He grabbed hold of my ankles and tugged them gently to the edge of the bed. Then he positioned himself over me. I gasped as he flicked his tongue along the length of my torso and dipped below my navel, careful not to touch my tattoo, which would still be tender for a few more days.
I tried reaching out my hand to touch his chest, but he backed away.
“No,” he said. “You. All of you. Your creamy skin, you perfect br**sts, your taste, your smell. Your heart.”
Then his hands were on my knees, nudging them apart, and his gaze fastened on the area between my legs. He swept kisses along the inside of my thighs and watched as my breaths grew desperate.
His tongue dipped down and tasted me, and I moaned and tensed beneath his mouth.
He softly parted me with his thumbs and swept his tongue over me, and then inside of me, as I whimpered and squirmed, practically coming unglued.
My back arched off the bed as I reached for him, begging him with my eyes.
I wanted him inside of me right that very instant.
But it needed to be on his terms, not mine.
He looked at me with such need, such want, and such affection. I knew what this meant to him. He had told me that he was waiting for love, and though he hadn’t uttered those precise words his eyes conveyed everything.
I was bursting with emotion for him, and I hoped it was reflected in my eyes as well.
“Avery, I didn’t exactly plan this. Do you have a condom?”
I motioned to my bedside table, almost embarrassed that I was so prepared.
He removed the foil wrapper and then fumbled with the condom. I took it from his fingers, unrolled it, and pulled it over his taut skin. He was so hard and ready, trembling with need. I slid my body up the bed to my pillows, reaching for his hand, asking him to join me.
His crawled up to me and then crushed his lips into mine. “I want you so damn bad,” he growled.
He positioned himself between my legs, and I was panting from anticipation.
His eyes pressed into mine with a silent question.
He was asking my permission—making sure I wanted this, too.
“Yes, please,” I moaned. “All of you. Only you.”
And then he urged his tip inside of me, and I shuddered against the feel of it. He kept his eyes locked on mine as he pushed in deeper and deeper, filling me completely. His mouth fell open in heavy breaths. “Jesus, Avery, you feel f**king incredible.”
I was overcome with the emotion of him being nestled inside me. It felt different than anything I’d ever experienced, and my eyes became glassy and full from the pure wonder of it.
It may have been his first time. But in a way, it was my first time, too.
He rocked his h*ps gently against me, sliding almost all the way out and then driving himself back in. “Fuck, baby, I’m so deep.”
The feeling was indescribable, and a familiar tension pulsed low in my belly.
I wrapped my legs around his waist and rocked against him in a slow and seductive rhythm. He leaned down and claimed my mouth in a profound and meaningful kiss.
“You’re so warm, Avery. God, so warm.”
His thumb came up and found my sweet spot, and he drove me to my breaking point.
I came with a violent shudder all around him.
He became still, relishing the feel of me tightening and pulsing against him, complete and utter awe in his eyes.
“Oh God, Avery.” He thrust himself back inside, the tempo controlled and deliberate. “You . . . I . . .
Jesus, this is unbelievable.”
Watching him get his release was a thing of pure beauty. His lips open, his eyes unfocused, his chest shuddering from pleasure.
He collapsed on top of me, raining warm kisses on my lips, my jaw, and my neck.
“You’re f**king beautiful,” he whispered against my ear.
I tightened my grasp around his neck.
“Don’t move. Not yet,” I mumbled. “I want to feel you just like this.”
We laid that way until our breaths slowed and our limbs were less fluid.
Before he fell asleep that night, Bennett mumbled my name over and over. I felt my heart unfurling, smoothing out, blossoming—into an unblemished kind of love.
I woke in Bennett’s arms the next morning, and it just felt right. Making love to him had been sensual, emotional, and incredible.
When my alarm blared, we immediately jumped into hurry mode. We each had an early class and work. Then Bennett had a night out with his coworkers.
He flew out the door with a kiss and the promise of texting me later. I thought of nothing else all day long. Just the feel of his skin against mine, and how different my orgasm had felt than it had those other times.
I wanted to ask him how his first time had been, but I didn’t want to embarrass him or make him feel juvenile. All I could go on was the way his eyes had searched mine and the noises that had tumbled out of his beautiful mouth.
Though I was certain how I felt about Bennett, I hadn’t said it that night.
And neither had he. But maybe I’d be brave enough to say it sometime soon.
Mrs. Jackson noticed the change in me right away, and I blushed the entire time she asked about Bennett. “You be sure to cherish that boy, you hear me?”
Her vitals were erratic that day, and even as I encouraged her to eat more from her tray than just the chicken broth, I squashed down the feeling that another stroke was imminent.
I was exhausted by bedtime and fell straight into my sheets. Just as I was drifting off, I received a text from Bennett. I knew he was at a local bar with his coworkers, and my heart leapt at seeing his message flash across the screen.
Bennett: How was the rest of your day?
Me: Exhausting. Already in bed.
Bennett: Mmm . . . sleep sounds good. Our night is just getting started.
Me: You can text on your way home if you want. Have fun with your friends.
Bennett: I’ll let you sleep and bother you tomorrow instead. Good night, baby.
I stared at the screen and tried to read between the lines. All day long, I had gotten the distinct impression that Bennett was holding himself back. All of his texts had fallen just short of mushy.
Like he didn’t want me to feel smothered just because he had given himself to me.
Like he didn’t want me to run away.
Little did he know, I wasn’t about to go anywhere.
And I planned on showing him that—tomorrow.
*** The following day at work, I stood at the nurses’ station, finishing my note on Mrs. Jackson—about how she was flushed and restless all day; even her husband had commented on it just ten minutes ago—when security buzzed me from the lobby.
“Ms. Michaels, there’s a package here for you,” Robert said. “It’s signed for and sitting on the counter. Come down when you’re free.”
A package? Usually packages for the unit came filled with medical equipment, but this one sounded personal. I headed down, curiosity getting the best of me. When I rounded the corner I saw it, along with Robert’s giant grin. It was a large bouquet of flowers.
Robert handed them to me. “Someone must be smitten with you, Ms. Michaels.” My cheeks burned as I walked my package to a nearby table in the visitors’ section, unable to wait any longer. The bouquet was a mixture of red, orange, and pink Gerbera daisies. The colors were striking and lush, and they were easily one of my favorite flowers.
Right away I noticed that one of the flowers had lost nearly all of its petals—only one clung on for dear life. There was a note attached to the stem.
I removed the note and carefully unfolded it, noticing Bennett’s initial at the bottom before scanning back up to read it.
Yes, I do. No question about it.
A smile burst from my lips. I knew without question that Bennett was referring to the ‘Forget Me Not’ poem that I’d recited to him before he gave me my tattoo. “I have not yet ascertained whether you.love me or not.”
He was telling me in his own way that he loved me. My heart leapt straight out of my chest, performed a classic dive-bomb, and ran the half mile back home to find him.
Below his admission of love, he had written more.
I hope you feel the same.
He wanted to know if I loved him, too. And I did. Oh, I did.
Can I see you tonight?
P.S. And as for the other night . . . there are no words, Avery. No words.
I couldn’t contain my grin.
When I realized I was still in the nearly empty lobby, I headed back to my unit to pack up, give my report, and head home.
But before I did, I was going to march straight into Mrs. Jackson’s room to show her that I finally got my flowers, and then tease her about showing up Mr. Jackson’s bouquet today. As soon as I stepped through the automatic double doors, I noticed that the front desk was empty.
And then I heard the low hum. The one that signified a code blue in the unit. It meant the code blue team was gathered in the room of the resident who was experiencing distress.
I’d been through my share of code blues, but this time felt different. I couldn’t get my feet unstuck from the floor. I gripped the flower vase so it wouldn’t slip through my fingers and crash into a million little shards.
Like my heart was doing right now.
I knew with every fiber of my being who the resident having trouble was. And damn it, she’d waited until I was out of the unit to leave without saying good-bye.
That thought alone drove me to action. No way was she going to die while I was off duty. I hastily placed the flowers on the desk and headed toward her room. My footsteps were hollow and tinny against the cold linoleum floor, echoing the beats of my plunging heart.
But as I neared her door, the code blue team of nurses and doctors were already headed out, heads hanging low.
And I knew she was already gone.
My fingers splayed against the wall as I tried to keep all the pieces of myself together. I had never cried for a resident before, outside of my first month, when I was new and green.
But this was no ordinary resident. She meant something more to me. Much more.
My feet were like lead as Lillian rounded the corner from Mrs. Jackson’s room. “I think this was the big one. Took her immediately. They called time of death already.”
I shut my eyes against her words and then felt her cold fingers on my arm. “I’m sorry.”
I waited until the space had cleared before I gathered enough courage to step inside. There were certain procedures that needed to be followed after a death, and a nurse was left in the room to carry them out.
When I rounded the white curtain to her bed, it felt surreal to see her so lifeless. So spiritless. So still.
Her eyes were closed, her arms tucked beneath the sheets, already in prep mode. Her face was free of worry and pain. Almost peaceful. Almost.
I noticed a person slumped in a chair, clutching a bouquet of tulips. Mr. Jackson. I’d forgotten he was still here. He must have alerted them to the emergency.
I sat down beside him in the cream plastic chair, and he took a deep shuddering breath.
At first I didn’t know what to say to him. What could I possibly articulate when the woman he had spent his life with was lying dead before him?
“She loved you fiercely, you know.” My voice sounded vacant and small. “She . . . she was the best kind of person. I’m grateful to have known her.”
A sob escaped his lips, and it reverberated in my chest, creating a gaping hole.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do without her.”
The air whooshed right out of me.
Was this the flip side to love?
You created a life with someone—shared your whole heart, your whole soul—and then one day, they left you. It was a harsh and brutal kind of reality.
And I wasn’t convinced it was worth it.
To open yourself up to someone, only to be left with a cavernous wound.
Mr. Jackson cleared his throat and looked at his wife. His eyes were red, his brown skin splotchy, but his voice was strong. “But I wouldn’t take back one day of our forty years together. Not one damn day. Do you hear me, Louise?”
He was no longer talking to me, and I was glued to my seat, entranced by his words. “You made my life worth living. You made it matter. You made it infinitely better.” His voice cracked on those last words, and he tucked his head into his hand.
I waited next to him as he sobbed into his fingers and then wiped his cheeks with a Kleenex. The nurse cleared the room, allowing for privacy. She patted my shoulder on her way out.
Mr. Jackson stood up and inched toward his wife. Placing the tulips on the pillow above her, he kissed her forehead. “I know I’ll see you again. I have to believe that. God wouldn’t be that cruel, to take you from me without the hope of our reunion.”
I pinched my eyes closed as a tear escaped.
I already knew what it felt like to be without Bennett. But that paled in comparison to what Mr.
Jackson was going through. And now I’d be without Mrs. Jackson, too. Coming to work would be difficult for a long damn time, like having a cloud hovering over my head, raining sadness over me.
But I could hear her voice in my head, urging me to move on, to live my life, to stop being so damn sad.
Just then Mr. and Mrs. Jackson’s children burst into the room and gathered around their father.
Tears and hugs, grief and love. All combined in a circle of limbs and heads and hearts.
Backing out of Mrs. Jackson’s room, I recited my own silent and painful good-bye.
I gathered my flowers and coat and walked home in a numb fog.
I considered Mr. Jackson’s words. Making a life with someone was all-encompassing.
You either took a chance or put up road blocks.
Whichever way, you were taking a risk, gambling with fate.
Toying with your own happiness.
My phone buzzed with a text. Ella: What’s new?
Me: Mrs. Jackson died today. I can’t believe she’s gone. On my way home now.
Ella: I’m so sorry. I’ll meet you at your place.
Ella came bearing Chinese food. She let me cry on her shoulder over a bottle of wine. She knew how fond I’d grown of Mrs. Jackson and how the lady had slowly infiltrated my life. Mrs. Jackson made me question my ideals, as if she were a reflection of the person I hoped to become, despite my upbringing, my hardened heart, and my meaningless flings.