EXCERPT – Nowhere to Hide

Aaron walks towards me now but stops a couple of feet away. That’s something he’s learned over the last year — that there’s an exclusion zone around me. Although we’ve been close, I’ve always been very possessive of my own flat, my own space. Aaron understands that, the fact that sometimes I panic when he comes near. But then sometimes I smile and draw him in. And the drawing in has been plentiful and good. So very, very good. He touches me in a way that’s both careful and hungry. Sometimes when he’s nowhere around and I close my eyes, I can still feel the strength of his arms under my fingertips, still taste his smile on my lips. I never thought I’d feel that way about someone, nor that they’d want me as much in return. But I’ve never stayed overnight at his place nor invited him to sleep over at mine. Sometimes the feeling I have for him just doesn’t seem to be enough.

Back in the cabin, he coughs. Makes it sound like he’s just clearing his throat. “We’ve taken it all very slow, Dan, and that’s been fine. Finding out about each other, enjoying each other’s company. And we’ve had good times together, right?” I know he’s frowning. “Tell me if I’m wrong, Dan, because I –”

“Yes.” I speak quickly, still not facing him. His voice is soft but I can hear the edge of tension to it. “It’s very good. Honestly, Aaron, it is. It’s all been good. I just feel … I just can’t … it’s …”

“It’s too much for you,” he says, breaking into my pathetic rambling.

I shrug. That’s even more pathetic, really. After all, I’ve known him long enough to know what a good friend he is, and we’ve been kissing and fooling around since last Christmas. And when I’m honest with myself — truly, heart-wrenchingly honest — I know that I’ve loved him from about forty seconds after I met him. It just took me a hell of a sight longer to realize it for certain. I love to hold him and tease him, and make him shiver with pleasure. And I’ll always go down on him with excited, hungry pleasure.

Just … there’s been nothing more intimate between us yet.

In the cabin, there’s silence for a while. I can’t say it’s awkward because there are often silences like this in our life together, and we’re used to them. Aaron is the perfect man to offer that to me — a time to be quiet, to think, to mourn whatever it is I mourn. He gives me space and enough respect that I don’t beat myself up about it.

It’s just not so good when the silence is of my prompting.

“Shall I get another cabin?” He finally speaks, very gently. “Would that be easier for you? There are some singles still available out by the nursery slopes.”

I turn then to look at him. He makes his offer sound perfectly reasonable but I know it’s not. “No. Please?” I don’t know what I’m asking for. I can’t seem to move from my position, but he makes no move towards me either. “Give me a little time to unpack, okay? I’ll be fine in a while. It’s all fine. Honestly.”

He makes some excuse about going to see how Bailey and Cass are settling in. He’ll check out the timetable for skiing tomorrow. On his way out, he pauses at the doorway and looks up. There are some of those glittery festive chains draped across the ceiling and hanging down from the middle of them is a sprig of something green with white berries. Yeah, I know it’s mistletoe. He does too.

But he doesn’t look back and shuts the door of the cabin behind him very quietly.

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