**** This story contains mature content and is intended for adult audiences only****
“You know, you could always stay with us,” Ben said. “I think this is going to be much worse than anyone is letting on. Have you seen the news out of New York?”
I shook my head that I hadn’t as I wondered if Ben’s offer was genuine.
“Thank you that’s very kind but..”
“The kids would love it besides I know I’m going to need the help.”
“So, you want me to stay to look after our kids,” I asked confused?
“No Charis, I’m sorry. I was only thinking that it could be easier if you and Milo came to stay with Bella and me during the quarantine. I know you’re in an apartment, and you could come stay at the house, keep the bubble closed, you know? I mean only if you wanted to. The kids could play together and keep each other company.”
I looked over at Ben, searching his gorgeous face for any clue if his offer was genuine or if it was some devious plot, not that I thought he’d ever be capable of such things. Ben was handsome, a great dad, and single. All of the other single mother’s fawned over him. He used to be married to my best friend Brooke. She was the mom all of the other mom’s wanted to be, and together they made the perfect, beautiful power couple, but that felt like a long time ago. Our kids were the same age, only months apart, my son Milo, and his daughter Bella. Our kids had practically spent every day together. I knew the time apart during quarantine would be difficult for them. Ben’s deep brown eyes, and wavy brown hair, complemented his permanent five o’clock shadow. I looked down at the sidewalk as I thought about the offer, as we waited for our kids to come tearing out of the school for dismissal. It was late February, and a cold wind blew. I was eager to get back into the warmth of my car. Bella came out first with the first group of kids, her toothless smile and perfectly braided hair, her mother would be so proud. I had spent hours teaching her, at her request and giving Ben a crash course as well. She ran up to Ben who knelt down to embrace his charging daughter. She collided with him as his breath expelled in an “oof.”
“Did you have a good day pumpkin,” he asked her?
“Is it really true that there’s no school tomorrow?”
“It is, remember the virus we talked about last night?”
She nodded that she did, “Did you ask Charis and Milo that thing we were going to ask?”
Ben looked up for me, looking for a cue on how to proceed.
“Hi baby, your daddy did ask.”
Milo charged up at that moment with equal enthusiasm.
“Bel, you didn’t wait for me,” he said looking at Bella.
“Sorry, I forgot. My dad asked.”
Clearly I was the only one who had been left out of the secret plan I realized.
“Mom can we please stay with Ben and Bella, please?”
Ben mouthed the word sorry to me, and I believed he truly did not mean for me to be ambushed.
“I’m going to think about it okay buddy?”
Milo slumped at my lack of an outright yes.
We waved goodbye to Ben and Bella started for the car. All night Milo begged, pleaded and bargained with me to stay with Ben and Bella. When I thought about it, the practicality of it, the proposal did make sense. I wrestled with the idea, knowing it made sense but I couldn’t figure out if I had talked myself into it or it actually made sense. Milo’s dad and I divorced a few years back and he lived across the country with his new wife and their twin daughters, so I knew that it wouldn’t be an issue if we stayed. Around 11:30 I picked up my phone and texted Ben. The text read:
“If the offer still stands and you are sure, we will come stay. I saw the news tonight and I would feel better knowing there are two adults looking after our kids just in case.”
I hit the send button and instantly wanted to recall it. I wanted to stay, but there was part of me that was nervous to do so. Ben had never made a move on me or anyone else for that matter after Brooke. The way their marriage ended, with her addiction, had ripped his heart out, and I couldn’t blame him if he never made that sort of leap again. My divorce looked vanilla, and simple compared to what Brooke had put Ben and Bella through. I had been painful and gut-wrenching to watch. Neither Ben nor me was eager to jump into anything resembling a relationship. We were both too shell-shocked from the fallout of our first marriages. I set my phone down on my nightstand and rolled over. It buzzed right away, and I rolled over and picked it back up. Ben had written back almost instantly.
“I’m glad you both are coming to stay. You share my thoughts exactly. We should have everything all of us need. So just bring yourselves and anything else you might want. I’m going to leave it as a surprise for Bella.”
I put the phone back down and rolled over, but although my body quieted and was still, my mind raced with thoughts of an unsure future. Around 1 am. I got up and began to pack anything and everything I thought we’d need for an extended period of time. I had started a pile in the living room of our stuff and all I had left was to pack Milo. I ran everything down to the car and then came up and cleaned the apartment. I made sure to empty the fridge and made sure the garbage was out.
Milo woke around 7 am, his normal time to ready himself for school. I had not slept the night before, and he read it on my face when he walked into the kitchen, in his droopy pj’s and his mop of golden hair a mess.
“Are we going mommy,” he asked, not fully awake?
“Yes, we’re going.”
“Yay!” he jumped. “Can we go now?”
I laughed at his excitement, glad that he was happy in all of this chaos.
“We just have to get you all packed and then we can go.”
He took off for his room, and I laughed as I followed him, with my cup of coffee still in my hand. Within an hour we were in the car and headed across town to Ben and Bella’s house. Our small town seemed almost deserted as we drove through, and it set me on edge, although I tried not to let Milo see. We pulled into the driveway of Ben’s house, with the perfectly laid bricks. The house sat proudly, as it had for almost one hundred years. Painted white with green shutters, and flower boxes that Ben hired a gardener to care for exploded with flowers and vines in the summer months. The house always resembled the perfect home, like one would see in the movies. Milo bolted from the car before I barely had it in park, and ran straight for the side door to the kitchen. Ben walked out with a smile on his face as I met him in the driveway.
“I cleared a spot for your car in the garage if you want,” he said walking closer to the car. “Woah did you pack your whole place?”
I laughed nervously as I looked back at my car, packed full.
“I didn’t know how long we’d be staying and what we might need, so I just brought it all. I hope that’s okay.”
“No, it’s great. Let me help you unload.”
It took us almost an hour to unpack the car, and as we did, I realized I had overpacked. Bella and Milo just about rioted when we tried to put them in separate rooms, so reluctantly Ben said he’d put another bed in Bella’s room for Milo. Ben gave me one of the guest rooms across the hall from the bathroom, and we all settled in. Over the next few days, we all found a sort of equilibrium living, working and being together. There were pictures in the house, everywhere of Brooke to remind Bella of how beautiful her mother was and how much she had been loved. I had always admired Ben for that, but I found it slightly odd, to be in my best friend’s house with her husband and daughter, and she wasn’t there. The guest room Ben had put me in, was painted the perfect shade of grey. I know this because Brooke and I had just about driven the painter mad, as she and I tried to describe it to him. I missed my friend as I looked at the walls of my room, remembering such fun times. I kept my sadness to myself thought.
Two weeks in, Ben announced at lunch that he had to do a late call for work, something about time zones and whatnot. I volunteered to do dinner and put the kids to bed. We had pretty much split the chores and childcare, so I didn’t mind helping out. He was lending the use of his house after all. That night I made spaghetti carbonara, Milo’s favorite. The kids ate dinner, had their baths, and listed to the book I read them before I turned the light out. As I went back down into the kitchen I noticed it had begun to snow again, as soft flakes drifted past the window, seeming luminescent against the darkness of night. I had just finished filling the dishwasher when Ben walked into the kitchen, he looked stressed.
“How’d your call go,” I asked as I began to reheat our portion of dinner?
“Not great, we’re going to have more lay-offs. It feels awful letting people go right now, through the very worst time most people will live through.”
“I’m so sorry, that’s awful.”
Ben sat at the island eager to change the topic of conversation. “That smells yummy, what is it?”
“Milo’s favorite, spaghetti carbonara. I made some for you too. I thought I’d wait to eat with you if that’s okay but if you’d rather have some time to yourself, I understand too.”
“No, that would be great to eat together. Hold on, this dinner is missing something,” he said as he got up and walked out.
He returned a minute later with a bottle of wine in hand and two wine glasses.
“Would you like a glass of wine?”
I nodded that I would, and he poured each of us a glass and set two spots at the kitchen table for us. I finished reheating the carbonara and brought it over to the table. We talked at we ate, and it had all of the hallmarks of the dinner of married people I thought to myself. As we finished dinner, Ben helped me clean up again, and we took what was left in the bottle of wine into the living room and turned on the nightly news. We watched, saddened, and scared by the headlines. I sat next to him on the couch and sipped my wine, grateful for the little bit of relaxation it brought. A commercial came on and Ben turned and looked at me.
“I can’t help but think of Brooke right now. I pray she’s safe.”
There was pain in his voice, and I felt it too, fear for the person we had both loved and cared about.
“I called her mom today and asked. They’ve not seen her in six weeks,” he said as his voice cracked.
I leaned up and put my arm around his shoulder and he pulled me in closer to him, holding my body against his. He smelled wonderful. I tried to push that thought out of my mind. We had spent so much time together worrying, and crying over Brooke, that his emotion wasn’t out of place. I held him tightly as I waited for him to break, the emotion too much, yet it did not come. He pulled away and without warning, he slid his hand along my jaw and pulled my lips to his. Ben had always been my best friend’s husband, strictly off-limits and I had respected that even after Brooke had left, but now we sat in some sort of grey-zone, both of us legally divorced.
At first, I froze when his lips made contact with mine, but I suddenly found myself kissing him back. It had been a long time since I had been kissed, I’d be the first to admit it, but this kiss was like no other I had experienced. My knees tingled, and an inferno stoked to a roar from deep inside my belly. A part of me awakened, that had been lying dormant for so long, that I found myself ravenous, like I had crossed the dessert and Ben was that first sip of cold, clear water. As his kiss deepened, I felt that I was losing all control to pull back from the precipice of something, and it was the sheer terror where I found my strength. I pushed gently against his chest and he stopped. He looked deeply into my eyes, and I felt like if I did not get off the couch immediately, I’d melt away in his.
“I… I’m sorry Charis, I shouldn’t have..” he said.
I sat up and took a deep breath to steady myself. “No, it’s not you, I’m sorry. I should go to bed.”
I stood up and turned around in the doorway between the foyer and the living room. I waved as I turned back around and went towards the stairs. I felt like a moron, waiving as I walked up the stairs, yelling at myself internally to go back, and not to go back, and the waive…. My head was a mess. I laid in bed, thinking about that kiss, holy hell. Brooke had always said that Ben was incredible in bed, but I thought that was one friend bragging to another. If his kissing was a metric of measurement for heat and intensity, I feared I might combust. I tossed and turned unable to get the scene in the living room out of my mind. Deep from within me, he had awakened something primal, a need, that I had pushed away for so long. I wrestled with what Brooke would say and tried to push that entire roadblock out of the way, but it was still there.
I got up to use the bathroom and checked on the kids. They slept peacefully in one bed, although Ben had put a second bed in there for Milo. Neither Ben nor I cared, that the kids preferred to sleep in the same bed, they were only seven. I turned and walked back towards my room and ran into Ben in the hallway. He had a glass of water in his hand. He startled me and I tried not to scream and wake the kids.
“Sorry,” he whispered, “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“It’s alright. I was just checking on the kids.”
His jawline seemed more pronounced in the soft light from the small lamp at the far end of the hallway. We both stood frozen for a second, like some sort of game of arousal chicken. In the game I blinked first as I leaned up on my toes and kissed him. It was an out of body experience, pure impulse overrode the logic part of my brain. He stood still, and for a split second, I was terrified that I had misread the situation entirely. He wrapped his arms around me, sloshing the water from the glass he held onto the carpet runner, that ran the length of the hall. One kiss turned into another and then another, as lust and desire took over. He pulled me away from the kid’s door and pushed me against the wall where a small table sat against the hallway wall. My ass barely sat on it as his body moved closer to mine. Internally, my mind was screaming a million thoughts, all conflicting. We both froze at the noise of the doorknob from the kid’s room, and then immediately scrambled. I turned around and pulled my cotton robe closed. Bella stood in the doorway, half-asleep.
“I need water daddy.”
Ben grabbed his half empty glass of water and walked towards her room, ushering her back to bed. I stood there unsure of what to do. I heard his footsteps leave the kids room and go straight into the room where I had been sleeping. I had went to his room, it was further away from the kid’s room. His pace quickened as he walked towards his room. I stood in the middle of the room, with only the moonlight to illuminate his way. He walked up to me, but didn’t touch me.
“Charis, I don’t know how to do this.”
“Is it what you want? Really what you want? There hasn’t been anyone for me since Walter, and I don’t, “my voice quivered with excitement, fear and anticipation.
“I promise you; I won’t hurt you. Please don’t hurt me either, okay,” he asked as he closed the gap between us.
“I won’t,” I whispered before he took my lips again.
He backed me up to his bed, his lips never leaving mine as we crossed the room. For as much as heat, and passion as there was packed into each kiss, his movement was gentle, deliberate. I came down on the bed and had came down with me. Breathless, he kissed my neck and collarbone as he pulled my robe open. He paused to strip his t-shirt from his body, launching across the room before he came back to me. My cotton camisole and pajama pants were gone, in the throes of passion, I didn’t know if I had taken them off or he had. I laid underneath him in only my underwear. His skin warmed mine, and the weight of his body on top of mine made me feel safe, in a way I had completely forgotten. As his slid his hands into my underwear, and took my tongue into his mouth, I felt like I’d burst in all of the best way. He slid his fingers into me, and I moaned louder than I had meant to.
“I love the feel of your body,” he whispered into my ear. “You are so beautiful Charis.”
I pushed at his boxers, needing him to be inside of me. He sprang forth, and I took him into my hands as I heard his breath hitch with pleasure. He looked down at me as he gently pulled my underwear off.
“I.. I.. I need to grab a condom…” he said breathless.
He leaned over me and rummaged around in the drawer of his nightstand. There was an eagerness to his searching, that made me feel wonderful. He found one, most likely the last one he had and rolled it on quickly before he came back over me and kissed me again. He pushed into my body, and the world stopped. He looked down at me, into my eyes and I knew that this wasn’t a fast fuck for him, just like it wasn’t for me. I wrapped my legs around his waist as he slowly began to move. Pressure, and pleasure built with each move of his hips. I leant up and kissed him and his pace quickened. I didn’t want the moment to end, I was in ecstasy. With one hand over my shoulder, he reached his other one down, and caressed the back of my ass. His breath quickened, and I knew he was close. He moaned in my ear, a masculine, primal noise of pleasure and I was done for. My orgasm tore through me so violently, I saw stars, and bit into his shoulder to keep from screaming out. I had never bit anyone in bed. Ben slammed his mouth down over mind to quiet me and his tongue moving over mine only intensified my pleasure. He pulled away, when he was sure I wouldn’t scream out and whispered into my ear, “that is the sexiest thing I’ve ever heard.”
Without warning he rolled us over, changing our position, so I sat on top of him. The moonlight lit my silhouette, long, lean and endowed. He sat slightly as he took one of my nipples into his mouth. I cradled his head in my hands as he sucked away and felt another orgasm pulse through my body.
“Shit,” he said through gritted teeth, “I can feel you… coming..”
Sensing he was barely hanging on, I tilted my head back and road him, slowly and deliberately. His hands moved over my body and settled holding my ass as I felt him finish, with deep grunts filled with release. I slowly came to a stop as I felt the last of his orgasm wain. I went to move off his lap and he held me, his arms embracing my waist. I looked down at him and he kissed me.
“You are so beautiful Charis.”
He pulled me down onto the bed with him and I snuggled up against his side, resting my head on his shoulder. I spent the night sleeping in his arms. We were sure to wake before the kids were up. The next morning didn’t bring awkward conversations and I was grateful for that. Over the next few weeks, we spent our nights in each other’s arms. As intense as our physical intimacy was, for me there was an emotional intimacy building. I feared the emotional intimacy having been hurt before, but I put my trust in Ben and allowed myself to be open to where things would or could go.
As the quarantine continued, the weather warmed, and summer began to show up in small ways. We decided to plant a garden in the back yard with the kids in late May. That morning I had gone out and had bought the plants and had stopped at the pharmacy in the next town over. I had felt queasy over the past few days, and although we had used protection, I had a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. As Ben and the kids turned over the soil in the back yard, I wretched in the bathroom at the sight of the positive pregnancy test. I had always wanted a big family and I knew that Ben had wanted that for Bella, but not like this.
I called my doctor and was surprised when she answered her own phone. I was used to going through the phone tree of nurses and never seemed to get her on the phone. I explained my situation and she ordered a blood test and an ultrasound. That night after the kids went to bed, I told Ben. I didn’t know how he would react, but I was relieved to see that he was just as scared as I was.
“I don’t understand, we were careful,” he said in shock.
“I know. I didn’t do this on purpose.”
“Charis, I know you would never do anything like that. I trust you, I.. I love you.”
“Yes. Whatever comes our way, I am here right alongside you,” he said as he pulled me into his arms.
“I’m scared Ben.”
“I’m right here, I’m not going anywhere. I meant what I said to you that first night, I won’t hurt you.”
He kissed me, and in that moment as scared as I was, I believed him that everything was going to be okay.
The next day I went to the doctor’s office and had the test done that confirmed the pregnancy. She confirmed that the pregnancy was healthy. I drove back, in shock, still not completely comprehending that Ben’s child was growing inside me. I walked back into Ben’s house with my prenatal vitamins, sonogram picture and a look complete shock on my face. The kids were playing outside when I came in and I was grateful, so I could talk to Ben, without our kids knowing what was happening.
“Is the baby healthy? Are you healthy?”
“So far so good, it’s early, only eight weeks, but everything looks healthy for both of us.”
“That is good news, I know this wasn’t planned for either of us, but I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather have a baby with. You are an excellent mother. These past few months living together, have been wonderful. You’ve been like a light that has been turned on in my life and Bella’s, I love you and this will all be okay.
That night I sat on the couch while Ben cooked dinner and looked after the kids, I was too nauseated to be anywhere near the kitchen. After they were asleep, we laid in Ben’s bed curled up and talked about what the future would look like. I wanted the baby, and I was relieved that Ben felt the same way too.
“Your move here could be permanent if you wanted,” he said.
“How are we going to do this? How does this work?”
“Well,” he paused, “How does this sound? You can move in here, and then later this summer I am going to marry you, that is if you’ll have me, and after that, we’ll live happily ever after.”
“Wait did you just ask me to marry you?”
“Yes. I decided this morning, that no matter what you came back from the doctor and said, that I was going to ask you to marry me. You’re my best friend, we share so much history. Bella adores you, and you’re an incredible mother to Milo. I want you in my life for my whole life, and Bella’s life too, if you’ll have us.”
I couldn’t help but cry, “yes,” I blubbered, “I want to marry you too.”