tagRomanceLake Como Ch. 01-02

Lake Como Ch. 01-02


Many thanks to my editor, theMasterBaiter, for their keen eye and insightful feedback.


Chapter 1

"Italy?" Mi had burst through the door, dropped his bag on one of the kitchen chairs, and was now holding up two printed train tickets, his eyes twinkling.

Boyish impulsiveness wasn't the first thing you would expect from someone whose face reverted to "brooding" by default, but here Mikhael was and, fair's fair, the impish grin was overdue for return after a long hiatus. "How does Lake Como sound?"

I put down my copy of The Four Loves on the coffee table. Bookmark in, cover folded shut. Coyly: "Now?"

"It was too good a deal to pass up, I had to grab them. You can take work off this weekend, right? I'm sorry, I wanted to ask but you didn't have your phone on..." he trailed off.

I stayed sitting as Mi orbited to the Lay-z-boy, or whatever its Ikea equivalent was. Kristoff or something. Now that shopping trip was one for the annals: file under "shared suffering" or "mutual trauma"? Mi gesticulated and I snapped back to reality.

"I just think it would be good to get out and get some fresh mountain air. We basically live in a swamp, after all."

That was true enough. Berlin was flat as a desert and a lot smoggier. "First I wanna say, I like the idea, and you're right, it's been too long..." Mikhael's face lost some of the twinkle factor in anticipation of the but. "...but now? Babe, you know I'm trying to get in more hours before the season ends. The tour company's probably going to fire me and for all I know and taking the weekend off is probably the final straw."

"Zeph, that's Unsinn. They love you there. Fuckin' Barry probably loves you a little too much, even. I got us covered for the winter, and besides, you have that museum gig coming up." Eyes expectant, calculating.

"It just feels like.." I paused. "I don't know, it just feels like.." I didn't want to say it, and I didn't even know if I would mean it.

"Feels what? What's the real reason you don't want to go?"

I looked at the carpet.

"Zeph, what's going on? I know there's something up. You've been off lately, and if you don't let me in I can't do anything about it, okay?"

"I'm sorry, this—this whole thing just seems remedial." The words tumbled from my mouth awkwardly. Mi's facial expression cycled through confusion, injury and indignation before settling on indignation.

"Remedial!? For what, Zephyra, is this supposed to be remedial? For.." He waved an arm in exasperation. "..for your sulking these last few months? For letting me go to Stockholm alone when it was you who wanted to go? No, really, enlighten me."

In truth, at that point I couldn't have explained if I wanted to. So what I said was "Just because jumping the Wall solved your parents' problems doesn't mean running to Italy will solve ours. What were you thinking, huh, planning a trip and then asking me if I wanted to go? You know what, I don't want to talk—"

"Yeah, I bet you don't want to talk now." Mi's eyes flashed, nostrils aflare with tamped-down anger. He turned on his heel and made for the bedroom.

Well, who was sulking now? Still, even though his insecurities had precipitated the incident (as far as I knew), Mikhael had the infuriating skill of getting the moral high ground in the wake of blow-ups like these, and this time was no different. Fuck, I already knew I was the one who had to apologize.

Chapter 2

Liebste Heidi,

I'm sorry it's been so long since I last wrote. I find myself wanting to tell you all sorts of things, but every time I sit down to write, no more than a sentence comes to mind. Let's chat more often!!

Thanks for your last letter, by the way. I hope things are going well for you back in Bremen. Life in Berlin is pretty much the same, except they recently opened this dessert restaurant in Mitte where they custom-print your dish, anything from wafer to cotton candy to chocolate, their setup even does ice cream. Mikhael and I went there last week.

Things haven't been so great with us lately, to be honest. In fact, for the past year it seems like something's been amiss, and I know it's not just him, but I wish I knew what it was.

For one, Mi's been rather distant. I don't think he likes his job. I don't know if it's just that or if it's something about me as well. Do you think he could be getting tired of me? I know that, theoretically, there's better out there for each of us, but I don't want to leave him. And I don't want him to leave me.

I think he feels the same, but I can't tell. He can be so inscrutable.

It's like he doesn't know that I'm his. We say we love each other, and yet I always feel a certain.. tentativeness.

Don't get me wrong, he's such a thoughtful guy. He planned out and took me on a whole city tour for our anniversary: barbeque out by the airfield for lunch, canal ride, sunbathing in the park, dinner in the city, can you believe?? But there are those moments when our eyes meet and I want to feel pinned down by their icy blue intensity but he doesn't give me that and so I feel like I'm adrift.

You know, I think it might have something to do with his background. Did I tell you that his dad was a guard posted on the Wall back in the 1980s? The Stasi threw him in prison on suspicion of helping people escape the East. Confinement must be the ugliest thing in his eyes.

Obviously, I can't ask Mikhael too much about that, but he once implied that they tortured his pop. Oh, Heidi, I wanted to cry when he told me that.

The next morning when he was sober he acted like he hadn't said anything. And you know me.. I have—what would you call them, attachment issues? I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't been there for me when my family moved here from the States.

Remember how Aron was always trying to change me or get me to do something? Eughh, thinking about it now creeps me out. Mi is the complete opposite. I never feel coerced and I really can feel like my own person.

The thing is, his standoffishness puts this distance between us. It can feel oddly clinical when after five years together he's like "if you're in the mood, let's have sex."

We had a fight yesterday. Usually we work it out before going to bed, but I didn't bother making up this time. That night as we were fucking I could feel something new in his eyes and his hands. Maybe it was no more than just lingering anger, but besides his usual deliberating caress of my every weak point there was a specter of abandon in him this time.

He pushed me onto my back more roughly than usual and skipped most of the teasing that we usually do in our foreplay. His hand trembled as he guided himself into me. Without getting into too much detail, that was a good night.

The sex seemed to defuse the situation. I hope things work out between him and me. What's your advice, H?

We're going to Lake Como in Italy this weekend. It's an opportunity to figure things out. Or to screw them up even further. We'll have to see.

Sorry to be going on and on about my own life, by the way. I don't mean to be egotistical. What's new in your life? Are you still seeing whatshisname, mr. "I'm telekinetic"? I wish you many peanut-levitating children ;)

Write soon!



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