It was like there was sandpaper on the roof of her mouth making each word that came out sound scratchy and weak. But she couldn’t afford that; it was time to be strong.
“You’re not supposed to be here, Timothy.”
“I asked you not to come back.”
She turned her cheek against the pillow and studied the tension evident in his back muscles as he sat on the very edge of the bed with his head down. After a moment he stood, faced her. She watched his chest expand with a deep breath. He toyed with the bed knob, drawing tiny circles on its surface.
“Let’s just talk.”
“We’ve been through this, for months now. I can’t talk to you anymore.” Julie shook her head vehemently. “I can’t, Timothy.” Her hands remained folded, politely resting on her stomach.
“Because I have too much to say.”
She could see the disappointment circling his pupils. She understood the despair that caused his brow to crease. Every part of her ached to console him, to make it all better.
Well, not every part of her ached, she reminded herself bitterly. Some parts of her simply felt nothing.
One by one all the reasons they couldn’t be together anymore streamed through her mind, agonizing pieces of information she could not get past or ignore. The rims of her eyelids began to twitch and burn with unreleased emotion.
She would not cry.
Even though her eyelashes might go up in flames at any moment, she would not cry.
With long strides Timothy crossed the room headed for the door. Julie held her breath. How could she so desperately want someone to leave and stay simultaneously?
“Damn it, Julie!” He slammed his fist into the doorframe, making her flinch. Somehow, in some sick twisted manner, it gave her hope. “I just don’t understand… how could you… why won’t you..?”
When he turned to face her again she saw that, unlike her, his resolve was melting down his cheeks. His voice became low, childlike. “If you don’t want my heart anymore why won’t you just give it back?”
Her rib might as well have punctured her heart. Love came gushing out, painful and sticky, coating her insides, seeping out of her pores. “I’m trying to.”
Timothy rushed to her side, sitting on the bed with one arm poised across her body. He peered into her eyes as if he could some how hypnotize her into changing her mind.
She looked away from his gaze. “I can’t bear you children.”
“You don’t know that for sure yet. And so what? I’ll have you; we’ll have each other. And we could always adopt if we really wanted kids.”
It was the same argument he always gave. She looked down to see that he had moved his hand from the mattress onto her lower torso. His thumb stroked her hipbone softly, tenderly. She could almost feel it. Almost wasn’t enough.
To her demise her lips tasted salty when she continued her argument. “Timothy, we can’t make love.”
“Fine. We don’t need to make something we already have.”
A trembling hand came to her throat. Oh, god, how she wanted to believe him. But how could half a woman be enough for man so great?
“Sometimes I think…” Her voice came out in a whisper. “Sometimes I think my heart is overcompensating for what I can’t feel below the waist anymore.”
Timothy pressed his lips against the edge of her jawbone just below her ear. “Can you feel this?”
“And this?” He made a slow trail of gentle kisses from her neck past her collarbone until he rested between her breasts where her heart pulsed dramatically. Each time he paused to ask, “Can you feel this?”
She gazed down at him, sadness tainting her pleasure.
Several long quiet moments passed. He outlined a heart on her chest.
“I’ll leave, I’ll go without looking back, the day you don’t feel anything right here, beneath your skin and any stupid nerve endings. And there’s nothing you can do to make me leave before then…” He smiled. “You certainly can’t kick me out, now can you?”
Slowly, Julie smiled back.