You look at me, both guilty and defiant.
I hold your gaze. I wait.
You are hurt and angry. You lift your chin. I know that look. You are considering your options. They are running through your mind like quicksilver, fast and light and slippery.
I don’t look away. I just wait while you run through the possible reactions in your head.
Your breathing is shallow while you fight for composure.
I can feel your flight response just below the surface. Your muscles tensing, ready to turn away from me and stride out of the room. I don’t have to look at your hands to know that they are balled up in fists against your thighs. The fingers clenching and unclenching, your short nails digging into your palms. I can see the same conflict in your face, the outline of your jaw coming into sharp relief as your teeth grind together and release over and again.
I watch your conflicted thoughts reflect across your expressive face. They are as clear to me as neon signs.
I wait for you to decide. It feels like we have been locked in this silence forever.
Finally you take a deep breath, your body relaxes, you dip your head, lower your eyes. They come to rest somewhere around my waist.
“Yes, Ma’am,” you say finally.
It is a quiet response, hard won, and I would normally ask you to repeat it a little louder, but this time I let the whisper go. I know this has not been easy for you.
I reach up, and with a gentle finger under your chin, I lift your face so that you can look at me. Your face rises under the instruction, but you can’t meet my gaze. Not yet. You are ashamed, still a little angry, still hurt.
I cup your face with one hand, my palm along your jaw, feeling the remaining tension there. My thumb caresses your cheek, my fingers curl strong against your neck. You lean your face into my hand, seeking reassurance. I give you everything in that caress. All the ‘It’s okay, sweetheart’s, the ‘You did well’s, the ‘I’m so proud of you’s, all the melty sweetness flows through my fingertips into you.
“Good boy,” I say.
You raise your eyes to mine, manage a weak smile. I tilt my head at you, a half-smile back.
I lean up to touch my lips gently to yours.
You reach for me like a parched man suddenly finding water. Pull me tight up against you quickly, suddenly, strong arms wrapping around me, fitting me into the hardness of your body like we always fit. You open your mouth to me, I instinctively enter, feel your fingers slide into my hair, I hold your head in the crook of my arm and we make reparations, desperately and greedily finding each other again.