When I woke up, I was alone in the bed.
I knew this without fully coming awake because the only breathing I could hear was my own. I didn’t know when I started to register and memorize these things – the sound of his breathing, the scent in the air that was his alone, the feel of him near me before he came into any physical contact with me.
Some part of me was scared of how tuned in I was to him.
I rolled onto my side, gazing into the darkness of the room, remembering everything.
And then a question entered my mind – who was I?
I had just about nothing but myself to negate the claims that the other Tyree brothers had lain against me, but at the crux of everything, when I stood before them, who was I?
I had had a plan and a prayer for how the foundation of my romantic life would be.
I could remember when I didn’t care much for boys and when I did, I heard them say that I had to pray for the right man. They said that even though God knew who I was and what the plan for my life was, I had to be specific and precise and ask for what exactly it was that I wanted and hope that it was in accordance with His will for my life.
And those same people told me to wait.
They told us all to wait.
They said ‘no sex before marriage’ and they frowned upon two individuals living together unmarried and they turned their heads away in shame at same-sex romances – I had been away from these people and had managed to fall headlong into all of it.
Granted, I hadn’t gone all the way with anyone and I was merely sleeping over in this place and Kay and I were kind of just fooling around – but they would tear me to shreds and dunk me in holy water if they knew.
When I sat back and looked at it all, I saw that I had so many chances to stop it all from happening but I hadn’t. Both Dom and Kitso had given me the opportunity to stop them.
None of it had just happened.
Nobody had forced me to do any of it.
So did that make me a fraud?
Was I a liar, wearing a mask and pretending to be a good girl when in actual fact, I was the bad guy here?
And what was it that made me bad?
What had I done that was so wrong?
What criteria did I meet for either side of this argument?
Dom had said that he could take it, but I knew that I was being selfish here. I kept taking and taking from him and offered little in return.
I took the pleasure he gave me and let him sit there in pain.
I asked him to open up to me but then really, what did he know about me?
I wanted to know the deepest and darkest parts of his soul, but I was afraid to let him near mine.
I had starved myself of connection for years and years out of fear. In grade school, I had been teased for things that I could not change and as a result, I had kept myself to myself. Even to this day, there were parts of me that my best friend had no access to and even she had given of herself and I had not reciprocated in kind.
She had no idea how dark my thoughts could get and I wondered how she would react when I told her that I had kissed a girl and liked every second of it. Would she be shocked at it? Would she be unmoved and say that she saw it coming simply because of some aspect of my personality?
For years, I had sat on the sidelines of my own life, ever the watcher, ever the storyteller.
Living a life like that wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea but for me, it was something of a quiet thrill – to watch and see and stand there and commit it all to memory.
But I never let anyone sit there and see me.
There were plenty of opportunities that had been presented to me, to open up and give of myself but I’d just let them pass me by, thinking they’d come again.
But they didn’t.
And then I wondered – what if I’d met a boy who was like-minded and I hadn’t come into this place of adulthood completely socially awkward and lost like I was now?
Would I have had my head on straight?
Would I have been able to resist my own desires and keep true to my vow?
But then again, the thing that I’d grown to do in all my watching, was see.
What other people missed, I got to watch unfold simply because there was nothing else to draw my attention.
And what I had the opportunity to see, was the presence of something new.
And when something new would come along, I didn’t want to miss it and because of it, my brain started working.
I would start to think about it, try to reason it out – why did I let him get to me that day?
Why didn’t I just ignore him like I did all the others?
The thinking. The over-thinking!
It was because I saw things from every possible point of view; came at a single situation from every direction – it was maddening!
And maybe that was why I didn’t run when he first showed himself to me.
No, not maybe.
That’s exactly why I didn’t run.
Because that was what we did, wasn’t it, when we wrote?
We put words down and we found ourselves being led to places we didn’t know our minds and hearts could take us, new places.
We saw one thing and wrote it out a thousand different ways until it felt right.
And sometimes, that mentality would manifest itself in our very lives – we would find ourselves being led by the novelty of a new thing.
He was a new thing to me.
So new, that I just couldn’t find it in me to write it all down in all of its truth.
He had suddenly become my story – he had happened to me.
And yet, I couldn’t tell our story, to anyone. I could only live it.
Him in all his glory.
I knew that if I continued down this path, I would end up losing my will and I would sleep with him. But would he protect my vow? Would he be able to step back and keep me safe from my own self?
I sighed heavily, thinking even deeper about it.
The wise thing to do would be to put some distance between us and get some perspective. I had asked him if losing us was worth surrendering to all those dark memories and now, I was asking myself the same thing. Was my vow and his frustration worth losing us?
But was he frustrated?
He had never said anything of the sort to me and it didn’t seem like he was.
He did all these beautiful things for me and he made the effort to be in my company and we talked and we laughed and he seemed to take pleasure in pleasuring me and he genuinely wanted to know my thoughts on things.
I shook my head and got up from the bed.
I was reading too much into this.
The best thing would be simply to ask him.
I knew that he’d told me before that he could handle it, but that was before…
I had a shower and made myself decent before I went in search of him.
I learnt that it was approaching six in the evening and he was in the kitchen preparing our dinner. The only light on on this landing was the kitchen light and I imagined that if he had his way, that would be off as well. He had showered and changed clothes too and he was listening to music on his phone, his headphones on and I didn’t want to disturb him so I dropped down on the sofa in the lounge in the dark.
I listened to him humming quietly, listened to the cutlery and pots and pans and the sound of something boiling on high. It was cold in here but I was too lazy to get up and get myself a jacket so I curled in on myself, gazing at the black sky beyond the giant window wall.
I remembered the look on his face when he’d asked me if I wanted to be with him.
That was the first I’d ever wondered if he doubted my presence in his life.
Did he ever wonder what it would be like to lose me?
And then I thought of the story that he’d told me, about his time in the army.
And I remembered the tears.
Were these the actions of a man who didn’t really care about me –
His shadow fell over me before he fit himself against my body on the sofa.
He did not take his headphones off and I did not make him. He wrapped his arms around me and I curled up against his warm, warm body, my hand flat on his chest, counting the breaths.
There was nothing sexual about anything, just calm and quiet comfort.
He planted a kiss on my forehead and I sighed, content.
I could hear his heart going good and steady in his chest and with it, the faint sound of the music he was listening to, very loud it seemed. I moved slowly up his body and he gripped my hips gently, looking at me with a lazy expression on his face.
Dammit, he was beautiful.
I leaned down and kissed him gently on the lips and then pressed my ear to the side of his face, right up against the left headphone, trying to hear what he was listening to. It was rap music and I could tell by the harsh tones and the bass.
He took his headphones off and placed them on my ears. The bass was loud and full of drums and the rapper was Spanish and going off at rapid speed, accompanied by a male vocalist with smooth tones.
I lowered my head, pressing my ear to his. The song ended after about a minute and he stopped the music player altogether.
“Nice beats,” I said. “What’s it about?”
“Finding a girl, dancing with her slow and loving her wild.”
I smiled. “Sounds kinda like you,” I said.
He placed his hands on the base of my spine and I took a moment to accept that he was bearing my weight effortlessly.
I liked how feminine he made me feel, like I didn’t have to be strong.
I traced the planes of his face, his jaws, his lips and his nose.
“Is there like – a painting of you somewhere?” I asked.
“There might be, why?” he asked.
“You’re a spectacular creature.”
“I think I’d make you a werewolf if I were to write about you,” I said.
He laughed out loud, his eyes twinkling.
“You’re big and strong and you’re not afraid of the dark and your eyes are impossible,” I said. “And you’re quiet and watchful… And you’re such a beast.”
“A beast?!” he exclaimed.
“The sexy kind of beast… And broody…”
His expression became sombre and I just watched him.
“I fought to remember your face,” I told him. “I had nothing but the scar, but your face was the one thing that I really wanted to remember. I refused to forget you…”
“Nor I you.”
I smiled at that.
“But why didn’t you speak to me?” I asked randomly.
He chuckled. “I didn’t know what to say – seriously.”
I was laughing. “I was in too much pain to say anything smart.”
I put my head down again and he embraced me.
He raked the braids out of my face and I burrowed my head into his shoulder.
He smelt great.
“Am I making you too hot?” I asked.
He chuckled. “No,” he said.
“You’re so warm…”
“What kind of showers do you take?”
“Normal ones. I dunno.”
I laughed. “I like hot showers and hot baths – thanks for that by the way.”
“So how will we share a bath if I like it hot?”
“We’re gonna share a bath?!”
“Stop it,” I said, covering his eyes playfully. “For future reference.”
“It will be just hot enough,” he said.
I stared at the city beyond the window, the night sky.
And I thought about lying underneath the stars with him, making love –
“Are you cold?” he asked.
“No…” I told him, turning my head over so I could see some part of his face.
“You sure? You have goosebumps everywhere.”
“I was just thinking… I’ll think about it…” I said.
“Think about what?” he asked.
I lifted my hand, finding his lips blindly.
“You’ve been so good to me Dominick…” I said quietly. “And patient and open and kind…”
He bit down on my finger gently and I smiled, remembering how I’d sucked on his fingers earlier.
“Remember what you asked, about nonstarters?”
He nodded the affirmative and I lifted my head to look at him.
“Blowjobs were on that list… But if it’s what you want –”
“I don’t ever want you to feel like you have to do something you’re not down for just because you think it’s what I want, Dilia.”
He was firm with his words and I felt a sense of warmth that built into a steady flame deep inside me at his response.
But I couldn’t bring myself to take back what I said.
He placed his hands on my bottom and gave me a generous squeeze.
“Well, I’m not good with you wearing panties or anything really, so –”
I smacked him repeatedly and he laughed so hard that even I ended up laughing with him. He held me close and slowly, we sobered up. I buried my face in his shoulder, inhaling his scent, deep.
“Let’s pretend it’s just us in this world…” I whispered against his ear.
“I always feel like that when I’m with you.”
I smiled against his face.
And then something started vibrating between us.
My response was instant and unexpected.
His phone was in his pocket and I felt it against my thigh, right up there by my groin. I lifted my head, my spine arching so that my breasts were crushed flat against his chest. My breath hung in my lungs, I threw my head back and my eyes rolled back into my skull at the acute sting of pleasure.
I could feel it right there in my sex.
“Fuck…” he ground out.
He held me right there for a moment but then eventually pulled the device from his pocket and stared at the screen.
“Forgive him,” I said. “He didn’t know anything about me.”
“I have no grace for that right now Dilia.”
“Just answer the phone, it could be important,” I said. “I’ll go to the bathroom.”
“To do what?”
The phone stopped vibrating.
“To do what people do in bathrooms,” I said with a shrug.
He held me snug against him, mischief in his eyes. “People do a lot of things in bathrooms.”
“I’m gona pee!” I said, wiggling against him. “What? You wanna watch?”
He opened his mouth and then clamped it shut again, looking contemplative.
I laughed at this and he released me as his phone began to ring again.
I wasted time in the bathroom, not sure if he was still on the phone.
But I didn’t need to wonder – he came looking for me.
“Crisis averted?” I asked.
“Not entirely,” he said.
I took note of his expression.
Thunder, was my first thought.
“They’re on their way back here,” he said.
My eyes popped in my face. “What?”
There was a loud knock on the door and we both looked at it.
“What the actual fuck…” I breathed.
“Dammit,” he said. He planted a long and lingering kiss on my lips. “Keep talking like that and this night will pass smoothly.”