His grin is infectious and the small bit of tongue he shows between his teeth, electrifying. I am not a man, but a mirror echoing back all his feeling and desires.

Or maybe I've simply never had anyone who wanted me as badly as I wanted them.

But should I want him so much?

The answer is obviously no.

Seth opens the back door for me and I wait for him in the laundry room with my hand on the knob of the door to the rest of the house. I take a couple a deep breaths and turn the knob. Seth reaches around me before I can open the door and covers my hand with his own, causing butterflies in my belly. "Let me," he says, his breath tickling my ear, "handle everything."

The adults standing around the table turn as one when Seth opens the door. Matt opens his mouth to speak, but Seth cuts him off. "We'd better be going," he says with confidence. "Steven is still on Greek time and there it's early morning."

Seth shows off his odd mix of maturity and youth as he ushers me though the living room and out the front door. He doesn't act like he is in a hurry, but I can feel the tension in his arm that he keeps against my back.

We stop just outside the front door where he turns and tells the others that we will be back at two tomorrow for dinner and that if they need him before then, they should text him.

We reach the sidewalk before anyone else reaches the front door. He speeds up a bit as we near his Camry and once he opens the door, he nearly pushes me into the passenger seat. My mother calls from the porch, but I can't hear her; Seth has closed my door. He walks around the car, calling back to her not to worry; he won't let me out of his sight.

I feel like a newly won prize that he is worried will be taken from him. Not that I mind too much. It is funny though. Unless I really misjudged things, there isn't one person in that house that wants him to give me up.

He climbs in his side and I turn to grab my seatbelt. And hide my smile. Dani, Hannah, and Cassie wave at me from the kitchen window. They jump and dance until they see me wave back. Behind me, at the front door, my mother, Matt, and Belinda smile at the car and each other.

Seth sighs deeply as he starts the car and I glance back toward the kitchen. Josh and Tessa have joined the little girls, who are now, if I'm not mistaken, standing on the counter around the sink.

As the car begins to move I notice Jenn and Dave near my mother. Jenn passes Fiona to Dave and starts running toward the car. For a moment I don't think Seth is going to stop, but he does right after he turns the corner.

Where is all his confidence? Has it finally fled him? I am his bone and he is worried some bigger dog will come along and steal me away? He is so cute; I can't contain my smile and he blushes and turns away from me. I open my window and Jenn leans against the car, breathing heavily. "Steven," she says between gasps, "Just do what you want."

When she stands up, Seth hits the gas before she can call a Merry Christmas to us.

"Am I being childish?" Seth asks, his cheeks still pink. "If you really want something, I think, you should grab it with both hands and never let go."

"Maybe," I say, "but then I've never wanted anything that badly before."

"And now?" he asks, biting his lower lip. "Is there anything you really want?"

Anything I want?

I want a special someone, who love me more than anyone else. Very selfish I'm sure. I want a happy home where I can raise Zoe and any other children who come my way, a place where they will always feel safe and comfortable. I want a loving family where no one has to be ashamed of who they really are.

Should I impose my hopes, dreams, wants, needs, and desires on this man at my side?

Especially with how young he is. Will he someday outgrow me? Can I risk another heartache? Will I be able to sit across from him at the dinner table on holidays if he finds someone he would rather be with? Will I be able to stand seeing someone I love happy with someone else?

But that's just borrowing trouble. I shouldn't let what might happen stop me. Anything might happen. We could get into an accident today, tomorrow, or next year, making all my worries moot.

Is there is someone else out there for me, for him, people who will make us much happier apart than we could ever be together?

That could be true, but how will he ever find his perfect person if he is so stuck on me? Shouldn't I give him my all and see if tomorrow, next month, next year he still wants me? He could be the one I've been looking for all my life. I thought so this morning. I might still believe that in ten years.

"You, I think. I want you."

Seth smiles and holds his hand out to me. "I'm glad you came back."

I take it in mine. "So am I."

The End


Author's note:

After I listened to two booklovers discussing their favorite first lines, I came up with a game to keep myself busy on my way to work where I thought of the most outrageous, engaging first lines, lines that would make me want to read a book. And then I would come up with stories for them. One line was a man being shocked at who answered his mother's front door.

I came up with a summary for the story and it haunted me until I wrote it down. This is Dilemma 3.5; I wrote the whole thing three times (each time getting longer) and several chapters more than once. In my first two versions Steven was more waffley and fatalistic and the family was more confrontational. Now they are people ignoring the elephant in the room.

If you are disappointed by the lack of man on man action, I direct you to a story I wrote for Shousetsu Bang*Bang with more bang per inch than I've ever written: http://s2b2 livejournal com/92460 html (replace spaces with periods)

I work with the public and regularly hear three languages a day and many accents. Life would be so much easier if I could understand everyone. That's how I came up with Steven. Seth's father's family is based on that of man I know. His family was interned during WWII (he was drafted as soon as he got out). They gave up their language and although people give him things in Japanese, he isn't interested (so he passes them to me). I wrote this just after the Christmas when it is set, when Denver Airport was shut down due to snow.

I am a mix of Jenn and Stacy (I've even held many of their opinions in the past). Steven's comment on abuse affecting even those who do not know it is happening is true. I lived it and wrote a short story that is different enough not to be my life, but with all the pain, anger, and grief. I might put it up someday, but not for a while.

Waiting for Valentine's is the sequel to Dilemma told from Seth POV as he waits impatiently for the birthday that will make him and Steven legal.