You Don't Know Me
Disclaimer: I don't own. The title is from Cindy Walker and Eddy Arnold's song "You Don't Know Me" and it isn't mine either. The title will make more sense if you listen to the lyrics of the song, though.
Author's Note: Inspired by a Maroon 5 kick I was on. Please don't ask; I'm ashamed enough as it is.
She could still taste his kisses the morning after.
They were different than she remembered, which surprised her. Not that the kisses were different—they had both grown up and grown apart since they were both young and stupid—but that she even remembered them. It seemed so long ago, when she saw and kissed him last, and yet she could still recall the look on his face when she turned back from the train and waved goodbye. He just stood there on the platform with that annoying half-smirk, his eyes following hers so closely and with such emotion she stopped for a moment and stared right back. Her smile slipped from her face and the smirk left his, and all that was left was the suspicion that something was happening, something had begun, and neither one of them was brave enough to admit it.
So they didn't.
And now, nearly ten years later, she woke up tangled in his sheets still unable to admit it.
It had been a strange night.
Very distinctly, she remembered the sleeting rain on her face, and the way her dress stuck to her skin uncomfortably, and how she shivered in the cold as she stood waiting for the late bus to pick her up and take her home. Very distinctly, she remembered him rescuing her from the lonely night and taking her home instead.
He let her use his shower and she peeled off the layers of soaked cloth until there was nothing left, then climbed into the full tub and submerged herself under the water completely. She lay there with her eyes closed and her heart beating slowly and holding her breath for so long that the entire world seemed to fade as her senses numbed.
Only when she was almost gone did she realize what she was doing.
She sat up, gasping, sobbing, and struggled out of the tub, splashing water everywhere and finally slipping in a puddle. She hit her temple on the tub's rim, and the shocking pain brought her back like a slap across the face. She remained sprawled on the bathroom floor, breathing hard, her head throbbing and her heart aching.
She'd never felt so broken before.
All she wanted to do was curl up there on the floor and cry, and so that was what she did, burying her face in the soft wool bathroom rug, trembling.
It wasn't long after that he knocked on the door, worried about how long she was taking and the silence he was answered with when he asked if she was all right. She sat up, her eyes closed tight, listening to him calling her name with genuine concern. She wanted to lie to him like she had lied to the rest of her friends and tell him she was just fine, just tired. But she couldn't. She'd never been able to keep secrets from him. She'd never been able to keep secrets at all, actually, and her method of dealing with them was simply to avoid the people she was hurting. But she was terrible at that, too, for her natural instinct was to be social, and denying herself the comfort of friendship when she needed it the most only threw further into her personal despair.
And she knew he would see right through her, because he was the only one who could, who always did.
She wanted to hate him for coming back, for stumbling back into her life so unexpectedly. For a reason she refused to name, she came to see his return as the reason all her problems seemed to be getting worse. All she had to do was look at him and see his smile and remember the way things used to be, the simple and comforting way life was when she was young and naïve, because to her he stood for all of that, and his being back only reminded her that she could never have that again.
So she couldn't hate him, try as she might, and she couldn't lie to him, try as she might, and she couldn't avoid him, try as she might.
Perhaps she never tried hard enough.
She didn't try hard enough for much of anything anymore.
Things stopped mattering somewhere down the line of misfortune and she never bothered to figure out exactly when or why or who to blame. From the day her father died to the day she suffered another miscarriage to day she realized her married lifewould never be as picture-perfect as her parents' was, everything was a blur of one disappointment after another. It was overwhelming and suffocating, and she just let it all drown her, wishing one of them would be enough to break her completely so she could just stop living in this pain.
She'd never felt as helpless as she did right then, listening to him banging on the door demanding she come out and being absolutely apathetic to it all.
It wasn't so much as though she wanted to him to continue, knowing he was getting angry, as it was that she just wanted him to call her name, to be so wholly concerned and deeply affected. She wanted to know that if she had stayed under the water, someone would have cared.
And when he finally couldn't take the silence anymore, he broke down the door, the fury and panic and fear written so plainly on his face.
His eyes widened when he saw her sitting still and upright on the rug, her eyes red from crying, wrapped up in one of his white towels.
He asked what happened, demanded it actually, and she merely looked at him with a blank expression and tasted the tears that ran down her cheeks.
She had lost another baby just that week, she said finally, and she was trying to think of what name to put in her little shrine.
Without a word,he moved to sit across from her, gazing at her in utter seriousness.
They just sat there, watching each other, until she leaned forward and rested her head tiredly on his chest.
He said he was sorry and held her tightly. He told her it was unfair and kissed her on the top of the head. He gave her permission to cry, but she didn't want to anymore, not when she was wrapped up in his embrace like this.
She remembered his hugs, and how warm and protected they used to make her feel, and she was glad to know his embraces hadn't changed in the least. So she enveloped herself completely into his arms, clinging to him with an almost possessive grip.
She didn't know how his mouth found its way to hers, but she slipped her tongue between his lips on instinct, kissing him back fiercely. That was when she first made the connection to how his kisses had changed, but then they'd never kissed like this before, with so much unsaid emotions and feelings brought to the surface and communicated without words, just sweet caresses.
And that was how she convinced herself that what they did wasn't wrong. That the way he touched her and ran his hands over every part of her body, slowly and sensually, his lips tracing every curve, wasn't wrong and it wasn't insincere. There was nothing unfaithful about the way she welcomed him, pulled him down and over her, teasing off his clothes until there was nothing left but the unforgiving power of desire.
No, she hadn't been unfaithful.
She hadn't even been herself.
This wasn't what she wanted. He wasn't what she wanted.
But she still tasted his kisses the morning after, and she was still wrapped up in his arms, their legs still entwined, his face still pressed into her neck and her body still sore and exhausted and tried more than it had been for much too long of a time.
And as she lay beneath him, feeling his weight and the warmth of his skin against hers, she expected to feel even more remorse, even a little fear, but all that came to her senses was his kisses and his voice and his touch and the way he made her feel.
No, she hadn't been unfaithful.
She had been herself.
This was what she wanted. He was what she wanted. If only for one night.
But now the night was over and the sunlight spilled through the open windows and the world continued to spin around, heedless and heartless.
When she heard her cell phone ring in her purse on the kitchen table, she grew still, recognizing the ring tone and holding her breath.
He shifted against her.
He had heard it, too.
And very carefully, in a controlled voice that betrayed nothing of what he really thought and felt, he whispered into her ear to go home, go home before they hurt anymore people, before they hurt each other, before they regret the one thing that seemed so unfairly right and perfect about the relationship they never had and were never supposed to have.
She listened to him, and then listened to her phone ring again and again, and she did not react to either.
He squeezed his arms around her.
Please, go, he was saying now, almost begging. Go back to him.
He said he was sorry and he held her very tight. He told her the world was unfair and kissed her bruised temple gently and sweetly. He gave her permission to cry, but she didn't want to anymore, not when she was wrapped up in his embrace like this, not when she had him in her arms like this.
Because he was the one person she couldn't lie to, couldn't avoid, couldn't hate.
She was suddenly struck by how little they actually knew of each other, simply because they never spoke about these things. And she suddenly became very determined to know as much as anyone could about him, simply because these were the things she wanted to speak of, and he was what she wanted to love.
But "wanted" was the key word.
"Needed" would probably been more appropriate, but neither of them was brave enough to admit it, strange as it sounded, coming from the child of Courage and the child of Purity.
It was ironic how those same crests failed them both.
Or perhaps, they were the ones who had failed their crests.
Because at that moment, lying together in silence, listening to her husband calling her, he felt cowardly and she felt tainted, and they had no one to blame but each other.
He didn't look at her walk away from him this time, and she was glad he didn't, because she probably wouldn't have left him behind if he had.