Thursday, December 15, 2011

Massage Therapy, Chapter 26 - Farewell

This is the end! *sniff* I never imagined what a long, wordy journey I'd ben taking when I started this in July of 2010. It was a labor of love, though, believe me. Thanks to all of you who took it with me. Your support means the world to me.


Saturday, December 11

Dear Tanya,

It feels strange to be writing to you now after all this time. It’s been nearly three months now since I stopped. But Dr. Brennan thinks that I should write you one last time and give you my final farewell. It’s part of my therapy -- symbolic more than anything else at this point, but she thinks it’s important. Maybe it is. She hasn’t steered me wrong so far.

I wish I had known about her when you were still alive. If I had ever gone to Dad for help back then, I might have. But no, I was almost as stubborn as you were. We were both so hell-bent on being independent and doing everything ourselves, the last thing we ever wanted to do was turn to our parents. I can’t help but think that if you had seen the right kind of psychotherapist -- someone as patient and kind and clear-headed as Norma -- you might still be around.

I spent years and reams of paper turning those kind of “what-ifs” over and over in my mind. If only you had done this; if only I hadn’t done that. I addressed all those vain conjectures to you as if you could somehow change what happened, or at least explain it. I knew all along that the dead tell no tales. In truth, many of those “letters” had nothing to do with you, and I’m sure you know that. That was especially true after I met Bella. My journal was just an attempt to make sense of my life after you turned it upside down.

I know now that there are events fate throws at you that you can never make sense of. All you can do is pray for the strength to deal with them, and hope that you have good people around you to help you get through them.

I wish you had felt like you had that in your life. You did, you know. Even though I didn’t love you the way you wanted me too, I did want to help you. I would have been there for you if I had only known how. I can’t tell you how sorry I am for the last words I said to you. You know that if I could take them back, I would. Wherever you are, I hope you can see that I didn’t mean them. I was angry and frustrated and I said things to purposely hurt you. We both did that night, and so many nights before that.

Looking back, I realize how young and immature I was. I was as ill-equipped to handle your mental and emotional issues as you were. I wish I had turned to my father for help, but I was too proud. And when you did turn to your father, he was too proud to admit you had a problem. I wish he could have seen the truth before it was too late. I feel for him, I really do. He’s living in a personal hell of his own making. He blames me because he can’t shoulder his share of the responsibility in what happened to you. And the truth is, we were all culpable. We all made mistakes. Now we have to live with the consequences.

I guess the difference now is that I’ve decided to stop making myself pay for those mistakes. I don’t know if I can fully forgive myself for my part in your death, but I can’t continue to take the sole responsibility for it. I used to think that if I did, the punishment would be enough to finally assuage my guilt. I never wanted to listen to Alice when she reminded me that you had free will, and I couldn’t have stopped you from exercising it. And I never wanted to hear it when my father told me I was throwing my life away along with yours after I quit school. But they were both right. Wishing you had been in a better frame of mind won’t bring you back, and putting my own life on hold won’t, either.

Bella hit the nail on the head when she said that the mental illness took your life. When she uttered those words, I realized that I was finally ready to put the blame squarely where it belonged -- on a disease. Not on me, or your father; not even on you. We were all victims. I’ll never stop wishing we could have gotten you the right kind of help before things got so bad. But wishing won’t make it so, and beating myself up over it won’t accomplish anything except to waste another life. I don’t know how much I have to offer the world, but I’d like to think I can make a difference somewhere, to someone.

You made a difference to me. I want you to know that. I still remember the good times, you know . . . when you were vibrant and full of life and fun and mischief. I wouldn’t change any of what we shared. I’m grateful for all of it, even the bad stuff. I don’t regret you, or us. You mattered to me, and I hope you knew that when you were alive. I hope you know it now.

And even though I couldn’t save your life, I made a difference in Bella’s, of that much I’m sure. When she came to Emmett and me for help, her issues were more severe than I ever imagined. I didn’t know if we would be able to “fix” her, but I wanted more than anything to rise to that challenge. I knew my life had purpose when I worked on her. Of course, I didn’t find out until later why I was so drawn to her, and why she affected me so deeply. But I was filled with the conviction that I was put here on this earth to save her after I failed so miserably with you. What I didn’t know then was that she was meant to save me, too.

I wish I could have done that for you. Or that you had stuck around long enough to find the person who would be to you what Bella is to me, and I to her. All I can do now is to live my life more consciously, and be the kind of man in the present that I wish I could have been in the past. It’s the only way I know how to honor you now that it’s too late to ever truly make amends.

I’m still not sure what I believe of heaven and hell, or whatever lies between. I know that Bella believes her mother is in heaven, keeping watch over her. If there is some kind of afterlife or alternate world we go to after we die, then I hope you can see how I’ve tried to change as of late. I think that would make you happier than me punishing myself over and over for my shortcomings with you. You already know how sorry I am, and how impotent and angry and frustrated I felt for so long. The time finally arrived for me to let it all go. Not to forget -- I’ll never forget. But to forgive -- myself, you, our doomed situation.

I stopped writing to you when I realized I was ready to move on. I have moved on. I hope you don’t begrudge me that. I lived in my self-imposed prison for so long that I hardly know what to do with my freedom now. I’ve tried to put it to good use. I’ve registered for the spring semester at U-Dub, still majoring in pre-med. I’ll be working part-time as a massage therapist, then taking afternoon and evening classes. I know it’s going to be hard work, but I’m ready for it. I’m ready for my next challenge.

I won’t be alone at UW next year. Alice decided that being closer to Jasper was as important to her as her career, so she’s transferring next semester and completing grad school here in Seattle. She had considered doing that anyway because of their pediatrics program, so her decision didn’t come as much of a surprise to me. I know how she feels about Jazz, so this is a win-win for her. For Jasper, too. He’s a man of few words, but I could see how much he missed my sister while she was away. Can’t say I blame him. I would never be able to withstand any lengthy separation from Bella.

She and I are pretty inseparable these days. She still has her own career, of course, and it’s thriving. The Wolf Pack just finished recording and are playing bigger venues around Seattle; their CD is due out in the new year. And Vegan Vamps are in the middle of a nationwide tour, promoting their first CD. Bella and Rosalie have managed to iron things out, for the most part. We all have to co-exist peacefully since Emmett is so gone on Rose. To be fair, she’s pretty enamored of my brother, too. Sometimes opposites attract. One thing I’ve learned is that love is unpredictable, and it usually hits you when and where you least expect it.

I certainly wasn’t looking for Bella when she walked into my massage room that day six months ago. I fought her with every fiber of my being at first. I wasn’t ready to change; wasn’t willing to let go of the past and welcome someone new into my life. Someone who actually mattered -- someone I’d want to invest in again.

But now I can’t imagine my life without her. I miss her when she’s not around, and I know she misses me, too. She tells me so all the time, in our diary. Weird, I know -- the two of us keeping a shared journal like that. But it’s been a surprisingly good thing. We write mostly when the other isn’t around, but then we’re free to read each other’s entries later. Sometimes it’s easier to put things in writing than to say them to each other’s faces.

You’d think that would be a great way to start fights, wouldn’t you? That we’d carelessly put something down in print in the heat of the moment and then regret it later. But it’s actually had the opposite effect. We feel better when we get things off our chest, and later we often laugh about our grievances after we’ve had time to cool off. We don’t fight much, anyway. And when we do, it’s always about little things. Bella’s constantly rearranging my kitchen and then I never know where anything is, on the rare occasions I actually want to fix myself some food. And she always acts annoyed when I want to have sex in the morning, because she says I make her late to work. Granted, she does have a little further to drive to the office than I do. But I don’t really believe her protests because she’s as turned on by wake-up sex as I am, despite her claims that she’s not a morning person.

I guess I shouldn’t be telling you these things, should I? I’ve strayed far from the point of this letter. Or maybe I haven’t, really. Because one of the things I wanted you to know is that I’m happy now. Bella and I make each other happy in a way that you and I never did, and never could have.

I’m not saying this to hurt you. I’m just stating that what you wanted from me was something I never could have given you, regardless of your bipolar disorder. I truly wish you could have seen that there was so much left for you here in this world -- a whole life beyond me, beyond us. I’d give anything for you to have lived long enough to discover that like I have. I wish you hadn’t sold yourself short. But I’ve learned that selling myself short in penance is no solution; no way to live.

And that’s what I want to do now. Live. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me, and be happy for me. Even when I was furious with you, I wished you only the best. I still do. I pray that you’ve found the peace that always eluded you when you were alive. If Bella’s right, and there is a heaven, then maybe you’ve found it and you’re in a much better place now. I hope that’s true.

Maybe you can meet up with Bella’s mom and watch over us tonight. Bella’s going to perform for the first time ever, at an open mic night at Billy’s. She’s not doing it alone, though -- we’re going to do a duet together, the song that I wrote for her. Alice just got back home yesterday, so the whole gang is going to be there to support us. I’m really excited about it, because I know Bella will do great.

She’s mildly terrified, of course, even though I reassure her at least once an hour that she’s going to be fine. We’ve rehearsed so much that I think we could perform this thing in our sleep. But I know all too well about pre-performance jitters, so I’m trying to be the strong, calm one this time for her sake. I like it when she relies on me. Responsibility doesn’t freak me out like it used to. Guess I really am growing up.

Maybe it’s too much to ask you to witness my life finally moving forward without you. I suppose it is. But I like to think that if you had gotten the help you needed, you and I could have been friends eventually. Or at least not enemies. I never wished you ill, and deep down I know you never did me, either. So now that the moment has arrived for us to part ways for good, and I’d like to make it an amicable split. I hope your spirit is as willing as mine is.

My mom’s friend Tom is taking me out on the Sound tomorrow for a short trip on his boat. You and I both know what tomorrow is -- the blackest anniversary I’ll ever know. It’ll be three years to the day since I found you in that bathtub. But I hope to lessen its stain by taking this letter with me, reading it to you, and then casting it out over the water. Norma suggested that I do something symbolic -- a “cleansing ritual,” I think she called it -- to end our chapter once and for all so that I’m fully free to commit to the next.

I’m ready now. I’ve been ready for awhile. Bella told me she never said good-bye to her mom; just farewell until it was time for them to meet again. And so I’ll simply say “farewell” to you, Tanya, because I truly do wish you well. Wherever you are, I hope you can find it in your heart to do the same for me.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Massage Therapy, Chapter 25 - Reunion

The Diary of Bella and Edward
Monday, September 20

Aw, that’s sweet that you put my name before yours, Edward.

Ladies first, always. You know I’m a gentleman.

But only when necessary, thank God.

I thought you liked gentlemen.

I do. But I happen to be very fond of your un-gentlemanly behavior, when you choose to unleash it. It does decadent things to my girly bits.

Mm . . . so I’ve noticed. Stop distracting me -- I have very important events to record here. I’ll do things to your girly bits later.

Is that a promise? Okay, okay. So exactly how does this shared journal thing work, anyway? Do we take turns writing entries? Or do we divide each page down the middle so we can make comments on what the other has written?

That sounds equitable. Let’s divide it down the middle. Or how about I take the left-hand pages and you take the right?

Okay, sure. But what happened to “ladies first?”

I’m calling dibs this time because I want to write about your surprise for me today. That’s the kind of thing I need to describe in detail for posterity. Although I’m certain I’ll never forget how I felt when I walked into that room and saw you there.

It was a good surprise, wasn’t it?

The best. But before we get ahead of ourselves, I need to backtrack a bit. Are you hungry? You’re welcome to anything in my kitchen while I write. This could take awhile.

Is that your way of asking me to make us some dinner? You know, this would go a lot faster if we kept a cyber diary instead. Typing is a lot quicker than writing long-hand. Join me in the twenty-first century, Edward.

I like the physicality of writing the old-fashioned way -- the feel of the notebook on my lap, the paper under my hands, the pen between my fingers. You should be happy that I’m such a tactile person. It has served you well, if I’m not mistaken.

Indeed it has. And I must admit, you look very poetic and dashing scribbling away next to me while I look over your shoulder. But I’ll leave you here on the couch for now and go make dinner with whatever you have in the kitchen that passes for food.

Hey, I went shopping when I knew you were coming home. You might be surprised.

You always surprise me. In a really good way. So, you write about today, and I’ll read it later and add my own comments. This could be fun.

It will be fun. That was a nice kiss you just gave me, by the way. I almost didn’t let you off of the couch, except that I really am kind of hungry, for food this time. I wonder if you can feel my eyes on your ass while you walk away? Probably, since they’re pretty much fixed there whenever you have your back to me.

God, I missed you here in the loft. I never minded the emptiness before you filled it. It’s so cold when you’re not here . . . vacant. Kind of like my soul was before you resurrected it. When you read the rest of the letters in here, you’ll know. I don’t care anymore that you’ll see how needy I am. I know you need me, too. If I’d realized how much freedom there was in surrender, I would have given in to you completely long ago.

I have to hand it to you -- I really didn’t see your surprise coming today. I believed your texts, and I believed Emmett’s ruse. Even Jessica was amazingly convincing as she lied right to my face. Should I be a little worried at how duplicitous all of you are capable of being? Of course, look at how I kept things from you for so long. Turnabout is fair play. And considering how much that turnabout was to my benefit, I’m pretty undeserving, no matter how much you’d probably like to argue that point.

In any case, I readily believed Emmett when he begged me to squeeze in a session with a new patient of his, even though he knew how anxious I was to leave work as soon as possible to meet you at your place. Jessica even went so far as to reschedule my last appointment of the day so that I could take off early. You should have seen the repentant look on her face when I sullenly asked her about my unexpected new client.

“Sorry, Edward. Emmett says this new girl has some major issues going on -- muscles tight as a drum, pulling her spine all out of whack. Maybe you can just give her a quick relaxation massage today and then reschedule her some other time.” Her last phrase sounded like a question, her sheepish grin looking more like a grimace.

“Yeah, Emmett already gave me that hangdog expression. It’s fine. I’ve already waited a week -- what’s another hour?” I said with a resigned shrug.

“Well, just think how much sweeter your reunion will be the longer you have to wait for it. Right?” I should have questioned the giddy tone of her voice right then.

“Sure,” I answered with a quick, forced smile. “So, do you have her patient file?”

“Emmett put it inside the door,” Jessica replied smoothly.

“Okay.” I began to walk down the hall toward the massage room when I caught her smug grin out of the corner of my eye.

“You look pleased with yourself,” I noted, stopping briefly at the side of the counter. “Did you have a nice weekend? Did you see Jake, perhaps?” I added hopefully.

“I did, actually,” she said, her face brightening. “He took me to this cool Mexican restaurant before he had a gig with the Pack. They’re sounding fantastic, by the way. He says the recording is going great. And on the plus side, he didn’t mention Bella once the entire evening.” -- That’s probably the same place he took me. He really needs to up his game and get more creative.

My grin matched her own. “I’d say that’s a very big plus.” Of course, you’ve been gone all week, but like Jessica, I choose to believe that maybe he’s finally accepting reality and moving on from his fixation with you. If not, I’ll help move him along forcibly, if necessary. -- I love it when you start in with the macho posturing and threats. That does things to my girly bits, too.

It always takes me a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to the ambient lighting in my massage room. I pushed my glasses up my nose, then reached for the patient file folder Jessica had deposited in its usual plastic holder on the wall inside the door. I wish I had a picture of the huge smile that engulfed my face when I opened the file and saw the name on the top of that patient information page. I knew what I would find when I looked over at the massage table, but I still felt a surge of emotion barrel through me at the sight.

There you were, lying face down on the mattress, your pale skin gleaming like amber-tinted alabaster in the glow of my desk lamp. I felt exactly the same as the day I first saw you there . . . strangely, inexplicably moved; and inexorably drawn to you.

Except now, there’s nothing inexplicable about it. And I welcome your inexorable pull instead of fearing it. I relish the sway you have over me now. I live for it. I happily gave into its insistence as I slowly walked toward you and gazed down at your beautiful back.

I’m sure you heard my voice crack with emotion when I spoke. “What seems to be the trouble, Miss Swan?”

You spoke through the towel-wrapped donut hole, just as before. “Well, I’ve been having some issues that go way back to a car accident I was in six years ago. I thought that maybe you could help me. I hear you’re the best.”

I smiled and came to stand at the head of the table, looking down at those cascades of chestnut hair just like I did that day. When I touched your neck, it felt almost like the first time. Your skin prickled in goose bumps again and desire stirred deep within me. It was the same desire that’s always been there, yet so much richer now, infused with love and respect and understanding.

“I don’t know if I’m the best,” I said dubiously. “But I promise to do my best for you. If I can make you feel whole again, that will be the best thing I’ll ever accomplish.”

My hands were on autopilot as I spoke, examining every inch of your ivory skin in search of any deficiency. I found few. And the ones I did find acquiesced to my touch in a way that made my satisfaction -- for both you and me -- soar. You are living proof of my worth.

“My entire life, I’ve never felt as whole as I have with you.” Your words were mumbled through the donut hole, but they still sounded like angels singing to me. “Maybe if I’m lucky, I can return the favor someday.”

I couldn’t take any more after that. I’m sure you could hear how choked up I was. “You already have. You know that. In a way I thought would never be possible for me.”

I pulled the flannel sheet over you and gently lifted you into a sitting position. You easily helped me along, which you never would have been able to do that first day without wincing from your lower back injury. And then you fixed those chocolate eyes on me for the first time in a week, and I felt the melancholy of those days disappear in an instant.

“Edward, that letter . . .” You were shaking your head; I tried to still the motion by placing my hands on either side of your face. “I don’t even know where to begin. How to tell you what those words meant to me. How I wish I hadn’t left you here to go through all that alone.”

“But I had to do it alone,” I interrupted you. “You knew that. You knew that taking a step back would make me take a step forward. I needed the push. Or the pull. Whatever it is between us that forces me to be a better man.”

Your hands were on my face then, too; warm and cradling and possessing. “You were already a good man without me. I wish you’d acknowledge that.”

“But I like who I am with you so much better. You freed me from that cage, in so many ways . . .” I trailed off, remembering how you brought me out of myself without even trying. Without me even realizing it. “Here I am, the therapist, being healed by his patient.” My smile felt both wry and grateful.

“We healed each other.” I drank in your smile, swam in the film of tears that gathered in your eyes. “I came to you for massage therapy and got so much more.”

“A hell of lot more than you ever bargained for, I’m sure,” I replied with a laugh, determined to make this a happy reunion for us.

Your laugh was short but genuine. “More than I ever hoped for.”

“I know the feeling. I’d still be stuck in a hell of my own making if it weren’t for you. Thank you for not giving up on me. For not letting me give up on myself.”

“You know you don’t need to thank me for that.” Your fingers were in my hair then; my scalp tingled and begged for more. “I’d do anything for you.”

I saw the truth in your eyes; felt it in your touch. “And you know I’d do the same for you.”

A smile broke through your tears then. “You’re going back to school!” I smiled and nodded a little sheepishly at your exclamation. “The fact that you’re doing something for yourself means more to me than anything else you could do for me.”

“Yeah, well, it feels like a way to finally complete that chapter of my life and be done with it. I mean, I have no idea if I’ll end up even using that degree. You never know, I just might chuck the whole health care profession and join Jasper’s band instead.”

I saw your eyes light up a little at the idea, but your reply was diplomatic. “You know I’ll support whatever decision you make.”

I nodded and felt my grin spread. “There’s a certain appeal in joining The Grade, you know. Just making music all day and night. There’d be a lot of satisfaction in that -- reaching people in a different way. You always said music could save people. That it saved you.”

“You know how much I believe that,” you enthused. “And I could get you signed to Java and oversee your recording and marketing and distribution….”

I cut you off before you got carried away. “And then we could crash and burn like Rosalie and her first boyfriend when they tried to work together like that. Remember what I’ve always said about business and pleasure?”

Your expression was scoffing as your hands moved down my neck, thumbs over my collarbone, fingers under the collar of my lab coat. I watched my own hands stray over you the same way.

“Your insistence on not mixing business and pleasure is what caused us so much trouble in the first place,” you reminded me. “If you had just allowed the two to co-exist peacefully, we never would have had all those misunderstandings.”

“Maybe,” I admitted. The sheet had begun to slip down, exposing your breasts, and the dusky pink protrusion of your nipples distracted me. “But back then I was unconsciously looking for excuses to fuck things up between us. If one method didn’t do the trick, I would have found another.”

“Or maybe you would have just given in to me.” I watched as your fingers unbuttoned my shirt, one by one; felt the warm air and your even warmer touch ignite my skin with desire.

“I wanted to.” My voice was growing huskier, my hands bolder. Your sigh was soft and maddening when I traced the tips of my fingers over your hardening nipples.

“Just think what could have happened the day that we both got ourselves off, a room away from each other, instead of giving in to what we both wanted.”

It was my turn to sigh as I trailed my fingers down your taut stomach, taking the sheet down with them. I stopped only when you reached up to push the lab coat off of me. I let my arms go limp until you had succeeded in making my jacket and shirt drop to the floor with a muffled thud.

“God, the thought of you lying here, touching yourself . . .” I stared down at you and imagined your fingers working yourself into a frenzy while you fantasized about me. I caught your eyes with mine and voiced my desire out loud.

“Show me. Right now. Show me what you did.”

Even in the dim light, I could see the blood rush to your cheeks in my favorite cocktail of self-consciousness and lust. You bit your lip in that way that drives me crazy, then you lay back on the table and kicked the sheet down with your feet, your eyes locked with mine the entire time. But I soon felt my eyes stray down your body, and your hand followed, fingers smoothing over your belly, heading south. I think I stopped breathing for a minute as you pushed your fingers under the lace edge of your panties -- tiny floral print today -- and down, down, down until they forced a pleasurable sigh from your mouth.

“I’m sure I started like this,” you said, moving your hand up and down rhythmically beneath the cotton panel, legs spreading and hips tilting upward. I glanced at the sultry gaze in your eyes before my attention was arrested by the movement of your body, undulating into the pressure of your fingers. “I’m sure I was imagining you doing this to me, touching me this way. And then, when I was good and wet, my fingers slid inside . . . deeper, and then deeper still . . . while I pretended they were your fingers. . . and then your cock.”

Your voice was almost as hypnotic as the motion of your hand pushing the fabric of your panties down while you pleasured yourself. My dick was throbbing, but my eyes were frustrated. My hands obeyed their demands and I reached for the edge of your underwear, pulling the offending cotton down over your hips. I loved when you lifted your body so that I could pull the panties down and remove them altogether. I loved even more that you would let me watch you do this to yourself -- shove the fingers of your right hand deep into your vagina while your left hand joined in and massaged your clit in perfect time.

The self-conscious girl I once knew never would have done this so freely; never would have trusted me enough to truly let go of her inhibitions. I thought I had banished her for good until I saw her lurking in your eyes last weekend when you found my journal. But watching you now, unashamed and free, I knew that I would not see her again. And that is one loss I will not lament.

I couldn’t decide which I wanted more -- to continue watching you do the all the work, or to jump in and do it myself. I compromised by unzipping my own pants and pushing them down, releasing my hard-on into my own waiting hands.

I’m not sure why it felt so intimate to do this together -- watch each other revel in our own auto-erotica without even touching each other. Yet our eyes were transfixed on each other’s sex while our frantic hands brought moans to our hungry mouths. We hadn’t even kissed yet, and at last I realized that my mouth was watering for yours, begging for the feel of your tongue tangling with mine.

I think I murmured something like “So fucking sexy” before I gave up and leaned over the head of the massage table, grabbing your face in my hands and covering your lips with mine. God, the taste of you after so long . . . Indescribable. I couldn’t stop devouring your mouth with hungry kisses, and your desperation matched mine, which only made my crazier. My hands were all over you, one in your hair, the other caressing every part of your body I could reach, like a blind man finally granted permission to “see” his lover for the first time.

Your hands were just as hot and greedy on my skin, searing me and making me groan into your mouth. By the time you grasped my dick and began stroking it up and down, I was a panting mess, barely able to even kiss you. I felt like a teenager again, floored by the first touch of a girl’s hand. I could feel you grinning into my mouth; relishing your power over me, using it to your advantage and mine as you pumped my shaft hard and fast. You showed my dick no mercy, knowing that it wanted none.

You know me so well -- what I need, what I want; but most of all, what I don’t even realize that I need and want. I always prided myself on having figured that out about you. I never stopped to consider that you’d figured out the same about me.

As our kiss disintegrated, you scooted around slightly so that your head was hanging slightly over the edge of the mattress. You looked up at me and I could see that your expression was provocative, even upside down. Your hand never stilled on my dick, gently yanking and pulling me in the direction of your mouth.

“Give me your cock. I want to taste you.”

I vaguely hoped that Emmett and Jessica had vacated the building, because the groan I emitted was definitely loud enough to be heard in the next two rooms. My lust barely outweighed my awe as you tilted your head back and took me in your mouth. You were unable to really move your head in this position, so I withdrew, let you take a breath, and gently pushed into your mouth again, down your open and waiting throat. I felt it constrict around the tip of my cock, and I pulled out before you choked; but then the irresistible urge to gently push into that hot, wet entrance overtook me again.

“Fuck,” I groaned, unable to produce any other coherent speech as I filled your mouth and watched your throat expand in the shape of my cock before I withdrew again. I’m still a little stunned that you took me in that way, over and over . . . Let me bury myself so deep that your lips sucked the base of my cock before I pulled back again.

If it bothered you, you never let it show. Your hands gripped my hips and thighs; your tongue tickled my shaft with every thrust. If you choked, I pulled out. But I can’t deny that the sensation of fucking your beautiful mouth was one of the most intense highs I’ve ever experienced. Not just the feel of it, but the trust you had in me not to hurt you. I was overwhelmed at the fact that you wanted to give me pleasure so much that you were willing to do something that might have been completely uncomfortable for you. --Just so you know, it wasn’t that bad. I felt kind of fierce, like a sword swallower in the circus. Getting you off gets me off. Surely you’ve figured that out along with all your other insights, right?

Once I got into the careful rhythm of it, I couldn’t keep my hands off of your body before me, naked and wanting. My fingers soon picked up where yours had left off, stroking and rubbing and then sliding inside you. I can’t believe how much I missed that sweet pussy after only a week. I felt like the luckiest bastard in the world that you would let me invade you so completely, fingers plunging deep in one end while my dick plundered the other. But you seemed to welcome the invasion, your moans vibrating my cock until I thought I would lose it and ejaculate right down your throat.

But I didn’t want it to end like that, so premature, in such a coarse way. Today deserved better than that.

I withdrew from you completely and eased your head back up on the flannel-covered mattress, turning you slightly so that I could drown in that Hershey’s syrup looking up at me.

“God, you’re incredible,” I said before I leaned down and kissed you, not giving a damn about where your mouth had just been.

“So are you,” you replied, shaking your head a little. “Do you have any sexual hang-ups at all?”

I thought for a moment. “I’m not really into pain, yours or mine. I guess that’s my only boundary.”

I loved that little Mona Lisa smile you gave me. “Works for me.”

My lips found your throat and I nuzzled there a moment, but my imagination was restless.

“Do you remember that text message you sent me when you were drunk?” I whispered in her ear.

Your giggles stirred the hair at my temple and sent a hot shiver down my spine. “Vaguely.”

“Allow me to refresh your memory, then. I believe you said you wanted me to fuck you from behind . . .” I stopped to plant several kisses along your neck. “. . . deep and hard, like you like it.”

Your feigned shock was adorable. “That must have been the whiskey talking.”

“I don’t think so,” I argued, letting my lips trail down your chest. “I think you were telling me exactly what you like. You said you wanted my cock aalll the way in.” My thumb toyed with your left nipple while my tongue tickled your right, and I relished how it made you squirm and squeal a little. “I love it when we’re on the same page.”

I stood abruptly so that you’d scowl up at me until you saw that I was merely removing my clothes entirely, including shoes and socks. I climbed up on the mattress and lowered myself onto you, groaning at the feel of your body beneath mine, warm and soft and responsive. My mouth captured yours and I didn’t want to let it go; my fingers entwined in your hair and held on for dear life. The feel of your skin, your lips, pressed to mine is the closest I’ll ever get to heaven on earth, of that I’m sure.

I couldn’t wait to enter you. Your legs were instantly open to me, your limbs already wrapping around me and holding me there. Our moans mingled into one when I slid my cock into that sweet heat, and I knew I wouldn’t stop until we both came undone.

“What about the fucking from behind?” you murmured in my ear. You didn’t seem eager to turn over any time soon, your hands gripping my shoulders and my back, your hips bucking forcefully upward with every thrust of my cock.

“Later,” I managed to grunt hoarsely. “We have all night.”

Your groan was guttural as I ground my hips into yours. “Thank God we do,” you replied in between moans as our rhythm intensified.

I’m going to admit something to you right now, Bella. No matter how many gymnastic positions we attempt, or silly toys we play with to keep things interesting, I will never love anything as much as I love looking you right in the eyes, every inch of our bodies fused into one, when we come. Nothing will ever surpass that connection I feel with you when we’re face to face, body to body, soul to soul; when you tighten all around me and possess me, and I surrender and explode inside you.

There is nothing I will ever need or want more than that. And I think I sensed it from the very beginning with us. It just took me awhile to stop playing by the rules -- not just the ones imposed upon me, but the ones I made for myself. So today, when I finally ignored them and followed my heart instead, I felt another barrier fall away. Coming inside you on that massage table was one of the most oddly freeing things I’ve ever done. It was like acknowledging, once and for all, what is most important to me. Or whom, I should say.

It will always be you. You are my life now.

And speak of the angel, you’re walking toward me right now. Something smells delicious in this loft, and I’m about to go see what it is. You can read this and add your own comments, or fill in the things I left out.

I love you, Bella. I’ll say it every day, and I’ll write it every day, so you never forget it.

Wow. There’s not much to add. (Although I couldn’t resist a little peanut-gallery comment here and there, which you’ll see when you look back at your entry.)

As always, your words astonish me, Edward. I don’t know why I’m surprised, though. From the very beginning, I saw that depth in your eyes; that anguish and desperation; and that hope for something more. Something better. I wanted to really know you, like no one ever has before. I wanted to be the one to set you free. And now that I’ve actually helped you accomplish that, I know my own worth, too.

I’m watching you in the kitchen, sniffing under pot lids and peeking into the oven, and I’m absurdly, insanely attracted to you right now. It’s like your mere existence makes me so high that I’d be happy to simply observe you from afar for the rest of my life. But trust me, I’m much happier when you let me share in your existence.

You are my life now, too.

And I’ll tell you I love you, in words written and spoken, every day. That can be our troth to one another.

Until we make an official one, that is. And make no mistake, regardless of what I’ve said in the past about marriage, I will require some sort of formal commitment if you hope to ever have the slightest chance of keeping me barefoot and pregnant.

With that, I’m off to check on dinner. You look happy enough with it, and that’s enough for me. Here, you take the journal while I go stir. Love you.

I knew it! I knew you wanted to have my babies. *picture my smug, self-satisfied mug here*

That can wait awhile, though. We have a lot of living to do before then. That’s why I bought such a big diary for us. I know we’ll fill these pages in the blink of an eye.

This is just the beginning for us, Bella. And I intend to savor every minute of it.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Massage Therapy, Chapter 24 - Letters

From the Desktop of Bella Swan
Sunday, September 19

I forgot how relentlessly green Forks is.

Every day I’ve been here this week, I’ve realized more and more why you needed to leave, Mom. It’s peaceful and tranquil, and the natives seem to like it. Dad has settled nicely into his niche here, and he’s content. But within a few days, the flora-filled atmosphere somehow went from soothing to oppressive. Maybe it’s because the quiet and solitude gave me more than enough time to mull things over in my head. Too much time.

Maybe it’s because I miss Edward so much that my heart hurts.

All I know is that I can’t wait to leave tomorrow. I love Charlie and I’ll miss him, but I’ve decided he’s coming to Seattle the next time he wants to see me, even if I have to come here and forcibly drag him back with me.

The fishing trip with him Tuesday was good, and Wednesday I helped him do some chores around the house; but I think we were both relieved when he went back to work Thursday and Friday. Problem is, that left me with a lot of time on my hands. I practiced playing my new guitar until my fingers hurt; then I took lots of walks and did lots of thinking. But no matter what my head comes up with, my heart still holds fast to two things: I love Edward no matter what; and I love my job at Java Noise enough to try to work things out with Rose.

As long she’s in Emmett’s life and I’m in Edward’s, we’re stuck with each other. We had had a good working relationship before her paranoia got the best of her, so I’m hopeful that we can rebuild it. I was actually relieved to get a voicemail from her Friday afternoon while I was out for one of my strolls.

“Bella, I’m so sorry to bother you while you’re on vacation, but I have looked everywhere and I cannot find that press kit for Leo Clifton. You remember that big, hairy dude that looks like he spent three years in a Himalayan cave? Well, Mark saw him perform last week and was really impressed with the guy. I know we have his demo somewhere. If you remember where it is, please give me a call back.

“Hope you’re having a good vacation. I was thinking about you a lot earlier this week--I know how hard those days must have been for you. We all miss you here. Talk to you soon.”

I was actually grateful to have an opportunity to be useful, so I called her back as soon as I got home and discovered her message.

“The press kit is in my holding file, bottom right drawer of my desk,” I told her when she picked up. “That’s where I keep all the pending acts -- the ones we’re seriously considering.”

“Thanks! You’re a life saver.” I heard her rummaging until she let out an exclamation of victory. “How is it I’ve never known this is where you keep the hot commodities? I need to pay more attention, obviously. But I never would have looked in your desk without asking you first, anyway. I learned my lesson there,” she added contritely.

“That’s okay. Obviously you need to have access to all the files. It’s just the top desk drawer that I got a little upset about. It’s okay. I mean, you did have a point about everything in that office being Java property.”

“Well, I crossed the line and we both know it. But I really do want to try to earn your trust again, if you’ll let me. We want you back. I want you back. I need your ear! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned to ask your opinion on something and you weren’t there. I’ve missed you.”

“Wow,” I said, a bit surprised. Rosalie had never been so open or so complimentary before. “That’s nice to hear. I’ve kind of missed the activity, too. And the music. It’s so quiet here.”

“So . . . that means you’re coming back next week?” she asked uncertainly.

“Yeah, I think so. Would Tuesday be all right?”

“Tuesday would be great.” Rose sounded relieved. “I was afraid you were going to give your notice. Can’t say I would have blamed you.”

“I thought about it, to be honest,” I admitted. “But I love my job there, and I believe in the company. I’ve always liked the philosophy at Java. It’s more about the integrity of the music and the artists than making money.”

“True. Though I prefer to strike a profitable balance where that’s concerned,” she answered with a laugh. “Well, I’d better get this file down to Mark. I’ll see you next week. And Bella . . . thanks.”

Her last words carried more weight than the rest. I could tell she was thanking me for my effort to forgive and forget rather than helping her find a file.

“You’re welcome,” I told her, in the same knowing tone.

As I hung up the phone, I felt like a weight had been lifted. I never realized what heavy burdens grudges were until I let one go.

That night, I let the weightlessness get to me a bit. I met up with Eric, Tyler and Lauren. Angela will be interested to know that Eric asked me lots of questions about her. He always had a thing for her in high school but never acted on it, so Ben beat him to the punch. Eric was surprised, and I think a bit disappointed, to hear that Ange and Ben are still together.

I was surprised myself to see that Tyler and Lauren were still an item, and in fact, were engaged to be married. I was also feeling guiltily smug that Lauren had put on a considerable amount of weight since high school. The guilt went away as soon as I realized that she was as snobby as ever, regardless of the fact that her beauty queen days were far behind her. She still acted like she was the hottest girl in town. But I soon realized that I was content to let her enjoy being the biggest and brightest fish in her tiny pond. I’d be heading back to the ocean I loved soon enough.

So, I decided to relax, drink and be merry. I joined them in their drinking games, to disastrous results. The drunker I got, the more I missed Edward; and the more I missed him, the more I drank.

We hadn’t talked all week. It seemed to be a literally unspoken agreement between us: that we would take this time to be on our own, to work on ourselves; so we had only sent text messages to one another. The sound of his voice haunted me. Amidst the noise of the bar, I kept imagining his velvet tones in my ear, his breath on my neck, his whispered tremors shivering down my spine.

His phantom voice guided me all the way home. I could practically hear him telling me which way to go as I drunkenly maneuvered my behemoth of a truck down the back streets of Forks. As soon as I sneaked past Charlie’s room where he lay snoring, I fell on my bed in a stupor and began texting Edward.

I groaned with embarrassment when I read the messages back the next afternoon. It took me a good twenty-four hours to stop vomiting in between bouts of fitful sleep, while Charlie gave me disapproving looks and then harangued me for driving drunk the night before. I finally choked down some toast last night, then spent a few hours practicing the guitar again before passing out once more.

Today Charlie and I went fishing again, but with Jake’s dad, Billy Black, this time. Billy asked me all kinds of questions about The Wolf Pack’s progress. Jake had filled him in, but he liked hearing about their prospects from someone on the business end of things. It was strange to be that person -- the one sounding like an authority on something, while talking to my dad and the father of one of my old friends. It was the first time I realized I wasn’t really a kid anymore. I felt like one of the adults instead.

It was late in the day and I was helping Charlie clean the fish we’d caught when he remembered the letter. Edward had written to me, old-school style, and sent it via snail mail to Forks. Dad hadn’t bothered to give me the letter while I was heaving all day long yesterday, but I wish he had. I would have made different plans for today.

But maybe it’s better this way. I’ve come up with the perfect reunion for Edward and me, I think. I’ve already called Emmett to help me put my plan in motion. Edward will be so surprised. I have a big, stupid grin on my face just thinking about it.

In the meantime, I can’t stop reading his letter. Every time it hits me as hard as the first. See for yourself:

Thursday, September 16

Dear Bella,

I know I told you that I needed time to get my thoughts together before I told you about my appointment today. But the truth is, writing them down is the way I’ve always sorted them out and made sense of them. I think -- no, I know -- you do the same. So I hoped you wouldn’t mind a letter from me while I attempt to figure things out.

I’ve written to you every day this week. Since the moment you left, I’ve known that you are the only person I want to write to anymore. So I went and bought a new notebook after work on Monday. It’s nice, a real journal, with a white cover. I’m sure the shrink would tell me that my color choice was symbolic. I’m sure it probably was. New beginnings, clean slate and all that.

But I decided to send this letter, because I want you to have it right now. I want you to know what’s been going on in my head. No more secrets, no more withholding. No more testing you to see what it will take to make you turn your back on me, thus “proving” to myself that I never deserved you to begin with. I’ve been very good at creating self-fulfilling prophecies the past few years.

That’s just one thing the shrink made me see. I think you’d like her. She’s older, probably sixty-ish, with these eyes that crinkle up like walnuts when she smiles. She looks like someone who’s smiled a lot in her life, and I like that. She’s warm and easy to talk to, kind of like my Aunt Jeanne was.

Even so, I was surprised at what happened when I met with her today. She had a cancellation after my appointment, so she let me stay there for two hours. I say “let me” because I was on some kind of crazy roll, talking my fool head off. So strange for me, the guy who’s so good at bottling everything up inside. But this time, everything came spilling out. What happened with Tanya and how much I let it derail my life. How I resented my parents, especially my dad, for their efforts to keep that from happening. Because if I had picked up the pieces and continued on the career path I had intended, it would have been like Tanya never happened, and I couldn’t allow that. Wallowing in the past and letting it ruin my life it was the only punishment I had for my perceived crimes.

She never left a suicide note. Never blamed me for anything, nor forgave me for anything. She left no answers to my myriad questions “why?” So I answered them myself, or tried to. All those letters to her were just my way of trying to get answers that I can never have. Creating any kind of scenario more complex than the cause-and-effect finality of me telling her I didn’t care if she killed herself, and her going ahead with the deed. I was trying to be my own confessor, jury, judge, priest. . .you name it. I waged war on myself daily. And when you’re waging both sides of the battle, self against self, you can never truly win or lose. Never move on from the battlefield and just find peace.

I stayed there because I thought that was all I deserved -- a purgatory of my own making, suitable for someone who’d be as callous and unthinking as I was the day I said those words to her. Like many a prisoner, I became accustomed to the captivity. It became the norm. I sought no conscious release from it.

At least that’s what I always thought. But Norma -- that’s the therapist -- pointed out that it was no accident I went into massage therapy. I know that’s true. It was an easier path than getting my undergrad degree and then going to med school, but it would still allow me to heal people. And I figured out long ago that my desire to help others was mostly a futile stab at making up for the person I’d driven to destruction.

But what I never realized was that I was subverting that healing from myself onto them. I still kept my old wounds festering close to the surface without even realizing it. Outwardly, I appeared to move on. I came out of isolation after a few months, went to massage therapy school, and befriended Kate. She was “safe,” non-threatening, because she would never want more from me than friendship. She got me socializing more, and so did Jasper, taking me to clubs and urging me to join him onstage.

Before I knew it, I was back in a familiar groove, not that different from the one I was in before I met Tanya. I only dated women casually, never letting anyone inside. Because right there under the surface still lurked every ounce of pain and guilt I’d ever had over Tanya’s suicide. I picked at those wounds in secret every night, in the pages of that black notebook, never letting them heal. Making sure they held me tightly in that cocoon of carefully concealed self-loathing. I didn’t deserve to move on from that. I didn’t want to.

And then I met you. I’ll never forget the day I first saw you, your pale skin gleaming in the glow from my desk lamp. I felt something I hadn’t felt in so long. I didn’t know why at the time. But when I touched you, I knew that there was as much pain inside you, right beneath that perfect porcelain, as I carried under my own skin. I was enthralled. And I was terrified.

It only got worse the more I got to know you. The things you said in our first few meetings let me know just how much you and I had in common. I held you at bay because I knew that connecting with you would mean moving beyond my self-imposed prison. . .letting myself out of the cage, giving up the fight. I knew you were my empathy and my freedom and my salvation.

And this whole time, I’ve never felt like I deserved to be saved.

I know how angry everyone was that I didn’t press charges against Tanya’s father, but I also suspect you know exactly why I didn’t. He finally took my punishment out of my hands. I’ll never be able to describe what a relief it was to feel his fist slam into my face -- to have someone besides me place the blame squarely atop my shoulders and then knock it sideways. The catharsis I felt from that was the first taste of freedom I’d truly allowed myself, and the first time I began to fight back, at least in my mind, against the accusation that everything was all my fault.

But the downside, of course, was what it did to you. I hate how I made you suffer by being a coward and not confessing everything to you earlier. The second I began to let go of the guilt over Tanya, I felt it attack me over my failings with you instead. It had happened before that, too. The night I tried to goad you into hitting me, into being my punisher. The times I pushed our sexual boundaries and demanded more of you than I had any right to. They were designed, subconsciously at the time, to provoke you into telling me what an asshole I am, so that I would be justified in my self-loathing and self-blame.

But you never did that. You never let me sabotage myself that way. I know you never will. You see through me -- no, into me -- like no one ever has before. I knew all along that you would. And I knew just how badly I needed that. Needed you. Part of me was ready to accept it; to accept you and your love. The other part was determined to keep myself in that cage of my own making and make sure that I continued to suffer for my sins.

I suspect that you’ve already figured all of this out. That you’ve seen it, or at least sensed it, all along. Before I delved this deep into myself, I was sure that you were the one who needed me. I was so focused on the idea of “fixing” you -- your body, your soul -- that I didn’t recognize just how much I was getting out of the deal. That’s not such a bad thing. You finally made me selfless for once in my life. I’ve never wanted anything as much as I’ve wanted you to be healthy and happy and whole again.

But I know that you were afraid that if I didn’t look inside and see all the stuff that’s been going on there, it would come back to haunt us both. It broke my heart when you found my journal. Not because I was afraid of what you might read there, but because that old insecurity was back in your eyes -- the self-doubt I thought I’d helped you get over. I’ve never been able to understand why you don’t see the beauty in yourself that I see in you. It baffles me still. But then I realized that maybe that’s how you see me, too, so maybe I should start believing it. Believing that I’m worthy of your love. Worthy of forgiveness for past mistakes -- not just your forgiveness, but my own.

So that’s what I’m working on now. Norma says I was already well on the way to making a lot of these breakthroughs on my own, especially after what happened with Tanya’s father. Those last weeks leading up to your birthday were like a ticking time-bomb. I had given myself a deadline to tell you everything, but Donnelly literally beat me to the punch. That old adage “everything happens for a reason” seemed to hold true that day. An act of violence wrenched my cage door open, but I’m counting on you to take my hand and help lead me out of it.

I took the first step, or maybe the second, after I left Norma’s office. I went to the Admissions office at the University of Washington and picked up a course catalog. I’ve decided that I’m going to get my undergraduate degree, even if it takes me two more years of night school while I work to do it. I don’t know if I’ll go on to med school or not -- I haven’t thought that far ahead. But finally finishing what I started seven years ago seems like a good start.

As for the therapy, I’m going to see Norma every Thursday afternoon for awhile. She thinks it would be a good idea for both us to visit her together some time. I told her I’d run it by you. Maybe she can help us really let go of all the old misplaced guilt instead of just giving it lip service. Maybe only time can really make that happen, but I still think that you and I can help each other more than anyone else ever could. We already have. There was definitely a reason that you came into my life when you did. I’ll be grateful for that -- for you -- every day of my life.

I’m tearing these pages out of the new notebook to send to you, but the rest of my letters are here for you to read when you get back. This isn’t just my own journal I’m starting. I want it to be ours, to tell each other anything we might be thinking or feeling, no matter how awkward. Maybe that’s weird, wanting to share something like that with you. Diaries are supposed to be personal. But now that I’ve let you in to the darkest corners of my soul, I don’t mind the light shining on them anymore. Because with the light came warmth, and love.

Bella, your love is the best gift I’ve ever received. I want to cherish it, and return it, with everything I have. No holding back any part of me anymore. What’s mine is yours. All you have to do now is claim it.

Forever yours,

Can you believe him, mom? What guy has thoughts like this, and then sits down and wrestles them onto paper? I never knew it was possible for anyone to touch my heart the way he has mine. I literally ache for him, like part of me is missing while we’re apart. I don’t even know if it’s healthy or normal. I guess if I visit the therapist with Edward, we can find out together.

But I don’t care, really. All I know is that I love Edward with everything I have in me, and I’m hanging on to him -- to us -- until my dying breath.

This is where the difficult part comes in, because I’ve made a decision.

This is the last letter I’m writing to you.

Of course, I’ll still mutter to you whenever things are going wrong, and imagine you smiling down on me when everything’s great. But it’s time for me to stop turning to you to get me through the ups and downs of life. After all, if Edward is being brave enough to give up his crutch and count on me instead, then I need to step up and do the same.

“Need” is the wrong word. I want to. I’m ready. You’re my past and my foundation; the amazing woman who made me what I am today. I’ll always love you more than words can say, for being the best mom, and friend, a girl could ever ask for. And I’ll always wish that Fate could have written a different ending for us, so that you could have been with me decades longer.

But now it’s time for me to embrace my present and my future, and I know without question that they lie with Edward. There’s a new journal waiting for me, with tons of blank pages ready to be filled with a new story -- Edward’s and mine. I know that wherever you are, you’re excited for me. And you’re always welcome to read over my shoulder.

I won’t say good-bye . . . just au revoir. Until we see each other again.

I love you, Mom.