I expected to wake up in Madison's arms with his fingers trailing up and down my back or him kissing me to wake up once he got tired of waiting or even him still fast asleep while he spooned me. But I got none of those things. I woke up alone.
Panic quickly filled my chest as I got up and quickly slid on a pair of boxers. What if he'd had an emotional break while I was sleeping and now he's running around out there somewhere alone and probably afraid? I looked on the nightstand and my fears grew as my eyes landed on his phone and wallet sitting idly on the nightstand.
I wasted no time grabbing my own keys and phone and hurried out the bedroom door, not caring that I was still naked other than my boxers or that the sudden movements hurt. I just wanted to make sure that he was safe.
I was hurrying past the kitchen toward the front door when a voice said, "Woah, babe. Whatcha rushin' for?" I jumped as I quickly turned around just to see Madison standing over the oven as bacon sizzled and amazing aromas filled the air. His hair was disheveled and his eyes were still a bit tired, but the smile he wore on his face made my heart melt. He was also only wearing his briefs, which made his butt look amazing. Almost as amazing as it had felt.
I let out a sigh of relief as I made my way over to him and set my keys and phone down on the table. "Babe, you scared me," I softly admitted as he approached me. "I was afraid you'd left or something."
"And miss the beautiful sight of seeing you in the morning?" He kissed the tip of my nose. "Never."
I smiled up at him before I slightly craned my neck up and kissed him again, placing my hands on his butt. He chuckled against my lips but didn't object. "You know, I debated doing this the way I'd dreamt about it before," he said as he pulled away. "I was gonna sneak out from under you and make you breakfast so you'd wander out here all sleep-eyed and adorable and we'd have what my family had called a little Italian breakfast."
My eyebrows furrowed. "Is that not what we're doing now?"
"Almost," he said before he leaned in so that his mouth was less than in inch away from my ear. He whispered, "except, I would be naked."
I bit my bottom lip.
That would've been my perfect morning.
He grinned seeing my excitement before he kissed me again. "Sit down, I'm almost done," he instructed as he headed back toward the oven to finish his "little Italian breakfast". I noticed that his walk was a bit off and I found the corners of my mouth turning up ever so slightly.
I tried to take my place on the counter, but when I tried to prop myself up, I was met with extreme discomfort. It was borderline painful. This caused a slight wince to escape my mouth and Madison instantly turned around. I avoided his eyes, feeling a bit embarrassed that he was doing virtually fine and I couldn't even sit. "Mi dispiace (I'm sorry), Noah," he gently said as he kissed my forehead then in one swift movement, he lifted me up into the counter. "The first time is the worse, but it'll get better. But I warned you about this last night," he joked, though one thing was running around my mind. How many times had he done this? I knew he said he loved me, but this was my first time. How did I...compare?
Unable to keep my thoughts I silent I cleared my throat. "Uh, Mads..?"
"Yeah?" He asked as he continued working.
"Um...how many times have you..." I trailed, too embarrassed to finish the sentence.
Picking up on what I was asking, Madison turned around, an eyebrow slightly higher than another. "Made love?"
I nodded, a bit bashful.
"This is my second time being with someone, my first time was a drunk mistake in high school, but last night was the first time I truly made love and I loved every second of it."
This made me grin, which he returned before he continued his work and we remained in a comfortable silence.
"Babe, don't lie to me, this is terrible," I whined as I looked at the disfigured drawing I'd made compared to Madison's flawless masterpiece.
He laughed. "Baby, it's not that bad! It's just your first time."
"I know, but I usually master things my first time," I pouted.
Madison smiled and kissed me. "You sure do."
"But for real, that's not a healthy mindset to have."
"I know, I know," I sighed before I reached for his sketch pad, but he relented. "Baby, please. I like seeing what you draw. You're amazing at it."
He but his bottom lip and flipped it over in his mind.
"I promise that I won't judge, okay? I mean, how can I with my skills, or lack thereof?" I chuckled and his grinned.
"Okay," he finally said as he handed me his book. "But just...please don't judge."
He seemed bashful and nervous. Cute. I kissed his nose like he'd done to me this morning. "Of course not, my love." He wrapped his arms around my waist and gently pulled me into his lap, very careful since we were both still vulnerable, before he rested his chin on my shoulder and watched as I cracked open his sketchbook. As I looked over the simple sketches that quickly became more and more details and complex, I felt like I was being exposed to a whole other part of Madison. A part he didn't really let anyone see. It was wild and creative and warped in a good way. It was him. And I loved it. Then, I got to the section where there were drawings of me, some of them just me by myself and others with him with me. Us holding hands, us kissing, the day of my assault right before we left, me asleep at the hospital. Everything. But then when I flipped to the very last drawing he'd made, I froze. It was a drawing of me from last night. My eyes were closed and sweat drenched my body. I wasn't asleep, but rather I was still in the moment, pure ecstasy and bliss evident on my face and my body bare. This was me from Madison's point of view.
"Oh my gosh, Madison..." I trailed as I took in the picture. I couldn't put what I felt into words.
"I know, it might be weird but I just wanted to remember our first time and-"
I interrupted him by kissing him, gently cupping his cheek as I did. We held it before he pulled away, a confused look on his face. "Wait, so you're not mad or disgusted?"
"Of course not, baby. I'm honored."
He smiled. "Good, now don't ever scare me like that again."
I chuckled as I turned my body and wrapped my arms around his neck. "I'm sorry."
"It's fine, but you know what?" He softly said. "I think I need some more inspiration. I want to start a series of you just like you were in that drawing. Would you care to make some more art?"
I smiled and shook my head, though it killed me to. "I'm sorry, babe, but I can't. I know you're not religious but...I don't know, I just wanna wait until we're married. I'm sorry, I know I'm being a prude, especially after everything we've done but..." I trailed, my words failing me before I sighed and looked up at him. "I'm sorry."
He shook his head. "Don't be. We can still make art in many different ways. I vote for getting naked, throwing paint at over our bodies, and painting this whole apartment and maybe creating some new colors."
I laughed and he soon joined in with me. "You're crazy, you know that?" I asked once we sobered down.
"I've heard it once or twice," he shrugged before he chuckled again. He looked beautiful when he smiled or laughed. He always looked beautiful, but this morning his his hair the way it was and looking drunk on life and love...it was especially beautiful.
I found myself grabbing my phone and opening the camera app and pointing the camera toward us. "Come on, babe. Let's take a picture." Madison instantly moved into frame and smiled. I had to admit that we looked adorable. We took some normal ones, silly ones, and, my personal favorite, a picture of me laughing as he kissed my cheek and his muscular arms hugging me. I smiled as I looked down at it before I clicked on a few buttons and made it my lock screen. "How about that?" I asked as I showed Madison.
He smiled. "I love it."
"Babe, are you sure that you want to do this? I mean, it might not be safe," Madison asked for the fifth time as I buttoned up my shirt before I tucked it into my slacks.
"Yeah, Madison, I'm sure," I said as I looked at myself in the mirror and minorly adjusted my hair. "It's been too long since I've been there and I'm not going to be bullied out of my religion by naysayers. If push comes to shove, I can always go to another church."
Madison sighed and he wrapped his arms around my waist and rested his chin on my shoulders. He was dressed in his Sunday's best as well, which consisted of a polo and some jeans though I couldn't blame him since he didn't exactly have a Sunday's best. "I know babe, I'm sorry, it's just...we've already gone through so much and I just don't like the idea of you being somewhere where there's even a sliver of a chance of you getting hurt, that's all."
I grinned as I turned my head and kissed the crown of his. "Thank you, but you won't have to worry because I have my amazing boyfriend by my side." He only held me tighter. I chuckled before I forced myself to break free of his comforting grasp and grab my phone and keys. "Come on. I don't wanna be late." Madison mutely followed my lead all the way to the car. My Nona has been adamant about me driving her to church, and though I didn't think it was a good idea, especially if I had to leave early, she wouldn't take no for an answer. A stubborn woman, that one.
Once we pulled into the driveway, Madison quickly jumped out and headed to the front door. My Nona has really grown on him. By the time I made it out, Nona was already arm and arm with Madison and was laughing at something he'd said. "Hello, miele" she greeted as Madison and I switched off and he went to open the passenger side door.
"Hey, Nona," I warmly responded as I helped her in. "How are you?"
"Fine," she said as she settled in and I buckled her in. "Are you sure you're ready for this, Noah? I mean, you're trial was less than a week ago and-"
"Ah, ah, ah, non preoccuparti, Nona. sono pronto, (Ah, ah, ah. Don't worry, Nona. I'm ready)," I softly confirmed as I kissed her cheek before I returned to the driver's side and Madison settled in the back. As we got closer and closer, I could see Madison's visual discomfort grow more and more.
Once we pulled up to the church, I was once again greeted by people entering the church, however, some eyes stuck to me as I slowly made my way to the parking lot. I kept my eyes on what was in front of me though my heart was ramming in my chest.
"Miele, if you ever want to go home, just let me know and we'll leave," my Nona said and I nodded before I gave her a shaky "okay". I mentally cursed. I sounded weak.
I eventually found a parking spot that was far enough away for me to not be noticed but right in front of the church's side door. As I pulled my key out of the ignition, my hands shook and I felt a bit light-headed, the same way I did before a panic attack. I took a deep breath and tried to shake it off, but it lingered deep in my chest. Madison and I both took one of my Nona's arms and helped her out of the car and into the side door. Luckily the door was right next to the pew we usually sat in, so sneaking her in wasn't hard.
But the stares. My God the stares. Though their mouths didn't move, I could hear their thoughts.
"There he is."
"How dare he come in here?"
"Is that his boyfriend?"
"He's brave coming in the house with that thing."
My heart sped up and tears gathered in my eyes as I desperately scanned the judgemental faces for a friendly one, but I couldn't find one. Even Gracie was looking down like she couldn't stand the sight of me.
Madison grabbed my wrist. "Calm down, Noah," he softly whispered.
"Madison, I-I can't breathe," I stammered out.
"It's okay, relax," he said, desperately trying to relax me. "Tell me where to take you. Tell me where you wanna go."
Unable to form words in fear of breaking down into sobs, I hurriedly led him back outside and as soon as the door closed behind us, Madison's arms were around me. "It's okay, baby. Just breathe," he softly said as I sputtered and cried. "It's okay, take your time." I just held him tighter and let it all out until I couldn't any more. Even after I was silent, his arms remained around me. I felt protected.
After a few moments he softly asked, "Are you okay?"
I hopelessly shrugged. "I thought I could do this but...I'm scared."
"Do you want me to take you home?"
"I don't know, I-"
I was interrupted by the door creaking open. Out of instinct, I buried my head in his chest again, afraid of the looks I would receive. Madison's arms held me tighter. "Noah?" A familiar voice softly asked.
"Look, I don't think right now's a good time," Madison sternly said as I turned to see Gracie standing in front of me.
She frowned. "Oh, well I can-"
"No, it's fine," I said as I wiped my tears and finally faced her, though Madison's arms remained tight around me and I didn't try to break free. "Hi."
"Hi," she said with an awkward chuckle. "Look, I...I'm sorry for how I acted. I was just shocked and confused and...gosh, it's embarrassing to admit now, but I had like a huge crush on you and when I saw you two..." she trailed before she looked at Madison then back to me. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay," I softly said.
"This is just so sudden and unexpected but...it's okay."
I raised an eyebrow, semi-suspicious. "Are you sure? Last time you talked about people like us, you said we were sick and needed to be vaccinated."
She looked down at her hands. "Okay, I admit that I wasn't open to it initially but...it's you, you know? I know you and your spirit and care about you. This small thing...it's doesn't change any of that. Look, I'm sorry that we made you feel uncomfortable. I'm sorry that I made you uncomfortable and didn't do anything to stop this, but I'm an ally. Promise. Plus, love thy neighbor like you love yourself, right?"
I offered her a small grin. "Right." I gave her a quick hug before I pulled away, still a bit hesitant. "So, uh, Gracie, this is Madison my boyfriend. Madison, this is Gracie."
"Hi," he curtly said as he extended his hand toward her.
"Hi," she shyly said back. "I'm sorry to you too."
She offered an awkward, yet genuine smile before she opened the door to the church, holding it open for Madison and I. "Are you ready?" He softly asked. "We don't have to go back in there if you don't want to."
"I'm good," I assured with a small smile. "Promise."
I followed Gracie in with Madison right behind me and I felt the eyes on me again, but before I could do or think anything, Gracie spoke. "Why are you all staring? There's nothing new here, it's just the same Noah that we've all seen grow up and do amazing things. Nothing has changed. I know there's talk going around, but guess what? He's still here to worship our God, his relationship with God hasn't changed so what gives us to judge Noah when He doesn't? We need to put our differences aside and due what God has called us to do, which is love each other like we love ourselves, okay?"
By the time she was done, the other church goers looked at her in shock. Some of them shook their heads and others did what she asked and stopped staring.
Though I knew that they weren't going to change just like that, I felt a new found confidence bubble in my chest as I offered her a smile and shimmied into the pew next to my Nona, Madison's hand in mine.