619. - Lucien
I almost feel like I'm back in the tiny shower of Emma's old apartment, that's how aware I am of my surroundings. In reality we have easily twice, if not three times the space and far fewer things we could possibly knock over. My heart is hammering in my chest like I'm about to leap off a cliff instead of taking a shower with my girlfriend. If Emma notices my unease, she doesn't show it. We shower like we always do, not making a fuss. I help her wash her hair and then her back, exactly like she requested, and then she cautiously takes the body wash to return the favour. I damn near shudder under her touch, biting down hard on my tongue to keep it from actually happening. I'm trying not to think of it too much, or of her naked form so close to me, or the things I would love to do to her in this spacious shower. The day has been long, and confusing, and exhausting. I'm not sure how much of the grip I usually have on myself is left still, but if Emma crosses a line without realising, I fear I may crumble very quickly.
"Done," She says quietly, and when I turn back around I find her looking at me with a smile. "We should do a spa day sometime. You could do with a massage."
I chuckle lightly in response, rinsing myself off. I want a massage from her and not some stranger, but I realise I might have to settle for that anyway. The comment does however notify me that she felt how tense I am. It seems that she blames it on the event of the day, which is just fine with me. She's doing that staring thing again, with her head tipped and the ghost of a smile. I gaze back.
She doesn't reply with words. Instead she surprises me by taking a step towards me, now nearly pressing against me, and taking my face in her hands. I freeze. Did she tell me not to move? I honestly don't remember. It doesn't matter anyway, I don't dare to move a muscle.
Her lips brush against mine. Soft and careful at first, much like they did the last two times she kissed me, but then she shuffles even closer. Our bodies don't really touch, except for her breasts against my chest, and I'm doing everything in my might not to think about how they feel. She kisses me a little harder, her fingertips digging into my cheekbones, and there's a second where I'm seriously worried I might faint. And just as sudden, she's gone. The distance between us is back, and she's looking at me like she's conflicted about how she feels about what she just did. I don't think my voice is back yet, so I don't dare asking.
She studies me. I swallow, slowly getting the movement back in my limbs. The conflict on her features turns to hurt. "I'd hoped for a little more reception." She tries to make it a joke, to keep things light, but we both know that this was a perfect example of the way we still have to go.
"I'm sorry, Em. I just..." I begin quietly, but I'm not quite sure how to finish. The hot water raining down on my shoulders helps me focus, and it also makes me realise how deep the look on her face cuts me. "Eggshells." I say eventually, because I don't have another way to explain it. "I'm still not sure where it's safe to tread without breaking any."
I dream about Claire that night. She's exactly like Emma described her, which is terrifying. She seems to be two years old, her dark, shoulder length curls bouncing up and down as I watch her dance with another familiar figure. My mother is holding both of Claire's hands. Both of them laughing, sounds so strikingly similar that they might have been the same. A bittersweet image, even in a dream. But then Madeleine disappears in a cloud of smoke. One moment she's there, the next she's gone. Claire spins around, calling out. Her high voice pierces through everything.
Someone answers her, but it's not Madeleine. It's another person who's features I recognise in my daughter. Claire's eyes immediately light up, and she lifts her arms for Aleran to pick her up. He does, putting her on his neck with a wide grin.
"Where do you want to go, little one?" He asks.
"Away!"" She chimes, as if she's saying she wants to go to the playground.
"Away it is!" Aleran agrees, and he turns his back to me. I watch them walk away, disappearing into the distance furhter and further. My feet seem frozen to the ground, my voice gone so I can't scream. I can only hopelessly watch as she's carried away from me.
I wake with a start, my body damp with sweat. I'm halfway sitting up. The movement must have woken Emma, because she's rolled onto her back and is rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
"Luce?" She asks sleepily.
"Nothing." I say in a reflex, shaking my head. My heart is still pounding at twice its normal speed. "I'm okay. You can go back to sleep, love."
"Then why are you sitting up?" Blindly she reaches for the switch of the little night light. When she finds it and flicks it on, her face scrunches up. Still shielding herself from the light she sits up, her hand coming down onto my back. "You're all sweaty... Did the AC turn off?"
"No." I smile weakly, because Emma is adorable when she's sleep drunk. "I just need to -"
"Nightmare, then." She suddenly sounds awfully convinced. At my questioning look, she offers me a tired grin. "You never need to use the bathroom at night. You use it as an excuse after a nightmare. C'mhere." She tugs on my arm until I lay down with her. I'm not sure if it's because she's only half awake, or if she's really okay with this, but she shifts and moves until she's comfortable in her position as the big spoon, and seconds later her sound breathing tells me she's fallen back asleep.
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