Some nights I'll be lying there trying to get to sleep and I'll feel Josh's hand sweep across me. Usually it starts down by my knee, sweeps up my thigh, circles my butt, then traces a lazy path up my back. Then he might slide it around my shoulder and rest his palm on my breast. Sometimes, that's all. Sometimes he finds my nipple and starts to trace a circle around it with his to get, trying to coax it into standing up.
Or, he might go even further and start slipping it down my abdomen, past my waist, down to my crotch. It's by that point that I have to jerk my body away and admonish him, "Ah ah, remember our deal." He usually resumes our more innocent (but still pretty intimate) spooning after that. But of course I can feel his telltale erection pressed against my body.
"I can't help it," he might mutter sleepily, "You're so damn irresistible..."
I try not to goad him on too much but maybe there's a little of that. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the attention at least a little bit. It can be a lonely life and even this warped version of attention - totally serious but meant for someone else - can feel good. Bad at the same time, but good too.
I wonder, for all my conviction, if I might have given in and had sex with him by now if it weren't for the promise I made Valerie. (I'm well aware that there's lots of precedent for that on this very blog... See Meg's posts!) At what point, I wonder, might my reasons go from "Val and I agree I shouldn't do it," to just plain "I told Val I wouldn't do it."
Facing facts, Val's hormones are really starting to kick in. My body has been female for two of the last three years, and I've had plenty of time to make my peace with the implications of that. And now, compared to Judith, I'm young and hot and feeling good (most days) about my body, and I have tons more energy that could use an outlet. I used to find it a lot easier not to think about sex or notice guys.
I think I must even be putting out vibes lately - forgetting myself, that I'm supposed to be nearly a married woman. I find myself being extra-sweet to people at the coffee shop, and that leads to guys lingering a bit too long at the counter before I snap out of it and shoo them away. (Then there's also the guys who were going to linger or ask me out anyway because they can't take a hint.) Rafe, the spindly man-bunned barista who hits on all the other girls has increased the pressure to join him for a drink after work more and more.
And that brings me to this...
A while back, on the last warm weekend of summer/fall, he surprised me by taking me to "my" favorite place, Coney Island. I haven't been to an amusement park or county fair in a long time so I enjoyed myself -- but I think my reaction was far from the extreme glee he was counting on.
At the end of the day, we were walking along the shore, eating Nathans hot dogs, and he took my hand in his and asked what was wrong.
I told him nothing was wrong and he chuckled and said obviously that wasn't true... I've been scatterbrained, distracted and a bit unpredictable the past few months.
I sighed "I'm planning a wedding, Josh... That's pretty stressful."
"Are you sure that's all it is? I could take over some of the work if you need me to..."
I waved him off. He works long days and spends almost every moment on my presence working to be Wonder Boyfriend. The last thing I need is to heap any more tasks on him, especially since the real Val is guiding me through it all with her very specific vision.
"I just worry there's something you're not telling me, and, you know, I want you to feel you can share everything with me and I won't judge."
My heart could have broken for him. He was being so honest and vulnerable about his feelings, something I've always had trouble doing.
"Here's why I'm worried, Val. I haven't heard you laugh in days. You used to laugh at the drop of a hat, often at this that truthfully aren't funny. Now when you do laugh, it's almost not even your laugh. It's still a nice, pretty laugh but itsw more, I don't know... Weary."
I felt hot under the collar. It hurt a bit to be contrasted with the real Valerie, but I tried to put that away. I twisted my mouth trying to read him. Was he suspecting the truth? He couldn't - nobody would ever imagine a magical impostor. And yet, if you're with someone for years it stands to reason that, if you're an overly attentive partner like Josh, you will notice things.
"I'm still me," I said, probably too emphatically.
"Obviously, but... It's like the life's being sucked out of you and I would hate to think I have anything to do with that."
I smiled weakly. "You don't... Even of it were true."
"Well it's still my job to make sure that doesn't happen."
And with that he produced a small water gun and squirted me right across the chest.
"Josh!" I gasped.
He produced a second one and said with a grin, "You're it." As soon as I took it, he ran.
"You're dead!" I cried out, chasing him around and trying to catch him with the spray - evidently squirt gun tag is a favorite hobby of Josh and Val's. He didn't reckon, I was a pretty good shooter in my day.
"We're not stopping until I hear that laugh!" He called out. And he seemed to mean it, because we went around for a long while, refilling from the ocean, until my lungs gave out and I collapsed in the sand.
He rushed up and started to squirt me. "Josh, no!" I said, unable to suppress a girlish giggle.
"There it is! There's my girl," he said, continuing to fire.
"And she's pissed!" I said back, springing to me feet and tackling him with perhaps unexpected force. Kneeling on him, he couldn't stop laughing as I emptied my gun on him (one consequence of being a cute female is that shows of aggression are sadly somehow laughable... Even if I WAS as angry as I was playing it still would have seemed harmless! Ugh.)
He did have one advantage: I was moving pretty gingerly to avoid letting the girls jiggle too much... I wasn't exactly dressed for an impromptu chase scene, and there's a very real possibility of hitting myself in the face with them. (Maybe that's just my imagination but it certainly seems possible based on some of the times I've had to run for the bus.)
Then when both our guns were empty, he swept a wet hair off my forehead, and I leaned in and kissed him... Maybe not the first time I had initiated it, but the most serious for sure. In fact, I let us get swept up in a hot and heavy public make out session before I knew it, with my legs wrapping themselves, as a reflex almost on their own, around his body.
"Mm, mm that's enough," I gasped as we parted lips after maybe ten whole minutes.
"Shall we continue this at hone?" He asked hopefully, hinting at sex.
I stammered, "I, uh... Maybe. But my promise remains intact. Sorry."
He mimed being angry for a second, then kissed me atop the head. He was a good sport, that was for sure.
I struggled to help him to his feet and we walked back up to the car
And he put his arm around my lower back
And I steadied myself on his shoulder, rested my head on his arm
And the sun was going down
Well, it was a nice moment. And we almost got carried away, but I saved it, and no harm was done.
I guess that's the thing, the temptation is always going to be there, but I've got years of double lives under my belt. I can deal. It's important to me that I can look Valerie's face in the mirror every morning and know that I did the right thing.