The Edge of the Balcony

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic


On her wedding night, a girl with a history of being assaulted discovers the concept of consent.

Submitted: August 30, 2018

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Submitted: August 30, 2018

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They entered the bridal suite laughing about some shared joke. He dumped the suitcases on the bed while she made her way to the balcony. She drew back the sliding glass door and leaned on the railing.

The lights of the city made the stars seem distant, but it was a clear night and the sky was full of dim light. He joined her on the balcony and they stood in silence, each regarding the sky, neither moving to touch the other. Several moments passed, and the sound of traffic and music and laughter from the street below filled the stillness.

After a minute or two, she took a deep breath and blew it out, saying, “Well, I’ve got to get all of this hair spray out of my hair before I do anything else.”

She headed for her suitcase on the bed. “It’s so stiff I feel like there’s a sculpture on my head.”

He laughed and called after her, “Do you need help with the bobby pins?”

“No,” she said quickly. Too quickly. She added, “We didn’t use that many.”

She unzipped her suitcase and hastily rummaged to locate the necessary items for a shower. He gave her space and only re-entered from the balcony as she headed towards the bathroom. She stopped abruptly and seemed about to say something, but couldn’t think of anything to say.

“Do you want me to order you anything from room service while you’re in there?” he asked.

She shook her head, but visibly relaxed. “No. No, I’m alright.”

She stepped into the bathroom and paused before closing the door. “I won’t take too long.”

She considered locking the door after she closed it. She stared at it for several seconds, her hand hovering over the door knob. Then she took a steadying breath and turned away to spread her things on the counter.

There was a set of candles on the counter, along with a tiny matchbox bearing the name and logo of the hotel. She lit them with steady hands, then removed two battery-powered candles from her little bag. Turning them on, she glanced longingly at the big soaker tub before drawing back the curtain of the shower instead and placing the candles along the upper rim at the top.

She then flicked the light switch and turned off the lights. With the lights also went the hum of the bathroom fan.

Sensing the sudden silence, he called from the bedroom, “Everything alright in there? Did you blow a fuse or something?”

“N-no. I just turned out the light.”

“Why?”

“I-I always shower in the dark.”

Silence.

Selecting her favorite playlist on her phone, she unzipped her dress, disrobed, and turned on the shower. Surrounded by steam and hot water felt safer. She closed her eyes and let the water pound gently into the back of her skull. Then she took a grounding breath and got to work cleaning hair and shaving legs.

As she was working conditioner into her hair she heard the click of the door latch and felt a rush of cold air. The bathroom door had opened. She froze. His voice came from the doorway.

“May I come in?” he asked softly.

“To-to the bathroom?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.”

She heard the door shut behind him and then silence. She tried to focus on squeezing conditioner out of the bottle, but her hands had begun to tremble.

Slowly, she drew back the curtain just far enough to peek out. He wasn’t within her line of vision. She stuck her head out and craned her neck, her wet hair dripping on the tiles. He was sitting on the edge of the tub, leaning forward, elbows on knees, hands folded in front of his mouth, staring at the floor.

Seeing her out of the corner of his eye, he turned and looked at her. She looked back. He spoke first.

“Hi.”

A small smile escaped, in spite of herself. “Hi. What are you doing?”

“Just sitting.”

“I see that.” She giggled.

He hesitated. “May I join you?”

Her smile faded. She looked at him for a long moment. He waited patiently as she collected her thoughts.

“....yes,” she finally said, slowly. “But could you please wait till I’m ready?”

He smiled and stood. “I’ll let you know when I’m ready and then I will wait for you, okay?”

“Okay.”

She drew her head back into the shower and backed up until she was under the water again. She drew in shaky breaths. After a minute, his voice came from the other side of the curtain.

“I’m ready when you are.”

She fought hard to push back the panic rising in her stomach.

“Could - could I just hold your hand for a bit?” She bit her lip.

“Of course,” he said gently.

Hesitantly, she pushed a trembling hand through the curtain and reached out until it found his. Intertwining their fingers, she gripped tightly and he squeezed back. With her free hand, she grabbed a fistful of shower curtain and pressed her head against the fabric. On the other side of the curtain, he pressed back and touched his forehead to hers.

They stood like this for more than a minute, just breathing.

Finally, she whispered, “I’m going to close my eyes.”

“That’s ok,” he whispered back. “You can still change your mind, love. You can still say no. And when I ask you tomorrow, you can say no. Even if you say yes today.”

“Okay.”

“I want you to feel safe.”

She didn’t answer, but tightly shut her eyes and took a step back, slowly drawing him past the curtain and into the shower. She stopped when she had backed up against the opposite wall and stood still, tension growing in her shoulders, her hand still gripping his, eyes still closed.

“Can I have your other hand?” he asked. She gave it to him and he held both of her hands tightly between them.

“I am going to whisper in your ear, okay?”

She nodded nervously and a small tremor ran through her as she suddenly felt his breath on her cheek.

“I love you.” His voice was barely audible over the sound of the shower and her phone’s music. “I will always love you. You are the most beautiful person I have ever known - inside and out.”

A small sob escaped her lips and she slowly opened her eyes to meet his. He was smiling at her and she smiled a small smile back, then ducked her head to the side shyly. He laughed softly.

“What else do you need to do?”

“What?”

“For your shower. What do you have left to do.”

“Oh.” She reached a hand to her hair. “I have to let the conditioner sit and then rinse it out. Then I’ll be done.”

“Cool. Mind if I use that while your conditioner sits?” He pointed to her lavender body wash.

“Go ahead.”

She focused her attention on working the conditioner through her hair while he scrubbed. She was extremely conscious of his eyes on her, but could not return his gaze. Before he left the shower, he asked if he could kiss her on the cheek. She said he could.

Once he had left, she hurriedly rinsed her hair, then drew back the curtain to reach for her towel. She could see him out of the corner of her eye as he dressed and she dried off. When they had finished, she turned to face him, clutching the towel in front of her.

“Could you pass me my nightgown?”

He grabbed it off of the counter, but, instead of handing it to her, held it open for her. She hesitated. She met his gaze and he smiled gently.

She stepped forward and allowed him to help her shrug into it, drawing it closed in the front. She reached for the first button and he turned her around by the shoulders, telling her to wait.

She met his gaze with a confused look and he smiled again as he slowly took the collar of the nightgown from her fingers. Their faces nearly touched, but he made no move to kiss her. He maintained his intense eye contact as he buttoned the first button and then made his way down the gown. She allowed herself to smile as he finally knelt down to fasten the last few, still looking up at her lovingly.

His hands moved slowly. They were not hands motivated by lust, which hurriedly rip buttons from blouses or sensually undo the buttons of jeans. These hands were full of love. Just love. And the love with which he dressed her pushed far away the dark memories of anyone who had ever tried to undress her.

When the final button was done, he dropped his hands. “What’s next?”

She giggled. “Well, I have to put softener in my hair.” She crossed to the counter and grabbed the bottle. He took it from her hand.
“Show me how to do it.”

She looked at him in surprise. “Uh..you put a quarter sized amount in the palm of your hand.”

He did so. “Like this?”

“Uh, huh. Now you rub your hands together and then you run your fingers through my hair until it’s worked all the way through the ends.”

She slowly turned around and let her stringy wet hair fall down her back. She felt him carefully begin to run his fingers through it, pausing when he hit a snarl.

“Don’t worry about hurting me. I’ve got a tough head.”

But instead of pulling, he moved slowly to gently untangle her hair with his fingers. It felt strange and nice to have someone else’s hands run through her hair without grabbing and pulling. Her shoulders finally began to relax and she closed her eyes again.

When he had finished and was rinsing his hands, she took her bottle of lotion from her bag and walked over to prop her foot up on the edge of the tub. He was next to her again before she realized.

“Wait, wait, wait. Let me.” He reached out a hand for the bottle.

She giggled and hesitantly handed it to him. He motioned for her to sit on the edge of the tub and knelt again in front of her. He took her foot in his hands and began to carefully kneed his fingers into the arch. After so many hours of dancing in heels, her feet were stiff, and she was torn between the relief and how much it tickled. He looked up and laughed at the face she was making.

Slowly, he began to apply lotion up to her knee, his hands moving gently as she smiled shyly. He watched her carefully. As his fingers moved above her knee, she stiffened and her smile faded. He stopped.

“I won’t go any further.” He reached for her other foot. Gradually, she relaxed again.

When he finished, she stood up.

“Now what?”

“Deodorant.”

“Oh, good!” he teased. “Please don’t skip the deodorant.”

She laughed and swatted a towel at him playfully. When she reached for her toothbrush, he stopped her again.

“Before you do that, I’ve got something out in the room for us.”

She looked at him curiously, and he lead her from the bathroom to the balcony, where a tray with tea waited. Two cups sat on saucers and steam rose from a white teapot. He smiled down at her.

“I thought we could just sit for a bit.”

A wave of warm emotion filled her as she realized the meaning behind the gesture. He had ordered the tea tray before joining her in the bathroom.

This was not because she did good or did what he wanted. It was not a conditional reward. The tray and the time together on the balcony would be there whether she said yes or no to sharing a shower. It would still be there even if she had changed her mind, and it was saved as a surprise for later rather than used as a bargaining chip.

This understanding made her feel safe - more safe than she had ever felt. Her freedom to choose between yes and no was absolute. And she knew that no matter what - good day or bad - he would always, always be waiting for her on the other side of that tea tray, content to just sit together for as long as it took for her to feel brave again.

 


© Copyright 2018 Bronagh Brennan. All rights reserved.

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