I don’t even know what else to say. I’m dreading the trip, but I feel relieved, too, like I’m finally doing the things I should have been doing all along. It feels really good to tell you this.
I love you,
For eleven days I’ve read her messages and let them sink in, let them carefully smooth over the jagged damage her betrayal caused, but I can’t stay away anymore. I slam my laptop shut and grab my keys as I jog past the counter. If I was asked to recount the drive from my place to hers, I would describe only a blur of scenery punctuated at the end by the high-pitched squeal of my tires coming to a stop in her driveway.
I can barely pull in a deep breath, and when she opens the door in her pajamas, with her hair messy, and eyes red from crying, I think I stop breathing entirely.
She doesn’t say anything before she bursts into tears, and melts into me when I wrap my arms around her.
It’s about twenty minutes before I can pull myself together and stop crying, but throughout all the sobbing, and hiccupping, and senseless babble, Reid guides me inside, pulls us down onto the couch, and holds me. When he presses a kiss to the top of my head, it just makes me cry harder.
He’s here, at two in the morning, which means that he read my last message and came right over. It means he’s probably been reading all of my messages—just like I hoped—and that I wasn’t just throwing my words into the vast internet void.
It also means that he doesn’t want me to be alone after everything I told him in my last note. He read what I said about Anna, and my dad, and heading home this summer.
He made me wait over a month, but isn’t going to make me wait anymore before telling me what he’s decided. Relief is in the distance—even if he tells me he needs to move on, at least I’ll know.
I sit up, reluctantly pulling out of his arms, and wipe at my face with the bottom of my pajama top. When I drop it, I realize I’ve just flashed my underboob at Reid. He blinks up to my face, a little dazed.
He gives a wicked half smile that makes a flurry of bombs go off in my belly. “No red silk.”
“I hoped you’d remember that detail.”
The smile slowly straightens into something more pensive—but thankfully still fond—and he reaches out to tuck my insane hair behind my ear. “There’s a lot to respond to in those messages, but after the one you sent tonight, I had to come over.”
An opening. He’s just given it to me, and I don’t want to mess this up. Sure, it’s easier to write all this to the computer and hit SEND, but the important piece happens when he’s this close to me, his hand resting on my knee.
Anna’s voice rings in my ears: If Reid were here right now, what would you want him to know?
Well, Reid is right here.
“I really missed you,” I say simply.
An easy start. Baby steps.
I watch his mouth, mesmerized, as his tongue slips out and is drawn across his lower lip. “I missed you, too.”
Needing air, I pull my attention away and study the rest of his face. He’s stubbly, and his eyes are a little hollow, like he’s gone for a long run without drinking enough water. On instinct, I lift my hand and press it to his cheek. “You did?”
He nods. “I almost called about five hundred times.”
“I guess it’s okay that you didn’t. I had—have—some work to do.”
“Yeah.” He shifts his gaze back and forth between my eyes, trying to read me. His brow furrows. “You okay, Mills?”
I shake my head, and my chin wobbles. “Not really.”
At his worried frown, I start crying again. What is with me? Seriously, it’s like a dam has burst and I’m an unending, sobbing mess. I fight the mortification rising inside, and trying to focus on Reid’s reaction helps: he seems completely unfazed by the tears and snot and hiccups.
“But I’m really glad you’re here,” I say through a sob. “Like, really, really glad you’re here. I can’t tell you how much I missed you. I have been—”
“Millie. Honey.” He tries to calm me, pressing his hand to the side of my neck. “I’m here.”
When I choke again, he leans in, cupping my face and covering my lips with his.
I don’t know how he’s interested in kissing my red, swollen mouth right now, but he clearly is, and he’s doing it with such devotion and relief that I feel immediately light-headed. My arms find their way around his neck and my legs slide over onto his lap and all he has to do is let out a quiet, encouraging groan into my mouth and I’m rocking over him, and he’s moving with me, and his shirt is gone, then mine—
But I pull back, pressing a hand to his chest just as he starts making his way down my bare neck to my collarbone.
“Wait.” I swallow, struggling to catch my breath. His eyes move up from my bare torso to my face, and he looks as drugged as I feel. “I need to know you heard me.”
He remains still, listening intently. “Okay.”
“I’m sorry about what I did,” I say, and I wait for him to acknowledge this with a tilt of his head. “And I’m working on being more forthcoming.”
Nodding again, he whispers, “I heard you. Promise you’ll tell me how I can help?”
I feel like a limp rag dragged through warm water; I am so relieved. “I will.”
Reid leans forward, intent on resuming where we left off, but one last bit of Anna’s instructions rises in my thoughts. “And I can’t do this”—I gesture to where we are pressed distractingly together—“without some sort of understanding . . .”
With a smile, he stretches, pressing a sweet, lingering kiss to my mouth. “This is your condition? Commitment?”
I nod, fighting the instinct to make a joke about signing a waiver and my vagina no longer having hourly rates. “I love you. And I’m trying to be better about being clear about what I want and need.”
He nods solemnly, with a playful gleam to his eyes, but catches my expression as I fight a scowl.
“I’m not trying to tease you,” he says, and kisses me again. “It’s just very sweet, seeing you like this.”
I close my eyes, growling, “It’s embarrassing.”
“I’m in, Mills. I’m committed.” He licks his lips, and I swear my pulse is racing a thousand beats a minute. “I want this, too.”
“Okay.” I exhale. “That’s a relief.”
I feel his breath on my neck just before he kisses me there. “I love you, too.” He punctuates each small phrase with a kiss lower on my throat. “All of you. The silly, the quiet, the argumentative, the sarcastic, and even this side.” He kisses my shoulder. “The softer side.” His hands come up over my waist. “I like feeling that I’m getting all of you.”
With a grin, I ask, “Well, do you want to get all of me on the couch? Or would you rather have all of me in the bed?”
Reid laughs, and the sound seems to gather up all the tiny broken bits I’ve left around my living room this past month without him. He stands, with me in his arms, and kisses my nose. “There she is.”
Dad’s dinner sits half-eaten on the TV tray in front of his lounger. He’s already asleep, but I’m not going to bother trying to move him. One, because I couldn’t lift him by myself even if I wanted to (I tried that one night when he fell, and my back still aches even two weeks later), and two, because he seems to sleep better sitting up. At least for now.
It’s not been an easy recovery after the implantation of his deep brain stimulators. He also had to have two spinal fusions, which is the source of much of his discomfort. We hate to hope too much, Elly and I—because we really aren’t that far out of his surgery, and he’s on a lot of medications—but so far it seems like the stimulators are working. His symptoms are a good deal better than they were even the last time I visited.
My book advance has been able to pay for a nurse to stay here with Dad at night, which means that I can go back to the house I’ve rented for the month and decompress after a day of fussing, worrying, and daughtering in a way I’d never really mastered until now. Dad’s vulnerability broke through to me differently this time. Maybe it’s having Reid in my life to support me. Maybe it’s seeing Elly’s girls and how happy her family is, and what it means that she can lean on me a little, too. But being home hasn’t been claustrophobic or scary. It’s been stressful, sure, but it’s also been pretty fucking great to feel like I’m doing exactly what my family needs me to do.