We barely slept that night. Not because we weren't tired, because we were exhausted after several rounds between the sheets, and Martina had traveled all the way from New York as well. But I still couldn't sleep. And since I couldn't sleep, she didn't either, even though I told her to close her eyes several times. She did, but only for a while. Then she was back to staring at me again. A loving, warm stare that told me she understood and that she gave me all the time in the world to collect myself.
Neither of us said much. I wasn't ready, and somehow she knew. She comforted me when I cried and didn't ask any questions, which was good because I didn't have any answers. I guess my doctor was right when he told me about how depression interferes with the chemical substances in the brain, and brings it out of balance. Because boy, was I out of balance. I didn't even have any reason to cry anymore because I got everything I ever wanted. Martina was here. My beautiful Bambi was literally back to save me, yet here I was; a sobbing pathetic mess.
And then we made love again.
Yes, we made love. For the first time in my life I learned how that felt, and how different it was from fucking. And it felt so good that I cried a little bit because of that as well. I mean, when I first was at it...
"Aren't you tired?" she asked softly in the early morning hours, while stroking a finger along my jaw.
"I am," I admitted truthfully.
"Then why aren't you sleeping?"
I was silent for a little while and tried to explain it with words.
"Because I'm afraid you'll be gone when I wake up," I said quietly.
She smiled and kissed my shoulder, and let her finger trail in circles on my chest.
"I won't leave, Aaron. Not unless you tell me to."
She yawned and rolled over to her back, but her arm was still wrapped around my waist, and I was hugging hers.
"I need to go back to New York to work. But I won't leave."
Then she placed her palm on my chest where my heart was.
I covered her hand with mine and squeezed it a bit. Then I brought it up to my mouth and kissed it absent-mindedly.
"I feel so selfish," I whispered after a while.
"For wanting you. And I don't mean physically. I want you in every aspect there is, and all to myself."
I turned my head and looked at her. Her hair was a complete mess around her shoulders and her eyes narrow and tired. A perfect blush painted her cheeks pink and she bit the corner of her lip. She looked like an angel.
"That's not selfish," she said and smiled.
"Because I want the same."
"But it is. I'm too old for you, and I have too many issues to deal with and no experience with relationships."
I turned to lay on my side, and supported my head in my hand so I could look at her. I really wanted her to understand.
"No, Aaron. You've just never taken the chance to try. And you never know until you do, right?"
Then she looked sad.
"You know... I was waiting and hoping for you to call me, but you never did. So I assumed you were trying to make things work with Allison, and that I should forget about it all. But I couldn't."
"But you shouldn't want someone like me."
She gave me a certain glance, so close to an eye-roll that I wanted to laugh. And if I was in my right mind, I would.
"I think you should leave that up for me to decide," she said, then pushed me over to my back so she could lie on my chest again. And when her leg slipped in between mine, I decided that this was my new favorite position in bed.
Next to pounding her pussy in every angle there is, of course.
"You know... For a tough guy, you have awfully low self-esteem," she stated, and I cursed in my mind for wanting to cry again. She hit the nail so straight on the head that my chest clenched.
"Bree did this to you, didn't she? You're still traumatized by that?"
The question was out in the open, but I didn't have the words to say anything. I just stared at the ceiling and willed my tears back.
"She trapped you and stole so many years of your life that you can't forgive her?"
Fuck this. You've opened the gates to sappy town, Aaron, and now you can't close them again. Get a grip, man!
"You don't trust anyone either, because of what she did to you. And now Allison is doing the same thing, confirming your already nonexistent faith in women? Am I right?"
I nodded while silent tears rolled down my temples and disappeared into the pillow.
"You believe that you're no good, so you're pushing everybody away?"
"How the hell do you know all of this? Is it written on my forehead or something?" I exclaimed in some sort of a husky sob.
"Ever since we met, it's felt like you know me better than I know myself. It's like you see right through me, yet you're still not running away. Why?"
She was quiet for a few moments, before she answered.
"Maybe I'm curious about who the real Aaron is? Because I know he's in there somewhere."
I was baffled. That was such an easy answer to a question that to me felt too complicated to even ask. She was curious, and what she found obviously didn't scare her.
"I think you've worn your womanizer mask for so long that you've forgotten who you are."
I didn't answer. How could I? It was the brutal truth. But eventually I spoke up without really answering any of what she said. She knew she was right anyway.
"I feel horrible for saying this, but I don't think I can live without you," I whispered, and hugged her close enough to kiss her forehead. The scary part was that I actually meant it.
"Yes, you can. You're just not yourself right now. But if you don't mind, I would like to tag along for the rest of the way."
We looked at each other for a long time, and both of us knew what that meant.
"So it's final, then?" I asked with a growing smile, and she giggled adorably.
"I guess so."
"You're my girlfriend?"
"If you will be my boyfriend," she replied with a smug grin, and I felt such an insane need to kiss her that I let out a little roar.
Then my lips landed on hers and I rolled on top of her, while she giggled as if there was nothing bad in this world. Then she fought me back so she was on top, and her hands cradled my tear-stained face.
"Do you have any idea how much I've dreaded those words?" I asked with a laugh.
"Commitment. Love. All that shit?"
"I think I do," she said and kissed my nose. Why did I find that so fucking cute? Then I suddenly realized it was morning.
"Fuck. What time is it?"
"Oh, don't worry about that. Your boss gave you the day off. Dom's order."
She smirked when she saw me puzzle the pieces together.
"I knew it! He called you, didn't he? That son of a bitch."
I knew my words sounded harsh, but I chuckled. That was the first time I actually appreciated him interfering with my life.
"You better thank him," Martina said with a scowl, and I nodded like an obedient dog. And if I had a tail, I'd be wagging it like a propeller.
"So, I was thinking..." she continued.
"After we've cleaned your apartment, maybe we should go somewhere and have some fun?"
Fun... That's been a while.
"What do you have in mind?" I asked, a tiny bit sceptical.
"I still have that gift card. Sea Trek Kayak, remember?"
"Yeah," I replied with a smile. That actually did sound fun.
So we got up, made the bed and went to the bathroom in turn. Then we started cleaning up what weeks of apathy does to a home. But it went faster than I thought, and soon enough, I was done vacuuming the floor and Martina served breakfast on clean plates. Or... Plate.
"Aren't you gonna eat?" I asked with surprise, but she shrugged like nothing.
"I'm not really hungry."
"How can you not be hungry? This is really good, by the way." I complimented, but I noticed that she avoided my question. She wasn't trying to lose weight, did she? Because that was totally unnecessary. She was already perfect.
"So, I was thinking that we should go grocery shopping later. After we're done canoeing. And when we get back we can make a nice meal together."
"I think I'll leave the cooking to you, but I'll gladly help with everything else."
Then I sent her a mischievous smirk.
"Or distract you from what you're doing."
"And have the dessert first? You naughty boy," she replied with the same glimpse in her eyes. Then she excused herself to go to the bathroom, and in the mean time I cleaned the table and prepared to leave.
"Remind me to drop by the pharmacy," I said to her, and she raised an eyebrow.
"I didn't use a condom last night, so to be on the safe side... If you don't mind."
"A morning after pill?" she asked, startled, and I felt a bit dumb.
"Yeah? It's not that I don't trust that you're taking the pill right. It's just to be on the safe side, that's all."
She smiled shortly, and I kind of regretted saying it. But I didn't want to make her pregnant too. Because that...
That would be a damn tragedy, Aaron.
So we left, she got the pill, and on our way to Sea Trek Kayak I just had to ask.
"Yes?" she said, and I got a tiny smile from her. She'd been strangely quiet since we left home. Maybe she already had second thoughts about our relationship? I mean, I didn't blame her if she did. It surely wasn't the best way to start dating.
Shit, Aaron. You're dating. The steady, normal kind. The one where you actually want to have fun and get to know her better. And you want to know everything about Bambi. Every single secret.
Then it came.
"What happened between you and Rocco? And please be honest this time."
I could see her gulp. Her eyes were trained on the big emptiness outside the car, even though there were a lot of traffic and people to look at.
"I... I told him that I wanted a divorce, because of... You know. Now that we've found out, I realize that there are so many signs. If that man isn't gay, then this car is a Volvo."
I snorted out loud. Yeah, right. Like I would trade my Mustang for anything.
"It's the way he dresses. The Celine Dion obsession. The whole thing with Hunter. He always uses my shampoo and conditioner, and he shaves his legs and armpits."
"Urgh! TMI!" I exclaimed and cringed.
"But that's not all. I found out that he used my underwear."
"Yeah. He literally used my panties, and when I confronted him about it, he got so mad... Seriously, Aaron. I've never seen him lose his temper like that."
I gave her a quick glance and reached over the mid-console to grab her hand. Then I squeezed it a bit.
"Did he hit you? Because if he did..."
"No, he didn't. But it was probably close, and he really scared me."
She took a shivering breath. Just the memory was enough to make her anxious.
"Then he called Bree."
"Bree?! What's she got to do with it?"
"Everything. He's convinced her that he's not gay, so he used her to defend himself."
"Oh, my God. That fucking coward," I mumbled.
"So it was you against them?"
She didn't reply, but she didn't need to. I knew exactly how that felt. I'd experienced it way too many times, and I still had nightmares about it now, twelve years later.
"And they convinced you to stay married because Bree's father thought it was a sin..."
"He came too."
"He did what? Bree's father went to New York?"
She nodded and sniffled.
"Can we please talk about something else?"
He beat her. You know he did. Just like he did to his wife to make her obey his most disturbing orders. He beat Bambi to scare her from divorcing his grandchild. That's fucking sick!
"I'm gonna murder him next time I see him," I mumbled, and she looked at me with scared eyes.
"No, Aaron. Please don't. That'll only make things worse. I'm trying to put it behind me, and that will do the opposite. Please, baby."
I was furious, but somehow the new nickname caught me off guard.
"Did you go to the hospital to document it or gather any evidence?"
"No, I didn't. But seriously. Can we talk about something else?"
I nodded. No matter how furious I was, I had to let it go for now.
Oh, he's gonna pay for this. In one way or another, he's gonna pay. But you better not end up in jail, Aaron. That's not the right way to protect her. And honestly he's not worth it.
She turned up the radio and tried to lighten the mood by humming to the song. And the sound of her voice was remarkably calming.
"I like that nickname," I said after a while, and she turned to look at me.
"Daddy?" she asked, and I smirked to myself.
"That too," I murmured, and gave her a little wink.
"What then? Baby?"
"Yeah. But don't you dare tell Dom!"
She laughed, and she finally sounded like herself again.
"Okay. Then you're my severely grown baby."
"And you're my Bambi."
Then I kissed her hand and sealed the deal.