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The Heart Has a Memory of its Own

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The lights of the streetlamps are pinpricks of white in the night, flecks of snow streaking across them like tiny little fireflies out of place in the dead of winter. The characteristic soft glow of the fallen snow feels so real—so visceral, that for a moment, Anne swears she’s living this memory all over again. But something about the way Mariana’s eyes never come into focus, and the muted crunch of snow under Argus’ paws give away the dream. 

Why is she back here? Why this moment?

In the far corners of her mind, Anne feels the pieces of this memory click into place, but the sweet nostalgia of this moment is now bittered by the loss of the last few months. 

“Anne, baby—” Mariana’s voice is too distant, distorted into a faint whisper. “—quickly, come in!” She holds the door open for Anne as Argus trots happily back into the house, eager to escape the cold Iowa winter.

Her body moves in the dream, like it never forgot what it was like to be back in this memory. Warm, moist air greets her as she steps over the threshold and back into her house. It’s strikingly familiar, with all its dark shapes, soft textures, and handsome antique charm, but just different enough to remind her of everything she’s lost when Mariana left.

Argus shakes in front of the fire that’s already going strong, droplets of moisture landing on the logs and causing a hiss as they evaporate to steam. She watches Mariana kneel down in front of Argus to take her boots off and dry them by the fire, but she stops when human eyes meet canine. Argus is still young—barely a year old, but huge like an ox. They’re both still, starting into each other eyes, and Mariana’s face slowly splits into a loving smile.

“You’re such a good puppy,” she brings her hand up to cup Argus’s chin, scritching it in the process. The hound sniffs it a little and melts imperceptibly into her hand. There’s a look of such adoration, such love and tender connection between the two of them, that it takes Anne’s breath away.

Anne suddenly remembers why she’s back here—and the significance of this moment hits her in the gut: This is the moment that she first realized she really has everything: a wife, a handsome dog, and a beautiful home. She will go on to build a life with Mariana, make a name for herself, but in this moment, she’s poised on the precipice of greatness, and she remembers feeling complete. Her heart breaks a little as she lives this moment again, aching for the woman she was all those years ago, and mourning a feeling that passed many years ago. 

Deciding that Mariana’s hand is no longer enough, Argus proceeds to push into her space, gradually lowering himself into a sitting position, awkwardly trying to maneuver all eighty pounds into her lap. Mariana’s laughter tinkles like little ornaments hanging on this memory, and she looks up at Anne, eyes bright with the sheer joy that Argus shines into her life. 

No longer content being an observer, Anne moves forward again, reaching out to rescue Mariana from sinking under the weight of the massive Irish Wolfhound. She pulls Mariana up from under Argus and he collapses unceremoniously into a pile of fur and limbs in front the fire. 

“Oh, Argus,” Anne berates, but the grin on her face betrays her delight at the dog’s antics. “In the way again!”

They both step over him and Mariana stumbles into her arms. Her teeth gleam in the dim light of the fire and she embraces Anne, clutching her elbows and drawing her close. Warm breath puffs on Anne’s lips and she watches as shadows dance across her wife’s strikingly beautiful features. 

“Mmm…” She feels Mariana trace her jaw with her fingers and an odd feeling creeps into her chest. The action is all too familiar—done a thousand times before—but stuck in a time that no longer feels real. This Anne is now changed with the heartache of her failed marriage, and this Mariana is now bitter with the wounds that they’re inflicted on one another. 

“This is nice, isn’t it?” Mariana’s voice is light and airy, reminiscent of a time when they still believed they could have it all with each other. Anne nods her head in the dream, like following the moves to a dance she hasn’t forgotten the steps to.

They’ve started swaying to the sound of some imaginary music, Mariana bringing her arms up to wrap them behind Anne’s neck, a motion that’s so intimate, yet done casually so many times. The look on Mariana’s face tells her that she knows Anne is hers—she needs no permission to lay her hands on her, to bring their faces closer together, to lean up into Anne’s tall frame and close the distance between their lips. 

The kiss blinks by in the dream like it never happened. The next moment, they’re pulling apart and staring into the flames like they could find the answer to all their questions in it. They’re still swaying together nonchalantly, and Mariana is speaking, the words slipping by before Anne can catch it. But she doesn’t need to hear it again to remember what was said in this moment, because the weight of it is forever etched in her heart: “This is perfect, Anne. This feels like home.”

Even in the moment when it happened, Anne knows that something inside her was splintering from those words, and in the dream, she feels the shards of the splinters poking through the back of her mind. She says the words—lips moving like they know what they’re supposed to say, but it’s all wrong, and doesn’t feel right: “I am home with you, Mary. Come here—”

She turns her wife around and pulls her back into her arms, her chest pressing into the back of the stunningly beautiful brunette, the sweet smell of her hair tickling her nose is a reminder of what it felt like to be close with another human being. Standing in this moment, Anne realizes that Mariana had wound her way through every aspect of her life. Their lives had become so intricately connected and dependent on another—no other human ever knew so much about her, and probably ever will.

The dream starts pulling apart at the seams as Anne comes to this realization. She can still feel Mariana’s soft curves pressed against her body, but the smell of her hair is a shadow on her senses, creating a void where it used to be the first thing she smelled when she woke up. Mariana is leaning back into Anne now, turning her head and speaking against her cheek, but the words make no sense, and Anne feels even more of the world blur into white. 

As strange as it seems to relive this memory now, Anne’s heart breaks a little as the warmth of her wife’s body slowly dissipates. Drumming around in her head as the dream fades is the sweet ache of missing someone who was always there—someone she built a life with—someone who knew her—intimately. 

Even as the dream fades, Anne feels a soft warm body pressed against her front, and for a fraction of a second, she thinks her brain is playing tricks on her. It’s not until she feels soft curls of hair brushing against her nose that she realizes it’s not Mariana from her dream that she’s holding. It’s sweet Ann Walker – with her hair smelling of lilies and soap and everything that Mariana is not. In the twilight space between dream and reality, the two women blur together and Anne blinks away tears that burn in her eyes at the abruptness of the dream ending. 

There’s a lump forming in her throat, the fog of sleep making it hard to process what just happened. But she barely gets a chance to blink awake when she feels the woman in her arms slowly shift closer to her, and she hears her sigh into her pillow.

Anne blinks a few times, adjusting to the darkness of the room. Based on the amber light peeking in through the window blinds, she estimates that evening is quickly approaching, most of the day already gone while they slumbered.

Ann moves again against her body, smooth, soft skin sliding against her, making Anne involuntarily jerk her hips forward to press into the round of her bottom. The pressure causes Ann to let out a heavy breath, soft sigh turning into a low moan. They’re both still caught in the space between sleep and waking, but their bodies move together sensually on their own, unable to deny themselves the sweet sensation of being together.

Anne’s eyes flutter shut at the feeling of Ann’s hips bucking against her own, and her hand trails down the younger woman’s side, marveling at the soft curves meeting her under the sheets. When she reaches her hips, Ann lets out another soft moan, but this time, her pelvis angles upwards, like they’re searching for contact from her fingers, craving her touch. 

Their eyes still haven’t met, but their breaths are picking up speed as they rock their bodies against one another, trying to get friction to relieve the fast-growing ache between their legs. As Anne presses her body closer to the younger woman, she’s amazed by how much she still wants her. She lets out a short breath, amused by how insatiable the both of them are, but her breath turns into a sigh when she feels Ann reach around to grab her by the waist, pulling her closer, encouraging her to grind into her with more force.

Anne lets out a guttural groan and starts bearing down on Ann’s ass cheeks with her pelvis. They’re both naked and sliding against one another, and the movements only create a dull sensation between her legs, but the pressure is enough to keep her going. She hears Ann cry out at the sudden force of her thrusts and her fists grasp at the sheets in response. 

Her hand is still wandering down Ann’s hips, grasping and pinching as they rub against one another. She feels Ann shake with desire, their movements not enough to release the tension steadily building between her legs. Anne props herself up on one elbow to whisper down into her ear in the dark. 

“Ann, baby, do you want me?” From her position over Ann, she can see the outline of the younger woman biting her lip and clenching her eyes shut at the overwhelming pleasure. She bites her lip harder as she nods vigorously, trusting that Anne will give her what she desires without needing to look at her.

The closeness of the other woman and the intimacy of the moment overrides any hesitation that Anne might have had in taking her again for the third time that same day. She starts slowly trailing her hand down the shallow dip of Ann’s hip, tracing the soft skin that leads down to the patch of lightly trimmed golden curls already radiating heat. Just as her fingers start to move over the source of the heat, she pauses and she feels Ann take in a sharp breath and wait in anticipation. 

Her heart thuds in her chest when she sees how much Ann wants her touch. She’s taken off guard by how profound the moment feels to her. Ann wants her. No one else. And she’s practically shaking with desire as she presses her into the bed. It’s intoxicating, and Anne can’t help but revel in the sweetness of the wait. 

Almost as if she could hear her thoughts, Ann squeezes her waist even tighter, pressing back against her body and letting out a quiet whine at the anticipation, “Anne…”

Deciding she’s been tortured enough, Anne finally reaches down with her middle finger to dip into the liquid heat between her lips. It’s impossibly slick and wet, and it makes both of them moan at the same time. She’s surprised by how hard her clit already feels as she massages the swollen nub with her one finger. 

Ann’s breathing picks up and her body shakes with arousal. More wetness flows around Anne’s finger as she continues her ministrations, and the slick sound of flesh rubbing over swollen flesh mingles with their gasped breaths. 

“You’re so wet, Ann…” Her lips brush against Ann’s ear as she whispers the hot words in the dark. “You’ve just been waiting for me, haven’t you, baby?” 

“Nngh—” Ann tries to speak but all that comes out is a strangled groan as Anne’s finger picks up speed against her clit. Both their bodies are heating up, moving against one another in pursuit of a shared ecstasy. 

Anne bends down again to whisper hotly into Ann’s ear as she feels her abdomen tense up with her oncoming release. Red hot desire flashes behind her eyelids as they slide shut from the intensity of the sensation, and behind them are traces of a world she dreamed not too long ago. Anne means to say something erotic to push her over the edge, but instead, other words slip out past her lips and blow against the tendrils of Ann’s hairline. 

“I am home with you, Ann.” The familiar words once spoken to someone else take on a life of their own and Anne instantly feels a pit of regret grow in her stomach. She’s waiting for Ann to freeze and push her away, but instead, the younger woman grinds even harder against her body. 

Oh my God, Anne!” Her voice is broken and shaky and her orgasm rips through her body at breakneck speed. Anne can feel the telltale twitching and pulsing of her clit as wave after wave of pleasure race up and down her spine. She holds her close through her release, even as her mind grapples with the words she just let slip. The sharp gasps of breath and the way her body moves when she comes is striking, and even through all the emotional clutter in her mind, Anne knows she’s never loved something so beautiful in her life. 

Anne feels the tension leave the other woman’s body even as she still trembles from the aftershocks of her orgasm. She should feel good, content—proud, even. But the tears burn in her eyes before she can stop herself, and suddenly, there’s a wave of sadness washing over, crowding everything else out. She’s momentarily crippled by the pain of losing the life she used to have, and it feels cruel that she should miss a life with someone she doesn’t want any more.

She feels Ann turn around in her arms and tries to look away but is too slow. The flash of wet tracks down her face are unmistakable. 

“Anne?” The younger woman’s voice is shaky but it’s tinged with concern. Ann shifts closer, instinctively reaching out to pull back her tear-stained face to hers.

“It’s—”Anne is speechless. All at once, she’s overcome with the urge to bury her face into Ann to seek comfort, but to also hide herself away from the world until her vulnerability passes. 

“What?” Ann’s warm hand caresses her cheek, guiding her back to look at her.

Anne doesn’t resist, fighting the urge to flee. “Nothing,” she mutters out.

Settling for wiping her tears away—with an almost violent vigor—Anne flashes her eyes up to meet Ann’s in the dark, body ready to spring up from the bed at the slightest indication of rejection. But instead, she meets warm orbs of blue radiating with tenderness. Anne is blown away by the sheer amount of care and adoration she sees in them that she forgets to finish wiping her tears away.

“It’s okay, come here.” She feels the other woman bring her into her arms. The thudding of Ann’s heart can be heard through her chest as she rests her head against the warm flesh. Her hot tears stain the spot right between Ann’s breast, and the wet pools on her skin before sliding off onto the bed.

Ann shifts to look down at her between her arms. “Tell me what’s wrong.” It’s not a question. It’s not even a request. It’s almost like Ann knows what will happen next, and she’s willing to wait to hear it.

Anne takes in a shaky breath, mind trying to work out what exactly is wrong after all. Pieces of her heart that were drifting about—floating through the uncertainty—are starting to come together, and the story they’re trying to tell hurts just the same.  

“I understand—” Anne swallows, clearing her throat of the tears. “—that I did this to myself.” She vaguely motions to their surroundings, as if to refer to the house and all the memories it contains. 

“It was my decision to—” She swallows again, struggling to say the word. “—to get a divorce.” 

Ah,” Ann slightly nods, finally catching up.

Anne squeezes her eyes shut as she continues speaking, trying to brace herself against the tide of difficult emotions coming up. “And yet… everyday—” Her voice breaks. 

Ann holds her even closer, encouraging her to continue.

“—everyday,” Anne tries again, voice steadier this time. “I need to face the reality that the life I lived… the family I had… it’s over.” 

Anne can’t help but sniffle as she continues, the words now coming out easier than she thought possible, almost like they were waiting for the right time—the right person—to find a home with. 

“It’s just that what I had… should have been good enough. It was almost good enough. I had almost everything I wanted. A home, a family, a great career… a place I belonged. It’s everything I’ve been working for… for almost twenty years now.” 

Ann’s hand is absently stroking her hair as she struggles to maintain her composure, but the truth of her words strikes something deep in Anne that aches in a way she’d never experienced before. 

“I try to tell myself that I did the right thing—to rise above it. I think this would have happened at some point, anyway. Ultimately, we’re better off for it. But—” Her voice breaks again as more tears blur her vision and spill down onto the bed. 

There’s a sharp pain that cuts at her heart as memories flash through her mind. She almost had it all. The life she longed for was a hair’s breadth away from becoming hers. It was next to perfect. Except that it was with the wrong person. 

I came so close…” Anne finally sobs out, clutching to Ann even tighter as the realization hits her. The tears are flowing freely now, but she’s too far gone to stop herself. In the back of her mind, she recognizes that it is unfair to unload her guilt about her failed marriage onto Ann, but this is the closest she’s felt to any single person in a long time and her feelings are tumbling out unchecked. 

“Oh, Anne,” The younger woman is holding her tight now, almost like she’s afraid she’ll fly away. She can feel Ann’s own tears fall on her, making hot tracks down her forehead.

“I feel like,” Anne takes a deep breath, trying to put words to how she feels. “I’ve never quite fit right in this world. And all my life… I’ve just been trying to make myself fit… but every time I try, a little bit of me breaks a little.” 

She’s openly sobbing now, the broken pieces cutting her from the inside. She feels a pull downward into despair and darkness, but before she can give in, she feels Ann shift again, this time she’s tilting her chin up to meet her eyes. There’s a firmness in her touch and gaze that surprises Anne.

“You’re not broken, Anne.” Ann’s voice is low but fiery. “And your life isn’t over. You can still have it all.”

The younger woman pulls her body closer so that they’re pressed against one another, their limbs tangling together, hearts beating as one. 

“You don’t need to change yourself to fit in the world. You already fit me perfectly.”  Ann nudges her hips into Anne’s to emphasize her point. 

Her words are so perfect—full of so much clarity—that it’s all Anne can do to hold on to her while the tears continue to flow. Exhaustion is once again creeping up on her as Ann’s warm embrace envelops her, shutting out the rest of the world. 

“Shh…” Ann whispers against her forehead, and she suddenly realizes that the waves of pain coursing through her body are coming out as loud sobs. 

“The past cannot hurt you, Anne.” Her voice is soft, full of promise. “Let me love you.” 

Anne feels her body obey, melting into the woman holding her together. She can’t remember the last time she’s fallen apart in front of someone else like this. 

But in Ann Walker’s arms, she doesn’t care. In Ann Walker’s arms, she’s the woman she’s meant to be. All the heartache and pain can’t compare to the way she feels more like herself when she’s with this exceptional woman. Maybe she hadn’t exactly planned on saying those words in the heat of the moment, but she now realizes that she meant every word of it: 

She is home with Ann Walker.