Home > My Life in Shambles(13)

My Life in Shambles(13)
Author: Karina Halle

When he returns with the drinks, I’m already half-asleep and forget that I’m lying completely naked on his bed. He flicks on the side table lights and I flinch, immediately reaching for the sheets to cover myself.

“Don’t,” he says, grabbing my wrist. “Don’t hide yourself.”

Even though the lights have a flattering glow, I don’t even think I laid around naked like this with Cole without hiding my legs or my stomach with something. I roll onto my side so at least I have that hourglass shape going on.

“Does it make ye uncomfortable?” he asks, sitting on the edge of the bed beside me, completely naked still. He doesn’t care that his cock is just hanging out, that he’s naked. His confidence is inspiring. Then again, he doesn’t even get any stomach rolls when he’s sitting down—there’s no fat, just muscle. He’s built like he should be in a museum, carved out of the finest stone, works of art for the world to study and nod and go “now that’s what a man is supposed to look like.”

I glance down at my body and can’t fathom how it could look good to him. “I know I shouldn’t be uncomfortable. I know that you’re not supposed to lack confidence.”

He puts his hand on my waist and slowly, tenderly, runs it over the curve of my hips. “Who says what you’re supposed to be? Supposed to feel?”

I close my eyes and sigh, letting the warmth of his palm sooth me. “Everyone. If I talk about it, it seems like I’m complaining. My sisters don’t have a lot of patience for it. My friends gently tell me to get over it. It’s like if you’re not strong all the time, you’re not a real woman or something. I don’t know. Weakness isn’t tolerated among women.”

He pauses, giving my upper thigh a light squeeze as he studies my face. “But why is insecurity considered a weakness? It’s just being human. We all have things to feel insecure about. No shame in it. We work on it, we get better. It’s all part of the experience, right? Doesn’t our true strength lie in the fact that we know our flaws, that we’re self-aware, that we want to improve?”

“I know. I just feel like I need to toughen up and not care. I’ve been working toward it for a long time.” And I have been. The therapy sessions are slow-going but at least I’m committing myself to changing. He’s right that at least I recognize it.

“That’s all that matters then. You’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. That’s okay and it’s okay to not love yourself all the time either. I mean, fuck. Who does? And if anyone has a problem with the way ye feel about yourself, that’s only because you’re hitting a nerve. Maybe you’re making them look at a flaw that they don’t want to face.”

I study him for a moment. “You know, you struck me as a man of few words…”

He shrugs. “Let’s just say I know what you’re talking about, that’s all.” There’s a darkness that comes across his eyes, like the clouds ahead of a storm, and I know that he has his demons with this issue too, whatever they may be.

His hand slides down my thigh. “Is it the scars that hurt the most? Emotionally?”

I swallow hard. “Yeah. Sometimes. The rest is just … you know, not looking like my sisters. Having a mother that constantly reminds you that your worth is your body and your looks and nothing else. The whole fucking shebang.”

He nods, his eyes coasting over my legs in a gentle, curious way that I can almost feel. “Do ye want to tell me what happened?” he asks softly.

I look down over the crisscross network of ribbon scars and flattened continents of scar tissue. Both legs are covered in them, from my feet up to mid-thigh. Puncture wounds from surgery scars where they inserted steel rods are the only things that are remotely symmetrical. My ankles are fucked up. Everything is a mess.

“I was six years old,” I tell him. The story doesn’t bother me. I’m so used to telling it. “I was playing in the front yard and my mother was watching me, but then my sister distracted her and she went inside, leaving me alone. In your typical dumb child maneuver, I kicked the ball I was playing with across the street and ran across to get it. Big huge Ford truck came from out of nowhere and hit me.”

“Fuck,” he says, face contorting as he takes it in.

“Yeah. It was … well, I don’t remember much so that’s probably a good thing. Those months around the accident are blocked out. The truck literally ran over my legs and crushed them. It damaged my spine. I was almost paralyzed. In a wheelchair for years. Doctors told me I would never walk again. Obviously they were wrong, but it took a fucking long time. A lot of physio. A lot of pain. I couldn’t even pee without help.”

I’m cringing as I say this, everything dark and ugly and raw, but when I take a quick glance at Padraig’s face, he’s watching me in awe. Normally I get pity when I tell this story, but pity becomes unbearable after a while. You don’t want it. You don’t need it.

I take in a deep breath and go on. “I took my first steps when I was ten, and it was like learning how to be a human all over again. In a way, it was easier to stay in the wheelchair. Or maybe it was just easier to be a kid. I remember the first day of school and the kids wanted to take turns pushing me around in the chair. They wanted to help. They didn’t think I was weak or bad, just different. But when I started to walk again, when it wasn’t quite so obvious what had happened to me, when I became a teenager … fuck, man. It was brutal. People are so cruel.”

I leave it at that. I don’t want to tell him about the days that I stayed at home with a stomach ulcer because I couldn’t stand another day of teasing and bullying over the way I walked, the way I hid my legs. That my only friend was one from my childhood, who knew me back then. I had no friends in high school. No boys liked me. I couldn’t do any sports, and the gym teachers were supremely cruel to me, like they hated that I couldn’t be athletic like everyone else. The only thing I could do was retreat into my own world. Read a lot, learn a lot, escape a lot.

Dream about meeting someone like him, who looks at me like I’m worth more than my body.

Padraig bites his lip as he slowly runs his hand down my thigh to my ankles. “Does this hurt?”

I shake my head. “It’s sensitive in spots but it doesn’t hurt.”

He then slips his hand between my calves and then slowly runs it up between my thighs. “Do you know what I see? I see someone who is more real than anyone I’ve ever met. I see someone who overcame a tragedy and turned into someone vibrant. I think you’re more beautiful because of it.” He slides his hand until it meets my pussy and I instinctively press into him. “Did I make ye feel beautiful when my cock was inside ye? Can I make ye feel beautiful again?”

I smile as my heart dissolves into butterflies.

“Yes,” I say softly. “Make me feel beautiful again.”

8

Valerie

When I wake up the next morning, I’m pretty sure I’ve just had the most amazing dream. That I met a rugby player turned sex god and danced and drank with him all night. That we were together from one year to the next. That he fucked my brains out all night long and made me feel more than beautiful.

But it turns out it wasn’t a dream at all. As my eyes flutter open and I stare at an unfamiliar wall that I know isn’t the Irish landscape painting from the hotel room, I remember where I am.

I slowly sit up and look beside me on the bed. It’s empty. I’m naked underneath the covers and just a tad sore. The light coming in through the windows is soft and white, and I turn my head to see a light snow falling.

I start wondering where Padraig is, but then I hear the mechanical whir of an espresso machine downstairs and get a waft of ground coffee beans. I should probably get dressed and go but squeezing back into the rainbow sequin dress that’s discarded on the floor doesn’t sound very comfortable.

Before I can do anything about it, Padraig appears in the doorway holding two mugs of coffee, steam rising from them.

“Morning,” he says to me, his thick Irish brogue making me jolt. It really wasn’t a dream. “I wasn’t sure what sort of milk you’d take in a latte, so I made ye an Americano.”

I’m momentarily speechless. Not just that he’s this thoughtful, but that he looks even better than in my dreams. He’s wearing just red plaid pajama pants and a fitted white t-shirt, but it’s almost as sexy as him being totally nude. Besides, from the flimsy material of the pants, I can totally tell he’s not wearing his briefs underneath. My eyes are trained on every inch of that dick imprint.

“Thank you,” I say, clearing the sleep from my throat and bringing my eyes to his face. I sit up and hold the covers over my breasts, feeling modest again in the light of day. “What time is it?”

“Eleven,” he says to me, handing me my coffee. Our fingers brush against each other and it feels as intimate as anything. “You were out pretty good. Your phone was buzzing all morning but you slept right through it.”

I glance at my phone on the bedside table and have a faint memory of going downstairs after our second roll in the hay and getting it from my coat, texting my sisters that I just had amazing sex, something I’m sure they didn’t appreciate. At least they know I’m alive.

“That was quite the night,” I say, taking a tepid sip of the coffee. Even though I can’t stomach coffee when I’m hung over, this tastes like heaven and I don’t feel as bad as I should for having drank most of the night away.

“It was,” he says, getting into bed beside me and pushing the pillow up against the headrest, the same headrest that was getting quite the beating last night.

I blush. I recall the way I yelled his name, the sweet and dirty words he rasped in my ear, the way the world broke open when I came. I can’t believe that happened.

“So,” he says to me and gives me a quick grin as he looks me over. I prop myself up so I’m sitting beside him, both of us looking like a couple who always have coffee in bed like this together. There’s something so pure and wholesome about that thought that it makes my heart pang.

   
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