Biggest Fear

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With a start, Ben’s head jerks up. Where is he? Everything is dark, and he feels like he’s in a sauna. Then another pillow smacks him in the face.

“For the love of all that’s holy!” someone snaps, and he remembers that he’s in the bunkhouse, not at the park next to the church in Kirkby. “If you don’t shut up, we’re going to throw you in the Jubba. No one wants to hear your fantasies!”

Ben feels cold, then hot., as he looks down at the bunkmate below him. Half of them are awake and glaring stonily. “I’m not…I wasn’t…I think I was dreaming.”

“Well, she’s way out of your league, dude, so that’s the only place you’ll be screwing her. Just be quiet so we can sleep!”

“I’m really sorry. I don’t usually talk in my sleep.” Well, at least not for a long time. The ramblings tumble from his fuzzy brain as images swirl behind his eyes, cloaking him in heady mist.

“Just shut up, give us back our pillows, and go take a cold shower.” This sleepy voice belonged to Aaron. “If you want our help with that party tomorrow, we need to get some shut-eye.”

Anything to avoid another incident. Shamefaced, he climbs down, three pillows under his arm. After distributing them to impatient, outstretched hands, he slips into his shoes. The cool night envelopes his bare upper body as he carefully shuts the door behind him.

Much better. Lungful after lungful of air slowly clears the remnants of that dream from his body and mind. He wonders how he can look his roommates in the eyes tomorrow and wishes the ground would open up and swallow him.

As embarrassment rises, the coolness stops helping. He’s still hot. Still prickling, with an intensity that has been absent the last six months. Sure, he’s been turned on. That’s part of the thrill of the game – seeing how far he can push himself without breaking that ill-made promise. But it has never gotten this bad. Tonight, he wasn’t even trying. Now, his need is excruciating, his mind a two-sided coin. One side tells him to go and take that cold shower, to keep up his streak so he can win the bet, and the other screams to go and find someone and act out that dream. Ali, or maybe Mickey.

But he hasn’t fantasized about either of them for a very long time.

Teeth gritted, he paces, running his hands through his hair, nearly pulling it out. After several minutes of self-deprecating orders to pull himself together, he manages to wrestle the barest bit of control from the raging fire. As he’s about to round the corner to the men’s side of the bathhouse, he sees her.

Like a roman candle he goes up again, fireworks burning him from the inside out.

She stands just a couple of metres away from him, her cocoa skin glistening in a pool of light fixed above the door. Her black eyes are wide, lips slightly parted as she stares at him. One hand is on the door to the women’s washroom, the other pressed to her chest. A single braid curves over one dark shoulder, and a few long curls brush the other. She wears a tee-shirt and knee-length yoga pants, but even if she were wearing nothing at all, she would still be stunning.

Crap. He really shouldn’t put it like that.

His breath catches when her gaze travels slowly down his body, then back up. Unblinking, she meets his eyes again, still not speaking.

Part of him wants to turn away, to cover himself. But for once, he feels no shame around her. In the dream, she had enjoyed his proportions and composition, found pleasure in the build of his body. He so badly wants for her to touch him now, to make him feel like the most attractive man in the world, the way he felt with so many other women before she came along, with her judgy eyes and cutting mouth.

The other part of him replays the memories, too many memories. Some of them not even realHolding her on the hill above the river. Bedding her down in a meadow of flowers. Nearly being flung down the hill when he tried to kiss her. She couldn’t have been clearer.

Except that right before she pushed him, she had been looking at him.

Just. Like. This.

She’s looking at him as though she wants him. As though she’s having just as much trouble controlling her thoughts as he is. Not with the predatory curiosity when they’d been building the playset in the moonlight. No, this is a helpless desperation, as though she would do anything he asked. The ravishing need in her expression makes him breathless. It’s the expression he’s craved. Whatever she feels for Jake, she can feel it for him, too. Despite their rocky introduction and turbulent relationship, in this moment, just that one moment, he realizes he would do anything for her, too. Burn down the whole world with himself inside, if that’s what she required.  

A slight breeze picks up, pulling one of her loose curls across her face. Now, he has no choice. Stepping forward, he brushes it away, tucking it behind her ear. Of their own accord, his fingers slip down the coil until they reach her satiny shoulder. Just that small contact has him nearly groaning, remembering the dream, remembering the image of her curved in Jake’s arms. He brings his other hand to her waist. So muscular. So tiny. Just the right size for him to pick her up and…

Her eyes last night been red and glistening, so sad. He opens his mouth to ask her what was wrong, what he can do to bring them back to that magic, but a veil falls. She finally blinks, shaking her head and stepping back.

“Better get some sleep,” she says casually, nodding at him. “We’ve got a lot to do for your party tomorrow.” Giving him a pleasant, nonchalant smile, she disappears into the building, leaving him burning in place.

He wakes in the morning, slumped inside a shower stall, shivering wet.

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13


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