Lying on her back in her childhood bed, Kylie watched through her old bedroom window as the moon slipped silently across the night sky. She had been tossing and turning for well over an hour, plumping her pillow and smashing it flat, searching for comfort, but sleep refused to come.
She was angry at him for not calling, angry at herself for needing to talk to him, angry at her body for longing for him so desperately, pained from the memory of his recent touch and unable to feel it again. She hated that she craved him. She hated that she felt empty without him, the emptiness so alive it practically breathed.
With the emptiness, came the pain—raw, fresh, real. Before, over time, it had settled into a dull ache, like arthritis from an old injury that flared up in bad weather, or on dark nights. But now it had returned, burning hot, a twisted knot, searing her insides, impossible to ignore.
She never should have kissed him.
She knew better than to come to the wedding at all, but where she’d really messed up, where she’d truly done herself in, was kissing him. If she’d never felt his lips on hers again, if she’d never inhaled his exhale, she could have continued to believe the lie she’d convinced herself of—that she’d never needed him to begin with.
But she did need him. She needed him like she needed air. The only time she had ever truly been alive was when he’d loved her.
“Mommy?” Her bedroom door pushed open and Brayden peeked his head in. His eyes were red from sleep and he looked about to cry.
“Can’t sleep, baby?”
He shook his head and she motioned for him to join her. He climbed up on the bed and she snuggled him in close. He was a little warm to the touch and she kissed his forehead to check his temperature.
“Do you feel okay?”
“My tummy hurt,” Brayden answered.
“You want to sleep with me tonight?”
He nodded. She stroked his hair.
“Want me to tell you a story?”
“The football dude one?” he asked.
Kylie didn’t know that one. It was one of Jimmy’s. “How about I tell you a new one?”
“No,” he answered with a big, heartbreaking sigh. “Where Jimmy?”
“I don’t know, baby,” Kylie answered with her own sigh.
A big tear rolled down Brayden’s cheek as he closed his eyes and Kylie’s heart broke even more. “Why Jimmy not home?”
“Jimmy doesn’t live here,” Kylie answered.
“Where Jimmy live?”
“You remember. Jimmy lives in the apartment building with the big tree in the front.”
“Can we go to Jimmy?”
“No, sweetie. We have to stay at Grammy’s.”
“Can Jimmy sleep over?”
“No,” Kylie answered, even though she desperately wanted him to.
“Because Jimmy doesn’t sleep over with us anymore.”
“Just because.” She didn’t know how to explain it, not to a three-year old, and not to the part of her heart that was still in love with Jimmy.
“Let’s try and go to sleep.”
Kylie stroked his hair and rubbed his back as she whispered his nighttime prayer, and then she hummed his favorite song. It took a while, but he slowly drifted off. When he was deep in sleep, his tears finally stopped, but hers continued to fall.
She closed her eyes and whispered, “Damn it, Jimmy, call me.”
Her cell phone vibrated across her nightstand soon as she said the words, and she about jumped out of her skin. She answered quickly, before it woke Brayden.
“Did I wake you?”
If it was possible for her heart to smile from hearing a voice, it would have. Her entire body relaxed, her anger instantly forgotten. “No. I was still awake.”
“Sorry it’s so late. It was kinda crazy today.”
Jimmy was quiet for a long moment. “How’s Brayden?”
“He’s having a hard time sleeping tonight. Too much excitement this week, I think.”
They fell into silence again. She closed her eyes and listened to the quiet connection, feeling him with her, his body breathing in time with hers.
“He asked me to tell him a football dude story. Which ones are those?”
“They’re all stories about Ndamukong Suh.”
Kylie smiled. “Ah, I should have known.”
“His favorite is how Suh single-handedly defeated the evil Texas Longhorns to take the Big Twelve Championship.”
“Umm… you do know we lost that one, right?”
“Not in my world.” Jimmy laughed.
“Maybe you could tell me one of the stories, so I’ll know it the next time he asks.”
“Is he sleeping now?”
“Sound asleep.” She snuggled in closer to Brayden and tucked the phone against her shoulder. Having Brayden in her arms and Jimmy in her ear almost made the emptiness in the room disappear. Almost, but not quite.
“How about I tell you a different story?”
“What kind of story?”
“One that’s just for you.”
“It’s about a beautiful girl named Ky and the time she went camping on Willow Lake.”
Memories flashed, and warmth filled her insides. “I think I know this story.”
“I think you do, too… It was hot that day.”
“Very hot,” Kylie agreed.
“And it was very hot that night.”
“So hot she couldn’t sleep.”
“The air was thick and still, and so very hot. Thunder rolled off in the distance, and the air grew heavy and damp,” Jimmy said, his voice becoming softer and heavier with every word. “And Ky couldn’t sleep.”
“What did Ky do?” Kylie whispered.
“Ky slipped off her tank top to try and get cool. She lifted it so very slowly… inching it higher and higher… revealing her taunt stomach… her porcelain skin… With the light of the campfire dancing off her flawless features, poor Jimmy couldn’t control himself. He knew he had to touch the beautiful Ky, or he would surely die.”
“Did he touch her?”
“He did. Oh, so slowly, as though he feared she would disappear if he rushed, Jimmy reached out his trembling hand and touched the beautiful Ky. Her skin was hot, yet delicate as silk beneath his fingertips. She felt like heaven in his hands, and poor Jimmy had to have more.”
She closed her eyes and allowed his voice to wash over her.
“Jimmy brought his lips to the beautiful Ky. He kissed her shoulders and tasted her breasts. She was sweet like honey on his lips and so very, very hot. He had to have more,” Jimmy said, his voice thick and heavy. “He kissed down her stomach… up her thighs… tasting her sweet heat… but it wasn’t enough. As the storm rolled in and the heavy, damp air pressed down on him, Jimmy knew he had to have every single bit of Ky, or he would lose his mind.”
“Ky had to have him, too,” she whispered. “His touch flashed like lightning through her body, the heat and the pressure building… The ache for him stole her every thought.”
“The beautiful Ky called her Jimmy to her.”
“And he came to her.”
“They moved together… slow… hot… their bodies like the firelight dancing in the steaming night air.”
“Ky cried out as the lightning cracked.”
“Jimmy exploded with the thunder.”
“And then the rains came, and Ky rode the calming waves.”
“Jimmy held her tight, vowing to never let her go.”
“Ky was safe in his arms.”
“With the air cooled and the fire out, the beautiful Ky went to sleep.”