Chapter Thirty-Two

He didn't know how he had let it happen. In just a few minutes he had experienced a full range of emotions - from glorious realisation, joy and fulfillment through to shame, utter despair and regret. All of the confused and pent up feelings which Michael had forced himself to hold onto and suppress for weeks had now, in a moment of rash madness, been allowed to bubble to the surface and show themselves. The situation he now found himself in was painfully awkward and unexpected.

He felt frustrated and embarrassed, exposed and naked. It was early morning. Michael didn't wear a watch anymore but he knew by the low level of light beginning to trickle in through the skylight that it was about five or six o'clock, maybe a little later. He'd managed to sleep for a while but, ultimately, the night had been as long and interrupted as most other nights in the motorhome had so far been. But the last few hours had been subtly different. Lying next to Emma (who, in comparison, had slept relatively soundly) he had spent much of the hours just gone watching her.

She had rolled over to face away from him in the darkness. Instinctively he had snuggled down behind her and put his arm around her body. His hand had brushed her breast. Both survivors were fully clothed, but just the sensation and the slightest touch of her warm, soft bosom had been unexpectedly exciting and had reminded him in an instant of feelings of desire and lust which had been forgotten for what felt like forever. He had pushed himself closer to her in the darkness, pressing himself against her, praying that she wouldn't wake up but, at the same time, wishing that she would respond. He had wished that she'd turn around and hold him and kiss him and stroke him and caress him and tell him that everything was going to be all right. For a long time Michael had wrestled with his conscious. How could he allow himself to think about love and sex when the world outside was dead? What kind of a human being was he to even consider his own lust and sexual desires ahead of the devastation that had taken place beyond the fragile walls of the motorhome? But regardless of how his brain and his conscious screamed at him and demanded that he should behave, his heart and other more basic, carnal instincts drove him to act differently.

In the semi-darkness he reached down under the bedding and unzipped his trousers. Troubled and nervous at first, he began to touch himself in a way that had been forgotten since the nightmare had begun. Initially uncertain, with each passing second his quiet excitement had mounted steadily and soon he was moving quickly, enjoying the unexpected freedom and holding onto Emma as tightly as he could without waking her. She was the reason he was doing this. He knew that he didn't dare risk telling her how he felt for her and how much he wanted her but, for the first time, he finally allowed himself to consider, admit and accept the depth of his feelings for the only other human being remaining in his world. His hand movements became quicker. Faster and faster as he reached the moment. Caution and control gave way to excitement.

He couldn't stop. He knew that the silence and movement might betray him but he didn't care. He'd had a need - a physical lust - which needed to be fulfilled. And then it happened. The movement stopped, a split second pause and then sheer pleasure followed by relaxation. Suddenly paranoid and self-conscious, Michael did up his trousers and immediately began trying to work out how he was going to clean the bedding and his clothes without Emma asking questions or discovering what he had done. A once-familiar feeling of post-ejaculation regret bordering on disgust washed over him. What had he done? Christ, billions of people dead and there he was, wanking under the bedclothes like some dirty little schoolboy. He felt ashamed, and that shame increased infinitely when Emma rolled over. She was awake. Worse still, he could tell from her eyes (not that he dared look into them for any longer than a second) that she'd been awake for a while. 'You okay?' she asked. Embarrassed, Michael nodded. 'Fine,' he grunted awkwardly. 'You?'

She smiled and rolled onto her back. He looked away, too ashamed to dare make eye contact again. A heavy silence descended on the motorhome which seemed to Michael to last for hours but which only lasted seconds. Covering his groin with his hand and a discarded T-shirt he got up quickly and headed towards the confined bathroom space where he began to clean himself up, wincing with the cold as he sponged his clothing down with bottled water. How had he let it happen? A hundred dark thoughts began to manifest themselves in his confused and guilty mind. Did Emma really know what he'd done? Was it such a crime? Would she want to leave and be apart from him? Had he actually done anything wrong? Could she trust him now? Would she despise him? Did she think he was some kind of pervert? All of his questions were answered when he plucked up courage to return to the other room. 'It's all right, you know,' she said softly as he approached. Even more ashamed than he had been when it had first happened, Michael was now mortified. 'What? You mean you...?' he stammered.

'It's perfectly natural,' she soothed, getting up from the bed and walking across the room to him. 'I just...' he began, not really knowing what it was that he was trying to say. Sensing that any conversation would be difficult, Emma instead wrapped herself around Michael, burying her face in his chest for a moment before looking up into his eyes and then gently kissing his unshaven cheek. She ran her hands up and down his back and squeezed him tightly. 'Don't be ashamed,' she whispered. 'I understand.' 'Do you?' She kissed his lips. She had kissed him before, but this time the contact between them was undeniably stronger. She stared into his face. 'I know how you feel,' she whispered.

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