Coates Law of Maturity
November 21, 1995
His thing is too distracting for me to even try to sleep. The easy solution would be to move away from him, but I don’t; I like being in his arms too much.
“Is this all right?” he asks.
It’s wonderful, amazing even, but I don’t tell him. Instead, I just nod.
“You wanted to kiss me, so I assumed you wouldn’t mind. The more that I think about it though, it probably wasn’t such a good idea.”
I turn onto my back to look at him. My hip rubs across the front of his body and presses against his joystick. I know how sensitive that area is—my dad always tells me a good kick in the nuts will stop any male attacker long enough for me to yell for help—so when Edward produces a sound that’s somewhere between a grunt and a gasp, I assume the worst.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I wasn’t even trying to touch you, let alone hurt you.”
“You didn’t hurt me.” His smile is small but it’s there.
It confuses the hell out of me. “You sounded as if you were in pain.”
“I was—in fact, I still am. Just not in the way you’re thinking.”
I start to say that I don’t understand, stopping mid-sentence when all of a sudden, I do understand.
“Oh.” My eyes are downcast and my face is on fire.
Laughing, he puts his arms around my neck and pulls my upper body against his, maintaining a safe distance between me and his junk. I think maybe he’s lying—that I really did hurt him—but then his fingertips start to play with my hair, and I’m too focused on how good that feels to care much about anything else. For several moments, we lie in silence.
When he finally speaks, all traces of laughter are gone from his voice. “The first holiday on your own is always rough. Each year gets a little easier; you’ll see.”
“Alice said you prefer spending the holidays alone, but you could go home to Chicago if you wanted.”
“I’d be just as alone there as I am here. The fact there’d be people around me would only intensify the feeling.”
“You mean your step-mother?”
“My issues are with my father,” he explains. “His wife doesn’t matter to me one way or the other. She’s always been kind to Alice, so suppose I should be grateful for that.”
“Do you think your dad cheated on your mom?” I know it’s none of my business, but I need to talk to someone who understands.
“I know for a fact he did.”
“Ugh,” I say, rolling my eyes. “That’s what bothers me more than anything. I’m really close to my dad—way more than I am to my mom. My dad’s the chief of police, but when it comes to me, my mother is always the one who plays bad cop. She justifies it by saying she has a lot of regrets and doesn’t want me to make the same mistakes she did—that she’s strict because she loves me. I once overheard my dad tell one of his buddies that my mom lost her personality when she found Jesus; his friend claimed she never had one to begin with. It might even be true—I don’t know and I don’t care. It doesn’t matter that I don’t like my mother very much. I love her, and he was wrong to cheat on her.”
Edward opens his mouth as if he’s going to say something, but the only resulting sound is a sigh.
“What?” I ask.
“Was she really that strict?”
“You have no idea.”
“So being here with me…”
“Would be completely unacceptable.”
“Got it.” He drags his hand down my back and rests his open palm against my hip.
“May I ask you a question?”
“I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”
“Why are you touching me?”
“Would you like me to stop?” But he doesn’t stop. He slides his hand down my leg to where my skin is bare and traces circles with his fingertips on my thigh.
“No,” I admit. “I just don’t understand.”
“Are you enjoying it?”
“Why? I mean, earlier you said you wouldn’t kiss me again because you didn’t think you’d be able to stop. Well, I don’t think I’m ready to do much more than kiss you, and I don’t want to lead you on.”
“You aren’t. I mean, I’ve barely touched you.” He lifts his hand from my leg and touches my face. “You’re blushing. Are you really that naïve?”
“I told you today was my first kiss.”
“I know, but you’ve also said you wanted to lick me.”
“I did not!”
“So you don’t want to lick me?”
“No! I mean yes.” I clap my hand over my mouth. “Shit. I didn’t mean to say that out loud.” I shut my eyes and turn my face into the pillow. “I think I want to die. When did this happen?”
“On the phone after you’d been drinking. Don’t be embarrassed; I enjoyed it.”
“Sure, in an it’s-nice-to-know-someone-thinks-you’re-hot-even-if-you-have-zero-interest-in-her kind of way.” I shrug. “Everyone likes ego boosts.”
“Since you seem to have been born without the mechanism in your brain that filters your thoughts before they exit your body through your mouth as words, I’m going to pretend for a few minutes that I don’t have one either, and hope I don’t say anything that makes you want to hit me.”
“I think I want to hit you already.”
“You’re cute,” he says, laughing.
“Is it necessary to patronize me?”
“What makes you think I’m not interested in you?” he asks, ignoring my question.
“Do you always answer questions with questions?”
“What’s wrong with answering questions with questions?”
“In this setting, it’s an obvious avoidance tactic.”
“Oh, I agree completely.” His smile is one of victory. “For the sake of clarity, let’s go back to the beginning. Why do you think I’m not interested in you?”
A lot of reasons come to mind: He’s four years older than I am and in a different stage of his life. He’s goal-oriented and driven, and wants to be a part of a world that holds no appeal to me. I don’t mention any of these. Instead, I bury my face in the pillow and give him the one reason that’s real.
“You regret kissing me.”
“No. I wish the circumstances surrounding kissing you were different, but I don’t regret doing it. I feel the same way about that night on the phone. Though I would have preferred to have had that conversation with you while you were sober, I liked hearing that you wanted me in your mouth. In fact, I liked it almost as much as I liked seeing you come to bed wearing my undershirt. I’d tell you exactly what that did to me, except you felt it for yourself.”
I whip my head around and look at him. I expect a smile or a laugh, but there’s neither; he doesn’t appear to be kidding. His hand moves from my shoulder to my face, and he lowers his lips to mine. More from shock than anything else, my mouth opens on its own. I feel his tongue against mine, and when he makes the same breathy groan he did earlier, I think I understand what he meant when he said he was in pain. I don’t know what I want from him or from this, but whatever it is, I want it so much it hurts. So I pull him closer—I throw my leg over his hips and press myself against him. His noises are getting louder, his kiss is getting deeper, and though I’m only wearing his undershirt and my panties, I’ve never been so hot.
His kiss has a rhythm that my hips take it upon themselves to replicate. My shirt rides up and exposes my underwear, and the next thing I know, I’m on on my back. He’s on top of me with his tongue in my mouth, his hands in my hair, and his hips between my legs. It doesn’t matter that he’s wearing pajama pants and I’m wearing underwear, I can feel that part of him against that part of me. Though he’s physically closer to me than anyone has ever been, it’s not close enough. I wonder if any such thing exists. I think about this long after he’s fallen asleep with his arms wrapped tightly around my waist. Something tells me I could have him inside me, and it still wouldn’t be close enough.
November 22, 2009
Alice sleeps the same way now as she did in college—on her side with her knees bent and her hands folded demurely beneath her chin. It isn’t like her to take naps, so I know she must be exhausted. I also know it’s all my fault—that I’ve been so focused on what seeing Edward again was doing to me that I never stopped to think about what having Edward and me in close proximity to one another after all these years would do to her. Though I doubt I can ease her emotional stress, I can help in other ways. As quietly as I can manage, I head to the kitchen, leaving her to her dreams. Though I’m able to care of the day’s dishes in blissful solitude, when it’s time for me to knead dough for tomorrow’s breakfast, I’m not so lucky.
“If not for the flight here, I wouldn’t know you were capable of sitting.” Edward moves across the kitchen and stands beside me at the counter. “Seriously, Isabella. Even I take breaks once in a while, and if I–”
“Don’t patronize me.”
“Really?” I slam the dough down and turn to face him. “Were you not about to tell me that if you’re able to find time to relax despite how important your responsibilities are, then surely I can spare a few moments from mine? Just so you know, this kind of condescension is even less appealing from you now than it was ten years ago.”
“I didn’t mean it that way.”
If I didn’t know him, I’d believe him. But I do know him—all too well.
“Just like your unorthodox method of aerating the Riesling wasn’t meant to be a sexual innuendo.”
I tear off a piece of dough and roll it between my palms. When it’s roughly the same size and shape as the stem of a wineglass, I repeat his gesture from lunch.
“That’s just wrong,” he says, shaking his head. “If that’s supposed to be me, well…you know the model you’re using isn’t even remotely close to scale.”
Unable to resist the urge to be immature, I drop the dough onto the counter top and flatten it with my fist.
“Is this better?” I know it isn’t. In fact, it only makes me feel worse.
I push the dough to the side and hide my face in my hands. I don’t want to cry, but I can’t help it—the tears come on their own. Soon his hands are in my hair and my face is against his chest. He feels the same and smells the same. That’s when I realize nothing has changed—he’s still him and I’m still me.
My tears turn into sobs. He asks me what’s wrong, but hysteria has rendered me incapable of speech. It’s just as well. I don’t want to tell him I’m crying because I still love him, want him, crave him beyond all reason because I know it doesn’t make a difference. None of it matters because nothing has changed.