Chapter 32:  Novaya Model (New Model)

“That was such a magnificent dinner,” Robert said, removing her coat and hanging it in the closet.  “I’ve always fancied that restaurant.”


Alex chuckled.  “If only the climate were a little warmer to match.”


He brushed some hair behind her ear.  “We created our own atmosphere anyway.”


She smiled at him.  “I guess we did.”  She took off her heels.  “I’m exhausted.”


Robert swept her up in his arms and started to ascend the staircase.  “I’ll gladly make the journey for you.”


Alex blushed.  The gesture reminded her of the many times Olivia had picked her up in her arms and carried her upstairs.  She was so lost in her thoughts that she almost didn’t notice when he put her back on her feet.


He put a hand on her back to steady her.  “You ok, sweetie?”


She flashed him a smile.  “Yeah.  I just felt a little lightheaded.”


He regarded her with concern.  “Do you want me to get something for you?”


She shook her head and removed her bracelet.  “No, I’m fine now.”


Robert took off his suit jacket and began, “Listen…there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”


Alex placed her bracelet and earrings in her jewelry armoire and then turned to face him.  “Oh, really?  What’s that?”


He sat down on the bed.  “Well, I think maybe it’s time we took the next step in our relationship.”


Alex kept her face expressionless, although inside her heart was pounding.  Oh fuck, she thought.  “What do you mean?”


“How about we move in together?”


She turned back to the dresser.  Gripping the edge, she gave an awkward laugh and looked at him through the mirror.  “You don’t think it’s too soon?”


He stood up behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders.  “I don’t place a waiting period on happiness.  I know we’ve only been dating a few months, but I feel like it’s the right time.  Besides, it seems like I’ve known you forever.”  He gave her a kiss on her ear and started to rub her upper arms.


“How long have you been thinking about this?” she asked.


“A few days,” he answered.  “We don’t get to see each other as much as I’d like, so it will be easier this way.”


“I see what you mean.  Uh, it’s just…it came as a shock…” she fumbled.


“Perhaps we should look at some places together to make the idea more tangible,” he suggested.  When he still saw her uncertainty, he added, “No commitment, just a ‘look before you leap’ type deal.  Doesn’t hurt to be prepared, does it?”  He took the pins out of her bun and softly caressed her hair as it fell over her shoulders.


Alex closed her eyes briefly.  Olivia had done the same motion many times.  She saw her standing behind her, kissing her neck tenderly as she played with her hair.  She felt her breath in her ear, warm and soft as she whispered, “I love you.”


“What are you thinking, gorgeous?” Robert asked, abruptly piercing her thoughts.  He unzipped the back of her dress. 


Alex’s eyes flew open and the image vanished.  “Just about what you said.”


“From that smile on your face a couple seconds ago, should I take it as a good sign?” he asked with a chuckle. 


Alex hadn’t even realized she’d been smiling.  She turned around to face him.  “I…I’ll have to think about it.”


“Take all the time you need, sweetie,” he replied, kissing her forehead.  “If you decide you don’t want to, I’ll understand.”


Alex was touched at his patience and consideration.  He really is a sweet guy, she thought.  Even though he wasn’t a woman, she was convinced he would always treat her well.  Placing a hand on his cheek, she said, “Thank you.”


He put his hand over hers.  “You don’t have to thank me.  There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.  I love you, Alex.”


She jumped a little in her skin.  This was the first time he’d ever told her he loved her, and it did feel good to be loved.  Besides, if he kept being as wonderful as he had been, she didn’t see why she couldn’t grow to love him in some way, even if that love didn’t stem from her heart.  When Olivia had told her about the older man she dated in high school, she said that she loved him because she had romanticized things she liked about him.  The love she had for him wasn’t naturally romantic, but it was manufactured mentally based on an illusion.  She only came to realize that years after the fact.  Maybe that’s what I’m doing, Alex thought.  But why should it matter if he’d never know the difference?  Love doesn’t have to be romantic. 


He looked down at her with a gentle smile, silently expecting her to return the sentiment.  So she gave him what he wanted.  “I love you, too,” she lied, closing her eyes and gently brushing his lips.


Robert pulled her closer and deepened the kiss.  Afterward, he replied, “I know.  I can see it in the way you look at me.”


Really?  Maybe I’m doing a better job at this than I thought.  She smiled at him and said, “I’m gonna take a shower.  Are you staying over again?”


“If it’s ok with you,” he answered. 


“Of course it is,” she replied, draping her arms across his shoulders.  She gave him another kiss and started walking to the bathroom.  When she was at the entryway, she looked over her shoulder and said slyly, “Keep the bed warm for me.”


Robert grinned.  “Oh, don’t worry.  I certainly will.”


Once she was settled in bed next to him, he wrapped his arms around her and said, “You know, I’ve been worried about you.”


“Why is that?” Alex asked.


“Last night you were crying in your sleep.”


Alex froze up.  She was glad her back was turned to him so he couldn’t see the panic on her face.  “Did I say anything?” she asked, suddenly afraid.


“No, you just mumbled a few words I couldn’t make out.”


“Uh…I guess I was just having a nightmare,” Alex said.  “I’m sorry if it bothered you.”  Geez, you’ve got to get a grip, she scolded herself.


“It didn’t at all,” Robert assured her.  “I just want to make sure you’re ok.  I know you’re a strong woman, but even the strongest need a little TLC from time to time.”


“I will be.  I just get them sometimes.”


Robert nodded.  “I understand.  But you don’t ever have to be frightened when I’m around.”


Alex smiled, but somehow those words coming from him just didn’t carry as much weight.  “Night.”


“Goodnight, sweetheart,” he responded, giving her a final kiss on the cheek.


Long after he had fallen asleep, she stayed awake and reflected.  Was her heartache that bad that it was invading her dreams?  She had to end this.  The last thing she wanted to do was slip and say Olivia’s name in her sleep.  So how could she make it all stop?  How could she find a way to effectively control her emotions again?  Why was she always relapsing?


As Robert held her in his arms, she thought of the strength of Olivia’s arms—their warmth, their comfort, their security.  She remembered the way Olivia would nuzzle her face in the crook of her neck, how she would run her fingers through her brown locks as she slept, how Olivia would sometimes awaken with a lopsided smile and ask her what she was still doing awake…


Olivia.  It all came back to her.  Here she was trying to think of ways to circumvent thoughts of her but doing nothing but thinking of her.  She sighed in vain.  She had previously thought that knowing she was with Zoe would deter thoughts of her because she didn’t want to be reminded of their connection.  But at the moment that wasn’t helping at all.


Even though she was still hurting over their talk earlier that evening, she knew that staying away from Olivia was for the best.  She felt better that it was a mutual decision, though.  The reason it had been almost impossible to stay away from her months before was because she knew she was available.  She could entertain thoughts that she was really waiting for her and that always gave her hope.  But now that she knew those things no longer held true, it seemed easier.  She hadn’t wanted to believe it earlier, but she knew deep down that they could never be “just friends.”  


If she had never fallen in love with her, it would have been much simpler to live a lie in regards to her sexual orientation.  Although it was the very thing preventing her from moving forward, the truth was that part of her didn’t want to completely let go of her feelings for Olivia.  She just wanted to make it easier where she didn’t think of them or when she did, it was sparingly.  She had to find a way to lock Olivia in a corner of her mind where she no longer posed a threat, and her current conditions were not the most conducive environment to accomplish that goal.


Her entire apartment was surrounded with the essence of her.  Even though she wasn’t physically there, she would always be there no matter how much she hid things that reminded her of her.  She had even given Olivia her own bedroom in her apartment, and several times she’d slept in her bed when she missed her.  Maybe what she needed was a complete change of scenery, a place filled with new memories and new dreams.  Living with Robert would limit her temptation of wanting her because she wouldn’t have a constant reminder everywhere she turned.  She had already taken the first step in moving on with her life by dating him, so perhaps this second step would be more effective. 


Furthermore, if she was going to make this work with him, she knew she would have to completely remodel her inner self to match her exterior so that they were virtually indistinguishable.  She could no longer settle for having two personas.  That would mean doing things she’d never done, liking things she’d never liked, wanting things she’d never wanted.  She would have to embrace only those values that fell in line with her career and forgo all others.  At first it would be a conscious effort but she knew that over time it would become second nature.  As they say, practice makes perfect.  Aside from her love for Olivia, she’d already felt herself dissociating more and more from who she really was anyway, so she might as well aid the process.


She remembered when she had first broken up with her after Donnelly had seen them kissing the previous night.  Olivia had pointed her finger to her heart and told her that no matter what, she couldn’t change what was on the inside.  People do change, she thought to the contrary.  In fact, she knew she wasn’t the same after her return to New York and that she would never again be the Alex Cabot she was before her shooting.  Her behavior was still the same in many areas before and after; however, her motivations were altered. 


Over the past several months, she had been in a constant battle between preserving her character and allowing the modifications to it to run their course.  She had tried to find a happy medium but had learned the hard way that that wasn’t possible.  When she was in witness protection, she’d kept Alex Cabot buried deep inside.  She didn’t get to choose to reveal her true identity to some and her new identity to others.  So why should it be any different now?  In the program she had to obtain a new identity for survival.  She felt that she was now doing it for survival, too, except this time it was for her emotional wellbeing instead of physical.  She just hoped that she would like the new person she became.




She continued to ponder the situation over the next few days.  With the loss of almost two years of her life, she had felt a nagging feeling that she needed to make up for lost time.  With her career fastforwarded, she decided that she also needed to fastforward her personal life to match.  She came to the conclusion that it might not be a bad idea to move in with him as long as she still kept her own place.  That way if it didn’t work out, she wouldn’t be left out in the cold.


Part of her felt like she was making a snap judgment, but another part of her thought she was ready.  If she really planned to move her life forward, she couldn’t keep clinging to the past.  She had tried to do this before but it had proven to be unsuccessful since she had succumbed to what her heart wanted the minute Olivia set foot in her apartment. 


It’s not as if she actually thought she could change her sexual orientation.  Several years ago, she was naïve enough to think that she could.  But when she finally realized that wasn’t going to happen, she decided she would just control it.  Now for the past few months it had been controlling her because even though she was with a guy, she had been finding every way she could to be with a woman under the guise of friendship. 


She had told Serena once that sexuality was only a small part of who a person was.  She knew she could no longer just act as if that were true, she would have to believe it.  She would have to control her sexuality in every aspect of her personal life—beyond just sleeping with and dating a guy—so that it became practically a non-issue. 


What time she didn’t spend working would have to be spent completely immersing herself in her new life.  If she focused on doing that, old habits and thoughts would almost seem nonexistent. 


After taking a deep breath, she picked up the phone and dialed Robert’s number.  “Let’s do it.”