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She climbed the stairwell with deliberate caution, her footsteps landing flatly upon the bits of melting ice on each step. The green rubber doormat at the foyer’s front door generally failed as a reminder of consideration. People generally hurried past it to escape the bite of the wind and find refuge in the warmth of their cozy apartments. It wasn’t the weather she herself sought to escape so much, as the seasonal swarm of people.
Hurry, hurry, rush, rush…it was the same every Christmas; prominent community leaders threatening their teens with the revoking of their driving privileges if they didn’t put on a merry face for the business associates, parents weaving in and out among the elderly toward the customer service counter where this year’s must have toy awaited their claim in layaway, young lovers omitting giggles with each tug of an arm in their revolving dance down the sidewalk toward their favorite coffee shop. Mayhem at its best, it drained her of what little holiday spirit she had.
The damp stairwell below echoed with the impact of her boots upon the weathered boards. An audible rhythmic ‘thump…thump…thump…thump’ now mimicking her ascent, Lana hesitated near the top of the steps. “Damn it,” she cursed under her breath. Scowling at the doorway just across and to the left of the top of the stairs, she wondered how her roommate could maintain such an unrelenting appetite. ‘It’s not like she can’t hear me coming.’ The apartments had little in the way of insulation. ‘As if it mattered.’ Regardless, Jesse was an exhibitionist by nature, and thrilled in the flaunting of her sexual exposés.
She had had enough of town that day, and there was nothing she wanted more than a long hot shower. Turning around on the steps, she sat down, and folding her legs up to her chest, wrapped her arms around her knees. The dampness penetrated her denim, cold chills creeping up her spine to her shoulders. “Ohhh, baby…fuck me.” Wrapping her sports jacket tighter around her body, she dropped her head onto her forearms, closed her eyes, and strained to distance herself from the intensifying sex nearby. She reached for the familiar warmth of his touch, the smell of his skin, the security of his deep blue eyes and encouraging smile.
The back of his fingers caressed the smoothness of her cheek, before whisking stray blonde curls away from her eyes and tucking them behind her ear. “I’m here, Lana.” His hands reach deep between her thighs, his warm palms stroking either side, the slight pressure drawing a sultry dampness from her midst. His right arm sweeps under her legs, scooping them up and swinging them over and across his lap, pivoting her, bringing her to face him. The security of his arm around her back leans her into him. Their lips blend gently, before consuming themselves in the taste of each other. Lana’s inner muscles and thighs contracted to the ache of a familiar desire.
“Harder! NOW baby…puuunish meee!”
The thuds against what must have been the living room wall had become erratic; baritone moans accompanying Jessie’s more exaggerated expletives.
Lana’s head snapped up, wakened from her luscious drifting. She lingered on the steps for several minutes more, her mind a blank, before getting up and stomping to the door and swinging it open. A tall, lanky man in his mid 30s, half clad in jeans and an unbuttoned red and green flannel shirt, boots and coat in hand, pushed past her with little more than a downcast glance.
Scanning where the living room wall adjacent to the doorway, Lana tried, without much effort, to sound irritated. “There better not be any damage to illegal bahis the wall. I need my half of the deposit back.”
She ducked her head sideways to avoid the throw pillow pitched her way from the couch where Jessie now huddled looking snug and smug in her terry cloth robe.
Jessie was rushing back and forth between her bedroom and the living room, packing garments and books into her suitcase. “You got another message from that guy. Said he’d be around town next week. Perhaps you should take a chance, live a little, and fuck his brains out! Ring in the New Year with a bang, eh L J?”
“Gee, thanks for the wholehearted encouragement, Jess. And it’s not like that, not at all.”
“Well, whatever it is, do try to get out and have a little fun.” Jessie zipped up the suitcase, and pondering Lana a moment, wrapped her arms around her friend and squeezed a hug out of her before stepping back, her hands firmly grasping Lana’s shoulders. “Call if you need an ear or a friendly voice. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, sweetie.”
“Same for you, hon.” Lana managed a slight smile for her friend. She watched her pick up her suitcase and head for the door. “Hey Jess! Don’t be introducing any of your younger cousins into the depths of hell. That would surely dampen the family holiday spirits.”
Jessie grinned wickedly and winked. “Darling, you don’t know my family. See you soon, hard ass.”
“Back atcha, trollup.”
Rooted in place, looking around the empty apartment, Lana questioned whether she should have taken up Jessie’s gracious invitation. Shaking her head, she decided it was best; never having been around a large family, she would surely have said or done something embarrassing. And she wasn’t sure she could withstand any number of jubilant hugs and merriment. It was best to face whatever the holidays brought alone.
Thanks to Jessie, for the post-apocalyptic hard copy of The Road, she had managed to dismiss the television as company for the remainder of Christmas, after suffering several hours needlessly on the eve of. Incessant reminders, every movie dripped with messages of the pursuits of love, inner peace, and forgiveness; all delivered through the spirits of lost loved ones to those “blessed” once they opened their hearts to understand the true meaning of Christmas. What a crock of shit!
The commercials had been just as bad. Families drinking eggnog, singing carols around the fireplace where stockings hung from the mantles. Of course, the tables were laden with silver platters stacked with apricot glazed ham, bowls of candied yams, salads, and cookies; and lead crystal glasses waiting to be spoiled with the finest vintage of spirits.
She had muddled through another Christmas, no worse for the wear.
Lana’s stomach growled. They hadn’t actually talked about having lunch over the phone, but she had decided to skip dinner and breakfast this morning just in case. If it came to spending the last of the month’s budget on a luncheon, she sure as hell was going to make it count.
The bistro looked fairly empty, being several days after Christmas, to which she breathed a sigh of relief. Seated at a wall table, gazing through the full arch windows facing the street, she was on her second cup of coffee when she recognized him, even before he turned toward the doorway. The strong jaw line, square chin, copper tone of his skin, and thick wavy brown hair-the sight of him jarred her abruptly upright in her seat, her skin tingling, goose bumps erupting along the skin of her arms and chest like pearl embroidery; only for reality to smite illegal bahis siteleri her down a moment later. Apart from the eyes, the resemblance was eerie. But then, they had been brothers after all.
Her head lowered in reflection, her hands clasped in her lap. Like steering a wayward vessel through temperamental waters, she steadied herself, framed her shoulders, and raised her eyes; meeting his approach with what she hoped was an impression of confidence and resolve.
“Hello Lana. You haven’t changed a bit, except perhaps the way you wear your hair. I am glad to see you are well. Umm…thank you for meeting with me.”
He remained standing, a foreboding affect at well over six-feet. Why was he hesitating? She had no intention of rising. Did he really expect they should embrace as old friends? The furrows of his eyebrows and cornering of his mouth marking his uncertainty, Lana offered a welcoming arm gesture toward a chair. “It is good to see you again Mark. Please, have a seat. Care for some coffee?”
“Yes, please. That would be fine.” His composure relaxed a bit as he pulled a chair out and seated himself while she motioned for the waitress. His hands immediately clamped together on the table. She couldn’t help but release a slight chuckle. He responded with a dashing smile, matching her change in tone. With the air between them thinning, and more cups of coffee to warm their hands, the conversation relaxed into a ten year update-school, jobs, successes, misfortunes, and moves. It was pleasing to enjoy a normal conversation after the anxiety she had anticipated. Of course, the point of his visit had to surface some time.
“Lana, it’s been so long. But…,” he hesitated as if in thought. “My parents passed away last year…”
“I’m so sorry, Mark.”
“No…I mean, thank you. But, the reason I’m here…there was a box…of his stuff. His journals were in it. After reading a few, I knew you might want them.”
Lana could feel the muscles in her face go slack. Her brain recommended flight, but her body felt terribly heavy. She sat like weathered rock, just offshore of a warm beach, forever waves of salty chill washing over her.
Suffocating from oxygen, it was time to leave. She shuffled her feet, caught Mark’s gaze, and made an impetuous decision. “We should talk somewhere more comfortable. Come with me.” It was no longer Mark’s perception she was worried about. She was petrified she would betray herself in public.
Lana for the first time wished she had helped decorate the apartment a little more festively. The small fir tree had been livened up with silver and golden bells, red bows, and a string of fresh cranberries. She smiled at the picture of Jessie humming Silver Bells while dancing with the string of cranberries around the tree.
After raiding the scant refrigerator for the makings of finger sandwiches and cheap beer, they both reclined to the living room and relaxed into some discussions of common social and urban issues.
“You mentioned you and your wife were visiting family. Do your kids have any cousins to play with while there?” It was more a question of politeness than interest on Lana’s part.
“Yes, quite a few, actually.”
“They must be anxious for you to get back.”
“My kids will be. Claire and I are going through a rough time. It seems I have difficulties expressing myself,” his tone dropping solemnly. “I’m not incapable of sharing; I just don’t find it conducive to the moments.” He shifted his eyes away suddenly, as if embarrassed.
“It’s quite alright,” Lana reassured, sitting back on the canlı bahis siteleri couch. “I think I understand. It’s difficult to share that way.” The small box Mark had brought in from his truck still sat unopened on the coffee table.
Perhaps noticing the direction of her attention, Mark broke the new silence. “Lana, I have always wished I could take things back, changed what happened. If I could have traded places with him…”
“Don’t Mark.” Crossing her arms to her shoulders, leaning forward, squaring her legs in front of her, Lana was deliberating what to say. The very thought of being evasive or philosophical seemed so daunting. She decided to be direct. “I never blamed you. He went along with what we thought was safest, or rather,” she forced a bitter laugh, “best chance for success. We were young, impertinent. There’s always another way. He was right; we should have trusted someone and asked for help.” She could feel the heat rush to her face, the muscles tighten with the struggle ensuing. “We have only to forgive ourselves.” The self hatred beginning to surface, her own breath choking her, she began to force a steady exchange of air through her nostrils, the strength of physical control over a pathetic will. Human compassion, such a fucking weak attribute, she thought, grasping frantically for anger.
He was in front of her suddenly, and she rose to meet his embrace before she could think. Clenching to his back with her hands, her arms pressing forcefully into his sides, she could feel his ribcage through his clothes and the muscles of his torso. Never had she clung to anything so tight, so long. It weakened her, and tears began to trickle down her cheeks and onto his jacket.
As she slowly pulled away from him, his hands cupped her face, his thumbs smearing the tears. An extreme need overwhelmed her. Taking one of his wrists in her hands, she led him to the bedroom.
There were no expectations, no urgent lust to be satisfied, and no deceptions of intimacy. Therapeutic…yes, that was it…therapy with empathy.
Clothes dropping to the floor, they fell together atop the azure satin sheets. With a progressive roll, Lana encouraged him to give from under. Pressing her sensitive breasts against his muscular chest, stroking his hardness with the smoothness of her stomach, her skin gliding across the firmness of his body, warm waters engulfed her. The dampness spreading between her legs, Lana slid her slickness up the underside of his shaft, taking his head into her, and eased herself down his length. Meeting his gaze, her eyes thanked him for moving with her. Riding the fullness of him deep within her, consecutive waves of pleasure forever pushed her inland. Cresting, she gripped him firmly inside and against her, succumbing to the release flooding her senses, gasps of ecstasy escaping her.
Pulling her close, Mark rolled her to her back. Elevating her waist, legs locked under his arms, he pumped in and out of her wetness. Arching her back, she strained to welcome the increasing tempo of each delicious stroke. A sudden change to savagery, a new depth to his forcefulness, he yanked violently at her pelvis to meet his demands, taking complete control as he shot his wad within her.
Some of the pages were stuck together, probably exposed to damp conditions. One of the journals in her hands, Lana sat pensive, legs folded underneath her as she leaned back on the throw pillows. Funny, the couch had never felt so comfortable before. Or maybe, she hadn’t allowed herself the comfort before.
Mark emerged from the bedroom, showered and dressed, and ready to leave. Stopping at the door, he looked back to Lana, a thoughtful look on his face, and smiled. Without getting up, she smiled back. Then he was out the door. She closed the journal and returned it to the box next to her feet. A new year waited.
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