25 | Nosedive
I wake up around 7am.
Blythe breathes softly beside me, facing away, laying on her arm. We’ve separated from the last time we woke up together.
I roll onto my back and stare at the ceiling. It feels too dark, too heavy. I sit on the edge of my bed, stretching before standing, and pull the curtain away from the window. One glimpse outside and I can see the overcast. My room doesn’t illuminate all that much, just enough to convert navy to cobalt. I don’t despise rainy days.
I make my way back into bed, placing a hand on the curve of Blythe’s waist. I bury my nose in her curls, closing my eyes as I inhale, opening them as I exhale. On the inside of her wrist I notice bruises in the shape of fingerprints, her skin marred by my hands. They look like stains, as if they can be wiped away with a damp cloth. I trace over them with the pad of my thumb. I didn’t mean to press so hard. She didn’t seem to mind.
Blythe groans and her fingers dig into her palms. She lets out a deep breath and is awake. She sits up abruptly and I remove my hand from her. I watch as her breathing picks up as she glances around my room. She clutches her hand to her chest and then turns to look at me. I can sense her panic.
“What time is it?” she asks.
“Just after seven,” I say.
“We were loud last night,” she chokes out. She lifts her legs to her chest and hugs them. Her stare is wild, agitated. She thinks Terrence has heard everything and is a ticking time bomb waiting to detonate when she returns upstairs. She buries her face between her knees. “Terrence must have heard us. Oh no. What will he do?”
“He didn’t hear anything,” I reassure her. “It’s a one way street. I can hear what goes on upstairs but he can’t hear what goes on down here.”
“How can you be so sure?” Blythe asks, talking fast, lifting her face from her knees. “It’s not like one of those old sitcoms where people are shouting in a room two feet away yet miraculously no one in the neighboring room overhears them. Haven’t you ever noticed that? I never understood how that was supposed to be believable for the audience. Oh, how I wish it were true now—"
“Hey, listen,” she turns to me. Makeup has smeared around her eyes, only confirming her disheveled state. “He didn’t hear a thing. I play music down here sometimes that is louder than us last night but I bet you’ve never heard it, have you?”
“Well, no,” she admits.
“I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize you, Blythe,” I remind her. “If I thought there was a chance Terrence could hear us, I would have waited. I don’t want to make things worse for you.”
“I appreciate that,” she relents, lowering her legs as she runs a hand through her hair. Her fingers get stuck in a clump of knots. She doesn’t attempt to brush them out. Still, she scrutinizes me. “Are you sure? You’ll be okay, too?”
“Positive, Blythe,” I nod. “Even if you don’t trust me you can trust me on this one. You kind of have no choice.”
She worries her lip, staring at her feet laid out in front of her. She blinks as if just remembering now that she is naked. I love her body. It’s spectacular. She is lithe, healthy, easy to grab onto and easy to throw around. It’s natural the way we fit together, a butterfly safe in a cocoon. That’s the thing—as long as she’s with me she is safe. There’s something about her I want to protect.
“Don’t make me regret it,” she points at me.
I hum thoughtfully, smiling, settling myself in between her legs. She wraps her arms around me and we lay back down. I kiss her before using her chest as my pillow, hugging myself close to her. It’s soothing the way her breasts rise and fall. I shut my eyes; I don’t feel tired yet when I lay with her it feels too innate to fall back asleep.
“Why didn’t you want to wait?” Blythe asks curiously, no answer in particular that she’s expecting.
“I’m very attracted to you,” I don’t lie. “Not only to the way you look but the way you are. I like you as a person. You’re cunning, patient, smart. I don’t doubt your capabilities for a second.”
“If Terrence didn’t find me beautiful I wouldn’t be here,” she comments. I shift so I’m facing her, my cheek still on her breast. She maintains her stare-down with the ceiling. “I could still be cunning, smart, and patient but if he didn’t find me beautiful none of that would matter. I wouldn’t be down here either if you didn’t find me beautiful. You may like me as a person, but you’re also vain.”
“You wouldn’t have said yes last night if the attraction wasn’t mutual.”
“Fair point,” she agrees. “I don’t know what it is about you. I gravitated to you at first because I thought you were the weakest link—my best chance out of here. I’ve known for a while now that’s not the case. But I still gravitate to you.”
She purses her lips, pondering for a moment. Absentmindedly her fingers play the piano on my shoulders.
“I think it’s the fact you’re so opposite from Terrence and so similar in age to me,” she nods slowly to herself. “Yes, I think that’s the most plausible explanation.”
“You didn’t like me when we were younger,” I bring up, although she hid it well.
“I was always so nervous around you. You were intense and unreadable. Even though I didn’t like you I wanted to be liked by you because I thought that would in turn make me like you. The logic of a teen really does require a roadmap.”
“Hey, I liked you,” I say. “Maybe I wasn’t flashy about it but I dropped a lot of cues that obviously went over that pretty blonde head of yours.”
“Me being blonde has nothing to do with it,” she laughs. “You were just too discreet.”
“Am I still too discreet?” I ask, lifting my head up, lowering my mouth over hers. She cups the back of my neck with both hands. I like the way she does it. There is only presence. She’s adroit with her hands when she’s not too shy with them. I realize I don’t want the morning to end. I wouldn’t mind keeping her down here with me indefinitely.
I flip us around so she’s on top, my hands roaming her waist. She explores my face with her fingers. She’s so ginger, almost frigid, but her lips are desperate. Her legs move her up and we’re chest to chest. I can’t get enough of her. I never expected to feel this way. She shouldn’t be here, she doesn’t belong here. Yet the thought of her leaving and never returning terrifies me.
I stop kissing her. Blythe doesn’t question it, just buries herself in my neck. I smooth her hair. Feeling what I do makes me wonder how I was fine with not seeing her for a few years. I barely thought of her after Terrence and Beth divorced and now she’s all I think about. Every. Waking. Moment. She drives me crazy but it’s a crazy I don’t detest. I don’t take the time we spend together for granted.
“It feels like an affair,” Blythe says out of nowhere. “I know I don’t owe Terrence anything but I feel guilty. I feel like I’ve cheated.”
I don’t know how to respond. I understand where she’s coming from but there’s nothing I can say to make her feel better. She gets off of me, stationing herself beside me. Her eyes are emotional. The reality of everything has just come crashing down on her. She knits her fingers together nervously. I don’t know how long she can keep our rendezvous to herself before the guilt dissolves her.
“You’re certain there’s no chance he heard us?” she asks.
“Yes,” I nod.
“Okay,” her head bobs—not fully a nod, she’s still skeptical. “I should go back upstairs before Terrence wakes up.”
Blythe gets out of bed and strolls to the bathroom. I watch her walk out of my room, her shamelessness. She glances at me from over her shoulder just as she passes my threshold. I stand as soon as I see the light from the bathroom turn on, grabbing a pair of boxers. I don’t leave my room until the light is off and Blythe emerges. I turn on the living room light for her and she looks at me. She’s wiped some of the makeup from her eyes.
She’s still as I make my way towards her, already knowing what to expect. She presses against the wall near the stairs as I take her face in my hands and kiss her like it’s the last time. It’s so hard to let her go yet I know she doesn’t go through the same torture I do. I taste as much of her as I can before retracting. She places her hands on my wrists just to remove me from her .
“I’ll see you in a few,” she says, slipping past me and up the stairs.
I stand at the bottom. She doesn’t turn around once, not even as she shuts the door behind her. Just like that she’s gone, back in the lion’s den. I sigh, running my fingers through my hair as I return to my bed. I sit on the edge, head in my hands, trying to clear my thoughts. Why does it have to be her?
Lawrence and Blythe are already sitting at the island by the time I arrive upstairs, no speaking between them. Terrence is cooking. It’s times like this I wish I had a kitchen in my suite. I never used to mind being catered to by Terrence but I see what Blythe means when she said it feels like an affair. I can tell by his body language that he knows nothing, not that it was ambiguous before, but because I know about the tryst between Blythe and I it feels like he knows too. If he did know, he wouldn’t be able to hide it.
I join them at the table, my hand sweeping against Blythe’s lower back like a gale. No one notices except for her. She sits up straight as I occupy the chair beside her. She wears a sweater, sleeves kept down, and jeans. Her and Lawrence are not playing cribbage this morning. He looks at me as soon as I’m seated.
“Are you ready to work tonight?”
“Tonight?” I ask. “Since when do I work tonight?”
“Boss called last night. It’s you and I tonight. I text you around midnight. Did you not receive my text?”
I glance at Blythe whose eyes are glued to her coffee mug. Her knuckles are white from how tightly she grips it, jaw clenched so tightly I’m surprised her teeth aren’t popping loose. I would almost think she’s angry but she was with me at midnight so she knows I’m just as surprised as her. I know her well enough to be able to tell that she’s scared to be alone with Terrence.
“No, I passed out early,” I say. “I didn’t get a chance to check my phone this morning either.”
“I’ll be here around nine tonight. We’re taking my truck,” Terrence sets a cup of coffee in front of me. He watches Blythe, gauging her reaction. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. Not suspicious. She wouldn’t be excited on a good day. “It’s a long drive, we probably won’t be back until tomorrow afternoon.”
“Okay,” I nod, licking my lips.
Blythe tries keeping a brave countenance but I know she’d rather go wherever I’m going than stay with Terrence. It makes no sense to ask why Terrence can’t go in my place because I do a very different kind of job than both of my brothers. I’m being recruited tonight because I am needed. The only thing holding her back from crying is knowing how incriminating such a move would be. Terrence knows she’s more inclined to me, but not enough to cry in my departure.
Lawrence notices Blythe’s reaction and he sets a hand on hers. Instantly she evacuates her limbs from the table. She won’t look at any of us, more invested in her cup of coffee. She knows a night alone with her is all Terrence has wanted since bringing her here. I don’t want to leave her alone with him as much as she doesn’t want to be alone with him. But I know it’s worse for her.
Lawrence glances at me, narrowing his eyes. They’re denigrating. I know what he’s thinking: I’m deceiving Blythe, sabotaging her. Getting her attached to me just for shits and giggles. I don’t know how it’s so easy for Lawrence to pick out the details that Terrence misses when it should be him who notices them. Perhaps Lawrence isn’t as wishful about Blythe. He doesn’t want anything from her.
“You’ll be okay,” Lawrence whispers to her.
“I know,” Blythe responds, tone clipped.
Terrence finishes cooking and gets the plates ready, placing each in front of us. It’s another meal eaten in silence. I steal as much glances as I can at Blythe. She pokes at her food mostly, taking small bites every so often. She’s not done half by the time the rest of our plates are empty. Terrence grabs her dish after asking her if it’s all she wants, his eyes meeting mine in a warning. Stay away.
It’s a little late for that.
“Do you want to have a game of cribbage?” Lawrence asks her as she sips her coffee.
“No, thank you,” she shakes her head, stare downcast. She takes her mug and stands. “I’m really enjoying my book so I think I’m going to take a nosedive into it today. Get an early start, you know?”
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yes,” she snaps quietly. Her pupils do a strange recalibrating. Her appearance shows signs of exhaustion which doesn’t go unnoticed by Lawrence. He knows I didn’t crash when I said I did last night. He knows why I wasn’t near my phone. He’s put two and two together. She pleads with her eyes, her voice breathy. “I’m fine. I just want to read.”
She retreats back into her lair. Lawrence turns his focus to me, his expression blank but sly. This is not something he will hold over me, but he will hold it against me. His disapproval is written all over his face. He doesn’t understand. I don’t expect him to. He sees Blythe like a little sister and I don’t. Far from it. I’ve never seen her as a little sister—never could I view her that way.
We both stand at the same time. He takes me by my shoulder.
“We’ll talk later,” he says. I don’t respond. Our conversation is unavoidable and I am not looking forward to it.
I go back to my door, taking a final peek at Blythe’s. Lawrence, although talking to Terrence, is observing me. I don’t care to hide my interest from Lawrence because I know he won’t say anything to Terrence—he protects our secret not for me but for her. He loves Blythe in his own way—loves her like the little sister we never had.
I feel a different kind of way for her.