Cassie is a day late I know, I’m struggling with the jetlag and losing track of the days – my sleeping pattern is more like a handful of jigsaw puzzle pieces thrown on the floor than a nice ordered line graph and that’s making it difficult to keep track of the days. Plus the internal confusion of constantly converting the time to UK and Egypt time to figure out why I’m so sleepy/hungry at the wrong time. I’ve always found the jetlag at the gaining hours direction to be so much worse than the losing hours direction. There’s a lot going on in my head and it’s messing with my whole psyche, but I’ll get there. Gamer son is struggling too, I’ve not seen him sleep so much in a long time!
Anyway, Cassie is in a bit of an emotional pickle, so let’s see where she goes from here. Is she brave enough to let things progress this time? Matt has just asked her a leading question.
“You do know why that is don’t you Cassie?”
Matt hadn’t moved from his relaxed position, yet I still felt crowded and overwhelmed. I swallowed down a lump of fear. This was Matt, I was safe.
“Matt, I’m not sure, really. I’m not sure about anything.”
Matt said nothing, just studied me with that level gaze. He didn’t move; in fact he was so still that I realized it was deliberate. Like someone trying to gentle a skittish animal he was being as motionless and as calm as he could be. He was trying not to frighten me, and realizing that helped to settle the spiral of fear that had been building despite my stern attempts to quell it.
I wished I had some more wine in my glass, but had finished that a long time ago. I flicked a longing glance towards the kitchen, bringing my attention back to Matt when he snorted in amusement.
“You need alcohol to deal with talking to me Cassie? You wound me, I had no idea I was so repellent.”
It was my turn to snort. “As if, you’re gorgeous and you know it.”
Too late I understood that he had been teasing, probably to lift me from my anxiety. He grinned a self-satisfied, male grin. I glared at him, but unabashed, his grin widened.
“Good to know Cassie. You play your cards close to your chest, I didn’t know what you thought of me, not really.”
I gazed down at my knees, then up at his face. “Do you blame me?”
His gaze softened. “No Cassie, after what you went through with Nathan I don’t blame you at all. Believe me, I’m not trying to push you or frighten you.”
“Thank you Matt, I appreciate your friendship, you know I do. Would you like…”
“But I think the time has come to lay some cards on the table.” Matt didn’t raise his voice but still he over-rode the end of my sentence.
I swallowed again, wondering if it was a sign of weakness that I was in such dire need of some wine. My voice, when I spoke, was thin, but it was there. “What sort of cards?”
Keeping his eyes on my face the whole time Matt leaned towards me, slowly and carefully. When I flinched he stopped and moved back a bit. But he was still closer than he was at the start of the conversation.
“Cassie I told you a long time ago that I would wait for you to kiss me, and I will. I understand your fear and anxiety, and I think you’ve shown tremendous courage and strength to have come this far in a relatively short space of time. I don’t want to do anything to cause you to feel anxious around me, or to feel afraid of me. That’s the last thing I want to do. But, I would very much like to take our relationship forward just a little bit.”
I stared at him, my emotions a confusing mix of fear and anticipation. What did he mean? Did he mean he was going to kiss me after all? I was shocked to feel a frisson of anticipation at the thought but didn’t have time to analyze that reaction as Matt was speaking again.
“So, I would like you to think about us, about our relationship. Think about me as something more than just a friend.”
“Matt you are more than just a friend, you know that. I would not be here if it were not for you.”
Matt smiled. “Oh I think you would Cassie. You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for. But when I say more than just a friend, I meant in a romantic way and I’m sure you know it.”
I stared at him. I had been thinking about him in that way for a long time. I remembered the conversations with Sue and Saffron, which Matt knew nothing about. Of course, Matt knew nothing about where my thoughts had been. Putting myself in his shoes I realized that he must think I only considered him a platonic friend, whereas my emotions were far more complicated. Question was, how could I tell him all of this?
“Matt, can we go to the kitchen? I need some tea.” And to put the table between us.
Although he sighed, Matt nodded agreement and we made our way into the kitchen where I busied myself putting on the kettle and pulling out chocolate muffins. Matt said nothing, just watched me keep my hands occupied. Once everything was prepared I put a steaming cup in front of him, a plate of muffins on the table and seated myself and my cup across from him.
Spinning the cup between my hands I tried to think of how to start. Sighing, I decided to just plunge in.
“Matt, first of all you should know that I don’t think of you as just a friend. You have been much more to me for a long time now.”
Matt’s eyes rounded, but he stayed silent.
I pressed on. “I’ve even talked to Sue about this, because I’m so conflicted. Even though I like you – really really like you – I feel anxiety whenever I think about anything more than what we have now.”
I glanced at him, noted that his eyebrows were now raised to his hairline. But still he said nothing.
I sighed, wondering how much I should or could tell him about how I really felt. But Saffron’s words about the elephant in the room echoed in my head. I took a sip of tea, wished it had a bracing shot of brandy in it, and tried to explain.
“Matt, I think a lot of my confusion comes from my ongoing issues with myself.”
His eyebrows climbed a bit higher.
“I have difficulty believing that I am good enough for you, and I’m not sure I trust myself to enter into any relationship at this point without slipping back into my own bad habits.”
Matt leaned back in his chair. “What sort of bad habits?” His tone was even, without any worrying undertones.
“Well, with Nathan I kind of disappeared as an individual. I became the person he wanted me to be to keep the peace. I’m worried I’ll do the same thing with you, or anyone else.”
“You have someone else in mind?”
“No of course not! How could I?”
For some reason that answer made him smile in satisfaction. His tone, when he answered, was still mild, which reminded me that as a policeman he was trained in dealing with people who needed a calming voice. “Cassie believe me, I understand your reservations and your difficulties with self-image. I believe that Sue is helping you to overcome those. I’d really like it if you would also allow me to help you to see what an amazing person you are.
I’m not asking for a commitment, I’m not asking for sex – after what happened with Nathan I know that will take a lot of time and care. All I’m asking for is a little physical contact and more intimate conversation.” At my alarmed expression he held up a hand, his smile rueful. “Sorry, bad choice of words. I didn’t mean intimate sex wise, I meant intimate in terms of deeper feelings, shared beliefs, plans for the future, that sort of thing. Physically I mean hand holding, sitting close on the couch, maybe me rubbing your feet, you rubbing my neck if you feel comfortable doing so, and yes, a little kissing. Only in so far as you don’t feel threatened. You don’t need to answer me right now, think about it and see if you feel ok with it.”
He leaned forward and took a muffin, biting into it with relish. I sat and sipped my tea, wondering how to reply to that. The picture he painted sounded so appealing. It was almost how I had imagined my marriage to be before reality destroyed that illusion. I studied Matt through my lowered eyelashes. He was so dear to me, with his chocolate brown eyes, that dimple, the sensuous mouth – I don’t know when I had realized how sensuous it was but there it was. He had been my steadfast support through the worst times with Nathan, he had seen me at my lowest and was with me as I strived to reach my best. He was part of the furniture, but not in an easy to overlook way. Matt was the comfortable bed you never wanted to leave, the bed with the smooth sheets that gave a sensuous feel when you lay in them.
I reeled my thoughts back, I was heading into deep waters I was not comfortable with. I returned my thoughts to his words. Was it so much to ask? Wasn’t it in fact what I wanted as well? Baby steps, safe and secure baby steps towards a future I could not as yet imagine. I could do that. Yes I was afraid, but I had learned that being afraid should not stop me from trying.
My attention was drawn back to Matt as he finished his tea and took his cup to the sink to rinse it out. Coming back to the table he packed the remaining muffins in a plastic container – he knew where everything was in the kitchen as well as I did. Raising it towards me he arched one eyebrow questioningly.
I laughed. “Yes, you can take them.”
Matt grinned in pleasure. “Then the muffins and I should be leaving. It’s late and I have work tomorrow. Think about what I said please Cassie?”
I stood up and took my cup to the sink, before walking to the front door to see him out. The dogs came belting in from the laundry where they had been sleeping, and I let them out for a toilet run. At the door Matt faced me, an uncertain smile giving him an endearing little boy expression.
“I haven’t spoilt it between us have I Cassie?”
I smiled and shook my head. “No Matt, you haven’t.”
His smile hovered, still uncertain. “I hope not, you mean a lot to me Cassie, more than you know.”
I studied him, this man who had changed my life in so many ways, and who was now standing on my doorstep looking unsure of his welcome. Taking my courage in both hands, and promising myself that shot of brandy, I stepped closer and reached up, planting a soft kiss full on his surprised lips, before stepping back.
“Good night Matt,” I said.
Matt raised a hand to his lips, staring at me with shocked eyes. I smiled, a rush of happiness bubbling up inside. I had kissed him, it had felt good, and I wasn’t afraid. My smile widened into a grin, while Matt just stood there, hand to his mouth. I gave a little shushing motion with my hands. “Go on, get going before the police come to arrest you for loitering.”
Regaining his composure Matt grinned at me, his brown eyes sparking in a way that was most appealing. “I am the police, I’m hardly going to arrest myself.” Then as the dogs pushed past him to get back in he stepped away from the door. “Ok, ok, I’m going. Good night Cassie.” He looked as though he wanted to say more, but thought better of it and instead lifted a hand in farewell as he walked down the path to the gate. The dogs pushed their heads against my legs as they joined me in watching him leave, then rushed into the kitchen for a late night treat before bed. I gave them a dog biscuit each and smiled as they wolfed them down and then trotted off back to the laundry, their current favourite sleeping place.
Heading to the drinks cabinet I pulled out the brandy, but put it back unopened. I didn’t need it after all.