Disclaimer… All of the below belongs to me. I have molded it from my warped imagination and blown life into their fantasy form.
Warning… There is an overtone of an adult content that in some parts you may find disturbing. It will not be graphic, but it's there. This also contains the fact that the main characters are gay. So if you are under age or it is a problem, please don't read…. In other words yada… yada… yada de law thing.
I would like to thank the people who have sent feedback for my other stories. You all inspire me to continue writing. One other point… for some reason hotmail has an issue with any AOL emails. I answer ALL my feedback; if you haven't received one, I apologize on behalf of hotmail and I thank you now personally.
Now the Biggy… I am still blown away that I came joint-first in the Academy competition, I thank you for the vote and amazing compliment. Congratulations to S.Lynne. You rock! I am honored to share this with you. A thank you to the team that keeps the Academy new, fresh, and up and running, you are the unknown heroes, that give people like me an outlet for our work.
Okey dokey, off we go, dim the lights and grab the tissues, Ladyhawke is in de hoooouse!
My eyes shoot open, without thought I throw my arm up and my body recedes into the smallest ball I can make.
''No. Please.'' escapes my lips before I have time to remember not to. Panicking now, I look around trying to make my eyes focus in the darkness, flicking them left and right like a startled deer, trying to find the source.
I blink, realizing the sound wasn't near me, it was distant, but I felt each vibration inside my eardrum as if it were. My thoughts began to puzzle through the causes of the sound like a computer trying to rationalize my fears... the answer was found. It was nothing. Now I was focused, I could hear the wind howling and see in my mind's eye. It was the old building next door, a door caught in the gusts and hanging broken as it open and closed.
I jump, flinching, my body was finding it hard to listen to reason of reality. I felt the cold sweat that had started to pin prick my pores taper off, my breathing hitched with fear for another moment then began to calm as I took an inhale. My eyes register a dim glow in the darkness, blinking and focusing on the window, seeing now the faint hue of light on the curtains. My terrorized brain began to let in the truth of my surroundings, pushing through the flashbacks of past triggered memories, slicing into the invisible hand that held my body in spasm until finally I slowly regained control again.
I realized my arm was still in the air, like a jokeable scene of a marionette show. I brought it down, turning from my side to my back, laying it across my forehead to rest as I stared at the ceiling. My eyes now picking out the dancing patterns of a city yawning awake outside. Turning my head to the stand, for a second my breath catches as my still feared brain sees the red readout on the digital clock as two blood eyes staring out of the void, instead of the numbers of 4:00 am.
My insides cringe, I roll onto my side again, pulling the duvet to my chin, my knees coming up to complete the fetal position. I feel the tear glide from my eye down across the temple then mix with a strange tickle as it was lost in my hair. My eyes close, which just sends the other droplets free to roam.
I hate the power the night still held over me....
As I cross from the sidewalk I glance up at the sky, letting my face warm on the rays bestowed, then my attention goes back to getting through the morning foot traffic, dodging in and out to make my way forward. Around me now is a world under the light of the sun, a place that hides no demons, or memory shadows that are cast. No nightmares to stretch inwardly and rise consuming fears.
In the day I am just another person; I get up, I wash, I get dressed, I eat. I leave the hovel that is my home and I go into a place where I'm part of the engine that is life. I go to work at the market, I smile and make jokes, trade stories with my co-workers. To them I am normal, to them I am just plain Jo Williams. They think they know me but they don't. I told them lies about my name, my past, my history, untruths that were needed to give me some sort of hold on the life I now lead.
So now I am what I want to be, a woman that answers to no one, free in a way I never thought I would be. I make the most of what I have, I cherish it, I live for it.
I smile over at David, the shift manager, as I enter the store, quickly moving to the cloakroom, removing my jacket, revealing the wonderful uniform that is ''Greens Market''. A mixture of Stepford Wives with a touch of Disney thrown in.
'' Hey, Jo...''
A small smile comes to my lips as I hear the voice.
'' Morning, Lee, how you doing? '' Smoothing down my skirt, I head to start my day. '' How are the natives?''
The blonde flashes me her famous grin. '' Same ole, same ole... hey did you hear that they're going to be doing building work on the library.''
I stop for a moment from placing my cash drawer in the register and turn to her. '' Library? '' I feel my eyebrow perk, but I hold back the part of my mind that I was surprised she knew what one of those was. Lee wasn't known for her book reading.
Chewing her gum, she clicked the blown bubble back into her mouth. '' Yea, image it… workmen, Jo, workmen! Topless hunks.'' she winked at me as she took the basket from the customer.
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and chuckled instead, sometimes I suppose a blonde just has to be a blonde.
Lee is a breath of fresh air in my life, I had gotten to know her during my rebirth into the world, she was the first to talk to me when I joined six months before and her laughter and humor always amazed me. She didn't have a mean bone in her twenty-four year old bimbo looking body and according to her '' not one working brain cell either.''
She didn't know anything about the geography of the world, or how mathematics could exist away from the register, she had flunked high school and had started work at fourteen. She thought Plato was the dog on the Mickey Mouse show, and that was how her mind worked. It was frozen in a childhood of innocence. She didn't care either that people laughed at her instead of with her, it only mattered that they laughed. She knew how to put a smile on anyone's face, could deal with the arseholes with just a batter of her eyes and a smile that would melt butter. Her appearance attracted many of the male species and a few of the female, but she didn't sleep around no matter what she pretended. She was married with a child and that was her slice of heaven. To me, she was simply a source against my loneliness and my first real genuine friend.
So here I am in the place that takes up more than half my life. My day begins at six a.m. through to three, I take this shift because I make the most of the daylight and free afternoons. The market pays well enough that I don't need to have a second job, and another perk is that I get things at cost.
I don't have much free money after utilities and rent for the fleapit apartment. What I do have I use wisely, although my one extravagance is the movies. Every day at five you will find me going back in time to a golden age, losing myself in Casablanca, fighting along with Clark Gable and Myrna Loy, solving crimes with Nick and Nora Charles chasing yet another Thin Man. Inside the movie house I feel safe, warm, cared for. For a long time it was the only place I could escape to. Now I come because, well, they all have become my family. Besides that, in winter an afternoon here means less on my heating bills at home. It may sound a sorrowful life the one I have, but it isn't because for ten years I was in hell.
With a smile, I hand the change over to the guy who is looking me up and down, holding the smile on my face until my jaw hurts as I waited for him to stop ogling me. I inhale as he throws me a cheesy grin as he leaves. A grin revealing white teeth with a touch of something stuck there.
'' Oh, Jo baby, he wants ya.'' Lee chuckles as she reaches across and digs me in the ribs.
I roll my eyes '' oh pa…leaseeeeeee.''
She lets out a hearty laugh, '' ok… ok, I know you're not looking, doesn't mean you can't do some mattress testing ya know....'' her elbow digs me again.
I glare at her in shock, feeling my mouth fall open, which just sets her off on another set of chuckles.
'' Oh honey, you are just so precious.''
After watching me blush for the second time she lets me off the hook.
'' Well I'm off on my lunch break babe, you behave when I'm gone.''
I just nod my head and smile, watching her move away, well aware that others are caught in the sexual aura that is Lee. Knowing as always she has attention she adds a roll into her stance. I just laugh and my heart smiles.
Lee is the reason I have stayed in one place so long, she has spent the last months pulling me from my shell, or wall, as she likes to put it. Within the first month she realized I wasn't going to be the going out type, or accept money, or set up dates. Realizing that, she quickly changed her tactics to things I did need. She would appear with bags of clothes that suddenly were no use to her.
We are roughly the same height of six-foot and athletic build, although her cleavage outdoes mine with gusto. As I said, she is blonde, whereas I have a full long headed hair of jet black. Her eyes are a deep warm brown, while mine are the blues of the arctic sky, ice.
At first I turned the gifts down, but she was persistent to the point of annoying and she finally wore me down, but she learnt to space them out. She may say she has no brain, but she is wrong. The clothes that appeared were ones I would wear, black, conservative, non gender, with the occasional flamboyant top thrown in. Clothes I knew she would never be seen dead in. It took me two more months to find out they were in fact her sister's or friends'. It meant a lot that she had gone out of her way to find a way to help. As I said, she has a good heart.
So this is my life, and if pushed I would say I love it. And contrary to what Lee thinks, I don't wallow in my loneliness like a martyr. I just try to pass unseen in this world... I like it that way.
I hadn't seen or heard the customer approach my till, I was lost in my thoughts as I knelt under my station to restock the bags. When I surfaced, she was bending over to see what the noise was.
'' Ah!'' I let out the involuntary sound as I came face to face with her and two emerald eyes.
'' Sorry…. Shit, I'm sorry.''
Her voice was tinted with the fact she was holding in a giggle as I stepped back and lost the hold on the bags in my hands, sending them everywhere. Immediately she came around and was knelt at my feet picking them up.
'' I didn't see an assistant anywhere, I didn't mean to scare you.''
She rose on the last part, handing over the brown bags, adding a smile.
I took them on automatic, blinking at her, unable to form a word, so instead I lowered my head and blushed. '' It's ok.... ''
I could sense by the prickling of the hairs on my neck she was watching me again, and for no reason I felt my skin flush, then with relief I heard her heels echo as she moved back to her side of the counter. I moved quickly, needing to gain some control, and returned to what I knew and started beeping through her groceries.
'' That's thirty-five sixty-four… please.''
I still didn't meet her gaze as I took the two twenties from her hand, handing back her change, still keeping my head low.
'' Thank you for shopping at Greens market.'' I stayed with something safe to say, not really understanding why I didn't want to look at her again.
'' Thank you, and I am sorry for startling you.''
I simply nodded
After a few more moments I thought I heard her sigh, then she picked up her two bags into a cradled hug and left. Only then did I look up and let my eyes follow her out the door.
The next five customers kept my mind occupied, but as the queue vanished, I thought back to what happened. The woman unsettled me, for what reason I didn't know. Maybe it was the way she looked directly at me, staring into my eyes with one of those stares a parent would give, immediately making you feel guilty for something you didn't do. Maybe it was because I believed eyes are the windows to the soul and I didn't want her to see my lies or my truths in life. Or maybe when I looked into hers, I saw something I didn't like or trust. But I knew that wasn't it, because when I had found myself looking I felt an unexpected pull, an attraction… a need. That thought made me pause and physically blink and freeze.
''Jo? Honey, you ok?'' Lee's hand on my shoulder and concern in her voice brought me back.
I swallowed, nodding my head fast. ''Yea.. What do you want?''
Her head angled for a second, her eyes studying me, which only made me remember the green eyes of the woman, so I quickly busied myself around my register. '' What do you want, Lee?''
'' It's your lunchtime.''
I closed down the till, lifting the cash drawer but as I moved away Lee's hand caught my shoulder again.
'' You sure you're ok? I mean you look a little green around the gills.''
The concern in her voice eased my beating heart and I managed to give her a sincere smile, petting her hand on my shoulder.
'' Just hungry I think, I'll go eat in the churchyard today, get some air.''
Her face showed that she wasn't totally convinced but she gave me a nod and smile as I left for lunch.
Some may find it strange but I love the churchyard. This one is a hidden haven within the metropolis, it sits back off the main artery of the city. Even with two titan buildings soaring either side of it, it hasn't lost the isolation feeling of peace within the grounds. I come often to shelter here with my lunch, to just sit and listen to the birds and watch the wind play with the few remaining trees. I'm not religious, the building itself holds no sanctuary or god. God vanished from my prayers a long time ago.
I look around as I feel a cold breeze suddenly pick up as if linked to my thoughts, but a quick survey of the area tells me it's just my own spirit demons within who are the subliminal cause. After refreshing both my stomach and my mind, I return to finish my shift, well aware that I am avoiding thinking about the woman again.
Saturday afternoons are always busy, so when one of the assistants called in sick I offered to do her shift. When I returned home after ten I was exhausted, and green eyes was long forgotten.
Whispers... tiny scurrying sounds of lost voices. Mist, covering everything around, tendrils of cold like ice fingers touch me. But still I sit and wait. I look up as I hear the first footfall... holding my breath until the second one continues the approach... knowing that any moment the door will open... and still I wait. I don't run anymore, it only makes it worse, so I sit. My eyes go to the handle as it lowers… my eyes dart up as the door is thrown inwardly...Screammmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…….
I sit bolt straight, throwing my hand over my mouth to halt the sound, trying to calm my heart trying to escape my chest and the intermittent sobs tumbling from my soul. I reach over with a shaking hand to turn on the lamp, needing to see my room, needing to know. I squint as the light hurts my eyes and let out a small sound akin to a whimper when I realize it's just another nightmare.
I pull my legs to my chest, resting my chin there, wrapping my arm around my legs and gently rock. Crying now both from relief and despair. When I feel the tremor ebb enough I reach over and get the two pills I always leave out, popping them in I swallow with the aid of water. Hating myself that once again I need chemicals to sleep, that I'm not strong enough to on my own. Then I wait until I feel the tugging buzzing that will carry me to oblivion and rest.
Sundays I used to be at a total loss, it is the one day the market is closed. At first I used to spend the day in bed, channel hopping the TV world, but I soon realized that only meant I couldn't sleep at night, not even with the aid of pills. So I knew I had to do something. The movies were my first choice but due to my low budget, a Sunday of movies meant I couldn't go during the week. I didn't feel safe close to people so that ruled out the city art galleries. I also didn't want to be too far from home, I wasn't ready for that yet. So the only one left was the park. Well, in the summer anyway. In winter, it became the libraries.
But this was the summertime, and when I finally got over my sleeping pill hangover I was dressed and ready to go. I had a Monica James novel ready to read, and my lunch pre-packed. I arrived there just after eleven and the sun was doing what it does best. I smiled as I walked past the families who were littered around on square blankets, blushed at the courting couples who were entangled in discovering each other and laughed out loud at the antics of the dogs chasing frisbees. But most of all in my mind I made myself as small as possible so no one would notice me.
I made my way to the spot I always choose, a semi-shaded area under a tree with a full view of the flowerbeds and fountain. Settling down, I sat with my back against the bark, sipping from the soda bottle as I opened the book. I got lost in the characters unfolding, to the point the noise around me filtered to nothing but a hum, only looking up occasionally to check on a shriek or a scream of laughter. I ignored the wolf whistles and any males who came near to make conversation, that would always lead to a pick up line, I usually replied with a line of my own. '' Oh, I'm waiting for my husband.'' They all would quickly make an excuse and leave.
I didn't want company, I didn't need it. I returned my thoughts to the book as I bit into my sandwich.
'' Hey? It is you isn't it?''
The female voice startled me, and I looked up only to be blinded by the sun. I put my hand up to shield my eyes, which just threw the woman's body into a dark outline against the glare. Then seeing that the sun was causing a problem she stepped to the shade, it took my eyes a few more seconds to adjust, then I felt them widen. I shifted straight as I realized just who it was... green eyes.
'' I seem to always be scaring the shit out of you.'' She laughed.
I wasn't sure if I was going to run or just stay silent. She watched me, her smile faltering.
'' Look, I'm sorry, I was just walking and I thought it was you… I just wanted to say hi...''
She moved to leave.
She stopped, turning back, and waited.
Now that I had her stop, I wasn't entirely sure what to say. '' Um… hi.''
For a second she blinked at me, her eyebrows twitching along with the corner of her mouth. '' You're not the talkative type are you?''
I felt my blush start again as I saw her eyes spark with humor. ''No. Not really...''
She nodded her head in understanding, then her eyes dipped to the novel forgotten in my hands, she tilted her face so that she could read the title.
'' Monica James... wow, that's heavy reading.''
'' Do you like her?'' I looked up in surprise, not many women I knew did.
'' Yes, I do... her last work Raven's Kiss was the best so far...''
I frowned, she must have caught it, '' You disagree?''
'' Raven was ok.... But Prospero's Guilt was better, I didn't get the killer until the end.'' I suddenly realized I sounded like some teenager gushing praise.
'' Really? I haven't read that one .....''
I looked up again, studying her to see if this was some sort of line too, but all I saw was a genuine look on her face of interest.
'' It was published about five years ago... one of her early works under the previous publisher of TBC... I'm sure a library would have it...''
She looked at me as if thinking, then held out her hand. '' I'm Megan.''
Before taking her hand I wiped my palm on my shorts. '' Jo.''
She grinned and I wasn't entirely sure it wasn't because of the palm wiping.
'' Pleased to meet you, Jo… Can I join you?''
I ignored the fact that when I took her hand I felt my heart stutter, and just nodded.
She removed her bag, placing it to the side, then sat down in front of me, I noticed that she gave me plenty of room.
'' Do you come here a lot?''
I gave her a sideways look that sent her into a snort.'' Yea, I know, original right, well my mom always said to start with the basics.''
I found myself smiling, and more surprisingly I found myself relaxing. '' I come here when I can.'' It was a lie but I never told anyone my habits.
She nodded, smiling again as she looked away. Her eyes skimming over the surroundings.
'' It's pretty new to me, I've only been around for three months and already I come here to think, and recharge when I need to… usually I just sit somewhere and watch.''
She spoke with her face turned away, which gave me the chance to look at her. Her hair was the color of the sun, with streaks of hay thrown in, it was short cut just to the edge of her ears and I thought how well it suited her, it left her whole face open. Even though her eyes were moving around the area, I could see their vivid green in contrast against her hair. They suddenly reminded me of a painting I once saw of an orchard in the spring rains, each tree within it had a different shade of leaves against the sky.
When she turned, our eyes locked for a moment, and I caught the full focus of the twin orbs. It scared me. I looked down immediately then started packing my things away.
'' I have to go.''
She blinked in surprise, her smile disappearing. '' Ok...''
Pulling on my pack, I set off down the pathway that I knew was the quickest way out of the park. When I heard her calling my name I wanted to run but I knew that running only made them chase. So I slowed. She drew level with me, inhaling and exhaling her breaths.
'' God, you can sure move on those legs...'' she inhaled roughly again. Then held up the book. '' You left this.''
I felt the panic ebb a little and took it back from her. '' Thank you''
Her hand went to her hip. '' No problem.... Look, if I said something to upset, I'm sorry... it's ok, go back to your tree, I will just go elsewhere, don't let me spoil your day'' Her eyes went to the pack on my back briefly. '' Judging from the rucksack I'm sure you were going to be here for the rest of it.''
I relaxed again. I wanted to leave and I wanted her to go away. I didn't want to be noticed. But something inside me wanted something else, and I didn't know what the hell it was.
She waited patiently until the point she thought I wasn't going to answer and began to turn away.
'' I'm... not used to.... People.'' The admission surprised her, and me in the fact I had spoken it out loud.
Her face softened. '' Well, if you give me a chance, I could help with that....''
My head snapped up, I took a step forward and this time I looked directly at her. Her eyes widened slightly as I towered over her and stared. I needed to know what she wanted, what she was after. I stared at her until I saw the answer... there was nothing hidden, she wanted nothing. All that looked back at me was a genuine interest and growing concern. My stare become so intense she was the one this time to lower her gaze, scratching at her temple for a moment in embarrassment.
'' Well... I...I.... Meant, you know, here in the park.... Geesh... God, that must have sounded like the worst line ever....'''
I couldn't help it, I laughed a long deep-throated sound as she blushed and stumbled over her words.
She looked up in amazement then she snorted a laugh of her own.
'' Ok, I will start again here... Can I buy you an ice cream?''
I gaped at her, then feeling myself relax again surprised myself with my answer.'' Only if I can buy you one in return?''
Her eyes narrowed as she tried to make me out, then she nodded. ''Deal.''
I found her the most talkative person I have ever met, even more so than Lee. But unlike my blonde friend, what came out was intelligent. Through the ice cream our conversation shifted back to Monica James, and feeling comfortable with the neutral subject I even started to talk myself. Megan was insightful and some of the ideas she had about the novels sparked my interest, making me look at the books I had read in a different light.
After the ice cream we just began to walk, our talk going to her.
She was born in England, but her parents were American and had returned to New Hampshire when she was five... she skipped her youth and moved to her life now. When she revealed she was four years older than me. I was genuinely surprised, she didn't look anywhere near thirty-six, more along the lines of mid twenties. But then again, there had been nothing in her life to age her like in mine.
She had only just moved to the area, and had started her dream job as she put it with the Daily Tribune as a reporter, one of the main newspapers of the city. She spoke openly and freely of her work, and I watched her face and stance take on the fact she was proud of the position she had reached, although I soon began to realize she was far too modest a person to blow her own trumpet.
Finally we stopped and sat by the lake, and a silence fell over us as we both took in the beauty around. I looked at her, again feeling the confusion inside me.
When she turned to face me she smiled, then tucked a lone hair from her eyes. '' And what about you, Jo? What's your story?''
I tensed, I knew she saw it but she still kept her gaze on me. I turned away from her, focusing on the sunlight on the water.
'' I work at the market. I go to the park... I like old movies.''
I added a shrug. For some reason I didn't want to tell her my standard lies. I looked out the corner of my eye at her, watching her rest her elbow on her knee, then her chin on her hand, as she studied me.
'' The mysterious type, I see.''
I turned to her, smiling warmly, grateful that she was letting me off the hook. '' Yea, you could say that.''
She returned my smile. '' Ok, then... a challenge,'' she sat back, rubbing her hands together for comic effect.
I felt my eyebrow rise as her green eyes sparkled.
'' So I guess you're not going to tell me your life story?''
My smile dropped and I returned my gaze to the lake, ''No''
''Ahuh... ok, so what if I ask ten questions...''
She saw my look.
'' Ok, um, five then?''
My look became a glare.
'' Boy, tough audience... Ok, one ... one question?''
I felt my smile returning at her persistence, a part of me took a chance. '' Ok… I'll answer one.'' My insides screamed at what I had just done.
She bit the inside of her mouth, thinking. I waited, my hands unconsciously wringing together in my lap.
'' Got it.'' She clicked her fingers, shifting closer.
'' My question is....'' she paused.
I inhaled deeply.
'' Can I buy you dinner tonight?''
I blinked at her, shock evident on my face.
She bit her inner lip for a moment, holding up her hand to halt my answer. '' Before you answer, it's no strings, I won't badger you for info... But as I said, I'm new around here. I don't know where to go or anyone, and I would consider it a favor to me if you accepted... Besides, I'd like to meet up with you just once to prove I don't always have to scare the crap out of you....''
Her body shifted nervously.
I still had the urge to run away, but as I looked at her I felt it disappearing behind the fact I did want to see her again. '' Ok''
Her nervousness vanished, a smile engulfed her whole face, seeping into her eyes. '' Great, that's great.... Ok, where? When?''
I thought for a moment, calming my fear, I didn't eat out often because of the price. And the fact most places, if you went alone, men only saw you as a pick up. There was one place I trusted.
'' Do you know Enriqos?''
She shook her head.
'' Ok, you do know the market right.'' I couldn't help the sly smile my mouth fell into.
She grinned '' how could I forget.''
I grinned back at her. Her grin, I was soon finding out, was infectious. '' Ok, how about eight tonight? I can meet you outside, that way I can show you.''
Her grin extended, which I didn't think was possible. Then she glanced down at her watch and her eyes widened.
'' Oh, shit... I'm sorry, I have to go. I have a call coming from my mother at four, if I'm not there she sends the cavalry.'' Rising, she grabbed her bag, pausing to glance at me. '' Eight tonight, I'll see you there….''
I nodded, watching her begin to jog away. As she began to round a bend she turned back and flashed me a smile and a wave. I returned both until she disappeared out of sight. As soon as she had gone I felt the loss and the awakening of my fears at what I was doing. In the end, the rest of the day was spoiled and I set off home, wondering not for the first time what the hell I was doing.
I was a nervous wreck as soon as I got home. The first hour I spent berating myself on what I had done. After calming my fears with logic to the point I had convinced myself that no harm could come from meeting with her again, I found myself in a situation I hadn't come across since I was a teenager, what to wear?
My wardrobe is a limited one. So after changing more times than I can remember through a various selection of the same outfits, I ended up with one I was comfortable in; black jeans, white satin blouse (one of Lee's extras) and my old faithful black boots. Normally I would wear my long coat that virtually hid all of me from view, but the temperature was high, and I didn't want to turn up covered in sweat. So I went with a hip length brown leather jacket that had been another Lee gem.
When I looked at myself in the mirror I was surprised. The woman staring back at me didn't resemble the person who only a year ago had nearly died. As I looked closer, I noticed for the first time the subtle changes in my body. My face no longer held the hue of a skin drawn tight, there was flesh now around my cheekbones, which only seemed to define my jawbone more. The rest of me looked healthy for a change, the summer sun had tanned the areas
I let out to a dark coffee color.
Working at the market had added sculptured muscles to my shoulders and arms, which pressed against the satin of the blouse. Also, my legs were being hugged by the jeans I wore, instead of the scrawny bones of before that used to leave any material hanging on them.
I stood there, looking at the new me, and I didn't recognize one part. Well, that's not true, there was still one thing that hadn't changed, my eyes. They still held the truth, the horrors and pain. But most of all they still shone ice.
I hung my head, turning away. What was I thinking? How could I even believe the notion that I could lead a normal life. That I could try and rejoin the human race again. I had spent a year disappearing and remaining unnoticed, only stepping into view on my terms.
Looking at the clock I sighed. 7:35. Yet how could I leave her just standing there? In the end, it was that point that made me go, but I had made my mind up that I would just tell her sorry and leave.
The area where the market is based is one of the better ones, I didn't feel threatened while walking there. But it didn't mean there wasn't a few arseholes around. When I arrived, Megan wasn't there yet, so I stood opposite, waiting. My eyes followed the cab that pulled up, and then I tracked Megan's movements as she left it, then stood outside the doors waiting for me.
She glanced at her watch, her attention going to any car passing or slowing. I watched her as the church clock chimed eight, then a quarter past, and still I stood frozen in place, unable to cross the street. Part of me was begging her to stop waiting and leave and that would be that. I saw her face brighten as a car would slow, then fall with disappointment when I was nowhere to be seen.
As the clock struck eight thirty, her head fell. She kicked out at something on the sidewalk and started walking away, her head turning occasionally to look back and scan the street for me. I felt bad inside, a twisting feeling of guilt, I lowered my eyes from her retreating form, totally disgusted with myself. I raised my eyes to her one final time and stepped out from the doorway, but something made me pause, a man was approaching her. I saw her smile, but I noticed that the smile wasn't reaching her eyes. That told me she didn't know him. Then I picked up on her body language; she was getting nervous. She was afraid.
Without thinking, I stepped out, jogging straight to her. Calling out as I neared.
'' Hey, hi…. Sorry I'm late, I wasn't sure if I'd missed you''. I put my best smile on, turning my gaze to the guy, who was eyeing me up and down. I knew my height was intimidating, and to make sure, I squared my shoulders as I came to a stop next to her.
Megan grinned at me. '' No, it's ok...''
I crossed my arms, looking the guy up and down. ''Can I help you?''
He shook his head.'' No, but I was just asking this young lady if she wanted to come for a drink? And I didn't get an answer.''
For a moment, I thought I had made a mistake when I saw Megan smile at him. But that thought was crushed along with the breath in my lungs when she stepped to my side and I felt one hand go around my back and the other rest on my hand.
She smiled sweetly at the guy. '' I'm sorry, but I already have a dinner invitation.''
The man frowned for what seemed like ages, then a light bulb went off in his brain, he flushed red and his eyes darted from me to Megan. '' OH! Ok, no problem… sorry, I didn't know.''
Then he turned and left, with the occasional look backward, until doing that nearly sent him into a lamppost.
Megan burst out laughing, stepping away from me as she watched him virtually run away. I exhaled my held breath.
'' God, that was new… usually they just yell dyke....''
I looked at her seriously. '' And are you?''
My question stopped her laughter, and all her focus returned to me. '' Would it be a problem if I was?'' Her green eyes studied me, and I caught a slight uncertainty for the first time.
I shrugged.'' not really.... So are you a dyke?''
Her body tensed, then she saw I didn't mean anything bad by using the word, she relaxed only slightly.'' I prefer the word gay... but yes, I am.''
I nodded. Then looked up the street for a moment then back to her.'' Is that why you asked me out to dinner?''
She didn't pause ''No..... I asked as a friend.''
I exhaled quietly the breath I held. '' Ok.''
Silence hung over us, then she broke it, stepping forward as she spoke. '' Now where is this place you mentioned because I don't know about you, I'm starving.'' Her nose wrinkled as she grinned.
I relaxed again. I pointed back up the street and both of us began to walk that way.
Enriqos lived up to expectations, the menu was small but as always good food. Another thing I discovered about Megan was her appetite. Whereas I stayed to small portions, she amazed me on what her small frame could hold. Once again our conversation was easy going, both of us staying to neutral subjects.
I was learning by the time I spent with Megan that she could read me well, and she would change subjects when she sensed I was getting uncomfortable. All in all, I had to admit I was enjoying her company, which only set off whispers inside me about what would happen when she moved on and I was left alone again.
There was a pause as we waited for dessert, I had chosen as a treat the fudge cake, and Megan had gone for the full works on the raspberry lattice.
'' So, were you going to stand me up?''
I managed to just cover the fact I nearly choked on my coffee as I sheepishly glanced over to her.
Grinning, she sipped her wine. '' Ahuh, thought so. So what changed your mind? You were watching me, right? So I'm guessing here, you saw that creep come over and rushed in to save me. Otherwise you would have left?''
I dabbed the spilt coffee from my chin, then gratefully thanked the waitress who brought the puddings, giving me the time to think of something to say. Megan tucked into her dessert with gusto, fully enjoying the fact I was stalling.
'' Yes.'' I bit into the cake, forcing myself to swallow.
'' Why?'' This time her voice and face were serious and I caught a quick flick of pain in her eyes
I sighed, placing my fork down.'' It's nothing personal, Megan... it's just my life has no complication... ''
'' And you view me as a complication?'' Her brow bent as a sign of confusion.
'' Can I ask why?''
I sighed again. '' Because you're not in my plans... you offer so much outside of what I can handle right now.''
Her head shook for a second as if trying to make sense of what I just said. '' I don't understand, Jo...''
'' I know, and that only means one thing. You will ask questions, and I'm not ready to explain myself or answer them... Look, this has been great, I really have enjoyed it.''
I began to rise, grabbing my coat from the back of the chair.
'' So you're leaving on me again.''
The tone of her voice stopped me, it wasn't accusing, in fact if anything it was understanding. I looked deeply at her, trying to figure her out.
'' How about finishing your dessert first. Seems a shame to let it go to waste.'' Her mouth quirked.
I felt like a rabbit caught in the glare, unable to run for the cover I knew was safe because the headlights of her eyes were blinding me. Instead I sat, mainly because I felt my legs go weak. I lifted my fork and cut off a small mouthful and made myself chew.
'' What happens when my explanations aren't enough for you? Because sooner or later you will want to know more.''
She shrugged.'' I don't know... You already know I'm a reporter and finding the answers is part of what I am... look, all I can say is I like you….. You're intelligent, funny... and great company, and I would like it very much to be considered your friend.''
When I felt the wetness on my cheek I realized I was crying. I quickly looked down, blinking them away.
'' I… I didn't mean to upset you, Jo....'' Her hand came over to touch mine but as I felt it I flinched, and she quickly pulled it away.
'' Sometimes I just have to leave or cancel, ok. But I promise I won't just leave you standing somewhere alone again.''
She smiled softly as she nodded, then took a card from her purse.
'' Fair enough, but you will need this... and sometimes due to work I may have to cancel too.''
I took it, seeing the phone numbers, and now her full name. Megan Roberts.
'' You have a pen?''
She let out a fast snort. '' Well, duh, I am a reporter.'' with a lopsided grin she handed one over.
I couldn't help myself, I grinned back, and not for the first time I wondered how she could do that to me when my insides felt so raw.
I didn't own a phone, it was a cost that wasn't needed, so I gave the public phone that was on the landing of the apartment building.
'' The first one is the market. The second, you can leave a message, I'll get it.''
She grinned as she took it, glancing down before tucking it into the back of her purse. '' So do you have a last name?'' her voice was gentle.
I bit back the part of me that was yelling this was too much. ''Williams.''
'' Thank you.''
I looked up at her in question, I saw that she understood how hard that had been, so I simply replied. '' You're welcome.''
The meal ended there, I was thankful that she didn't push for another meeting. I waited outside for her cab to come, then with good-byes said, I watched as it took her away. Then I headed home, I already knew it wasn't going to be an easy night alone, too many fears were bubbling just under my sanity.
The next week zoomed by, Monday's shift suddenly became Saturday afternoon. With yet another Sunday looming, a part of me was glad that I heard nothing from Megan, while another whisper was miserable that I hadn't. I ended up just telling myself that she had just been polite over what had happened and I was no more in her thoughts. That didn't seem to lessen the pain inside me on coming to that fact.
''Hey, Jo, you got a call.''
I glanced over at David, confusion clearly on my face, he simply shrugged as he took my place at the register.
''Some broad, they said you gave um permission to call here.''
When I entered the office I lifted the receiver. '' Hello?''
'' Hey Jo, it's Megan. I was wondering what you were doing tonight, I know you said you were into movies, well I have two tickets to the Hitchcock festival and I was… Well I was wondering if you would like to go? It doesn't start till seven.''
I felt myself smile as I heard her voice, at the same time I felt my stomach drop. Then a loud noise in the background caught my attention. '' Where are you?''
She laughed and I could tell she was raising her voice to be heard. '' I'm at the airport… shit.''
Her voice cut off and was replaced by a high screech of engine so loud I pulled the handset away. '' Where in the airport? Under the plane?''
She snorted. '' Something like that… Well? Will you come? I know it's short notice but I was only given the tickets today.''
I chewed the inside of my mouth. '' Where?''
Her voice faded for a moment then returned. '' What did you say? I missed it.''
I raised my voice this time. '' I said where? The Hitchcock, which theatre?''
'' Oh, the Plaza near east and third.''
I mentally saw the theatre in my head. It was outside my boundary line. But I realized I did want to see her again.
'' What kind of festival? I mean I don't have a lot of choice in my clothing.'' I felt embarrassed at having to admit it.
'' No problem, jeans are cool there, honestly…. Will you come?'' I heard the pleading in her voice.
'' Ok, I'll meet you at six thirty.'' I answered before I talked myself out of it. Besides, I had her number, I could cancel later.
''Great … great… I have to go…it's a date… I'll see you there. Bye.''
If I didn't know better, as I hung up I could have sworn she had been jumping up and down at my answer. But the only thing doing hops was my heartrate at hearing her say, '' It's a date.''
The frown on my face as I took over my till again alerted the Lee radar that something was wrong.
'' Jo? What's up?''
'' I think I'm going on a date.'' I swallowed hard, I could feel myself pale.
Her eyebrows shot up into her blonde highlights. '' Holy crap.''
All at once, within two strides she was beside me, her hand gripping my elbow.
'' When the hell did this happen? Where was I? How did I miss it? Who is it?''
Then she placed a 'no sale' on my till, then hers, and yelled over to David that we were going on tea break and marched me to the coffee room, before he could complain.
'' Well? Come on, spill it? I'm dying here.''
The whole thing had taken less than two minutes, and I was still reeling. First in the fact that I had agreed, and second because she had used the word date. I knew she was probably using it as a joke, but I only had one definition for it and it was scaring the crap out of me to the point I thought I was going to be sick.
Lee sat me down then was kneeling by me.'' Hun, you going to hurl?''
I snapped my head around to her, and the shock of her question right out there in the open stopped my hyperventilating cold.
She grinned as she rubbed my neck and back. '' Ok, that's better. Breathe, girl, breathe.''
So I did.
When she saw I was calm again she sat, pulling the chair around next to me. '' So? I'm guessing this date is close by?''
''Tonight at the movies.'' I took a long swallow.
'' Who is he? Do I know him? Oh god, it's not spinach teeth man?''
I looked at her in disgust. '' Jesus, Lee, give me some credit here for having taste.''
''Yea, yea, ok… so give, who is the lucky devil?''
I sat back from her, my eyes going to my hands. For the first time I doubted Lee's friendship... We had never discussed my sexuality. If anything, I wasn't sure if I even had one anymore. But the fact I was thinking of Megan in the dating light of things was definitely telling me something I didn't know before.
Lee's tone changed from one of humor to caring. ''Hun... Is he married, is that it? You know your secret's safe with me if he is.''
''No, it's not that…'' I blinked, realizing I really didn't know the answer to that question. '' Well, at least I don't think so…. It's kind of new, Lee.''
'' Ok.. Well, how new?''
'' Well, I had dinner, walked in the park and now they want me to go to the movies tonight.''
She sat back, her eyebrows drawing in the middle, staring right at me. '' They?''
I swallowed, knowing what was coming, I had hoped she would miss the neutral replacement word.
Her voice dropped. '' Jo, honey, are you gay?''
I closed my eyes, willing myself away. Then I searched my head for an answer. Opening my eyes I gave her my most honest stare.
'' I don't know, Lee… I guess I never really thought about it before.''
A tiny smile quirked at her mouth. '' No, I don't think you have… have you…''
'' You're…'' I swallowed. You're ok with it…. I mean if I am?''
She turned her head back to me from her position pouring coffee. '' Well, yea… why wouldn't I be?'' She placed the two cups down, sipping from hers as she sat, her face tilting slightly in innocent question.
I couldn't stop the smile. '' No reason, Lee.'' I berated myself for having doubted her friendship.
She shrugged. '' Now then, who is she?''
Through the coffee break I filled her in on what I knew and what I felt, and somewhere in the telling, I realized part of me indeed was attracted to Megan.
'' Well, first I think you're jumping the gun here, I mean one week, Jo… not a lot of time to really know her… also you have only spent a few hours in her company.''
'' If you want my few cents worth, go tonight, take it slowly and at your own pace. If you like it, go out again.'' She lent forward, taking my hand. '' You're in charge of it, ok. You do what you want to do. You're in control, hun.''
I looked at her and realized that in the time we had known each other, she had gotten to know me more than I thought.
''Ok, I will, and thank you.''
'' Just remember I want details.'' She smirked then wiggled her eyebrows.
David's panicked cry for assistance sent us back in to rescue him, saving me from the deepest blush I had done in my entire life.
When I turned up at the theatre, I was a total mass of emotion. Twice I had gone back home, only to find myself turning around and heading back. When I was on the bus downtown I felt trapped, and once free and safe on the sidewalk, it took all my control not to board it again and head home.
Now I was standing outside the movie house, checking my watch like some child who was waiting for Christmas.
'' You look great.''
Her voice startled me, and she gave me that apologetic look again, which just broke the tension in my body.
'' Hi, and so do you.'' and she did, she was wearing light jeans and a short sleeve blue top. I lowered my gaze when I realized I had just looked her up and down.
'' Do you want popcorn, my treat?''
'' No, I'll get it, you have the tickets.''
She didn't argue and just nodded as we both headed inside.
Once there and seated I lost all my anxiety as I felt the calming effect the movie house had on me once again. We small talked until the lights darkened and the movie began, then both of us fell silent.
Occasionally I would take brief glances and see her face crinkle at something funny, her whole being was focused on the film but her emotions were plain on her face to what she was feeling. Then I too got lost in the film. For four hours we sat through the festival, and when it ended and the lights came up, reality was there waiting for us.
She turned to me, grinning. '' That was amazing, I've seen those two films on dvd but seeing them like that was awesome.''
I grinned at her, knowing exactly what she meant, I felt like that every time I saw an old movie. '' I know… I can't watch them on a small TV anymore.''
We waited till the rush had died down and then we rose and shuffled our way free of the seats.
She looked over to me as we walked out. '' So, can I give you a lift home, I'm parked over there.'' She nodded in the direction as we exited the building.
I shoved my hands in my jean pockets. '' No, it's ok, I can catch a bus.''
Pausing for a moment, she looked at me. '' Jo… I'd feel better knowing you were safe, ok… please.''
I looked up at the use of the word please. "Ok"
She smiled, then with her I headed to her car.
The journey didn't take more than twenty minutes, but the whole time she was gushing information on the movies we had just watched. I didn't have the heart to tell her that most of it was wrong. Besides, I was beginning to enjoy the sound of her voice and it saved me having to say things.
She pulled the car over where I had told her, she looked out of the window around the area, her face going to mine in question.
'' You don't live here?''
'' No. I live not far though.''
'' Ah, you don't want me to see where you live.''
I sighed, knowing that the questions were about to start, and then she surprised me.
'' Is Enriqos still open?''
'' Are you hungry?''
'' I guess? I know you are, it must be hours since you last fed.''
She laughed ''Now, Jo, that nearly was a joke. You keep that up and you are going to spoil that tall, dark and silent image of yours.''
I felt my grin return.
'' So do you want to get something to eat?''
Snorting at the fact I had returned to one-word answers, she took her bearings for a moment, and pulling the car out, headed in the direction of the restaurant.
This time we opted to share a pizza. I was glad, it meant cutting the cost of it. With a mouthful of food, I suddenly remembered I wanted to ask her something.
''Whff weff you doingg underrr a plance.''
She grinned over at me. '' Can I have that in English?''
I gave her a sorry look, then cleared my mouth with the aid of a coke. '' What were you doing under a plane?''
She laughed. '' I wasn't, I was covering a story about noise pollution down at the airport. It meant I was just off one of the runways…''
''Ah.'' I licked the cheese off my fingers, suddenly I got the feeling I was being watched and when I looked up Megan's eyes were locked on my fingers. They darted up in alarm, then blushing she looked down. I felt a strange warmth prick inside my stomach.
She cleared her throat. '' Will you be going to the park tomorrow?''
I knew she was totally changing the subject.
'' Would you consider a change?''
I placed the glass down carefully as I felt my insides shake.
'' What sort of change?''
'' Well, I'm going hiking tomorrow and I was wondering if you would be interested in joining me, I will have you back before dark.''
'' I don't know…'' I wiped my mouth on the napkin.
'' Ok, I understand… I mean we have only known each other for a week… I bet you've read about all the times a strange woman picks up victims and whisks them off for hikes.''
I felt my mouth quirk again, understanding she was using humor to calm me.
''Do you go alone?''
She looked up at me. '' Yes.''
'' Is that really safe in this day and age?''
She thought for a moment. '' Does that mean you're offering to come with me as a guard in the big wide wilderness tomorrow?''
I had to laugh at that, she had turned it around on me again. '' God, you are persistent… you're more annoying than Lee.''
Her attention went to me. ''Lee?''
'' Yea… she's a friend of mine who keeps me sane.'' For a moment I could have sworn my answer caused her to tense.
'' Ah. A good friend then.''
I returned her smile. '' Yes, she is that.''
'' Is Lee married?''
I had to resist the urge to laugh out loud at her not so subtle tact, in fact a hammer would have been lighter. But I kept a straight face.
'' Yes, she is.'' I watched as the tension left her body. '' So how about you, married?''
She looked up at me in total surprise, her voice lowering as she looked around. '' Um, Jo, have you forgotten the fact I'm gay.''
I sipped my drink. '' No… but isn't there ways, I mean that you can do that?''
'' Well, yea. And no, I'm not, I haven't found the right one I guess.''
'' So do you have a girlfriend now?'' some part of me wanted to know while another one didn't.
Her eyes lifted to me, locking onto my eyes. '' If I did, I wouldn't be sitting here with you now.''
I felt the coke go down the wrong tube and was totally unable to stop it in time, instead I erupted into a long fit of coughs trying to catch oxygen back into my lungs. With tears in my vision I managed to take a breath in, then another. Megan had moved around and was slapping my back, while one of the waiters had brought over a glass of water. I began to sip.
'' Oh god, I'm sorry. You ok?''
I nodded, then realized her hand was still on my back, she was crouched over my bent form and as I turned my head up our faces came within inches of each other. I saw her eyes looking into mine, I felt her breath on my lips, I felt the warmth beginning and then I watched her pupils pull tightly inward and a red flush start up over her face. Seeing this just sent the water I was swallowing down the same tube as the coke and off I went again….
Finally, I calmed enough to breathe. By then, she had returned to her chair and was drinking her own soda in gulps. Her eyes were looking at me in a strange way, the green of them had darkened to a tempest. Then I felt it, the fear, this was all too much, too new. This wasn't who I was, this wasn't what I needed. I didn't understand the ache that somehow had settled in my stomach, or the running of my blood through each vein. I stood up and her eyes went to me. Taking a ten from my wallet, I put it on the table.
'' You have to go?''
I heard the disappointment in her voice but I didn't care. I just nodded, unable to trust my voice, the panic was becoming too real.
''Ok... Will you call me tomorrow and let me know you are ok?''
I nodded again, then not looking back, I fled.
I didn't call her. The night before had left me caught in my nightmares to the point not even the pills helped. I ignored Sunday as if it didn't exist and I buried myself under the duvet and told the world to go away. Monday, I called in sick to work. I told them I had caught a flu bug and asked for a few days off. More than anything they were concerned, it was my first sick day so they didn't ask questions.
I was ready to run, to go someplace no one noticed me, where I'd be invisible again. I couldn't handle the emotions inside, I didn't understand them. I'd never had them before. The ones of wanting something, wanting someone. Twelve hours of thinking had led me to the cause, I had wanted to kiss her.
I felt my skin start to sweat again as the thought popped back into my mind and I turned over, trying to rid myself of it. But it didn't go. I tried to argue with logic that I didn't really know her, that we had only just met, but nothing inside the want listened.
I was like some love starved teenager with their first crush, which really was the problem; I had never been one of those, I had never been given the chance to be. The tears started anew, until finally sleep won out and the darkness claimed me again.
''IF YOU DON'T OPEN THIS DOOR I'M GOING TO KICK IT IN JO…''
I shot up in bed and for a moment I was somewhere else, then somewhere in the fear, Lee's voice filtered through the haze.
''God damn it, open up, ok, I'm worried here.''
I took a long inhale before wrapping the duvet around me and opening the door. Lee stood there in mid yell, her mouth clamping shut as she barreled in and began to check me for injuries.
'' Are you ok? What happened? God, I was worried. You never call in sick?''
I scratched my unkempt hair and headed for the kitchen, clicking on the kettle as I moved past her to go to the bathroom.
'' Coffee, need coffee.''
She nodded in understanding.
When I came out she handed me a cup of steaming caffeine, I sat in the corner.
She stood, waiting, her foot almost tapping. '' So mind telling me what is going on? Are you really ok?''
I sipped at the coffee, wincing slightly as it burnt my tongue, but still I drank it down. Then I looked over to her and before I could stop it I started crying.
Lee was hugging me immediately. '' Oh, hun, it's ok.''
I didn't hold on to her but I let her hold me, I was too busy trying to hold on to some sense of sanity that was left. I felt the tears taper off enough for me to show I wanted to breathe. She pulled over the tissue box and I pulled four free, blowing my nose.
'' It's not the flu, is it?''
I shook my head, sniffing.
'' The date, right?''
I hitched a breath. '' Oh god, Lee, I think I'm going nuts.''
She grabbed me again, only releasing me when the second wave of tears had stopped, she sat back when she felt me relax.
'' Megan didn't try anything, did she? Because so help me if she did.''
I grabbed her arm as she started to rise. '' No… that's not it… Megan wouldn't… it's me, Lee, it's me, I'm so screwed up about what I feel and so damn scared here.''
She squeezed my shoulder then rose and refilled my cup then returned. '' Drink it, hun.''
So I did.
'' Can you tell me what's happening?''
I took a long breath. '' I think the gay question is a yes.''
Her face softened. '' I kinda thought so… and that's a problem why? Isn't Megan interested in you?''
'' I think she is, I mean I'm not used to reading that sort of thing but she isn't exactly subtle in her flirting.'' I managed a weak smile when Lee laughed.
'' So what's the problem, you like her.'' her voice tailed off as she saw my expression. '' Ohhhh, that's the problem.''
'' Why is it a problem, hun?''
I remained silent for a long time but she didn't press it. When I spoke, my voice was low. '' I'm not who you think I am… things happened in my past… I can't handle all this emotion Lee, it's new, it's so painfully raw.''
Her eyes took on a sad look. ''You don't think you're going too fast, I mean it has only been two dates right?''
'' It's not that… It's not even how Megan flirts, it's me, it's how I feel.. God, how can I make you understand, it's the feelings inside me, I don't … I don't know what to do with them… I only can handle them when I tell them what to do… What to say….''
A small smile came to her face. '' You're not as good as you think at hiding your feelings… when I asked if you wanted to go out on a foursome date, you nearly ran away right then and there… and there was other signs too. You don't speak about your past… But hey, that's ok, it's your business, it didn't make you any less of a friend.''
I looked at her in surprise then took a shuddering inhale and forced a smile to her. '' Thank you.''
'' You keep everything so tight inside you, hun… I'm not surprised this has blown that control away, this is the first time you have let yourself feel.''
I sat back, tugging the duvet closer, listening to her.
'' What does Megan think of this, have you told her?''
I tensed. '' No.''
She nodded. '' Didn't think so… so do you trust her enough to?''
I shifted in the chair. '' I guess… there's just so much I don't want to tell her.''
'' Then don't, for now leave it until you can handle it… Ok, here's the question… can you deal with not seeing her ever again and going back to what you were.''
The question surprised me, mainly because not at one point did I ask myself that when I was thinking of running away. I thought for a long time, then I met Lee's patient gaze.
'' I don't think I can… But I just ran away from her, Lee. What will she think of me… she probably won't want to talk. Let alone see me again.''
''Well, you won't know that till you ask her.''
'' I'll wait for the weekend. Sunday, I'll call her Sunday.''
She looked at me, a small smile coming to her mouth. '' Um, Jo… it's Saturday.''
I looked at her. '' What?''
'' Why the hell do you think I was going nuts, hun... the last we heard from you was Monday, it's been nearly a week.''
I wanted to shake my head, she was nuts, but then somewhere in the back of my mind I knew she was right, I had disappeared like I had wanted to.
'' Oh god… there's no way she will listen to me now.''
With a sly smile, she pulled a bunch of notes from her bag.
'' These, my dear insane friend, are messages from Megan. She has called every day at the store, I told her you had the flu pretty bad… Then late today, I realized that maybe you didn't…'' she flushed with embarrassment. '' Told ya my brain takes a while to warm up… otherwise I would have been here on Monday.''
I gave her a smile. '' Wish you would stop saying things like that… sometimes I think you're the wisest person I know.''
She flushed again, coughing before she spoke. '' So are you going to call her… she sounded really concerned. '' She pulled out her cell phone. '' My treat.''
I eyed it wearily, feeling the fear stir again.
Her voice softened. ''Is it better to stay in the dark, Jo? What has it to offer you except more fears.''
I inhaled as I rose, going to my wallet and taking out the card, then before I chickened out, I took the cell and dialed the number.
The sound of her voice sent my fears racing again, I looked over at Lee in panic and she just glared at me, motioning at the cell with her head.
'' Hello? Look, if this is a dirty call, you could at least do some heavy breathing to make it worth my while.''
I suddenly found myself grinning. '' I could start an asthma attack if it helped.''
I saw Lee's eyebrows shot up as she realized I had just made a joke.
'' Oh my god, is that you, Jo? How are you? I was worried as hell.''
'' I'm ok, I had the flu.''
Lee scowled at me at the lie.
'' Yes, Lee told me, I talked to her at the market.'' I noticed that Megan's voice had suddenly gone flat of emotion, I realized she knew I didn't have the flu.
'' I… I'm sorry I didn't call you…''
'' It's ok, I'm just glad you're ok now… You are…. Aren't you?''
I looked at Lee again, she was just nodding her head, egging me on.
I inhaled. '' Actually I think I am, but I didn't have the flu.''
''Oh?'' Her voice became guarded.
'' I don't want to tell you on the phone, if that invitation for a hike is still open I'd like to do it… I mean if you're not busy tomorrow?'' I almost bit my tongue as I waited, I was that nervous.
'' Well … I don't know, Jo… I mean… I seem to make things worse around you.''
For the first time, I heard pain in her voice and I felt like the biggest heel on the planet. I felt my heart fall. '' Megan… if you give me the chance, I'll try and explain something to you.''
I heard her sigh. '' Hold on a sec.''
The phone went silent for a moment and I realized she had put her hand over the receiver.
'' Jo?'' Her voice returned.
'' Yes, I'm here.''
'' I'm in the middle of a deadline right now.''
'' Oh, ok… then I'd better let you go… I'm sorry I bothered you.''
'' Hey, hold on a second… it's not a brush off, I really am busy… ok, how about I pick you up outside the market at 7am tomorrow morning? Dress warm and wear some good walking shoes.''
I felt myself grinning. '' Ok, cool, no problems.''
'' Ok, I do have to go, I'll see you then. And, Jo?''
'' Don't stand me up, ok.''
Before I could answer, the phone clicked. I stared at it, blinking.
Lee was virtually jumping up and down. '' Well? Well?''
'' I think I have another date… oh god, I need walking shoes.''
She grabbed me in a big hug and turned me around. '' That's easy, we're the same size. I have a whole den full of hiking gear… get dressed, we are going to play dress up.''
I still stood with the cell in my hand, then her last words filtered through. '' Huh… Dress up?''
Then Lee stood back, looking me up and down. '' Geesh, babe, you look like shit.''
I couldn't help it, I burst out laughing, and suddenly I felt a feeling of the new beginnings of life and it didn't scare me as much as I thought it would.
Saturday night was spent doing Lee's dress up, to the point I felt like action Barbie. I came away with more hiking gear than a GI Joe would need in the deepest amazon trail. Lee had been her usual persistent self on me taking things. Even her husband had gotten in on the act, letting me know he preferred the gear to be used than just wasting away. When I returned home, I called the market and informed them that I was ready for work on Monday. David had been more concerned about me being well enough than the fact I hadn't called in before. It made me realize what friends I had truly made. I made a promise that I wouldn't let any of them down again.
Sunday morning found me a nervous wreck again, but this time I kept it under control with the knowledge I would be spending the whole day with Megan. It was strange for me to rely on someone to help battle my demons, and I knew that I would have to trust her enough to understand what that meant when I told her.
My main fear today was a first too, a fear that I had read Megan all wrong and that she was just interested in me like a friend. It wasn't like I was used to reading those types of signals. This just raised the gay issue. I had thought while taking my bath that morning what exactly that was. As I lay there in the warm water, I went back to my youth. Finding out in my memories that I had always been attracted more to women than men. But that was when I was in my teens, I was too shy to try and do anything about it. Besides that, my family and the situation I was brought up in meant I never really would have had the courage to pursue it. It was different times then, unlike now where sexuality of a person had some sense of freedom.
At the beginning of my sexual puberty, any choice was taken away from me. And after that, and ten years of hell, the furthest thing on my mind was sex with anyone. That part of me had faded away to nothing. It was Megan that was making me think about wanting that again, which of course just sent a whole new set of fears whirling around inside my body, along with a few butterflies in my stomach for a different reason.
I left those thoughts and my cold bath and got dressed. When I looked in the mirror this time, I saw Lara Croft staring back at me, minus the guns of course. I wasn't entirely sure on Lee's choice of hiking gear; tight black shorts and tight white top and walking boots that felt lighter than they looked. When I had commented on the fact my butt looked huge, she had just grinned at me saying,
'' If you've got it, honey, flaunt it.''
Her husband had agreed with a strange grin on his face, which had been wiped off by a backhand to the chest from Lee.
Another bigger part of me didn't want to wear shorts, I didn't do that. But as I looked closer, I suddenly realized the scars I knew were there were virtually unseen by anyone else, my arms had been the same. Nothing of what I mentally thought was huge was there physically anymore. That thought had unsettled me for a while as I realized I really had been the person holding me back in life.
Still undecided at Lee's house at what I was now dressed in, she had come over and whispered in my ear.
'' Imagine what you're going to do to Megan dressed like that…''
I had blinked in shock at her and felt myself blush, but deep inside I felt another new part raise its head, I looked in the mirror again and a grin came to my mouth, one I hadn't seen before.
Lee had stood back and snorted. '' Oh my god, that woman is in so much trouble.''
The memory made me smile and I looked at its reflection, it was so strange to see that on my face after such a long time.
My watch alarm beeped at me and I jumped. I quickly grabbed the backpack and my coat and headed out of the door at a run. I didn't want to be late and make her think I was standing her up.
When the jeep pulled up next to me, I stepped back.
'' You looking for a ride…. Oh my Go…d…'' I heard her voice catch.
When I looked up at her standing figure leaning out over the front window, I had to hide the grin at the expression on her face, her mouth was open and her eyes wide as she took in what I wearing. I felt my mouth go dry under the stare.
'' Hi.'' I was beginning to like the effect I was having on her.
For a moment she blinked, as if getting me into focus. '' Um, hi. Wow, you look great.''
I tried to control the blush, but I failed, so instead I threw my bag into the back of the jeep and walked around to get in. '' Nice car.''
'' Yea.'' She suddenly realized she was still standing so she sank back down into her seat.
I felt that feeling rise a curious head again and I decided as I saw her eyes shyly look over my legs next to her, that I liked this new feeling. I placed my sunglasses over my eyes and tried not to smirk.
Finally she got herself under control. '' Ok, let's go…''
Shifting into gear, she checked for traffic, then pulled out. '' Oh, that part is a surprise.'' And a smirk came to her face.
I guess turnabout is fair play.
I'd never been in an open top jeep before, and not long into the journey I discovered I liked it, I loved the freedom it made me feel. I watched the city fade out behind us after the first hour. On the highway, she opened it up, and I felt the jerk of power hum through the machine and me. It was hard to talk over the sound of the wind, it turned into shouting matches with sentences getting lost, so instead I turned my attention to the new beauty that was unfolding as we passed off the main highways to side roads.
Some part of me should have been screaming at the fact that my safe place was miles behind us, but it didn't. It rumbled occasionally inside me, it was as if the freedom that came with the journey was soothing it. When it got a little too much, I would look over to Megan, and just seeing her with the wind whipping her hair into chaos and the smile on her face, tempered the fear.
After another hour she pulled the jeep off a dirt road and headed down an even smaller one, until finally I saw where she was going. It was beautiful, the hills around stood up like pregnant mounds of nature, the woods slowly uncovered as we dipped down and around a bend, and off in the distance I saw the mountains. I just stared at it all, I had never seen anything like it, I had never been anywhere near such a thing of beauty. I felt the tears prick my eyes.
I blinked, turning to her, realizing that she had stopped and we were now off the road.
'' You ok?''
'' Thank you, Megan.'' I looked down, feeling my emotions raw under the surface again, I was glad I was wearing my sunglasses.
She grinned at me. '' You're welcome, but you might not be thanking me once we get walking.''
I coughed a laugh, then swallowed to clear the tight emotion from my throat. '' No… I still will thank you, even if my legs are falling off…''
She shrugged, I could see she didn't understand what this meant to me.
'' Well, we will see, you ready?'' She jumped out of the jeep.
Within ten minutes we were loaded and ready to go, I left the main pack in the jeep and took the smaller one, making sure I had the three bottles of water and food. Then we set off. I noticed pretty quickly that I had to shorten my strides to walk next to her, she had given me a thank you smile when she realized that was why I had slowed. But after forty-five minutes it was her that had slowed, my legs were beginning to burn and felt like lead.
She stopped up ahead of me.'' We can stop for lunch here if that's ok?''
I inhaled deeply, nodding, then sat, unhooking my pack and drinking down a half bottle. '' God, I am so out of shape.''
Her eyebrow quirked upwards. Then her gaze traveled over my form. '' Well, I wouldn't say that....'' Smirking, she took a drink from her bottle.
My insides flipped as I got the double meaning, so I turned my attention to the area. It was a closed glen with a path leading down over a hill where it disappeared out of sight, the crop of trees stood around us like guarding Olympians.
''How did you find this place?''
She bit into an energy bar, a smile of remembrance coming to her face, which seemed to light up her eyes. '' My dad used to love hiking when he had to work in the city, we would come here during the weekend. Sometimes we would have a week and go camping.''
'' What did your father do?'' I finished off the first bottle of water and pulled my pack free, rolling my shoulders to ease the strain.
'' Government diplomat, it pretty much sent us everywhere in the world until he retired back to New Hampshire.''
'' Wow, that must have been something.'' I bit into my own energy bar, chewing.
'' Not really.''
Her answer surprised me, to me that would be the perfect job, to be that free. '' Why?''
She shrugged.'' It wasn't easy making new friends all the time in new countries, and some of them I wasn't allowed to mix with local children, so I ended up with tutors most of the time. I preferred it when he retired and we settled back here.''
I watched her and I saw the different emotions pass over her face as she remembered, then she looked straight at me and I felt a jolt.
This time, I didn't lower my gaze to her.
'' I'm glad you brought me here, Megan.''
Her smile appeared again. '' I'm glad too.''
We ate the rest of our lunch in relative silence, then we set off again. After another hour I was sure my legs were going to drop off, Megan noticed my discomfort and fell in pace next to me.
'' How much walking have you done, Jo?''
'' What, in my total life or just today…'' I grinned, trying to hide the fact I was beginning to hurt.
She stopped, her hand catching my arm, pulling me to a halt. '' Jo, have you hiked before?''
Her tone was serious and for a moment I thought I had done something wrong and I felt my fear rising up. '' No, I'm sorry, don't be mad.''
She blinked at me. '' Why on earth would I be mad at you, but god, you must be in agony… I'm sorry, Jo, I thought you had. I mean your gear isn't new, and those boots have a worn look. I just thought…''
She turned from me and started pacing and I still felt my body getting ready for the assault of anger. When she swung around to me, I flinched. That stopped her in her tracks.
She stepped tentatively forward, keeping her voice low. ''Jo… I'm not mad at you, honestly… actually, if anything, I'm mad as hell at myself here.''
I felt the tension ease. ''Ok.''
Looking around, she spotted a shaded area off to the right. '' Ok, this is what we are going to do. See that?'' She pointed.
I followed her finger and nodded.
'' We'll head there. I know there's a water hole, we need to deal with your muscles before they seize up.''
Again I nodded, not trusting my voice, the fear inside was still there at having done something wrong. Another ten minutes took us into the shade. She took my pack off and sat me down, then she pulled out ointment from her first aid box and began to rub down my legs. Her fingers dug into the muscle on the back, and I couldn't hold in the groan.
She paused, then made her movements more gentle. '' You should have told me it was this bad, how on earth did you walk up that trail with your legs like this...''
I felt the sting of her words like a berated child. '' Sorry.'' I kept my face down.
'' Roll over.''
I did without question, I didn't want her any more mad at me. After ten minutes, I felt the cramp go from my legs and thighs. When I felt her hand move to lift my top and go to the small of my back, I shot up and over.
She stepped back, her eyes wide. '' Jo?''
'' I don't need that, ok.''
''Ok... How are the legs now?''
For a moment she looked like she was about to ask something, then she changed her mind, instead she turned her attention to getting the ointment off her hands with a towel. She turned her back on me, and when she spoke her voice was different.
'' You should wet down your hair, you're burning up a little… I'm guessing that's because you haven't spent much time out in the sun either.''
My head dropped, yet another thing I had done wrong, so bad that she couldn't even look at me. I rose and headed to the pool…
When I came level with it I stopped in awe, the sun was reflecting off the surface like diamonds. The trees around were cutting out the worst of the heat and the wind. Then out of the corner of my eye I caught a blur of movement, and Megan shot past me, straight into a dive, then disappeared under the water. My mouth fell open. When she surfaced I was still standing there like an idiot.
'' Hey, come on, it's so cool in here. It's heaven…'' Her whole being bubbled with excitement and glee, then she disappeared under the water again. This time, when she came up, she rose out of the water more.
I closed my mouth and stilled my heart when I realized my first glimpse of her was wrong. She hadn't been naked, but the bathing suit she did wear was leaving very little to the imagination. I felt that warmth start in my stomach again but this time it started to spread downward. Suddenly I was too hot everywhere. I pulled off my boots and launched myself into the coldness of the pool. When I surfaced, she was laughing as she swam over.
'' Well, I'm guessing you didn't bring a suit?''
I grinned back, glad that she wasn't angry with me anymore.
She fell onto her back and began to leisurely backstroke around me in circles. I was grinning like an idiot and I knew it. The whole time she kept her eyes on me and I found myself unable to tear mine away, the grin fell from my face and for a moment the whole scene became almost solemn, not in a sad way, an intense one. I turned slowly with her so not to lose eye contact. Then with a sly smile she shot under the water.
I stood there trying to make out her shape when I heard the water break behind me, but before I could turn around, I felt her breath on my neck, and even in the heat I felt goosebumps prickle my skin.
'' I'm not mad at you… and I don't think I ever could be, Jo. I'm sorry I scared you.''
Her voice was gentle but I didn't really notice it. All I did notice was each time she spoke, her breath feathered warmth onto my skin. I swallowed, and forcing myself, I turned around, knowing that she was close and that would mean my face would be inches from hers. I wasn't prepared for the look of sadness in her eyes or the fact that the sun was glistening on the water on her skin.
Her face studied me as I looked at her. I reached up and with my thumb moved a droplet of water from her cheek, catching it as it ran down her face. I felt her breath hitch and I felt her tense and for a moment I thought I had done something wrong, but as I drew my hand away she caught it.
'' Am I forgiven.''
In wonderment, my eyes went to our hands entwined together, questioning how such a normal thing felt so different, My gaze went back up to her eyes. Now even more they resembled that picture I remembered.
''Yes. You are forgiven.''
My voice was nothing more than a whispered breath, but she heard it. She smiled up at me, and the coldness of the water seemed to fade away as the heat expanded within again.
Then as if time around us had paused, I moved my face lower, slowly at first until I felt her breath on my mouth. I wet my lips and I watched her eyes dip to my tongue before going back to my eyes. I bent my head a little lower and this time I felt the brief touch of lips, both of us inhaled sharply. The whole time I was focused on her eyes in total fascination, only to notice that she was watching mine.
I moved my lips over hers in a gentle caress and the grip on my hand tightened, when I felt her move against mine I forgot how to breathe and I pressed my lips fully to hers into a kiss. It wasn't hard like a remembered, it was soft… she was soft. I opened my mouth, slightly exposing my tongue, and took a lick, I heard her moan and it made me exhale the held breath as the sound hit somewhere under my ribs.
When her tongue came out, it was tentative and exploring as her eyes watched me. When she opened her mouth and invited me in, I did so, and I had the first taste of her. It wasn't strange or unknown, it was warm and sweet, I could taste the water on her skin and the taste of the raspberry trail bar. When her tongue touched mine I withdrew for a moment, feeling the jolt like nothing I had ever felt before. She waited, just gently licking at my bottom lip, I moved forward again and this time the kiss was deeper, more forceful, our tongues dancing with each other. I let out a long moan, which came from somewhere hidden inside me, a moan of wanting, of need.
For how long we kissed I didn't know. But as we did, I felt the fear begin to send my heartrate higher. I felt my insides constrict as her hand come up to rest on my neck, pulling me deeper into her kiss. I broke away and stepped back, gulping for air, my eyes blinking to try and find some sort of focus, feeling my heart and panic hammer inside my chest. Her eyes studied me in question as she still held my hand and I felt her thumb caress the back of it, in slow circles.
'' Jo, you ok?'' I didn't miss the fact she was breathless too.
'' I think so… How about you?''
Taking a long inhale she answered. '' I liked that a lot.''
I felt my insides release a little as she grinned at me, finding my own face answer hers. '' Me too.''
She pulled my hand as she moved us towards the shore. '' So how about if we leave the exploring till later and just go get dried out… ok?''
I nodded, and once again I was thankful that she could read my emotions without me having to say anything. I felt the trapped feeling start to recede as we made our way back to the packs, only then did she let go of my hand but not before giving it a squeeze.
I felt the loss of it immediately, but before I had time to do anything she pulled her clothes up and began to take down the strap of the suit, I turned around in a swirl, blushing when I heard her laughter.
'' Ahuh, and not a locker room changer gal either.''
I snorted a laugh, well aware she was making fun of me again. ''Um, no.''
I felt the towel hit me.
''Ok, miss modest, I'll go change elsewhere.''
I heard her footfalls as she moved away, I chanced a quick look, which only made me blush to my roots as I caught the sight of a well-toned naked backside as she disappeared behind a tree. I groaned, inhaling through my speeding heart rate. '' God, that woman is going to kill me.'' For the first time, that thought didn't feel so bad. Chuckling, I pulled out the sweater I had brought and toweled myself dry, I left the shorts on, knowing that the sun would soon dry them.
When she returned I was semi glad she was clothed. She sat down next to me with an exhale, this time she sat closer and I didn't mind at all. Although I was starting to feel embarrassed at what I had done in the pool.
She noticed my silence. '' Is something wrong?'' I heard the concern in her voice.
'' Really, I know you're not one for long sentences, but even for you, you're being rather quiet…''
I picked at a blade of grass next to me, popping it into my mouth and chewing as I thought. Not really knowing what to say.
''Jo? You're kinda scaring me a little here, did I do something wrong?''
My eyes snapped up to hers. '' No, god no… it's just I got…'' I frowned in frustration finding it hard to explain.
'' You said you wanted to tell me something?''
My body tensed.
'' Do you still want to?'' she shifted back a little so that she could sit crossed legged and opposite me.
'' I… I don't know.'' Once again I went back to looking anywhere but at her.
When I heard the disappointment in her voice it made the fear inside stop. I looked up at her. '' I've never kissed a woman before.''
She tried hard to hide her surprise but I caught it. '' You're kidding right?''
I shook my head, wanting the entire world for the earth to open up and swallow me.
I shook my head again. '' No… in fact the kisses I have had haven't come anywhere close to what I felt just now with you.'' the statement came out of my mouth in a gush.
Her silence was beginning to unsettle me and when I looked up I expected to find accusation aimed at me, but instead she was sat there with a big grin on her face.
'' That doesn't bother you?'' I was getting confused.
'' Why would a compliment like that bother me, Jo? And if you want to know, I haven't felt a kiss like that before either.''
I narrowed my eyes at her, her hand went to her heart and she crossed it with a finger.
'' Cross my heart and honest injun.''
I let out a short laugh at her. '' Wow.''
She moved slowly, making sure I could see she was aiming for my hand, and she took it again.
'' Yea, wow…''
I returned her squeeze to my hand, and the silly grin on her face with one of my own.
As I looked at her I made a decision, one that wasn't going down well with the whispering fears inside. I held her hand tighter and her gaze dropped to our hand then back to my face in question.
'' I need to ask you something, Megan?''
'' What am I to you?''
She blinked for a moment, then her face softened. '' Someone that I consider a friend.''
My face fell slightly, but as I bent my head she caught my chin, stopping it from dropping.
'' And someone who I'm attracted to, to the point you invade my dreams…That I can't stop thinking about when I'm awake, and a woman I want to get to know enough for her to trust me with her heart, her body, and her soul.''
The saliva in my mouth suddenly went elsewhere, which was joined by the ability to breathe. ''Oh.'' Was all that came out of my mouth.
She grinned shyly. '' Was that too much information?''
''Um.... Well… I did ask.'' I swallowed several times, trying to pursuade the moisture to come back, but I failed.
'' Yes, you did… so what do you want from me?''
My heart rate picked up again. '' I… I…''
She sighed heavily. '' It's ok, you don't have to answer that''
I felt her hand pull away, but I grabbed it tightly. '' No… just give me a second, ok… this is really…. hard for me.''
A light of hope entered her eyes and she simply nodded and waited.
I exhaled noisily, then took a long lung full of air. '' This is new to me.'' My admission came out as a whisper.
'' Well, I guess it would be considering you haven't kissed a woman before.'' She added a smirk.
For the first time, her humor didn't defuse the panic I was beginning to have trouble controlling, I wanted to shut up and run away. With a final inhale and a look to the trust in her eyes, I pushed against it.
'' No, not just that, Megan. All of it… the feelings.''
Her eyes looked at me, trying to read my eyes, then they widened slightly as she started to understand. '' You've never felt this before?''
I shook my head. '' I've never wanted… wanted to kiss anyone before… and that's just the start… what I felt, I mean what I feel, I don't know how to handle them very well, sometimes they make me want to just run.''
Her whole expression had changed and for the first time I knew I had her full attention.
I took another long breath, feeling my stomach twist into knots. '' I … my past. There are things that have shaped me into who I am, I don't trust easily… and I've never ever wanted to trust anyone as much as I want to trust you.''
She thought for a moment. '' Can I ask a question?''
I nodded my head.
'' Your past is the cause of why you jump when I touch you?''
I nodded my head again. Inside I was trying to silence the screaming that was beginning.
'' Were you married?''
I exhaled slowly, knowing that question was coming sooner or later. '' Yea…''
'' Was he the reason?'' her voice had almost fallen to a whisper.
I pulled my hand from hers, suddenly needing to distance myself, I rose and started pacing. I knew she was watching me, but she stayed silent. Waiting for me to make the move. I felt the fears again, I saw the images in my head, I heard the voices, I felt the fists.
I turned to her suddenly. '' That's isn't even my name, Megan. Can you see now what my life is, it's lies, it's hidden demons. Nothing you know about me is true… I've lived a lie for over two years… Running away every time someone comes close to seeing the real me.''
My anger surprised me, but it didn't seem to surprise her, she just watched me as I continued to pace again. My fists were clenched at my side and I felt the humming of my body as it fought with all those demons. I turned to her again.
'' I was nothing... for ten years I was treated lower than a dog… I owned nothing, he did… He told me what to wear and what to do and if I did it wrong I was punished.''
I saw her flinch on the last word but she still held my gaze.
'' I was given to him on my sixteenth birthday and from then on I ceased to exist… Nothing I did mattered in the world or to him, to him I was just a vessel he controlled. It was about his needs, his wants…So over time I gave up on wanting, on needing, on feeling… I went black inside.. Oh, I moved, yes, I breathed, but inside I was nothing… Can you understand, Megan… nothing!''
Now that I had started talking, it was coming out like a serpent of the past from my mouth. It wasn't directed at her, it was just time to expel it from me but she was caught in the crossfire. I took in sharp shuddering breaths as I felt the pain creep up across me.
'' At first he didn't beat me, he liked me then I think, I was young, I did what he wanted…'' my voice had dropped, almost childlike.
'' He did like me once…. But when I got older he hated the fact others looked at me and that was my fault.''
My eyes snapped up to her and my voice began to rise.'' My fault that I wasn't ugly to other people… my fault that men wanted me…so he decided I wasn't allowed out anymore, for six years I lived in the house, never going in the garden, never traveling down the street. Never going on hikes, never seeing the damn fucking sun.''
I hit the tree in front of me and I heard her gasp. When I turned to face her, she was crying, tears were streaming from both of her eyes.
'' Crying doesn't get you anywhere you know.'' My tone now was emotionless.
She still didn't say anything but her hand came up to cover the sob that escaped.
'' I gave up on crying the fifth time he hit me… I gave up on god the first time I lost a child.''
This time she did cry out and start to get up.
''NO. You wanted to know me, right. What was it? Heart, body and soul… well, here it is, all of it. Do you like me now, Megan, knowing that I have all this darkness inside me, knowing that I was fucked whether I liked it or not?''
For some reason my anger began to turn in on itself, the fear was feeding it, it wanted her to leave, and it wanted her to stop wanting me. It wanted to go back to what it knew; to the nightmares, to the shadows. It would make her go away.
She slowly rose and I could see the pain in her eyes at what I had just said. More tears began to form, and the green of them had gone so deep it was like looking into a whirlpool of pain. She stood there looking at me.
'' Stop looking at me like that, I don't want pity, for fuck sake.''
She didn't answer, but she drew her arms around to hug herself, I could see she was shaking.
'' What do you want from me, a fuck?'' I strided fast over to her, only stopping in time before I barreled into her.
She didn't flinch, then she looked up at me. '' Your heart, body and soul.''
I stepped back, the fear inside faltered in its anger. She took a step forward.
'' Your heart, body and soul, Jo, or whatever your name is, that hasn't changed… and it isn't pity in my eyes… look again.''
I turned away, throwing my arm up at her. '' Bullshit, how can you want something that is worthless.''
When she grabbed my arm I wheeled around at her, but the fire in her eyes stopped me from whatever I was going to do.
'' Don't you dare call yourself that… I don't care what he told you… he was a bastard… god, beyond that. I don't even deem to understand how you felt or how you feel… but don't you dare say that when I'm around you.''
I looked down at her hand and pulled my arm free. '' How can you care, I'm broken, Megan, inside I'm broken in so many ways I can't even begin to count…''
The fear stuttered for a moment.
'' Then let me help you… I meant what I said … heart, body and soul.''
''STOP SAYING THAT!''
I tore myself away with a cry and started running, I didn't care where. I felt the branches whipping at my face, felt the burn in my muscles as I pushed them faster. I ran until my lungs gulped air, ran till my eyes grew dim… then I fell.
Her voice was the first thing I heard, full of concern and edged with panic.
'' God, Jo, please… please, honey don't fight me.''
I stilled my arms and I heard her exhales in relief, I felt the sweet taste of water and I sipped it down till I coughed.
''Easy... Small sips, ok.''
I slowed, and let the liquid slip down over my parched throat.
'' Can you sit up?''
I nodded, and with her help did so, leaning back against her.
'' Don't leave me, Jo… don't run away again… I don't think I could stand it.''
I closed my eyes to the sound of her heart being offered right there out in the open.
''But I don't know how to stay, Megan.''
Her arms came around me and for once I didn't flinch as she drew me closer to her.
'' We take each day as it comes.'' I felt her kiss to the top of my head, and the wetness streaking down my cheek I realized was her tears.
''But I hurt you.'' I took another sip of water, needing to clear up my cracked voice so that I could be heard.
'' No you didn't, you hurt yourself.'' She reached down and lifted my hand, revealing the broken skin on the back.
'' You don't need this shit in your life, Megan…'' my voice was growing tired.
'' I need you, have you any idea what you have done to me?''
She twisted away from me until she could see my face.
I blinked in confusion. '' To you?''
A small smile tugged at mouth. '' Yes … from the first time I saw you in the store I felt something… hell, I didn't understand it. Then again in the park I felt it… after the first dinner together I've been wandering around with a stupid grin on my face, hoping I would see you again… That first time you ran away I felt so lost, I hated it… Then when I thought you were ill, god I was going nuts, and I couldn't get anything out of Lee… I needed to know you were ok… Besides that, just looking at you sends my stomach into butterflies… it isn't just you, Jo. I'm scared too at all of this.''
I blinked at her, my mind was trying to argue down the fact that she could feel the same things I did.
She continued. '' And I meant it when I said that was the first time I felt anything like that in a kiss…'' her eyes looked deeper into mine. '' You have no idea how beautiful you are do you? And god, your eyes, your eyes show so much of your emotions, Jo…''
This made me sit back from her, she was wrong, I knew it, my eyes showed nothing but ice.
She saw my look. '' I love their color.'' Her focus changed as she studied my eyes closer. '' They have flecks in them that are so blue they take my breath away.'' Her focus went back to my face. '' I wanted to kiss you for so long and see my reflection in them.''
I stared at her and I wanted to argue but I didn't because I could see in her eyes what she saw in mine.
'' So what do we do?'' I felt so lost.
She couldn't hide the smile as I used the word we. '' Each day, Jo, each day, and I will be there whenever you want me to be…''
I took a long breath and felt the tears start. Immediately I felt her warmth engulf me again, her arms completely surrounding me into a different and new kind of safety.
''I'm scared.'' My words were mumbled into her chest.
Her hand came up and rubbed my cheek. '' Oh baby, I know… but we can do this…'' she paused for a moment drawing back until her eyes met mine. '' Do you want me?''
I swallowed, trying to clear the fear in my throat like a vice, trying to stop me from saying what my heart already knew.
'' Ye…. Yes.''
She pulled me to her again and I felt new tears fall, fresh tears, not ones that were linked to the past, but ones that were paving a way for a new beginning. After a while my sobs ebbed and so did hers, and she just held me close, so close I could hear her heart beat.
'' Deborah…'' My voice was a whisper
She moved back a little. ''What?''
I looked up at her. '' Deborah. My name is Deborah.''
It seemed strange speaking a name that was dead to me for so long. But the smile on her face and the crinkle in her nose and the fresh tears made it worthwhile that I had finally broken the seal on it.
'' Thank you.'' her face glistened with tears again.
I snuggled back into her again and somewhere inside I felt the first shard of hope slice into the still growing tendrils of fear.
Thank you and hope you enjoyed. Feedback, as always, is welcomed. Ladyhawke124@hotmail.com
Copyright K. Savage. ''Shards.'' 19/01/05
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