Wine Label


March 18, 1996

Edward is the first person I see when I step off the jetway into the terminal. He’s wearing jeans and an untucked flannel shirt. His hair is tousled and it’s clear he skipped shaving this morning. I think he’s the most beautiful thing ever, and I realize I’ve never missed anyone more than I missed him over the past two weeks. Not caring that he isn’t big on public displays of affection, I throw myself into his arms.

He clears his throat; I step away from him.

“Sorry,” I say. “I know you don’t like it when I do that. I’m just so excited to see you.”

“It’s okay. I missed you, too.” He raises his arm and coughs into his elbow.

“Are you sick?”

“Just a bit of a cold,” he says. “It’s not a big deal.”

I hug him again; I can’t help it. When he squeezes me against him, I know he wasn’t embarrassed by me earlier. I feel awful for being relieved to hear he’s sick, but it’s preferable to thinking he doesn’t want people to know we’re a couple.

“What?” he asks, laughing.

“I really missed you.”

“I missed you, too. Now let’s get you home.”

“Home?”

“I knew your mother wouldn’t be happy about you staying with me this summer, but she didn’t change your mind, did she?”

“No!”

At this point, I doubt anyone could change my mind about Edward. Just when I think I couldn’t possibly love him more, something happens and I do.


November 23, 2009
Despite the fact I’d packed pajamas, I grab one of Edward’s undershirts to wear to bed. When I return to the guestroom after changing, he’s sitting on the edge of the bed, clad in nothing but a pair of gray boxer briefs and sporting a semi.

“I thought you could only sleep if you were naked.”

“You thought right.”

I lower my gaze to his crotch. It lingers on his almost-ready-to-go cock before returning to his face.

“I’m also awake. Funny how that works.”

My eyes narrow slightly. “What are you planning to do? Wait until I’m asleep then drop trou?”

“That was the plan, yes. Unless you’d rather I get naked now.”

“No good could come from that.”

“No, but you could.”

I smile. I can’t help it.

“Did you just lick your lips?” he asks.

“What? No.” I get into bed and lie on top of the covers. “At least, not consciously.”

Laughing, he stretches out beside me. When he pulls me into his arms, I relax against him. It’s effortless and feels almost like coming home.

“Do you remember our first Thanksgiving together?” I ask.

“Of course. I got to taste your turkey and your clam for the very first time. Both were delicious, by the way.”

“I’ve never made clams for you.”

He gives me his dirty smile, and I realize what he meant.

“Oh.” I close my eyes and breathe in his scent; it’s the same now as it was then. I think about this weekend fourteen years ago, how patient he was with me, the thrill of realizing he liked me the way I liked him, how I gave him my body knowing I wasn’t in love with him but also knowing I would be, how he told me that was something he’d never do with someone he didn’t care about. Then I realize he’s never talked about his first time, and I’m overcome with curiosity.

“What was it like for you?” I ask.

“What?”

“The first time you had sex.”

He stiffens in my arms.

“Don’t you dare get weird on me.” I smack his chest lightly, angling my head so I can see his face. “It’s a fair question. I mean—it’s not as if you don’t know all about mine.”

“I’m not disputing the validity of your request; I’m just a bit surprised by your word choice.”

“What about it?”

“You know,” he says, laughing. “You used to have a mile-long list of euphemisms. I never understood how you could drop f-bombs left and right, but you couldn’t bring yourself to say the word ‘sex’.”

“You’re trying to distract me so you don’t have to answer.” I brush my thumb across his cheek, then rest my hand against the side of his neck. “It won’t work. I’m immune to your techniques.”

“You aren’t immune to anything when it comes to me.” He lowers his lips to my throat. “And I can prove it.”

“How do you propose to do that?”

He sucks my flesh into his mouth then releases it, teasing my now-wet skin with his breath as he exhales. It feels good, but I’m hardly putty in his hands.

“Fourteen years ago, that might have bought you ten minutes.”

“I’m just getting started.” He drags his tongue across my neck. “Now spread your legs.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“You aren’t playing fair.”

“I never do.” His hands creep up underneath my t-shirt, brushing my skin with his fingertips.

It’s different and familiar at the same time. Ridiculous though it may be, I feel like I’m eighteen again—wanting him but fearing his seemingly inevitable rejection in equal parts. Back then I only stood to lose my virginity; there’s far more at stake now.

“I don’t want to have sex with you.”

He moves his hand out from under my shirt and rests it against my hip. “Uh…okay.”

“That didn’t come out right. I mean, obviously I want to have sex with you. I always want to have sex with you. But I’d kind of like our second first time to be more special than me trying not to make any noises that would gross out your sister, and there’s so much we haven’t discussed…”

“I know, and I agree on both points—especially the first one.” His fingers trace circles on my hip through my underwear. “I don’t want you to hold anything back.”

“I won’t be able to. I never could—you’re too good. Speaking of your bedroom skills…” I nudge him away and look at his face. “I’ve always wondered how you got them.”

“Why?”

“They’re part of what makes you you. Besides, you said you’d tell me your sexual history…”

“I was talking about the past ten years.”

“And I want to hear about that, too.” I close my eyes, sighing. “It would be easier for me to take if you started at the beginning and worked up to it. I don’t think you understand how intimidating you can be.”

“That’s just because of my job.”

“No, it’s because of who you are. I mean, when we met, you were twenty-two. If you had doubts about anything, it didn’t show. Even then, you had polish and finesse—unnatural grace. I know you weren’t born that way; Alice has told me as much. You had to have had some awkward moments…”

“Sure, who hasn’t?”

“Then tell me about them; I promise not to laugh at you.”

“That’s not it.”

“Then why won’t you tell me?”

“Because I’m not proud of it.” He rolls onto his back, sighing. “It was right after my mother died, and I found out I had a half-brother. I’m sure I told you about him…”

“Just that he exists and not to tell Alice.”

“My mother mentioned him in her will. Apparently, she found out about him a few weeks before she died. I confronted my father about his infidelity, and he laughed. Said it was obvious I was still a virgin, otherwise I’d understand the power of lust and sex. I was a mess when I went back to school. A few weeks later, I was at a party and this girl who was a senior invited me back to her room.

“I knew I was using her, but I didn’t care. My mother was gone, and I thought if I had sex I’d understand my father and therefore stop hating him. Instead I only hated myself.”

As grateful as I am he’s opening up to me, I feel like a shit. All these years, I’d been imagining awkward fumbling in the back of a car or maybe that he came after two pumps—normal teenage embarrassment. I never thought it would be anything like this, that he kept it to himself because he hates what he did. It makes me want to touch him—not the polished facade he shows the world—but the fear he hides. To be the water he drinks and the air he breathes. To soothe whatever other pain he’ll never let me see.

I reach for his hand and thread his fingers through mine. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault. Anyway, that was my first time. After that was my college girlfriend, whom you know about, and then there was you.”

“And after me?”

“For a while, there was no one. It took me a long time to accept you weren’t coming back. Then I focused on my career, and I didn’t have time for relationships. It’s tricky anyway. Campaigns can be so dirty, and the last thing I needed was ex-girlfriends talking to the tabloids as if they were women scorned. At the same time, I’m a guy. I needed some kind of sexual release. You know how you said you and your roommate were friends-with-benefits?”

I nodded.

“I’ve made similar arrangements over the years with women I knew would never talk—they had as much if not more to lose than I did.”

“Other politicians?” I ask.

“Sometimes. Sometimes their wives.”

“Seriously?”

He shrugs. “I told you I wasn’t proud of myself.”

“But you hate infidelity…at least, you always did.”

“I still do. This is why I’ve never been unfaithful.”

“Maybe not technically, but you’ve been a party to it.”

“And if it wasn’t me, it would have been someone else.”

“When did you become so fatalistic?”

“When the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with walked out on me on Christmas Day!” His chest rises and falls as he fills his lungs with air then exhales in a gush, shaking his head. “Sorry. I didn’t mean–”

“It’s okay. I deserved it.” The tears start to come; I’m unable to stop them. I hate what I did to him even more than I hate what he did to me. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have…I mean I wouldn’t…” My voice breaks. “I didn’t think you loved me.”

“How could you think that?” He turns onto his side, cupping my face in his hands. “I told you–”

“You did. And I thought you loved the idea of me—that I was young and malleable and worshiped you. I didn’t think you loved me. Hell, you wouldn’t even call me by my name.”

He wraps his arms around me and holds me.

“Tighter,” I say.

He complies, then presses his lips against the top of my head.

“I love you, Izzy.”





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  1. on 27 Jan 2011 at 11:27 pmSea4Me

    Did I tell you in my other review? As ridiculous as her nickname sounds, she makes an *excellent* point here…and I love that he hears her. It would be so much harder to wait for the next chap if you ended it without that accomplishment.

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  2. on 22 May 2011 at 10:46 pmmuneca

    “It’s okay. I deserved it.” The tears start to come; I’m unable to stop them. I hate what I did to him even more than I hate what he did to me.

    I don’t get that he fully understands what he did to her, they haven’t talked about enough so to read kinda makes me think she is again putting on to much pressure on herself and not enough on him. Yeah she let him walk all over her but it was his walking all over her that got them in this position he never saw her as a person but as a kid. I don’t know I’m not explaining it well.

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  3. on 28 Jun 2012 at 4:21 pmSimone

    You have a knack for teasing backstory in very tantalizing clues. I’m so glad I don’t have to wait for the next chapter!

    [Reply]