***Writer’s note: This is a long one. It gets heavy, and it gets hot, and it might not be for everyone. But if you’re willing to brave these waters, dear reader, then by all means, pour yourself a drink and find some place comfy. Let’s begin.***

I parked in front of her new apartment complex. Grass, trees, stucco exterior. Standard fair for the southwest. A bomb would probably cause less damage to this little community than its newest tennant. Or maybe I was just being hyperbolic.

“What the fuck am I doing?” I mutter to myself as I kill the engine. I open my door and climb out, and then I see her in person for the first time in six years. She comes around from behind the little U-Haul trailer she’s hitched to the back of her car, a smile beaming in my direction.

“Oh my god, can I hug you!?” she calls out from across the parking lot. She hurries to close the distance and before I can stutter out a reply she has her arms around my shoulders, her cheek pressed to mine. “It’s been so long.”

“Yeah…” I say. No shit, I think to myself.

After an excruciating few seconds, she lets go and steps back to look at me.

“Wow,” she says, “I’ve never seen you with a beard before. It looks really good on you.” 

I haven’t been clean shaven in years. “Thanks.”

She brushes back a few strands of brown hair that have come loose from her ponytail, still grinning like we’re two old friends about to start a long awaited reunion. She’s wearing a pair of black leggings and a white tank top, its underarms cut low to her waist so you can see a yellow sports bra underneath. I try to avoid staring at it. Yellow was always her favorite color.

“Thanks for this.” She says, her tone shifting into something a touch more somber. “I tried a lot of numbers but no one could make today work.”

“It’s no problem. Happy to help.”

If she can hear the forced congeniality in my voice, she doesn’t show it. She just smiles that bright smile again and says “Should we get started, then?”

“Yeah, let’s do it.”

I follow her back to the trailer. She unlatches the ramp and I help lower it to the pavement. It’s a fairly small thing, probably the largest model she could pull with her Civic, but she’s managed to pack damn near every inch of it.

“It’s a lot of small stuff,” she starts. “Mostly boxes, some end tables. Some of the boxes are pretty heavy because they’re loaded with books. The only big stuff are those shelves, there, and the mattress. My dad got his truck and helped me take the bedframe up this morning, he just had an emergency at work and had to go after that.”

Her dad’s a good guy. I like him.

“So…yeah. Nothing TOO heavy. Just kinda bulky and awkward to move by yourself, you know?”

“Alright,” I say. “So should we get the big stuff out of the way first?”

“Sounds like a plan, Stan!” She winks and gives me a thumbs up. My name isn’t Stan. 

Chipper. It’s her default setting. I’ve seen her sob, rage, and sit in sullen silence. The whole spectrum of human emotion, really. But this upbeat, ‘You’re so awesome, let’s have a great day!’ attitude has always been her neutral. It’s what makes her so disarming. So dangerous. Most people couldn’t tell what she was before she’d ruined them. And I hadn’t been one of the very few who could. 

She made you feel wanted. Welcome. Loved. She’d listen to the thoughts and feelings you’d never shared with anyone before, things you could trust her with because she was special. She’d make you feel like a genius or paragon as you babbled on late into the predawn hours about your innermost theories of love, art, and life. She was so god damned genuine. And she’d always leave you craving more of her adoration when she was gone.

How could you say no to a call for help from someone like that, no matter how badly they’d hurt you? No matter how much you hated them?

“Alright, then.” I step into the trailer. She drops the thumbs up as I pass her. I start to work the mattress out far enough so that she can lift the other end. She hesitates, unsure of what to do for a moment.

“Uh…okay. Yeah,” then bends down to pick up her end.

“Mind your back,” I interject.

“Huh? Oh, right! Thanks for looking out for me.” 

That damn smile again. 

She straightens her back, lifting with her legs.

“Are you leading, or me?” I ask.

“Uh, I’ll go first I guess.”

“Lead the way.” She takes us around the side of the trailer and a few steps beyond her car when she comes to a sudden stop.

“Oh, shit.”

“What?” I ask after slamming into my side of the mattress. She drops her end to the ground.

“I forgot my door’s locked. I should go unlock it first, right?”

“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea,” I say, trying to keep my voice neutral.

“Okay, I’ll just grab my keys.” She goes to her car, opens the driver’s side door and sticks her head in, reaching for what I assume are the keys that open every door in her life. The keys she’d left sitting on the driver’s seat in her unlocked car for everyone to see.

I make a point of not looking at her ass.

“Got ‘em. I’ll be right back. Sorry. You can put that down if you want.” She trots away along the walkway, up the nearby stairs, and disappears from view. I sigh, looking at her car. 

The last time I’d seen that car had been the last time I’d seen her. It was the final week of summer leading into our junior year of college. It was late, some time after midnight in front of my place. I had just zipped up my pants and she’d leaned in to give me a long, delicate kiss goodbye. Of course, I hadn’t known it was goodbye at the time. So I reached up and stroked her cheek with my knuckles, trying to avoid smearing her own wetness on her face with my damp fingertips. I told her I loved her. She just smiled, and I got out of the car. 

The next week, she never came to class. Apparently, she’d accepted an internship on the other side of the country a month prior and she’d flown out the morning after that last kiss. She hadn’t texted me, which wasn’t out of the ordinary for her. She had a habit of forgetting to reply to calls and texts. Someone like her made a lot of friends quickly, but despite my being her boyfriend for over a year, I was the last person in our arts college to find out that she wasn’t coming back. 

A week before I’d been planning the life I’d have with her by my side. Our adventures. A house. A dog. Maybe a little girl who’d look like her but have my eyes. It was all gone with the drop of a hat.

She had a new boyfriend before Halloween. Then another, and another. A few weeks into the semester I started to find out that over the course of our relationship, she’d slept with just about every other guy in our class. I wasn’t the only person she’d gotten to trust her with everything. I wasn’t the only one who’d loved her. 

In the years since, she’d gone from city to city. Orlando to New York to L.A., followed by a brief stint in Oklahoma to finish her bachelor’s.

So yeah, there were a lot of complicated feelings happening for me when she came back home to the desert after six years and asked me to help her move her fucking mattress.

Well, eventually she made her way back to me and said mattress, and after some awkward stairway pivots and ‘your left, not my left’ banter, it was safe and sound on her bed frame. Next came the shelves, then the end tables, and box after box of plays, books, sketches, and clothes. It wasn’t especially hard work, but it was damn hot outside, and we were both drenched with sweat by the time I set the last box labeled ‘BATHROOM’ on her kitchen counter.

“Shit,” she panted, “I forgot what July’s like out here.”

“I was wondering why you decided to move in after lunch,” I say, equally exhausted.

She smiles, and I can’t help but smile back. 

“Here, a little payment for your troubles,” she says with a cockney accent. Forever the actor. She opens the fridge and pulls out a couple beers, holding one out to me. I take it, and the chill of the glass is refreshing on its own. I’ve never really been a big fan of beer, but fuck does this one taste good. She leans against the counter, sipping hers. A trickle of sweat runs down the side of her slender neck. She looks at me and asks “Hey, do you remember sitting in the car and blasting Paramore?”

I chuckle, despite myself. “Yeah. Yeah, those were fun times.”

“I remember we’d always end up listening to Riot!, no matter what we put on first.”

“Hey, you can’t beat the best.”

“And I remember when you told me you thought I looked like Hayley Williams.”

“Yeah,” I say, trying to not get away from myself. Then, “You do.”

“That’s a really big compliment,” she says. “She’s beautiful.”

I take another sip from my beer. “Yeah.”

She tries to suppress a sheepish grin, then holds her bottle up to her mouth like a microphone and sings:

“Whoa, I never meant to brag, 

But I got him where I want him now. 

Whoa, it was never my intention to brag, 

To steal it all away from you now.”

I join in for the last stanza with: 

“But God, does it feel so good, 

‘Cause I got him where I want him right now.

And if you could, then you know you would,

‘Cause God it just feels so good.”

“Yes!” she says and holds up her hand for a high five. I’m caught up in the moment and slap my palm into hers with a satisfying clap. 

And suddenly, I’m a freshman in college again. The windows are down. The wind’s blowing through our hair. The music’s blaring. I’m kissing my best friend for the first time in front of her dorm room. She’s climbing on top of me in the back of my car, giggling as we try to open up the most indestructible condom wrapper ever built by man. She’s exhaling into my face while I run my fingers over her clit for what I’d later learn was the last time.

“God, I miss those days so much.”

“Yeah, me too,” I say, the magic of the moment gone. I look at the box on the counter. I set my beer down next to it and heft it up. “I’m gonna go put this in the bathroom.”

“Oh. Okay.”

I place the box down next to the sink and close the door. I turn the lock and look at myself in the mirror. There’s still sweat glistening on my neck and forehead. I’m hit with the urge to pee. I lift the seat up on the toilet and undo my pants when the door swings open.

“So the hand towels can go under the-” she steps in and stops when she sees my dick in my hand. “Oh, God! I’m so sorry!” She backs out and slams the door shut.

I don’t need to pee anymore.

Her voice is muffled from behind the door, “I’m…SO sorry. I forgot to tell you the lock is broken. I didn’t see anything.”

“It’s okay,” I call out, my tone bordering the line between annoyed and embarrassed. A quiet rage building inside me. I wait a moment, then step back out into the kitchen. She’s nervously rubbing at her elbow the way she does when she doesn’t know how to handle a situation.

“Really, I should’ve said something. I mean, who just opens a closed bathroom door like that? I’m sorry.”

“It’s nothing you haven’t seen before.”

“Still, it’s-”

“Stop. Just stop.”

“I’m just trying to say I’m sorry.”

“Sorry? You’re sorry? Oh, that’s fucking rich, coming from you.”

“Excuse me?”

“Weeks. I waited weeks to hear from you. A call. A text. A fucking Snapchat. Anything, literally anything with the word ‘Sorry’ in it. And what did I get? Not a god. Damn. Thing.”

“Oh, fuck you. You don’t know what those first months away from you were like and-”

“No, I don’t. And I don’t give a flying fuck about how much guilt you felt because I was fucking dying on the inside trying to figure out why the girl I loved had just up and vanished on me-”

“I didn’t know how to handle breaking up with you! I loved you and I didn’t-”

“You loved me? Oh, you LOVED me!? Well forgive me for not knowing that at the time, but it makes the whole contemplating suicide during the worst semester of my life a whole lot easier knowing that you were having a rough go of it while you were drifting from one Disney fuck buddy to the next.”

“Well, you know what!? I fucked whoever I wanted when I was there, and they all fucked me better than you ever did.”

“When you were there? You fucked everyone who ever looked at you while we were together, HERE!”

“Oh, you don’t even know what you’re talking about-”

“No! I don’t! That’s the fucking point. I didn’t hear from you for years, you psycho bitch! I don’t know a fucking thing about you from those days.”

“Don’t call me a bitch! Oh, you are such a fucking asshole.”

“I’m the asshole!? Fuck you. Oh, fuck. You! I’m the only one who picked up the phone for you because everyone in this fucking state knows exactly what you are. You’re just a little parasite that goes from person to person, sucking all the love out of them until you find someone new in some new state, in some new theater, in some new life. I’d fucking kill you if I didn’t think it would mean you’d die with the satisfaction of knowing someone felt that much passion for your fucked up existence-”

And then she slapped me. I was stunned. Literally. She hit me so hard my face went numb. My vision went dark for a few seconds. Around the same time I started to see light again, a tingling sensation came back to my cheek, and I felt something wet on my lips. She had her face against mine. She was kissing me.

I snapped back to reality and shoved her away. She stumbled back and caught herself on the doorframe leading into the bedroom.

“Fuck you,” I say. Pure hatred’s radiating off of me. I close the distance between the two of us and I kiss her hard. She runs her hand up the back of my neck and pushes her fingers through my hair, holding tight. She pulls my head back and bites my lip. My cock stiffens as she presses her stomach against mine. I push her off me again, and this time she falls back and lands awkwardly on the edge of the bed. 

I descend on her before she can regain her balance and I shove her down hard against the uncovered mattress. I’m on top of her. Our lips are smacking loudly. She puts her hands on my shoulders. Mine are on the bare skin of her waist. She’s damp with sweat and it’s making me harder.

I pull back from her lips and lift myself up. She covers her chest with one hand, a half defensive gesture. The other hand reaches up to her mouth and she tugs down at her lower lip. I raise up her legs so that her ankles are resting above my shoulders and I violently tug at the waistband of her leggings, pulling them up to her knees.

“Wait…Wait-” she pants. I undo my pants and pull out my cock. Before she has a chance to finish her thought, I move her thong to the side and push myself into her. “Ah!”

I push hard, and I push deep. The air is thick with the smell of sweat and pussy. My balls press against her ass as I bury my cock inside her hot flesh. 

“Please…” she says. What she’s pleading for, I don’t know. I don’t think she knows, either. I don’t care. Fuck her and her feelings. 

I grab hold of her thighs. She’s still wearing her shoes, and I can see the laces swinging in my peripheral vision as I start thrusting. She lets out a subdued, wordless cry. After a few thrusts, her pussy slickens, and the wet sound of my cock hammering away at her is joined by my grunts of effort and her half-fearful, half-orgasmic moans.

“I fucking hate you,” I say.

I look down into the eyes of the woman I wanted to marry. She bites her lip. She runs her hands up along my forearms and slips her fingers into my palms. I slow… and I pull myself out of her, and tug off her shoes. I help her take her leggings off. I loop my fingers around her thong and slide it down her legs, dropping it to the floor. She scoots herself back onto the mattress and spreads her legs. Her little pussy had turned red from the punishment I’d been giving her. I crawl over her, and press my cock to the base of her flesh. She wraps her legs around me and pulls me into her with her heels. 

We sigh together, and she tugs my shirt up and over my head. She throws it out of sight. We kiss. I find her G-spot.

“That feels so good,” she says, pulling my face back for another kiss. I feel her tongue press into my mouth. Our lips break apart and she starts to kiss my ear.

“Oh. Faster,” she whispers longingly.

My pace quickens. The heat of my cock inside her is turning me flush. She becomes noticeably wetter, the passage easier for only a moment until her pussy tightens and constricts around me. Her arms and legs squeeze me as hard as they can. 

“Fuck! I’m cumming,” she says as I feel a gush of wetness travel up my shaft. Her squirt drips down my balls and between her ass cheeks. A moment later, I burst. The day’s tension let loose in a series of shuddering throbs inside her. 

Clarity comes crashing in as I look into her eyes. “Oh…fuck,” I pant.

I lift myself up and out of her, rolling over to her side, staring up at the ceiling. “Oh, fuck,” I repeat. I close my eyes, and there are flashes of picket fences and sundresses with Paramore playing over the stereo. The life that could have been. Should have been. “What the fuck have I done?”

My voice is hoarse and thick. I put my palms over my eyes as I feel hot tears start to run down my cheeks. “What the fuck?”

I feel her fingers slide across my chest, her lips on my cheek, catching one of my salty tears with a delicate kiss.

“It’s okay,” she whispers. I open my bloodshot eyes and see her smiling at me. “It’s okay.”

She picks herself up and straddles my thigh. She pulls off her shirt, then her bra. Her breasts are small, and beautiful, and perfect. A little brown freckle rests just next to her right nipple. She caresses one of her breasts with one hand, and reaches down to my cock with the other. She lifts it up, massaging under the head with her thumb. It’s still slick with our cum. 

She rubs her clit back and forth on my thigh the way she used to in her dorm room. She squeezes my cock in her palm. She scoots back and lowers her head down to my crotch, putting her lips over my balls. She runs her tongue across them and I feel my cock flex reactively. I feel my erection coming back. She works my balls for another few moments then takes my cock into her mouth. She bobs her head, slow and gentle, keeping a tight seal on my shaft with her lips. I feel her tongue cleaning off our combined wetness.

“Jesus…” I groan. I run my fingers lightly through her hair, but her eyes are closed and she’s focused on her work. She presses up into my taint with her fingers. I sigh, and the first spurt of hot cum to leave my cock splashes against the bottom of her tongue and flows out from her lips and down my shaft. She adjusts and takes me all the way into her mouth. My remaining pulses spray to the back of her throat and I can feel her tongue press up into my cock as she swallows all of it. She pulls her head free with a gasp, opens her eyes, then licks up the cum that had dripped down to the base of my shaft.

She keeps a hand on my cock and kisses the head, then my stomach, my chest, my neck, and finally my lips. We hold that kiss for a long time. When we break it off, we stare into one another’s eyes, and then she looks over to her nightstand. She releases my cock, reaching over to open a drawer, her cute little ass in the air. She finds whatever she’s looking for and puts it on my chest. It’s a small manilla envelope with something metal inside.

“What’s this?” I ask.

She sits up on her knees, looking down at me, a devilish smile on her face.

“That’s your key.”