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I stay at Karin's. We get visited by her old boyfriend.

"See?" he said. "Clean."

Mark looked at me, confused. He hadn't been dating Erik when Kara and I were together.

"It's a long story," I said to Mark. "She drank and used drugs while we were together. A lot of both. She almost died."

"Oh, Jen. I'm sorry," Mark said. "It must be hard to see her again."

I felt tears rising and I turned to Erik. "Did you have to get involved with a social worker? You couldn't fall in love with some gym rat with a case of testosterone poisoning?"

Erik laughed and Mark gave me that genuinely kind smile of his.

"I know. It's a pain in the ass when people are nice to us, isn't it?

I laughed. "Yes, damn it."

"What are you going to do?" Erik asked.

"I'll probably call her. Just not right now."

I sat down with my journal again when I got home after a run that afternoon. I found myself writing Kara a letter.

No one has ever seen me the way you did -- at least in the beginning, when you weren't blindingly drunk or stoned. You saw behind my masks. And I loved you for that. Oh god, I loved you. You had no idea how much, I think. You were too busy drinking and drugging. You weren't even in the relationship with me after the first six months.

I watched you slip away and thought my love would hold you. I thought I could help you heal. When I realized I was wrong, the pain was so intense. Beyond anything I could have imagined.

And now you're back. Stirring up my feelings again. I want to scream at you. I want to pound on your chest. I loved you...and you turned that love into some blackened, shriveled thing.

Whatever it is you want from me, I don't have it anymore. I have nothing left to give you.

I stopped writing, steadied myself and took some deep breaths.

In the end it was good for me, of course. Much as I would like to, I can't really blame you for the pain. Not all of it was about you, I get that now. And I don't know how long I would have gone without dealing with my family stuff if it hadn't been for you. So I guess I'm grateful.

But mostly I feel sad. It's all so sad.

That night I dreamed about Kara. She was sober and sucking on my nipples. I groaned and she moved slowly, gently, down my body, kissing the curve where my waist meets my hip. She dragged her tongue across my belly, tiny licks here and there randomly as she moved inexorably toward my center. She nuzzled in my patch of light brown hair, rubbing her cheeks on my mound. I could feel her breath on my clit and inhaled sharply. Using just the tip of her tongue, she touched my clit several times. "Oh god, Kara, yes......" She drew my clit into her mouth, wiping her tongue across it while she drove two fingers deeply into my wetness. I shook as I came, yelling her name....and woke myself up. My heart was pounding. I thought I'd finished crying over her, but that night I sobbed like it was a new wound.

A week later I dreamed about her again. She was alive in a newly dug, very deep grave. I was trying to pull her up but I lost hold of her hand and she fell down what had become a jagged cliff. I woke up yelling, "No!" with tears running down my face. I called my therapist and we talked about how I had wanted to rescue Kara, and about the grief. She suggested I work on trusting that the Universe -- or something -- would take care of Kara. It wasn't my job and never had been.

***

We met at a coffee shop on the Hill on a Saturday morning.

"I'd almost given up on you calling."

"It took me a few months to get here -- to be willing to talk to you."

"I'm grateful that you did."

"What do you want, Kara?"

"I want to apologize for...a lot of things."

"Like what?"

"For being dishonest. I wasn't being honest with myself, so I couldn't be honest with you. For being irresponsible, and for letting you down. For not being the partner you deserve. I was so wrapped up in myself and my addiction I couldn't be there for you."

"Oh.

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