Caution: This Romantic Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Romantic, Heterosexual, .
Desc: Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Connie suggests Simon pretend to be her boyfriend for a weekend. She was kidding, but he agreed.
"Simon, would you get that?" Connie called from her bedroom. Her date was probably here and she wasn't quite ready. She turned back to the mirror. Her black hair was swept back into a braid, and she wore dangly silver earrings. She stood back to evaluate, and nodded, as pleased as it was possible for her to be. Her skirt was ankle-length, loose and flowing, and she wore a flowered print blouse with it. She wished she could wear something a little shorter, but the scar on her leg always stopped her. Maybe she should have worn dress slacks. She sighed; too late now to change.
"No problem," came the reply. Simon shook his head with a rueful smile as he went to the door. Connie Davetsky was his roommate and his best friend. If only he had the nerve to tell her he'd like to be more. But no, he chickened out every time, and instead, here he was going to let in her latest beau. Simon hoped he was nicer than the last guy. It wasn't that Connie had bad taste in men, he thought, it was just that she somehow seemed to find the ones who offered a bait-and-switch.
"Hi, I'm here for Connie," said the man at the door. He held out his hand. "Ron Cutter."
Simon shook his hand. "Simon Banks," he said. "Come on in." Simon sized Ron up as he walked into the apartment and wasn't impressed. Everything about him put Simon off, from the possible start of a beer gut to the thin brown hair that needed a trim. Simon would admit that he was not in peak physical shape—it was too easy to avoid the gym in the cold weather—but Ron looked soft. He has a weak chin, too, Simon thought. And beady little eyes.
Simon managed, with an effort, to control his annoyance when Ron walked in and threw himself down on the couch as though he'd been coming there for ages. Actually, he'd only been there a couple of times, though not when Simon was around. He could at least wait for an invitation, thought Simon.
"Got a beer?" Ron asked.
"Sorry, we're out," said Simon, trying not to sound curt. Now he knew the gut was probably for real and would just get bigger. He was not about to give Connie's date a drink before they'd even set off. He was liking Ron less and less. Then he caught himself. It was his own fault that Connie was going out with this—this guy. He'd had plenty of chances to tell Connie how he felt, but he kept backing down. He should give Ron a chance, if only for Connie's sake. Maybe he'd asked for a beer just for something to say, or he'd had a rough day at work.
"Connie will just be a minute," Simon said, taking back his seat on the sofa, where he'd been watching the news. He turned it off to be polite.
"You've been friends with Connie for a while, right?" Ron asked, slouching on the sofa and putting one foot on the coffee table. "She's mentioned you a lot."
"Since high school," Simon answered with a nod, trying to ignore the foot.
"I've gotta ask you something, then." Simon nodded. "Have you ever seen the scar on her leg?"
Simon felt himself tense up but tried not to show it. "Caught a glimpse once by accident. Connie tries very hard not to let anyone see it, she's self-conscious about it."
Ron gave him a conspiratorial grin. "I gotta say, I hope I don't see all of it. I accidentally saw her leg the other night, and my God, it looked like alligator skin or something." Simon tried to keep his teeth from grinding together in anger as Ron continued. "Don't get me wrong, Connie's decent looking. I'm not against things happening, if you get my drift. But I think I'll have to keep the lights out and watch where my hands go, if you know what I mean." Ron was laughing to himself, oblivious to Simon's reddening face.
"Get out." Neither man knew Connie was in the living room until she spoke. Her face was pale, and she crossed her arms to hide her trembling hands. Ron looked up, realized she'd heard everything he'd said, and started to sputter.
"Oh, Connie, I didn't ... I mean, I..."
"Just get out!" she said again, biting her lip to keep the tears at bay. She had never been so embarrassed. She could feel the blush rising in her face. It was bad enough to hear Ron say those things, but that he'd said them to Simon was just humiliating.
"Connie—" he tried one more time.
"She said leave," said Simon, standing up. He was about six foot two, and could look pretty intimidating when he wanted to, and right now, he wanted to. "Get out of here, and don't ever talk to her again."
"Fine," Ron said with a snarl. "I was only doing you a favor, anyway. Not too many guys want a fat chick, let alone one with a deformed leg." He turned and stalked out, slamming the door behind him.
Good riddance, Simon thought. He looked like a ferret. Not to insult ferrets.
For a few moments, Connie could only hear her own heart beating in the silence. She couldn't move, couldn't even think. She kept her arms crossed in front of her as though they were holding her body together.
"Connie," Simon said quietly, starting to go over to her. That snapped her back. She shook her head vehemently, backed quickly into her room and closed the door. Once on the other side, she locked it, leaned back against the wall, slid down to the floor, and started crying.
How could that have happened? Connie raked her fingers through her hair. How could she have mistaken a jerk like Ron for a nice guy? Again? It seemed like every guy she went out with lately did something like that, although none had been so hurtful as this. And it was so much worse that Simon was involved.
If Ron had said something to her while they were out, or at least alone, she would have been just as angry and still told him to go, but it wouldn't have been quite this bad. For him to have said that in front of Simon made her want to die of embarrassment. She didn't want Simon to know what lousy choices she made with guys.
What she wanted was Simon. It had been that way for ages, but for all the usual reasons, she hadn't made any moves. They were best friends, and she didn't want to ruin that. Plus, Simon deserved better than her. He deserved someone who didn't have a twisted scar running nearly the whole length of her leg, who didn't walk with a permanent limp, who wasn't constantly fighting to keep her self-confidence up.
She'd always thought Simon was gorgeous, very nearly her idea of a perfect-looking man. She loved his broad shoulders and the fact that he was just tall enough so that when he put his arm around her, her head rested on his shoulder. He never remembered to get his auburn hair cut on a regular basis so sometimes, like now, it hung into his eyes and Connie constantly fought the urge to brush it back. He had dark brown eyes that looked black in the right light. When they focused on her, Connie's heart skipped a beat.
And now, she thought bitterly, wiping at the tears with the back of her hand, when he looks at me he'll think about what an idiot I am. It was only nine o'clock, but Connie couldn't take it any more and decided to go to bed. Simon's voice on the other side of the door startled her.
"Connie," he called. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," she said, unconvincingly.
"Come on, Connie," Simon said. He tried the knob. "Let me in, please? You can talk to me about it, you know that."
"I'm going to bed, Simon," she said, her voice steadier but still a bit hoarse. "I'm sorry. I just ... I just want to sleep."
"All right." He paused, obviously not quite believing her. "Come get me if you need anything, or want to talk. Any time, you know that."
"Thanks," she said, leaning her head against the door. What would he think if she told him what she wanted was to have him hold her all night, so that she could rest her head on his shoulder while she slept? So she could feel safe and cared for? Probably laugh and tousle her hair and head off to his own room to play video games.
At first, Simon was frustrated with the next few days. Connie went to some lengths to avoid him, although since they lived together, she couldn't avoid him completely. After three days, frustration turned to a strange form of admiration. It was impressive how she managed to see him for the barest minimum of time every day. She left early, came home late, then went straight to her room.
He wondered when she ate, for she declined any invitations to eat with him, whether it was in the apartment or out at a restaurant. She was never rude—she didn't ignore him or not speak to him—but she acted like she was afraid of him. Connie had never done that before, and he began to think perhaps he'd said something to offend her without knowing it.
When Friday rolled around, Simon took advantage of having worked extra hours the previous couple of weeks and went home before lunch. Today, he decided, Connie was going to talk to him beyond "Hi, see you later." He would plant himself in front of the door if he had to, and make her say something. This was ridiculous. He missed her and wanted his friend back.
He sighed as he thought back to high school days, and how they had become fast friends their first year. He had just moved into the area, and they were in the same homeroom. She had sat in the row next to him, and when she saw him reading a copy of Dune one day, she started talking to him about it. It was one of her favorites, and they became so involved in their conversation they almost missed the first period bell.
She had introduced Simon to her group of friends, and they'd all gotten along well. It had been great for Simon. There had always been someone to talk to, go to a football game with, and things like that. The circle had remained pretty intact for all four years, with only a couple of people leaving because their families moved.
Simon, Connie and the others had attended their senior prom in a large, friendly group, with no defined couples. It had been all he could do not to gape at her that night, she looked so lovely. She had worn a sleeveless red gown with a straight skirt, and a shawl that her mother had made, from yarn that had some kind of sparkles in it. Her eyes had twinkled as they all talked and laughed, her long black hair tossing from side to side. For the first time, but not the last, Simon had wished he was her boyfriend.
The group had decided they would go to the beach afterwards.
It wasn't fair, he thought now, as he had then. None of them had been drinking, hadn't even brought anything with them. Not that each of them hadn't had a beer or some wine at one point, but they'd seen enough schoolmates die in alcohol-related accidents after proms and graduations that they'd all pledged not to do it for their own prom. They piled into three cars, with changes of clothes and picnic baskets, and headed off to the beach.
He and Connie had been in separate cars; she had gone with her friend, Rachel, who was driving her brand new Corolla. How Rachel had loved that car. He should have made Connie ride with him. Rachel had panicked when an SUV full of drunk college students came tearing around a bend. She had turned the wheel the wrong way and the SUV had hit the little Corolla, flipping it up and over through the air. Simon's heart had caught in his throat as he pulled over when the car came back to the ground, and he thought he'd be sick as it flipped over two or three times before f stopping.
His friend, Lance, had called 911, for all Simon could think of was getting to Connie and the other girls. Everything was a blur until they got to the hospital, and even then all he remembered was sitting in the waiting room until he was allowed to go sit by Connie's bed. Rachel, Connie and a third girl had all survived, but had sustained serious injuries. Rachel had a broken arm, and a concussion. The other girl, in the back seat, had fared better, but still had a broken collarbone and several broken ribs. Connie, on the passenger side where the SUV had hit, had taken the worst of it. The airbag had deployed, but it hadn't helped.
She, like Rachel, had a broken arm and a concussion, and she shared some broken ribs with their other passenger. But her leg had been the worst. It was broken, the bone had poked through the skin, and some skin had been sheared off by the force of the landing. Simon had sat countless nights, it seemed, by her bedside, sharing the duty with her parents and older sister. Connie had borne up well, and gone through months of rehab and physical therapy. Now, years later, she had only the scar and a slight limp to show what she'd been through.
Simon sighed as he surfed the internet, killing time until he could go pick Connie up at her office. He knew that the limp didn't bother her as much as the scar. Since the accident, he'd only seen her in jeans, slacks, or long skirts and dresses. Not that she'd been one for micro minis, but he knew she wasn't comfortable in anything that displayed any of her leg. He didn't care, though. To him, the scar was just proof that she was alive. If he had the guts, he would tell her that, and how much he loved her.
Right, he thought. If I had the guts ... and apparently, I don't.
Connie stretched and yawned at her desk. She couldn't put it off any longer; it was time to go home. So far she'd been successful in her attempts to avoid spending time with Simon. She knew she was being silly, juvenile even, but she couldn't help it. The episode with Ron had embarrassed her to no end, and she could barely look Simon in the eye.
The worst part, she knew, was that Simon would say nothing if she did talk to him about it. He would hold her hand, or put an arm around her shoulder, let her talk, and then find something to say that would make her feel better. So she was doing this for nothing, and denying herself just about the only comfort she could get.
Well, that wasn't entirely true. She'd told her sister about it, and Emily had sympathized and even understood why she was avoiding Simon. Emily had, however, told her in no uncertain terms how ridiculous she was being, and that she should get herself together. She derived some consolation from talking to her sister, but it wasn't quite the same.
Connie sighed as she shrugged on her coat and left the office. The weather was turning colder and it bothered her leg some. Maybe I can moonlight for the weather service, she thought as she stepped outside. Lost in her thoughts, she nearly jumped a foot when a voice next to her said, "Hi, there."
She gasped and looked up to find—Simon. He was smiling, albeit a bit sheepishly. She guessed he hadn't meant to startle her. "Hi," she said weakly.
"I'm sorry," he said, taking her arm. "I didn't mean to sneak up like that. I thought you'd see me when you stepped outside."
"What ... what are you doing here?" she managed to say.
"Well, I missed you," he said, stopping by his car. Connie had taken the bus into the office, as her car was in the shop. "You've been avoiding me, and I wanted to talk to you, so I came to pick you up. Surely you'd rather be in my nice warm car than on the freezing bus." He held her door open and looked at her expectantly.
Connie stared for a few moments and then said, "Thanks." She sat down in the comfy seat, enjoying the warmth.
Simon came around and got behind the wheel. "So," he said, "I was thinking we could hit the steakhouse, then go to a movie or maybe watch one at home. But you're going to talk to me and tell me why you've made yourself so scarce the last few days."
"All right." Connie sighed. He was right, and so was Emily. This had to stop. She had to collect herself and act like the adult she told herself she was.
Simon drove to a local restaurant called The Steak Place, which was exactly what it said. There was no chicken here, nor fish, unless you got it to go with steak. They went in, were seated and placed their orders. Even though it was Friday, it wasn't too crowded, as they managed to hit the slow period between the dinner and late-night rushes.
"Okay," said Simon, tipping his glass towards her, "talk."
Connie stared at her fingers for a minute. "There isn't much to say. I'm sorry for how I've been acting. I was just embarrassed."
"Because of what happened with Ron." She slumped back in her chair, unable to look at him. "I know you must think I'm a complete idiot when it comes to guys. And I guess I am. Doesn't matter anyway, I'm getting out of the dating scene for a while. I don't care who my sister tries to fix me up with."
"I don't think that," Simon told her. "I do think you've had some bad luck, but that's not your fault. Some people—" he gestured aimlessly with his hand "—they act one way at first, then you get to see the real them later. I know it's lame, but at least you found out about him early."
"I guess," said Connie. "It's just ... you know, when he said that ... about my leg..." She stopped, feeling tears well up.
"Hey." Simon reached over to catch her hand. "He was a jerk. Some day, you will find someone who doesn't care about that scar. Or who loves it because it's part of you." Like me! A voice inside him cried out. He ignored it. "The scar is just a mark. It doesn't define you. Anyone who can't see past that doesn't deserve you, anyway."
"Thanks," Connie said with a small sniff, but also a small smile. "How is it you always know what to say to make me feel better?"
"Ancient Chinese secret," he said with a wink. "Now, what movie shall we watch?"
"Let's watch something at home. I'm too tired to go to a theater. At least if I fall asleep at home, I won't be wasting money."
Dinner and a movie did wonders for both Connie and Simon. Connie felt much better that she'd told him, and Simon was relieved to find he hadn't done anything to offend or scare her. The weekend was too cold to do much, although they did get out for groceries. Simon teased her and said she should cook for the next week to make up for him having to live on ramen noodles while she was avoiding him. Connie's mood was improving all the time until she spoke to her mother on Sunday.
"So, you'll be coming home for Thanksgiving, then?" said her mom.
"I guess so," she answered. "I hadn't thought that far ahead."
"Connie, it's in three weeks!" her mother exclaimed.
"I know, Mom." She stifled an exasperated sigh. "It's just been very busy at work. I'm not sure I can get the day afterwards off, and I haven't had a chance to ask about it."
"Well, find out and let me know, I need to plan the food." Connie knew that was ridiculous; her mother made enough food at any holiday to feed the proverbial army.
"All right, Mom, I'll ask tomorrow."
"Good. Now, will you be bringing anyone?"
"Well, you said you were seeing that boy, what's his name ... Roger?" Now her mom would probe for details. Connie steeled herself for the conversation and resolved to say as little as possible.
"His name was Ron, and I'm not seeing him anymore."
"Because he said some nasty things to me and I told him to get out." Connie prayed her mother wouldn't pry for any details.
"Are you sure you're not overreacting?" asked her mother. "I mean, maybe you misinterpreted something."
"I didn't," Connie said shortly. She groaned, knowing she was going to have to go into some detail. "He said something rude about my leg, and having to turn the lights out." There, that should be enough.
"Well, you know, Connie, some people will have a hard time with your scar." Ah ha, thought Connie. I knew it. Her mother never seemed to miss a chance to bring up the scar and how difficult it would make her love life. As though Connie had gotten the scar voluntarily, like a tattoo. Connie waited for the other shoe to drop. "And you know your weight has been up."
"It hasn't, Mom," Connie said calmly. "It's the same as it's been for the past couple of years." She checked off the "weight" block on her mental scorecard.
"Really? I thought you looked a little heavy the last time I saw you, but it was probably just the outfit you had on." Zing! Thought Connie. Two for one—insulting my weight and clothes at the same time. Her mother was amazing that way. Connie couldn't take it any more.
"Mom, I have to go. I'll let you know about Thanksgiving." She hung up. She hated to be rude, but the alternative was worse, so she didn't feel too guilty.
She wandered out into the living room and dropped onto the couch with a sigh.
"What's up?" Simon asked, coming in from the kitchen and handing her a soda.
"Ah." He liked Connie's mom, Lydia, well enough. She was sweet and had always been nice to him. However, she did have a tendency to push the buttons on both of her daughters. Connie usually just listened, nodded, said okay and let it go. Emily, her older sister, wasn't quite so laid back about it and he knew that Emily and Lydia had had more than a few fights. "So, what did she do this time?"
"Well, first she said perhaps I'd misjudged Ron," Connie began. Simon scoffed and she smiled slightly. "Then she reminded me how difficult my life will be because of this." She gestured at her leg, and Simon felt a pang of hurt on her behalf. "And then, since I guess she just wanted to make sure she hit all the bases, she told me I'm overweight and don't dress well." She was silent for a minute, then continued, "I always assume she doesn't quite realize how this stuff sounds, and how hurtful it is. Maybe she does, though." Connie shook her head. "I can't think like that. It's too disturbing."
Simon sipped at his soda, considering a response. Connie didn't seem too upset, so he didn't think she needed or wanted a lot of sympathy. He decided to probe a little more. "What brought all this on, anyway?"
"She wanted to know what I was doing for Thanksgiving, and whether I'd be bringing anybody with me. I think she's afraid if I'm not married by the time I'm thirty, I'll start collecting cats or something." Connie rolled her eyes in exasperation.
"What are you going to do?" Simon asked. A plan was forming in his mind, but he wasn't sure if he could do it.
"Look into getting hypoallergenic cats," she said wryly. He grinned. "I guess I'll go home," she said more seriously. "I hadn't thought too much about it, and I usually go home for Thanksgiving. How about you?"
"My parents are going out to visit my brother in California," he told her. "He and I are fighting about something, and with plane tickets so expensive, I decided not to go. But I hadn't thought much past that."
"That's too bad," she said sympathetically. "About you and your brother, I mean. I hope you guys can work it out. Jason was always such a nice guy."
"Oh, he is," said Simon. He drained the rest of his soda, giving himself more time to formulate his plan. Now, if only Connie would agree. "I'm not even sure what we're arguing about, this time. I'm just going to give him time to cool down about it. I'll check in with the 'rents when they get back, and see if they think it's okay for me to call him."
"I'm sure it will work out," said Connie. Simon smiled inwardly. She was always so optimistic, at least for other people.
"And it will with your mom, too," he said.
"Maybe it will." She gave a short laugh. "I know, you can come with me, pretend to be my boyfriend, and then she'll be happy, at least for the weekend."
Simon couldn't believe it. This was precisely what he was about to propose, and Connie had suggested it herself. He recognized the sarcasm, but decided to jump at his chance. He couldn't let this go on much longer; he was sure he would regret it if he didn't try for more with her. "All right," he said.
"All right what?" She'd already forgotten what she'd said.
"I'll do it. I'll go with you for Thanksgiving and pretend to be your boyfriend." To start with, he thought. He aimed to be her real boyfriend by the time they came back.
"Simon," she said, startled, "I was ... I was just kidding." I don't think I can do that, she thought, panicking a little. I don't know if I could just pretend ... or stop pretending when it's over.
"I know," he said, unruffled, "but why not? Your mom knows me, so you won't have to deal with the third degree. It will get her off your back for a while, you won't have to listen to her bewail your old maid status, and hey, you get to hang out with me." He gave her a breezy smile, then puppy dog eyes. "You wouldn't leave me here all by my lonesome over a holiday like Thanksgiving, would you?"
"I already hang out with you," she said with a giggle, trying to settle her thoughts. Maybe she should say okay. Maybe she should just indulge the fantasy. She was so tired of dating jerks, and she knew Simon wouldn't hurt her.
"Probably a bunch of people think we're dating already," he said. That much was true. Many times when they were out to dinner, or to a movie, servers or ushers would make a comment indicating they thought the two were a couple. Occasionally they would set the record straight, other times they just let it slide. "Come on, Con," he teased, "you know you want to." His tone masked his anxiety.
"Sure, why not?" she said. Her heart was racing, and she wondered if he could hear it pounding. It would be better than spending several days with her mom going on about her leg, her weight, and her impending spinsterhood.
"Good, then that's settled, and I know what to do next." He couldn't believe he sounded so calm.
"What?" she asked warily.
"We should go on a couple of dates before we go to your parents'."
"Dates?" she repeated.
He nodded. "Yep. We want to look convincing, right? We should go out for dinner, or to a show or something."
"I don't get it," she said. "We go out to dinner and stuff all the time. What's different?"
"Ah." He gave her a sly smile. "We haven't been on a date before. That's what's different. People in a romantic relationship act differently than people who are just friends. We need to get some practice in, or she'll know we're faking." He hoped she was buying this.
"Okay," Connie said slowly. It sounded logical, but it also sounded ... weird. Then again, the whole thing was preposterous, so she supposed she shouldn't go looking for everything to fit into nice, neat spaces.
"So, what are you doing tonight?" Simon asked.
Connie couldn't help laughing. "Sorry," she teased, "I have to wash my hair." She laughed harder as Simon launched a throw pillow at her, deflecting it with her arm. "Then I have to paint my nails," she continued, still giggling. She saw Simon's grin and realized he was going to try and catch her, presumably to tickle her; he knew all the spots. Jumping up, she made it a few steps towards her room before Simon's arm snuck out and caught her around her waist.
She squeaked as he tossed her on the couch and tickled her sides. When she could get enough air in her lungs, she gasped out, "Okay, you win. Uncle. I'm free tonight." He stopped tickling but didn't let her up. Connie closed her eyes and tried to even out her breathing, still giving an occasional giggle.
Simon stared down at her as she caught her breath. With her hair tousled and her face a little red from the exertion, she was gorgeous. If he could freeze the moment, she would look like she was just waking up. His heart jumped at the idea of waking up next to her in bed. Before he could stop himself, he lowered his head and kissed her.
Connie's eyes popped open as she felt Simon's lips on hers, and she stiffened in surprise but didn't pull away. I never thought it would feel this good, she thought, letting her eyes drift closed again. Her hands came up to rest on his arms.
Simon felt Connie tense and then relax, and relief washed over him when she didn't push him away. He increased the pressure just a little and touched the tip of his tongue to her lips. He felt a small thrill of victory when Connie responded, opening her mouth enough for her tongue to peek through. At that light touch, he felt a little control slipping away. He slid his arms under her shoulders so he could lift her closer, and kissed her more urgently, hoping she would respond in kind.
I shouldn't ... we shouldn't ... just pretend... Connie thought incoherently as Simon's arms wrapped around her. She didn't want to stop, and just let her body respond as it wanted to. Her hands slid further up and she buried her fingers in his hair, drawing a contented sigh from him. She loved the feel of his lips on hers, of his arms around her, of their bodies close together.
Simon didn't want to pull away, but he gently broke the kiss. They were quiet as he continued to hold her, stroking her hair as she rested her head against his shoulder. God, that had been amazing. More than he'd dared to hope, or dream—and he had dreamed about kissing her countless times. He didn't know how long he could just pretend, but he didn't want to scare her away, and he couldn't let her change her mind about the Thanksgiving plans.
Neither of them mentioned the kiss after that. They did agree to Simon's idea of going on dates and acting like a "real" couple.
Connie found she simply couldn't keep her guard up all the time. More than once she realized she had forgotten the "pretend" part of the whole thing, and she gave up on trying to keep a mental buffer. She rationalized that it would make things look more convincing when they did go home for Thanksgiving.
Simon was in similar straits. He absolutely loved taking Connie out. He even insisted, most times, that he pay, even though they usually went dutch. "We have to make sure we get all the details," he had half-joked. "Wouldn't want something like that to give the game away." Connie had nodded and gone along with it.
There were more kisses, though they were different. After the first one that had surprised them both, they retreated back to light, cautious kisses, such as Simon kissing her hello or Connie kissing him good night.
They continued to have their movie nights—more of them as the weather grew colder—but now Connie snuggled up against him while they watched like a girlfriend would. She knew it would be terribly difficult to stop pretending when the time came. Until then, she couldn't help herself.
The Friday before Thanksgiving, Simon had stumbled home late, exhausted from work, at nearly nine o'clock. Connie offered to him fix him some dinner, but he just smiled and shook his head.
"I don't think I could stay awake long enough to eat it," he told her ruefully. "I need to brush my teeth and hit the sack. Good night, sweetie." He pulled her to him for a quick hug and kiss, then went to his room.
Connie sat on the couch, disappointed. She'd been hoping to cuddle up again while they watched something, because tonight she needed his company. Ever since the accident, she would occasionally have nightmares about it. They were frequently brought on by stress, and right now she had plenty of that from both work and her parents. She had hoped to postpone the dreams by sitting with Simon.
She sighed. She could still watch the movie, then another one. Maybe if she watched enough of them and just let her brain roam, she would forget.
Simon's eyes popped open a little after one in the morning and he was completely awake, but slightly disoriented. He lay there for a few minutes, trying to remember why he was lying in bed fully clothed. Then it came back to him and he looked at the clock. Surprised at the time, he sat up and rubbed his eyes. He was hungry despite the hour.
He stripped off his work clothes and found some sweat shorts and a t-shirt, wondering if he was hearing noises in the other room. He opened the door and stood for a minute. Is that the television? He was still a little fuzzy. Connie could still be up, he supposed, but that wouldn't be like her, even on a Friday. She didn't generally fall asleep in front of the TV, nor did she forget to turn it off.
Curious, he walked into the living room. Connie was on the couch, in her pajamas, and staring rather vacantly at the screen. Even at times like this, he noticed, with no one around, she wore pajama pants that completely covered her legs. "Hey," he said quietly, hoping not to startle her.
She looked up. "Hi." Not knowing what else to say, she picked up the remote and began flipping channels.
Simon came and sat down next to her, running a hand over his face and then through his hair. "Couldn't sleep?"
Connie shrugged. "I haven't tried."
"Why not?" he asked, curious. She shrugged again. Simon sat up now, concerned. Connie rarely refused to discuss anything outright, but he knew the signs. When she shrugged, when she avoided eye contact—that meant something was weighing on her and she was trying to keep it inside. "Come on," he said gently, "tell me. You know I won't laugh."
"It's nothing," she said quietly. I should just tell him, she thought, but it seems so childish and silly.
"It must be something," he countered. "You never do this. I've known you for how many years now? And we've split this place for almost three years. I've never seen you up all night." She looked exhausted.
"It's all right," she said. "I just haven't wanted to go to bed yet."
"I'm your boyfriend, remember?" he said, trying to joke a little. "You have to tell me. That's what couples do."
Connie felt a lump form in her throat. He wasn't her boyfriend; they were just "rehearsing," as Simon had once called it. Sometimes she forgot, but other times, like now, she was hyper conscious of it. She shook her head. "No, you aren't, not really. But thanks for offering." She turned off the TV. "I'll try going to bed now. There's some leftover pasta in the fridge if you want it. I know it's a strange hour to eat but you didn't have dinner when you got home so late." Berating herself for babbling, Connie made to go into her room.
Simon winced when he realized he'd said the wrong thing, but he couldn't let her go like this. She was obviously upset and he wanted to know why. He caught her hand and pulled her back to the couch. "I'm your friend, Connie, and I've never seen you like this. Come on, what is it?" He put an arm around her.
He nudged her head to rest on his shoulder and began to stroke her hair. It was wavy from being in a braid all day, but felt like silk and smelled faintly of strawberries. He took one of her hands in his and rubbed his thumb over the back, noticing for the first time how soft her skin was. "Talk to me, Connie."
Connie knew she would tell him, especially with the warm comfort of his body next to hers. As with any other situation, she knew he wouldn't laugh at her, or make her feel bad. She just felt embarrassed, although she didn't know quite why.
"Sometimes I have bad dreams," she said after a while. "About the accident." Simon tightened his arm around her and kissed the top of her head. He leaned back on the couch and pulled her with him so that they lay next to each other. "I get them when I'm stressed," she continued, "and between work and Thanksgiving, I can just feel myself getting worked up."
"It's all right," he said. "I know they must be scary, but they're just dreams." She snuggled closer to him, seeking comfort in warmth and physical contact.
"They're horrible." She looked up at him. He saw the unshed tears in her eyes and put both arms around her. "It's all in slow motion," she said, her voice catching a little. Simon rubbed her back. "I see the SUV coming, I try to warn Rachel but I can't talk, then the cars hit and it feels like we're flying and flipping for hours." She couldn't stop the tears. "I feel like I lay there for days, and it hurts so much. It's like no one will find us, and we're all bleeding and Rachel's crying and..." She buried her face in Simon's shoulder and sobbed.
Blinking back a few tears of his own, Simon murmured soothing words and continued to comb his fingers through her hair. He'd never seen her this upset and it made his heart ache. After a few minutes, Connie had herself back under control.
"I'm sorry," she said. She gave him a shy smile. "I didn't mean to fall apart like that." Her green eyes were bright from the tears.
"It's all right," he told her. "That's not an ordinary nightmare." He didn't tell her that he had occasional dreams about that night as well. They were torture for him because nearly every time, in his dreams, Connie died. Sometimes she'd been thrown from the car; in others, she had a punctured lung after the airbag exploded and broke her ribs; there were more instances, and he awoke from every one in a cold sweat.
"Anyway," she sighed, "that's why I'm still up. I know I'll be exhausted tomorrow, but I can't help it. I don't want to go in there and go to sleep." She unconsciously pressed closer to him. "I've tried sleeping with the light on, and with music, and anything else I can think of, but the dreams just come."
"Here's an idea," said Simon, relishing the feel of her body next to his. Her curves fit against him perfectly. "Why don't you stay in my room?" He held his breath waiting for her response.
"There's no need for that," Connie said. "Besides, you're still exhausted. You need to sleep, too."
Simon realized she'd missed the point of his offer. "What I meant was, why don't you stay in my room—with me?"
Connie raised up on one elbow and stared at him. "Simon, I—"
"I'm not proposing anything untoward, you brazen hussy," he teased. She blushed. "I'm just saying we both need sleep, and you've already told me a dozen reasons why you can't sleep in your own room. So why not stay with me? You won't be alone, and you'll have different surroundings. Maybe that will help. If you do have the nightmare, then I'll be there, okay?" Please, say yes, he begged mentally.
As soon as she'd begun telling him about it, all he could think about was cuddling up with her in his bed and keeping her safe from the demons. Since the night he'd tickled her and imagined that she'd appear that way waking up next to him, he'd been dying to have her do just that.
Connie looked at him, her brow furrowed. This is not a good idea, she thought. Sleeping with Simon was one of the pipe dreams she kept stashed away in a corner of her mind, along with winning the Olympic gold medal for gymnastics and finding a way to beat her father at chess. These were interesting things that were safe because they were extremely unlikely to happen.
Every step she took like this, in the name of pretending, would make it that much harder when it ended. Connie knew that. So far, she had rationalized her decisions mostly on the basis of how much easier it would make being home at Thanksgiving. This was different.
Simon broke into her thoughts. "You know, this just popped into my head, but—what will the sleeping arrangements be when we visit your parents?" He was curious to know if they'd have separate rooms or not. That might affect his plans.
"Oh, I guess ... I guess we'll be in the same room," Connie said slowly. "Emily and her husband are coming, and there are only three rooms. Mom wouldn't want anyone sleeping on the couch, you know how she is." Simon chuckled a little at that. Lydia wasn't exactly obsessive about neatness, but he could just imagine her trying to clean up or cook while Simon was sprawled on the sofa. She'd probably dust him; better yet, cover him with a drop cloth.
"Then I guess we'd better get used to sharing a bed," he pointed out. He was pleased he managed to keep his voice even instead of triumphant.
The hell with it, she decided. She was tired of doing this on her own, tired of being scared, and now she had the chance of some comfort. The rest of it, she could deal with later, and at least "later" was a week away. "All right," Connie said.
"Come on, then," Simon said, moving to stand up. He held out a hand. "I'm too tired to eat, and I'm sleepy again." Connie nodded and turned off the TV and the living room lights. Enough light came in from the streetlights outside that they could see dimly to go down the hall.
"Your room is still pretty messy," Connie noted as she stood in the doorway. Simon had never been the most organized person.
"I can find anything I need," he said confidently. He cut a path through the debris on the floor.
"How about the bed?"
"Careful, or you'll be sleeping on the floor," he admonished, moving a heap of clothes onto the floor.
"That's okay, I could use the clothes to build a nest," she responded, pointing at the laundry on the floor. Then she wrinkled her nose. "Although it probably wouldn't smell very good." She yelped as Simon grabbed her around the waist and tumbled onto the bed with her.
"That's enough out of you, smartass," he said. He tickled her ribs and she squirmed while laughing. Then he stopped, reached back to turn out the light, and pulled her close. "Good night, sweetheart," he said, and kissed her cheek.
"Good night," Connie said quietly. Her cheek burned where he kissed her and her heart was running a mile a minute. This was most definitely not a good idea, she thought as she tried to calm down to sleep.
"Rachel! Rachel, look out!" Connie was shouting and pointing, but nothing was coming out. The SUV loomed larger and larger as it approached from behind. Connie had seen it in the side mirror and watched in horror as it grew and grew, until the grille filled the little glass. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear, she thought with dread.
Suddenly the little Corolla was in the air. Connie felt her stomach flop as the center of gravity shifted. The horizon swirled as she looked out the windshield, making her dizzy. For ages, the car was almost floating. It would have been pleasant except for the fact that she knew what would happen next. She always knew.
She tried to brace herself, to shift position, but she was frozen. Her legs wouldn't move, nor her arms. With no warning, the car was on the ground. She never felt the change in direction; there was just a loud smack! and the car stopped moving. Pain suffused her and she began to cry. Simon, please, find me, please, hurry. The thought ran through her mind in a loop but she couldn't move again, this time trapped by her seatbelt and the weight of the vehicle. How long would she lay here until someone found her?
Simon woke up blearily. He thought he had heard someone call his name and remembered Connie was next to him. Had she been dreaming about him? He wondered with a mix of hope and guilt. Raising up on one arm, he saw her shaking on the bed, tears running down her face. She was saying his name quietly, pleading, like she was calling for him. She sounded terrified. Oh, God, she's having that dream, he realized.
Sitting up, he tried to gently shake her awake. "Connie, babe, wake up," he said, a hand on her shoulder. When she didn't wake immediately, he began to worry, even though he knew she was only dreaming. "Come on, sweetie, wake up," he said, shaking her a little harder. "It's only a dream, I'm here."
Connie's eyes popped open and she looked around wildly, her breath coming in short gasps. It took a moment for Simon's voice to penetrate her thoughts. "I'm here, sweetie. It's all right," she heard him say. She realized he was running his hand along her arm, and it felt nice. Calming.
"Simon?" she asked, her voice just above a whisper. She focused on him and felt a huge wave a relief wash over her.
He nodded. "It's over, you were just dreaming." He moved his hand to push some hair back from her eyes, then stroked her cheek gently. "Okay now?" he asked. She nodded, then impulsively threw her arms around his neck, hiding her few remaining tears. He pulled her closer and soothed her.
With Simon's arms around her, and the warmth of his body next to hers, Connie quickly calmed down. She did not, however, let go. This is what it would be like, she thought. If we really were together, we could do this all the time. He'd be here whenever I woke up. I should just tell him... But she knew she wouldn't. Simon was just doing this to help her out. She didn't want to scare him away; if she lost Simon, she didn't know what she would do. She couldn't imagine he'd want to continue splitting an apartment if he knew she had a crush on him. Pretending would have to do.
As Connie calmed down, Simon made no move to release her. He stopped reassuring her, but continued to stroke her back. She fits me, he thought. I could just hold her like this for hours. He wanted to tell her, but wasn't sure. He had sensed that she might return his feelings over the last couple of weeks. At certain times he would catch an expression on her face, or notice her body language, and was fairly sure that she wasn't pretending at all. Then he would wonder if he was just hoping too much.
At last, Connie's grip on him lessened a bit and he let her fall away just slightly, still keeping his arms around her. She looked up at him, her eyes a bit puffy from crying. Although he couldn't see how green they were in the dark like this, he could imagine.
"Had the dream?" She nodded. "I'm sorry," he said, kissing her forehead. "I was hoping you wouldn't." He moved a little and kissed her temple, then her cheek. He knew he should probably stop, but it was too easy, too natural, to keep kissing her.
"It's not your fault," she said. "And it was better, to wake up with you here." She wasn't sure what happened next was intentional, but suddenly they were kissing like the night he'd tickled her on the couch. Simon had been giving her such sweet, soft kisses, and then she turned her head a little and their lips met. They both stilled for a moment, but then the kiss resumed, with matching passion on both sides.
Bad idea, bad idea, Connie kept thinking, but the thought was swept away by the intensity of Simon's kiss and her reaction to it. She buried her fingers in his hair, making sure he couldn't go too far away. His body felt warm and solid and for the first time in ages she felt safe. Safe and excited at the same time, she realized. Her body was warm, and not because there were too many blankets.
Simon found he could not hold on to a coherent thought, especially when Connie ran her fingers through his hair. He'd never imagined it would feel so good—so right—to hold her, to kiss her, to feel her body pressed against his. His hands moved as though under their own control, running through her hair, stroking her back, sliding down over her hip, then back up, under the t-shirt she wore to sleep in.
She gasped and he moaned softly when his hand encountered her bare skin. "Connie," he murmured, "you feel ... so amazing." Her reply was lost as his hand slid further up and he kissed her again, urgent and tender at the same time.
Somewhere Connie knew she should stop, but she didn't want to. Simon was making her feel too good. One arm was holding her close as his mouth covered hers, the other was free and stroking her skin, moving a little higher each time until he reached her breast. She couldn't help but freeze for just a moment, and so did he. She didn't stop him and so he gently continued, lightly running his thumb over her nipple.
Dimly, she realized how much her body was responding to his touches, and how she wanted him to feel the same. Her hand started to move down his body until she reached the hem of his shirt. Then she tentatively slid her hand under so that she could feel his skin. He hissed out a breath and moved his lips to her neck. She smiled to herself at his reaction. Fair's fair, she thought.
Simon wanted her very badly. He wanted to kiss her, touch her, feel her shake while he made her come. Her hand on his body was driving him crazy, her touch so soft and a little uncertain. He broke away for just a moment, removing his shirt and hers before she could react, and then carefully pressed her back down on the bed, kissing her all the while.
"Simon..." she whispered. He kissed her neck, her shoulder and finally took a nipple in his mouth. She arched her back and he couldn't hold back a groan of satisfaction. Her body was beautiful; he loved the way she moved. He imagined how it would feel when they moved together, when he was inside her. He couldn't wait to find out.
Connie could think of nothing but how he was making her feel. When she cleared a little, she moved her hand down until she found him, hard under his shorts. When she rubbed her hand along the material, Simon rested his head on her chest, breathing heavily.
"Stop..." he said hoarsely. He didn't want it to end so soon. Moving his lips back up to meet hers, he reached down to the waistband of her pajama pants and began to push them down. They were barely over her hips when suddenly Connie went still and started shaking her head.
"No, no, no," she said anxiously. He immediately stopped but didn't move. Confused, he wondered what he'd done. His hesitation made it easy for Connie to slip out from under him, but he recovered before she could leave the bed.
Connie tried to free herself, holding back tears. She'd gotten carried away and forgotten about her leg. My alligator skin leg, she thought bitterly. Everything else had fled her mind—concerns about her weight, about the pretending, about the nightmare—until Simon had almost bared her leg. Better that she should stop him now, even though she didn't want to, than to have him turn away in surprise and disgust. However, she discovered, Simon wasn't letting her get away.
"Connie, please, calm down," he said. "Please. Tell me what's wrong." He had an idea, but wanted her to tell him. If it was something other than what he thought, he didn't want to say the wrong thing. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you. I just ... I mean..." He wasn't sure what to say.
Connie moved a little, attempting half-heartedly to leave again. He held her firmly in place. "It's ... my leg," she whispered. "I didn't want you to have to touch it."
"Oh, sweetheart." He rolled back so he was on his side and brought her with him. "I don't care about that. I never have." He let his fingers move through her hair, hoping to calm her and keep her next to him.
"I should go," she said after a few minutes, but she made no move to do so.
"Stay, please," he said softly. "We'll just sleep, I promise." He kissed her forehead. "I like having you here." Connie nodded against his chest. She wanted to stay. Simon found her shirt for her and turned away while she put it on. Then he put his arms around her again.
When he thought she'd fallen asleep, she spoke up again. "Maybe ... maybe we should cancel this whole Thanksgiving thing."
His heart caught and he tried to think before answering. After what had just happened, he couldn't let her change her mind. Should I just tell her? He wondered, then decided no. She was still too skittish and might think he was saying it just to make her feel better. "If we do that, your mom will never let you hear the end of it," he said. He hated taking that track, even though he knew it was true.
Connie sighed. He was right. "Okay. I just didn't want ... didn't want you to feel obligated or anything."
He squeezed her tightly for a moment. "I don't, I really don't." Connie relaxed, and after a while they both fell asleep again.