Vacant (Chapter 15 Together)

I take a deep breath, steadying myself for Emily's backlash at my revelation.

"One." It's the truth. There's only been one, but that one isn't simple. I am not looking at her as I say this, so I squeeze my eyes shut tightly, hoping she doesn't hate me for what I'm about to tell her next.

"There was this girl, in high school, she was known to…" I trail off, hoping Emily gets the idea, but she just sits and stares at me. She's going to make me spell it out. "She was known as the go-to girl for sex. I was sixteen, angry and very curious." She's still watching me but begins to fidget. "She would do pretty much whatever, and I took advantage of that. It was emotionless and a means to an end. She let me take my frustrations out on her, Emily. No matter how angry, depressed, or lonely I was, she let me fill the void with her – in her." Her face scrunches, and I can see she's getting the idea. "It wasn't about love, or even lust, really. It was about me taking. There was no giving." I want to drive my point home with revealing the true debauchery in which I'd participated for two years, but I don't want Emily thinking I want her to do the depraved and experimental acts I'd once divulged in. That was a different time and a different me, but there was still an insecurity, despite my experience, I couldn't shake. "It was all about me, okay? I wasn't there to make her come."

"So, were you like…" I can see her trying to put all the pieces together. "You said you were angry. Were you angry…with her?"

I pause because I don't want to lie, but I don't want to tell the truth either. "Yes."

"Did you hurt her?"

I take a moment so I can say this right. Hurt can mean many things, but I think Emily means physically, so that's the hurt I respond to. "No. I never hurt her. It really was just sex, nothing else. I never hit her or forced her. She was always willing."

She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly as she continues to play with the placemat. "Did you like it?"

It's the question I've been waiting for. Emily wants to know if I want it to be like that with her. "When a boy has urges, there's little that will stop him from getting to the end. It's like how you fold clothes. How the shirt has to hang just right on the hanger, or the pants creased perfectly. You can't stop until everything is just right and you're satisfied." I can't believe I'm comparing sex to laundry. "But as a man, it's not about how the clothes are folded or hung. It's about the clothes being clean and smelling good. It's about the process, not the end result." Jesus Christ, this sounds stupid.

"With you, Emily, I want to feel everything. I want it to be about you and me, us. It's not about the physical result at the end."

"Okay."

"Okay?"

"Yeah, okay. I trust you, Ethan."

"No, to the left a little bit?" Emily can't seem to find a comfortable position.

"Better?"

"Uh, just give me a sec – " She winces again and I know this is painful. She tries to hide it, but I know.

Yep, complete disaster. I never should've agreed to this. It's uncomfortable for Emily, and there doesn't seem to be a way to make it better.

"Do you want to try on top?" I'm grasping at straws. I want this to be a good experience for her.

"Are you okay?" I know she fought back tears when I finally did it. She told me to just do it and get it over with. Not my proudest moment. It's not what any guy wants to hear: "Just get it over with."

"Yeah." Her confirmation is so small.

"Emily, I'm so sorry. I – " She interrupts me with her hand over my mouth.

"Please stop, Ethan. It won't always be like this. My mom…" her pause indicates that bringing up her mother is still hard for her. "My mom told me about sex. She said it would hurt the first few times, but she also told me that if I was with the right person it would be okay. I'm with the right man. You are right for me, Ethan. No one, and I do mean no one, has ever taken better care of me than you have, and, I know that you wanted this to be perfect, and it was. Please don't take that from me." Emily pauses to kiss me before she finishes.

"My first time could have gone so many ways, but it didn't. It was with someone that loves me, and who I love."

I can't help the sheepish smile that spreads across my lips. I decide Emily is so wise and mature and right. It was perfect – because it was us.

"I really like the third one we looked at."

"I do, too, but the second one had a gym, remember?"

Emily and I sit at the dinner table looking over brochures. We spent the day looking for an apartment in a better neighborhood with more amenities and a much higher monthly payment.

I'm a little concerned about finances, but Emily assures me we will be all right. She's getting her schooling paid for on a Pell Grant and working 25-30 hours a week, which is a big contribution. And me…well, I'm the new Assistant Manager for Ball's Grocer. That may not be a big deal for most people, but to me it's everything. I've never had a need to be in charge of anyone or anything. I just wanted to take care of myself, lay low and live one day at a time.

However, Margie just wouldn't let it go. She promoted me to cashier and kept on me. She was always in my ear talking about providing for my family. At first, I was defensive because I didn't have a family, but the more Margie talked, the more I realized she was right. Emily was my family, and maybe someday we could add to that. When the opportunity came up last week for an assistant manager position, Margie was there telling me to get my ass in gear and apply. She coached me through the interview process and helped me write a resume. I insisted that a cashier didn't need a resume, but she wouldn't let it go, and I'm glad she didn't.

"So if we get the one with the gym, are you going to become one of those gym rats? Always workin' out and flexing their muscles for the chicas?" While Emily wasn't one to get upset about me doing stuff without her, she still had a bit of a jealous streak. She says that girls used to leave me alone because I gave off some vibe, but now that we were together, Emily insists that other women thought they now had a chance.

If they only knew. My head hadn't turned toward another woman since the day I met Emily and that wouldn't change in the foreseeable future.

"Well, I was just thinking – " Emily looked down, unsure of what she was about to say. I hated it when she did that. I reached for her hand, cupping it in mine to encourage her to go on.

"I know that the gym on site is a big plus, but it's only a one-bedroom. The other one is a two-bedroom, and it's close to that elementary school." She turned red, blushing furiously.

"Yeah, but what would we need a second bedroom for?" I had to admit, while not necessary, it would be good for Emily to have her own area for studying.

"Well, it would be good as an office…and maybe someday, a bedroom…"

"I guess we could use a guest room, but we never have guests, Emily, so I'm not sure what the benefit would really be."

Yeah, I know, I'm an idiot.

"That's not what I meant – " but she didn't need to finish. As I flipped through the brochure, I saw a picture of a couple with a toddler. The tagline was promoting the family friendly atmosphere.

"Yeah, I think you're right. The two-bedroom is our best bet."