Shorts #02: The Second Time AroundbyDawnJ©
"What are you wearing?" Heather watched the words appear on the screen, and even though she knew he couldn't see her, she blushed.
"Why do you want to know?" she hedged, and waited tensely for his reply.
"I want to see you in my mind more clearly. Your avatar only tells me you have long curly hair and you're fair skinned. Aren't you even a little curious about me?" His words cut across her eyes like sharp needle points.
She hesitated. How could she tell him she was afraid to let him see her, either for real or in words? That she didn't want to risk this odd relationship by making it real? She bit her lip, began to type, then erased it.
"Are you still there?" he wrote.
"Yeah, I'm here," she answered. Then, taking the plunge, she continued, "While you were answering the phone, I changed into my nightie. It's bedtime for me here." She waited again, suddenly very nervous about how he would respond.
"What color is it?" he asked.
"Red," she said.
"Long or short?"
"Cotton? Silk? Satin?"
"Silk." Heather felt herself getting warmer as she wrote the one-word responses.
"Touch it. Tell me what it feels like."
Heather swallowed the sudden cotton in her throat and began to write. "It's smooth, like glass, cool, soft. My hands just slide over it." She drew trembling hands over her belly. "It moves with my hands."
There was a long pause, so long Heather asked, "Anyone there?"
"How does it feel against your back? Your belly?" he wrote.
Heather's hands trembled uncontrollably as she replied. "It feels like butterflies' wings. It turns me on." She cleared her throat, and swallowed.
"I wish I could see you in it," hel wrote. "I wish I could run my hands over it, touch you in all the places I haven't asked about. But I'm so turned on already, if I don't stop now, I'll be hurting for a while." He paused, then continued. "I really want to meet you, Angel. I want to look into your eyes, I want to hear your voice." He paused again, as though he were thinking, then finally wrote, "I want to hold you in my arms and kiss you and see where that leads."
Heather felt herself go wet, swamped with a sudden urgent need to have this man whom she knew yet who was a stranger. How could she have fallen in love with a man she'd never seen? If they were to meet tomorrow, they would not recognize each other. She felt desperate with the desire to know him.
"You can hear my voice," she wrote, making her decision. "We can talk to each other on the phone." She added her number to the message before hitting the send button, then waited for his reply.
The number appeared on the screen before her, and Heather felt as though she had suddenly walked off the edge of the world. Oh God, it was Cal! How could she have fallen in love again with the man she had left four years earlier? How could she want to feel his mouth on hers, his hands on her? How could this warm, sensitive man, this angel in disguise, be the same man she had married all those years ago? How could she face the man she had left without a backward glance, the man who had let her trample all over his heart? And what was she to do now?
She could not respond, and she sat there, panic making her shake with fear. The phone rang. She picked it up automatically then looked down at the caller ID and saw that it was him. She put the phone gently back on the cradle, and switched on the answering machine. Tears filled her eyes as she let the phone ring and let the machine pick up. She was suddenly happy that the voice on the machine was store-bought and not hers. She prayed that he would stop calling, and after an hour, he did.
She cried herself to sleep.
Heather watched the sunset through the small kitchen window, and sighed heavily. It had been two days since she had heard Cal's voice on her answering machine, two days since she'd stopped answering her phone, two days since she'd discovered that she was in love with her ex-husband. It had been the two worst days of her life. She wanted so desperately to answer Cal's call, to hear his voice and listen to the words of love he had been telling her online for all these months. But she was equally as afraid that what she thought about him was all an illusion, brought on by her loneliness and his distance and inaccessibility. And she knew how deeply she had hurt him, and how angry he had been when she had left him. How would he respond when he found out who she was? She had to make sure he never discovered her true identity, even though it would break her heart.
She finished washing the dishes and putting them to drain in the dish rack, and after swabbing down the counters, she dried her hands on the dishtowel hanging on the handle of the oven door. The telephone rang and she jumped. Oh please let it not be him, she prayed silently as she went to look at the caller ID. It was Cal, as she suspected, and she let the machine pick up the call. Only this time, he did not leave a message. He spoke to her, as though he could see her.
"Hey, it's me. I know you're there. I wish I knew why you won't talk to me." He paused, and sighed. "I wish I knew what I had done to make you afraid of me. I won't hurt you, you know, Angel." Heather listened to him call her by her online name and her heart was wrenched. "Please, honey, if you're there, just pick up. You don't have to say anything. Just pick up. Please!"
Heather stood as if spellbound, and listened to him breathing on her answering machine. Then she reached a tentative hand for the receiver and when she picked it up, she heard his heartfelt sigh of relief.
"Baby, I think you know we're meant to be together. We clicked from the very beginning. I want to get to know you for real, and not just as my online friend. I want to flirt with you face to face, listen to you laugh out loud, see you smile, wink back at you, hug you, love you."
His voice was low, and husky, and Heather heard his words through a haze of desire. His voice brought back all the thrill of their first two years together as husband and wife, all the joy, all the lust. Her hand trembled, and she sat down suddenly.
He was talking again. "I'm really quite addicted to you. The thought of us together, the thought of making love to you, watching your eyes roll back in your head, blows my mind. I know how much we could please each other, because we've been so open about our fantasies and desire."
She heard him sigh.
"Just talking to you now and listening to you catch your breath arouses me. And I know it's about so much more than sex, babe. I know we both want to fulfill missed needs, but we've talked about so much, and it's a turn on for me to know that no matter what the subject, we click. Right now, although you aren't speaking, the thought of hugging you is tying me up in knots. I want to show you that I will never hurt you, and that I will always feel this way about you."
What in the world was she to do? She wanted to talk to him, to tell him how she felt, but she knew when he heard her voice he'd be angry. And she could not bear his anger, not after almost a year of flirting and friendship, of talking and laughing, of sharing and crying, and finally, of discovering love.
Heather heaved a heavy sigh, and Cal said immediately, "Say hello, babe!"
She made up her mind in that instant. She would risk it all to have the Cal she had discovered when she hadn't been looking for him. Let him be the one to leave this time. She was done running.
"Hello, babe!" she said, a tremulous smile in her voice. She listened to the silence lengthen for what seemed like eons, before Cal replied.
"Angel? Is that you?" His voice mirrored his uncertainty.
"Yes, it's me. It's your Angel!" A breath, a swallow, and then she added, "Sorry for not taking your calls before. I was afraid."
"You sound an awful lot like someone else I knew in another life," he said, after another heart-stopping pause.
"Someone you knew?" Heather echoed. "Is she dead?" Her heart hurt her to say the words.
She heard him swallow. "To me she is," he said. He sighed. "Let's just say we didn't part friends."
"And you're still mad at her?"
Cal laughed, a short harsh sound. "I've never been mad at her. She hurt me, though," he answered. "Angel? Is that your name? Your real name?"
Heather the lump that was her heart rising in her throat. "No, it's a nickname. Someone I loved gave it to me a long time ago."
"Someone you loved?" he echoed. "A man?" His voice was so low by now that Heather had to strain to hear him.
"Yes, my ex-husband."
"Oh God!" The exclamation seemed to come from somewhere deep inside him. "Heather? Oh my God, Heather, is that you?"
The moment of truth. "Cal, I know you must be upset..." she began, and he stopped her..
"You don't know what I'm feeling, Ang...Angel!" he exclaimed. Heather noted the hesitation, and felt a quiet happiness that he said it anyway. "You can't know!" Another harsh laugh punctuated his words. "I can't believe this! I've been wooing my ex-wife for a whole year!"
Heather waited. It was the hardest thing she had ever had to do I all her life. She wanted to explain, to ask for forgiveness, to beg him not to take his love away from her. But they had talked about trust once. It had been a long conversation, over five hours on a Friday night. Before she had finally gone to bed at six on Saturday morning, exhausted but exhilarated, she had promised him that she would believe in him, that she would trust him. She would trust him now not to hurt her, or their newfound love. And so she waited.
"I don't know what to say!" He sounded bewildered.
"Do you feel any differently about me now that you know who I am?' Heather asked him.
"I don't know what I feel, An...Heather!" The change of name did not escape her, and Heather felt her heart lurch in her chest.