I sat back on the couch next to Vero. Cara was opposite us, looking at me over the foam of her latte. I played with the scarf around my neck, twisting the fringe between my fingers. The team was on the road and I was losing my mind.
“Wow, so Max,” Vero said. She looked torn.
Marc told her that Kris and Max had some kind of fight before the game, and he guessed correctly that something had finally happened. The guys hit the road the next day, and she called. I had brought Cara along – one more witness to my confession.
Vero shook her head. “If someone were going to do something, it would be Max.”
“I think I did it, V,” I said quietly. “We were fighting. Really fighting – yelling at each other! I haven’t been yelled at in years. We were so mad, and I think it surprised us both.”
“But he kissed you, Kay. Max made the first move,” Cara reminded me. “He is right to take some of the responsibility for this.”
“Responsibility, yes. But not the blame.”
I explained what happened when Kris came home. How he’d said he was angry but seemed mostly sad and disappointed. It was the disappointment that hurt most; knowing that I was lucky enough to have an amazing guy think the world of me, and I had ruined that.
“So you’re pretty much where you were before. Except now you know that Max is incredible in bed,” Vero said, then she smiled. “I think we all knew that would be true. I mean, hypothetically.” She blushed.
I had to laugh at that. Vero turned a genuine red, which set Cara off. Pretty soon we were all giggling. I felt better having told the girls, and that neither of them had thrown a drink in my face and stormed off. I seemed to be more upset with myself than anyone else was. Well, anyone but Kris.
“I think of that every time I see Max,” Cara admitted. “But honestly, Kris is super-extra-sexy too. He’s a little brooding, a little dark. I bet he’s full of surprises.”
My eyes rolled involuntarily. “Stop! Stop thinking about having sex with my two boyfriends!” Giggling commenced again.
“I am fully aware of how sexy Kris is. I think my favorite thing in the whole world is standing next to Kris while we brush our teeth. It’s so weird! It is the most subtle, intimate thing.” Cara sighed and leaned back in her chair. Vero looked off and smiled, like she was thinking of her favorite thing with Marc.
“Okay, not to be slutty, but could you sleep with Kris? See if you have the same spark that you clearly have with Max?” Cara tried.
“No,” Vero said immediately. She did not even look at me. “Kris would not take that lightly. And he would not be okay, afterward, if Kahlan did not choose him.” She turned to look at me. “I’m sorry, Kay. But you know this is true.”
I nodded. I had considered the same scandalous, horrible move myself during more than one moment of weakness. But Vero was right.
“And I already know that we would have that spark. When he kissed me… I know.”
Neither Kris nor Max called. They lost two games at Anaheim and Los Angeles. With no school or work, I stayed around the empty house. Most of the time I laid on the couch, thinking how easily this could become my new life – both of them, gone. Me left alone.
I knew Kris was upset with me. I hoped he wasn’t moping around a hotel, feeling a kick in the gut every time he saw Max. I knew Max was trying to give me space. I hoped he wasn’t sitting in his room, wishing he could undo what happened between us.
Mostly, I wished they would come home.
My heart jumped and my eyes flew open. Dark, I registered, and noise. I shook off sleep and looked around. My cell phone was ringing and lighting up on the nightstand. I fumbled to reach it. The clock said 3:21 AM.
“Hello?” I said, my pulse racing in that panicked way that alarm clocks cause. My brain immediately assumed something horrible had happened.
“Hi,” he whispered. Max.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Oui, cherie. I’m sorry, did I scare you?” He was still whispering. That meant he was in bed, in his room, and TK was sleeping.
I breathed out and flopped back onto the bed. “Just woke me up. Surprised, that’s all.”
“I’m sorry to wake you.” I heard him roll over. “I have been trying not to call you, not to text you, not to think about you. It’s been a hard few days.”
“Oh Max.” Tears were rising quickly.
“I miss you. I want to give you space, but I am selfish and I miss you.”
My voice was gummy with tears in my throat. “I miss you too.”
He chuckled softly. “Please, don’t cry. I will cry too. And if TK wakes up to find me crying, I will have to request a trade to somewhere far away.” I sniffled. “I’ve been thinking about not thinking about you. Knowing that I can’t call you… I hate it. So finally, I’m calling you.” I heard him roll over again.
“Kahlan, no matter what happens, please don't give up on me.”
Tears again, and no stopping them this time.
“If you want Kris, I will be happy for you. I will be beyond happy for him. I will stand up at your wedding, whatever you want. But I need to be able to call you, see you, talk to you. I can never, never lose you. I know I have said this before, but it’s the only thing I do now that seems right.” he said.
I took a deep breath. “Max, do you remember at the club, the night Sid tried to kiss me? You asked me to promise you something and I did, without letting you tell me what it was?”
“I was promising that we would always be there for each other.”
He laughed again. “Cherie, that’s only half of what I was asking you for.”
“I know,” I said. “But I wanted to promise you something, something to hold us together when I felt this all start falling apart. I can’t lose you either.”
It sounded like he moved, maybe sat on the floor against the bed. “The other part was bad anyway. I was asking to be right, asking that you would choose me. That’s before I saw how arrogant I was. And now I’m being arrogant again, calling because I cannot go without you, because I cannot wait. Kahlan, I keep doing the wrong thing.”
“Max,” I interrupted him. “I have been dying for you to call me. I’m lonely. And I’m scared – scared that you’re up there, wishing we never happened. That you’re mad. That you’re in some club, some hotel with another girl.”
“No,” he said at a normal volume. “No one else. I told you, Kay, I…”
“I know, I’m sorry. But I’m going a little crazy here,” I moved to the floor as well. “And I can’t ask you to be faithful to me when we aren’t even together. You have every right to do whatever you want.”
He sighed. “This is what I want, cherie. I’ll be home in a few days and we’ll sort this all out. I just want to see your face.”
I hung up with Max, feeling both guilty and relieved. He was still in this as much as I was. They do say misery loves company. On that note, I decided to also break my silence with Kris. I knew he kept his phone on vibrate at night – he and I were both light sleepers and had a system so we didn’t wake each other up in the house. I sent him a text.
I know I should be leaving you alone. Just wanted to say I miss you.
Less than a minute later, my phone rang.
“Salut, Belle,” Kris said. He didn’t sound sleepy, just sad.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you!” I whispered.
“I was awake, it’s okay. I couldn’t sleep so I am sitting at the indoor pool.” I pictured Kris in t-shirt and sweatpants, alone in the tiled echo chamber of the pool. His hair would be flat from the humidity.
“I miss you too,” he said quietly. “I don’t know how to be mad at you.”
I leaned against the side of the bed. It was chilly, but I stayed. I felt cold inside anyway. “Kris, I have ruined everything.”
“You haven’t, I don’t think,” he said. “I came away so angry at you. I started hoping I would get over you in these few days. That I would stop being in love with you.”
My heart stopped. Without noticing, I held my breath. The tears that had welled earlier started to spill freely. Oh God, this is it.
“I felt rash, like doing something crazy. I even thought of going out and picking up a girl in a bar,” he laughed softly. “And then I realized that’s what happened to you. The urge to do something, anything to change how you were feeling. Better or worse, it didn’t matter. Just go. I felt how you felt. And now I understand.”
I sobbed. I put the phone down from my ear and I just cried. How is it possible for him to break my heart by saying he's still in love with me? It was minutes before I lifted the phone again.
“Then I wanted to call you, to tell you. I have been thinking about it tonight.” He was pacing. “When I see you again, I will feel better.”
“Me too, Kris.”
The phone stayed silent over the next few days, but I felt better. Well, not better. But not as bad. I felt flustered instead. I actually put on makeup to pick them up at the airport. Vero was there when I arrived. She didn’t ask me anything, just gave me a hug and went back to waiting.
As the guys crossed the tarmac, I could easily pick out Kris and Max by the way they walked. They came straight to the car and I was instantly desperate to be alone with each of them. Just to talk. Just to look at their faces without worrying I was playing favorites. I hugged them gratefully and swallowed back my selfish wish. I was so glad to have them home.
I cooked dinner and we watched it in front of the TV. They guys were fine with each other – they’d had it out already. I was the one who felt uncomfortable. Easier to have something to watch, to talk about.
“I’m going to the movies with Staalsy,” Max said, coming into the kitchen where I was loading the dishwasher. “I figure you could use a little time.” I smiled at him thankfully. He kissed my forehead and left.
Kris was not in the living room, so I knocked softly on his door. He pulled it open instead of speaking. I held a bowl of ice cream out to him. He looked from the bowl to my face, then back and took the dish. He walked back into his room leaving the door was open, but he didn’t invite me in. His back was turned, so I sat on the edge of his bed.
His room looked the same as last time I’d been in there, when he’d given me the menu and then kissed me into a pool of jello. I wondered if he ever put his clothes away, or just moved them from one pile to another. He stayed standing, but ate a spoonful of his ice cream.
“Hi,” I said. He looked at me like he was thinking.
I suddenly felt completely awkward. What am I doing here? What do I have to say that could possibly be worth Kris’ time? I can’t read that look on his face… and I have said I’m sorry so many times. I spooned in ice cream to fill the silence.
His grey t-shirt was unraveling at the hem along his hip. I wanted desperately to pull the thread, but he was just out of arms’ reach. I don’t know if two minutes or two days passed while I sat there with nothing to say for myself. I finished my ice cream and set the bowl down on the floor. Still nothing.
Suddenly Kris grabbed my empty hands, pulled me to standing and kissed me. His arms crossed my back and locked – this was not a committee decision. At that moment, he didn’t care what I thought about what he was doing.
His lips pressed hard against mine. I could feel his anger passing between us. When he’d kissed out his rage, they began to soften. He moved them across mine, catching my bottom lip between his and biting gently. He slipped his tongue into my mouth. I realized his arms were no longer around me, that I was holding myself up. Now his hands were on my sides, my waist. One was definitely sliding across my ass. He drew my body in against his, another vice grip.
Black is the absence of color, and white is every color all at once. My mind was a whiteout. Every single emotion I’d ever felt was in there at the same time. Fear, anger, lust, guilt, agony, desperation, love… all screaming for attention and starving for air.
His kiss evolved – from mad to pleading to hungry. I felt his whole body language change, like he was trying to absorb me. The softness of his lips threatened to send me falling to the floor.
He still hadn’t said a word.
I barely registered one of his hands sliding under the back of my shirt, then he was pulling it over my head. He kissed me again quickly before throwing off his own shirt.
I almost lost it then. His skin was supple and smooth. His muscular chest rolled down into his tight core. I ran a hand over the tattoo on his arm – a huge tribute to his best friend who’d died. Seeing that reminded me of how deeply Kris loved. He loved for life. I felt tears behind my closed eyelids.
He touched his fingers to the waist of my pants. I couldn’t form a thought, but I knew he was deciding how far to take this. And he wasn’t asking permission. He was literally having his way with me and knew I would do nothing to stop him. I felt like I owed him this, but I also wanted it. I wanted him. Max’s joke came unbidden to my mind: Level playing field. I forced the thought away.
Kris opened the button of my pants and unzipped them. Instead of dropping them, he moved his hands to my back and pressed them down over my underwear. His fingers went below the fabric. My stomach clenched to feel him touching the bare skin of my ass.
Like distant shouting in the back of my head, I heard Vero and Max’s warnings: Do not sleep with Kris. They were right. For a million reasons, they had always been right about that. But I also knew I would let Kris decide. Part of my heart was weak and terrified. The rest was absolutely disgusted with me.
He’d been hard beneath his jeans since he started kissing me. I felt him pressed into me the moment our bodies touched. I knew too that I was very wet. My body had clearly won out over my brain in this battle. He pulled his hands away, loosening my pants, and let them drop to the floor. I stood before him in my bra and underwear. He didn’t look in my eyes as he stepped back, but he did touch his gaze to every inch of my body.
I did not reach out. I didn’t do anything. I waited for him.
He kissed me again and lowered me back onto the bed. He trailed kisses down my neck, over the swell of my breast, along the curve of my abs between my side and my stomach. He gently, slowly traced his tongue on the skin just above my panties. His hands were on my thighs, supporting his weight. He kissed over the narrowest strip of lace, at my hip. Pressing down, he rolled my thigh outward and pressed his lips to the inside.
Without stopping, without even looking up, he pressed his tongue to the fabric right over my clit. My back arched involuntarily. Shallow breaths were the most I could manage. He moved one palm to my stomach, holding me down, while he continued to press and nibble at my panties.
I wasn’t looking when he took a single finger and ran it over where his tongue had been. Then he hooked the fabric and pulled it aside. I gasped. His tongue felt hot on my bare, dripping skin.
In a quick motion, Kris pulled my underwear off. He didn’t miss a beat. With his tongue on me again, lolling back and forth, he slid a single finger inside me. He added a second. His movements on the outside matched those on the inside. Already I was starting to tremble. My hips moved themselves in time with his attention.
He stroked away, bending his fingers slightly forward like he was asking me to come closer. Only he wasn’t asking. His tongue moved more surely as my body responded. I got the sense he was playing with me, drawing this out, keeping me at his mercy as long as possible. I would have been impressed with his self-control, but I had forgotten how to breathe.
Finally I could feel him bringing me to the edge. He removed his mouth and stroked inside me alone. He found the spot and brushed it lightly. My hips bucked. He did it again, barely making contact. I was seconds away from blacking out.
Then I did it. I’d resisted the entire time. I untwisted my hands from his bed sheets and I reached for his hair. It was thick and soft between my fingers, like cornsilk. I grabbed onto him, touching him for the only time since I’d ended up in his bed, naked and on my back. That was all the pleading he needed.
He pushed his fingers into my soft spot and the same time he slid his tongue back and forth over my clit, pressing hard. Stars exploded in my eyes. I knew the formula for cold fusion and all the digits of pi. My back arched so high that only my head and ass were touching the mattress.
The orgasm rolled through me like thunder. As I writhed, Kris lightened up with his tongue, ever so slightly. The gentle motion sent another wave ripping through me. My hands were still in his hair, using him for leverage as I writhed. Two more times he forced my body to give itself up to him. After the last, he slid his fingers out slowly and laid his cheek against my bare stomach.
I was dazed. My eyes were open but I saw nothing. I caught tiny, hitched breaths. A tear rolled over my temple and into my hair. I must have fallen asleep for a second, like someone behind the wheel of a car, because suddenly Kris was moving up next to me. He put one leg over mine, his jeans still on. I could very clearly feel that hard-on he’d been nursing since he started.
He twisted his hips, grinding his erection against my side. His arm was across my body, pulling me into him. My hip was hitting exactly the right spot. It had been a long time since I’d been dry humped, and I was surprised at how erotic it felt. Kris clearly had no intention of taking his jeans off. He wanted release, but it was constrained, repressed, overrun by his greater desires. Lust mixed with desperation.
He held me down firmly and worked his own way to climax. One last long, hard stroke against me and I felt all of his muscles contract, then release. He breathed out in a whoosh and sank into the bed.
“I am not like him.”
It was dark outside, dark in the room. It would be raining soon. We'd been laying there, still and silent, for ages. My mind hadn’t made any decisions about what to do next, so it did nothing. My body could not be reached for comment.
Kris breathed softly, like he was almost asleep. He had rolled onto his back and lay next to me. We barely touched. Patterns emerged in the textured paint of his ceiling. Cars rolled by on the street, braking at the stop sign on the corner. He hadn’t spoken since the airport. Since before the world had come apart at the seams.
“Don’t tell me what you’re not. Tell me what you are.”
He bent his arm and rested the back of his head on his hand. We were two people on a beach, or in a park. Two people watching the stars. It was warm in his room, and the smell of him was warm as well. It was in the sheets, I knew, the sheets tangled beneath me. If I moved, I would send another up another wave of scent. I didn’t.
“I am waiting.”
I closed my eyes. I had nothing left to give. Another colossal fumble had just been made – not a mistake, again, though I had almost completely lost the meaning of the word. Taken out of context, it was impossible to regret the things I’d done. As a whole, this situation was beyond my control. I obviously couldn’t even control myself. And now, now I felt like I was doing things because I owed them. I owed Kris because of what had happened with Max. I owed Kris his fair share of me. I owed him the chance to make me feel, to put physical presence to our emotional connection. I owed him an opportunity to rip my heart out.
“What if I’m not worth it? All of this?”
He spoke to the ceiling, and I was grateful. I was afraid to look at him. His eyes always told the truth.
“I believe you are.” Kris’s hand brushed mine, and his fingers slid inside my palm.
Warmth. He continued. “I believe that we should be together. And until then, we should not be together.”
I knew that was why he had stopped. I was amazed that he could stop. He must really mean it. He finally rolled onto his side, his face inches from the side of mine.
“A lot of people treat sex like it’s not important. I have done that myself. It’s fun, but it’s empty and forgettable. This is different. I would never make this about anything but being in love with you. I don’t know how to do both, and keep them apart.”
A sob ripped through my body, surprising us both. I rolled into him and curled my knees. My head pressed into his chest as I convulsed, all the sickening highs and lows flooding out of me. He pushed a hand into my hair, clearing it from my face, and pressed his cheek to mine. Silently he laid there while I cried.
I hated myself. For being in his bed, and for not having been there sooner. For wanting him to hurt me, as if there were the slightest chance he would. There was no answer. Every turn was a wrong one. And at each side, a different, perfectly imperfect person man.
I once read in a book someone’s description of life. She likened it to one of those phone booth-style money grabbing games you sometimes see at mall openings. Someone gets inside, and the fan tosses bills wildly around while they try to catch as many as they can. How are you supposed to know what to grab? How do you hold on to one while trying to catch another? And how do you know you’ve grabbed enough before time runs out? [A/N: Cintra Wilson, Colors Insulting to Nature]
Eventually I cried myself dry. Kris gently kissed my face. Averting his eyes from my naked body, he dug a robe out of his closet and wrapped me in it. He held my chin and smiled before I shuffled off.
I sat on the floor of my room, in the dark, wearing Kris’ robe. It was full of that smell that threatened to undo my sanity. I felt shell-shocked, gutted. Tipping over, I curled in a ball. No music – I’d learned my lesson last time. If the universe was laughing at me, I didn’t want to hear.
Max came home, but he didn’t approach my door. The sound of his footsteps brought me around. I dragged myself into the shower and sat on the floor. For the second time in just a few weeks, I rocked by an encounter I could not explain or excuse. I went to bed with wet hair and no dinner.
3 years ago