Juliana had never longed for comfort or closeness from people. She didn’t feel like she needed it, or maybe the feeling hadn’t been awakened yet. Growing up with an abusive father and a distant mother had done that to her. She had grown accustomed to experiencing love and affection in a very different way than most people.
It was when she met Valentina that the yearning to be touched awoke. A yearning that soon turned into an insatiable need.
Valentina had always been a touchy-feely person. She would hug, caress and kiss Juliana just because, and the latter hadn’t understood it at the beginning. It put her out of place at first, but with the passing of time, every time Valentina touched her sparked something inside her. A tiny flame that felt all too intense, but faded way too quickly, and left Juliana craving for more.
However, it was hard for Juliana to initiate something that lead to that feeling, like hugging or reaching her hand to hold Valentina’s. It was not because she didn’t want to, but because she was not used to wanting or needing to feel contact. The intrinsic need to feel skin on skin interaction with none other than with Valentina scared her beyond comprehension. It made her feel like clay awaiting to be molded at Valentina’s disposition, and even though she trusted her with her life, she still felt insecure about it. The rational part of her knew that Valentina cared for her deeply, and would most likely never hurt her, but her emotions betrayed her. They whispered in her ear that if she reached for Valentina, she would maybe refuse her touch. And if that ever were to happen, Juliana would feel the most vulnerable and rejected she had ever felt in her life.
She tried to push herself gradually. For example, when they were watching a movie, Juliana would let her head fall on Valentina’s shoulder and leave her hand open for Valentina to intertwine their fingers. When they walked side by side, Juliana would causally bump into her softly, so that Valentina would wrap an arm around her waist. She would push herself even beyond that and pretend there was something on Valentina’s hair so that she could reach her hand and run her fingers through her soft locks.
But then there were certain situations that would not present Juliana with the excuse to touch Valentina.
They were both laying on Valentina’s bed watching Iron Man on Valentina’s flat screen. Valentina had her arms comfortably wrapped around herself as she invested her full attention in the plot, all this while Juliana twiddled and fidgeted on her side of the mattress. It was as if a buzzing flare of energy coursed through her and begged her to reach for Valentina. To wrap her arms around her. To cuddle her into her chest and kiss her forehead. But every time she felt she had the guts to do it, something inside her screamed no and pulled her back to her position. As if she were at war with herself.
It was unlike Valentina to not reach for Juliana, but when the movie ended and Valentina asked her to sleep over, Juliana felt relief. This was it. She knew Valentina liked cuddling in her sleep, and Juliana wasted no time in readying herself for bed so that the other girl would wrap her arms around her. Again, the buzzing energy was implacable, and the want… the need to feel Valentina touching her intensified.
But then, Valentina turned off the lights, kissed her cheek softly, wished her good night and pulled a comforter around her while turning to give her back to her.
Juliana blinked a couple of times. The kiss on her cheek had calmed the roaring sensation in her stomach, but it had not appeased it. As a matter of fact, the tingling awareness grew louder with every passing second. It now roamed her body, flowed through her veins and incessantly begged her to reach for Valentina.
Juliana tried to lay still, but her own body betrayed her. She tossed to her side, trying to accept defeat, but then tossed to the other when she couldn’t let her mind wander off. After a while of tossing and turning, Juliana’s breath hitched when she saw the silhouette of Valentina’s head raise slightly from the pillow.
“Cariño?” she whispered with a soft voice, raspy with sleep.
The term of endearment almost made Juliana groan. Why did she have to be so cute? Didn’t she know what she was doing to her?
“What is it Val?” she asked, hopeful.
“Te estás moviendo mucho (you’re moving way too much).”
“Sorry,” Juliana whispered, sincerely feeling sorry for not letting Valentina sleep. “It’s just…”
“What?” Valentina asked more awake now.
“I… I’m cold,” she chickened out. She could not bring herself to ask Valentina to hold her and it infuriated her. It almost made her want to cry about it. About how much of a loser she felt. Still, her negative feelings dimmed again by the hope that maybe Valentina would turn around and wrap her arms around her.
“You could grab another comforter if you want,” Valentina offered. “They’re in the wooden trunk over there,” she signaled with her head before she sunk back into her slumber.
It took everything Juliana had in her to not grab a pillow and scream into it. She decided to not even get up from the bed, because she wasn’t actually cold at all. She stared at the ceiling as she traced its pattern with her eyes. She then tried to count sheep, all to no avail. She tossed on her side again a little too roughly as she huffed.
“Chiquita…” she heard Valentina complain. Juliana stood still for a few moments before she heard Valentina’s breathing even out again. She ran her hands through her own hair and let out a shaky breath.
She had to do it. She had to reach for Valentina first. But maybe she was now angry at her. What if she pushed her away? The mere thought of it made Juliana recoil. To witness Valentina’s rejection would surely feel like one of the worst things to ever experience.
Still, she had to. Not only to get some sleep and ease the need… but for herself. Even though she felt like she didn’t deserve to claim attention. Even though something inside her brain told her that she would surely be pushed away. Even though she was scared to death… she had to.
Juliana tentatively slid closer to Valentina’s side. A knot in her throat and a hammering in her heart, she carefully raised a hand and caressed Valentina’s arm through the comforter. Juliana lightly traced her fingers over the fabric without putting too much pressure for Valentina to actually feel it.
After a minute or so had passed and she felt comfortable enough, her fingers skidded to Valentina’s hair. Juliana raised her head and saw that a few hairs were softly laying on her face, so she cautiously combed them away from her eyes. She quickly raised her hand as if awaiting a reaction, but Valentina simply sighed and curled herself into a little ball. Juliana’s ached again as she witnessed how adorable Valentina looked: Her hair was disheveled, her eyebrows lightly knitted together, and her lips were a little bit swollen, making it look as if she were pouting slightly. The urge to call her ‘bebita’ crossed her mind, but she swallowed it.
Juliana sighed and continued to run her fingers through Valentina’s hair lightly, carefully avoiding any knots as to not wake her. But still… it wasn’t enough. Juliana needed more. To touch more. To feel more. She slipped down a little so that they her eyes rested on the back of Valentina’s head. She took a deep breath and slowly draped her arm around the girl, pulling herself gently to her.
It was then that she felt Valentina suddenly tense. Juliana’s eyes widened, but she didn’t move. Should she pretend to be asleep? No, it was too obvious that she wasn’t. Should she move? Should-
Her thoughts died when Valentina rose to a sitting position, and Juliana’s arm fell from around her. Juliana bit her lip, trying to contain the tears that threatened to flow. She didn’t want to move away too quickly. That way Valentina wouldn’t notice how much she was affected. But Juliana’s demeanor changed when Valentina quickly, but surely, got rid of the comforter that cocooned her and tossed it to the floor. She didn’t look at Juliana as she laid back down on the mattress, her back inching closer to Juliana’s front.
Juliana gulped and stayed still. Was this an invitation to spoon her? Or had Valentina simply felt hot with the comforter? After a few seconds of debate, Valentina turned her head to look at her.
“Hold me?” she whispered.
And Juliana felt her heart break. It broke into tiny million pieces… but not for a bad reason. She didn’t know her heart could feel so much, could ache so much, from something as simple as Valentina asking to be held. She felt the tension she had felt not only on that day, but on the days before, tumble away as she let of a long, shaky sigh. The sudden urge to cry claimed her, but she pushed it down. Her eyes went back to Valentina, who looked at her questioningly, but Juliana shook her head with a smile.
Valentina shuffled closer to her again, and Juliana got the hint and draped her arm around her waist. She buried her nose in her soft hair and she inhaled her shampoo. Valentina hummed quietly as she treaded her fingers with Juliana’s above her waist.
“Te quiero,” Valentina whispered after a little while.
Juliana smiled and nuzzled the back of her head.
“Yo también te quiero.”
“What took you so long?” Valentina asked with a little yawn. She then rubbed her thumb across Juliana’s hand in a soothing manner.
Juliana stayed silent for a moment as it dawned on her: Valentina had acted more distant so Juliana could get closer to her on her own. So she could push herself to do the things that scared her. Juliana smiled sadly as she acknowledged this and let her head drop to Valentina’s shoulder. She carefully swiped her hair out of the way and began placing soft kisses on the skin she could reach. She then kissed the back of Valentina’s neck and stayed there, hidden from the world.
Valentina sighed contently and brought their joined hands to her lips to kiss the back of Juliana’s lovingly. She kept their hands on the level of her lips, and Juliana could feel her breath, grounding her to the moment they were experiencing.
“¿Hablamos mañana? (We’ll talk tomorrow?)” Valentina whispered as she drifted off to sleep.
Juliana raised her head to look down at her and smiled. The buzzing in her body had subsided and was now replaced with a hum that sang her to sleep. She felt relaxed and at ease feeling the skin on skin contact. She indulged in the urge to place more kisses on Valentina, letting her lips travel from the back of her neck to her shoulder again and then below her ear. She felt Valentina sigh again and let her intertwine their legs, so they became a human pretzel.
Juliana laughed at the premise before kissing the side of Valentina’s head one last time.
“We’ll talk tomorrow.”