The Morning of Truth

Caroline remembered everything from the day before, although some details were pretty vague to her. She rememberd how she got drunk because she was feeling more down than after breaking up with any of her previous boyfriends. Not because she loved Joe overly much, but because to her, it confirmed her fears that no man could ever stand her once they really got to know her. So she went home to Richard. While beeing a very difficult man to know, Caroline knew she could always count on him whenever she needed him. When it came down to it, and when he dared showing her a piece of his soul, he was incredibly caring and loyal.

Richard had been more than a little surprised that Caroline would come knocking at his door, drunk, in the middle of the night. As they were sitting on his bed, Caroline climbed up into his lap and fell asleep. And Richard was so frustrated. Frustrated because he had handled it all so badly. He could have done much more to comfort her, but he'd felt so helpless and nervous that he didn't know just what to do. He wanted to do everything he could to make her smile again, but instead he ended up doing nothing. Except offering her coffee he realized he didn't even own and instead pouring her a glass of dirty water, which was all he had to give.

* * * * *

Caroline woke up when she felt a warm hand on her arm, shaking her lightly. "Caroline, wake up," Richard whispered and she was immediately aware of her surroundings and the situation she was in.

"Richard?" she said and shielded her eyes from the bright sun by putting her hand out towards it slightly.

"Hey there. How are you feeling?" Richard said, surprisingly softly. He had always had trouble being affectionate towards her. His fear of her finding out how he felt was always in his mind, every time he even spoke to her. And if he let her come too close, he would one day find himself unable to control his emotions anymore and let it all out. He just couldn't risk that.

"I'm fine I guess," she responded.

Noticing Caroline struggle to not get the sun in her eyes, Richard pulled the blind down and lit a lamp, allowing her to take her hand down.

Richard was determined to do his best to cheer his closest friend up today, no matter the consequences. It had just torn him apart last night, seeing her so sad and vulnerable. And he knew the pain still remained this morning, although the liqour was out of her system and she tried her best to smile.

"You guess you're fine. Are you fine or not?" Richard demanded, but did this very carefully.

Caroline sat up in bed. "I'll be alright," she assured him, but did it poorly and Richard saw through it. He decided to let it go, though. When she was ready, she would tell him.

"That's good," Richard said. "Do you want some breakfast?"

"Do you mind if I wait a little while. I'm feeling a little queasy," Caroline admitted sheepishly.

"Oh. No problem, we'll wait. Just let me know when you're hungry." Richard sat down beside her on the bed. "Want to talk?"

Caroline looked at him, her eyes conveying her yet unspoken distress.

Suddenly, she rose from her bed and walked up to the window and pulled the blind up. She stared out the window in silence for a while. Richard was patient and waited for her to speak. He knew she would.

"I'm embarrassed Richard," she said tearfully.

"Embarrassed. Why?"

"Well look at me. I didn't want you to see me like this. Last night you saw me at my worst and today it's even worse if possible."

"Why would that ever matter to me."

"I…I don't know!" Caroline said, bursting into tears.

Richard rose from the bed and walked over to behind Caroline and wrapped his arms around her waist. "Please, I don't want you to feel embarrassed. Talk to me."

Caroline turned around in his arms and wrapped hers around his neck. She cried into his chest for a few minutes, and was amazed how comforting his body was to her. As her tears subsided, she slowly drew back from his embrace. She sat down on the bed again and for a long while she just sat staring at the opposite wall.

Richard studied her intently and the silence in the room was suddenly deafening.

"You're still upset. Talk to me and I will try to help you," Richard pleaded.

Caroline remained silent until Richard sat down beside her on the bed.

"When Joe cheated on me, that was my proof that no man can ever love me for who I really am. Once they really get to know me, they're just not interested anymore."

Richard wanted to scream to her how wrong she was, that she was the most wonderful person he'd ever met and that he'd love her for the rest of his life, no matter what. Instead he settled for something less revealing, less mortifying.

"I told you last night, you're a wonderful person. I can tell you that a thousand times if that would make you happy."

"You can say it a million times, it still wouldn't make a difference. I'm sorry, but it's just not true in real life. It's easy for you to say, but…" Caroline stopped, not sure how she'd intended to finish the sentence.

Richard knew he had to go a bit further, although it could be dangerous. "Caroline, listen to me. You just haven't found a guy who knows how incredibly fortunate he is to have you. You deserve someone who appreciates every second with you, who loves the way you look in the morning, who loves the way you breathe, the way you laugh, the way you cry…"

"Really?" Caroline said, smiling a little. "You really mean that?"

Richard suddenly felt nervous and looked away.

"Thank you Richard," Caroline said and kissed him softly on the cheek.

Richard froze and got up from the bed, mumbling "Please don't do that."

"What Richard." She followed him and stood behind him. Lifting her hand up to rest on his shoulder, she could feel him shaking as he started sobbing quietly. Caroline could sense his body being taken over by a five year old boy, lonely and scared. Suddenly, Richard was the one in desperate need of consolation.

"I'm sorry Caroline," he said and dried the tears from his eyes, as if that would make him stop crying.

"Why are you sorry? Crying isn't a crime, you know. But I don't understand what you're upset about? Was is something I said or did? I've never seen you like this before. You're scaring me."

"I'm sorry."

"Please, stop apologizing." Caroline walked around to face Richard and put her arms around his neck. "Just tell me what is bothering you," she whispered, her breath tickling his ear.

"I…I don't think I can."

"Sure you can. I'm your friend."

Richard let go of Caroline and turned his back towards her again. "Caroline, if I told you, everything would be different. I could not even stay in this city if you knew."

"Knew what?" Caroline said, suddenly even more curious to know what was bothering him. "Please, talk to me. It hurts me that you won't let me help you."

Richard turned around to face her once again, with a look of dispair on his face. He could somewhat take his own sadness but that it made Caroline sad too, he just couldn't cope with.

"You want to hear it so badly," Richard said quietly and swallowed.

Caroline didn't say anything, she just looked at him worriedly. She had a feeling it wasn't good news he was about to tell her. "If you tell me, I'll do whatever I can to help you through it."

"You're gonna hate me for what I'm about to say. Don't say I didn't warn you."

For a second, Caroline wondered if he was going to tell her he'd commited some kind of crime or something, but quickly dismissed such ridiculous thoughts.

"You might want to sit down, Caroline."

"Oh." Caroline sat down on his bed.

Richard followed suit, because sitting next to her he didn't have to look her in the eyes as he spoke.

"I don't know how to say this, but… Well, ever since I started working for you I've felt this strong connection. At first I didn't know what it was, but then I understood. And after that day I found myself more and more-in love with you for each day that passed."

"Richard…" Caroline said tearfully.

"You said no man ever loved you once they got to know you. Well we've worked together for almost two years, and I still love you. In fact, the more I got to know you, the stronger my feelings got."

Caroline didn't say anything and Richard feared the worst. "I'm sorry you ever had to find out," he said, his voice trembling. "I can be out of the city in a few days."

To Richard's utter surprise Caroline started caressing his back with her right arm. "Richard you have always been the one I want to be with," she said with a low voice.

Richard's head shot up. "What?"

"I love you."

Richard turned around to look at her. She was now smiling softly.

Richard was overcome with emotion and leaned over and kissed her passionately. Both craving more - craving intimacy - they quickly started undressing, tearing at each other's clothes.

"I have a feeling I can easily get addicted to this," Richard breathed.