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Lost and Found

Matt is forced to confront his lifestyle.
I didn’t invite Lucy into my life. No, she barged in like she’d done ever since we were kids, acting like everything was the same and nothing had changed. I knew she was there because she was worried about me but I was doing just fine. So what if I hadn’t been calling her or any of my other friends for the last six months? Friendship seemed to pale into insignificance when compared with recent events.

Madeline was dead; the car crash took care of that, and it also took care of her lover. Funny that. I only realised she was having an affair when she died. I didn’t tell anyone. Of course, they liked to remember their version of Madeline, the sweet, sociable party girl they thought they knew everything about. I couldn’t blame them. It was easier to remember her that way; to try and forget all the lies that I’d never even known she’d told. It made me sick and the worst thing was that there was no one with whom I could share the sense of betrayal.

I got on with my life because I knew it could end in an instant, just like Maddie’s had. I kept on with my job, went to a therapist, and acted like everything was fine. I accepted condolences, told the shrink what she wanted to hear, and put on a smile but inside I was going crazy. I couldn’t believe I’d been so gullible, that I’d let myself be played like a fool and I didn’t quite know what I was grieving for: my dead wife, or my utter blindness.

At night I went out alone, jogging through the city streets, trying to keep my mind off her. I couldn’t forget waking up next to her every morning, the smell of her coconut shampoo, the way she looked on the day we got married, the secret smiles we’d share at fancy dinner parties. I wanted to hate her but I couldn’t. I knew it was partly my own fault; working long days at the office hadn’t helped things but I’d always thought our bond was too strong to be broken by a few hours of overtime.

I’d obviously been wrong. It hurt more than I wanted it to, more than I expected it to. I cut myself off from my family, from my friends, because I couldn’t bear to have them talk about her without knowing how I felt inside.

Lucy wouldn’t stay away though. I guess it was understandable. We’d known each other since we were eleven, and had been friends ever since she fixed my dad’s lawnmower after I’d accidentally mown over the cord. I remembered watching in awe as she twined the copper wires inside the cable back together and taped it up. I couldn’t believe it when it started working again. We got into the same music, the same cliques, and we acted cool like all teenagers; smoking cigarettes and feigning disinterest in all things important.

The years went on and our lives took separate paths; hers led to university and mine to an apprenticeship at my father’s company but we remained close. We were there for each other through heartbreaks and hard times.

Since Maddie’s death, she’d called me numerous times but I always let it run to voicemail, not wanting to explain but not wanting to pretend either. She was persistent, and in a way I hated her for it. I felt like I needed to be alone. I didn’t want her to come and see me because I knew she’d assume I wasn’t coping. From the outside I knew it looked like I wasn’t coping. I’d head out to bars on the weekend, go home with willing girls in an attempt to fill the void inside of me. It didn’t work but I didn’t stop. Drinking and sex didn’t mean I wasn’t handling myself though. I was fine.

Then one Friday night I got home and Lucy was waiting outside my front door.

“God, you look awful,” she said. Sensitivity had never been one of her strong points.

“So do you,” I replied, but she didn’t really. She looked alive, her blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail, the aqua of her irises reminding me of the warm ocean at the beach resort where Maddie and I had honeymooned.

“Why haven’t you been picking up your phone?”

I unlocked my door. “I’ve been busy.”

She followed me inside my apartment without invitation. “Oh my god, Matt! Ever heard of cleaning?”

I looked around and saw her point. “I guess it’s a bit of a mess.”

“A bit?!” She surveyed the empty plates and cups, the unopened stacks of mail, the scrunched up t-shirts and shook her head. “You can’t live like this.”

“I can live how I want,” I snapped. “It’s my fucking life.”

She ignored me and started tidying up. She’d always been so OCD about cleaning, so I left her to it and slammed the door to my bedroom shut. The last thing I wanted was to have her around. She was so bright and I felt blinded by her, unable to understand how she could keep up the optimism, despite all the problems I knew she’d had. I envied her ability to get by so well, to take everything in her stride; all her messed-up relationships, her sister’s suicide, her pervert of a boss; none of it seemed to affect her very deeply, and if it did, she recovered so well.

The apartment looked like a show home by the time she’d finished, every cushion in place, every photo frame dusted and polished.

“So, how are you doing?” she asked, as she disapprovingly checked the contents of the refrigerator.

“I’m fine,” I said. “I feel great.”

She turned to me, and narrowed her eyes. “How about the truth?”

“I’m good,” I insisted. “Things are… okay.”

“Really?”

“Of course.” I brushed past her to grab a bottle of beer from the fridge. “So what’s up with you?”

“Nothing new,” she said, frowning at the vast quantity of cans and bottles that filled my kitchen cupboards. “Do you even eat solid food anymore?”

“Of course! I eat out usually.” I flicked the cap off my bottle and took a swig. “So what did you come for exactly?”

“Just to check up on you,” she replied. “Why? Do you want me to go?”

“Well…”

We were close enough for my rejection not to hurt her feelings but it didn’t make me feel good. I could see she just wanted to help but the truth was I didn’t need her. There was nothing she could do to change anything, or make me feel any differently. All I wanted was to be alone again so I could chill out, watch some porn, and enjoy my own company. I guess I’d become a bit of a recluse. I’d trusted Maddie with everything and for her to have betrayed me made me more cynical of people around me. Lucy was here now but who knew what she really wanted?

I watched as she walked around the kitchen, opening the cupboard doors, and standing on her tiptoes to see what was on the top shelves. She stretched up to grab a Tupperware box and her vest lifted a little, showing an inch of her slim, tapering waist.

“What the hell is this?” she asked, looking positively repulsed. She tilted the box from side to side, peering through the plastic to try and identify the contents.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” I said, and she promptly tossed the box in the bin.

“Matt, you need to sort your life out.”

“What’s wrong with my life?” I asked, affronted. “I have a job, I have a home, I don’t do drugs. What more do you want from me?”

She rolled her eyes, and hoisted herself up to sit on the worktop. “You have a life, but you’re not living. You need to take care of yourself, socialise, meet people.”

“I do all that,” I said dismissively. “You’ve nothing to worry about.”

“Oh, really? So when was the last time you went out with your friends?”

“I went out on Saturday. Went to a bar.”

“With who?”

“No one.”

“You see, this is what I’m talking about! If you go out drinking alone, you’re going to end up as one of those old wasters who talk to no one but the bar staff. You have to be more sociable.”

“I am sociable. I met someone, actually.”

“Oh, yeah?” Lucy raised a sceptical eyebrow. “Who?”

I tried to remember the name. It had started with a ‘p’, that much I was sure of. I couldn’t even remember her face really. I did remember her legs though. Long and tanned beneath her sparkly mini-dress. I remembered her hair too. Rich chocolate brown, just like Maddie’s, and while we’d been fucking I’d even imagined she was Maddie for a few dysfunctional moments. I remembered her clenching hard, her face pressed down into the pillow, the way she moaned, but for the life of me I could not remember her name.

“Just a girl.”

Lucy’s eyes widened. “Really? What’s her name?”

“Uh…” I ran through possibilities in my head. Polly, Patricia, Patsy, Pippa… none of them rung a bell. “None of your business.”

“Ah… okay.” Lucy said tactfully, clearly thinking I was making it all up. “Anyway. What are you having for dinner?”

Dinner hadn’t even occurred to me. I didn’t eat regular meals anymore; I just ate when my stomach told me to and it usually asked for junk food which I was only too happy to provide.

“Beer.” I tilted my bottle towards her. She was unimpressed.

“Let’s go out.” She slipped down off the counter and grabbed her bag. “I know this awesome new place on Vine Street.”

I wanted to tell her to go alone but I was pretty hungry and I figured doing as she said might get her off my case. I drained the beer, grabbed my jacket and followed her out.

***

Since we were kids, Lucy would always skip to dessert. In the school cafeteria, she’d trade her lasagne for my apple crumble and things hadn’t changed. We sat opposite each other in the large, brightly lit Italian restaurant and she wasn’t eating her main course. Her eyes were flicking between the water feature in the centre of the dining area and a family who were clearly regretting their decision to eat out.

“Don’t you want that?” I asked and when she shook her head, I emptied the contents of her plate onto mine.

I hadn’t seen her for so long and I found myself noticing little things about her that I’d never thought about before. It was summer and there was a sparing sprinkling of freckles across her nose and she looked pretty well tanned. She wore the silver crucifix around her neck that she’d always worn. She’d told me it was a gift from her dad, who she claimed to hate after he’d walked out on her family but she still wore the cross and it rested defiantly against her smooth tanned skin.

She was watching the family again; the kids were running up to the water and splashing it at each other and the dad was trying to stop them. The mother looked too tired to be embarrassed. She just sat watching them listlessly, sipping at her wine and ignoring the odd disdainful glance thrown in her direction. I could imagine how she felt.

Dessert came and Lucy finally started eating. And I mean, eating. Her Sicilian lemon cheesecake was scarfed in record time and her eyes seemed magnetically drawn to my tiramisu.

I pushed it wordlessly across the table and watched as she ate every last spoonful, her small pink tongue darting out to check the corners of her mouth for any remnants.

“Can I stay with you for a bit?” she asked suddenly, catching me off guard.

I swallowed. “What? Why?”

Her fork drew circles around her empty plate. “Scott and I broke up.”

There was silence. She didn’t look in my direction and I felt suddenly guilty for not even having noticed she wasn’t wearing her engagement ring.

I frowned. “Why? What happened?”

She shrugged and for a few seconds I saw through the optimistic façade to a moment of uncertain vulnerability. “I honestly don’t know. One day we were fine, the next he called it off.”

“When?”

“A few weeks ago. I’ve been staying with my mother for a bit but she’s kind of smothering.”

I sighed. “How long do you want to stay for?”

“Just a week or so? Until I find someplace else.”

I leaned back and surveyed her. She looked like she was holding something back but I already had enough problems without inquiring into hers.

I wanted to be the bad guy and say no. I wanted to tell her that there was no space for her in my life but then I remembered everything she’d done for me, all those favours she’d never called in.

“Okay, fine.”

She smiled the smile that hadn’t changed since we were kids, that fake smile that looked like her mouth was moving without permission from her heart. She’d worn the same smile on the day her dad walked out, the day her sister died and every other day she was hurting inside.

“Thanks, Matt.”

***

Having Lucy around made me begin to realise how bad my life had become. It made me uncomfortable. Doing all the things I liked to do in private was one thing, but having her there to see them made it all seem so much worse. I’d never really thought about the way I was acting, but her presence forced me to think about it and I didn’t like the way it made me feel.

We were comfortable around each other but it was still weird to have her walk in and see me looking up porn or for her to watch me stumble through the door with the first drunk girl I’d been able to source. She didn’t say anything but I knew she was silently reproachful, worried about the path my life had taken.

I guess she knew there was no point in talking about it because it’d only lead to arguments and it was already hard enough for her to tiptoe around me without a hostile atmosphere on top. Things changed around the apartment little by little, small tentative changes like she didn’t want me to realise anything was happening. The kitchen was permanently clean, every dish washed as soon as it was used and the laundry was miraculously done and ironed.

Food began to appear in the kitchen and every so often she’d cook something healthy and nutritious for me to eat. I felt almost like I was living back at home, being taken care of, but unable to live my life how I wanted. She wasn’t judgemental but it was just that she was there to witness all my routines, and it made me feel bad. I felt guilty to be living the life I was.

I had my excuse though. My wife had died, for god’s sake. Surely I was entitled to indulge myself for a while, to do all those socially frowned-upon things that were reserved for mid-life crises.

“Is it such a bad thing that I do all this?” I asked Lucy when she cautiously broached the subject one Monday night. “Maybe this is just my way of coping with things.”

I knew she didn’t buy it but she shrugged and agreed - probably to keep me happy more than anything else.

“I mean, I just lost the love of my life. So what if I want to let go? I’m allowed to lose control, aren’t I?”

“Not really,” she said unexpectedly.

I was surprised. “You don’t understand how I feel,” I said. “Nobody could ever possibly understand.”

Lucy rolled her eyes and I frowned at her.

“What?”

“You’re not the only one suffering you know.” She looked tired. “Other people lost Maddie too but they haven’t turned to sex and alcohol. Her parents, her brother, her friends, yet you act like you’re the only person on the planet to have ever had someone close to you die. You know, it’s almost selfish of you, Matt.”

She was right. I’d never considered how anybody else felt. My own grief was more important than theirs; I didn’t care about how they were suffering. I hadn’t even cared about how Lucy felt. She’d been the one to introduce me to Maddie in the first place. They were friends, close friends, they’d have lunch together, go clubbing together, even grab cappuccinos together on weekend mornings. She must have been hurting too and yet the thought had never even occurred to me.

Guilt overcame me. “I don’t know what to say.”

“I don’t think there’s anything you can say.”

“It’s different for me,” I said, trying to justify my unforgivable behaviour. “You don’t understand.”

“Yeah. Whatever. How could I possibly understand? I didn’t know her well enough, I didn’t love her enough to understand how it feels to lose someone so fast, is that it? You’re impossible Matt, you really are.”

“She was having an affair,” I blurted out, and instantly regretted it.

There was silence for a good few seconds.

“No she wasn’t,” Lucy said, her eyes wide. “That’s impossible. She wouldn’t do that.”

“Wouldn’t she?” I looked her in the eye and finally let it all out. “The car she was in, it wasn’t just a friend’s. It was her boyfriend’s. There was a suitcase she’d packed in the trunk. She was running away with him when she died.” Saying the words out loud felt strange. They sounded so hollow and empty, and I felt ashamed.

Lucy was staring at me. “Are you serious?”

“I wish I wasn’t.”

She frowned, her eyebrows drawing together. “But why? Why would she do that?”

“I don’t know!” I attempted a laugh but it came out hollow and forced. “Maybe because I wasn’t good enough for her anymore, maybe she just wanted someone new. Maybe I worked too much. I have no fucking idea, okay?”

“Who was he?”

“Like that matters!” I clenched my hands into fists. “So now you know. I’m going to bed. Goodnight.”

I turned away and walked into my room, slamming the door behind me.

***

We didn’t talk about Maddie again. The initial week of Lucy’s stay stretched into two, but because she was actively looking for a place of her own there wasn’t much I could do. Besides, only very few of her belongings had taken up residence in the spare bedroom and I guessed it wouldn’t take long for her to move out when she eventually did. She kept out of my way, didn’t bother me and never really worried me, except for the time I heard her crying on the phone to her ex. That aside, she was anybody’s dream roommate.

Our relationship wasn’t light and easy like it used to be. We glossed over the deeper, painful issues and made the kind of small talk that two strangers might on a train. I missed being close to her but I figured we both had enough to deal with and once things went back to normal, our friendship would follow suit. The only problem was that I didn’t quite know what normal was.

The thing was, I’d never really been alone before Maddie died. First I was surrounded by a big, extended family, then I’d had roommates and then I’d had Maddie. Since she’d gone, my own personal brand of normal had become porn, beer and one night stands. I didn’t know exactly what else I was supposed to do. I knew I wasn’t living right, but I genuinely could not see another functional way to live my life.

I didn’t have the patience to deal with other people on any real level and as such, my friendships had worn out. Before Lucy arrived, nobody questioned me and nobody judged me. But now, she was there and although she kept her mouth shut, disapproval radiated from her like heat from a fire. She thought I should get a girlfriend, or do some new hobby but nothing interested me.

I couldn’t see myself getting into a new relationship. I’d already been through that stupid romantic phase and it had done nothing but jade me. I couldn’t bring myself to trust anyone again. Women seemed on such a different level and I didn’t have the emotional capacity to connect anymore. Sex as a physical, impassive act was fine, it was fun, but the thought of extending anything beyond one night scared me.

Then one night I came home only to be greeted by Lucy saying, “I got you a date!”

She looked incredibly pleased with herself. I dropped my coat onto the sofa. “What?”

“A date! There’s this girl I know at work who recently went through a break-up. She’s just like you in a way. She’s smart, funny, not to mention incredibly hot, you should see the -”

She trailed off, finally noticing that I wasn’t as thrilled as she’d expected. In actual fact, I was livid.

“Did I ask you to get me a date?” I snapped. “Why do you always have to fucking interfere?”

She didn’t flinch. “Oh, come on, Matt. This’ll be good for you.” She headed into the kitchen and put the kettle on, getting two cups out of the cupboard. “You need to talk to real people, people in the daylight not all those… other types you bring back here.”

I pressed my fingertips to my forehead, trying not to get pissed off, but the emotions surged through regardless. I felt automatically uneasy at the prospect of going on a date – something I hadn’t done in years- and on top of that I felt furious. I’d been kind enough to let Lucy stay at my place. All I wanted was for her to keep out of my way but she didn’t seem to get the fucking message.

“I’m not going,” I said in a controlled voice. “You’d better cancel it.”

I knew she could tell I was angry but she breezed over it like I wasn’t serious. “Stop being such a recluse, Matt. I’m telling you, you’ll have a good time.”

“How the hell do you know?” I barked. “You don’t know a fucking thing.”

I watched her reach for the kettle, her trembling hands indicating she wasn’t as composed as she made out. She poured and stirred the tea like it was something she’d done a million times before. A drop of milk in hers, two sugars in mine.

“Here.” She tried to hand me my cup. I didn’t take it.

“I don’t want you here. You think you’re helping, but you’re a fucking drain on me.”

“Stop trying to push me away. You want to be hooked on porn your entire life? You can’t live like that, Matt!”

“I am living like that,” I snapped. “You think you’re so fucking smart, that you just gloss over everything and things will be okay, but guess what - they’re not. This is my life, and I’m living it. I don’t want you around. Why can’t you fucking understand that?”

My words seemed to bounce off her, rather than sink in. “Have you been to your therapist lately?” she asked softly.

“I don’t need a goddamn therapist!” My fist hit the wall, in some twisted belief that physical pain would numb out the emotional turmoil inside me. “I don’t need anyone, especially not you.”

“I care about you Matt. I want you to get through this.”

“Fuck you. I don’t want you, I didn’t ask for you to be here. I didn’t ask for you to cook me healthy food, to act like you know everything. You don’t know anything, Lucy. You think that acting happy helps? It makes me feel fucking sick. I hate pretending.”

“Then don’t pretend,” she said. “Tell me how you really feel.”

I laughed humourlessly, my hands shaking. I wanted to go out and get into a fight, to do something that would make me forget all the pain inside.

“I – don’t – want to talk to you,” I said levelly. “I want you to go.”

She looked up at me, heartbreakingly beautiful with her tousled blonde hair and concerned expression. “Why?”

“Because you’re making things worse,” I said. “You make me feel like shit. You make me feel like I can’t look after myself, you make me feel weak. And I hate feeling weak.”

“You can’t help how you feel. You just have to try and get over it.”

I ran my hands through my hair, pulling on it hard. “Words mean nothing. Your words aren’t helping me.”

“Well what do you want? How can I help you?”

“To help me? You can stop obsessing about my life, and sort out your own. You’re as much of a fucking mess as I am.”

For one fleeting second she looked stung but then she blinked and it was gone. She smiled and it was such a goddamn fake smile, her deep, emotional eyes looking like they were contradicting the upward stretch of her lips.

“If there was an award for pessimism, you’d win it hands down.”

I don’t know what made me feel so cruel, but I guess I wanted to see the real her for once. I wanted her to drop the façade, to stop acting so fucking happy. For the first time I wanted to see what happened when she stopped regulating her speech and actions. I wanted to see her lose control and get pissed.

“You’re so fucking irritating. You know all those jokes men do about how nagging and stifling women are? You’re like the epitome of all that.” I walked towards her, close enough to invade her personal space, forcing her to look up at me. I looked her dead in the eye and dropped my voice to a hiss. “It’s no wonder Scott dumped you. It’s no wonder nobody wants to be with you.”

Sometimes hurting someone is so simple. I stood there with my nose a centimetre from hers; so close I could see every single mascara-darkened eyelash. I watched the blue of her eyes cloud over, the moisture well up and I was just beginning to realise that I’d crossed the invisible line when I was distracted.

She hit me. I was so busy looking at her eyes I didn’t see it coming. I just felt the dull thud against my flank and it shocked me rather than hurt me. I think it hurt her hand because she winced infinitesimally but it didn’t stop her from doing it again. She tried to keep the tears back, I saw the struggle inside but it was as if her emotional strength had finally given way and she couldn’t stop them running abundantly down her cheeks.

“Why do you make things so hard?”

She tried to push me out of the way, tried to find her escape but I didn’t shift. I stood there and watched her cry, watched her try to control it, watched the tears slip down her cheeks, and the way she bit on her lip to try and hold it in. I felt like I was witnessing something amazing. It never even occurred to me that I should comfort her. This was Lucy, the girl who never cried, and she was crying right in front of me and it was all my fault. After a few minutes, she attempted to brush her tears away and took a few deep, faltering breaths.

“You’re more like me than you think.”

I frowned. “What?”

“You say people don’t want to stay with me. How about you? Maddie was going to leave you, Matt.”

I clenched my teeth. “That was because of her, not me. She was a selfish bitch.”

“Denial is so easy, isn’t in?” Lucy wasn’t crying anymore but her eyes were still wet. “You fucked it up. You alienated her.”

“It wasn’t like that.”

“Oh yeah? And what was it like?” She glared at me. “Face it, Matt. It was your fault. It was all your fault. Maybe if you’d been less selfish, she wouldn’t have been running away, she wouldn’t have been in that car, she wouldn’t have died.”

I stared at her. “That’s… ridiculous. How can you say that?”

She shrugged. “It’s true.”

Hot, liquid anger seeped through my veins. “You’re a bitch, you know that?”

Lucy looked away, coolly indifferent. “Your words don’t hurt me.”

The mask was back on, cold hard porcelain and she reminded me of one of the dolls my sister used to play with. Blonde and beautiful and unbearably perfect.

“Are you even human? You’re always so fucking emotionless. So goddamn frigid.”

She shoved me hard in the stomach but I didn’t budge.

“Let me go, Matt. You didn’t want me here so let me go.”

“No.” I stepped even closer to her. “I want you to stay. I want to talk. You think it’s my fault Maddie’s dead?”

Her eyes flicked up to mine and she looked uncertain, maybe already regretting her words.

“Matt, I…”

“No, it’s okay. You know, you say you want me to talk about how I feel but we never talk about how you feel. How do you feel about Scott leaving you?”

She shrugged limply. “It’s not the same. Maddie died. Scott didn’t.”

“It is the same. We both ended up alone didn’t we? What did he say to you anyway? How’d he end it?”

She swallowed hard, her eyes fixed on a spot of the wall behind me. “The usual. It’s not you, it’s me.”

I laughed humourlessly. “Classy. Do you miss him?”

“No.”

“Liar.”

Her eyes snapped back to my face. “What?”

“You don’t miss him? Well then why are you calling him begging for him to take you back?” I asked, referring to the emotional phone conversation I’d overheard. “Don’t you have any pride?”

She blanched. “That was a private phone call, you shouldn’t -”

“I shouldn’t what?” I interrupted. “Shouldn’t let myself hear someone crying on the phone in my own home? For god’s sake Lucy. I can’t believe you would be so pathetic.”

“You think I’m pathetic?”

“I didn’t until I heard you. Don’t you even know your own worth?”

She looked affronted. “I don’t think you’re in any position to give me advice on my life. Look at yourself. You’re disgusting. All you ever do is watch porn and have sex with strangers. What kind of life is that?”

I laughed. “It’s actually a pretty good life.”

“No it’s not.”

“Maybe you’re just jealous.”

“Jealous of what exactly? The number of STD’s you’ve got?”

“No, of the freedom I have. I can do what I like when I like and nobody gives a damn.”

“You mean who you like, when you like.”

“That too.”

“You’re sick.” She tried to wriggle away. “I can’t believe what you’ve become. So your wife died. So she was cheating on you. Move on, for god’s sake. Find someone to be with for more than one night.”

“At least I can find someone for one night. You can’t find anyone at all.”

“Maybe I don’t want anyone.”

“Yeah, right.”

“No, really, Matt. Not everybody needs sex to function.”

“Yeah but it’d do you good. Stop you from being so fucking uptight.”

“Uptight? You think I’m uptight?!”

She glared up at me, her nose a millimetre from mine and before she had time to say anything else, I tilted my head to the side and kissed her. I don’t quite know what I was thinking. I guess we were both unattached and standing inappropriately close and I just went for it. She pulled away though, ruined it and looked at me, her eyes confused and angry.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“You’re impossible,” she whispered.

“You’re beautiful,” I said, and I kissed her again, my hand creeping around to the back of her neck. She didn’t pull away this time. Maybe it was the compliment that did it. Sometimes women are so desperate to be told that they’re beautiful that once they hear the word they drop their guard completely. I’d never had Lucy down as that kind of girl though.

“I hate you,” she said, even as her body pressed against mine. “I fucking hate you.”

For some reason, hearing the vehemence in her voice turned me on even more. I kissed her hard, my tongue rubbing against the roof of her mouth as my hands found the dip of her waist. I could feel her firm breasts pressing against my chest and for the first time in months I felt aroused not only by the physicals, but also by her personality, by the chaotic relationship between us.

She pulled away, her mouth pressing to my neck and I could hear her breath coming out fast and urgent. I didn’t want to think about what we were doing. I knew that if I started thinking I’d realise how stupid we were being and stop and I really didn’t want to stop. I blocked out all the possible regrets, reached down and started unbuckling my belt. Lucy followed suit, her hands brushing past mine and she paused for a tense, anxious nanosecond, but then she was undoing her jeans and I heard her push them down.

She reached for my pants and the purr of my zipper seemed almost too loud between the mingled gasps and half-breaths. I wasn’t saying anything because there was nothing to say. Lucy stepped out of her jeans and I reached down between her legs, pushing my finger between her lips to feel how wet she was. She parted her legs a little to give me access and I slid my thumb over her clit, my forefinger dipping inside her.

“You want this?” The words came from nowhere, my eyes watching her reaction, my heart beating fast. “You wanna come?”

She squirmed a little and pressed harder against my fingers, her eyes drifting shut as she let out an aching little sigh, somewhere between a gasp and a sob.

“Huh? What do you want? You want me to go down on you?”

I slid my finger in and out of her tight passage, my thumb rubbing her clit.

“I’d like that,” I kissed her again, touching the tip of my tongue to hers and she shivered. “I’d like to taste you. What do you say?”

She shook her head almost imperceptibly. “No.”

“Okay.” I pulled my hand away and brought my fingers to my mouth, sucking on them, my eyes on hers the whole while. This kind of encounter felt so new, so raw between us, and despite my bravado I was on tenterhooks, terrified that at any moment she’d reject me. She didn’t though. Her eyes gazed into mine, wide and wary and she reached down to wrap her hand around my cock.

“You want to fuck?” I breathed out the words, grasping her legs and lifting her off the floor a little. Her knees bent and she leaned her weight against the wall, her arms going around my neck, pulling me in close.

I felt her lips against my temple and I fumbled awkwardly, not wanting to screw up the moment. I reached between her legs again, finding her opening before slowly pushing my cock inside her. She let out a soft moan as I sank deep inside and I tilted my head back, feeling her lips find mine. My hands held onto her waist and her legs wrapped around me hard. I let out a long controlled breath.

Our faces were close, barely touching, the tip of her nose just grazing mine. I opened my eyes to see her gazing back at me uncertainly, her mouth hanging open. I leaned forward, and kissed her, my lips tugging on hers as I began to move. I pushed into her deep and strong, feeling every centimetre of her tight passage against the length of my cock. She held my gaze almost like she was challenging me, daring me to go harder so I did, slamming in and out of her as her hands grabbed at the back of my t-shirt, her teeth biting down hard on her lip.

“Does that feel good?” I asked between clenched teeth. “How does it feel?”

She looked straight back at me, her eyes dark blue, her wet, clutching pussy feeling like heaven around my hard cock.

“It feels a-mazing,” she breathed.

“Oh yeah? Better than Scott, huh? Is my cock bigger than his?”

She didn’t say anything, just gasped out my name but I saw the faintest glimmer of amusement hiding behind her features.

“You think that’s funny?” I growled. “It’s a fucking serious question.”

I slammed hard into her as if to reinforce my words. My fingers dug into her waist and I screwed my eyes shut as I plunged in and out of her with an animalistic urgency. I wanted to feel her come all over my cock, to erase whatever humour she found in the moment. I knew I should have made it last longer but I didn’t care. I wanted to hear the sound she made when she came; I wanted to see her body squirm and writhe against mine.

“Fuck… fuck…” she repeated the word under her breath as I fucked her unrestrainedly, pressure building up throughout my body.

“Are you gonna come?” I gasped, as her pussy clenched around my cock, her eyes squeezed shut. “Are you gonna come for me, Lucy?”

“Oh… god…!” Her body shuddered palpably, and I could see the sheen of sweat on her face as she climaxed, tightening her pussy around my cock as she leaned into me.

My breath came out in sharp, vicious pants, my hands dragging along her waist, feeling her ribcage. I held out as long as I could until the pleasure surged through my cock and I came inside her, groaning hard as the release slowly seeped through me.

We stayed like that a moment, my face buried in her neck, both of us breathing hard and I felt her fingers tentatively brush through my hair. I slowly pulled out of her, and she unwrapped her legs from around me and stood on the floor, looking as if she was resigned to the awkwardness that was bound to unfold.

I ran my hands through my hair and sucked in a long, deep breath.

“Jesus Christ.” I swallowed hard.

Lucy looked up at me and her eyes locked onto mine. “It’s not your fault Maddie died,” she said quietly and I realised that this was meant as an apology.

“I know,” I murmured. “And I’m sorry for what I said. I didn’t mean any of it. Literally. None of it.”

She laughed quietly and dragged a hand down her face. “I think this is the most dysfunctional thing I’ve ever done.”

“You’re not alone in that.”

She couldn’t stop the small smile creeping across her face. “What are we going to do, Matt?”

I let out a sigh, my eyes taking in her dishevelled form. She looked like every guy’s favourite fantasy; messed-up hair, half-dressed, smudged make-up and still so flawlessly beautiful.

“I don’t know.” I reached out, ran the backs of my fingers down her cheek. “I expected to feel more awkward. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing.”

My words hung between us and I knew this was the make or break moment. I was terrified that she was going to write-off everything that had just transpired as a one-time freak anomaly.

“I know what you mean.” She rested her head against the wall and looked up at me, a small smile lifting the corner of her mouth. “Maybe we should do this more often.”

For so long I’d shied away from commitment but hearing those words from her made me want to try again. I no longer felt afraid.

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