December 1, 1995
Sitting Indian-style on his bed, I fill him in on the events of the past week. The fact he’s barefoot and shirtless makes it difficult for me to pay attention to the conversation, but I’m not about to ask him to cover up. I like his chest too much, and the way his skin takes on an almost ethereal quality in the dim light. I want to see more of his skin, to touch it, to touch him. I kind of want to jump his bones. Unfortunately for me, he hasn’t so much as kissed me since we got to his apartment. It makes me feel weird, and I start to wonder if maybe his feelings for me have already begun to wane. Then I remember what he said outside my dorm earlier and how it seemed as if he was on the verge of telling me he loved me. I focus on that and try not to be bothered by his apparent disinterest in getting me naked.
“Is a plane ticket to Phoenix at this point even economically feasible for you?” he asks.
“It will pretty much clean me out. I’ll probably have to get a part-time job in January to make up for it, which I really didn’t want to do my first year. I just don’t know what else to do without making it seem as if I’m choosing my dad over my mom.”
“Who would you rather see?”
“None of the above?” My right shoulder raises in a small shrug. “If it were up to me, I’d spend Christmas with you.”
I’m almost afraid to see his reaction. I’ve already imposed on him for one major holiday; I don’t want him to think I’m pushing things to move forward more quickly than they should. When I’m finally able to look at his face, one corner of his mouth is twitching. He doesn’t say anything.
“You’re fighting a smile. Why?”
“You,” he says.
I reach forward and clasp his hands, threading my fingers through his. “What about me?”
“You make me happy.”
Hearing him say that makes me happy, and I couldn’t prevent it from showing on my face if I tried, which of course I don’t.
“Then why not just smile?”
“Habit, I suppose. I don’t like for people to look at me and know what I’m thinking.”
“Except you told me.”
“Yes,” he says.
“Doesn’t that make the poker face a waste of effort? I mean, I know.”
“Only because I wanted you to know.”
“Practicing for your Presidential campaign already?”
“Not exactly,” he says, laughing. “But it’s impossible for others to exploit your emotions if they don’t know what you’re feeling.”
I study his face. He doesn’t appear guarded—if anything, he seems relaxed. But I know his filter is engaged—it would have to be. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have suppressed his smile. I try to imagine what it would be like to live that way, but I can’t even wrap my mind around the concept.
“Are you really on all the time?”
“On?” he asks.
“Like, does your censor ever sleep?”
“Not even when we…” My shoulders hunch forward, and I exhale in a gush, shaking my head. Even though we’ve done the deed, I can’t bring myself to say the words.
He’s looking at me like he’s waiting for me to complete my sentence, and though I suspect he knows exactly what I’m asking, he isn’t going to help.
“You know,” I say. “Do you let go then?”
He smiles. “Intimate moments are an obvious exception.”
I want to jump his bones even more than I did before—not just because I’m horny and want to play with his thing, but because I want to become better acquainted with the real Edward.
He drops my hand and brushes his thumb across my cheek. “I love being with you like that.”
“Isn’t it obvious?” he asks, laughing.
“We’ve been here three hours, and you haven’t even kissed me.”
“That’s not because I don’t want to; I just know it won’t stop at kissing. I don’t want you to think this is just about sex for me, and tearing your clothes off the second we get home would be bad form—even if I do have every intention of tearing them off sooner or later.”
“Do you think you could maybe tear them off sooner?”
“You make it impossible to resist.” He pulls me against his chest and lowers his mouth to mine.
Except he does resist. The kiss he gives me is brief and light—chaste even. I’m about to call him on his affinity for teasing me, that I’m starting to think he gets off on being in control, but he speaks before I get the chance.
“Were you serious earlier when you said you wanted to spend Christmas with me? Because you know you’re welcome here.”
This time, I don’t stop myself from jumping him. He doesn’t appear to mind.
December 24, 1995
For the first time since I was little, Christmas feels magical. Edward buys a small tree and some lights, not realizing he has no ornaments until we get back to his apartment. So we cut snowflakes out of white printer paper and make stars from tin foil. It’s totally MacGyvered, but I love it because it’s something I made with him. I know without a doubt I love him, too.
I’m sitting on the floor in front of the tree in my pale-blue chemise—it’s still the only piece of real lingerie I own.
“Eggnog,” Edward says, handing me a glass.
My eyes widen after I take a sip; it doesn’t taste like the eggnog I’m used to drinking.
“Are you trying to get me drunk?” I ask.
He laughs. “Eggnog has alcohol in it by definition. You’re supposed to use rum and bourbon, but I don’t keep that around, so I used Glenfiddich.”
“Scotch?” I stare into the glass then look back at him. “Seriously?”
“Yes. Don’t tell Alice. If my father found out I diluted single malt, I’ll never hear the end of it.”
He twists his wrist, staring at the thick liquid as it coats the inside of his glass. It’s the first time he’s mentioned his father casually. I want to hear more about his childhood, but he doesn’t elaborate and I don’t want to pry.
“Is this something I should let breathe?” I ask.
He startles slightly, then shakes his head. I think I might have just caught him fidgeting—that it was one of his rare unguarded moments. It’s out of character for him, and I’m not sure how to react. The silence is awkward, and I feel like I have to fill it.
“Thank you,” I say. “For everything.”
“I want to be real for you…I mean, I want this Christmas to feel real.”
“Everything is perfect. I just wish…”
“What?” he asks.
“I know you said you didn’t want me to give you a gift, but you’ve done so much for me. I feel ungrateful.”
“I said I didn’t want you to buy me a gift, not that there was nothing you could give me.”
“What about your head?”
“I want you to go down on me.”
I swallow. Then I wonder if I’ll even be able to swallow. “Right now?”
“Whenever you want to…assuming you want to.”
“Okay.” I don’t move.
He’s not asking for anything he doesn’t do for me frequently and with great enthusiasm. The difference is that he knows what’s he’s doing. He’s good at it—skilled and confident. He’s the exact opposite of me.
“Do you want to?”
“In theory.” I want to do anything that would make him feel good—provided that I don’t humiliate myself in the process.
“But in practice?”
“I don’t want to suck at it.”
“I’m not asking you to suck at it, just on it”
I know he’s trying to be funny, but I can’t find it in myself to laugh. “I meant that I won’t be any good, that you won’t enjoy it.”
“If you’re involved, I’ll enjoy it.”
I nudge him onto his back; he raises his hips and slides his pajama pants off. He’s already hard.
“Seriously?” I ask, gesturing to his boner.
“You look beautiful tonight,” he says, shrugging. “And talking about you sucking me off was hot.”
I’m self-conscious as I wrap my hand around him, though I don’t know why. It’s not as if I haven’t touched him like this before. I focus on the familiarity of his skin—its heat, its smoothness. His hips are moving and his breathing is heavy, and I think maybe I can pull this off…that I can suck it off and therefore get him off. Feeling more confident, I lower my lips to the tip. I kiss it, then I tongue it, and if the sounds coming from him are indication, I’m not doing too badly.
“I’m close,” he says. “In case you don’t want to…oh god.”
I bring him in deeper and swallow quickly, and as he comes upon a midnight clear, he says something that sounds an awful lot like ‘I love you’. I’m grateful my mouth is otherwise occupied because it prevents me from saying it back—which would be bad if he didn’t mean it or if he actually said something else. It would be the ultimate awkward moment there’d be no coming back from.
Later we climb into bed together, and he wraps his arms around me.
“Are you missing home?” he asks.
I shake my head. I don’t tell him I’m more at home here than I ever felt with my parents.
“I know this has to be strange for you.”
I pull back and look at his face. “This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had. Really.”
And it is. I don’t think this night could possibly get better. Then he kisses me and proves me wrong.
November 23, 2009
There’s a beep, then nothing. When I remain silent, the call disconnects on its own. I stare at my phone, thinking maybe I’m imagining this, that it can’t be real. One way or the other, I need to know. I press the Send button and close my eyes, expecting to hear the three shrill tones that always precede error messages.
Except they never come. Instead, I hear him—the way he sounded then—telling me he loves me, that he needs me, that doesn’t think he’ll ever stop. Though his words aren’t all that different from the ones he spoke last night at his apartment, it feels as if they are. And I’m sure in a way I haven’t been since I was eighteen and possessed an unwavering belief in forever and a heart that had never known hurt. The greeting on his voicemail changes everything.
I drop my phone onto the bed and go to find Edward. He’s in the living-room sofa with Alice, apparently still in the midst of the conversation I’d excused myself from so I could put on clean clothes. I take his hand and give it a tug.
“I need to borrow your brother.” I say, leading him down the hall to the guest room. “I’ll bring him back; I promise.”
“No worries,” she calls from the living room. “Keep him as long as you want.”
I close the door behind us.
“Is something wrong?” he asks.
For the first time in a decade, everything is right.
“I was,” I say.
“I don’t understand.”
“I was wrong about us…about you. I love you. I want to do this.”
I throw myself into his arms with such force, he’s propelled against the door.
Hugging him tightly I whisper into his ear, “I’m sorry. And I’ll never leave you again.”