But we didn’t care.

Almost every day, she stopped by and kissed me.

Almost every day, I kissed her back.

She told me his favorite color. Green.

I told her Jamie’s favorite food. Pasta.

Some nights I climbed out of my bedroom window and straight into hers. Other nights, she crawled into my bed. When I entered her bed, she never turned the sheets down. She hardly allowed me on his side of the bed. I understood that more than anyone could’ve ever known.

She undressed me and made love to her past.

I slid into her and made love to my ghosts.

It wasn’t right, yet somehow it made sense.

Her soul was scarred, and mine was burned.

But when we were together, the hurting hurt a little less. When we were together, the past wasn’t as painful to take in. When we were together, I never for a second felt alone.

There were plenty of days when I was okay. There were a ton of times when the hurt was just hidden inside of me, but not punching me in the gut. But then there were the days of the big memories. Jamie’s birthday was one. It was Jamie’s birthday, and that night I struggled.

The past demons that were buried deep within my soul were slowly creeping out. Elizabeth showed up to my bedroom. I should’ve pushed her away. I should’ve allowed the darkness to swallow me whole.

But I can’t leave her alone.

Occasional flashes of tenderness and care traveled through the two of us as her body rested beneath mine. Her eyes shook me—they always did. Her hair fell against my pillow. “You’re stunning,” I whispered before wrapping my hand around her neck and lifting, allowing her mouth to find my lips.

That night, she was my ecstasy. My hallucinations.

I loved the taste of strawberry lip gloss on her lips.

Her nude body hid under me and my lips explored her neck as she arched her spine.

“Do you know how beautiful your eyes are?” I asked, sitting up with her pinned beneath me.

She smiled again. That’s beautiful too. My finger outlined the curvature of her body, taking in every inch of her.

“They’re just brown,” she replied, combing her fingers through her hair.

She was wrong. They were more than that, and I noticed them more each night I held her against me. If I looked closely, I could see the few flakes of gold floating around the rims of her eyes.

“They’re beautiful.” There wasn’t anything about her that wasn’t beautiful.

My tongue washed against her hard nipple. She shivered. Dependency on my touch dripped from every fiber of her being as she begged me to explore her deepest fears and her sweetest tastes. I slid my hand behind her back and lifted her so we were both sitting up in my dark bedroom. I stared into those beautiful eyes as I spread her legs and positioned her against me. She nodded once, granting me permission to do exactly what she had come over to my place for.

I grabbed a condom from my nightstand and rolled it on. “How do you want it?” I asked.


My lips rested against hers as I spoke in a whisper, my breaths filling her up inside. “I can be rough. I can be gentle. I can make you scream. I can make you cry. I can fuck you so hard that you won’t be able to move. I can fuck you so slow that you’ll think I’m in love with you. So tell me how you want it. You’re in control.” My finger circled her lower back. I needed her to be in control. I needed her to take charge, because I was losing my grip on reality.

“Well, aren’t you the gentleman?” she nervously said.

I cocked an eyebrow.

Sighing, she avoided eye contact. “Gentle and slow…like you love me,” she whispered, hoping not to sound too desperate.

I didn’t tell her, but that’s exactly how I needed it.

That’s exactly how I would’ve loved to love Jamie on her birthday.

God, my mind was fucked up.

What was scary was how Elizabeth’s thoughts were almost a carbon copy of my own.

How did two people so broken find each other’s shattered pieces?

I was slow to enter her at first, my eyes watching how her body reacted to my being inside her. Her eyes wanted to close as I pushed in deeper, her lips parting, allowing a small moan to escape. When my tongue ran across her bottom lip, I was in the strawberry fields, tasting all of her.

My hands were shaking, but I stopped the nerves by focusing on her eyes. She caught her breath, placing her hand over her heart for a moment. Her eyes were with mine, staring as if we’d never see one another again; it felt as if we were both terrified of losing that small bit of comfort.

Did she see him when she stared my way? Did she remember his eyes?

I could almost tell that her heart was beating as hard as mine, working as intensely.

“Can I stay the night?” she whispered as I lifted her thighs and placed her back against the headboard.

“Of course.” I sighed, rolling my tongue against her ear, massaging her breasts in my hands. She shouldn’t stay the night. But I wanted her to. I was so terrified of being alone with my thoughts that the reply fell from my mouth like I was begging. “We can pretend till morning,” I offered.

She shouldn’t stay here, my brain ordered me. What are you doing?! it scolded.

Harder. We both wanted it more and more now, our eyes locked the whole time. Our hips moved in harmony. “Oh my God,” she muttered, breathless. Our heart rates intensified as we allowed our bodies to become one for a while. I slid into her tightness and she arched her back for more.

“Steven…” she whispered, but I didn’t even care.

“Jams…” I muttered back, and she didn’t mind.