I knocked on the door three times, "tap, tap, tap," before opening it myself.
He turned in his chair, looking at me with what I can only describe as something like lust and longing both.
Standing up, he pushed his chair back and quickly closed the gap that separated us.
In an instant my cheek was in his hand, lips on mine, pushing me against the door.
My keys and phone found the shelf next to my head as my hand lifted to rest on his opposite cheek, feeling his closely trimmed facial hair under my fingers, left hand tangling up to my middle knuckles around his shoulder length hair.
When the first fire had died, he held me close.
"I'm glad you're back."
Smiling, I nuzzled closer into his solid and warm chest.
"Me too. I missed you."
The drive home usually drags on, being the fourth year I've made it.
Not this time.
Getting out of my car, I looked at the window and took a deep breath.
Up the stairs to his door.
Knocked twice, softly.
L didn't hear it and I had to knock again, three times this time and much louder.
The opening door revealed a smile and he pulled me into a hug, going in for a kiss.
I turned away, saying something to avert what was happening.
We decided to go for dinner, Mexican, and I decided to have three margaritas.
Two Coronas for him.
Conversation flowed, but he could tell something was wrong.
I neglected to try and touch him, be close to him.
"What's wrong?" I asked, swirling my finger around the rim, licking the salt from my finger."
"You aren't as intimate. You aren't the same. What changed?"
"Not here." Eyes burning a hole through his.
We sat on his futon, but I had to get up and pace.
"I'm sorry, I just need a break. I know you said that usually when you and past girls have taken a break it didn't end up working out, but it's not you. I just... I just started dating you too fast. I needed someone to pull me out of that terrible relationship and that responsibility fell on you. I don't know why, but I'm so grateful. Listen, it's not that I doubt the end result. I still think you and I are a great match to get married someday. Right now, I just need to breath. Five years was a long time to be with someone."
Words a jumble.
"What does this mean for us? Just like not be intimate or do less couple things?"
"Well, it's not like we act much different than when we were just friends. We just touch more now. I still plan on seeing you when I'm home and still plan on coming to your Thanksgiving and having you come to mine. I just feel bad because our families think that we're getting married soon and I just need time. Tell them whatever you want"
"It's fine. We can just make this between us."
I swallowed hard.
"Yeah, sounds good. Thank you. I still love you."
Smiling, a bit of sadness touching the corners of his eyes, "I love you too."
"You're going to have to be vulnerable. If you looked back on the one that broke your heart and you could push a button to get rid of all the pain but would take all the good things you learned too, I know you wouldn't push it."
"You're right. I wouldn't."
"Sometimes you just have to trust. What you learn in the end is worth more than the potential of getting hurt."
I looked up into his eyes, probing around to see if this only held a crash and burn ending
"This has the potential to blow up in our faces, but I want to try. I've never felt this before so I don't know if that's what it is. You have. You have something to compare it to."
"What does it feel like?" Fingers running up and down his back, knotting at the muscle below.
"It's warm. I've never felt warm. I can be completely honest and myself with you. I can't get anything done with you around. If I fail out of law school it'll be because of you!" pinching me playfully.
"I can't get anything done with you gone or around." Smiling, I kissed his arm.
"I know what you feel."
"Good things?" looking up at him through eyelashes.
"Things you're scared to say."
"What are they?"
"This has to come from you."
"I don't like being vulnerable. Not at all. I like perceived vulnerability, enough to draw someone in, not enough for them to have me."
"Well, I can assure you that it will be necessary at some point."
"But only if you can be with me. Vulnerable, I mean. Although you're the one that usually is."
"I'm not scared of getting hurt. So I don't give a shit about how vulnerable I am."
"This weekend I went and bought turkey and bread, some cottage cheese. Healthy stuff we can eat. I even bought more turkey because I know bread is a trigger food for you and you'd just want the turkey."
No one but my best friend had ever taken the initiative to soften the raging protests in my mind when it came my ED.
I'm in deeper than I thought.
Tumbling end over end as he tries to heal my pieces, teaching me to be vulnerable, teaching me to feel.
I'm at the point.
I'm at the point where I can't think about anything else but him if I tried.
Desperately forcing my heart up and away from the end of my sleeve, but it slides back every time.
"My goal, if nothing else comes from this, is to take you out in that black dress you love to a nice restaurant and we order pasta covered in alfredo, but not red sauce, no, white sauce, because that's worse for you, and I want you to truly enjoy yourself an not worry. I don't want you to cry when you have to eat pasta."
"That sounds ridiculous, when we say it out loud."
"It's not. It's just something you struggle with. People don't take the time to understand and I want to."
As we fell asleep that night, I felt his strong arms wrapped around me.
Some guilt assuaged from taking the needed break, the needed time to search for who I was.
There was something perfectly right about this moment in my life.
Something like fate or a blessing.
It wasn't acquired in the most honest of ways, and I have lots of work to do on my own, but somehow he's the person I need to hold the mirror up for the rest of my recovery.
If we never coexisted beyond this moment, I would be okay.
I will have learned lessons far beyond what I could have learned with L or on my own.
I could fall in love with him, I thought.
What makes you vulnerable?
Does it haunt you?
Does it make you scared?