Trey catches the shirt and frowns. “What the f**k are you doing?” he asks, like seeing someone clean is the strangest thing he’s ever witnessed. Heck, maybe it is given the state of this house. “The cleaning lady’s coming tomorrow,” Trey adds.
“I know,” Jase returns. “But Avery needs to use the bathroom.”
Trey chuckles to himself. “I didn’t think it was possible to be pu**y whipped when you’re not even getting any pu**y, but you just proved me wrong.”
My cheeks burn pink and I look down at my shoes, thankful Jase didn’t hear that. Jase emerges a few moments later.
“Okay, all yours,” he says.
I mumble my thanks and flee inside the bathroom.
* * *
I’m not even sure how it started, but for the past two weeks, Jase and I have been talking on the phone every night before bed. I haven’t seen him outside of our human sexuality class and the quick coffee dates we have after class, but I know I’m getting too close. Jase has continued issuing challenges and I brazenly accept. So far, they’ve been innocent – flirting with the guy at the coffee shop, sleeping naked when I admitted being undressed makes me uncomfortable, things like that.
Jase stirs up feelings I can’t process. He gives me courage and strength I haven’t felt in the longest time. It’s like I can handle anything – take on the world – or maybe just deal with the stuff in my own small world, but either way, I like it.
But tonight, as I lie in bed all snuggled up, listening to Jase’s deep voice coming through the phone, I suddenly tense. He’s asked me to do something I don’t know if I can. He’s challenged me to contact the adoption agency to get my records. I’m silent while I weigh the decision. On the one hand, it’s something I’ve thought about doing the last few years, and I like how my conversations with Jase push deeper than the surface level crap I talk about with most people. But I don’t know. Once I’ve seen what’s in those files, I can never go back to not knowing. Right now I can romanticize the idea of my birthmom – she could be a supermodel, a senator for all I know. But what if the truth isn’t as pretty? What if she’s horrible and wants nothing to do with me? Can I live with that?
“Avery? You still with me?” Jase whispers.
I swallow the lump that’s taken up residence in my throat. “I’m here. Just…thinking.”
He releases a sigh and waits me out. A moment later, my voice leaves my body, independent of my head, ranting, rambling, but I can’t stop it now. “What would I do, track her down, show up out of the blue and say, ‘Hi, did you give a baby up for adoption nineteen years ago?’ That sounds freaking terrifying. What if she’s crazy and horrible? What if she wants nothing to do with me? Maybe I’m safer not knowing.” I bite my lip, waiting for him to confirm I’m as crazy as I feel.
He chuckles softly into the phone. “Relax, babe. Breathe.” I pull in a deep breath, making sure it’s audible over the phone for his benefit, and Jase continues. “I think you’ll regret it if you don’t. I could come with you…if you want.”
“You’d do that?”
He’s quiet for a second. “Of course I would.”
“Why would you do that? You hardly know me.”
“So…she probably lives across the country for all I know.”
“Lucky for you I like road trips. Besides, if I’m your life coach, it’s my responsibility to see you to her doorstep safe and sound. It’s practically part of the job description.”
I don’t say anything for several minutes as the meaning of his words sink in. I swallow a wave of emotion. Jase has been nothing short of amazing, and we’ve only known each other a couple of weeks. I still find it odd that he’s appointed himself my life coach, but it’s also totally endearing. His gesture is too much, and it’s in these moments with him that I feel like I could actually be whole again.
I can hear him breathing, so I know he’s still there. “And if she’s horrible, I’ll take you out for ice cream, hold you, let you cry on my shoulder, whatever you need, babe.”
“Let me sleep on it,” I whisper.
“I don’t want to push you to do something you don’t want. I just thought maybe you needed a little shove. And I’ll be there with you. I’ll help however you want me to.”
No one in my life had ever really encouraged me to explore my adoption in this way. Even my best friend in high school, before she jumped on the Avery-is-a-disgusting-whore bandwagon, thought it was a bad idea. My dads were awesome, she argued. I had cooler parents than anyone. My birthmom didn’t want me, so why should I waste my time worrying about her? Yet there wasn’t a single childhood memory that wasn’t soured by the feeling my mom missed out on it. I always thought of her during major life events, birthdays, holidays, graduation, prom, and, of course, the silent nothingness of Mother’s Day. I also thought of her during insignificant moments, like studying myself in the mirror and wondering which of my features I got from her – and to a lesser extent, my birthfather. Since I had the love of two dads, he wasn’t the one I missed, despite never knowing. That hurt was reserved just for her.
I wondered if her nose was tiny, upturned and dotted with freckles like mine. Or if I got my green eyes and reddish hair from her. Did she know how to style this frizzy hair? My dads had always been clueless, though they’d dragged me to several hair stylists, trying to help.
I wondered about my first six weeks of life. Was I a bad baby? Why exactly did she choose what she did? Was it a hard, gut-wrenching decision, wrought with pain, or did she just know it was what she needed to do, and did it, unemotionally? My dads claim I was a perfect baby, that I rarely cried or fussed, but still, I wonder about my life before they got me.
“Okay,” I say softly, surprising myself. “I’ll do it.”
“Yeah?” He’s smiling.
“Yeah. I’ll request the records. As for actually searching for her…maybe…”
“Hey, it’s a start. I like it. What do you need me to do?” I hear his bedsprings creak, like he’s ready to spring into action if needed. That thought makes me smile.
It takes me a second to respond – the image of Jase in bed is a teensy bit distracting. I imagine his long form stretched out against the mattress, and my body warms as desire, unbidden and uninvited, pools between my legs.