The last several weeks went by faster than I could have ever imagined. Brandt’s parents left to return to their business after helping to start our home renovation process. The advice I received from Jon and Maggie was priceless. They worked in construction and interior design respectively and I knew I would lean heavily on them in the upcoming months.
Brandt benefited from his parents being present for the renovations as much of his attention went towards finishing his third album with his band Social Offender. It gave him time to concentrate on the minute details of the music before the release date instead of focusing on the house.
The second album did so much better than they had hoped and it only went to reinforce his drive to get out a third one that would impress both their audience and the critics. They strayed a little from their first two, hoping this one would be more socially conscious and less about the party lifestyle. They wanted their music to grow and not be pigeonholed into just a good time band, and I knew he worried his fans wouldn’t approve.
Not only that, but the incident shortened the last tour, and they need to make it up to the fans. This upcoming tour would be even longer than the last one. We kept the incident out of the media, and I was still shocked we were able to contain it. The PR firm that Brandt employed had earned their money. Instead of the news focused on me as the reason the tour ended it was more explained as a series of unfortunate events. First, Brandt had a supposed vocal cord polyp and needed to rest his throat, and then Ryder, the drummer, allegedly broke his wrist. After another minimal issue, the band put out a statement they were terminating the rest of the tour, citing more of a superstitious reason and would focus on recording the third album. And the fans ate it up, sending well wishes and thoughts about how they still loved them.
The trauma over the last several months brought us closer together. Not back to normal but I didn’t think we would ever be and I could accept it. Things had changed between us, but now we were held together with a special bond. The passing of a child was a loss we overcame, making us face our sorrow as one. We grew stronger as a couple. Maybe we would never get back what we once had, but the direction we were going seemed just as promising.
Not even able to call it by what it was, I now referred to it as the ‘incident.’ It seemed easier saying that than ‘the kidnapping and assault that resulted in the death of a child.’ Albeit a mouthful it also made others uneasy, at least it was what Dr. Kellen said. I returned to weekly visits along with Brandt. We could now talk in a straightforward way about that night and the fact that our communication, well... sucked. We were working on both. It caused us to misjudge each other and almost destroyed what we had, and we were both determined not to let it happen again.
Dr. Kellen diagnosed me with PTSD and survivor’s guilt. She forced me to go through it. To relive it over and over again until she ultimately convinced me there was nothing I could have done to change the outcome. Dan, my ex-boyfriend, would have killed me regardless. I knew this now. He had dug a shallow hole in the backyard of the cabin where he planned to bury me. For whatever reason, God chose to spare my life, I needed to live it like it was a gift. I would have wanted it for Holly, should it have been the other way around. Dr. Kellen made me see this, and I worked steadily towards a healthier life because of that revelation.
At least Brandt and I could talk frankly about it now. What happened. How it hurt us. How to move on. Part of it was Dr. Kellen, and part was a want to stay together. We still had to work for it. It wasn’t easy though. When I brought up the incident, we still had pain, but it was dulling ever so slightly day by day.
Dr. Kellen suggested my pain came from survivor’s guilt: the thought I should have died to save my baby. She might have been right. As hard as it was to admit, I had no chance to save her. It was the second child I had lost and neither of them would have survived had I done anything differently. I needed to let my guilt go and only hoped one day I could get past it completely.
Today, I was back in the gym working on my self-defense moves. Perched on all fours on a practice mat, Tony had me in his grip. Edgardo instructed him to come over the top of me and force me on the ground. It used to cause me anxiety to run these drills as some of the positions reminded me of the ‘incident,’ but Edgardo taught me to control it.
With my mind returning to the task at hand, I realized I was in a precarious position. I felt myself getting a little nervous but when Edgardo said ‘go,’ I elbowed Tony in the gut and flipped him over to break his grip. It made me feel powerful and more in control. I didn’t know how well this would work in the real world, but in the gym, I felt as though I could do anything. Edgardo and his sister, Marisol, had been a godsend in that realm.
After running through the drill another two times, the class ended with me perfecting the latest combat strategy. I went with Tony to the bleachers and grabbed my water bottle and towel to wipe off the sweat guaranteed to accompany me in these sessions. I was amazed at how far I had come in the last six weeks. My appetite returned, and on the days I worked out here at the gym, I ate like a horse. Definition had returned to my muscles, and although I had gained all my weight back and then some, my clothes still seemed loose. The toning I gained helped me be in the best shape of my life.
Brandt noticed too. I walked out of the shower the other day, and his jaw almost hit the floor. We made love the with the lights on again and not always under the covers as I needed to at first now my confidence reemerged. I hoped we could get back to the ‘play,’ but so far, I’d been disappointed. He shied away not really giving me a reason why and strangely, I missed it us getting back to the excitement and experimentation we shared in our earlier sex life.
Although we had sex, great meaningful sex, we still lagged in the erotic play that once was. The last step in my mind was getting the passion back. Brandt wouldn’t even let me talk to him about ‘playing’ again, telling me he didn’t want to but not really giving me a reason. We were back to making love all the time, but when things got more physical, he clammed up. He loved me. This I knew, but he didn’t look at me with lust anymore. The passion just wasn’t there. Now he treated me with sympathy, more like a victim, and it was hard to take.
The one day that I had gotten up the nerve to dress in my blue nightie from him and display myself on the bed with the scarves was disappointing to say the least. I did my hair and makeup and waited for him to come home from the studio. When he saw me, I thought I had struck a chord. He looked at me with desire for what seemed a hot minute. And then his face dropped as he rushed to the bed and tore the scarves off me. When I told him that I wanted to ‘play’ all he said was that he didn’t, ever, and that I deserved better. It had been the last time I tried to push it. The scarves and the nightie disappeared soon after.
It was hard not being able to talk to anyone about it. My shrink told me I could talk to her about anything, but it just didn’t feel right talking about my sexual proclivities. Sure, she could help me with the incident, but when it came to my thrill with bondage and being punished, I couldn’t do it. It didn’t feel right.
But who could I really talk to about it? Amilyn traveled all the time for her job now that she’d left Phillip. I respected her decision and only hoped one day she would know the same type of love I shared with Brandt. She was such an integral part of getting us together and deserved so much more.
When I was still so depressed and angry with the world, I lashed out at Ami. We made amends which showed what an amazing friend I had in her. I was such a bitch to her the last time she came to see me I didn’t think she would ever accept my apology. Thankfully, she did. I needed her in my life and was so grateful I didn’t break that bond with my hateful talk.
We owed a lot to her ex-boyfriend, Phillip too. Without the use of his helicopter, I would be dead. And Bill. I couldn’t forget the private detective that helped us more than once now. We pretty much felt that way with everyone in my life. They helped us through this, and I was extremely lucky to have their support. Tony, the police officer who helped Brandt that night, was no exception. Without him, Brandt would be dead, and it still makes my eyes sting with tears thinking of it.
My mind drifted back to our relationship and subsequent lack of passion. Without it would we be able to make it? We had love but without the passion, would we survive? Brandt had an exciting love life before me, and I felt as though vanilla sex with me would eventually bore him, and we would drift apart.
That wasn’t all of it. I missed it. I missed the ‘play’ and especially the ‘punishments.’ What he did to my body drove me to the brink of insanity, and then he would make me explode into a pleasure I had never felt before. He controlled me, and I craved it. How on earth would we get it back?
“Chelsea, are you even listening?” I had been staring into space deep in thought when I finally heard Tony talk.
“Oh, I’m sorry Tony. I’ve been a little distracted lately.” He shrugged and sat closer.
“Something I can help with?” I shook my head as my mind wandered back to my query. Although he wanted to help, I dismissed him as a potential confidant not knowing how I could bring it up with him anyway.
“Then what’s on your mind?” He didn’t give up so easily. I was sure he didn’t want to know what garnered all my attention lately. Tony became an amazing friend through the time we spent together in the gym. I confided in him about a lot of my issues with the incident, and he was the most compassionate, giving person. Truly a great guy that I was proud to call my friend. But would he understand my dilemma?
Sheepishly I shrugged, “Ah, I don’t think I should say.” Alarm lit his face, certain it had something to do with the incident.
“Chelsea, you know you can tell me anything, right.” I shook my head and tried to make it less of an issue.
“Really, it’s nothing.”
He didn’t take no for an answer. “Come on. Have I ever blown you off? You can tell me anything.” I looked into his deep brown eyes and struggled to keep it in. How did I discuss my kink with him?
But maybe a male point of view would help?
“Well...” He nodded his head for me to go on and I leaned in a little closer to him. “It’s about Brandt. He won’t...” Oh, God would I truly have the guts to talk about this? Another nod of Tony’s head and I blurted it out, “We don’t ‘play’ anymore.”
His look of concern turned to confusion. He had no clue what I was talking about, but instead of letting it go, I pushed on, needing to get it off my chest. “We used to experiment with bondage in bed and now he won’t...” Blushing and giving him an expression of ‘you know’ turned the look of confusion on his face to shock and then to discomfort, furthering yet still to awkwardness. I shouldn’t have said anything, but now that it was out in the open, I couldn’t help myself.
“We don’t do anything that kinky. I mean he ties me up, but there are no whips or chains or anything like that. We do other things but... well, not spanking... well, at least not anymore...” The more I rambled, the more uncomfortable he got.
“Look, Chelsea, when I told you that you could tell me anything, I lied. There’s just some shit even I don’t want to know about.” I looked at him in shock, and then he smirked. He was hassling me but still seemed uncomfortable. I sighed again and bowed my head down. No, maybe I should have kept it to myself.
“Listen. What you and Brandt do between the sheets is really none of my business. You are two consenting adults and who am I to say what is right or wrong. I just don’t see how I can help you.” Then again, maybe he was trying in his own way. But it was all in vain. He couldn’t necessarily hold a gun to Brandt’s head and make him torture me sexually until I screamed his name in an orgasmic ritual that left me speechless, now could he?
“Well, maybe I’m just wording it wrong then. You see, Brandt used to look at me differently. He used to make me feel like I was a piece of meat but in a good way.” Okay, that sounded bad. Try again, Chelsea. “He lusted after me and made me feel like the sexiest woman on the planet. Now he looks at me with love, and I can’t deny how special it makes me feel, but there is no passion. It’s more a look like he thinks of me as...” I couldn’t deny it anymore. “A victim.”
Tony sighed and put his arm around me. He felt like a big brother, and I tried to not cry on his shoulder, but the tears were there. “Have you talked to Brandt about this?”
“I tried, but he says that he can’t, and he won’t, you know... do that stuff again. He even threw away our... ah... props.”
“Don’t give up. Things are still hard for him. For the both of you. Give him time, and he will see you as the confident woman you are.” Confident, yes! That was the right word. Brandt needed to see me as confident. Maybe tonight I could show him how confident I could be. He always said it was the sexiest thing about a woman.
We had plans to go out with Edgardo and his sister Marisol. They’d invited us out to celebrate my graduating the ‘powder puff course’ as they put it. The first defense class level. We were going to a bar in between here and our house, a place we’d never been before. Brandt didn’t like the location. He gave in after I explained the bar would be a good halfway point for all of us, but he still seemed reluctant although I looked forward to it. Brandt had been so busy with the promotion of the new album, and me with the house remodel, that we hadn’t gone out as much and with time drawing near for him to start the next tour, it was important he saw what I could do on my own.
He knew I couldn’t go with him on tour and it brought up a whole new apprehension to our lives. He didn’t like leaving me alone in California, but I needed to stay back and work on the house. As it was, the only part close to being finished was the living room and side room which housed the piano since those changes were mainly cosmetic. The rest of the house stood in varying arrays of demolition and reconstruction. We had to wait on the building inspector more than once, and some of the design materials took longer than expected to arrive. It shot our timeline for the renovation right out the window, and it might take until October or November before the final transformation, way longer than the projected eight weeks.
Besides tonight’s outing, this Saturday was the grand opening the nightclub Ryder renovated. On the ground floor of the neighborhood’s rejuvenation project, he accomplished a goal of his own. Another nightclub a block down would open soon also, and with the one that just opened less than a year ago, they all stood to make a lot of money should the idea take off. I was excited for Ryder, but Brandt saw it as a threat to the band staying together.
Tonight would be a perfect way for me to prove to him I could take care of myself. Brandt would leave in a little over two weeks for his next tour. More importantly, I wanted to prove it to myself. Each day, I felt a little bit better about the fact I would be on my own again with Brandt touring the country without me. He installed a new security system and of course, my favorite cop would be coming by to check on me.
“I hope you are right Tony. I really hope we can get our passion back. Without it, I’m afraid we won’t last.”
“Don’t say that. Brandt really loves you.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I know he does. I just don’t think it’s enough. I need the passion back, and so does he no matter what he says.”
Tony gave me a little more of a shrug, and I turned to give him a full hug. “Tony, I knew I could talk to you about this guy stuff. Thanks!”
He pulled away slowly. “What do you mean by that? Do I look like anS&M kind of guy?”
I laughed and shook my head. “No, of course not. Even with the handcuffs, you don’t come across as the whips and chains type, but I thought you might have some insight into the mind of a man. We have some of the same issues with you being gay and all...”
His eyes widen as he looked around. “What do you mean?” He stammered, and I realized then he kept it a secret. He never talked about it, preferring to tell the guys he focused on his career and not on relationships, but I had more than a feeling. “I’m not gay.”
“Tony, it’s all right. I don’t care.” He looked around one more time. There was no one in earshot, but still, he seemed nervous.
Now in a quieter voice, “Really, I’m not gay.” My look turned to sympathy and I couldn’t help it. Not that I was the best at figuring it out, but I could see the signs.
He had a hard time looking at me in the eyes, and when I finally meet his gaze, he looked away. Slowly he turned back and sighed, “Look, you can’t say anything, okay?”
He was still in the closet. “I won’t tell anyone, Tony. Your secret is safe with me.”
“How did you find out?” Still looking around, he seemed uncomfortable I did not fall for his charade and it broke my heart. Why should he feel he couldn’t be himself around the people who cared about him?
“Well...you’re the best sparring partner I have ever had. The rest of the guys are afraid to grab me in... eh... certain places but you don’t even flinch.”
He shrugged, “Maybe I just want to hurt you.”
It made me laugh. “Yeah, but the other guys all check out the girls in the club. The only people I see you checking out are the occasional muscle-bound oafs.”
He looked a little green. “It’s that obvious?”
I shook my head. “Not to the guys, don’t worry. I’m sure that they think you are impressed with their pipes and not their package.”
He elbowed me in the side, and I giggled before turning serious. “Tony, I’m sorry you feel like you can’t be yourself here.”
“It isn’t just that. California is way more out than where I came from. It was part of the appeal of moving here, but when you work on the force sometimes it’s the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ mentality that will get you ahead. I am serious when I say I don’t want to be a beat cop all my life. I need to keep this under wraps. At least for now.” He looked sheepishly at me, “Besides, I don’t think guys like your boyfriend would understand.”
Although shocked at his statement, I shouldn’t be. Brandt was a little on the homophobic side and had made the occasional crude remark. He didn’t understand the draw for men to like men and had a hard time wrapping his head around it. He would never be mean to a person but still needed time to adjust to a change in the world that was coming regardless if he understood it or not.
“Yeah, I guess. Brandt views himself more like a man’s man, so he can’t fathom that love is love no matter who.” I squeezed his arm, “I just hope you can feel open enough with me. I would hate to think you couldn’t be yourself around me. You’re such a good friend.”
Tony smiled and hugged me to him, “Thanks. You aren’t so bad yourself. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to nap. I have a celebration to go to tonight.” I laughed and let him go. I really did feel for him. He was a wonderful guy, and he deserved to be just as happy as the rest of us.