Looking back I do not remember what follows in all detail. I still know that I tell Jacob about Marcus and our break-up. It takes me some time to formulate what I want to say after that. I know I cannot keep it for myself any longer, it would not be fair to Jacob and it would eat away on me and anything that may evolve between us. Since I have met Jacob I knew that should we ever come to this point, I had to tell the truth, and it has broken my heart just to think of it. Still, I manage to collect all my courage and tell him, with my nerves aflutter and my voice barely steady.
After I have finished, Jacob stays silent for a long time. A horrible, seemingly never ending time.
“Huh,” he finally says and I flinch on the couch next to him. I wait, still and stiff, for anything more.
“I know I should have told you earlier,” I whisper when he does not add anything. “I’m sorry.”
“Mmm…” he says without looking at me, his body stiff and unmoving next to me.
“If you want, I’ll leave right now,” I say, my voice thick. It is Josh all over again. I knew it. The moment the word devotee had left my mouth I knew this was the last time I would see Jacob. Of course I had hoped it would not come to this; that somehow he would understand, accept it. But it has been in vain. “You don’t have to say anything, I get it.”
I want to get up from the couch when he finally turns to me. “Cait… don’t... This is just… I need some time to get over this, you know? It’s quite… it’s quite a thing to stomach.”
I nod, half turned away from him, not knowing what I am supposed to make of this. I try not to think that Marcus' words have been similar and look where we have ended.
Jacob has curled up on the armchair, hugging himself with his right arm covering his left, pressing it even closer to his chest. “Did you… did you ever like anything else about me? I mean, anything apart… apart from this?” When he turns his head there is such sadness in his eyes, it makes my insides scream.
“Jacob…” I nearly choke on my own words. Is this what he is worried about? That I might only see the disability? Does Jacob indeed think anything about his gentle, caring person could not be beautiful? “I do! I do... You are so… so much and more. I love all of you.”
There is a moment of silence as the last words ring through the small room. “Okay… well… that’s… I don’t know what-,” Jacob stammers. “Huh…”
I smile sadly at him. “You don’t know how wonderful you are,” I whisper.
Jacob rubs his dry eyes at his right shoulder sleeve. “Guess I don’t,” he mumbles. “But you… you really like… this?” His lips have curled into a bitter grimace.
I turn my eyes away. “Don’t make me try to explain it because I can’t. But yes, I do. And I’m sorry. I wanted to be honest with you, that’s why I told you. I know it’s sick and disgusting and fucked up, I’m fucked up and-“
“No… it’s not,” Jacob cuts me short. He exhales. “You are not.” He uncurls and wiggles even closer to the edge of the seat, leans over and captures one of my hands in his right. “It’s not... I mean, it’s hard to understand for me at this point but…” he kisses my fingertips, making me shudder. “…but nothing considering you could ever not be perfect.”
I am trembling all over as he squeezes my hand and the tears are rolling down my cheeks. I have never felt so whole and light in my entire life, like all the pressure and self-doubt have fallen away from me at once. I ground myself in the single touch of his hand, feel the pressure of his fingers soothingly against my palm and cry out all the anguish that has piled up inside me since I have been young, since Josh, since almost everyone I knew and trusted turned against me.
We keep sitting on the sofa, falling into short periods of sleep and waking up again, talking, sleeping again. In the end I help an exhausted Jacob lie down and stretch out on the sofa, remove his shoes and the brace while he weakly protests and tuck a blanket around him. Before I can leave towards Jenna's bedroom, I hear him call my name quietly. I kneel at his head, look into those beautiful blue eyes, my fingers itching to bury into the soft black mess of his hair.
“I have never asked...” he says, his voice hoarse and the words slurred. “Because it seemed... inappropriate.” He took a long time for the last word and I am under the impression that he has fallen asleep before he goes on, eyes closed. “Would you like... to go on a date with me? We could go... hiking or... to the ballet... whatever you... like... buy a couch... it's fun....” His voice dies away at that and he falls truly asleep this time so that he does not notice me kissing his hair again and again and sobbing into his chest.
As I step on the terrace several weeks later I find Jacob sitting in one of the wicker chairs, looking across the garden that is buzzing with the sound of busy insects. The warm afternoon sun paints every single one of the many blossoms golden.
“Hey,” I say, mindfully announcing myself to not startle him since I let myself in with my keys.
Jacob extends one hand, not bothering to get up, not even turning around to see who has come. I put my hand into his rough one and let him pull me closer, in his lap. We cherish a long kiss until we are both out of breath.
“How was your last working day?”
“Scary,” I admit, rolling into a knot in his lap. He hugs me with his right arm tight around my waist. His left fist very lightly rubs my shoulder.
“New beginnings often are,” he says solemnly.
“Hm…” I mumble into the nape of his neck. He smells wonderful. He always does. Of earth, grass and water. There are a few crumbs of soil on his shirt. The stress of the day leaves me, making me feel soft and safe.
“How is the garden doing?”
“Oh well, well. I hope the new tenant will care for it.”
“I am sure they will.” I turn a little and follow Jacob’s gaze to the plants and the city below. “How can they not? It’s paradise.”
He pokes me in the side. “You’ve never liked the house!”
I giggle. “I still don’t like the building. I cannot believe you fought your ex about it.”
He shrugs with his right shoulder. “Mm… principles. I picked it. I get to own it.”
I snort. “Well, in that case I’m glad I had a say in our new home.” I rub my nose along his.
“How can I deny you anything?” He mumbles, and tries to steal a kiss.
I laugh, evade him and jump from his lap. “So… I saw you did not make a lot of progress in packing boxes, Mister.”
He sighs. “I’m a cripple with only one useful arm and leg. What do you expect of me, woman?” He sticks his lower lip out and I break out in a laugh. God, he is irresistible.
“Oh, by the way, I got this,” I say, glad to have an excuse to hide my blush, and pick up my bag that I have dropped on the floor. I produce a package of roasted coffee beans. “I saw that you did at least manage to pack your coffee machine.”
Jacob grabs the package and examines it. “Hm… looks great. Where did you get that from?”
“Marcus stopped at my office to say goodbye.”
Jacob’s eyebrow lifts. “That’s nice of him, I guess?”
“It is.” I smile and give Jacob a reassuring peck on the cheek before claiming the coffee beans back from him. He has nothing to worry about.
Marcus’ girlfriend was there, too. The blond one. She waved from the door and remained outside during our short conversation. It was strange, but although I waited for it, the stab of jealousy never came. She is just a girl. I hope for Marcus’ sake that they are happy.
We have talked, Marcus and I. As soon as I knew I would move to a new city to, once again, start over, I went to visit Marcus. I longed for closure and I knew I owed him an apology. He has been a great friend during most of our time. We talked for a very long time about us, about Jacob and her. I think we parted on good terms.
Jacob’s house now looks very much like it has when I have first visited, only instead of plants there are cardboard boxes occupying the floor. I try to find the box with the coffee machine but in the end I let the beans fall into one filled with Kafka’s novels. My own boxes are lined up on the wall. I have given up my apartment already one month ago and moved in with Jacob. We have shared the new couch in the living room practically since the day he returned. Jacob and I are going to move to the capital and into our own flat that we rented. We did not want to be overenthusiastic but I am excited about what will come. He has to search for a new job and I hope with his past experience it will be just a matter of time. I am also thrilled about my new job position. And scared, yes.
“Mmmh, I’m hungry,” a voice announces at my ear and I jump a little because I did not hear Jacob following me. It means he is not using his cane inside the house which is a good sign. Good days like this make me wonder if he has a chance to get better with time still. I know there is a window for recovery after a brain injury and I hope his is still open.
Jacob slings his arm around my waist from behind and buries his nose in my hair.
“I’m afraid there is only spaghetti left,” I say and yelp as Jacob playfully bites in my neck. “The rest has vanished in some boxes. And stop trying to eat me instead!” I make to move towards the kitchen.
He giggles and keeps his hand on my waist, following me, his fingers gently pressing into my side with every other step. I am a little proud that I have finally mastered to match my pace to his. Most of the times at least. “I don’t mind spaghetti,” he says. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Nothing,” I answer, and grin at him.
There is a small surprise when we sit down at the table later to eat.
“Found it while packing,” Jacob says, turning the bottle so that I can read the label.
“Is it a good one?”
“You can bet it is. It was in some lone corner in the kitchen cabinet.”
He means it is from before. From before he lost his job, his wife and his child. He is still barely talking about that time and I know I have to be patient.
Jacob wedges the wine bottle between his knees and produces a corkscrew from his pocket. He drives the screw into the cork with force. When he attempts to pull it out, however, I see the bottle slide out a little from between his legs and I extend my hand wordlessly. Jacobs grunts an affirmative and I hold the bottle while he removes the cork.
“Thanks.” He places the corkscrew with the cork still wind up on the table and we ignore it for now. Jacob fills my glass and then proceeds to pour himself half a glass of wine as well. I have not seen him drink alcohol since we have met and have had my speculations about the reasons. I always thought he could not because of his medication.
Jacob catches my surprised look and chuckles. “I haven’t been on anything wild lately,” he confirms my thoughts and lifts his glass to toast with me.
“That’s great,” I say and clink my glass against his.
He smiles after he has taken a small sip, drawing in the scent of the wine as he swirls it around in his glass. “Oh, wonderful. I did miss that.”
I know he takes a lot of medicine. I have seen his cabinet full of bottles that one night. He also explained to me the purpose of some of the pills – pain killers, vitamins, anti-depressants – and he told me about the injections he gets whenever he has an appointment with his doctors. During the end of the long divorce process from his ex-wife he missed a few appointments for injections against spasticity. He took a lot of pain killers to make up for that but it did not help a great deal. That explains why he has been so visibly miserable. He has come a long way since then during the last weeks, his cheeks have filled out and his eyes are back to sparkling, making me hold my breath when he looks at me.
It is a good moment to ask what has been on my mind for some time now. “Jacob, do you remember that evening at the Indian place? After we ran into each other at Recom?”
Jacob places the wine glass back on the table and nods. “Of course. What about it?”
“Um... I never really understood what changed your mind. I mean… I had been awful and you knew I had a boyfriend. Why meet me despite all that?”
Jacob smiles a little. “I understand. Hm... Yes, I think at first I really was angry at you and wanted nothing more than to forget you, you know? It was clear to me that pursuing a relationship would lead to nothing. But... you were also fascinating, a little dorky and so lost... I think I kind of fell in love with you already during our first phone conversation. Do you remember that?”
I giggle at the memories. “Oh gosh, of course... I thought your voice was so hot, it kind of turned off my brain completely.” I blush a little at that.
Jacob studies me for a while, smile all easy and soft. “If only I had known... So… yeah, that was one reason. I just could not forget you and apparently fate would not have us lead separate ways so... Well. I already had started to think that a friendship was better than nothing, right? I was endlessly angry about myself for having turned you away at the supermarket. Then I met you at Recom where I had been for an appointment with… my ex's lawyer, and seeing you there was a bit of a shock for me. Um... not only because I did not know you worked there but also because of what had happened at Recom... I couldn't stand the thought of you working at this company, clueless, with those people. It's hard enough to know that Maren sees them every day, those monsters... has lunch with them, rides the elevator with them... talks to them...”
I place my hand on his that is gripping the edge of the table hard, my thumb tracing circles on his white knuckles. He locks eyes with me while he controls his breathing.
“Um… geez. So... I wanted to watch out for you. I could not leave you there alone.” He directs a flickering smile at me and squeezes my hand gratefully. “I had to find out if there was a possibility to draw you away from that company. I’m sorry if I influenced the decision to leave Recom…”
I smile. “I’m not sorry at all.”
We sit in silence for some time.
“You still think my voice is hot?” Jacob teases after a while.
I laugh and swat his leg, before getting serious again. I watch those wonderful blue eyes. “I do, yes. There is a lot about you that I find hot.”
We have not spoken about how we will continue with what is us two right now. I know there are still tons to figure out between us both. After breaking up with Marcus, after coming out as a devotee to Jacob, I am content with taking this relationship slowly. I know that he still feels uncomfortable about my attraction sometimes and I give him space. But we get better at being open to each other, we are working hard on it at least. He tries to give me insights into how he feels and how things work for him and I try to answer his questions when he voices them.
We have not taken our relationship to a new level, yet. My heart is still tripping upon itself when I can as much as hug him. As I watch Jacob stack our empty plates after we have finished eating and my gaze follows him as he carefully starts limping inside with the plates balanced in his right hand I feel the familiar tuck behind my navel and I know what I always knew: that I want more. I hope he does, too. When he pauses briefly and turns his head to wink at me before vanishing inside the house, something tells me he will.
--> Chapter 18
--> Chapter 18