“Thank you for dinner, babe. It was delicious.”
“I’m glad you liked it,” Kelly replied.
I got up to clear the table and Kelly topped off our wine glasses. We’d already finished a bottle and a half and her upper eyelids hung lower than at the beginning of our evening. I knew she was tipsy and probably exhausted. She’d hit the ground running since moving to National City and though she’d been here two months now, she was still getting settled.
It was a huge adjustment. She had found an apartment, an office space, and a few favorite restaurants all while starting a new relationship. I was having a hard enough time getting used to having this with her. While I loved every second of it, that only made it harder. I was terrified of moving forward because I’d been thrown so far back after Maggie and then with-
“Something wrong?” she asked.
It wasn’t the first time she’d asked me that since we started dating and I hated that my worry was written on my face. Because she’d never given me a reason to feel this way. I’d only ever felt safety and comfort with her.
“Now how could anything be wrong when I’m here with you?” I asked, snapping out of it for her sake.
“Such a sweet talker, Director,” she said, pulling me to her by the hem of my shirt.
With her body this close to mine, I could only breathe her in deeply, savoring the way it calmed me. Sweet, floral mingled with the inimitable scent of her. She was wearing a short sleeved, blue shirt and since her arms were exposed, I let gravity carry my fingertips from her shoulder to her wrist.
I looked up to meet her eyes, but they were closed. I smiled because it meant my touch was having the desired effect. Without opening them, she leaned in to kiss me and I could taste the wine on her lips. The alcohol in my own system hijacked my arousal and my grip on her waist was more insistent than it probably would have been otherwise.
The sexual aspect of our relationship was a relatively new development which meant that nearly every date thereafter we ended up in bed. Being with Kelly like that was different than it had been with anyone else. Even on nights like tonight when we’d been drinking, her caresses were delicate and her kisses left me tingling with something more than desire.
“Come on,” Kelly whispered.
Then, we were in her room. I’d been in Kelly’s bed just a half dozen times and it was much different than being in mine. This was where she slept. It was her personal space and I was welcomed into it. I wondered if she ever thought about me while she was in here alone and didn’t know if I’d ever have the courage to ask.
She always closed the door behind us and though it didn’t seem necessary, I liked how it made us feel more alone together. It was too soon, and too hard, to tell her that I loved her, but I already knew I did. She helped me to better understand the difference between sex and intimacy without trying and I loved her more for that.
I kissed her as gently as I could muster, reasserting control over the more animalistic side of me that remained ever ready to take over. When she sat down on the bed, I stepped between her legs and took off her shirt. Before it reached the floor, she was retreating to the middle of the bed and I climbed on top of her.
I propped myself up on my left elbow. While my tongue slipped into her mouth, my hand was massaging her breast and her moans, like always, were diluted. She always held back and I desperately wanted to know what it sounded like when she didn’t. I considered it a personal challenge to help her completely let go.
It seemed that all of her was taught with anticipation even while she had the softest skin I’d ever touched. As I replaced my palm with my mouth, I wondered if she could feel the heat and wetness through her bra. She arched up then and there was just enough space for me to reach the hooks and I had it done in record time.
I sat back, resting only on my knees so I could take my shirt off because there wasn’t enough of my skin touching hers. I went for her neck this time when I landed back on top of her, licking at the skin softly before kissing her there. As a bonus, my ear was right next to her mouth and I could hear the quickness of her breathing.
Somehow, she’d worked her hand between us and, by this point, I was sure she could feel how wet I was even through the layers. After spending a few seconds working me toward insanity, her hand inched upward, meeting the other at the button of my pants. I picked up my hips to make it easier for her and soon she had my jeans down to my knees.
I sat back again so I could push my pants the rest of the way off. I took hers off, too, but in a predictable show of impatience, I removed her underwear with them and I could finally see all of her. I tried to remind myself to take my time because it was more enjoyable that way, but there was no room in my mind for extraneous thoughts like that and it felt plenty good this way, too.
I landed gently back on top of her and even with my own underwear still on, I could feel her wetness which only served to produce more of mine. Her hands were on my shoulders and I felt her own control slipping as her fingertips kneaded deeply into the skin there. Her need was so apparent in that moment that it surprised me and my hips pushed into her with that much more pressure.
Feeling my underwear dampening from both sides, while incredibly arousing, only made me realize how much more I’d prefer an unobstructed touch. While kissing her, I pushed my underwear down by the waistband until they were, after too much effort, kicked to the floor.
The silken sensation of our coupled parts caused my body to shake with anticipation. I was sure she felt it, given how much of her was touching me. To redirect her attention, I picked my right hand up off of the mattress beside her head and, before she could anticipate my next move, my index and middle finger were working slow but firm circles.
She’d been working at the clasps of my bra, but gave up when she felt me inside her. I placed several quick kisses on her neck and chest because if I didn’t, I’d be a moaning mess on top of her. I wanted her to think I was at least somewhat composed. It would give the illusion of confidence.
By now, I’d learned a lot about what she liked and, just as importantly, how she expressed that like. But, in reality, my sexual experience with women was still pretty limited and I constantly worried that I wouldn’t be able to satisfy her. Some of my bravado, though, was replaced by actual tenacity when I heard a full, loud moan vibrate through her throat and straight down my spine.
I was right in the middle of savoring it when I heard another one and the rest of me bombinated. Despite the vast emptiness in my mind, I remembered to draw my fingertips upward with each outward draw which was even more difficult given how much faster the pace was now.
With her hips pulling upward to chase my retreating touch, I knew she was just seconds away. Her breaths were more intermittent gasps and her hands were flush against me, one in the middle of my back and the other gripping lower at a certainly reddened cheek.
No matter how many times I felt the constricting pull around my fingers, it only made me want to feel it again. When she’d released me, I retracted them and collapsed beside her so I could kiss her once we’d caught our breaths. She beat me to it, though, and had me completely hypnotized with the deliberate, but gradual movement of her lips.
She pushed herself up onto her side and we mirrored one another. Her free hand traced circles into my shoulder before following the dip of my collarbone to the sensitive strip of flesh between my breasts. The beating of my heart was probably noticeable because she paused there for a moment before her hand finally rested between my legs.
I put my thigh over her hip so that I could feel more of her and she kissed me while she touched me. Kelly usually liked to spend a lot more time working me up but, probably feeling how close I had been since the start of this, she became more hurried. I knew I was swollen to capacity under her fingers and, having not seen her for a few days, it didn’t take much.
I was overloaded with sensitivity as I contracted around nothing, feeling the embarrassing deluge on my thigh. Then, her hand rested on my hip and I hoped I looked as happy as she did right now because I definitely felt it. I caught a glimpse of the clock over her shoulder and knew I’d have to go soon.
I leaned in to kiss her goodbye but the longer our lips were together, the more I just kept bargaining with myself to have just one more second of this. Kelly tilted her head downward, effectively separating us.
“You can’t get me all wound up again. I have an early appointment,” she whispered.
“I should go,” I said, watching her get comfortable under a thin sheet.
“Why don’t you stay tonight?” she asked.
I’d hoped she wouldn’t, but now that she did, she had to have seen my change in body language as I fought to correct it.
“I can’t. I need to do laundry. All out of black polos,” I said.
At least I didn’t have to lie. I’d been putting off laundry in favor of spending more time with Kelly. Never overnight, though. I wanted to. I knew why I was digging in my heels against forward momentum. And maybe Kelly was starting to.
“You sure that’s what it is?” she asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Alex, I’ve asked you to spend the night eight times in the last two months. Do you know how many times you’ve said yes?”
“I know,” I said, feeling horrible.
“So then talk to me. What is it?” she asked, sitting up.
She had the sheet clutched to her chest with one hand and she her expression was a perfect balance of hurt and concern. I sat up, too, so I could face her even if I couldn’t make eye contact just yet.
“Sleeping over is taking a big step.”
“Which is exactly what I thought we both wanted. To move on,” she said.
“It is. But the more mornings that I wake up with you, the harder it’s going to be when I lose you.”
“When? Not if?” she asked.
Her laser focus on word choice made me feel more naked in front of her than I already was.
“It’s just... I was gonna marry Maggie. And then, just like that, with no possible workaround, we’re done. I never thought it would happen like that. I thought couples broke up because something made them not love each other anymore.”
“Alex, I know you could become a mom at any moment. It’s not a dealbreaker for me.”
“But what if there’s something that is?”
“Look, I get it. I can’t tell you that what happened with her won’t happen with me for some other reason. But relationships don’t work like this, Alex. Don’t you think I worry, too? I worry that my doorbell is going to ring and someone’s going to tell me you’re dead. Especially, with you getting hurt all the time.”
“Not all the time,” I said mostly under my breath.
“Be serious,” she pleaded.
“I am. Getting hurt happens. I wish it didn’t because I don’t like the idea of you worrying so much. And I’m sorry for being so wrapped up in my own fears that I hadn’t thought about how scary this must be for you.”
“If her death taught me anything, Alex, it’s that we shouldn’t waste time. Because, for more than just the reasons we’ve experienced, we know there isn’t ever enough of it. I want to spend as much of it as I can with you.”
“Me, too. You’re right. I’ve wasted enough of our time already,” I said.
Being cured from these plaguing thoughts so swiftly was a pleasant surprise and I was glad the night would end on a high note. Mostly.
“So you’ll stay?” she asked.
“I can’t. I wish I could, but I really do have to do laundry. But, tomorrow night when I come over, I’ll bring a whole duffel bag of pajamas, socks, underwear, a spare toothbrush, a loofah, and a full size bottle of shampoo and conditioner.”
“Okay. Deal. I’ll clear a drawer for you,” she said.
Finally, her smile returned and relief flooded me. I hated that I’d made her feel rejected. At least now she understood that it wasn’t because I didn’t want her.
“I should get out at the usual time tomorrow. I can probably be here by six. Will you be home by then?”
“Yeah. I’ll be here,” she said, putting her hand in my waist.
I let the warmth of it sink into my skin through the sheet and I let myself fully feel the contentment that Kelly managed to invoke. Against every one of my desires, I got out of bed and located all of my clothing.
It was only about 9:30, but with the time it would take to get home, put everything in the wash, then the dryer, it would be much later. So, once I was dressed, I crawled back onto the bed to kiss her and forced myself away before everything ended up back on the floor.
“I’ll see you tomorrow night,” I said.
“Text me when you get home, please.”
“I will,” I replied.
On the drive home, I was finally able to start unpacking everything. The main idea that kept passing through was how selfish I’d been to not realize that I had it so much easier. At least I had the opportunity to say goodbye to Maggie. And, fuck, it really hurt. I couldn’t imagine how devastated I’d have been if she died.
There was more to it that I hadn’t told Kelly, but it didn’t matter. She was still right. But it was something I had to tell her eventually. We hadn’t really talked much about past relationships apart from our former fiancées and I wasn’t exactly jumping at the opportunity to have to sift through the time between Maggie and Kelly.
I parked under the carport and headed up the stairs, not in a hurry to start my chore. When I made it to my floor, I looked down the hall and saw someone standing outside my door. The area was well lit and I immediately knew it was her despite the unlikelihood.
I stopped so suddenly in my tracks that I felt like I’d been jerked back by my jacket collar. Had I been able to prepare, I would have tried to act less shocked at the sight of her, but I didn’t think she’d ever be here outside my door again. I continued toward her and stopped close enough that I wouldn’t disturb the neighbors, but as far away as I could get away with.
“You’ve got to have some massive balls to be standing here right now,” I said, anger building in my chest, in front of which, my arms were crossed.
“I needed to talk to you,” Sam said.
“Yeah, well, I don’t feel the same need.”
“What? What did you think this was going to be like, Sam? Did you think I’d be so happy to see you that I’d just forgive you on the spot?”
“Please, Alex. Five minutes. Just let me explain,” she said.
I hesitated, but we were still in the hallway and I didn’t need everyone knowing my business. Nosy as my neighbors were, though, I wasn’t sure if taking her inside was actually a better option. Regardless, I searched my jacket pocket for my keys and opened the door, stepping in ahead of her to turn on the light.
Luckily, despite the completely unexpected intrusion, I remembered to text Kelly that I was home. The last thing I needed was for her to rush over here, worried about me, only to find me here with Sam instead of laundry detergent.
“Make it quick,” I said when she closed the door behind her.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“Could have been a text,” I replied, not giving an inch.
“What was I supposed to do, Alex? Lena offered me the job and I have to do what’s best for Ruby,” she began.
“Your explanation is leaving a lot to be desired. I understand why you left. I really do. I don’t think I’d want to be here either if I had a Reign of my own. But if you really think I’m pissed off just because you moved, then you’re really bad at this. And saying it’s what was best for Ruby... I thought we were all family. More importantly, I thought you and me and Ruby were going to be a family.”
“That’s what I wanted,” she replied.
“Past tense,” I pointed out.
“Want,” she corrected.
My insides were a roiling mess and just why the fuck did she have to come here now and ruin everything? I was already moving on. Or I thought I was. I hated that she made me question it.
“You don’t get to say that. Not a year later. Not when you were in my bed, knowing your apartment was packed up in a U-Haul ready to take off the next morning.”
“I know you may not understand my motivations, but at the time, I thought it was the best thing. After coming to you with all my burdens, I thought you’d, I don’t know, feel obligated to return my feelings. I know it sounds ridiculous now but I thought I was sparing you. Plus I hurt you as Reign.”
“Yeah, well, you hurt me as Sam, too. I never felt obligated to do anything. I really cared about you.”
“Past tense?” she asked.
I really wanted to say yes, but I wasn’t really sure that was the truth right now. None of our friends ever knew that anything was going on between us. It made it hard to seem no more affected than the others when she left. There were times where I’d thought about telling Kara, but Sam was her best friend and I hated to think about how badly that could play out.
“At least tell me why you waited a year,” I said, purposely not answering her question.
“Because I thought these feelings would go away. They haven’t. I didn’t know what else to do about it.”
I really thought I hated Sam and, in this moment, I wished I still could. I was definitely still angry for the reasons I’d always been. Only now I was also angry and overwhelmed because I didn’t know what to do with all of this.
“You should go, Sam,” I said, needing time to myself.
She looked defeated but started for the door. She stopped just at the threshold.
“In case you deleted my number,” she said, handing me a small piece of paper.
“Goodbye, Sam,” I said.
“Good night,” she replied.
I closed the door and locked it, but couldn’t do much else after that. I kept hoping that hadn’t been real, but the way her perfume hung in the air forced me to acknowledge that it was.
I was at work early the next morning. I hadn’t slept. Besides needing the distraction, it felt good to mercilessly pound the heavy bag in the DEO gym. It was a mild relief from the frustration. There was really no worse time she could have come. I hit the bag again at the thought.
Kelly and I were just getting started, really. Like Sam and I had been. After she told Lena and Kara the truth about her blackouts, I drove her home and she asked me to stay. More than anything, I wanted to help her, but I was beginning to feel things for her that I never thought would be reciprocated.
Kara walked in during a particularly violent kick to the bag. Then I turned toward her, thinking there may have been some kind of emergency. My sister rarely came in here outside of our sparring sessions.
“Everything okay?” I asked her.
“I was going to ask you that. Vasquez said you’ve been in here for over an hour.”
“Yeah, well, us humans need to work a little harder to not die,” I replied, hands on my hips.
“Alex, I could hear you attacking that thing from down the hall,” she countered.
“That’s not that impressive. You have super hearing,” I joked, despite her frown.
“You wanna talk about it?” she asked.
“No. Just... I don’t know what to do about something. Something big. Personal.”
“You’ve always told me everything, Alex. Why is this so different?” she asked.
“Because then I’ll have to tell you something that I kept a secret from you. And I can’t handle you hating me right now on top of everything else.”
“Whatever this is, you’re clearly in pain. Plus, you know I could never hate you. If you didn’t tell me, you had your reasons. But maybe now there are reasons you should.”
I sighed heavily because I knew I had to tell her. I couldn’t deal with it on my own. I needed her voice of reason. I just hoped she could move past the shock of it to really help me.
“Last night when I got home after seeing Kelly, Sam was at my apartment,” I started.
“Sam, Sam?” she clarified.
“I didn’t know she was in town,” Kara said.
“Neither did I. She just showed up out of nowhere. She wanted to see me. To talk.”
“About how she still has feelings for me.”
My heart was pounding because it was all unraveling now and Kara was my only lifeline.
“Still? What do you mean?” she asked.
Her slightly more defensive stance worried me, but I’d already said more than I could take back.
“Back before we even knew Reign was the cause of the blackouts... things just kind of happened.”
“So you were together? Like, as a couple?” she asked, surprise evident.
“Yeah. And I was on board with hiding it because we were still working our way up to something more serious.”
“How did I not see it?” she asked.
“We were very careful. And it was only a few months because, you know, she left. But I was there when she found out that she had a Worldkiller living inside her. I was there when she started remembering all the things Reign did... some of those things to us. That’s when I realized Reign would never really be gone.”
“So, you broke up with her?”
“No, see, that’s the worst part of all of this. She just fucking left like it all meant nothing.”
I didn’t think it still affected me this much, but last night proved how wrong I was about that. Kara broke the silence before I could tumble further into self pity.
“I know it probably doesn’t help, Alex, but maybe she felt guilty. Maybe it was hard for her to be around us, especially you, after that.”
“And I know that. But I have always been there for her. She could have at least said goodbye. I don’t know if I can forgive her for making me feel like I did when she left. Not to mention having to hide that. And I have Kelly now. I mean, do you even know how perfect she is? But I went through so much with Sam. Seeing someone as strong as her just breaking into pieces... Helping her pick them back up...”
“I had no idea, Alex. I’m sorry you felt like you had to go through that alone,” she said.
Then, she hugged me and it grounded me. I was definitely spiraling and I dreaded having to spend the night with Kelly tonight because she always saw right through me.
“So you’re not upset about me and Sam?”
“Of course not. You’re both adults. You can do what you want.”
“But she left because of me,” I said.
“No. She left because of her. And now, she might come back because of you. If that’s what you want.”
“I don’t know what I want,” I said, trying to subtly wipe the tears away before she saw.
“Are you going to tell Kelly?”
“I can’t. It’ll hurt her. I can’t do that to her. I just... Please. Tell me the right thing to do,” I begged.
“You know that’s a decision you have to make. But from what you’ve told me, it sounds like you already know. You have an intense history with Sam. She can live a normal life now, thanks to you. And I don’t envy the position you’re in, but you deserve to be happy. Think about who makes you happiest.”
“I swear, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“Well, right now, you’d probably be ordering a new punching bag,” she joked.
For the first time since she arrived, I felt the soreness in my hands and wrists. Before, I’d been so deep in my thoughts, I hadn’t noticed the pain. It was a relief to feel something other than abject hopelessness.
“I’d better head to the showers. Thanks for the talk, sis.”
“I’m here if you need me.”
She hugged me again before walking out and I went in the opposite direction, stopping at my locker to grab everything I needed for my shower. The warm water pounded soothingly against my already aching muscles while the sound of rushing water had me hypnotized.
The truth was, it did feel better to share my struggle with Kara, but I still had to go through with this on my own. And there was still tonight to get through somehow. I scrubbed and rinsed away all of the sweat and when I stepped out, I noticed a text from Kelly.
In spite of everything, it brought a smile out of me and I responded with the same. Every morning, one of us sent that text. Tomorrow morning, was supposed to be the first time I could say it in person. Sam stole the happiness of that moment from me. And I’d slept at Sam’s before. Mostly as a comfort when she had nightmares but, later, as a lover even though Ruby never knew.
I should have been fidgeting, excitement mounting in preparation. Instead, I stayed near a bathroom or trash can all day in case this bile decided to make a break for it. By the time I clocked out that day, I only knew one thing. I called Kelly on my way out.
“I can’t make it tonight. I’m really sorry.”
She sighed on the other end and I knew she was disappointed.
“I knew I should have made you promise,” she said.
“I’m just not feeling well.”
I wanted to say more, but I didn’t want to lie. I had no idea how this would all play out but what I did know was that I didn’t want my time with Kelly to be tainted by this. Another surge of nausea hit as I thought about her finding out about Sam. Feeling betrayed and strung along. It was the last thing I wanted for her.
“I’m sorry you’re under the weather. Do you need anything?”
“I’m good. I’m just going to take it easy tonight and hopefully I’ll be better soon,” I replied.
“Alright. I wish you were feeling better. I was really looking forward to tonight.”
I swallowed around the swelling guilt in my chest.
“So was I,” I replied, longing for it more than she knew.
She didn’t say it, but there was a chance she thought it was a fabricated excuse. I really was feeling sick, though. The stress of all these contradictory thoughts intermingling inside of me was, at times, incapacitating.
When I got home, I grabbed a bottle of scotch and sunk down into the couch with it. I kicked my shoes to the floor and put my feet up on the chaise. I turned on the TV before unscrewing the cap, happy to settle on some stupid sitcom or other to keep from thinking anymore right now.
The time for action was... just not right this second. I took a healthy gulp and after a few more of them, I was in tears. I mean, the second I knew what I wanted, everything changed. Was what I had with Kelly really so permanent if all it took was a visit from Sam to second-guess it?
But Sam wasn’t just anybody. As was the case with Kelly, I met her at a very vulnerable time in my life. The person who I thought was the love of my life was gone and there was Sam, making me feel like maybe this was one time the world wasn’t actually ending. Reign notwithstanding.
Her leaving only strengthened everything I felt after Maggie. It wasn’t what I thought, though. She didn’t just leave because she didn’t care. As angry as I was, I couldn’t deny that her reasons made sense. Thinking that she’d moved on, though, was what eventually allowed me to think that I could do the same.
And I know it hasn’t been easy for Kelly to get through to me. I was afraid to let her. Earlier last night, I finally wasn’t. Later last night, I was again. I downed another less than modest sip before hearing a soft knock on my door. When I stood up, it took me a second to fully steady myself.
I made it to the door without incident and when I looked through the peephole, I saw Kelly. I panicked but my drunkenness dampened it significantly and I pulled open the door.
“Hey, baby. Come in,” I said, noting the lunch cooler hanging from her shoulder.
“Sorry I had to surprise you. I know you would have told me not to worry about you. But I want to take care of you,” she said.
“I appreciate it, but it’s really not that bad.”
I closed the door and followed her to the kitchen where she set the bag down on the counter and started to unpack it. I sat at the bar and tried to focus on being less intoxicated.
“Your eyes and nose are so red. This is crazy. You were fine last night,” she added, looking concerned.
She placed the liquid-filled tupperware on the bar in front of me along with a sleeve of saltine crackers. She even opened the plastic for me. I was so affected by how much she cared about me I was glad she was facing away from me, getting a spoon from my utensil drawer.
“You made this?” I asked.
“Chicken tortilla soup. That spice will help if you’re feeling any congestion. But, you’re a doctor so I guess you know that. Anyway, it should still be hot.”
I started crying for not the first time tonight, but the difference this time was that I’d tried so hard to stop it. She was beside me before I could even wipe it away.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” she asked, clutching me to her.
Once I was inside her embrace, I was okay. This was something I’d never feel again if I chose to pick up where I left off with Sam.
“Sorry. Ignore me. I’m a little drunk. I’ll never sleep tonight otherwise. It’s just... this really means a lot to me that you did this,” I said, using all of my effort to not start up again.
Her fingers were soothing against my scalp as she ran her hand through my hair. My response made her relax and she smiled at me. When she kissed me on the forehead I stayed living in that moment for a second.
“I wanted to make you soup, Alex. And be here for you. Because I love you,” she said.
It wasn’t just the alcohol that slowed the Earth to a full stop just then.
Waking up the next morning was rough. My headache, while expected, blurred my vision. I was about to get out of bed to take something but the bottle was next to a glass of water on my night stand. Kelly must have put it there after I fell asleep last night. I took two of the pills and completely finished the glass of water before picking up my phone to text her. It was almost eleven.
*Good morning. Thank you for taking care of me last night. I hope you got enough sleep.*
*How are you feeling?* she texted back.
I slowly got out of bed and took cautious steps toward my closet to get out something to wear. I had to talk to Sam today. It had been just over a day since we last talked and I couldn’t stand how unfinished everything remained. I knew what I needed now.
Two hours later, I parked outside the address she sent me. I was frozen in place, though. There was such finality behind that door. Also, part of me was terrified that all the truths I’d been repeating in my head to help me through this would disappear somehow.
Without truly being ready, because there was no such thing, I got out of the car with a deep exhale and made slow progress to the door. The sound of my own knocking upped my heart rate. Especially, when I heard the footsteps approaching followed by several locks unlocking.
“Hey. Come in,” she said.
“Is this like an airbnb or something?” I asked, looking around at the fully furnished and decorated home.
“No. It’s mine, actually. I moved back about a month ago. That’s why I wanted you to come here. I wanted you to see that... I don’t know, that I’m here. Really here. For good.”
“So, you’ve been here?” I asked.
“Why don’t we sit?” she said, indicating the couch.
It was awkward sitting this close to her even with the middle cushion empty between us. She slid her hands back and forth on the tops of her thighs. It drew attention to the sweat on my own palms. The last place I expected to be was in Sam’s house on a Friday afternoon.
“Alex, I wanted to come to you as soon as I got back. It was the first thing on my mind. But I was so afraid. I knew that seeing each other again wouldn’t feel the same for you as it did for me.”
“Probably because you broke my heart after I’d just finished putting it back together.”
“I told you-“
“I know what you told me. But every time I look at you, I can’t think about anything else. I thought you were perfect, you know. Kind, intelligent, an incredible mom. And you’re still all of those things. They’re just not the first things I see anymore.”
“It was a mistake,” she said.
Her voice shook and her tears fell. I hated seeing the hurt but everything I said was the truth. I started crying too because it really was just a shitty situation.
“Look, I didn’t tell you this the other night. I should have. But I’ve been seeing someone. Last night she told me she loved me. I said it back. Because even with all of this shit going on in my mind, I knew I felt that for her.”
I wasn’t looking at her during my admission because her red-rimmed eyes already felt like a stab in my gut. That, combined with the shock of suddenly learning that I was in a serious relationship would be overwhelming.
“Why didn’t you tell me about her before?”
“Because even though it upset me to see you again, you made me second guess myself. Us, together, meant something to me even when I thought it didn’t to you. Especially, knowing the truth now.”
Sam stood up and sighed. I really didn’t know if this would go any differently if I wasn’t with Kelly because the fact remained that all Sam represented now was pain. I imagined that in this moment, she probably understood that. There was nothing either of us could do except leave each other alone.
“I shouldn’t have waited so long,” she whispered.
“You shouldn’t have left in the first place.”
“I know. I’m sorry,” she said.
“Yeah. Me, too,” I said, getting up.
I hugged her because in spite of everything, we both needed the comfort. I couldn’t fault her for her insecurities. When we were together, I tried to imagine what she went through being Reign. Not able to remember large chunks of time. Just thinking about it was terrifying and I didn’t think I’d be any better off than her in the same situation.
“Does she know about us?” she asked.
“Not yet,” I said, feeling even more guilty about keeping Kelly in the dark.
“Obviously, it’s your choice what you tell her and when. But Kara’s been bugging me nonstop to go to game night. And since her and Lena are my best friends, we’re probably going to see each other somewhat frequently. Not that I’m looking forward to seeing you with someone else, but I’m already running out of excuses to give your sister.”
“I never planned to keep my history with you a secret. I just didn’t expect all of this.”
“That makes two of us,” she said, forcing a small smile.
“That’s my line. Anyway, I better start dinner. Ruby will be home from school soon,” she said.
I started walking to the door and stopped just outside of it. The sunlight on her face highlighted the disappointment in her features and I wished there was something I could do to make it better.
“Bye, Sam,” I said.
“Bye,” she said quietly, closing the door.
On the drive back home, it finally sunk in that it was done. I’d never had to make such a difficult choice and knowing that I’d made the right decision was little solace as I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I’d hurt Sam. I only allowed myself to wallow until I parked at home.
Now was the time to allow this forward momentum with Kelly to take over. Digging through my closet, I quickly located my travel bag. Throwing it onto the bed, I began gathering some pajamas and other clothing. I tossed my toiletry bag on top of the pile and zipped it shut.
Now en route to my girlfriend’s apartment, I stopped to pick up something that I hoped would mean a lot to her. After paying, I slipped it into my pocket and was on my way again. By the time I got there, I couldn’t wait to just look at her.
“Hey, babe. I didn’t know you were coming,” she said smiling.
I couldn’t say anything until I kissed her and when I did, she backed into the apartment, pushing the door shut behind us. I didn’t stop until it was absolutely necessary. When I looked at her, the deep flush in her cheeks made my stomach flip.
“Sorry I didn’t call,” I said.
“Well, if this is how you apologize, feel free to come over unannounced from now on. I guess you meant it when you said you felt better,” she said.
“Your soup must have done the trick,” I said.
She laughed before noticing the bag over my shoulder. I adjusted the strap, suddenly feeling nervous about just dropping in to spend the night.
“What’s this?” she asked, nodding toward the bag.
“Just the stuff we talked about. I thought I would stay. But if tonight’s not good for you, I can just leave it here and sleep over another night.”
“Don’t be silly. I’m so happy you’re here. I just got home from my last appointment. Have you eaten?”
“Is Chinese okay?”
“Okay. Well, let me just order and then I need a shower,” she said, heading to the drawer where she kept the menus.
“Why don’t you let me do that?” I said, taking the menu from her.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. Orange chicken with fried rice, right?”
“And spring rolls,” she added.
“Well, of course,” I said.
“Thanks, babe. I’ll be right back. If you want to put your stuff away, I cleared the bottom drawer of the dresser for you,” she said, giving me a peck on the lips.
After placing the order, I went into Kelly’s bedroom with my bag. I opened what was now my drawer and put everything away except for what I planned to wear to bed. The sound of running water and the steam coming from underneath the bathroom door, made everything feel so normal. Like we did this all the time. My nerves were the only reminder that we didn’t.
I was folding the clothes before putting them away because I’d thrown them into a heap in my haste. As I put the last shirt on top of the small pile, the bathroom door opened and Kelly came out wrapped only in a towel. I was immediately distracted from my task.
“Did you have enough room?” she asked, hanging the towel over her closet door, leaving her completely naked.
Her nonchalance completely threw me. It’s not like I hadn’t seen her naked before. It was just always when we were having sex. Not this pleasantly unexpected nakedness that now made me incapable of response. Noting my lack of speech, she turned away from the closet with a t-shirt in her hand, to face me.
“What?” I asked, aware of her expectant expression.
“I asked if everything fit in the drawer,” she said, laughing softly.
She pulled the shirt on, minus a bra I noticed, and approached the dresser where I was still standing. Awaiting my answer once again, she reached into the top drawer for a pair of underwear. Once it was on, it was obscured by the length of her shirt.
“Oh. Yeah. Plenty of room,” I said.
My cheeks and ears burned and it was bound to get worse had the food not arrived just then. I went to get it, closing her bedroom door behind me so that the delivery driver wouldn’t get an eyeful. I set the food on the coffee table and before I could go back into the room, she was coming out.
“That smells so good. I’m starving,” she said.
We both sat down on the couch, Kelly with her legs curled under her. Feeling overdressed, I took off my jacket and kicked off my shoes. The snap of her chopsticks separating brought my attention back to her. I reached blindly for my food, while unable to stop looking at the way her shirt pooled lightly at the very tops of her bare thighs.
“How is it?” I asked after she’d taken a bite.
Her eyes were closed as she chewed and she sighed happily through her nose. She reached her chopsticks across to the coffee table and plucked a spring roll from the open container with practiced skill.
“So good,” she replied when she finished chewing.
We didn’t talk again until we were done eating. I got down as much as I could manage, but I was still on edge despite her calming presence. Tonight was a big deal and I was pleased to realize that this was actually a feeling of anticipation rather than anxiousness. I mean, they felt the same, but this was still better.
“That really hit the spot. And no dishes,” she said, rubbing one hand over her stomach.
“Plus, a girlfriend that is able and willing to give you a massage if you so desire.”
“Hmmm. Now that you mention it, I do so desire,” she replied.
I scooted closer to her and she turned away from me brushing her hair forward and off of her shoulders. I could feel the tension in her neck the second my fingers met muscle. She groaned and I suppose I should have expected it but somehow I absolutely didn’t. It was the first strike of flint and steel low in my belly.
“Am I hurting you?” I asked when my voice wouldn’t shudder.
“No. It’s feels great,” she replied, leaning into the touch.
I moved lower to the knots in her shoulders and with each increase of pressure a sound echoed from her. It was the perfect opportunity to get her to take her shirt off, but I didn’t want her to think the massage was meant to lead further. Not that I didn’t want to, but I was content to take care of her in this moment. To help her relax.
“Is being a doctor what makes you so good at that?” she asked, turning back toward me.
“I like to think it’s because I’m very dedicated to helping you relax.”
“Oh yeah? How dedicated?” she asked, eyes stealing a quick glance at my lips.
I kissed her much more softly than when I’d arrived. But when she quickly ended up in my lap, that was out the window. I got up, her legs tight around my hips and she gasped as she felt herself being lifted. It wasn’t far to the bedroom and I thought it was pretty ironic that I found myself unable to slow down because this time we really did have all night.
But this was coming in hot on the heels of me finally understanding exactly what she meant to me. For the first time, I could be fully present in what we’d been building. The need overtook the want. Having her underneath me now was what made sense.
Her scent preceded taste only long enough for me to get her underwear off and the soft cotton of her shirt tangled in my fingers as I improved my hold on her hips. After a few firm, upward swipes of my tongue, her impatience became evident in her hip movements.
I liked being the one to make her feel this way and I thought about how stupid I would have been to give this up. I meant it when I told Kara she was perfect. Kelly was the only one who could make me feel at peace no matter what. She didn’t just say that she loved me. She showed me all the time. I just needed to learn to look.
Her hips lifted higher which made it easy to guide my tongue from its previous perch to the warm depth. This was the part she enjoyed the most. She didn’t say so with words, but those sounds... Then they stopped as her body became rigid with the force of her orgasm and the twitching, flexing muscles were an irreplaceable image.
Seconds later, she dropped heavily to the mattress, limp from exertion. I joined her only after placing kisses strategically over her most ticklish and sensitive areas, feeling pride upon the sudden appearance of goosebumps. She rolled to her side when she saw me watching her and as she faced me, I could see that she was, in fact, more relaxed.
“Well, that was intense,” she breathed.
“Yeah. I just... I really couldn’t wait to see you today. Guess I got carried away.”
“Not complaining,” she said, an exhausted smile on her lips.
I got up from the bed so that I could change into my pajamas. I emptied my pockets onto the nightstand before taking off my jeans. As I put my shorts on, Kelly picked up the single key from next to my wallet. I took off my shirt and bra to put on my tank top while my heart pounded.
“One of your keys came off the key ring,” she said, holding it out to me.
“Actually... that’s for you,” I said.
“Yeah. I’ve had a lot to think about over the last few days. Like how giving me a space for my stuff in your place is such a brave thing. Pushing forward regardless of everything we’ve gone through. You’re the only one I want to move forward with. So, I want you to come by whenever you want. You don’t have to call or text first. I was stupid to hold back with you and I won’t anymore.”
“It’s not stupid. But I am happy you feel that way. So happy. I don’t think I could ever explain to you what this means.”
“Well, I love you. That made it easy,” I said.
“I love you, too,” she whispered, some tears arching around her smile.
I got back into bed next to her. It was early evening now and when she started kissing me, things were beginning to build again. All of the other times, I’d had a near panic attack hoping she wouldn’t ask me to stay, but tonight, it was going to happen. I was going to wake up with her tomorrow morning after wearing each other out tonight and I’d never looked forward to anything so much.