THE COMFORT ZONE

by SANDY P. SHELTON



Catherine stretched lazily and yawned as she sat on the edge of her bed. The morning sun filtered through the sheers and, with eyes half open, she looked out into the dawn of a new day.

After wrapping her robe tightly around her, she ran her fingers through the tangles in her hair then rubbed her eyes. It was early yet so she had a few extra minutes before chaos erupted in the Chandler household. She took advantage of the time by curling up in the big, soft chair across the room from the bed she shared with Vincent.

With her legs tucked neatly under her and arms wrapped around her chest for warmth, she took a deep breath and savored the stillness. Her revelry was broken by Vincent's sudden movement in the bed.

Innocently, her eyes focused on the man she loved as he rolled over onto his back and stretched. She watched his well defined muscles tighten and then relax as he arched his back and pushed his legs against the covers. Her breath caught in her throat. He was so incredibly sexy even in his sleep. Even after two children, a few years of marriage, and some incredible sex, he still could make her weak in the knees and other places as well.

She sighed as her eyes roamed the body she knew as intimately as her own. The covers were twisted as he turned so that they covered him only across his hips. His strong, muscular legs and upper torso were exposed to her loving gaze. His thick mane of hair lay as tangled as hers had been earlier. It was then a simple, unconscious act brought back a flood of memories. Vincent simply reached down and scratched himself.

Catherine almost laughed out loud at that very human, very male action. Soon she found herself drifting back in her memory to a night years ago before their world had changed. They were not yet lovers. In fact, they had not yet even kissed for the first time.

Vincent had arrived that night as usual and they had talked for hours. During the evening, she had excused herself a couple of times as nature called but Vincent never budged. Never once back then did he have to excuse himself. 'Kidneys of steel', she thought.

Later that evening, she noticed a rather pained expression on his face as he leaned heavily against the wall. "Is something wrong, Vincent?"

"What?"

"You look uncomfortable."

"I'm all right."

"Are you sure? Would you like me to get you something?"

That offer brought a pleased expression to his face. "Yes," he answered enthusiastically. "I would like some--water. If you don't mind?"

"Of course not. I'll be right back."

The thought of seeing to his needs--any needs, thrilled her no end. She excitedly filled one of her best crystal glasses with cool water and walked toward the balcony. Just as she stepped out of the kitchen, she glanced through the glass panes of the door and stopped suddenly. At first, what she witnessed, filled her with embarrassment and she averted her eyes for a second. But as always, her curiosity got the better of her and she watched shyly as Vincent did something totally unexpected.

Apparently the glass of water was simply a ruse to get her off the balcony and give him some privacy. She watched as he slid his hand down below the belt-line and scratched himself intimately then sighed in relief. That simple action sent a ripple of desire through her and a realization. With that realization came the urge to laugh. She tried desperately to control herself then cleared her throat to warn him she was returning. At the sound, he turned quickly to once again stare out into the city lights as if nothing had happened.

The glass of water was gratefully accepted although not much of it was downed. Catherine was still fighting the urge to laugh as she watched him try to carry on their conversation just where they had left off. When his attempt failed, he turned to her suddenly. "I sense--amusement in you. What's so funny, Catherine?"

That question pushed her over the edge and she burst into laughter. "Catherine--what is it?"

"I'm sorry... it's just... " she stammered.

"What Catherine? What is so funny?"

Finally managing to control her laughter she tried to explain. "I just realized how silly we are."

"Silly?"

"Yes. We try so hard to be so perfect for each other. You are always the perfect gentlemen with me. You don't even raise your voice around me. And me. . . I'm just as bad. When I know you're coming to see me, I spend hours on my make-up, hair, and in choosing the perfect gown. I never swear around you or talk about anything--personal."

"That's not silly, Catherine. I respect you. I would do nothing to offend you."

"I know that and I feel the same way. It's just... Vincent, you're the man I love. I should feel completely relaxed with you. You should be comfortable with me. There shouldn't be anything you can't talk to me about."

Vincent thoughtfully considered her words. "Our time together is so limited. I suppose I feel I must take full advantage of it and not waste it on the mundane aspects of my life."

"I want to share those mundane things with you. They're part of what and who you are." She paused for a moment considering whether or not to mention what she saw. "Before I returned to the balcony, I saw... I saw what you did."

Vincent's face turned bright red as he realized what she meant. Quickly, he turned away from her. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have behaved in such a crude manner. What you must think of me. I apologize. Perhaps I should go?"

"No! Don't you see? You were just being human. Vincent--we are human and are subject to the human condition. The strain of being perfect can destroy a relationship. I don't want that. I want you to look at me and love me warts and all."

"I do."

"Do you? Do you realize I've never mentioned PMS or my period to you? I always smile even though my back's killing me and my hormones are out of control."

Vincent again blushed and looked out into the night.

"I'm sorry if I'm embarrassing you, but I think it's time we stopped pretending. I want to step off this pedestal."

"Perhaps you're right, but Catherine, it is not proper for a man to--scratch himself in front of a lady."

"You're right and I wish more men had your manners. But I'm the one person you should feel the most comfortable with. Do you understand what I'm trying to say?"

"Yes," he responded as he turned to once again gaze into her eyes. After a few seconds, he looked down then sheepishly looked at her again. "Catherine?"

"Yes."

"I have a confession to make."

"What?"

"I always knew when you were... you know."

"You knew when I was having my period? How? Our bond?"

"No. I'm keenly attuned to your physical self as well as your emotional state."

She smiled broadly at his obvious embarrassment. "You're not going to tell me you can feel my cramps are you?"

"No. I can just sense the--changes."

She wanted to explore that topic a little further, but she could tell there were other things on his mind.

"Catherine, may I use your bathroom?"

'Victory at last!' she silently exclaimed. "Of course. I was beginning to wonder if you ever... you know."

"As you said Catherine, I'm human in that sense at least."

"Yes, you are! Of course you may. You know where it is."

He nodded but hesitated a moment. "Catherine, I know you've been experiencing--cramps all day. If you like, I could rub your back?"

'Oh my!' she gasped to herself. "I'd like that," she managed to say.

He nodded again then walked toward her bathroom.

"Oh, Vincent?"

"Yes."

"Don't leave the seat up."

He chuckled softly then disappeared into the apartment.

* * * * * *

Catherine remembered that night as the first step toward their physical relationship. Now, she simply stared at his semi- nude body lying in her bed so trustingly, so at ease, and so uninhibited. All those taboos had long since vanished with familiarity and passion. All she could complain about now was the abundance of hair he left in the shower and his habit of leaving the toilet seat up. Oh well, there's always a cloud to every silver lining.

She couldn't stand being away from him any longer so she dropped her robe and crawled back into bed beside him. Carefully, she pulled the covers up over both of them and snuggled up close to his warm, hairy body. She sighed softly as she slid her hand gently over his warm abdomen.

"Catherine?" he murmured from the edge of sleep. "What are you doing?"

"I'm just trying to find that comfort zone. Go back to sleep."

"Catherine--that is NOT my comfort zone!"




TOGETHERNESS


By Carla McRorie



Quiet

Peaceful

A lover's embrace

time of happiness

time to be lost together

All alone

Just the two of us

together.





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