She dropped her phone on the table, and stabbed at her salad with a frown.
“What’s up?” Ryan asked.
“Ugh. Nothing but dick pics.” She continued scowling into her salad. “I’d say men are gross, but that’s not exactly news.”
“Dick ... pics?” Ryan asked before he thought better of it. Ryan and Maria had been having lunch together for months, but never veered into anything ... salacious before.
She glanced up, and blushed. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“No worries, I just didn’t expect it.”
“Nobody ever does.” She sighed, “except a single woman trying to find a date for Saturday night.” She cocked her head and gave him a penetrating look.
“Ryan ... Do you like beer?” She asked.
He nodded, his mouth too full to speak.
“What kind do you drink?” She asked. Her voice held a strange gravity that seemed to signal this was an Important Question.
“Depends on the weather.” He said after trying to figure out what she was up to and failing. “I like lagers in the summer, and ale or stout the rest of the time.” He wouldn’t have called himself a beer snob. He stopped drinking watered down piss in college, but beyond experimenting with what he found at his grocery store, he’d never bothered to look any deeper.
“Ok. You pass.” She said with a nod. “What are you doing Saturday night?”
The penny finally dropped and he sat back in shock. Was she asking him out? They’d been having lunch together all summer and he had become very fond of her, but they’d never really talked about their personal lives. Basics, like where they’d gone to school, and how they ended up here had been covered, but they had never talked about relationships or what they did in their time off. They both worked in the same business park, for different companies, and had started eating together when the courtyard tables had been full. It started out as pleasantries, and an occasional comment, but had grown into the highlight of his day. She was funny, witty, and incredibly smart. She did some sort of lab work that he didn’t understand, and enjoyed filling him in on the office gossip, knowing he’d probably never speak to anyone she worked with. He regaled her with horror stories from the pits of the IT department, and the latest escapades of the douche-bro salesmen who sold commercial real estate. They had a great rapport, but he had never considered actually asking her out. He dreamt about it, and wondered why he couldn’t have met her outside work, but he hadn’t and he didn’t want to put her on the spot, or lose his lunch buddy so he’d never let it grow beyond daydreams.
Lost in his reverie, she lost her nerve.
“Hey look, no big deal. I was just...”
He slapped the table as he tried to swallow too much food and almost choked. “Wait!” He croaked.
To her credit, she waited, frozen in mid-backpedal as he managed to finish swallowing and drank a sip of water.
“Saturday night? Nothing, why?” He tried to ask innocently.
“You’re going to make me say it aren’t you?” She replied with a frown, but her eyes still looked happy, so he pressed his luck.
“Say what?” He smiled back at her.
“Fine. Would you be so kind as to grace me with your presence Saturday night so that we may taste many a beer?” If anything, her frown had deepened.
“I’d be honored.” He gave a mock bow, but a genuine smile. “To escort such a ravishing young woman anywhere, anytime.”
She laughed. “Ravishing huh? Ok. You’re forgiven.”
“So. About these dick pics.” He started, unsure exactly where he was going.
“Ugh. Don’t remind me. Do guys seriously think we’re going to get all hot and bothered over some blurry picture of a wang? Would you get all hot and bothered if I sent you a blurry picture of my boob?”
Ryan considered for a moment, there were actually two questions in there,
“If you sent it?” He asked.
She blushed, “I mean, if some random woman sent you a picture of a boob, not me.”
“If a random woman sent one, no. I would not get ‘hot and bothered’.” He left the unsaid exception lie between them a moment. “I prefer a tease. A hint. Something that leaves room for my imagination.”
“Right?!” Maria agreed. “It’s just gross. Like if I like a the guy, I’ll definitely want to see it, sooner or later. But some rando from the internet? No thanks.” She glanced back down at her phone with a look of disgust.
“Have you?” He asked, being purposefully vague.
“Have I what?” She looked nervous, he suspected she knew what he was asking, which was a good hint about how hard to press.
“Have you sent pictures of your boobs to a guy? And did it get him all hot and bothered?” He said conversationally.
She blushed bright red and started to stammer “No. I mean, not really ... I mean...”
“Not really?” He was smiling now, it was rare to see her flustered. She usually had this air of competence and control about her. “How can you say not really?”
She covered her face with her hands. “It wasn’t my boobs.” Came the quiet admission.
Ryan was shocked. He’d been playing, more or less, just seeing how far he could go, but he didn’t expect that Maria had actually done it.
“Wait, what? If it wasn’t...” He started.
“It was my ass. Well, I was wearing underwear ... but kind of see through? But I didn’t send it.” Her voice quiet and unsure at the beginning, ended with conviction.
“Let me get this straight. You took a picture of your ass in fancy underwear.” Ryan paused as he glanced around the table at her butt. Maria, blushed some more and nodded. “But then didn’t send it to the guy you took it for?”
She dropped both hands to the table with a bang and sighed.
“It was stupid. He was ... is my ex. He said I was too boring ... so I took this photo intending to show him what he was missing, but I couldn’t send it.”
“Oh.” Ryan sat back. “That makes sense. He could’ve put it on the internet, or sent it to you family. Or something.”
She nodded, and said “That’s not why I stopped. He was right in a way, I was boring, with him. Mainly because I didn’t really trust him and I was right. He’d been cheating on me pretty much the whole time. And after I left, I wanted to show him that he was wrong about me, that he was missing out. But I decided that it wasn’t worth it. He’s a piece of shit, so why bother?”
“So what happened to the photo?” He tried to ask nonchalantly. This conversation had opened up all kinds of new things about Maria that he wouldn’t have guessed.
“It’s still on my phone. I couldn’t delete it. It’s ridiculous, but I...” She ran out of breath, the suddenly looked at him with a sharp expression.
“I expect you want to see it.” She said with resignation.
“Whoa ... whoa. Let’s back up a second.” Oddly he noticed she seemed to deflate a little when he said that.
“First of all. Yes. Of course I do.” She perked back up. “But, not if you don’t want to show it.”
Her face was a blank, her dark eyes were searching his, when she said in a voice that didn’t match her face at all “It’s sooooo embarrassing. I don’t think I could ever willingly show it to anybody.”
The odd tone and inflections made Ryan sit up straight. There was something going on here, something that made the hair on neck stand up. Was she really saying what he thought she was saying?
“I think I need to see it.” He said flatly. No trace of begging or pleading in his voice, yet not quite a command either. He was watching her very closely now, and saw her relax with a glimmer of a smile on her lips.
She reached for her phone and turned it on.
“Oh shit. I’m late! I have to go.” Rapidly she gathered up her dishes, and with a seconds pause, reached out and grabbed Ryan’s hand to give it a squeeze. “Can I call later?”
Ryan, dumbfounded, nodded yes. She gave him a warm smile and hurried back to her lab. He gathered up his things more slowly, realizing he was just as late. No one ever came down to the IT dungeon unless things were literally on fire, so he didn’t feel the need to rush. Instead he moved methodically, his mind carefully going over the last hour to figure out what just happened.
The afternoon passed in a blur, and as he was walking out of his building, she zipped by in her car waving to him. He waved back and then felt his phone buzz. He almost dropped his phone when he realized what he was looking at. She’d texted him the photo, and it took his breath away. She was lying on her side, away from the camera, and the photo was cropped between the middle of her back and the backs of her knees. It was clear she was topless, and her underwear, while modestly cut, was exceptionally sheer and left little to the imagination. She was trim and obviously fit, her ass looked beautiful. Round, smooth and firm, it perfectly filled out the underwear worn low on her hips, He felt his mouth water and he snapped back to reality. In a daze he got to his car and made his way home, his mind seared by the image and what it seemed to mean.
That evening while he was slowly eating a bowl of macaroni & cheese his phone rang.
“So? Did you get it? I didn’t send it to the wrong number did I?” Her words tumbled out in a rush.
.... There is more of this story ...