Instead of rolling around, fighting with the sheets I surprise myself by falling asleep quickly but I dream a hundred dreams. Dreams of what could have been, of Chris and Christian playing in a park, Christian loving and cherishing me, of sunshine and meadows and happy laughter. It taunts and teases me with endless, happy possibilities and my blooming melancholy flowers into a gripping sadness.
I wake up in a torrent of tears, my ears and pillow wet from weeping and both my hands are pressed to my heart in a bid to hold the breaking pieces together. The clock is blinking furiously, a witching hour at 04:27am. I turn on my side, staring into the darkened room that seems to match the shade of my soul. In a moment of weakness, of utter desolation I break my unspoken rule and allow myself to look back on happy times with Christian.
Every clue was there. The way he made love to me, the way he said my name, the way he changed for me, his overprotectiveness and his jealousy, his desire to give me the best of everything – things I didn’t even know I longed for. I think back on the many times that he told me, in absolute and clear words that he cared. The recollection brings with it a myriad of erotic images and for the first time I see us as others would have seen us; completely caught up in one another, unable to deny the fire that burned so wild, so untamed between us. It’s a startlingly bright revelation.
As these memories wash over my psyche, a slow and sexy desire begins to curl through my body, spreading, melting and warming in its wake. Yesterday a slumbering tiger roused by its keeper, now demanding and hungry. I hear my own breath excited as I slide my hands over my now, sensitised body. I’ve never done this before – take to my own flesh like this. There was never any need pre-Christian and when I left him, my desire stayed behind along with him and my shattered heart.
You can do this, my inner goddess is smiling her encouragement.
My subconscious’ hiss is disapproving; he’s not going to like it.
But he’s not here I think longingly. I run my hands over my breasts, pausing to feel the erect nipples under my timid, exploring fingers. I softly circle my flattened palms over the mounds and feel the exquisite tingling zip down my belly and into my groin. I pinch the straining buds firmly, between my thumb and forefinger, the sweet sting ripping a silent cry from my throat, it makes me want more…..
Bolder now I slip my right hand into my sleep shorts where I instantly connect with the live wire in my sex. My body shudders as it recalls the delicious sensations it’s capable of. Vaguely I hear my own moan as my finger gently circles my clitoris.
With my eyes closed I recall his touch, his finger sinking into me then sucking off my slick desire. I can almost feel his teeth on my lip, my jaw and his hot breath on my feverish skin. The other hand is working my breast, kneading and squeezing, worrying my aching nipple. It sends the rhythm of my right into overdrive.
Ah! His mouth on me, hot and wet. The look in his eyes as he watched me yield in fevered response and I surrender – effortlessly. My body taking over, my back arcing a bow. Everything clenches, stiffening as my orgasm quakes through me.
I’m an autumn leaf falling from a tree; gently the soft breeze carries me back to earth. Whoa! It’s not Christian-induced pleasure but incredible none the less.
Remind me why I walked away from that?! Oh, yes, my damned insecurity! I scowl at myself. What am I going to say to him today? What do I want?
In my lovely, sated, jelly-bone state I flip through these thoughts in my mind. I want him back I admit to myself. That’s the plain and simple truth of it. I should never have left but I did. I can’t change that no matter how much I’d like to but I can’t deny that I want him, any way I can get him. I smile at the words he once said to me floats through my mind. I want him to love me and our child and with that, the seed of a plan slowly unfurls to life.
My realisation galvanises me into action. Time for a pampering bath, best to look well groomed and irresistible. Apart from a good all-over exfoliation, I have to shave my legs and pluck my wayward eyebrows back into submission. In hind sight I’m glad we didn’t end up devouring each other yesterday. Spikey leg hairs coupled with practical, cotton undies doesn’t exactly pave the way for unbridled passion.
No more “mommy-uniform” around Christian. I’m so glad that I couldn’t decide what to wear to my proposed meeting and ended up packing two of my good dresses.
Your only good dresses, my subconscious reminds me snidely.
I ignore her. I might even be lucky enough to get a quick haircut before I meet him, I passed a hairdresser in the lobby downstairs.
In front of the bathroom mirror I stand stark naked. I hate to do this to myself but it’s time for an honest appraisal. I’m half keen, half afraid to see what Christian sees when he looks at me. It’s been a long while since I’ve had a hard look at myself – why would I? Thankfully my body survived pregnancy well. My breasts are still nice and full, if anything, a little bigger. Surely that can’t be a bad thing.
I tilt my head to the side and continue my stocktake. My belly is almost as flat as it used to be but not quite as taut. The emergency caesarean scar is barely visible through my pubic hair, the line faded to a soft pink. Mostly I look the same I muse as my critical eye roams my bared reflection. I guess that’s the great thing about having a child at such a young age. I’ll always be pale but I don’t like to way my eyes seem so large and my hip bones jut out when I’m this thin. I need to gain a few pounds to fill out the empty curves.
After my vigorous beauty regime I take over the kitchen to make a start on breakfast for us. It’s just past six now and Chris will be up soon, I wonder what he’ll make of the new room.
Right on cue I hear him call, “Mommy, moooommmyyyy!” the note of anxiety in his little voice understandable.
A few hurried strides takes me to him, “hey big boy. Don’t fret, how did you sleep?” my soothing mommy-voice is instinctive and on hand to calm him.
“What happened to my room?” His look is relieved but still surprised as his large eyes look trustingly into mine.
I slide into his bed and pull him into the circle of my arms, “We moved last night after you went to sleep buddy. Gran and I thought you might like this room better.” I’m smiling into his hair as he bands an arm around my neck.
“Does it have any animals?” He breaks free from my embrace as excitement lights his innocent face.
I laugh, “No buddy but it does have a big TV with Discovery Channel and a few that only has cartoons!”
“Wow mommy, can I see, can I please mommy, can I?” He’s already running to the lounge.
Reluctantly I shove off the bed, following in his energetic wake. He runs around, exploring every corner then finally gives it all his stamp of approval. His grin is wide as he takes in the big screen with me flicking through the boggling choices.
When he settles for Discovery featuring African meerkats I sit with him, watching for a few minutes. We giggle together at their funny antics, it leaves me with a bitter-sweet sentiment clutching my heart, I so want Christian to have this – to share in all the fun and love a child can bring. I want Chris to have his father.
“Are you ready for something to eat bud?” I ask him.
“Uh-huh” and a small nod is all I get from him. He’s totally engrossed as the screen flickers across his glued features.
Just as I finish laying the table my mom makes a bleary-eyed appearance. Suddenly weary, I feel unsure where I stand with her after last night’s full disclosure. I give her a tentative, testing smile and for a moment she just looks at me, an impassive arrangement on her oh-so- acquainted face. My nerves give way to proper anxiety, forcing me to ask, “Are we okay mom?”
“Oh honey, I’ve made some stupid choices in my life. Husband number three probably the biggest,” she says dryly and flicks me an arched brow. “Who am I to judge and besides, I can never stay mad at you. At least you have the opportunity to try and fix your mess. But please,” her one hand rests on my shoulder and the other is tucking a stray strand of hair behind my ear, “I need you to promise me that you’ll do everything you can to make this right!” She sounds quite stern, her usual soft voice steely with her demand.
“I will mom; in fact, I’m already working on a plan.” I give her a wink with a smile, hoping to both lighten the mood and reassure her.
“It’s not going to be easy.” She warns and shakes her head sadly, “What you did is damned near unforgivable. I just want to make sure that you know how important this is and not only for you.” Her eyes dart to a blissfully unaware Chris.
“I know mom,” the shame follows quickly, stinging my cheeks, my rash decision beginning to reach well beyond my wildest expectations and it leaves me uncomfortable. Just how far is this going to ripple out?
“Okay then,” she concedes, still eyeing me dubiously.
“I’m just about ready with breakfast, take a seat, I’ll bring you some coffee.” I’m keen to get away from her scrutiny to pull myself together.
We all sit down and enjoy a pleasant breakfast, mainly because Chris is sweetly entertaining as he tells us about the meerkat’s adventures. It’s hard not to be swept up in his wide-eyed enthusiasm.
After breakfast I place a call to reception in the hope of securing an emergency haircut. I’m stunned at my luck; maybe this will mark a turning point for me. I snap up the 08:30 appointment with e renewed sense of optimism.
My hair is shiny and smooth; I watch it ripple around me as I look this way and that in the hairdresser’s mirror. “Good job,” I smile appreciatively at her reflection. When I settle the bill I suffer a serious pang of guilt, I shouldn’t be spending money that I don’t have.
A quick dash takes me back up to our room where I change. I choose a striking black and white wrap-dress with hot pink detail and capped sleeves. It’s a cotton/lycra blend so it clings to all the right places. It’s feminine and flirty and sits just above my knee. I’m grateful that it’s a designer brand even though I got for a steal at a sample sale.
I pair it with delicately strapped black heeled sandals and leave my hair loose in a wild mane around my face. Lip-gloss and lashings of mascara finish the natural look. At least I look rested and I’m still nicely flushed from my early-morning glory.
Mmhh, might have to do that again or better yet, get Christian to do it for me…..
You’re getting way ahead of yourself; my subconscious puts me in my place. She’s right of course; I should watch my expectations carefully.
I borrow my mom’s perfume and spritz it all around me. It’s light and floral with a hint of sexy musk. I know only too well how evocative a smell can be, Christian’s must be one of the sexiest things about him.
I know I look good from my mom’s reaction. She hasn’t seen me this dressed-up in years. She gives me a wolf whistle and Chris claps his hands with glee, “Mommy, you look pretty, like a princess,” he hugs me around my legs. My heart melts; high praise indeed, what more can a mommy ask for? I ruffle his hair and bend down to give him a tight hug.
“You look gorgeous honey, try not to cry, men always get nervous around a crying woman.” Is her parting wisdom to me as I head out to my date with destiny.
It’s Sunday so the traffic is mercifully light. I mentally run through the things that I would like to project today. I want to appear confident but still show Christian that I’m deeply sorry. I want to show him that I’ve changed, that I’m more mature and better able to handle the things that he and life can throw at me.
I want to steer clear of his self-loathing and try to coax out the happy, carefree Christian that I know is hiding in there somewhere. I’m still not sure how I’ll handle any questions about Chris, especially if he wants to meet him. I think that I might have to gauge his mood in the moment and make an effort to be as accommodating as possible. He is Chris’ father after all. I hope fervently that he has gotten over the worst of the shock.
Most of all I don’t want to fight with him. I’m going to make a monumental effort to stay calm and not to cry. Even though I’ve spent some time on my appearance to entice him, I don’t want us rushing into bed, only to regret it later.
If all goes to plan we have to work up to that, give us time to heal, maybe even start dating like regular people. Perhaps if we didn’t go from zero to a hundred miles per hour in two seconds flat, like the last time, we wouldn’t be in this situation. I’m feeling reservedly optimistic but the butterflies in my stomach are frantic.
The cab is another unwelcome expense but what can I do? There was no way I could take Christian up on his offer to send Taylor, his disapproving stare is more than I can handle right now.
Once I’m on the sidewalk in front of the Conrad I smooth my dress over my thighs and suck in a deep breath. The yogic mantra I repeat in my head is calm in, nerves out. I walk into the hotel and follow the signs to the Bar at Level 25. When I stride through the arched doorway the familiar pull crackles and sparks as our gazes meet.
My heart stops and starts, riveting me to the floor. His hooded, grey eyes betray his surprise, possibly because I look so different from yesterday. He’s his usual stunning self in crisp white linen shirt and perfectly fitting jeans. I feel a slight surge in my confidence and amaze myself with poised grace as I move with to meet him.
My inner goddess is dressed in a red sheath, laying on a black piano singing a breathless, sexy tune. Her bedroom eyes are fluttering seductively at him.
He takes charge of our greeting – no fumbling like last night. He places a hand on my elbow and leans in to kiss me softly but full on the lips. My palm goes up to meet his chest and I feel him stiffen in response so I keep my touch light. Our cautious reunion gives way to astonishment as a quick succession of flashes blind me momentarily. When I regain my vision I see the back of a guy in an ill-fitting suit beating a hasty retreat.
“Fucking paparazzi!” Christian spits in disgust. “You’d think that in a place like this you’d be free from prying trash.” His eyes are cloudy with his irritation. It takes him a long minute before he comes back to me.
When he does his focus is intense, taking in every detail. “You look lovely Anastasia,” his voice is a caress to my name, a slight ripple marks his forehead as his head cocks to one side, like he’s trying to figure me out.
My blush is not far behind as I simper my thanks. My subconscious is looking terse, peering at me from above her winged spectacles. Schoolgirl!
“Please, sit.” Ever the gentleman he pulls out an oversized wicker chair and I sit on the edge, my ankles crossed and back straight. I smile up at him and notice the humorous curve of his gorgeous mouth.
Our table is a small square surrounded by four chairs. I expect him to sit opposite me but instead he chooses the chair next to mine and I elect to take it as a sign. A good one. He rests his elbows on the table and steeples his hands in front of his mouth, lightly tapping a finger on his lip. “You seem relaxed, glowing even,” he narrows his eyes at me and tilts his head again, ensuring the pink flush racing over my cheeks.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that you got laid,” he’s wearing a sphinx -like smile, indecently flirtatious and extremely unsettling.
What the….? Hang on a minute, this conversation is outrageous! He should be reserved, formal maybe even angry but instead I’m facing Mr Playful. And another thing, how the hell does he know?
Immediately my smile slips away along with my eyes that find the floor. I don’t know what to say, “I…. uhm…” I stutter as I squirm in my seat, the pretty pink flush has turned an alarming shade of red.
“Anastasia, do you have something to tell me?” Instantly Mr Playful is replaced by Mr Angry. His voice is menacingly soft, his eyes hard as flint. He clenches his jaw, trying to hold onto his fraying temper.
I’m frantically fiddling with the napkin in my lap as it occurs to me that he must think that I’ve had actual sex. “It’s not what you think!” I squeak, eager to correct him but dying of shame. I’m not brave enough to face his wrath.
“Then you can enlighten me. Maybe you fail to recall that I was married to you. You don’t forget the flush of your first and only love’s face after pleasure.” Strangely this strikes me as such a romantic thing to say but I know from his tone that he’s barely holding it together; his look alone could melt the polar ice caps.
Dammit! This is not how I wanted this conversation to go.
I watch my plan take a nosedive, crashing and burning. Why am I always on the back foot with this man? My fear of his mood makes me talk. “Yesterday when we… I was…” I shake my head, embarrassment steals my words.
Please, please can we rewind? I think before my discomfort morphs into anger, who the hell is he to tell me what I can and can’t do? He’s the one that unlocked this beast in the first place!
“I…I touched uhm, myself….. this morning….. if you must know,” I take on a haughty lilt, my irritation clear and my humiliation complete.
He pays no attention to my tone. “You did?” He sounds surprised as his head whips back, regarding me with an amused slide of his lips. “Why?” His voice has turned soft, even coaxing, eyes smouldering with heat.
Jeez, how embarrassing! “What do you mean why, you know why!” I spit and hide my eyes again.
He regards me for a moment, a long finger tapping thoughtfully, “Mmh, yes. I guess I do.” Thankfully he picks up a menu and pages through it with a casual indifference that leaves me fuming and a little breathless.
What does that mean?! I’m so out of my depth here.
A waiter appears at our table, acknowledging us with a polite nod. Christian halts my riotous thoughts with a question, “What would you like to eat Anastasia?”
Instead of answering him I direct my order to the waiter himself, requesting a small fruit salad and English Breakfast tea. I’m way too mad to talk to him right now.
What happened to being accommodating and calm? My subconscious voice is dripping with sarcasm. I hope my answering glare will get her to back off.
Christian orders an omelette plus coffee and once the waiter leaves his eyes are on me again. “Tell me Anastasia, is that a habit of yours now, pleasuring yourself?” He’s still grinning, obviously enjoying my discomfort.
I groan, can the floor please open up and swallow me now? I have to nip this conversation in the bud; I refuse to have this conversation with him – Bastard! He’s eyes are laughing at me in spite of my obvious distress – it’s infuriating!
“Not that it’s any of your business but no, and I am not going to discuss this any further!” I glare at him to emphasise my point just as my stupid, uncooperative face betrays me with fresh blush.
I try desperately to steer us onto a new topic. “I thought we were supposed talk about where we can go from here. I wanted to see if we could work out a mutually agreeable path but it seems that you’re not taking this seriously. At all!” Can we please get back on track? I plead in silence.
He holds up both hands in surrender and chuckles to himself. “Okay, okay, I see that you’ve displaced your sense of humour this morning, let’s get on with the business at hand shall we?” He’s trying to keep a straight face, sucking in his cheeks to stop himself from smiling.
What’s going on with him? Has he lost his marbles? Why the fuck is he so happy?
I’m at a complete loss. I was expecting many things today: anger, fury even, resentment, a whole lot of serious conversation and possibly some grovelling on my part but I am not prepared for playful Fifty. I open my mouth to speak but snap it shut again, the sound drawing his attention back to me.
So much for the best laid plans!
A flash of worry crosses his face as he takes in my expression, “Anastasia, what’s wrong?” He reaches across the table and places a warm, comforting hand over mine.
“What’s wrong you ask? What’s wrong?” My incredulous voice climbs in pitch, almost to a whine. I snatch my hands away from his hold, instantly agitated. “Yesterday I had the shock of my life, running into you like that, and I’m sure it was a shock for you too. Yet here you sit, joking and…and flirting with me like nothing’s happened!”
He eyes me wearily, the shutters coming down to hide the emotion in his eyes. His hands glide across the table, back to his camp as he leans against the chair. “What more do you want us to say? We were both incredibly stupid. I failed you on so many levels and you ran away, hiding our son from me.” His timbre is dry and his expression, grave as he summarises our past into a neat little sentence but to me it’s plain that he still doesn’t understand.
I realize that his self-loathing is working in my favour right now. He obviously feels that we are equally to blame and if that’s the case, he will probably find it much easier to accept my transgression and forgive me. Maybe that’s why he’s so happy, he thinks we can just drop it and start fresh. He clearly wants too; he wouldn’t be flirting with me if he had no interest in reconciling. Could I use this? Could I use his brokenness to fix us?
Both my inner goddess and subconscious are shaking their heads. A rare moment of complete agreement. No, I made this bed, I have to take responsibility.
I gather my wits and try to formulate a clear and concise statement to penetrate the deep layer of self-loathing that obviously still fogs his brain. “Christian, I still feel that you haven’t listened to me.” My voice is quiet and determined as I will him to follow my train of thought. “I was incapable of seeing what we had, not uncertain, not unsure but incapable,” I emphasise the last word, peeking up to measure his response.
“It was my issues, my own insecurities stemming from not believing in myself. Maybe if I had done something to earn your love I would have felt more capable of accepting it.” My gaze finds my fidgeting fingers in my lap, obscuring the pain in my eyes. I force myself to breathe through the torrent; I am not going to cry, I am not going to cry.
“For fuck sake Anastasia! This is then, all over again. You’re the one not listening!” He bangs his fist on the table and the cutlery protests by jumping out of their laid places; his eyes bright with fury. “Today, meeting you here, trying to lighten the mood, I was trying to give us a break! Making better choices, that’s what we should be talking about. But if you are determined to bring this up then let’s go there! We both fucked up but I still maintain that my failure is far greater than yours.” He’s running a hand through his hair as he tries to manage his distress.
Holy cow! This is not a competition! I gape at him, my jaw almost dropping on the table. How is he still going on about this? I curse his self-loathing.
“This is where your usual sharp intellect lets you down”. His cold eyes bore into mine, slate grey into ice blue.
“You still don’t see the effect you had one me. You say that you didn’t want to make me into something that I wasn’t, referring of course to that fact that you didn’t allow me to beat the crap out of you in my playroom.” He’s tone is commanding, drawing me in, forcing me take notice so I listen carefully.
“Understand Anastasia that punishing women was a way for me to deal with the crack whore’s failure to protect me. That anger and pain needed an outlet and it was a means to an end. But as I grew to love you – something I never believed was possible for me,” a wry twist appears on his full mouth, “and I started to see that you loved me. I began to hope that maybe, I was worth loving. Your love eclipsed the anger and the pain and for the first time I felt myself letting the past go.” I can see his Adam’s apple move up and down as he swallows, marshalling his thoughts. The atmosphere is strained but I’m hanging on his every word.
“I had to tie women up if I wanted to be near them, I couldn’t bear it if they touched me but your touch was different, you made me want it – crave it. You made me desire the feel of your hands moving across my skin thereby healing another issue that I thought I’d have to live with for the rest of my life. You made my broken body whole.” His gaze is measured and steady, watching me watching him. I long to comfort him, to lose myself in him but I don’t want to interrupt.
He’s going to go through each point, like he used to when we were first discussing his bizarre contract. “When you shared my bed I didn’t have any nightmares, my sleep undisturbed by horrific memories.” It’s his turn to drop his gaze and for a beat he turns thoughtful.
“That, my dear Anastasia, is what you did for me. So, I don’t know if that fits your parameters of “doing something to earn my love” but as far as I was concerned it was much more than I ever dared to hope for.” He’s utterly sincerity has a disarming effect on me, stealing away my barriers of defence. “Things that thousands of dollars of therapy,” he waves his hand dismissively, “and a carefully planned BDSM lifestyle could never do.”
“Oh Christian”, I groan as fresh tears burn behind my eyes. Hearing him say these things out loud, it all makes perfect sense. On the one hand it makes me feel fantastic, knowing that I could bring him such hope and peace but, on the other, I want to kick myself for not seeing it sooner. I was so caught up in my own insecurity missed it all.
He correctly identifies the understanding dawning in my eyes “So now you see, I never gave anything up for you Anastasia. We grew, as a couple; we both compromised along the way and found a new course. Our own course. I don’t think that my possessive, jealous and controlling nature will ever change and I still want to see the people that I love safe and eating properly,” a sardonic smile plays at his lips, “but all-in-all I was much better off with you.” His chin points in my direction as he searches my face, his hand slowly snaking back to mine. This time I gladly comply and ever so gently he skates his thumb over my knuckles.
With this fresh perspective and new insight I pick out the moments where I missed the mark, my insecurities overriding information that should’ve been obvious. I still don’t agree that any of this is his fault and it’s clearer than ever before that I belong with him, to him. That I deserve him. Maybe I needed to go through this baptism of fire, the anguish of heart break, in order to understand what it feels like for someone else to make you whole again.
I take a deep, fortifying breath, steeling myself for what I want to say as I absentmindedly reciprocate his caress, “I want you back.”
Be kind and review, please.