I am honestly sorry at how long it's taken me to update this fic, and any other fic for that matter.

I've had fanfic burnout like you would not believe.

However, I have been working on this one slowly as well as a few others.

Reviews (especially for this fic, she's my baby) are greatly appreciated.


Part 4

Two months later

I watched as her little form remained curled into a small ball upon the porch swing, wrapped up within itself in a tangled mass searching for warmth and comfort.. neither of which she could seem to find. Her girlish face held the same pintched expression as it did when she slept, more so in the past few weeks than it'd ever done so before.

Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out a half-empty carton of cigarettes, pulling one out and lighting the end as it rested limply on my lips. I released the first inhale of smoke through the screen door, watching as it seeped through the small holes only to connect in long, dancing strings on the other side. They swirrled and disappeared as they went along, each and every strand distantly fading before they ever reached Maria's senses.

I turned from the deck and walked towards the staircase, where Molly came bounding to my side and releasing soft whimpers from high in her throat. I grazed her ear only slightly - just so she knew I was there - before retreating into our bedroom and walking over to the large open window. I sat upon the window seat and peered out over our large backyard, to the distant black spaces between the trees, and to Maria.. whom I could see perfectly as she sat still upon the porch.

I took another long drag of my cigarette, knowing she couldn't possibly see the long strands of gray as they floated above her. Sighing, I glanced over my bare shoulder, noticing Molly's timid grayish head peeking through the crack of the door. I said nothing but she sensed my hesitation, and turned to leave me in the wake of her whimper.

Two slow, long months had passed since Maria confessed to me she finally wanted to start a family.. to suck the poison from our house of cards and leave the dust behind us. Since the night we made slow and beautiful love, nothing much had changed. She subscribed to a family magazine (one which she threw away the first issue of immediately), gave away a few items of scandelous clothing to Goodwill, and kept herself both beautiful and mystifying as to keep me at attention.

In the first two or three weeks of what we'd seen as our new beginning, I couldn't keep my hands from her. A whole new light had been shed upon the woman I loved, one which blinded all the former strands of her girlhood. I could not see that small child any longer. She'd be sitting upon the couch reading a magazine, or teasing Molly within the confines of our livingroom, and all it took was the slightest second of eye contact and she'd drop whatever she'd been doing and we'd make love right then and there.. it didn't matter what she or I had been doing.. the thought of creating a baby - or the fact that one might already exist - sparked a lust between us like nothing I'd ever known. It was in those weeks that I fell in love with her all over again.

But that managed to fade within the next upcoming weeks, when periods came and pregnancy tests showed no signs of the baby we'd grown to need. She still kept herself beautiful, and I still enjoyed the spontaneous bouts of sex, but that constant bubble of excitement had burst.. its small, broken pieces rarley uncovered as they seeped between the spaces in the air and walls around us. Eleven weeks had passed, and signs of that distant future began to fade.

It was on mornings like this one when I realized that Maria was beginning to worry. I looked down at the cigarette I'd forgotten I was smoking, half burned with an inch of dead ash hanging at the end, and opened the screen window a crack to toss it to the ground below. It was then I also noticed Maria had deserted the white plastic chair and headed back inside. I froze, listening intently for her small footsteps or light hum, but heard nothing.

Closing the screen, I walked timidly downstairs.. everything seemed darker, heavy with the weight of silence. "Maria?" I spoke lightly, peering into the tanned kitchen, catching the glimmer of our cookware hanging above the stove. No answer. I tapped against the door of our bathroom, noting the emptyness, then made my way slowly towards the living room.

As soon as I had turned the corner, my fingers slowly trailing the smooth white wall, Maria had bumped into me with a quick and flustered gasp. I caught her within my bare arms, holding on to her shoulders and the t-shirt that covered them.

"Jeff," She breathed, her lips pink and covered in her favorite .99 cent gloss. A smile crept up to the corners of her mouth. "I thought you were sleeping,"

I shook my head, whispering a "No" as I swept back stray hairs from her face with the back of my fingers. I swept my tongue across my lips, to make sure they did not taste of bitter smoke and nicotine, before closing a small distance between us. She tasted of sweet and little strawberries, mixed with that sensual woman I adored. Minutes later she was beneath me, fully undressed as I ravished the soft skin of her most feminine area. We made love for a countless time that morning, and as I carried her to our bedroom after all was through so as we could settle within the fading lust, we both realized that on this dewy and glorious morning.. the thought of a child had slipped from our minds completely.


April 7, 2005 - one a.m.

Her small and tired form had been cradled in my arms for the better part of an hour before she finally picked herself up and dragged her body into our darkened bedroom.. leaving me there alone and beaten on our living room floor. I looked down, not knowing what to think or feel.. final amounts of regret and denial closing in. The only reminants of her existance against me were the smeared tears and mascara stains on my wifebeater, yet I could feel her pressed against me still.

Maria had come home that night, finally, a little before midnight.. more distrought and damaged than I'd ever seen her before. The eyes once rimmed with crystal remained dark and clouded, heavy bags of red weighing them down. Her skin, usually soft and supple, was darkened black and sticky with a strange film. She had collapsed against me in a broken heap, then began to sob - over what i'm still not sure.

But that wasn't what really bothered me... I had known the same woman for two years of my life, and her familiar, girlish form had never felt that way before.. not her, not against me. I was convinced if I had closed my eyes and someone placed her in my arms, I'd have no idea who she was. Even looking into those deep and distant eyes alarmed me so.

I crept into our bedroom, where Maria had been on the dark ledge of passing out, her eyes closed and lips mumbling distant nothings. I tried ever so desperately to pull her against me, to talk to her and soothe whatever monster was eating away at her innocence.. but she only pushed me away. In fact, the harder I tried, the more frantic she became.

Her violence struck me in every way possible.. coherent thoughts drifting so far into the blackness of her mind she could no longer retrieve them. Goosebumps adorned her half-naked form, her skin turning a sickly pale and body trembling beneath my arms. Defeated, I kept my distance on the other side of the bed, watching her thrash and murmur then rest until the morning light.

It was then, with the morning rays dangling above her and before ever shaking off the sleepy fog, she told me how sorry she was,

how she never knew such guilt could eat away at her so rapidly.

Guilt over what exactly..? I wasn't so sure anymore.