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Once a Snoop…

They say once a cheater, always a cheater, but I posit that once a snoop, always a snoop. And you should be a snoop, too. A person with nothing to hide is the loyal kind of person. Anyone who is offended with even the smallest invasion of privacy is suspect.

Diego was still reading Sansara’s blog when she came back with a mug full of coffee. Two, actually. One was for him. He swiveled the office chair her direction and accepted the cup of java gratefully, wondering if she felt anything about the fact that he was still reading her diary. An hour must have passed by now and he found himself sucked into her words, craving to know all the details.

“Find anything juicy yet, honey?” she asked. He looked over his shoulder at her to see her smirking, full well knowing he was reading trauma after trauma. Her diary was the definition of juicy in this metaphor. He shook his head at her, smiling in both admiration and disbelief.

“I don’t know what to say about what I’ve read yet, but I know for certain that I hate Ben already. I’m shooting him on sight if I ever see him again on our doorstep,” he declared resolutely. “He knows you have a restraining order, and I warned him I am armed and dangerous. He will have no excuse.”

“The hatred part sounds like a waste of energy, but you should feel free to burn your calories however you wish to,” she replied. She slurped a little bit while she sipped from her mug. She always did that when it was too hot to gulp down the whole mug at once. He figured that sound would grate on his nerves someday, but today wasn’t that day. He’d have to get over it when the time came. She was so calm and collected, yet he was reading all how she was completely disassociated during each sexual encounter and raped.

He’d expected to find a million different things when he sat down at her laptop, but never her diary. Not so soon, not the day after they consummated their relationship. She hadn’t written anything about him in it from what he’d read so far. He wondered if she had more than one diary. This one was full of all the wrongs that had been dealt to her over time.

“Are you hungry, hoss?” she asked him. “The laptop can, like, go to the kitchen,” she told him, mocking all valley girls everywhere with a pretend hair flip. Her hair was too short to actually flip, though, which is why it was pretend. It took him a few instances before he figured out what the head toss was for. It was so… retro. It was just like her. Talking to her was like listening to forty years of pop culture in a grab bag. Perhaps even fifty years. He wasn’t familiar with ’70s pop culture to be certain if she referenced it or not. She mocked valley girl speech once a day, he thought. Perhaps it was slightly less frequently than that, but he could hardly remember a day passing where she didn’t give in to it.

He nodded in agreement and unplugged the laptop from the charger, picking it up with both hands. He stood there, waiting for her to lead the way, but she pointed next to the desk he’d just been sitting at. When he looked where she indicated, he saw a sizable white metal serving tray. The perfect size for moving the laptop along with the external mouse or keyboard she had plugged into it.

She thought of everything, it seemed. He glanced around her bedroom on the way out. She made her bed while he wasn’t paying attention. He noted again that the bedroom wasn’t cluttered, though he’d sort of expected it to be due to the fact the rest of the house was incredibly neat and tidy. He thought the immaculate cleanliness was for show, but it extended everywhere, it seemed. Additionally, not one part of the house was cluttered. It was not quite minimalist, either. It was something between hotel chic and personalized paradise. There was loads of room for him to express himself alongside her, he thought.

“Do you mind if I get nosy all over the place?” he asked as he followed her downstairs. She was taking it slowly, like her hip might be bothering her again. He made a note to do something about that later. Reiki was great for pain management but it wasn’t a permanent solution for what ailed the body.

“Nope,” she said. “I’ll just do my shadow work while you do that, if you don’t mind. I still have a lot to do…” she trailed off, pausing on the steps. He paused behind her when it became apparent she wasn’t going to keep descending. Diego waited patiently. She was carrying his mug of coffee along with her own.

She sighed heavily and then resumed the trek to the kitchen. He found out why she paused on the stairs once they reached the kitchen: she was now wearing some of his coffee. “Did it burn you?” he asked, setting down the tray and getting some paper towels to help her blot it.

She shook her head from side to side, sighing again as she took a seat at the kitchen table. She put her head in her hands and started to cry while he was still en route from the paper towel dispenser. He knelt down beside her, resting a hand on her knee. He wasn’t surprised she was completely upset, considering what he’d just read in her diary.

He waited beside her, listening mode engaged. If she was like any other woman he’d dated, she would eventually offer an explanation. He wished she would throw her arms around him and bury her face against his chest and just let it all go, but she just sat still aside from her shoulders shaking with each soft sound wrenched from her. Her sobs weren’t particularly loud, he thought. It was like she was a dignified lady through and through. She never lost control, even when she cried.

He got impatient waiting for her to seek comfort from him. Instead, he rose to his feet and moved behind her chair. His hands rested on her shoulders lightly and he waited to be sure the touch was welcome. She melted with his touch and he began to caress her back, shoulders, and neck. Her sobs subsided quickly and she leaned back into his rubs. She had an incredible amount of tension in her shoulders that seemed to evaporate the longer he touched her.

He wondered if he was going to have to invite her to lean on him when she was feeling emotional. His mind wandered to the feel of her silky smooth kimono robe beneath his hands. It was incredibly pleasant. In fact, everything she’d worn around him so far that he’d touched was soft and smooth.

“Diego, what are you hoping to find in here anyway?” she asked, picking up a paper towel he’d brought over to dab at the coffee spill. “Also, I should pay you to do this for eternity.”

He leaned forward and spoke softly into her ear. She could hear him smiling, she thought. He’d smiled at the word eternity because that sounded like she’d want him around forever. He hoped it would last for eternity, really; it’s all he ever wanted, even with Cheryl. “I’ll gladly do it for free,” he told her.

She looked at him, finally. Her eyes were red rimmed and her eyelashes were spiked from the tears. Her face was a little more red than normal, too. Despite all that, she looked curious. She certainly had a note of sadness about her, but she didn’t seem to be consumed by it.

“Yes, I’ll do it for free,” he reiterated, knowing she wanted reassured. He’d grown accustomed to that look over the time he’d gotten to know her. She was always doubtful when it came to reassurances, like they were sweet nothings that would always stay nothing.

Her eyelashes fluttered at him and he wondered how often that was going to happen now. In the past twenty four hours, it’d happened more times than it had in four months previously. She was devastatingly coquettish without even trying, it seemed. It wasn’t what he’d expected when he decided to commit to the woman. He decided he was just going to have to get to know the other side of Crystal. There still wasn’t anything he didn’t like as of yet.

“Thank you. But I mean it, what do you think you’ll find around the house? What do you want to know? I can just tell you. Especially if you’re looking for all my sex toys,” she said, looking impish suddenly. He laughed just then, since sex toys had not crossed his mind at all.

He shook his head at her. “No, I don’t give a damn about any toys… I just want to get to know you and the way you set up the whole place… but I’ve been meaning to ask… how come you don’t use your studio to paint? I haven’t seen you in there once and I sometimes take a look at your paintings to see if they change, but they haven’t. Is it artist’s block?”

She was smiling as she shook her head at him. “No… there are many reasons… The first is that I don’t want to disturb you. Your room is there, I don’t often stay on the second floor aside from cleaning and using the bathroom. Another is that I used to paint with someone I thought was my friend. I became disabused of that notion one night when he decided to hit on me. I like having company when I do things, even cleaning, honestly… and finally, I don’t have a friend to do it with right now.”

He blinked several times. He’d been wanting to paint in her studio all this time. He opened his mouth, then closed it again, then spoke. “I’d love to paint with you. I saw there are two easels, but it didn’t dawn on me that you didn’t use both. I thought you just worked on two projects at once.”

Her eyes went wide as she stared at him. “Take me to bed again. Get out of town! WHAT?!” she exclaimed. He laughed, realizing her thoughts came out backwards again. She was the only person he’d ever known who ever spoke like the sheriff from Robin Hood: Men in Tights. The moment her face started to fall — she must have misinterpreted his laughter — he kissed her.

“No pouting, lovely woman,” he admonished playfully. “I’ll take you to bed later. You’re going to have to wait until after breakfast, at the very least,” he told her, taking one of her hands to pull her out of her chair. “What did you have in mind for breakfast?”

“I could make doughnut waffles and you can decide what goes with them,” she replied as she stood up to join him. He beamed at her. He loved those waffles, especially since they were good for you. Better than normal waffles, anyway.

“I love those things,” he told her as she set about dumping the ingredients into her blender from memory. She obviously had made this recipe hundreds of times.

“They’re real easy to make, babe. One cup of rolled oats, one half cup of water, one third cup of avocado oil, and half a cup of tahini,” she said, half of those ingredients already in the Ninja blender on the counter. He smiled, then turned to find the rest of breakfast for the two of them. Her waffles were amazing on their own, but once you added some maple syrup and a pat of butter, they were over the top doughnut heaven.

He found turkey breakfast sausages and decided to fry up a few eggs. By the time he had those two things ready to go, she had four waffles ready to go. He thought that was too many, but noticed she only put one on her plate. His mind was wandering to having sex with her all over the kitchen in a variety of positions while they made and ate breakfast in relative silence.

He decided to seek out her foot with his own under the table. She shot her head up to look at him at the contact, breaking her focus on her food. Whenever a plate of food was in front of her, she devoured it with the kind of diligence people would kill to have focused on them, he thought.

He gave her a lop-sided grin. “Love you,” he said, sliding a hand across the table to offer it to her. She stared at his hand for a while, like it was a viper ready to strike. She relaxed after several tense moments, tentatively putting her free hand into his.

“I’m sorry… that triggered me,” she admitted. She didn’t tell him she loved him in return, which bothered him, but he reminded himself that she had to be ready to say it or it was no good anyway. “I don’t like that it triggered me.”

He squeezed her hand, wondering exactly which part of what happened was the trigger. The hand holding? His arm on the table? Telling her that he loved her? He decided to ask, “Er… which part triggered you, dear? I can try to avoid doing it in the future.”

“Absolutely not!” she replied, looking at him with a fierce expression. “I’m not going to ask you to be someone you’re not for my comfort!” Her vehemence was certainly unexpected. “I’m offended you’d even suggest changing yourself just because some ninny did some awful things to me that happened to be somewhat similar.” Her nose was in the air. Apparently, that was that.

He was nodding, smiling. He loved it when she got fierce, really. She was formidable, in a word, when she was fighting for what she believed in. Apparently, she believed in people being themselves… even if had a cost. “Okay, doll face,” he told her, not knowing how else he could respond.

She waved a forkful of waffle in the air to punctuate what she said next, “I will not have you contort this way and that to be someone you’re not to fit around all my rips, tears, and stains. I am a well-used canvas that can be repaired with the right efforts and used anew. I’d suggest a landscape.”

“You’re too far away to kiss, you know that?” he said idly, still grinning as the waffle made it into her mouth. She didn’t bother to reply, chewing away as she studied him. He wanted to do more than kiss her, he thought. He’d already finished his breakfast and was waiting for her to finish. She was a much slower eater than he was. She gave him a single nod.

“So what do you want to do today besides snoop ’round the house?” she asked him. He couldn’t help but smile… he was thinking she’d stay aloof and completely unavailable.

“I have to go by Mike’s to get my things so I can move back in, unless that wasn’t part of the deal?” he asked her to make sure.

“It is, Damien,” she said. “I want all of you. Forever. Right here.” Damien was the third name he’d given her. He went by it in French class, originally. He was using it with her as another means of intimacy, overall, though he hadn’t told her that much. He’d asked her to call him a variety of names that began with D, ultimately, and she used them whenever she felt like. Occasionally, she gave him a new one, too, like David. He’d given her his given name, Diego, and then Daniel and Damien. He wasn’t really sure what she thought about it, honestly…

That thought prompted him to ask her. “What do you think about all the names I’ve given you?”

“I think you want to avoid me being attached to you,” she replied point blank. She didn’t even pause to think about it, like she knew that question was coming. He gulped, considering that was the opposite of his goal.

“Er, well… it was supposed to do the opposite,” he declared.

“You should know that the true name of an object, person, or animal has a frequency that engages the brain in a specific way when it is heard,” she replied. “I refuse to tell my true name to anyone and I don’t mind that you refuse to choose a true name, but understand you are shorting yourself from experiencing nirvana by failing to choose one.”

He found himself shaking his head. Nirvana? She’d never mentioned anything remotely religious once in the entire time he’d known her. “Do you believe in reincarnation?”

“No, not really. I do believe in zen, though. I achieve it as often as possible,” she replied. She offered him a second round of coffee, which he accepted with a nod.

“What do you mean by zen?” he asked, skeptical. He wasn’t sure he’d like to know anything else about this part of her. At least, not yet.

“A state of mind you achieve by existing in the moment with peace in your heart and your head.”

He was staring at her with a mix of curiousity and surprise. He expected some neo-hippie explanation involving karma or something else he didn’t believe in. He expected his own Christian beliefs to be heavily challenged and perhaps negated, but that was not the case at all.

“You do know the traditional concept of Nirvana is that it’s a place you go to be reborn from, right?” he asked her mildly, trying to figure out her angle, her perspective.

“Only if you read poorly translated Hindu texts. It is to be free of suffering, that is the literal translation. More specifically, it’s a profound peace of mind acquired from liberation from pain and suffering via spiritual practices I can’t even pronounce,” she told him matter-of-factly. “Only idiots who read mistranslated texts from the 90s still believe nirvana is a literal place to go to. And you, of course,” she said with a wink. “I don’t think you’re an idiot for being ignorant of the new information of present day translations, I just happen to talk to Hindus about their religion all the time. I’m not fully convinced that you have to be religious to affiliate as Hindu.”

He stared at her. He found himself shaking his head back and forth as he kept staring. This didn’t sound at all like what he knew about nirvana. He remembered reading that it was a place, like heaven. He couldn’t remember when or where he’d read that, but that’s what he had read. He was certain of it.

“Look it up yourself, then,” she said, standing and rinsing her dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. “You don’t have to believe me, but I do actually know what I’m talking about, for once.” Her voice was thick as she spoke and he saw a tear fall into the dishwasher. “I’m tired of being invalidated, you should work on that,” she declared dismissively and just as he moved to take care of his own dishes, she was gone. She left him there in the kitchen.

I’m tired of being invalidated. You should work on that. That was extremely forward, he thought. He thought about chasing after her, but reminded himself he needed to move back in. He was grateful he’d left some clothes in his car and his cell phone and keys next to the front door. He saw two keys next to his key ring, lined up in a way that caught his eye. She really was on top of things.

He was relieved to see the keys, honestly. She ran hot and cold often, it would seem. He shot her a text message, “Be back in a bit with all my things. Love you.” He’d given up on her replying, so he went into the garage and changed next to his car. He looked around the garage, thinking about how he’d like to have her on the hood of her car right now without clothes on. He sighed at himself and shook his head. It was going to be a while, he thought, until he tried to take her to bed again.

There were too many things going on and her diary was prying his brain open and seeping in. He found he remembered every detail he’d read somehow. He wanted to read everything she’d ever written before taking her back to bed, though he had no idea how much she’d written so that may well be impossible.

He saw he had a Discord message waiting for him. He opened the app and saw “I love you, too.” Her message put a smile back on his face. I guess that’s a subtle hint that she’d prefer Discord, he thought.

He jumped in his SUV and hit the road.

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