Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chapter Twenty Six

YES! She wants to marry me too! I knew it. How could she not? The only thing left for me to do, besides properly proposing, was telling her that I loved her. I had absolutely no problem saying it, but I didn’t know if she felt the same way. Well, wanting to marry me has got to mean she has some sort of fond feelings towards me, right? At least a mild interest. With all of these thoughts running rampant through my mind, sleep was now impossible. I hopped out of bed and crept downstairs, parking myself in front of the television. There had to be some way to tell Riley I loved her without freaking her out. The more I thought about, the more an idea began to form in my mind. I wouldn’t tell her at all, I’d show her. I was so anxious that when she didn’t wake up after about two hours, I made my way back upstairs. There she was, laying on the bed, the epitome of everything I wanted. Her hair was draped over her shoulder and her shirt had risen up near the bottom, exposing a silken looking glimpse of her stomach. I slowly made my way over, taking my former place on the bed. Once I was next to her, I gently grazed that portion of her stomach with my mouth, leaving a trail of light kisses as I worked my way up to her neck. My plan was working, in about thirty seconds, her eyes were fluttering open and she was looking down at me with a smile.

“What are you doing, Max?” she asked groggily.

“Waking you up,” I murmured into her neck. I heard her giggle quickly change into a soft moan and I figured that I must be doing something right.

“What…what do you want for dinner?” she stammered, trying to change the subject.

“You.” I growled before moving my lips to hers. I felt her arch into the kiss and then, to my surprise, she gently pushed me off of her and stood up, walking over to the window, trying to calm her breathing.

“So, I was thinking, Italian?” she asked not looking at me. What. Just. Happened? Did she just…did I just get rejected?

“Are you okay, Riley?” I asked, not moving from my position on the bed.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Had I been too quick to try and sleep with her? Now did she think I only wanted to get in her pants? Oh, great.

“Did I do something wrong?” She finally turned to face me and for the life of me, I couldn’t place the look on her face. It was something between confusion, frustration, and…sadness?

“No, of course not. Now, dinner, dinner, dinner, what do you want?” She put on a fake smile and began walking towards the bedroom door, but I was too quick for her. I caught her hand as she passed the bed and brought her into a seating position.

“What’s going on, Riley?” I put one hand on the side of her face and she shrugged me off.

“Nothing’s going on.” She avoided my eyes.

“I don’t believe that for a second.”

“Can we just drop it?!” Her voice was shrill as she stood up. I was taken aback by her actions, I’d never seen her act like this and I figured it was best to just wait until she came around.

“Consider it dropped.” I tried a smile, but she turned away and headed downstairs. What the hell was that all about? I followed her wordlessly into the kitchen and watched as she rummaged through the cabinets and the fridge.

“I need to go grocery shopping,” she said more to herself than to me.

“We could go somewhere.”

“No we can’t, Max. Geno’s agreement, remember? We can’t leave the house together or be seen together.” I caught an exasperated tone in her voice as if reminding me of this was taking a whole lot of effort. I must have really done something to upset her because only a few short hours ago, everything seemed perfect.

“We could order something?” I watched as she looked at me, rolled her eyes, and grabbed the phone, throwing it at me and nearly pegging me right in the face. “What would you like?”

“I don’t care.”

“You said something about Italian before? You wanna get that?”

“Chicken Parm.”

“Alright.” I watched her storm off into the living room and plop down on the couch. I called in the order and then sat in silence with her in the living room, desperately wanting her to give me an answer for whatever was going through her mind. When the food finally came, she paid for it and we ate in more silence in the kitchen. About halfway through the dinner, her cell phone started buzzing on the table. She looked at the screen and then up at me.

“I’ve gotta take this.” She got up from the table and walked upstairs.

Riley’s Point of View
“How are you holding up?” Vero’s voice floated out of the speaker on my phone. I was laying face down on my bed, staring at the floor.

“Not too good, V,” I answered honestly, rolling onto my back.

“What’s wrong?” I heard the concern in her voice and I felt so bad for burdening her with my stupid problems, but I needed to get it off my chest.

“Well, when Max came back to my house, I had every intention of breaking up with him. I really didn’t want him in any more danger from Geno. But then he went on this whole little tangent about how Geno’s plan to keep us apart was never going to work and how he, get this, wants to marry me. And it was all so sweet and I…I just don’t know. It all seemed too good to be true. I honestly do want to marry him too, but it can’t be that easy. We can’t find happiness so quickly. And then I started thinking about something that Ryan said before. We were talking about Max and he said something like ‘Max won’t be sticking around for long if there’s no sex.’ And then I started thinking that he’s probably right. And I want Max to stick around obviously, but then I started getting all these crazy ideas that Max was only saying all that stuff because he wanted to sleep with me. And then, as if to confirm my suspicions, after my nap today, I woke up to him kissing me and it just…I don’t know. So I basically told him to ‘fuck off’ when I rejected him and then I’ve been giving him this stupid attitude that I can’t control and I hate myself for it.”

“Wow. Listen, Riley. If Max just wanted sex and you weren’t giving it to him, he would have been out of there a long time ago. He’s obviously sticking around because of something else and I bet you anything it’s because he loves you. And before you protest that, he said he wants to marry you. He. Wants. To. Marry. You. You know that’s gotta mean something. And the only reason he tried to sleep with you was probably because he feels that it’s the next step in your relationship and he’s ready to commit. You know, sex isn’t always meaningless. A lot of the time it’s a promise, a commitment. You have to cut him some slack, Riley. I’ve known Max for a long time and I can tell when he’s being serious about a relationship and this is it. He’s probably just as scared of messing it up as you are.”

“Why does everyone make so much more sense than me? Thank you so much for that, Vero. You’re amazing. Remind me to give you something spectacular when Christmas rolls around.”

“Why wait till Christmas?! I can always use something large, shiny, and expensive now.” Her laughter on the other end was contagious and I immediately felt better.

“Nice try. I was thinking more in the range of 25 dollar gift card to Target.”

“You’re awful!”

“It’s part of my charm. But let me go, I really need to apologize to Max. Thanks again.”

“Any time! Now, go get it on with your man!”

“Vero!” I looked down at the phone but she had already hung up. I rolled my eyes, tossed the phone on the nightstand, and made my way over to the door. I almost ran right into Max when I tried to step through the threshold. “Oh, you, uh, heard all that?”

“You’re a loud cell phone talker.” He smiled at me and brought me back into the room where I took a seat next to him on my bed. “And curiosity got the best of me. Was that really why you were mad? You thought I was just trying to sleep with you? You know that’s insane.”

“Well yeah I know that, but things seemed too perfect. I needed to find a flaw I guess.” I heard how completely idiotic I sounded.

“You know, sometimes things are that perfect. Sometimes all the pieces fall into place.”

“I’m actually starting to believe that.” I leaned my head on his shoulder and felt his arms around me. I toyed with a button on his shirt and looked up at him. “Now, where were we before I so rudely interrupted?” In a matter of seconds I was on my back and in a matter of minutes he was poised to enter me. After scratching, clawing, and calling to deities, I was nestled comfortably in his arms, completely exhausted and euphorically happy. “I love you, Maxime Talbot.” The words flowed from me as naturally as if I had been saying them all my life.

“I love you, Riley Malone.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chapter Twenty Five

Kris stayed with me until I promised him that I wouldn’t do anything “drastic”. Whatever that meant. After he left, I began pacing, thinking of the best way to tell Max that, for his safety, it was best that I didn’t see him anymore. Granted, Max was the best guy I ever met, I couldn’t put him through this. It was just selfish. I cared about him way too much to let anything else happen to him ever again. On about my two hundredth time around the couch, the doorbell rang. When I opened the door, I found Max standing on the other side. At that moment, I felt my heart literally tearing in two. Looking at his face, it was clear that he had been brutally attacked not only with the intention to send a message, but intention to harm. Upon seeing him I completely lost it and in a matter of seconds he was across the threshold and his arms found me. He led me to the couch and just held me until I gained control of my sobs. This was another reason why I was no good for him. In the state he’s in, I should be consoling him. Not the other way around. When I finally managed to breathe, I was able to choke out a sentence.

“Look at you,” I said, gently running my hand along the side of his face. “Look at you.”

“Look at me? Look at you!” he replied, cracking a smile. I guess he was referring to my post-hangover, no make-up, still in pajamas, appearance. “I’d take this over that any day.” He pointed first to himself, then me.

“Max! This isn’t funny!” I looked at him with a serious expression to get my point across.

“Okay, sorry.” He looked away from me and out the window. I was tucked protectively in his arms and I began to slowly untangle myself from him. I’d never be able to do this if we had any kind of physical contact.

“I heard what happened. You don’t have to explain it to me. And before you say anything, just let me say what I have to say. Max, I…I don’t know if this is going to work.” I paused and gauged his reaction. He was watching me with wide eyes and I hurried on before he could interject or before I lost the nerve. “What happened last night and seeing you now, I know it’s going to happen again. One of you is going to fly off the handle and who knows how badly you’ll be hurt next time. Seeing you get hurt, because of me, is something I can’t live with. Max, I can’t put you through this anymore. I won’t put you through this. And don’t worry. I’m not going to go ahead and date Geno or anything. I’m just going to break up with him and then…maybe move. Yeah, I’ll move. That way I’ll be out of your way. For good. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I want to be with you, more than anything. But it’s not healthy. For any of the parties involved.” I stopped after my long speech and Max stared at me for what seemed like an hour. And much to my dissatisfaction and amazement, he began to laugh. And not just a chuckle, a hardy, knee-slapping laugh. “What?! What’s so funny?”

“Riley! God, how long have you had that speech worked up in your head? Seriously, we just got together. You think you can get rid of me that easily? When I want something, I tend to stick around for more than two or three days. And believe me, I want you.” He smiled and brought me back into his arms.

“But…but…I just broke up with you! And you’re laughing?”

“What aren’t you understanding, my love? You didn’t break up with me. I’m not letting you.” He laughed again and planted a kiss on my forehead.

“But…I don’t understand!” I backed away from him and stood up. He stared at me for a minute, shook his head, and pulled me back down. “Max! Didn’t you hear anything I said?! It’s dangerous for you! Being with me is a hazard!”

“Let me ask you something. Do you honestly want to break up with me?”

“No, not at all.” I answered in a heartbeat. “But---”

“But nothing. I want to be with you. You want to be with me. We’ll work it out. I promise.”

“But Geno.”

“What about Geno? Listen, I’ve come to terms with his agreement, Riley. We’ll just have to live with it. But I’m telling you now, whatever scheme he thinks up to keep us apart, it’s not going to work. It’s not going to change the way I feel about you. It’s not going to alter where I see us in the future. It’s not going to do anything. Let him be jealous and spiteful. He’ll get over it eventually. They always do.” I sat there staring in astonishment at him as if he were speaking Korean. The words that were coming out of his mouth were so reasonable, so sure. It made it impossible not to believe them. But, my hearing picked up on something he said.

“The…future? Who’s future?”

“Our future, of course.”

“We…we have a future?”

“Only if you want us to.” He flashed me a smile and my heart, previously torn to pieces, was instantly mended.

“I want us to.” I said quietly, smiling back up at him.

“Good, I’m glad,” he said while getting up and wandering into the kitchen. He brought back two bottles of water and only after I took a sip did I realize how thirsty I was.

“Thanks, Max.”

“Anytime, so, where do you see yourself in ten years?” he asked, relaxing into the couch and looking over at me.

“What is this? A job interview?” He laughed again and shook his head.

“No, I’m serious. Where?”

“Well, I don’t know. I’d love to get married someday. Start a family. I love kids.”

“Oh what a coincidence, me too!” I saw a suspicious looking grin play across his features. “I want to marry you.” I thought it only happened in movies, but I literally did a spit-take.

“Who me?”

“Yeah you, who else?”

“Oh Max. I don’t know. I mean I’d love to, but I just I don’t know. It’s so soon and there’s so much to discuss and---”

“Whoa, I didn’t say I wanted to marry you tomorrow. I just said that I’d like to. It wasn’t even a question. More of a statement. There’s nothing you have to answer. I was just, you know, stating what I’d like.”

“Oh yeah? Well it’s good to know you have our future planned out. I don’t even have to think, you’ll make all the decisions.” I poked him in the side and laughed.

“God, every time I propose to you, I get shot down.” He was smiling again.

“Um, if I recall correctly, the first time was more of a command.”

“Well, one day I’ll do it right. I promise. And you’ll accept. I promise that too. Let it be known right now, one day you will be Mrs. Riley Talbot. It will happen. Just you wait and see. Could be the near future. Could be three years from now. Who knows? This is one of those questions that can only be answered in…the Twilight Zone.” He did the mysterious voice, complete with hand gestures.

“Keep dreaming buddy.” I said, patting him on the arm. Telling him that it’d be my dream come true to just elope with him tomorrow would be giving in too easily. Max doesn’t like anything that he doesn’t have to work for. “Now, where do you see yourself in ten years?”

“Where do I see myself? Hopefully settled down with a family. I know I don’t strike you as the ‘family man’ type. But it’s something I’d like to have. I come from a big family, you know, and I’d like to continue that. Lots of kids. I love kids.”

“Aw! That’s so cute!” I couldn’t help but reach up and pinch his cheek. “I want lots of kids too. They make a house so jovial and loving.” A few minutes passed between us as we were silently lost in our own thoughts. I wondered how talk of a potential break-up turned into talk about our potential future together. “I think you should really try and get some rest, Max. As we’ve discussed you look horrendous. And on top of that, tired.”

“You’re right, I’m dead.” He stood up and held his hand out for me, leading me up to my bedroom. Max laid down right away while I went to adjust the blinds so the light wouldn’t keep us up. By the time I got back over to the bed, Max was already rolled over onto his side and I’m pretty sure he was fast asleep. I laid down next to him and cuddled close to his back.

“I want to marry you too.” I whispered in his ear. I watched as he mumbled something and rolled over. I prayed to God that he didn’t hear me, I’d never live it down.