Estranged Trust

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Home Improvement

Chelsea

Waking up to an overly bright sunny room, I squinted at the light coming through the window. I felt like I’d slept for an eternity. When was the last time I slept through the night? I couldn’t even remember. I smiled and rolled over but the sheets next to me were cool.

Unable to help it, I feared last night was just a cruel dream causing the smile to fade from my face. I slept well because Brandt held me for the first time in forever, and I wanted to wake up next to him too.

And then I smelled it. Bacon. The smile returned to my face, and I stretched, relieving the few aches I still had. Throwing back my covers, I hopped out of bed, relieved that our epiphany last night connected us in a way our tragedy couldn’t. Our miscommunication caused corrosion to settle into our bond and the wedge of pain spread it to a point I didn’t think even we would come back from. We could have been helping each other to heal all along instead of trudging along in desolation.

I changed out of the sheer nightgown and robe to something more comfortable, opting for one of Brandt’s baggy sweatshirts and my warm leggings. Once dressed, I made my way downstairs following the aroma that made my stomach rumble.

As I walked into the kitchen, my eyes wandered over to the patio door I had been avoiding, but they didn’t have the same hold over me as before. My journey out of adversity was not complete, not by a long shot, but I felt closer today than in the past.

Brandt stood over by the stove with his back to me. He scrambled the eggs and flipped the bacon, making a mess like he usually did. Looking at the grease splatter and eggshells thrown over the countertop, I couldn’t help thinking this would take me a while to clean up and usually the reason I never let him cook.

He turned to go to the refrigerator and spotted me. He froze as if I’d materialized out of thin air but then spread his lips wide into a grin that reached both his ears. “Hey, angel.”

“Good morning.” I smiled back, feeling his elation infect my spirit.

“I thought I would make us some breakfast.” Although happy to see me, I could see the hesitancy as well. The last twenty-four hours had been a world of revelation between us but I didn’t want him handling me with kid gloves any more.

Circling the breakfast bar I rounded the corner and gave him a hug, standing on my tiptoes to make the embrace encompass as much of his body as possible. When he held on and sighed, I felt the weight fall off the both of us. Before the tears could come, I broke the connection and looked over at the stove. “It smells good.”

Brandt took me by the hand and brought me back around the sidebar and pulled out one of the stools. “Here. Sit down. I am almost done.”

After I sat down, he returned to the refrigerator, opening the door and pulling out the milk. Amazed at the throng of fresh goods inside, I turned to him, “I didn’t think we had enough to make breakfast.”

“I went shopping this morning.”

“Shopping! How long was I sleeping?” I didn’t think to look at the time before I wandered down, letting my stomach guide me.

His smile couldn’t be bigger. “It is ten o’clock. You must have really needed it.” Not only did I sleep through the night but I overslept? It was incredible to think I could sleep any more than I did the last two months but for once I didn’t feel tired. In fact, I felt more refreshed than I had in a long time.

Watching him settle back to his task, I glanced around the kitchen, thinking he must have gotten up early this morning. Maybe he already had gotten his run in as he seemed lively, excited even. The vitality permeating off him reminded me of how he got after a concert when the adrenaline kicked in, and he had boundless energy.

There was silence as he cooked but not an awkward silence we needed to deal with. More of a comfortable silence. We never had to say anything to be at ease with each other, and I was glad it had returned.

He served up the eggs and bacon on a plate, matched with toast and a glass of orange juice and placed it in front of me as well as freshly brewed coffee for the both of us. As soon as we were loaded up on food, he sat down next to me, and we both started eating. It didn’t go unnoticed that my plate was just as full as his. He observed my weight loss too, and for the first time in a long time, I wanted to eat, even if I had to take it slow to prevent overeating.

“Do you want more bacon?” It was the third time he asked me during the meal and as I pushed my plate to the side and shook my head, he at least looked somewhat satisfied at what I had eaten so far.

“Brandt, really, I can’t eat another bite.” He smirked to himself and went back to his food as I watched him finish. My back to the patio door, I caught the shimmer of the sunlight as it danced on the wall behind Brandt. I turned my body on the stool, so I once again focused my attention on the view of the ocean past the deck.

“Does it bother you being in here?” He knew I had been avoiding this room too.

“Actually no. I thought it would, but it doesn’t. I was just thinking.” He set down his fork and wiped his mouth with the napkin placing it on his plate.

Taking my hands in his, he tilted his head ever so slightly giving me his full attention, “What were you thinking?”

The lines in his forehead, and the serious look on his face, convinced me he thought my fixation with the view had something to do with what happened here in the kitchen, but it wasn’t the case. “I thought that I must have watched too many home improvement shows because the light from the doors should make it farther than the kitchen. I always thought the view was too beautiful not to be more open in this area.” His look of concern melted on his face before an awareness flirted with his eyes. Slowly his smile came back, and I felt as if I fell in love with him all over again. Oh, how I missed his smile.

“And what would you do?” His eyebrows knitted together as they sometimes did when he tried to figure out my quirky ideas.

“Well...” I got up and walked to the doorway leading into the hall knowing it had been part of the issue for me. “It wouldn’t be too much effort to take out this doorway and go all the way to the ceiling. The view would be seen from the entrance of the house, and there would be more natural light in there as well.” I looked down the hallway, and my mind wandered along with my mouth. “And it seems a shame that the previous owners made such a small kitchen and a large dining room. I mean, who uses a dining room that big anymore? Most places have a combined dining room and kitchen so people can congregate with the hostess instead of it being so separated. Open concept is the way to go nowadays.” I spun around and found Brandt staring at me. Something in the way he looked at me conveyed his amusement, but maybe I went too far. He fell in love with this house before he bought it and I had no right to pick it apart.

He got up from his stool and walked across the kitchen and out to the garage. Now I did it. I shouldn’t have said so much. I could have worded it differently. What if I upset him? Great, Chelsea. We were doing so well.

When he returned, he had a small hammer in one hand and a sledgehammer in the other. He gave me the little hammer and pushed me back. I watched without understanding until he cocked the hammer back and swung. The head of the sledgehammer hit the header above the doorway and plaster rained down at us. “Brandt!”

My eyes were wide and unbelieving as he turned and smiled. “I think it is a wonderful idea.” He swung again and this time a large hole formed in the wall.

“Brandt!” This time it came out as more of a chortle. I gawked, astounded at the way he destroyed his house around us.

He stopped and goaded me. “Well? Are you going to just stand there or are you going to help?” My mouth gaped open, and I shut it tight making my way over to the other side of the doorway. He hid his smile as he went back to obliterating the wall. I turned and studied the sidewall. And then I hit it. Not very hard but I made a dent. The next time, I hit it harder. And then harder until we were both beating the crap out of the wall. Plaster and dust were flying everywhere. It infiltrated our hair and clothes causing a fine patina of dust to cover our half-eaten food on the plates and dishes still out on the countertop and stove. Even amidst the debris and clutter, my smile couldn’t be contained.

Smacking the wall and causing damage was cathartic. I took the hammer and pounded as hard as I could, going as far as ripping down the plaster with my bare hands. I tore my nails, and some wreckage got in my eye, but I didn’t care. The pain and aggression of the last several months were melting away.

Brandt did the same thing. His calculated swings were spot on and his muscles rippled with the powerful blows. When the doorway was almost down, he took me by the hand and led me into the dining room. We started on that wall and delivered just as many powerful strikes until the wall looked just as decimated. We must have been at it for hours, not even stopping to take down the wall hangings.

It wasn’t until he hung his head down low after another powerful swipe that I finally called it a day. “Brandt, I think we are doing this all wrong. We need some safety glasses or something. Come on. Let’s stop and clean up some before I get too tired.”

My plea hit a chord as he turned over to me with his right eye watering. “Oh no. Too late. Brandt, come here. Let me see if I can find it.” Worried he scratched his eye or worse, I got on my tiptoes to look at it, but he grabbed me and pulled me in for a kiss. His lips were warm and tender on mine, and I melted in his arms. God, how I missed him. His touch. His kiss. The way he made me feel so alive. Amazing how just the slightest hint of affection still caused me to swoon.

Our previous lack of affection wasn’t his fault. I pushed him away, not feeling like I deserved his love or even his touch. This whole time punishing myself, I was really punishing him. He felt rejected and if I could take it all back, I would. The kiss lasted quite a while, and I noted his tenderness throughout it. Not until I felt a brief bit of grit in my teeth did we stop. Spitting into my hand, he started to laugh. “Yeah, I guess we need some better safety equipment or something.”

He started to name off some tools and material I vaguely remembered from all of those shows on home renovations. We discussed changing the rest of the house. When I hesitated, knowing it would be costly, he just pressed me further. By the time we were done, the whole house would have a major overhaul, and I got a little worried. “Brandt. Maybe we should just do one room at a time. You know. At least find out how much it would cost.”

“No way. We do it now. What better time? Live through the mess once and get it done and over with. Who cares what it will cost. I haven’t changed one thing since I moved in here and it is about time. Unfortunately, with me being in the studio with the album much of the renovation will be up to you.” His eyes twinkled when he said it and I looked around, astonished. He was going to give me full reign on this project? I didn’t know the first thing about home renovation. Watching those shows could give me plenty of ideas, but I was far from a designer.

And then an idea popped in my head. “Do you think your mom would help me?”

He smiled and laughed. “Yeah, right. Try to stop her.” She would know exactly what to do, and his dad would be able to help too. If they could come and at least get the ball rolling, it would be a relief.

Excitedly, I said, “We should call them.”

“Whoa. Now, wait a minute. We need to think this through. We have a bit of a mess to clean up, and we just destroyed our kitchen which is going to make it hard to cook any meals in it. Besides, we should go shopping and get some stuff before it gets too late.”

Brandt was right. I needed to slow down and think this through. Looking at the clock, I made a plan. We were going to clean up as much as we could. We needed tools and a dumpster, and to get permits, maybe? Then we needed to move everything in the basement and create a makeshift kitchen down there for the meantime. For every order I barked out, his smile only got wider and wider.

“What are you grinning at?”

“You!” I put my hands on my hips and gave him a stern look.

“Why?”

“Because you are being pushy again and I couldn’t be happier.” My strict look melted into a thoughtful smile. He came over and kissed me again before he did my bidding.

As the afternoon turned to late afternoon, we had cleaned up much of the mess into a pile outside. We couldn’t get a dumpster until the next day, so instead, we started to move the kitchen supplies downstairs. I showered while he looked for the best place to get our supplies. Then when he showered, I continued to pack up the pots and pans to haul them down in the basement.

We left for the nearest town with a hardware store. While we drove, Brandt kept his hand in mine. I cherished the physical contact and never wanted to let him go again. The road to healing was scattered with so many obstacles, and it seemed we hit each one. This time, it felt as though we at least were hitting them together. As a team. And we had each other’s backs.


Brandt

We left for the adjoining town in search of a hardware store for more supplies. Our drive took us on the longer scenic route, but we weren’t in a hurry. Grabbing her hand, we meandered along the seaside road, enjoying the end of the sunlight as it played on the ocean.

We were healing slowly, but a light of hope shone through. A glimmer of what was. It would never be like before, I realized this now, and it was okay. We would make our own lives together. I would give her nothing but respect and love. It may even be better than before. At least I would try harder. Give more of myself. Be better. Be the person she always wanted me to be.

The strong, vibrant woman of her past was not the same person before me yet, but we were forging a new path. The two people we were now would be our starting point, and we would flourish from here. She needed more love and understanding and... well, a lot of nourishment both emotionally and physically.

Her skin hung on her skeleton alerting me to just how much weight she’d lost. She was frail. Pale and gaunt. A shadow of her former self, but she never ate in the past when she was stressed, and I could kick myself for not seeing it sooner. It pained me to see her so sickly. She needed to eat, and this time I would force-feed her if I had to.

We were talking honestly with each other, and I wanted it to continue. What I learned over the past two months by not talking, built a wall between us. I never wanted it to happen again. What we went through was not something we could forget about and move on from, and I regretted not having more open and honest discussions, thinking we were better off not to talk about it anymore.

This renovation would be a challenge. She needed a purpose. She needed to be productive and engaged while healing. While we were both healing. I decided we were going to gut this place. Make it our own. Turn it into something we both wanted to come back too. It would be her project, lending her insight and her style to our house.

We discussed her plan for the kitchen and dining room. I encouraged her to continue with what she wanted for the whole house. Top to bottom. Inside and out. She only hesitated once, thinking about the cost but I didn’t care if it put me in debt for the rest of my life. She would get her dream house. This was more important than anything in the world to me, and nothing would stop it.

I couldn’t help but hide my joy as she looked around at what a large project it would be. It was selfish of me too. With this project, she would be here all the time. Close to me. Safe. My Chelsea was still in there, trying to get out. I could feel it.

She began to take charge. Barking out orders. Letting her mind run wild, thinking of all the things she needed. I couldn’t help but be overjoyed. This Chelsea was the take-charge confident woman she grew into this past year. The one I wanted to be with for the rest of my life. I cautioned myself to take it slow. For Christ’s sake, if I hadn’t figured it out already, I knew I needed to take it slow with her and God willing I would crawl at a snail’s pace to have her back with me.

The hardware store recommended a construction crew. With having a more famous client I knew they would cater to whatever Chelsea said. And as a bonus, she would always have the workers around. No more anxiety about her being alone at the house by herself. Especially if my parents came out to help.

When we left the hardware store, it started to get dark. I wanted to bring Chelsea somewhere to eat. Besides the trips to doctors’ offices, she had not been out of the house. I wanted her to feel like she could enjoy these things again. When we came upon the street carnival, I couldn’t have thought of a better way to get her acclimated to life again.

At the carnival, she ate a little of everything, usually deep-fried and on a stick. I tried to show off my skills on a game and ended up winning her a cheesy stuffed dog that looked like the ones my birth mother had. She squealed with delight over the stuffed animal and again had the easy way of making me feel like Superman.

After the carnival rides, we took in a local folk-singer. Once the entertainment began to bore us, we went for a walk along the ocean. The walking path had overhead lighting for most of the walk making us both feel safe.

With her hand in mine, we made our way down the path but needed to cut the walk short, so I could go back to the car and check my blood sugar. I had the stuff with me, but I needed a stronger light with at least a small area to use my equipment. Unwilling to let the night end, afraid the whole day was some sort of dream, I kept silent about needing to test.

Chelsea pulled out her phone noticing the time. “Brandt. When was the last time you checked your blood sugar?” I couldn’t help but smile at her. She started to take care of me as she did before. I couldn’t believe there was a time when I didn’t appreciate the sentiment.

“Don’t worry. I have the stuff with me. I just need a place with enough light.”

She pointed up ahead, “There. The bathroom. You need to go now.” I knew enough not to argue when she got in her caretaker role.

We headed to the bathrooms, but when I got there, I hesitated outside the door. “Chelsea maybe you should...” Should what? Come in with me? She would never, but I didn’t want her out here by herself. She seemed just as hesitant but put up a front for me.

“I will be fine. Now go!” It wouldn’t take me long, but I felt guilty leaving her. She had come so far today, I didn’t want to push things. Making sure I hurried, I looked around before ducking inside of the men’s room.

Of course, my quick little jaunt into the men’s room took longer than I intended. The meter lost battery supply, taking longer than normal to calculate my blood sugars. I should have checked it before I left home. Then in my hurry, I dropped the insulin pen having it roll under the dirty counter on the floor and making me need to fish it out, all wasting more time.

Finally, after putting my supplies back in my pocket, I heard her scream, and my mind went frantic.


Chelsea

We were healing. It felt as though we were on our way. The light at the end of the tunnel so to speak, but I forgot that I would be staying alone again once he left on tour. This time would be different. Dan was dead, and we had the security system now, but I couldn’t deny my fear although I didn’t want him to see it. I caused him enough stress lately. The problem wouldn’t go away on its own, but I was also smart enough to know I had a little time to think it through as the tour was still a couple of months away. I could come up with a plan down the road. I would not ruin this night and his career when we finally had some iota of stability in my shaky world.

When we drove past the carnival, we stopped and partook in the festivities. They had deep-fried everything, and much to Brandt’s delight, I indulged plenty. He won me a five-dollar stuffed dog that ended up costing him at least twenty dollars, but I loved the chivalry of it.

We decided to stroll upon a walking path illuminated by tall lights, taking it to a bathroom so Brandt could check his blood sugar. He hesitated to leave me out there, but we didn’t have a choice. I smiled and gave him my most courageous look, and finally, he went in.

As soon as he left me, I started to get anxious. My heart sped up, and my palms were sweaty. I tried to talk myself down. Seriously, I needed to get a grip. What if I couldn’t? What was the alternative? Be with Brandt every waking moment? Go on tour with him and never get my life back? No. My stubborn side wouldn’t allow it. Yes, I had issues, but I was finally ready to face them.

Glancing down the dim sidewalk, I walked a little down the path and started to count my steps. First, it was five down one way and then a turn. Five back and then I tried ten. Little by little, I widened my space from the light and from Brandt. The further out I went, the more anxious I got and by the time I heard the footsteps on the path behind me, I had been farther away from the bathrooms than intended.

A man ran towards me and I could feel my heartbeat quicken. I couldn’t see him well in the dark making my imagination take over. The footsteps grew louder, and I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t find my voice. My body seized up, and I started to shake. It wasn’t until I saw Dan’s face through the hooded sweatshirt that I could use my lungs.

The scream was torn from my body and echoed in the night. Unable to calm my tremors, I hugged myself and braced for impact knowing he would hurt me. I convinced myself of it, screaming louder. He grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. My vision blurred at the edges and I got lightheaded from the fright of attack. This time would be the end. My heart stopped and I felt near fainting.

“Hey, lady. Are you okay?” When he took one hand off me to pull down his hood, I realized it wasn’t Dan. Just some guy jogging on the path. My heart found its beat again although nausea took up its place.

Then I heard Brandt. “Get your fucking hands off her.” He came out of the bathroom and ran towards me with his arm cocked back, ready to fight.

“No, Brandt!” The guy dodged his fist and shifted to the left out of his way. I put my body next to Brandt to ward off another aggressive counter. “Please, Brandt.” He saw me shaking and took me in his arms before the stranger had time to fight back.

“Are you all right? What did he do to you?” The concern in Brandt’s voice caused tears to spill over my cheeks uncontrollably. He held me close and whispered in my ear with soothing shushing sounds. “Hey, I am here. Chelsea, please.” My whole body quaked as I sobbed, unable to answer him.

Then I got mad. Really mad. Brandt was still livid at my would-be attacker. I felt it in his body. In his stance. He was going to beat the crap out of this stranger if I couldn’t get a hold of myself. I clamped down on my fear long enough to say, “He didn’t do anything Brandt. That is the problem. He did nothing.” Finally, realizing the reason for my fear, his whole body calmed down, and he fit himself around me, comforting and guarding me the only way he could. Safe in his arms, I wept.

Brandt needed to go back on tour eventually, and I would have to cope with my fear. Leave the security of the house and venture out on my own for food or to work, not to mention some sort of social life. And I wanted it. I wanted it back, and I didn’t want Brandt to worry about me. It wasn’t fair. He harbored so much guilt because he had been gone when I was attacked, so I couldn’t leave this on him.

“This isn’t any of my business, but I think I can help.” The jogger turned to us and held up a business card.

“Hey man, just leave us alone.” Brandt didn’t even want to listen, but when I took the card, I saw a silhouette of a karate pose on it. My crying died down, now curious enough to hear him out.

“What... what is this?”

“I teach JeetKune Do and Jiu-Jitsu. It is a form of self-defense. My sister and I have a studio in the city. We started a self-defense class for women after my sister was raped.” I looked up at him in shock.

“Look, we don’t need any--”

I stopped Brandt in mid-sentence. “Is it hard to learn?” Brandt stared at me and he loosened his grip. The jogger had removed his hood entirely from his face and looked to be of Latino descent. He had kind eyes, and I was embarrassed my overactive mind transformed him into Dan at all. Brandt would’ve had a formidable rival as this guy seemed to defend himself rather well. If he could shrug off Brandt so effortlessly, maybe I could learn something from him?

“No. Most of the women who come to us are about your stature, and we teach them how to take down men double their size.” He didn’t try to sell me anything, and the fact that he started his business because of all his sister went through, made me more than just curious. I wanted this. I wanted it more than I could imagine. Brandt didn’t have an exact start date for his next tour, but his leaving was inevitable and I needed to take back my life. Gain control. Get some normalcy back and prove it to Brandt too before I ruined his career taking care of me at home.

Brandt took his business card. “Chelsea, this is not in a great neighborhood. I don’t think you should go.”

“Look, this building might not be in the best neighborhood but it was all we could afford. Until she is up to speed on some techniques, she will be well looked after.” Brandt saw the pleading in my eyes. I trusted this guy. Why? I didn’t know. Maybe because of what happened to his sister or the fact that he dodged Brandt’s fist and I had never seen someone do it before. It seemed like he had the talent to teach me self-defense. Whatever the reason, I wanted this in the worst way.

“Brandt. I need this.” He must have noticed the yearning in my eyes because he caved. Taking the hand of the jogger he shook it. “Edgardo?”

“Yes. It was my grandfather’s name.”

“Well, Edgardo, can we come and see your studio on Monday?”

Edgardo smiled and nodded. “Si, my sister will be there too. She can help you get set up.”

“Thank you.” We let him go back to his run after making plans to meet him on Monday.

As we headed back to our car, I sensed the discussion wasn’t over. “Chelsea, are you sure you are up for this?” He worried about me, but he still had his blinders on. Life had changed for us, and I needed to take control back.

“Brandt, you will be going back on tour. I need to be on my own again. That man did nothing wrong, and I freaked out on him. I don’t want to live like that.”

He sighed, “Chelsea, you can come with me. I can be there to help you until you are ready.” He got it. He just didn’t want to admit it.

“I can’t go on tour with you, Brandt. Deep down you realize it. I am not built for the touring life. You love it. Being around your fans and performing for them. That is your dream. It isn’t mine. You know that.”

Downcast and frustrated he added, “But I don’t think I can leave you again.”

“No, not like this. I need to be stronger. I need to learn to take care of myself. You would always be there to help me on the road but then I would never learn to stand on my own two feet again.” I took his face and cradled it in my hands. He didn’t want to meet my eyes, but he eventually looked at me. “Brandt, you can’t be near me all the time, regardless if I am with you on the road or not. I need to get my independence back. I need to feel like I can take care of myself or I will lose myself forever.” This last statement startled him. It was of no use to be with me, protecting me forever. Bad things happened to good people. It wasn’t fair, but to sit back and not do anything about it would be a travesty.

“I love you so much, Chelsea. I don’t think I can let you go again.”

“Then let me do this. Let me find my way back to you.” He leaned his forehead up to mine and closed his eyes. We kissed each other in the dim glow of the streetlight, letting our mouths comfort us while knowing our inevitable separation loomed between us.


Brandt

Visions of her getting attacked by Dan flooded my mind when I heard her scream, and I swear I wanted to kill the guy. I was supposed to keep her safe. If I couldn’t do it now and I couldn’t do it then, what good was I?

Realizing this guy was just some jogger that scared her almost seemed worse. He came across Chelsea, and she freaked. He did nothing menacing to her, but she just couldn’t see herself as safe anymore. Her fear went deep. It wasn’t just a fear of being home alone and what could happen. She feared everything at this point. I never realized what a task it would be for her to go out for even mundane tasks. Getting groceries or getting her hair done. I had looked at the home remodel as a good thing, but now I might just have pushed her to leave too soon.

When this Edgardo guy gave her the sales pitch about him teaching her how to defend herself, I shook my head. How could she want to do this? Trust this stranger to give her a false sense of security. How was she going to overpower a guy? She barely weighed 100 pounds now. But then again, she needed the validation. She needed her confidence back whether I felt she could do it or not.

Chelsea’s words hit me like a brick to the chest when she brought up the tour. We would go back out, but there was no way I could let her be by herself ever again. How could she even think about staying on her own? I didn’t know if I could go back on the road with her here all alone ever again.

I should have been a better boyfriend. Not just leaving her alone to fend for herself. I should protect her and be there for her. Worse yet, I selfishly wanted her to need me too. Being the narcissistic bastard I was, I couldn’t stand it if she didn’t need me. What an asshole I was, considering what she went through and her being so afraid.

Resigning myself to the fact this would be hard on both of us, we drove home in silence, each contemplating the meaning of my decision to return to the road. She wanted her independence back at this point and I didn’t feel I had a right to fight it. She was attacked, assaulted. I couldn’t protect her, and the ability to protect yourself was one of the greatest gifts one could have.

When we returned to our house, she looked exhausted but settled someway. As we made our way to the bedroom, I couldn’t think of anything more pleasing than holding her in my arms tonight as she slept.

After leaving the bathroom, I found her sitting on the edge of the bed, seemingly somber. Sitting down next to her, I wondered where her mind drifted to. Even after all this time, she still surprised me. “Hey, are you all right?” She looked down silently at her hands, making me cautiously fearful. What is going on in that beautiful head of yours, Chelsea? I didn’t want to ruin the enjoyment of the day, so I waited for her response not willing to prod any further.

Tears formed as she turned my way, making my heart sink. “Brandt, I know how I look. I have seen myself in the mirror, and I know my body is appalling, but if you could find it in yourself to make love to me, I would be so grateful.” I felt relieved. She wanted me. She wanted me to touch her and to make love to her. The thought of it warmed my soul.

“My God, Chelsea. You are just as beautiful now as the day I met you.” Bringing her over to me, I kissed her as tenderly as I could. I wanted her to feel loved and wanted, so I took my time. First, I concentrated on her top lip and then her bottom as my thumb caressed her cheeks lovingly. The feel of her in my arms and her giving herself over to me confirmed my status as the luckiest man alive. I kissed her along the jaw and then down her neck as I felt a shiver take control of her body. So much like old times, I wanted to celebrate.

With each touch of my lips or caress of my hands, I felt her soften into me. When I pulled back and looked at her, an array of tears crested her lashes and cascaded down her face. She needed this, and I needed it just as much. It was some semblance of our old lives. A calming of our spirits.

When I went to lift her shirt, she stopped me. Standing up, she motioned behind us, “Come to bed.” Why did she keep her body from me? Didn’t she know I loved her no matter what?

She led me around to the side of the bed and whispered in my ear. “I want you, but I can’t bring myself to have you see me yet. I am sorry.” Oh, Chelsea. I was about to tell her it didn’t matter and insist we stop this foolishness but I finally got a hold of my senses. Take it slow.

Instead, I pulled her in and kissed her again. “Chelsea, whatever you need.” Relieved, she let out a deep breath and smiled up at me.

Watching her walk around to the other side of the bed, she turned off the light, drowning us in nightfall. We undressed in the dark and make our way under the covers. There would be a day when this didn’t bother her and I would rejoice in her body again, but I would let her play it out. If I gave her time I knew she would find her way back to me.

When I reached for her under the sheets, I pulled her into my body. Once again, I was reminded of her frail, skeletal frame. She really did waste away. I tried not to let it bother me, but I couldn’t help thinking I caused it, at least a little. Too wrapped up in my own sorrow, I neglected her. I should have made her eat. I should have found a way to her earlier.

Right now, I concentrated on making her feel good. I wanted this for her, and I would be fooling myself if I didn’t think I wanted it for myself as well.

Our lips found each other’s as we held on tight. I didn’t know where to touch at first, but as long as Chelsea’s body responded to me, I would work her the way I had in the past. And I was relieved to feel her body did respond to my caress. I pulled at her nipple, and I kissed her neck and collarbone. She leaned into me and pulled me close, sighing so deep it made my dick harden further. I tried to close off the part of my mind sickened by my lack of inability to care for her up to this point. Every feel of her ribs and the way her hips stuck out reminded me of what I failed to accomplish for her in the past.

Not until I was fully convinced she was ready, did I position myself at her entrance, relieved she still responded so well. Being careful not to put my weight on her thin body, I pushed inside of her. She sucked in her breath, and I froze thinking I had hurt her.

“Oh God, Chelsea are you all right?”

She let out a shallow breath and said, “Yes.” I wasn’t convinced and tried to pull out, but she wouldn’t let me, wrapping her legs around me and holding me close to her. “Brandt, this is the first time since losing the baby. Dr. Hunt said it might be uncomfortable at first but please don’t stop. I need you now.” Still hesitant, I ever-so-slowly worked her body to stretch her out. She relaxed into me after a while, causing some of my doubt to quiet. She opened her legs wider and then I plunged deeper, knowing this was more healing. Both for her and for me. For our body and our soul.

Ever so cautiously, I pushed in and out of her, getting into a rhythm. I tried to push my own feelings out of my mind. The one that screamed I would break her fragile little body in half with my thrusting. I missed Chelsea’s old body. The curves. The softness. The roundness. Of course, I didn’t let her notice this. Regardless, she was the most seductive woman alive and the love of my life and her trusting me now brought comfort to me.

Chelsea raised her hips to get just the right position to heighten her sensation. I took the lead and fondled her nipples with a twist and then pulled the way she liked it. Moving my hand down between our union I reached for her clit, stroking it in little circles. She sucked in her breath and with the small amount of moonlight glaring in through the French doors, I noticed a sheen on her face. The new Chelsea responded in the same way as the old one. I felt the heat rise in her body and only wished I could see it.

Working her gradually up to her climax, I was rewarded with her release. It wasn’t as strong as in the past but more of a cleansing type of feeling, both to her and to me. She clutched me as the gentle spasm pulsed over my cock, and I tried not to lean on her delicate frame as I sought my own enjoyment.

Warring with myself, I half thought I should stop. Shouldn’t I just let it be about her tonight? But then I felt ashamed. It should be about her, but I needed it to. Not that I couldn’t wait, but the fact was I wanted to meet her in this arena. Let myself have the same pleasure. Enjoy each other as we once did.

She clung to me as I kissed her tenderly. Her warm body brought a smile to my face. She still had that unbearable warmth that flooded her after she climaxed. It was a good sign, and my body thrust deep one last time as I filled her. I may have filled her with my emission, but it felt as though I gave her all my love too.

Afraid I would fall onto her, crushing her feeble body, I rolled to my side as soon as I could, but quickly cradled her in my arms, not wanting to lose that connection. And then I felt it. Her tears as they hit my arms. The stress of the day releasing its hold on her. She was so brave and strong when she needed to be, and then let her insecurities show when she felt safe in my arms. It gave me hope for the future. She was coming back to me. Relying on me and letting me see her weaknesses, knowing I would be there for her. Comforted by this feeling, I held her close until she quieted. You can count on me, Chelsea. I will never let you down again.

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