Before We Were Strangers: A Love Story: Chapter 12

Everything Seemed Right

GRACE

Two weeks later, we were packing to go to California for Christmas break. We had seen little of each other since the night at the PhotoHut, with both of us totally drowning during finals and Matt working overtime to pay for my flight to California.

“Where are we staying when we get there?”

“We’ll stay at my mom’s. She has a tiny house in Pasadena, but there’s a spare bedroom. It’s better than my dad’s; they actually have staff there. It’s ridiculous.” He was sitting on a big purple beanbag in the corner of my room, flipping through National Geographic, his jean-clad legs spread wide and his shoes kicked off. He looked comfortable and relaxed in his Sonic Youth T-shirt and paperboy hat.

“What do you mean by ‘staff’?”

He waved his hand around vaguely. “Like maids and shit.”

“Oh.” I suddenly felt nervous. Even if we weren’t staying there, I knew we were going to have to meet his dad, brother, and stepmom at some point, and I wondered what they would think of me. Poor, pathetic Grace in her piecemeal, thrift-store wardrobe.

“Don’t freak out Grace, it’s all an act with them. Just be yourself. You’re perfect.” He put down the magazine and looked up at me. “By the way, what did Pornsake want the other day when he came looking for you at the store?”

“He’s still trying to talk me into going abroad. Now Tati’s going, so he’s dangling that carrot.”

“Oh,” he said quietly. His eyes were distant for a few moments. “He acted like it was urgent.”

“He’s just like that,” I said.

“He’s pushy.” Matt looked down and continued flipping through the magazine without looking up at me.

“He cares.”

“He wants to get in your pants.”

“So do you.” I walked over, grabbed the magazine, and tossed it aside.

“That’s true,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye.

Standing between his knees, I bent and kissed the top of his head. He ran his hands up and down the back of my bare legs.

“Do you wear short dresses like this to make me crazy?” His voice was raspy. We hadn’t done anything but kiss since the night Matt had proven his skills. We had slept in the same bed a few nights, curling up into each other, exhausted after marathon study sessions, but nothing beyond that. Frankly, his self-control was saintly. We were ready, I was ready, and Matt knew it. Now that the stress from finals had been relieved, the only tension left was the kind that wracked our bodies and begged to be released every time we touched each another.

“I’m almost done. I’ll come over after I shower. Do you have wine in your room?” I asked.

“A little, I think,” he mumbled into my stomach as I continued playing with his messy hair.

“I just want a tiny bit to take the edge off.”

He gripped my legs harder and looked up at me. He understood. “I’ll pick up some wine.”

I nodded. “What time is our flight tomorrow morning?”

“Six fifteen.”

“Yikes, that’s early.” I looked at the clock; it was already eleven p.m.

Matt stood up and held my face with both hands and kissed me softly. “Just come over when you’re done. We can sleep on the plane.”

I swallowed and nodded.

Before he reached the door, he turned around. “Hey, Grace?” He gripped the molding above the door and leaned in, his gaze on the ground. I could see his triceps flexing as he rocked forward a couple of times.

“Yeah?”

“Before you come over tonight . . . be sure . . . okay?” He looked up and narrowed his eyes. “And wear that dress.”

His shirt had ridden up, revealing the muscles of his lower abdomen. I couldn’t help but stare. When I looked back up to his face I expected to see a cocky smile, but his lips were flat. Serious.

“Okay.” I said.

After he left the room, I ransacked my closet for something to pack that I could wear to his rich father’s house. I basically threw all of the clothes I owned into my suitcase, then I took off my dress, laid it out on the bed, and got into the shower. A million insecurities ran through my mind as I groomed every inch of my body.

I closed my eyes and took deep breaths, letting the hot water pour down on me. My hand instinctively moved lower as I ran through images of Matt touching me over and over again in my mind. I touched my breasts, trying to imagine what they would feel like to him. I wondered if I had sex appeal. I tried to imagine how I would pose or move my body. I didn’t have a clue.

After the shower, I dried my hair quickly and put on a tiny bit of lip gloss. I had one matching bra and underwear set. It was cheap black lace, and the panties were unraveling a bit at the hip. I put them on and stared at myself in the full-length mirror. Cupping my breasts over the lace and smoothing my hands down my sides to my hips, my nerves began to calm. I needed to know how I would feel to him. I was smooth and warm, and when I reached lower, I was wet. I slipped my red dress with black flowers over my head.

Everything was ready and sitting by the door for the trip. The only thing left on my agenda that night was to lose my virginity. I was more nervous than I had ever been, but I was ready.

I knocked on his door a moment later, and when I heard him shuffling across the floor, my stomach dropped. He had told me to be sure, but now I was having doubts.

He swung the door open wide, already armed with a glass of wine, and handed it over to me. “I figured you’d need that right away.”

In my typical, dorky way, I started blabbering. “Yeah, I mean, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing or what to expect, or what you like or . . . like, how I’m supposed to do it . . . or look or feel . . .”

“Stop, Grace. We don’t need to talk about it. Just drink your wine and we’ll hang out. Just relax and be us.”

“Good idea.” I went to his CDs and found Radiohead and put on The Bends album.

“Nice choice, lady,” he said from the other side of the room as he threw a few things in his bag.

He was shirtless, and his unbelted black jeans were hanging below the line of his boxers.

I lay across his bed, set my wine on the floor, and picked up his camera. “Say cheese.”

He turned around and smiled as I stared at him through the viewfinder. “You’re much better on the other side of that thing. Here.” He reached for it and I happily handed it over.

I rolled onto my back and put my knees up, letting my dress fall to the tops of my thighs. He started snapping away. “You’re so beautiful, Grace.”

“But do you think I’m sexy?”

“Yes. Very.”

I sat up at the edge of the bed as he set the camera on the nightstand. I took the last sip of my wine just as the song “Fake Plastic Trees” came on. “I love this one.”

He reached down for the hem of my dress as I went for the button of his jeans.

“Stand up, baby.”

“I don’t know what to do, Matt.”

“You will.”

He lifted the dress over my head and then braced the back of my neck and kissed me like it was his only purpose in life. The temperature around our bodies tripled. His other hand ran down my back, to my bottom, and then slipped under the lace. I could feel him hard against me.

Breaking the kiss, I stepped back. His chest was pumping in and out. I watched as he took me in, standing there, waiting for him, wanting him.

He nodded with wide eyes. “I like this.”

Something came over me, and I felt encouraged and confident, for once. I closed the distance between us, pulled his jeans and boxers down, and dropped to my knees.

“Wow.” Wait, did I just say “Wow”? I felt so silly. I was incapable of being the hot girl; I couldn’t just act like I knew what I was doing, especially now that I was staring that thing down. All the unabashed confidence disappeared in an instant. I heard Matt chuckle.

“Stand up, Grace.”

“Why?” I whined as he lifted me from under my arms. I looked up at his face and he was smiling, teeth and all.

“You are the cutest fucking thing in the world, do you know that?”

I crossed my arms over my chest and made a pouty face. “I was going for sexy, dammit.”

“You’re that, too. Let’s just lie down and take it slow.”

People never tell you that these moments can feel really awkward. When you’re trying to do what you see on TV or read about in books, everything feels strange. I reached for the bottle of wine and took a swig. Matt was completely naked as he fell back onto the bed. His quiet self-assurance was a blessing in disguise; he wasn’t “that guy,” trying to be hot and smooth. He didn’t have to try to be hot or smooth—he just was. I took off my bra and underwear with little ceremony and lay down next to him as he stared up at the ceiling.

Rolling over onto his side and propping himself on his elbow, he leaned in and said, “Close your eyes.”

He kissed me, the heat spreading and the urgency building. When he used his teeth to tug on my bottom lip, I thought I was going to lose it. His hand moved between my legs and then he touched me down there. My breath didn’t hitch, I didn’t gasp, and I didn’t stop him. I wanted more, more pressure, more contact. I placed my hand over his and pressed. Just like he said, I knew what to do. The awkwardness was gone.

His lips traveled all over my body, stopping at my breasts, his tongue toying with one nipple as his hand went to work on me. I could hear myself making noises, quiet little “ahhh” sounds. Not the way women do in the movies, just in the involuntary way that comes with pleasure. He gripped my hip hard and kissed me even deeper on the mouth. He went to my neck and ear and sucked and kissed until I was writhing underneath him. Pure. Bliss.

“Just feel me,” he whispered. How could I not? I felt so ready for him. I wrapped my hand around his length and pulled him toward me with my other hand. “Not yet,” he said.

He sat back on his heels and ripped a condom wrapper open. “I’m on the pill!” I shouted awkwardly. He jerked his head back in surprise. I stared at him, unblinking. There was just enough dim light in the room for us to see each other’s faces. You have to admit that comic relief isn’t always a bad thing right before you’re about lose your virginity.

When Matt laughed, I brazenly leaned in and wrapped my hand around him again. “Just do me, okay?”

He was smiling but there was something else in his expression that looked like reverence. “You’re so unexpected, Grace.” He moved his body so that he was hovering over me with his weight on his elbows. He kissed me tenderly, sucking my bottom lip into his mouth. Everything slowed down in a good way, and then he moved his hand to the space between my legs and touched me again, more gently than before.

“Ahhhh,” I whimpered.

He made a satisfied sound, then gripped the back of my thigh, hitching it up. My body was open to him. I waited. The anticipation increased everything, the heat, the intensity, the throbbing inside of me. I knew it was right.

“I love you,” he said near my ear, and then he was inside of me. There was a moment of pressure, but it wasn’t as painful as I had expected. His pace was slow until it felt completely normal, like something I had always been missing. We moved faster together, our quiet moans unstudied and real. It was such a strange idea knowing he and I were moving for our own pleasure while giving it back to each other, equally. Like nothing else in life, sex is perfectly selfless and selfish all at once. Hot and cold, yin and yang, black and white, and all of the shades in between. Finally, the whole world made sense. I was in on the secret now.

The echoes of his voice kept playing over and over in my mind as we moved together. I love you. I love you. I love you.

I love you too. Always. Forever.

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