October 2000

It started, as it always does, with a dream. Usually it's not a literal dream, something you see as you sleep, but a wish, a hope, a desire. In my case, it started with subconscious visions unleashing the desires I didn't know I had, I didn't know I was capable of. And I'll be honest, Karen, it scared the hell out of me. It scared me because of who you were, or at least who I made you out to be. But you came to play, and you proved me wrong.

Oh, how you proved me wrong.

For a year, I thought that you were a manifestation of the dream, that there was no possible way that someone like you could exist without me dreaming you up first. But you can't fault me for that; every moment with you felt like, and in some cases actually was, something that had crawled into my mind as sleep had weakened my defenses. You figured out my desires, you went above and beyond. You made me feel loved even when we hadn't set the boundaries of our connection. And that was the most important thing. You always made me feel loved. Even when I didn't feel safe—and sometimes I didn't want to feel that security—and even when I didn't feel honest when it came to interacting with other people, I always felt that love. And I kept it with me and never lost it. If I had to be honest, I think it was part of the reason why I never completely let go of you, why I always compared you to every other potential flame, every other potential lover. You found your way under my skin and you weren't leaving. Not that I ever really wanted you to.

More, recently, for five months, I thought that you were where dreams go to die. It seemed to make sense at the time. When we started sneaking around, the dreams that I had of you started to slow in frequency until they disappeared completely. And when you left, they wouldn't come back even as some cheap form of comfort while you were trying to keep up appearances. For the first few weeks, I didn't mind the fact that they weren't there. If I couldn't put my mind to rest during the day, while I was awake, then certainly I'll take the respite that I had been given when the sun set. And the dreamless sleeps had extinguished the fire, at least for the hours that my eyes were closed. But as soon as I woke up, as soon as my eyes opened, something in my brain lit a match to the driftwood, lit a match to the wreckage of you and me, and the glow and the heat were too much to ignore. And it only fueled the conviction that you were, in fact, where dreams go to die.

Everything added up.

But tonight…oh, tonight…tonight I know what you are, Karen. If the diary couldn't tell me—and even though I've read those words thousands of times, even though I could recite them to you from memory—then tonight certainly screamed it, if not right away, then progressively. It was murmured under breath when I opened the door to find you with your back against the wall. It grew into a stage whisper when you told me about your plans for divorce (on some level, I always knew that it would happen eventually, and I always knew that it wouldn't be because of me or what we have). It convinced me that it was okay to offer a place to stay, and it sternly ordered me to hold your hand afterwards. I could hear it shouting as you kissed me, and before we closed the door, I could hear it screaming as I led you inside.

I can only imagine what it would do if it saw us now, if it was able to sneak past before the door was shut. The night is all around us, yes, but you and I are isolated within the confines of 9A, and right now, I wouldn't have it any other way. I can feel your skin against mine, our legs entwined on the mattress and a soft sigh of song as you rest your head on my chest. For a moment, I think I can hear a faint commotion outside, but I know it isn't real. What is real is the fact that you have come back to me. That's all I could ever ask for.

Tonight, I know what you are. I think I've always known, whether or not I've always realized it. I think I even knew it when I thought the worst of you and tried to drown my sadness in flings that wouldn't last and new memories I would likely forget. You are the beauty, you are the heart, you are the soul. You are everything that was lacking in my world, and that is why I could barely survive without the presence of you (well…maybe I could, but I barely wanted to. Let's put it like that). You are all I want, you are all I need. You are no longer where dreams go to die.

You are where they begin.

I couldn't ask for more, Grace.

When I got into the elevator tonight, I knew that I was working with a fifty-fifty shot here. I knew that in five months time, you could have forgotten all about everything we had, forgotten what we had meant to each other, what you still mean to me. And when I saw that guy—Scott, I think you said his name was Scott, but now that he's gone, does it really matter?—all of my fears had been confirmed, or at least I thought they had been. And let me tell you, honey, I tried to leave. I wanted to take the stairs slowly, one by one with a few seconds in between steps, just to make sure that I wouldn't run into him again tonight. I wanted to wait a few moments before pressing the button that would call the elevator back up to the ninth floor, but doing that meant running the risk of you finding me out there, of Will finding me out there. And while I was dreading seeing you at that moment, I was dreading the possibility of seeing Will far more. How could I explain myself to him?

I felt like my legs couldn't carry me more than a few feet, so I came to rest beside your door and felt the tears flow even though I tried like hell to keep them from seeing the light of the hallway. I knew that just sitting there would increase the chance of you walking out and finding me. But at that point I didn't care. You came through. You sat down next to me. And after the required moments of awkwardness and silence, we made it back to the place we loved and longed to return to.

And now, I can honestly say that I am completely yours, in every single meaning imaginable.

I don't know where we're going to go now that I'm free from Stan. What I do know is that I can't imagine staying anywhere else but here. I know that I will go at your pace, I will only speak about us to the people you want me to. I will keep it a secret if that's what you want. I know that I will do anything to make this work. And I know that the best feeling in the world is being in your arms.

Suddenly, you move to get out of bed, the sheets rustling as your feet touch the ground. I watch you as you grab a couple of robes out of your closet (god, I love the way you move), and see your smile shine in the moonlight as you toss one of them my way. "Put this on," you say gently as you throw yours around your body and move into the kitchen. I can hear the refrigerator door open and close, the gentle metallic sound of your house keys. My curiosity gets the better of me, and I follow these soft noises to you. The room is dark, but I can still make out a bottle of Chardonnay on the kitchen counter, and recalling the sound of the keys, I figure out what you're planning to do. I see you reaching for two wine glasses.

"Don't," I say quietly, but with enough force for you to hear it. "We don't need glasses. It'll be just like the last time." God, I love your grin, the way it can light up anything in its path.

You unlock Will's door across the hall and take my hand as you tiptoe across the floor. "He should be fast asleep," you whisper. "We just need to get to the balcony anyway, it shouldn't be a big deal." Gracie, at this point, I don't care where we go. Just as long as you're the one to go with me.

The late night breeze on the balcony chills me, but not as much as I remembered it chilling me before. You take a swig out of the bottle before handing it over to me, and I'm instantly transported to a simpler time. And even though we hadn't fully set our boundaries, or our terms, I hold moments like those in a high regard. Those were the moments that I felt free, and the terms and conditions of our relationship somehow made me freer. It was a feeling that I haven't had surrounding me in five months. I've missed it.

God, how I've missed it.

As if you read my mind, you murmur into my ear. "It can be like that again." I can smell a bit of Chardonnay on your breath although we haven't been drinking that much. It always struck me as amazing, how you were able to take my biggest fears and quell them one way or another. I may have never let on about it, I may not have admitted it to myself half of the time, but it happened. And I'd thank you every day for it if I could.

I kiss your shoulder and smile into your skin. "I think it already is."

Right now, Will could walk out of his bedroom. He could stumble into the living room, making his way to the kitchen for a glass of water, or a midnight snack. He could absently glance to his right as he reaches for the refrigerator. He could see our backs towards him. He could do a double take. He could walk through the glass door and ask what the hell is going on. He could be livid.

I could care less.

All I care about right now is the fact that you just pressed your lips softly against my cheek as I took another swig of wine, before going for my Chardonnay-sweetened lips. All I care about right now is the fact that we are watching over Riverside Drive together, in our solitude, and it's so quiet up here, so beautiful. All I care about right now is the fact that you just draped your arm around my shoulder and brought me in closer. And before I know it, I can feel you arms wrap tighter around me. I love it. I want to stay like this forever. Or at least as long as you'll have me.

If you can help it, never let me go.