One thing Josh does not to do well, not even a little bit is wait, patiently. He has this unnecessary need to rush me, and pound furiously on any door I happen to be behind. We have pulled off at a rest stop, near his home in Union. I am one hour away from meeting his family, and catching a glimpse inside of his world. One Hour. I am hopeful yet upset at the same time. I have been in this over run, and neglected bathroom for the last fifteen minutes fighting with my appearance. I look like shit, being confined to a car all day will do that to you, but I am trying hard to play it off like that doesn’t matter. I hear him pound against the door again and I roll my eyes.
“Please for the love of god! Just give me one more minute!” I shout, keeping my gaze glued to the bathroom mirror. I clutch the edge of the sink tightly testing the strength in my knees; I feel that if I let go, I’ll collapse. I take one last long look of myself and as I do I imagine Clara next to me. I would have never thought the strange woman who I thought for certain was going to wear me as a second skin, would become one of the most influential people in my life. In the two weeks spent living under her roof, I managed to share more with her than I had anyone else in my life. I couldn’t even begin to figure out the reason why. It was a comfort and more importantly a trust I found within her. A trust where everything I confessed would be guarded and protected. When I backed away from her hug, she had slipped a letter in my bag while giving me a wink. Her very own way of encouraging me to not only to be honest with myself but also with Josh. I almost opened it the moment I got in the car but the side eye from Josh convinced me otherwise.
“Thirty seconds left Naomi!” He shouts again and I let out a growl of frustration. I throw my head back and inhale a deep breath, pulling my body taught and collecting my bag from the floor. I saunter to the bathroom door and jerk it open, my scowl in full bloom as I lay my eyes upon Josh, elbow up, propping himself against the frame.
“Word of advice for future reference,” I grumble, swallowing the drool pooling in my mouth over how well he has cleaned up. “Never rush a woman while she gets ready. It takes time for us to be happy with how we look, and not to mention it just pisses us off.” I brush past him and make my way to the car puzzled because I still feel the need to puke.
“If I didn’t know better,” Josh says calmly behind me, “I would say you are on edge.”
“And I would have to tell you, You’re right.”
He snickers, as we each slide into our respective sides of the car. As I click the buckle in the lock, he shifts his body over the seat, putting his nose inches from mine, tucking the fallen locks of brown hair behind my ear.
“Would it be too forward of me to tell you that I think you look beautiful?”
I try to play off his compliment as if it’s nothing but the blush sweeping across my face gives me away. The night of the wedding had changed us. Dramatically. We were caught in a pretentious awkward stage where we didn’t know if we should let everything slide to the back burner or pull it forward and let it boil over. My emotions and my body confused the hell out of me. One part of me screaming yes, the other crying out no. It’s not that I didn’t want to kiss him; it’s just that once I started I feared it wouldn’t end. My nerves are on high alert. I don’t even remember why I said yes to going with him to Kentucky. Maybe it was because of the way he looked at me this morning, silently begging me. Or maybe it was the way he made me felt cared for, even treasured.
“What do you think they are going to say about me?” I ask nervously, pulling my legs off of the floor and tucking them tight to my chest.
“Why are you so worried about what they will think of you?”
I bite my bottom lip and shrug my shoulders, “Habit.”
He sighs, and reaches for my hand. “My family, we’re different. We won’t be what you are used to, but in a good way. Don’t work yourself up over it.”
“How can you say that so casually? Don’t you see the red flag over the fact that they are going to question this entire situation between us?”
“And what if they do? What do we have to hide? We just tell them the truth Naomi.”
"Why did you leave anyway? You never even told me."
“You never cared enough to ask.” He replies proudly. “And besides it violated our rules.”
I chuckle and roll my eyes, “Oh my god. Those were pointless. And not to mention ridiculous, we’ve broke every single one.”
“I wouldn’t say we broke them. But we didn’t follow them that’s for sure.”
We sit in silence for a few more seconds before I pry again. “So…. why did you leave L.A?”
He sighs, “It wasn’t anything drastic it was just something inside of me. Think about this way, have you ever done something so out of character that you don’t even understand why? You’re so disappointed in how you acted, you would spend the rest of your life trying to making up for it even though it wasn’t even that serious?”
Yes Josh, I do.
I shrugged my shoulders, but he didn’t continue so I had to push on “Well? What did you do?”
“I freaked out on this valet for scratching my car. It was a complete accident and I just snapped at him. I was so stressed over a movie deal, and whether or not it was enough money. I was just ignorant and selfish. Worst part was that there were paparazzi around and they caught the whole ordeal on video. It made me look like a complete dick. It got spun that I was losing it, and there was talk of lawsuits, etc, etc. You know how rumors go. Nothing came of it, and I apologized to the guy after the fact, but once the shit hit the fan, I just needed to get away from it all.”
I reach my hand out and squeeze his thigh, “We all snap sometimes, you’re not alone.”
We were quiet for a while; while my hand entwines with his. On a particularly quiet stretch of road, He side eyes me, and pulls his lips up into a smirk. “So will I have the fortune of knowing as to why wanted to get away?”
“They refused to help me. When I…when I left my ex.” I choke out slowly, unsure if I was willing to dip my feet too far into the water. I pull my hand away, and shift my body towards the window reflecting on the unfortunate demise of the relationship with my family. Losing touch wasn’t even the hardest part of it all. It was looking back on the moments we once shared and wondering if it mattered then, and if it even mattered now. They had all turned a blind eye to the abuse, more invested in our families rising social standing than the child who seemed to be barely hanging by a thread.
“Why?” he asks confused, when I don’t answer he continues, “I mean why they wouldn’t help you? Why wouldn’t they encourage your leaving your ex?”
I smirked at his common-sense knowledge of how a family should react and should have proceeded. “One would figure as much, but they didn’t believe there was anything wrong with the relationship. They felt that I blindsided him and was just having a crisis. I guess they didn’t want to believe me when I asked for help.”
“Well that’s not by any means fair.”
“Fair isn’t how they operate.”
“Then how do they operate?”
“Money,” I spit, the very mention of word singeing my tongue. “It was always about the money and how much it brought us. The more we had, the better we looked. Our problems didn’t matter as long as we could afford a vacation in the Florida Keys. ”
“Stop,” I say quickly. “Don’t ruin it.”
The words were rude, but they were the truth. I had felt more comfortable than anticipated sharing with him but I didn’t want his sympathy. I just wanted him to listen. We stayed silent the rest of the ride, each reassuring the other was okay with five second glances until finally, we pulled onto Josh’s street.
The house itself wasn’t intimidating; in fact it was very similar to my own back home. I knew to the outside world, big homes meant wealth, a lavish lifestyle and happiness, which wasn’t always the case. Ever. Josh stepped inside and without even so much as a blink his mother was before us wrapping him closely in a hug, closing herself tightly around him as if it was the first and last time they would ever share this embrace. I watched mesmerized.
There was so much love that passed between them. Smiling, squealing, and so much love that they were making the other laugh. His father and Connor followed suit hugging him, high fiving. Typical greetings of the male species. I watched it all to only find myself paralyzed. They are so intriguing to watch, and genuinely happy to be near each other. No forced smiles or questions; It all came so naturally. Watching it I couldn’t help but get wrapped up in the joy as well.
I had this life once. I had a charismatic mother who always knew how to light up a room, and an optimistic father who always saw both sides of a situation. I thought we were happy, I thought everything was okay. But it wasn’t, it was all a lie.
Josh looks back at me and once again takes my hand in his. “You guys this is Naomi. She’s really shy, everyone say hi Naomi.”
In unison all three of them yell “Hi Naomi,” and I can’t help but suppress the giggle that escapes me as they each follow it up by giving me a quick hug.
“Why don’t you go take your bags to your rooms? We’re just going to order in and relax tonight.” Michelle says before turning herself back toward the kitchen.
Josh nods his head and leads me up the staircase, pausing halfway when he notices I have paused my decent as I eye up all the pictures lining the wall.
“See something you like?” He asks stepping back down several steps to reach my level.
“Do you ever have an unpleasant moment ever?”
He laughs throwing his head back, “Stop it. Of course I do, all the time. Don’t let that smiling facade fool you.”
I shake my head, “Well I am a little discouraged no one thought to capture it.”
“You’re so odd.”
“And you’re so…so perfect.”
He steps down one more step and places his hands on my shoulders, pressing his nose into my hair.
“You know very well that is not even close to the truth.”
I sigh and fall into him again, my insides sagging and filling with heat all at the same time. The feeling of his chest pressed up against me is one I never knew I could miss. It’s overwhelming, and I fear that no other person will give me this besides him.
“So,” he clicks with his tongue pulling away and moving up the stairs again. “Which picture is your favorite?”
I survey a few more minutes and settle my eyes upon a black and white 5x7 of Josh laughing, his handclap suspended in time. “This one.” I say proudly pointing with my finger.
He smiles, “Why that one?”
I turn my eyes to him and hold his gaze, “Because. I don’t think you could say I like it.” I pause as my words come to me, “I love this picture actually. You look absolutely beautiful in it, and not because of where you are placed, or what you are wearing, but it’s your expression. I can almost hear you laughing if I just close my eyes and transport myself there. I’ll never get tired of looking at this picture, ever.”
He swallows hard and his jaw tightens, the words flooding over him just as they have tripped off of my lips. He knows these words. He originally spoke them. I have just repeated the same sentence he said me. He reached for my hand and I willingly let him take it, allowing him to guide us up the stairs and towards the guest bedroom. We walk straight to the door but halt just as we are crossing the threshold.
“Did you mean that?” He says whipping his head around to me. “What you just said just now. Did you seriously mean that?”
“Yes,” I say, my tone shaky even though I am 100% confident that I do.
“Please let me in,” he whispers resting his forehead against mine, moving the hair on the right side of my face behind my ear. My desire breaks the chain wrapped around my heart and releases all resistance. I was ready. I was ready to speak the words I not only knew I wanted to say, but that I needed to say. But I couldn’t let it all flood out now. I wasn’t ready for that yet.
“I’ll try. At least give me that,” I replied, our breathing registering to normal, eyes searching the others for a sign to let go. I hesitated, but the smile spreading across his face told me my answer was enough.
“Trying is all I could ever ask for.”
“It’s just intimidating. You, your family and how it all just seems to fit together.”
He smirks and moves his hands back pressing mine up as well and locking our fingers together. “We have our faults. We just don’t have secrets.”
That seven-letter word I know all too well. I have secrets, a plenty. Some simple, like how I couldn’t sleep without a night light in the corner of the room till I was at least seventeen. Others are bigger, like the fact that I attempted suicide in my campus pool and failed.
It’s why I freaked out. Too many memories flooding over me from that night when I was in school, so drunk I was blind. How my fiancée was raping me and no one cared to believe me even as I begged on my hands and knees for them to help. If it wasn’t for Timmy Medlock, swim jock extraordinaire coming in for his routine laps I would have drowned. He pulled me out and performed mouth to mouth.
By the time 911 was called, and the paramedics had arrived I had puked up everything including the remnants of what I had consumed in my suicide attempt. I was taken to the hospital and kept under watchful eye. I never went back to school after that. At the time I could never pin point what upset me the most. The fact that I had gotten so desperate that I assumed that was my only out, or the fact that I had now become a burden, a hassle to both Trenton and my family.
Dinner was pizza on paper plates while lounging around the living room. I hardly ate, too fixated on watching Josh and his family catching up. He was fascinating to watch when he told stories. The way his eyes would brighten, and his eyebrows would shoot up, followed by his hands voicing his opinions just as well as his mouth. He caught me staring a couple times; He’d hold my gaze, all while elaborating on his tale.
After dinner I reluctantly decided to call it a night. The entire day was a discovery, and it was exhausting. After all of the new revelations, closing my eyes was all I could think of to help me process it all. I slipped into my sleep with ease, and then my dreams soon after.
Josh was there, waiting for me. We were in that bathroom where Trenton had shattered so much of me. Everything was the same. The erratic beating in my chest, my dress and way it hugged my body, even the scent of stale air freshener. It was all there.
As I walk in further, Josh appears before me. His suit grey, and close fitting against his arms, and chest. He reaches for me without even asking and he slowly pulls my body against him.
“You want to get lost together?” He asks, his lips hovering along my jawline.
“Why are you here?”
“Because you want me to be here.”
I jerk back while I grab tightly onto his arms, “But I haven’t told you any of this.”
“I know. It doesn’t matter. It isn’t about that, this is about you and I.”
I lean back into him, pressing my forehead into his. “Could you tell me,” I pause and press my palms into his chest, “Could you tell me what you would do? Everything you would do with me?”
He stills and I can feel his eyes burning into me, fighting off the desire I know his body must desperately crave.
“No,” he says slowly, “I would rather just show you.”
He drags his hands down along my waist, and to my backside, gathering my dress slowly into his hands as his lips begin to mold over mine. He scrunches the fabric in one hand, while running his fingers of the other along the lace of my underwear. Without hesitation he slides his fingers inside, tracing circles along my folds, swelling the skin underneath. I moan into his mouth and pine against his chest as the reminder of what being touched like this feels like spikes, and starts to course through me.
“You should just wake up Naomi,” Josh says breaking his lips away, but keeping his fingers in place.
“Why would I do that?” I reply breathless, to incoherent to talk even if this isn’t real.
“So I could do this to you…in real life.”
“Who said you would?”
“Oh I wouldn’t even need to be asked. That’s how much I would.” He pulls away and I whimper, the ache increasing by the second. Taking my hand, he gives me a wink before raising it to his lips. As soon contact is made, I jolt awake.
The moment my eyes open to the darkness surrounding me, I groan. Rolling onto my back contemplating if I should act this dream, or just take care of the ache by myself. I opt for the less complicated route and try, for several minutes but all I can focus is how his fingers would feel as opposed to mine. I climb out of bed and toe quietly downstairs, piecing together in my mind what door leads to the basement. I pause for a moment at the bottom of the stairs and then make my way down the dark hallway. I’m almost to the door when another figure appears out from behind the corner.
“Naomi!” Michelle asks eyeing me curiously “Is everything alright?”
Shit I’m busted.
“Michelle…Hi…I…I was just-”
“Sweetie,” she says quickly holding up her hand, “You’re fine. You have obviously grown accustomed to one another these past few weeks, I understand.”
“We’re really not like that though.”
She smirks, and nods. I feel like I need to elaborate, to explain exactly just what we really are to one another.
“He’s helping me. I, I don’t trust or open up to anyone and he is making me better at that. I’m very grateful for him, and that’s all he has done.”
Michelle tilts her head to the side to processes it all. “I don’t doubt that for a second. But does he know that?” She crosses the floor to approach me, resting her hand on my shoulder. She smiles, and then sighs when she see’s the look of utter confusion on my face.
“He cares for you. He hasn’t told me, but I can see it.” She smiles one last time and then bids me goodnight. Leaving me clinging onto her last word.
I make my way into Josh’s room just as he is shifting from back and onto his side. He doesn’t hear me as I help myself into his bed. This is weird, sneaking into bed with him but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I slowly inch myself up closer to him and rest my hand against the tattoo on his back. There is something about tracing the outlines that is soothing for me, and I find my throat releasing. I inch my lips closer against his skin, and just release the words like a broken damn. I don’t know if I’ll have the power to finish this, so I whisper what I can.
“Thank you for taking a chance with me, for reaching out and noticing me. Thank you for all the words you have spoken, even when you knew I wouldn’t believe them. Thank you for bringing me home with you, and pulling me out of the pool. And thank you for always looking at me like I’m the most beautiful woman you will ever see. Even if I’m not.”
He rolls over and gently pushes me on to my back, cupping my face between both his hands. And in that moment I become thankful for something else, the way he kisses me.
His mouth takes control, not just physically but mentally. Driving away my hesitations and doubts. Encouraging the risk we both are ready to take. Josh pulls away and looks down at me, the expression on his face is one wrapped up in nerves, and lust. Pure unleashed lust. It’s as if he can’t believe this is real, this is happening. I pull my eyes away from his and lift my chin, allowing him to lean down again, this time returning his kisses from the edge of my shoulder blade, down across the very top of my chest and then ending at the exact opposite spot from where he started. Yet before he can return his lips back to mine, I halt him.
“Promise you won’t touch my neck.”
“I just get uncomfortable when someone else’s hands are on my neck.”
He pulls back further and studies me, silently prodding me for further explanation. I swallow and open my mouth but quickly close it. I can’t bring up Trenton; I don’t want to bring up Trenton.
“Is it because of…Naomi did he…did he hurt you?” he tries to ask but fails. He is at a loss for words over what isn’t just an odd quirk. It’s a problem.
“It’s not important,” I whisper, running my hand down the side of his face. “Please forget what I said and kiss me. Just kiss me.”
I know he can’t deny me when I ask him for such a thing. He proves me right as he pulls my hand away and kisses my palm, trailing his lips down my arm before back to lips fulfilling my request. Reconnecting sparks that need, the discovery to know the other more. He grabs hold of my leg and hikes around his waist, pushing his erection into my sex and rocking back and forth. God this feeling… I’ve never known it could feel like this. It’s all happening and it’s perfect.
“Shit. Fuck. Stop I can’t!” he gasps pulling away and dropping my leg.
“What do you mean?” I ask, my tone trying desperately to tell him I am feeling the rejection.
“It’s not you Naomi, I promise.”
“Well then why did you stop?”
“Because…. because I feel like I‘m taking advantage of you.”
“I’m telling you it’s okay,” I say quickly leaning forward and grabbing his hands.
“No, I promise on everything it’s not. Sex can be sex, but I feel with you it’s more. I… I….”
His confession is serious yet, my rage will not allow me to understand. It falls out of his mouth and right through one ear, escaping the other. I’m too wrapped up in my own frustration and anger to even process what he’s saying to me.
"You’re nothing but a fucking hypocrite! Kissing me, touching me, saying all of these things and yet here you are backing away from it all when I finally come running. Make up your mind Josh!"
“Naomi please just listen to me!”
"I don’t need to listen I have heard enough!"! I shout before storming away. Leaving the room, and Josh behind.