Christopher smiled at Isabella. She was like a puppy, squirming from sheer excitement. His smile was tempered when he realized again why she was so eager. If it weren’t for him, no one would have remembered her birthday. Isabella’s family wasn’t precisely Mayberry material.
“Is this for me?” Isabella asked gleefully, looking up at him with those big brown eyes of hers.
“Who else is a birthday girl at this table?” Christopher grinned, leaning in closer to the beautiful woman. He had her safely ensconced inside their booth. He sat on the same side, acting as a buffer between her and the world.
Isabella was turning eighteen. She was three years younger than Christopher but seemed like both a child and an old soul. Having seen a lot in her short life, she still managed to hold on to this sweet innocence that softened her character.
Christopher was glad his spring break had fallen on the same week as her birthday. He had always remembered to mail her a card, but her eighteenth was special. He wanted to make it special.
Tonight was the night, he thought to himself. This night he would make Isabella his.
They had known each since she was in the third grade when she moved to the small Tennessee town. She had been a shy awkward girl, not very good at making friends. Unfortunately, the bullies had loved her. She never fought back. So he had stepped in. He was soon her protector. He enjoyed the role, and they became inseparable physically except dinnertime to the bus stop the next morning. It wasn’t till middle school that Christopher realized the bruises she would show up with were not from being “clumsy.”
Isabella’s father was a mean drunk. If he wasn’t beating her mother, he was beating Isabella. Christopher had been so angry, but he was still a child and could do nothing. He had gone to his parents about what he had figured out, but they did not want to get involved, saying it would probably make the situation worse for Isabella and her mother. So Christopher had to watch helplessly as his best friend was hurt on a daily basis in the one place she should have felt safe.
His parents had agreed to allow Isabella to spend the night as often as she wanted until she began high school. In the ninth grade, Isabella matured into her woman’s body. She had curves that begged to be held. Full breasts and hips, a rounded belly and pillowy thighs made her the wet dreams of most of the boys in her class and upperclassmen. His parents had forbidden her from sleeping over anymore even though Christopher had told them how she hated being touched. Every touch she had ever received in this short life had been painful. She didn’t want any man let alone their son touching her in any way.
Her innocence and fear at being touched made her the target of teasing from those boys who couldn’t get her to open her legs to them. The girls were just as merciless. All except Christopher. During his senior year, he had kept her safe from the mocking.
However, while he was away at college, he found out from some friends that the bullying had started up again. The cruelty was profound. His friends had kept her from being raped, but their daily attempts at keeping her safe from the verbal bullying were half-hearted at best.
Whenever he came home from college, Isabella would often be kept from him. He would have to lay in wait for her, to catch her away from her father who was her gatekeeper. She was often scared to death of him when they first met again whenever he came home, but by the end of his time there, she was once again relaxed in his presence, although she never let him touch her anymore. Whenever he tried to hug her, she would step away from him. He would wonder if she was physically hurting and therefore couldn’t allow him to touch her without pain. Or she just didn’t trust him anymore to be that close to her. Either way, it broke his heart.
Christopher was just happy that she let him this close tonight. Hopefully, he would be able to get much closer later.
Isabella looked up at him and smiled. “Wow,” he whispered feeling like he had been hit in the chest.
“Wow?” Isabella repeated confused.
“Your smile is wow Bella,” he explained grinning.
Her smile widened, and Christopher fell even more in love with her.
He had loved her from the first moment he saw her at the bus stop when she was eight years old, and he was eleven. Those big brown eyes were full of fear for her first day at a new school. She wasn’t pale or tanned like the other girls he knew. She was the color of caramel year round. She must have gotten that from her mother, who was from Mexico. He had smiled at her, and when she had smiled back, he knew he had found her. He was too young to understand what that meant, but the feeling never left him, and as he grew older, he realized that Isabella was definitely the woman he was to be with for the rest of his life.
“Thank you,” she whispered, laying her forehead against his bicep. Her tentative touch filled him with tenderness. He kept himself in check, even though everything in him wanted to pull her close and hold onto her tight. That might overwhelm her, however, so he settled for pushing her hair behind her ear.
She smelled so good, he thought. Like a rain-washed landscape. Clean. Fresh.
Christopher felt a little bereft when she sat back up straight, leaving only the memory of her touch on his body.
“Open it,” he commanded gently. She did as she was told.
Inside the long jewelry box was a beautiful diamond bracelet. Isabella covered her open mouth with her hand. Christopher had to dip into his trust fund to buy the two gifts for Bella, but her reaction was worth the price of the diamonds.
“Beautiful,” Christopher commented after helping her put it on. “Not as beautiful as you but gorgeous in its own way.”
“Christopher this is just too expensive. I can’t keep –”
“Yes you are keeping it,” he growled settling the matter.