Motion (Page 40)
“I can’t . . .”
“You can’t what?”
A wrinkle appeared between his eyebrows, something flaring behind his eyes as they drilled into mine. He released my arms, pushing his fingers through the fall of hair on his forehead, pushing it away with both hands, and then he waited. Glaring at me, his arms falling to his sides, standing still while his chest rose and fell with his slowing breaths.
He waited. He waited for me.
And I was such a mess, wanting to rage and laugh and cry; wanting him to pull me close, and dreading what would happen if he did; wanting to rewind time to the moment he’d stopped swimming so I could also stop and scream at him to finish, so I could win, so I could tell him the truth.
Now we were here and “by forfeit” was not how a bargain with the universe was won. This was not winning. This was neither winning nor losing, which meant I was back at square one. Which was losing.
I felt my chin wobble and I firmed it, pressing my lips together to stop the revealing involuntary waver, but it was too late. He’d seen it. I knew at once because he took a deep breath, the force of anger in his glare dwindling to merely mystified uncertainty.
“Lisa. What are you doing? Why are you doing this?” he asked with impossible tenderness. “You win. You don’t want me. I’m done. I’m leaving.”
“It doesn’t feel like winning.” My voice was unsteady and my words were unplanned, so were the hot tears that spilled over my cheeks. I’m a mess!
I hoped they’d be camouflaged by the residual pool water but knew at once this was not the case. Abram’s gaze watched their progress, gliding down my face. His features were restive, betraying his indecision, his uncertainty. But the hesitation didn’t last.
Lifting his hands to cup my face, his thumbs brushing away the tracks of saltwater, Abram’s gaze softened. All contrary emotions dissolved, replaced by resolute concern.
“Don’t cry.” He pressed his forehead to mine. “Please don’t cry.”
“I’m not crying.” I sniffled, closing my eyes, more tears leaking from beneath my lashes, my stupid chin wobbling. Why did he have to forfeit?
He chuckled. “Why are you crying?”
“Why did you forfeit?” I’d been aiming for accusatory, but the question came out sounding watery and just plain sad.
“You’re crying because I forfeit?” His voice held humor and incredulity.
“No. That’s not—” I sniffled again, taking several deep breaths, and then said firmly, “I’m not crying.”
“Shh.” Against my lips I felt his shushing breath, which made me hold mine. The ever present, simmering desire low in my belly twisted, but the paralyzing restlessness within me thawed. How my body could respond in this dichotomous way, at once relaxing and tightening when he touched me, I had no idea.
Abram’s fingers pushed into my wet hair, curling around my neck, and his nose slid against mine, nuzzling.
“You have to tell me what you want,” he whispered gruffly. “If you don’t want me, tell me. But you have to know, you must know, I only want to make you happy.”
Elasticity: Stress and Strain
I opened my eyes. Our gazes didn’t clash, they mated. Instead of cymbals between my ears, I heard the gentle lapping of the pool against the tile, the sounds of the city, the hum of summer insects in our little garden oasis.
I breathed out, lifting my chin by a millimeter, licking my lips. Kiss me.
His gorgeous stare never wavered from mine, he didn’t move, not to close the scant distance between our mouths, not to push me away. No.
He was waiting. Again. Waiting for me.
Please. Please kiss me.
I wanted him to end this torture because I couldn’t be the one to end it. Telling him the truth was not an option because it would jeopardize my sister, and I refused to be another person who let her down. But kissing Abram without telling him the truth was also not an option, a line I absolutely couldn’t cross.
If he kisses me, I reasoned and bartered with the universe, searching for a new deal, I’ll have to tell him the truth, right? I wouldn’t have a choice. The decision would be made.
“Lisa,” he said, a gentle whisper, the single-word reminder of reality breaking the spell so completely, it jarred me to my core. The seismic equivalent of telling a roomful of kindergarteners that they would never have candy again. And then following that devastation with a forty-five-minute lecture on taxes.
Stepping away, I dropped my head and closed my eyes, feeling the weight of air and dark matter and cosmic dust press down on my shoulders. I wanted to hit the water again. I wanted to throw a giant tantrum.
Instead I whispered, “Fuck.”
A moment later, I heard Abram sigh. A moment after that, I heard the telltale sound of him moving through the water, leaving. My stomach sunk and I swallowed around the rocks in my throat, but I wouldn’t cry. It was an unfair situation, of my own making, and he deserved better. So, so, so much better.
Let him go. And let this be the last time.
But then I felt his palm slide against mine, his fingers entwined my fingers, and he squeezed. My eyes flew open and, wide-eyed, I looked up at him. He wasn’t looking at me. Jaw set, Abram’s eyes were on the stairs leading out of the pool. Without pausing, he pulled me after him.
I found my voice as I crested the last step. “Where are we going?”
Releasing my hand, he passed me my towel, only glancing at me briefly. “Here. Dry off.”
I accepted it, wrapping it around my body and reflexively folding the top over so it wouldn’t unravel.
Abram wiped at his face, neck, and torso with forceful strokes, and then wrapped his around his hips. Reaching for and grabbing my hand again, we were on the move.
To the house, up the stairs, into the mudroom, down the hall. He stopped in the kitchen, turning to face me, but not releasing my hand.
“We should watch a movie. You like movies?” The words were abrupt, direct, and had an edge of impatience.
“Movies?” I parroted dumbly.
Inspecting him, I searched his face for some sign as to his thoughts, what he hoped to accomplish. He didn’t look angry.
Angry? Not at all.
But you know what? Of the two, the disappointment felt worse.
Gathering a deep breath, I couldn’t help what expression my face was making, but I assumed it was something like dismayed remorse. “Abram, I am so sorry. I never—”
He waved away my apology. “Nope. No apologies. No explaining. No talking. No.”
“No . . . ? No talk—”
“Go upstairs, change, shower, whatever. Come down when you’re ready, to the basement. We’ll watch a movie.”
I shook my head, feeling my eyebrows pull together, not understanding what was happening. He won’t close the distance of three centimeters to kiss me, so he wants to watch a movie?
He must’ve read the confused anguish in my eyes and on my face, especially since I was unable and disinclined to hide them, because his left dimple made an appearance. “Look—” he brought my hand up, pressing it flat between both of his “—I trust you, so trust me. I just want to spend time with you. We don’t have to talk. You don’t need to apologize for anything. We can sit together, watch a movie, share popcorn.”
A little breath escaped me, one of wonder and distress. How was he so damn perfect all the damn time?
“There’s nothing wrong with watching a movie, people do it all the time,” he prodded gently, tilting his head, his hand coming to my hair, smoothing over the wet strands and down my back. “It doesn’t have to mean anything.”
It meant something.
Lying next to Abram on the big, red, plush love seat, tucked under his arm, my cheek on his chest, smelling his man-fragrance while we watched The Blues Brothers on the home theater screen, it definitely meant something.
But that didn’t make him a liar, because it hadn’t started out meaning anything.
After I went upstairs and showered, haphazardly blow-drying my hair and applying minimal makeup, I changed into a pair of yoga pants and a tank top. My brain on self-destruct autopilot, I didn’t think about the logical path forward or fretting about my actions. I thought about popcorn.
We’d begun the movie in the chairs, with the popcorn between us on a buffer seat. He’d given me a polite smile, saying nothing, and motioned that I should take the chair on the other side of the popcorn. The theater seats were a good size, but Abram was taller than average. He shifted in his chair several times, crossing his legs at the knee when he couldn’t stretch them out fully in front of him.
But ten minutes after the movie started, Abram sighed, picked up the popcorn and moved to the love seat at the front of the room, reclining on his back, a hand behind his head, his feet and legs stretched out toward the screen.
The love seat wasn’t a typical love seat, which was a smaller version of a sofa. It was the width of a love seat with a pull-out ottoman piece extending towards the screen that turned it into a giant chaise lounge, basically a full-sized bed with sofa cushions at the back.