The soft cotton sheet wraps around her legs, entwining in such a way it’s uncomfortable. With every tiny movement, the tighter it wraps around her body, frustrating her even more. She exhales profoundly and gives up, opening her eyes staring up at the ceiling of the lakeside chalet she was last in ten years ago. Yet after tossing and turning for the past eight hours, pretending she is as happily married as she was before isn’t coming as easy to her.
Anne’s tired eyes gaze around the charming and snug bedroom, taking in every unchanged detail. It’s just as neat but somewhat old-fashioned. Her eyes eventually fall on her husband, who sleeps soundly beside her. Beside her, he physically may be, but she is miles away from him, not feeling the slightest connection between them. Even with the help of the memories they once made in this very room, the day following their luxurious wedding where hundreds of people watched them promise each other the world, does she feel the way she wishes she did. The way Pete feels.
She sighs, her fingers twiddle with the platinum bands wrapped around her ring finger, and before she knows it, she is discreetly making her way from the sheets constricting her. She takes her clothes from the rocking chair beside the large window overlooking the glorious sunrise, which begins to shine through the thin curtains and tiptoes into the living room.
Trying not to make any noise, she puts her clothes on and slips her feet into her boots before heading outside.
The fresh morning air catches her face pinking her cheeks. The absent autumn breeze is carrying the promise of rain as fine drops stroke her skin, and the sun streaks the sky as clouds slowly move with the chilled air. For a moment, she stands still and enjoys the therapeutic stillness around her. No movement from the tranquil water comes, and no wind blows. All she hears is the sound of the air caressing her lungs, filling her with a nostalgic, calm state of happiness she has no memories of feeling recently.
She walks towards the lake, its romantic view compelling as the sun fills the dull sky with gold rays. Perhaps a storm is coming, but right now, nothing is stopping her from climbing in the fishing boat she is approaching.
“Anne, what are you doing!” Pete shouts, ruining her moment of peace as he quickly runs into the lake’s shallow waters as the fishing boat motor stirs the vodka clear water and starts to drift.
“What I should have done years ago! Leaving!” Anne shouts, sighing as his lean body clambers opposite her, soaked up to the knee.
“Leaving? Why? We’re in the middle of nowhere,” he says, short of breath, his hand left hanging as she moves away from his gesture.
“Why?” She bluntly asks, staring into his arctic blue eyes with her small chestnut ones, “I have no reason to stay. I don’t know why you planned this stupid trip in the first place, bringing us back here. Did you really think reminiscing our honeymoon would fix everything?”
Pete shrugs his shoulders as his large hands rub the back of his neck, “Anne, I don’t know what you’re on about; we’re fine. Our marriage is fine.”
“You think we are happy? Look at us! All we do is criticise each other and repeatedly have the same arguments. When we are not arguing, we don’t talk, and don’t get me started on the last time we had sex.” Anne exasperatedly sighs.
“Anne,” Pete pauses. “You start the arguments. I don’t want to argue with you, but everything I do is wrong and upsets you. I’m sorry for whatever I have done or am doing,” Pete says, edging closer to his upset wife, offering her comfort. “No, don’t. I don’t want to talk to you,” Anne shuns, turning her back to him.
Pete sorrowfully watches his wife stare into the tranquillity surrounding them. The way the steady waters meet the sun with such grace, the hostility between them could nearly go unnoticed.
Ten years ago, the same mountains and sky canvas surrounded them with its watercolour effect looking as beautiful as today. Pete watches the little ripples where trout meet the hovering flies waking the peace which nothing but the sound of shimmering emptiness of space follows, though this wife’s shallow breathing is not the same. The constant battle of failing to conceive and interfering parents is all he can think of, other than that he believes his marriage is as loving as it should be.
He loves her just as he did the day they said I do, yet the fear of her not feeling the same rises as he hears her sniffles and watches her wipe her falling tears.
“Anne,” he gently says as a lump in his throat chokes him, “I love you. Whatever the problem is, we can fix this. I can’t live without you.”
Anne’s shoulders tense, and her bulky boots start to tap against the musty wooden flooring, slowly drifting further into the lake as she switches the motor off.
“I don’t think it’s enough anymore,” she mumbles quietly.
“It is enough; you are enough,” he reassures.
“I thought about having an affair, you know. I’ve been so tempted. When I last went out, the opportunity passed me, and I nearly took it,” she admits as he falls silent. “The distance between us has been eating at me for a long time. I don’t feel like I used to.”
“Do you love me?” Pete cautiously asks, rocking back and forth as he speaks to the back of her head.
“I do. But,” Anne hesitates.
“But what? You either love me, or you don’t. Because I know I love you, I love you so much. Even if you did have an affair, I would forgive you. There is nothing worse than being without you,” Pete says.
Anne slowly turns her body towards her pleading husband and observes his sorrowful smile and his tired eyes. His youth is vanishing more each day as she weighs him down with her ongoing mood swings, which as she notices the glistening within his messy caramel hair and his stubble surrounding his thin lips, she comes to realise she doesn’t know why she has come to blame him for their failures.
His six-foot lanky build is something she always loved about him, and secretively she smiles at how squashed he looks sitting in the smallest fishing boat she could have picked on the bank.
His glare burns into her, making her feel self-conscious; she knows she doesn’t look twenty-one anymore either. Yet here he is, making a substantial effort to make her happy when all she is is ungrateful.
He longs to reach out to her, to run his long fingers through her messy curly hair and plant a kiss onto her quivering lips. Though denying his affection has become too much for him to take after so long of her pushing him off every time he tries.
He used to love satisfying her, pleasing her in the ways she only reads in books nowadays, but as it became a chore, with the need to conceive every time and disappointment when it never happened. They gave up, not only for a child they so desired, but she blames him and has lost her passion, where he still burns for her. It breaks his heart he can’t give her what she wants. Which while staring into her crying eyes is evident she wants more than him.
Anne fiddles with her fingers, saying nothing to Pete as they meet a stalemate; neither one knows what to say next. Does he steer the boat back and leave, or does he hold onto the last invisible thread he has attaching them together? He thinks.
She sighs, looking down at her feet as the boat starts to rock with Pete’s sudden movements. He suddenly cups her face ever so gently as if she is fragile. His soft thumbs rub her cheeks, banishing her falling teardrops before his lips touch hers. Kiss me, he thinks, anguished, knowing she won’t return his love.
She pulls back and says nothing, her glossy eyes pinched by the tears wanting to fall as she so desperately wants to feel how she used to, yet nothing can melt the frozen heart within her chest.
“Anne, please,” Pete begs.
Anne shakes her head a little, nearly missable, as she bites her bottom lip, choked on her emotions, her heartache for hurting her beloved husband in such a wicked way. Her hands slowly rise to his hair, and she brushes it aside before trailing her fingers slowly down the side of his face, whereas if struck by lightning, the tiniest scar beneath his eyebrow takes her back to the memory of how he came to have it.
They were fifteen, young, foolish, and in love, so they believed. Their parents disagreed and called them naïve. No matter how hard they tried to keep them apart, they were inseparable. She snuck in his bedroom when his Mum was sleeping, and he snuck in through her bedroom window, unbeknown to her parents. The way their teenage romance blossomed so quickly, being a distant memory to her now. Though for him, that night when her parents returned unexpected, he legged it down the stairs and out the back door, jumping over the six-foot fence, which now would be easy, back then he was only short, and with that, he hit the floor with a bang and cut open his eye. A scar to last a lifetime, reminding him daily of how their love began, the reason he never forgets.
Her thumb softly strokes his small white line, and his breathing becomes shallow, reminiscing of how he became the proud owner of it. The high school beauty not being the only prize he won in the summer of ninety-nine.
She gives him a little smile and kisses him so lightly, he barely feels it. Still, it ignites the hairs on the back of his neck. She lets him go, saying nothing, turns back on the motor, and steers the fishing boat back to the shore.
In silence, she remains, though laughter, cries, and fun shout at her as their teenage memories shudder her mind and spark the tiniest bit of warmth in her chest, rolling a tear down her cold cheek. Which to Pete confirms the worst, shattering his heart in more pieces than he expected.
Bound to silence, Pete goes back into the lakefront chalet bedroom and starts to fold his clothes neatly into his bag. With nothing left to say, he feels at a loss, no matter what he tries. Ten years ago, he looked his beautiful wife in the face and promised her the world, yet nothing seems enough to make her happy.
“Pete,” she says behind him, noticing his OCD take over as his clothes are folded precisely.
“Anne, don’t. I don’t know what else to say, and it seems you have made up your mind. I’m going home,” he says, his first tear budding from the corner of his eye escapes, burning him like wildfire.
He zips up his bag, places it over his shoulder, and walks past Anne with nothing but a sigh.
She doesn’t call back for him, nor does she move from the spot she stands.
She hears his car start and sees him leave with no look back, and it’s not only then she knows the love of her life is walking away from her, she knows how selfish she has been. It’s not just her who yearns for a baby; it’s Pete. He is also childless and not yet the fun, loving father of three daughters he so longs to be. It’s at that moment when the rear car lights turn red as he halts at the bottom of the driveway she knows, baby or no baby, she doesn’t want a life without him.
“Pete! Pete!” Anne shouts at the top of her voice, running through the chalet and down the driveway, in quiet apparent circumstances, the rain. The clouds are dull and filled with sorrow, grumbling as bolts of lightning light up the sky.
She runs as fast as her feet take her, drenched and breathless as the car door opens, and he runs in her direction.
With a few strides of his long legs, he takes her in his arms and kisses her passionately. She moreish as always tastes as good as she looks, beautiful. She sighs deeply within their kiss as her hands move to the nip in his neck, holding on tightly as she mutters, “I love you.” Pete moves back, looking down into his wife’s alluring yet sorry eyes, and his tears fall within the rain.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I love you. I love you with all my heart. I forgot that’s all. Baby or no baby, as long as I’m with you, that’s all that matters.” Anne cries, breaking Pete’s heart as he falls for her all over again. His gentle touch moves his wet hair from her face, “I love you, Anne. I always have and I always will. We will work this out, I promise you,” he says.
He takes her hand within his, and they walk back to the chalet, the echo of the thunder outside loud yet warming to their dreary start to the day. As he lights the fire, Anne goes back into the bedroom, looking outside as the car parked in the middle of the long driveway, where he has left it. She runs her finger over her kissed lips and feels a hunger rise within her, reminiscing back to the time Pete touched her for the first time, not when he made love to her but instead the first time his fingers strayed too far, after the first time he told her he loved her.
“I think I love you,” Pete said, “I mean, I don’t know what love feels like, but I feel something heavy on my heart when I think about you, when I’m with you and when I’m without you.”
His words wrapped tightly around her heart, not roughly, causing pain, but instead, a silk bow hung gently around it. Within that moment, a moment she never expected herself to encounter, all she felt was serenity and pure bliss. Pete has said the three words she has wanted to say to him for weeks, and after what they have been through, what she has been through, having been the victim to high school bullies, him moving in next door had no doubt been the only recovery to her rebelling teenage life that she needed.
“I feel the same way,” she said, with a smile as he stroked his hand down her cheek before touching her lip.
“I don’t want to be without you,” she said, her words being much more passionate than she anticipated.
“You are not going to be without me. I’m always going to be in here,” Pete said, pointing to her heart as his deep eyes became glossy.
“Pete, you saved my life,” she said. “Now kiss me,” she laughed as she leaned into him, placing her lips onto his.
As their kiss became heated, her hands attempted to move further than before and were under his top touching his bare skin. He felt soft and warm, and it flushed her cheeks instantly as he allowed her. She experienced further excitement as his kisses became more intensifying and his grip on her body tightened. He opened her legs and placed himself between them, now kissing her in a position he hadn’t before; she found it arousing, and it sparked feelings in places she found pleasurable, which she didn’t want to end, despite her hands trembling with nerves. He leaned onto her, and she could feel his arousal through the layers of clothes that restricted them, which caused her to take a breath.
“Are you okay?” he said, concerned, holding himself above her.
“I want to,” she paused with embarrassment, “I want to touch you and for you to touch me,” she said shyly, looking up at him.
“Me too,” he said, nibbling his lip.
Pete laid beside her and continued to trail his soft kisses along her neck and collar bone. Anne laid embracing how beautifully electric he made her feel as he tentatively unbuckled her denim shorts. His hands shook with nerves, and she was thankful his anxieties were on show, just like hers. To help the situation, she lowered her shorts down as they distract their fumbling with kisses, entwining her tongue with his.
He kissed her and nuzzled her neck, sliding his touch down the front of her panties before his hand tucked under the cotton, it tickled her bikini line, and her breathing instantly rose. As he lowered, her hand automatically caressed the back of his neck, pulling him closer to her, kissing him passionately as the intense feeling of his touch affected her.
He caressed her with excruciating slow designs, the pleasure unbearably teasing and in a way that makes her body feels sexy. The rhythm of his zen-like breathing compelled her hands to wander to his football shorts. He pulled back a little as he was hesitant, and she looked into his captivating eyes. She smiled and reassured him, allowing her to continue.
Beneath his layers, Anne felt him. Her fingers softly trailed his silky like texture before tenderly taking him within her warm palm and caressing him in ways she has never touched anybody. She treated him as he was fragile while spikes of sensations trembled both their bodies.
His warm breath reached the most sensitive parts of her neck, the closeness of him being enough to drive the fear from her mind, and the idea of having sex with him crossed it.
“I want to have sex with you,” she said as she became breathless. She felt a flutter within her stomach as Pete continued to touch her deliciously. Tingles surged her body, and warmth rose between her legs, and she performed sounds she has never made before.
Anne realised they were not kissing anymore, but instead, their eyes hadn’t moved from one another as they studied each other. The silence between them was probably the longest time they have ever spent together without talking.
Pete laid on his back, allowing her to see him for the first time, and it sent shivers down her spine. She tried to keep her composure and licked her lips at how sensual she suddenly felt, and bit her lip as she watched him experience his moment of ecstasy. His expression exposed the pleasure he experienced as he became breathless, and his cheeks shone as he rose to kiss her.
He removed his hand from her panties, and she pulled her shorts back up. He raised his shorts a little before heading to her ensuite. She leaned back on the bed, and a gleaming smile was sketched across her face. She couldn’t believe this had happened to her when just weeks ago, she thought she would never feel like this, within a bubble in which she wanted to stay with the first boy she had found herself to love.
Anne slowly trailed her fingers on her lips, down her neck, down her body, and rested them on her cartwheeling stomach. Every inch of her felt electrified, and it felt incredible. It’s then, at the young age of sixteen, that all the arguments with her parents, and her friends, that no matter what they thought, she knew Pete was the love of her life and he was worth any pain and heartbreak they would face.
Anne stares at herself in the mirror, and for a moment, sees her teenage self staring back at her, with her hand touching her body in the same intimate way she did on that summer’s evening before in her childhood bedroom. She feels her heart skip a beat, warming her, and smiles. Anne strips her wet clothes from her curvy, olive-skinned body and wraps herself in the blanket laid on the bed. She runs her fingers through her hair and takes her first barefoot step back into the living room, where her husband sits, warming his shivering body in front of the fire.
“Pete,” she whispers, gaining his attention. He looks around and sees her standing before him, waiting for him to love her like old times. He instantly throws the last log onto the fire and rises to his feet. He approaches her swiftly, taking her into his arms. He kisses her gently, then with increasing pressure and with his tongue as he hadn’t kissed her in so long. It’s extraordinary, exceptional, and a beautiful way to awaken her. The touch of his fingers trails like a feather dragging lightly down her spine, making her shiver. Her hand reaches to the back of his neck and traces his collar bone. She is now at the mercy of him, and as her hands explore him, the blanket falls to the floor.