Title: Odiamos, Adoramos

Author: Galactic

Disclaimer: I really hate doing these things. Michael and Maria will never be mine. There.

Summary: A series of short stories that examines a completely screwed up relationship that is also an extremely beautiful relationship.

Category: Michael and Maria AU

Rating: PG-15

Author's Notes: Okay, I've never really written anything like this before. I always seem to read stories where Michael is the stonewall. I decided to write one where Maria is the stonewall. (Also, all titles in this series consist of Spanish words, because I think Spanish is a really beautiful language.)

(Odiamos, Adoramos ~ We Hate, We Love)

Part 1 - Barreras (Barriers)

I awake and find her bra lying on my bedroom floor. I rub my eyes and see that her minuscule thong is lying right next to it.My clothes are somewhere else. I don't know where. I don't remember anything about clothes. I just remember skin, sweat. I remember how good it felt, how much I wanted it. I remember the passion, the exhilaration. Iremember sex to the extreme.

I hear the water running from the bathroom. She's taking a shower, and I have an undeniable urge to join her. She would like it. I would like it. Sex.

I swing my legs over the edge of the bed, but before I stand up, I begin to flash back. I relive the events from last night all over again, this time in my head.

Last night changed everything. Last night changed me.

I usually didn't take a second glance, but when I saw her standing at the edge of the street with a duffle bag slung over her shoulder, I couldn't help but look again, and again, and again, and again. She was . . . fascinating. Captivating. Even the most beautiful, elaborate adjective could not describe how I felt last night when I laid eyes on her.

I didn't know why she entranced me so, why she unknowingly put me in such a state of wonder. She wasn't dressed glamorously. She wasn't smiling provocatively. She had on jeans and a t-shirt, and she wasn't even looking at me. She was supposed to be a regular, normal girl. I wasn't supposed to be so intrigued by her, but I was, because I was well aware of the fact that she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.

I crossed the street, then, still gazing at her. I almost got hit by a car on the way over to her, but I paid no attention. I could not think about anything but her, anything but the way the sight of her standing there was making me feel.

I wanted her.

When I stepped in front of her, she didn't even acknowledge my presence. She stared up at the dark, cloudy sky and said nothing, did nothing.

"Hi," I began hesitantly.

She finally looked into my eyes. "Hey."

I stood there like an idiot for what seemed like forever, and she went back to staring at the sky. "So . . ." I finally said. "So . . . I'm Michael."

She gave me a confused look, as if she weren't used to being spoken to. "I'm Maria," she told me quietly. I barely heard her speak. I barely heard her tell me her name.

"What are you doing out this late at night?" I asked her.

"Late?" she echoed in question. "It's 11:00. It's early."

I was such a loser. "Right," I agreed, trying to cover up my lame-ness. "Yeah, it's really early."

She smiled a little. Just a little. "Is there something you want?"

Yeah, there was something I wanted. HER. "I just was wondering what you were doing out here. That's all."

She shrugged. "Well, I don't really know what I'm doing. Just standing here, I guess."

"But it's gonna rain soon," I pointed out, glancing up to the sky quickly before immediately focusing my attention on her again. "Don't you wanna get inside?"

"Yeah," she said, "as soon as I find someplace to go." She tapped her duffle bag, and I got the point.

"Oh," I said. "Are you running away from home or something?"

She shrugged. "Something like that."

"So you have nowhere to go?" How could she have nowhere to go? I didn't understand. She was so beautiful. She should always have a place to go.

"That's right," she said. "Nowhere. Whatever, though. I'll find a place."

"With who?"

She shrugged again. "Whoever will take me."

I shook my head. "That's not a good idea. It's not safe."

She glared at me, hostile. "I can take care of myself."

"I-I . . . I'm sure that's true," I stuttered nervously, "but, uh . . . I'll take you."

"I'm sure you will," she said.

"What?" I didn't get it. "What do you mean?"

She sighed. "All guys wanna take me."

I got it then. "Oh," I said. "Well, I'm not one of those guys. I promise."

"Thanks for the offer," she said, "but no thanks."

I resigned to the fact that I was defeated, that she would never be interested in me. She had no reason to be. I wasn't her type, whatever her type happened to be. It was obvious to me. I had no chance. My shoulders slumped, and for the first time since I had first seen her, I stopped looking at her. I looked at the ground instead, noticing that a few droplets of rain were beginning to fall. "Fine," I said. "Nice to meet you." I turned and headed back across the street. I was absorbed in my emotions now, absorbed in the pain of rejection, and I was once again almost hit by a car, and I was also once again somewhere else where I did not even notice.

When I stepped onto the sidewalk across the street, I suddenly heard her voice again. "Hey!" she shouted.

I turned around, and my breath caught when I saw her. Thirty seconds without seeing her face seemed like thirty lifetimes.

She looked both ways and darted across the street quickly. She came to stand beside me, and she got so close that our bodies were almost touching. Almost. "Okay," she said, readjusting her duffle bag. "Since you promise you're not one of those guys, and since I'm pretty desperate right now, I guess I could come home with you. That is, if you still want me to."

Of course I still wanted her to. I wanted her. "Yeah," I told her. "Come on. It's not far."

She trailed behind me as we walked, and I kept turning my head to see her, to make sure that she was still there. I had to make sure that she hadn't found somebody better, that she hadn't run off to stay with him instead of me.

"Stop looking at me," she told me finally. "It's creepy."

I sighed. Great, so I was a loser who thought that 11:00 was late, and now I was creepy."Sorry," I apologized. "I'll stop."

We made our way to my apartment in silence, and we both hurried inside just as the rain began to fall. I lead her up three flights of stairs and down my hallway. We passed Mr. Montgomery andMrs. Montgomery's place, and we heard them yelling. I passed Mrs. Crillini's place and noticed that it smelt like cat piss. "It's not very nice," I told the beautiful girl behind me as I inserted my key into the lock. "Sorry."

"It's okay," she said. "It's warm. That's all that matters."

"Yeah." I pushed my door open and stepped inside. She followed me in, and I cursed myself quietly for not being enough of a gentleman to hold the door open for her. I somehow managed to screw everything up.

She closed the door behind her and looked around, surveying her surroundings. She nodded her head in approval. "Not bad."

I glanced around, too, and I noticed an empty pizza box lying on the counter from a week ago. There was a pile of dishes in the sink that had not yet been washed. I hadn't yet scrubbed out that stain on the carpet. My coffee table was missing a leg, held up only by a pile of books placed underneath. This place was a disaster, and when she said that it was 'not bad', she had to be joking.

"So," I said, "do you want anything to drink?"

"Sure," she said, setting her bag down on the floor next to the front door. "What do you have?"

"Not much," I told her. I pulled open the refrigerator door. "Uh . . . Snapple?"

"Snapple's fine," she said.

I took out a peach Snapple and placed it on the counter. I once again beat myself up mentally because I wasn't smart enough to go hand it to her like any other decent guy would.

She came up and sat down at the counter, reaching out to grab her Snapple. She opened it eagerly, and seconds later, she was saying, "Tastes good."

I shut my refrigerator and nodded in agreement. I sat down beside her and tried not to let my mind wander into places where I would be thinking about how something else, or rather someone else would taste. I had promised her. I had promised her that I was not one of those guys who just wanted to take her.

We sat in silence for a few more minutes. It was the most comfortable and also the least comfortable silence of all my life.Most comfortable because she was near, and least comfortable because . . . well, because she was near.

"Thanks for letting me stay," she told me finally.

"No problem." I was finding it hard to speak. At that moment, I was too fixated on the way her delicate fingers wrapped around the bottle, wishing that they were wrapped around something of mine.

I knew I had to stop. I wasn't supposed to be one of those guys. But, God . . . she was just so beautiful.

She finished her Snapple and set it back down atop the counter. "I'm kinda tired," she said.

"Right, of course," I said. "Um, you can just . . . you can sleep in my room. I'll sleep out on the couch."

"Oh, no, that's fine," she said. "I can sleep on the couch. I've had worse."

"No, I insist," I told her. I mentally applauded myself for doing at least one thing right that evening.

"Are you sure?" she asked me.

I nodded.

"Okay," she agreed. "Thank you." She stood up from her seat, but she didn't make any effort to move. She just stood there, staring down at me, looking into my eyes, and the look she was giving me made me feel like I couldn't breathe. She looked . . . hungry. Hungry for me.

How was that possible?

Seconds later, she was on my lap, straddling my body, holding my face in between her hands and kissing me senseless. I responded immediately, unable to control myself. I wrapped my arms around her and pressed her closer to me, tangling one hand in her hair, sliding the other down her back to cup her ass and move her lower body against mine. She groaned into my mouth when she felt the evidence of my arousal already.

"Oh god," she panted, rolling her head to the side so that I could ravish her neck. "Michael . . ." It was the first time I could remember her saying my name.

I sucked and nipped vigorously at her smooth skin ,wanting more of it. Her nails dug into my scalp, and my hands traveled down to lift her t-shirt from her body. It took me several tries before I had removed the shirt, and I had to pull back to take in the shape of her breasts. Even through her bra, I could tell that they were small and perfect, just right for her.

I wanted them. I wanted all of her.

She leaned in and nibbled on my ear while grinding her hips into mine. Denim crashed against denim, and I wanted the denim gone.

I reached down and fumbled carelessly with the button to her jeans. I tore them off when I was able to, sliding them down her hips and legs until they finally fell to the ground. She threw her head back and gasped when she lost another item of clothing, and she began to whisper. "Fuck me," she told me. "Please, Michael."

I groaned, loving the sound of my name on her lips. "Maria . . ." I bolted up out of my seat, holding onto her. Her legs wrapped around my body, locking her to me. She placed her arms around my neck and leaned in to kiss me again, delving her tongue into my mouth.I did the same as I clumsily moved us toward a wall. I nailed her against it and left her mouth to trail a path of kisses down to her neck. "Oh, shit," she moaned. "Oh god." I felt her hands trailing under my shirt, massaging my skin, and seconds later, the material was lifted from my body. It felt like a tremendous weight gone.

She was breathing deeply, running her hands up and down my bare chest as I moved myself up into her. I was still aware that I was wearing my jeans, and I needed them off. I reached down and began to undo the button, but she pushed my hand aside. I looked up into her eyes, which had clouded over with passion. They were several shades darker than I remembered. Several.

She undid my jeans quickly, wasting no time. She was sliding them down my hips before I even knew it. The pooled on the floor by my feet, and I stepped out of them quickly, relieved that they were gone. I carried her from the wall and to my bedroom, losing my boxers on the way.

We fell down on top of the bed, and I was underneath her. She sat straddling my hips and reached behind her to unhook her bra. The garment fell from her finally and brought her breasts into my full view. She threw her bra to the floor, and I tried to sit up so that I could touch her. She pushed me back down with surprising strength. She lay down on top of me, pressing her breasts to my chest. We kissed some more, hungrily, passionately, and I reached down to grab her ass, pushing her into my hardness. I wanted to tell her to remove her thong, but I could not speak. The only word I could say was her name. "Maria . . ."

She sat back up a short time later, and I reached up to cup one breast in my hand. She moaned and threw her head back, breathing hard. "Oh god!" She arched herself up into me, and she did not object this time when I sat all the way up and bent forward, taking her nipple into my mouth. I ran my tongue around the hard pebble and then took more of her into my mouth. More. I always needed more.

"Michael," she breathed, trailing her hand down my chest. All at once, I felt her grasp onto my cock. She began to handle me expertly. I didn't even have to tell her what I liked, how I liked. She already knew.

I eventually left her breasts, determined to remove the last barrier between us. I hooked my fingers into the side of her tiny thong and moved it down her body. At last, it was only skin against skin.

I flipped her over and pressed her down hard against the bed. I cupped her mound for a brief moment, and I thought about going down to taste her, but there was no time. I was ready, and so was she, and we wanted this. Needed it.

She spread her legs a great deal to allow me a wide access into her tight passage. I gripped my throbbing cock in my hand and led it to her entrance. I entered the tip of myself inside of her, and I glanced up at her quickly. She had her eyes closed, and she was whispering my name in pleasure.

I plunged into her. I was not careful. I was not gentle. I was not any of the things that I should have been.

I felt it, but it was too late. One last barrier. There were no clothes anymore, but there was still a barrier, a barrier that proved her innocence, and I broke through it before I could stop.

She screamed in pain and gripped the sheets beneath her. I looked up at her, shocked at what I now knew to be true.

This was her first time.

For a brief period, her beautiful features were contorted in pain, and her facial expression was one of hurt. I began to exit from her, but she pushed her hips up into mine, urging me to continue.

I moved slowly at first, trying to control myself, but the faster she began to move, the faster I began to move. Soon, our hips were crashing together uncontrollably. Our sweat-covered bodies slid together endlessly. Her eyes flew open as her orgasm overtook her, and she spiraled out of control beneath me. I felt my balls tightening, and some sort of electricity seemed to flow through me as I came right after her. I pounded myself against her one last time, releasing myself inside of her, and then I collapsed on top of her body.

That was the end . . . of the first time.

There were many other times, many different ways. There was the floor, where she had insisted she be on top. There was the wall, where I had almost given her a concussion doing her so hard. There was the time she had begged me to fuck her up the ass. And I did.

The night didn't end until at least 4:00 in the morning. Now that was late.

I sit here now, wondering what I have become. I am not the person she was with last night. I can't be. That person was . . . animalistic. I am not an animal. I'm a good guy. Really, I am. I don't just jump into bed with any girl I meet. I don't fuck girls. I make love to them. Yeah, I'm good like that. I even go to church occasionally. I'm a good guy. Honestly.

Why wasn't I a good guy last night? I keep asking myself that now. Why didI take her . . . barrier away? Why?

Why did she let me?

I sit there, trying not to remember the last time, the time when she had begged me to do her from behind. That was the time that had caused her the most pain, I know, but I enjoyed it.

I stand up, sighing, and head over to my closet to get some clothes. Last night, I needed the barriers gone. Now, I need them there. I need them to keep me from acting on my desires again. I need clothing barriers to keep me from hurting Maria again, to keep me from destroying her barriers.

Once I'm dressed, I open the door to the bathroom. I know I shouldn't, but I can't help it. She's standing in the shower, washing herself clean. Her back is facing me, but I can still see the outline of her body, and I start getting hard again due to the knowledge that I was inside of her body, that I am the only one who ever has been. I know the thought of taking away her virginity shouldn't excite me, but it does to a degree. It also scares me, because it means that I am becoming a monster.

She seems to sense my presence, because she turns around, holding her hands to her body to cover herself. I don't understand why she feels the need to hide her gorgeous body from my view now. I saw it all last night. All.

"Hey," she says.

"Hey," I echo. "Um . . . how are you?"

She looks down at the ground, almost as if she is ashamed. She is not the only one who is ashamed. "Sore," she says.

"I bet."

She reaches up and turns the wateroff, and then she steps out of the shower, still trying to conceal herself. She grabs her towel and wraps it around herself quickly. "I just want you to know," she says, "I'm not usually like that. I'm not a slut."

"I know." I briefly flash back to the look of pain that crossed her face when I first entered her brutally. "I remember."

Our eyes meet for a second, but only for a second. Then, she pushes past me and out into the rest of my apartment. I stay in the bathroom, listening as she rifles through her duffle bag for some more clothes. When she enters the bedroom, I hear the soft scratching sound created by the denim of her jeans. I can't help but be disappointed that she is clothed again. Any guy would be disappointed, even the good guys.

She sees that I am still in the bathroom, and she comes to lean up against the doorframe. "So I guess I'm gonna leave," she announces.

"Leave?" I don't like that word. I don't want her to leave. I want her to stay . . . forever.

She nods. "Yeah. Thanks for letting me stay here."

"Leave?" I say again.

She avoids looking at me. "I'm sorry," she says quietly. She turns and walks away from me, back out into the main room. For a second, I just stand there like the idiot I am. Then, the few brain cells that I have left kick into gear, and I run after her. "Wait!"

She doesn't wait. She already has her duffle bag on her shoulder, and she's already reaching for the doorknob.

"Wait!" I try again.

She opens the door.


Then, she stops. At the sound of her name, she stops. She turns around slowly, and she smiles. "I like the way you say my name," she tells me.

For a minute, I'm stupid enough to let myself believe that means she will be staying. Then, I realize how fucked up I truly am when she steps out into the hallway and closes the door behind her. Gone. No long goodbye. No kiss on the cheek. Nothing. Just gone.

Of course I can't get her to stay. I can't say her name and convince her to stay. She has no reason to stay. She is perfect, and I am not. She has no need for people like me, people who cause her pain.

I feel . . . I don't know how I feel. What I feel is beyond disappointment, beyond sadness, and beyond guilt. I feel . . . I feel like I can't breathe.

I want her around. I want to talk to her. I want to find out about her life. I want to explain to her that I'm a good guy, that I'm not always so hurtful. I want this. I want her.

I am just about to give up when the realization comes to me. If I want her, I just have to get her.

I rush out my apartment, no shoes or anything. I practically fall down the stairs and hurry out the main door. Once I am outside, I look around desperately, searching for her. I don't see her anywhere, so I just start running. I run as hard and as fast as I can, but I can't find her. I don't know where she is. I just . . .

I stop. Long, blonde hair. Long, thin legs.Perfect.

Looks like I found her.

She's walking quickly. Her hands are stuffed in her pockets, and she is looking down at the ground. I don't know what to do to stop her, what to say, so I try it again. I try the one thing I know how to do.


For whatever reason, I know how to say her name. I know how to say it how she likes it. She hears me, and she stops walking abruptly. For a brief moment, she appears to be as frozen in place as I am. She tenses, and she just stands there doing nothing, saying nothing.

And then she relaxes, and she continues on her way.

I open my mouth again, ready to call her name, ready to call it until it kills me if that's what it takes, but no sound comes out. As hard as I try, all I can do is stare at her back as she goes away from me. I can't run after her. I can't call after her. I can't do anything.

That fascinating girl and I are not meant to be together. I have to accept that.

THE END - Part 1

Continued in Part 2 - Demasiado

Part 2 - Demasiado (Too Much)

The wind whips at my hair. It blows in front of my face, but I don't bother to brush it away. I no longer have the strength. I no longer have the strength to do anything, it seems.

The bus pulls up to the bus stop slowly. By getting on that bus, I will do the one thing that I haven't been able to do for weeks, the one thing that I know I should do.

By getting on that bus, I will leave Roswell, New Mexico, and therefore, I will leave him.

He's . . . different. Different from everyone else. I don't even know him, but I want to, and that scares me. I don't care about anyone, and no one cares about me. I'm alone. I'm supposed to be alone. Stonewall. Yeah, stonewall.

He makes me want to crumble. Michael . . .

A few people board the bus before I do. They're mostly tourists. They're wearing their cheesy little alien headbands. They have their cameras hanging from around their necks, and they're laughing and smiling. They had a nice little vacation, but it's time to go home.

This has not been a vacation for me, and I am not going home, because I don't know where home is. I've never had a home before, and I don't suspect that I will ever have one. Ever.

I stand there with one foot on the steps to the bus. I'm poised to get on. Yes, that's what I should do. Get on the bus, Maria. Get on the bus and leave.

I can't move. It always happens like this. I wait for hours for this crummy bus, and when it actually arrives, I have no strength to go through with it.

I have no strength to leave him.

"Miss?" the bus driver asks me impatiently. "Miss, are you getting on the bus?"

Yes, I'm getting on the bus! my mind screams. I have to get on the bus! I have to do this!

I speak different thoughts. "No," I say quietly, and I step down. I wrap my arms around myself as the cold wind continues to blow. I walk away slowly, and I hear the bus pull away without me as it always does. Always without me, because I am always too weak.

I try to remind myself that I knew him for one day. Less than that, actually. One night. Night. A lot happened that night. I don't know if I should be proud or ashamed that I finally slept with a guy.

He was my first, and I'm glad he was. He wasn't gentle the way I had imagined he would be. He was hungry. Desperate. He devoured me, and I clung to him. Even in our crazy state, it felt good, and I felt comfortable. I don't feel comfortable anymore. Not with the guys at the club . . .

Since I couldn't seem to leave Roswell, I got a job. It's definitely not an honorable job. Definitely not. There's this club at the edge of town. The building is falling apart, and it always reeks of alcohol and smoke and sex. No respectable women go there. Only strippers.

I'm one of those strippers.

I didn't want to do this. I had to. There were literally no other options. I don't have enough skills to get a respectable job. I'm not smart enough, not quick enough. Anyone can strip. Anyone, even a 500 pound blubbery woman, although that wouldn't be too pleasant to see.

I don't get paid real well. It sucks, I know. I barely make enough to order a hamburger at that lousy Burger Hut. Most everyone at the club pays me with a place to stay. If I strip for them, they let me stay with them for the night. Of course, the only people there are guys, and guys are only interested in one thing. They don't care that you need a place to stay, a bed to sleep in. They don't care if starving for food or dying of thirst. They just care if you have a body worth fucking, and apparently I do, because every time a guy brings me back to his place, it's never out of the goodness of his heart. It's 'cause he wants to do me, and he does. They all do.

They are never gentle. They are all hungry and desperate, just like Michael was. They all devour me, but I don't want them to, and I don't cling to them. I pull away, but in the end, I am helpless. I do what they want because I have no choice. They are bigger, stronger, and they are giving me shelter for the night.

The most humiliating thing has to be when they do me right there in the club. A guy approaches me and leads me back to a dark corner. Soon enough, his pants are unzipped and my thong is pushed aside, and he's inside me, hurting me. It always hurts.

I should get on the bus. Really, I should. I should get out of here. I should go someplace where I don't have to strip, where I'm not fucked every single night by guys who don't care to even learn my name. But I can't. I can't because I know: he is still here.

That night, I walk into the run-down club and survey the crowd. There's mostly middle-aged men there tonight, but there's a few young guys, too. I wonder which ones will approach me first, which ones will drag me back to the corner to have at me.

I make my way into the back room, trying to ignore the looks that I am receiving, trying to block out the nasty comments that I am hearing.

"I'll be up her ass tonight," one guy says.

"Bet she's tight as hell," another adds.

"Hot damn!"

Please stop talking, I beg them silently. Please stop saying these things about me.

I open the door to the back room, but before I go inside, I take one last look around the club, just to see if he is here. Maybe. Just maybe . . .

I sigh when I don't see him. I don't know why I always get my hopes up. Michael is never here. He has no reason to be. He's too good for this. He's probably forgotten all about me by now. I'm sure he's got a girlfriend. A nice, pretty girlfriend who calls him 'baby' and makes breakfast for him in the morning. A girlfriend who cleans his apartment and knows what his favorite ice cream flavor is. A real girlfriend. Not just a one night thing.

That's what I was. One night. Nothing more. Of course Michael is not here.

I almost cry. Almost. I wish he was there. Truly, I do. If he was, he would take me to the corner. I wouldn't mind if he did. For some reason, I liked it when he touched me, when he kissed me, and I wanted him to fuck me. It's never like that with any of these other guys. Never.

I miss him. I miss Michael, and I don't even know him. I try not to miss him, but he's all I ever think about. It scares me so much that one night with him has affected me to this degree.

I close the door to the back room, defeated. There's another girl back there, examining herself in the dilapidated mirror. I don't remember her. She must be new. She's adjusting her tiny skirt nervously, and I can see that there are tears in her eyes. I turn my head and let her be. There is no need to talk, to socialize. None of us here are friends. We're just all desperate.

As I start to get dressed, she says something to me. At first, I ignore her, thinking that I am imagining it. No one really talks to me. Then she repeats herself. "Hey, how long have you been working here?"

I don't turn around. She will see the shame in my eyes if I do, and a first-timer will be frightened if she knows that I am ashamed. "Um, three weeks or something like that," I reply.

"What's it like?" the girl asks me. "Is it . . . does it hurt?"

I wish I could lie to her. Really, I do. I wish I could say that it never hurts. If I said that, she would not be afraid at all. But I can't. I can never say that. "Sometimes," I tell her. I drop my voice down to a whisper, then, so that she can't hear me. "All the time."

"Is it . . . is it easy to do?"

Lie! my mind tells me. Don't tell her the truth!

"It's difficult," I reply honestly. "I guess you sorta get used to it, though. You just gotta do what you have to do, you know."

A few minutes later, the girl has left the room, and I am doing my make-up. I can hear shouts and hollers from outside as seductive music plays. She is undoubtedly giving a good show, because the guys are going crazy.

I am still doing my make-up when the music stops. Now, I hear something else. I hear crying. I know it must be the girl who is crying. All of those guys are probably hurting her, now. I wish I could help her, but I can't. I have no strength.

Soon, it is my turn. I glance at myself in the mirror, and what I see repulses me. I'm barely wearing anything. My ass is literally hanging out the back of my pants. What would people think if they saw me? What would they say?

They wouldn't be surprised, I tell myself. Everyone knows that you've never been destined for anything great. Everyone knows that you deserve this.

God, even I know it.

I trail my fingers across the thin material of my bra. (No top, just a bra. Holy shit, I'm practically naked.) I remember the day I went to the store to purchase that bra. I was at Bargain Mart, glancing around for something that could be considered seductive. I had to find something new. All of my other clothes were ripped and torn because the guys at the club were so violent. They rip fabric into nothingness because they want my body so badly.

I remember when I purchased the tiny little bra. I remember . . .

I was barely awake, barely functioning. My entire body hurt, and my mind ached. I just wanted to purchase something and get out of there.

I was standing there, staring blankly ahead of myself when I felt him. I didn't turn around to see him. I already knew he was there. It was as if a rush of warm air had entered the building the minute he did. Though he was quite a distance away, I could almost feel him breathing on the back of my neck. I wanted to turn around and see him, just to take pleasure in the sight, and I wanted to run over and throw myself into his arms even more so. I had the scenario all worked out in my head. I would cling to him, and he would hold me tight. He would lean down and whisper in my ear, "Shh, it's okay. I'm here." And it would be okay. Everything would be okay, and he would be so warm.

I wanted to enact my scenario, but I didn't. Instead, I hurried off down a secluded aisle and grabbed a head-scarf. I put the scarf over my head to conceal my long blonde hair, and I kept my eyes focused on the ground as I searched for the exit.

I prayed to God he couldn't feel me, too, because if he did, he would take the initiative of enacting my scenario for me, and I would comply and respond, because I wanted to so desperately.

I exited the store that day without even glancing at him, and I went back the next day to purchase that stupid bra. He was not there that day, and I know this because the store was cold.

I stand in front of the mirror now, trying not to notice the tears in my eyes. I hear the men outside beginning to chant impatiently, and I know they want to see another girl. I know they will be pleased when they see me.

Once the tears have thoroughly disappeared from my eyes, I exit the back room and walk out into the smoky club. Before I even make it up on stage, some guy has spanked my ass, and another has made a sexual gesture with his hands.

I climb up on stage and wrap myself around the pole, and the men begin to shout louder. Before the music starts, I scan the crowd once more for Michael, hoping that he will run up to come rescue me, but he still isn't there.

The music starts, and I begin to move. One by one, articles of clothing disappear from my body until I am dancing naked before them all. They survey my body, licking their lips in excitement. Sometimes I have to close my eyes so that I can't see their reactions. Their reactions are so painful to my eyes.

I'm so open and vulnerable, and I hate it. This is my body! I scream internally. Not yours! You can't have it!

They will have it. They will all have it. It's only a matter of time.

I have no strength to fight back, and it is just too cold in here.

I feel both a sense of relief and a sense of dread fill me as the music ends. I run around the stage, trying to gather my clothes, and I hurry down the stairs toward the back room. Before I make it to safety, though, a middle-aged guy grabs me by my wrist and pulls me away from the door. He pulls me over to a table where he and a bunch of his friends are sitting and drinking. They all let out some victory shouts when they see me.

I glance over to the darkened corner. It's available. I wonder who will take me back first. I wonder how painful it will be.

The middle aged man who grabbed me places his hand on my bare chest and pushes me down hard against the table. I'm lying flat on my back, and he is towering above me. "What . . ." I begin, unable to finish.

Buttons are unbuttoned and zippers are unzipped. The jeans of four guys move slightly down their hips, and my legs are spread apart violently. "Please, don't!" I beg. I find myself glancing over to the dark corner longingly. If they do me right here on this table, I'll never get past the humiliation of it all.

A guy with dark brown hair and a scruffy little beard steps forward and pushes deep inside of me without warning. I cry out, but he doesn't listen. His friends begin to clap and shout as he pounds himself inside me,and they soon want to get in on the action. Another guy lifts me up so that I am forced to stand, and he enters me from behind. A strangled cry escapes me, and I want nothing more than to collapse. Another guy takes my hand and forces me to touch him, and the last one stands back and watches in approval as he handles himself.

"Come on, bitch!" one guy urges me. "Faster!"

"Whore, fuck!"

They don't even have the decency to say my name. Hell, they don't even bother to learn my name.


Too much. This is all too much. Please, make it stop.

At last, it does stop. All the guys withdraw from me and correct their jeans. They grab their beers and say good-bye to me, and then they are done. They leave me bracing myself against the table, trying to remain standing. My entire body aches, and I can hardly stand, let alone walk.

I have to walk. The back room is so very far away, but there I can get some clothes on. If I'm clothed, I won't be so vulnerable, so open and available. I hobble back there in misery, trying to ignore the throbbing ache of my muscles. No one bothers to help me. They just watch me go, wondering what the hell I've been through.

Once I've reached safety, I slam the door and sink down to the ground. I still don't allow myself to cry. I'll never allow myself to cry.

Once the pain has diminished a little, I crawl over to my duffle bag and rummage through it for clothes. I clothe myself in a baggy sweat-shirt and huge sweat-pants. It feels good to be covered again.

I'm ready to leave this place. I need to get out of here.

I sling my duffle over my shoulder and open the door again, reluctantly heading back out into the club. I hear screaming, and I look back into the dark corner. Sure enough, it's occupied this time. One of the guys who had his way with me is now fucking the young girl I had been talking to earlier, the first-timer. She's crying.

I will never cry.

I notice that it's raining lightly outside. I was hoping that maybe it would be a nice night, that I might be able to tough it out sleeping on a bench, but it's not looking as if it's going to be that nice. Great. Just ass-kickin' brilliant. (Yeah, I'm being sarcastic.) I've got to find someone in this dump to stay with.

There's a young guy sitting by himself at the bar, sipping a beer. I think I stayed with him one other night awhile back. He wasn't too bad. He just made me give him a blow job. I mean, he was better than a lot of the other guys who kept me up until four in the morning, fucking me crazy.

I approach the young man, still ignoring the pain in my legs. When he sees me, he smiles. "Hey, bitch," he says.

I sigh. Okay, so he's most definitely not Prince Charming, but . . . I'm gonna have to take what I can get.

"I need a place to stay for the night," I tell him. "Can I . . ."

". . . stay with me?" he finishes.

I nod.

He grins mischievously. "Of course."

A short while later, we are opening the door to his house. It's a fairly expansive house, and he lives in a nice neighborhood. The elementary school isn't far away, and the library is just across the street. Nice neighborhood, nice house, and about the nicest guy I could find in the club. Things could be worse.

I step inside the house, and I readjust myself to the surroundings. I've seen them once before, but I still can't help but be shocked when I lay eyes on a grand fireplace and marble counter tops.

But even all of the nice furniture in the world could not make this place into what I wanted it to be. "It's not warm," I whisper, remembering how Michael's place was.

The young guy shrugs. "Whatever."

I place my duffle bag on the floor and just stand there, wondering what I am supposed to do. Another blow job? I could do that. Yeah, and then I could get some rest. "So . . ." I say. "You want me to . . ."

"Clothes off," the young guy commands.

At first, I don't understand. "What?"

"Take your clothes off," he orders. He's already shedding his clothes. "We've got until dawn 'till my girlfriend gets back."


"Take off your clothes!" he shouts. "Now!"

So much for sort of being a nice guy. "I don't think . . ." I begin. "I don't want to."

He lunges toward me and grabs my wrists hard between his fingers. "Do it, bitch!"

"Stop calling me that!" I shout at him, struggling to break free from his grasp. "My name is Maria!"

"I don't care!" he shouts back. "Take off your clothes!"

I'm squirming against him now, trying to get away. "I don't want to! I don't want to!"

"Bitch!" he shouts again, and then he slaps me across the face.

The slap isn't the end of it. There's more violence from there. There's . . . well, there's really no other word for it but rape. It's about as non-consensual as it gets. There's emotional violence, too. He's tells me many times that I am nothing, that I am no one.

"Bitch!" He keeps saying that, too.

By the time he stops hurting me, it's at least 3:00 in the morning. Possibly even later. I'm not sure. My vision is blurring, and I am close to passing out. I can't really see the numbers on the clock. By this time, he says he is fed up with me, and he wants me out of his house. "Get out," he tells my simply as if it is nothing.

I look outside. Even through blurred vision, I can see that it is pouring rain. "I can't go out there," I tell him.

"Well, you sure as hell can't stay in here. Get out."

I crawl to the door, unable to walk. I reach for my duffle bag, but he kicks it out of my way. I groan in agony as it is pushed just out of my reach. "Please . . ." I beg.

"Leave, now!" he shouts. He opens the door and practically pushes me out. My bare skin scrapes against concrete as he pushes me to his side walk. He begins to laugh when he sees that I am in agony. He's enjoying this. How can he possibly enjoy this?

"See ya, bitch!" he shouts as he disappears back into his house. I am left outside, completely naked and in the freezing cold rain. I push myself up into a standing position, and then I fall back down to the ground again. My legs are unable to support me anymore. I crawl back to his door, scraping my skin against the concrete. I pound on his door vigorously, but he does not let me in. I crawl to other doors, not caring who answers. "Please!" I shout. "Somebody help me!" I feel as if I am dying.

No one helps. Of course no one helps. Why would anyone help someone like me?

I've crawled to at least five houses now. My hands and knees are bleeding. My vision is even blurrier, and my breathing is coming in ragged gasps. I look around, but I see no one. Unable to go on, I lie down on the side walk, huddling into a big ball, and I do the one thing that I said I would never do.

I cry. I cry so hard. My tears mix with the rain, and it is impossible to tell which is which. I'm crying just as much, if not more than the clouds are.

I lie there crying, giving up, and the realization dawns on me.

This is how it ends.

THE END - Part 2

Continued in Part 3 - Tocamos

Part 3 - Tocamos (We Touch)

It's late. Really late. I haven't been able to sleep for quite some time now, so I spend my nights walking around outside. I don't want to admit it, but I know exactly what I'm doing.

I'm searching for her.

I never find her. She's probably already gone. She's that type of girl, you know, the type that doesn't stay in one place for too long. She told me she was running away from home. I suppose if she's still running, she's probably in New York City right now, or maybe even Las Angeles. She's probably landed some modeling contract by now. I'll open a magazine someday, and I'll see her, and I'll remember our one night together. I'll remember how I wasted nights of sleep to search for her. I'll have to remind myself that she probably doesn't even remember who I am anymore.

It's pouring rain outside, and I know I should get home, but I can't convince myself to do that. I keep walking, and I keep searching. It's as if there is something inside of me telling me that I will find her if I look hard enough, long enough.

You're crazy, I think to myself. She's gone, remember? Give up.

But I can't give up. No matter how hard I try, I can't. I know that I was only with her for one night. I know that we only spoke a total of about ten words to each other. I know that I did her many ways, many times. We fucked. That's all.

I sigh, feeling defeated. She's not out here. I know she's not. All of my searching is pointless, useless. Even if I did happen to find her, she probably wouldn't even remember me. She would run away, most likely.

Stuffing my hands in my pockets, I drop my gaze and stare at the ground. I watch as I step into puddles as I make my way home, and I try to focus on the rain instead of the girl.

I'm around the library when something strikes me. Not literally, of course. It's hard to explain. I'm just standing there, and I feel something. Someone. I hear nothing. It's raining too hard to make out any sounds. I see nothing. The rain prevents me from seeing anything more than a few feet in front of me. I just feel.

I look around, confused. What's going on?

Without my consult my feet step forward, down off the sidewalk and onto the street. I cross the street slowly, and the closer I get to the other side, the stronger that feeling grows.

I try not to let myself believe that I am feeling her, that I am feeling her presence.

Once I make my way to the other side of the street, I look around. I see no one. Nothing. I walk ahead slightly, and I almost trip over something in front of me. Looking down, I'm surprised to find that I didn't almost trip over a soda can or a beer bottle.

I almost tripped over a person.

She's so small. She's lying there naked and vulnerable, hugging her knees to her chest while she cries. I crouch down to take a look at her, because even in her current state, she seems oddly familiar, and that feeling inside me is about to decimate me.

She's so hurt. In pain. She looks as if she is close to breathing her last breath. Even so, she's still . . .

My heart stops. My entire body stills.

She's still fascinating. Captivating.

I found her! I'm thinking excitedly. Maria!

But this isn't the Maria that I first saw. In some ways, she's very different. Very. I still can not bring myself to take my eyes off her.

"Maria?" I say in question, because I have to clarify that I am not imagining it.

She stops crying, and her body stills, too. For a minute, I begin to wonder if she will ever move again. Then, she opens her eyes and looks up at me. A confused expression covers her face and dances across her features. "Michael?"

So it really is her. Holy shit.

Her eyes fall closed again, and a fear more tears escape her eyes. I want to ask her questions, but I know that she is in no state to answer them. She's freezing and alone.

I take my jacket off and lift her up in my arms, briefly noting the cuts on her stomach and the bruises on her thighs. She falls against me, and I wrap my jacket around her. I position her in my arms and stand up, carrying her hurriedly back across the street.

The rain chills us both as I run back to my apartment. She shivers against me, and I shiver against her. I glance down at her now and again to make sure that she hasn't gotten any worse, and fear races through me as her skin becomes noticeably paler.

She's so cold, and judging by the marks on her body, she's in immense pain, too. I wish I had some kind of power to transfer all the remaining heat from my body into hers. I don't care if I'm colder. I can handle the cold if I know that she is warm.

I wish I had an ability to take away her pain. I wish that I could bear all her hurt and suffering for her. I wish that I could remove any trace of those bruises, that I could heal her cuts.

I can't do any of this. All I can do is run as fast as I can back to my crap-ass apartment.

Relief washes through me when I get us both inside. I hurry up three flights of stairs, ignoring the pain in my arms from carrying her for so long. I burst into my apartment, panicked. She's not doing so well. She hasn't opened her eyes, and she just keeps getting paler. Her breathing is erratic, too. Very erratic.

I lay her down on my couch and remove my soaked jacket from around her. I toss the jacket on the floor and rush into my bedroom to get some blankets. I strip the sheets and the comforter from my bed and hurry back into the living room to wrap them around her.

For a few minutes, I kneel beside the couch and watch her. She's still Maria, yes, but she's different. She's darkened.

At last, the cold gets to me as well. I go into my bedroom and strip myself of my clothes, realizing for the first time that I am shivering almost as much as she is. I slip on a pair of warm pants that I sometimes where to bed and search around my room for another blanket. I find a thin one piled up in the corner, but it will do. I don't need to be extremely warm. Maria does.

She's shivering slightly less when I make my way back out into the main room. She still has her eyes closed, and she is whispering something quietly to herself that I can not understand.

I run my hands through her hair, unsure what I should do. I'm not good with this kind of thing. I'm not the best at taking care of people. The last time I invited her into my house, I sure as hell didn't take care of her. I took away something that she will never have back.

Her innocence. I look at her now, and that innocence is completely gone. As I said, she's darkened. She barely looks like the girl I knew. Well, not knew. The girl I slept with. That's what it was.

I leave her to warm up under the blankets and go into the bathroom to prepare a warm bath. I turn the water on so that it's extremely hot. To some people, it would be too hot, but I'm sure she'll enjoy the temperature, and I know I will, too.

After the bath has filled, I go back out into the living room and kneel down beside her again. I brush a loose strand of hair back behind her ear and place my hand on her shoulder, happy to see that she is gradually warming up. "Come here, Maria," I tell her, trying to position my arms around here. "It's okay. I've got you."

She still doesn't look at me. She falls into my arms with no strength to even wrap her arms around me. She's still whispering things to herself, and now I'm close enough that I can understand what she's saying.

She's saying my name.

"Michael . . ."

If the situation weren't so important, I would stop to think about this, to comprehend that she can say anything that she wants right now, and she is choosing to say my name, but I am still in a slightly panicked and shocked state, and she still needs to be taken care of.

"It's okay," I tell her again, carrying her into the bathroom. I gently place her in the warm water, and a content sigh escapes her. I get in, too, unable to resist the temptation of warmth right now, and also unable to resist the temptation of her. I leave my pants on, figuring that I shouldn't let myself get any ideas, and I move so that I am sitting beside her, holding her back to my front. She rests back against me, using my body as support for hers. Her wet hair sprawls across my skin, and tiny, delicate hands move through the water, unknowingly searching for mine. I smile when she entwines our fingers and says my name again. "Michael . . ."

Maria once told me that she likes the way I say her name. Well, I like the way she says my name, too. She says it, and she makes it sound like I'm a good guy. I think I'm a loser some of the time, and I think I'm a jackass other times. When Maria says my name, she doesn't insinuate that I am either of those.

I'm struggling with this situation right now. Being here with her, holding her . . . I want to believe that it's more than what it is. I want to believe that she's completely with it and knows exactly what she's doing. I want to believe that we're not freezing, that we didn't just escape from the relentless rain. I want to believe that she's my girlfriend and that we're just basking in the afterglow. Most of all, I want to believe that there are no marks on her body.

A while later, when I'm certain that we're both warm again, I remove us from the bathtub and drain the water down. Maria is still pretty out of it, and she still has her eyes closed. I can see how exhausted she is, but I have no idea why.

I help her into the bedroom, noting the way walking seems painful for her. By the time I realize that I should help her, we're already to the bed. I mentally scold myself. Why the hell can't I do anything right? Even though Maria says my name like I'm a good guy, I'm not.

She lies down on the bed, and she smiles when her head hits the pillow and I move the blankets all the way up to her neck. She snuggles down in the covers and makes a happy sound. I watch her, and I wonder if she is really happy or if she is only happy because she has relatively no idea what is going on.

I change out of my pants and slip into a pair of boxer shorts before I get in next to her. I know I should sleep on the couch like any other gentlemen, but I can't be away from her right now. I want her where I can see her, where I can hear her, and where I can feel her.

I lie down beside her, reaching over to stroke her hair. She stirs slightly, and I wonder if I have woken her up. Then, she does something that makes me smile, too.

She moves over with the only strength she has left, and she snuggles into my arms. I don't even hold back. I hold her to me tightly, hoping she knows that, for some reason, I never want to let her go.

That night, I dream of her.

She's laughing. She's smiling.

The darkness is being lifted from her and being replaced with light. The pain is being removed from her and being replaced with pleasure.

And that pleasure is being provided by me.

We wake up late the next day, probably around noon. She's nestled safely in my arms, and I have no desire to move. I can stay here forever, if I have to. No problem. I want this to be my forever.

She awakes a short time later, and I wonder what her reaction will be. Will she smile? Will she lean forward and kiss me? Oh, yeah. That sounds nice.

She doesn't do what sounds nice. She doesn't something that sounds . . . strange.

She rubs her eyes and yawns, and then she looks around. She slowly comes to focus on me. I smile at her. "Hey."

She looks away from me and looks down at herself. Noticing that she is unclothed, she moves away slightly.

"What?" I ask, confused at first. Then it hits me that she's scared. "No, Maria, it's okay. Nothing happened. It's okay." I reach out to place my hand on her shoulder, and she flinches at first, but soon, my touch relaxes her.

She looks into my eyes again. "You found me," she says in a shaky voice. "You took care of me."

"Yeah. You were in pretty bad shape."

Her eyes well up with tears, and she looks away again. "Yeah. Yeah, I was."

I want to ask her why she was in such bad shape, why the hell she was lying out on the sidewalk naked in the first place, but now is probably not the time.

"Thanks," she says quietly.

"No problem."

We lie in silence for a short time, and then she begins to sit up. "I can't lay here forever," she mumbles. She groans when she sits up and holds her hand to her stomach. She looks down at sees her cuts, and she shivers.

"You okay?" I ask her.

She nods and moves so that she is sitting on the side of the bed. At first, I am distracted by the sight of the smooth skin of her back, but then I see what she is doing. She's going to stand up. She's going to leave. I know it.

I know I shouldn't ask. I know I said it was the wrong time, but I can't restrain myself. All at once, the words come flying out of my mouth. "Why weren't you okay, Maria?"

She freezes, sitting on the edge of the bed. "What?"

"Last night," I clarify. "What happened?"

She shakes her head. "I don't wanna talk about it."

"Why not?"

"I just don't, okay."

I know I should be more understanding, but I'm not a good guy like that. I'm intrigued now, wondering. "Maria . . ."

She stiffens when I say her name. "Don't," she says.

"Don't what?"

"Don't say that."

"What? Your name?" I don't understand. I thought she liked that.

"Yes," she says. She lowers her voice down to a whisper. "It just makes it harder."

"Makes what harder?" I'm completely confused.

"Nothing, just forget about it," she says. "Just . . . could you just not say anything or do anything right now? Please?"

I nod in agreement, resigning to the fact that she is not going to tell me anything. I watch longingly as she stands up and her body comes into my view again. She struggles to remain standing and has to hold onto the bed for support. "You're hurt," I comment.

"I'm not." She's lying. I can tell.

"You are."

"Stop it!" she shouts, running one hand through her hair, obviously stressing.

"If you're not hurt, then walk right over to the other side of the room."

"I'm not hurt!" insists as she lets go of the bed. She takes a few steps, and then she falls to the floor. I move over to the side of the bed and look down at her, reaching out my hand to help her up. "Are you okay?" I ask her.

"I'm fine!" she shouts angrily, slapping my hand out of the way. She reaches for a blanket on the floor and wraps it around herself. "I'm fucking fine, Michael!"

"You have bruises all over you," I remind her. "You've got cuts. What the hell is going on?"

She sighs and looks at the floor. "It's a long story," she says. "A long, boring story. You don't wanna hear it, okay?"

"No, I do wanna hear it," I say. "Tell me, Maria."

She sighs again. "I was with a guy. He hurt me. The end."

"A guy?" I echo. "A guy did this to you?"

"No, Garfield did! Yes, a guy did this to me, Michael!" she snaps.

"Who?" Whoever this guy is, I want to kill him. I shouldn't be thinking things like that, I know, but I can't help it. Somebody did this to Maria. That enrages me.

"I-I don't know," she stutters. "I don't know who. I . . . I can't remember his name."

Another one-night thing. Just like me. Well, at least she remembers my name, I think to myself. That's gotta mean something, right?

"Where'd you meet him?" I ask her.

She squirms around nervously. "At a club."

"Which club?" I ask her.

"Just . . . just a club, okay?"

"Maria, what are you doing at a club with guys like that?"

"Michael, please stop!" she begs.

I'm pushing her too hard and too fast. She's isn't ready for this, and I'm probably acting like a monster right now. "Sorry," I apologize.

Silence surrounds us for a few minutes, and I just lie there staring at her, waiting for her to talk. Finally, she does.

"I didn't leave Roswell," she explains. "I wanted to, but for some reason I just . . . I just didn't. And I didn't have any money or a place to stay or anything, so I started working at this club."

"Working?" I don't like the way this sounds.

She sighs. "Stripping."

It pains me to hear this. From the moment I saw her, I viewed her as perfect, and even though I'm beginning to see how insecure she is, I still view her that way. I look at her, and I still see perfection. Why is it that a perfect girl should have to go to such extremes?

"I don't get paid really well," she tells me. "That's why I haven't been able to get a place to stay."

"Then what's the point of working there?" I wonder.

"It sure as hell isn't the sex."

My heart sinks. I expected this. I expected that, though I was her first, there were probably many times that followed with many different guys, but I didn't want to believe that those guys were guys who would just use her at a club. "Do they hurt you there?" I ask her.

She nods. "And sometimes they hurt me when they bring me back home, too."

"They bring you back home?"

She nods again. "I need a place to stay, and they're offering, so . . ." She shrugs. "It's not like I have anywhere else to go."

That's not true, I think to myself, wishing I had the courage to say the words out loud. You could always stay here. If only you knew how I searched for you . . .

"Last night got a little out of control," she explained. "Way out of control, really. I really don't wanna talk about it anymore."

I nod, satisfied. I've got enough information right now. More than enough, actually. It's so difficult to hear her stories, knowing what she has become since we've been together. I wonder if she was going through such a downward spiral before she met me, or if this is just a recent development.

Is it my fault that she's been driven to this, driven to working as a stripper? Is it my fault that she got hurt? Am I the reason for her pain?

The answer is an obvious yes to me. I always cause her pain.

I lie there staring at her longingly, and it suddenly occurs to me that I don't know her last name. I don't know how old she is. I don't know where she grew up. I don't know anything about her family, anything about her friends. I don't know . . .

"What is it?" she asks, noticing that I am looking at her strangely.

"Nothing," I lie. "It's just . . ." Here I go again with my big mouth. I just can't refrain from saying it. "I don't know anything about you."

"Yeah," she agrees. "Sometimes I don't even know anything about me."

I'm about to ask what she means by that when she reaches out her hand and asks, "Help me up?"

I get out of bed and grab her hand in mine, pulling her up gently. She groans in pain slightly, and I apologize for not being even gentler. "It's okay," she says, and she leans against me. For a brief second, her body is plastered to mine, and I wrap my arms around her. Then, as if she has done something wrong, she pulls away abruptly and looks down at the ground, almost as though she feels guilty. "Could you . . .?" She lets her sentence dissipate and makes a motion with her hands indicating my leaving the room. "I gotta change."

"Yeah," I say. "I'll get outta here." Reluctantly, I leave the bedroom and go back into the main room. I see my jacket, still wet from last night, lying on the couch. I remember how it was wrapped around her body, and a sudden image springs to my mind of what it would be like if I were wrapped around her body. Again.

A few seconds later, she steps into the main room. I glance toward her, and I see that she is still unclothed. Though I want to let my stare linger longer, I don't. I turn away so that she has some sort of privacy.

"I guess I can't get dressed if I don't have any clothes to change into," she says quietly. "I, uh . . . I think I left them somewhere last night."

"Where?" I ask her.

She coughs, clearing her throat. "Um, at that guy's house."


"Yeah," she says. "I was with him last night. He gave me the bruises and the cuts and . . . and he threw me out of his house and left me out in the rain. Really great guy, let me tell you."

I don't want this fucked up loser to see the light of day again, but I try to keep my rage in check. "Where does he live?" I ask her.

"About where you found me last night. It's a big white house. You can't miss it."

"Big white house," I echo. "Okay, I'll go get your stuff."

"You don't have to," she tells me.

I'm already heading back into the bedroom to get myself dressed. "It's no problem," I tell her, brushing past her. We make contact for a moment, skin on skin like it should be, and I feel as though sparks are shooting throughout my body.

"Thanks," she tells me quietly.

A short time later, I'm in my car, driving over to the other side of town. I'm absentmindedly wondering what would have happened had I been driving last night instead of walking. I would have laid her down in the back seat of my car, and she would have warmed up much faster. I wouldn't have had to carry her for fifteen minutes out in the rain. She would stop shivering and start smiling much sooner, probably by the time we reached my apartment. Maybe she would have reached for me and pulled me in the back with her. Maybe I would have been wrapped around her body, and maybe she would have been wrapped around mine. Maybe we would be a normal, young couple that night, doing it in the back of a car, hoping that we don't get caught.

I sigh. I shouldn't think about things like that. What-if and maybe scenarios are a waste of time. A brilliant fantasy, yes, but also a waste of time.

Maria was right when she said that I couldn't miss the big white house. It stood out tremendously. From the outside, it looked like the home of a cozy family. On the inside, I knew there was a monster. A horrible monster of a man, even more so than me.

I knocked on the door impatiently, and finally a young guy around my age answered the door. His girlfriend was all over him, kissing his neck and his chest, and he was calling her names like 'bitch' and 'whore.' I hope he didn't call Maria that.

"Who the hell are you?" the guy asks me.

"I just came by to pick something up," I tell him, resisting the urge to knock his lights out. I push my way into his house, searching around for Maria's duffle bag. I don't have to search long. It's sitting right at the end of the couch.

The young guy notices the bag. "Oh, yeah, that girl I had here last night. The blonde one. Is she your bitch?"

"She's Maria," I tell him. "That's her name."

The guy shrugs. "Whatever. I had fun with her, but then I got tired of her. Sorry, man. I don't think she'll be good for fuckin' for a few more days."

"Fuck you," I mutter.

The guy laughs, pulling his desperate girlfriend closer to him. "Mariah fucked me last night."

"Maria!" I shout angrily.

He doesn't even seem to hear me. "Yeah, I fucked her, too. Hard and fast. Almost blew her brains out."

I curl my hand into a fist and hit him, sending him flying to the ground. The girlfriend gasps in shock, and he groans. Without another word, I leave the house with the duffle that I came for.

When I arrive back at my place, Maria is sitting on the couch watching TV. She is wearing one of my t-shirts, and I have to take a moment to reflect on how arousing it is to know that she is clothed in something that belongs to me. I let my mind wander briefly to places where I am taking that shirt off her, but then I snap myself back into reality.

"Here it is," I tell her, nearing the couching and holding out her duffle.

"Thanks," she says again, standing up and taking the bag from me. She disappears into the bedroom, and I am happy to see that she is starting to walk around slightly better now.

When she exits the bedroom again, she is wearing the tightest jeans I have ever seen along with a white short-sleeved shirt. She rocks the look and makes it her own. She steals my breath.

She fascinates me. She always has.

Standing there, looking at her, I can't help but think of her as my girlfriend. She looks like she should be my girlfriend. She looks sweet and kind, and she looks so god-damned beautiful.

She's not your girlfriend, I remind myself. She never has been. She never will be. One night, remember?

"So, you want me to fix you something to eat?"

"No," she replies. "Thanks, anyway."

"Wanna watch a movie?" I ask, hopeful.

She shakes her head. "No, that's okay."

"Alright, so . . . what do you wanna do?"

She sighs. "I think I have to leave."

"Leave?" I shriek, unable to keep the exclamation out of my voice. "Why?"

She stuffs her hands in her pockets. "I just have to, okay? I don't really want to, but I have to."

This girl . . . I don't understand her. If she wants to stay, then why doesn't she just stay? "Maria . . ."

"I'm sorry," she apologizes. She ducks into the bedroom, and seconds later she emerges with her duffle bag on her shoulder. "I don't mean to just go like this but . . . but I just need to, okay?" She starts for the door.

"Maria, please stay," I beg her.

"I can't," she says quietly. She opens the door, and she slides through and closes it behind her quickly. She's gone in an instant. I wonder if I should run after her, but I decide not to. Last time she left, I tried running, and I ended up being rejected still.

So this is it. This is how our short little story will end, won't it? She'll surely leave Roswell now. I will never see her again, except for in my dreams. In my dreams, she will look at me and tell me that she wants to stay with me forever. And I will tell her that I want my forever to be with her.

I sit around my apartment by myself the rest of the day doing the worst thing that a man can do: I think. I think about a lot of things. I think about her eyes, her lips, her hands. I think about how her body feels. I think about what it feels like to be inside her. Because I still remember. I'll always remember.

I'll always remember, but I will never experience it again. I will never again experience the joy of being sheathed within her, of cumming inside her and hearing her call my name. I will never again witness the way she arches her back as her hips come up to meet mine, the way she throws her head to the side when my lips ravage her neck.

She wants me. I know she does. On a physical level, she wants me. On an emotional level, there is something that is getting in the way, and I think that something is her.

She's gone. She's really gone.

It's late that night when there is a knock on my door. I turn down the volume on my TV and listen as the person on the other side knocks again. It's a light, delicate knock, one that I wish belonged to her.

I stand up slowly and make my way toward the door. I place my hand on the doorknob, and I feel. I feel her.

I open the door, and she is standing there, looking at the ground as if she is ashamed. "I thought you were leaving," I say.

"I was," she said. "I was gonna get on a bus and leave."

"Then why didn't you?" I ask.

She raises her head and looks into my eyes. "I just didn't."

She doesn't have to ask if she can stay here. I know she wants to, and I know I want her to. I open the door wider and allow her to step inside. She sighs, relieved. I close the door behind her and watch as she sets her duffle down on the floor. "It's so warm in here," she comments.

A short while later, I'm still sitting on my couch and watching TV. I'm trying desperately not to think about what Maria is doing. She's in the bathroom taking a bath. I wish I was joining her. I wish she would allow me to.

Stop it, I tell myself. Don't be so greedy. Just be happy with what you've got. She's here, isn't she? She hasn't left. Be content with that.

Even though I'm telling myself this, I find myself standing up and walking over to the bathroom door. I place my hand on the doorknob, wanting to turn it and walk inside. I don't, though. I won't allow myself to be one of those guys who wants her body so badly and is so obvious about it. I will be content. I have to be content.

She's humming some sad tune. Her voice. Oh, how I cherish her voice.

When the hell did I get like this? Cherish? Fascinating? Those are either words to describe obsession or words to describe something . . . deeper.

I'm standing there thinking and imagining and trying to be content when suddenly the door opens. I almost fall over right on top of her, but I steady myself. My eyes sweep down her body quickly. Short towel. Wet skin. Sexy girl. I want her. I am not content!

"What are you doing?" she asks me.

"Nothing," I lie.

She gives me a confused look and then moves past me. Once again, we brush against each other, and once again, there are sparks. There are always sparks.

She walks into the bedroom and closes the door. She leaves me on the outside, and I once again resign to the fact that I will be watching TV instead of doing her.

You suck, I think to myself. You're a fucked up guy, you know that? Obsessed!

Later that night, we come face to face to discuss sleeping arrangements. Though she offers to sleep on the couch, I tell her to have the bed to herself. "I'll sleep on the couch," I tell her, wishing that I was sleeping with her.

She's in the bedroom now, all alone, all by herself. I should be there with her. That's how things are supposed to be. I'm lying on the couch, also alone, still thinking about her. The apartment is surrounded in complete silence until I hear faint sounds. Very faint. They're coming from the bedroom. I sit up, wondering, and I listen harder. Gradually, the sounds grow louder. Maria . . .

My first instinct is that she is in pain, but as the sounds become clearer, I realize that they are not sounds of pain at all, but sounds of pleasure.

I stand up slowly and make my way to the bedroom. Hesitantly, knowing that I shouldn't, I push open the door.

She's lying on the bed with her pants pulled down past her hips. She's pleasuring herself, and she's saying my name.

"Michael . . ."

I find it hard to speak, but somehow I do. "I'm here."

She freezes, and her eyes immediately snap open. Her mouth gapes, and she removes her fingers from herself. "Oh god," she says. She pulls her pants up past her hips in a hurry.

"No," I say. "Don't." Pants need to be gone. Shirts need to be gone. She needs to receive pleasure from someone other than herself, and since she was saying my name, I'd say it's only fair that she receives pleasure from me.

I enter the room and climb onto the bed. I lie down on top, trying my best not to crush her. I take her shirt in my hands and begin to inch it upward. I receive no objection, so I continue. She sits up and assists me in removing the garment. Once the shirt is on the floor, her breasts are to my full view. I eagerly flick my thumb over her erect nipples, and she groans and arches herself up into my touch. "Yessss," she hisses.

I cup the entire mound in my hand and tangle my free hand in her hair. She reaches up and runs her hands up and down my bare chest, trying to pull me down so that we make skin to skin contact again. "Oh god," she whispers as she arches her breast up into my hand. "More."

She wants more? I will give her more. I force my hand to leave her breasts so that it travels down her smooth, flat stomach to the waistband of her pants. I ease the pants down her hips slowly, letting my fingers tickle her skin as I do so. She sends the pants flying with a flick of her ankles, and I just sit and stare at her. The bruises on her thighs are already fading, and her cuts are almost already healed. I want to believe that somehow I am the one who healed them, but I know I am not.

She looks . . . she looks just like we did the first time a few weeks ago. She doesn't look so darkened anymore. She looks just a little more carefree, a little happier, and a little more free.

"Don't stop touching me," she begs, wrapping her arms around me to pull my body down to hers. Once again, my hands find her breasts. Our foreheads rest together as our breathing becomes heavier and a thin layer of sweat begins to form on our bodies. She begins to breathe so loudly as I massage her breasts that I wonder if she will climax simply from that sensation. If so, I want to be inside her when it happens. I sit up and hurriedly rid myself of my pants, needing and wanting them gone. I grip my hardened cock in my hands and lead it to her entrance, but she stops me just as I am about to slide into her.

"No," she says, shaking her head. I don't know why she doesn't want me to. There are many possibilities. Maybe she's still trying to get over what happened with that guy last night. Maybe she's just not ready anymore. Maybe she's scared. I don't know, but I'm not going to do anything to her that she doesn't want to. There are other ways to please her that she will accept.

I run my hands over the smooth skin of her thighs, and then I place my fingers at her entrance. I look up to see her nodding to show me that this is okay, and I insert one finger into her tight passage. She groans loudly and begins to move immediately, whispering things that I can't understand. I slip another finger inside eagerly, moving them inside her.

"Feels . . . so good," she gasps, moving herself forward. "More."

Third finger. Sharp intake of breath. Shuddering orgasm a moment later. That's right.

She relaxes for only a moment, and I reluctantly withdraw my fingers from her. Suddenly, I feel her delicate hand wrapped around my cock. I look into her eyes, rather surprised, and what I see there is complete desire. Now it's her turn to touch me, and she does.

It's strange, but all we need tonight is touch.

THE END - Part 3

Continued in Part 4 - Besamos

Part 4 - Besamos (We Kiss)

I feel good. I feel comfortable. I feel warm.

I awake this morning, and it takes me a brief moment to realize that I feel this way because his arms are wrapped around me. He is holding me tightly against him, and I don't want him to let me go. It feels so good.

I lie there awake while he continues to sleep, and I wonder how it is possible to be the most at ease that I have ever been and the most confused I have ever been both at the same time. I am confused because being with someone like him is something I've never let myself experience, and suddenly, I am begging to experience it. Touching myself alone in his bedroom last night was definitely an invitation, and I'm pleased that he accepted. When I was touching myself, I wished that he was touching me, and when he came in last night and stripped us both of our clothes and put his hands on me, I felt euphoric. The expression on his face as I shifted my hands over his body told me that he felt euphoric, too. Last night had to be one of the best experiences of my life. Now, it's morning, and I'm happy.

Happy. Have I ever been happy before? I can't remember.

I sigh, still confused. Even though happiness is supposed to be a good thing, I've seen what it can do. Happiness can lead to sadness, and sadness can lead to complications. I know. I was happy a few years ago. My parents were happy. Then they started fighting, and they were sad. Angry, even. That's when they got a divorce and completely forgot about me.

Happy has impacted me directly, too. About a year back, I met this guy, and I thought that I was happy with him. I thought that maybe he was my boyfriend, that maybe we would grow old together. Then he suddenly left me for someone prettier and smarter and not so confusing.

Happy leads to sad, and that is why I haven't allowed myself to be happy for some time now. Stonewall. That's what I'm supposed to be. I've found that life is much easier if you focus on the task in front of you instead of focusing on your emotions. My task is running away, staying alone, but because my stupid emotions are getting in the way, I haven't been able to get on that bus to leave Roswell.

Just be happy, my mind is telling me. Be with Michael. Be euphoric when he touches you. Be ecstatic when he looks into your eyes. Be warm every morning when you wake up in his arms.

As I'm thinking and debating in my head, he stirs slightly beside me. He pulls me closer to him so that our bodies entangle. It feels good, no doubt, but it scares me that we are so close right now, and that I feel so extremely happy.

Reluctantly, I force myself to depart from his embrace and get out of the bed. I stand up and watch as he reaches out an arm for me and finds nothing. "Maria?" he asks sleepily.

I don't say anything. Instead, I hurry into the bathroom and lock the door into place. I lean against the wall, taking a minute to notice that my bruises have all nearly disappeared and that my cuts seem to be healing very fast. My body doesn't ache anymore. It feels good.

God, everything feels so good right now.

I close my eyes and think back to the way he touched me. His hands are slightly rough and calloused, but I don't mind. They are the softest, gentlest things in the world to me.

"Your skin's so soft," he told me. He leaned down and whispered the words in my ear, and he sent shivers throughout my body.

"I wonder why that is," I said back. "I'm not."

"No," he agreed, trailing his hand up my bare thigh. "You're not." His free hand came to tangle in my hair. "I'm not, either."

"Yes, you are," I told him. "In your own way." I brushed my hand across his abdominal muscles and brought it around back to grab his ass. He groaned. "Am I really?"

I nodded. "And warm," I added. "You're so warm."

As I stand here remembering last night, I open my eyes and look at my reflection in the mirror. I'm smiling. Me . . . smiling. It's a hard concept to grasp.

I quickly dissolve the smile from my face and reach up to touch my lips. What is going on with me and why? Why am I falling for this guy I barely know so hard and so fast? Why am I losing myself in him, and is that a good thing?

Why am I letting myself be happy when I've seen the destruction that happiness can cause?

The answer is clear in my mind: Because I want to.

All at once, there is a knock on the door. "Hey," he says. "It's Michael."

"Thanks for clearing that up," I tell him. "I thought it was Tom Cruise." What are you doing? I ask myself. First smiling, and now joking?

"Tom Cruise, huh?" he says. "You're not disappointed it's me, are you?"

"Not at all," I tell him. If Tom Cruise really was standing there, I think, then I'd probably search around for you, Michael.

I flash back for a split second to the nights not long ago when I would search for him at the club. Finally, I've found him, or rather he's found me. I felt as if I were lost when I was away from him, and I don't want to be lost ever again.

"What're you doin'?" he asks me.

"Um, nothing, really. I'm just gonna take a shower."

I can picture the mischievous grin on his face. "Want me to join you?" he asks.

How could I possibly say no to this guy? "Sure," I tell him. I reach out and open the door for him, and he steps inside. The moment he sees me, he pulls me into his arms. One of his arms trails down to cup my ass, and the other wraps around my back. I wrap my arms around his neck and look up into his eyes. He smiles, and I can't help but smile back.

"That's new," he comments.

"What?" I ask him, already knowing the answer.

"That smiling thing."

"Yeah, I know. You like it?"

"I like it." He bends down and presses a light kiss to my neck. I roll my head to the side, loving the feel of his lips against me for the first time in what seems like forever. "I like you, Maria," he tells me quietly. His breath tickles my skin.

"Shower?" I ask him, already getting lost in the passion.

"Shower," he agrees. Without warning, he scoops me up in his arms and carries me to the shower. I wrap my legs around him and allow him to support me completely as he turns on the warm water and steps in.

I don't know if this can rightfully be called a shower unless one examines the way he showers me with kisses. His lips are everywhere. One minute, they're locked to my own, and the next, they are trailing a path of kisses down my neck, my collarbone, my shoulder, and my arm, all the way to my fingertips. Sometimes he bends forward and kisses a trail between my breasts. Sometimes his tongue darts out to taste my skin, and sometimes I feel like I'm losing control.

Sometimes. Yeah, right. All the time. I always feel like I'm losing control when I'm with him, and I like it.

I like Michael. I like him just as he likes me.

I can feel the tip of his cock at my entrance. He's hard and he's ready, I know, but I'm not. I gently push him away from me and shake my head. "Not yet," I tell him.

He accepts this, and he returns to kissing me, making me feel . . . what's the word I'm looking for here? Special? Yeah, special. He does nothing to hurt me or make me feel uncomfortable like so many other guys have. He treats my body as though it is more valuable than his own.

I groan at the thought. Michael's body . . . nothing is more valuable than Michael's body. Nothing. I would expand on this further if I wouldn't ramble on so. I swear to God, I think I could spend the rest of my life fascinating over his abs and his ass and his hands and his cock. Oh, most definitely his cock.

Holy shit, this feels so good!

The shower doesn't end for at least half an hour. When it does, Michael can hardly stand from holding me up so long.

"Am I that heavy?" I ask him as he dresses.

"No," he says, "it's just that . . . we were in there for awhile, you know."

"Yeah, I know." I glance at the clock. "It's almost noon."

"What?" he shrieks. "Are you serious?"


"Shit," he curses. "I'm late for work."

"Where do you work?" I ask him. Yeah, I don't know. I don't know hardly anything about this guy, and I'm spending my time obsessing over his body and reminiscing about all of the wonderful things he can do to me. So, yeah, this whole . . . situation with him has been rather spontaneous, but sometimes spontaneity can be a good thing.

"Crashdown Café," he replies sounding slightly embarrassed. "I'm the cook."

"Oh, so you cook, huh? Maybe you might prepare some kind of extravagant meal later."

He grins. "Now you're joking," he says. "First smiling, and now joking."

"Yeah," I say. "I'm making progress."


He hurries and dresses that morning, already running an hour late. Before he leaves for work that morning, he leans down and kisses my cheek like a boyfriend would. He smiles, and I smile back, and he exits the apartment.

I stand there in the afterlife of that simple kiss, and I begin to believe that maybe this is some kind of fairytale. Maybe Michael and I will have a happy ending. Somehow.

My day is spent wondering what Michael is doing and wondering what we will do when he arrives home. I hope it involves more kissing, because the man is an expert kisser.

He arrives home that night, and before I can even get a word out, I am in his arms again. He lays me down on the couch and falls on top of me. The weight of his body feels as though it is about to crush me, but I don't tell him that. I don't care if he crushes me. I just want him to be closer.

"Take your shirt off," I tell him.

He lifts the Crashdown t-shirt over his head in a hurry and throws it to the ground. He wastes no time in unbuckling his belt and undoing his pants. He pushes his jeans and his boxers down and shifts out of them so that they pile on the floor along with his shirt.

I snake my hand down between us and grasp his already erect cock. He groans and closes his eyes as I handle him, and then he leans forward to ravage my neck with sucking kisses. He has me moaning from the sensations of his mouth on my skin and his erection in my hand. I want this more than I have ever wanted anything before. I want to stay here with him like this forever, touching and kissing, drowning in sensory pleasure. I want to be mated to him in every single way possible.

Before I know what I'm doing, I am placing my hands on his chest and pushing him up and back so that he is the one lying down and I am the one on top of him. He seems surprised that I took initiative, but he also seems intrigued. I bend down and press my lips to his chest, taking one of his nipples into my mouth. I grind my lower body into his, knowing that he can feel the wetness between my legs, my obvious desire and want for him.

He tangles his hand in my hair and pulls my head up so that I am looking into his lust-filled eyes. "You have too many clothes on," he says huskily.

"Then why don't you do something about that," I suggest.

He does do something about that. His hands are everywhere at once. He tears my shirt from my body and throws it to the floor in scraps. "I'll buy you a new one," he promises. Soon, my jeans are gone, too, and Michael nods in approval since I decided not to wear a bra or underwear. He thrusts his hips up into mine eagerly and nestles the tip of his cock inside me. "Ready?" he asks me.

I want to be ready. I want him inside me. I want to move with him. As I said, I want to be mated to him in every way possible, but if we do this, I might go someplace where I can't come back. I might be so happy that . . .

"Almost," I tell him, hating that I am so insecure and unsure sometimes. "Just not tonight. I'm sorry."

"It's okay," he tells me, stroking my cheek tenderly.

"I'm sorry," I say again. "I just-"

He leans forward and crushes his lips to mine, silencing me. I kiss back with passion, feeling as though I might explode at the thought of him kissing me elsewhere.

I cum in his mouth that night, and he does the same in mine. I can taste myself on his lips as we kiss later, and I know he can taste himself on mine. He whispers my name and says, "I want you so bad," and then he goes down on me again.

I've never felt this good before.

To my surprise, when I awake the next morning, his arms are not around me. I'm lying alone on the couch, and when I look around, I don't see him.

As if sensing that I am searching for him, he speaks. "I'm down here."

I peer over the edge of the couch and see him lying on the floor in our pile of clothes. He looks so ridiculous that I can't help but laugh. "You're on the floor!"

"Yeah, looks like," he says. "You pushed me off in the night, baby."

"Baby?" I'm not used to hearing that one. I like it. God, I like Michael.

He sits up and takes my head in his hands. He presses his lips to mine gently, and we kiss. "I'm sorry for pushing you off," I murmur against his lips.

"That's okay."

He leaves for work again that day, and I wish he didn't. I wish he could've stayed with me in that wonderful apartment of his doing . . . doing anything. Anything. After last night, after the way we kissed, after the things I felt . . . I'm ready. I'm ready for anything. I won't be holding back anymore. Tonight, if he asks me if I'm ready, I won't tell him almost. I'm tell him yes. I'll tell him god, yes! I'm ready! If he wants to fuck me, he can fuck me, because I need to feel him inside me again. It's been so long.

The day seems to drag on and on forever. Endless. I begin to grow bored without Michael around, so I decide to venture out. I scribble down a note and leave it on the counter letting him know that I'll be back soon, and I head out of the apartment. I go to a notorious store in Roswell where many sex items are sold. Handcuffs, whips, you name it. They've got it.

Like I said, I'm willing to try anything tonight.

I purchase a sparkling pair of handcuffs and let my mind wander to places where Michael is hooking the cuffs around my wrists and telling me that we don't have to do anything I don't feel comfortable with. I'll tell him that I'm completely comfortable, and then I'll tell him that his erection looks pretty damn uncomfortable and that he better do something to relieve it. And then we'll just . . .

I've got the whole scenario worked out in my head, but as I make my way up the stairs to the floor of his apartment, I realize that my scenario isn't going to be what happens.

He's standing there in the doorway talking to some girl across the hall. She's leaning against her door with her hands on her hips and giving him suggestive looks.

"So you're new here?" he asks her.

"Yep," she says. "Roswell, New Mexico. It's quite a place."

"Yeah," he agrees. "It's different sometimes."

I watch them with interest and jealousy. Why is he wasting time talking to her? And why can't he see me? Why doesn't he notice that I am here? Can't he feel me nearby? I can always feel him.

"I was kinda nervous about moving here all by myself," she admits.

"All by yourself?" he asks.

"Yeah," she says. "I don't have anybody right now. No boyfriend or anything, so . . ."

I can feel my jealously beginning to turn into something else. Hurt.

"What about you?" she asks him. "Are you all by yourself, or do you have somebody?"

"Uh . . ." He trails off.

"Roommate?" she asks.

He shrugs. "Sometimes."


"Um . . ."

Yes, you have a girlfriend! I'm screaming in my mind. Me! Come on, Michael! I'm your girlfriend! You've been intimate with me for the past three days! You called me baby! Come on, Michael! Tell her!

"No," he replies. "No girlfriend."

I feel tears sting my eyes, and my chest starts to tighten. All of a sudden, I feel like I can't breathe. Michael doesn't think of me as a girlfriend. I've spent that past two days working my way up to thinking of him as a boyfriend, and he tells this girl that he doesn't have a girlfriend.

I turn and head back down the stairs, dropping that bag containing the handcuffs. We won't be using them anymore. Maybe Michael will use them with his new girl, but not me. I'm just Maria DeLuca. Nothing. No one.

A tear falls down my cheek. This guy . . . he probably already knows more about the girl across the hall than he does about me. He doesn't know my last name. He doesn't know how old I am. He doesn't know anything about me, and I don't know anything about him!

I walk outside of the apartment complex and out onto the streets wondering how it is possible for Michael to hurt me so much when he doesn't even know. How? How is it possible? Why is it possible?

I walk around alone, cold, and pained. I knew this would happen, and I let it happen. I knew that happiness leads to sorrow. I knew it. I should have listened to my instincts and kept my distance from him. That's the whole reason why I left him in the first place a few weeks ago. I was getting in too deep.

I should have stayed away. I should have. I should have known that I am not the type of person who deserves to be happy, comfortable, and warm.

THE END - Part 4

Continued in Part 5 - Desea

Part 5 - Desea (She Desires)

I am alone. I have to be alone. That's the way it's always been, and that's the way it will always be. Solitary. Single. One. Uno. Whatever you want to call it, that's what I am.

Even now, as I'm walking down Roswell's pathetic excuse for a main street and there are people everywhere around me, I am alone. Some of them are entering the Crashdown Café. Some of them are exiting that same establishment. Some of them are paying to get into the only club around this little town. Some of them are sitting on a bench at the park, gazing at the stars. I am not with any of these people. I am just walking all by myself. I have nothing to do with them, and they have nothing to do with me. Lucky them.

I am alone.

I've made a mistake in letting myself believe that I was with Michael, that we have something to do with each other. I've made a mistake in letting myself believe that our situation together might actually be called a relationship. I've made so many mistakes. So many.

The cold wind bites at my skin, and I wrap my arms around myself to keep warm. Though I know that I should go inside, I don't. I keep walking, afraid that if I venture into someplace warm, I might let myself believe that I am not alone.

I wonder if he'll come looking for me. I left a note on the counter that said I would be back soon. It's nighttime now. Probably close to 10:00. I should have been back hours ago. I wonder if he'll be worried about me or if he'll spy the handcuffs I left on the stairs and try them out with his new girl, the one across the hall. I wonder if he even cares that I've gone, or if he even notices.

I notice when he's gone. When he's away from me, I feel empty, vacant. I feel cold and shut down. I feel desperate. Desperate for him.

Even right now, my desperation is obvious. I am desperate for his arms to be wrapped around me instead of my own. I am desperate for his lips to be touching mine. I'm desperate to tangle my hands in his hair and pull him closer to me. I want him right now, and I think a part of me needs him, but I can't have him, because I need to be alone.

Michael and I were one night. One night, that's all, and a couple of nights after that. We're not dating. We're not lovers. We're not going to grow old together or anything like that. I'm going to end up alone, and he's going to end up with that girl across the hall, or with someone else who's better suited for him than I am.

We will never end up together.

A few guys pass me on the sidewalk and give me suggestive looks. A few of them reach around and slap my ass. God, I wish you were here, Michael, I find myself thinking.

I pass by a young couple making out. Hands all over. Lips everywhere. It's kind of disgusting at first, but it's also kind of nice. They obviously care about each other and want each other and maybe even love each other. God, I wish that were me.

A feeling of sadness encompasses me as I walk by an elderly couple. They're talking and laughing, and I overhear the man tell the woman how much he loves her, and she replies the same. They're so sweet together, and they look as if they've been together for quite a long time.

That will never be me. I will never grow old with someone like that. I will never marry. I'll never have kids. I'll grow old by myself. I'll watch my aging reflection in the mirror, and I won't have anyone to tell me that I'm still beautiful. I'll go to Vegas someday, and I'll see a happy couple running out of the Elvis Chapel hand in hand, glowing from head to toe. I'll never be a part of a couple like that. I'll never be joined to someone for eternity. I'll see kids all around me, but none of them will be mine. I'll never be called 'mommy' by anyone. I'll just always be Maria. To Michael, I might be 'that Maria girl. You know, the one who let me in her pants a few times.' I might. Or maybe he'll even forget my name. Maybe he'll replace it with something more beautiful and more exotic like . . . like Juliet. Yeah, he'll probably meet some girl named Juliet someday, and he'll be her Romeo. They'll have a glorious, fabulous fairytale romance. They'll ride off into the sunset together hand in hand, and they'll be so in love.

It takes me a minute to remember that Romeo and Juliet both died, but I shrug it off. They died because they were so in love, because they couldn't live without each other. When I die, it's probably gonna be because I contracted some kind of STD from a guy at a club, or because I walked out into the street aimlessly and got hit by a car. Something stupid like that. It probably won't be dramatic, and it probably won't be intense. I'll just . . . be gone. No one will miss me. No one will care.

I wonder if it's possible to beat myself up mentally even more, if it's possible to think any more absurd, insane thoughts.


That's my name. Maria. But whoever is saying it can't possibly be saying it to me. There's another Maria out here somewhere, and someone is calling for her, not me.


Whoever is calling has quite a nice voice, though, and he says the simple name with the greatest care. He makes it important. Special. I like the way he says this name.

"Maria, wait!"

I like the way . . .

Michael . . .

He grabs my arm and spins me around to face him. He's breathing hard, probably having ran quite a way to find me. I want to believe that means that he was worried about me, that he really does care, but I don't let myself go that far. He cares more about young Juliet across the hall than he does about me.

"What the hell are you doing out here?" he asks me. "Your note said you were gonna be back soon!"

"Yeah, it did."

"So why aren't you back yet? It's almost 10:00, Maria. It's not soon, it's late!"

"It's not late." I can't help but remind him of one of our earliest conversations.

"Right, it's not," he says. I can tell he's slightly embarrassed. "But, uh . . . where're you goin', Maria?"

I shrug. "I don't know."

"Well . . . why? Why are you going? 'Cause I was worried, Maria."

"You were?" I can hardly believe it.

"Yeah, of course."

He was worried! I'm jubilant, but I don't want him to see that. "Wow," I say. "That's a surprise."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, I thought you would be completely absorbed in Juliet."

"Juliet?" he echoes in confusion.

"Yeah, you know, that girl across the hall. The new one who just moved to Roswell and is 'all by herself,' you know, she doesn't have a boyfriend or anything like that. I thought you were gonna step up and be her Romeo and all that."

"Maria, what the hell are you talking about?"

"That girl, Michael. You're obviously interested in her."

"And you're obviously jealous."

"I'm not jealous," I tell him honestly. I can't bring myself to tell him that what I really am is hurt.

He sighs. "Fine. Let's just . . . let's just go home, okay?" He turns his back and begins to walk away.

"It's not my home," I remind him quietly.

He freezes in place for a split-second, and then he continues walking again, obviously expecting that I will follow him. And, of course, I do. How can I not follow him? He makes me warm. He makes me happy.

He also makes me cold and sad, but despite this, I follow him back to his home, back to the home I desperately wish was my home, too. He opens the door for me and lets me step inside before him. Then, he slams the door shut behind himself angrily, startling me.

"Dammit, Maria!" he curses. "Why do you have to be so fuckin' complicated?"

I sigh. "It's just the way I am, Michael. Get used to it."

"I am used to it," he says. "I've been getting used to it for a few days now, Maria, but I just don't understand how, even though I hardly know you, you're completely screwing me up."

"I'm completely screwing you up?" Unbelievable! "Do you have any idea how much you're screwing me up, Michael? You can be pretty complicated, too, you know, and because you are the way that you are, I make mistakes! Okay, I have made a lot of mistakes because of you!"

"Because of me?"

"Yes!" I'm letting it all out now. No more keeping it in. "I slept with you, Michael, and it was my first time, and I probably wasn't mature enough to handle it and . . . and I probably just wasn't ready, because after that, I slipped into a downward spiral! I should've left Roswell, but I didn't! I couldn't! For some reason, I couldn't! I tried, but I never went through with it, and you know why I didn't, Michael? Because of you! Because I slept with you, and I wanted to do it again! That's why! I could've gotten on a bus and left, but I stayed here because of you, because I couldn't fuckin' leave you, Michael!"

"And that's my fault?" he asks. "Listen, Maria, I realize that I shouldn't have slept with you, but I wanted to, and I know you wanted to! It was obvious! And I understand that you couldn't leave because you didn't want to leave me, but it's not my fault that you decided to go start stripping, okay? Don't blame me for that!"

"Fuck you, Michael!" I shouted angrily. "Everything is your fault! Everything bad that happens is your fault! It's your fault that I feel the way I do!"

"How do you feel?" he asks.

"Happy," I blurt, unable to stop myself. "Well, not right now, of course, because right now I'm really pissed off, but earlier, I felt happy."

"And what's wrong with that? Call me crazy, but I've always believed that happiness is a pretty good thing."

"It is," I agree. "For awhile, it's the best thing, but then it turns into the worst thing! Happiness becomes sadness, because you can't just be happy forever! Trust me, I know!"

"So it's better to be miserable your entire life than to be happy for a little while?"

"Of course it is! If you're always miserable, you have no idea what happiness is! You have no idea what you're missing out on! But earlier today, I was happy, Michael! I was really happy, and if you want me to admit it, then I will, okay? You are the reason why I was happy. But now you're also the reason why I'm angry and sad and confused, and it's unbearable because I know what it feels like to feel better!"

He shakes his head. "You're crazy, you know that, Maria?"

A few tears fall down my cheeks. "I know."

"You say you wanna be happy, and you wanna be warm, and you wanna be with me, but you're not. You want all these things, and you're not getting them."

"I know," I tell him, choking back tears, "because . . . because sometimes I want all the wrong things, Michael. You know, I've . . . I've come to the conclusion that . . . that I am wrong. In some way . . . in every way . . . I'm wrong. And you . . . you're wrong, too. Not in every way, but in some ways. You have faults. Everyone does." More tears begin to fall from my eyes, unwanted. "And even though you're wrong, and even though you're probably completely wrong for me, I want you so bad. I want you more than I've ever wanted anything in my life before. And I need you. I feel like I need you close to me or I can't breathe. You make me feel alive, Michael, and no one's ever made me feel that way."

"So, I'm wrong," he says, "but I make you feel alive. So, now are you saying there's something wrong with feeling alive?"

I nod, crying. "Yes. Sometimes, there is. Michael, when I feel that way, I just . . . I feel like I'm losing myself in you."

"And that's a bad thing?"

"Yes, of course it's a bad thing!"

"Really?" I'm sensing that it's his turn to talk now. "I don't understand that, Maria, because I've been lost for quite awhile now. I've been losing myself in you ever since the first moment I laid eyes on you, 'cause I was fascinated. I'm still fascinated, and I'm still losing myself, and I've never told you this before because of the risk of sounding like a complete loser, and I realize that's exactly what I'm sounding like right now, but the point is . . . I'm lost, and I'm liking it. I may be wrong, but I feel okay."

How is this possible? I'm asking myself. How is it possible to be so conflicted? How is it possible to want to pull him to me and push him away both at the same time? How?

"Michael, I'm so confused," I tell him. "I don't know what to do. I know I should probably grab my bag and run out of here right now. I should get on that bus and leave Roswell, but . . ." I let my sentence dissipate.

"But what?" he asks, taking a few steps closer to me.

I stand there like an idiot for a few seconds, just staring into his beautiful brown eyes, and then I finally open my mouth to finish. "I just want you to kiss me."

He wastes no time. He's standing in front of me in two long strides, and he's holding my head between his hands. His lips are crashing onto mine, sending streaks of passion throughout my body. Just this one kiss is making me feel like I'm on fire, like I'm alive, warm, and happy. This kiss is making me feel all the things I've told myself not to feel, all the things I've tried to ignore, all the things I want.

He slips his one hand down my body to wrap around my waist. He pulls me closer to him and presses our bodies together. He backs us into the bedroom clumsily, not watching where he is going. My legs hit the edge of the bed and I fall back onto it. He collapses on top of me, still kissing me. "Maria," he says between kisses. "Are you ready?"

"Yes," I moan, barely able to get any sounds out.

He slips one hand under my shirt, moving the material up quickly to reveal my skin. I stop him just as he is about to lift it off me. "Wait."

"What?" he asks me.

I place my hand on top of his and lace my fingers through his. I realize that what I'm about to ask of him may be something he doesn't want to give, and it's frightening to think that he might reject my request.

"What is it?" he asks me again.

Here it goes. No turning back now. "Will you make love to me?"

He seems completely surprised. Shocked, is actually a better word. I don't blame him. I've managed to shock myself. I just spent five minutes yelling at him, basically telling him everything that is wrong with love, and now I'm asking this of him. He's right when he says I'm complicated. I really am.

He doesn't really give me an answer. He doesn't tell me that he will make love to me. He just shows me. He takes everything much slower than he would have had we just been fucking. He undresses me slowly, taking his time. He runs his hands over every available inch of my body and lets his lips follow the same course. He waits patiently as I unbutton his shirt ever so slowly and push it from his body. He closes his eyes and says, "Maria . . . baby . . ." as I remove his jeans and boxers. "Baby, come here."

A lot of time is spent on the little, intricate details. There's a lot of kissing. A lot. Sometimes, he leans forward and whispers things in my ear, things that make me go crazy. "Closer," he says. "Maria . . ." There's a lot of touching, too. Sometimes, he let's his fingers dance across my skin, just grazing it. The sensation tickles, and it makes me laugh. "Oh, Michael . . ."

Before we actually go through with this, he kisses his way down the entire length of my body. He starts at my forehead and then moves onto my lips, my neck, my breasts, my stomach, my legs, all the way down to my feet. Then he repeats the path all the way back up my body and kisses my lips one last time. "Ready?" he asks again.

I nod my head and reach down between us to take his large cock into my hands. I lead it to my entrance, already ecstatic at the thought of having him inside me like this again. "Please."

I close my eyes as he slides into me slowly. There's nothing uncomfortable or painful about this at all. If anything, it's making me feel like I've died and gone to heaven.

"Open your eyes," he tells me as he begins to move within me. I do. We gaze at each other as our bodies undulate, and I see so much in his eyes. More than passion. More than lust. More than everything. I see me the way he sees me. Beautiful. Special. Important. I see . . .

I see what looks a lot like love.

"Oh, God, Michael!" I gasp as my climax builds through my body, ready to be unleashed at any minute. "Michael, please . . . love me . . ."

I fall asleep in his arms that night, loving the feel of him, of all of him. I have to admit, I'm extremely glad we didn't use the handcuffs. This was so much better.

THE END - Part 5

Continued in Part 6 – Recuerdo

Part 6 - Recuerdo (I Remember)

Making love to Maria is indescribable. I'm not even going to attempt to put what I feel in those moments with her into words, because it is not possible.

Oh, Maria . . . she's just so complicated. Everything she touches turns into a swirling mass of confusion. I remember. I remember what confusion feels like. I remember the complicated end to our complicated love story . . .

I awoke with a start. My eyes shot open, and I found myself staring at the ceiling. I was disappointed. I wished that I was staring into her eyes. What a perfect way to start out the morning that would be.

I reached my arm out, expecting to feel her beside me, but I didn't. I turned my head, and I didn't see her lying beside me. I looked around the bedroom, and I didn't see her anywhere. "Maria?" I called quietly.

I sat up and rubbed my tired eyes, trying to wake up. She's probably in the bathroom, I told myself. I couldn't hear the water running, so I figured she was taking a bath. I began envisioning all sorts of nice scenarios in which I climbed into the bathtub with her and did things to her that would have her panting my name. I smiled at the thought. Maria would like that.

I got out of bed, yawning, and went to the bathroom door. I knocked quietly. "Maria? It's me. Not Tom Cruise. Sorry."

I expected to hear her laugh. I did not. I knocked again. "Maria?"

Still no answer. I pushed open the door slowly, and I quickly discovered that she wasn't taking a bath. She wasn't even in the bathroom. The lights were off. When I turned the light on, I saw a large blue towel lying on the floor. I picked it up, and it felt like Maria. I let myself savor in the feel for just a second, and then I put the towel back down and turned off the light again. She's probably already up and eating breakfast, I decided.

I made my way into the kitchen expecting to find her sitting at the counter eating cereal or relaxing on the couch with a peach Snapple, but she was no where in sight. "Maria, where are you?" I asked aloud. I looked around again. I had no idea where she could be.

She's hiding, I decided finally. This is some new kind of game of hers. She thinks it's funny. She's hiding from me, and she's gonna jump out any minute now and pin me to the floor and just . . .

Yeah, this is a good game.

"Maria?" I called again, heading back into the bedroom. I was going through a mental list of all the places that she could be. I knew she wouldn't be under the bed. Too dirty. I thought she might be in the closet, and that she might jump out when I went to get dressed.

"Maria, come on, where are you?" Yeah, this was a good game and all, with the pinning me down on the floor and doing me, but if she wanted to fuck, we could just . . . well, fuck. She didn't have to make me work for it, did she?

All at once, I noticed something different about the room. The something was little, insignificant, almost, but it was something.

Her duffle bag wasn't where she had left it. It wasn't even in the room.

"Maria?" I asked again quietly, but I had a feeling I was talking to myself then.

I started running through the house like a maniac. "Maria!" I was shouting then. "Maria!" I needed to find her. The thought that she had gone somewhere, that she had left . . . I felt like I was being decimated. Why? I didn't understand. Why would she leave after everything? After last night? I thought last night had been a monumental step for us. I thought that she was accepting me into her life by asking me to make love to her. I thought last night was the hugest step in our relationship. Yes, it is a relationship. Whether she wants to believe it or not, it is a relationship, and she can't just walk away from it.

But she did. She walked away. She wasn't there anymore. She wasn't lounging around my apartment. She wasn't in the bathtub. She wasn't playing some kind of sex game with me. She was just gone. She'd left without even giving me a proper goodbye this time. Gone.

That's it, I decide. If Maria's gone, then I'm gone, too.

I was in the process of giving up when I noticed something on the counter. I was surprised I hadn't noticed it before. It was a small slip of paper with small, messy writing on it. I knew it was from Maria. Who else would it have been from? I picked up the paper in my hand and began to read . . .


You say you know nothing about me so, I thought I'd tell you some things.

My last name is DeLuca. It's Spanish, if you're wondering. Um . . . I'm 18. Yeah, only 18. I grew up in Miami with my mom and my dad. My favorite color is green. My favorite food is spaghetti. And, um . . . I had a dog when I was 12. He was this cute little Bulldog named Pedro, but he got hit by a bus and died. Let's see, what else? Oh! I played soccer during my sophomore year of high school, but it was the most miserable experience of my life, 'cause I pulled, like, ten muscles and broke my leg. I got called Fish Lips in school. Yeah, that was real fun. Um . . . yeah, I guess that's all.

Anyway, now you know something about me, I guess. Actually, you know more than anyone, Michael. You know more about me than all this nonessential, stupid stuff about Pedro and Fish Lips and all that. I've told you things that I've never told anyone before. I've showed you things that I've never shown anyone, and I'm glad I did. You're the most amazing person I've ever met in my entire life, and you have this incredible way about you that makes me want to crumble.

But, you see, the problem is . . . I can't crumble. I can't be indebted to anyone, and I can't get entangled. I gotta be a stonewall, and when I'm around you sometimes, I don't feel like a stonewall anymore.

I hope you understand that I didn't want to leave this morning, but I try not to pay attention to what I want, because what I want usually turns into a complete disaster. I just . . . I'm alone and that's the way it's gotta be.

I'm sorry. Thanks for putting up with me for these past few days. Thanks for . . . everything.

Love, Maria

I put the letter down, unsure how I was supposed to feel about what I read. All I could feel right then was . . . emptiness.

I sulked into my bedroom and pulled open the closet doors. I found my grey Crashdown t-shirt and slipped it over my head. There was an old pair of jeans lying on the floor that would have to do for the day. I put them on, too, and glanced at the clock. Time to go to work. Time to start another day.

Another day without Maria.

I remembered those days, the days without her. It wasn't long ago that I would wake up alone every morning and go to sleep alone every night. It wasn't long ago that I would leave my apartment during the middle of the night and go out to search for her. I wondered if I'd begin to do that again, the searching thing.

No, I wouldn't. I decided I wouldn't search for her this time, because there was no chance of finding her again. I got the sense that she was really leaving now. Really. I could picture the scene in my mind. The bus would come to a stop, the doors would open, and the driver would ask her if she wants to get on the bus. She would nod in a silent reply and step on. She'd find a seat by herself, and she'd ride away.

Thanks for visiting Roswell, Maria. Thanks for visiting me.

I wanted more than a visit, and I knew it. Maria wanted more than a visit, too. She made that clear, but she said she always wanted the wrong things. She told me I was wrong. Of course. That was absolute knowledge to me. She's wrong, too. I knew that, as well. We're both wrong in many ways, but I was beginning to believe that once something is so wrong, it can transform into something so right.

I want more than a visit, Maria. I want forever.

I knew that I should have gone to work. I knew it, but I didn't. Something came to me, some kind of undeniable knowledge, and I had to go after her.

I was in love.

I ran out into the hallway and left the door to my apartment completely open. I didn't care about anything at that point except for Maria. Simple things like closing the door would take too much time, and I didn't have any time to waste.

I went outside and got in my car. The stupid-ass thing took forever to start up. I felt like I had taken five minutes just trying to get the thing to reverse. I pulled out onto the street quickly and haphazardly, and I began to drive like crazy to the other edge of town. It wasn't a long drive, but it seemed suddenly long. A five minute drive was seeming as if it were going to take five hours.

Of course, things can never be easy for me, and this morning was no exception. I got stuck in a traffic jam. Roswell has never had a traffic jam before that I can remember, but there was one on this particular morning. Just fuckin' great, really.

Traffic was at a stand-still, and I was growing angry fast. I punched the steering wheel hard, taking out my aggression, frustration, and impatience. "Oh, shit," I muttered. This wasn't good. I could run faster than this.

The minute the thought of running slipped into my mind, I acted on it. I bolted out of my car and left the keys in the ignition. I didn't care. Someone could steal my car, and it wouldn't matter. It would matter if I lost Maria.

I ran through the street and received some wondering looks from drivers. I ran so fast that I thought my legs were going to fall off. I was breathing so hard that my chest was burning. I collided with many people and knocked them to the ground. Normally, I would have stopped to help them up and apologize, but this wasn't normal.

Nothing about Maria and me was or ever had been normal.

At last, I reached the bus stop. There was a bus that had pulled up and was just starting to leave. She had to be on that bus. She had to. If I had been too late, if she had already left . . . I couldn't handle it.

"Wait!" I shouted, running alongside the bus. "Maria!"

A few people on the bus started pointing out the window and commenting, and seconds later, they were telling the bus driver to stop the bus. Finally, the bus slowed. I pounded on the doors until they opened and let me inside.

"Maria!" I exclaimed, running down the aisle. "Maria!"

She was sitting by herself as I had expected. Her eyes were focused on the ground, but when she heard me, she slowly glanced up. Our eyes met, and I saw that hers were filled with tears.

"Maria," I said, quieter this time.

She shook her head. "Michael, what are you doing here? You shouldn't be here."

"Why not?" I asked her.

She set her duffle aside and stood up. "You just shouldn't."

I grabbed onto her shoulders and held her in place. I was afraid that she would run away. "You know what, Maria? I don't really care about what I should and shouldn't do anymore. I care about what I want, and what I want is you."

She started to cry. "Michael, don't say that."

"Why not? It's true. Look, Maria, I know that I might not be the perfect guy. I know that I'm wrong in a lot of ways. I know that sometimes I can hurt you, and sometimes I can confuse you, but . . ."

"Michael, stop saying this!" she begged. "I have to be strong! I have to be alone! Don't you understand?"

"I guess I don't," I told her honestly. "I don't understand a lot about you, Maria, but that's what draws me to you."

"Michael . . ."

"I know you, Maria, and I know that you want to be with me. I know that you find something about me to be warm and comforting, and I know you like the way I say your name."

More of her tears fell. "Michael, you have to leave!"

"Why?" I asked her. "Why, Maria? Why do I have to leave? If I leave, then you leave, and I can't bear to watch you go, 'cause I . . ." In that moment, I wanted to say the words, but it was so difficult.

"Don't say it!" she shouted, pounding her tiny fists against my chest, struggling against me. "Don't say it, Michael!"

"I love you, Maria," I told her quietly.

"No, you don't!"

"Yes, I do. I love you, Maria."

"No, nobody loves me!"

"I love you." I knew I just had to keep saying it over and over again. "Maria, I love you."

She stopped struggling against me then and fell into my arms. "Michael . . ." she cried, clinging to me. I pulled her tightly against me. I never wanted to let her go. "Maria . . ." I pressed a soft kiss to her forehead and listened as her crying diminished. When I tilted her head up to kiss her lips, the entire bus began to applaud us.

Maria stayed.

To this day, Maria still remains to be quite a complicated girl, but she's opening up to me more and more each day. She laughs and smiles and jokes a lot now. She lies in my arms at night and tells me stories about her childhood and shares with me some of her most embarrassing moments. She accepts that we are in a relationship, that she is my girlfriend and that I am her boyfriend. Still, she hasn't told me she loves me. She doesn't need to. I don't need a declaration. I know.

I've learned a lot from this love story with Maria. I've learned that finding love isn't always easy. There are obstacles that are in the way, barriers to be overcome. Sometimes, the things we feel can become too much, but the way we touch and the way we kiss can make too much seem like far too little. Sometimes she desires things she never thought herself worthy of experiencing, things that frighten and scare her, and sometimes I have to take a step back. I remember the past. It wasn't easy. The future won't be easy, either, because we will cause each other pain. We will make each other cry. We will scream at each other and be angry to extremes. We'll drive each other insane. We'll get on each other's nerves. We'll wake up some mornings and wonder why we're together, and then we'll look into each other's eyes, and we'll know. We'll just know.

It won't be easy. It's not supposed to be. Maria and I will always be complicated, because sometimes we hate, and sometimes we love.