"You have any scars?"
Graham lifts up a little and points to a spot on his collarbone. There's about a four-inch scar that looks like it must have been pretty bad at the time of the injury. "Car wreck." He scoots closer to me and wraps his leg over both of mine. "What's your favorite movie?"
"Anything by the Coen brothers. My favorite is Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?"
He looks at me like maybe he has no clue what movie I'm talking about. But then he says, "We thought . . . you was . . . a toad."
I laugh. "Damn! We're in a tight spot!"
"Jesus Saves, George Nelson withdraws!" We're both laughing now. My laughter ends with a sigh, and then Graham smiles at me appreciatively. "See? We like the same movie. Our sex is going to be amazing."
I grin. "Next question."
"Name something you hate."
"Infidelity and most vegetables."
Graham laughs. "Do you live off chicken nuggets and French fries?"
"I love fruit. And tomatoes. But I'm not really a fan of anything green. I've tried to love vegetables but I finally decided last year to accept that I hate them and force nutrition into my diet in other ways."
"Do you like to work out?"
"Only in emergencies," I admit. "I like doing stuff outdoors, but not if it's routine exercise."
"I like to run," he says. "It clears my head. And I love every single vegetable except tomatoes."
"Uh-oh. Not looking good, Graham."
"No, it's perfect. You'll eat my tomatoes, I'll eat every other vegetable on your plate. Nothing goes to waste. It's a perfect match."
I like his way of looking at it. "What else? Movies and food only scratch the surface."
"We could talk politics and religion but we should probably save those two for after we're in love."
He says that so confidently, but also like he's kidding. Either way, I agree we should avoid politics and religion. Those lead to arguments even when people agree. "Definitely cool with not touching those two."
Graham grabs my wrist and slides it out from under my head. He threads his fingers through mine and rests our hands between us. I try not to focus too much on how sweet I think it is. "What's your favorite holiday?" he asks.
"All of them. But I'm partial to Halloween."
"Not what I expected you to say. Do you like it for the costumes or the candy?"
"Both, but mostly the costumes. I love dressing up."
"What's the best costume you ever wore?"
I think about it for a moment. "Probably when my friends and I went as Milli Vanilli. Two of us talked the whole night while the other two stood in front of us and mouthed everything we said."
Graham rolls onto his back and laughs. "That's pretty spectacular," he says, staring up at the ceiling.
"Do you dress up for Halloween?"
"I'm not opposed to it but I never dressed up with Sasha because she always went as something typical and slutty. A slutty cheerleader. A slutty nurse. A slutty prude." He pauses for a second. "Don't get me wrong, I love a slutty costume. Nothing wrong with a woman showing off her assets if that's what she wants to do. It's just that Sasha never really asked me to dress up. I think she wanted all the attention and didn't really want to do the couples costume thing."
"That sucks. So much missed opportunity."
"Right? I could have dressed up as her slutty quarterback."
"Well, if we're still talking when Halloween rolls around, we can wear matching slutty costumes."
"Still talking? Quinn, Halloween is over two months away. We'll practically be living together by then."
I roll my eyes. "You're way too confident."
"You could call it that."
"Most men push for sex right away. But you turn me down one night and show up six months later just to turn me down again and force me into conversation. I can't tell if I should be worried."
Graham raises an eyebrow. "Don't mistake me for something I'm not. I'm normally all for the sex up front, but you and I have an eternity to get to it."
I can tell he's kidding by the straight face he tries to keep. I lift up on my pillow and raise my brow. "Sex I'm okay with. Eternal commitment is pushing it."
Graham slides an arm beneath me and pulls me against him so that my head is now resting on his chest. "Whatever you say, Quinn. If you want us to pretend for a few more months that we aren't soul mates, that's fine with me. I'm a great actor."
I laugh at his sarcasm. "Soul mates don't exist."
"I know," he says. "We aren't soul mates. Soul mates are dumb."
"Me too. Completely serious."
"You're an idiot."
He presses his lips into my hair, kissing me on top of the head. "What is today's date?"
He is so random. I lift my head and look at him. "The eighth of August. Why?"
"Just want to make sure you never forget the date the universe brought us back together."
I lay my head against him again. "You're coming on way too strong. It's probably going to scare me away."
His chest moves with his quiet laughter. "No, it won't. You'll see. Ten years from now on August eighth, I'm going to roll over in our bed at midnight and whisper, 'I told you so' in your ear."
"Are you that petty?"
I laugh. I laugh a lot while we talk. I don't know how long we lay in the same position talking, but I still have a million questions left when I start yawning. I fight it because talking to him is somehow even more relaxing than sleep and I want to ask him questions all night.
Graham eventually goes to the kitchen to get a glass of water. When he comes back to the bedroom, he turns off the lamp and climbs in bed behind me, spooning me. It's honestly not what I expected tonight. Especially with the way he approached me at the restaurant and then showed up at my apartment. I thought he had one thing on his mind.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
I wrap my arms over his and close my eyes. "I thought you were kidding about the no sex," I whisper.
I feel him laugh a little. "Keeping my pants on is not as easy as I'm making it look." He pushes against my ass to let me know how serious he is. I can feel him straining against his jeans.
"That must be painful," I tease. "You sure you don't want to change your mind?"
He squeezes me tighter, pressing a kiss close to my ear. "I've never been more comfortable."
His words make me blush in the dark, but I don't respond to him. I don't have a reply good enough. I'm quiet for several minutes as I listen to his breathing slow into a peaceful pattern. Right before I fall asleep, Graham whispers against my ear. "I thought you were the one that got away."
I smile. "I still could be."
I try to say, "I won't be," but he puts his hand between my cheek and the pillow and tilts my head until his mouth reaches mine. We kiss just enough. Not too short, but not too long that it leads to something else. It's the perfect kiss for the perfect moment.
* * *
"Two more lipsticks," Gwenn says. She slides the bright red tube of lipstick over my top lip but goes so far outside of the edges, I feel it touch my nose.
"You're really good at this," I say with a laugh.
We're at Graham's parents' house, having dinner with his family. Graham is on the floor playing with his sister Caroline's five-year-old daughter, Adeline. The three-year-old, Gwenn, is on the couch next to me, putting makeup on me. Graham's parents are in the kitchen, cooking.
This is how most of our Sundays are spent. I've always enjoyed Sundays here, but lately they've become my favorite days of the month. I don't know why things are easier here, surrounded by Graham's family, but they are. It's easier for me to laugh. It's easier for me to look happy. It's even easier for me to let Graham love me.
I've noticed there's a difference with how I am toward Graham in public com
pared to when we're at home. At home, when it's just the two of us, I'm more withdrawn. I avoid his touch and his kiss because in the past, those things have always led to sex. And now that I dread sex so much, I dread the stuff that leads up to it, too.
But when we're in a setting like this, when his affection leads to nothing, I crave it. I like it when he puts his hands on me. When he kisses me. I love snuggling up to him on the couch. I don't know if he notices the difference in me between our house and other places. If he does, he's never let on.
"I finish," Gwenn says. She struggles putting the cap back on the lipstick she just applied to my mouth. I take it from her and help her close it.
Graham looks up at me from the floor. "Hot damn, Quinn. That is . . . yeah."
I smile at Gwenn. "Did you make me pretty?"
She starts giggling.
I make my way to the bathroom and laugh when I look in the mirror. I'm convinced they only make blue eye shadow for this exact purpose. So three-year-olds can put it on adults.
I'm washing my face when Graham walks into the bathroom. He looks at me in the mirror and makes a face.
"What? You don't like it?"
He kisses my shoulder. "You look beautiful, Quinn. Always."
I finish washing the makeup from my face, but Graham's lips don't leave my shoulder. He traces a soft trail of kisses up my neck. Knowing that this kiss won't lead to sexhopedevastation makes me enjoy it more than if this were happening in our own bathroom at our own house.
It sounds so fucked up. I don't understand how his actions can elicit different responses from me depending on the setting. But right now, I'm not going to question it, because he doesn't seem to be questioning it. He seems to be enjoying it.
He remains behind me, pressing me against the sink as his hand runs over my hip and slides around to the front of my thigh. I grip the sink and watch him in the mirror. He lifts his eyes and stares at my reflection as he begins to bunch up the front of my dress with his fingers, crawling it up the front of my thighs.
It's been over a month and a half now since he's initiated sex. The longest we've ever gone. I know, based on how things ended the last time we had sex, he's waiting for me to initiate it. But I haven't.
It's been so long since he's touched me, my reaction seems to be intensified.
I close my eyes when his hand slips inside my panties. I'm covered in chills from head to toe, and knowing this can't go too far makes me want him and his mouth and his hands all over me.
The door is open and someone could walk down the hall at any moment, but that only serves as further affirmation that this make-out session will stop any second now. Which is why my mind is allowing me to enjoy it as much as I am.
He slips a finger inside of me and runs his thumb down the center of me and it's the most I've felt from his touch in over a year. My head falls back against his shoulder and he tilts my mouth toward his. I moan, just as his lips cover mine. He kisses me with hunger and impatience, like he's desperate to get all he can out of this moment before I push him away.
Graham kisses me with urgency the whole time he touches me. He kisses me until I come, and even as I whimper and tremble in his arms, he doesn't stop kissing and touching me until the moment passes completely.
He slowly pulls his hand out of my panties, diving his tongue into my mouth one last time before pulling back. I grip the sink in front of me, breathing heavily. He kisses me on the shoulder, grinning as he walks out of the bathroom, smiling like he just conquered the world.
I take several minutes to collect myself. I make sure my face is no longer flushed before I walk back to the living room. Graham is lying on the couch, watching television. He makes room for me on the couch, pulling me against him. Every now and then, he'll kiss me or I'll kiss him and it feels just like it used to. And I pretend that everything is okay. I pretend every other day of the week is just like Sundays at Graham's parents' house. It's like everything else falls away when we're here, and it's just me and Graham without a single trace of failure.
After dinner, Graham and I offer to do the dishes. He turns on the radio and we stand at the sink together. I wash and he rinses. He talks about work and I listen. When an Ed Sheeran song starts to play, my hands are covered in soapy suds, but Graham pulls me to him anyway and starts dancing with me. We cling to each other and barely move while we dance--his arms around my waist and mine around his neck. His forehead is pressed to mine and even though I know he's watching me, I keep my eyes closed and pretend we're perfect. We dance alone until the song almost comes to an end, but Caroline walks into the kitchen and catches us.
She's due with her third child in a few weeks. She's holding a paper plate with one hand and holding her lower back with the other. She rolls her eyes at the sight of us. "I can't imagine what it must be like when you're in private if you two are this handsy in public." She throws the plate in the trash can and heads back toward the living room. "You're probably that annoyingly perfect couple who has sex twice a day."
When the door to the kitchen closes, we're alone and the song is over and Graham is just staring at me. I know his sister's comment has made him think about my affection. I can tell he wants to ask me why I love his touch so much in public, but recoil from it in private.
He doesn't say anything about it, though. He hands me a towel to dry my hands. "You ready to go home?"
I nod, but I also feel it start to happen. The nerves building in my stomach. The worry that being so affectionate with him at his mother's will make him think I want his affection at the house.
It makes me feel like the worst wife in the world. I don't do this because I don't love him. But maybe if I could somehow love him better, I wouldn't do this.
Even knowing how unfair I am to him doesn't stop me from lying to him on our way home. "I feel like I'm getting a migraine," I say, pressing my forehead to the passenger window of our car.
When we make it home, Graham tells me to go to bed and get some rest. Five minutes later, he brings me a glass of water and some aspirin. He turns out my lamp and leaves the room and I cry because I hate what I've turned this marriage into.
My husband's heart is my saving grace, but his physical touch has become my enemy.
* * *
I can feel the heat of his body next to me. I like that the sun is up and he's still here.
I feel Graham move before I open my eyes. His hand finds mine beneath my pillow and he threads our fingers together. "Good morning."
When I open my eyes, I'm smiling. He lifts his other arm and brushes his thumb across my cheek. "What'd I miss while you were asleep? Did you dream?"
I think that might be the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me. I don't know if that's good or bad. "I had kind of a strange dream. You were in it."
He perks up, releasing my hand and lifting onto his elbow. "Oh yeah? Tell me about it."
"I had a dream that you showed up here in head-to-toe scuba gear. And you told me to put my scuba gear on because we were going to swim with sharks. I told you I was scared of sharks and you said, 'But Quinn. These sharks are actually cats!' And then I said, 'But I'm scared of the ocean.' And you said, 'But Quinn. This ocean is actually a park.' "
Graham laughs. "What happened next?"
"I put on my scuba gear, of course. But you didn't take me to an ocean or a park. You took me to meet your mother. And I was so embarrassed and so mad at you because I was wearing a scuba-diving suit at her dinner table."
Graham falls onto his back with laughter. "Quinn, that is the best dream in the history of dreams."
His reaction makes me want to tell him every dream I ever have for the rest of my life.
I like that he rolls toward me and looks at me like there's nowhere else he'd rather be. He leans forward and presses his mouth to mine. I want to stay in bed with him all day, but he pulls away and says, "I'm hungry. You got anything to eat?"
I nod, but before
he can climb out of bed, I pull him back and press my lips against his cheek. "I like you, Graham." I roll off him and head to my bathroom.
He calls out after me. "Of course you like me, Quinn! I'm your soul mate!"
I laugh as I close the door to the bathroom. And then I want to scream when I look in the mirror. Holy shit. I have mascara smeared everywhere. A pimple that appeared on my forehead overnight. My hair is a mess, but not in that sexy, come-hither way. It's just a mess. Like a rat slept in it all night.
I groan and then yell, "I'm taking a shower!"
Graham yells back from the kitchen. "I'm looking for food!"
I doubt he finds much. I don't keep a lot of groceries at my house because I rarely cook since I live alone.
I step into the shower. I have no idea if he's staying after breakfast, but while I shower, I make sure to pay special attention to certain areas just in case.
I've been in the shower all of three minutes when I hear the bathroom door open.
"You don't have anything to eat."
The sound of his voice in my bathroom surprises me so much, I almost slip and fall. I grip the shower bar and steady myself, but immediately let go of the bar and cover my breasts when I see the shower curtain move.
Graham peeks his head inside the shower. He looks straight at my face and nowhere else, but I'm still doing everything I can to shield myself.
"You have absolutely no food. Crackers and a stale box of cereal." He says this like it's not at all unusual that he's looking at me naked. "Want me to go grab breakfast?"
"Um . . . okay." I'm wide-eyed, still shocked from his confident intrusion.
Graham grins, pulling his bottom lip in with his teeth. His eyes begin to slowly trail down my body. "My God, Quinn," he whispers. He closes the shower curtain and says, "I'll be back in a little while." Right before he walks out of my bathroom I hear him whisper, "Fuck."
I can't help but smile. I love how that just made me feel.
I turn back around and face the shower spray as I close my eyes and let the warm water beat down on my face. I can't figure Graham out. He's just the right amount of confident and cocky. But he balances that out with his reverent side. He's funny and smart and he comes on way too strong, but it all feels genuine.
If I had to describe him in one word, that would be it.