There is a downside to dating a brilliant and beautiful older woman. There is very little that can be hidden from her, particularly when you are as bad at lying as I was. Hiding anything at all becomes utterly impossible when your best friend is her brother, and said best friend is an open book to his big sis. As the year hurtled towards Christmas, I found myself in the impossible position of trying to keep my past and the extent of the problems with my family from Mary. She had said nothing after I broke my arm, at least not at first. I think she assumed that I would tell her everything when I was ready. When I showed no signs of ever being ready, she took to asking obtuse questions in an attempt to nudge me into telling her. My response was to play dumb.
Tom had also never asked what had happened when my arm was broken. He wasn't pushing me or Brian for answers, but he was clearly concerned about me. He had suddenly become very protective of me, acting more like an overprotective older brother than my buddy. It was driving me crazy. He'd glower at folks when they rough-housed with me, grab my bag and carry it for me and he was constantly asking if I was okay. It was big brother crossed with boyfriend crossed with some horrid caricature of a mother. I half expected him to ask if my boo boo was okay. The other guys in our group had started to notice and were asking me why my boyfriend was being such a prick. One reason I hadn't shared any of that stuff with anyone was because I didn't want that kind of reaction. I just wanted things to go back to normal.
The whole situation was making Brian a little squirrelly. He wasn't used to hiding things from Mary or Tom. While I was now pretty well convinced that he wouldn't break my confidence, keeping my secrets was taking a toll on him. By Christmas break, Mary's patience was wearing thin, and I could hardly be near Tom the way he was behaving. Brian was being split three ways amongst his best friend, his oldest friend, and his sister. He didn't ask me to tell them, but he didn't need to. I started looking for the perfect time to tell them, which never came because I didn't want to have that conversation with anyone. I didn't want their pity, and I was terrified that one or both of them would bail out and tell the world. I knew my fear was irrational, neither of them would do something like that, but I couldn't shake the fear.
The situation came to a head the first weekend of Christmas break. Brian's parents were going out of town to see the latest grandchild Brian's oldest brother had just produced (his wasn't a family, it was a small nation). They had given Brian and Mary permission to have Tom and I stay with them for the weekend at the Walker's house. Tom and I went home with Brian and Mary on the last day of school. We planned to watch movies, go sledding, have a snowball fight, hang out, goof off, sleep late and have chocolate pancakes for breakfast at noon. In other words, have a lazy weekend together.
Things actually seemed fairly normal that first evening. We cooked dinner together and only had a small food fight, which we cleaned up. The four of us laughed and joked through dinner, then made popcorn and popped in the first of the movies Brian had selected. He had decided that we were doing a cheesy horror movie marathon that weekend and first up was the old classic Amityville-3D.
Brian and Tom immediately started making fun of the movie, and believe me, there was plenty to poke fun at. Within a few minutes I had concluded that Mary's neck was far more interesting than the horrible movie that was playing, so I ignored the movie and focused my attentions on my girlfriend. My silence didn't go unnoticed. Tom misinterpreted my silence and somehow concluded that I was genuinely frightened by the movie. How he could conclude this after having watched “Friday the 13th”, “Alien” and a horde of other much more intense movies with me was a mystery, but he did. He started offering to turn off the movie and put something else on. I thought he was joking at first, but when he kept asking me if I was okay, I started to get steamed. I ignored it, and ignored it, and ignored it and finally, I couldn't ignore it any more.
“Dude, what the hell is up with you? I'm not a four year old girl, so stop treating me like I'm gonna break if you look at me funny!”
I was yelling. I never yell, but I did then, and I felt guilty almost immediately. I knew this situation was at least as much my fault as his for not clearing the air with him sooner, but I was getting mighty tired of being treated like I was made of blown glass. Tom started to stutter out an apology. I don't think he'd have been more stunned if I'd decked him. Now I really felt like crap.
“Tom, I know you have figured out that I didn't just break my arm. My parents kinda suck, okay? I should have just told you then, but I really try to ignore them as much as possible. But dude, if I didn't have a breakdown over that, what makes you think I'm gonna flip out over this cheesy-ass movie?”
I was trying really hard to lighten the mood with that last bit. All three of them were looking at me like they half expected me to really flip out. Apparently I'm a little scary with I'm angry and none of them had ever seen me pissed off before.
On cue, one of the more stupid parts of the movie came on. The hapless inhabitants of the cursed house were being terrorized by a swarm of bees. This was long before Africanized bees had made the news, so a swarm of bees just didn't seem all that terrifying. Brian, being the giant goof that he was, couldn't help laughing at the idiots on the screen, which seemed to finally break the tension. His laughter was contagious, and soon we were all laughing like hyenas on the ground. The scene really wasn't that funny, but we all needed the release.
When we finally stopped laughing, Tom turned to me with a sheepish grin on his face. “Sorry,” he said.
“It's okay. I appreciate the thought, even if you were driving me crazy. If you'd pulled the protective boyfriend number much longer, Mary might have started to get jealous,” I said with a laugh while I dodged out of his reach. I wasn't fast enough, though, and Tom managed to smack me on the side of the head. I, of course, had to smack him back. One of these days I'll learn that I'm never going to win a wrestling match with someone twice my size.
Once Tom had me well and truly pinned, we all settled in to finish watching the movie. It had been playing along in the background the entire time. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that we hadn't missed any major plot items. I settled in with the people I cared about the most, and tried not to kick myself for not dealing with things earlier. I thought everything was settled, and it was with Tom.
It had been pretty much assumed that I would be spending the night in Mary's room with her. When the movie finished, Tom and Brian headed off to bed in Brian's room and Mary and I headed off to hers. She was more subdued than I had ever seen her.
We curled up on the bed together and slowly started to make out. When things started getting heavy and clothes were about to come off, I did my usual and excused myself to turn the lights off. That was the last straw for Mary. As I turned to walk towards the door and the light switch I felt a pillow hit the back of my head. I turned around thinking that Mary was joking, but one look at her face told me that she wasn't.
“Just keep on walking out that door, Sam Passerello,” she yelled at me. I was lost. Truly lost, and I guess my confusion must have shown on my face.
“You expect me to trust you in the most intimate way possible, trust you to be inside my body, but you don't even trust me enough to let me see you? Or do you find me so repulsive that you can't bear to see me?” Mary was on the verge of tears. She curled up into a ball and turned her back to me.
That stopped me dead in my tracks. She was absolutely correct. I was asking her to place the ultimate trust in me, to trust me with her body, with her heart, with her future should the unthinkable happen and she become pregnant, and I wasn't returning that trust. By not returning that trust I had made her question whether or not I even found her attractive. I loved her and I was hurting her. This had to stop. I steeled myself and walked back to where she was sitting curled in a ball on the bed. The sight of the tears streaming down her face eliminated any lingering doubts about whether or not I should tell her. I sat down next to her and tried to pull her close to me but she was having none of that, so I just started talking.
“You're right,” I said quietly. “I'm sorry. I was afraid of what you would think of me if you knew everything.” Mary started to interrupt me but I stopped her with a shake of my head. “Let me get through this, please. I've never deliberately told anyone all of this. Brian found out by accident. He caught me at a bad time. So, let me show you why I always want the lights off.”
With that I started to unbutton my shirt. I was more nervous than I cared to admit. Mary must have noticed how my hands were shaking because she reached out and grabbed my hand.
“Sam, you don't have to do this.”
I looked her in the eye and said, “Yeah, I do.
We had been together for more than a year. I don't know what made me think that I could hide from her forever, but I had kind of hoped that it was possible. I took a deep shaky breath to try and steady my nerves. I unbuttoned my shirt and pulled it off, then pulled off my undershirt. I sat in front of her feeling more exposed than I had ever been. Mary's eyes got wide as she took in the scars on my arms. She looked at me with the question written across her face, and I guess what she found on mine gave her the answer. The next thing I knew she was sitting in my lap with her arms wrapped around my neck.
“Oh, Sam. When? Why?”
And so I told her. Not the gruesome details, but more than I had ever told another soul. Somewhere in the middle of the telling, we moved so that we were lying together on the bed with her head resting on my chest. Over the course of that night she found and got the story behind most of the scars on my body. Then we started on hers. The stories behind hers were typically far more amusing than mine were. I'd always known she was a tom-boy, but I discovered just how much of one as she described the scars from the half-dozen or so times she had fallen out of trees, the scar from where she had ridden Tom's bike off the diving board into the swimming pool, the scar from when she had gone flying off the trampoline........ By the end of it we were laughing like crazy people, and I knew we would be okay.
“I'm sorry I didn't just tell you,” I whispered into her hair as I held her close to me.
“It's okay. I understand why now. No more secrets, though. Okay?” Mary pushed herself up to look at me with that final question. For someone so small, she was awfully formidable.
I nodded and leaned up to kiss her. Soon the kiss became more passionate. Making love to Mary had always been an earth-shattering experience for me. Knowing that she was giving herself to me in that way had always had a profound effect on me. This time was different though. I had just shared my most intimate secrets with her, and for the first time it felt like I was giving myself to her as much as she was giving herself to me. I had never felt so complete and right as the moment I entered her. The world disappeared as we moved together. I felt her reach her climax moments before I did, and the feeling of her shuddering beneath me sent me over the edge. We collapsed together in a tangle of limbs while we slowly returned to our senses. She moaned softly as I pulled out of her to take care of the condom. It was almost painful to leave her. The intensity of the connection we had experienced had left me raw, both physically and emotionally. I took care of the condom and pulled her close to me again. Mary was soon asleep, and I drifted off into the most restful slumber I could remember, listening to her quiet breathing.
I woke early in the morning with Mary sprawled over me. She was still sound asleep. I watched her sleep and marveled at how utterly perfect she was: long auburn hair, delicate features, flawless body. I had no clue what this perfect creature saw in me, but I knew I loved her to the very core of my being. I was thinking to myself how happy I was to no longer have any secrets between us when the little chorus of voices I'd been ignoring in their cell decided to chime in with an “almost”. Thoughts of Brian floated into my mind and no matter how I tried, I couldn't shake them.
I finally slipped out of bed and quietly got dressed. I slipped out of the bedroom and headed for the kitchen. I brewed some coffee and headed onto the back porch that opened off of the kitchen. I brushed snow off of one of the lawn chairs there and sat in the cold with my cup of coffee trying to clear my head. I kept trying to focus on Mary, but every time I did, thoughts of Brian would invade my mind. Mary and Brian's ancient golden retriever, Millie, had joined me on the porch. She hopped into my lap, where she certainly didn't fit, and stared at me. She was probably wondering what I was doing sitting in the snow. I absently ran my fingers through her fur while I tried to clear my head.
“What the hell is wrong with me, huh, Millie?”
“I thought I smelled coffee.” I nearly jumped out of my skin as Brian joined me on the porch. “So, skinny boy, any particular reason why you're freezing your ass off on my back porch at this unholy hour?”
Brian plopped in the snowy chair beside me, oblivious to the cold. He was in nothing but his boxers. My eyes started to meander across his chest when I stopped myself. I buried my face in Millie's fur and wrestled my brain back under control.
“Just couldn't sleep,” I said, not looking at him. “Man, aren't you freezing?”
We sat in silence for a while. I silently wrestled with my mind, and Brian...well, who knows what he was thinking. I was thanking the heavens for the cold and the large dog in my lap at that point. Finally, he broke the silence.
“So, did you work things out with Mary, or is that why you're sitting on the porch in the cold?”
“You knew she was still pissed at me didn't you?”
I reached over and punched his arm. “You bastard! You could have warned me!”
“You kidding?! Mary's scary when she's pissed.” We both laughed at that comment, then he got serious again. “So, did you work things out?”
“Yeah, I told her everything. We're good.”
“ 'Bout damn time!” he said with a laugh.
“Yeah, yeah. I'm sorry I put you through that.”
“Ya should be.” I looked over to see if he was really pissed at me, but he was grinning from ear to ear. “C'mon man, let's go inside and get some food.”
I followed him into the kitchen trying hard to ignore his body and clear all thoughts of him out of my mind. Soon we were cooking pancakes and joking, and I had managed to shove the little voices in my head back into their prison cell. A very groggy Tom was drawn to the kitchen by the smell of cooking food, and coffee. While he and Brian chowed down, I loaded up a tray and brought Mary breakfast in bed. She and I ate breakfast, cuddled and talked, while I ignored the unsettling thoughts about my best friend that were swirling in the back of my mind.