Disclaimers: Once again, this story is mine as well as the characters. If they resemble a pair of ladies we’re all quite familiar with..., well, not my fault (Hey, I can’t stop my mind from doing that and I’m gonna stop yours. <BG>)
Legal stuff: This story is about two women (and some other characters, right) and the relationship between them goes beyond friendship. If that’s illegal where you live or if you’re under age, you know the drill.
There’s some language that might be considered offensive, some violence and (yeah, you guessed correctly!!) some sex too, but none of these is overly graphic.
Personal note: First and foremost, Happy New Year everybody!!! Let’s hope for 2005 to be a year to remember because the world finally found its peace (wishful thinking…)
I would like to thank all the people who read my previous stories and took the time to drop me a line ‘bout them. I’m really sorry this one took so long, but (cut to me complaining) work’s been terrible these last few months…
Ok, enough babbling. Hope you like this one and as usual, comments are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Siel LeDain
For Ingrid S. I pray to every single God above to look after you, wherever you are.
“Love is not an affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained”
I turned around a bit puzzled for I had no recollection of that voice whatsoever. But when my eyes met those green sparkling up at me, my face must have shown how surprised I had felt.
“Hey…” I stammered unable to voice a complete thought. “How…you..., what are…did you know…”
I stopped myself short and tried to put my ideas together. Her eyes had never left mine. Oh, what the hell! I pushed my manners aside and enveloped her in a huge bear hug, the apprehension I had felt in the beginning disappeared as soon as I felt her return the embrace. I softly pulled back and let my hands linger on both her shoulders as I looked into those eyes that were quickly working their way inside my heart once again.
“How are you?” I asked really meaning it. She dropped her gaze for a second and when she looked up at me again, the spark was gone, replaced by a hint of sadness. If that hadn’t been enough, the clenched jaw was proof enough that something was wrong. Very wrong.
She remained silent and answered my question only shaking her head. My heart sank to my knees. If there was someone on this earth who deserved nothing but happiness, it was this beautiful woman. I gathered her hand in mine and softly led the way towards my office.
“C’mon, let’s go to my office and we can talk a little, ok?” I could almost hear the hope in my voice.
As we silently walked through the hall I noticed it was her hand holding mine rather than the other way around. I gave it a light reassuring squeeze and our eyes met again. I winked at her trying to convey an ‘everything’s gonna be alright’ message and I was rewarded with a shy smile.
Although calm in the outside, my mind was reeling. The last time I had seen her had been ten years before, and I didn’t know very much about her current life. We had talked on the phone a couple of times in between, after I accidentally ran into a mutual friend some three years ago. But my job had sent me to a different city, and when I came back, I just lost track of her whereabouts. I was never able to get her out of my mind, however, always telling myself I was going to do something to find where she was living, but in the end, I never did.
So when I learned that something was wrong, my first thought were her daughters and that some kind of harm might have reached them. I silently prayed I was wrong. My second thought went to her husband and a rush of anger coursed through my body. I had never liked him. Not one bit. And I had always found different excuses for my contempt, whether it was the fact that he knocked her up before finishing the university or that he never seemed to be the loving person Grace needed. Or maybe the fact that she was hopelessly in love with him…
“Is there anything you’d like? Coffee? Juice? Something?, I asked before closing the door and motioning for her to sit in the armchair in the corner.
She did so, awkwardness showing in her every move. For a moment I thought my office hadn’t been a good choice. I should have picked up a more neutral territory. But, since nothing of this had been set up…
“Grace…?” I called out softly due to her long-lasting silence. She looked up apparently coming back from some reverie.
“No…, no, I’m ok, thanks”, she stammered her reply.
I gave the secretary a short call asking not to be disturbed and sat on the sofa on her left. She had remained silent and now was twiddling her thumbs anxiously.
I decided to break the silence.
“Are your daughters ok?” I asked, wishing to get an affirmative answer. Her eyes lit up and she smiled warmly.
“Yes…thank God, they’re great…”, she replied. “They’re great, actually”
I released the breath I had been unconsciously holding. My first apprehension was discarded. Let’s go to the second…
“Are you having problems with Adrien…?” I tried my best to keep the contempt out of my voice.
Her smile faded almost instantly and she quickly dropped her head. My blood started to rage inside my veins.
“It’s a little more complicated than that…”, she mumbled barely above a whisper, so low I had to lean closer to pick the words up.
Suddenly, upon doing that, I noticed a not-so-faded scar at the top of her forehead. My mind went back ten years trying to recall that mark. No, she didn’t have it before.
Somehow she noticed my scrutinizing look and absently fingered the scar.
“I had a minor accident…”, she answered my unspoken question.
Was it my heart or my head telling me not to believe her words? My disbelief showed itself in the form of an arched eyebrow. She let out a soft chuckle at my expression.
“Am I so easy to read then…?” was her self-deprecating reply.
“Grace…?” I called trying to have her look at me again. She didn’t. She just hid her face under her hand. “God…”, was all I could make out for her voice was barely a whisper. She remained like that for some moments, choosing words or gathering the strength she needed to tell me something I was already aware of.
Unexpectedly, she lifted her head and met my eyes, a strong resolve written in her green ones. I clenched my teeth and prepared myself to deal with the rush of anger I was sure it would come from inside me upon hearing the dreadful news.
Her words never came though; instead, she abruptly stood up and picked her purse.
“You know? I shouldn’t be here wasting your time with my nonsense. I haven’t seen you for ten years and I’m gonna bother you with my silly problems…?”, she tried to explain as she moved toward the door. “I’ll call you and we can have a cup of coffee sometime…ok?, she offered reaching for the door.
I never said anything. In three long strides I reached her and pulled her close into a tight embrace as I hoped the trust she once had in me remained there. A memory had come to my mind and given me the courage I needed to be as bold as I felt I was being.
Long, long ago I had seen her totally distraught over that same worthless jerk, for different reasons, though. We were at the university and that day in particular the otherwise lively Grace had been awfully quiet. We were leaving to our respective places when I saw her stop on her tracks. I turned around and what I saw broke my heart. She was looking at me, tears welling up in her eyes and shaking badly…
“Andrea, please, hold me…” she had begged.
I had done so until her sobs subsided a little. She then explained it was all about Adrien and his new job somewhere outside the city. They were going to be apart.
Now, when she had started to leave I felt the same plea in her voice I had heard more than ten years ago, so I just acted on intuition.
And when she held onto me and started to sob I mentally thanked God. Either the trust was still there or she was simply too broken to hold it down. Either case, I was going to do whatever it would take to help her out…and lock up my own heart in the process.
During the following months we met regularly. We had lunch together every now and then or just a coffee when our respective schedules were too tight. One way or another we never let one week go by without getting together.
After she had broken down in my office I really hadn’t needed her to tell me what was wrong. I could see it in her eyes, she looked so unhappy and it broke my heart so much. So I had decided I was not going to bring up the subject, and truth be told, talking about Adrien had never been my favorite subject either; and I didn’t want to add to her pain by asking for details.
Until the day she called me and said she wouldn’t meet me for our usual lunch.
I sensed something wrong the minute I got the message from my secretary and called her right away. Never got her to answer the phone.
My mind was boggling and I spent the whole rest of the day trying to figure out what was going on. The sickening feeling I was getting all over my body was proof enough for me that something was definitely wrong.
And by midnight, after tossing and turning in my double sized bed for the umpteenth time, I started worrying about my being obsessed. But then again, my sixth sense had always been right before.
In an act that I solely blame on my nature as a Scorpio, I got out of the bed, put on some jeans and sweatshirt, and grabbed the car keys.
I strongly tried to think what I was going to say to Grace’s husband when he opened the door to the lunatic ringing the bell well past midnight. Or to Grace herself when she asked me why on earth I could not wait until we met the following week...
And all along, the same answer kept ringing in my ears.
By the time I got there I had almost changed my mind three times... but before I could really chicken out, I turned into the street leading to her house.
My hands were sweating and my heart was beating ten-fold. As I got closer I noticed both Adrien’s and Grace´s cars were missing and the lights were out.
I stopped the car and decided to get out. Anxiety was going to kill me.
What was I to do? What could I do? I knew what was going on, I had no doubt in my mind Adrien had beaten her up in the past and probably continued to do so with a certain frequency.
Why didn’t it surprise me? Because deep down inside I’d always known he was a bastard. Such thought of course, had been discarded as jealousy at the moment, for no one, in my book, was good enough for her. Least of all Adrien.
And she was so in love with him.
Now that I think about it, that was probably the reason I walked away all those years ago. Even though our roads were to separate, I never really insisted on meeting or keeping in touch. I knew there was something a bit out of place with my feelings for her, for one thing was enjoying her company and another was wondering what her lips would have felt like upon mine...
How could I know at that time? I had never been in love before and when I started to suspect where my heart was leading me, I just didn’t push.
But, since we met again, there hasn’t been a single day I haven’t regretted that. And if I had known how her marriage with Adrien was going to end...
Why would someone put up with that? Why did she put up with that? I could tell from our meetings for lunch and coffee she did not love him. She hadn’t say it, of course, but her voice betrayed contempt and loathing every time she mentioned her husband.
And then, right after that, she would talk about her kids, her face would light up immensely and her voice would be filled with pride and joy.
Did she know she made me feel exactly the same? Did she know she made me feel something at all? Could she see it in my eyes, always locked on hers?
That last thought brought back my doubts. Was I doing this for her or for me? Was my concern really unselfish or was I just trying to prove myself right?
A shiver went down my spine, maybe I was terribly wrong and had no right whatsoever to interfere like that...
I don’t know how long I stood there, leaning against my Rover, trying to come up with a sensible plan. Frustration rose inside me when I couldn’t find any and by the time I got back into my car, fear had gotten the best of me. I was probably overreacting..., not meeting me one day doesn’t mean something terrible happened, does it?
She didn’t know I knew her house, I mean, I did, but only from the outside. In all the time we had been getting together, she had never asked me to come over. She probably knew I would feel too uncomfortable in Adrien’s house and we both knew I was not to be trusted if I had to confront him.
But now, I just didn’t care. I was crazy with worry, I had spent the worst night in my life, I hadn’t been able to silence the voices and I was not to let this one pass without, at the very least, speaking my mind.
I dialed her number feeling the rush of blood in my veins and the increasing pounding in my heart.
She’s not gonna pick up...,
“Hello...?” it finally came. Her voice sounded a bit ragged. I tried to put up my best show.
“Hey!! At last you decided to answer my calls!!” I pretended to be laughing as I inwardly cursed Adrien for the hundredth time in the last twenty-four hours.
“Hi, Andrea. I know, I’m sorry, it’s just that something came up and...”
Yeah, right. As if I didn’t know better, as if I couldn’t see in my mind’s eye the tears welling up in hers..., as if I didn’t notice the hidden plea in her voice.
“Well, don’t worry” I cut her off before the made-up excuse I knew was coming, “No harm’s done.”
“So, where are you?” I added nonchalantly, not wanting to let silence fall.
“I’m in my house, you silly... You called me here!” I smiled at the term, knowing she was smiling too.
“Huh, I was sure I’d dialed your cell...didn’t I?” I lied.
“No, obviously you didn’t!”, she playfully scolded.
God, had I missed that!! That light banter between us that only came after she had relaxed with me at her side. Normally, it would take me at least an hour to get her to loosen up.
“Well, since you’re home and I’m in the neighborhood, I’m gonna come over, ok?” I announced as I climbed the three steps to the porch. I knew the silence that followed meant she was looking for some refusal. I knew she didn’t want to have to explain anything to me.
But it was hard to silence the fears that always popped up. The fear that one day I’d go a bit too far with my questioning and she’d send me packing. And our paths will part forever...
Then, to my relief, I heard the tiniest little smile in her voice.
“Why do I have the feeling it’ll be useless to try to talk you out of this?”
I answered in kind. “Maybe because you already guessed I’m standing right outside your door...”
She was still smiling when she opened the door.
“You were in the neighborhood...”, she commented, her eyebrow rising a little. I could only smile back, knowing I was blushing furiously.
Suddenly, her eldest came to my rescue.
“Andrea!!! You came to see us!!!” Grace aged ten jumped onto me, her arms around my neck, nearly making us both fall.
“Hey, pretty, glad to see you too” I chuckled disentangling from an always effusive Taleen. Monya, and all of her four-year-old curiosity came to see what was all the fuss about. Shy tiny green eyes greeted me from behind her mother’s skirt. I crouched down in front of her, with my best pout on my lips.
“Hi, cutie, what’s wrong? You don’t like me anymore?” I exaggerated my pout as she looked from her mom to me and back again. Grace smiled that smile I simply adored, the one filled with pride and adoration that always pulled at my heart.
“Just one kiss...?” I insisted with a puppy-eyed look. Monya hesitated for a split of a second, until Grace winked at her. At this, tiny little hands went around my neck and I got smooched soundly.
I stood up, lifting the girl with me. Taleen didn't seem very happy with the attention her little sister was getting, so she came and took my hand.
“Come, let’s go see the house”, she ordered dragging me from the hall.
I placed Monya back on the floor and let myself be abducted by my new ten-year-old tourist guide.
Of course the tour was everything but thorough as I was quickly introduced to the first floor.
Grace picked her youngest up and followed us upstairs. Fortunately enough, the master bedroom was across from the staircase, at the end of the hallway; so our destination, Taleen's room, appeared before I had to face exactly what I feared the most: The room Gracie shared with her husband.
The size of the girls’ bedroom caught my attention, it was really big, well illuminated and beautifully furnished, with a bunk bed on one side and the twin bed on the other.
Monya ran to her bed and presented me with a big stuffed pink rabbit. After the formal introduction she indulged herself in some sort of tea-time party. Taleen, in the meantime, had already showed me her incredibly huge napkin collection, half her closet and invited me to sleep over.
“Mom can sleep with my sister...”
My warning alarms were set off. Did that mean mom would want to join the pajama party or did it mean mom usually slept with the kids?
I tried to silence the demons in my head showing me one hundred different reasons why Grace wouldn't want to sleep with Adrien. I grimaced inwardly when I saw Grace avert my eyes and look down.
My host broke me from my reverie and Gracie took the opportunity to excuse herself and went downstairs to get some coffee done. My demons continued to feed my anger against Adrien. Anyone else would be the luckiest person in the world with a woman like her by their side... How could he? How dared he?
After a short while Grace came back to my rescue.
“C’mon, let’s go down and get some coffee. You guys, get yourselves ready, remember grandma is picking you up in ten minutes.”
Taleen started to protest right away. “I don’t want to go..., can’t we go tomorrow?”
Grace sweetly argued. “But, honey, you said you wanted to go shopping with her, remember?”
“Yes, I do”, the girl answered politely, as she walked to her mother, reaching out her arms for a hug. Grace kneeled on one knee and welcomed the embrace. “but it’s only for a while, right? I mean, I don’t want to sleep over...”
Grace tightened her grip and kissed the girl; Monya decided she too wanted to be part of the cuddle and Grace happily included her in the group hug. To me, she had never looked more beautiful, her eyes shining with pride and love at the looks of pure adoration she was receiving from the girls. At least Adrien hadn’t been able to destroy that.
My senses came back to reality when I heard my name.
“Can Andrea stay the night?”
“I don’t know, we will have to ask her, won’t we?”
At this, I had three pairs of expectant green eyes locked on me. I laughed inwardly. Gracie, dear, what would you do if I actually said yes...?. No, I’d probably wind up charged with attempted murder.
“I’m sorry, cutie, but I have a busy schedule for today...” An unconscious eyebrow went up as I heard my own words. I had always hated the excuse of work and now I was using it myself.
“Ok, girls, get ready”, Grace patted both her kids and started to lead the way down to the kitchen.
“Good thing you got to see them; Taleen has driven me mad asking about you since that day in the park!!”
I smiled warmly as I remembered that day. It was almost three weeks ago. Somehow Adrien had had to leave the city for the weekend and we got to spend Sunday together, the four of us. And yes, the kids and I had a wonderful time fooling around in the park during the whole afternoon. But what I remember the most was the way Grace’s demeanor had grown dark as the evening was coming to an end. And how she had to pull herself together after holding me tight when we said goodbye.
“You’ve always been so good with kids...”, she reflected bringing my attention back again.
“Dunno, have I? Really?” I asked skeptically.
“Sure! Even when we were at UNIACC..., every time there was a kid around, they’d just go to you...”
I shrugged my shoulders; I’ve always liked children but never really thought about it.
“And Taleen…, you won her over in what?, an hour...?”
“They’re your girls, Grace, it’s impossible not to like them.”
“How come you’ve never had kids of your own?”
I froze in place. Should have seen that coming. She meant she really didn’t know?
“I suppose I haven’t found the right one yet”
As if being evasive was going to work, specially with her. She stopped and looked into my eyes intently, searching for the truth. Of course, at the moment, a spot on the kitchen wall caught my interest and I felt myself blushing for the second time in the afternoon. Fortunately, Grace's mother made her presence known at the door, buying me enough time to get my colors back to normal.
After the girls left with Grace’s mother, we settled in the spacious living room; but instead of loosening up after a while, Gracie seemed to gather more tension and grow more uncomfortable by the minute.
With the mug of steaming coffee to keep my hands occupied, I dove in. It was time to get serious.
“Grace, I’ve been worried about you, you know that, don’t you?”
She lowered her gaze to her own mug, absently fingering the tip. “I know” she muttered in a very low tone.
“Do I have any reasons to be worried...?” I pressed and her eyes came back to me for a second. Then, a soft chuckle and her eyebrow rising again, this time, scolding herself.
A long pause, which I used to drink some coffee and try to quench my parched throat.
“Did you know that when you’re married, your husband is legally entitled to rape you if he so feels like...”
Coffee came sputtered from my mouth in almost all directions.
“WHAT!!?” I heard myself yell in complete shock. I opened my mouth several times, but I was completely unable to put my ideas in order. My mind reeled as rage blocked any other sense.
“Please, don’t freak out”, she softly pleaded, reaching out her hand and covering mine. Of course, that only made it worse.
I jumped off the couch and began pacing her living room very much like a caged wild animal.
“Jesus, Grace... I can’t believe this... I ..., I...God...” I was furious, but I had to reign in my rage; Grace didn’t need that from me.
“You HAVE TO leave him”, I hissed trough painfully clenched teeth.
“I can’t”, she answered matter-of-factly. Blood boiled through my veins again.
“What the hell do you mean you can’t?” I spat as my eyes bored holes on her. “Grace, you HAVE TO!!!”
“I can’t, Andrea, I’m sorry..., you wouldn’t understand”
“You’re damn right I don’t understand!” I searched the room for some piece of furniture I could take it on, but found none. “God damn it, Grace!!”
Silence lasted for what it seemed an eternity as I continued to pace around her living room. My mind was reeling..., everything I’d read about BWS didn’t help me just one bit; if anything, it only made me more anxious, for I knew the longer we waited, the more difficult I’d all be.
But she couldn’t leave Adrien, she’d made up her mind and there was no way for me to change it.
I don’t think I’d ever begged before, but when it came to Grace, I would do just about anything.
I crouched down in front of her and tried to fight back the tears both in my eyes and in my voice.
She averted my eyes a couple of times, but finally settled her gaze on mine.
“Please, Grace...” I softly pleaded, taking her hands in my own. “Please, I beg you..., please leave him..., not for me, for you..., for your kids...”
A soft hand cupped my cheek as she studied me for some seconds. Something flickered in those pools of green and I knew I had just been read completely. She sighed heavily and leant in, touching her forehead to mine.
Walls I didn’t know existed began to crack inside my chest as the tears streamed down my face.
“I’m so sorry, Andrea...” she whispered in my ear.
I shook my head in disapproval as I disengaged from her embrace. I could almost taste the defeat in my voice. “So, once again, the only thing I can do is to hold my breath and pray to every single God above to look after you...”
“YOU look after me”, she argued.
I half sighed, half chuckled self-deprecatingly. “Not the way I want to, Gracie...”
I paused, not sure about how much I should say. My heart got in the way. “You don’t let me...”
That damn silence I hated so much fell on us again, only this time it felt thicker, heavier, more difficult to break. And as I observed Grace’s slumped form on the couch I realized I had indeed been defeated, because I couldn’t stand feeling useless anymore...
...couldn’t bear looking at her and seeing the numbness in her heart, knowing that bastard had put it there.
As if on cue, the gong of the old wall clock filled the room and she went almost into panic. It was late and she had lots of chores to do. And if I stayed and met with Adrien, I’d probably get myself killed trying to murder him.
Just one last shot before I leave...
“These are the keys to my apartment” I said reaching inside my purse. “If you need a place to go to, you, the girls...don’t need to ask...just go, ok?” I swallowed past the sudden lump in my throat and, as I handed over the key chain, wished against wish it meant something.
She took them very slowly, looking at them all the time, as if with them, she was accepting all I’d said before. A shiver went down my spine when she kept hold of my hands.
“Andrea, please don’t give up on me”
She was looking down but I knew there were tears in her eyes, I heard them in her voice. The constant internal struggle between respecting her decisions and whisking her away from there forever began stronger this time. And when those shimmering green eyes met mine, I couldn’t find my voice. I just lifted our joined hands and kissed hers, shaking my head vigorously.
“Never...” I heard my own raspy whisper.
And as I got into my car and drove away I couldn’t help thinking that maybe, just maybe, I had made some difference and changed something in her.
Or was it just wishful thinking?
It’s impossible not to think terrible things when the telephone awakes you in the middle of the night. In the seconds it took me to regain consciousness and actually move, two dreadful thoughts crossed my mind. The first one was my brother, who had recently acquired a motorcycle therefore turning me into a praying, faithful and almost churchgoing person; and the second one was Grace. Neither of which helped me much, for in the haste of the moment I almost fell off the bed as I grabbed the always-too-small-to-be-found cell phone. I looked at the small screen and my heart started beating again: Unknown number.
“Hello...” I managed to say in a voice so thick I barely recognized it as my own.
No answer and anger began to rise. Probably wrong number…, and at 3 am…, gotta love it!!
“Hello?” I insisted more firmly this time, it was only then when I heard the stifled sob on the other end.
“Andrea…?” said the shaky voice I immediately recognized as Taleen’s. Panic just filled my heart as all the blood seemed to have been drained from my veins.
“Please come…, she locked herself in…, he hurt her…, she doesn’t answer…”
I don’t really remember how I got dressed, into the car and crazily drove towards Grace’s house. My heart hammered inside my chest so hard it actually hurt; my lungs seemed to have contracted for every breath I took sent a painful shiver throughout my body. Please God..., let her be ok..., please...
I probably didn’t take really long to get there, but for me it seemed an eternity. All the while my mind tried to form a picture about what had happened. The girl’s terrified words kept ringing in my ears.
Grace locked herself in, but alone? With Adrien? Why didn’t she hide in the girls’ room? She doesn’t answer..., that can only mean...
By the time I turned into Grace’s street, my heart had simply stopped beating. The screech from the tires must have been heard blocks away, but I didn’t care. All I cared was to get there on time.
All the lights on the first floor were out, but the front door was open. I ran to the stairs grabbing the first thing suitable enough as a weapon and took the stairs three steps at a time.
When I got to the second floor Taleen saw me and came running to me, breaking into tears. I held her for some seconds as she reveled in the safety she was getting from me. Before I said anything she disengaged from my embrace and tried to pull herself together.
“She’s in the bathroom..., she won’t open the door”, she sobbed as the tears began anew.
“Go get your sister and pack some things...” I instructed trying to make her leave, I didn’t know the state Grace was in but I knew she wouldn’t want her kids to see her like that.
I slowly tried to open the door to the bathroom..., no sounds were coming from inside.
“Grace, it’s Andrea, I’m getting through the door!” I warned.
The door gave up easily and my heart froze once again as I saw her slumped on the floor, blood all over her body.
I went to my knees and picked her up, releasing my breath upon noticing hers, shallow but still there. I held her with one arm and used my free hand to dial 911 on my cell phone. She was covered with bruises and apparently had some ribs broken, but what worried me the most was all the amount of blood pouring from her head and from between her legs.
That could only be a miscarriage.
I heard Taleen coming to the door and shouted at her to stay in her room with Monya, though I really didn’t want add to her fear.
To part of my relief, Grace seemed to regain consciousness. She held my hand and groaned deeply in pain.
“Shh, it’s ok, Grace, help is coming” I whispered caressing her face ever so slightly.
She tried to look at me through almost swollen-shut eyes. “I’m s...so...rry”, she muttered as she fought to stay conscious.
Five hours later, I was still at the hospital, in one of the many talks I had with the police that night. Grace’s mother had come and taken the girls with her, after some serious arguments with Taleen who didn’t want to leave her mother’s side. Only after the doctor had come and told her mom was going to be ok, and after having me promise her I was going to pick her up in the morning, did she accept to leave.
Three more hours and the doctor confirmed my suspicion. Grace had indeed had a miscarriage, induced, obviously, by what was described as “several blows to the stomach”. She had suffered from internal bleeding but the doctors had been able to control that without complications. Her ribs were bruised, but not broken. She had to undergo a minor surgery to her head to relieve the pressure her brain was getting due to the swelling caused by a serious head trauma.
Right now she was asleep in ICU and not being a family member I didn’t have the right to see it. So I had to wait for five more hours until they brought her down.
I used the time to go home, take a long shower and go back to Grace’s house to get clothes for her and the children.
I also cleared the spare room in my apartment so it actually looked like a room rather than a multi-purpose storage room. I seriously doubted Grace was going to go to her mom’s and going back home was obviously no choice.
When I got back to the hospital I was informed that she had woken up a couple of times and had asked for her daughters.
It was hard not to break down when I saw her lying there, looking so fragile, so torn..., her head bandaged up, her face covered with bruises and her right eye swollen shut. My eyes stopped at her lower torso knowing the greater damage had been inflicted there, and even though an almost uncontrollable rage filled my heart and my body, the strong pang of regret never left because I knew this could have been prevented.
“If only she’d...”
I sighed heavily, there was no use in lamenting now, if anything, that’d only make it worse.
I brought a chair next to the bed and practically slumped on it, grabbing her free hand and taking time to caress each finger, as if I could take her pain away by mustering all my love into them. The tears fell on their own accord, oblivious to my attempts to stop them and before I could prevent it, my forehead fell to the mattress as the feeling of helplessness heave my body with sobs.
I don’t know how long I cried but after a while I felt beaten. Gracie was still asleep so I decided to try to find a coffee vending machine.
There’s such a strange feeling after you have broken in tears in a hospital..., there’s a certain feeling of solitude mixed with companionship, for you know every single person who’s ever been there has probably suffered too but you cannot help feeling suspicious about all of them knowing you’re suffering. And as I wandered off through the long hallways, my sneakers squeaking on the well-polished floor, my weary mind started to move away from the rage and into the longing..., I just wanted everything to be over..., all the fear, the pain, the despair of feeling helpless...
But after getting myself a burning paper cup of coffee and going back to the room, and even though I knew things were going to be very difficult from now on, I could tell we were on our way back now. What would have to be endured was no longer crisis but aftermath and somewhere during my trek back to Grace I felt my strength renewed and my optimism coming back. Somehow, we were going to work it out.
Grace’s physical injuries healed very rapidly, her emotional ones were going to need more time. She never told me the details, but I really didn’t need her to; what hadn’t been disclosed to me in the hospital, was painfully revealed at court. Two cases were opened against Adrien, the first one, assault, battery and manslaughter (of his unborn child) had been carried out fast; the second one, divorce, was surprisingly taking forever.
Grace and the girls moved in with me and it didn’t take long for us to get our routines back to normal. Then again, when everybody’s mind is set to something, things are easily done. And right now, all of our efforts were directed to healing.
Every time she went to her mom’s she’d come back troubled, to say the least.
I know her mother didn’t approve her leaving Adrien. That just boggled my mind. How can a mother not approve your leaving a so-called husband whose hobby is to beat the crap out of you every time he feels like!??
How come she didn’t see? If she’d just seen the look in the kids’ eyes..., the fear, the sadness.
And I didn’t need Gracie telling me how much this hurt her... I knew even before opening my arms, gathering her and whispering words of comfort to try to calm her down.
Neither did I need her telling me how much of a shock it was for her mother the fact that she not only left her husband, but moved in with a woman...
...and a woman like me at that.
And now Grace was taking longer than usual and I couldn’t help looking at the clock every five minutes. My being in the kitchen fixing dinner didn’t clean my head of the shadows nor my heart of the fears.
What if she changed her mind...?
Why did I fear this so much? Was it because I didn’t want her to live with that bastard and be subjected to... Oh God I had to shake my head to stop the images popping up inside my mind. Overactive imagination can be a burden sometimes.
Or did I fear just her leaving me ?
Because no mattered how much I had tried, I’d never stopped loving her. For ten years, she’d never really left my mind. And even though at the beginning I wasn’t very aware of my own nature, I knew there was something about her that just drew me to her.
But now I recognized the way my body reacted to her. I knew the way just her smile could coax me into almost anything or how my heart would break when she’d cry and how it’d soar with pride at some of her daughters’ antics.
I was so wrapped up in my thoughts I didn’t hear her come in. Only at the sudden bang of the door being not-so-gently shut did I notice she had come back. If that hadn’t been enough to get my attention, her just crossing the living room and going straight into her bedroom barely saying hello, did. Something was definitely wrong.
“Grace...? I called out as I quickly washed off my hands and grabbed a dishtowel. No answer. Fear started creeping up inside me.
“Gracie, everything ok…?” I almost yelled.
“Yes, everything is ok…” was the scarce answer. I got the tone right away and my list of fears rapidly rose. This was worse than usual. “You sure?”, I pushed almost running toward the bedroom.
I never got any answer for as soon as I entered I heard the bathroom door being locked. For some seconds I stood there trying to register everything. What the hell was going on?
“Gracie…” I stood by the door, my voice barely above a whisper “Are you ok?”
Again no answer. I waited for some moments trying to pick up any sounds from the inside, but nothing seemed to happen. She needs some space here, better leave it this way, my mind scolded me.
“Ok, I’m gonna go now and finish dinner” I said to the door as softly as I could, trying not to betray too many emotions. “If you want anything just yell, alright…?”
Gracie..., please don’t shut me out.
I could feel my frustrations rising up and giving way into rage as my mind went into all the dark places my fears were stored. I continued to work on dinner but this time totally in auto-pilot.
Had I done something wrong? And why would she be mad at me? Since the day we met I’d done everything for her and I have never asked for anything in return, have I? And she sees it, doesn’t she?
Yeah, then again the only thing she has to do is to go and listen to her mother...
And then she starts wondering if she’s doing the right thing or if she’s ok with her decision. God, last time she’d even questioned why I was helping her and her mother had come up with some twisted theory that got Gracie to shy away from me and me blushing for about a week.
And now, God, Gracie, please don’t shut me out...
Once again, she broke me from my reverie.
“Andrea...”, she said her voice very low. A shiver went down my spine for I felt as much as heard the strange catch in her voice. There was something there I couldn’t grasp but made me frown. I turned around slowly, trying to calm down.
She had changed into a cotton bathrobe and, though she was looking down, I was able to see the seriousness of her expression, and for a split of a second, I thought I had seen her shaking.
She looked up at me and I had to swallow at the green coldness that greeted me from the back of her eyes.
“Gracie, what’s goin...” Suddenly I lost my voice as she, in one swift movement, loosened the lace around her waist and let the garment fall off her body.
She was naked.
All my thoughts just froze and all the world closed around me as I saw her take two steps and place herself right in front of me.
When her hand shot down to the fly of my pants my mind went back to work and I knew this wasn’t right. There was no teasing in her movements and she was deadly serious, it was as if she were performing a ritual.
I grabbed her hand and lifted her arm up as high as I could, there wasn’t a single expression in her eyes except for puzzlement.
“What do you think you’re doing!?” I snapped harshly.
Her eyes widened in surprise and a blush crossed her features. For a second, I contemplated acting out of rage and lifting her arm higher, but before I actually did it, I remembered why she was here…with me. No, I couldn’t allow myself not even as much as a verbal outburst.
I let go of her hand and only let out a disappointed sigh. She instinctively rubbed her wrist.
“This is what you want, isn’t it…?”, she protested quickly picking up the bathrobe and covering herself.
Another rush of anger coursed through me. Don’t snap back, don’t snap back...
“Look, Gracie, I’m not Adrien, I don’t need this…” I was unable to hide the contempt in my voice.
“I just wanted to thank you…”, she argued.
I unsuccessfully tried to fight back my natural irony. “By doing what!? Giving yourself to me like that…!? If I wanted a whore I’d get myself one!” I snorted angrily.
Her eyes went even wider and her jaw dropped. She tried to say something but the words failed her. When I noticed the increasing shaking in her arms, it finally hit me.
Years of having to do God knows what in order to please that bastard! Yeah, it must have been something like ‘keep him happy in bed and maybe he’ll think better of me’. One of the BWS symptoms was low, very low self-esteem.
Unable to hold it any longer, she crumpled on the kitchen floor, hiding her face in her hands, crying hard.
I decided to put my own fears aside and sat next to her. I took her hands, being careful not to use too much force. I didn’t meet any resistance. She let me hold her hands, and blinked at me.
“I’m sorry…I really thought you…” she couldn’t finish for the tears choked her.
“Shh, it’s ok, don’t apologize…” I cupped her cheek with my right hand and kept hold of hers with the other. When her sobs subsided a bit I continued.
“Look, Grace, I do love you …as a woman, you know that…, but this isn’t about me!” I ran my thumb across her cheek in reassurance. “This is about you…all of this. The only thing I want is for you to be happy and that’s the only thing you have to concentrate on…” I smiled trying to soften my previous dour expression.
She lifted her hand and covered mine. My smile was returned with one of her own.
“You do thank me everyday…being here, letting me in your life, allowing me to help you…that’s more than enough for me…”
The colors returned to her face and she looked more at ease. I motioned for us to stand up.
“I’m really sorry… I guess I just acted out of habit”, she reflected as she stood up and tightened the robe around her body.
“Yes, you did…” I agreed “…unfortunately…” As soon as the word left my mouth I wanted to take it back and slap me on the face for being so stupid. It seemed she didn’t get the double meaning for she just looked at me with an unspoken question evident in her eyes. Ok, time to fix it.
“I mean ‘unfortunately’ because that means you’ve had to do this several times…and that’s no life for anyone.” Good explanation, safe and pretty convincing.
“I thought you had meant ‘unfortunately’ for you…” she said turning toward the kitchen door. “Unfortunately, you didn’t.” she added before disappearing.
Good Lord! For the first time in all this time I realized this was getting more complicated for me. I was transparent to her, though I had never tried to hide my true feelings I didn’t want to be that obvious either. And from the moment I had seen her back at my office, I had quickly started to fall for her again.
But above all, I loved her and I was not going to let a self-indulgent act ruin the relationship we had or the trust she had in me. No, I had settled for this and it would have to do…but I knew it would all take its toll on me.
Even though my mind was elsewhere, I resumed my cooking. Nothing better than routine to keep my mind occupied. Once again, I was fooling myself, for I hadn’t noticed how much the previous event had hurt me until I tried to scratch a sudden itchy cheek and found tears coming down my face.
I brushed them off a bit angry. ‘This isn’t about me’, my own words coming back to my mind. “This isn’t about me”, I repeated out loud, trying now to convince myself.
Gracie’s sudden presence behind my back startled me so badly that for a split of a second I couldn’t move. The same split of second she needed to come closer, put her arms around my waist and rest her head between my shoulders.
“You are right, but it very well could be…”
Feeling her words rather than hearing them I couldn’t help shudder. She tightened her grip just a bit. “I’m sorry I hurt you…”, she whispered against my back.
I sighed heavily and tried to move around. She let go only a little, giving me enough space to turn around within her embrace. My shudder had become a steady shaking now.
“It’s ok, don’t worry…” I lied.
“Is it…?”, she echoed, sensing my uneasiness. I couldn’t voice anything more for fear of the tears I was feeling in the back of my throat. She must have read my expression for she reached for my chin and held my face in place as she stood on her tiptoes and gave me a kiss…
...on the corner of my mouth.
All my thoughts about it being just miscalculation faded as she lingered for several moments.
When she pulled back I was no longer able to keep my mind working and my body reacted at its own accord. I cupped her cheek and placed a soft tentative kiss on her lips. As soon as our lips touched I started inwardly cursing myself for my self indulgence. I broke off, completely ashamed.
“I’m sorry…, that was stupid” I apologized disengaging from her embrace.
“Why?”, she just softly asked.
“Because it’s not right…”
“Why?”, she insisted.
“Cause it might be what I want but it’s not what you want…”
“Isn’t that for me to decide…?”, she reasoned. I couldn’t swallow past the lump in my throat.
“Andrea, please…”, she continued at my own silence. “Don’t treat me as if I’m broken…cause I’m not.” Her voice fell one scale. “Look, my previous behavior was stupid only because I hurt you…not because I hadn’t thought about it…”
This last sentence brought my gaze up to her eyes. A deadly calmness crossed her features now.
“Let’s make a deal…no more assuming. We tell each other everything…ok?, she offered with that truthful smile I simply adored. The one that would make me say yes to everything.
“Deal” I returned the smile to her.
That was our first weekend alone since the whole thing started. We used up the time to furnish the apartment a little better and do all the little things work and relentless kids don’t allow doing…
…And we slept together.
Both Friday and Saturday night were spent in my bed, comfortably sleeping in each other’s arms. Nothing went beyond cuddling and holding one another, and yet, when I woke up one morning and found her completely asleep on my shoulder with her arm flung across my waist, I could swear nothing had ever felt more right to me. And when she awoke and greeted me with the sweetest kiss on my cheek ever, I knew we were both ok, safe and at home.
On second thought, I should have known better.
I was slightly surprised by the sound of the keys in the door because Grace was due to arrive at least two hours later and the girls and I had wanted to surprise her with a special home-made dinner. I was engaged in at least three different sauce pans with various contents inside and the girls were covered with flour and dried dough from head to toe as their decision for dessert was some sort of welcome cake. Needless to say, the kitchen was a major mess and yes, the original plan contemplated a thorough bath for the three of us. All of this to try to get her mind out of the turmoil her day at the court must have been. By some stupid law she was forced to face Adrien in court; we’d had a small argument the night before because she didn’t want me to go with her; I knew someone had to stay with the kids and her mother was out of the question, but it was very hard for me to let her go on her own knowing that bastard was going to be there.
A smile came to my lips and soothed my rage as I heard her try yet another key and not be able to open the door. She always forgets her keys so it figures she doesn’t know which is which.
I gave Taleen the wooden spoon I was using and instructed her to keep on stirring as I went to her mother’s rescue.
Suddenly as I walked through the hallway leading to the door, my eyes locked on the key holder fastened to the wall...
There were two key rings...
I froze in place and looked at the door too scared too react, but when the doorknob turned and I heard the voice outside cursing, my instinct took over and the look of sheer terror that filled Taleen’s eyes, mirroring my own, set me in motion.
Taleen gathered her sister and unsuccessfully tried to distract her.
“Son of a bitch!”, he muttered before he landed a solid kick on the door, the hinges cracking in response.
At this point Monya had started to sob, and before he could hear the little girl I picked her up and darted to the terrace, motioning Taleen to come along.
We heard another strong kick to the door. We had very little time. I mentally prayed somebody heard the noise too, so they would call the police.
The strangest features this apartments had was that all the terraces on the top floor were connected; Taleen must have read my mind for she quickly climbed up the railings and jumped off onto Mrs. Marshall’s terrace. I lifted Monya and gave her to her waiting sister. As soon as she grabbed her, I heard the door being ripped off its hinges.
“Go hide!!” I managed to instruct before turning on my feet and fleeing to the door. I had to stop him no mattered what.
He was checking the kitchen when he saw me.
“Where are they?”, he growled turning to me. All the fear turned to rage as I saw a feral grin crossing his twisted features.
“What the hell are you doing here, you bastard!!?”, I hissed before I was able to consider whether it was a good idea.
In a swift motion, he took a step toward me, menacingly and swung his arm above his head.
My mind registered two things, one was that I had to duck and the other was the pistol tucked in his pants. Unfortunately, the second message blocked my reflexes and I took the blow soundly on my jaw. A wave of pain coursed through my whole face and I tumbled back some paces. I noticed, however, that he hadn’t used much strength and this was only a warning. I instinctively rubbed my face and winced at the contact my fingers did with my split lip.
“Where are they?”, he growled again, this time motioning to his gun.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about...” I snorted back hoping against hope my fake bravery didn’t cost me my life. But I needed to buy some time for the kids.
He started to lose his composure. Two strides were enough to shorten the distance between us, enabling him to grab me by the neck. I felt the sting of pain as he tried to lift me off the floor, making all the tiny bones in my neck crack upon the strain.
“You think I don’t know what you’re up to, think I haven’t got you figured?, you deviate!!”, he hissed at my face as he tightened the grip on my neck. I couldn’t suppress a whimper at the pain.
“You really think she’s gonna settle for some twisted pussy-eating bitch!!?”
In spite of the pain in all of my body and the swelling I was feeling in my head, his words curdled up my stomach... If I only could erase that damn smile off his face.
“Well, guess what..., I’m gonna have her back...’cause she needs a man, a REAL man...”
With the last words he pushed me against the wall. The pain settled in the back of my head and I gasped for air a couple of times as I tried to regain focus.
“And y’know, I’ll get to give her enough for both of us. You would like that, wouldn’t you, bitch?” he laughed roughly as he reached for his crotch.
My stomach retched at the unavoidable image my mind created upon registering his words. How could have someone so sweet as Grace fallen in love for this?
My blood turned into bile and I lost all control of my actions.
“Some man you turned out to be...”, I acidly snorted as I got back on my feet, the pain slowing my moves.
What was I trying to accomplish by making him lose control? I didn’t know. But I couldn’t help the hatred and disgust taint my words. And he did lose control...
The second blow escaped my sight and had me back on the floor. When his kick connected with my stomach the world started to close around me and all I could feel was pain. I managed to curl up and tried to protect my head but he was too strong and picked me up to have me face him. I could see only but a bloody blur, but I was able to distinguish the gun he was wielding.
I heard the sound of crushing bones as the butt of the gun connected with my temple and a sickening wave of pain and nausea sent me back to the floor. I tried to move, but my body didn’t seem to respond.
‘God, please don’t let him reach the kids’
“You’ll never come between us again, you fucking pervert!!”, was the last thing I heard before my head exploded into a thousand colors and finally faded to black.
They say when you die you see a long black tunnel and a white light at the end, all the while your loved ones meet and welcome you. But I knew there was something wrong about this. I had the light, yes a big bright light, but it was more like on top of me than at the end of my path. And I had the shadows calling, but they were white rather than dark and they were talking among themselves, using words I didn’t understand. And the feeling of peace you are supposed to feel was replaced by a sickening pain in all my body.
At some point I noticed I was not standing, or floating or whatever, but lying down somewhere. I wanted to ask what was going on, but my throat felt incredibly tight and my chest hurt immensely. How’d I ended up here?
Suddenly I remembered Adrien and terror blocked any other feeling. I had to keep him from finding the kids...
I stood up and tried to start running, so I could find the girls, but my feet wouldn’t respond. I tried a second time and nothing happened again. I panicked. It was like in those dreams, when you dream about getting off your bed, turning the lights on, screaming or hitting someone, only to realize you are absolutely unable to do anything.
I screamed as hard as I could but nothing changed. The voices increased in number and volume, but I was unable to get what they were saying.
Slowly, the pain ebbed away and I saw the darkness engulf me once again.
The kids..., the kids...
Two things struck me after I slowly regained consciousness and was assured nothing had happened to the girls. The first one was the pain and the sickening feeling all over my body. The second was the damage.
I had never been beaten before, well, sure slapped on the face a couple of times, but I could have never imagined the shock upon seeing my face in the mirror…
I had stitches all over and what was not stitched up spotted large swollen bruises.
At first, I could just take a short look, but then morbid curiosity got the best of me.
An then there was the rest.
My left arm had been broken in two different parts and I had also three broken ribs, one of which had punctured my lung, worsening my condition in the beginning.
I had started to make a fuss about Grace seeing me like that, but she had been there the whole time I’d been out, so she would have none of it.
I knew it could have been worse, a lot worse…, unfortunately, that thought didn’t comfort me, not this time. I’m no hero from a movie, I’m just a regular woman and right then all I could think of was the pain.
Recovery would be a long process for me. For the rest of the world I had been robbed and attacked by some low-life, money-seeking punks and had stupidly resisted, hence getting beaten half-dead.
Adrien was charged since every single camera in the compound had got a clear picture of him coming to our apartment; but I really didn’t care what the charges were or for how long he’d be sentenced, if at all. From then on, I just wanted everything to be ok.
As my wounds started to heal I began to feel a different kind of pain, the pain of uncertainty. Was Grace shutting herself off from me or it was only a natural human response to my own shutting off? Or maybe it was just her way to deal with the guilt that had started to slowly consume her.
“I should have never brought this upon you…”, she reflected one night as we lay together in bed as comfortably as my wounds would allow. I just sighed long and deep, not sure where my mind was at the time…, the painkillers had me stupid.
“I’m sorry…”, she whispered at my silence.
“Why…?” I shrugged, probably just mentally. “You didn’t do anything” My voice sounded tired and I knew I shouldn’t voice any thoughts. I wasn’t myself and indeed I was tired.
“But what happened to you was my fault…”, she argued with a crack in her voice.
I sighed once again and turned to her as much as I could, my whole body protesting at the movement and my face void of any emotion but pain and discomfort. Only when I saw the pained look in her eyes did I regret my poor choice of words.
But I just didn’t have the strength to convince her she was not to be blamed for anything.
“Look, baby, this was not your fault. There’s no one to blame here but…, well, you know…” I sighed again for it was difficult for me to talk about it. She looked at me for some moments until she realized I was not going to say anything else. Her eyebrow rose in defeat, guilt evident in her eyes.
“You don’t sound so convinced yourself...”
I shook my head, knowing I had to try harder, but I simply couldn’t. For the first time in all this time I felt tired of trying to wash her guilt away. It seemed I’d only been doing that lately and now I knew it was not going to work.
When the only sensation your body registers is pain, there’s no way in hell you’ll reign in that and come up with some good reasoning.
And I was tired, my all-enduring will had grown thin and I just couldn’t fight, couldn’t cope..., couldn’t be strong anymore.
She probably read me, like she’d done before so many times and, as tears streamed down from her beautiful eyes, I grimaced inwardly knowing I had placed them there.
Adrien had succeeded, one way or another we were letting him win..., I was letting him win. After a time with no barriers, a time when we’d tell each other everything, I could see Gracie’s frustrations building up a thick brick wall around her..., the same one I’d managed to break down one step at a time not so long ago.
And I could hear my own heart screaming at me not to let her lock herself up behind it, but both my heart and my soul had been weakened by that monster.
And as she started to quietly sob, I just grabbed her hand and kissed her fingers, unable to stop my own tears, all the while a dreadful feeling crept over me...
That there was no going back from there.
I knew it well before she told me anything about it. I knew it first of all, because I had told her, long ago, this was going to happen, and secondly, because she started shutting out…, something she rarely did before and I started to pry, something I never did before.
And even though I loved her with all my heart, our relationship always gave me a feeling of borrowed reality…, one that wasn’t my own…, one that I was just allowed to enjoy for some time. And so, one night, after thinking it over for more than three weeks, I voiced my deepest fears.
We were dining in unusual silence, each one of us fighting our own demons. I decided to be straightforward.
“Gracie?” I softly called at her, trying to steady the pounding in my heart. She raised her head and met my eyes just for a second.
“You ok?” I asked trying to hide the catch in my voice. She didn’t answer, she just shrugged her shoulders and nodded, avoiding eye contact all the time. I looked at her for some moments as I gather the strength to go on. God, how I loved her, and yes, it hurt like hell knowing what was going on. But I also wanted her to be happy, with whom she chose to...
I breathed in and whispered through clenched teeth.
“What’s his name?”
She panicked, notoriously. Her eyes went wide and her face extremely pale. She could have chosen to play the dumb, but I think she knew better than lying to me.
And she also had her share of guilt for she dropped her head on her hands and started to sob.
I instinctively reached out to comfort her, but stopped myself short. No, holding her in my arms would do no good to either of us. Instead, I nervously laced my own fingers on my lap.
She tried to pull herself together a little and looked straight into my eyes for the first time in a long time.
“You must hate me...”, she stated after wiping some tears away. I grimaced inwardly. How could I?
I shook my head. “I don’t...”
“Well, If I were you, I would hate me...”, more tears started to run down her cheeks. “I know you’re hurt”
I nodded softly. “Yes, but you can’t help it”
She started to sob harder this time. “It seems the only thing I do is hurting you...”, she said between sobs, “You should have never bothered in the first place..., maybe after all I do deserve all that happened...”
I couldn’t believe she had said that. Hasn’t she been paying attention all this time? Hasn’t it occurred to her that, after all we’ve done, that she was not to blame for anything at all? Shock took over me and before I couldn’t think about it I suddenly stood up from the chair to get closer to her. Fear got the best of her and she quickly reacted pulling herself as far from me as possible, all the while her arms were put around her head protectively.
I froze in place, as realization came to my mind...and a crack split my heart in two. I had never, ever thought she was afraid of me, if anything, she felt safe with me, that’s what she had always said. Why would she react like that?
My hurt showed all over my body and all over my voice too.
“I was just reaching out...” I mumbled stretching out my arm. She looked up at me, the despair finally taking over, as she collapsed on the floor, weeping. I felt terrible, she had been holding too much for way too long, and all the time I thought I was helping her, but the only thing I did was to place another burden upon her shoulders. The burden of a relationship she might have not been ready to deal with. I pushed my fears aside and cradled her. She held onto me in a vice-like grip and cried even more. There were no words of reassurance that would have gotten through her right now. She looked torn and so alone..., as torn and alone as I felt.
I rocked her gently as my own tears fell down my face, I dared not say anything, for my words would have been tainted with my own despair.
After long enough, her sobs ebbed but she never loosened her grip. At some point she pulled my head down and kissed me long and deep. How could I say no to her? How could I tell her that as much as a touch from her shattered my soul into a thousand pieces? And yet, I lost myself in her kiss. We both needed it desperately.
Our kisses became deeper, more urgent and, as she started sucking on my lips, I noticed where they were taking us.
The nervousness that filled my heart made me recall the first time we made love. We were holding each other quietly as we were watching a movie, and she started to softly stroke my hair. After some moments I grew uncomfortable, for it had become more and more difficult for me to resist the urge to kiss her and take her into my arms. She noticed the tension in my body and asked me what was wrong. I sat up and tried to brush off the subject, but she didn’t let me. She enveloped me in a tight embrace as she dropped light kisses on my head. If she had intended soothing, she didn’t get it, for I became all the more nervous. I knew I was just about to loose the battle with myself and I didn’t want to put her in a compromising position where she had to say no to me. I raised my head a little and softly asked her to stop, but as soon as my eyes met hers, I got lost and started to lose my resolve. Something flickered in her eyes and I knew she had read me completely.
Fear took command of my moves and I dropped my head, ashamed, but she just held me tighter and went on kissing the back of my neck. I thought her kisses meant reassurance rather than seduction but she went on and shifted my head a little so she could meet my face. A couple of kisses on my cheek and one that lingered on the corner of my mouth and I could not resist any longer. I shifted just a bit and met her lips in a soft, very tentative kiss. When I pulled back I noticed her eyes were fixed on mine and a tiny little smile was drawn upon her lips. I couldn’t help smiling myself and cupped her cheek with one of my hands as I sought for her lips again.
She kissed me with the passion I knew she possessed, but never thought would see turned to me. And my own raised rapidly as she locked her hands within my hair. I looked into her eyes once again, an unspoken question written all over my face. She understood my meaning and for an answer, she locked her lips with mine.
My mind focused on only two things, one was that I was about to make love to the most beautiful woman on earth and two, that I had to let her know she was loved deeply.
I ever so gently disrobed her and I marveled at the softness of her skin. The soft moans that escaped her lips as I kissed those creamy shoulders and her inviting cleavage made me forget I had ever been afraid.
Now, my stomach is as tight as the first time as I tell myself to be equally gently. And like every time I make love to her, my mind focuses on making her feel loved. Hands caressing well-known places and delicate yet passionate kisses lingering, prolonging the feelings. My own passion caged so as not to rush her.
And her skin..., so soft, so sweet.
The first time I had stroked her thighs teasingly, running my palms along her legs just about reaching the hips and then to the inside part of her thighs, over and over. Every time her hips rose and a half-moan, half-groan escaped her lips. It was driving me crazy.
I had slipped my fingers between her folds and reveled on the flood of wetness that welcomed me. Her eyes shut almost instantly as her head snapped back onto the pillow, the sharp intake of breath matched my own.
I had placed one finger at her opening and looked into her eyes once again, silently asking permission. A whispered affirmative and I needed no further encouragement to slowly enter her. She had clung to me as our dance had become stronger and faster. The feeling was overwhelming and I never stopped telling her how much I loved her. Her climax ripped through me and took hold of my soul, never to let go. Tears had poured from her eyes as she had asked me to hold her, never to let go.
And now, almost two years later, I ask for permission again. This time, the plea in her voice is tainted with sadness. And, as my fingers gently enter her, the tears make themselves shown one more time. I search her eyes for I fear I might be hurting her. She takes my fears away as she asks me to go on. But the tears never stop, they only seem to increase. Once again I ask for reassurance and once again she asks me to continue.
Her strangled cries mingle with heartfelt moans, my name drawn between breaths over and over, all the time begging for release.
When did I start to beg her not to cry? When did my own tears start to fall?
As she clings onto me I look into her beautiful green eyes and see the mixture of desire and sadness that fills them. And my mind races back to the beginning. How I wish I could take all her pain away! How I wish none of this had ever happened and she could have been able to live happily ever after with Adrien. Even if it meant not knowing her love.
How I wish my resolve had been stronger and I had never placed the burden of the relationship on her.
Her heart wrenching cry brings my mind back to present, and I lovingly hold her waiting for the shaking to pass. But it never does. It seems release only makes her cry harder and she buries her head in my chest, sobbing almost out of control. Among her words my brain highlights “sorry”, and “safe” and “loved” and “ashamed” and the pictures starts to get very clear inside. How many lovers had she really known? For what I’ve learned, probably just Adrien and me. Two completely different ends. Adrien made her feel insecure; I make her feel safe. Adrien gave her the feeling of being used; I make her feel loved. With him, nights were filled with self-loathing. With me, they’re filled with guilt, for her distress comes mainly from having to hurt me.
So, in the end, she winds up feeling bad about herself anyway and my head can’t prevent my demons from popping up and asking how different from him I really am. I told myself long ago this was not about me, but about her. I could not give in and I couldn’t nor shouldn’t break down. But that had been long ago, and now, after making love to her for what it seems the last time, I’m not able to hold myself down any longer. My own sobs take over my body and the old scars I had from the first time I fell in love with her, become newly inflicted wounds. And yet, my system invokes my motto in one very last attempt to ease the pain: “This is not about me...”
Sleep is finally claiming over my sweet girl and I know I will very soon join her. Far too many emotions and revelations for one single night.
I know our paths will cross again many times, never as lovers again, but as best friends, as family. And I also know my love for her will never wane.
“I love you, Andrea”, she mumbles against my heart as she tightens her hold. I drop a soft kiss on her golden-haired head as a smile crosses my face and fills up my heart for I know her love won’t wane either.
“I love you too, beautiful...”
I always will, I finish for myself, closing my eyes for what I know will be our last night together...like this.
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