Millie opened her eyes slowly to the soft filtered morning light passing through the bedroom curtains. Already Kimball was awake, lying next to her, gazing at her face with an innocent and joyous reverence. She smiled softly, her eyes drooping, under the warm duvet naked, half awake. Her smile and her languid stretching conveyed a voluptuous and vulnerable joy as she remembered the night before, waking to find it was more than just a delicious dream. Even with her unkempt hair, without makeup the wrinkles around her eyes clearly visible, even still she was radiant, maybe not despite but because.
Smiling again to realize that Kimball was looking so intently at her, she said to him, her moist lips giving her slowly and softly spoken words a sensual and dreamy edge, “I don’t need you.”
“Oh?” Kimball sucked in his breath, completely taken aback by this unexpected pronouncement. “Oh,” he continued, quickly regaining his composure, quickly realizing that their momentous discovery of Ada’s sister had not brought some kind of closure to Millie’s obsessive mission and their romantic holding pattern, had not provided space for a transition to something more permanent. “Okay.”
He looked away, trying to hide his hurt and disappointment. Of course nothing had been promised. He had no right to expect anything more than what had been offered and what had been given thus far. And yet he had hoped for so much more, so very much more.
Millie’s eyes flew wide open as she immediately recognized that she had misspoken, that what was so obvious to her was not what her words conveyed.
“Shit! No! That’s not what I mean!”
“No, honest, it’s fine,” Kimball tried to head off any further discussion, which would surely only make him feel even more wretched.
“No.” She said. “Listen.” She reached to touch the cheek that he had turned away from her, pulled him back, forced him to look at her. “I don’t need you. I… I could survive on my own. If you left, I could find a way to be happy, and still love you, and want you to be happy, too, wherever you were. I think I could do that, and I can’t even begin to tell you how important that is to me. It’s everything. But the thing is, I want you. God, Kimball, I just really want you. It’s just… it’s so much better with you here. And I think that, without needing you, I think I can let myself have you, really have you. I mean, for as long as you’ll have me. If you’ll have me.”
The sudden shift as her words started to sink in left Kimball once again in a moment of confusion. He blinked several times and opened his mouth to speak, closed it again, unable to put together any words. He continued to look in Millie’s eyes, which for their part read hope, love, and concern. A few heartbeats later her words registered, and the tears of loss that Kimball was fighting back now welled in relief.
“Of course. Yes. Of course!” he forced a wet smile and kissed Millie clumsily and awkwardly and with too much force, their noses bumping together. They both laughed a short laugh, his in apology, hers in understanding. They looked in each other’s glistening eyes for quite some time, saying nothing.
“Lies es in meinen Augen…” murmured Millie, finally breaking the silence.