“This is a huge mistake!”
She just smiled at my outburst. A very pretty smile. Of course it was. She was beautiful. She had long black hair that cascaded to her mid-back and eyes to match. I could get lost in those eyes.
“Well, you’ve already paid me for the hour,” she replied. “Why not make the best of it?”
“I don’t think I can,” I moped.
She raised an eyebrow, questioning.
“Too much alcohol.”
“The great equivocator,” she said.
I nodded. “‘It provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance’,” I recited automatically. “I should have stopped drinking when I called the agency and made the appointment for you to come over. Since then I’ve had way too much…” Then what she’d said sunk in. I whipped my head up to look her in the face.
“You know Shakespeare?” I challenged. I shouldn’t have moved my head so fast. It hurt.
“I am a college graduate,” she said.
“No. Really?” I asked again.
She sighed. “Bachelor’s in psychology, working on my master’s at Maryland.”
“So why are you escorting?”
She frowned at the question, but didn’t seem offended. Good, I didn’t want to offend her. I need to pull myself together. I pushed the bottle on the table away from me. As far away as I could.
“This isn’t about me,” she firmly stated. “It’s about you. What do you want, Joe?”
I stared at her. I couldn’t remember her name, I realized. In one ear and out the other.
“Why did you call the agency?” she prompted.
“Seemed like a good idea at the time,” I drawled. I tried to crack a country boy smile but she apparently didn’t like the joke.
She got up and walked over to the sink. Why were we sitting in my kitchen instead of the bedroom? She found a glass in the cabinet and filled it at the tap and then placed it in front of me.
“Drink,” she ordered.
I automatically took a swig. She waited, looking at me with just a hint of disdain. Like Sharon used to look at me. I shifted and improved my posture.
“So what’s going on, Joe?” she asked softly. A tenderness had shown up in her voice.
“My life sucks,” I replied.
“I lost both my best friend and probably the only woman who could ever love me,” I said. “So I got drunk and made a phone call.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
I gave an exaggerated shrug. She sat quietly, waiting.
“It’s a long, complicated story,” I finally said, “about friends with benefits. Or without benefits. Or… oh, I don’t know. Friends and benefits.”
“So tell me about it,” she suggested.
“You really want to hear about it?”
“You did pay for the hour. I’m happy to listen, unless you’d rather….” Her eyes flicked to my crotch and back up.
I grimaced. Nothing was stirring down there.
“I don’t know where to start,” I admitted.
“So start at the beginning.”
“‘In the beginning, the world was void and without form’,” I intoned.
My companion cleared her throat and I shrugged.
“I guess things with Sharon began the day I failed to propose to my college girlfriend, Alicia. Well, ex-girlfriend, technically. We’d been together two and a half years before I left for grad school at the University of Arizona. That was the fall of 1990. My first spring semester in Tucson, the distance took its toll. We broke up but agreed to remain ‘friends.’ In reality, the only thing that changed was that the fights stopped. We still talked on the phone as often as we had when we were a couple and we made plans to get together at the end of the semester. My last class ended and I hopped in my car and drove for fourteen hours back to Boulder. I only made one stop. Long enough to get a ring. I’d had enough of Tucson and enough of time away from Alicia.”
I paused. I hated remembering this next part. I really hated having to talk about it. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
“It… didn’t go well. We started off with a hug and a pleasant conversation. I asked her how her life was and… and… and an hour later I was calling Sharon.”
I looked up at my companion. She gave a comforting smile and reached over and took my hand.
“Now tell me the story.”
I nodded, and let my mind slide back to that day….
“Sharon, it’s Joe.”
“Joe? How did it go?” The concern in her voice told me she’d picked up the pain in mine.
“Not well. I… I didn’t even have a chance to ask her. Before I could, she was telling me about her new boyfriend.”
“It gets worse. She told me what a great kisser he is.”
“It just happened. She said she was glad we’d been able to be friends since we broke up and I agreed. Then she started talking about this guy and I was just too stunned to tell her to shut up. By the time I recovered… well, let’s just say I was lucky I recovered before she told me about anything but kissing. Like how well he could quote Shakespeare.”
Sharon chuckled. We shared way too many inside jokes.
“I sincerely doubt there are any two-backed beasts yet, at least with Alicia,” she said.
“You’re probably right, but does it matter?”
“Of course not,” Sharon replied.
I let out a long sigh. Sharon kept silent.
“Can I come over?” I asked.
“Sure,” she said. “I’ll break open the wine.”
Sharon greeted me at her apartment door with a big hug. She didn’t let go right away. Neither did I. I wanted to collapse or die, but she held me up.
Eventually we made it inside and over to her couch. As I sagged into the cushions, she handed me a tall plastic glass of red liquid. I looked askance at the cup.
“You need to drink it faster than you will out of a wine glass,” she said. “You should actually be drinking something harder tonight.”
“Harder stuff tastes like crap,” I retorted.
Sharon shrugged and didn’t push me. I took a sip of the wine. It tasted like crap too. I took a gulp. Sharon sat on the couch next to me and put an arm around me.
“I thought Alicia loved me,” I moaned. “I loved her!” I took another gulp of wine.
“I know,” Sharon said soothingly.
“I was willing to quit grad school for her!” I wailed. “And she’s already fucking someone else. God, this hurts.”
“I know,” Sharon said again. “It’s just like me and Allen.”
Sharon and I had become friends when she was dating my roommate Allen. They met at the beginning of her freshman year. When the school year ended, they had a very passionate send-off that required me to spend the night at Alicia’s so they could have the room. It was supposed to tide them over for the summer break while he was in California. A month later the break turned out to be for good. Allen sent Sharon a letter dumping her.
I spent the next year being Sharon’s shoulder to cry on. Now it was my turn.
I did cry that night, leaving tear stains on the shoulder of Sharon’s t-shirt. She listened to me whine and bawl and bitch about Alicia. I also drank enough to be very sick the next morning. I didn’t lose my cookies, but the hangover was fierce. It took me a very long time to sit up on Sharon’s couch, where she’d let me sleep the night before.
“Why did you get me drunk?” I moaned when she walked into the room.
“It’s what you did for me when Allen dumped me,” she said.
“That may have been a bad idea,” I muttered.
Sharon just shrugged her shoulders.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
I glared at her. “Like shit.”
Sharon just nodded. My head continued to pound and the wooziness was intense. I eventually made it to my feet and tottered toward the bathroom. When I returned, Sharon had started coffee. I decided against sitting in a chair and eased myself back onto the couch. It wasn’t too painful to lie on my side and I figured I deserved that reward after my courageous journey to pee. I closed my eyes and tried to will the pounding away. I didn’t succeed.
Something nudged my ribs. I opened my eyes to see Sharon holding coffee and aspirin. She pulled an end table around and set them within reach.
“You are a goddess,” I muttered.
Sharon grinned and made a flourish with her arm. I would have rolled my eyes but it hurt too much. Instead, I swallowed the aspirin and took a sip of the coffee. Then I closed my eyes and went back to trying to shove the hammers out of my skull.
There is something about pain that changes the nature of time. There is no past and barely a future. There is just this painful breath and then this nauseous whirl and maybe the odd thought that is little more than ‘God, make it stop.’ Really good hangovers leave few atheists.
My prayers were answered about two in the afternoon. I may have slept, but I didn’t feel particularly rested. What I did feel was thirsty. I opened my eyes and managed to sit up without wanting to immediately collapse back. This was good. I made a quick apology to God for all the promises I was sure I’d made but now couldn’t remember. I noted that the coffee was gone and glanced around. Sharon was reading at her kitchen table with a glass of something that looked cold. She looked up and watched me. I pulled myself up and slowly, very slowly, made my way to the table.
“Water?” I asked.
Sharon nodded and had a glass in front of me by the time I sank into the chair.
“Still feeling like shit?” she asked.
“Yes. But not as bad. A shower and some food and I might even make it to human.”
“A shower and food we can do.”
Sharon waited until I’d emptied my glass and then stood, extended a hand, and helped me to my feet. She led me to the bathroom and turned on the water in the tub. She started adjusting the knobs while I stripped off my shirt and sagged against the counter, waiting.
“Go ahead and get in,” she said, once she was satisfied with the water temperature. “I’ll go get you some clean towels.”
I nodded, and once Sharon had left the bathroom, shucked my pants and climbed under the spray.
It was glorious. I could almost feel the stink slough away. The steam seemed to open my veins and give me a fresh shot of invigorating oxygen. I stood, just soaking the warmth in.
“Got your towel!” Sharon called from the other side of the shower curtain a while later.
“You are a true goddess!” I called back.
“Thanks!” I could hear the amusement in her voice.
“You got the water temperature exactly right,” I added.
“Well, you and Allen once joked that you were the only guys on the floor that liked it a half turn back from boiling. So I set it to the same temperature that we used when we showered together in the dorms.”
“Uh, Sharon, the showers in the dorm weren’t coed.”
She laughed. “I know that. Allen and I would go there to have sex in the early morning hours when no one else was awake.”
I was taken aback, but didn’t want to let on.
“Sounds hot,” I said.
“Oh, it was! Both the water and the sex!”
I gave the obligatory groan at the pun and Sharon laughed.
“You really should try it, Joe. There’s something about warm water pouring over your body while you’re doing it—it’s incredibly erotic.”
“I’ll believe it. If the water’s hot enough, of course.”
Sharon chuckled again.
“You’d enjoy it. I certainly did. It’s one of the things I miss about Allen.”
“So find someone else,” I suggested. I was nearly done washing and was mostly continuing the shower for the pure pleasure of standing under the water.
“It’s not so easy. Most of the guys who ask me out are clearly players, and I’m not going to put up with that.”
“So ask a shy guy out.”
“Yuck. If he’s too shy to ask me out, then why would I want to go out with him? Besides, I’d probably have to be the teacher in bed, and I’m not interested in doing that.”
I snorted in response.
“So what are you looking for?” I asked.
“In a guy?”
I heard her sigh on the other side of the curtain.
“Someone who can be patient. A guy who can be a great friend, as well as being good in bed.”
“Heh. By the time you find out he’s good in bed, you’re already dating him.”
“We could always be ‘friends with benefits’ first.”
Suddenly I was very, very sober. I was also acutely aware that I was stark naked and only separated by a few feet and a thin plastic curtain from an attractive woman. Who also had a high libido, if I believed Allen’s stories. I did one slow final turn under the water and shut the faucet off.
“You’re okay with ‘friends with benefits’?”
“Well, it’s not what I really want… but yeah.”
I cracked the curtain and extended an arm. Sharon placed a towel in my hand and I pulled it back and began drying off.
“You accepting volunteers?” I asked, keeping my voice playful. “Where do I sign up?”
“Hah! Good one!”
I wrapped the towel around myself and opened the shower curtain. Sharon’s eyes were twinkling.
“I’m not going to sleep with you, Joe.”
“Oh, darn!” I said, snapping my fingers with a broad motion of my arm. It got the sought-after laugh and Sharon just shook her head.
“Get dressed and we’ll go get you some breakfast,” she said, “or lunch as the case may be.”
Sharon gave me privacy to dress and I spent the time wondering about her comments. I’d always thought she was in the “had to be in love to have sex” camp. At least she’d insisted on waiting to sleep with Allen until they’d been going out a couple of months. Their first time had ended up being a Christmas present. She bought a deep blue teddy and invited him to unwrap his gift. They’d been happy then.
Like Alicia and I had been. That started me wallowing in my own self-pity. I spent the rest of the day, including the meal with Sharon, in a funk.
I spent the rest of the summer doing much of the same wallowing. There was no point in going back to the heat of Tucson until the fall semester started, so I moped around my parents’ house, did a couple of major yard work projects for them, and saw my friends when I could.
Sharon wasn’t the only one I hung out with, of course. She did have more free time than some of my other friends, though. She also didn’t seem to mind me whining about Alicia as much as the others. We’d go out to a movie or hit a club and end up sitting in her living room late at night, telling stories.
I also tried to stay friends with Alicia. That was a mistake. We got together a couple of times for coffee and pretended not to notice the unbearable tenseness we both carried. The tone was polite, but it was death by a thousand cuts, one casual remark at a time. Maybe things would have been different if I’d let myself get angry at her, instead of clinging to my idealistic views about how to be with someone after breaking up. I don’t know.
I do know that Sharon wasn’t so idealistic. She proved it one day when we went to a matinee movie. We’d been sitting in the near-deserted theatre, talking about nothing, waiting for it to start, when Alicia and her roommate showed up and sat down a few rows behind us.
“Hey! What are you doing with my guy?” Alicia teased.
“He’s not your guy,” Sharon called back without turning around.
“Oh? You dating him?” Alicia shot back.
Sharon responded by reaching over and grasping my hand and then lifting it into Alicia’s view. We held hands that way for a while and then lowered them back to the armrest between us.
“He’s also a great kisser!” Sharon said, while never letting go of my hand.
There was no reply from behind us.
The movie started and I tried to keep my mind on the screen. Eventually Sharon released her grip and we returned to just sitting side by side, looking ahead. We stayed that way until the end of the credits. When the house lights came up, Sharon glanced around and then smirked. We were alone in the theatre.
“Sharon one, Alicia zero,” she drawled.
“I didn’t know there was a contest.”
“When they rip your heart out, it’s always a contest. Not who can hurt the other one the most, but who can walk away with the most dignity.”
“You’re kidding,” I said.
Sharon just shrugged her shoulders.
“Besides,” I continued, “if that were true, the contest would be between Alicia and me. How do you score points?”
“Oh, I’m on your side,” Sharon said with a smirk.
I raised my eyebrows.
“Anything for you, my friend,” she said.
“Anything?” I opened my eyes wide in mock surprise at the offer.
Sharon gave me a playful punch on the arm.
“Geez, Joe! You definitely have a one-track mind!”
I shrugged. “What can I say? The sex is one of the things I miss.”
“Tell me about it,” she muttered.
“I will if you want me to,” I said.
Sharon got a wicked gleam in her eye. “Maybe when we get back to my apartment.”
We talked about other things on our way out of the theatre and on the drive to Sharon’s place. After getting some drinks, we settled into her living room, me on the couch, her on a chair across from me.
“So what do you want to know?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m mostly curious about what you’ll tell me.”
“Depends on what you ask.”
“You want me to ask questions?” she mused.
In that moment, I had an inspiration.
“Let’s play twenty questions,” I suggested. “We take turns asking each other questions and the other person has to either answer honestly or take a forfeit.”
“Mmm. I don’t know. What did you have in mind for forfeits?”
“We can deal with that afterwards,” I said, backpedaling. “Forfeiting person’s choice.” Sharon slowly nodded.
“Okay, but let’s make it ten questions instead of twenty. I do have plans this evening.”
“Agreed.” She’d told me about the plans earlier, so it sounded like a good idea. We sat for a moment, and it got a little awkward.
“You want to go first?” I asked.
“Sure. What do you miss most sexually?”
I chuckled. “Not starting small, are we?”
Sharon shook her head.
“Well… I miss the orgasms, of course. But the most… I’d have to say going down on her. I loved watching her climax as I ate her.”
“Mmmm. Allen was pretty good at that, but it’s not what I miss the most.”
“What do you miss the most?”
“Is that your first question?”
“I miss having his cock inside me. Allen’s pretty thick and his cock felt wonderful.”
“So size matters!”
“To this woman it does!”
“Was he the biggest you’ve had?”
“Is that your second question?” Sharon teased.
“Sure. We don’t have to be strict about alternating.”
“Yes, he was,” she answered. “My turn.”
She paused in thought for a while. “What is the best sex you ever had?”
“With Alicia or overall?”
“That counts as two questions then,” I said.
Sharon nodded in agreement.
“With Alicia… when she flew down to Tucson to visit me over her spring break, about a month before we broke up. We spent the day making love in every room in the house. That wasn’t tough because there were only three, counting the bathroom. We ended in the living room, lying in a patch of sun streaming through the big window there. Alicia was on top. I’d come, but was still inside her. Instead of pulling off of me, she lay forward, flat against my chest. We basked there, skin to skin, my cock softening but staying inside her, until the sun finally disappeared and the room started to cool.”
“Sounds really nice,” Sharon said. She was lightly running her fingertips over her arms, almost caressing herself.
I smiled and continued.
“Overall? That would have to be the private striptease my high school girlfriend performed for me. She invited me over on a night when her parents were going to be out late. After talking and making out for a while, she told me to sit on the couch because she had a surprise for me. She left for a while and came back wearing a long coat, a hat, and carrying a cassette tape. The music was Joe Cocker’s ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On.’
“Nine and a Half Weeks,” Sharon interjected.
“That’s right. It had just come out and she’d been inspired.”
“So what happened?”
“She did a slow strip tease, following the lyrics of the song,” I said. “She was wearing white lingerie underneath, including a garter belt and stockings. I got so excited that I stripped off all my own clothes while she danced. She ended her tease by straddling my lap and fucking me hard.”
“So that’s when your lingerie fetish started,” Sharon mused.
“Well, yeah. Though if a woman had bought a blue teddy and told me to unwrap my Christmas present, I’d have probably ended up with just as strong of an interest in lingerie.”
That drew a laugh from Sharon.
“So my next question,” I began, not letting a pause develop, “what’s the sexiest lingerie you own?”
“The blue teddy,” she said. “I’m a poor starving college student, remember?”
“I’ll buy new lingerie for you if you’ll model it for me.”
Sharon gave me a look with just a hint of disdain. I shrunk back under her gaze. She didn’t dignify my comment with a response.
“Next question,” she said. “Do you have any other fetishes besides lingerie?”
“I think I’ll take a forfeit on that.”
Sharon chuckled and shook her head.
“My turn. Do you have any fetishes?”
“Forfeit,” Sharon shot back. That intrigued me, as I’d expected a ‘no.’
We both paused for a while and I didn’t know if I should wait for her next question or ask one of my own. As the silence lengthened, I decided to ask.
“So,” I began, “you said that Allen had the biggest cock of the guys you’ve been with. How many guys is that?”
Sharon let out a deep sigh. She hesitated, looking a little apprehensive for a moment.
“Nine,” she admitted. “I’m not proud of it, but I had a pretty busy start. You?”
“No guys,” I responded. Sharon rolled her eyes. “Alicia was the third woman, though.”
“Only three at age 23? When did you start?”
“I lost my virginity at 18,” I answered. “And that was your sixth question.”
Sharon nodded in agreement.
“When did you lose your virginity?” I asked.
“Fourteen,” she answered.
“That’s not too bad,” I commented. “Nine guys in seven years?”
“Five of them were in the first year.”
I snorted in surprise. “Really? What did you do?”
“Forfeit. And that was your seventh question.”
“Okay. What’s your next one?”
Sharon didn’t say anything right away. She was scowling and staring into space. Not at me. I wasn’t the cause. Maybe I could bring her out of it.
“If you don’t have a question ready, I’ve got an easy one.”
That got Sharon’s attention. “Shoot.”
“If Allen were here right now and things were good with him, what would you do?”
“Rip off his pants and suck his cock. Then have him fuck me until I couldn’t take it anymore. Then fill the tub and take a bath together.”
“Why a bath?”
“Because it’s more relaxing than a shower, and these days that’s where I usually am when I’m fantasizing about Allen.”
“Really? Are you masturbating then?” I got instantly embarrassed at my question.
Sharon stared at me, and then slowly grinned.
“That was your last question,” she said. “The answer’s yes. I masturbate in the tub just about every time I take a bath.”
The image intrigued me but I couldn’t ask any follow ups. I bit my tongue and Sharon chuckled at my frustration.
“Where do you masturbate?” Sharon asked.
“My bed,” I answered. “Sometimes sitting at the computer.”
“The computer? Why?”
“The university gave me a computer account on one of their mainframes and I can dial into it with my modem. It turns out there are these things called newsgroups. Some of them are for sex stories and some of the stories are pretty hot.”
“The university lets you read porn?”
“I don’t think the university officials have any idea that the newsgroups exist. Remember, a lot of people outside of computer science think of computers as just stand-alone machines.”
“So, like I said, sometimes the stories are pretty hot. I’m turned on, I’m at home, I’m alone… why not?”
Sharon laughed in reply.
“So what type of stories do you like?” she asked.
“All types. Well, all types where the sex is consensual. Rape stories make me ill.”
“I’m glad to hear that!” Sharon said with a snort.
“Past that, there are all types available. It just depends on what my fantasy of the moment is.”
“Really?” Sharon got a devilish twinkle in her eye.
“Last question, then. Other than Alicia, what fantasies do you masturbate to?”
I gulped. Would Sharon think I was a pervert if I answered that?
“Maybe some other time,” I replied.
“Maybe,” she agreed. “This has been fun.” Sharon looked at her watch. “But speaking of time, I have to get ready for Trish’s birthday party.”
I nodded and stood up. Sharon walked me to the door and gave me a long hug good-bye.
I headed back to my parents’ house and discovered they were gone for the evening. Still a little aroused by the afternoon’s conversation, I retreated to my room and lay down on the bed. One thought led to another and soon….
That was the first time I had an orgasm while fantasizing about Sharon.
The brunette squeezed my hand, bringing me back to the present.
“This was 1991?” she asked.
I slowly nodded.
“You said to begin at the beginning. That was the beginning, three years ago.”
“Sounds like there’s a lot more to this story then,” she said.
I just nodded.
“More than I’ll be able to tell in an hour,” I said, feeling dour. “Maybe I shouldn’t have drunk so much.”
Her eyes followed my glance down to my crotch, which didn’t feel so disconnected as it had, but still wasn’t functional.
“You needed—need, the conversation more than you need the sex,” she said.
I tilted my head and stared at her. “The sex would help me forget.”
“As well as the booze? Or should I say, as poorly?”
She had me there.
“You are an incredibly smart lady,” I said.
That drew a smile, and for a moment I thought I saw something in her eyes, but her control was back in place too fast for me to be sure.
“Must be a change of pace,” I said. “Sitting here just listening.”
“I actually like it,” she replied. “The reason I went into psychology is because I find people fascinating.”
“Even drunk whiners?”
“I doubt you’re a drunk whiner all the time. In fact, you’re probably a lot of fun in the right circumstances.”
She just smiled. I smiled back. Then she glanced at her watch.
“Our hour’s almost up. Unless you’d like to extend….”
“What’s the point?” I said. “I’m too out of it to be much good.”
“I understand. If you want to talk again, though, feel free to call the agency. They offer a much lower rate for purely social companionship.”
I raised my eyebrows.
“It has to be somewhere clearly public where nothing… intimate is going to happen. It also has to be for longer blocks of time than an hour.”
“So who do I ask for? I’m sorry, but I don’t remember your name.”
“That’s okay. I’m not surprised. My name is Sherri.” She pulled a card out of her purse and wrote it down, then passed me the card.
I stared at it for a moment, then stared at her. She stood and so I did, and then I walked her to the door. She turned and faced me, and then stepped in close, looking into my eyes.
“It may feel like the end of the world, Joe, but it’s not.”
Then Sherri grabbed my head and pulled my lips to hers. She kissed me hard, thrusting her tongue into my mouth. Then, just as suddenly, she released me and pulled back, a feral smile on her face.
“It’s not the end of the world at all.”
With that, she turned and disappeared down the stairs.
I closed the door and wandered back into the kitchen. Sherri had been drinking water while I’d been talking. I cleared the glasses and headed to bed. I looked at the bottle and shook my head ruefully. I hadn’t drunk as much as I’d originally set out to and I was certainly feeling better. Then I realized it wasn’t just being less drunk than in the past. Maybe making that phone call hadn’t been a huge mistake after all.