Never Look Back

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Chapter 54

We had returned to Odera’s condominium on Sunday afternoon. Rather than speak, she led me upstairs. When I asked about the silence, she pressed a finger to my lips. We spent an hour doing sensate exercises. Silence injected an unexpected quality ― it forced us to rely upon our other senses. At the exercise’s conclusion, she sashayed across the room to retrieve a bottle of water, invoking that feminine stride, which women were wont to do whenever they wished to captivate the male eye. Dipping and swaying female hips triggered an image of what our children might look like. Odera will never bear children and my background made adoption impossible. That realization sobered my previous contemplation.

Climbing onto the bed, bottled water in hand, she asked, “You look deep in thought ― sad maybe.”

“It shows?”

“To me, it does. Whenever you search for the right words, I recognize some of the battles I wage. The forces that inflicted the damage are different, but the emotional trauma is similar. A hammer, a baseball bat or a steel pipe will all produce bruises, but the treatment would be similar.” Warmth surged into view. “Whenever you’re silent, I know that you war to speak from the heart. Whenever you war, it’s because you care. I adore your silences.”

“I have a question I’ve wanted to ask for a while.” Odera straddled my waist. “Why me? What could I possibly offer that another guy couldn’t give you tenfold more, and without complications?”

A full smile parted her lips and her eyes probed mine.

“You know that answer.”

“Nothing with you is easy, is it?”

“Would you prefer it so?”

“Not really.” When Odera placed my hand over her heart and rested her hand over mine, I interpreted, “You see yourself in me.”

“Can you go deeper?”

She clasped my hand tighter until her heart’s steady rhythm pounded into my palm, vibrant and strong.

Thump, thump. Thump, thump.

Odera saw herself in me, meaning, she saw that which I saw in her: sadness and despair.

“That’s why you came over to my apartment. You knew if I shared similar grief, I would be unlikely to do harm to that which I felt.”

“Um, hmm. And why I acted spontaneously at the lake. Your longing is mine.”

“Then you didn’t mean physically safe, but emotionally safe. All this time I thought you wanted to be friends because of those scaffolds.”

“Of course, you did. You’re a guy.”

Odera liked to state the truth in such a way as to make her observations sound like notoriously male defects that she tolerated as the price of enduring my company. Sometimes I almost agreed with her.

“I didn’t intend to spook you that night, but the assault, as you told it, I got too close. It seemed to be happening in real-time.”

“My pain became yours, too horrible to endure. You wanted it to end.”

“Yes, I felt that. Today he doesn’t matter. You’ve brought parts of me back to life.”

“I know, I feel you stirring,” whispered Odera, rocking gently.

“Doesn’t it frighten you to feel me there?”

“You’re not him,” she replied, eyes bright and sparkling. “What was prison like? You seldom speak of it.”

“Cold and empty; a wasteland. Jungle rules. The weak serve the strong.”

“It’s in the past ― you survived.”

“So, did you.”

“Not all ― not yet.”

“I served the beast for so long that I’m not sure how much of who I was when I went in, survived. Once innocence is lost, it may never be returned. You and I, we are forever tainted, indelibly marked by evil events.”

“The beast?”

Her gaze was now dark and gloomy.

“Anger and hate. It’s part of me. The beast made my anger and hate precious pain, a weapon. It kept me alive, empty and cold. It enabled me to endure the unspeakable. Miyamoto says it bends to my will. When we’re together, I see mostly the present and the past has less hold on me.”

The gloomy veil enveloping her thinned.

“We share old hate, but its fading. There have been more and more days when you’re unguarded. Those are my favourite days.”

“You take great pain to look beyond, Odera.”

“That’s where you dwell, just beyond my heart.”

“Like your body. Beyond the fullness of my touch.”

“Not so far anymore,” Odera intoned and looked down.

Her eyes turned glassy, their corners uplifted, but tears did not fall.

“Do you see him?”

“Not all tears are sad.”

Silence endured, trying to foster doubt in my mind. In her gaze and beneath my hand I felt our truth, but words refused utterance. Rather than speak falsely, I embraced quietude, imbibing sustenance from believing in what I could not voice. Gradually, the awkwardness between us dwindled. Odera neither rushed my response nor indicated that she expected to hear one. Instead, she kissed me passionately, dividing my lips with her tongue. Afterwards, she placed my hands over her breasts and held them beneath her hands. My body responded, transmitting physically what I struggled to utter aloud.

“You are more than dear to me,” I said at last.

“I’ve felt that for some time. Lie back.”

Once she completed her desire and sat back down, she recommenced rocking, sliding her nether region back and forth over mine.

“Does it hurt when I move like this?”

“Terribly, stop in an hour.”

As Odera moved, I considered the gains she enjoyed, while growing increasingly irritated at my inability to verbalize my feelings. Feelings that dwelled just beyond my reach. Soft little sighs escaped her lips. The deeper I explored the matter, the more frustrated I became, angered that an intangible force bound me. I should be able to think my way through this dilemma. Embroiled in my personal war, Odera took pleasure.

“What enables you to accept such intimacy when I can’t even admit that I’ve never known a greater love?”

“You just did.” She leaned forward and whispered, “Need I tell you?”

“No. It’s within reach.”

A great weight descended upon her, making her voice whisper-hard, “Can you put the ugliness we’ve endured behind us? To know that I will never bear children: that we’ll never be more than we are now: that part of each of us will forever dwell in shadow? Is this enough?”

Pulling her face to mine so our foreheads touched, and just as I had always known but never fully accepted, I found the present empty of future demands and past worries.

“We are destiny, Lady Fate. Destiny looks forward, never back. We’ll make our own future. If it means without children, without friends, without the rest of the whole goddamned world, let it be so. Just let it begin.”

“Then we’ll live only in the moment.”

Yielding her spirit unfettered, she raised herself up and eased my phallus inside her until I was sheathed well and proper. Never taking her eyes from mine, in neither pain nor suffering, she bit her bottom lip.

“Make us one,” she said and held me closer yet.

“But not just sex.”

“Goes without saying.”

Hungry need rumbled up from deep within. Everything we had worked toward was ours to enjoy without pause. Our bodies moved in unison, closer and closer until we held nothing back, until we were one, until only the present existed and we had joined body and spirit. Flung into the rhythm of our celebration, the doorbell chimed. And then chimed again. It had to be the convention’s demonstration computer. It was hours late. Neither one of us broke rhythm.

“Tell me we’re not going to answer the door.”

“Good god no! We’re not leaving this room for a week. It’s only several thousand dollars on the front stoop.”

“And you live in a nice neighbourhood.”

“Mmm. Yup. On a very trustworthy street,” she smiled at our game, moving and trembling, loving me with all of her heart and soul, the only way she knew how.

When the doorbell rang again, I asked, “Will anything ever be less than stormy?”

For an instant, we considered ignoring the summons. Mutual laughter acknowledged the days, years and decades ahead to repeatedly sanctify our beginning. We were timeless. We’d always have the present.

I said, “Fine. A raincheck it is.”

“Daddy will be our next rough seas. I can’t wait to see his face when we tell him. I’ll get the door. You get dressed.”

Groaning audibly, I solicited, “Do you promise to visit me in prison?”

“Everyday.”

She slipped into a housecoat.

Once the delivery guy departed, we set up the computer system. She agreed to upload the software, download the number sets from the manufacturers and to put the software through its paces. Right now, I had to prepare for my niece’s birthday party. Although I toyed with the idea of excusing myself and staying where I was, Odera would hear nothing of it. She volunteered to complete the computer tasks, which allowed me to leave. Family bonds held equal importance as ours, she told me. I had waited over a year to be with her. Another day was not much longer, just an eternity.

Before we parted company, I said, “Email the numbers to work. I’ll prep a comparison using the same sets on the old system.”

“You don’t think he’ll accept my recommendation?”

“A visual contrast and comparison will sell him. It’s a guy thing.”

To make my point, I scoured her soul appreciatively. From top to bottom, I admired the totality of her being. As my candid, love-drenched gaze penetrated her skin, attaining those places we reserve for ourselves and perhaps for one other, Odera shivered.

“Neanderthal. Come closer.”

No sooner did I step within reach, than she collapsed into my embrace giving herself over to the moment as never before. It required a few seconds for me to put it together. I was still learning, way behind the learning curve Odera rode on.

“So that’s what surrender feels like.”

“Heart, soul and body, but only to love, to you and no other. How does 7:00 a.m. sound?”

“Fine.” I stepped into the hallway, Odera trailing on my arm. Humility and gratitude swept through me. “If I don’t leave, I can’t return.”

“I know. Get out of here,” she said, still hanging on. “Say hi to Valerie and don’t forget to set up dinner.”

“Lock the door.”

“It’s okay. I want to watch you leave so I can picture you returning.”

“Fine,” I answered and headed down the sidewalk. “Lock it, please.”

“Yadda, yadda, yadda. I will. Call me. I want to say hi to Valerie and wish Kimberley happy birthday too.”

“After six,” I said.

“Fine.”

“Good.”

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