got this for you.  Thought you might be hungry."

He places the tray on my bed gingerly, balancing it on the mountain of crisp blankets we are allowed to have.  My hospital gown itches across my skin, his voice raises goose pimples down my arms.

My heart betrays me and his gaze heats me still.  I want to touch him, tell him I understand.  I want to ask him to make all this go away.

"I’m not hungry. But thank you Dr. Novak."

My voice drips with sarcasm.  A part of me doesn’t mean it to, I know that my inability to let things go has landed me here.  But I can’t help it.  My eyes drop, their color deepening when he walks toward me.

"I would let you leave, Hope.  Don’t you want to leave?"

"So let me leave Charlie.  Let me go.  I can’t promise I will stay away from you or her.  But I don’t think you want me to.  I think you like this.  You like this control you have over me in here. You keep me away from her while having your way with me in here."

He closes the space between us and I am suddenly embarrassed by my appearance.  I tug at my hospital gown and attempt to smooth my hair.  The fingers on my left hand drum a beat that I don’t really know.  His hand reaches out and I step into his touch.  He rests his hand on my neck and applies the slightest of pressure, sweet enough to sting but not really hurt.  My breath catches and he moves away from me.  His voice pulls me from that place.  I am sad to leave.  I want him to touch me again in a way that means more than any words could express.

"Hope?  Are you listening to me?  I need you to listen to me.  I absolutely do not like this.  How am I having my way with you exactly?  Nothing happened between us because I am your therapist.  That’s all I am.  Your fantasy are vivid, your imagination runs wild sometimes.  But the truth is, you stalked me.  You stalked my wife.  But I still continue to treat you.  What does that say about how much I care about you?  I chose you, your care, over my wife’s wishes."

I stare at him incredulously.  As if he just doesn’t get it.  Maybe he never will. 

"Why would you do that Charlie?  If nothing happened why did you ask about the panties?  Why do you rev me up only to report me or push me away?  Why did you leave me?  Why?  Why do you antagonize me?  It’s because it’s not a fantasy, it’s not some alternate world.   It’s a fucking memory, Charlie.  These are my fucking memories."

I spit the only name I know for him from my mouth like some sour taste.

He stares at me, his mouth in a grim line.  He is serious and his eyes are cold as ice.  Darkness hoods his stare and when he opens his mouth he speaks in almost a sneer.  Nothing good can come of this expression and I begin to steel myself for the worst.  More medicine to dull my memories, to shatter the one thing I believe in.

"I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about but stop it now. Stop all of this because I won’t be able to control what happens to you if you don’t.  I know you need help and I want to help you but I can’t if you are acting like we had some great love affair.  For fucks sake it was 3 weeks after years of therapy, it was 3 damn weeks."

"Are you threatening me? What the fuck could be worse than this?  What could be worse than people looking at me like I’m crazy?  They are right.  You are right.  I am crazy and I should be here."

He turns to storm out of the room and I crumble into a sobbing heap.  He flips the tray from my bed and dishes and utensils clatter to the concrete floor.

"No Charlie please.  Don’t leave again.  Stay with me and tell me what I have to do, you always tell me what I have to do.  How can I make you happy?"

I crawl to where he stands.  I grab his legs hugging them tightly and slide up onto my knees.

I feel his breath hitch as I sit in a familiar position.  The position I take when I am waiting for him to instruct me.  His eyes are steel and cold when they meet mine and his voice is almost unrecognizable.

"Hope.  I will get you food.  Take your meds.  We will discuss punishment tomorrow at your session.  We can maybe discuss conditions for release, for the both of us. We need it."

            “What kind of release?  What do you mean release?”

            “Whatever kind of release I need.  Whatever I feel will benefit you.  We need to understand things about each other and you need to know that I will not be tested.”

I stand and lower my head.

"Tell me it happened Dr. Novak.  Please.  Admit that you loved me.  That all these years, you loved me too.”

“You know I won’t ever admit it again, Hope.  You know I won’t lie to you.  But you have to stop lying to yourself.”

 “Ok.”

And the cycle of days begins again.  Days where I wait for him to free me.  Days where I wait for him to love me.  Days in which I let him do whatever he chooses.  Days upon days so I don’t count the time.  I just hold onto the memories of the man I loved, not the monster that imprisons me still.

Filed under three weeks love obsession short story am writing dual persona lies fiction

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The Masterpiece

She sat across from him at a cafe in Paris, light years away from the world she left behind.  She still can’t believe she is there, with him. The Eiffel Tower sparkled in the distance, radiant lights danced across a full dark sky.

He raised his coffee and looked off into the distance.  His face was clouded with a million questions but his lips just begged to be kissed.  She smiled thinking of their last (and first) time together, rushed passion shared between them the day before he came here to paint, to spend the rest of his life swaying in the breeze.  Her jealousy of all the freedom and women he would partake in threatened to rip her heart out.  She couldn’t understand how she could be expected to live a minute without him, never mind the rest of her life.  Her breath was punctuated by his, it was simple - without him there was no life for her.

He broke the silence that hung between them, stacked with electricity and that magic feeling Caleb seemed to be able to bottle up and fill any space with. They were outside, the breeze stirring blue napkins on their table yet she felt like all the atmosphere was concentrated on the sound of his voice.

"I really couldn’t believe it when you said you were coming here to talk. Couldn’t we have talked on the phone? Seems a bit much for just a  conversation.  Must be a really juicy secret or something."

His doubtful nature played through and she understood how important her next sentence was.  She chose her words very carefully, like he would choose the paints he spread across a canvas.

"Actually I said I wanted to see you. That was my first request. The talking was second on the list. There are other things on the list too. Did you not want to see me? I feel like maybe you’re trying to make this awkward. Maybe it’s your way to punish me. "

His laugh filled their space.  He made her happy, content.  Her skin didn’t crawl when he was there, there were no questions. 

She felt beautiful. 

She felt wanted. 

She felt loved. 

That was the reason she flew to another country to find him.  She had to tell him that she wasn’t scared anymore.  She left it all behind to wash paint brushes and drink red wine.  She wanted nothing more than to make love under the stars and feel the memory of his lips in places not touched by the light of day.

"I always want to see you. I told you to come here, with me.  A month ago to be exact. It took you a month to figure out if you loved and wanted me enough to leave your world behind. Let me clarify that I know how to punish you, I know the way to make you beg for that punishment.  Read your messages if you need proof."

She smiled.  Heat shot from her core to her cheeks, they flushed under his dominant stare.  Knowing the pain, the need that bloomed within her was something he explained so explicitly.  She felt it roiling under her skin like a thunderstorm waiting to clap its immense hands.

Love was like that for her but lust was even worse.  Both feelings became so big they consumed her immediately and devoured her as quickly as cotton candy melts on your tongue.

For him it was that way too.

Because of that she understood the type of lover he would be.  She understood what he was capable of and they had chosen to remain friends. 

That lasted until the night before he left to France when in the spur of the moment their relationship took a different turn.

When she showed up to say goodbye he laughed at her.  He tried to make her comfortable and at ease.  That was his way and she appreciated it a lot more than any of his other qualities. But her face crumbled into a rush of tears and he stepped into her space.

Strong hands lifted her face to meet his, the hands of her artist seared their way into her memory. She raised her eyes and found his, pupils like saucers, his pulse jumping at the base of his throat.

"Caleb."

As his name left her lips, his face crashed into hers and he assaulted her mouth with rough urgent kisses, his need for her poured through every breath they shared.  Tears ran down her face as he kissed her neck, biting and sucking. His teeth pulled at her skin, red marks raised like raspberries across her throat. She leaned into him, wanting him to know how badly she wanted this, how badly she wanted him.

They tumbled into furniture and boxes, the remnants of his life packed away in shades of brown.  Laughing into each other, his gaze pinned her to the floor beneath him, his body was deliciously heavy between her legs. 

The floor was hard at her back, giving her no room to breathe.  He moved into her with force, claimed her, took her as his.  Orgasms tumbled through her and his name hung on her mouth for days, just like his taste. 

He called a few times after he got to Paris.  Emails ended up being better for both of them and texts were like manna from heaven.  They exchanged hundreds of messages - their tone more than x rated and filled with desire.  She missed him.  So much each day bled into night until all she could think about was falling apart beneath him, screaming his name into the Parisian night air.

It was more than that for them though. Love had begun to bloom between them years ago.  There was always something about her and Caleb.  Something that made the both of them question every bit of logic.  There was this pull.  This energy.  

His magic maybe.

But they belonged together.  Sitting here in Paris proved that.

She came back to the moment and looked at him.  Her eyes searching for his smile. He gave her a brilliant one and she sighed.

"I’m here because I’m never leaving you again. I can’t.  You are what it means to live, to breathe.   I can’t do anything without you."

His expression changed and she wondered in that very moment what he was thinking. Her heart beat across her chest, running a race with itself inside her body.

"I guess that settles it then."

"Yes it does. It has to.  But you have to tell me it’s OK. I have to know it’s OK to be here."

"Do I?  My actions haven’t proven to you that all I want in this world is to paint and make love to you.  Hasn’t every message I sent conveyed that?  I wasn’t confused Liz, you were."

She expected some type of push, she knew he cared for her and he had certainly made it clear but she was a woman who needed permission.  Guidance.  A firm hand.

"I wasn’t.  You know I wasn’t.  Confused and scared are two very different things.  I was scared.  It’s OK to be scared isn’t it?"

He didn’t miss a beat.  His eyes were hooded and darker than she had ever seen them.

"It’s OK to be scared. It’s not OK to hide that fear from me.  Look what it did to us.  We were reduced to emails and text messages because you chose to stay there.  I wanted you here with me from the beginning.  I never said I didn’t.  Now here we are and I have you."

"I won’t leave."

He placed money on the table and pushed his chair out.   Standing he reached for her hand and she took it as he leaned down into her neck. 

"As if I would ever let you leave again. I am going to shows you how much I love you, over and over again until you’re deliciously sore and your body responds like my greatest masterpiece. Do you understand? "

"Yes. I understand."

As she stood up to meet him, her body hummed as he placed his hand at the nape of her neck and kissed her lips.  She pushed her weight into him and he loomed over her.

"Let’s go home."

"Yes. Please. Yes."

Filed under short story romance friends to lovers the masterpiece love friendship fiction am writing

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Where It Happened

The unforgiving cement rests beneath the soles of my boots, its grit makes them crunch against the floor.  I know I can’t feel it but somehow my feet still ache from the cold.  Tears begin to nip at the back of my eyes as I turn and take in the place where I spent twenty two days fighting for my life.  This was my prison.  This was the place where the marathon of emotions called fear and survival played out like a movie I couldn’t tear my eyes from.

I breathed in deep, trying to steady my breath and reminding myself that this was different.  This was my choice.  I was here to face my fear, to conquer what held me in this cell of a life that I was living.  The paralyzing fear that comes with surviving is something people don’t often discuss.  Everyone calls you lucky and blessed.  They smile and hug you and thank God.  But this room sits here, waiting to be addressed.  It becomes like a calling to your worst nightmares.  Its darkness is what completes you now and the pain and fear are the only things that make sense.

And suddenly you don’t feel lucky.  You feel cursed.

I look to the ground as the slivers of light play with my mind, making shadows dance across the floor where dust mites swirl happily.  The memories of lying on the metal bed frame as I watched them imagining they were fairies in a world far away from here.  Where I was safe and life was very different than it was at that moment.  I prayed for a life that didn’t bring this man to me, a life where I was whole and running into the surf, collapsing from happiness and not hunger.

It smelled the same as I remember, stale and musty but still cold and damp like the air in a basement should be.  The grey walls were pocked with air holes if you looked closely.  The corner where the metal frame sat was dark, my blood staining the cement underneath.  I touched my stomach where the raised scars itched angrily.  I grabbed at my wrists where they burned, the darkened rings still visible. 

When I was rescued the plastic ties used to hold me had cut into my wrists so deeply I had almost lost my right hand in the ordeal.  I had struggled and fought against them, the more I did the tighter they became.  The damage was visible to the naked eye and my memory was fresh as new turned earth when I rubbed my fingers across them.

Tears spilled from my eyes and I wondered if this is what being free felt like.  If it was it felt an awful lot like pain and I wished to live in the comfort of being numb.  Numbness and quiet equal freedom to a survivor, the thickness of silence can keep you warmer than a blazing fire when the screams ringing out into the night had been yours for such a long time.  You crave the solace of hearing your own breath, feeling your own heartbeat.

I sat down, the frame squeaked under the weight of my body.  That noise would haunt me until I no longer walked this earth.  When I returned home, I moved my mattress to the floor so I would never hear it again.  I prayed one day that life would allow me to forget the pressure of his body above me, the smell of him on my face, the feel of his hands in places they were never welcome.  I understood time would heal me physically but emotionally I was tied to the things that happened in this room.  This very place held so many moments of strength, weakness, fear and finally elation when I could leave.

I stood and walked to the opposite corner where a stool and small table rested.  On the table were a lamp and a Bible perched open.  My blood stained the cover and the pages, crusted over and browned with age.  I sat on the stool and closed my eyes remembering the first night he cut me, the blade cutting deep into my ribs, his need to remove Adam from me, to remove my original sin.  The night he read me The Book of Revelation and prayed over the mess he had made.  He freed me of my demons, then as I bled beneath him he raped me to free himself of his.  This became a ritual during my last days in this dark, dank place.

A mirror rested on the floor in the last corner of the room.  I lifted it and met my scarred face.  Raw scratches still lined my cheeks, scars raised and angry stared back at me.  My lip remained split open with the stitches still visible. My scalp was left with the unevenness of new tight scarred skin.  My arms sat striped violent purple and red, black thread and tape held me together like a sad human rag doll.  Black rings circled my eyes, hollowed out cheeks matched my grey pallor.  I blinked back my tears slowly and stood to leave.

This is the room where it happened.

Filed under suspense recovery survivor kidnapped short story am writing fiction

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The News

The wind whistled through her thin jacket. She tucked her chin into her chest and steeled herself against the onslaught of the cold April rainstorm. It was unseasonably cool in New York this year, with morning temperatures settled around the 45 degree mark.

She walked through the lobby of her office building, dripping and chilled to the bone. Her keys slipped in her hand, damp with moisture. She opened the door to find her assistant/receptionist at the front desk already, coffee in hand diligently tapping at her keyboard. She thanked all the gods of office staffing for Holly, who proved to her daily how important it is to have a fantastic right hand.

She smiled at me immediately and handed me fresh flowers for my office. My recent Monday routine is broken up by this burst of life and color on my desk. It takes an otherwise black and white day and adds just enough of a splash of color. It makes me smile.

Her messages sit on her desk and the light on both of her phones blink. She has no doubt Adam has called. Riley had been asking Adam to hang out for three weeks now and he had made excuses each time. When she showed up at his job to surprise him for lunch, he blew up and yelled at her about being pushy and crazy and acting like a stalker. She stormed away that Friday afternoon and refused his calls all weekend. He left messages on her phone, text messages and emails dripped with apologies but his voice, laden with guilt and excuses, is not what she wants to hear.

Anger creeps up her spine and settles between her shoulders, pinching her muscles together painfully. She replays all of the years of lies he must have conjured up. She recalls the lies to make her listen, then to care, then to love.

Adam made himself a staple in Riley’s life, she understood that now. The friendship they shared was never solely that and the temptation of what could be between them was always shining brightly on the horizon. He sold her the idea of that life as he existed in a loveless marriage of convenience.

She couldn’t understand that her relationship with him was wrong, bordering on inappropriate. Then when it became too much to bear, the flood gates opened and they clung to each other, drowning in the crest of unspoken feelings. Still she couldn’t understand that need for his love and attention is what drove a lot of the decisions in her life and his wife was and always would be her only competition.

Riley picked up the phone to call him and hung up, texting him instead.

Since now you want to meet so badly, tonight works for me – where and when?

Seconds later his reply came in –

630pm – Wall and Water. I will make a reservation.

She shook her head –

Fine. See you then.

Images from the Friday night before flooded her brain and she shivered in disbelief at the words that flew between them. Angry words that she couldn’t remember feeling but would always be able to recall their bitter taste.

She understood it was weird for her to want to meet him so badly, to need to see him. She had never existed in this capacity in his life. Riley knew he suggested someplace public and she understood somewhere in the deep recesses of her mind that this conversation could be had in public, nothing they did or spoke of today would need the cover of lies. Breakups can be done in public, even if the relationship was as sordid and hidden as your worst transgression.

She showed up ten minutes early to find him at the bar, vodka in hand, spinning his glass slowly. The swirling calmed him and the ice danced in the glass, clinking like a wind chime trapped in a summer breeze. She saddled up beside him and signaled for the bartender.

“I’ll have one of what he’s having.”

Adam turned his face to her and smiled. He stood and lazily pulled her into his arms. She settled into his chest, feeling calm and safe.

He was her best friend, how could they have let this happen. How could they be this careless and out of control with each other, with their relationship? How could it be this complicated?

She didn’t know how far out of control or complicated until her drink arrived and the mood went from romantic electricity to solemn.

"I will warn you. This is my third one."

Third. The word hammered around her head like a bull in a China shop. Third. Either someone died, someone is dying or someone is going to be born.

“I’m sad you’ve had a head start. I guess I have some work to do to catch up.”

She attempted to lighten the mood but her giggle was misplaced and clumsy. His eyes pleaded for her to be serious but her nerves wouldn’t allow it and she swallowed her drink in one gulp. It burned her throat and her eyes watered but she asked for another.

She was determined to numb herself for the impending blow. Three others went down just as harshly and she was sufficiently fuzzy, her hands and face felt flushed as she turned to look at Adam.

“You were determined huh? Didn’t even ask me if I wanted another one too?”

“I was catching up. Caaaatching up. Now what the hell is going on before I lose my fucking mind and after that I might lose all the shots I just drank.”

Adam looked at her and laughed while he ordered another drink. She realized that she wasn’t drinking shots and understood his laughter at her drunkenness. She hiccupped quietly as insecurities began pulling at the corners of her mind. Her thoughts tumbled around her head and she felt dizzy. She knew she was drunk and needed whatever the big secret was to come out. She needed to be free of the burden of the lies.

Adam looked up at her and she smiled sheepishly.

“It’s me, Adam. Just me. You can tell me anything, you know that right?”

“She’s pregnant.”

Anything except that.

The news that was weighing on him, the news that had kept Adam from Riley these last few weeks was out. It bounced around the walls of the room, touching everything in its wake.

Her head fell into her hands as thoughts ripped through every memory she and Adam had made together. The last year, while his marriage to Gabby was seemingly falling apart, Riley was there to listen, to help, to console. Many a nights found Adam drunk on her doorstep and sober in her bed.

Most times they spoke of the disconnect that existed between Adam and Gabby, he blamed himself for falling in love with Riley. He wanted another woman, someone to grow old with because he just didn’t feel a connection with Gabby and their love was gone.

She got up from the bar, digging through her bag and throwing all of her money on the bar for the tab. Roughly she pushed out her stool, the noise rousing the looks of customers deep in serious conversations.

“Fuck you, Adam.”

He clumsily reached for his jacket, his stool tumbling to the floor.

“Wait Riley, please. Not like this. Let me explain.”

She pushed through the door into the cold April night, the fresh air clearing her head. It helped her breathing. The rain left the sidewalks glistening in the street lights. Adam came outside and ran his hands through his hair as he walked towards her.

“You told me it was over. You told me there was nothing left. But this is everything. You told me it had faded.”

He shook his head as she reminded him of the words he used to build her hopes and dreams for them. The sadness of what this meant weighed heavy between them.

“Why did you lie?”

“Was it a lie Riley? She’s my wife. Remember? You were at our wedding, drunk off your ass begging me to fuck you in a coat closet.”

“Real classy Adam. Thanks for bringing up the most stellar moment of my life to deflect. I know what I did wrong. I know. But do you have any idea?”

People started to stare, their turning heads broke her concentration and she began to walk away from him, pushing through the crowd on the corner and into the street.

She didn’t hear Adam yell to warn her.

She didn’t hear the cab honk and screech to a halt and she tumbled through the air, landing on the pavement with a sickening crack.

Adam ran over to her, cell phone pressed to his ear screaming at 911. He screamed that there had been an accident, crying that his best friend was dying in the street, dying in his arms.

But Riley was much more than that to Adam. She was his friend but she was also his soul mate. The universe had punished his greed by taking her from his life. Her punishment laid in her broken body, her heart slowing to a rhythm that beckoned sleep. Laying on this street in New York City, her eyes glazed over and her memories of him flashed through her mind, clicking like a film reel. Her gasps were muffled by Adam’s arms as he cradled her like a helpless infant. Crying and begging into her neck he wished to take it all back, to have one more minute. Tears ran down her face when she met his eyes and whispered, “I love you. You’re going to be a great father….”

Riley heard the sirens in the distance, the frantic prayers of the accented driver close enough to decipher. Her last memory was of Adam pleading with her to stay, promising to make it right….

Filed under love story romance relationships short story bad news

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The Month

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.

"A month."

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.

Filed under childhood love first love first true love love story romance friends to lovers

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The Newspaper

Time doesn’t stand still for anyone. At some point in all of our lives we believe it does. We all believed that we were invincible, young and spirited. Life ran wild and free and we tumbled through the wind - hands extended, smiles blaring.

Love does that to you too. It makes the bottom drop out of your stomach, it makes your heart battle to slow, it makes your breath hitch.

I didn’t believe in love at first sight until I saw him. Just like life had led me here, to him and the moment he entered my orbit is one that I won’t ever forget. He smiled at me. And I smiled back. He handed me his newspaper as I got on the Express bus. I took it and smiled again. I lowered my eyes.

"Thank you.”

"Maybe another time."

I ducked my head into the bus and looked at him through the window. He raised his hand and turned to the news stand. He got another paper and walked into the throng of commuters.

He didn’t look back. If he had he would have seen me find his business card. He would have seen my hand go to my chest, then to my lips. My eyes closing, imagining his touch.

I got to my office and said my brisk good mornings then closed my door and exhaled deeply. I couldn’t understand why I was so overcome by this man.

Leo Truman.

I stared at his card all the way to work, tumbling it over my finger like a card dealer in a casino or a magician practicing a new trick.

I had wished for a sign. For something that would show me that love was worth something. All the pain, the drama, the loss. And then he handed me this newspaper with his card tucked into the page where his company’s ad stared up at me.

The ball was in my court and I knew I would take a shot at him, with him. My heart raced in my chest at the prospect and I tried to curb my excitement. The truth is I wasn’t sure if I should bridle my enthusiasm. He had approached me, flirted, given me his contact information.

I sat at my desk and ran my hands through my hair.

Then I picked up the phone, not even two hours after receiving the card I couldn’t help myself.

"Truman Davis and Hendrix. How can I help you?"

"Good Morning, this is Gretyl Hearst. May I speak with Leo Truman?"

"Sure Mrs. Hearst. Is Mr. Truman expecting your call?"

"Umm, I think so.  It’s Miss Hearst.  I don’t want him to think I am married. He gave me a newspaper."  She coughed as if stifling a laugh, I probably did sound ridiculous though.

"Ok. I will tell him. Hold please."  Before she rushed off the line I couldn’t tell her not to tell him I said I wasn’t married.  They were probably already laughing at my expense.

Then I waited a full four minutes while yacht rock playing on the hold line attempted to keep me calm.  It was four of the longest minutes of my life. I could have died and returned from a journey through hell to get to heaven in the amount of time it took for him to answer the call.

"Good Morning Gretyl. Sorry to keep you waiting. How can I help you?"

"You gave me your card. Why?"

"Straight to the point I see.  Should I have not given you my card?  I figured since I watched you for a half hour while you waited for your bus it only made sense to give it to you, I didn’t know if you would use it but I also didn’t want you to think I am some kind of weirdo staring at you with no intention of pursuing you, so I made a move.  Plus you’re beautiful. Stunning actually. I would love to see you.  All of you to be exact since we are getting straight to the point.  What works for you?"

My breathing had sped to an almost pant. I licked my lips, the thirst making it impossible to form a complete thought.

Jesus Christ.

"Gretyl."

"Mr. Trum…"

"Leo."

"Leo. Tonight works."

Filed under chance meeting love at first sight first date commuter love love story romance flash fiction