Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Thanks to Richard for the edit.
When I woke up the first thing on my mind was Reed and the way he'd looked while I was kissing him. I rolled over to lie on my back, spreading my arms out over my head and smiled at the ceiling. There was something about Reed that made me feel, for lack of a better word, good.
I'd been so scared to talking to him, but after the first word, it came easily. His smile was so inviting, and his expressive eyes gave away almost everything he'd been feeling. God, please don't let this be a dream.
I had this urge to jump in completely with him, throw all barriers I had into the wind and let him have everything I had. It was scary, but it was great. After a year of being positive that there wasn't another man for me in the entire world and fated to live alone, he came up out of nowhere and proved me wrong in an instant. I sat up and shook me head. Don't start planning the honeymoon yet Buddy; you don't even know him that well. I smiled, laughing at myself.
"Rhonda do we have orange juice?" I called down the stairs as I got ready for the day.
"How the hell should I know?" she yelled back.
I stopped in the bathroom to wash my hands and face, and then ran my wet fingers through my hair. It was getting kind of long; I didn't know what else to do with it.
"Hello John," the gas station was the first place I went after leaving the house. I needed to know what had happened last night. I was pretty sure that it had been a plan, like Reed had asked, but I needed to know why. I was also slightly offended on Reed's behalf for being stood up.
"What's up?" John said and placed a pack of cigarettes on the counter. I smiled and picked them up before pulling out my wallet. He knew me too well.
"Why don't you just tell me what's up?" I said still holding my smile, even thought I wanted to yell at him.
"You can't be mad at us; you guys had fun last night, right?" Us? Fucking Rhonda and Mac. "Look Camble, we didn't do it to be cruel; we want you to be happy. You didn't seem to be gaining much ground on your own with him so we just gave it a nudge. Don't be mad." John took the wallet from my hands, pulled a few dollars out, and handed it back. "You better get to work now." I nodded and left. I love my family.
My shift at work seemed to take forever; probably because I wanted to get out of there badly. But, really? Did time have to go that slow? Finally it ended at eight o'clock and I headed right over to the bar. I slowed my pace once it came into view and my heart started to race. What if he didn't mean it? About wanting to see me tonight. What if he'd just said that to be nice? It wouldn't be the first time that a guy had done that. I shook my head and continued forward. Camble wasn't Tim, or Seth, or anyone else for that matter, and I couldn't live me life thinking everything was going to end up badly. I deserved more, right? Right.
When I got to the bar, Camble was busy with other customers so I sat and waited. I lit a cigarette, having remembered my lighter this time, and took a long drag. I watched the low lights play over the different colored glass bottles, trying to keep my mind off a possible blow off from him. There was a mirror hanging behind the cabinet enclosed with liquor. I could see myself in it; I smiled and lowered my head. Maybe I should have gone home and cleaned up first, my hair was a mess.
"Hey baby," Camble said as he placed a mug of house beer in front of me.
"Hi," I cooed, feeling tingly all over, and somewhat stupid for the near freak out earlier.
"Do you have plans for tonight?" he asked hopefully.
"You tell me."
"Yes, you are going to the movies with me, okay?"
I laughed and nodded. Demanding I go with him then asking if it's okay? Classic. Yeah, I was totally falling for this guy.
"What did you want to see?" I took a quick sip of beer before looking around, trying to judge if he was going to be able to leave soon or not.
"I don't know, whatever is on when we get there I guess." He leaned over the bar and took a drag from my cigarette while it was still between my fingers. "There has to be something good," he said shrugging.
I smiled at him. Something about this conversation seemed more intimate then last night. It was like we were already a couple who'd been together for years, instead of a day. If one counted us as being together already. He called me baby; that made us a couple, at least in my mind.
"Hey Cam, get this table before you head out," Mac called to him from the other side of the bar. Camble smiled at me before doing as he was told.
"How you doing, Reed?" Mac asked, taking the place where Camble had just stood.
"I'm doing very well actually; you?" I said, hurrying to finish my beer, seeing as how Camble was getting off soon.
"Can't complain. You take good care of my boy, alright?" his voice was hushed slightly. I didn't get a chance to answer him before he moved to help another customer.
"I didn't know that Mac was your father," I said, once Camble and I made it out of the bar. It had never occurred to me that the "good-for-nothing" kid he'd spoken of before was Camble.
"He isn't; old football couch, he took me in a while ago. I see him as my father though, he's done better by me then my real father," he smiled at me then took my hand in his and kissed my palm. "You work at the bookstore right?" I nodded, putting what he'd just said about his father in the back of my mind to ask about later.
"How did you know?" He lifted his hand to my chest and pointed to my name tag. Yes, I really should have gone home and cleaned up first.
"Do you like it there?"
"Yeah it's okay. Sometimes I feel like I'm going to pull my hair out dealing with customers on the phone, though. At my last job, all I ever did was answer the phone. I was hoping I would get away from it, but it's following me around."
Camble laughed and threw his arm around my shoulders, pulling me close. "I'm sorry baby, but work is work."
I nodded, sighing dramatically. We came up to the small theater, converted from an old gym, and he motioned me ahead. "Go on; pick out whatever you want to see."
"Reed? Are you asleep?" He didn't answer, so I took that as a yes. He was snuggled close to me, leg thrown over mine, arms pulled up close to his face in fists, breathing softly. He was beautiful.
"Where did you come from?"
In the last two weeks he'd wormed his way so far into my heart; so far I never thought it possible. Memories of Rick and the ten years we spent together were fading, and in their place was Reed: his smile, his laugh, his voice, the way he moved, the way he gave everything of himself so freely to me. He was honest and bright, kind and generous. I don't know what I did that made me so great in his eyes, but I was glad he saw something in me that made him like me so much. I should thank John and the others one of these days.
"Sleep well baby," I said and kissed his forehead, smiling when he snuggled closer.
Wes came up for the weekend, said he wanted to make sure that Camble was truly worthy of me, even though he'd met him years before.
"Okay, where's your lover boy?" Wes asked the moment he put his car into park.
"He's at work," I said and grabbed his overnight bag, leaving his camera bag for him to bring in.
"It's Saturday," Wes whined.
"Yes, well, some of us work weekends. He'll be here around 8:30 or so," I said trying not to let Wes know how much I wanted to see Camble, too.
We'd only been seeing each other for two weeks, but that little bit of time had made me so happy. I thought about Camble all the time; dreamed about him. I would be in the middle of a conversation or at the supper market, when I would remember something he had done; mostly about the way he'd look at me. I was giddy, an emotion I hadn't felt since childhood.
Last night was the first night he had slept over. Well, technically he'd slept over before, but never in my bed. I'd always asked if he minded staying in another room or on the couch, because I didn't know how I'd deal with him being that close. I'd slept in the same bed with other men, but I hadn't been as attracted to them as I was to Camble. He promised he wouldn't try anything; the main reason why I was okay with it. Not that he kept his word, but it was sweet that he'd said it. After almost an hour of making out and groping he had curled up close to me, pulled my face to his chest, buried his head into my hair and breathed deeply.
"Sleep baby, I'll be here when you wake up," he had said, while stroking my hair until I did fall into sleep.
"Well, he'd better hurry up; you bore me," Wes yelled from the kitchen.
"I love you too, asshole," I yelled back. I put his bag in the guest room and made my way back down the stairs.
"Is this a new beer?" Wes asked when I walked into the kitchen. I'd been drinking the same brand since I was fifteen, which happened to be the same brand Wes drank. Big guess on who got me hooked to it, huh?
"Yeah, it's the bar's house beer. Camble brought me a case of it, I like it better," I said, smiling.
"It's smooth, that's for sure." He took another large shallow. "I like it too."
"Good, Mall Rats is coming on soon, want to watch it?"
"Always." Wes and I had always been into Kevin Smith movies, Mall Rats was just our favorite. We were still watching it when Camble showed up. He always gave two rapid knocks before opening the door, when he knew I was going to be there.
"Ah, the man of the hour," Wes said, standing to shake Camble's hand.
Camble then moved and kissed my forehead. "Hello baby."
"Hi," I cooed, and snuggled deeper into the couch happily.
"Camble, if I may?" Wes nodded his head toward the rarely used study. Wes had never really become too friendly with my boyfriend's before. Maybe he felt, as much as I did, that there was something much different about this relationship compared to all my others.
With that they moved into the room and shut the door. I felt kind of left out, even if they were going in there to talk about me. If Camble was going to be in my life, though, it was probably a good thing that he had a relationship with my brother. Twenty minutes later they still hadn't returned from the study. I must have been dozing because, when Camble's cellphone started to vibrate, it startled me awake. I hadn't noticed when he set it on the coffee table but that's where it sat, beeping away.
I picked it up, thinking if it wasn't anyone important I'd just tell him later, but the caller ID read Mac's home phone. Thinking for a second against it, I got up and started for the study door. It was standing ajar about half an inch. If you don't close the doors in the house hard enough they tend to slide open. I moved to open it, when something they were saying caught my attention.
"So you haven't told him yet?" Wes asked.
"No, I think it'll freak him out. Wouldn't it freak you out?" Camble asked back.
"I don't know. I honestly have no idea how he is going to react."
"I know; that's why I'm kind of scared to tell him. Maybe I should wait a little longer."
"No, you have to tell him now; he's going to feel like you've been keeping it from him. Which, by the way, you have been. You should have told him in the beginning, jackass." Wes didn't usually talk to people like that, beside me I mean.
"Wes, please, this is hard. I don't want to scare him off. And most people consider two weeks `the beginning' still, just so you know."
"Face up to it, you're a fucking pussy." Wes never talked to people like that, except me, I mean.
I stepped back for a second, knowing that I shouldn't be hearing what I'm hearing. When Camble was ready to tell me whatever it was then he would. But I was dieing to know. I moved closer, then back again. This is the kind of thing people break up with other people for; listening in on conversations, and bugging phones, and private investigators. Okay; I was getting carried away.
"I mean, seriously; what do I say? `Reed, baby, just thought you should know; my last boyfriend was not only ten years older then me but he beat me almost to death more then once'? I don't think so," Camble said, his voice had risen in volume, making it easier for me to hear from the three steps back I'd taken while the battle was going on in my head.
I couldn't help it; I let out a gasp, a pretty loud one. I heard them both stand, but it took a few seconds before Wes fully opened the door. He gave me a disappointed look.
"Um, your phone went off, I think it was Rhonda, just thought you would want to know," I said handing it to Camble. I couldn't bring myself to look at his face. I knew I'd messed up, invading his privacy like that, even though I'd tried not to.
"Reed," Camble started but I turned and ran up the stairs, locking myself in my room. I threw myself against the door and sank to the floor, completely upset. I put my hands up to my ears and shut my eyes tight, trying to block out everything that was about to go wrong. My mind going a million miles a minute. I didn't want to move again. I hate packing. Would it take long? Would Wes help? Wes hates me. I need to learn to drive. Camble.
Camble York. I suck. I suddenly became aware of someone banging at my bedroom door. I could hear Camble on the other side.
"Please baby, just let me explain; just let me explain it to you,"
He sounded close to tears. Explain what? What he had said to Wes? What I'd heard, about his old boyfriend, finally clicked in my head. Camble was out there, obviously upset because he thought I was upset about him not telling me about his old boyfriend. And I was in here, scared that he was going to leave me because I'd heard it. We are truly an odd pair.
I jumped up, unlocked the door, and swung it open. Camble stood there, looking like a hurt child. I pulled him into my arms, burrowing my face into the side of his neck.
"Camble, I'm so sorry," I said, just happy that he still wanted to talk to me. "I didn't eavesdrop on purpose."
"No, you don't have to be sorry." He put his arms around my waist. I shook my head. We stood in the hall way like that, holding each other. I chanced a look up at him, and he was smiling, making me giggle. Now I really felt stupid.
Finally I pulled him into my room, shutting the door, and then moved us to the bed. We sat facing each other, legs crossed, in the middle of the bed. Camble wiped his hands down his face; his smile was gone, signaling to me that it was time to get serious. His hands fell into his lap and he stared at then until he was ready to talk, then he looked right into my eyes.
"Camble," I said, before he could start, "you don't have to tell me anything you aren't ready for. I want to be with you, no matter what happened in the past. I like you, a lot. When, or if, you are ready, I'll be here." I hoped that would make him feel better, or more at ease, or more confident in us.
"I don't know when I'll be ready to talk about this," he said slowly.
"That's okay, there are things I'm not ready to tell you," mostly because I don't want you to laugh at me, I thought. "But I will. And it isn't because I don't trust you, and I wouldn't think it's because you don't trust me, but it's hard, you know?" He nodded. "I'll be here when you are ready," I said again, just wanting to make sure he understood.
"My ex-boyfriend, my only boyfriend beside you, used to beat me," he said, and took hold of my hands. I waited for him to say more but he didn't.
"Okay," I said.
Camble looked up at me and his eyes were wet. Seeing him like that upset me more then what he'd said.
"I won't ever hit you," I said lamely. What exactly do you say in a situation like that?
Camble fell back on the bed, and pulled me next to him. I could feel him smiling against my cheek when he kissed me. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you before, I just didn't know how, I thought you would end up hating me, and I was so scared that you would leave," He said finally.
It was kind of hard for me, hearing Camble like this. He was always so strong and determined. He looked so defeated now, though. In the past, when guys had shown me their soft side, or their fears, I would get really freaked out. I'm so used to being taken care of; I'm the baby in my family; everyone had always treated me like I was fragile, and I guess I was. But now, with Camble's fears on display right in front of me, I wanted to make everything better. I wanted to take care of him, and hold him, and make sure nothing would ever hurt him again.
"I could never hate you," I got out finally. "You. I... you know?"
Camble was watching my face, his eye soft as always but full of understanding. I had only been with this man for two weeks, but I knew he understood everything I was trying to tell him, even if it didn't make as much sense coming out of my mouth as it did in my head. I looked into his deep blue eyes and smiled.
"I think I'm falling for you."
"Thank god," I heard from the door.
"Wes, you ass," Camble yelled. Wes burst through the door and jumped on the bed. I glared at him; mad that he'd looked so angry with me for eavesdropping, then gone and done it himself.
"I know you probably want to get all freaky now, but you can't. I checked the calendar and you still have like two months before that can happen."
"You really put it on the calendar?" Camble asked, laughing.
"Yeah, discreetly, I thought," I grumbled, and hugged Camble close to my body. I hoped that Camble's opening up to me today would mean we would have more trust in our relationship; that I would be able to tell him things too. It was scary to think about, but I hoped anyway.
"You love him don't you?"
"Rhonda," I started, but she cut me off. She was standing over me like I was her prey.
"Go pack you're bags, Buddy. I want you out of this house, and in his, by the end of the week," She said, and walked out of the room laughing. I jumped up and followed her.
"Rhonda, I can't just move in with him. I mean, aren't there steps to that sort of thing? Usually starting with talking about it?" I said, stopping on the porch as she continued to her garden.
"We are talking about it," she said, and waved me away.
"No not you and I we, Reed and I we," I said. She was doing this just to piss me off, and I knew it. But I also knew that she'd meant what she'd said. It wasn't that I thought she or Mac wanted me out of their house; I think she was mostly trying to rush me into things because that's how she worked.
"Don't be a baby. Lighten up and have fun."
"Okay, you know what? I'm a grown man, and I'll say what I do. You and Mac and John have had enough fun; now it's time to stop. I am not your play thing, and neither is Reed. He's mine, and I won't have you doing something that might hurt him. If and/or when I do move in with him, it'll be because we, he and I, want it, not because you tell me to," I huffed, and crossed my arms.
"Okay, dear," Rhonda said, and nodded. What? No cuss words? No belittlement?
"You're evil," I said, and walked back into the house.
"And you're finally a man," she called back, stopping me in my tracks. I turned around and looked out the door I had left open. Rhonda's back was to me, as though the conversation we'd just had hadn't really happened. Her old hands were piling dirt into a pile next to her bent knees on the ground. Her long, dyed, red hair was down, pulled into a low ponytail. I smiled and continued back through the house. Maybe I was a man, but maybe I had a lot of growing up to do still.
Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Melissa_anns_stories/ <- started it but not sure if I'm going to keep it up.
Thanks much to those of you who wrote me, it's awesome to hear from you guys, you rock.