Second Thoughts

Five years after a spectacular night of passion, Kevin has settled into a life in Toronto. Having been wrapped up in his career as a journalist and his fiancee, Kevin pushes memories of that night to the back of his mind. But when the past comes knocking in the form of a phone call, Kevin is thrust into a web of lies and deceit as he finds himself falling for his old flame, April. Now, days away from tying the knot with his fiancee, Kevin must make the decision between what is right and true... and what is safe and easy...

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1. Prologue

 

“What the fuck am I doing here, drinking straight tequila with no lime next to my best friend?” I asked, accompanied by a hiccup.

As I nursed my bottle of tequila, my best friend April sighed. She gently eased the bottle out of my hand, considered putting it down, and then took a swig. As she grimaced and gagged, I stared at her in awe. Even at age 20, she was not one to drink even a beer or two at parties, let alone a straight shot of tequila.

As she lay my head back on a pillow and I pondered her brash action, she stroked my face and asked, “What has the world done to you?”

I sighed heavily, pondered the question, and answered sharply, “No, the question is what has the world done to you? Since when do you do straight tequila?”

She paused and then asked hesitantly, “You remember three years ago, I went to France for dance? And I called you complaining of a headache?”

I nodded and she continued, “Well, I had a hangover. One of the guys in the dance troupe invited me for a drinking tour throughout Paris. I blacked out, but my designated driver assured me nothing happened.”

When I heard she had blacked out my stomach flipped. Along with it, the half-bottle of tequila I had consumed came up. I vomited all over myself, and April and her leather couch. I immediately sat up and apologized for the message. She stroked my face and slid my shirt off, throwing it to the side like a poison spider.

April looked me over and then said, “Come on, we need to wash you up.”

She helped me up and together, both slightly drunk, we managed to get to the bathroom. I leaned against the tub as she lit some candles, what she called “material therapy”. As she wet a facecloth and spoke softly to me, I felt safe. She was my best friend, and we had taken care of each other in times of weakness, now being one of those times.

I lay my cool head against the ceramic wall behind the tub and breathed deep, attempting to remember the beautiful friendship we had shared. Granted, we still had a beautiful friendship, but it seemed almost forced.

My eyes were still closed when I felt a wave of pleasure course through my veins, raw and true. I opened my eyes and saw April’s hand on my chest, the face cloth held limply against my skin. I looked into those eyes and suddenly it hit me: I was still in love with this girl. My heart beat fast as I stared at every detail of her dark silhouette.

I stared at her eyes, the way her hair fell in them. I stared at her lips, the way they curled in that special way when she smiled. I stared at her slender form, the muscles on her arms. I felt her soft hands on my chest. I experienced this woman like I never had experienced anybody for and she hadn’t even taken her clothes off.

Every fiber of my being attempted to strain away from logic. I wanted desperately to kiss her like I had always wanted to. In fact, if it had been any other girl, I probably would have with the aid of alcohol (of which I had had plenty that evening). But something stopped me, the fact that she was my best friend. I couldn’t do this to her, as desperately as I wanted to.

I recalled my first sexual experience, with a girl that was not April. We had been the best of friends for several years, and I thought I was in love with her. When we went camping together, I was shirtless and she laid on my chest, clad only in a bra. Needless to say, she was spooning with me. Once we got back from the trip, she stopped talking to me all together.

A sexual experience with April would destroy our friendship, which I could not bear as April was the one constant in my life, there for me even when my girlfriend of the time wasn’t. As I reflected on this, tears began to slide down my vomit covered face and I sat there as April sponge bathed me. I felt helpless, completely in love with a girl who would never return the favor.

 Afterwards, I crawled into some pajamas April had pilfered from her father’s closet several years earlier. The couches in April’s flat had been sold as a set, to make room for a new furniture set due next day, and so there was nowhere for me to sleep despite the fact that I was too drunk to walk, let alone drive. I stumbled to the closet and pulled some blankets down, and was halfway to the living room to sleep by the fireplace when April realized what I was doing.

“Oh no mister, you need to keep your head up. If you throw up in your sleep and choke on it, you will die and you will not die in this house. Come on, my bed is a queen size,” April said as she put her arm around my shoulder.

With April helping me, I nearly floated to April’s room and collapsed on the bed, sinking into the linens and plush pillows. April laughed at the sight of me, then pulled back the covers. There, beneath the sheets, resting on a pillow, was the teddy bear I had bought her four years earlier. Even after all we had been through, the arguments included, she still kept it.

I turned to April and asked, “You still have it after all this time?”

She picked the bear up with respect and admiration, fluffed it up then responded, “Of course, I would die if it got lost!”

Tears began to flow down my cheeks as I whispered, “Thanks.”

She put her arm around me and lay me on the pillow whispering, “You are drunk. Tomorrow is a new day.”

Those words seemed to do the trick because sleep enveloped me like a boa envelopes his meal. I slept soundly, dreaming of a world I had once known. It was a world of adventure, of danger, of jealous significant others. It had been the world I left behind when I let April go down her own romantic path, one which unfortunately didn’t involve me.

Sometime later, in the wee hours of the morning, a voice whispered into my ear, “You need to get up Morgs, the movers are here.”

I sat up groggily, for a moment in time I had no idea where I was. Then I looked around, saw April sitting on the edge of the bed sipping a coffee and still clad in pyjamas. I smiled, slowly recalling the events of the evening before, then stood up out of bed. To my surprise, my head was not wracked with pain from hangover, I was fine.

Feeling giddy at the lack of hangover, I hopped up out of bed. I gave April a morning hug and then slid into the bathroom. As I vigorously rinsed my face with cool water, I realized how great a friend April was. She had let me into her house at midnight, allowed me to get drunk, then taken care of me without a shred of discontempt or anger.

I headed into the bedroom, where my surprisingly unsoiled jeans lay on the floor, and pulled them on. Since we were going to be moving her couches in and the summer sun would beat down relentlessly on our backs, I opted to go shirtless. Moments later, I followed the smell of breakfast downstairs to the kitchen.

In the kitchen were two steaming mugs of coffee, and two plates of bacon and eggs, all sitting on cardboard boxes (April’s dining set was due to be delivered that morning). One mug was held by April, dressed in a gorgeous pair of short jean shorts and no shirt (sporting a lime green sports bra), who smiled at me as I entered the kitchen. I sat at the table and began shoving scrambled eggs and bacon into my mouth, the alcohol having left me ravenous.

As I ate, I noticed April staring at me, and when I caught sight of her she confessed, “I have never seen you shirtless.”

I responded, “Back when we met I didn’t have much muscle, but after my mom falsely assured me you would come back one day, I began to work out.”

She laughed that infectious laugh, surprised that she had driven me to lead a better life. We ate the rest of breakfast in overall silence, the only sound being the slurping of coffee and the scraping of forks on plates. Just as we placed the dishes in the sink, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a massive truck parked in front of the house: the delivery truck.

“Delivery truck is here, let’s get to it,” I said as I headed to the door in search of my shoes.

They were not where they had been the night before and I looked frantically for but a moment, until April held them out for me. I laced them up and we headed into the street. The morning sun was already hot, even though it was only seven in the morning and the smell of freshly mown grass filled our nostrils as we headed to the truck.

The delivery driver pulled open the door to reveal two love seats, two full sized leather couches, a sectional (for the basement, I knew) and a dining set. I looked at April, unaware she had purchased this much furniture, and she simply shrugged her shoulders in response. Our work was cut out as we began to transfer the furniture onto the lawn.

By 8:30 a.m. we had transferred all of the furniture and we began to devise a plan to get the furniture in and set up. The dining set, a loveseat and a full sized leather couch were the only things on the main floor. That left lugging the many pieces of the sectional down to the basement.

We decided to get the easy stuff out of the way first, in the form of love seat and couch. As we manoeuvred the love seat through the door, April peered at me from her end and said, “Thanks for doing this, I really appreciate it.”

“Not a problem, glad to help an old friend,” was my response.

After an hour of complications and miscalculations, we finally had the couches in place in the living room. Despite having accomplished this we still had to clean the pillows and put them in position which I knew would take a few minutes. April did not realize you needed to squeeze the dust from the pillows and made to place them on the couch.

I grabbed one from her and said, “We have to get all the dust out.”

She turned to me and asked playfully, “Oh yeah, and how do we do that Mr. Paquette?”

I motioned that she watch by example and lay a pillow on the floor. I then jumped on it and began to do a stationary run, sending clouds of dust billowing into the air. I must have looked slightly silly because April nearly fell over in fits of laughter.

After a moment, however, she joined the fun and soon the dust fell thick in the air. As we danced atop the final two pillows, my foot slid off the pillow and I fell hard to the floor, dragging April with me. She fell on top of me and began to laugh. The both of us laughed until our cheeks hurt and we could not find breath.

Soon after, we helped each other up and solemnly resumed the work that we were faced with. The work was slow and laborious, the sun getting higher in the sky and beating down on our bare backs as we continued to move furniture into the house and set it up. By three in the afternoon, the dining room set was nearly set up (the glass sheet still had to go in the middle).

April was out front cleaning up the bubble wrap from the front yard and I decided to put in the glass plate alone. I knew it was dangerous, with its sharp edges threatening to slice through skin at the slightest drop of a pin, but it had to be done. As I lugged the heavy glass plate and lifted it, all hell broke loose in a series of consecutive unlucky events.

First, the glass began to slide forward and I nearly lost it. I leaned my hand forward so as to catch the falling piece of glass and as it swung forward it sliced my hand open. Unfortunately, I was in no position to bandage the cut now coursing blood which slid down my arm. I was holding the piece of glass with my knee and my one good hand, which was not strong enough to steady the glass if I attempted to put it down.

As blood coursed down my arm and my arm become drenched in red blood, I called for April. She must have sensed the urgency in my tone of voice and came rushing in. April, I knew from experience, was often queasy around blood, and this was no exception. The moment she saw the state of my hand, she nearly fainted.

She reeled, sinking into the couch so as to maintain her posture. After a minute, she rushed up to me and together we eased the glass plate onto the table, allowing me to access my bloodied hand. I stumbled over to the sink, fumbling for the tap, which turned on only by the aid of April. The water washed my blood into the sink as I gently rubbed soap into the cut. It burned, as if my skin had just touched a hot element, and I was incapacitated momentarily. When I finally regained control I held a paper towel tight against the deep cut in my hand.

I looked over at April, who said, “Go and shower, get that cut cleaned and bandaged. The first aid kit is in the bathroom cupboard under the sink. I will order us some dinner.”

I thanked her and made for the stairs, stopping only when April yelled after me, “Do you feel like Italian tonight or Chinese takeout.”

I winked and yelled over my shoulder that I preferred Italian. I headed up the stairs, into the bathroom. I ran the shower for a minute then stepped in. Immediately, the hot water burned my hand once again and I gritted my teeth. After washing the cut, I began to wash the rest of my body with my good hand.

After 15 minutes, admittedly longer than I expected to take even with my bad hand, I was towelled off. I stripped open the first aid kit, pulling out iodine and a hand bandage. The iodine burned, searing my skin and causing me to cry out. Soon enough though, I was bandaged up.

I headed into April’s room, where she had laid out some of her dad’s clothes, an outfit of khaki slacks and a button down dress shirt. Five minutes later and feeling ridiculous in the improperly sized outfit, I emerged into the kitchen. April began to laugh once again at the very sight of me and I frowned at her. She, of course, was dressed beautifully in fresh shorts and an oversized button down shirt, no doubt pilfered from her father’s closet of painfully boring suits.

She led me by the good hand into the living room, where she offered me a beer. I denied, knowing if I had a beer I may be subject to become drunk as I had been the previous night. Sipping on a glass of Italian soda, I studied April’s face, looking for something, anything. What I saw in those exotic, mysterious eyes terrified me: vacancy.

I asked, “What is on your mind?”

She responded, “Nothing, its fine.”

I knew from my ex-girlfriend that when a girl says ‘nothing, it’s fine’ in the same sentence there was something seriously wrong and so I casually responded, “That bad huh?”

She nodded, leaning forward in her seat, on the verge of what I saw to be tears. She played tough for a moment or two, nursing her beer, before silent tears began to slide down her cheeks. She cried as if she hadn’t in a long time, not tears of physical pain but emotional burden. I slid over to the loveseat and held her in my arms, whispering everything would be alright.

Between fits of sobbing tears of pure sadness she asked, “Do you promise not to judge me?”

I promised, assuring her I could never judge someone that was so perfect, and so she continued, “The guys I have dated since we met have not been nice guys. They used me for the label, they travelled with me just to cross it off their bucket list. They didn’t really want to be with me.”

I hugged her tightly, wiping tears from her face as she sobbed, and whispered, “April, you listen to me right now: any guy that doesn’t want to be with you is an idiot.”

“That means a lot, but what scares the hell out of me is waking up every morning wondering if I’ll ever find the right guy.”

“Well… you could always find me,” I blurted out before I could stop myself.

She stopped crying, stared deep into my eyes. She had a look of confusion in those eyes and immediately regret sunk in. Why had I said that? I had presumably wrecked a good friendship because I had said something stupid.

My throat tightened in fear at her response as she said in that confused voice I loved, “I am confused. How come you never told me?”

I leaned forward in my seat and cried in exasperation, “I told you I was in love with you multiple times. That letter I wrote you! Don’t you remember any of it? Didn’t that matter to you?”

She stopped crying now and said with growing strength in her voice, “That mattered the world to me. I read that letter at least once a week, it reminds me there is somebody who cares. But you stopped telling me you loved me three years ago, I didn’t know what to think.”

I mentally kicked myself for making the decision to stop professing my love to her. Recovering, I responded, “I only stopped because you were going through a lot and I knew it was making you uncomfortable.”

She turned to me, her voice thick with emotion, and exclaimed, “Hardly. Whenever you said those special words I felt a sense of belonging. It reminded me somebody cared. Almost every last one of my boyfriends ‘loved me’ but none of them really meant it, so they told me. You told me you loved me even when I had a boyfriend. I saw more of you than I did my boyfriend. I guess, in the last four years, my feelings have changed.”

“They have changed in what regard?”

“They have changed in that I came to realize you are the most important person in my life. You are there for me even when I am a bitch, when everyone else, even my girlfriends, walk out of my life. You put up with me not because you have to, which you don’t, but because you care about me. In other words, I have come to realize I am head over heels in love with you.”

As the words were spoken they sounded fake, pasty. It couldn’t be true, after all these years she had felt the same way about me as I her? But as the words sunk in and the vacancy and look of pre-occupation in those eyes disappeared into thin air, replaced by a look of relief, I decided what she said was true.

We stared at each other for a moment and then I leaned in, cupped my hand around face and gave her one of the most powerful kisses I had ever experienced, let alone given. The kiss shattered every level of expectation and came to settle on a level of ecstasy better than sex.

As our locked lips slid open, we allowed our tongues to explore the others mouth. As my tongue slid along hers, nothing else seemed to matter. I was sharing a kiss with the most beautiful woman in the world, and I couldn’t have been happier.

As our kissing moved from slow and romantic to passionate and frisky, I began to perspire heavily. However, I knew it would have to end eventually, the greatest kissing of my life, and sure enough it did. Five minutes after the kissing and bliss had begun, just as April ran a hand through my hair and I reached for the buttons on that horrid button down, the doorbell rang. I was so surprised by the action that I slid backward off the couch, my head narrowly missing the coffee table but cracking on the hardwood floor.

I moaned in pain, sitting up as April searched for the money to pay for dinner, straightening her hair with one hand as she scrambled around the kitchen and rifled through drawers. By the time I had pulled my broken and bruised body to a kitchen chair, April had paid and was balancing our dinner in one hand. I helped her lay the food laden dishes on the table and then washed my hands as April searched for forks.

A moment later, as we buried our forks in ricotta cheese and Pane Frito, my phone buzzed from it’s resting place on the kitchen counter. I jumped at the sound, nearly forgetting I had my phone with me. On the third ring, I rose to answer it. When the call connected, there was silence on the other line for a moment and I assumed it was a false call.

Suddenly, however, my roommate Luke came to life on the other line saying, “Hey do you have an extra box of packing tape, I ran out just as I was packing the Xbox?”

“Shit, oh yeah it’s in the basement underneath the stairs. Just watch for that low awning.”

I disconnected before he could say another word and swore silently to myself. I had been such a hedonist, drowned in lust, selfishness, and the taste of alcohol and food that I had forgotten Luke and I were moving into a loft in the harbor area of Toronto only three days from now. I knew I had to break it to April somehow, that this short passion we had shared was just a ploy.

April looked concerned, asking, “Is something wrong?”

I turned to her and said, “Yes. I have to tell you something. I am leaving in three days.”

As I returned to my seat April asked in that confused voice, “Leaving my house? Of course.”

“No. As in, I am moving away. I was so wrapped up in this whole two day thing that I completely forgot.”

“No, this doesn’t just happen! Where the fuck could you be casually moving and forget to tell me!”

I saw an anger rising in April that was rare, and deadly. I settled her down and said, “Since I finished my journalism degree just this May, my roommate and I found a loft in the harbor area of Toronto.”

Her anger turned to denial, then acceptance, and finally to sadness in the duration of three or four seconds. She stared at me and asked, “We can still keep in touch right?”

I paused at that and responded, “Well, we can keep connected through phone, Facebook and all that. But a visit to Winnipeg is out of the question. I am not even seeing my family for Christmas. The loft costs a lot of money, and my boss needs me to be there constantly. Listen, I understand if you hate me right now.”

She cut in, “I don’t hate you. I am so happy that you are getting this experience! It’s just, I am going to miss you. Forget it, what happens is up to fate. We will keep in touch, and maybe I can fly out there on Reading Week at the University. It’ll be okay.”

I breathed a sigh of relief, that I had not started and ended a passion that would cease to exist. Turning to my plate, I forced it down as my appetite was gone. The food tasted like plastic as it slid down my throat, I had lost any physical hunger, the only hunger that ravaged my soul was emotional hunger. I had an unquenchable thirst to have April before I left.

“I am going to miss you,” I said not really knowing how to start off.

“I am going to miss you too,” came the simple yet tear-choked reply

I opened my mouth to respond and comfort her, but she continued, “I want to know… what you’d do to me.”

My hand slid to my mouth in utter surprise, April was not well known to say something so brash and outright. Of course I knew what I wanted to do to her, I wanted to hold her tight to me, take away her innocence and carry it with me to Toronto. I contemplated how to say it, but came up with no words. That was when I realized, I needed to show her in action.

I was silent until dinner ended; masking myself in deep thought even though I had known my answer the moment she had asked the question. As April took our plates to the sink, I stepped up behind her, my hands falling on her warm and full breasts. She stared up at me with those mysterious eyes, and I knew my invitation had been accepted.

She shut off the water and turned to me as I said, “What I want to do to you, is take away your innocence. Do you trust me?”

A simple nod was all she gave as she closed her eyes and waited for my lips to meet hers. Kissing grew exponentially heavier and more meaningful as she reached for the buttons on my shirt. I scooped her up in my arms and carried her to the bedroom. This was going to happen, I was going to lose my virginity to the first girl I had ever fallen in love with.

I lay her on the bed, flicked off the light and waited as darkness enveloped the room. I reached for the clasp on her jean shorts; she stripped off my button down shirt. I wriggled out of my jeans and underwear, letting them fall to the floor next to the other clothes. By the time I had gotten my bearings, she had removed her shirt and bra.

I slid off her panties, supporting her, and penetrated. A sharp intake of breath occurred as April and I began to make hot love. She groped her arms around my neck, crying silently in ecstatic pleasure and staring into my eyes. Time seemed to stand still as our sexual pleasure grew in leaps and bounds. After fifteen minutes, we came to a shuddering climax and I rolled onto my side.

I breathed heavily, my heart beating like a drum, as April rested her head on my chest. I put my arm around her and held her tight. Five minutes later, April’s soft snoring penetrated the room. I kissed her on the forehead and removed my arm from behind her, placing them behind my head and staring at the ballet figurines hanging from the ceiling.

As sleep began to slide my eyes shut, I realized what I had just done. I had just made sweet, slow love to the first girl I had ever loved, and I would never forget the pleasure she gave me. And as her sleeping form curled closer to me, and the world collapsed around me as sleep won the battle over consciousness, I felt content.

Several hours later, I awoke to the sound of a toilet flushing. This time when I sat up in the 6 a.m. light that illuminated the bedroom, I remembered where I was and the events of the previous evening. I sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing my eyes from tiredness, and when I opened them I noticed April’s silhouette framed against the doorway. She was naked, dripping wet, and wrapped in a towel.

“Good morning beautiful,” I said.

She said in a sleepy tone, “And you too. You have to leave today don’t you?”

I said matter of factly, “Yes, I do.”

She responded, for the first time without tears, “I will never forget this.”

“Neither will I, what we shared was amazing and I hope neither of us forget it. Someday I will come back, that is a promise.”

“And I will wait for you with baited breath, that is a promise.”

We then hugged tightly, dressed, and made our way down the stairs arm in arm. As she poured us coffee and cracked eggs into a pan, I felt a twinge of sadness. This could be my life every day, coffee and breakfast with my first love, but I would have to settle for ramen noodles and boxed pizza with my OCD best friend and roommate. I knew it was for the best, without this move I could not have supported April in any sense. I knew this was for the best.

Breakfast was silent, both of us no doubt attempting how to say goodbye to one another. It was the most gruelling breakfast I had ever sat through. I couldn’t believe it had to end like this, so soon after it had started. As April had said the night before, whatever happened was up to fate and I was ready for that.

After breakfast was done, we dropped our dishes in the sink and I headed to the mudroom to pull on my coat and boots. I texted Luke to pick me up, as I had walked in a drunken rage to April’s house only a few days earlier and therefore had no car. That left me five minutes for the best last goodbye I would give April for a long time.

I turned to April and said, “This is it.”

She responded, “I guess so.”

Suddenly, the car rolled up and I knew it was time to say goodbye. I leaned in, remembering the scent of her perfume, and kissed her softly. Then I composed myself and walked away before I started to cry.

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