Disclaimer: These characters belong solely to me. Any resemblance to anyone real or fictional is entirely coincidental.

Sex, Drugs, and Violence: There’s a little swearing, a little kissing, and a lot of angst. If any of this bothers you, then move right along. 

Thank you to my lovely and talented betas: Nutty and Elsieaustin whose advice and suggestions are invaluable.

Traffic citations, boxes of wine, a million dollars: xenacast@gmail.com

The Last Good Day  
by Amy Boatman

Chapter five

As we neared my house, the heady buzz of the orgasm Bailey had given me faded to dread. I knew she was going to ask me what happened back at the restaurant. What was I supposed to tell her when I wasn’t even really sure myself? I needed the veil, I needed the mask, but she had torn them away from me.

“How long have you been running, Jordan? Aren't you tired yet? Aren't you ready to stop for a minute, if only to see where you are?” Her words echoed in my head. I couldn’t stop running. The Nothing would swallow me up if I stopped or even faltered for a second. Warning claxons were going off in my head; “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”

My hand, as if it had a mind of its own, snaked over to squeeze Bailey’s leg. She looked over at me and smiled. Her eyes stroked my face before returning to the road. She gripped my hand in her much warmer one. Goose pimples crawled up my arm. What was happening to me? How could I feel this way? What the fuck was I going to do? The loss of control terrified me, but I was helpless in the face of my desire for her. I felt like a moth to a flame, drawn inexplicably into its own demise but completely unable to stop itself.

“You alright?” Her voice was full of concern.

“I’m doing just fine. Thanks to you,” I gave her my best lascivious look and wiggled my eyebrows.

She glanced back at me, and I saw red emerge from her neck and creep up to her face. “That’s not exactly what I was talking about.”

I knew exactly what she referring to, but I wasn’t ready to go there yet. “Yeah, I’m doing great.” I eyed her reaction closely.

Her lips pursed and she sighed, but she remained quiet. Disbelief radiated from her. I felt guilty for not being honest with her, but I was not ready for this woman to know me. I was not ready for anyone to know me. I couldn’t take the risk of exposing myself again. I just couldn’t handle the inevitable betrayal and abandonment. I wasn’t sure if I was trying to reassure myself or convince myself.

We turned onto my street, and she pulled into my driveway. She shut off the car and then turned in her seat to look at me, still holding my hand. “I’d really like to know why you had that reaction to my questions back at the restaurant. What are you so afraid of?” Her voice was soft and held no pressure.

“I’d rather not talk about it. At least not right now. What I’d like to do is take this food that Gary so graciously packed up for us and go inside to eat.” I looked at her imploringly, my eyes begging her not to push this any further just yet.

A small smile appeared on her face, and she nodded. “Okay, I can do that.”

We gathered up the two bags holding our aromatic dinner and headed into my house. I pulled a tablecloth out of the closet, and Bailey spread it over the coffee table in the rumpus room while I gathered dishes and silverware. We settled ourselves on the floor leaning against the furniture and dug into our still mostly warm meals.

We ate in companionable silence, each lost in our own thoughts.

Why would she want to know what I’m running from? How did she know I was? Why not tell her something about yourself? She’s seen this much, and she’s still here. Why not see how much it’ll take before she leaves too?

We finished eating at the same time Bailey looked at me and then her eyes moved to examine the room. I could tell she was giving me time and some space. I made my decision.

As I opened my mouth to speak, fear welled in my gut and began spreading up my body. I, for once, pushed the fear down and began. “I am not good at letting people in.”

She focused all her attention on me. Her eyes sparkled at me and beckoned me to continue.

“The last person I let in was my ex-girlfriend, Tricia. We were together for three years. Three years. It seemed much longer at the time. She knew everything about me, or at least as much as anyone ever has. I loved her with all my heart. I didn’t find out until it was too late that she was not capable of love. She was good at letting me see only what she wanted me to see. She used people up and then spit them out. I was no exception. I did things with her that I am deeply ashamed of. I became someone I never thought I’d be.” The last statement came out in a strangled croak.

My mind was screaming at me to stop, and I had to pause a moment to clear my constricted throat. It was a fruitless pursuit, though, to get me to stop talking now. The floodgates had opened, and I suddenly needed to share a bit of myself with this woman. “She knew all my buttons and had no problem pushing them regularly. I was such a mess when I met her, I didn’t even notice how easily she manipulated me. Eventually, once she’d taken me for everything I had to give, she left.”

You mean nothing to me, Jordan. You never did.

“One day she packed up and ran off with one of her boy toys. She had never been faithful to me. That was another thing I just allowed to happen, her infidelities. As long as she came home to me, I looked the other way even though it was tearing me up inside. I let her do all these things to me because I was terrified of being alone. I met Tricia just weeks after my foster mother died. I desperately needed something to cling to even if it was a raft headed towards Niagra Falls.” I realized tears were pouring down my face. My eyes were still swollen from my earlier crying jag. I began to feel lightheaded. My thoughts jumbled with my fear, as it tried to reassert itself. 

Bailey scooted over to my side of the little table and sat next to me, her leg touching my knee. She reached out and stroked my arm. Her touch was warm and soothing. It brought me back to myself and grounded me in the room with her. I looked at her in wonder. Tears were streaming down her face, too.

“Why are you crying?” I said with a small laugh and a smile, trying to lighten the moment.

She wasn’t going to let me change the mood though, and her face remained serious. “I know how hard this must be for you to be telling me this. How much it hurts to bring up old wounds. I want you to know how much it means to me that you’re willing to share this with me.” She moved her hand to my cheek and began stroking my face. 

I leaned into her hand and closed my eyes. Her palm was cool on my feverish cheek. The sweet, fruity smell I had come to associate with her surrounded me in a warm embrace. I felt coolness on the other cheek and then her lips on mine. Her kiss was full of strength and hope. She seemed to be giving me what I needed to continue. She sat back, and I went on.

“When Tricia left, I was lost. I fell into a pit I’m still trying to climb out of.” I looked at Bailey intently. She was so open, so giving, so vulnerable. I suddenly became afraid of what my demons might do to her. I couldn’t bear to see the light in her eyes snuffed out. “Bailey, I’m not someone who will be good for you. Whoever you think I am, that’s not me. You should leave now while you still can.”

She stared directly into my eyes and set her jaw. “Jordan, I’m a big girl. I don’t need anyone, least of all you, making decisions for me.” She smiled at me to take the sting out of her words. “I’m not so easy to get rid of. I know you have baggage. Hell, who doesn’t? Like I said earlier, I sense something special in you. I want to find out what it is.”

I stared into her eyes and saw the conviction behind her words. At least in this moment, she really did want to know me. How much could she handle? How much could I tell her? My head was throbbing. The headache had begun behind my eyes and was now pounding a sonata at my temples. I dropped my head to my chest and began rubbing the sides of my head.

“Here, turn around.” She grabbed me by the shoulders and began turning my upper body away from her. I swung my legs around and sat with my back to her. She began massaging my shoulders with her strong fingers. Bailey found the constant knot on my right shoulder blade and began gently but firmly rubbing it away.

“Oh my gods, that feels good.” I groaned in pleasure. Then she hit a particularly sore spot, and I yelped.

“Just relax. Seriously, relax your shoulders. It’s a wonder you’re ever able to pry them loose from your ears.” She began moving her thumb up and down my neck, soothing the muscles along my spine. “You mentioned you and Tricia got together right after your foster mother died. Can I ask what happened to her?”

“Well, I…”

“Now don’t get all tense again. Your shoulders just went back up to your ears. I understand if you don’t want to talk about it.”

“No, it’s all right. I just haven’t talked about her in years.”

“Well, let’s start at the beginning, then. How did she come to be your foster mother?” Her thumb found a knot where my neck met my shoulder and began kneading it.

“Oh, that really hurts but in a good way. Umm, well, I met her when I was in the hospital when I was 16. I was….messed up. She was so nice to me; nicer than anyone’s ever been. She said I reminded her of her daughter who had died several years before. She would bring me sweets and books she thought I’d enjoy. She’d stay after her shift so we could talk. I…I really enjoyed spending time with her. When it was time for me to be discharged, I was going into foster care. I had no family by this time. Sondra applied to become a foster parent, and they let her take me.” I couldn’t stop the smile that spread across my face when I remembered that day. Sondra had been so excited when she came to tell me the good news.

“We get to be a real family now, Jordan.”

“I couldn’t love you any more if I had given birth to you.”

“Christy would have loved you just like a sister.”

“I can’t believe I was lucky enough to have such wonderful, beautiful girls as my daughters.”

“She let me have Christy’s room and decorate it any way I wanted. I kept it the same way Christy had.”

Bailey pushed me down onto my stomach and began rubbing my lower back. She hiked up my shirt to gain access to the skin. Her hands felt wonderful as they kneaded the accumulated stress from my muscles. I felt myself melting under this incredible woman’s touch. She seemed to know exactly where to put her hands, exactly the right amount of pressure to exert.

“Were you once a massage therapist? Cause if not, then you have a second career waiting for you if you should ever get tired of being a social worker.” I groaned as she found yet another sore spot.

“I actually did take some classes while I was going to college. I thought it might come in handy to have a basic knowledge of massage techniques. And look, here it is coming in handy.” I could hear the grin in her voice. “It sounds like Sondra was an incredible woman.”

“She was. She loved me as her daughter, and I loved her too. I have only vague memories of my mother. She was an alcoholic and ran off when I was four. She drank herself to death a few years later. Sondra was the closest thing to a mother I’ve ever known. The happiest years of my life were the ones I spent with her. She helped me get caught up and graduate high school. I had told her I wanted to be a paramedic, so she helped me get into college. Hell, she even helped me study and pass my exams. She was my biggest cheerleader.”

“Jordan, you can do anything you want to. You’re a smart and beautiful girl. I’m so proud of you.”

“Sondra got divorced when Christy was two. She raised her all by herself. When Christy died, she was devastated. So, when I came along, she showered me with all the love she had once given her daughter. When I graduated and then got hired by Austin EMS, she was so proud I thought she’d burst. I thought I had the greatest job in the world, and I owed it all to her.” I smiled at the memory of myself from that time. “I was so excited, so gung-ho. I was going to save the world. I was going to stomp out pain and suffering.”

Bailey gave a little knowing chuckle. “Yeah, I was that way once too. Still am in some ways.”

“I thought about moving into my own place once I had the job, but we both liked living together so much. We became really good friends, you know. Not just foster mother and daughter. We both loved to read and would spend countless hours at the bookstore browsing all the worlds contained in the books. We loved playing board games and watching TV. Xena was a particular favorite. Did you ever watch that?” I turned my head enough to catch the big grin that spread across her face.

“One of my favorites, too. What a great show for y’all to watch together.”

“It was fun. We had such a good time just being with each other.”

Bailey stopped massaging me and began rubbing big circles on my back. The rhythmic motion was soothing. She lay down next to me on the floor all the while keeping contact with my back, her hands moving between my shoulder blades and then down to my lower back and up again.

I turned my head so I could see her face. She had her head propped up on her arm and was watching her hand as it moved across me. She turned to look at me and gave me an encouraging smile.

“What a gift to have found her. Actually a gift for both of you. A mother without a daughter and a daughter without a mother. How very poetic and beautiful.”

I nodded my head. “Yeah it was a gift. But then, it was snatched away. Five years ago, she went to work and never came home. The hospital where she worked was a psych hospital.” I watched her face for a reaction but there was none. She continued to radiate warmth and compassion as she listened.

“One of Sondra’s patients had a psychotic episode and stabbed her in the neck with a pen. He hit the carotid artery. She was dead in seconds. It takes surprisingly little loss of blood for someone to die. I was at work that day and heard the call go out. I didn't think anything about it because we ran calls there a lot. My commander came to get me and took me to the hospital." I had to stop as the memories flooded over me.

"Jordan, I need you to come to the hospital with me. There's been an accident."

"She didn't suffer. It happened so fast."

"Someone from the hospital has already identified the body, so you don't have to."

"I need to see her anyway."

Tears were streaming down my face, and I could hardly breathe. My throat constricted until I felt as if all my air were coming through a straw. I frantically struggled to calm down enough to catch a breath. Gods, not again. I can't take two breakdowns in one day.

And then, there was Bailey. She gathered me up in her arms and cradled me in her lap as if I were five years old again. She rocked back and forth, shushing in my ear. I sobbed into her chest, soaking her blouse.

"I miss her so much."

"I know you do, sweetie. I know you do."

I don’t know how long we stayed like that. I clung to Bailey like a drowning woman to a life preserver. I sensed the Nothing opening up behind me, drawing me in. The fetid smell of its hot breath filled my nostrils.

Bailey gripped me tighter. "I got you, baby. I got you. Stay with me." 

The Nothing began to fade as Bailey held me. She soothed the ache in my chest and stroked my soul.  My choked sobs faded to pained whimpers. My breathing became easier, and my mind cleared. I felt Bailey's strong arms encircling me. Her smell was all around me, comforting me, bringing me back to this time and this place.

I reluctantly pulled away from her and sat up. My eyes were again swollen and burning. Snot was smeared all over my face. Gods, what must I look like, spoke the vain part of my chorus. I looked around for something to clean up with, and Bailey handed me a napkin left over from dinner.

"I miss her more everyday. Even after all these years, she's always here. Her memory haunts me." I stared at the floor, dejected and lost. "I have to push her aside just so I can function. A wound opened up in my chest that day and it’s never healed. I didn’t know I could hurt so bad and still live. This is the first time in a long time I’ve allowed myself to cry for her."

Bailey placed her arms around me again, pulling me close. “The pain you feel for her loss is a measure of how much you loved her. She deserves to be mourned. She was very special to you, and you were to her as well. I’m glad you found each other.”

I could feel Bailey sliding under my skin and wrapping herself around my soul, soothing it in a way only Sondra had. I felt warm and protected.  

Sondra and I used to play a game called Jenga where you pulled out consecutive blocks until the whole structure became too weak to hold itself up and it collapsed. I felt as if Bailey had just pulled the last block, and I had fallen in upon myself. The feelings threatened to pull me under and drown me. I had no protection against this onslaught of emotions I couldn’t even identify. I had had enough. I couldn’t take anymore. It was time for all this to stop.  

“Excuse me for a minute. I gotta run to the bathroom.” Bailey nodded as I stood up and walked away from her and towards the feelings I could understand. I could handle the numbness and euphoria to be found in my medicine cabinet.

I shut the bathroom door behind me and leaned against it for a moment. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I hadn’t cried this much since the weeks following Sondra’s death. Since I met Tricia, and she taught me to fly. She had shown me how to stop the pain. How to block it all away, wall it all up until its pathetic pleas were silenced. I couldn’t fly just yet, Bailey did NOT need to know about that, but I knew where to find the comforting cocoon I craved. I reached for the pills that would grant me solace and peace of mind and downed them in one swallow. The knowledge that the pills would take effect soon calmed and soothed me.

I walked back into the room with Bailey and sat down on the floor next to her. She reached over and grabbed my hand. I could see her watching me out of the corner of my eye. I turned to meet her worried and concerned gaze.

“Are you alright? You look exhausted.”

I chuckled. “Well, considering I’ve just cried more in the last few hours than I have in the last few years, I’m doing just peachy.”

“Maybe you should just go on to bed.”

“I thought you’d never ask.” I wiggled my eyebrows and leered at her.

She blushed and looked away from me. “I should probably go.” She started to stand up, but I grabbed her arm and brought her back to the floor.

“I’m sorry. Really, I am. I don’t deal well with these seriously emotional situations, in case you hadn’t noticed. I cope with humor. It’s all I know how to do. I crack jokes. I was just trying to lighten the mood. Please, don’t go.” My voice had become a husky whisper. I paused for a moment considering what I was about to say. Was this really a good idea? My mouth forged ahead before my brain could finish contemplating the consequences. “Will you stay with me tonight? We can just sleep, whatever you want to do. I…I just don’t think I can bear to be alone right now.” I dropped my eyes, afraid for her to see the naked truth of my need.

She dipped her head and brought her lips to mine. Her skin was cool on my hot flesh. Too quickly, she pulled away from me and looked into my face. Her blue eyes moved searchingly back and forth between each of mine. Her face was still red from crying. Her eyelashes were wet and clumped together. I noticed tiny little laugh lines at the corner of each eye. How old was she anyway? How could I feel this way towards someone I knew almost nothing about? How exactly did I feel?

Apparently satisfied with what she found in my face, she nodded her head. “Yes. I’d like to stay.”

I smiled at her and breathed “Thank you.” I stood up and reached down for her hand. “Shall we go lie down then?”

She took my hand and stood. “What about the dishes?” She gestured towards the remains of our dinner.

“The maid will get them in the morning.” I giggled at her surprised expression. “That would be me, and I’ll take care of them in the morning.”

“Ah, okay. I thought for a minute there you were all ‘la dee  dah, I have a maid.’ I was going to have to seriously rethink this deal.” She smiled at me, and we both giggled.

“So, since I bought dinner, I get to see your bedroom, right.”

“Those were the terms of agreement.” I began to lead her towards the closed bedroom door when I suddenly remembered the pile of clothes I had left lying all over the bed. “Tell you what. You go freshen up in the bathroom, and I’ll straighten up my embarrassingly messy bedroom. Deal?”

She squeezed my hand and leaned in for another quick kiss. “Deal.”

She went into the bathroom, and I entered the bedroom. I quickly grabbed all the clothes off the bed in one big armload and threw them in the closet. I had to shove a few things in with my foot, but I was finally able to close the door. Luckily I had placed clean sheets on the bed during my drug induced cleaning jag. I ran into the bathroom and looked for any incriminating evidence. Finding none, I grabbed a plastic tub from under the sink and opened the medicine cabinet. I raked all the pill bottles in the tub and placed it back under the sink. Bailey didn’t strike me as the ‘looking through the medicine cabinet’ type but you never knew. I couldn’t risk any questions.

Satisfied that my room and bathroom were as clean and paraphernalia free as they were going to get, I turned to cleaning up myself. I took off my clothes and slipped on a T-shirt and some shorts. I looked in the mirror to see that my eyes were, indeed, as red and swollen as they felt. My face looked pale and gaunt. The pills I had taken were starting to take effect, and I was beginning to feel pleasantly calm. Comfortably numb as Pink Floyd had so wisely put it. I just loved Pink Floyd. I remembered the laser light show I had gone to years ago tripping my ass off on acid. That had been a religious experience.

I felt Bailey come up behind me and put her arms around my middle. “What are you grinning about?” I could see her smiling face over my shoulder in the mirror. 

“Just remembering a concert I went to once.”

She placed her head on my shoulder still looking at me in the mirror. “Do you mind if we don’t…. Well, if we were to just….” The cutest blush rose up her neck and reddened her cheeks. 

“Are you trying to say you don’t want to have sex?”

She sighed gratefully and nodded. “I get embarrassed talking about it. Especially, well, because it’s our first date. I don’t want you to think I’m easy despite what happened in the car.” I sensed this was a serious concern and that she was not at all joking.

“I definitely don’t think you’re easy. We can do or not do anything you want. You call the shots.” I turned and wrapped my arms around her shoulders. Her head tucked nicely into my neck. We stood for a minute just holding one another. It had been so long since someone had held me, and Bailey had been holding me most of the evening so far.

I dropped my hands to squeeze her forearms.

“How about it I give you something to sleep in?” At her nod, I went to a drawer and pulled out a T-shirt and shorts for her. I turned around, giving her privacy to change clothes.  Once she was done, I turned back to her. “What do ya say we go lie down.”

She nodded, grabbed my hand, and led me to the bed. “Which side is yours?”

I laughed. “I usually take up the whole thing. You got a preference?”

“No, not really.” She continued to stand beside the bed.

“Well come on, silly. Let’s just hop in.”  I let go of her hand and leaped onto the bed. I landed and bounced once before coming to rest somewhere roughly in the middle. I scooted over to give her room, and she slid in next to me. She lay there rigid with her arms at her sides.

“Hey, it’s okay to relax, ya know. I won’t bite.” I started to say something witty but restrained myself. I knew she was having a serious issue with this. “What’s going on?” I hoped my tone conveyed the gentleness I felt.

She tilted her head to the side and looked at me. “I’ve only ever slept with one person in my life. She was my college roommate. We were each other’s firsts. We broke up about a year ago, and there’s been no one since then. No one until you, that is.” She turned away and looked straight ahead again. “I’ve never done anything like what we did in the car earlier. Well, I mean I’ve done it but not with someone I barely know in the front seat of a car parked on the side of the road.” The blush was creeping up her neck again.

“What happened in the car was kind of an exception. We were both under a lot of stress. Hell, I completely lost it in the restaurant where you used to work. That tends to freak a body out. Emotions were high, and one thing led to another. Like you said, we are both powerfully attracted to each other. It was a heat of the moment thing.” I paused and realized it sounded like I was blowing the whole thing off.

One look at Bailey cemented my suspicions. She had turned her head away, but I could tell she was fighting back tears. I leaned over and touched her shoulder. “Oh Bailey, I’m sorry. That didn’t come out right. What we’ve shared these last few hours has meant so much to me. I don’t want you to think that I am taking any of this lightly. I haven’t been with anyone for two years. I haven’t wanted to, until I met you. Then it was all I could think about. How your lips would taste. What your hair would feel like when I ran my fingers through it. How well your body would fit snuggled up into mine. When you first arrived tonight, I wondered what it would feel like to touch the hint of stomach that was exposed between your blouse and your skirt. You have awakened something in me I thought was long dead.”

She had turned her head back to me while I spoke. Now, she turned onto her side and was looking intently at my face.

I placed my hand on the bed between us. “I don’t know what’s happening, and I’ll admit it scares the shit out of me. I haven’t felt this way in a very long time, but I’m willing to go with it. I want to know where this road leads. I want to know where we fit into everything.”

She reached out her hand and placed it on mine. “Jordan, I want to know where it leads, too.” She moved over until she was snuggled up as close to me as she could get. Her head fit nicely under my chin.

I wrapped my arms around her and felt her do the same. I kissed the top of her head. “Good night, sweet Bailey.”

She leaned up and kissed me on the cheek. “Good night, Jordan.”

I fell asleep that night holding a woman in my arms for the first time in over two years. I didn’t know what tomorrow was going to bring but for right now, everything was okay.

To be continued in Chapter 6

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