I tried to focus as I opened my eyes. Where was I? What happened? My body shivered beneath the old afghan I was wrapped up in. "Hey, you're awake. Thank goodness."
I squinted as the light reflected off the mounds of snow outside the back window. He stepped closer and his face came into focus.
"Yeah, it's okay. You're going to be alright. Here, drink this," he said softly, as he handed me a steaming mug. I waved him off, the effort almost too much for my body to bear. My breathing labored as I tried to speak.
"You passed out. Or something. I don't know. The line went dead so I drove over here as fast as I could."
"We were on the phone?" He nodded. "I don't remember." He gave me a shy smile as he helped me up. "Was it snowing?" Another nod. "How did you get here?" He laughed. I should have known better than to ask. Matty was always up in all kinds of dangerous behavior. A little snow wouldn't stop him.
I turned to the window. This was not a little snow.
I looked around the living room. The fireplace glowed and the cats were snuggled up on top of each other on the rug in front of it. One raised his fluffy little head to look at me, settling back down shortly after.
"Useless," I laughed, but it hurt. "Here, let me help you sit up." I moved slowly, leaning on him for support. My labored breathing caught me by surprise. Was it the pain, or being so close to him? What was he even doing here? I was on the phone with him? Matty and I hadn't spoken in ages.
"Matt ... why did I? Why were we ...?" He laughed as I struggled for words. "I called you?" I finally blurted.
"Sort of. I don't know - it may have been an accident. I think your butt dialed me, or something. All I know is I said hello, and eventually you answered, but then you sounded funny, and the line went dead."
"So you came straight over? How did you even know? How did you get in?"
"I still have my key," he answered without looking at me. "I guess I should have given it back, but I ..." I started shaking my head. "You didn't answer so I came in. Found you on the floor over there." He nodded towards my kitchen. I couldn't remember any of it. "Anyway, with the snow coming as hard and fast as it was, I didn't know who else to call or what else to do. So here I am."
"Do I need a doctor?"
"I don't think so. I don't know. But even if you do, we can't go anywhere. We're totally snowed in." I heard him whistle softly. "For a while," he added.
"Think you can try to drink this now?"
"What is it?"
"Warm water with lemon and honey. Didn't quite know what else to make. You should try to sip it at least." I nodded and he came closer. "Here," he placed the mug in my shaking hands and wrapped his hands around mine. Slowly, together, we lifted the mug to my lips.
Have his eyes always been so blue? I shivered.
"I'm okay. I mean, I've got it." I looked down to our entwined hands. He didn't let go. "Matt."
"Uh, yeah." He stood up quickly. "So, what do you have as far as supplies in this place, anyway?" I looked up at him. "Bottled water?" I shook my head. "Canned goods?" I shrugged. "Flashlights?" I think I laughed, but I can't be sure.
"Candles. I've got loads of candles."
"Great!" He jumped up. "Where?"
"Most of them are upstairs. In the closet next to the ..." My voice trailed off.
"I'll find them." He practically bolted out of my line of sight.
I stood up slowly and made my way to the rug, picking up one cat and then the other. "You traitors," I whispered. "He's here like ten minutes and you're already eating out of his hand, aren't you?" They purred against my touch. "Traitors, the both of you."
"Ehem." I looked up. "Sorry." I could swear I saw a slight blush creep up from beneath his collar. "They remembered me, I guess." I nodded. "I found these, these okay?" He held up some pillared candles. I think I shrugged. Could he remember when we last used those? The last time he walked up those stairs, the last time he was in my house? Did he remember any of it?
"Huh?" I drifted back to reality.
"In the kitchen, the drawers --" He didn't need me to say more. He knew. Things had not changed that much since he was here last. People don't change that much that they move around where they keep their stash of matches, right?
He set everything on the kitchen island, to have at the ready for later. Later. Was he really stuck here? Seriously snowed in? We made eye contact.
"So, the radio declared a state of emergency, and they've asked everyone to stay off the roads." It was as though he had read my mind. I nodded. "Looks like you're stuck with me, kid." That sheepish grin again. I could do this. I could totally do this. Right?
"So, what's for dinner?" I asked. He laughed. I watched him pull a bunch of seemingly bizarre items out of a huge duffel bag. "Yours? What did you ...?"
"Ah, I'm always prepared, ya know?" I shook my head. "I was supposed to be going hiking this weekend. Yes, in the snowy weather. Didn't expect it to be quite this bad."
"I ruined your plans."
"Nah, Mother Nature did that. You gave me something else to do." He winked.
I could totally do this.
I was totally going to do this.
It amazed me that he stood there before me. What kind of joke was this, anyway? I had finally found myself moving on. Slowly. Surely. Taking baby steps each day. And now this?
I heard myself laugh out loud. He looked over at me. Was that concern? Puzzlement? Confusion? What, exactly? Damned if I knew.
Only a week before I couldn't stop thinking about him. After all these months there it was. A reminder. A huge reminder.
I had been cleaning up, or trying to. Getting myself ready for winter, which had seemingly kick-started the day before. I stood there and pulled shorts and T-shirts from my dresser drawers. Instead of moving slowly, carefully, I tore through the piles of clothing, tossing things left and right. Made my way to my closet, digging through the racks, shelves, whatever I came across.
Onto the bed, the floor, hanging from the doorknob. Wherever there was space, I used it. And then - there it was. I picked up my fluffy blue bathrobe and started to laugh. It was so soft, so cozy. And then I remembered.
I sat down on my bed, my body unsteady. Before I knew it I was laughing so hard tears streamed down my face. My memory never failed me, she wouldn't now. Even when I wanted her to.
I drifted back to that morning. The doorbell rang. I was in the shower, he was in bed. Barely decent. He needed to answer it. For some reason. Maybe he knew who it was? He had to get the door. I don't really remember why.
What to do, where were his clothes? He grabbed this robe and threw it on. I had heard him mumbling as the water rained down over my head, my face. My mind a blank as the hot stream pelted my neck and shoulders. I relaxed. Breathed heavily. I could have stayed in there all day. Maybe I should have.
By the time I stepped out, dripping, sopping, completely soaked ... he stood there before me, box in hand, my fluffy and soft blue robe tied around him.
I stifled a chuckle. "Who was it?" I asked him. He held up the box. "What's in the box?" I continued. He shrugged. "Wha--" He placed it down gently, shuffled it over to the side with his bare foot. He touched my cheek. I held my breath, backed up a little. Looked up at him. Reaching for me. I pulled back, slowly. Hesitantly. My resistance was not real. It never was. I exhaled. "We have to get going," I told him, turning away from him.
"Sssh." A whisper. Barely audible. His hands on my shoulders. My towel falling to the floor.
Sometimes the warmth of his touch amazed me. His hands, the strength of his grasp was too much for my heart to take, too much for my body not to respond to. He dropped my robe, and before we knew it we were face to face. He smelled like morning.
I shook my head. No need to live in those memories. No need to pain myself that way. Remember the good times. Why bother, right? He was gone now.
Only then - he wasn't. He stood here. In my living room. In front of me. No way out.
I turned, tried to focus. Looked over at him. "Huh?"
"You're shivering." I half-nodded, unaware of my body's betrayal. "Are you cold? Maybe you should put this on?"
There, in his hand, up above his head ... my fluffy and soft blue robe.
I heard myself sigh. Loudly.
I stood at the bottom step. He was whistling in the kitchen. He looked straight at me, saw me watching him.
"Mornin', Sunshine." We both flinched. It was so natural for him to say, the way it rolled right off his tongue as if he had never stopped.
His tongue ... I sighed, closing my eyes for a second. It had been so long. I cleared my head. Shivered. Pulled my robe closer.
I looked out the kitchen window. Still blanketed in white. Still blinding. Great. I let out an easy whistle.
"Still pretty rough out there." He paused. "Did you sleep okay?"
"Feeling alright this morning?"
This time nothing.
"Cats got your tongue?" I noticed the fur-balls, curled up on my sofa. I laughed. Softly. Throatily. My early morning voice finding its way.
"They sleep with you last night?" I asked. His turn to nod. I watched as he scrambled eggs. My stomach churned. "Traitors," I whispered, walking over to them. One stretched, the other curled deeper into himself. "Fantastic." I heard him laugh. Turned to catch him watching me. Smiling.
He motioned to the coffee pot.
"Seriously? You still don't know how to make a cup of coffee?" I stopped. Assumed too much, with no hesitation.
"That's what Mary is for," he answered.
"Down at the coffee shop. You haven't met her?"
"She's great. Sweetest little thing..."
I didn't want to hear about a sweet little thing named Mary.
"I'm pretty good at making my own coffee these days," I said as I walked over to the pot. I counted. "Three, four, five ... "
"Six doughnuts, please."
"Someone's pretty hungry." I gave him a polite smile. "Got one over there for me?" This guy was pretty ballsy. Acting as if he owned the place.
"Hold on, Matty. Lovely lady was here first." I smiled again. Satisfied.
"I was talking to her, actually." He looked at me. Extended his hand. "Matt." I didn't move. "Got an extra one I can take off your hands?" I don't know what happened. What made me do it. Every inch of my body was saying no. Saying walk away. And yet.
"Sure. Get my coffee and I can spare a doughnut for you." Was that just my voice? Did I really just say that? His eyes sparkled. Twinkled, even. Damn. Not smart. Joe shared a hearty laugh from behind the counter.
"Watch out, sweetheart. This one's a toughie."
"Like your day old muffins, Joe?" Matt ducked as a dishrag flew past his head.
I sat down. What the hell am I doing? What am I DOing?
He sat down across the table. Placed my coffee in front of me. "So, do you have a name?" I smiled. I couldn't help myself. Took a deep breath.
Seven, eight ... how many scoops was that? Damn. I totally lost track.
"Hey," he was waving his hand in my face. "Doughnuts okay?"
I really have to stop playing with these memories.
"Doughnuts," he repeated. "You up for some?"
He smiled, as if remembering something himself. "I also made some eggs." I shook my head. "No?"
"Not in the mood. Where'd the doughnuts come from?"
"I'm making them out of canned biscuit dough." I laughed. "I know, I know. Wonders never cease."
"No, Matty. You never cease. To amaze me. What else have you learned over these past months?" I stood against the counter, steam rising behind me. Biscuit dough sizzling on the stove.
He walked over, pushed my hair behind my ear.
"Has it been that long?" I felt my breath slowing. My arms, legs, weakening under his gentle touch.
"Yeah," I whispered.
"Where does the time go?" I shrugged.
He was so close I could smell him. Over the eggs. The doughnuts. The coffee. My stomach churned. I swallowed heavily and found myself blinking back tears.
The coffee warmed my insides, but something seemed wrong. I rolled it around my tongue and swallowed. It had a metallic taste. Coffee tastes like metal? Maybe something really was wrong with me. Isn't metal tasting an issue when you have problems with iron? I shook my head. Not another tirade of the 'what's wrong with me' kind. I was fine.
I looked down into the mug to see what was missing.
"Did you put milk in this?" I asked. Matty looked up at me from across the kitchen table and nodded. "Sugar?"
"Yep. Why? What's wrong?" I shrugged. "I may not know how to make coffee, but I know how to treat it." I laughed.
"I know. I know." He lifted his mug to his lips. Ah, those lips. I missed those lips. I made myself shift my focus to the mug in his hand. I started to laugh. He looked to see what I was laughing at.
"Oh, man. I can't believe you still have this."
"I know. I guess I just don't let go of things that easily," I heard my voice go soft.
"Yeah," he whispered. Not much of a response, but what did I expect him to say?
"Remember when your mom ..." I trailed off.
"Yeah," he whispered again.
We were cleaning up after that morning's brunch. Dishes in the sink, on the table, in the dishwasher. Where to begin.
"I'll wash, you dry?" Matt walked around the house, dancing to whatever song was stuck in his head at the moment. "Matt?" Dance, dance. Hum. Hum. "Matt? Hello? Matt?" He looked over at me. "Can you help me with these?"
"Sure." He came up behind me as I stood at the sink. "Got enough soap?" I rolled my eyes, my hands submerged beneath a layer of bubbles. He stood close enough that I could feel his breath on the back of my neck. His lips brushed against me. My skin tingled at his touch.
"Matt, come on. We'll never get this place cleaned up ..." I moaned in spite of myself. "Matthew. Seriously. You need to stop that right nowwww ..." I sighed.
"You were saying?" He lifted my arms and turned me to face him. We were eye to eye, mouth to mouth. Breathing together for a few minutes. It was me who broke our focus.
"I'll tell you what, as soon as we clean up this disaster area, we'll take care of business, okay?"
"Oh, business. Is that what I am to you now?" I laughed. "Fine."
"Great, go get me the coffee mugs, would you?" I splashed a handful of bubbles at him. He swatted my behind with a dishtowel. "Be careful with those!" I ordered, as he piled them up in his arms, one on top of the other. He handed me one at a time, slowly, carefully. I placed them in the sink. I'd be happy to just let them soak if it meant getting back into his arms more quickly. I counted as I placed them in the sudsy water. "One is missing."
"One is missing."
"How could you possibly know that?"
"I just counted. One of them is missing."
"Which one?" I went through the dirty water thoroughly. "The one you made for me. The one with the crooked handle, the painted ceramic one. The one ..." my voice trailed off. I sighed.
"The one your mother was drinking out of." He heard the exasperation in my voice.
"You can't mean to tell me that you think my mom stole our coffee mug?"
"MY coffee mug. And yeah, I'm going to go out on a limb and say she did."
"Seriously? A coffee mug. Why would she take it?"
"Why? Why does your mom do anything? She wanted it, she took it. We have to call her, Matty. It's mine, I want it back."
"Seriously, babe. Come on." I wouldn't budge. "I'll call her first thing in the morning. Let's enjoy the rest of our Sunday." I shook my head, moved towards the phone. "Baby, please."
"Matt, come on, I want it back."
"I'm sure she's taking good care of it, IF she has it."
"If?" His gaze drifted. "If? Do you really think she doesn't have it, hon?"
He shook his head. "She has it. I'm as sure as you are." He sunk down to the floor. Head into his hands. "I don't know why she does these kinds of things. I don't know how to stop her."
"You can't. You don't have to stop her, you can't. You've tried. But we have to get that back. We have to, Matt. I'm sorry." I lifted his face from his hands. "Do you want me to call her?" He shook his head. "Okay."
"Just give me a few minutes, alright?" I nodded. Leaned in, kissed his forehead, his cheeks, made my way to his mouth.
"You'll get it back for me?" I whispered. He smiled, nodded. "You can have more than a few minutes."
"I don't think this is working."
"I don't think this is working."
"I heard you."
"Then why did you say what?"
"I couldn't believe that was what you said."
A beat. A breath. Open mouth. No words. Nothing came out.
"Are you going to say something?" Shrug. "I'll take that as a no?" Nod. "Okay then."
"Okay then?" My voice rising. My face flushed. "THAT's what you're going to say?"
"What should I say? What do you want me to say?"
"Nothing?" Nod. "Okay then ..."
I couldn't breathe. I glared. My eyes were on fire. Did he see them? Did he notice? What was he thinking? Do I ask? What do I say? What do we do now?
I stood up. Put my mug in the sink. It was still full. I didn't want anymore coffee. I didn't want to be seated at the same table as him. Didn't want to be in the same room.
I felt him watch me walk upstairs. Heard him exhale as I took each step.
Once in my room, our room, I tore through it all. Is this his? Was it mine? What was mine before he came? Damn it! What the hell is this? I sorted. Thrashing loudly, I moved with intent. I paused. Listened. Nothing. He hadn't budged.
"Screw you," I muttered, under my breath. Why? Why was I whispering? He wasn't even within earshot. "Screw you."
I pulled socks out of drawers. Boxers. T-shirts. Pulled his button-downs off the hangers in my closet. MY closet. I lifted the pile, shuffled slowly. Stood at the top of the stairs and let them fly. One after another. And another. I shoved hard. I let everything slip out of my grasp.
"Here! Here you go! Make it work somewhere else. Get the hell out!"
"What?" He appeared at the bottom of the stairs, eyes blazing. "What the hell are you doing?" I watched him run his hand through his hair, an old habit I once loved. It gave him away.
"Are you kidding me? I cannot believe you're asking me that!"
"What are you doing?" He climbed the stairs. Swiftly. Barely noticing traces of his wardrobe on each step. I ran into the bedroom. "What are you doing?" Calmer now, his voice softened. A whisper, almost.
"What am I doing?" I laughed. It was loud. Crazy sounding. "I'm helping you pack." His eyes darted around the room. He stepped towards me. "Oh no." I shook my head. "YOU. You said it's not working. Isn't that what you just said?" He froze. Afraid? No. Not afraid. Sad? Was he sad? "Well?"
"I can't hear you."
"Yes. That is what I just said."
"That's what I thought," I answered, pulling out the drawer from his nightstand and dumping it on the bedroom floor.
"Stop." I kept going. "Stop!" His voice rising now. "For fuck's sake, STOP!" I looked over at him. Tears flowing freely down his cheeks.
"Don't you dare. Don't you fucking dare. I didn't do this. I didn't DO this." He stepped towards me again. "No. Matthew, you need to go. Get the hell out of here. Go." He shook his head, I watched him reach for me as he moved closer.
That's when I hit him. Slapped him straight across the face. I'd never hit anyone like that in my life.
I watched her as she sat, still, focused, unflinching.
She stared right out the windows and didn't move.
Did she even notice the way I was watching her?
She tilted her head a bit, popping her neck in that odd way she always had.
Was I even allowed to notice those things anymore? I had given up all rights to her and her eccentricities months ago. When I opened my mouth and said those stupid words. 'I don't think this is working,' my mind wandered back briefly.
I can remember watching her mouth moving and not truly hearing what it was she was saying. She seemed so ripped open. Shredded raw. That was then. Not now.
Did it even matter how much I regretted those words? Surely not. She had moved on. Look at her. How strong she is. How unmoved by my presence. If I weren't stuck here she wouldn't care. She'd be going about her business as always.
But I'm here. Why can't I just look at her simply, the way she looks at me now? Turning, pushing her hair behind her ear. Smiling, simply smiling.
"Matty?" she whispered.
"Uh, yeah? What's up?" I responded, clearing my throat mid-sentence.
"Are you okay?" I suppose I nodded. She smiled again. How I envied those who got to see that smile every day. The twinkle in her eyes. That deep and bright green all at once. "Okay, good." She seemed to be swallowing. Was that a tear? She wiped at her eyes. Wait, what was happening here? Was there a chance? Ah, she must be thinking of something. Or someone. Someone else.
Holy shit, she met someone else. She's thinking about him right now, isn't she? I hate him. I hate that bastard. Where is he, anyway? Why isn't he here while I am? How much can he even care about her if he's somewhere else when she needs him?
How stupid am I? How could I not think someone like her would move on?
Pretty freakin' stupid. Geez. She is so beautiful. Is she glowing? She might actually be glowing.
"Em?" She turned. Looked right at me. "What are you thinking right now?" She opened her mouth. Closed it. Shook her head slowly.
My throat burned. My heart felt like it was going to leap straight out of my chest. Of course she won't tell me. It's not my business. What an ass. I'm such an idiot. I took a deep breath and started towards her. "I'm sorry, Em. I'm so, so sorry."
This was absolutely the last time I would read this letter. I mean it. I'm done. I don't know why I keep reading it. We're over and yet I think that reading what he wrote to me when he meant these words is going to help. Do I think it's going to ease the pain I'm feeling?
You know when I call you that I have so much to say. You know how much you mean to me, but I just feel, right now, for some reason, the importance of putting it into words. Maybe it's because of losing my dad. I don't know. All I know is that I need to tell you how thankful I am. How grateful I feel to have had you here to support me through this. To tell you how much it means to me. How important you are to me. How much I truly love you.
Em, you've touched me in a way that no woman ever has. *snort - sorry, you know I'm a child at heart.* I can't imagine my life without you and I can't imagine I'll ever have to know. You've found a small space of my heart that was open and raw, and you moved on in and took it over. You've become a part of me and my family in a way that words don't do justice. For that, I thank you. I'll never be able to repay you enough for being who you are for me.
I love you, Emmalyn. I'm so blessed to have you in my life. I know you think my mom is a touch of crazy, and she may be, but she told me, after the funeral, after you went home and I stayed at the house with her, how lucky I was to have you. She told me to never let you go. She told me she looked forward to seeing our future together and she knew my dad would be so proud. You should have seen her, Em. You should have seen the twinkle in her eyes as the tears rolled down her cheeks. She knows how much I love you. How much you mean to me ...
I stopped there. Tears rolling down my own cheeks. So much for a forever love. So much for meaning so very much. So much for his mom's predictions.
She was wrong.
I watched as she sat there, twirling her hair in her hand. Twisting and turning the strands and thinking.
She looked down at the letters in front of her. I watched her bite her lip, an instant tell. Did she even know she did that? Was I the only one who knew? She gnawed on it slowly. Intently. I watched as she leaned forward, placing tile after tile on the unsteady board.
"Prithy?" She nodded. "That is so not a word."
"It is, too."
"In what language?" She shrugged. I knew I had her. "It's so not a word, Em."
"Oh, shut up. It's better than your last attempt."
"Hey, Glamazon is too a word. I see it all the time!"
"On what? America's Next Top Model?" she giggled, a small snort escaping.
"Did you just snort?" No way, she really did. G-d, how I missed that sound. "You did, HA! You snorted. Hilarious. I've missed hearing that." We made eye contact and she seemed to force herself to look away. Did I really just say that? Yikes. Dumb. Really dumb. "Sorry." She blushed. I might miss that even more.
Okay, getting myself together. Focus back on the game.
She took a small sip of the wine next to her. Placed the glass back down slowly. I watched her put her hand to her throat, feeling the burn. I knew red wasn't her choice, but it was all we had.
"You alright?" She nodded. "You sure?" Another nod. Maybe a half-nod. She jumped up, startled, nearly knocking the board over.
"I'll be --" she took off to the bathroom.
**He stands, waiting. Trying not to listen, but listening at the same time. Should he go to her? Should he stay where he stands? What a fool. What a fool he's been. He wants to run to her. Check on her. Hold her hair if she needs him to. But it's not his place now. And he's lost. But there's nobody else here. What should he do?**
I walk slowly, stopping to stand outside the bathroom door. "Em?" Is she crying?
Weeping. It sounds like weeping.
"Em, what happened? Can I come in?" More crying. "I'm coming in." I push the door gently, remembering that she might be right behind it. She is. I manage to squeeze through and sit down next to her. "What's wrong? What happened?" I hear my own voice whisper, softly.
She looks up at me, tears in her eyes. She's crying, and she's beautiful. She's so beautiful, even when she cries. She puts her hand to her mouth again. I shift out of the way. I hold her hair back. Her soft and beautiful hair. I sense nothing else but the need for me to be here, right now, with her.
My mind is racing ... Whatever it is I'll help her through it. If she's sick, I'll be here. I'll find a way. Whoever he is, he's gone. I want him gone. What's happening here? What has he done to her? What is wrong? Is she sick?
I can't sit still, but there is nowhere for me to go. She leans back, her head resting on my lap. Her eyes closed. I wipe a tear from her face. Gently. Slowly.
God, she is so beautiful.
She opens her eyes. A small smile. Takes my hand.
I am with Emmalyn now, and that is the only place I want to be.
I looked over at Matty. He slept, slouched in the old leather chair that used to be my father's. I focused as I glanced at the shredded trim of his jeans. So relaxed. How could he sleep that way? He'd surely wake up with a crick in his neck. It'd be impossible not to. As if he'd heard my thoughts he shifted slowly and sighed.
I slid out of bed. Made my way to my closet. I knew it had to be in there. The journal I kept when we were together. I needed to find it. I used to keep track of things. I used to try. But since we ended I totally forgot. There was no reason to. Not anymore.
I grunted while pulling my college knapsack out from behind the bins of ratty old tee shirts. I just couldn't get rid of them. I don't know why, but I couldn't. Memories, I guess.
I tore through that bag until I found it. Wrapped up in an old shirt I had stolen from Matt when we first started dating. I held it up to my face and inhaled. It still smelled like him. Why I bothered doing that when he sat just a few feet away in my bedroom I couldn't say. Routine, I guess. Soothing.
I opened it and read ... Today I met the man I think I'll marry.
I laughed. Had I been that naive? I flicked through pages, flashing back at each one. Dates. Memories. Moments. A card slipped into my hands. My breath caught. My mother's handwriting. It'd been so long. I opened the envelope carefully. Slightly smiled back at the black and white kitten on the front.
I wiped a tear from my cheek and started to read.
I know you don't want to hear this, but there is so much I still need to say to you. Please let Matt know how grateful I am that he is here to support you through this. Please be sure that you don't push him away in your grief. You'll need him, Em. You'll need him like I've needed your father. Don't force him to fail you the way I did your dad.
I paused, unsure if I could continue ...
Someday you'll be a mother, too, Emmalynn. You'll know what it's like to hold your baby in your arms and want to protect her with your entire being. Your heart and your soul. And your body. My body is failing me now, baby, and I wish it were not so I could be there for you always. So I could see the day you bring your sweet baby home. Hold her in your arms, hand her gently over to mine. Although my arms won't be there before you, know I'll be beside you always. Guiding you. Reminding you.
You'll never have to protect your child from Matt. You'll never have to guard your heart. I just know this. I know he'll be there, no matter what. He as much as told me so that day we picked you up at the airport together. It seems so long ago now. But I know it's true. He promised. And Peter's boys never break their promises. Trust me on that.
I started to cry, a deep and heavy sobbing. I wiped my eyes. My nose. Most of my face with my sleeve. My body shook and I couldn't control it.
I hadn't heard Matt step to the door of the closet. "Em?" His eyes flickered with fear. "What's wrong?" He sat down next to me, hand on my shoulder, my cheek, my chin. Tilting my face towards his. Wiping the tears.
"I think I'm pregnant."
Matt and I walk into the waiting area of the doctor's office and I am still in shock. Am I really here? Is he really with me? I find myself slowly shaking my head as the receptionist encourages us to find a seat. I look around. The room is packed.
There are so few spots with two chairs, so we maneuver our way over towards the side wall. The woman sitting there smiles at us. I think I smile back. I'm honestly not sure.
I sit down, holding my stomach carefully. Could there be a baby in there? I look down at my hand. What am I doing? I don't even know. I keep looking. G-d, I love these shoes. I wonder if I'll still be able to fit into ...
The woman next to us says hi. I answer, and turn back to my shoes. They're so sparkly. So pretty. Not quite comfortable, but just enough that I can walk in them. They're sexy, too. Reds and pinks and ... what? What is she saying now? I look over at Matty and he is trying to be nice. I know that look. That smile. It's so apparently void. To me. Not to her. What is she saying? She asked when we're due. What kind of ...
"We're not sure yet," she's floored. "We're here to find out." I drown out her voice with the slight humming in my head. Matty reaches for my hand, gives me a slight squeeze. I wink at him, shifting my gaze back to my feet.
Will my feet swell? Isn't that what happens to pregnant people? People! Ha! Women. Pregnant women. It's not all people who can get pregnant. Though there was that one dude ... what? Did she just ask me what I hope I'm having? Are you kidding me, lady?
I find myself muttering something in response, and then looking around as if to find the cameras that must be aimed in our direction, because if this pregnancy isn't a part of a Punk'd episode, then this woman we're sitting next to must be.
She keeps going. Breastfeeding? What the hell? I don't even know if I am pregnant. How on earth does she expect me to know what I plan to feed this child? "I, uh --" I think I start muttering again. Stumbling over my words.
I look over at her as if to ask her who she thinks she is. But I'm trying to be nice. I'm trying to keep quiet. I lean into Matt, tug on his hand and stand up. He follows. We both have smiles plastered on our faces.
I take timid steps towards the back wall of the waiting area. My shoes clicking beneath me. G-d, I love these shoes. They really do make me stand so much taller. I feel powerful. Like I can handle anything. And yet - what is coming my way? I honestly have no clue.
I can hear the woman huffing a bit. She's not thrilled we walked away. But what does she know, anyway? Let her try to walk a mile in these ...
Some of this may sound familiar, because, well, it is. Some time back we were prompted to write about a certain kind of character, and so I did, but I did not link this up to my "story" until I knew for certain that I was going to reveal that Em thought she was pregnant. You can read the other side of this scene Here.
"Emmalynn, are you here?"
"IN HERE!" I raised my voice over the music, grabbing a dishtowel as I reached for the radio. "IN THE KITCHEN!" I shouted again.
I watched him, his eyes taking me in. What I must have looked like. Dripping with sweat, flour everywhere. Hair in my eyes. A brand new me. It'd been a few weeks and I was entitled to it. Finally.
"Hey." I said. I shifted, dropping my hands to my hips. Flour be damned. No response. "Matt?"
"Why are you in my kitchen?"
"Right. To give you this." He held up a small box.
"No clue. It came to my office, figured you'd know." He put it on the island. "There are more."
I nodded as I wiped my forehead with the back of my hand and my face with the towel. "Thanks."
"What are you making?"
"Dinner." Was that a smirk? "Why?" He shrugged before he disappeared into the hallway, returning with two larger boxes. "That all?"
"Thanks." I turned back to the stove. Started stirring. He didn't move. I looked back again, he was still standing there. Staring. Was he uncomfortable? I hoped so.
"You should watch that."
"What?" I looked up. "Thanks. I've got it."
"The pot," he pointed. "Whatever you're ..." I turned quickly, knocking over the flour. He slid beside me, catching it before it hit the floor.
"Thanks." We were inches apart now. Damn it. Damn him. I felt my breath still. "I'm good."
"I can see that," he whispered, putting the bag back on the counter.
"Thanks." I bit my lip. Why did I keep saying that? I glanced up, straight into his eyes. Felt the heat emanating between us. He touched my face, my cheek. Right above my mouth.
"What?" I cleared my throat.
"Flour. You've got flour here," he licked his thumb, lifting it up to press against my face gently.
"I'm a mess." I laughed. A nervous giggle.
He nodded. "I'll get out of your way." A whisper.
I reached for his arm. "Matt." My flour hand-print pressed against his skin. I wasn't ready for him to go. Not again. Not yet.
"Em." His breath caught. I could feel it. I saw his chest heave just a little.
Within moments we were pressed against one another. Against the wall. The counter. I backed away. He pulled me closer.
What am I doing? What am I doing? My mind raced ahead of my body. I couldn't tear my mouth from his. God, how I missed him. Don't do this, Em. You can't handle this. He shouldn't ... his hands up the back of my shirt. His fingers pressing into my skin. Clutching me to him. What was happening? So comfortable. So familiar. He tastes so good. My body fitting perfectly into his. This was all wrong. And yet, so ... not ...
"Matt." He stopped. We stood face to face. Eye to eye. "We shouldn't. I don't think." He nodded.
"Do you want to stop?" Our breath pulsing. Staccato in rhythm together.
"I -- I don't," I could barely get the words out.
"I don't want to either." His eyes flashed. Vibrant. Brilliant. Hot. I reached for him. He lifted me. Carried me. We headed towards the stairs. My arms around his neck. Hands in his hair. My legs around his waist. His body. We made our way up. Slowly. Carefully. Mouth upon mouth. Gasping at each step. Minimal sounds between us. Quietly. Gently. Savoring every second.
When someone breaks your heart you go through so many changes.
Emmalynn sighed loudly. "What crap," she muttered, tossing the book toward the trash can beneath her nightstand.
She knew that Vi meant well, but all of this - this crap - she couldn't do it. Especially after the other night. She shook her head. "I don't need to remember that. It was a sign of weakness," she stood, facing the mirror, brushing her hair out of her face, her eyes staring back at her, pensive and deep. "It's over. Still over. No matter what happened."
Em trudged around her bedroom. She'd been there for a few days. Sulking. Moping. Sleeping. Crying.
What had she been thinking?
She hadn't - of course. When it came to Matt she lost all sense of thought. All grasp on reality. She didn't think it through. She just lusted. Lunged. Went for it.
Who was she kidding, though? So had he.
"I don't want to either." She heard his voice whispering. As if he were still there. She turned quickly and banged her thigh on the foot of her bed. "DAMN IT!" Tears stung her eyes as she bit down on her lip to ward off the pain.
This should be it, she thought. She felt it this time. There were no more packages to drop off. No more memories to rehash. No more sex. Good lord, the sex. No more, though. She couldn't do it again. She had to purge herself from every trace of him. Remove him from her home, her life, her heart.
She started to pace. Her breath quickened. Pulse raced.
"That's it," she said, boldly looking back at her reflection. "I'm done."
And with that she started stripping the sheets from the bed. They had been her favorites once. No more. They had to go. She looked over at the pile of clothes she had sorted for Goodwill. Bunched up the sheets in her hand and started to laugh.
She kept laughing as she tossed them out the open window. Just because it felt good.
This story picks up somewhere in the middle for Matt and Em. The rest of their story is here, which includes some flashbacks. Write on Edge said to work on something that needed polishing, and for me it was this transition. I have been putting this post on the back-burner. Avoiding these two characters for too long. So here they are. I hope you enjoy. Constructive criticism is always welcome. Thanks.
His hand felt cold and clammy on mine. We sat there - silently - in the car.
He didn't start her up. He didn't buckle in. Nothing.
"Matt?" A few blinks before he faced me. "You okay?" He smiled. That sheepish grin I knew so well.
"We're having a baby."
"Yes, well ..."
"We're HAVING a baby!"
"I know. I was there."
"Holy crap, Em. You're pregnant." His hand tightened around mine.
I fought the urge to flee. I couldn't, of course. Wouldn't. But I wanted to. "Matt, listen," I stopped. Were those tears? What the - TEARS? Was he crying? He used his sleeve to wipe his face. Shit. He was crying.
"I just can't believe it, Em. After everything we've been through - a baby. We're hav-"
"Yes. I know. I know. Actually, I'M the one who is..." I watched his face cloud over and tried doing damage control. "Well, you know. It's in here." I looked down at my stomach. MY stomach. Traitor! I flinched at my own thoughts.
"Em, it's amazing. Aren't you happy? Isn't this amazing? We have so much to do. A baby. Wow. A baby." He continued on. Talking quickly but softly, his words a jumble.
"We should get going." I interrupted.
"I'd like to go home now, if we could. Get moving." I plastered on a smile, but I knew he knew.
"You're not happy?"
"Matt, this is a LOT to think about. I just need ... It's a surprise, ya know? I mean, we didn't plan - I didn't think - we weren't expecting." Sigh. How the hell do I say this anyway? "I just need some time."
"Time. I need some time to think." I reached for his arm as he turned to buckle himself in. He nodded. Stiffened beneath my touch.
"Think," he whispered. Was that a question or an understanding?
"Yeah - I just, if you could drop me off at home I'm just really exhausted and I -"
"That's fine, Em. Fine." His words trailed off as he leaned forward and started the engine. Puffs of smoke drifted up around us and our windows began to fog. I sat still, too frozen in fear and emotion to reach for the heat. "Let's get you home."
The doorbell rang.
"Just a second!" I peeked out. It was the delivery truck. Again.
"Hey, Ms. Em."
"Hey, Steve. Another package?"
"Yep, this is a big one. I'll bring it in for you." I sighed. Really?
"Same place as the others?" I nodded, sliding out of his way. "You've got lots of stuff for when this baby comes, Ms. Em." He winked at me. I laughed in spite of myself. I hadn't told family members yet, but my delivery guy knew I was having a baby. Matt was reaching out in the only way he knew how.
I heard myself sigh again as I watched Steve traipse into the office turned storage on the ground floor. "Pretty soon we won't be able to get in here," he chuckled. I watched him work. He looked so happy. I'd swear his eyes twinkled. Such a sweet guy. His wife was pregnant, too. Due any day now.
"Oh my gosh! Steve!"
"Ms. Em, you okay? Is it the baby?"
"Oh, no. I'm fine. I just had a brilliant idea!" He looked at me with a gentle smile. Steve had heard many of my brilliant ideas. I'd been on his route for a while now. "What's in that one? Can you tell?" He turned the box. A seat for the baby. Hadn't I received the same one about a week or so ago?
Right after I told Matt I needed some time to think.
I trudged through the room. Yes. There it was.
"Steve, you need to take that box back."
"I'm sorry, is something - - "
"No! No! It's perfect. You need to take it. For you! For Carol. For the baby!"
He smiled, shaking his head. "I can't do that. You know I can't do that."
"You can, and you will. Consider it a gift. That's exactly what it is. I'll sign, and then give it to you. Seriously. Unless, do you guys have one already?"
"No, that's not it at all. It's really generous of you, but I can't -"
"You HAVE to! Steve, seriously. I don't need all of this. My baby won't be here for months. It's just going to sit here. You can even give it back when she grows out of it if you want. Or sell it. Or pass it on. Just get it out of here. That would be wonderful. It would make me so happy. Please..."
I felt my voice trail off as tears welled up in my throat.
He walked over and enveloped me in the biggest bear hug. "You are a blessing, Ms. Em."
"Em, please. How many times do I have to tell you to call me Em?" He laughed, a big, hearty laugh.
"Absolutely. Please. It would be a huge help."
He picked up the box and carried it out to the truck. Came back to my door and had me sign it over to him. Gave me a wave and a honk as he pulled away.
I watched the taillights fade away as my tears began to fall.
Matt peeked into the front window of the car while keeping some focus on the building in the background.
It had been weeks since he'd seen her. She hadn't called. Why hadn't she called?
He punched the code into the side door, praying the alarm wouldn't go off.
His breath stilled. A quick glance back at the building and he sat himself in the front seat.
What are you looking for? A voice from the back of his mind hissed at him.
It sounded like her voice.
He missed her voice so much.
I don't know.
He let out his breath. I don't KNOW what I'm looking for. Something. ANYthing.
And he was still again.
He reached over and flicked open the glove compartment. Rifled through the contents with hopes he'd find something in there to let him know what was going on. With her. With the baby. His baby. Their baby.
He found nothing. He knew he wouldn't. If Em was anything she was predictable. Her car was spotless. No stray slips of paper with handwritten notes. No random receipts for items unknown. Nothing to tie him to her or the baby.
Was there still a baby?
He froze at the thought. Tears pooled and surfaced. Streaming down his face as he tilted his heads into his hands.
A slight shift.
The horn blared.
He looked up and she was there.
"Em," he heard himself whisper.
"Matt? Matt what the hell are you - - "
He looked down at her hand, resting against the taut pull of her sweater and felt himself smile. A glimmer of hope fluttered in his heart. He looked back up at her face.
She was not smiling.
"What the hell are you doing in my car, Matthew?"
He pushed back more tears as he prepared to explain.