Home > Time (Laws of Physics #3)(10)

Time (Laws of Physics #3)(10)
Author: Penny Reid

I took a deep breath, and then I took another sip of wine. Well, it had started out like a sip, but it ended up being a gulp.

Licking my lips, I sorted through all the details of our latest week together, the hurt, the misunderstandings, the burned letters, our first kiss, and I blurted, “Do you like to be dominated during sex?”

Both Gabby and Lisa reared back, their eyes wide as they shared a look and I glanced between them, wondering what on earth and the Sagittarius Arm of the Milky Way I had been thinking. Why would you ask them that?

Before I could dial back the random, Gabby said, “Is Abram into that kind of stuff? Does he, I mean, is he, like, a dom?”

Her voice was free of judgment. Even so, I was shaking my head before she’d finished her first question.

“No. That’s not what I mean. I mean, do you like—or I guess, do you think it’s healthy—to like it when a guy holds you down? Or if he’s over you when you do stuff? Even if he’s heavy and physically stronger than you? Do you like that? Or is it wrong to like it?”

Gabby and Lisa shared another look, with Lisa speaking this time, “I don’t have a ton of experience with lots of guys—as you know, there was and has been no one before, during, or after the T-bag—but . . .” Her eyes moved up and to the right, like she was searching her memory. “Are you talking about missionary? I liked that position okay. I thought other positions were better, though. Is that what you’re asking?”

I gathered another deep inhale, trying to figure out what I was asking, when Gabby beat me to it. “Are you worried that liking something you’ve done with Abram—while intimate—makes you somehow screwed up?”

I nodded, because that was a decent approximation of my question.

“Hmm.” Lisa seemed to be considering. “I don’t think sex works like that. I mean, I don’t know for sure. But sex is like, I mean, aren’t we tapping into a different part of ourselves? It’s like, not something you can apply logic to, you know? You like what you like, and as long as it doesn’t hurt someone, or it’s not illegal, then I’m pretty sure anything goes. Don’t you think?”

Gabby didn’t wait for me to respond, instead asking, “First, did he do anything to hurt you?”

Now I shook my head vehemently. “No. Not at all.”

Gabby’s gaze flickered over me, and I got the sense a suspicion was forming in her mind. My heart quickened as a result and I finished the rest of the wine in three large gulps.

“Mona.”

“Gabby,” I rasped, my throat tight, experiencing one of those odd moments where you know what’s going to happen, what another person is going to say, but you’re powerless to stop it.

“Is this about that thing that happened when you were fifteen?”

Our gazes locked, her green eyes intense. Mine were probably cagey.

“Is there any more wine?” I asked. Now my heart was hammering.

“You should slow down.” Gabby motioned to the bowl beside me, her tone firm. “Eat your ice cream and answer the question.”

“What am I missing?” Lisa sat forward on the couch, reaching for a spoon and dusting her chocolate ice cream with peanuts. “What happened when Mona was fifteen?”

Gabby made a choking sound. “You never told Lisa?”

I had to clear my throat. “I told you, nothing—”

“Holy shit, you still believe nothing happened? I swear to God, Mona. Get a fucking grip. You were assaulted!”

“What?” Lisa whisper-shrieked, dropping the peanut spoon with a clatter.

I stood up, setting my bowl on the table, turning toward the kitchen first, then the front door, and then the bathroom. “I have to—”

“No, you don’t.” Gabby also stood, placing herself in my path and grabbing my shoulders. “Tell your sister. Tell her. Or don’t but tell someone! Why do you insist on carrying this trauma around? As my therapist always says, you have to confront trauma or else you’ll never be able to move past it.”

“Okay.” I nodded, not really hearing her, my mind in disorder, my hands trembling, but my voice was perfectly calm as I said, “But first I need to pee.”

Gabby released me, shaking her head and lifting her arm toward the bathroom. “Go, then.”

I sprinted toward the bathroom, catching the first part of Lisa’s whispered, “You need to tell me what the hell happened before I . . .”

Once I was safely closed within the small rectangular space, I leaned my back against the door, gulping in wine-flavored air, and fought a fresh wave of tears. My hands were still trembling. I was sweating. My heart was still racing.

And this time, inexplicably, for whatever reason, when I repeated to myself that nothing actually happened, the words felt like a lie.

“Mona?”

I stirred, my back straightening at the sound of Lisa’s voice. I had no idea what time it was, just that I’d been sitting on the closed toilet lid for such an extended period, I’d passed the excuse “needs to pee” a long while ago and firmly entered “may require serious medical attention.”

“Open up,” she said.

Staring at the closed door, I debated my options. I’d heard Lisa and Gabby’s murmuring voices, and then I’d heard the front door open and close. And now, some minutes later, Lisa was standing outside, and I was extremely reluctant to let her in.

“Mona.” Her voice was gentle, and I thought I heard her place something on the door between us, maybe her hand. “Gabby told me what happened at school, when—when you were fifteen. Open the door.”

Those tears I’d fought so hard to dispel threatened another appearance. I swallowed convulsively, blinking, fighting the stinging behind my eyes, and stood. I didn’t want to cry. With Abram I would. But with Lisa? She’d said they made me weak. Therefore, no. I didn’t want to cry with her. I needed to get a handle on these zany feelings before I could face her.

Then she said, “You know that you’re not to blame, right?”

I covered my mouth with my hand, breathing in through my nose, waiting for the wave of emotion entropy to pass.

“You’re allowed to be mad,” she continued, her voice quiet yet firm. “You’re allowed to call it an assault, you’re allowed to say you were terrified, and you’re allowed to admit that it—what he did—had an impact on you. Admitting the truth doesn’t give him power over you.” She sounded like she was quoting someone, which made me wonder if Gabby had coached her.

Lisa made a soft sound. “Mona, open the door.”

Letting my hand drop, I shook my head. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Come on, Mona. Why not?”

Try being honest. Abram’s voice, the ghost of Aspen past, filled my ears, spurring me to confess. “Because I don’t want to cry.”

She paused, as though considering this, and then said, “I won’t make you talk. But how about, if you open the door, I will teach you a trick that will help you not cry.”

That had my attention.

Eying the doorknob, I quickly unlocked it, hesitated, and then twisted it to open the door a centimeter. I then stepped back and crossed my arms. My sister peeked inside, her gaze wary, and she gave me a little smile.

“Hey.”

I was busy pressing my lips together—because I was now a crier—and said nothing.

Stepping completely inside, Lisa’s stare moved over me, as though I were somehow different, or she was searching for visible bruises. She then bent down to open the cabinet beneath the sink and extracted a black rectangular bag.

“Sit down,” she said, motioning to the closed toilet lid and unfastening the gold-toned zipper of the bag.

“Where’s Gabby?” I asked once I was seated.

“She left.”

I nodded faintly, watching as she pulled a brush from the black case. “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to do your makeup.”

“Why?”

“Because you don’t want to cry.”

I lifted an eyebrow. “And makeup will stop me from crying?”

“It’s a great deterrent. If you have makeup on, crying will ruin it. It’s helped me keep my shit together.” She lowered her eyes, took a deep breath, and finally finished, “It’s helped me a few times.”

I stared at my typically prickly sister, sensing that she considered this statement a secret, a valuable weapon that might be used against her. It was a window—albeit, a closed window—into a softer, gentler core than she showed the world.

Nodding, I uncrossed my arms and said, “Okay.”

Lisa’s gaze cut back to mine, her eyebrows jumping. “Really?”

“Yes.”

“Are you serious right now?”

“Yes.”

“You’re actually okay with me doing your makeup?”

“Sure.” I shrugged, admitting the truth, “It actually sounds fun.” Compared to talking about the incident, everything sounded fun. Even a colonoscopy. Even a mammogram. Even a root canal. Even all three occurring at the same time.

“Who are you and what did you do with my sister?” Lisa gave me a smile I suspected was supposed to be teasing.

“I wear makeup.”

“But you don’t wear it often.” She shifted her attention to the contents of the bag. “And you don’t wear much.”

“True. But that’s only because it’s not high on my list of priorities. Like, eating zucchini isn’t high on my priority list, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good stuffed zucchini every once in a while.”

“Are you pulling my leg?” She scrunched one of her eyes, making a face. “I thought you hated makeup.”

“No. I didn’t—okay, I don’t. I never hated it, but—admittedly—I used to judge people who wore a lot of it all the time as being superfluous. Now I don’t.”

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