I thought about his question. "I guess . . . I guess I just want to figure out what feels right to me, you know? Not what feels right to anyone else, but to me. What kind of god feels right to me."
"And what have you figured out?"
"I don't know yet. I'm still working on it. All I know is that just like love, God shouldn't hurt." I sighed. "That's all I've figured out so far."
He frowned up at the ceiling. "I'm not working on it," he said. "I have no desire to worship a god or gods who looked down and watched what happened in Acadia without intervening. They did nothing to help."
I was quiet for a minute. I'd thought the very same thought, a million times over. "They brought the rain," I finally said.
Calder was quiet for a minute. "If they did, then they also watched Hailey's four little boys die a terror-filled death they didn't deserve. They watched thirty-seven children under the age of ten as their small lungs filled up with water and they flailed and asked the gods why they weren't helping them. They were far more innocent than me. The gods ignored their cries." He looked over at me. "The littlest one of Hailey's boys, he still sucked his thumb, Eden. He still sucked his thumb. How can I believe in any power that would allow that to happen? I can't."
I shook my head sadly. "I don't know. I don't understand it either."
After a minute of each of us lost in our own thoughts, I said, "I will tell you this though. In those last moments, in the midst of the screaming and the terror, I heard mothers comforting their children. I heard words of love drifting to me through the walls." I shook my head, remembering. "In those last moments, yes there was horror and there was fear. But there was also love. As unimaginable as it is, Calder, there was love in that room. And maybe . . . maybe that's where God was. Maybe if you find the love in any situation, even the most horrifying ones, maybe that's where God is."
Calder didn't say anything, but he pulled me to him and held me tightly.
On the fourth morning, we woke up and Calder wrapped himself around me like he did every morning. He hadn't woken up from a nightmare in two nights now and he looked happy and rested and beautifully messy.
"Mmm," he murmured pressing his nose against the back of my neck. "You smell good." His voice was deliciously gravelly. I loved his morning voice even more than his regular voice.
I laughed softly. "I'm sure I don't."
He shook his head, rubbing his nose against my shoulder. "You do. You smell like my woman."
"We should really take a shower," I whispered. Although in truthfulness, I loved the way he smelled, too, even though he was sweaty and dirty and un-showered. I could have stuck my nose in his armpit and inhaled happily. It was one of those very human things that was sort of sexy and sort of gross at the same time.
Calder was quiet for a minute. "I guess. Are we going to get out of The Bed of Healing?"
"Do you feel healed?"
He kissed my shoulder blade, rubbing his lips against it, taking time to consider my question. "I think I do, yeah. Enough to function somewhat normally, anyway. How about you?"
I nodded and pulled his arm around me tighter. "I think I do, too."
Calder sighed. "I'm going to miss this bed."
I grinned and looked back over my shoulder at him. "Well, we're still going to sleep in it. We're just not going to live in it anymore."
He groaned. "I liked living in it."
"Me, too," I said softly.
"So does that mean you'll move in with me?" he asked, a gravelly nervousness in the tone of his voice.
I nodded my head. "Yes," I said. "I'll move in with you."
He kissed my skin and whispered, "Thank you."
We snuggled for a little while longer, Calder hardening against my backside. I was sore, but I didn't care. We needed this one last time before we got up and faced the real world again. I wiggled my bottom against him and he sucked in a breath, bringing his hand around to massage me right where I needed it. He made love to me slowly, thrusting into me leisurely from behind while he touched me with his hand. Beams of sunlight filtered in through the shade, casting the whole room in a pale yellow, magical glow, and Calder's heartbeat surrounded me, against my back and deep inside me. We fell over the edge together—me crying out, and Calder shuddering behind me—as he circled his h*ps slowly and bit my shoulder lightly, smiling against my skin.
"Anything you want," he whispered. "If it exists in this world, it's yours."
"Hmm," I hummed. "There's this painting in a gallery in Paris of a girl with a mysterious smile. I fancy it."
His smile against my skin widened into a grin. "You fancy it?"
"Mmm," I murmured.
"I fancy you," he whispered. "I fancy you a whole lot."
I laughed softly and he slipped out of me as I turned in his arms and snuggled into his chest.
"I'd like to string some stars together and hang them right above this bed," I said.
"I'll build a ladder," he said, pulling me closer. "I'll climb up and I'll lasso a few for you."
I grinned, kissing the smooth skin of his chest.
We both startled when the doorbell rang loudly through his mostly empty apartment.
"Should we answer?" I whispered.
"No," Calder groaned.
"I thought we were getting up. Maybe this will be a good way to force us out of bed."
Calder chuckled and then stopped when the pounding started.
"What the hell?" he said, getting up and grabbing his jeans off of the floor and pulling them on.
I sat up and pulled the sheet up against me as Calder left the room. Then I got up and went to use the bathroom and quickly brush my teeth.
I pulled on my jeans and top and then pulled the sheet and comforter up on the bed when I heard male voices outside the bedroom and went out to see what was going on.
When I walked out to the large living area, Calder was standing with his arms crossed against his bare chest and Xander was leaning against the counter, raking his hand through his hair looking like he'd been up all night.
"Hey, Xander," I said, haltingly.
He looked up at me with tired, red-rimmed eyes and gave me a small smile. "Hey, E."
I walked up to Calder who put his arm around me and pulled me tightly to him. Xander smiled at us. "I knew you two would work it all out."
I gazed up at Calder, but then looked back at Xander worriedly. He didn't look great.
"What's wrong?" I asked, furrowing my brow.
He shook his head, blowing out a breath. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't come here to interrupt this reunion. Shit. You guys don't need this. You deserve—"
"Xander," Calder said. "Whatever I have—"
"I have half. I know," he said quietly. Xander ran his hand through his hair. "Yeah."
Calder nodded and looked down at me. "You know what Xander needs, right?"
I bit my lip, making my expression very serious. "The Bed of Healing?"
"I think so."
I nodded. "I think so, too." Calder let go of me and I grabbed Xander's arm and pulled him along behind us to the bedroom.
"Whoa! Where are you taking me?"
"To The Bed of Healing," Calder said, standing next to it.
"Come on." I pulled Xander and he stumbled and fell onto the bed. Calder and I got in, one on either side of him, and we lay there on top of the comforter staring up at the ceiling. I giggled.
Xander looked to Calder and then to me and then back up at the ceiling. "I'm not ha**ng s*x with either one of you," he said, starting to sit up. Calder pushed him back down by bringing his arm straight down on his chest. "Okay, maybe Eden, but definitely not you, Storm," he added.
"Definitely not Eden," Calder gritted out. "Eden, scoot away from him a little." I laughed again.
"I thought this was The Bed of Healing. Already I sense anger here," Xander said.
Calder chuckled and threw a leg over Xander's leg. "No anger," he said. "Only healing. And quit it with the Storm business. You know I couldn't put my real name out there. It's a cool name." But there was amusement in his voice. Xander laughed.
"It sounds like a stripper."
I couldn't help giggling and Calder laughed, too.
We all lay there silently for a minute. I smiled. It was a really comfortable bed. I took Xander's hand in mine and squeezed it.
"The Bed of Healing smells like sex and . . . peaches," Xander said, wrinkling up his nose and glancing between the both of us.
"The Bed of Healing smells just like a bed of healing should," Calder said.
"Dude, when was the last time you showered?" Xander asked.
"Four days ago," Calder answered, no embarrassment whatsoever in his voice.
"Yeah, I can tell." Xander rolled closer to me and I laughed again.
I turned my face to his. "Seriously, Xander, what's wrong?"
He sighed and took his hand from mine, rubbing it on his dark five o'clock shadow for a second.
"There's this girl," he said quietly, sounding practically tortured.
Calder laughed. I sat up slightly, frowning over at him. "Sorry," he mumbled. "It's just that every story of woe and tragedy throughout history starts out with those exact same three words. ‘There's this girl’" then he groaned dramatically and threw his hand up over his eyes.
Xander laughed softly and I frowned again, flopping back down on the pillow. "Not even true," I said.
"Does she have you all twisted inside out?" Calder asked, taking his arm down.
"Hell yes," Xander said.
Calder sighed. "Yeah."
"Wait," I said. "What's the problem here? You're in love, Xander. Does she not love you back or what?"
Xander reached up and grabbed the hair at the front of his head. "That's the problem. I think she might."
"Why is that a problem?" I asked, confused. "That's great."
Torment washed over Xander's face. "I might have totally screwed it up. I'm not ready to love anyone."
"Oh, Xander," I said, turning and moving closer to him, throwing my leg over the top of Calder's.
"No one will ever get it except for you two," he said. "No one understands me. So if I do let myself get closer to this girl, how should I explain the fact that I can only fall asleep on the floor?" he asked. "Or, wait, how about this—when she asks me to tell her about my family, I'll say, 'Oh them? Yeah, did you hear about that cult? Acadia? Right, well they were there—they drowned, my mom, my dad, my pregnant sister, dead all of them. Deal with that. I still can't. Oh and these scars on my back? Yeah, that was from the time I was beaten with a whip like a damn dog. You wanna catch a movie tonight?'"
"Xander," Calder said, distress obvious in the huskiness of his voice.
"Yeah," Xander said, staring upward.
"Maybe no one will get it to the extent we do, but someone will get it, Xander. Other people have been through bad things, too. Or if they haven't, they have the compassion to understand people who have been. Give her a chance," I said.
He let out a sigh and continued to stare up at the ceiling. "I still hear his voice in my head," he said quietly. "Like, all the damn time. It's like he haunts me."
I grabbed his hand and squeezed it. "I know. I hear it, too," I said in understanding.
Calder cleared his throat and said, "Me, too."
We were quiet for a minute. I listened to them breathing right next to me, gratitude washing over me at their presence alone. "So, okay, here we are," I said. "Three messed-up people, but we're alive. And we get a second chance. And so, I don't know," I lifted up on one elbow and faced the boys, "I for one am going to grab it. I'd like to think it's not, but if this is the one life we have to live, if this is it, then I'm not going to live it being miserable. Especially now that I have you two back. What do you say? We'll try our best? Together?"
Calder smiled over at me, and Xander bit his lip and then let out a small huff of air. "Yeah."
"Me, too," Calder said again, reaching across Xander and taking my hand. I smiled at both of them and then laid my head on Xander's chest and wrapped my arm around him and Calder. Calder laid his head on Xander's chest next to mine and wrapped his arm around both of us, too. Xander started laughing as we all hugged in the somewhat ridiculously, but still aptly, named Bed of Healing, and there was always healing in laughter and so that bed did its job once again, at least for that moment.
"By the way, where'd you meet her?" I asked after a minute.
"Ex-cult member mingle dot com," Xander said, deadpan.
A loud laugh burst out of Calder and I looked up at Xander who was trying not to laugh, too. He lost though and burst out laughing as well, and then so did I. Calder and I both rolled back onto our backs, still laughing
"Well she'll definitely get you, then. No worries there." I grinned.
We all reined in our laughter and Xander looked over at Calder. "By the way, Calder Raynes, if we're all really going to heal, you need to confess about your strange Coca-Cola hoarding habit. I know you hide it all over your apartment."
Calder stopped moving entirely and turned toward Xander. "Okay," he said slowly, dragging the word out and glancing over at me. "But I don't even drink it."