Chanks_girl- Hey Leila! Guess what? Hi.
*Grumbles* You want Michael, I’ll give you Michael... in the face!... Zing...? Ok, so it sounded better in my head. And you are getting your wish, there’s Michael galore in this part. Oh, and there’s heaps of Michael right near the end because he plays a more critical part.Makes up for the lack of Michael.
Laira- Or alternatively you could just check the board more *shrugs*
‘Remember those walls I built?
Well, baby they are tumbling down
And they didn't even put up a fight
They didn't even make a sound
I found a way to let you in
But, I never really had a doubt
Standing in the light of your halo
I got my angel now.
It's like I've been awakened
Every rule I had you breaking
it's the risk that I'm taking
I ain't never gonna shut you out!
Everywhere I'm looking now
I'm surrounded by your embrace
Baby, I can see your halo
You know you're my saving grace
you're everything I need and more
it's written all over your face
Baby, I can feel your halo
Pray it won't fade away’
Halo by Beyonce
“How was therapy?” I ask, trying for casual curiosity. I fail badly.
He massages his eye sockets with his palms as he answers. “Terrible.”
I slump in disappointment. He always thinks that therapy is terrible. Nothing’s changed. “Oh. What’s so bad about it?”
“I don’t like talking about my past. It’s always really draining whenever I do. Plus, they’re not nice things to remember and talk about. But I guess I have to do it.”
That admission has me sitting bolt upright, staring at him. “You talked to your therapist?”
“For the past couple of weeks,” he grunts in reply.
I throw myself at him. “Thank you!”
His arms loop around me and pull me in tighter, so I rest my head on his chest as I try to squeeze the air out of him. “You were right, it does make it easier to cope with, though talking about it goes against everything I’ve ever strived for.”
I can’t help it, I start to cry. Max is finally getting the help he needs and he recognises that it’s working. This is so much more than I could have hoped for.
“Hey, whoa,” Max rubs my back as I shudder on him. “I’m sorry. I know this must suck for you, having to wait till I’m better before we can really be together.”
I punch him lightly in the chest in response. “Max, I don’t give a fuck about that! I wouldn’t mind if we never had sex again if it meant that you were finally better. I just want you to be ok, that’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
“Really?” He seems incredulous so I punch him again. “Easy there, Rocky, I was just making sure.”
“Adrian!” I mumble, causing us both to laugh. We’re so stupid. And I couldn’t be happier.
I nod eagerly and stand up, taking his hand and letting him lead me to the front door. I swipe the keys off the hook as we pass it in the hallway and then we’re off. Alex swings his arms around my shoulders in a familiar move and I snuggle into him. Alex trails his fingers through a bush in a garden close to the sidewalk and I let the sunshine seep into my skin. Bright blue sky, warmth and Alex wandering the streets with me aimlessly, just enjoying each other’s company. I don’t think life could get any better.
Alex starts to hum ‘Macho Man’ under his breath and I tweak his side in protest. “Alex, you’re already a stud, you can’t be a macho man as well. That’s just greedy.”
Alex groans and puts on a comically exhausted expression. “I swear, the next guy at school who comes up to me and asks me how to pleasure a woman, I’m going to suggest licking her ass crack,” grunts Alex. “I don’t wear a sign around my neck saying ‘Love Guru’ and I definitely don’t have any idea how to pleasure a woman.”
“You don’t?” I ask in surprise. “But what about Leanna?”
“Gave it up to everyone but me,” he laughs. “What about you? Have you ever...?”
I laugh at the very idea. I’d have a complete meltdown. My past ensures that I’m completely fucked up about sex, even though David and I are working through it. Strangely enough it seems to be working, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to jump in the sack with Alex, though.
“Nope. I believe that you should be in love before you do it.”
“I respect that. Could you maybe pass that on to the school? Greg Maines asked me how to go down on a girl today. I might have thrown up into my locker a little bit.”
I laugh, feeling giddy. I never thought that this would ever happen to me, that Alex and I would be able to walk around town together like we’re the only two people in the world. Tucked under Alex’s arm as we walk through the suburbs, I feel so complete that it scares that crap out of me, but I love it at the same time.
Alex pulls me in closer and presses a kiss to my temple, while his hand slips something behind my right ear. I reach up and feel the petals of a flower and my eyes tear up. “Alex...”
“I just plucked it from a bush,” he objects, seeing my amazed stare. “It’s nothing.”
“No, it’s really something,” I whisper then throw my arms around his middle. He hugs me back and I feel him press a kiss to the top of my head, his hand coming up to stroke my hair. He’s wonderful, too wonderful.
But even in this perfect moment, I can’t truly enjoy it. He doesn’t know about my past and it seems like deceit to keep it from him. He deserves to know, especially when we get to the more intimate areas of our relationship. I know I’m going to have major hang ups and there’s a big possibility that I’ll freak out. He deserves to be forewarned. I have to tell him.
Tia blushes and shies away behind my leg as everyone cheers for her. We’re having a birthday party for her at the centre and she’s completely blown away by it, never having had a birthday party before. I had to ask Maria to help because I’m not a girl and I’ve never had much in the way of a conventional birthday party either. Maria actually cried when I told her this, and told me that it was heartbreaking to her that nobody had ever celebrated our existence before. I guess going from one crappy home to an almost as crappy foster home never really gave me much of an opportunity for that. Not that I’m complaining, it could have been much worse. Instead of just physical and verbal assault, it could have been sexual as well. I thank god that Hank’s tastes ran to trashy skanks rather than little boys. I could have been locked in a closet or starved. There was a whole bunch of stuff that Hank could have done to me that he didn’t, so I count myself as lucky that I got out of there relatively unscathed.
Maria ducks down next to Tia and in a motherly gesture that makes my heart expand in my chest, strokes her hair away from her ear and whispers, “Blow out the candles and make a wish, sweetie.”
Tia blows out the candles and ducks her head as everyone claps again. Having never really been to birthday parties growing up, as I was the odd one out with dirty clothes and poor hygiene, this is a real first for me. Luckily both Amy and Maria are on top of it, having left the day care room free and organised the invitations and decorations. Amy even catered for the occasion, making platters and the like. She even made some disturbing concoction called fairy bread, which is basically buttered bread with sprinkles on it. The kids apparently recognise it though, because they head straight for it. The only thing I’ve been allowed to do is make the cake and get Tia the present she’s been secretly pining for. I’ve been saving up for weeks to get her this horrendously huge, prissy looking barbie house that I know she’s going to grow out of and despise in a couple of years. The practical side of me thinks it’s a complete waste of money, but the older brother in me doesn’t care. I’ve seen the wistful look in her eyes whenever that stupid pink advertisement comes on and I want to take that look away. I want to give her everything she desires, I want her to want for nothing.
Tia takes three rather cutely pathetic attempts to blow out the candles before they’re all out.
“What’d you wish for, baby?” asks Maria, swinging Tia up into her arms as Amy cuts the cake.
“I wished that I tould stay with you and Mitael fowever,” she replies very seriously.
“That’s a lovely wish, Tia. We love you too,” Michael informs her, watching her blush from the acknowledgement of our feelings. Only he and I seem to notice that he didn’t actually address her wish. I know she’ll always have Michael, but who knows what’s going to happen between now and her eighteenth birthday? I mean, maybe Michael and Tia could follow me to college. Michael will be done with college by then, and there isn’t much here to hold him. Or maybe I could stay here and go to community college, though it’s not a prospect I relish. College is supposed to be about emancipation and getting as far away from your parents as possible.
Frig me, this is a conundrum that I never expected to face. I’m just glad that I have a year and a bit to come to grips with it.
I can deal with a broken heart when the time comes, but I still have no idea how I’m going to deal with Tia’s. If Maria leaves, I know Tia will be heartbroken and that’s the only thing that truly worries me. Tia’s already been hit with so much disappointment, I don’t know if I can stand watching her take another blow. Not that I think Maria would fade out of her life, but phone calls are no substitute.
“Hey Tia, sweetie, you ready to open your presents now?” enquires Maria, shaking me off that train of thought. Now is not the time to be thinking about the future, not on such a happy day.
Tia can’t contain her joy, but the reluctance in the emotion eats at me. She’s too afraid to hope for presents on her birthday, having obviously tasted such bitter disappointment before. I take this as my cue to head off to the side of the room to grab the rather badly wrapped present from out of the coat closet. Don’t judge me. Have you ever wrapped a clunky doll’s house before? It’s way harder than it looks.
I try to conspicuously place the monstrosity of a present behind Tia so that she won’t notice and I’m glad for once that her attention can only focus on one thing. If I had been surprising Maria with a gift this big, she’d have spotted me even before I’d finished exiting the closet.
I sneak back around in front of the group that’s gathered and nervously await giving her her present. I know she always watches the advertisements for it on TV, but what if I mistook her look for something different? What if she’s suddenly decided that she doesn’t like it anymore?
Unaware of my anxious state, Tia continues to happily tear through the paper of her first present and her eyes widen in almost comical delight as she gets a bunch of colouring books and crayons from Liz. Liz bends down to give her a cuddle and Tia returns it enthusiastically. I can’t help but be proud of that sight. Tia has truly gotten better in her interactions with people. She’s warming up to them so much faster now.
“Mitael! I dot stuff to dwaw wiv!” she informs me, waving her books and crayons in the air. I gift her with a big smile, warmed by her enthusiasm.
“I can see that Tia. Isn’t that great?” I turn to Liz who has wandered back over to us as the next person hands Tia her gift. “Thanks Liz, that gift certainly made a big impression. She loves to draw.”
Liz smiles at me and replies, “I know. She told me she wanted to be an artist just like her brother, so I thought I’d help her along with that.”
I can’t help the wide smile that grows across my face. I know she’s only little and she’ll probably turn out to be something completely different, but the idea that she looks up to me and wants to emulate me is so humbling.
Tia makes her way through the large stack of presents, receiving each one with excitement that seems to grow with each new acquisition. As she puts down the last present I wander over to her hold out my hand to her, pulling her gently to her feet.
“Cover your eyes,” I tell her softly. “I have a surprise for you.”
She giggles with nervous anticipation as I spin her around. “No peeking.”
I slow her to a halt after about three circles and then pull her hands from her face, revealing her present. I hear an intake of breath and garner that it’s of surprise, which is fair enough. That doll’s house is bigger than her and rather impressive, even in its shoddily wrapped state.
“Are you going to open it?” I prod, noting that she hasn’t moved.
“It’s for me?” she questions with what sounds like awe in her voice.
“Yeah, so you gonna open it or am I going to have to take it back?”
“No!” she protests quickly, moving towards the present and gingerly pulling at the sticky tape.
I bite back a smirk when I hear Maria’s exasperated huff and a couple of seconds later, “Just rip it baby!”
Maria gets shushed by Amy, but her efforts have the desired effect. Tia tears through the paper and gasps at what she sees. “You dot me da barbie house?”
“Happy birthday Tia.”
Tia stands motionless for a second before she begins squealing and jumping up and down, she turns to look at me, then looks back at her house before jumping into my arms.
“Tank you, tank you, tank you!” she yells in my ear before leaping out of my arms and running back to her doll’s house. She instantly begins playing with all the stupid things they’ve packed into it and calls over Cindy to help her play.
I look at her joyful face as she and Cindy play and think of all the money I spent on that stupid, disturbing house.
It was so worth it.
David’s face reveals nothing. “Did you discuss having sex, or just sex in general?”
“We discussed what we’ve done previously. He was surprised that I’ve never done anything. One day, he’s going to ask though. He’s going to want to have sex. What the hell am I going to do then?”
David looks at me very seriously and I’m relieved that he’s taking this seriously. It is a big deal, especially to me and I’d hate to have him just dismiss my fears. “Isabel, I also take couple’s counselling sessions and I can tell you that the basis for every functioning relationship is communication and honesty.”
“You think I should tell him,” I reply, staring at my hands. “About my past, I mean.”
“It’s not about what I want you to do, Isabel. It’s about what you need to do. If you want to have a true, meaningful relationship with Alex, and eventually a sexual relationship, then this is something he will need to know. You do have the option of not telling him, but from experience I can tell you that it never ends well.”
I nod glumly, wishing he’d advised me to do anything but that. “I will tell him. I will. Just not right now.”
“Have you decided what you’re going to tell him, Isabel? Perhaps it would be better to tell him in small doses, only telling him things that you feel comfortable sharing with him at that point. You don’t have to tell him anything that you don’t feel comfortable revealing right now, but I would advise putting off the more sexual aspects of your relationship until he knows.”
“Why? What do you think might happen if I don’t tell him?” I ask, feeling my curiosity well up.
David lets out a sigh. “He’ll be unprepared for any reaction you might have, Isabel. You’ve told me yourself, you think you’re going to freak out when you and Alex get into the sexual part of your relationship. How do you think he’ll react if you have a bad reaction to intimacy?”
I pause and then sigh in resignation. “He’ll be hurt. He’ll think that it was something he did.” I run my fingers through my hair and hang my head in my hands. “I can’t do that to him.”
I know I can’t. I can’t let anything hurt Alex, though I have no idea how he’s going to react.