Bartholomew woke. Next to him was Geraldine. He thought she was pretty as she slept in the late morning light. He had never seen her so relaxed, so still. To Bartholomew, Geraldine always seemed to be talking or moving or laughing or crying. He had never seen her just lying still like this. He had a realization that Geraldine's emotional energy is always right on the surface. When she is awake there is energy. Bartholomew thought this seemed opposite to himself. He always had thought of himself as a quiet, slightly emotionally reserved person. But there was one thing he did know, Bartholomew wanted Geraldine to be in his life. For how long wasn't an issue. He just didn't want her to leave.
As he sat there in bed, Bartholomew thought of the day ahead. What should he, they, do today? A list of things paraded through his head. His eyes wondered to Geraldine's resting body. “Nothing,” he said quietly to himself. “I don't have to make a single decision all day.” Bartholomew could feel all of his muscles relax. It felt good. He thought about his life since his parents had died. He hated making decisions just after their death. He was so confused and vulnerable that it was easiest just to fill every waking hour with school. He graduated early, which was great, but it is all just a blur to him now. Some days he isn't even sure what his major was.
Since then, Bartholomew felt like his life was full of even more decisions: what color siding should he have on his house, who should be his friends, what color to paint his car, who could he trust, when to exert himself with Uncle Jeffrey and Aunt Josephine, how to take care of Oliver, how to take care of Hump-Pug, how to grow his own food, how to cook properly, how to approach the city council – and the list went on and on. He decided that making decisions, especially ones you are unsure of, can be very exhausting – sometimes even debilitating.
Bartholomew couldn't even remember the last time he felt like the day could go by without making some kind of decision. Of course, he would have to make some decisions today. What would he eat for breakfast? What was he going to wear? But the decisions ahead of him were normal, common. They would be easy. A long, slow and complete breath exited his nostrils.
His eyes drifted back to Geraldine as she woke, turned toward him and unleashed a giant crooked-tooth smile.
“Morning Lover,” said Geraldine.
“Morning,” replied Bartholomew.
“Wow, that was better than I ever imagined it would be,” said Geraldine as she stretched her arms above her head, exhibiting a couple of newer tattoos on her ribcage. She then snuggled her naked body against Bartholomew's.
“Huh?” asked Bartholomew unsure where this might be going.
“You were absolutely amazing. That felt better than ever, Lover,” Geraldine whispered while starting to kiss Bartholomew's skin.
“Geraldine,” Bartholomew said with irritation, “please don't compare me to your other lovers. That's... inappropriate at best.” Bartholomew felt his words were not adequate. They didn't capture what he was really feeling. He certainly felt her comment was more than inappropriate.
“That hurts,” added Bartholomew.
“Oh Baby, no. I'm not comparing you to other lovers. I don't even have other lovers to compare you to.”
Bartholomew laughed. “Please, Geraldine. We both know your past. We both know how you have been... eager to be with men.”
“Eager, yes!” said Geraldine. “Eager 'cuz whenever I try to be intimate with someone nothing ever happens. Well, that's not true – the CRAZIEST things happen. Things would catch on fire, cars and planes would crash, earthquakes would happen, dogs would bite them. One time a swarm of bees almost killed a boyfriend. I didn't get stung once. It was crazy. I thought there must be something terribly wrong with me. I became desperate. I thought if I could have just one normal fuck, the curse would be broken. I felt so guilty, all these guys getting hurt, and I felt so bad about myself, I wore out I don't know how many sex toys.”
Bartholomew sat up, not quite believing what he just heard, but wanting to believe it. “You mean...you never...?”
“Never! Not once. Until now.” Geraldine's face almost broke in half she smiled so big. “And, that—was—AMAZING!”
“Really?” asked Bartholomew.
“Yes. You were absolutely glorious,” she gushed.
“No, I mean you never had sex with another guy?” asked Bartholomew still stunned.
“Bartholomew, no. Never. I swear,” she said crossing her heart.
“Bartholomew! Why can't you believe me?” she asked indignantly.
“Oh, I think I believe you. But, this time I mean, really? I was awesome?”
Geraldine smiled. “Yes, you were.” She snuggled against him again.
“You know what this means?” asked Bartholomew.
“Mmm, what?” purred Geraldine, contented as a cat.
“This was the first time for both of us.”
Geraldine gazed into Bartholomew's eyes for a very long time. She finally sighed heavily and said, “Let's make it the second time for both of us.”
Bartholomew only made one decision that day: not to get out of bed.
* * *
* * *
The rest of that week, Geraldine lived at Bartholomew's house. There was no couple on the face of the earth as happy as these two during that week. They biked together for fun and doing errands. They tended to what was left of the garden. On the weekend, they met up with Charlotte and Topping at a Dionne's concert. And they cooked. Well, Bartholomew cooked and Geraldine assisted and then enjoyed the food – except the kale. They revisited the Mountains of the Great Divide in Bartholomew's car and had a proper picnic this time. By the end of the week, Oliver even started to take a liking to Geraldine, allowing her pant legs to collect his shedding fur as he rubbed against them.
It was also a week of intimacy. Bartholomew and Geraldine had sex whenever, and wherever, they felt like it. They took showers and a bath together. They explored each other's bodies and learned quite a bit about their own. Bartholomew became familiar with Geraldine's new tattoos and they thought up tattoo designs for Bartholomew, which she then drew on him. They became familiar with each other's sense of humor and Geraldine laughed so hard one day she would have peed in her pants if she was wearing any.
At the end of the week, Bartholomew thought love is a funny thing. How can something you cannot hold in your hand, something you cannot make happen, something you cannot physically see, change life so utterly and completely? Or was it that he had changed? The entire week felt very special, very easy. Decisions that normally would be difficult for Bartholomew were not. He was confident and decisive. He felt as if he had done everything at least once before and knew what to do. Previously, he would be reticent around Geraldine, now, he was not. He knew how she would react to him: lovingly.
Maybe that was it! Instead of every decision seeming new and difficult, he had experienced enough life that decisions weren't new. And maybe, he was finally surrounded with people he knew he could trust – people who thought well of him and would help in any way they could. Maybe growing up wasn't about getting closer to old age or being able to drink legally or having sex. Perhaps growing up was about creating an environment in which he could thrive and help others thrive as well.
That night, as they lay in bed, a tired Bartholomew stroked Geraldine's head and her back as if to say, “let's have sex.”
Geraldine reached out and pulled him close to her, wrapping her arms around him. Yawning, she said, “Oh Baby, I am so tired tonight. I would love to, but can we just fall asleep in each other's arms? I am so happy just to have you.” She nestled her head into his chest and lay silent.
“And I'm so happy just to have you.” He kissed her on the forehead, in his bed, in his small orange sided house under his old family oak tree, and they fell asleep, as one._____________________________
Written by Mark Granlund
Illustrated by Mark Granlund