I snuggle up under his arm.
"May I talk with you?"
"Of course," he says. "What's up?"
And I spill. I tell him what's on my mind.
"I just...have been thinking about how you hold me accountable for things, and how it just means a real lot to me. I love that you're not just my lover, and my friend, but that you're my teacher, too. You've helped me learn, and grow, and I don't know if I will ever be able to explain just how much that means to me."
I am thinking of how he's helped me be more patient. He's taught me not to raise my voice, and to give others the benefit of the doubt. He's taught me how to have more temperance in my thoughts and actions. He's shown me, with his generous, forgiving nature, how to love others.
He smiles and hugs me close.
"I love you," he says. "And we are in this together."
I marvel at that. He's told me it's not just about helping me grow but him, too. With every expectation he sets for me, he holds himself to an even higher standard, the two of us, learning together, helping each other along the way, challenging ourselves, facing our weaknesses and doing what it takes to overcome them. Step by step, day by day, two people making our way in this world side by side.
Then he chuckles.
"What's so funny?"
"The way you were talking there, I thought you were going to say you think you don't need this anymore."
I laugh, but part of me is a little...nervous? I hate the idea of not having this anymore. It means so much to me. It means so much to both of us.
"Not happening, babe," I say. "I can't imagine not having this anymore."
I smile. "And anyway, what would you say if I said I didn't want this anymore?"
He narrows his eyes and gives me that look that I adore, the stern smirk that makes my heart threaten to leap out of my chest. "I would pull you over my lap and give you a spanking."
I laugh out loud. "Of course you would. And the next time I mouthed off, you wouldn't be able to help yourself. Your twitchy palm would take over and I'd be over your lap before you even knew what you were doing."
"Of course," he says.
The next thing you know, he's flipping me over and pinning me against his side.
I'm laughing, pushing against him, trying to get away, but it's no use. I'm at the mercy of his vice-like grips and paddle hands.
Swat! Swat! Swat!
After I'm sufficiently put in my place, both of us laughing, me groaning a bit, he kisses me and says, "I love you, baby girl."
I lift up on my elbow and lean in, kissing him. His hand is on the back of my neck, my hand flat on his chest, as we kiss goodnight. He is everything to me. I feel tears clog my throat and I swallow hard.
"I love you, too," I whisper. "Thank you."