Veuve Clicquot

November 24, 1995
After I pay for what the saleslady called a chemise, she hands the bag to me over the counter. The store’s logo is in bold letters across the front, and I wish it were less obvious what was inside…at the very least, I wish it the bag were less pink. As I head toward the door, a middle-aged lady looks at the bag in my hand and raises one of her overly-waxed eyebrows. She reminds me of my mother, so I have a decent idea what she’s thinking—that my plans for the contents of my bag will send me straight to hell. Though I avoid her glare, I realize everyone who sees me will look at me the same way.

Edward is standing on the sidewalk, just like he said he’d be.

“Pretend I don’t have this, okay?” I say.

“Okay. But doesn’t that defeat the purpose of buying it?”

“Not as long as we’re in public.”

“Fair enough.”

He takes my hand, and as we walk along the crowded street, I wonder of this feels as different for him as it does for me—if he realizes I bought lingerie because I think tonight will be the night. Then he pulls me into a liquor store and buys a bottle of champagne, and I think maybe it does.

“Are you on the pill?”

We’re washing the dinner dishes, and his demeanor is so casual it seems as if he has conversations like this all the time.

“Yes.” Feeling I need further explanation, I add, “For cramps.”

He nods and turns back to the sink. Though I think I know why he asked, it’s strange to think that my answer will somehow change the way things happen later. Because if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that things will happen later.


“I’m sorry if it seems like I’m being presumptuous; I just know every time we fool around things progress a little further, and now seems like a good time to have this conversation—when we’re fully clothed and not getting carried away. That way we know what to expect if we–”

“You mean when.”

“When?” he asks.

“Well, yeah. I mean, at this point there are only two things that could probably stop us from having sex. The first would be if you were to suddenly lose interest in doing whatever it is we’ve been doing–”


“I know I’m not exactly an expert on these things, but it doesn’t feel like we’re dating. I mean, we’ve barely left the apartment.”

“Would you like to go out to dinner?” he asks.

“No…I mean, I would if you want to go. Dating is something you do, and I’d love to date you. I want to know how you feel. Like, if we were out together and ran into someone you know, I doubt you’d introduce me as your date.”

“Don’t be ridiculous; I’d introduce you as my sister’s roommate.”


He laughs. “No. I’d say you were my girlfriend. Unless you have a problem with that–”

He never completes his thought; he has difficulty talking with my tongue in his mouth. We kiss, and though he seems every bit as into it as I am, less than a minute passes before he pulls away.

“Back to the topic at hand,” he says.

“Is this your way of saying you’d like me to put my hand on it?”

“I always want you to touch me; I just want to make sure we’re responsible about it. How long have you been on the pill?”

“Three years.”

He nods. “Well, that eliminates the need for condoms.”

If he wasn’t being presumptuous before, he is now. After all, he’s not the person whose health would be placed at risk. As much as I don’t want to ask about his past—the thought of him with anyone else makes me physically ill—at the same time, I know pregnancy isn’t my only concern.

“Does it?” I ask.

“Yes, well…unless you’re not comfortable with it.”

My hesitance isn’t because I don’t trust him—I do. I trust him completely. I also know that I shouldn’t trust him, and it has nothing to do with Edward personally. If Alice told me she was contemplating having unprotected sex with someone she’d been dating three days, I’d tell her she was insane. But this doesn’t feel crazy. It only feels right.

“Are you positive you’re clean?”

“I donated blood two weeks ago; I wouldn’t have done that if I weren’t sure.”


“I’ll wear a condom if you want me, but honestly, I’d prefer not to. I want to be surrounded by you, not latex. It just feels better.”

“Okay.” I want nothing more than to make him feel as good as he does me.

I don’t think I can, though. It just doesn’t seem possible.

I look at myself in the mirror in the bathroom, studying my reflection. The girl looking back at me seems like a stranger—not because she’s wearing lipgloss and mascara and a short, strappy nightgown made of pale blue silk—but because she doesn’t look like a girl. She doesn’t seem nervous or worried, nor does she question what she’s about to do. It’s hard to believe she is me—that I’m not a naïve girl about to lose my virginity. I’m a woman—young and inexperienced, but a woman nonetheless—about to make love to a man. It doesn’t feel like I’m losing anything. It’s more like an inevitable rite of passage that I’m fortunate enough to experience with him—one that I hope will be the first of many.

When I open the bathroom door, there’s music playing. I don’t recognize the song, but it has a slow, steady rhythm that drives and drags at the same time. It makes me want to take off my nightie, but then I remember I paid twenty-nine dollars for it and I’m wearing nothing underneath.

Edward’s standing by the kitchen counter shirtless and barefoot in a well-worn pair of jeans opening a bottle of champagne. Cork popped, he turns around, seeing me for the first time since I emerged from the bathroom.


“Who are you listening to? I’ve never heard anything like it.”

“Portishead.” He pours two glasses. “Do you like it?”

“I think I do. It’s different from anything I’ve heard before.”


“Okay, so maybe it’s a little weird,” I concede. “But I like it. I wasn’t sure at first, but the more I hear of it, the more I like the way it makes me feel.”

“You’ll probably feel that way about a lot of things this evening,” he says, handing me one of the glasses.

He touches my flute to his, and the high-pitched clink of the crystal tells me this is really going to happen—that he knew I’d come out of the bathroom in lingerie and that I’d ask him to make love to me. The champagne and music is just his way of easing me into it before easing it into me.

“Don’t drink it too quickly, or it will go right to your head.”

After taking a sip, I stare at the liquid in the glass, fascinated by the way the bubbles work their way up to the surface. In the bottle, they’re under pressure, but when they come into contact with the air, the pressure seems to release on its own.

He places his glass on the counter, and I do the same.

“You look beautiful,” he says.

“You are beautiful.” I let my gaze leave his face to chest and then lower, to the obvious bulge in his jeans. At least one of us is ready.

He kisses me, gently at first. It’s nice, and I start to feel warm inside. His fingers run up my arms, brushing the sides of my breasts through the silk of my nightie. His kiss gets deeper and his thumb rubs my nipple. I’m glad he has his arm around me, because I don’t think I’d be able to stand if he didn’t.

He tugs on the hem of my chemise. “May I take this off?”

After I nod, he pulls it up over my head then drops it into the floor.

His hands are on my bare skin, dragging up and down my torso; his hips move against mine. He kisses me; it slow and deep and his hips follow the rhythm as his tongue. He carried me onto the bed, placing me in the center of it. After he strips out of his jeans, he’s on top of me, with his hips are between my thighs. He pushes forward; I can feel how hard—how ready—he is.

If only I was.

“Just move with me,” he whispers.

I do what he says. He kisses me as he grinds against me, and though he’s close to being inside me, he’s not. It’s teasing; it’s torture, and if the sounds coming from Edward are any indication, he’s feeling really good. I think I would too, if I weren’t so nervous.

Then he stops teasing. He takes himself in his hand and rubs it against me. It slides along my wet flesh easily, stopping when it’s in position. If Edward moves his hips forward, we’ll be doing it, and I expect him to at any moment.

But he doesn’t. Instead he strokes my cheek and looks into my eyes; I think he expects that I’ll tell him to stop. He’s partially right—there’s something I want to tell him more than anything, but it isn’t no. I can’t bring myself to say that I love him. I don’t want him to think I’m confusing sex with love—despite the fact I do love him and I’m about to have sex with him.

So I say nothing. I breathe in his scent and focus on the song the CD player seems to have on repeat. It sounds the way I feel, and what’s more, this woman with a strange accent is putting my feelings into words in a way I can’t.

“For this is the beginning of forever and ever…” she sings.

And I think she’s right, and I know what I want. I wrap my legs around his back, but when I tighten them around him to bring him closer, I also bring him inside me. I feel myself stretching, but it’s not painful. He slowly presses forward, and all I can think is this is real—that he’s really moving inside me. He’s the closest he’s ever been, but still I want him closer.

“Deeper,” I whisper. “I want all of you.”

With a grunt, he pushes all the way in. It’s not comfortable, but I don’t care. I like feeling him on the inside of my body; I like listening to his moans knowing they’re for me. His thrusts are getting harder, and his sounds are getting louder. He pulls away slightly, and I think he’s going to come. He doesn’t, though. His hand snakes between my thighs and rubs me, and though it feels good, it creates distance between us I don’t want. I push his hand away, but pull his body closer. Moments later, when he does come, the face he makes is beautiful beyond description. I don’t care that I didn’t come with him; it’s enough to know that I brought him there.

November 22, 2009
Eventually, we stop crying, but we stay in each other’s arms. He’s cradling me as he carries me to the bedroom and places me on the center of the bed. He stretches out beside me, and I pull him back into my arms. When Edward finally speaks, it’s not because the silence is uncomfortable—it’s because there’s so much left to be said.

“Why Chicago?” he asks.

“You’re from Chicago. I didn’t want to see you, but at the same time, I still wanted to feel connected to you. It’s crazy, I know.” I shrug. “It made sense at the time.”

“When you left, I thought you were going for a walk or for a drink…I never thought for a moment you were actually leaving me. I mean, I know you said you were, but I just didn’t…”

“You didn’t believe me.”

“You’d never been out on your own before.”

“So that’s what this is about,” I say, letting out a small laugh. “You didn’t think I could do it.”

“I underestimated you.”

“Only because I let you,” I say. “How did it feel to win a senate seat? You worked so hard for so long…the sense of accomplishment you must have felt. I can’t even imagine…”

“How did it feel when you became a master sommelier?”

I laugh. “That’s hardly the same thing.”

“I’m not so sure about that; there are approximately the same number of master sommeliers as there are United States Senators.”

“You Googled it.”

“I did,” he admits.

“It’s cute.”

“I like to know things, and I’d like to know you.”

Figuring he’s bound to ask eventually, I just blurt it out. “I voted for you.”

“Whatever possessed you to say that?” He squirms against me, sighing. “I know you hate politics; we don’t have to talk about this.”

“Except your job is politics—it’s who you are.”

“I’d think you of all people would know me better than that.”

“I did once,” I say. “My information is no longer current.”

“You know everything that matters.”

“Do I?”

“I love you,” he says. “What else is there?”

“I don’t know if you’re seeing anyone–”

“I’m not. I’d like to be seeing you.”

“You’re toxic to me,” I say.

“I was then. I’m not now. And I can prove it.”


“Spend the night with me.”

My automatic answer does nothing to convince me this time will be any different. “Okay.”

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5 Responses

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  1. on 28 Nov 2010 at 9:14 pmMary

    Unf. I think you took a peek into my diary circa 1995. If I had a diary circa 1995. I really like how nothing seems forced, even though Bella seems to wish she could force some things. Great writing.


    Colleen reply:

    thanks so much. And I did look at emails from that time to remind myself of trends and phrases, and how it felt to be eighteen.
    Thanks for reading.


  2. on 29 Nov 2010 at 3:28 pmafonalaw

    They’re talking – good. I love your parallel pacing. I am so invested with both timelines, even though I know the 1995 one is going to end badly, I want to see how their relashionship grew and ended. I hope that they can fix the problems and have the 2009 timeline work out. Great chapter!


  3. on 25 Apr 2012 at 12:33 pmStormDragonfly

    “Glory Box” was exactly what I was hearing in my mind. Love that it’s actually the song you meant.


  4. on 28 Jun 2012 at 6:33 amSimone

    Whatever may have been lost or broken between them, the intensity remains the same. And again, I love the parallel timelines. In 1995, Bella is in the throes of a sexual awakening; in 2009, an emotional one. The way their past informs their present, interweaving together, is brilliant.