“Daren. You… you and I…” It has taken us an agonizing eternity to reach this moment. He rests his hand on my knee and his fingers tremble gently. I’m glad he can’t feel mine shaking as well. “I didn’t plan this.” We do not look at each other – his touch bridges the gap between us. My heart hammers in my chest. Oh, just say it! I think desperately. Please, please, please. Say it, Tanim. “Daren, this isn’t… I mean, I-I’m not, I… I’ve never…” He clears his throat shyly, stumbling over the unfamiliar words. He’s blushing so hard his ears are turning red. “I’ve never felt like this before, not once in all my life. I’ve never felt desire or longing or… or any sort of attraction. I’ve never felt anything but indifference, like I’m just hollow inside, like I’m nothing. Now, though…” he clears his throat again and laughs nervously, “now I feel something.” He turns and finally meets my gaze. His hand finds mine and I could never have imagined how warm, how soft, how comforting his skin feels against mine. “I’m sorry. This… this is all new for me. I don’t… I’m… I’m not sure what to say. I don’t know what words to use, they all seem so… inadequate. Is this right? Am I even going about this the right way? I’m a fool, I know, I’m so–” I cup his face in my hands and plead, “just tell me, Tanim. Say it.” A slow, bashful smile spreads across his flushed cheeks. “I-I… I want you. I need you. You’re beautiful, do you know that? You’re the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen. Sometimes when I’m in bed I wish so terribly that you were beside me, that I could… could hold you. Touch you. I’m not so blank and unfeeling when I’m with you, Daren. Everything has so much more meaning. You woke something in me, something tender and caring and powerful. I don’t want to lose that feeling. I don’t know what we’re doing here but I… I want something with you. Anything. I just can’t stand the thought of spending any more time apart, of waking another morning without you next to me. I don’t know if that’s love, but… but it’s something.” He raises my hand to his lips and kisses my fingers one by one. His eyes shine sweetly. “Is that what you wanted me to say?”

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