4

Take me now, baby here as I am.

Hold me close, try and understand.

Desire is hunger is the fire I breathe.

Love is the banquet on which we feed.

(Patti Smith)

Desire was like a drug.

Stef and Lena had forbade Callie and Brandon from having sex. They had not forbidden love - how could you forbid that? You might as well forbid growing up or eating chocolate, and that wasn't going to happen! Callie didn't love Brandon, or Wyatt. However, what about desire, love's evil twin? Callie could still desire the two boys.

She knew she and Brandon would have to sate their desire at some point. The alternative was to quiver with pent-up passion whenever they stood next to each other; the static electricity tingling to the point of unbearable. Like living in a period drama.

Desire was like a drug, but you could always go cold turkey.

Curiosity, however, was excruciating

Callie lay alongside Brandon, her head resting on his chest, his right arm wrapped round her in a protective way – whether for her benefit or his own, she couldn't tell. It felt good whichever. She also felt exhilarated for what she had just done – the one forbidden act in this Paradise of a home.

Everyone else was out. Did Stef and Lena do this when the house was empty of their children? Of course they did – otherwise when else?

It must be frustrating being parents, Callie thought. They had lived through all the trials and tribulations their children were experiencing, had made the very same mistakes, and had a multitude of advice they wanted to instil, yet were treated like Cassandra when they tried to warn them of the pitfalls that lay ahead. These days children were more likely to seek advice from an App than an adult.

Callie, however, felt different. She didn't possess a smartphone and had rarely had the opportunity to 'Follow' and 'Like'. As such, she felt less risk-averse, prided herself as being less shallow and always observed people in the flesh. Having no Facebook profile meant she only had one persona; the one she projected in person – even if that had its own hidden depths. Not for her a manicured profile; the manufactured resume; the CV of exaggerated life highlights.

Life not as fairy tale.

Real life was much better than URL.

She knew a relationship with Brandon was unrealistic and naïve, even if the forbidden aspect was unreasonable and unfair. That was the big difference between her and Brandon. Anyway, besides the whole foster-brother issue, Jude liked him. If Brandon ever broke her heart her brother's would also break.

She certainly had no intention of living somewhere else to relieve the pressure, or to enable meeting up with Brandon secretly. No, she had spent years living on the other side. The grass was greener here.

The irony of having Brandon lying naked next to her whilst she had such thoughts was not lost on her.

The day was still young and could still end well or badly.

"This can be a one-time-only thing," she voiced calmly. She sat up and looked down at her desire made manifest. "We both wanted to do this, needed to, but it can't happen again."

Brandon's mood changed. "Needed, wanted?" He queried dangerously. "Did we just respond to our urges? Was there no feeling behind it?"

"Yes and...of course there was."

"Were we just playing at being grown-ups?"

Callie didn't mean to be cruel and it had certainly not just been desire and curiosity sex. Right now, she would have dearly loved to indulge in a more romantic version of pillow talk, but she wanted him to see reason. "You love and respect your moms too much to deceive them repeatedly and …..and my need to not disappoint them is...scary. And I know you appreciate the risk to Jude's well-being."

"I wanted to be special for you, after...after everything you have endured in your life, after..."

Callie guessed where he was heading. "You can say his name," she gifted.

"After what Liam did to you..."

Callie wanted to rejoice at the concern he was showing. "My dear, sweet White Knight," she cradled his face. "You have been special to me since that night you helped me rescue Jude." She looked intently at her brother's saviour, tears forming. "What you did that night was...wonderful. I have no words...nothing that I can do or say that will ever express fully my gratitude."

"Sssh," Brandon placed a hand over her lips. "I would do the same again without hesitation."

"That makes it all the more special."

They both lay back down alongside each other.

"You were stunningly beautiful in that red dress you wore to Mariana's party," Brandon said after a minute of silence between them.

"Damn right I was," Callie smiled in total agreement.

"You're beautiful now."

Callie laughed. It was an obvious line, but she loved it. "I'm naked, Brandon, so I should hope so."

The necessary truth had to be broached again, however. Callie broke the reverie. "I meant what I said before...This day must be a one-time occurrence only."

"It doesn't have to be."

"Yes it does." She sat up and looked down at him again. "I took a huge risk to Jude's future, his happiness today...willingly admittedly, but a risk all the same. It mustn't happen again."

Brandon sat up and rested one hand on Callie's arm. "What about your own happiness? Must you always come second?"

"Oh, Brandon, you're so much your mother's son right now. I'm not playing a martyr. At worst I am just postponing my life. When Jude is old enough to look after himself, to enter the world and all its wonders, I will still have my whole life ahead of me. Believe me, I fully intend to live it to the full – see Paris and swim with dolphins. Right now I am content to concentrate on Jude's happiness. Seeing him happy is like bathing in the sun."

They both lay back down on the bed.

"Um, Brandon," Callie broke the silence after a few minutes.

"Uh huh."

"Have you ever been skinny dipping?"

x-x-x-x-x-

Having now slept with Brandon and after her time with Wyatt, Callie could compare, contrast and evaluate, if not actually decide. She was shocked and interested in how much they both reflected their upbringing and life-outlooks in their love-making.

Wyatt's longing to belong had made him eager and physical, almost possessive. The rest of the world hadn't existed beyond the motel room door, or it could be ending and they were indulging in one last act of defiance. She had a deep affection for Wyatt. Her beautiful Original Sin.

Brandon's perfect suburban upbringing, untarnished by insecurities, had made him slower and more passionate and exploratory. Callie would never be able to watch his fingers play across a keyboard with detachment again!

She doubted her one-time-only declaration would hold, and somehow knew she would visit the motel again. The sensations were too numerous and invigorating to abstain. It was all too new. It felt too much like falling, being pole-axed, transported, bowled over, knocked for seven – odd, she thought, how so many similes for love were physical and playground-violent.

She was too smitten.

She wanted and would get all the fun, none of the shame. If it was more like an episode of Girls than 50 Shades at times, at least she had something to work towards!

How she longed to be able to re-visit specific moments of her life and behave differently: so she could confront the bullies; to say 'no'; to say 'please don't speak to me like that'; to pick up the young girl she had been and shake her, and shake her. But yearning for something we can never have can be emotionally crucifying. At the time, she had done the best she could.

And, anyway, it was long ago and faraway.

Instead, she would take back some of the power the world had hoarded; shift the parameters of what she could and couldn't do. She knew she was too young to be so resolute – sixteen was still a child's age however much her peers may like to think otherwise. But building a strong foundation now would ensure dividends later when adulthood tried to crap on her.

She may have had times in her life where the worst human behaviour had brought her close to despair, but she had never stopped believing in its greatest potential. A dividend personified by Brandon accompanying her on that bus journey months earlier to check on her brother; by Wyatt, who had let her travel with him despite knowing true love was not the reason, and who had brought her home again without question; by two women who simultaneously made her feel part of a family again and a rabbit caught in headlights.

She had seen heroes fall from Lance Armstrong heights. But even he raised millions for cancer, so she could forgive like the best Christian.

She wasn't trying to create a new persona like Miley Cyrus. Nor was she emerging from an emotional breakdown like Britney, or struggling to climb out of a hole like Lindsey. She was simply self-orchestrating her dream.

She would still keep her wits about her because the world wasn't made of rainbows, and not everyone wished only kindness.

But, she felt quite in awe of the cards life had dealt her.

"Wake me up when it's all over, then hear me roar!"

I tried carrying the weight of the world,

but I only have two hands.

I hope I get the choice to travel the world,

but I don't have any plans.

I wish that I could stay forever this young.

Not afraid to close my eyes.

Life's a game made for everyone

and love is a prize

(Avicci)

Thank you, everyone for reading and reviewing this story. It has been a pleasure as always.

Please review.

Be happy. Regards CC.