A DRAWN OUT APPROACH and THE FEELING OF FINALLY
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Our house is all decked out in red and white, complete with garland, holly and white lights. Kelly has been on a mission all weekend to finish decorating. She’s been enlisting anyone that stops by to join her decorating crew. Sam and Ayden have been helping Ben and Jason with the family room tree all day. It’s the biggest, flocked tree you’ve ever seen, which is probably why I haven’t seen them in hours. I’m glad I didn’t get stuck trimming it.
I’ve been assigned to help Kelly and Ryan with the front of the house. We’ve managed to decorate the mantle and stairs and now we’re finishing up the living room. The white couch is looking very festive with red pillows and a snowflake covered blanket. I especially like the pillow that says BELIEVE. The glass coffee table in front of the couch has a wired basket covered with garland and is filled with pine cones and red berries. The fire is roaring and sounds amazing every time it crackles. Every now and then someone belts out lyrics from one of the Christmas songs playing throughout the house. It’s easy to say that the mood around here is cheerful and spirited.
“Kelly, where do you want this giant nutcracker?” I ask, almost losing my grip on his head.
“You can set it on the hearth,” she replies.
I place the green vested, solider to the right of the fireplace, where it can guard the crate of logs. I turn around and see Ryan by the artificial, fir tree and can’t help but giggle. His arms are tangled in Christmas lights.
“Can someone explain to me why we don’t have a pre-lit tree?” Ryan asks.
“Next year,” Kelly says.. “I’m not ready to part with this one yet.”
Ryan sighs in defeat and sets the lights in the plastic tub. “I’m gonna need more coffee for this,” he says.
“Break time,” I say, following him.
Ryan and I barely get a foot out the room before we’re yelled at.
“Whoa, hold up,” Kelly insists, waving her finger at us. “Get your butts back here. If I let you two go now, I’ll never get you back and I’ll have to finish everything myself, and you both know that I don’t have the time. I need this house to be perfect by today. So, no breaks. Got it?”
“Okay, slave driver,” Ryan mumbles.
Kelly grabs a gray decorative pillow at chucks it at Ryan, hitting him smack in the face. We both laugh hysterically. His adorable smirk suggests he enjoys giving a Kelly a hard time, even though we both know he actually loves to help. Ryan loves Christmas as much as I do. It’s magical. It’s spiritual. It’s the best time of the year!
I understand why Kelly’s stressed. Christmas Eve is tomorrow and we usually have all of the decorating done by now. New Years is the main reason she’s demanding perfection. She and Jason are hosting their 2nd annual New Year’s Eve Party. Last year was a success and I don’t blame her for having high expectations.
“How about I’ll untangle the lights while you two find a place to hang this mistletoe,” Kelly says, handing me some tape and the bag of what she likes to call the emblem of romance.
Ryan and I share a glance of mindful concern. We both know what’s coming. Every year, we hear the same thing from her, “Oooh, someone has to kiss. It’s tradition.” Last year Kelly went overboard and had us hang the famous, green decoration all over the house. I think I ended up kissing Ryan’s hand about a dozen times. We shared a few cheek pecks, but not many.
“Did you know mistletoe is a parasite?” I ask, while walking towards the entry way.
“I did,” Ryan answers. “Pretty weird, right?”
“Very, but not as weird as Kelly’s obsession with it.”
“That’s for sure.” He laughs.
I look for a good place to hang the faux mistletoe. “Here looks good.” I point at the black light fixture just a few feet from the front door. I think it will be less obvious than the door frame.”
“Sounds good. I’ll give you a boost,” he says, picking me up at the hips.
It takes me a long moment to get the tape on the string. But before I can attach anything, Ryan loses his grip on me. I fall on top of him, causing him to land on his butt. I end up sitting on his chest, squishing his biceps with my knees.
“Are you alright?” I ask, concerned.
“I’m fine,” he says, breaking into laughter. I join him as I roll off his body and lie next to him.
Kelly walks by us and shakes her head. “I give you two one simple task and you end up on the ground.” She picks up the bag of mistletoe with an eye roll and a grin. “Ally, I still have two wreaths for you to take to Christian’s later,” she continues. “One is for his mom.”
“Okay, I’ll take them as soon as we’re done here,” I reply. “I’ll try not to forget this time.”
She walks towards the family room, probably anxious to check on the rest of her crew’s progress. I imagine they are almost done by now.
“Look, she missed some,“ I say, lifting up a small piece above Ryan’s head. I lean over and give him a quick peck on the cheek.
He smiles and tucks a piece of hair behind my ear. I feel the warmth of his face slowly draw near mine and absentmindedly turn my cheek to the side. I’m surprised with a soft kiss to the temple. It sends a pleasing quiver down my spine. I never tire of Ryan’s affection.
“Well, that’s definitely one tradition that has improved,” I admit with a grin.
Ryan stands and pulls me up to my feet. “I agree,” he says, revealing his adorable dimple.
We both decide to finish decorating the tree for Kelly. I hang a snowflake ornament and watch it sparkle in the sunlight. The sun is peeping through the clouds and is almost gone for the day.
“I bet your happy to be on break and done with working at my high school,” I say, staring at Ryan’s dark-brown locks.
His careful placement of candy canes is paused. “Yeah, but I’ll miss seeing you every day.”
My lips curl into a smile. I’m happy with his response, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be missing him more.
Ryan’s starting grad school at the start of February and will also be keeping busy by teaching psychology. His life changes have prompted me to apply to college, even though I was already supposed to have that completed, according to Jason. He’s not happy that I waited so long. Sam convinced me to apply all over the state. She wants us to have a real college experience and live in dorms. I amused her idea by filling out the schools she thought we’d get into and some we never would. But the truth is, I could never leave my family. And then there’s Christian. I can’t leave my hot detective boyfriend.
“So next fall I could technically be enrolled in your class,” I say, jokingly.
Ryan shuts me down quickly. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Why not? I have to take psych.? It’s part of my general ed.”
“Yeah, but you’re not taking it from me.”
“Relax,” I say, playfully shoving his shoulder. “I know that would be a bad idea.”
“That’s an understatement,” he says.
“Well, I’m happy you’re following your heart and pursuing your dreams.”
“Thanks for being so understanding. I know you’re not a huge fan of change. There’s going to be a lot of adjustments after the holidays and it won’t be easy.”
There is something with Ryan’s choice of words and tone of voice that suggests a shadowy future. I’m not sure what he’s implying, but it has me worried. I’m afraid to even ask so I leave it alone for now, and enjoy the rest of our Christmassy cheer. “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” comes on, and I start dancing around as I hang the last of the candy canes. Ryan takes my hand and spins me around. It’s easy to be silly with him.
“Look at you two, being all productive and cute,” Kelly says, entering the room with water bottles for us both.
“We were inspired by the queen of Christmas herself,” Ryan says.
Kelly takes a bow. “It looks great, guys, I think we’re all done, here. You’re free to go until further notice.”
I lead the way to the kitchen, where everyone is chilling and admiring their hard work. The twelve-foot tree in the family room is impressive. It’s like a winter wonderland of majestic art.
Kelly gathers all of our attention and states loudly, “I just want to thank you all for you’re help. I greatly appreciate each and every one of you and love you all to pieces. Also, I ordered pizza, so please stay and eat. There’s plenty.”
My sister n’ law looks wiped, even though she’s used to working twelve hour shifts as a nurse. Apparently, this was just as hard, if not harder.
“You did good, babe,” Jason says, wrapping Kelly in his arms and planting a kiss to her forehead.
“We all did,” she says kissing my brother.
I set my water down on the counter and reach for my purse and keys. “I’m gonna take off now,” I announce.
“See, ya,” Sam says. “Don’t forget to call me.”
“Ok, bye,” I say with a quick wave.
“Home by midnight,” Jason states.
I nod at my brother while adjusting my black, crossbody shoulder bag. Jason’s been pretty amazing when it comes to Christian, which is why I don’t mind a curfew. That, along with the fact that he bought me a car. But never would I have thought my protective brother would be okay with me dating one of his friends, even if Christian is younger than him.
“Hurry back,” Ryan says, briefly rubbing my back.
I smile and squeeze his arm. “Save me some pizza.”
“No promises.” He grins.
“Wait up,” Kelly says, as she hugs my arm and walks me to the garage. She leans against my newly washed car, courtesy of Ben. My brother loves his Honda, but he really enjoys driving my car. Most of the time I don’t mind, besides he’s a great brother and I like to make him happy.
“What’s up, Kel?” I ask, curious.
“I just want to make sure you’re taking precautions,” she whispers. “You are, right?”
“What?” I ask, in confusion.
“Are you and Christian being safe?” she continues.
A surge of hotness rushes to my face. “No— I mean, we haven’t done anything yet. But yes, of course, we’ll be safe. I’ve been taking my pill every day, so don’t worry.”
“You really haven’t slept together, yet?” she asks, surprised.
“Nope, and I know I sounded eager before I got on the pill, but it’s different now. I’m not sure why.”
“You know you can talk to me about anything, especially sex.”
“I know and I very much appreciate that. But I’m good. Can I go now?”
“You’re embarrassed,” she says, fixing her blond ponytail. “I’m sorry, sweetie.”
I open my car door. “It’s fine, really.”
“Alright, well, you and Christian have fun.”
I give her a funny look and then she realizes the timing of her words.
“Oh, I didn’t mean that kind of fun.” She chuckles.
“Bye, Kel.” I laugh.
On my way to Christian’s place, I think about how supportive Kelly is. I don’t know how I’d get through these teenage years without her. If my mother were here, I probably wouldn’t be taking birth control. I don’t think she would’ve ever taken me to a clinic, but I also would’ve never asked. In fact, if my parents were still alive, I doubt Christian and I would’ve ever met. It’s weird to think about stuff like that. So many things would be different. My shared trauma with Ryan is really what brought us closer. Who knows what our relationship would be if not for the grief we endured. I miss my parents tremendously, but am thankful for all the people in my life that make it worth living.
“Happy almost Christmas!” I shout, as Christian opens his door.
I’m in his arms before I can take a step inside. “About time,” he says.
His toned arms tightly weave around my hips and butt. He really knows how to make a girl feel welcome.
“Kelly really put us to work. Be glad you didn’t stop by.”
“I told you I would’ve gladly helped. I bet it looks amazing though,” he says, setting me down and shutting the door.
I warned Christian not to come over, but not just for his sake, for mine too. I wanted to spend the day decorating for Christmas without any awkwardness. There’s this unspoken tension whenever Ryan and Christian are both around me and I didn’t want that today. They both get along and I’m grateful, but it can still be uncomfortable for me, and especially Christian. I think him knowing how I feel about Ryan is constantly in the back of his mind.
“It really does look amazing,” I answer, spinning around. I spot twinkling lights in the corner of his living room.
“Do you like it?” he asks, taking my hand and walking us towards the sparkling tree. I take in the amazing scent of pine and admire his artsy looking ornaments, shinning beautifully against the colored lights.
“It’s beautiful and smells incredible, too. And best of all, it’s already decorated. I don’t think I could hang another ornament if my life depended on it.”
“Yeah, I figured as much.” Christian reaches under his tree and hands me a small, white box.
“What’s this? I ask.
“Just an early Christmas present. Open it.”
I pull the red ribbon off the box and remove the lid. There’s a silver key chain with my initials. Attached to that is a key.
“No need to knock anymore," he says, lifting my chin. "You can come and go as you please. I hope you’ll use it often.”
“Aww, baby, this is so sweet. I love it. Thank you.”
My arms stretch towards Christian and grasp his neck, pulling his face closer to me. l cover his lips with mine and hear him release a soft moan. Our bodies grow closer as his hands cup my face. He begins kissing me harder, with a strong craving that excites me.
Suddenly, his lips take a short pause and whisper, “I want you so badly right now.”
Hearing how much he longs for me is as tantalizing as his kiss--if not more. Being desired is one of the best highs I've ever experienced.
I’m lifted from the butt to his waist as my legs wrap around his fit frame. My heart starts to race. His eager passion and heavy breathing are making it hard to think straight.
I’m carried to his bedroom, while still attached to his mouth and excited body. There is soft music playing in the room and a flowery candle burning on his night stand. He planned this.
Christian lays me on his bed and then takes off his shirt. I gawk at his sculpted shoulders and chiseled abs. His brown hair has grown out some on top and is sticking up in a sexy mess. He couldn’t be any hotter if he tried.
“How long have you been planning this?” I ask, with an arched brow.
“Not long,” he grins, crookedly. “If you want me to stop, just say the word.”
“No,” I quickly answer. “I don’t want you to stop.”
Even though it’s been a few weeks since my eighteenth birthday, Christian and I have somehow remained abstinent. He’s been really busy with work and I’ve been busy trying to keep my grades up. We’ve had a few opportunities to be intimate, but somehow managed to do other things, which is fine with me. I’m happy doing anything with him.
Last weekend we painted at his place. We both were covered in paint and it could have easily turned into a shower together, but it didn’t. I’ve been a little reluctant to engage in sexual activity, and I’m not really sure why going on the pill changed that for me. It’s like it became more real and a part of me is scared.
Christian seems to have picked up on my tentativeness. He hasn't mentioned our lack of sensuality, nor has he pressured me. But tonight, he’s different. There’s a lust in his eyes and a craving in his kiss. My guess is that waiting hasn’t been easy on him.
I slowly start to pull my ivory sweater over my head. Christian waits patiently, beaming with a clear and irresistible objective. His intentions are far from pure, and it doesn't surprise me, or bother me.
“You’re so beautiful,” he says, lowering his body over my shaky core.
My nerves are all over the place and I feel like I’m floundering. I want to be with him, but I’m still a little anxious about the whole thing.
His lips sprinkle kisses all over my neck and ear, raising every goose bump possible. My scalp is caressed with one of his hands, while the other lingers down my shoulder. Eventually his hand finds my stomach and manages to unfasten the top of my jeans. They are so tight that there is no room for him to go any further. Instead, his radiating hand slips under my lower back and lifts my body firm against his.
My moaning matches his and I feel like my body is on fire with anticipation. It’s driving me crazy not knowing what’s going to happen next. Every touch is like a new, invigorating experience.
Soft pecks from his tender lips find their way to my collar bone and then to my shoulder. His teeth grasp the strap of my black bra and slowly drag it down my arm, leaving my chest partially exposed. I feel so vulnerable in this moment. This is the first time Christian has seen me partly nude. I can’t help but feel a little insecure. However, my insecurities are quickly taken away in seconds when Christian decides to gently explore my breast with his warm mouth. The lower half of my body rises from the intense feeling and causes me to moan. The area he encloses is so sensitive and is making it hard not to squirm.
Christian comes back to my flushed face. “I love you so much,” he says, brushing some of my hair back.
“I love you, too.”
With careful maneuvering, I’m rolled over and positioned on top. His steady hands unfasten my bra as he continues to pursue my lips in a frenzy. My breasts slowly lower to him and rest just below his firm pecks as I caress his neck with kisses. Feeling his bare skin on my chest initiates a deeper yearning for him. Our passionate course feels unstoppable and I'm more than okay with it.
A very familiar song starts playing that immediately reminds me of Ryan. It’s a song we danced to at my brothers wedding. I don’t want to be thinking about anyone else in this moment, but it’s too late, and now I’m shook.
Affliction in the mind is a powerful thing. I can’t shake it. I realize it's impossible for me to fully enjoy and appreciate my first time, so I decide to stop. I pull myself up and rest on Christian’s bulging groin.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, worried and confused.
“I don’t know,” I admit, softly. “I feel a little overwhelmed.”
His hands rest on my hips. “Baby, I’m sorry. What can I do?”
“I think I just need a minute,” I say, crawling off my boyfriend’s incredibly hot and ready body. I stand next to his bed with my arms crossed over my chest and chew on the tip of my thumb. I do my best to ignore my self-conscience thoughts.
Christian looks dejected, and I feel awful that I just ruined a wonderful moment with him. My words try to make up for the guilt I’m feeling. “What if we took a shower?” I suggest.
He perks up and is quick to answer. “Sure, that sounds good. I’ll get it started. You come when you’re ready.”
After he leaves, I slide my jeans off and head to the bathroom, hoping a change in setting will uplift my subdued state. I don’t know how I can feel so hot and seduced one second and detached and troubled in the next. How does one person have that kind of hold on me? I hate that I care so much about the manner in which Ryan thinks and feels. I don’t want to disappoint him, but I also don’t want to upset Christian. I’m conflicted. My mind is saying one thing, my body another.
There is a heavy amount of steam coming from the shower. I can see Christian’s silhouette and it’s a flawless work of art. It shouldn’t be this hard for me to join him, but it is. I slither timidly out of my black lace underwear and step inside. The warm liquid that trickles down my body shifts my unbalanced temperament for the better. Christian’s soft clasp of my face helps uplift my spirits as well.
“I’m so lucky you’re mine,” he says, gazing into my eyes.
His powerful words are like a perfect melody of my favorite song, lifting me to elevated bliss. I’m the lucky one, to have this devoted, gorgeous guy who loves and cares for me with his whole heart. He’s always patient and forgiving. And he doesn’t let age or circumstance keep us a part.
I kiss his parted lips and show him with my tongue how much I desire him. He groans fervently before turning me around to taste the back of my neck. His tenderness is followed by a gentle kiss to the tip of my shoulder. My still frame is immediately induced with chills.
Eventually, the palm of his hand sweeps down my back and remains glued to my backside. He circles my bottom with lingering tenderness before suddenly grabbing one cheek with strong authority. It creates a powerful throbbing in the lower half of my body.
Before the longing can build any further, I’m turned around and met with my favorite pair of brown eyes. Christian bites his lip and gives me a sexy smirk. He’s relishing in the teasing of his drawn-out approach. It’s driving me insane and he knows it. I want him and nothing is going to get in the way this time.
“I’m all yours,” I say, desperate for more stimulating contact.
“Good, because the best is still to come.”
As his lips engulf mine, I’m hit with a twinge of pain to the stomach. His promise is unsettling because of the parallel between his words and the inscription on my promise ring. The ring Ryan gave me for my birthday has almost the exact same words engraved on the inside. Words that mean a lot to me. Words that sound like a promise from him regarding our future. I can’t seem to let that hope die, even if it’s reckless and wrong.
Christian knows about the ring because Kelly was brave enough to warn him. I’m glad she told him because it made it impossible for me to lie about it. I rarely wear it around him and for good reason. But I do know that he has no idea what the inscription says. Otherwise, he would’ve been more upset about it and probably would’ve been more careful with his words to me.
“Ally, are you okay?”
“No, I’m not,” I express, gravely. “I’m sorry. I can’t do this.”
I step out of the shower and grab a towel from the open shelf.
Christian turns the shower off and gets out as well. “What happened?” he asks, grabbing himself a towel.
“It doesn’t feel right. I just—." My plea is interrupted by the doorbell, and I’m beyond relieved.
He sighs heavily. “Stay here.”
I have no desire to stand and shiver, so I make my way to his room. As I start to dry off, I hear an unexpected voice.
“Hey, I didn’t mean to bother you. I’m just here to drop off these two wreaths Ally forgot.
I imagine seeing Christian in just a towel has caught Ryan off guard.
“It’s cool, man. I just got out of the shower and then heard the doorbell. Hey, thanks for dropping these off.”
Christian sounds nervous, and I can relate. My nerves are blazing. I go into full panic mode and grab the first piece of clothing I see and throw it on.
“Do you mind if I use your restroom?” Ryan asks. “I’m on my way to the gym, but it’s about a twenty-minute drive and I already had about a gallon of water today.”
“Uh, yeah, of course.” Christian stutters. “Let me just clean up in there first.”
“That’s not necessary,” Ryan says, heading down the hall. “I’ll be quick.”
Ryan is headed straight towards me. If the bathroom wasn’t attached to Christian’s bedroom, I could find a place to hide, but it isn’t.
“Ally?” Ryan asks, spotting me inside the doorway of Christian’s bedroom.
“Hey, I’m sort of in the middle of changing, so…”
“Uh, yeah, I see that,” he says, as his baby blues widen and examine me up and down in bewilderment. It must look bad--me--standing there, with wet hair, in nothing but one of Christian’s t-shirts.
“I’ll just be a minute,” I say, pulling down on the oversized white tee.
“You know what,” Ryan begins, “I changed my mind. I...uh...I’ll see ya later.
“Ryan, wait,” I say, following him. “It’s not what it looks like.”
He doesn’t respond and it terrifies me.
“Say something,” I demand, grabbing his elbow before he can open the door.
“Ally, you’re an adult now. You don’t owe me an explanation. And honestly, I don’t want one.”
Ryan’s out the door before I can say another word. I can’t blame him for wanting to bolt. The magnitude of disappointment I caused him is probably too much to bare. I immediately try to block the guilt from my mind.
Christian shuts the door and crosses his arms. He’s not amused. In fact, he looks angry.
“Please tell me that all this reluctance and indecision tonight has nothing to do with him,” he says.
I lean against the wall and sigh. “I don’t know what to say.”
“No need, it’s pretty obvious by your answer,” he says, fleeing to his room in haste.
I rush to my anguished boyfriend and plea for him to hear me out.
“Hey, listen to me. Just because I hesitated doesn’t mean I don’t love you.” My hand strokes his arm several times before I continue. “I panicked. Don’t be mad, please.”
“How can I not be upset?” he says, beginning to dress his partially nude body. “I can’t make love to my girlfriend because she has feelings for another guy. Do you know how crazy, awful that sounds? Think about that for a sec.”
Christian’s right. It does sound crazy and horribly wrong. I let my feelings for Ryan get in the way of being intimate with someone I love very much. It’s hard for me to understand why I would let this happen. There’s only one thing I can come up with. I love them both equally.
“I’m an idiot for thinking this could work,” he confesses, finishing the buttons on his jeans.
“No, you’re not,” I object. “I’m the stupid one.”
“I think you should go,” he warns, blowing out the candle.
“What—no. I’m not going anywhere. You’re hurt and we need to talk through this.”
“Ally, I can’t even look at you right now without feeling heartbroken. We need to take a break. I need a break.”
“I get it,” I say, trying to stay calm. “I really do. I screwed up, and I haven’t been fair to you. But I’m not leaving, and I’m certainly not agreeing to a break.”
“Well, you don’t have much of a choice. Here, get dressed," he says, tossing me my clothes.
“Christian, please,” I beg, slowing putting on my jeans. "I'm a part of this relationship too. You can't just shut me out."
“Ally, you know how I feel about you, but that doesn’t seem to change how you feel about him.”
“Except that I can’t do anything about those feelings.”
“Well, maybe you should,” he says matter of fact.
“You don’t mean that.”
“Actually, I do. In fact, I think you should kiss him. See what happens. Because until you’re sure… until you’ve explored the possibility of you and him, there’s no hope for us. You’re always going to wonder and desire more from him. I can’t handle that. Not now, not ever.
I finish putting my clothes on while contemplating his words. A huge part of me knows that he's right, but I'm not willing to admit the truth. It would only hurt him more if I agreed.
“I’m not going to kiss him,” I say, holding back tears. “But I’ll go for now and give you some space. I’ll call you later.”
My palm reaches Christian’s neckline just under the ear. I gently kiss his cheek and barely get a response from him. He’s completely shut down. I hate myself for hurting him so much. If there is one thing I’m really good at, it’s screwing up relationships.
I wrestle with my decision to leave while sitting in my car, trying my best to fix my smeared eye make-up. Christian deserves better and I want to make it right, but if I go back in there, nothing changes. I need to fix this disaster. The knot in my throat finally subsides and my defeated disposition develops into resentment as I pull from the condo parking lot. The reason Christian is hurt right now is because of my feelings for Ryan. I decide to drive to the gym and give him a piece of my mind. Ryan won’t know what’s coming.
Chapter 37: The Feeling of Finally
My ten minute drive to the gym is unstable, much like my relationship with Christian. One stop light I’m in tears, the next I’m steaming with indignation. I’m frustrated with Ryan, but also with myself. Tonight, was leading to my first time with Christian, and even though I hesitated, (twice) it easily could’ve turned out different if Ryan hadn’t shown up. I can’t decide if I’m angry or relieved. A big part of me wanted to be intimate with Christian, however a tiny part of me was terrified. I have a serious problem. I can’t fully commit when I have feelings for another person.
Though I’m distraught and panicked, I’m ready to get some things off my chest. I just hope I can keep it together when I boldly share my vexations with Ryan.
As I turn into the shopping center, where our family has a gym membership we never use, I accidentally hit the side of the median, triggering a disturbing, unpleasant sound. I’m too preoccupied to care about the damage I may or may not have caused to my car. It’s not the most responsible response, but I’m obviously having a destructive moment or two.
After entering the double glass gym doors, I roam around the packed room. Apparently, everyone wants to get in a good work out before they devour their Christmas hams. Good for them. I spot Ryan by the long wall of mirrors where all the free weights are located. He’s busy working his quads and glutes with slow and steady squats. I can’t help but notice how undeniably hot he looks in his black workout attire. I watch him do a few more reps before I make it a point to appear in his sight.
“Ally?” he inquires, carefully setting down the long, weighted iron bar. “What are you doing here?”
“I need to talk to you and it can’t wait.” My eye contact never breaks, even while pulling my hair back in a messy ponytail.
Ryan looks amused with my eagerness. “Take a seat,” he says, patting the weight bench next to us. “Tell me what’s so important?”
I straddle the bench just as he has done, ignore the grunting sounds around me, and take a deep breath before detonating my thrown together speech. “I need you to know that Christian and I didn’t sleep together tonight, or any other night.”
“O-kay,” he says, a puzzled look on his face. “And why did you need to tell me this?”
“Because as much I wish it wasn’t any of your business, it sort of is. Do you want to know why I couldn’t go through with it? Why I couldn’t be intimate with my incredibly hot and patient boyfriend?”
Ryan’s hand clutches his jaw as he reflects on my words. He’s gazes right at me but remains speechless.
“Well, do you?” I yell.
A random tattooed guy with red, tattered converse decides to comment on the matter, “I’d like to know why,” he says with a playful grin.
The glare Ryan launches at the obnoxious stranger is beyond anything I’ve seen from him before. His furrowed brow and muscular tension is in fact severe.
The young, inquisitive dude wanders off quickly without muttering a word. Even though I’m a little shook from Ryan’s intensity, I don't let it stagger my thoughts.
“I couldn’t be with him tonight because of you,” I continue. “I’ve had feelings for you for months now and no matter how hard I try, I can’t shake them. You’re always appearing in my head and sometimes that’s okay, but other times it’s very inconvenient. You made me feel so guilty tonight. Not only could I not stop thinking about how disappointed you’d be if I slept with Christian, I was crushed when you saw me in just his T-shirt. Your face looked so defeated, and it hurt so much. But the thing is, it shouldn’t be that way. We aren’t even dating, even though I’ve wished on many occasions that we were together.”
“Well, I’m really sorry that I made you feel that way. And I’m sorry tonight didn’t go well for you, but I really don’t think the guilt your feeling is my fault. That’s your conscience, sweetie. Maybe you’re not as ready as you thought you were. You need to know that as much I want you to wait, it has to be your decision. I might not always agree with your choices, but I will always be here for you and above all, respect you.”
I know he’s right. It doesn’t matter what I do, or how many mistakes I make, Ryan will always be there for me. I take comfort in the fact that I can’t scare him away by saying or doing the wrong thing. Maybe I even take advantage of that reassurance. He’s like my security blanket.
“I know that, “I say bringing my knees to my chest. “I know it’s my decision to make, but you can’t say you haven’t tried to influence my choice."
“You’re right. I’m not afraid to voice my opinion on the matter and if it were up to me, I’d love for you to pursue purity."
“Well, remaining chaste is going to be a lot easier now. Christian and I are on a break. It wasn’t a mutual decision either. He’s really upset and barely even speaking to me.”
“I have a feeling Christian is more upset with the situation than he is with you, but I’m sorry all the same."
"Are you really though?" I say, plopping my legs back down over the bench. "Because I don't think you're sorry at all. I think you're fine with us taking a break."
"What? Where is this coming from?"
"It doesn't matter. You don't even seem phased that I just confessed some deep and honest feelings I've been bottling up for months."
"Trust me, Ally, I heard every word you said and I appreciate your honesty. But I think we should talk about it somewhere other than this smelly, crowded gym."
"Whatever," I say, standing in defeat. "I'm done with this."
“Whoa, hold up.” Ryan quickly grabs me at the waist and sets me back down on the bench. He's not going to let me leave when I’m on the verge of crying, especially when I have keys to a car.
“Alright,” he exhales, rubbing the back of his neck. “I guess we’re doing this here.”
My legs are surrounded by his, slightly trapped, but I don't even mind the unintentional confinement, for the proximity we share is giving me pleasant tingles, hair raising tingles.
“I know what you want to hear from me,” he states.
"Oh yeah.” My head tilts to the side as curiosity builds. “I highly doubt that.”
Ryan’s hand softly cups one of my knees, causing me to shiver. I try hard not to be stimulated and fail miserably.
He sucks in a big breath and begins to share his heart. “You want to hear that I made a huge mistake. That I never should have denied what was right in front of me. To hear me say I have real honest to God feelings for you, and that age nor circumstance matter anymore. To hear I’m sorry for pushing you away when all I really wanted was to hold you, kiss you, be with you.”
He pauses for a moment to catch his breath. I can feel his heart racing. Mine is about to thump out of my chest. His words are blowing my mind. But the biggest shocker is seeing him shed tears.
“I admit that I was scared. Scared that I would lose you, like I lost Emily, my parents, and your parents. More than anything scared to love you completely and then lose my best friend.”
I have to flex my eyes to aide my blurred vision. Tears are coursing down my cheeks. My heart can’t take much more, even if it’s glorious to hear him speak such powerful, pleasing words.
Ryan’s hand relaxes on my cheek and I feel him scoot closer to me, causing my knees to wobble like jelly. “There were many times I gave a false impression and deceived myself and others, even you. I’m sorry, Ally. I need to know if you can forgive me?”
“Of course,” I mumble, wanting badly to absorb this moment.
“Good. That’s great...” He begins tracing my jaw line. “...because there’s one more thing I’m sorry for.”
His hand invites its way to my chin, titling it slightly, as he leans towards me. I close my eyes and am met with a gentle brush of smooth lips. He covers my lower lip with his in such delicate measure, kissing me so softly and carefully. It’s flawless and electric.
When our lip locking ends, my body turns to mush, and I mean that in the best possible way. The feeling of FINALLY is felt deep inside my soul. Our first kiss meets all my expectations and then some.
“Well that was a long time coming,” I admit, my cheekbones lifted high.
I reach for his face and wipe a lonesome tear still lingering on his cheek. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Ryan cry. He really worked himself up. But he was right. He said exactly what I wanted to hear, what I needed to hear. To hear my favorite person finally express his true feelings makes my heart levitate with immeasurable contentment.
“Let’s get out of here,” he says, taking my hand.
I follow him out the door, my hand glued to his. As we stroll to the parking lot, we notice smoke coming from my hood.
My new car is smoking! All I can think is how is this possible?
“Oh my God!” I freak, grabbing the sides of my head in an anxious fit.
Ryan wastes no time and pops the hood. He rolls his sleeves to his elbows and inspects my car for several minutes as I try my best to stay calm. There’s no way my run in with median caused this, I reassure myself. Not a chance.
“How bad is it?” I ask, chewing my thumb to pieces.
“Well, I’m about seventy-five percent sure it will blow up.”
“Relax, I’m kidding.” He shuts the hood and lets out a little chuckle.
I slug him in the shoulder. “Not funny!”
“Sorry, I couldn’t resist. It looks like there’s a crack in the engine.”
“So can I drive it home?”
“Absolutely not.” He leads me away from the smoke, his hand secure on my lower back. “You’re riding with me. We can you have your car towed.”
Ryan gets no argument from me. After getting into his car, I’m immediately met with his pleasurable mouth. I always wondered if kissing him would be awkward. Boy was I wrong for ever thinking it might. Our second kiss is as breathtaking as the first. The energy has picked up and our lips spend more time exploring. Even though this is new territory for us, it comes so natural. Maybe because our eyes have kissed so many times before our lips ever could. Maybe because we are soul-mates..
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger smile on you,” I confess, resting my hand on top of his.
“That’s because I feel so alive right now. So alive and so grateful.”
“I’m grateful too. Just promise me this is not all a dream.”
“I promise,” he whispers, surprising me with a kiss to the temple.
I’m loving these new experiences with him, and the feeling seems mutual. Yet, questions keep stirring my brain.
“Be honest with me,” I insist, at the stoplight.. “You knew I had feelings for you before tonight.”
“Hmm... Let’s see, between Kelly, Sam, Christian, Ben, Ayden, Coach T., Natalie, Mr. Davis, plus a few more I’m sure I’ve forgot—I’d have to say yes— I had an inkling.
I chuckle at his ridiculous list. “Your joking. No way they all knew.”
“Well, some simply implied but most of them gave very reliable info. But Seriously, Ally. I knew you felt something for me but were struggling with the decision to tell me and I understood that. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to push you. You’re young and still figuring out what you want. I guess I really needed to hear you say the words before I felt comfortable pursuing a relationship.”
I nod at his disclosure and peer out the window at the clouded night sky. His confession really makes me wish I had spoken up sooner. It might have saved a lot of heartache. But there’s no point in looking back.
This night has felt like a soap opera, with its emotional conflict, tears, and surprising revelation. It’s also been one of the highlights of my life.
Ryan and I share one more kiss before leaving the chilly garage, this time instigated by me. It’s short and sweet, followed by a long, precious embrace. Feels infectious to hug him now, to be in his warm arms as something different and more significant. It’s amazing to know Ryan feels the way I do.
Entering the house to the smell of cinnamon and pumpkin brings much excitement and also signifies it’s almost Christmas. We find Kelly in the kitchen removing a pie from the oven.
“Can we help you with anything?” Ryan asks.
“Yeah, we’d love to help,” I add.
Kelly looks dumbfounded, as if two aliens just walked in her kitchen.
“What’s up with you guys,” she demands, her tired eyes squinting with confusion. “All the decorating I made you do today and you’re wanting to help me again? Something is up? Wait...,” she pauses and stares, “are you two holding hands? Did I miss something? I must really be sleep deprived.”
“You probably are, but something did happen tonight, several somethings.” My words are greeted with a supportive arm around the waist and a smile from Ryan.
“Well the hand holding and snug body language is certainly new.”
Christian and I had a fight tonight and then he demanded a break. The details can be explained better later, but basically Ryan showed up after we were already having an ongoing conflict. After he left, things got worse. I went to the gym to confront him. We talked. We yelled. We kissed. People stared. It was epic.”
“You kissed her?” Kelly’s tired eyes manage to bulge. “I can’t believe it. I mean I can—but still, I’m shocked.”
“Yep, it’s true,” he says, pulling me closer to him.
My face lights up with his added closeness, and I squeeze his side and rest my head on his shoulder.
A timer goes off on the oven and the obnoxious buzzing pierces my ears.
“Ally, can you grab that last pie for me,” Kelly asks.
“Yeah, sure,” I reply, as my fluttered stomach moseys to the cabinet for oven mitts.
I hear Kelly whisper an ominous question aimed only for Ryan, “did you tell her yet?”
“Not yet,” he mutters.
I flip around and watch her present an unsettling glare. She whispers to Ryan again, gripping his forearm in the process. But this time I fail to hear.
“What are you not telling me?” I ask, setting the apple pie on the counter.
The door bell rings and Ryan immediately offers to answer it. Why am I not surprised?
Kelly playfully shoves my arm, distracting me from my troubled thoughts.
“So how was it?” She requests. “The kiss?”
“Which one,” I giggle.
“Wow, you didn’t waist any time.” Her hand goes straight to her hip as her smile widens. “Took him long enough.”
“Yeah, I still can’t believe Ryan and I actually kissed.”
The grin on Kelly’s face quickly disappears. She begins clearing her throat and gesturing her head to the side. I turn around slowly and abruptly tense up from my current view.
“Christian... what are you doing here?”
My pace to him is slow and cautious. He leans against the back of the brown chair in the family room, hands fidgeting in the pockets of his fitted sweat pants.
“I tried calling you.”
Oh, I left my phone in the car.”
“I wanted to apologize but it looks like I’m too late. So you kissed him, even though you said you wouldn’t?”
I take a step closer, ready and willing to console him. His voice sounds gruff and nasally. I hate the thought of him crying, especially because of me. I have no choice but to be completely honest with him. That’s what he deserves, even though I know it will cause more pain.
“Yes, I kissed Ryan, but you basically pushed me into his arms. You said you wanted me to kiss him.”
“Which just proves that I was right all along. Ryan has always wanted you, but chose to act only when it was convenient for him. Not exactly fair but I can’t say I didn’t see it coming.”
“It just happened Christian. I’m so sorry.”
“No your not. You got exactly what you wanted. Don’t patronize me and pretend that you’re not thrilled.”
Ryan joins my side, his feet spread apart, jaw a little clenched. “Hey, I know your hurt,” he suggests. “ But we can still be civil about this.”
Christian raises his finger, his neck muscles tense and ready to bulge. “Don even start with me.”
“I’m not trying to push any buttons here, and I don’t need you to be okay with me. Just asking that you be kind towards Ally.”
“It’s okay, Ryan. He should be upset and furious with me.”
Christian crosses his arms, thrusting his chest forward. “So did you tell him how close we were to having sex before he found an excuse to come over?”
“Okay, thats enough,” Ryan interrupts, stepping in front of me. “Have some respect.”
Within seconds, Christian is shoving Ryan out of the way, knocking him back a few feet.
“Stop!” I yell, tears forming in my eyes.
“Really?” Ryan snaps, doing his best to suppress his rage. “You’re only upsetting her. Just leave.”
Another heated push is instigated by Christian, but he is quickly challenged with a thrust to the chest from Ryan. I hear a groan escape one of them and start to feel a panic attack coming on.
This is too much. I never imagined they would fight. Seeing it transpire in front of my eyes is making me want to vomit.
“The redundant shoving ends and instead, fists start to fly. Ryan’s beautiful face is met with a swift, well-practiced punch. The blow catches him off guard and he has to take a moment to gather himself. He eventually launches a right hook but it’s blocked with a loud thud. Christian has clearly been trained. He is a cop after all.
“Stop it! PLEASE!” I sob.
Kelly finally intervenes and tries to stop the madness. She moves quickly between us and grabs Christians attention.
“Come with me,” she says taking his arm under hers.
Christian complies and I’m relieved when they exit the room.
My face is immediately embraced with Ryan’s jittery hands. “Are you okay,” he asks.
“Am I okay? You’re the one with a black eye.”
“Yeah, well, I expected him to be pissed.” He slowly drops his hands and falls into the over-sized chair. “I deserved it.”
“No, that’s not true.”
“Actually, it is. Not just for kissing you tonight, but for the last few months. I told him on more than one occasion he had nothing to worry about. That I would never go there with you.”
“It’s ok.. We both made mistakes.”
The adrenaline from their brawl is causing my body to absentmindedly jerk. My nerves are wanting to explode. I get why Christian lashed out, but I’m still surprised at his behavior.
I lightly stroke Ryan’s arm before making an uneasy suggestion, “I should go talk to him.”
“I think it’s probably best if you wait. He needs to cool off.”
I shake my head. Agreeing with him is easy. I’m too scared to face Christian. I’ve caused him enough agony for one night.
I zip to the kitchen and grab an ice pack and aspirin for Ryan.
“I don’t know about you, but this overwhelming guilt in the pit of my stomach has me drained. I’m gonna take a shower and head to bed.”
Ryan stands and kisses me on the forehead. “I understand. We can talk tomorrow.”
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I have no idea what’s in store. AlI want for Christmas is a drama-free day. Is that too much to ask?