Love Advice
by Judith Freudenthal
1996

Natalie was seated at her desk filling out the latest batch of paperwork while listening to the radio. A talk show was coming from the mini stereo on top of the file cabinet. The topic was love and sex. Natalie couldn't help grinning at how candid the host was and how it embarassed some of the callers.

Her mind wandered over the problems she and Nick had been having recently. Against her better judgement she picked up the phone and dialed the number she had just heard.

"Hello, you're on the air," said the interestingly accented female voice.

"Hi. I was wondering how do I get someone to open up and admit that he loves me. I know he does but he can't say those three little words. He's afraid to get too close." Natalie could not believe she was spilling her guts over the air like that.

"Could there be something in his past which keeps him from saying what you want to hear?"

"Yes, there is. I thought we had made progress in overcoming that."

"Have you told him how you feel?"

"Yes."

"Have you done it recently?"

"No. Our relationship has hit quite a few snags lately."

"Has he done any thoughtful little things for you?"

"Not recently."

"How do you feel about him?"

"I love him very much, even when I am so mad or frustrated at him I want to kill him."

"Why don't you come down to my office and we can talk more. Bring him if you can."

"Thanks."

Natalie hung up hoping that no one she knew heard her. Well, maybe if Nick heard her it might help.

 

That morning Natalie made an evening appointment explaining that Nick had a severe allergy to the sun and could not be out during the day. Now all she had to do was tell Nick and somehow get him to go with her. She was not looking forward to that part of the conversation.

 

She went over to Nick's around midafternoon knowing he was usually awake by then.

Nick heard the elevator door open and saw Natalie enter.

"Hi, Nat."

"Hi, Nick. I think we need to talk about our relationship. I think we need to talk to an outsider."

"Do you really think that is wise? What would you tell them?"

"I made us an appointment for later this evening. I'm hoping you'll go with me. Maybe she can find something we missed."

"I thought you didn't like shrinks."

"Generally I don't. I had the radio on last night and her show came on. She's an internationally known and very well respected sex therapist." Natalie gave Nick the therapists name and saw the shock on Nick's face, fighting to keep her small grin from showing.

"Natalie, you can't be serious."

"I am. Please come with me."

Nick could see how much this meant to her and did want their relationship to improve. Maybe the therapist could help.

 

They arrived on time for their appointment. Nick did not look happy to be there.

After all the paperwork had been filled out they were shown to the therapist.

Nick was surprised to see that she looked like someone's grandmother. She was short with white hair and glasses. There was a certain youthful vibrancy about her that seemed to radiate from her.

Introductions were exchanged and they were seated in nice comfortable chairs.

"Natalie, do you love Nick?"

"Yes."

"Nick, do you love Natalie?"

"Yes."

"I want you two to turn to each other and say those words."

"Nat, I love you." Nick said having a little trouble with the L word. The smile on Natalie's face made it all worthwhile.

"Nick, I love you." She enjoyed the pleased look on Nick's face as well as his smile.

They both knew they had a long way to go. Hints of sadness showed clearly in both their eyes.

"Before we go any further I need to know that whatever is said here will not be repeated to anyone. It cannot leave this office. Also I want no written or taped record."

"Natalie is that what you want?" The therapist asked.

"Yes."

"Okay. Than that's how it will be," The therapist said.

"Natalie, what is the biggest thing you fear from Nick? About Nick?"

"That he will leave without saying good-bye," she said without hesitation.

Her answer surprised Nick. He thought it would be that he would accidentally kill her in the heat of passion.

"I see you're surprised, Nick."

"I am. I had thought she would've said something else."

"Before we go on there is something I need to know. Were either of you abused?"

"Yes, by my grandmother when I was little," Natalie said.

"Yes, by my step-father," Nick said knowing he couldn't say master.

"Natalie, I suspect that yours left deeper scars. Ones that leave you afraid to get too close to anyone. You're afraid to get hurt again."

Natalie's expression answered those questions. Nick could see how she looked down at her hands and the floor.

"Nick, I see that to a lesser extent in you. You seem used to it, like it is still going on in a way. You are also afraid to get too close to anyone."

Nick was spooked at how accurate she was.

"Nick, what do you fear most from Natalie? About Natalie?"

Nick hesitated, unsure how to answer that. He wanted to be honest like Natalie had done, it was only fair. But, how could he tell the truth?

"I'm afraid I'll hurt her accidentally. I don't mean physically abuse her either."

He and Natalie exchanged a glance. Natalie's subtle nod told him that it was his choice.

"What I'm about to reveal to you, you can not tell another soul," Nick said.

The therapist could hear the seriousness in the tone.

"It will not leave this room. No one will know."

Nick looked down and then looked up fully vamped, startling the therapist.

"Oh my. I can see how this would make things difficult. I think we might be able to find someway to make things better. Natalie, are you what he is?"

"No. If I were there would be no problem."

"Nick, have you ever considered making her what you are?"

"I won't condemn her to this life. I can't."

"Nick, I'm a big girl. I can make my own decisions. I'm not saying that I want that at this moment. I don't know," Natalie said a little annoyed and frustrated.

"Nick, is there some other reason you won't consider it?" The therapist asked.

"Yes." Nick looked down at his hands and continued, "Nat, I've never told you why. The few times I tried I failed. You saw what happened with your own brother. The first time I tried was with Alyssa, my wife." Natalie was surprised. Nick continued, "I took too much and killed her. I was so in love with her and I killed her. LaCroix had not taught me how do it so I would be forced to stay close to him, and so he would not have to share my attention."

"Nick, I'm sorry. I didn't know. Well, I somewhat suspected that your failure with Richard was behind it. I'm not Richard. I do understand."

"What if there was some way you two could be intimate? I do believe that intercourse is out for at least the time being. How far has your attempts gone?"

"We haven't been able to do more than a short kiss," Nick said depressed. He still had trouble hearing such frank talk from a woman who looks like someone's sweet little old grandmother.

"Why?"

"I'm afraid of killing her. I'm afraid the beast will take over and I won't be able to stop it."

"There are other ways to express passion without kissing or intercourse. Natalie, what would you most like from Nick exluding intercourse or kissing?"

"I want to know that he will not leave without a goodbye. I would like him to be more considerate of my feelings. Sometimes he hurts them without realizing he's done it. I would like him to apologize when he does hurt my feelings. I want to know that I'm appreciated, that my efforts in our other project is appreciated. I want him to work harder with me in that effort or if he's lost interest to let me know. I can handle it. I would like him not to keep things from me that concern me, or us."

"Nick, can you do any of those things?"

"Yes. I will say goodbye somehow, if I'm ever forced to leave suddenly," Nick said knowing that was the hardest part, "I will try harder not to hurt your feelings and to appologize when I do. I do appreciate all your efforts and will try harder to let you know so. I will work with you more on our other project and let you know if I change my mind. I do have a few doubts, but I do still want to continue. I will try not to keep things from you."

"Nick, what do you want most from Natalie?"

"I want her to let me know when I've hurt her feelings. Sometimes I think I have but she insists that everything is fine. I can sometimes see the anger beneath the I'm fine. I want her to be able to turn to me when she needs someone to talk to. She tries to be so strong and tough. I want her to understand that what we're doing is very hard for me and sometimes I slip up. I try not to but it is not easy. I get frustrated when I do slip up and don't want to disappoint her."

"Natalie, can you do any of those things?"

"I will try to be more understanding when you slip up or backslide. I know it is not easy. I will try not to lie about my feelings. I will try to let you in when I need a shoulder to cry on."

"Simple things like caressing a cheek, leaving one's favorite food on their desk or even just holding hands can say so much. I want you two to find ways to express your feelings without kissing or intercourse. Don't be afraid to take it slowly. You both need to deal with the baggage you're carrying around. That is probably doing more damage to your relationship than anything else."

The therapist saw them both looking at the ground and continued. "Nick, you need to deal with the guilt over your past. You did what you had to do to survive. Not everything is your fault. You both need to remember that you are worthy of being loved. I want to see you back here next week at this time."

 

Nick and Natalie went back to his loft.

"Natalie, we do need to talk. She was right. I'm glad you convinced me to go."

"I'm glad you came. We do need to talk."

"I have loved you from very early on. I loved your intelligence, curiousity and seeming lack of fear. Despite the danger to yourself you wanted to help me. You've always seen the good in me, even when I couldn't see it in myself. I was and to some extent still am afraid of hurting you, of driving you away. I don't know what I would do if that happened." His hand gently caressed the side of her face.

"I have also loved you from near the beginning. You had a dangerous charm. My dark side was drawn to you as was the side that loved a challenge. I could tell that you were not evil, just trapped in a bad situation. I think you would see the good in yourself if you would lose that guilt. You only did what you had to do to survive. I'm afraid that I'm not good enough for you. That you'll discover this and leave me. I don't want to think about that, I don't think I could handle it." She took his free hand in hers as she spoke. "You could never drive me away."

"I will never leave you."

They felt desires come over them that they had feared. This time they were ready to face them.

Nick gently ran his fingertips down the side of her face, tracing the outline of her lips. She ran her hand through his soft blonde hair before reaching for the buttons on his shirt.

They helped the other out of their shirts, slowly running their hands across the exposed skin of their partner. Natalie felt the cool yet soft skin under her hands while Nick felt her warmer and smooth skin under his touch. She removed her bra so exposing more of herself to his magic touch. They carefully and gently explored by hand every inch of exposed upper body, making sure to stay clear of the neck.

Neither could believe how stimulating and pleasurable such a simple act was.

Before she knew it he swept her up in his arms and carried her upstairs to the bedroom.

the end

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