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I call him a germaphobe, but that isn’t exactly accurate. It’s more complicated than that, just like everything else in life. I didn’t actually find out the truth until a few months after we’d met, when I was head-over-heels in love with what I thought was the perfect man.
He seemed to be everything a girl could want in a man; educated, intelligent, striking if not good looking, well on his way to a successful career, and most importantly obsessed with me. There were a few small red flags, but I was blind to everything but the good in him.
He kissed me to within an inch of my life a few times a day, even if he had to drive across town to do it. So what if he never actually touched me. I could do without the public displays of affection and hand holding as long as he kept looking at me with a passion that threatened to light me on fire. No, I hadn’t met his family, but we were new still, there was time. I was convinced he was just taking things slow.
A few weeks before Christmas, and we were at a party. He was attentive but distracted the entire night and towards the end, we were standing off to the side when he suddenly tensed and excused himself. At the time I’d barely cared, I figured it was a work thing and took this as my opportunity to escape to the lady’s room to freshen up.
On my way back to the party, I found a familiar looking man waiting for me in the hall. He had Lucas’ grey eyes, and his smile would have been the same too had it not been for his perfectly flawless teeth. Whoever he was, he even had the same habit of holding up the wall with one shoulder, hands deep in his pockets, one foot crossed over the other. It was uncanny.
“Hello Addie,” he said with the warm enthusiasm you reserve for old friends. “It’s great to finally meet you, I’ve heard so much about you.” Pushing up off the wall he stepped forward and held out a large, inviting hand.
“I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve met,” I said cautiously trying to hold back my discomfort. With a hesitant smile, I took the offered hand, it was warm and firm, but in the same way a great hug can be.
“Not for a lack of trying on my part,” he said with a laugh. “I’m Mark Friesen, Lucas’ brother.”
“It’s so nice to meet you,” I replied. Instantly, I felt at ease and when he let go of my hand, I didn’t immediately rush to step back and put distance between us. We talked for a few minutes about the party, my plans for Christmas, basically everything and nothing. I don’t know how long we were there, but things quickly went from fine to terrible the second Lucas rounded the corner and found us together.
“What the fuck are you doing Mark?” Lucas kept his voice low, but there was a level of animosity in him I wasn’t prepared for.
Mark didn’t even seem phased by it, and with his smile still intact, turned to greet his brother. “You missed your appointment today Lucas,” he scolded gently, “we’ve talked about that.”
Lucas closed the distance between us in a few long strides, using his body to force me to move back from his brother. “And now you’re sabotaging me?” He snapped. Glancing down I watched his fists clench and unclench, wondering at just what could possibly cause this kind of tension between them.
“We’ve talked about this too lucas,” Mark replied in an even, calm tone. “The only one sabotaging things is you. If you’re not honest with her, this will never work, and I know how much you want this to work.”
I took in everything from the compassion on his brother’s face, to the raging anger painted across every in of Lucas’ tense body. My stomach dropped into my shoes and I struggled to keep my breathing calm. “What’s going on?” I asked quietly.
Lucas took a step back, forcing me to do the same. “We need to go,” he said over his shoulder to me. “I should never have brought you here.”
My discomfort was growing with every moment, and when he tried to direct me to the door I stepped away from him, causing a flash of panic to cross his face. “What have you lied to me about?” My voice was barely above a whisper but I knew he heard me when he all but shouted his reply.
“I haven’t lied about anything.” By this point in our relationship, Lucas knew about my trust issues. He’d already pulled from me the details of my failed relationships and knew how much I struggled to let him in. The same panic I was feeling was echoed in his eyes, he thought this was going to be the end and that scared the hell out of me.
“A lie of omission is still a lie Lucas,” Mark said with kindness. “It’s not too late to be open, it’s not too late to be honest and build from there.”
“Shut the fuck up Mark,” he bit back. For the briefest of minutes Lucas closed his eyes and took a deep breath. My flight reflex kicked in right about then and when I tried to move away from him, with wild eyes Lucas turned on me and then he blew my mind and reached for me.
His hands physically shook as his hands settled on my shoulders in an unforgiving grip to hold me in place. Over his shoulder I caught the look fake hospital porno of gleeful surprise on Mark’s face when he’d reached for me, but my focus was on the man anchoring me in place.
“Don’t,” Lucas whispered fiercely, “Don’t go. I’ll tell you everything you just have to promise not to leave.”
It was so out of character back then, for Lucas show anything other than complete control over every situation we came across. I was used to his unflappable calm, and the decisiveness that implied he had all the information he needed, and every confidence in his decision. He was the polar opposite to my anxiety and insecurity, but now, like this, he seemed even more fragile than I felt on any given day.
Deep down, I was expecting the worst. That he had a wife, or a lover, a child maybe. Was he a criminal? Whatever it was my fear had kicked into overdrive, and I shook my head trying to move away despite the tightening of his grip. “I can’t promise that,” I whispered in reply, “I don’t know what you’re going to say.”
“Trust Lucas,” Mark said softly, “trust in her and in yourself. Trust that your connection can survive this.” I watched Lucas’ lip curl in disgust when his brother spoke, but when he looked at me all I could see was fear and panic mixing with a wildness I didn’t understand.
“It can’t be that bad, can it?” I asked softly. Mark shot me an encouraging smile and I frowned, I hated having an audience, as I knew Lucas did. But leaving me at the mercy of my overactive imagination would do none of us any good. “Are you secretly married?” I continued with what I hope sounded like teasing, “attracted to men?”
Both brothers gave the same short burst of laughter and I gave Lucas a worried smile that faded a second later. Letting go with one hand Lucas moved to rake his hand through his hair, a habit of his that was as familiar to me as my own self-soothing motions.
Only he didn’t actually do it. As the hand came up to his face I watched his eyes drop down in horror at it and he visibly flinched, choosing instead to hold his hand out to the side like now it was too dirty to touch.
Was he going to react with disgust every time he touched me? His eyes flipped up to mine and Lucas watched the reality of our situation dawn on me. This is why he didn’t want to touch me.
“You have to have realized things aren’t normal with me,” he said with a worried, pleading gaze. “That I’m not normal.” One hand was still holding onto me, like he was the only thing keeping me from running away. The other was still hanging out in the middle of the hall, shaking as we spoke.
I looked at him and slowly little pieces started fitting together. “Are you talking about the food thing?” I asked quietly, “And the way you polish every piece of silverware with your napkin before touching it?”
“What food thing?” Mark asked, again Lucas closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“He separates all the food on his plate so it isn’t touching before he starts eating,” I said, my eyes still fixed on the man hiding from me.
“I thought we were doing good with that,” Mark said with a frown, “When did that start back up again?”
“Shut the fuck up Mark,” Lucas barked. “How am I supposed to do this with you nagging at me?” Lucas couldn’t see it but Mark held up his hands and actually took a step back. Lucas turned his focus back to me with pleading eyes.
“You don’t shake anyone’s hand,” I continued. “You always say you’re coming down with something.” My eyes moved to the unsteady hand hanging out to his side and I felt tears well in my eyes. “You never touch me. You don’t want to touch me.”
“I want to touch you, I just can’t,” his whispered reply sounded like it was filled with years of heartache. “I want it all but I just can’t…”
There was a long pause as I waited for him to find the words and when he couldn’t his hands dropped in frustration. “I can’t do this,” he grumbled before turning on his heel and storming off pulling out the bottle of hand sanitizer he carried at all times. Things were starting to fall into place..
“Lucas, you’re doing so well, come back please,” Mark called out. The worry on his face mimicked my own but I couldn’t help but feel like it was me who was being abandoned. Mark turned to me with a sad smile, “Believe it or not that’s quite a bit of progress for us.”
“What the hell do you think you are doing?” I snapped at Mark, my upset quickly morphing into anger. “Are you trying to break us up?”
My own hands were shaking, my heart was racing and I felt a full blown anxiety attack in my very near future. I hated him in this moment, for pushing us into a conversation Lucas clearly didn’t want to have and for choosing to do it here in public.
Laughter rang out as a couple turned down the hall towards us, my first instinct was to panic. I was nowhere near ready to be seen, not with tears now rolling uncontrollably down my face. Mark was calm as can be and simply moved to stand in front of fake taxi porno me, blocking me from their view.
“I’m not trying to break you up,” he said softly when the people went into the bathroom. “I’m trying help, I know it doesn’t feel like it right now. You mean the world to my brother and I just want to give you every chance to be happy. How long would it have been before you started to think that the no-touching thing was about you?”
“Isn’t it?” I asked.
“Lucas has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder,” he explained quietly, “it’s not about you at all. He has compulsions and rituals that inhibit his daily life and affect relationships. He’s worked to overcome a lot of these hang ups but it’s a struggle, and he falls back from time to time. Usually when he’s stressed and anxious.”
“And that’s why he doesn’t want me to touch him?” I asked, searching his brothers face.
Mark smiled and gave a little sigh, “Honestly, he wants you too. I don’t think you realize yet just how important you are to him. He hasn’t willingly touched another person, even in our family, in about a decade.” I’d looked away, and much the same way that Lucas did, Mark leaned over and caught my eye. “He touched you today, he asked you to stay.”
“And then he left,” I whispered. “He said he can’t do this and he walked away.” I turned and started walking the hall, in the general direction of the front door. Mark followed, his hands deep in his pockets in a very Lucas way.
“I think you could be the exception to his rules,” Mark said softly, “I’m hoping that if you decide to keep seeing Lucas, that you’ll be ok with talking with me too. Not about everything, but keeping the lines of communication open between us.”
“It would be weird to talk to his brother about us,” I said, shooting him a worried glance. His smile widened a little and he nodded.
“I get that, and I wouldn’t ask, but I’m his doctor too. Psychiatrist actually, Lucas doesn’t feel comfortable with many people, but he’s at a point now where he lets me help him.” At the coat check, Mark waited with me while I got my jacket.
“And you thought that confronting him in public would be a good idea?” I asked when we got outside. I shook my head and brushed a few tears away. “That’s pretty fucked up.”
He had the decency to look ashamed, “I over stepped, I’m sorry Addie.”
“Thanks,” I said waving down a cab, “I get that you don’t know me, but if you ever do something like this in public again I will never forgive you.”
“I won’t,” he assured me.
I gave a quick nod of good bye as a cab pulled to a stop beside me. A few hours later I was curled up on Charlie’s couch, knee deep in a pity party of epic proportions and half way through a tub of Ben & Jerry’s.
I always ran to Charlie when things were too much. My uncle/mentor/boss has been my safe space since childhood. All the comfort of home without my mother’s questions and judgements. He’d welcomed me with open arms, fixed me up with a glass of wine and a hot bath, then tucked me in on his couch.
Poking his head in the door Charlie gave me his winning smile. “I don’t mean to alarm you darling,” he cooed with compassion, “but your man is pacing in front of our door talking to himself. You might want to go check on him.” Charlie threw me a wink and jerked his head to the door. “Go cut that love-sick boy a break.”
Lucas was there alright, pacing back and forth on the front step muttering quietly to himself. I watched him for a while, taking in everything from his frantic hand motions to his haggard appearance which was just so out of character for him.
If I was entirely honest, this side of him scared me. It was like everything up until now was some carefully crafted persona and finally I was truly seeing him for who he was. I didn’t understand this, let alone know if I could handle it.
As if he’d heard that thought, Lucas turned to look at me with that wild look that worried and excited me all at the same time. His eyes were heavy, like the dark clouds that filled the sky just before a big storm, like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. He watched me through the window while I decided whether or not to go out and see him, his eyes flicking between my lips and eyes searching for something.
Eventually I did open the door, closing it gently behind me as I stepped out into the brisk November air. When I went to speak, Lucas just shook his head, and with three long strides ate up the distance between us. Sealing his lips to mine he sucked all the fight right out of me, making everything right for just a moment with a beautiful, need-filled kiss that called to me.
It was an apology and a promise of what the future could hold, I was sure of it. So, I took a risk, reaching up slowly to try and hold him. My stomach clenched when he flinched, and I dropped my hands to my side trying to hide my unhappy sigh.
“I hate that I make you feel this way,” he said softly, pulling back to rest family stroke porno his forehead on mine.
“What way?” I took a step back, forcing a little distance between us. There was no hiding the tears filling my eyes, even when I looked away he followed me trying to catch my wounded gaze.
“Like I don’t want to touch you, like I don’t want you to touch me. You should never feel that way with me.” He brushed his nose against mine and pleaded with me. “If you let me take you home I’ll do everything I can to make this better.”
Lucas said it with such sincerity, clearly desperate for me to say yes, I comforted him the only way I knew how. Our kiss was brief and when I pulled back I felt like some of the tension had eased from my body. He looked a little calmer too, I gave a weak smile and waited for his eyes to move up to mine. “Ok,” I’d whispered, “take me home.”
I felt the same sense of uncertainty back then as I did now, all because of that element of the unknown. Only now I know what waited for me at his apartment, I also knew what life without him was like. Tonight I wasn’t sure just how badly had I hurt him. How much damage I had done, and if we could ever get back to where we were.
While I was lost in my memories Lucas’ phone rang and I could have sworn I saw his hand shake as he fished it out of his jacket. With a glance at the screen he answered it with a clipped, “Hello Charlie.”. I watched him listen for a few seconds before he turned to me. “Of course, she’s right here.” He handed me the phone, “It’s for you.”
“Hi Charlie,” I said softly, trying my best to hide my misery.
“Hey darlin’,” he replied. “Your mama called me in one of her panic’s, said Lucas dragged you out of the bar at Julie’s birthday party. I just thought I’d call and see if you needed me to send in a search party.”
“No,” I said with a half-hearted laugh. “No search party needed, I called him.”
“Good,” Charlie’s voice took on a warmth he usually reserved for conversations about me, “You know, waking up every day next to a guy who looks at you the way that Lucas does, is the best recipe for happiness I can think of. Why don’t you take a long weekend, darlin’. I’ll see you Tuesday.”
Lucas didn’t take his phone back, so I held onto it. He did however, take a minute to correct me again, “You didn’t call me. I called you.”
My sigh lingered between us long after I spoke, “I told them what they needed to hear.” We drove in silence for a few minutes before I had to ask, “Where were you tonight?”
He took a lot longer to answer than was comfortable and I started to get this sinking feeling in my gut. “A work thing,” he mumbled. I watched him run a hand through his hair again and a surge of guilt hit me. For as long as I’d known Lucas, his career was the most important thing to him, and here I was getting in the way of it again.
“Then you should drop me off at home,” I replied, doing my best to keep the emotion out of my voice, “this can wait until you’re done.”
“Shut the fuck up Addie,” his words were nothing short of vicious as he whipped around in the seat to face me. “I’m not dropping you off anywhere because I can’t trust you to think for yourself. I can’t trust that after ten minutes alone or, God forbid, with your nearest and dearest, that you won’t change your mind again. You’re so fucking weak when it matters the most.”
I couldn’t do anything but sit there and take it, he was right. Underneath it all, that was my truth; I felt weak. For as long as I could remember I’d spent every waking minute of every day feeling like someone else could be handling this better, and ‘this’ was anything and everything.
There was someone more qualified to do my job, there was someone who would be a better daughter, niece, and friend. Someone else wouldn’t have fucked up a relationship with the man of her dreams. Who ever she was could do it all and balance everything.
The bitch probably had a freakishly clean apartment too. She probably had a daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning checklist. I hate women like that, those women who seemed like they could handle it all. Especially when I was in my 30’s and only felt like I could pull off one, maybe two of any of those things at one time. Everything else ended up rocky or in flames.
Hating yourself is easy when it feels like the only thing you’re good at is letting people down. As we pulled to a stop outside his apartment, that was the overwhelming thought running through my head. I let Lucas down, Julie down, my mother down, the only person who didn’t seem to hate me these days was Charlie. So, yeah, I felt weak.
I could feel Lucas staring at me as I got out, but for the life of me I couldn’t bring myself to lookup past the middle of his chest. When I moved to join him, he turned and headed to the door where he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket which he used to open the door, push the call button on the elevator, and finally open the door to his apartment.
It felt exactly like that first time. The chest-tightening anxiety that made me sick to my stomach hit me before the door even closed behind me. That sudden burst of panic when he directed me straight into the bathroom on the right. Then the self consciousness and embarrassment when he motioned for me to undress.
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