Lost and Found Ch. 01byPen_dar©
Author's Note: This story is not meant for those wanting a quick erotic read. It is long. It is a love story. It is a tragedy. Love it, or hate it, but either way I hope you enjoy the journey. I know the journey has been eye-opening for me as the story evolved into what it is.
I froze in mid-step. My pulse crashed in my ears as I hovered in time, caught by the question that paralyzed me: Could it be her?
During the first year after she left, I had seen her face everywhere even though I knew it was impossible, with her on the other side of the country. But after four years without her, I had rid myself of the phantoms I used to see. I had finally put her memories aside and decided that life was still worth living. At least I thought I had.
The figure turned slightly and tossed her head back in laughter, and I caught sight of the dimples that had always melted my heart; the same heart that was now ripping apart at the seams. I agonized momentarily over my next action. Part of me wanted to run to her, throw my arms around her, and tell her how much I'd missed her. The more rational side of me wanted to run away before she spotted me. I finally decided upon the less painful option and turned to leave the park.
"Rachel?" Oh, God, she saw me. Maybe I can pretend I didn't hear her. "Hey, Rach! Wait up!" I took a deep breath to steady the shaking in my limbs and turned around to face the one person I thought I'd never see again.
She was jogging up to me with a look on her face that was too easy to read. But then, it had always been easy for me to read her emotions -- like second nature right from the beginning. It took me all of a second to tell even through the smile on her face that she was just as torn about this chance meeting as I. She stopped in front of me and looked me over for a moment before speaking.
"Running away?" She smiled knowingly. I couldn't help but smile softly back.
"Well, it seemed like the safest thing to do," I replied. She chuckled quietly and shook her head, as if she were almost surprised that she still knew me so well. I took another deep breath that ended in an involuntary sigh. "Hi," I greeted her simply.
"Hi," she returned. We stared at each other for a few moments without saying anything. I struggled through the rush of emotions and confusion in my mind to think of something I could safely verbalize. Somewhere in the back of my mind I marveled vaguely that there was no awkwardness between us, even as we stood there in silence after four years apart. The complete vulnerability that we had always shared had snapped back into place so quickly it made my head spin. Not that it matters. Don't get any ideas, Rachel. Nothing has changed. "How are you," she asked quietly. The question ran so much deeper than the actual words.
"I'm...okay," I answered honestly. "You?"
She smiled again, flashing her dimples briefly. "I'm okay too." Again I wondered at how much we communicated without words. It would be so easy to slip back into that comfortable place and enjoy the emotional intimacy that I had only ever found with her, but I knew to do so would only cause me pain in the end. I struggled to quickly throw up some kind of defense around my heart, but I found myself laughing instead as I realized she was doing the same thing -- I could see it in her face.
"Oh my God, this is insane," I summarized, and she laughed with me for a moment, nodding in agreement. I ran my hand through my hair, and decided that struggling was futile. "What are you doing here, Amber? Aren't you living in California?"
"Yeah," she answered, "I'm still living there. I'm here for a few weeks visiting family. I brought Jeremiah," she motioned over toward the merry-go-round where a young boy was running around enthusiastically. I felt my eyes get wide at the sight of the eight-year-old child that had still been a toddler when I'd last seen him.
"Wow, he's so big," I exclaimed, a pang in my heart. Even though Jeremiah was Amber's son, I had loved him almost as if he were my own for nearly two years of my life. I immediately wanted to scoop him up into my arms and hold him, but his attachment to me was part of the reason she'd left anyhow. I stared longingly at the child who had called me Aunt Rachie just a few years ago and wondered if he'd remember me.
"He still asks me if he's going to get to see you every time we visit Ohio," Amber stated softly. Of course she'd answer my unspoken question. Oh, my heart was going to ache for days after all this! I knew it. But I figured the damage had already been done, and I might as well indulge myself a little.
"What do you tell him," I inquired timidly.
Amber sighed softly before answering, "I just tell him not this time and pray we don't run into you anywhere."
I grinned at my old soul mate playfully. "Didn't work this time, eh?" She grinned back at me and shrugged her shoulders in response. "Well Amber, you didn't have to call me over, you know. I was just going to quietly slip away. Why didn't you just let me go?"
"I don't know," she frowned. As my eyes searched hers, however, I found the answer written there: the desire, no, the need to be with me, no matter how brief the length of time, was too much to resist. All the resolve of the last four years was melting away with that needy look in her eyes. I almost choked on the lump forming in my throat. My fingers itched to touch her, and I searched desperately for a reason to. Finally I spotted a wayward strand of hair dangling over her brow. I reached out one hand and gently brushed it back with my fingertips.
"I like how you do your hair now," I nearly whispered, my words thick. My fingers came to rest on her soft cheek. Her wide gaze slowly traveled down to my lips, where it hovered momentarily before returning to my eyes. Yes, I needed to feel her lips against mine just one last time, to feel them fill me up with that inner peace and fulfillment that I felt only when kissing the woman I still loved with all of my heart and soul. I leaned toward Amber slightly and felt her tremble with anticipation, her breath erratic.
"OUCH!!" The yell from the playground halted my actions. My hand dropped to my side as Amber raced over to her son, who was now yelling about a bee that had stung him. My first instinct was to hurry over to help, but I was afraid of what it would mean for Amber if Jeremiah recognized me and mentioned it to his father later. Instead I stood there and half-watched as she removed the stinger from Jeremiah's arm, then bandaged the wound, explaining to him that the bee was protecting itself and its home. As always, I admired her and how she handled her child. She had once told me she wanted to be the kind of mother she wished she could have had. Even now, four years later, she was still just as patient and brilliant with Jeremiah as she ever was.
A few minutes later, when Jeremiah went back to playing and Amber walked back toward me, I relayed my thoughts about her mothering skills. "Well," she responded, smiling, "it's not always easy but I do my best." Her smile faded and she looked at me sadly. "Matt is a good father, but he's been so controlling over us. This is the first time he has let me come home without him since we moved." I nodded solemnly.
"Is he still angry with you for everything," I asked.
"Sort of. It took him almost a year to be able to touch me after that." I felt a shade of jealousy touch me at the thought of Amber being intimate with her husband. Ironic? Perhaps, but it was what it was. I felt a question arising to my lips that I was almost afraid to ask.
"Are you happy?" Amber fidgeted uncomfortably while she pondered my question.
"Jeremiah is doing great, and he's happy to be with both his mother and his father. That makes me happy." I nodded. I didn't need to hear more to complete the situation in my head. As always with Amber, what was left unsaid was just as understood as what was spoken. I felt a deep ache in my chest. Amber may have been thinking of what was best for her son, but doing so put her in a life of isolation and loneliness. There was no one in California that understood her like I did. And no one ever would. Apart, we were both destined to always be two broken halves of a whole.
I gazed sadly at my old lover, wishing desperately for the thousandth time that there were some way to repair this broken situation. I thought of the last four years of hardening my heart against the pain of losing my best friend and soul mate, and realized that all the barriers I had constructed had crumbled in the last fifteen minutes. The pain and tears that would follow this conversation would be unbearable. That thought alone caused my eyes to prick, and I decided to take my leave then instead of dragging out the torture. "I need to get going. I promised a friend I would meet her for lunch today and I'm running late," I lied. "I hope you enjoy your weeks home, Amber." I turned to bolt.
"Wait! Rach! I was wondering..." She paused as I faced her again. "Umm," she hesitated. "Listen, if you aren't too busy, do you want to get dinner later? Jeremiah is staying with his cousin for the night, and I don't really have anything to do, so..." Her sentence trailed off as I contemplated her request. I knew in my mind that seeing Amber again was the set-up for a disaster. The question now was whether I was willing to risk overwhelming amounts of heartache for both myself and Amber in order to spend a little more time with her. Thanks for the dilemma, Love.
Except there really was no dilemma. Any opportunity to spend time with Amber was not something I could pass up. Like an addict, the temptation to have my fix proved stronger than my own will.
"Five-thirty at the usual place?" She smiled softly.
"I'll be there."
When I was introduced to Amber those years ago, I knew almost immediately that something special was about to happen. We met when I was hired in to the small-town hospital where I still worked as an IV therapist. My boss was leading me around the building, showing me the supply rooms and introducing me to the staff. I was bubbling with excitement over my first "career" job, and I was eager to befriend the people I would be working with.
As we rounded the front of the building, my boss began introducing me to the receptionists. When I shook hands with the bubbly "Amber Roberts," I noticed several things about her: She was pretty, with shoulder length brown hair, blue eyes, and an adorable smile that was infectious. But the thing that caught my attention was that the smile, warming as it was, didn't quite reach her eyes. I was immediately intrigued, because I recognized the similarities between us. Like me, she was hiding from the world behind a smile, and I felt an instant connection because of that. Later that day, when I took my lunch break, I was reading a novel in the break room when she walked up to my table.
"Mind if I sit here," she asked politely. She joined me and we spent the next twenty minutes talking. Right from the start, talking came so easy. I found her to be charming and sweet, one of the nicest people I think I had ever met. During the weeks that followed we ate lunch together almost every day, laughing and joking most of the time. Gradually I began to see smiles that actually reached her eyes.
One day she walked into the break room, sat down with me, and greeted me like normal, but something was different. I don't know how I could tell, but something was really bothering her that day. "Amber," I questioned hesitantly, "are you okay?" She froze momentarily behind the smile that was wavering slightly on her face.
"Yeah I'm fine," she replied after a beat. Lying. In my experience when a person lied about being upset, they either really want to be left alone, or they secretly want to be drawn out of their shell. If she wanted to be left alone, questioning further would make her angry and distrustful of me; however, if she wanted to be drawn out, dropping the subject would make her feel like I didn't care. For some reason, I just knew this girl needed some prodding to open up.
"You don't look fine. You look like you're hurting," I stated quietly. At that her eyes began to well up with tears. She shook her head and fixed the smile back onto her face.
"Some days are just harder than others, that's all."
I gazed at her and tried to see beyond that smile into her eyes, but she dropped her gaze to her food and refused to look at me. I understood perfectly: she wanted to open up to me, but she had a hard time trusting people. We were a lot more alike than she knew, and I made it my goal to earn her trust. I smiled and stated, "Well I recognize a dodge when I see one. But just so you know, if you want someone to talk to, I'm here." After that declaration I promptly changed the subject, and by the end of that lunch I had her smiling for real again. But as we parted ways, she looked at me in a way that was surprisingly candid for the first time. She looked into my eyes for a few moments curiously, perhaps looking for something there.
Finally, she spoke. "Thanks." I heard so much in that one word: thanks for caring, for being there, for making me smile, for knowing when to drop it, for making me feel better. I smiled gently at her and replied to all of it, spoken and unspoken.
It was only about a month later that we decided to go dancing at a local club after work. Her baby boy was staying the weekend at his grandma's house and I thought it would be fun for her to relax and have some fun for once. That night we dressed up and partied late into the night, consuming enough alcohol that driving was impossible for either of us. Since her apartment was within walking distance, she offered to let me spend the night. After changing into some borrowed pajamas, with some drunken difficulty I might add, we settled down into her bed for the night.
"I should warn you," I slurred as we made ourselves comfortable, "I have a cuddling problem." She giggled at that.
"What do you mean?"
"Well ever since I was little, every time I sleep in the same bed as someone else I gravitate over to their side of the bed." I giggled a little myself. "I really can't help it, but I will try my hardest not to. I just figured you should know what you're getting into sleeping next to me."
She giggled loudly for a few seconds before responding. "That is awesome! I love to cuddle!"
To this day I don't know if it was the booze or just the natural comfort we had together, but we found ourselves cuddling together within minutes of my confession. Not just any cuddling either, but almost intimate cuddling. Face-to-face, nose-to-nose, wrapped up in each other's arms and legs; I had never been that close to anyone I hadn't just had sex with, and I sure as hell had never been that close to a woman before. Still, it felt so natural and comfortable that there was no awkwardness between us.
We began to talk about everything and nothing, and hours passed as we shared our life's stories with each other. She told me about her childhood and her family, explaining how it came to be that she shut out most people from knowing the true person inside. She explained how her husband of three years had a warrant out for his arrest for drug peddling and had fled to California to escape prison, leaving her alone with their two-year-old son. I talked about growing up in a broken home and my own trust issues. We both discussed how frightening and exhilarating it was to connect so naturally with each other, as if we'd known each other our whole lives.
When we finally drifted off to sleep, her fingers were still tangled in my hair, her forehead was still pressed against mine, and my arm was still wrapped around her middle, holding her close to me.
Time was not moving fast enough for my liking. I had finished all the errands that I had planned for my day off and it was still only 1:30 in the afternoon. Too soon to start getting ready for my dinner with Amber later, I decided to take a pre-shower bath just to help myself relax. After pouring a generous amount of bubble bath into the steamy water, I slipped into the tub and tried to calm my jittery nerves. My thoughts kept hounding me, however, and I found it difficult to sit still. I grabbed my shaving cream and razor and began to meticulously remove every strand of hair from my legs. As I shaved my upper thighs I wondered briefly if I should finish my hair removal ritual and shave between my legs as well. Might as well, I decided, just in case.
In case? In case of what? I felt a slight amount of panic creep into my core, but it was quickly consumed by the sudden onslaught of desire and need that overcame me. I knew that I shouldn't hope for Amber to stay with me tonight, that I shouldn't hope that after four years of running from me, she would give in. I knew it, but I couldn't stop myself. My fingers yearned to feel her smooth skin, my lips starving to feel her warmth, my pussy aching for the release of her touch. As I finished shaving, I let my mind wander back through time.
I would never forget the night that everything changed between Amber and I.
After the night where we first cuddled and opened up to each other, Amber and I began to spend a lot of time together outside of work. It wasn't long before we were calling each other our "best friend" and spending two or three nights a week together. We always slept in the same bed on these nights, and we would always fall asleep and wake up in each other's arms. I think we both understood that to anyone else it would seem unusual, but to us it was just second nature. There was nothing perverse or sexual about our cuddling; it was always just a physical expression of the emotional intimacy we felt.
Like everything else about our relationship, the transformation happened so naturally it was hard to tell when and where the change began. It was on a night like countless others; I was snuggled up next to Amber, my fingers tracing lazy circles in her hair, her nose gently touching mine. I was on the verge of slumber when she moved her head slightly, brushing her lips against mine in the process. In my half-consciousness, I puckered my lips and kissed her lightly without thinking about what I was doing. I might have drifted off into sleep right then if it hadn't suddenly dawned on me that she had kissed me back.
My eyes flew open to find her staring at me, a look of startled confusion on her face. Unsure of what to say, I uttered the first word that came to my mind, "Oops."
"Sorry," she said at the same time.
"Wait, what are you sorry for," I asked, confused. "I'm the one that did it."
"No," she replied, "I did it...didn't I?" We both fell into silence, suddenly very unsure of what had just happened.
"I guess...we both did it," I questioned tentatively. She stared at me for a few moments.
"Well, what's wrong with that? I mean, we're friends and we're close. Uh, it's only natural to want to express our, um, affection, right?" Her attempt to rationalize our kiss made me smile, mostly because I was searching desperately for an explanation too. My smile broke the slight tension and we both started laughing.
"Right," I said. "There's nothing wrong with a friendly kiss, although I doubt anyone else would agree with that one, Amber." I rolled my eyes teasingly.
"Well, we were both half-asleep. It just...happened," she theorized. I frowned for a moment. I might have agreed with her were it not for the thought being whispered in the back of my mind. Kiss her again. "What," she inquired, noticing the look on my face. I looked into her eyes and wondered if I dared to say what I was thinking. I gathered my courage and spoke.
"Amber," I began, "I...Can I kiss you? Like, awake this time?" By the time I finished my request I was almost speaking at a whisper. For the first time in a long time, I couldn't read the expression on Amber's face. I waited for some kind of rejection that I was sure was coming. But then she moved the hand that was resting on my side up to my cheek and brushed her fingers lightly against it.