"All we can do is keep breathing."
The same day that Tyler and I had met in my front yard, he had gone right back to see Brittinea and broke up with her. I hadn't found out until Tyler and I were out on a date during our first month of dating. We were out to a movie, which we spent making out in the back row. As we exited the theatre hand in hand, a female voice from just behind us said, "Hello Tyler." I felt his hand tense around mine before be turned around.
"Hello Brittinea," he replied through gritted teeth, but she wasn't looking at him. Her eyes ran over my face and then done my body, scrutinizing every part of me. I smiled the best I could but I was beyond intimidated. She was beautiful. She had long blonde hair with the body of a model, which as it turns out, she was. And as if seeming pleased by what she saw from me, she twisted her lips into what could be called a wicked grin. She turned her attention back to Tyler and opened her perfect lips.
"So this is what you left me for?" She tilted her head in my direction and scoffed. "Baby, you shouldn't be shopping in the junior section. You could get arrested for that you know."
I shook my head, trying not to think in the past. There were things at hand that needed to be discussed.
"I'm sorry about everything Travis, I really am." My shoulders slumped as the guilt pressed through my body. I had hurt too many people in the process of trying to make myself feel better and it was time that I fixed some of the damage. Starting with Travis, probably the person that I hurt the most, was a good place to start. That would make it easier to move onto the harder reconciliations that needed to happen.
"You shouldn’t be apologizing-“
I leaned towards him and interrupted so that I could get what I needed to say before it was lost; my brain was going a mile a minute. “Of course I should! I used you to make myself feel better, even when I knew how you felt about me and I knew there wasn’t a chance for me to feel the same way, I stayed. I shouldn’t have asked you to be there for me, but I knew that you would be. And you were the only one that could numb the pain, if only just a bit.”
His eyes saddened but he smiled over at me and sighed. “If anyone should be apologizing, it should be me. You were vulnerable, but I was selfish. I saw my opening and I took it at the worst possible time.” He shook his head sadly. “My brother would hate me if he were here to know everything that I’ve done. I stole you and then I left you because I was hurting you more than helping. And I shouldn't have come back, I know that now, I can see it. But it wasn't just to come back and explain myself. I had other reasons, too. I needed to see that you were okay because when I left, you seemed to be getting worse. But it looks like you've finally moved on judging by the past month that-"
I thrust my open palm up between us to halt the conversation. "Excuse me? What do you mean by that? Have you been watching me?" The thought didn't anger me so much as it made me feel guilty for what he might have witnessed. I could only imagine what he thought of me and of my relationship with Ryan. I would have preferred that he had seen my endless string of one nighters rather than my growing commitment to Ryan.
"I'm sorry, I know it's wrong and really creepy, but I wasn't sure what kind of state I'd find you in so I watched you for a bit. I didn’t follow you for long, I just sat outside your apartment sometimes and your favourite places but then I kept seeing you around this neighbourhood. You’ve changed.” He motioned towards me. “You’re more beautiful than ever, by more importantly you seemed happy when I saw you and I thought that maybe I'd done the wrong thing by coming back. And then I saw you with that tall skinny guy, and every time I saw you with him was when you really lit up and I realized that you had finally moved on. It's good. I'm honestly happy for you but I can't lie and say that I'm a little disappointed. I wanted to come back and have you still needing me, even if it was just for my brother."
"I'm not with him. It’s more of a friends with benefits thing. That's all," I said dismissively, although we both knew I was lying to myself.
"It’s okay for you to move on Val. He's never coming back."
He placed a hand over one of mine and squeezed gently.
"I know," I replied shortly, having been reminded of the truth I didn't want to face. "But Ryan and I, it's just sex. I can't ever really be with someone again. Even with us, even when we were together, I was never fully with you. I just used you to be closer to Tyler and I'm really sorry for that because you're a good guy Travis." I offered a smile and he returned it before it faded from his face.
"So what now then?" he whispered.
“Well, got a night to spare? For old times sake?”
He laughed quietly and shook his head. “That wouldn’t be very right would it? Besides, if I’m not mistaken, you would just be using me to distance yourself from Ryan. I should get going.” He stood up, came around the table, and hugged me tightly. "I'll be here no matter what, but you should really make an effort with this Ryan guy. Today is not a day that you should be sitting alone in a coffee shop. It's okay for you to move on. I promise you that you'll feel better if you let go." He kissed the top of my head. "Call him. You can't wait for forever."
I grabbed his arm before he turned to leave. There was one thing I needed to make clear to him.
"If it’s not too much to ask from you, I’d really like to be friends with you. And I need you not because of Tyler but because I need you for you." I laughed at the awkwardness of the statement, but I knew he understood.
He smiled and then left. I watched him leave and felt an odd sense of calm fall over my body. He was right, I needed to move forward. It wasn't guilt that was putting it off, I just needed to find the right person, and I finally had.
Within seconds of my decision, a rush of emotions flooded me. Tears brimmed and then fell down my flushed cheeks. My chest heaved but no sound came out. I realized that I was relieved. I was finally going to let myself be happy.
I grabbed my phone out of my pocket, two more missed calls from Ryan, and with determined fingers, punched his name into the address book and pressed the send call button. He answered before I had a chance to decide what I was going to say.
"Valarie," his relieved voice breathed into the phone. I smiled and held my phone close to my ear.
"Hi Ryan," I replied.
"Is everything okay? I called you-"
"I’m fine, really. I was with a friend and I couldn't really answer any calls. We haven't seen each other in awhile."
"Oh. So, everything else is okay?" He sounded expectant.
"Yeah, why wouldn't it be?"
"No reason. I was just making sure." He hastily changed the subject. "Are you busy tonight? I thought maybe you could come over and we could watch a movie or something."
I paused for a moment, not quite sure if I was ready to do it, but I knew I had to. "Uhm, actually maybe tonight you could come over to my place if you wanted."
There was silence on the other end of the phone but I knew that he hadn't hung up, probably just shocked that I had asked him.
"Are you sure?" he asked, and I could hear the excitement in his voice.
"Yeah. I've been doing some thinking; there are some things that we should talk about. But I think it's time that we go to my place. We can't keep going to yours. Is that fine with you?"
"Of course!" he said quickly as if I were going to change my mind. "What time should I come over?"
I checked the clock on the wall and decided to give myself a few hours to get myself ready.
"Is nine too late?"
"No, no that's fine. I'll see you then." He hung up before I could give him the address so I called him back.
"Ry, you might need the address to find my place."
"Oh, yeah!" He laughed nervously. "That might be a good idea."
After I gave him directions to my apartment, I gathered up my things and returned home. I looked around my apartment and tried to see it from an outsiders perspective; it wasn't very warm, quite the opposite actually. The walls, previously the blue that Tyler and I had painted together, were eggshell white. There was no artwork on any of them, and no pictures anywhere in the apartment. The entire place itself was extremely clean because I spent as little time as possible in it, but that also left it extremely empty, even with the television and furniture which went greatly underused.
As the time neared nine o'clock, I began to waver on my decision to allow Ryan at my apartment. Was I doing the right thing? I mentally kicked myself at the thought. I really had to atop going back and forth on my decisions. I was getting repetitive and it was rely starting to irritate me. I had made my final decision. I was going to make myself available to Ryan. No matter how much it hurt me to do it, I would open myself up to love and be loved again.
My fingers trembled as I pulled out the red silk chemise that I had once bought for Tyler but never had the chance to wear. The tag was still attached, so I ripped it off and then stripped out of my clothes and slipped it on. The soft silk clung to my body like a glove, just the way Ryan liked me. I closed my eyes and held my arms tightly around myself for a moment. I could do this, I reassured myself. I needed to do this.
My moment of self reflection was brought to end when I heard a knock at the door. My heart started pounding as I walked to answer the door. With a deep calming breath, I pulled the door open, only to have my heart speed up at the sight of him.
His perfect lips turned upwards as his eyes travelled over my face and down my body. He breathed a shallow breath and grinned.
"Hi," he said before he wrapped his arms around me and hugged me tightly. I sighed with content as He ran a hand through my hair and kissed my forehead. "Thank you for letting me come over."
I reluctantly pulled away and showed him inside where he immediately peering around. I watched closely as he peered around the apartment, inspecting every corner. He walked down the hallway, peered into the bathroom, and then continued down to the bedroom before coming back to meet me in the living room.
"It's a nice apartment," he commented, pulling my arms up over his neck and then resting his arms around my waist. He pressed his forehead to mine and started humming something as he began to rotate us on the spot. After I leaned my bead on his shoulder, I began to pick up the tune. He was humming 'all you need is love' by The Beatles.
I pulled back slightly and kissed his cheek. His arms came up from my waist and rested at the back of my head. Slowly, excruciating slowly, he lowered his face towards mine but stopped before his lips met the awaiting target. His eyes bore into my own as his lips teased me. I couldn't stand the game.
"Don't do this to me," I whispered as I began panting. "You know that I hate this."
He chuckled and leaned in closer, so close that if I leaned forward just a fraction of an inch, I could have what I wanted.
"Anticipation makes everything better," he whispered back. “And it’s nice to remind me what I can do to you.” He moved his head from side to side, allowing for the lightest touch of our lips. I was just about ready to jump out of my skin, I could barely handle myself. Just when it got to be too much, and I was about to take that extra milometer, he stepped away from me. I let out a loud grown as he disappeared down the hallway and into the bedroom.
I followed him down the hallway and as soon as I was in the bedroom, he shut the door, carried me across the room, and gently placed me in the middle of the bed. His hands, on either side of my head, propped him up over my body.
"Before I give you what you want, I want something from you." Already I felt the heat between my legs. I was hoping he wouldn't ask too much of me because my body was already aching for him.
"What do you want?" I whispered franticly.
He looked down at me with a determined look.
"I want you to say it."
"Say what?" my mind was on one track, I had no idea what he wanted to hear until he said, "Tell me what you want." my closed eyes flickered open in understanding. Without a second thought or any hesitation, I whispered, "Make love-"
His lips attacked mine before I even finished the sentence. His tongue invaded my much too willing mouth as he lowered his body onto mine. I could feel his hard need pressing against my thighs and moaned into his mouth. He pulled away from my mouth to kiss neck. My fingers pulled at his hair as the wetness between my legs began to grow.
"Ryan", I panted as his hands pushed down the straps of my chemise so his mouth could reach my breasts. As much as I wanted him at that moment, there were things that had to be cleared up first. I had to fight hard against my body that seemed to become its own entity under Ryan's touch. "I can't-"
He pulled away immediately. "What?"
Gently, I pushed him away so that I would be able to sit up and talk.
"There are some things that I need to say to you before this thing between us goes any further." I crossed my legs and sat with my knees touching his.
"Should I be worried?" he asked quietly, taking my hands I'm his and resting them on our touching knees. I smiled and shook my head.
"No. I just need to clear some things up." I looked down at our joined bands for a moment and then back up into his chocolate eyes. "You've been right about me all along. I've been running from my problems for the past year. And when I met you I just expected you to be just another of my casualties. But when I developed into more than that I became scared. I'm still scared. I'm scared to let someone in and I'm scared to let someone else go. The way I feel for you scares me Ryan. But it also makes me feel a way that I haven't felt in a year. I haven't wanted to admit it to myself but when I'm with you, Im miles happier than when I'm not." I pulled my hands out of his to gently stroke the sides of his face. "I don't want to keep lying to myself because I find that more and more I need to be with you." My words stopped and the room was silent.
He didn't respond for a moment, and immediately I was embarrassed. I didn't even think that there was a possibility of him not wanting to be with me anymore. Maybe he was seeing someone else that interested him more? I began to think the worst, but then Ryan's beautiful grin spread across his face as he put his hands over mine and he asked, "So what are you saying?"
"There are things that I should tell you before asking you this, but give me time. Some wounds are still too fresh to be talked about. I want you to be able to get to know me but some things will be just too hard on me to explain. Can you accept that?"
He nodded patiently. "What are you going to ask me?"
I took a deep breath. I was about to do it. Could I? Yes. "Well, it's more like tell." I kissed his lips tenderly, savouring the way it made my body tingle. "This is going to sound stupid, but you make me feel alive again. After I lost-,“ I skipped saying his name, “It’s just that I want to make an effort. I don’t feel like sleeping around anymore. This past month, being with only you has made me realize that I can do this. It will be hard, but I know that I’m capable of opening myself up. I don't want you to see other people. I want to try and make us work because I think that we can. And at the very least, I’ll make a real effort. I promise you."
His brow furrowed and he looked at me with serious eyes. "So of I'm not seeing anyone else, then you aren't either right?" He smiled expectantly at me. I hadn’t so much thought about my end of the whole thing. But I supposed that it was more than fair. I'd been only with him for a month and I realized that I didn't want to go back to what I was doing before.
I pretended to think about it for a moment before I sighed and said, "I guess so."
"So if you’re not seeing anyone else and I'm not, that means that we're exclusive? Does that make me your boyfriend?" his serious face was gone and he was grinning like a fool. I could see the fire in his eyes as he waited for my answer. I knew he wanted to hear the words, and I wanted to please him.
"If you want to put a label on things then yes, you’re my boyfriend, and I guess that makes me your girlfriend."
With the last word of that sentence, Ryan leaned over and took my lips. He didn't hesitate in grabbing a fistful of my hair or with his other hand pulling me as close to him as he could. I had no air left in me yet somehow I managed to keep my lips to his. I had no intention of pulling away anytime soon but he did, making me groan once again.
"Valarie, girlfriend of Ryan Ross," he said loudly as if announcing it to some sort of invisible audience. "I like the sound of it." I laughed as he pushed me down on my back and started back at my neck and already heaving chest. I knew that it would not take me long that night, and I wasn't sure how long I could actually wait.
I moaned loudly as his warm mouth covered my nipple, gently sucking at the puckered flesh. He pulled back and grinned up at me.
"Not tonight," I whispered fervently. "I just really need you inside me."
His confused frown immediately turned into a grin as he pulled off his shirt and then his pants. He pulled me up and helped me take off my chemise, very reminiscent of the first time that he had made love to me. It was very fitting considering what had already happened and what was about to happen.
He pressed himself to my opening and looked down at me. I nodded as my heart pumped and he pushed his head slowly inside of me. My inside walls clenched around the portion inside of me, pulling at him to get it inside deeper. I resisted the urge to thirst my hips forward to push him deeper inside me, instead focusing my attention on the look in his eyes. I recognized that look, and I didn't need a mirror to know that I had the same look in my own. And within seconds, I could feel what I had been waiting for all day building in my chest. I was ready to be with Ryan, I knew it inside my heart, but I had just picked the wrong day to do it.
A tightness began to form in my stomach and chest as he began to push himself farther inside of me. It became so that I felt couldn't breathe. I clutched at my naked chest, trying to force the tightness away. But it didn't help. It felt as if the four walls of the bedroom were closing in on me and I had nowhere to go. Ryan didn't seem to notice anything until I started to hyperventilate. He pulled out immediately and leaned down over me.
"Valarie," he cried, shaking me. "Breathe, c’mon baby just keep breathing." He pulled me against his chest as the tightness burst from my mouth as a loud sob that filled the entire room. I clung to Ryan as my body violently shook against him. He rocked me back and forth as he stroked my hair gently.
"I’m so sorry," I sobbed into his ear. My tears fell onto his shoulder and down his back. I was having a hard time understanding where the sudden onrush of emotions had come from. I had been fine during most of the day, despite having remembered the same day the year before so vividly. “I do want to be with, I do!” I choked between sobs. “Just not now, not today.”
"There's nothing to be sorry about" he whispered into my ear, still brushing his hand through my hair. "You have nothing to be sorry about. We don't have to have sex tonight. I'd be happy just to hold you right now."
I cried for an hour until my body could not take it anymore. He didn't say a word and he didn't have to. All I needed him to do was be with me until it passed. He held me against his bare chest, and nothing sexual passed through my body. It was comforting to be with him, even if it was in the apartment I had shared with my former husband. But I was too exhausted to talk after I had finished crying and I began to fall asleep. Ryan put me under the covers and kissed me before he began to dress again. Even though I was half conscious, I knew how much I didn't want him to leave.
"Don't go," I whispered and reached out towards him. I lifted up the blanket behind me but Ryan looked hesitant.
"Are you sure you want me to stay tonight?" His hands rested on the button of his pants.
I looked straight into his eyes and said, "I need you right now."
He nodded, removed his pants, and crawled back into the bed beside me. I pulled his arms around my waist and curved my body against his. His soft lips pressed against my shoulder once before he nestled his cheek against mine. Within minutes, I was asleep, but not before I heard him whisper, "All we can do is keep breathing."