Before he can pull away, I kiss him again. Putting everything I have into it, trying to give him what I can in what’s a very unbalanced relationship.
That’s what this is. A relationship. Fuck me, when did it happen?
The second I pause, pressing my forehead to his and pulling my lips away, he does what I just did to him, kissing me and giving me more.
With a warmth flowing through my chest, I settle into his embrace.
“I want to ask you something.” His whispered question tickles my neck and makes a trail of goosebumps travel down my shoulder.
“How are you feeling about your sister? Are you okay? You didn’t mention her to Laura. Or how you were handling it. And the last few days you seem…”
“A little more than sad today before you went out and yesterday,” he answers honestly, and I want to pull my hand from his, but he doesn’t let me. He holds me tighter and closer as my composure cracks.
“Tell me, cailín tine,” he whispers at the back of my neck, running the tip of his nose along my skin. I love it when he does that. I love the soft, slow touches. I love how he takes his time with me.
It takes me a long moment to answer him. “I feel like I’ve slowed down, which makes sense because I’m not working anymore. I am crying when I hate it and I can’t stop myself, but that damn book is sad too, so it could be the book’s fault right? I don’t know.”
“You can’t hide behind a sad book,” is all he says and then he looks at me like he wants more.
Staring at the still curtains and listening to the heater turn on with a click, I let it all out; I don’t think, I just speak. “Everything is moving so fast. That’s what it feels like. Like the world didn’t just refuse to slow down with me while I mourn but it sped up too.”
Kind eyes look down on me when I peek over my shoulder to see his response. He’s propped up on his elbow, his hard, warm chest still pressed against my back. I roll over to face him and look him in the eyes as I say, “It became chaotic and unpredictable and I’m a person who likes consistency and schedules and predictability and it’s all gone. In one second everything changed, and now I can’t be anything but slow and everything is going so fast.” He’s silent, so I continue.
“Except when I’m with you. Everything slows down then. It stops and waits for me when you show up.”
I don’t expect to say the words I’ve been thinking out loud. I say them all to my folded hands in my lap rather than to Jase. I need to see what he thinks though. If he understands or if I’m just crazy.
He leans down to give me a small kiss. It’s quick and gentle. I want more but I don’t take it. Even when the tip of his nose nudges mine, I don’t do anything but wait for him to say something.
“That’s a good thing, right?”
“Yeah… but I think the world is going so fast because of you too. Because of lots of things. And here I am stuck with a rope around my feet.”
“I could see that,” he comments, brushing the stray hairs away from my face and his touch brings back that tingling full force.
“You make it easy to talk,” I murmur.
He doesn’t say anything at all, he merely touches his fingers to my lips and gives me a small smile.
“I do that with my patients. I put on a smile all day long and they trust me, they open up to me. Jase, don’t treat me like a patient.”
“Well, first off all, you’re not a patient. Second, you better not touch your patients like I touch you.”
“You’re awful,” I tell him halfheartedly, but still feeling a hollowness in my chest that I can’t place.
“I smile at you because sometimes you smile back, and that’s all I want. I want to see you smile.”
Breathe in, I remind myself. Breathe out. I have to, or else I think I’d forget in this moment. It’s not often you can feel yourself falling, but I’d be damned if I didn’t feel like that right now. Even knowing who he is and what he does.
“Why are you so sweet and charming… yet the very opposite too?”
He shakes his head gently, not taking it like I thought he would. Then he answers with another question of his own. “Why are you so strong and confident, yet… feeling like this?”
I don’t have an answer. The old me would though. The me from only two months ago before Jenny went missing, would know why. I work in a psych center, for fuck’s sake. I would have known. I could have answered. Being in it though… I’ve lost my voice. I have nothing to say, because I don’t want this reality to be justified.