Together We Heal by Chelsea M. Cameron

  I’d been here with her when she shopped for Lottie. It had sucked then and it sucked now. No sooner were we through the door than a perky saleswoman came right up to us, tape measure around her neck.

  “Can I help you ladies find anything today?” He voice was like sugar in my ears. Gross. Way too sweet.

  “Yes, she needs to be measured and then we’d like to find a few bras and panties,” Katie said on my behalf.

  “I, what?” I said as she shoved me toward the changing room.

  “I spent my morning hunched over a toilet. This is the bright spot in my day. Please just do this for me,” she said and then shut the door in my face.


  The saleswoman, whose name turned out to be Tricia, put the tape measure around me and then wrote down my size. It wasn’t as humiliating as I thought it was going to be. She was quick and professional and I could tell she’d done this a lot.

  We joked about our similar names and then she asked me what styles I liked.

  “Nothing that’s got too many bells and whistles. I don’t need to be pushed up or boosted. Underwires were created by Satan and I don’t like front clasps,” I said. She took all that in and then went to get some samples.

  Somehow, she was able to find a few comfortable bras in my size and then we went to pick colors and matching panties. Katie made me get a few that were out of my comfort zone, color wise.

  “Max’s eyes are going to pop when he sees these. I wish I could be there, but that would be a little creepy.” More than a little. Besides, Max wasn’t going to be seeing this underwear. Or at least, not for a very long time. If he decided he wanted to put up with me that long. Jury was still out.

  After the trial by fire at the underwear store, Katie dragged me into a trendy clothing store. I didn’t think I would find anything I liked, but lo and behold, there were plenty of things. Pre-ripped jeans (which were crazy expensive, in my opinion, but which I got anyway), cool drapey tops with fun patterns on them and I even got a dress.

  “It’s so you, Trish,” Katie said when I showed it to her.

  The dress had cream lace (I know, I know, I’m not a lace girl, but it totally worked) capped-sleeves and the lace continued in panels down the sides. The rest of it was green, which went well with my hair. It was fitted and made me look like I had more curves than I actually did.

  “Another magic dress!” Katie said, clapping her hands.

  I really liked the way the dress looked on me. Like I was a lady or something. I wanted to put my hair up and wear lipstick and high heels.

  Speaking of heels, those were next. Now, I was no stranger to them, but the kind of heels Katie wanted me to get were not the kind of heels I was used to.

  “Just try them,” she said, shoving a pair of black pumps at me. They looked like something someone very grownup and glamorous would wear. Audrey would rock these things so hard.

  I put them on and toddled around a little. I was definitely going to need practice with these things. I bought them anyway along with another pair of heels in a pretty silver color.

  Last were accessories. I tried to put my foot down again, but was swept up in Katie’s makeover process. She swapped out the studs in my lobes with some delicate drop earrings and even found a pretty crystal nose stud.

  “What about these?” she asked, holding up a pair of studs that, at first glance, just looked sparkly, but on closer inspection were tiny skulls. I grinned at her. She got me.

  “Can we save the makeup for another day?” I whined. She nodded and sighed.

  “Yes. I’m seriously tired right now. Who knew growing a human took so much energy?” She looked down at her stomach. “I have this fear that I’m going to wake up one day and bam. I will have popped.”

  We headed back to the car, me weighed down with bags and Katie walking pretty slowly.

  “Have you told your mom yet?” I threw the bags in the trunk and then slammed it shut.

  “Nope. Kayla and I are going to this weekend. She’s supposed to be heading back to Africa, but Mom will be damned if she’s going to a foreign country while carrying her grandchild. Adam doesn’t really have a choice. He has to go, and he’s only been postponing it so they could be here and help Mom for a while.” Complicated. I wasn’t used to having to bow to the whims of a parent. Stryker and I were always two peas in a pod. He might have taken custody of me, but he would never be my father.

  We talked the rest of the way back about makeovers and whether or not Katie wanted to have a baby shower.

  “I mean, I know I need stuff, so I’ll probably have one, but I will put a moratorium on those awful games.” I’d never been to a baby shower, so I didn’t really know what she was talking about. I pretended I did.

  When I got back to my room, I stashed the bags in the back of my closet and called Max. He knew all about the trip and I didn’t know who was more excited about the makeover, him or Katie.

  “So, what did you get?” he asked.

  “Like I’m going to tell you. You’re just going to have to ask me out and then you’ll see firsthand.” He made a frustrated sound.

  “But if you don’t tell me what you want to do on our date, then we can’t go on one.” This boy was driving me nuts.

  “Max. You don’t need my input on the date. Just pick something. You know me. You know what I like and what I don’t like. Just… make a damn decision.” I didn’t mean to sound like an asshole, but damn. I wanted him to stop being so gentle with me. Like when we kissed. I really liked it when we got all physical and intense like that. I wanted him to do that in more areas of our relationship.

  Yes, that scared me, but it also thrilled me. Double-edged sword.

  “Okay then. I will make a damn decision.” He wasn’t upset. His voice was still cheerful. He was used to me talking to him like that.

  “Good. You just tell me where to be and give me enough time to get my shit together and ready and I’ll show up,” I said.

  “Fair enough. So, dinner?” I started messing with my sheets and blankets. Max usually made the bed when we got up, but he’d been rushing this morning.

  “I’m going over to my brother’s. Pick you up?” He’d picked up as many hours as he could at the gym. It was a good job for him because he could walk there during the day.

  “Yes ma’am,” he said and I cringed.

  “If you care about me at all, you will never call me that again,” I said and he chuckled.

  “Sure thing, hun.”

  I WAS SO fucking excited about the date. Why had it taken me so long to decide to take her on a real one? I’d really dropped the ball on that one. I apologized to her a bunch of times, but she just waved me off.

  “Hey, it’s both of our faults. I’m over it. I don’t need you to wine me and dine me. I like you just the way you are. I like us. I like watching movies with you and picking you up after work.” I liked those things too, but I wondered if there was more. I wanted to do everything with her. Climb mountains and travel and go to flea markets and shit. I wanted to do it all, as long as it was with Trish. She made everything better¸ more colorful, more exciting. Definitely more snarky.

  She decided to get ready at Lottie’s so both Katie and Lottie could help her with whatever girls did to get ready for a date. I assumed makeup and hair took a while. I kind of wished I’d been allowed to watch. I loved watching Trish do her eyeliner. So carefully. It was a good thing I wasn’t a girl, because I would fail miserably at doing something like that.

  I was getting to drive her car since I wanted to do this the traditional way. Even if we weren’t a traditional couple. She’d balked, but had given in after I kissed her a little.

  When I got to the apartment, Lottie made me stay out in the hall.

  “Is she ready yet?” I yelled.

  “Almost!” was the response.

  I waited and waited. It was worth it, but damn. I didn’t care what she looked like. She could wear sweats and no makeup and her hair a mess and I’d
think she was drop dead gorgeous.

  Finally, finally, the door opened and there she was.




  I had no words for her.

  “I think you broke him,” Lottie said, laughing at me.

  “You okay there?” Trish said, waving her hand in front of my face and snapping me out of it.

  “You…” Words weren’t enough.

  “I’m guessing that’s good?” she said, adjusting her dress a little. It was green with off-white lace and hugged her in all the right places and made her hair so bright. Her makeup included black-lined lids and red lipstick. Her hair was curled and pulled back from her face on either side. Loose and sexy.

  She was a walking sex bomb. Not that she wasn’t always, but this was a side of her I hadn’t seen yet.

  “Okay, okay, enough staring. Can we go now?” she said, shifting from foot to foot. It was only then that I noticed the heels. Wow. Heels. Not her usual boots. She’d kept in her eyebrow ring and nose stud, but swapped out most of her earrings in favor of a set of dangly ones that hung from her lobes.

  “Not before we take a picture,” Lottie said, grabbing my arm and yanking me into the room. She made me put my arm around Trish and tried to get me to face the camera, but I couldn’t look anywhere but at the beautiful creature standing next to me. The camera clicked and I couldn’t believe I was so damn lucky.

  “Okay, go, have fun! Use protection and don’t get pregnant,” Katie said with a wink.

  I grabbed Trish’s coat and draped it on her shoulders.

  “Thanks,” she said and I got the door for her.

  Before we got in the car, I put my hands on her shoulders.

  “I have to tell you that you’re so incredibly beautiful right now. But you’re always beautiful, Trish.” One side of her mouth turned up in a smile.

  She reached out and flicked my bow tie.

  “You don’t look so bad yourself.”

  I didn’t have a whole lot of nice clothes, so I’d fished out the best from my closet. Black shirt, black pinstriped pants and a bright blue bowtie. I’d swiped my hair back from my forehead and styled it a little more than I usually did.

  “You ready?” I asked.

  She took a deep breath and let it.

  “I guess so.”

  I WAS FREAKING out, once again. It made me realize that I freaked out about a lot of things. I just hid it pretty well, I guess.

  It had taken a lot of effort to get me like this, and it was going to take a lot of work to get this makeup off. My hair had been sprayed and styled as well, even though it looked like it hadn’t.

  All in all, seeing the look on Max’s face made the entire ordeal worth it. I would remember that look for the rest of my life. I’d looked in the mirror and actually felt beautiful. Worthy. Having him stare at me like I was both of those things only reinforced that.

  “Now since you refused to give me any input, if you hate where we’re going, you’re not allowed to complain,” he said as we drove away from campus.

  I was kind of digging the fact that the date was a surprise. I normally wasn’t a fan of them, but tonight I was excited. I liked doing new things with him. He made me feel safe, and that wasn’t a feeling I had very often.

  “So I’m wondering,” he said, turning the heat up. The dress didn’t really do much to keep me warm and my jacket wasn’t really helping.

  “Wondering what?”

  “Wondering what you’re wearing under that dress.” He turned and looked at me and the fire in his eyes scorched me from the ends of my hair to the tips of my toes shoved into the pumps.

  Well, shit.

  Now I was pretty and turned on.

  I crossed my legs and almost wished that he was going to take us to a hotel. Or maybe back to his room.

  But then the fear snuck out of the back of my mind and stomped on that idea.

  I hadn’t answered him.

  “Maybe you’ll get to see,” I said before I could stop myself. He breathed out loudly.

  “Fuck, I hope you mean that.”

  I’D THOUGHT OUR date would take place, you know, within at least a half-hour of school. But no. We kept driving.

  “Where in the hell are we going?” I looked at the signs on the highway, but they gave no indication of where we were going. Just away. Well, south, technically. Toward the rest of the state and the rest of the United States. If we’d gone north, we would have been headed to Canada. Not that I would have objected, but I didn’t have a passport and you needed one if the Mounties were going to let you in.

  “We are going on a date. That’s where we’re going.”

  “Well, I hope we’re going somewhere with food soon.” I’d been nervous, so I hadn’t eaten much today, and I hadn’t wanted to mess up either my dress or my makeup just before the date.

  “Don’t worry, don’t worry. Food is on the agenda.”


  “If you look in the glovebox, you’ll find something else.” I opened it and found his phone with a little sticky note on it, telling me to plug it into the speakers and go to a certain playlist named Trish & Max’s First Date Tunes. It was super cheesy, but that was what made it so great.

  “You made me a mix tape?” I asked.

  “The modern version of it, yeah. I thought about doing a cassette tape, but that would have taken a lot more time to do than just to make a playlist.”

  I pretended to be mad at him.

  “So you’re saying that I’m not worth making a mix tape for?”

  “Baby, you are worth making a thousand mix tapes for.” I made a face.


  “Don’t call me baby. Ever again.”

  “Noted,” he said as the first song started to play. “Anything Could Happen” by Ellie Goulding.

  “Is this a hint?” I asked over the music.

  “Maybe. Maybe not. You’ll just have to wait and see.” I sighed and pushed my seat back so I was more comfortable, kicked my shoes off and put my feet on the dash.

  AN HOUR LATER we stopped at a restaurant. It was shaped like a ship in the front, complete with mermaid arching off the prow. The front of the boat was called the prow, right? I didn’t really know the correct boat terms.

  “We came an hour for seafood?” I asked. One thing about living in Maine was that you could throw a rock and hit a seafood restaurant that had lobster so fresh, it was in the ocean last night and on your plate the next afternoon.

  “We came an hour for Maine’s Biggest Lobster Roll.” I was intrigued, so I took Max’s arm as we walked together through the front door. He already had a reservation, so we were seated right away. The place was pretty casual, so I didn’t feel like I was on display. We both ordered Cokes and then perused the enormous menus.

  “So I was thinking that we should get the crispy calamari to start, followed by the lobster roll and then dessert.” That sounded like a lot of food, but I was hungry enough to eat the chair I was sitting on. We ordered and the calamari came. I nearly burned my fingers in my rush to get it from the plate to my mouth.

  “Easy there,” Max said, laughing at me.

  “Well, if we hadn’t had to drive so far, I wouldn’t be so hungry,” I said, sticking my tongue out at him.

  And then the lobster roll arrived and I almost started laughing. It was fucking huge. There was no way the two of us could finish it, as well as our salads and dessert on top of that. No freaking way.

  “Just think of it as an adventure,” Max said as we stared at each other over the behemoth bun filled with several lobsters’ worth of meat.

  “You know after we eat this, neither of us is going to be able to move. They’re going to have to roll us out to the car.” He just shook his head at me and dug in.

  SO, THINKING YOU can eat a foot long lobster roll and then actually doing it are two different things. We did pretty well, but we both hit a wall and even though there was only a little bit left, neither
of us could do it.

  “I think I’ve gained ten pounds tonight. I hope you don’t mind,” Trish said, rubbing her stomach.

  “I’d love you if you were a thousand pounds,” I said and she gave me a look.

  “No, you wouldn’t. Besides, I’m not sure if it’s actually possible for a person to weigh that much.”

  After sitting and resting for a while after our marathon eating session, we got the rest of the roll wrapped up to go.

  “Maybe we should get dessert to go?” Trish said, but I shook my head.

  “I have a better idea.”

  After a fight over me paying the check, which I won, we waddled out of the restaurant.

  “Oh my Goooodddddd,” Trish said as she got into the car.

  “Okay, on our next date, no giant food items,” I said.


  WE GOT BACK in the car and I kept driving south. I knew somewhere along the line we’d reach a late-night diner where we could get milkshakes or sundaes or something. I hit the jackpot an hour later and I escorted Trish in.

  “We’re going back after this right? Because we’re going to have to drive over two hours to get home,” she said. I just shrugged one shoulder.

  “Wait, we’re not going back after this?” she said, tugging on my sleeve. I ignored her and told the waitress that there were two of us. Trish kept talking to me as the waitress showed us to our table.

  “Max, we’re not seriously going to keep going, are we?” I had to admit, I was enjoying seeing her so wound up. It was a shame that I hadn’t done this sooner. It was way too much fun.

  “Just go along for the ride, hun,” I said, remembering not to call her baby. She started to protest, but I held one finger up.

  “You said you were going to work on trusting me. This is one of those times when you’re going to need to trust me. I know it’s hard, but I’m not going to take you somewhere in the middle of the woods and chop you up with a chainsaw and then bury the pieces.”

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