Unlike a lot of things from my memories, the new ones I’ve built are amazing. They erase the level of sadness and depression I’ve been through. Lauren is the source of all my happiness. She’s the reason I wake up in the morning and jump in bed at night. She draws little circles on my tummy when we watch TV and kisses me softly when everyone is looking our way.
My book got published and sold a couple million copies worldwide. It got translated in seven languages. So one might say it was successful.
There are a lot of times when I still think about John and his demonic eyes. There are times when I wake up and smell the scent of the basement in our room. Sometimes I even lock myself up for a while, just like he used to do, to reconnect with myself. It’ll be a closet or a darkened room. And though it’s ironic, it helps me to forget. Because being all alone puts things in perspective. It makes me realize that after all the bad, the good triumphed. Actually, it took the bad, it kicked the living shit out of it, pushed it – face down – into the dirt and tossed it into the ocean so it could drown.
At least, that’s how I like to imagine how it went. Truth is that a lot of time and progress was involved as well.
Lauren and I never returned to the Fortress. We didn’t have to, it’s imprinted in our minds like it’s a standard memory. We went back once and that was enough in our quest for closure. My girl’s doing so great right now. She got a job, she actually goes to it every day – believe me, at first she didn’t exactly understand how this job thing worked – and it gives her much pride when a colleague compliments her on one of her realizations.
Last week, she walked up to me in the middle of a family reunion with our parents and her sister and kneeled down on front of me. She looked ravishing, it almost stopped my heart when I caught myself staring at her. She wore a blue skirt and a white T-shirt. Her soft hair was pulled back in a ponytail. Her blue eyes looked straight into my soul and for a second, I couldn’t put the pieces together. She kneeled, right in front of me. In her hand, there was a little box. It was red and square and after coming to senses again, I knew exactly what it meant. I choked and put both hands in front of my mouth.
“Mariana.” she uttered my name nervously.
Her lips formed the most heartwarming smile I’d ever seen.
“I can honestly say that you are the person that changed my life. You walked into the scary place I called my home and turned it into something weirdly magical. When I was lost, you unraveled me like it was the easiest thing to do. When I got scared, you protected me. When I felt alone, you made me feel loved.”
She’s started to get really serious by then. Her fingers nervously opened up the jewelry box and inside, there was the prettiest ring I’d ever seen. It was small and silver. There was a rock on top of it, not too big, not too small. Just perfect. Perfectly blue, and it immediately reminded me of her eyes. I gasped for air.
All our family members were staring at us. Her mom, Callie, nearly dropped her glass of wine. She warmed up to me over time, but still – that last, lingering piece of hope that her daughter might find her inner straightness again one day wouldn’t go away. This couldn’t have helped.
I stared at her in awe and couldn’t tell if I was supposed to say anything. I wished I was capable of turning my head towards my flabbergasted parents and smile, but sadly, it was impossible to look away from her gorgeous face. My grandmother and I never reconciled after our massive last fight, but that had stopped bothering me a while ago. Life was way too short to pick your family over your morals. Being with Lauren was the most important thing in my life. I would’ve killed for it. I nearly did.
“When I see you, I think of all the colors of the rainbow. I dream of unicorns and sleeping puppies. I dream of all the things I never knew I could dream of before I met you. Without a doubt, you bring out the best of me. Sometimes I surprise myself with the amount of love I feel for you. It’s a kind of love no one ever taught me when I grew up. It’s the love I read about in books and convinced myself to be just another fictional thing. So, before we both start crying after this really cheesy speech, I’m only going to ask you this one time. The first time I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you was at the Fortress. And now, after all these years, I still feel the same.”
She scratches her throat and nervously bites her lower lip.
“Mariana Diaz. Will you please, please, pretty please do me the honor of marrying me, like they do in all the best movies?”
Her last words made me laugh amusingly. I remained silent after that, though. Something assured me that, after all I had been through, I died somewhere inside that Fortress and now I was in heaven. I just hadn’t realized it yet. But the facts were right there. My mom and dad held each other tightly in anticipation while her family kept grinning like fools. I bit my lower lip and an enchanted smile lit up my entire face. Suddenly, I started nodding. First slowly, almost too subtle to notice. But as my determination about this awesome plan started to sink in, the gesture became more enthusiastic.
“Yes?” she shrieked, while anxiously awaiting my reaction.
I nodded a little bit more and forced the tears inside my throat to remain there. My eyes got all weepy, though, and she noticed.
“Of course, Lauren. Yes. Yes!” I emphasized.
I pulled the box out of her hands and put the ring on my finger as quickly as possible. God, it was even prettier when I wore it.
She jumped up on both feet and wrapped her hands around my trembling body. In a natural reflex, she started kissing me to express the joy and love exploding from her heart. She made hysterical noises and unintentionally forced me to dance around with her.
When she let go of me to go talk to her parents, it struck me just how overwhelmed I was with the proposal. How effortless she made the words sound. My eyes stared at the piece of jewelry and never let go until my parents came over to hug me. When I looked up, there she was, proudly confirming her family that she was going to get married soon. Her face was a work of art. Her smile was mythical. Her eyes were addictive.
So as of that day, we are engaged. One week later, the bliss still pops up in every single aspect of my life. While writing the lines of my new book, I have to refrain myself from turning every detail into something romantic. When she walks into the room, I order myself not to start crying out of joy immediately. Lauren is the only one that has that effect on me. She’s the only person that knows I’m capable of being so fragile.
We already talked about it. There’ll be babies. She claims four, but I draw the line at two. She wants a boy and I girl, I’ll pass that bet on to mother Nature. We’ll get married in the spring, in the open air. Being outside means a lot to us. It represents freedom, the oh so obvious possibility of going wherever you want to go. Being locked up in a house for a couple of months teaches you to appreciate things like that. Ellen will be my made of honor, while Lauren picked her sister to be that important on her special day.
When she comes home after work, my heart nearly pops out of my chest. She playfully say hi, acting like she’s overcome with love. I like her that way.
“How was you day, my soon-to-be-wife?” she asks, while kissing me tenderly while bending over to reach me.
I enjoy the touch a little more and softly hum. Then, I turn back to my computer screen, to finish the line I was writing.
She has stopped questioning her range of possibilities. Somehow, some day – don’t ask me to pin an exact date – she discovered that outside of the Fortress, she could, in fact, do whatever she wanted to. There were no justifications concerning her choices, no fear of repercussions. In me, she’ll always find a reasonable partner. She’ll always find compassion and support, even if I don’t like the things she does. This girl deserves everything in life and I wouldn’t want to change it. The fact that this miracle survivor has picked me to be her lifelong accomplish during all the wild adventures she has planned, assures me of that.
She takes off her jacket and throws it on the couch. After kicking off her shoes as well, she walks over to me again, her eyes containing that wanting stare I adore. She only looks at me that way.
Her fingers start playing around with the hem of my shirt and by now, I can’t even remember the book I’m writing. I can’t even write, probably. Her skin lingers over my bare arm, teasingly soft and I can’t stand it. It feels too good. It still does, even after so long.
“Lauren.” I say rather strict while clearing my throat.
She utters a playful “yes” and I smirk. Her hands follow their path to my breasts and they knead them through the shirt I’m wearing. A frustrated – good kind – sigh leaves my mouth and I push her back with my shoulder. This chapter is due tonight. My publisher will kill me if I don’t –
But before I can even finish that sentence in my mind, she has put her sensual lips on my neckline. Shivers flash up and down my spine by the speed of light. Her knees make the desk chair turn her way and suddenly, we’re face to face. I withhold a smile. That naughty little brat. She straddles me and kisses me hard and soft at the same time. Like she craves me and expresses her love at once. It’s ecstatic, it’s why I love kissing her so much. Her hips buckle into me suggestively and I get the hint. There will be no writing tonight.
“You’re a sex addict.” I tell her.
She just shrugs and stares at me with provoking eyes: “Like you suffer.”