I want so much to enjoy my husband without the one thing I know he needs the most and the one thing I want the least. But he makes so many sacrifices for me; I know I should sometimes do the same for him. I just wish sex wasn't a sacrifice for me.
But it is. And it's one I decide to make for him tonight. It's been too long, and he's been way too patient.
I lift one leg over the back of the couch and lower one to the floor, just as he pushes into me. His warm breath rolls down my throat as he thrusts into me repeatedly.
Today is the thirteenth.
What is fourteen days from today?
"Quinn," he whispers, his lips barely touching mine. I keep my eyes closed and my body limp, allowing him to use me to fuck the drunkenness out of himself. "Kiss me, Quinn."
I open my mouth but keep my eyes closed. My arms are resting loosely above my head and I'm counting on my fingers how many days it's been since I last had a period. Am I even ovulating? I'm almost finished counting when Graham grabs my right hand and wraps it around his neck. He buries his face into my hair while gripping one of my legs, wrapping it around his waist.
I'm five days past ovulation.
I sigh heavily; disappointed that there won't even be a chance this leads to anything. It's difficult enough bringing myself to make love at all anymore, so the fact that this time doesn't even count fills me with regret. Why couldn't this have happened last week, instead?
Graham pauses above me. I wait for his release, but nothing about him tenses. He just pulls his face away from my hair and looks down at me. His eyebrows are drawn together and he shakes his head, but then drops his face to my neck again, thrusting against me. "Can't you at least pretend you still want me? Sometimes I feel like I'm making love to a corpse."
His own words make him pause.
Tears are falling down my cheeks when he pulls out of me with regret.
His breath is hot against my neck, but this time I hate the way it feels. The way it smells just like the beer that gave him the uninhibited nerve to say those words to me. "Get off me."
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
I press my hands against his chest, ignoring the immediate and intense regret in his voice. "Get the fuck off me."
He rolls onto his side, grabbing my shoulder, attempting to roll me toward him. "Quinn, I didn't mean it. I'm drunk, I'm sorry . . ."
I push off the couch and practically run out of the living room without entertaining his apologies. I go straight to the shower and wash him out of me while I let the water wash away my tears.
"Can't you at least pretend you still want me?"
I squeeze my eyes shut as the mortification rolls through me.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm making love to a corpse."
I swipe angrily at my tears. Of course he feels like he's making love to a corpse. It's because he is. I haven't felt alive inside in years. I've slowly been rotting away, and that rot is now eating at my marriage to the point that I can no longer hide it.
And Graham can no longer stand it.
When I finish in the shower, I expect to find him in our bed, but he isn't there. He's probably so drunk; he just passed out on the sofa. As angry as I am at him for saying what he said, I also feel enough compassion to check on him and make sure he's okay.
When I walk through the dark kitchen toward the living room, I don't even see him standing at the counter until I pass him and he grabs my arm. I gasp from the unexpectedness of it.
I look up at him, ready to yell at him, but I can't. It's hard to yell at someone for speaking their truth. The moon is casting just enough light into the windows and I can see the sadness has returned to his eyes. He doesn't say anything. He just pulls me to him and holds me.
No . . . he clings to me.
The back of my T-shirt is clenched into two solid fists as he tightens his grip around me. I can feel his regret for allowing those words to slip from his mouth, but he doesn't tell me he's sorry again. He just holds me in silence because he knows at this point, an apology is futile. Apologies are good for admitting regret, but they do very little in removing the truth from the actions that caused the regret.
I allow him to hold me until my hurt feelings put a wedge between us. I pull away and look down at my feet for a moment, wondering if I want to say anything to him. Wondering if he's going to say anything to me. When the room remains silent, I turn and walk to our bedroom. He follows me, but all we do is crawl into bed, turn our backs toward each other and avoid the inevitable.
* * *
I ate the slice of pie in five bites.
Graham's parents seemed a little confused by our hasty exit. He told his mother we had tickets to a fireworks show and we needed to go before we missed the grand finale. I was relieved she didn't catch the metaphorical part of his lie.
We do very little speaking on the way home. Graham says he likes to drive with the windows down at night. He turns the music up and grabs my hand, holding it all the way back to my place.
When we reach my apartment, I open the door and make it halfway across the living room before I realize he hasn't followed me inside. I turn around and he's leaning against the frame of the door like he has no intention of coming in.
There's a look of concern in his eye, so I walk back to the door. "Are you okay?"
He nods, but his nod is unconvincing. His eyes flitter around the room and then lock on mine with way too much seriousness. I was getting used to the playful, sarcastic side of Graham. Now the intense, serious side has reappeared.
Graham pushes off the door and runs a hand through his hair. "Maybe this is . . . too much. Too fast."
Heat immediately rises to my cheeks, but not the good kind of heat. It's the kind when you get so angry, your chest burns. "Are you kidding me? You're the one who forced me to meet your parents before I even knew your last name." I press a hand to my forehead, completely blown away that he decides to back down now. After he fucks me. I laugh incredulously at my own stupidity. "This is unreal."
I step back to close the door, but he steps forward and pushes it open, pulling me to him by my waist. "No," he says, shaking his head adamantly. "No." He kisses me, but pulls back before I would even have the chance to deny him. "It's just . . . God, I feel like I can't even find words right now." His head falls back like he can't figure out how to process his confusion. He releases me and steps out into the hallway. He starts pacing back and forth while he gathers his thoughts. He looks just as torn as he did the first time I saw him. He was pacing then, too, outside of Ethan's door.
Graham takes a step toward me, gripping the doorframe. "We've spent one day together, Quinn. One. It's been perfect and fun and you are so beautiful. I want to pick you up and carry you to your bed and stay inside you all night and tomorrow and the next day and it's . . ." He runs a hand through his unruly hair and then grips the back of his neck. "It's making my head swim and I feel like if I don't back off now, I'm gonna be real disappointed when I find out you don't feel the same way."
I take at least ten seconds to catch up to everything he just said. My mouth opens and before I can tell him he's right, that it's too soon and too fast, I say, "I know what you mean. It's terrifying."
He steps closer. "It is."
"Have you ever felt like this before? This fast?"
"Never. Not even close."
He slips his hand against my neck and slides his fingers through my hair. His other hand presses against my lower back as he pulls me to him. He asks the question in a whisper against my lips. "Do you want me to leave?"
I answer him with a kiss.
Everything that happens next isn't questioned by either of us. There's no second-guessing as he kicks my door shut. No worrying if this is too fast when we tear away each other's clothes. Neither of us hesitates on the way to my bedroom.
And for the next hour, the only question he asks me is, "Do
you want to be on top now?"
He only needs my answer once, but I say yes at least five times before we're finished.
Now he's lying on his back and I'm wrapped around him like there's not two feet of mattress on either side of us. My legs are intertwined with his and my hand is tracing circles over his chest. We've been mostly quiet since we finished, but not because we don't have anything to say. I think we're just reflecting on what life was like two days ago compared to what it's like now.
It's a lot to take in.
Graham trails his fingers up and down my arm. His lips meet the top of my head in a quick kiss. "Did Ethan ever try to get you back?"
"Yeah, he tried for a few weeks." I think it goes without saying that he wasn't successful. "What about Sasha?"
"Yep," he says. "She was relentless. She called me three times a day for a month. My voice mail stayed full."
"You should have changed your number."
"I couldn't. It's the only form of contact you had for me."
His admission makes me smile. "I probably never would have called you," I admit. "I kept your number on my wall because I liked how it made me feel. But I didn't think it was a good idea, given how we met."
"Do you still feel that way?"
I slide on top of him and his concerned expression is won over by a smile. "At this point I don't really care how we met. I only care that we met."
Graham kisses the corner of my mouth, threading our hands together. "I actually thought you took Ethan back and that's why you never called me."
"There's no way I would have taken him back. Especially after he tried to blame the whole affair on Sasha. He painted her out to be some kind of temptress who seduced him. He actually called her a whore once. That was the last time I spoke to him."
Graham shakes his head. "Sasha isn't a whore. She's a relatively good person who sometimes makes terrible and selfish decisions." He rolls me onto my back and begins to run a lazy finger over my stomach in circles. "I'm sure they did it because they thought they wouldn't get caught."
I have no idea how he talks so calmly about it. I was so angry in the weeks following Ethan's affair. I took it personally, like they had the affair just to spite us. Graham looks at the affair like they did it despite us.
"Do you still talk to her?"
"Hell, no," he says with a laugh. "Just because I don't think she's a malicious person doesn't mean I want anything to do with her."
I smile at that truth.
Graham kisses the tip of my nose and then pulls back. "Are you relieved it happened? Or do you miss him?"
His questions don't seem to come from a place of jealousy at all. Graham just seems curious about the things that have happened in my life. Which is why I answer him with complete transparency. "I missed him for a while, but now that I've had a chance to reflect, we really had nothing in common." I roll onto my side and prop my head up on my hand. "On paper we had a lot in common. But in here," I touch my chest. "It didn't make sense. I loved him, but I don't think it was the kind of love that could withstand a marriage."
Graham laughs. "You say that like marriage is a Category 5 hurricane."
"Not all the time. But I definitely think there are Category 5 moments in every marriage. I don't think Ethan and I could have survived those moments."
Graham stares up at the ceiling in thought. "I know what you mean. I would have disappointed Sasha as a husband."
"Why in the world do you think that?"
"It's more a reflection of her than myself." Graham reaches up to my cheek and wipes something away.
"Then that would make her a disappointing wife. It wouldn't make you a disappointing husband."
Graham smiles at me appreciatively. "Do you remember what your fortune cookie said?"
I shrug. "It's been a while. Something about flaws, accompanied by a grammatical error."
Graham laughs. "It said, If you only shine light on your flaws, all your perfects will dim."
I love that he kept my fortune. I love it even more that he has it memorized.
"We're all full of flaws. Hundreds of them. They're like tiny holes all over our skin. And like your fortune said, sometimes we shine too much light on our own flaws. But there are some people who try to ignore their own flaws by shining light on other people's to the point that the other person's flaws become their only focus. They pick at them, little by little, until they rip wide open and that's all we become to them. One giant, gaping flaw." Graham makes eye contact with me, and even though what he's saying is kind of depressing, he doesn't seem disappointed. "Sasha is that type of person. If I had married her, no matter how much I would have tried to prevent it, she would eventually be disappointed in me. She was incapable of focusing on the positive in other people."
I'm relieved for Graham. The thought of him being in an unhappy marriage makes me sad for him. And the thought of potentially being in an unhappy marriage hits a little too close to home. I frown, knowing I almost went through with that same type of marriage. I stare down at my hand, unconsciously rubbing my naked ring finger. "Ethan used to do that. But I didn't notice until after we broke up. I realized I felt better about myself without him than I did with him." I look back up at Graham. "For so long, I thought he was good for me. I feel so naive. I no longer trust my own judgment."
"Don't be so hard on yourself," he says. "Now you know exactly what to look for. When you meet someone who is good for you, they won't fill you with insecurities by focusing on your flaws. They'll fill you with inspiration, because they'll focus on all the best parts of you."
I pray he can't feel the intense pounding of my heart right now. I swallow hard and then choke out a pathetic sentence. "That's . . . really beautiful."
His pointed stare doesn't waver until he closes his eyes and presses his mouth to mine. We kiss for a quiet moment, but it's so intense, I feel like I can't breathe when we separate. I look down and suck in a quiet breath before looking him in the eye again. I force a grin in an attempt to ease the intensity in my chest. "I can't believe you kept that fortune."
"I can't believe you kept my number on your wall for six months."
Graham reaches to my face and runs his thumb over my lips. "What do you think is one of your biggest flaws?"
I kiss the tip of his thumb. "Does family count as a flaw?"
I think on it a moment longer. "I have a lot. But I think the one I would like to change if I could is my inability to read people. It's hard for me to look at someone and know exactly what they're thinking."
"I don't think many people can read people. They just think they can."
Graham readjusts himself, wrapping my leg over him while his eyes fill with playfulness. He leans forward and brushes his lips across mine, teasing me with a swipe of his tongue. "Try to read me right now," he whispers. "What am I thinking?" He pulls back and looks down at my mouth.
"You're thinking you want to move to Idaho and buy a potato farm."
He laughs. "That is exactly what I was thinking, Quinn." He rolls onto his back, pulling me on top of him. I push against his chest and sit up, straddling him.
"What about you? What's your biggest flaw?"
The smile disappears from Graham's face and his eyes are suddenly sad again. The variance in his expressions is so extreme. When he's sad, he looks sadder than anyone I've ever known. But when he's happy, he looks happier than anyone I've ever known.
Graham threads his fingers through mine and squeezes them. "I made a really stupid choice once that had some devastating consequences." His voice is quieter and I can tell he doesn't want to talk about it. But I love that he does anyway. "I was nineteen. I was with my best friend, Tanner. His sixteen-year-old brother, Alec, was with us. We had been at a party and I was the least drunk of the three of us, so I drove us the two miles home."
Graham squeezes my hands and inhales a breath. He's not looking me in the eye, so I know hi
s story doesn't end well and I hate it for him. It makes me wonder if this is the flaw that makes him look as sad as he does sometimes.
"We had a wreck half a mile from my house. Tanner died. Alec was thrown from the vehicle and broke several bones. The wreck wasn't our fault. A truck ran a stop sign, but it didn't matter because I wasn't sober. They charged me with a DUI and I spent a night in jail. But since I didn't have a record, I was only charged with injury to a child and put on a year of probation for what happened to Alec." Graham releases a heavy sigh. "Isn't that fucked up? I got charged for the injuries Alec received in the wreck, but wasn't charged in the death of my best friend."
I can feel the weight of his sadness in my chest as I stare at him. There's so much of it. "You say that like you feel guilty you weren't charged for his death."
Graham's eyes finally meet mine. "I feel guilty every day that I'm alive and Tanner isn't."
I hate that he felt he had to tell me this. It's obviously hard to talk about, but I appreciate that he did. I bring one of his hands up to my mouth and I kiss it.
"It does get better with time," Graham says. "When I tell myself it could have just as easily been me in that passenger seat and Tanner behind the wheel. We both made stupid decisions that night. We were both at fault. But no matter what consequences I suffer as a result, I'm alive and he isn't. And I can't help but wonder if my reactions could have been faster had I not been drinking. What if I hadn't decided I was sober enough to drive? What if I'd been able to swerve and miss that truck? I think that's what feeds most of my guilt."
I don't even try to offer him reassuring words. Sometimes situations don't have a positive side. They just have a whole lot of sad sides. I reach down and touch his cheek. Then I touch the corners of his sad eyes. My fingers move to the scar on his collarbone that he showed me last night. "Is that where you got this scar?"
I lower myself on top of him and press my lips to his scar. I kiss it from one end to the other and then lift up and look Graham in the eye. "I'm sorry that happened."