"Hey Joe, you have a minute?" Taking a deep breath, I walked out of his kitchen, a coke in hand, and threw myself down on his oversized rocking chair he had in the corner of the room facing the television.
I admit, I was nervous. Not really sure how I was going to approach the subject, but Joseph was really the only one I could turn to, the only one I trusted.
"What's up?" Joseph didn't take his eyes off the basketball game he was watching, he grabbed a handful of chips from a small bowl on the coffee table and tossed them in his mouth. He didn't catch the apprehension in my voice.
"Well uh..." I stared down at the red can in my hands, trying to conjure up some courage.
"Yeah?" Joseph finally turned away from the screen and over to me. He grabbed another handful of chips.
"Joe, can I ask you something?" I finally looked up at him. "How did you know when you and Roxy were ready to...um...ready to...you know."
Joseph just stared at me, his eyes widening, he looked frozen. His mouth hung open, a lone chip sitting on the tip of his tongue, forgotten.
"Matt," He blinked at me and painfully gulped down the last chip. "Are you talking about you and Sarah? Are you thinking about, you know, with Sarah?"
I nodded once and took a drink of my soda. I knew I was making Joseph uncomfortable but I was desperate for advice. I actually tried mentioning it to Ben a few days earlier, but Ben gave me this death stare and clammed up. He didn't want to talk about anything remotely close to sex even though I suspected him and Cassie were already going at it for a while now.
Joseph was quiet for a few seconds longer; I could tell he was thinking very carefully, making sure he knew what he was going to say before he said it. "Matt, um, how long have you and Sarah been dating now?"
"Five months." I answered him, shifting nervously in my seat.
"And you guys think you're ready?" The basketball game was playing nosily in the background but Joseph no longer seemed to care.
"I think so, I mean, I know I am. I think Sarah is too." My mind went back to the day we were at the lake. We had almost done it there.
Joseph stared at me again, tilting his head to the side. "Have you gotten to uh, second base yet?"
I sorta grinned at him, "Yeah."
"Really?" Joseph grinned back, sitting up a little straighter in his chair. "Well then, what's holding you guys back? It's not like you're still in high school or something."
I could feel myself turn red. I was going to have to tell him and he was going to laugh. I would never hear the end of it. "Joe, uh, even though I got to second base, I'm not sure, uh, what to do next. How to ask her, cause uh, I've never...never..." I just shook my head at him.
Joseph's eyes grew wide. "You never?"
"Not even with that Jenson chick in high school? I thought for sure you two screwed around. I mean hell, she always hung all over you, in those tank tops and short skirts."
I scowled at him, "Jenson was a whore. I would never sleep with her, she did the entire football team, or so I heard."
Joseph laughed, "And the basketball team too." He winked.
I raised my eyebrows at this new piece of information he was giving me. I never had any intention of sleeping with Jenson, just the thought of that repulsed me.
"So not with Jenson huh?" Joseph interrupted my thoughts.
"Well then hey Matt!" He brightened up at my words. "That's pretty cool. You should be proud. How about Sarah? Has she ever?" Joseph's face was all lit up, he looked really pleased and I felt really glad I had come to talk to him instead of torturing myself with Ben.
"I haven't asked her, but I think she might have. I'm not sure." But I was pretty sure she had. Just by the way she kissed me, by the way she would moan lightly into my mouth and let her hands wander down the front of my chest, trailing right into my lap. Yeah, I was pretty sure.
"Okay look Matt." Joseph leaned forward on the sofa, a serious expression on his face; he looked exactly the same way our dad looked before we ever got a lecture. "First you really need to be sure you want to do this, and then you need to be sure Sarah wants to as well. You need to ask her, communicate, this is very important. I knew I was in love with Roxy before I slept with her. I didn't just want to fuck her; you know what I mean, I wanted something different.
His words made perfect sense. I sure as hell didn't want to fuck Sarah, that sounded so bad, ugly. No, I wanted more than just fucking.
"Second, if you both decide to move forward then you need to be responsible, use something, a condom. You be the one to take care of it, don't make her do it. Show her that you care about her health as well as yours." Joseph seemed a little more relaxed now and reached for some more chips. "I have some condoms if you need them."
I hadn't even thought of that and nodded my head at him.
"And third, don't be a dick and get her into bed only to be done in five minutes. Make it special, do something special for her. Believe me, I know."
I laughed at Joseph's last comment, not really wanting to know how he figured that out. I could guess Roxy had something to do with that. "Thanks Joe, I was thinking about taking her out Friday night."
"Sounds nice." Joseph suddenly got a worried look again, "Uh, Matt, the first time, it's not always, uh, rainbows and shit. It might be awkward, fumbling, messy. Try not to have really high expectations okay, I don't want you to be disappointed."
I just stared at him, not quite sure what he was getting at. Awkward? There wasn't anything awkward between me and Sarah anymore. The day at the lake proved that.
Two weeks ago we been back at my apartment, enjoying a lazy Sunday and playing out guitars out on the front porch. I asked her if she wanted to go for a walk, there was a lake near the end of my apartment complex. Since the weather was finally warming up, dozens of pretty flowers sprung up all around the water making it look like something out of a picture book.
Sarah and I walked hand in hand over the edge of the water. The sunlight bouncing off her hair and eyes as she talked. It was hypnotizing me, making me completely captivated with her.
We sat next to one another, just talking and enjoying the breeze. She kept playing with my fingers, entwining them with my own. When she lay down in the grass and looked up at the sky, pointing out all the fluffy white clouds, I laid down next to her, trying to make her laugh, telling her silly stories about the figures we saw in the clouds.
Her laugh was contagious, and before I knew it we were both giggling like school kids. I don't even remember how the next part happened. One minute we were laughing, the next Sarah had rolled herself on top of me, straddling me at my waist, leaning down on her hands so that her hair fell down on either side of her head, creating a curtain around us.
She stared into my eyes for a few seconds before she whispered, "So green." And then her mouth was over mine. But this kiss was different. Harder, more urgent, and I wrapped my arms around her, pulling her down to me.
She shifted her hips, rubbing them slowly up and down against me. I could feel my body react to hers, and I think I grew hard in five seconds flat. I knew she could feel my erection, she was wearing a pretty cotton skirt, and right now it was bunched up around her thighs.
She pressed her body closer to mine, giving out this sexy little moan. I completely lost myself in her, in my desire. I wanted to be closer. I rolled us both over so that this time she was underneath me. She just groaned and shoved her hands into my hair, locking me in place, pulling me down onto her.
My instincts took over and my hips pushed into her. I could feel her legs rubbing against my jeans. My hand traveled down her side, under her skirt, until I found the soft skin of her thigh against my palm. I slid my hand down her leg, marveling at its silky fell. My mind spun and my heart pounded as I wrapped my hand under her thigh, hitching her leg up, trying to get better access to the place I wanted to be most.
And she let me. She wanted me. Her hands left my hair and ran down the front of my shirt. She started tugging at the buttons, managing to unfasten about three of them. I could feel her fingers caressing my bare chest, gently scraping her nails across it, slowly back and forth. It was making me crazy.
We shifted to our side, not realizing that we were halfway into the water by now. It lapped softly around us, flowing along our sides and in between our entangled arms and legs.
The water wasn't cold, it was cool, just enough to send tiny goose bumps all along our skin. Just enough to arouse us even more. Her blouse was all wet, it clung to her body, and I could see the outline of her bra, the swell of her breasts peeking out from the top. She looked so beautiful, so perfect, and when I finally got enough courage to run my hand up her smooth stomach and close around one of her breasts, she let out this breathy gasp and arched her body up to mine.
That send me spinning into oblivion, my hand shoved it way under her bra, all while I kissed her, touching her, feeling her, loving her. This was nothing like I ever felt before. She was so many things all at the same time, hot, soft, sexy, beautiful, loving, it all blended into one, and I wanted to make us one.
Just when I lowered my head, placing tiny kisses all along her neck and collarbone, traveling down to where my hand cupped her breast, she whispered my name..."Matthew..." She clutched my harder against her and moaned again.
"Matthew, I lov..."
I could feel my breath hitch, my hips pushing into her skin, my entire being on edge waiting to hear her say those words, longing to hear her say those words.
But she didn't get to finish, and neither did I. We could both hear the far away sounds of people chatting and laughing at the same time. We jerked apart in a hurry, sitting up in the water.
The family that was walking along the adjacent end of the lake hadn't seen us yet, which was a good thing because two little children who were with them happily skipped along the water's edge, picking all the pretty flowers.
Sarah and I stared at each other for a few seconds, letting our breathing even out. And then she smiled at me, this cute, almost shy smile, her hair sticking to her forehead and cheeks, her clothes in disarray.
"Come on," I held out my hand to her and we ran back to my apartment laughing. I lent her one of my button down shirts that was three sizes too big for her. She wore it happily, parading around my living room in it, and when she stood by my piano, she looked so damn sexy, I had to physically restrain myself from jumping on her right there.
Somehow we both new that the next step wasn't too far down the road for us, but we also seemed to know that the next step wasn't going to happen that day. We spent the rest of that magical day laughing and talking, talking about a future we were going to have one day.
It was one of the best days in my entire life...
"Mr. Steele, I want to talk about your wife today. Do you think of your wife often?"
I nearly snorted at Dr. Whitewater's words. I thought of Sarah every fucking day of my life. Not a day, hour, or minute went by without me thinking of her.
I nodded my head at Dr. Whitewater, not offering him anything more.
"You both met in college, is that correct?" He was shuffling through some papers, seemed to be looking for something.
"Yes, I met her when I was nineteen." I still remembered everything about us.
"And you got married at twenty four?"
"Right after we graduated." I added. It had been a wonderful, magical day. Sarah was breathtaking in her gown. Joseph was my best man, my shoulder to lean on, and I never seen my parents prouder.
He tilted his head to the side, almost sadly, his gaze studying my features for a second, "Mr. Steele, do you still love your wife?"
My head snapped up at his question. That was really a ridiculous question. "Of course I still love her."
"Are you sure?" He ignored the sarcasm in my voice.
"Then when was the last time you told her that?" Dr. Whitewater's words were almost accusing. "When was the last time she heard you tell her you loved her?"
I froze in my seat, my heart began thumping wildly. What was Dr. Whitewater getting at? His words spun around me as I stared at him. I couldn't remember when the last time I told Sarah I loved her. How long had it been?
"Mr. Steele," Dr. Whitewater leaned forward in his seat, "One of the first things alcoholics have to do during their recovery is realize the pain they have caused to others. Despite what pain you are going through yourself, your wife and son have gone through similar pain. A pain inflicted upon them by you, one they could not control, and have yet to receive an apology for."
I could feel my hands digging into the arms of my seat. A pain inflicted upon them by you...I knew he was right, he was always fucking right.
"And just like you, your wife can't heal, move on, until she knows what caused this, until you ask for forgiveness, whether she can give it to you or not."
I pondered his words, letting them sink into my brain. Sarah didn't know what caused this, she still didn't know, I never told her.
"The first time you walked into my office you told me that you wanted your wife back. Do you still?" Dr. Whitewater's voice was firm, his brows furrowed slightly.
"Ye...Yes. Of course." I was taken aback at his tome, he never talked to me this way before, I would usually bolt at the first sign of straightforwardness. But this time I couldn't move, couldn't flee, something was holding me back.
"Then it's time," Dr. Whitewater straightened up, his tone softened. He picked up his pen again and wrote a few words down on his clipboard. "It's time Mr. Steele."
"Time for what?" My voice had fallen to nothing more than a soft whisper.
Dr. Whitewater looked up sharply from his clipboard, "It's time to fight Mr. Steele, for your life back, for your wife and son, it's time to fight."
Dr. Whitewater's words were still ringing in my head as I walked along the sidewalk. Spring was here in full force now. The sun shone brightly overhead, people all laughed and talked as they passed me, their hands piled high with shopping bags and pushing strollers.
A tiny girl flashed me her baby grin and I smiled back automatically. It took me by surprise because I hadn't smiled in such a long time, at least not one that wasn't forced.
As I walked past this small cafe the smell of coffee along with baked goods beckoned me to enter, taking me back to happier memories. Music played softly in the background. I ordered a small coffee and a cookie, even though I didn't want either. I just wanted to sit there, in the corner, and remember.
So I nursed my coffee, and ignored my cookie. Just watched all the people shuffle in and out for a while.
Then I heard the words, the words of the song playing through the speaker system. It made me suck in my breath, grip the edge of my table tightly. It was that song, that exact same song she sang, on our first night, our first time...
The Coffee House was bursting to the seams with people as Ben and I pushed our way through.
"Do we have to come here tonight?" Ben said warily, looking around. "There's no place to sit."
"She told me I have to be here, and I'm going to be here." I elbowed my way through the crowd. "You don't have to stay, I'll let Cassie know." I half teased knowing he wouldn't leave Cassie's side all night.
He just gave me a little huff, ignoring me.
It was open mic night here at the Coffee House so the place was packed full of college kids eager to hear their friends sing. I didn't realize it was going to be so crowded. Sarah told me all about open mic nights but this was the first one I was actually attending.
Ben finally found Cassie up near the front. She was bouncing all over her seat gesturing at us to hurry up. "Come on, it's almost time."
She gave Ben her seat and plopped down on his lap as I took the empty seat she was saving for us, next to her.
Sarah told me she was going to sing tonight, I couldn't wait to hear her voice again. I sat expectantly in my seat looking up at the small platform. She walked out without looking at anyone, a nervous smile on her lips. I could feel myself sit up straighter, already filled with pride at seeing my girl up there.
When she sat down and strummed her guitar a few times I could see her face relax. Her hands flew over her guitar with ease and when the first few words came out of her mouth she tilted her head up and looked right at me.
The look in her eyes, they words she sang, her hair flowing all around her face, those fingers, that voice...
It just shook me right to my soul. When the last of her song faded away, the entire Coffee House was silent, their eyes transfixed on Sarah. I think I stopped breathing, my eyes searching hers, knowing what she was telling me, knowing that we were going to take that next step, tonight.
The room finally broke out into thunderous applause, and she flashed a brilliant smile to me and around the room, making me grin with her.
Back at my place she was warm, soft, and sweet. Pressed up against my piano, her arms wrapped around my neck as she kissed me, holding me to her. Her skirt was already off, tossed carelessly at our side. I wanted everything off of her, I wanted to feel her, have her feel me, I wanted to make her mine.
Quiet moans, wet kisses, the feel of her lips against my neck, pressing, touching, the breathy gasps and longing sighs.
The only fumbling we did was with the buttons on my shirt. I didn't even bother with hers, pulling her blouse up over her head, eager to bring her body back to me.
Her hand hit a few keys on the piano as she flung her blouse to the ground, the harmonic sounds pierced through the silence, urging us along.
Her hands traveled down my bare chest, and then up my thighs, until her fingers wrapped themselves around me, so sexy, so tight, it tore a groan from my throat.
I could feel her pressing her breasts firmly into my hands, her body arching to mine. She clung to me when I scooped her up and carried her to my bedroom. She clung to me when I slid my body up on top of hers. Her eyes never wavered from my face as I touched her. She never hesitated, not even once, as I kissed every inch of that perfect skin. And after I ripped open the condom, rolling it on, she watched me in wonder, gasping softly when I entered her for the first time. It wasn't anything like I ever imagined it to be. It was a million times more meaningful, a million times more emotional.
And when she was finally wrapped around me, her body and her soul, when we were finally one, that's when she placed her hand on my cheek, tracing it along my jaw, whispering to me, "I love you."
Her words made me thrust into her again and again, taking her body and her heart to new heights.
I made her moan for me over and over, my own heart overflowing with all the things I wanted to show her, all the things I wanted to share with her.
When we were finally one...
The voice of the young girl holding the coffee carafe in her hands jerked me out of my thoughts, and I looked up startled.
"Oh. Uh, no thank you, I'm fine."
She smiled at me and nodded, turning to walk over to the next customer.
I stared at the now cold coffee in my hands, the uneaten cookie. Why had I let her go? Why had I let my entire family go? Was it too late to get them back?
I pushed myself up from the table and headed for the door. Dr. Whitewater said I needed to apologize, but I needed to do so much more than that. I needed to beg for forgiveness, make her understand.
The roar of a motorcycle filled my ears as I pushed my way out of the doors; it was racing down the street, making my heart leap to my throat. The sun was even brighter now and I had to bring my hand up to shield my eyes from the glare.
I hated motorcycles, hated them. Ever since I was a little boy, the noise and awful smell of them always made me wrinkle my nose and cover my ears. My dad and Joseph would laugh at me, tease me, boys were supposed to like fast things, but I never did.
I watched it fly right by in front of me, and I held my breath. Not because of the smell, but because it was going through the stoplights, the light was still green for him, but that didn't matter to me. I still watched, my eyes flying over to the other cars stopped at the opposite lights, making sure everyone saw him. He didn't seem to care, didn't look wither way as he few through the streets. He was young and carefree, just the way he should be, and I waited in my place until he was no longer in sight.
My mind wandered for a minute. The awful screeching noise, the screams, the orange flames. I could feel my heart begin to race and I deliberately forced myself to turn around and walk in the opposite direction. I found myself in front of the grocery store. Sarah and I used to come here together when we first got married.
The doors automatically opened for me as I paused in front of them. I walked through them, not really sure what I was doing here, but grateful for the distraction. I paused in front of the fruit section, staring at all the colors in front of me. The grapes were so round and green they actually made my mouth water, and I grabbed a few bunches, tossing them into one of the small plastic bags the store had for produce.
Feeling a little better and breathing a little easier, I made my way down a few more isles until I reached the beverage section. I stared past all the rows of soft drinks, taking in their various labels offering caffeine free, no sugar, zero calories, until my eyes reached the liquor.
There it was, all within my reach, dozens and dozens of cans and bottles all holding what I thought was precious and sacred just months ago. My hands automatically reached out and my fingers closed around the neck of the pretty golden bottle. I gazed at it, not really reading what it had to say. I already knew what it promised. I already knew what it could do for me. I should put it back, turn away from it.
Still I held onto it. Not really sure why. I didn't have the urge for it this time around, it just felt familiar in my hands and I wanted to feel something familiar again. My thumb played the cap, moving absentmindedly back and forth over it. I could feel it then, it washed over me, the hurt and the anger, only this time the anger was directed at that bottle. I never blamed the bottle, always blamed everyone else for my sorrows, but today, standing here, I hated that bottle.
I wanted to fling it across the store, my arm even rose a little, and I turned my body slightly bringing my head to look across the isle.
My breath hitched almost automatically because there, standing right next to me was Sarah. She was watching me, her hands frozen on her shopping cart. I couldn't read her face, but I could see her eyes locked onto that bottle, I could almost feel the hatred radiating off of her.
Her eyes finally rose up and rest on mine. I searched her eyes quickly, trying to find some emotion in them. There were none, she stared at me blankly, and then accusingly.
I wanted to drop that bottle right then and there, reach our for her and tell her that it wasn't what it looked like. I could give this all up. I would give this all up for her, for Henry.
She turned her head away, moving her eyes past me, above me. She started pushing her cart again, away from me, as quickly as she could.
I needed to stop her.
"Sarah," I took a hesitant step forward as she brushed right past me, she didn't turn around to look, "I'm sorry..."
She paused then, I saw it, just slightly. But it wasn't enough, I already knew it wouldn't be enough. She kept walking, pretending that she didn't see or hear me.
"I'm so sorry." I whispered to her retreating back. "I promise you, I won't give up. I promise you, I'm going to fight."
And then I placed the bottle back on the shelf and watched her walk away from me...