Zoe didn't know which hurt worse--the desperate need to be touched, or being touched itself. Dr. Madison was helping her work it out. Trying to convince her that the pain was mental, not physical. All he'd managed to convince Zoe of so far was that SHE was mental. Not that THAT took much convincing.
Ever since the fire and losing her daddy, the horrendously painful skin grafts, and year-long healing process, she'd been waiting for the old Zoe to make a reappearance. It had been one l-o-n-g year. She knew she wasn't 'right,' and Dr. M's suggestion of 'mental' sounded right on.
He never came out and SAID that she was mental, of course. Just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo head-shrinker talk about psycho semantics, but she knew what he was getting at.
She was mental.
So when Tristan walked into her life, you can understand why she was a bit paranoid. First off, he was gorgeous, and Zoe felt that 'need' to be touched again--but different this time. It was more than physical. Second off, the first thing he did was reach out to touch her.
Her mom had invited him to dinner. Zoe knew it was a hook-up--even though her mom had told her it was so 'the new neighbor boy could meet kids his own age.'
'Kids.' Whatever. I think with all I've been through, I hardly qualify as a kid anymore. So when the doorbell rang at 6:00, and her mom and little brothers were (conveniently) nowhere to be found, she was on her guard.
The vision that greeted her was nothing like the pimply-faced geek Zoe had been expecting. He offered his hand, and she hated the hurt she saw in his big green eyes when she gasped and shrank back--and she hated herself for her automatic reaction. But she couldn't help it--it was automatic.
Zoe mentally (ha ha) rehearsed and practiced the exercises Dr. M had been helping her with. For the first time, she actually had the desire to. A deep breath; pull out a memory of a time when being touched didn't used to hurt and was connected with good feelings; focus on that and not her fear; another deep breath. Relax.
Zoe opened her eyes, and was embarrassed to realize she had shut them. Tristan was still standing there, gaping at her, more confused-looking now than hurt, and she wanted to die. She pushed her hair behind her ear, and mincingly offered her shaking hand.
Obviously Tristan was no dummy. He didn't grab her hand, but met her halfway, matching her speed, waiting for her make first contact.
This was an approach Zoe was definitely NOT familiar with, and she didn't know what to do. So she did Dr. M's exercise again (quickly), and added an exercise of her own (actually one of her Grammy's) and said a prayer.
Then she slid her palm under his, wincing involuntarily but not pulling back.
The lack of burning pain startled her and she almost collapsed. A dream. This must be a dream.
Again, Tristan held back and let Zoe make the next move.
Zoe dropped her hand and stepped aside. "Come on in. Everyone's in the kitchen."
Lord, what IS this? And I'm not just SAYING the word "lord" this time. I'm really talking to you. And, WOW, I think you're really listening.
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