Author: Chelle Storey-Daniel
Rating: NC-17 very much NC17
Pairing: Mark/Callie Callie/Hahn
Summary: What happens when a man steps up and offers you everything you've ever wanted at the same time that a woman does? What happens when you're feeling things that you've never felt before and you question everything you thought you knew about yourself. Callie takes a journey that is rocky, wonderful, terrifying, and breathtaking as she realizes that there is one heart too many in her life and that's the one that she will have to break.
Dedicated: To the readers. Thank you.
aclairec, you are so wonderful. Thank you.
My brother Joel used to sneak girls in the house. I would hear them whispering in the hallway and I’d know what they were inevitably here to do. Those were the same years that I spent lying in my bed gazing at my hand wondering why no one wanted to hold it. If I’m being honest ... I fantasized about bringing someone home, too. I wanted someone to climb into my bedroom window and make me feel like I was worthwhile. I wanted to feel wanted and when I lead Erica down the hallway to my childhood bedroom ... that’s exactly how I feel. She doesn’t speak. She doesn’t let go of my hand. And when we are in my room all the way, she softly shuts the door behind us. I hear it close and it’s deafening. It’s final. It’s a decision made and I know that there is no turning back. I wouldn’t turn back if I could. Weeks from now, months even, I’ll tell myself that she made the first move. I’ll try to convince myself that I was simply weak from worry over my father and she took advantage of me, but it’s not true.
I want her.
I think, in that moment, I’ll die I don’t kiss her again so that’s exactly what I do.
It’s softer than I thought it would be, kissing her. Her skin is smooth and her lips are so sweet against mine, tasting faintly of the fruit we indulged in after dinner, that I can’t get enough. It’s not demanding. It’s not rushed. It’s a whisper of flesh against flesh and muscle against muscle as our tongues meet again, dancing gracefully. There’s nothing urgent, nothing forced, nothing remotely uncomfortable. I can smell the rain in her hair and a trace of perfume as I move from her mouth to her neck. I press my lips against the pulse in her throat to reassure myself that she’s real, that it’s happening, that I’m responsible for the way her heart is racing. When I suck at her flesh ... her hands move back to my waist then upward toward the zipper of my dress. I wore it for my Dad’s benefit and not for any real desire to have it on, but when she slowly eases the zipper down and her thumb traces my spine ... I’m so damn glad I chose it that I could die.
When the zipper reaches the top of my backside, she gives me a smile and walks around me. I feel the tips of her fingers graze my neck as she pushes my hair over my shoulder and then her lips are on my nape. She breathes against me and I feel cold chills dot my flesh as she pushes the capped sleeves of my dress over my arms. It falls to the floor with a little help from me and I hear her chuckle as she kisses a blazing path down my back. I’m not wearing a bra and she doesn’t stop until I feel her kneel behind me. She expertly works the clasps on my sandals and slips them off, then she kisses the backs of my thighs ... opened mouth kisses that make my hug myself beside there’s nothing for me to grab and I’m going to float away any second now. I know that I can’t stand it another minute but before I can open my mouth to protest, she urges me around, her hands on my hips. I turn and look down at her. She leans forward and her tongue traces my belly button as she hooks her thumbs in my strappy panties and pulls them down.
She may have to do heart surgery on me next because I’m fairly certain I’m going into cardiac arrest when she sits back on her heels to look at me. I watch her hungry eyes move over my thighs and she touches the scar that I received in the same boating accident that stole growing up from Jasper. It’s ugly, jagged, and located near the crease of my leg. She traces it with her tongue and I swear to God I feel like I’m dying. She moves upward on her knees and rubs her thumb over the scar on my stomach where my appendix ruptured and had to be removed. I can’t be self conscious of the scars I bear because she doles out affection to each one as she moves higher still. She kisses, traces, rubs, and touches every inch of me and then she reaches for my arms, which are still covering my breasts, and pulls them down.
I’ve never seen anyone look at another human body with so much intensity. She tests the weight of my breasts with her palms and even if her thumbs were not insistently rubbing my nipples, they would have been erect. They’ve been erect since I slipped off the rail of the balcony and they rubbed against hers. I’m not shy under her perusal and when she slowly gets to her feet and covers one of those turgid peaks with her mouth, my hand tangles in her hair. I don’t want her to stop. I don’t want her to move away or change her mind and I think she knows that because she moves back to my mouth and all the promise in the world passes unspoken between us the same way our breath does. It clogs up my mind until the only thought that flits through the fog is the word ‘more’. I want more. I want so much more.
I feel like I’m on the outside of my body looking in and when I realize that she’s still fully clothed ... I don’t like it.
I don’t think I can recapture the same eroticism of undressing her but I try my best. She’s wearing a tank top and I push her arms up over her head, letting my fingers skim down her bare skin before I pull her shirt up. I toss it across the room and unfasten her bra. It’s a simple, white, not very lacy and incredibly less than slinky bra, but I touch it like it’s made of the finest fabrics as I pull it from her. Her breasts are ivory and tipped with rosy colored nipples that are slightly larger than mine. I know this because she steps forward and our breasts touch, tip to tip, and we both look down at it. I think it could possibly be the most erotic thing I’ve ever seen and I can feel her stomach against mine and I wonder if she’s as wet as I am. There’s an aching, throbbing, need inside me and I kiss her again as I unbutton her shorts and we fumble with them until she can kick them away.
She toes off her flip flops and takes my hand, kissing it as she inclines her head toward the bed.
I stop her. I notice that she has dimples at the base of her spine, just above her ass. I notice that there’s a heart tattoo, so tiny that it could almost be a red mole, on her back. I notice that the thought of tasting that tiny inkspot has made my mouth go dry and the butterflies in my stomach have grown claws and are trying to dig their way out. "I - wait. Erica, I’ve never done this before. I don’t know what I’m doing."
She faces me again, her palm against my cheek. "It’s like riding a bike, Callie."
"I can safely say I’ve never ridden this bike."
"I’ve got you."
I look at our hands and then back at her. Nothing in the world could matter more than this moment and this feeling. An atomic bomb could go off in the back yard and I’d swear it was all part of whatever she was doing to me. "Yeah, you do."
It takes us a good five minutes of kissing and whispering and panting to make it to the bed. I’d like it to be known up front that I am not submissive. I am not docile or mild mannered, but I happily surrender the reigns to her and let her take over. I expect her to dive between my legs right away and push me over the edge, but she doesn’t. She covers my body with hers, slipping her thigh between mine and one of mine between hers. Now I know that she’s just as aroused as me and it empowers me, it makes me bolder. I lift my leg a little and she grinds down on it ... I do the same, smoothing my hands over her backside as I push her down a little harder against me as I surge toward her. Our legs are tangled now and I’m not exactly sure where I stop and she begins. We both undulate our hips, we both explore with our hands and I just know ... I know what I want to do. I visualize it in my head.
Sliding one hand between us, my fingers find her clit. I’ve never touched a woman’s body except my own and I know what I like so I do it to her. I roll my thumb around her swollen flesh and listen to the sounds she makes to let me know when I get it right. She is trying hard to stay face to face with me, to kiss me as I manipulate her center, but I won’t let her. "Sit up," I whisper.
When she’s straddling my hips I slide two fingers upward, into her, and her hands splay on my chest as she rides them. I watch with curiosity and pure, unadulterated lust as she throws her head back and pumps against me, moaning my name. My thumb moves to her clit and I put pressure on it, flicking lightly. Her breasts are bouncing like crazy when she comes. I feel her constrict around my fingers and push a little deeper. I feel the moisture and listen to her ragged cry of release and I’m tempted to preen like a crazy fucking bird because I clearly got it right. I leave my hand against her when I sit up and suck one of her nipples into my mouth. Her hands crash into my hair and she drags my face upward, kissing me hard enough that it’s almost painful. I shift my hand a little and she groans, lust renewed. I want to make her come again, but she has something else in mind.
Her palm between my breasts pushes me back onto the bed again and she nips at the flesh of my belly, then my hip, and I know where she’s going and ohmygodIcantbreathe when the ends of her hair brush over my thighs. I push myself onto my elbows to watch her. It’s more than curiosity. It’s more than wanting to learn. It’s me wanting to see for myself that she’s the one sliding her tongue against me and when she does ... her eyes meet mine and hold. If I lived to be a million years old ... nothing in this world could EVER be that erotic. I don’t give a shit what it is. Her blond hair is like a thousand feathers against my inner thighs and her tongue is like velvet and Jesus! Christ! she knows how to use it. Just enough pressure, just enough swirling, and exactly the right amount of suction when she closes her lips around my clit. I start to tremble and it’s not from the cold. It’s because she’s now sucking on two of her fingers and she knows that I’m watching her wet them ... as if she needed to ... and she lifts her head a little to see my face clearer as they glide into me.
Thank God we’re alone.
That’s all I can say.
I’ve never been the silent type and apparently I’m not trying to start now.
Her mouth goes back to me and I buck against it. She handles my thrashing well, not trying to stop me, and when I get off ... I say her name like a prayer, screaming it to the heavens. She rests her head against my belly, her hands at my sides while I come down. I thread my fingers through her hair while the waves crash over me and my breathing stops being a fight that I fear I’ll lose. When I’m under control, I tug gently on her hair and say, "C’mere."
She slides up my body and I listen to the sound our flesh makes as it rubs together. It’s like cotton sheets rustling in a gentle breeze. It feels like I’m being wrapped in cotton when she puts her arms around me. I don’t think twice about kissing her. I’ve never wanted to be kissed by someone who headed south of the border on me. Never. But when I taste myself on her lips, the tangy, musky purely *me* something, I wonder if she’s the same. I roll us until I’m resting on top of her and I kiss her neck, her ear, her jaw line and I keep kissing her until I’m sure that she wants more. I knead her breasts as I rise to my knees and I take a second to appreciate just how beautiful her body it. The comforter on my bed is burgundy as as she lies against it ... I think that it makes her eyes even bluer, her hair blonder, her body creamier. I skim over her ribcage and notice that she’s had a belly button ring at one time that didn’t end well. I smile a little, raise a brow, and dip my tongue into her naval.
I have to confess.
She’s completely hairless and when I realize it ... I’m a little self conscious of the landing strip I have. What if she prefers ... no ... I can’t think like that. Erica Hahn just proved very, very well that there was nothing wrong with my landscaping. I settle between her thighs and let my index finger trail over her slit. She’s watching me so I don’t try to formulate a game plan and I don’t let my nerves psych me out. And the fact that I’m a thirty-four year old virgin when it comes to this is firmly pushed to the back of my mind. At the first taste of her ... I think that she’s sweeter than me. I think that maybe she has honey in her veins because she is so sweet, so unexpectedly sugary, that it takes me mere seconds to go at her like a woman possessed. My nerves don’t matter anymore. All that matters is making her feel the way she made me feel. The taste, the texture, the smell of her ... all of it is different ... and yet ... it still feels like coming to a comfortable place. I get her off with my mouth and stay there for a while, breathing her in.
The power goes off before I lift my head and it’s darker than hell in the house. I can’t imagine how much time has gone by or if the storm clouds are just thick enough to block all light. I lazily slip up her body and kiss her. This time ... I can taste both of us and I devour that taste. I come pretty close to smacking my lips when we finally pull apart in search of air. She pulls me into her arms and hangs onto me.
We establish something in that moment.
She likes to hold.
I like to be held.
She likes to cling with both hands because so much has been taken from her in her life.
I like to have arms around me because I waited so long for them to be there.
I rest my head on her shoulder. It’s not a broad, muscular shoulder like all the others I’ve rested on (George notwithstanding). It’s like a down pillow and I close my eyes.
Basking is good.
We bask until we’re both freezing to death and I pull her upward and into the bathroom with me. I fill the round garden tub and walk naked through the house to retrieve two glasses and the bottle of wine we had barely touched for dinner. She’s already in the tub when I join her. I hand her a glass and step into the water, carrying my own. Instead of reclining against the back of the tub, I kneel down between her legs and hold my glass up. She watches me that same way she always does ... an exploration of my entire face. "To realizations."
She doesn’t click her glass to mine and I watch her curiously. Erica clears her throat and says, "To realizations ... and it’s about damn time."
I’m smiling when our glasses touch, but neither one of us drink anything.
The wine remains forgotten for the rest of the night, but the things I learn and will never forget ... are just as intoxicating.
We crawl back into the bed eventually and I look up at her. I need to hear it. I need her to validate something for me. "Erica?"
"Did I - was I --- okay?"
She turns a little pink, then she’s full out scarlet. "Uh ... you really don’t have to ask that. I’ve never - let’s just say that three orgasms in one night is my limit and you ... you broke that record a few times over."
"Told you I had super powers."
"I knew that all along."
"Well, you played it pretty close to the chest."
"Actually, I played it IN my chest, Callie. You’ve been messing with my heart for a while."
"You could have told me."
"If I told you ... I wouldn’t know if this was morbid curiosity for you or a pity fuck. Now ... it was neither."
I rub my thumb over her bottom lip. "You’ve been messing with my heart, too."
"Want me to mess with something else?"
I smile when her fingers walk across my stomach, lower and lower. "You’re insatiable."
The next day, I wake up early and go to the kitchen to cook breakfast. I want to stay with her, I do, but things looked different in the harsh light of day. Not bad different ... I just see things with clarity and I need time alone to process it all. I don’t really notice that my hands are shaking so much until the third egg I attempt to crack shatters in my grip. I wipe up the mess, wash my hands, and then look out the window toward the ocean. The morning sky in Miami is always a rainbow, but today, after the storm, the colors seem more vivid, more real. I watch greens and pinks bleed into yellows and blues and I realize that I’m bleeding, too. When I lost my virginity to a man ... I bled between my legs. When I lost my virginity to a woman ... I bled into my heart.
And I’m still bleeding.
And most of all ... I’m scared.
I don’t like people. I really, really don’t like people ... because I grew up listening to the taunts that were directed at Jasper for being ‘different’. I heard every variation of the word ‘retarded’ and so did he. For weeks he ran through the house chanting ‘retard, retard, retard’ like it was a game. He thought it was a game because other kids laughed when they said it to him, when they bull pinned him and kicked sand into his face. He laughed, too. Because he had their attention and he didn’t know that they were looking down on him. He didn’t know that he was different or that they regarded him as trash. I don’t think they realized that, even without a fully functioning brain, he was twice what they were. He couldn’t be cruel if he had to be. But people are. People are insanely cruel.
I skip the plans to make breakfast after the fifth egg shatters. I put on the swimsuit that I bought a couple of days before and walk down to the beach. The rainbow is fading in the sky and seagulls are screeching close to the water. I wade out, dive in, and breast stroke toward the horizon. I don’t want to have feelings for Erica. I don’t want to drive myself crazy trying to talk myself out of something with her, either. Because that’s not what I want. What I want ... is for it not to matter that she’s not a man because we’ve proven that it doesn’t matter in bed. I want stigmas and stereotypes and labels to DIE because I know now that there is no truth in them. Why can’t the rest of the world know it?
The ocean after a storm is always choppy and I have to struggle with the waves so much that I go under and swim until I can’t hold my breath another second. When I break the surface, a wave lifts me high and I hold my arms out to ride it. This ... this is what it felt like with her. I was weightless, I was floating, I was higher than I had ever been and she was warm and wet just like the water. I want to think about that. I want to think about how good she makes me feel, but I don’t.
What I think about ... is Matthew Shepherd. He was killed for being gay. He was beaten, tied to a fence, and left for dead. I followed it in the news, outraged, but then it settled like a distant memory in the back of my mind. Now ... it’s all that I hear in my head. I think about Gwen Araujo, Brandon Teena, and Lawrence King. All murdered for being different, for being gay. That’s the world I’m coming very close to jumping into. I don’t like people. I don’t care what they think of me. But I care that I’m so completely out of my element in this new world that I want to bury my head in the sand until I’m too old and withered to care about sex or relationships or *anything*.
How could something so beautiful last night be so hard to face in the morning?
My arms are aching and my legs are tired when I head back toward the shore. I keep breast stroking until I can wade and then I stand up and freeze. Erica is sitting on the beach watching me with a towel in her lap. Her hair is curly ... I didn’t know it was like that. It was wet when we went to bed the previous night and it’s even curlier than mine. It falls in waves around her shoulders and her face is scrubbed clean. She looks fresh. Inviting. As I walk toward her she gets to her feet and opens the towel. It’s clear that she wants me to walk into it, but I don’t. I reach for it and pull it around myself, not meeting her eyes.
"It’s natural," she says.
I think she’s talking about her hair. "It’s pretty."
"Freaking out is pretty?"
"No, I like your hair." I look up at her. "I’m not frea-"
"Yes, you are." She sighs. "You’re freaking out and I’ve been there so believe me when I tell you that it’s normal to have a morning like this. It’s normal to want to deny it and yourself and what you feel because ... it’s different. It’s strange. But, Callie, ... you were ready for it. You were. And I think if you let me ... I could love you enough that this would be the *only* morning like this and the only time you ever feel like running from me."
I wish I had drowned.
Why does she have to say things like that? Why does she have to know me and what I need to hear and how to make me want her?
I take a deep breath. "What are we going to tell people?"
"Well, I generally don’t broadcast my sex life and ... tempting though you may be ... I don’t plan on meeting you in any on call rooms. I keep my relationships and my work life very separate."
"I’m not just talking about work. My - my brother is a minister. He was ordained after Jasper nearly drowned and -"
"You don’t have to tell anyone anything, Cal. You don’t owe anyone any explanations or reasons for what’s between us. It’s our business and only ours." She looks like she wants to touch me. She lifts her hand, then lowers it again. "And you don’t have to start wearing rainbow pins or get the gay pride bumper sticker. You don’t have to introduce yourself and follow up with ‘I’m gay’ because -"
"I’m *not* gay."
She does touch me now. She takes the end of the towel and blots at the water on my cheek. "Gay, straight, lesbian, queer, dyke ... they’re just words. You don’t have to be anything but you ... and I’m happy."
I want to kiss her there on the beach. I want to wrap my arms around her and lean into her and let her chase away the demons that have been plaguing me since I woke up. I know she could. I know she’s got enough strength in those pale hands of hers to break the world for me if I ask her to. She’s broken me. "I’m happy, too."
"And a little freaked?"
"Just a little," I agree.
"Well, for what it’s worth ... I was sitting here thinking of sharks and I’m pretty sure I’m way more freaked than you."
It hits me then.
The water is full of sharks but we still dive in. We flail and laugh ... even though we’re in their domain.
I’m diving into a life with her, where I’ll probably flail and laugh ... even though I’m in HER domain.
Because I think I could probably love her, too. Maybe I already do.
And that makes the danger worth it.
My dad wakes up and the first thing he says is that he’s hungry. This news apparently breaks my mother’s heart because she begs, pleads, and comes close to threatening Erica to get her to relent and sign off on solids instead of liquids. Erica caves when my mother swears that she is about to swoon and we agree to find him something healthy and nutritious in the cafeteria and bring it back to him. He’s asleep when we return and my mother looks at us like we’ve deprived him of something that has killed him. She pays *me* back by regaling Erica with the most embarrassing stories she can come up with and I’m so happy when my father wakes up again and tells her to stop that I offer to buy him fried chicken and get shot down. We laugh and joke with one another and then Joel arrives and says that Trevor and Savannah miss their Papa. Erica requests a private room out of ICU so that the kids can visit. She also examines my dad, giving him a thorough once over that is well beyond what she would do for a regular patient.
It makes my heart skip several beats.
We go and buy Dad pajamas while he’s settled into a private room and when we get back, my niece and nephew are sitting like statues in one chair while they stare at my dad. Savvy is older than Trevor by two years. With all the wisdom of a four year old, she looks up at me and says, "Aunt Callie, Papa is sick so you behave, you hear me?"
"I hear you, kiddo." I ruffle her dark curls and nod. "Papa’s getting better though."
"Cow-lie, get me!" Trevor hops up onto the arm of the chair and extends his arms. At two, he’s tall for his age and he’s the spitting image of me. He’s got a heart shaped, generous mouth and the same dark skin that I have. He has his mother’s blue/green eyes, though, and his hair is a shade lighter than mine. When Mark found Trevor's photo in my purse ... he said that he could have been our kid. And that gave me hope for me and for Mark because despite his protestations about being a father ... we had the same idea.
Trevor lets me hold him for all of fifteen seconds and then he extends his arms toward Erica. She actually takes a step back like she’s afraid of him. She met the kids the day we had lunch with my brother, but she didn’t interact much with them. When Trevor reaches a little closer, she lifts him from me and very awkwardly settles him on her hip. She bounces him the way you’d bounce a fussy infant and he grins at her and tells her to put him down. She looks more relieved than she would if she was dying of thirst in the desert and it started to rain. She’s clearly uncomfortable and I don’t know whether to smile at her or pretend I didn’t see it. I decide to go with the latter and turn my attention to the ribbon that is falling out of Savvy’s hair.
I wonder if the promise of children is something I’ll have to give up if I decide that I am going to be with her. She doesn’t like them. She has told me that much before, after I spent an hour setting a little girl’s arm and her piercing cries had given Erica a migraine, she said it. Her actual words were, ‘Why can’t we muzzle the little demons while they’re in the waiting room and be done with it? Kids suck.’ Believe it or not ... Mark was the one who calmed the kid down. He sat next to her bed after the stitches in her chin were finished and let her shine a light into his eyes and listen to his heart. He didn’t tell her fairy tales, but he distracted her enough that she gave him a kiss before I took her to surgery. She most definitely did not want to give me one.
We pass the rest of the day with my family and when Jasper’s nurse arrives with him in tow, he tells me that he wants to sleep in his own bed that night. He’s also got ice cream on his face and running down his elbows and before I can take him to the bathroom and clean him up, Erica does it. Maybe it’s just the size of children that she doesn’t like because she’s good with him. I can hear him laughing as the water runs in the bathroom and when they emerge, she has made a friend for life. He stands beside her, whispering as my dad dozes again. When Jasper comes to me and says he wants to go home, we say goodnight and take him. I’m a little happier to leave my mom there since she’ll have a nice cot.
Jasper grabs Erica’s hand and pulls her to his bedroom when we get back to the house. I know that he’ll bend her ear about GI Joe, the comic books that he can’t read, but loves to flip through, and the Barbie dolls that he painstakingly brushes and sets on his window seat. I decide to try my luck with dinner and see if it fares any better than breakfast. Spaghetti is Jasper’s favorite and he loves mine so I cook that and then head to the bedroom to tell them it’s ready. I find Erica and Jasper lying side by side on their bellies in the floor and she’s reading his comic books to him and making him laugh at all the different voices she uses. Superman is well on his way to beating up the bad guys and when she says ‘Pow’, she pokes Jasper in the side and he practically rolls with glee. I watch her watch him. She’s not looking at him like he’s any different. She’s looking at him like he’s amusing her more than she’s amuses him. I always wanted to find someone who would not look down their nose at him.
I clear my throat and say that dinner is ready.
Jasper moves his chair so close to hers at the dining room table that I have grip the legs of it and pull him away to give her elbow room.
He eats his spaghetti one noodle at at time, his chin in his palm, as he gazes at her.
I swear to God ... Jasper has a crush.
When he sees the way she expertly rolls her pasta with a spoon and fork, he tries and tries it until she reaches over and steadies his hands. With all the patience in the world, she helps his shaky fingers grip and maneuver until his fork is wound tight and he stuffs it into his mouth, chewing happily. We take him to the beach at sunset and watch him sit in the sand and painstakingly roll his pants up to his knees. I know from experience that he will be soaked from head to toe in less time than it takes him to roll his pants and just as I suspected, the minute he gets to his feet ... he rushes straight into the ocean. Erica gasps and starts forward, but I catch her arm.
"He’s okay. That’s the only place he’s whole."
He swims like a fish and has the coordination of an Olympic swimmer as he gracefully cuts through the water. We watch him flop onto his back and float leisurely. When I look at her again, her eyes are filled with tears. "Erica?"
"He’s beautiful," she says, not looking away from him.
I reach down and wrap my pinky around hers. "I think you’re beautiful."
"I feel that way with you." She smiles as Jasper splashes noisily. "You said that he’s whole when he’s in there, Callie."
She shifts a little and takes my hand all the way. "You’re my ocean. I’m whole with you."
My brain goes ‘awwwww’ and my body turns to mush as we watch the sunset. Jasper comes out of the water, sees our joined hands, and decides that he wants to hold onto us to. I don’t even care that he sees it or that anyone who wanders on the beach will see it. The three of us stand there ... all of us different, all of us the same.
I should have valued that moment a little more.
After I help Jasper bathe and change into his pajamas, he goes straight to his bedroom. I follow him, asking if he needs to use the restroom before he goes to sleep, but he shakes his head, grabs a brown teddy bear that was mine before it was his and looks slightly mangy, and kneels down beside his bed. I kneel beside him and slowly say a prayer, no more than three words at a time so he can repeat it. I ask God to bless our family, our friends, and to help Daddy heal and come home. Jasper says ‘Amen’ in a loud, barking voice and climbs under the cover. The mattress is low to the ground because he has a tendency of falling out. I turn on a lamp that sends blue dolphins floating around the room and he smiles at the images, reaching up to touch them. I wish that I could find such pleasure in the simple things. He’ll start to doze with his hand outstretched like he does every single night and it’ll fall open and empty to the bed. He won’t know that it’s empty. He may dream that he’s caught one of those dolphins and is swimming in their family forever.
I stay beside his bed until his breathing evens out. When he’s like this, when his lips are slightly parted and he’s snoring, I can see the man he would have been. Charming, handsome, probably slightly egotistical because that’s a Torres thing, and just as loving as he is now. His hand has fallen to the bed and I kiss it before I slide it under the cover. I miss not knowing that man. Sometimes more than I can say. We had the hint of him for ten years. I was twenty when he went away. Before the accident, we called him ‘Jazz’. He played video games so well that he beat me every time and he lived for his skateboard and guitar. I flew home from college every time he was in a competition with either one and I’d watch him do jumps on his board that would make my stomach lodge in my throat. He always found me in the crowd and gave me a thumbs up when he was finished and was standing at the top of the ramp. I’d give him two thumbs up and blow him a kiss and he’d catch it and put it on his heart. He was never embarrassed to love me. Never.
Joel was driving the boat the day we crashed. His wife was skiing behind us and instead of watching where he was going ... he was watching her. I didn’t know. I was lying on my stomach, working on my tan. The last thing I remember is the sound of the impact. It was almost like tires screaming to a halt on the pavement. That screaming was Hope, Joel’s wife. She was far enough behind us that she didn’t get injured at all, but she had seen it. I flew up and into the boat that we had hit, landing on my stomach where I was impaled in the curve of my leg by a piece of the bow. It went deep. I didn’t walk for eight weeks. I didn’t want to walk because Jazz couldn’t walk. He couldn’t talk. When they brought him home and put him in a hospital bed, he stared blindly at the ceiling and drooled all day and night. I went back to college in the fall and didn’t come home at all and Joel went to ministry school and became ordained because he felt like he had killed his little brother.
My parents never gave up on Jasper. Never. And the first time I heard him say my name on the phone after the crash ... I dropped it and booked a flight. He was twelve years old and he walked to me for the first time after two years at the airport. He had gotten as tall as me by then and he had not forgotten me ... even though I had forgotten him for a while.
The guilt gets to me now.
I head down the hallway and grab a couple of towels. I can hear Erica cleaning the kitchen and I go into the bathroom, where I try to scald away the past. The water is hot and it fogs up the glass walls, but my tears are hotter.
I don’t know what I’m doing.
I don’t know why I’m feeling the things I feel or how I’m going to face it when we get home.
I don’t know if I want to be Erica’s ocean because that’s a wild, untamed, and scary place to be.
And most of all ... I don’t know if I ever want to sleep without her again. I didn’t dream last night. She chased everything away.
I look up when the door slides open. Wordlessly, she adjusts the taps, cooling the water considerably, and then she steps in with me. She’s naked and when I look at her body ... I see every single thing I did to her last night. And I can feel what she did to me.
I’m on her before she can even shut the door behind her all the way and neither one of us notices that we eventually run out of hot water entirely. We’re waterlogged, pruned, and I’m all cried out when I open the balcony doors so we can listen to the ocean and climb into the bed with her. Once again, she cradles me and not the other way around. She kisses my head and then my mouth before she says, "Whatever made you cry ... I can’t help you with it if you don’t tell me."
Her skin smells like lilac soap and I don’t think we have lilac soap in the house. "It feels wrong to be happy when so much is ... uncertain."
"Your dad’s gonna be fine and if we can give your mother a cookbook ... he’ll stay that way."
I laugh. "True."
"She’s a great woman. I like her."
"She really is amazing," I reply. "But I’m not just talking about my dad. Jasper is obviously smitten with you."
"Ooooh, and you’ve taken his woman, huh? Guilt’s a bitch, Torres. Ignore it until it goes away."
She traces lazy patterns on my arm and I feel the tension start to leave my body. "What will happen when we go home, Erica?"
"What do you want to happen?"
I don’t hesitate. "This."
"I can do that. Anything else?"
"I want to be able to hold your hand at work, but I can’t. And that makes me a homophobe or a -"
"You know what? I don’t need you to hold my hand at work to know that you’ve got me in your palms. And you’re not homophobic ... I can guarantee you that your feelings and your worry and your doubt ... that’s all part of the journey." She tightens her grip on me. "I took it myself."
"How did you know you were gay?"
"After I banged half the swim team in an attempt to prove that I liked penis and flat chests ... I decided to stop fighting the attraction I had to Rachel and she taught me ... how to ride the bike."
"Was it ... hard?"
"We never came out of the closet if that’s what you want to know. We were best friends outside the house and lovers inside it and when she died ... her parents shocked me by writing ‘beloved partner’ on her headstone. They never acknowledged it past that and as nice as that was ... I wish they had told her that they accepted our life. We didn’t know that they knew."
I gasp and sit up. "Rachel was Buddha’s owner. She’s the one in the pictures in your hallway."
"Leukemia. She fought it for two years."
"She was beautiful." I say and I mean it, remembering the woman’s smile. "How long were you with her?"
"Six years." Erica pulls me back down and under the cover. "It’s cold."
"Were you with other women, too?"
"I’ve dated in the four years since she’s been gone and I’ve had sex with a couple of those women, yes."
"Do you like men, too?"
"I’ve yet to meet one."
"Yep," she laughs and bites my earlobe, then my neck. "Any more questions, Cal?"
"Were you scared? Of ... being someone else?"
"Scared? No. I was more afraid of not being someone else. Because who I was ... was a stranger." She slides her hand over my stomach. I hold my breath because I think she’s going to go further, but she doesn’t. She rests it against my waist and nuzzles my cheek with her nose. "You feel good."
I listen to her breathing even out and I turn further into her. She murmurs my name in her sleep and pulls me closer.
When I doze off ... I’m not thinking about coming out of closets or what people will say about it. I’m thinking about how she feels and how I know she already loves me ... even though she hasn’t said it outright. She shows me repeatedly. I’m thinking about the way she is with Jasper and how she kissed my tears away in the shower. I’m thinking that I don’t have to have all the answers or change who *I* am because this isn’t about being gay or straight anymore ... it’s about finding another human being who cherishes your good values and tolerates your bad. I connected with her before the sex ever happened and even though it’s wonderful ... she sustains me without it.
I’m not afraid when I go to sleep.
But a few hours later ... I’ll be terrified.
I’ll be scared straight.
"OH MY GOD!"
I sit bolt upright and beside me, Erica does the same thing. I have the sense to keep the cover up over my naked breasts, but she doesn’t. It all hangs out and I watch my mother’s bottom jaw drop to her chest. To say that I’m mortified is putting it mildly. I know that the smell of sex is clinging to the room and I know that my face tells her that what she can’t believe is what she should believe. "Mom-"
She holds up her hand and cuts me off. Lori Anne Torres has never been speechless. Never. I’d rather feel her wraith than the silence. I don’t hear anything except Erica’s ragged breathing. This is one of those moments were you hang by a thread over the snapping jaw of an alligator and you can’t let go because you want to live, but you know you’re inevitably dying so you’re tempted. All the blood rushes to my head and I want to reach for my robe, but I know I’ll draw back a nub because my mother is about to bite.
Instead, she puts a hand over her mouth, looks at me, looks at Erica, and rushes from the room.
Erica reaches for me, but I dart from the bed, grab my robe, and rush from the room. "MOM!"
I’ve made my mother cry three times in my life. The first time was when I was fourteen and she found out that I had skipped school. It’s not like I was going to get high with friends. I skipped because the spitballs in my hair got the better of me and I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to the beach and sat there until my mother found me and she threatened to spank me, but she yanked me into her arms and sobbed instead. The second time was when I left for college. She held it together until they announced the last call for my plane. I started to cry because she did and I missed that plane because she couldn’t let me go. The first thing I did when I finally made it to my dorm room was call her and tell her I missed her already. I cried myself to sleep that night because I had hurt her by leaving her. The third time I made her cry ... I called her and told her I had eloped. She was silent for two minutes and then she fell apart and told me that she hoped I missed her being there as much as she would always miss not being able to see it ... because she was sure that would be sufficient punishment. She assured me she would never get over it and that, I think, is why she didn’t cry over my divorce. She hated George for what he deprived her of.
She’s crying now, though. I stand outside the door of the master bathroom and knock repeatedly, begging her to let me in. She’s crying harder than I did when I curled around the toilet in Erica’s bathroom after Mark cheated on me. Hell, harder than I cried when I finally admitted to myself that George had never loved me at all. "Mom! Please!"
I’m crying now. I’m crying so hard that I don’t even notice that Jasper has come into the room until he sits down in the floor at my feet and pats my leg. He decides to help me call for our mother and it’s his voice, not mine, that causes her to pull the door open. She doesn’t even look at me as she tells him to get up and go brush his teeth. She’s washed the makeup off her face and when Jasper leaves the room, she swats away the hand I reach toward her. "Go home," she says, through gritted teeth.
"I am home, Mom."
"Your - your father nearly died and you bring this - this perversion into *his* house?"
"It’s not what you -"
"I know what it is. I saw it!" She gives me the look she’s famous for, the one that convinces you you’re about to die. "Get that ... that woman ... and leave. I’ll tell your father that you had to get back to work and didn’t want to tell him goodbye. And so help me GOD, Calliope, don’t you come back here with her. Don’t you ever tell him that you - that this is - he’d be as ashamed as I am."
"What if your brother had been the one to wake you up!? What if he had been exposed to that ... that trash!?" She rubs a hand over her face and I think she looks old. When she starts to cry again, I want her to kill me. She looks at me and says, "Go."
"You don’t understand what -"
"I don’t want to understand it!" she yells. "I’m going to take Jasper with me and I don’t want to see you again until you’ve got this out of your system."
"It’s not something-"
"You were married less than eight months ago, Callie! Married! To a man! This is a phase." She sobs again and it’s hard to understand her now. "It has to be a phase because I didn’t raise you like this and God knows that I want better for you."
She storms past me when I don’t move. I hear her yelling for Jasper to come with her and hear him loping down the hall.
He doesn’t say goodbye to me.
Maybe he’s forgotten that I’m here already.
I want to forget that I exist at all.
Just like she did a few days ago ... Erica calls the airport. I’m inconsolable as I pack my things and every time she touches me I shove her away. I wear dark sunglasses as we stand in front of my house and wait for the cab. The sun is shining and I hate the fact that the world is doing its stupid fucking normal spin when it should have stopped and let me off. When the cab arrives, I don’t wait for the driver to load my luggage, I toss it into the trunk and get into the front seat. I lean my head against the glass as we roll down the driveway and I watch until the house I hated growing up is no longer in the rear view mirror.
I don’t know if it’ll ever be the same when and if I come back.
I want my dad and when we drive past the hospital, I crane my neck and watch until I can’t see it anymore, then I let go and cry again.
The driver clears his throat, but he doesn’t speak.
Neither does Erica.
At the airport, I move like a zombie from one point to another. I wordlessly refuse to eat or drink anything and I check my phone twice to see if my mom has called me. I even lock myself in the stall of the bathroom to send her a text saying that I get it, that I’m sorry, that I was wrong. I tell her that I was weak and gullible and that it’s Erica’s fault. I tell her so much that the texts break into seven messages and then I sit there like a bump on a log waiting for her to write back and tell me to come home.
We’re in first class again and I’m in the widow seat. I usually like staring down at the ground below and zipping through the clouds, but right now, at this moment ... I want it to crash. I want to go down and not have to worry about getting up again. Four hours of staring at nothing and letting a steady stream of tears roll down my face isn’t helping me. Erica hasn’t said a single word to me and if I had not slept with her ... she’d know what to say .. because your best friend always knows what to say. If I had not slept with her ... I’d still be in Florida, sitting on my dad’s bed, arguing with him about his treatment. I hope they get another doctor who is just as good as Erica is ... because I’m not there to make sure.
I shouldn’t have done it, I tell myself. I knew better. I like penis. I like men. That’s the natural order of things and if my mother had caught me in bed with Mark ... she wouldn’t have fallen apart. She probably would have asked me if he was as good in bed as he looked. But that’s not what happened. She thinks I’m perverted and sick and God help me ... maybe I am. Because I want to put my head on her shoulder and tell her she's worth it.
We land with no words passed between us and we walk through the airport side by side with the Grand Canyon between us. We look like strangers who just happen to have the same stride, two women who may have struck up a conversation on a connecting flight and are still too happy for the conversation to go our separate ways. While we stand in front of the luggage carousel she finally breaks under the weight of no words. "You will never know how sorry I am," she says. "I - I should have gone back to my room. I woke up early and I thought about it, but I - I couldn’t let you go."
She has to let me go now, I think.
"CALLIE!" I whirl around and see Mark Sloan standing a few feet away. He has a duffel bag over his shoulder and a ticket in his hand. He looks like absolute hell and I watch him hurry toward me. He stops a couple of feet away and says, "I got your parent’s address after I broke into the personnel files. I'm on probabtion for it. I was on my way to Miami to be with you. Is - is your father okay?"
My shoulders sag, the pieces of my heart that can still function with sharp broken edges keep pushing my blood through my veins, and I fall apart. When he wraps his arms around me ... I let him catch me. I let him hang onto me and I can feel his paper ticket against my back. He was coming to me. If he had gotten there sooner ...
I don’t know how long we stand there. I take off my sunglasses and drag my arm over my eyes, trying to mop up my tears. When I turn back toward the luggage carousel ... Erica’s gone.
She’s not forgotten.
Even when Mark picks my suitcase out of the mass of identical pieces with ease ... because he knows that the ace bandage around the handle sets it apart ... I’m thinking about her.
I’ll do that the rest of the night.
I’ll dial her number and stop myself before I hit send and I’ll cry myself to sleep on the sofa in Cristina’s living room with Erica’s hateful dog curled against me while Mark sits in the chair across from me looking as helpless and hopeless and lost as I feel.
When you lock yourself into a box and keep the key inside with you ... people have no choice but to sit on the outside and look in.
Luckily ... or maybe because my story isn’t finished yet ... that lock will be picked and I’ll keep going.
I’ll just fight myself every step of the way.
I'd love to hear from you. :)
Speak on it! :)