Authors: Abbey Lincoln
“I always knew you’d come back to me.”
“I couldn’t stay away.”
My response to Ryan is completely and utterly honest. I knew as well that I would come back to him. Both of us knew, even then, that we’d find a way to be together again, even if it took eight years…or more.
There is no need to be coy or demure, to pretend that I am not exactly where I’m meant to be, that anything or anyone could have prevented our reunion. But then I frown as I remember just how long I’d searched for him. “It took me some time to find you, though. Why are you here?” I nod toward the rest of the room. “Why didn’t you come home?” I am, of course referring to the town we grew up in.
He pulls out of me and stands, then reaches for his pants and pulls them on. Knowing we’re going to talk about all that has happened, I reach for my clothes and pull them on as well.
We sit back down onto the couch. I’m leaning against one arm of the couch with my legs crossed in front of me while he sits close to me, resting his hand on my thigh. One of his fingers absently traces the stitching of the seam of my jeans.
“I did go back home,” he begins. “Right after I was released. I got a room at that piece-of-shit excuse for a motel outside of town – you know the one.” He looks at me and grins devilishly.
I feel the color rise to my cheeks as the memory of the two of us spending time in that motel returns to me. He’s right. The motel is a shit-hole, but it was the only one close to our town that allowed its customers to pay with cash, which enabled the clients to maintain their anonymity. The motel staff was also fluent in the language of discretion and didn’t think to question a young couple who, though said they were married, were clearly not even old enough to purchase a pack of cigarettes.
The night Ryan and I spent in that God-forsaken place was the only time we ever spent an entire night together. My father thought I was spending the night at a friend’s house, and his father thought the same. That fact alone should tell you how little Ryan’s father cared for him or what he did. It never occurred to the man that his son had never before or since been to a sleepover at a friend’s house.
“How…how long were you in town? Where was I? Did you come to my house?”
The questions spill out of me now and I’m desperate for answers. Ryan faces me and takes both of my hands in his.
“Of course I did,” he says, smiling tenderly.
“Then why didn’t I see you?”
The smile leaves his face and is quickly replaced with anger. He looks at me pointedly and tilts his head as he waits for me to figure out why I didn’t see him that day.
“My father,” I reply, as the answer come to me.
“What did he say to you? And you…what? You just gave up? You didn’t try to find me?” I’m angry now and I realize I’m angry not just at my father, but at Ryan for giving up so easily.
“Becs,” he says softly and his soothing voice instantly calms me. “Your father told me that if I came within a hundred feet of you or made contact in any way, he would stop paying for college…for everything.”
“What?!” I gasp. This can’t be. My father was the one person other than Ryan who knew just how important my education was to me. It was my one way, the only way, really, for me to escape our small town and make something of myself.
I wish I could doubt his words, but I know that Ryan is telling the truth. It makes sense. My father knew that Ryan would simply vanish so that I could get the college degree that was so important to me. He used whatever means necessary to keep us apart. I feel the bile churn in my stomach as I realize my father was just like everyone in our town, turning against Ryan without even asking what could have driven him to commit such a heinous crime. A tear slides down my cheek and Ryan brushes it away with his thumb. I look up at him.
“Ryan, I don’t even know where to begin. I-”
He shakes his head, silencing me. “Don’t,” he says. “It’s all behind us.”
Though I’m thrilled to hear him use the word ‘us,’ I can’t help but wonder why he’s not bitter, angry…something.
“But why aren’t you…I don’t know…pissed? Resentful?...Something! I wasn’t there for you…and I should have been.”
He turns to me and looks me in the eye. “Becs,” he says softly. “None of it matters. You’re here now and that’s all I care about.”
I nod in agreement. “But is that all that matters? I mean, how can you ever forgive me? I never saw you after you were taken away. God, you must have been furious with me, thinking I’d abandoned you or something.”
He turns to face me and cradles my cheek in his hand. “It doesn’t matter what I thought then. Just forget about all of it. The only thing I care about now is that you’re here…with me.”
“But you were angry with me, weren’t you?” This is how I’ve always been, pushing those around me to come clean with the fact that I annoyed them in some way. Their confession has always been my own personal penance. I feel the tears come to my eyes, knowing how scared he must have been, how alone he must have felt, how angry he must have been thinking I was like all the others who suddenly couldn’t bear the site of him.
He releases a tiny sigh and then he nods. It’s almost imperceptible, but it’s there nonetheless.
“Ryan, I am so sorry. That’s why I had to find you…to tell you that…to beg you to forgive me…”
Suddenly his arms are around me, cradling me. “There’s nothing to forgive. Becca, you were sixteen years old. You had no choice. You had to do as your father told you to.”
“I know,” I reply, speaking into the crook of his neck. “But I should have done something! I should have defied him, made him see how much you meant to me.”
“I’m sure he knows. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have said what he did, right?”
“I guess not,” I reply, curling up into his arms.
“I do have one question, though,” he whispers into my hair.
“Why now? I mean, on some level, I always knew we’d find each other again, but why now?”
It is then that I recall my reasons for seeking him out and I feel the tension snake its way around my shoulders and settle.
It never occurred to me that we’d rip each other’s clothes off
we had a chance to talk.
Ryan is looking at me expectantly, waiting for my answer. I have no idea what to say to him. It frustrates me that there are so many differences between now and then. I would have never hesitated eight years ago to tell this man anything. But now? There is…baggage.
He stiffens, then sits up and moves away from me so that he can look into my eyes. “What is it?” He asks, and I see the fear in his eyes.
I sit up and back myself against the couch once again. Knowing the reason I had to search for him now nearly paralyzes me with fear.
“Ryan, you’ve got to understand…I thought you hated me-”
“Never,” he says, looking me directly in the eyes. His gaze never waivers.
“I never thought you’d still have feelings for me.”
“I thought it was just me who held on.”
“No,” he says. “We both did.”
“Yes,” I smile back at him. “We both did. Now I know that. But for so long, I tried to move on. I really did.”
I can see his expression change from confused amusement to understanding and then finally, resignation and sadness. “You came for my permission.”
“What? No!” It becomes clear to me exactly what Ryan is thinking and I feel compelled to quickly erase it from his mind.
“So there is no one else?” He asks, but we both know the answer.
“There is…someone,” I whisper. “But not like you. There could never be anyone like you.” It is the absolute truth. But I, like most young women, have wondered if I should be with someone who is what I need instead of what I
“No,” he replies softly. “Not like me…someone better.”
I hear the bitterness and sadness in his tone and it cuts me to the core. I shake my head side to side so vehemently that I make myself dizzy.
“NO! Don’t you see? That’s what our fathers have done to you! They’ve convinced you that you’re not good enough. Well, you are, Ryan. You’re more than good enough. You’re more than I could ever possibly deserve.”
He looks into my eyes and I hope he can see how much I mean the words I’m saying to him. I wish I could take away all the horrible things that have happened to him. All the things that made him think he was somehow less than anyone else. But that’s the thing with negativity…when it’s directed at you, you always believe it. And sometimes, it’s the only thing that sticks.
“I’ll never be good enough for you, Becs,” he says softly. “But I’m willing to spend the rest of my life trying.”
I take his hand in my own and grin at him. “Ryan, you are the only man I have ever loved. Don’t you know that? Nothing else matters.” My tone is urgent as I try to express to him how much he means to me. How little everything else matters.
“What about what’s-his-name?”
I think. I’d nearly forgotten about him.
I sigh heavily before answering. “He’s asked, but I haven’t given my answer. I couldn’t. Not without… I had to see you first. I had to know if….” My voice trails off because I’m suddenly embarrassed at how I sound. Selfish, immature. I sound like someone who wants to make sure there’s nothing better before settling, which is exactly what I’m doing. I know it, Ryan knows it, and the man who waits for my answer knows it.
It’s his turn to sigh. “You had to know if there was anything left between us.”
I shrug and hesitantly look up to meet his gaze.
He shoves one of his hands in my hair and pulls me to him. His lips meet mine in a show of possession and he forces his tongue between my lips. Instantly aroused, I moan and open my mouth further, encouraging him to do as he pleases. Already, I feel a throb between my thighs and my pulse is racing. I want this…so much. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.
Ryan pulls back, ripping his mouth from mine. My lips are swollen and tender but still I nearly whimper when he pulls away from me.
“Of course there’s something left between us. Did you honestly think there would ever be a time when there wasn’t?”
“I was afraid….”
He groans, then pulls me into his arms and onto his lap. “Oh, Becca. The one thing you never have to be afraid of is that I’ll stop loving you.”
And then his lips are on mine. His hands are running up and down my back until they are cupping my buttocks. In one swift movement, he has lifted me up and is carrying me to his bedroom. The motion is so smooth; I don’t realize where I am until I feel the soft mattress underneath me.
Ryan sits me down on the edge of his bed. Slowly, he reaches for the bottom of my t-shirt and pulls it up and over my head. The edge of the t-shirt grazes my nipples and they spring to life instantly.
He kneels in front of me and I cradle his face in my hands, kissing him gently. I reach down and grasp the bottom of his t-shirt and tug it over his head. I take my time running my hands over his chest and stomach, learning the angles of his body once again. Though he is familiar, he is older now, his body more firm and I relish running my fingers over every inch of him.