Catherine Micqu

sing me to sleep (flash fiction)

I woke up and looked around myself. I had that dream again. The dream in which I saw my mother get on the bus and leave me behind. Except, it wasn’t a dream; it was a memory that haunted me.
I was a grown-up, doing what grown-ups do. I worked forty hours every week – sometimes more. I met friends, went for drinks or dinner with them. Occasionally, I fell in love. More often, I craved the physical connection. A physical connection was easy to find, love – not so much.
Someone was stirring next to me, and I couldn’t remember his name. I should have felt uncomfortable, but I didn’t. Waking up next to someone I didn’t know was not uncommon for me. I would not rely on him to distract me from my childhood memories. I didn’t trust him. He didn’t feel like protection or safety; the nameless man next to me was only another warm body to make me forget the longing and the emptiness that spread through my body like cancer. The older I got, the more cells were infected. “Go back to sleep, honey,” his gravelly voice mumbled. I snorted. It were the exact same words my mother had said before the doors of the bus closed behind her. Or was it my imagination playing tricks on me?
I pushed the duvet off my body and let my feet connect with the hardwood floor. I needed something real, something that earthed me. Goosebumps rose on my naked skin. I couldn’t say if it was the lingering memory of the reoccurring dream, or if it was the chill from the starry night sneaking in through the opened window. I decided that it didn’t matter. There were so many little thoughts every day, and most of them didn’t matter. Once in a while, I felt as if I didn’t matter either. My weekdays were filled with responsibilities, work, and duties. There was no room for anything else. My weekends were wasted with alcohol and casual affairs. I didn’t allow my mind to come to terms with old wounds. But the mind and the soul knew that I needed to take better care of myself; hence the dreams.
I was afraid to be abandoned and to be left behind. It was easier to keep everyone at arm’s length. It was more comfortable to pretend that I was happy. In truth, I had no idea what happiness felt like. And maybe my expectations were too high? All my life, I had been searching for love, for a person who made me feel safe. Perhaps I was just blind?
I took my phone from the nightstand, and the illuminated display showed the loneliness of my life. A couple of shallow notification that I wasn’t interested in; I pushed them away.
I padded down to the bathroom to relieve my bladder and splash some water in my face, then I took my robe from the hook attached at the door and pulled it around me. I didn’t want to go back to the stranger in my bed, but I didn’t want to wake him up and throw him out in the middle of the night either. In the living room, I sat down in my favourite chair next to the window. I could see the sparkling dots on the dark firmament.
“Are you there?” I sent a message to the person who meant more than most to me. I didn’t expect a response; I just wanted to make sure that he would think of me when he woke up. I was about to put the phone down when it vibratedbin my hand. My heart went like mad, but I accepted the call anyway.
“Why are you still up? Bad dream?” He didn’t waste any time; he knew me too well. I nodded my head and added an affirmative sound.
“Are you alone?” I hated that my reply was negative, but I answered truthfully nonetheless.
“Is he asleep?”
“Yes. I am in the living room watching the stars.” I almost whispered.
“Okay.” I heard some rustling as if he was getting out of bed, footsteps followed, and then some more rustling. “I will put you on speakerphone. Just so that you know if the sound is different.” And then I heard the first chords of a song I wasn’t familiar with. Like a soothing blanket, it washed over me. There were no words, just music played; and it was for my ears only. The sounds alleviated some of the chills from my body, and I grabbed a blanket from the couch to wrap myself in it. I nestled deep in the blanket and yawned. I was tired; it surprised me how much so. I yawned noisily again.
“Sleep tight, baby girl. I will always be there for you.” I smiled. Maybe I had found someone safe, but the thought became frayed as the music faded, and I drifted off to a dreamless sleep again. Maybe tomorrow, I would remember those words, or maybe they became a part of a distant memory too.

The first letter to Mr. Handsome

This is the first letter I am sending to you. Hopefully, it will not be the last bubbly and rambling letter that is coming your way.
I was floating on a cloud of me and you for most of the day. After Stranger and the hurt he caused, I thought my heart was cold and empty, barricaded. Somehow, you found a way under my skin. From there, you traveled into my soul, until you breached the walls around my heart.
And now we are here. Both bruised and hurt. So much alike that I wonder why I can’t love myself as much as I love you. Because that is what I do. It came unexpected, and I admit, I was utterly unprepared.
At first, I tried to be distant; then, I tried to appear sophisticated. Do you have any idea how much strength that took? I realised it is easier just to be me. With all my flaws. And with all my qualities. It is hard for me to be positive and to trust in myself, but you make it seem so easy. We both have a lot to figure out for ourselves. We both have issues with self-esteem. We both have pasts. But please understand that I – well, I understand. I am trying to be as little intense and as gentle as I can be. But man, everything about you is intense. And that is why I love you. I love the way I can melt into your arms and stay there for almost ever. Nothing about you is boring. You are interesting and extraordinary. We have time to get to know each other; there is no rush. Dear handsome, I want to keep floating on our cloud a little more. You have already seen glimpses of my mood. You saw me crying – I saw you too. We were angry and ready to end what had not even begun; but you are worth putting up a fight. I want you in my life. For now. Because even if I said that I don’t want this to happen, you complete me. You make me whole.

Thank you, dear handsome.

Truly yours, Sweetie

melting your clouds

Memories of us on my sheets. I wish you were here. I don’t want to wake up to reality. My eyes fight to open, and my brain refuses to activate itself. How can I survive the day when I am craving you? Where have you gone?

I sigh. There is no point in delaying the inevitable. I stretch my arms above my head, remembering how you held me down last night. I miss you already. My mind is still lingering on past days; I am not in the present yet. I shuffle to the bathroom to take a shower. It doesn’t even register that the water is running and why. My thoughts are whirling around my brain without making any sense. I push the curtain aside, and there you are. Naked as you came. You are not gone. You are here. With me. For me.

Water is cascading down your body. Strikingly handsome. I follow the rivers caressing your skin with hungry eyes, licking my lips. My gaze zooms in on your cock that is slowly filling. You smirk. I bite my lower lip, not thinking, just reacting to you. I push my shirt over my head, feeling the water splashing against my legs. You seize the moment when I cannot see and pull me inside the shower, my arm still tangled in the cotton cloth. My dry skin meets your wet skin. A moan escapes my throat as the air leaves my body. I drop my moist shirt on the floor. My panties get soaked. Your finger traces a drop of water down my breast. As the water keeps on running down, your finger stays there, teasing me. I look up and straight into your eyes. Your eyes get me every time. I am not sure why, but the lust in them, the feral desire, it affects me.

I am waiting for you to devour me, but I don’t have to be patient for long. You push me against the tiles, I giggle because I almost lose my footing, but you catch me with both hands on my ass. I raise my leg, and your hand glides down, supporting it. Your forehead touches mine.

The tension is crackling between us. Too much. I lick your nose, and you pull back with a deep husky chuckle. I follow you, as much as the confined space allows me. I touch your cock, and you growl. Memories take over. You know how to make me orgasm again and again — fingers, tongue, cock. You make me lose my mind.

Buried deep inside me, with our eyes locked, you pump in me. Fast, greedy, hard. I am not sure if it is water or sweat that is dripping off the tip of your nose, and it doesn’t matter. More. I want more.

The noise our bodies make, the low almost inaudible moans coming from your mouth, it is filling my mind. I grin, feeling how you are swelling inside of me. You nod, I moan. My head falls back, and you attack my neck. You are close. I can feel it. The tingling at the centre of my self is driving me mad. I can’t breathe. I can’t concentrate on you anymore. My hips are moving to meet yours. Out of control. Both of us are working towards release. My legs tremble, your lips find mine, assaulting me with an insatiable kiss. Your tongue dancing with mine, your hand pinching my nipple – hard, your cock – large inside of me. And then the world ends. I can’t move on my own. My sex is clenching involuntarily around you, and we are cumming together.

Out of breath, we collapse against each other. I giggle, you do too. I lower my leg and feel you slipping out of me. I am not ready to lose our connection and put my head on your chest, listening to your heart; is still racing as you tenderly kiss my head and smooth my hair.

Perfect start to the day. The mundane tasks of getting ready for work comfort me. I can’t resist bumping my hip against yours in the kitchen while you are preparing your daily smoothie. Everything about us is ordinary, yet, nothing is, because we are not. You are the moon that lights my stars. I am the sun melting your clouds.

Eyes closed, fantasy on

I was sprawled in a t-shirt and panties on the couch when you came in. My day had been long, and all I wanted was some time without responsibilities or demands. Mind off. I smelled the smoke, alcohol, and sweat from where I was lunging; raising an eyebrow but keeping my mouth shut, I smirked. You looked delicious. Like sex on legs. I knew better than to distract you with non-sense when you came home from work late at night in this state. I kept my eyes on the TV show that hadn’t kept my attention at all, but it had kept me company when you were at work. I licked my lips. Your mere presence did things to me.

You shrugged out of your jacket and hung it on the back of a chair before you flopped down next to me on the couch, yawning loudly. Our thighs were touching, and your presence became more than you sitting next to me. I could feel you around me, invading my mind, and the need to feel you in me rose.

You took the remote control and muted the TV. I looked at you, not sure about your expectations. Your eyes scrutinized me, stripping me as you took in my sight. I was not presentable anymore – I was lazy and enjoying my night on my own. Dressed in a bare minimum and with my hair in disarray, I became aware of how unattractive I looked. In a weak attempt to straighten my appearance, I ran my hands through my hair, closed my legs, and tried to find another position, arranging my limbs differently. You chuckled, and hooking your arms under my knees; you pulled me down on the couch and closer to your wanting body – without question not warning.

I saw it in your eyes, the familiar heat. And I knew I was lost. I was drowning in the black depth of your eyes. Nothing could prevent the inevitable.

You were everywhere. One moment we sat on the couch, the next your body covered mine. My clothes were removed with an urgency that left no place for doubt – you wanted to make me cum. And I had no other choice than to endure your sweet torture.

You pulled your belt from your jeans and tied my hands together. Growling, you took my mouth with yours. There was no finesse, no tenderness. I was your toy.

Your tongue began a trail down my heated skin. And I let it happen. Too wrapped up in past memories – past climaxes; the anticipation aroused me more than your demanding kisses or your calloused hands did.

Your fingers found my soaking wet sex and entered me with ease. I was ready for you, willing you to love me. You hit that one spot inside of me that made my breath hitch and my back arch. Gasping, my body tried to suck you in, to coax more pleasure from you. But you denied it. At your mercy, I was begging, pleading… The heat. The tingle. The building orgasm that was consuming me, and yet, it was just out of reach. It was just a flick of your tongue away. I was sweating; my hands tried to claw at something, anything within reach, but your belt around my wrists – the restraint prevented it. And it frustrated me.

“Please, ” I panted. Your tongue replaced your fingers, lapping at my pussy, your hands squeezed my breasts. The wave of pleasure made goosebumps rise all over my body. And I gave in. I voiced my imminent release, spurring you on, praising you, cursing, moaning, growling, asking you to allow me some release.

Relentless, you kept sucking and kissing and licking me. Everything in me tensed, my cunt quivered, my clit couldn’t take the onslaught of your tongue anymore, and I exploded. My back arched, my knees pulled back… Throbbing, shaking – I came for you. Blinded by pleasure, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t think. I wasn’t sure if I was still existing or if I had burst into fragments of myself.

My orgasm was endless, and you didn’t let go. I came, again and again, unable to catch my breath, unable to pull myself together.

Under you, I came undone. Under your thumb, I lost control. And while I was still recovering from one, two, many climaxes, you filled me with your cock.

Kissing me, I tasted myself on your tongue. I wrapped my legs around your hips, urging you to move faster. I couldn’t decide what was more intoxicating: your sweat, our sex, the silent noise around us… It didn’t matter, all that mattered was the hard and fast in and out and the sounds our bodies made.

I was made to please you. And I came again, like a shock wave, I took you with me. I felt the spasms in me, and I opened my eyes just in time to see the pure you. There were no masks, no hiding, just the truth about you.

We became one. You in me. You my future. And all I wanted was to love you. Fragile. Vulnerable. Craving you. Submitting to you.

You released the restraints around my wrists, and I fell back against the couch again. Boneless. You followed me. The weight of your spent body crushed me, but I knew you needed this. I was not sure if you were sobbing or chuckling with your face buried against my neck, but I held you close. Our skins dried and were stuck together – yes, we were one. Pure. My hands roamed up and down your back. “I got you, ” I whispered.

Exhausted, we made our way to the bathroom to clean up. I loved dominating quickies like the one we had just shared. And I loved you because whenever we were together, you sent me to heaven, and when we were apart, I was in hell. 💜

Dear stranger…

Holy fucking hell; I miss you more than I ever knew. I saw someone crossing the street today; he looked like you: the same curls, the same pale skin, the same walk, the same posture. My heart went like mad. Eyes wide and wild, I had troubles to get my car in gear again. But, fuck me, I began longing for you; for your voice.

The moment I could think straight again, I reminded myself that it had not been you, crossing the street. You are in the UK, sound-checking for your upcoming show.

But man, I miss you. Most days, I don’t. Most days, I am indifferent, because yearning for your touch makes me feel empty and numb. Other days, it feels as if I cannot breathe because you are not here. You weren’t here for a long, long while.

I am fine without you. Seeing your doppelganger threw me for a loop though. And so, I did what I can do without calling or sending a text. I checked social media channels for your face; I listened to old interviews, and I floated in a serene mindset listening to your music. It is all I can get; it is all I am asking for. At times likes these, I am glad that you are visible and that I can get my fix (like an addict) without you noticing.

Of course, I also write these letters. Not that you will ever read them, stranger, but my thoughts can soar free like an eagle like this, instead of being trapped in a cage.

I don’t like to be trapped, but I want to believe that you waste one or two thoughts on me too, once in a while.

When we spent time together, life was good. When we went our different ways, I was devastated and wanted to die. I am not writing this to put pressure on you, and I am sharing this to show you how dependent I was on you.

You made me, and you broke me.

It’s been a long while. And these days, I look back on what we had with a smile. You were there and showed me what passion and love is. You told me that I am worth to be loved – and I believed you; still do.

There are moments like today, when I wish we could be together, but then, a couple of hours later, I remember that we are too codependent and that our deep emotions are dangerous for our sanities.

Maybe I am in advantage because you are a public person and if I want, I can see you.

I want you to be happy – I know you are not because you still think that you don’t deserve it, but you do.

Still and always yours,

Sweetie

818 days

I always though that freedom would make me happy. But I wasn’t happy. I was taken from myself, and even though I was released, I was not there.

I was held in captivity for eight hundred and eighteen days. Two years and almost three months. The prospect of coming home and hugging my friends and family kept me going, day after day. I expected to be happy and healthy and coming back to my old life and picking up where I had left before my abduction.

I came home, and everyone was there — politicians, family, friends, journalists, reports, photographers. Everyone was happy to see me. Everyone cried tears of regret and relief. Everyone had too many questions, and I had no voice to answer them. But then the novelty of me being home wore off. Dark had become light, but the light was slowly turning into dark again. And my family showed how angry and hurt they were. They accused me of being to blame for being abducted. I had chosen to travel to Tunisia on vacation. I hadn’t fought for myself. They hated me because they had to wait for me, and yet their lives had to go on without me. They forgot that I was the victim and that I was struggling too.

After a while, I wished that I had never come back alive. I felt as isolated as I had in captivity. When I had been in chains, and without food, I had had the will to live and to survive. Freedom had broken that will. I was broken. They had taken me, and I had never come back to myself.

I sat in a luxurious apartment that I had bought from the compensation I had received from the government. For every day I had suffered, I received a hefty sum of money; as if the money would make me forget the torture and the ordeal. I had doors and windows – electrical light. Warm water, running water – at will. I was allowed to come and go whenever I wanted. And I fell in love with doors. Opening and closing them, walking through them and closing them from the other side – even locking them. Although locked doors made me nervous, I had food in my fridge, fresh fruits, and vegetables. I was allowed to move and be free, and yet, I was still a hostage. I was a hostage of my mind – I couldn’t escape the memories, and somehow, I didn’t want to. I had spent two years living another life – being in civilization was too different from what had been my reality for eight hundred and eighteen days. The light, the sound, the hectic of modern life, electricity, a bed, fresh linen, clean clothes, a shower – I had lived without these things for such a long time.

Looking into the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself anymore. Everything was different and everything was the same. My hair was longer; my eyes were emptier. My skin was pale, my lips parched. And thin, I was thinner than I had ever been. I chose not to count the scars on my torso. I chose to ignore what my body had endured during my time away. I was not feeling myself anymore. I had become a stranger to myself.

I needed to find a way to console my old life and the new one – I was not the same person anymore. I knew that I should be happy because I was free. Instead, I was overwhelmed with life. I led a life in invisible chains. I needed to find myself. But where? No one had any answers, and at the same time, I held them all inside of me – but they were not ready to be voiced and join me in freedom yet.

***

(Inspired by a French documentary “Otages” (hostages) that I saw and that moved me a lot. I want to write about this fictional character that popped up in my mind. Maybe I’ll get there.)

First date (repost)

She looked at her phone again. His last message read: Looking forward to tonight. Mailed you the address of the restaurant. x
The words hadn’t changed since the last time she had read them. They wouldn’t change, but the clock was ticking, and she was running out of time. She needed the stress to get ready for a date. Loved it even.

With a towel around her head, she walked naked from the bathroom to her bedroom. In front of the floor length mirror, she stopped and put her hands on her hips. She was just an ordinary girl. Maybe a little curvier than others, but she didn’t mind. Her hourglass figure was an asset to her. Turning left and turning right, she looked at herself. She felt sexy. A good sign for a first date with a man she had never met before. But she liked him from his emails and their calls. She opened her wardrobe and pulled out a pair of black jeans and a blouse. She threw both items on the bed and opened her underwear drawer. It was the right occasion to pull out the lace lingerie, but the question was which colour. Would wearing red underwear send the wrong signals? What if he wouldn’t see it, then she would feel attractive, and it would be her secret? What about the gray or the purple set? Or even the black? She decided to postpone the decision and pulled out bright green socks. It was a quirk, but she liked her colourful socks. She put them on her feet and moved back to the mirror. She hadn’t changed. Still naked, apart from her feet. She wriggled her toes and smiled.

A short look at the alarm clock on her bedside table told her that she had twenty minutes to get dressed, dry her hair, and put on some make-up before she had to go. She opened the other door of her wardrobe and took out a black dress. It had a deep cleavage but wasn’t too slutty. She liked it a lot. Nodding, she pulled out the red set of lingerie and a purple pantyhose. She pulled the socks off her feet again and threw them on the floor. There was no time for being tidy anymore. She wrestled herself inside the delicate pantyhose hoping not to rip it, pulled up the zipper at the back of the dress with many acrobatics and cussing, and took a final look in the mirror. With a content look, she thought: Yes, this is it.

Behind her on her shelf, she grabbed for the Hugo Deep Red and put some of it on her neck and wrists. She loved that fragrance; it was, without a doubt, her favourite. She put her bracelets on her wrist and her necklace with the star around her neck. It was said to keep evil spirits away, and although she didn’t believe in things like that, good spirits were always welcome, and she had no intention challenging the bad ones that day. Next, she debated which watch to wear, but then she grabbed the yellow G-Shock she wore daily. It was an eye catcher, and if the conversation would slow down, she could always bring up the fact that Chris Martin from Coldplay wears the same watch occasionally.

She shook her head, and the towel came loose. She let it drop to the floor and walked to the bathroom. She left the moist towel on the hardwood floor and she didn’t care if it left stains or not.
After spraying herself with deodorant, the next decision was due. Keeping the hair curly or straightening it? Thirteen minutes left and another curse-word. She put a product in her hair and began blow drying it with a brush. It took seven minutes to get it the way she wanted it. It wasn’t perfect, but she was running out of time. She put on a little bit of foundation, rimmed her eyes with black eyeliner and applied some dark brown mascara. Nude lipstick topped her looks. One last stroke of the brush through her hair and she was done, with one minute to spare. And she needed it.

She smoothed her dress against her thighs and sighed. She felt uncomfortable, and her hair and the dress didn’t look good together, and maybe she was overdressed for a casual first date anyway? She went to her bedroom again, and in a frenzy, she undressed, threw the dress and the pantyhose on the overfilled chair in the corner by the window and slipped into the black jeans and blouse she had planned on wearing all along. She couldn’t find her second sock in her haste and took a new pair out of the drawer. When she bent down to put them on her feet, she realised that her pants were too loose and she needed a belt. But where was her belt? I’m going to be late. I hate being late!! Frantically, she searched for the accessory that was supposed to keep her pants up where they belonged, and she finally found it on the pair of jeans at the bottom of the pile of clothes on her chair. Pulling hard, most of the clothes hit the floor, but she had what she needed. Her bedroom looked as if a bomb filled with clothes had exploded. She didn’t have time to tidy up or waste a thought about it.

Running down the stairs while pulling the belt through the loops, she didn’t waste time to find a matching pair of shoes. She slipped her feet into her cognac coloured boots and buckled the belt then bent down to pull the zipper from her boots. She put on her faux-leather jacket, the long scarf with the stars and grabbed the white tote bag with the red handles. Keys, phone, and off she went. She looked just like any other day, but she felt very different.

In the car, she put on her favourite song and hoped that her deodorant would keep her safe. She was stressed. Excited. And it was hot, which made her sweat. She put the music a little louder and concentrated on the road ahead.

A parking space was easy to find, but calming down her racing heart was another issue. She sat in the car. Two minutes to spare. She looked into the mirror to make sure that her hair looked good. Out of habit, she brushed the lipstick from her lips and wiped the corners of her eyes to get rid of black smudges. Her breath came in erratic pants. She felt like driving home again. But she was also excited to finally meet the man who had promised pasta and the best chocolate mousse in town. She rechecked her phone. No new messages. Which she took as a good sign. She closed her eyes and took a couple of deep breaths through her nose and released them through pursed lips. You’ve got this. She told herself when she opened her eyes again. Rubbing her sweaty palms and her thighs, she was finally ready. Go! She whispered when she got out of the car.

She got closer to the restaurant and kept her eyes on the floor. The heels of her boots made a lot of noise on the gravel. Maybe it was just in her head, though, amplified by her nervousness. She raised her head, and there he was. He was biting his thumbnail, looking every bit as nervous as she felt. He looked in the other direction, but it was unmistakably him. She slowed down. How was she supposed to greet him? She readjusted her blouse and ran her hand through the lengths of her hair. Her throat felt dry, and her entire body was trembling. He was taller than she had imagined him to be.

He let his thumb fall from his lips and in slow motion, or so it seemed to her, he turned his head. A bright smile erupted on her face, and he mirrored it. She took a couple more steps towards him, and he joined her. Both their smiles hadn’t faltered. And her nervousness was gone. All she wanted was to be in the presence of this man. Hear his voice, smell him and maybe, even touch him.

They stopped in front of each other. Close. Closer than strangers. She looked up to meet his eyes.
“Hello,” he said. His voice was hoarse.
“Hi,” she answered and felt her cheeks blush. He bent down to kiss her cheek, at that exact moment she turned her head, and his lips landed on her lips. Her eyes went wide, and her heart rate sped up again. His pale cheeks were tinged with a red colour too. He shrugged with a smile. She smiled back. He had nice lips. Smooth. For a while, they stood making small talk about the drive to the restaurant and the weather before he suggested to get inside. He took the lead, and she liked that. A lot. He held the door for her, and she lowered her head.
No one had ever held the door for her. It was cheesy and incredibly cute. It also showed that he was born in a different generation. Ten years of age gap was already making a difference. They walked close to each other, and when they waited to be seated, their arms almost touched. But not quite. They didn’t talk. They just smiled awkwardly.

At their table, he waited until she sat down, and when the waitress suggested an aperitif, she ordered a glass of white wine. He ordered a Perrier, and she blushed again. Right, he had mentioned briefly that he didn’t drink anymore. Not the best start for the evening. She opened the menu and scanned it without seeing the words she read. Under the table, their feet touched. Their eyes met briefly over their menus, but both of them lowered their gazes again. Awkward!

They sat with their menus on the plates, and she began to chuckle.

She: this is surreal, sorry.
He: yes, it is.

He laughed too. There were deep lines around his eyes, telling her that he was no stranger to happiness.

He: It’s hot in here.

He shuffled out of his suit jacket to reveal a pristine white button-down shirt when he put it on the back of his chair. She liked his look a lot. It was casual and not. With his button-down and the black suit-jacket, he wore dark jeans and black Converse shoes. His hair was tied back with a hairband, and only one lock fell on his forehead. He reached for his water, and she noticed his long slender fingers and the blue veins on the back of his pale hands. He took a couple of small sips. It was weird and cute. Under the table, their feet were still touching. Not moving, just resting against each other.
In her usual habit, she put her glasses to her left, and when the waitress came to take their order, she ordered a San Pellegrino and let the wine go back. He rose an eyebrow, but her mind was set.

She: you don’t drink. I don’t need it either.

He nodded with a smile. Apparently, he liked her thoughtfulness.

He: are you left-handed then?

He waved in the general direction of her rearranged cutlery and his watch and her right wrist.

She: Oh, no. That’s just an old habit. I move my hands a lot when I speak. Just precaution.

She blushed, admitting her clumsiness. He smiled at her.

He: I move my hands a lot too.

He took another couple of small sips of his water.

He: I have a dry throat and sweaty palms. Nervous.

It surprised her. She had no clue why an ordinary girl like her could make a man like him nervous.

She: don’t be. I’m just me.

He: exactly, and you look beautiful tonight. Gorgeous.

For a moment, she forgot how to breathe and how to think. Her eyes met his, searching for the joke in this, but all she found was honesty and sincerity. She had to lower her head to hide her embarrassed. She didn’t take compliments well.

He: look at me!

It was an order, firm but gentle. He knew exactly what she needed and how she needed to be handled. They had talked about it multiple times. She looked up.

He: just telling it as it is.

She: Thank you.

She wished for the food to be served to have something to do. This wasn’t going well. Or maybe it was, and she was too busy thinking herself down to let it happen. She sighed and gave herself an internal pep talk. All the time, his eyes were on her.

She: for how long will you stay in town?

He: depends…

He smiled, and she was saved from more awkwardness when the waitress brought their food. His pasta looked delicious. Hers did too.

He: Bon appetit.

She turned her plate 180°, another quirk and took her fork. His eyes were still on her when he took the cheese and sprinkled his pasta with it.

He: cheese?

She shook her head.

She: no thanks. Maybe later.

He put a big bite in his mouth, and his eyes closed. She almost expected him to moan. His mouth was still full when he spoke.

He: this is so good. Wow. How’s yours?

She had been busy watching the sensual way he was eating and felt caught in the act. Her food was good, but nowhere near as fascinating as her company for the evening. She felt bold when she loaded her fork and offered it to him. She had never done this before, but it felt like the right thing to do. He smiled, opened his mouth, and let her feed him. Again he closed his eyes, savouring the different flavours on his tongue.

He: spicy. Very good. Now you.

And he did the same she had done. Red sauce dripped off his fork and into her water glass. She chuckled, he shrugged. She opened her mouth, and her heart began to race. A tingle spread inside her. He took care of her, and she liked it. He tilted his head, awaiting her verdict.

Perfect, she said,

because the evening announced itself to be a success. After this, the conversation became more comfortable. And he had been right; he moved his hands a lot when he spoke. They discussed their beliefs and their faiths, and although she knew she was eccentric in that regard, she didn’t feel judged. In fact, they shared many views. Absentmindedly, she played with her left ring finger. There used to be a ring, but the man she had loved for so many years had never been as close to her mind as the one across the table. Smirking, she realised that this was the first date she had as a grown-up and independent woman. She smiled at him, and their conversation jumped from topic to topic naturally. The more they revealed of themselves, the faster her heart beat in a good way.

She was full. Half of her food was left on her plate, but as much as she didn’t want to waste the food, she couldn’t eat anymore. Her stomach was in knots anyway. Their conversation was filled with laughter but also with serious topics. It was effortless to talk to this man. She felt appreciated and attractive and completely forgot to be self-conscious. He made her feel as if she could be herself without the need to pretend to be more or less than she actually was. It was nice to lower her guards, and inwardly, she felt proud to do all of this without liquid courage clouding her brain. This was all real — her perception of reality anyway. The waitress came to clear the table, and with a simple look into each other’s eyes, they decided to wait before they ordered dessert. Conversation without words was such an intimate thing and rare too, but it was right for them. With the plates out of the way, the table looked large, and they had space for their hands. His pale hand reached out for hers. And there was the familiar embarrassment again. While his hands were pale and hairless, hers were rough and dusted with dark hair. She wasn’t the kind of woman to wear nail polish or to have long nails. She clipped them and kept them neat, but that was all she did to pamper her hands. She wanted to pull back, but he wouldn’t let her.

She: I don’t have beautiful hands. They are too manly.

He took her hands and inspected them, turning them this way and that.

He: they are beautiful. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

He ran a finger along the indentation her wedding band had left behind.

How long have you been divorced?

She: two months. He nodded and kept running his fingers over hers.

He: I have a child. Did I ever tell you about that?

It was her time to nod. There was nothing to say, just to listen as his eyes grew distant. He loved his child, it was written on his face, and she was learning to read him like an open book.

“Her mom moved them to Cyprus. I don’t see her often. I’m afraid to become the strange uncle at some point in her life. I only visit twice a year”. He took a deep breath and smiled. “But we Skype and I send her letters and little presents. I was never married.”

She opened her mouth to say something, but the waitress’s timing was awful. He let go of her hands and ordered dessert for her.

He: I told you we’d have chocolate mousse for dessert. It’s my favourite.

She didn’t object. She wasn’t too fond of chocolate, but the way he smiled left her silent. The smile faltered on her face. There. At that exact moment, she realised that she was slipping on a mask again, to be who he wanted her to be. She couldn’t let that happen, not after the kind of evening they had spent together.

She: I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.

He: You’ll like it. I promise.

And she believed him. She liked him. She trusted him too. There was just something about him, maybe it was his eyes or maybe the way he talked, maybe it was just his charming ways, but he made her feel good about herself. It was the second time that evening she realised that small fact, and while she was aware that the end of their date was nearing as the waitress set their chocolate mousses in front of them, she didn’t want to see the evening end. He waited for her to taste the sweet dish, and she scooped up a little of the brown mousse. She looked anywhere, but at him, the way he watched her was unsettling. The chocolate on her tongue melted, and he had been right. She moaned and blushed at the prominent display of pleasure.

She: Wow.

He smiled victoriously and dug in too.

He: told you so.

The light ribbing had become part of their conversation, and the way their sense of humor clicked was another indication that she was falling slowly for the man across the table. Despite having eaten entirely too much, she emptied the dessert, and he hummed in appreciation.

He: you have something on your lip.

She blushed and wanted to reach for her napkin. Moments before it had been on her lap, but now it lay on the floor. He reached across the table and with his thumb, he wiped the chocolate from her lip. She didn’t overthink it and sucked his thumb clean. He chuckled, and she ran her tongue over the pad of his thumb. His eyes widened, and she could only assume the effect this little not so innocent gesture had on him. She smirked when she released him, but she kept his eyes fixed on his.

She: delicious.

He coughed when the waitress appeared out of nowhere again.

She: I’ll have an espresso, please and for the gentleman, a mint tea, please.

He looked shocked but didn’t argue.

He: do I have bad breath?

He breathed in his palm and tried to determine why she had ordered a mint tea.

She shrugged: payback for ordering for me.

He laughed out loud, and more curls fell from his hairband. He put them behind his ears, but they sprang right back up.

He: right. I’ll remember that and for the record, don’t make me drink that herbal brew, please. I need coffee, too — even more after dinner.

Without missing a beat, she waved the waitress over and changed the order from tea to coffee. The waitress rolled her eyes but scurried away again.

She: she thinks that I can’t make up my mind. I swear I am not that complicated.

She shook her head, smiling and put her hair over her left shoulder.

“Well, maybe I am very complicated, but she doesn’t know that.”

He laughed out loud again, and she loved the sound. She really didn’t want the evening to end. But when the coffee arrived, he asked for the check. She wondered if she should offer to pay or assume he would pay or maybe she should just pay her half but wasn’t that too fussy? She sighed and watched his delicate fingers as they stirred sugar into his coffee. As always, she drank hers black.

“So,” he said her name and the way he spoke it made the butterflies in her stomach do somersaults. A warmth spread from her heart all the way down to her most intimate place. She was surprised by the impact his voice had on her, but there was no denying. And it was hot in the restaurant.

“I had a great evening.”

He played with her fingers again. An electrical surge went through her. She inhaled shakily. She couldn’t rationalise where the sudden need came from, but at that moment, she would have done everything he could ask of her. And the mood shifted. It became loaded with promises and longing. Want and need were showing in dilated irises. He licked his lips, and she mimicked him. A kiss hung between them. The atmosphere was crackling. Until the waitress interrupted the moment, they had. They broke apart and chuckled like teenagers. He reached for his wallet, and when she wanted to do the same, he glared at her.

He: what kind of gentleman would I be if I would let you pay for our dinner or even half of it? Next time it’s your turn. Maybe.

She didn’t argue, but her annoying brain was back. What did ‘maybe’ mean? That there was maybe a chance to a second date? Or he would let her pay, maybe?

He: stop overanalyzing.

He chuckled, and she felt caught again.

She: that’s just part of me.

He: we’ll work on that together.

He put his credit card on the tray with the receipt. And once again, she believed him. There was just something about him that made her feel cared for. It was like coming home. But instead of being bored by the known, he excited and aroused her with his sheer presence.

“So,” he said again. “What are your plans for tonight?”

A panoply of possible answers came to her mind, but she wasn’t bold enough to ask him to go home with her, and she wasn’t daring enough to ask him to go for a walk. She worried her lower lip and was lost for words. “Just say it,” he smiled. On his face was something like hope.

She: I don’t want the evening to end.

A bright smile appeared on his face.

He: Okay. I don’t want it to end either. We could go for a walk. You could show me your city by night?

She beamed at him.

She: I would like that very much.

The inevitable end was pushed back further into the night. He paid and added a generous tip for the waitress. It was just another piece of the puzzle that made this man her perfect match.

He: are you ready to go?

Instead of answering, she shrugged into her jacket and put her scarf around her neck. He waited for her and held out his hand. She looked at it and took it. He walked in front of her, and she followed, looking at their joined hands. And maybe at the curve where his back met his behind.

“I hope you’re enjoying the view,” he chuckled, and she blushed. He hadn’t caught her starring, he was just teasing, but since he was right in his assumption, the embarrassment was back in red spots on her cheeks.

She: very much so, thank you.

He held the door for her again.

He: likewise.

He didn’t even conceal the fact that he checked her out from head to toes. There was a gleam in his eyes. They walked on for a couple of paces when he stopped abruptly. She almost stumbled. He took both of her hands in his.

He: I’m glad we finally met in person, and I would really like to kiss you if that is okay.

It was more than okay; it was desired. She stood on tiptoes and let the moment happen. The magic of a first kiss. He pulled her closer and lowered his head. She felt his breath on her skin and his heat coming closer and closer still. His lips were dry and smooth. The kiss was gentle but persistent, and when his hand pulled her closer, she licked his lips. It was just a quick touch of their tongues before their kiss was over. She opened her eyes and looked straight into his. He was smiling again. He put his arms around her and pulled her against him. She fitted his body perfectly. She wrapped her arms around him underneath his jacket and squeezed tightly. He put a kiss on her hair, and they broke apart. It was the natural thing to do. Hand in hand, they strolled through the illuminated streets. They showed each other interesting looking things, and once in a while, they stopped to kiss again. The bells of the cathedral announced midnight in the distance, and she yawned.

“Wouldn’t it be great if this date didn’t need to end?” She mused out loud.

He: it doesn’t have to end. You could come home with me.

As much as she wanted to say yes, she declined his offer. It was too much too soon. The mood shifted to one of regret. A missed opportunity created a distance between them as they walked back to their cars. Inwardly, she scolded herself. She had ruined a perfect date, or that was what her brain was trying to tell her. In front of her car, he turned her in his arms again.

He: Thank you for this perfect evening.

And he kissed her again. They said goodbye, promising to get in touch as soon as they were home. She got in her car and watched him turn away. She cursed and exhaled deeply in the sanctuary of her car. She started the engine, and when she was next to him, with his hunched shoulders and lowered head, she stopped.

She: the night doesn’t have to end like this. Would you like to go on a second date?

He turned to face her.

He: yes. When?

She: Now. Get in; I’ll take you on our second date.

He: are you sure?

She: yes.

Her heart beat too fast again, but she couldn’t stop the smile on her face. The second date with this man who was buckling his seat belt next to her was about to happen. She drove them to her house and saw him blink.

“Home,” she explained, and he grinned. “Are you coming?”

He: not yet, but I am sure I’ll be there in no time.

The suggestiveness of his words made her smile, but it had been exactly what she had wanted to hear — a perfect first date. And the second date would be successful too, she was sure.

The Chemicals Between Them

She looked at him. He was more than she had ever expected him to be — a lot more. His green eyes were so pale, and his ginger hair was just leaning enough to the blond side to look beautiful. His fingers were long and slender, its tips worn and hard from playing his instrument daily for more than three decades. There was something very gentle about him. It wasn’t just the voice that was deep and a little raspy with a sensual lilt. His hands were animated when he spoke. There was life inside this man. A light that shone brightly. There had always been something mysterious, vulnerable, strong, and sensual about him. He knew many demons by name. Some, she knew too. He was known for being difficult, too sure about his talent and himself, but that confidence was something she had always admired. And now she sat face to face with him. When they had talked on the phone for the first time, she had been starstruck. But soon it became normalcy to talk to him weekly, sometimes only monthly. There was a bond. Too many similarities to ignore. For both of them. She didn’t want to be his groupie, and she didn’t feel like it either, but now she didn’t only like his music and his lyrics, she had grown to like the man himself too. With all his flaws. They made him human with all his arrogance that shone through too.

She didn’t know what he saw in her, but since he had repeatedly told her that she was beautiful and that he liked her mind, she didn’t question it. There was no use. He saw things in her she didn’t see. And he inspired change within that she hadn’t known to be capable of.

Sometimes they didn’t speak in months. During these months, she felt lonely and unhappy. Incomplete. Even though they shared this connection and this inexplicable bond, she wanted to leave him his space. She saw the music as being his job. There were times when he didn’t do a lot and other times when he was too busy to do anything but write and record a new album. She refused to intrude. She took it as a gift when he spent time with her, and she was content that he always seemed to come back to her.

Like now. He had insisted on making time for her tonight, even though he was working. It was the first time they sat face to face. But it was apparent that the chemicals between them were stronger than she had ever anticipated.

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

He looked at her. He had loved many women in his life, had been engaged twice too. Opening up to this woman and trusting her the way he did had been a challenge. She had touched him at a moment when he had craved connection. Something had made him take his chances. And he knew how risky it had been. There were still one-night stands who wrote less than nice things on the band’s Facebook page. She was not like them. She was respectful of his work. And she had put him in his place once or twice when he had become too cocky. He liked that. He also liked the undivided attention she offered and that she didn’t conceal how much she loved his talent. She was the one he had always missed, but he hadn’t known it until she had become a constant part of his life. And gorgeous. She was gorgeous. Her brown eyes were full of emotions and her hair; it was gorgeous. There was no other word he could think of to describe her. Her skin was unblemished. No tattoos, no piercings. So different from the girls he took to the hotel for one night only. Of course, he knew about the self-harming scars, and he had seen her many beauty spots on her olive skin. She was a little chubby, but he wasn’t thin or muscular, either. He was soft around the middle and conscious about it. And then she had told him that she loved his hairy belly. It had made him smile. It was then when he had realised that she was so very different. At first, he had had no intention to meet her. It had been a fantasy. A game. But there was something very mysterious about her. The connection grew, and that bond too – a bond he had only felt with his siblings. He felt safe with her. He had offered to meet at one of their shows, and she had immediately said that he was working, and she didn’t want to intrude. It had made him want her even more. She took herself back and was respectful, polite, and there was a sense of humour that matched his own. She was so much more than he had ever expected her to be. And now they sat face to face. Around them, people were busy getting the venue ready. Lights were checked, guitars were tuned, the bar was stocked, and the stage was set for its final look. And he only had eyes for her. He had promised to make time for her. And he needed to know that when he played in her city, that she would be there. He wanted to look into her eyes at one particular moment. When they would play a new song for the first time. She had no idea the song was for her, but he knew she would know as soon as she heard the lyrics. He had used words she had said to him. After the show, when his duties were fulfilled, he intended to take her out. Maybe for a walk under the winter’s sky. Maybe to the hotel. Who knew where their journey would lead. At first, he had been afraid that she was just another groupie. Now, he was scared that he was about to fall in love. She smelled so good, and her smile brightened the dim room. His heartfelt something he had sworn it would never be allowed again. There was no use fighting it. The chemicals between them were so much stronger than he could ever have anticipated.

Love.

Fifteen months

(Repost from September 16th, 2016)

And then it happened, and her demons won. Just like that and without a fair warning. They didn’t play fair. For fifteen months she had fought them off, and now she had lost the battle with her self-harming demons. Just two small cuts. Usually, she only made one deep incision. But cutting along existing scars proved challenging. And fascinating. The way the skin stretched without breaking. The way she realised that the pain from cutting her skin stopped the moment it began to bleed.

But something wasn’t right. Something was not like she remembered it. She didn’t feel the usual calm settle down over her like a relaxing fog. This time, she stayed agitated. Unsettled. Two cuts. Very small, yet there. They hadn’t opened the valve that allowed her skin to expand and give her more room to breathe. Not this time. This time, the cuts were a testimony to her failure as an adult. She was broken beyond repair. They were affirming her failure. Affirming that she was just a freak. Nothing more.

She grew restless. She was determined to punish herself and her body for all the things that weren’t right – mostly her mind.

Transfixed, she watched the drops of blood sliding down her wrist. Had it ever bled this much? Had she cut too deep? Was she done, or was there more cutting to do to ease her troubled soul? She started shaking violently. She cleaned the box cutter in a hurry, before returning it to its place on the shelf. She couldn’t stand its sight anymore.

She ran her arm under the sink and still reeling, she lit a cigarette. She claimed to be a non-smoker but once in a while; she liked the taste of her Luckies. This time, it was different – not calming her nerves, and still shaking all over, she felt so nauseous from the smoke that she put the cigarette out.

She considered drinking a shot of vodka, but she had promised to herself to be abstinent from alcohol and carbohydrates for at least two weeks. She had no intention of breaking that vow. Even under these circumstances. Or was it despite them? She had to stick to something.

But what was she supposed to do? All alone. She called her best friend, but she was busy. It was the usual scenario: she needed someone, but the world was too busy to care. She never pretended to be the centre of the universe, but she gave all the time, and when she needed a shoulder, some support, nobody was there.

On a whim, she messaged her ex-affair. It would have been their first anniversary. Did he know? He didn’t, but it was okay. The moment she heard his voice, she had to swallow down a wave of tears. She hadn’t believed that he would pick up the phone, but he had. He had always been a good listener. And even now, after months of silence between them, he did the same – he listened. Giving gentle advice, never judging. He held his narcissistic self under control while she confessed and confided in him what she had never confessed or admitted to anyone. She had harmed herself. Now she felt ashamed and exhausted. The tension hadn’t left. But his voice was reassuring, comforting. She never wanted to show him his weaknesses, but now she had done it anyway. He knew. She was naked, soul-stripped in front of him. He stirred the conversation in a different direction. And she let him, fully aware that he was asking for something in return. Nothing was for free.

On a path to self-destruction phone sex with him was just another step towards her final demise. Was she his prostitute? For him, she was. She was allowed to unload her emotional crap as long as she paid her debts with her body. She hated herself either way. This didn’t change a thing. And yet, she felt proud when she heard his moans and his erratic breathing. She didn’t feel dirty or ashamed that he had made her cum twice too. It was just words. A fantasy. Orders she bs followed. But sometimes, it was more. It had released the rest of the tension that had kept her on edge for so long, and when he told her so, knowing exactly how she felt, she had laughed out loud — a genuine s.
The earlier thoughts were forgotten. Not really forgotten, just pushed aside. She was still shaking all over. But there had been someone who had caught her, and it meant a lot to her. On a day, when she had hinted so many times, in front of so many people about all the things that weren’t right, and nobody asked if she was okay or needed help; on a day when she felt invisible and unseen, one person had seen her. And he had loved her. For how long it would last didn’t matter. He had been there when she had needed him. And it had indeed changed her day. Her demons were still hiding in the shadows. Bloodhounds. She wasn’t sure if she could keep them at bay, for she would try — fifteen months or longer.

I shared this piece of fiction because I stumbled across it today, and I liked that comment so much. The music I had added was Help Me by Maximilian Hecker

nothing as it seems.

Shelly sat on her bed, the laptop heating her thighs and knees. Things had changed; she had. Months ago, it was easy just to let every thought spill onto her screen, but now, it was a struggle even to write a word. She defended her silence with writer’s block; or the fact that she worked so much. It had never bothered her before. She started censoring herself and her writing when she noticed the traffic on her blog was coming consistently. Readers or viewers came by daily to see if she had shared something. Where they waiting for her to share some more of her gruesome inner life? Where they waiting in the shadows, silently judging, ready to twist her words in real life? She hated the thought that people she knew read her words. She wasn’t embarrassed, she was just so naked on her blog, and she was afraid that her fragile mind would destroy the image of herself that she tried to hold upright. She tried to appear humorous and composed, relaxed and focused. But she wasn’t. Inside she was always struggling, wondering what she should have done differently; what she should have said instead of what she said; trying to remember everything so that she could make life easier for everyone who had to endure her presence.

Shelly had taken all her courage to tell her colleagues at work that she is mentally ill – depression. But she was not sad enough, not tired enough, not silent enough, not lethargic enough. She was functional. They didn’t see that she cried every day in her car on her way to work. They didn’t see how draining work was for her. They didn’t see that every little accomplishment came with a mountain of doubts and crippling thoughts.

Shelly had a lot to say, but nothing was worthy of her readers. She checked the stats and updated blogs. Nothing was inspiring, yet everything she read was inspiring. People had things to say and to share with the world. She had once been like that. Once, before her mind had decided to tell her lies again. Lies, all lies. And not even music was helping anymore.

Shelly closed the lid of her laptop and listened as the heater went silent. It was time to catch some sleep. Tomorrow, people who look at here again and wonder why she made such a fuss about depression when she didn’t look depressed. She was even smiling. But every smile came with a price. Frail. She was fragile, and if she weren’t careful, she would break apart.

Shelly turned to her side and pulled the blanket up over her head. It was comforting to be hidden from the world, and she slipped into a colourless dream.