So Wednesday night I went to bed alone.
Yesterday morning I got up, stumbled around and walked smack in to the naked chest that was Ben. Startled, because I thought he was staying at his place the previous night, I opened an eye and looked up at him.
“You don’t look like the walking cup of coffee that I was dreaming about.”
He laughed. “No, I’m not a cup of coffee, but I do happen to have one.”
He handed over the mug in his hand and steered me to a chair. I sniffed the cup and let it linger under my nose until the smell woke me up enough to risk a sip. I opened an eye while sipping the bitter liquid and got a shock. It was not the master bedroom in Ben’s house, it looked like my house and his has run at each other and smashed together. There was my blue paint color mixing with his browns and golds in giant swirls all over the walls. Pieces of my furniture had replaced his but there was a good mix of both. Wrinkling my nose because none of the furniture worked together I looked up at him.
“Last night. I woke up to it this morning. Looks like the houses decided they were tired of waiting.” He said after seeing the quizzical look on my face.
“Well, I can’t say I’m not surprised. We have had trouble deciding whose house to be at lately.”
Ben’s lips quirked with a smile. “At least now I don’t have to talk you in to moving in with me.”
“Maybe I wanted you to move in with me.” I said to him as I took another drink of my coffee.
“Is that so? You never said anything.”
“You were too busy wiggling a promise from me to move in with you. As much as I like your castle, it’s a little big, don’t you think?”
“Not really, with all the family I’ve got under the roof right now.”
“Family?” I eyed him closely as I said that. Something was up.
Ben sighed. “Denver kicked Miles out two weeks ago. He didn’t want to say anything to you because you had Mark. He asked me and since Miles is a known neat freak and I’m not, I agreed to let him move in for a while.”
I sighed. I knew something had been up with Miles the last couple of days. Getting up to pace with my coffee, I was feeling very hemmed in all of a sudden. Things are weird here, I knew that. I’d been here six months. I set the cup down and paced faster. Ben moved his legs out-of-the-way so I’d have more room to walk.
“You do know that nothing bad is going to happen because the houses moved together and moved you in, right? They’re just a version of, what’d you call them again? Shippers? They’re like that when it comes to the people who live in them.”
“You know, that actually makes sense and I’m a little scared by it, because the shipping thing can go too far.”
“Says the woman who binge watched an entire series last month while she was stuck at home.”
“The Gilmore Girls is a great show. I didn’t see you complaining when you got sucked in to the story and sat with me.”
Ben didn’t say anything, just closed his mouth and crossed his arms. For some reason, that little pout of his did not seem so cute today. I was tired and frustrated that I’d been circumvented by a damn house that thought it knew better than I did when it came to my welfare and I’d had enough.
So I screamed.
I startled Ben so badly he fell over and took the chair, both cups of coffee and the pot of clover he gave me for our fifth date. He landed in a heap, covered in coffee with one leg sticking out and the other laying across the arm of the chair and a very awkward angle. I edged forward and peeked over the edge of the chair. Ben was staring up at the ceiling, looking stunned and annoyed at the same time.
I started giggling. I couldn’t help it, he looked so cross and covered with coffee; it was adorable.
“It’s not funny.”
“It is, a little.”
“No, no it’s really not. That coffee was still warm and stung.”
“You want me to kiss it better?”
“No, I want to know what the hell that was about.”
I sighed. “Well, I’m tired. I’m also pissed that my house decided it knew better than I did when it comes to what I want or need. I’m a big girl, I took care of myself after the accident. I can do it now without my house interfering.” The house itself rumbled and the floor shook. “What was that?”
“The houses are still merging and they don’t like what you’re saying.” Ben said as he reached up and took the hand towel I handed him. He rubbed the coffee off his chest and looked up at me.
“Well too bad for them. I’m not sorry. I really can take care of myself. I’ve been doing it longer than it has.”
“You’re not alone anymore, Marlowe. You have family around you now, including me.” That last part seemed more like a question than a statement.
“You might be family, but I can still take care of myself. I don’t need a house or someone who I love telling me that this is the best path for me! Maybe I wanted it to be the other way for once. Maybe I wanted to be the one to have someone move in with me!” I shouted at Ben.
Ben pulled himself upright finally and shouted back; “Maybe I wanted that too, but you always shut me down when I asked you to move in! If you’d said what you wanted I would have been happy to move in with you!”
“Maybe I didn’t want another Timothy!” I shouted and then gasped and immediately felt the color drain from my face.
“For the last time, I’m not Timothy! I’ll never be him! He’s dead and gone and can’t hurt you anymore.” The pain of what I said to him was seeping in to his eyes. “I’d never trust myself with you if that’s who you’re thinking of when you see me. I know he messed with your head, you told me that. So did Miles when I started pestering him about you. He didn’t want to tell me about Tim. I don’t blame him for not wanting to talk about it either, but I needed to know.”
I couldn’t go to him. I’d hurt him badly and I saw it in the way his shoulders slumped. “I’m afraid of having that again. I didn’t want to rush in to things and get to where I would be driving home with a drunk in the back who thought it would be funny to grab the wheel from me.”
I saw Ben about to speak and I stopped him. “Don’t. I know you don’t drink like he did and you’ve never said the things that he said to me, but I’m still healing. I still have my issues and moving in with you had to be my decision. It had to be what I wanted. I didn’t want another decision to question the way I questioned everything when I was with Timothy.”
I hugged myself as I looked at Ben.
“I don’t want you to regret anything that we’ve done or will do. That’s the last thing I want. I just wanted you with me. I didn’t want to be alone anymore. In five years, I’ve never thought about having anyone else. Until you. This house just isn’t a cold castle for a sad, wanna be lord anymore. It’s a home. Especially when you’re here and it scares the shit out of me.”
“You scare me.” I sad. He looked startled and then sad and hunched his shoulders tighter. “I’ve never said that to anyone. Not even Timothy. You scare me and may the stars help me, I actually want to be scared with you than scared alone.”
Ben got up from the bed and came over, pulling me in for a hug. He kissed the top of my head and sighed.
“You terrify me. You make me want the things I ran from in New York.” He tightened his arms around me. “So yeah, we can be scared together.”
I sniffled a bit, wrapping my arms around his waist and burying my face in to his chest. I hated when we fought. It always started out with shouting and ended with the quiet, sad talks. I hated the silence that hung over us.
“You owe me another clover.”
He laughed, which was what I wanted. I smiled up at him.
“I’ll plant a damn field of it out back if you stay.”
I laughed. “Then get to work.”
Ben grinned. “Later. Right now I’m taking a shower and you’re coming with me.”
He pulled me in to the master bath, laughing.
I thought it was going to get better, but I would soon find out how wrong I was.