A special thanks to KillerMuffin who worked long and hard editing my script. It was her Herculean efforts that made it as readable as it is in its current state. I accept responsibility for all the remaining spelling mistakes and poor grammar. I simply can't read it one more time.
Idly, I reach across the desk and flick my index finger against the quartz desk clock and penholder. In spite of this stimulus, it does not increase its tempo, but rather continues its slow, methodical beat on this dreary, dismal Friday afternoon. 3:01:09 P.M... 3:01:10 P.M... 3:01:11 P.M.
As the time drags on like cold motor oil flowing uphill backward on a frigid New Hampshire winter day, I find it impossible to concentrate. My mind is in overdrive, but not on work. Across the little cubicle, through a window high in the wall, I can get a partial glimpse of the outdoors, but only if I lean in the desk chair at just the right angle. A cold wind is blowing from the east, off the Gulf of Maine and across Portsmouth Harbor; driving sheets of rain to beat incessantly against the office windows. A tiny leak is evident in the corner where someone failed to close it after yesterday's brief taste of the spring yet to come. As I watch, the water slowly run down the gyproc wall in the partial basement office, and all I can think is, "Fuck it, fuck them, fuck it all."
I look at the clock again. 3:02:01 P.M... 3:02:02 P.M. Again, I flick at it with the same results. Freedom beckons from outside the rain-streaked window, but freedom to do what, and freedom from what?
The wind is incessant. The rain bounces off the pavement in waves, which seem to flow, much like an ocean swell, across the parking lot. The litter and debris of a long, hard winter is strangely absent, too waterlogged to move in the minor whirlwind. The scraggy, barren land of this rocky, New England State is only beginning to feel the warm breath of spring. The trees are barren, even of their early spring buds. The grass is brown and dead, with only a few bare blades of green showing on the most sheltered parts of the south side of the building. Even the crocus and the tulips, planted late in the fall, have not stuck their noses above the surface into the dismal, cold air.
Somehow the weather and the season reflect my mood. Turbulent unsettled, stormy but with a promise, a real promise, of a rebirth to come, a metamorphous. The ugly caterpillar of a New England winter will change into a glorious spring and summer followed by an autumn that can never be done justice to by any writer or painter. The inevitability of the re-birth is pre-ordained. It is indelibly coded into the genes of the lifeblood of the planet Earth.
Deep in me, in the very center of my being, I feel myself going through such a re-birth. My inner feelings, my emotions, are in turmoil, as never before. Long surpressed, they are rebelling, demanding to be freed from their chains, to be allowed to take command of my life. They are welling up, organizing their forces, preparing to charge the barricades of my conventional values, the facade I put forward for my family, relatives, and friends. Long surpressed, they have grown in strength, fueled by my unhappiness, my dissatisfaction with my state in life. Like the inevitable spring they are on the march. This time I wonder, I truly wonder, if I have the power to surpress them, to beat them back into submission one more time or am I so weakened, that this time they are finally going to overcome me, to take control of my life. What is even more startling, disconcerting, frightening is that I cannot define what these emotions, yearnings, cravings are. Unlike the spring, I do not know exactly what might blossom forth from the recesses of my mind, if I lose the battle. Maybe if I did, it would strengthen my morale resolve, maybe if I did it would be like a 5th columnist further eating away at my resolve, my will to resist?
The placid, benign look on my face masks the inner turmoil raging.
A soft smile hints at the corner of my mouth, almost a Mona Lisa smile, but not quite. How singularly appropriate. Just the other night I met a new friend on the Internet and had quipped that I was, 'A 21st Century Renaissance woman.' He had understood exactly what I was saying; claiming that he was a classically educated gentleman who belonged in the 19th century but was trapped in the 21st Century. How singularly appropriate, that we met at this time in my life is the thought that keeps running through my mind. My thoughts dwell, obsess on the possibility that he, somehow, can help focus on what I feel, what I believe and what I want and need in this new emerging stage in my life. A Renaissance woman, I roll the expression over in my mind. Somehow in the 21st. Century it seems so appropriate, a feminist foil to the standard chauvinistic expression of a Renaissance Man. The more I turn it over in my mind, the more I realize the validity of the expression in describing my current mental agitation.
In retrospect what happened several hundred years ago is clear. What happens when the seasons change is clear, it is preordained by nature? What is not clear is what will happen to me if I succumb to my own renaissance? What will I change into? What will I change from? What will be the price if these forces boiling within me successfully storm the ramparts and drastically alter the course of my life? Will they bring happiness or sorrow, fulfillment and contentment or emptiness and sadness? Joy to my family or a profound sense of loss?
What does the future hold? Should I resist or should I give in? If only I had an inkling of the core question. What is it I need, I want, I am striving for? What are the forces, churning in me, striving to do with my life? Where are they proposing to take me? Will it be a new and glorious level of being, a veritable paradise on earth, or my own private living hell? Is it worth the chance? Is my life so bad now? Questions, questions, questions and no answers. They eat at me but the answers like autumn smoke in the air evade my grasp.
The reflections take a different but related course. I flick the clock again. 3:09:45 P.M... 3:09:46 P.M... Agonizingly, the seconds tick away and the ebb and flow of the office tide sways around me as if I was not physically present. My co-workers ignore me as if they sense my distraction and the need for several minutes of privacy. What is it about my life, my state of being, that is so unsatisfying, I ask myself rhetorically? Why am I so unhappy so... so unsatisfied, so unfulfilled?
Is this what I want? Does this represent the limits of my professional aspirations?
Deep, deep down I know that this is part of the problem. Raised in a strong, nurturing middle class family, I was taught to strive to be self sufficient, self reliant, to strike out in the world and climb the mountain and the next and the next, always looking for more, for better, as a source of personal satisfaction, if nothing else. This agency, this office is not providing the challenge I need. Nepotism has set in. Decisions are as much on the basis of family considerations as they are on business. Promotion is on the basis of family. Ruefully, I smile to myself. All the blowjobs in the world are not going to get that hen pecked ninny to challenge his wife. She controls the purse strings as well as access to her fat pussy. Intuitively, as much as by the product of logical thought processes, I conclude that there is no place here in the future for my drive, my creative talents, my inbred desire to achieve.
Professionally, I am at one of the way stations of life, a jumping off point, but to what? A better paying more challenging job with another agency, another franchise? My own agency, What? At best, every day I am learning the business. Each day I absorb, catalogue, synthesize the business wheat from the chaff and, in this office, there is a lot of chaff.
Has the time come to accept the overture and strike out on my own? I am aggressive; the desire to achieve is bred in my genes. Yes, definitely, this is part of the problem, but just as intuitively I know it is only part of the problem.
Listlessly, my eyes wander the cubicle, unable to focus on anything meaningful, anything concrete and productive. The cold rain drums against the window in staccato bursts. I fidget and squirm in my chair, agitated, on edge. Again I flick the clock with my finger. 3:12:45 P.M... 3:12:46 P.M... Obstinate, defying me, it refuses to move faster. A slow, tedious Friday afternoon with nothing to look forward to all weekend trapped indoors with Gerald and the kids. Yes, Gerald, ah Gerald, my mind focuses momentarily on him. Gerald, my highschool sweetheart, is he the problem? Is he part of the problem? Do I love him? Do I really, really love him?
The last question is the easiest. Yes, I love him; I love him with every fiber of my being. That is the easy question and the quick and simple honest answer. Any solution to the problem, if there is a problem, whatever it may be, must involve him and the children. Thank God, for Gerald and the kids, is all I can mentally utter as my mind churns away. What would I do without them? The answer is simple. I would have a mental collapse and be institutionalized. Sometimes it is not material things that are the problem. He comes from a good, affluent family much like me. He loves me and I know that. He is loyal. He is a good breadwinner. We live well and have all of the material things to make us comfortable and secure.
Maybe therein lies part of the problem, all the material things? Are there other things that are important? What about the other things it is so hard for husbands and wives, who are intimate with each other, to talk about? What about the fact that in spite of my unquestioning love for him I have a harder and harder time reaching an orgasm as he labors over me like a rutting, mechanical bull. What about the innate sense that I have, like all women, that his physical passion, his interest in me as a sex mate, a private erotic playmate is waning. It is and I know it.
God, I think, it would be so much better if he wasn't so damned conservative, if he would try things, but he won't, he just doesn't seem interested. True, he is conservative, Irish, Catholic and therefore to be expected that he is sexually uptight. It's bred into him. How do you say to your husband, your soulmate, I am bored with the same old positions, the same old variations. Even the best head in the world gets boring after while. Come on, roll me over, get the hand cream and work it up my ass. How do you say, 'come on, the kids are asleep, lets play with the enema bag, and then dear you may get lucky and get a little 'sailor lovin.' How would he react if I suggested I get dressed up like a high-class hooker and go to wait at a neighborhood bar for him to come pick me up for a quick hard fuck on the sly? How do you say, Gerald, it's not about love, it's about variety, spice and excitement in our sex lives. We both need it.
My finger flicks the clock again. 3:15:01 P.M... 3:15:02 P.M... Will this endless afternoon ever get over, I wonder despairingly.
A head pops up over the partition in front of me snapping me out of my dream world. "Janie, I'm going on my break now, you got the fort, babe!"
My wandering mind turns to Stephanie, and not for the first time, since she came to work in this office a year ago. Young, pert, full of personality, but wise in the ways of the world far beyond her 22 years, she is smart, outgoing, and not one to forego an opportunity to take the initiative to show others what she can do and her willingness to do it. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, if I leave in the near future to start on my own, I will invite her to go with me. She will be an asset beyond money.
The relationship I have built with her goes far beyond office matters. She treats me like her big sister, the one she never had, and confides in me her problems with her no account boyfriend who she has finally, thank God, had the courage and initiative to leave. She told me of the discord in her home, that finally caused her to leave at 17 and finally, as only girls can, of some of her sexual desires and fantasies. Therein lies a major portion of my mental turmoil. Deep, deep in the recesses of my mind almost sub-consciously I realize my friendship with her, my attraction to her is taking a whole new outlook which both surprises and frightens me at the same time. Just the thought of those tight little buns beneath her slacks, that tight little cunt, unstretched by having two children, her smooth taunt belly and pert tits, sends a shiver down my spine to end in my pussy. For the countless time to day I feel myself becoming moist, and dampening the black pantyhose that I put on fresh so many hours ago. I am becoming sexually aroused just at the thought of her, of slipping my tongue into her most private area, swirling, licking, probing as she clutches my hands in hers and locks her fingers in mine in a death grip. Furtively, I look around the central office area, deserted, quiet, abandoned. Everyone, except me has gone, on break. Once again, I survey the room, deserted. The only sound is laughter coming from the staff rest area. I am aroused. Just the thought of Stephanie in her tight little red and white stripped bikini, the odd dark hair peeking out from under the edge of the leg band is so tantalizing, so arousing, that I involuntarily tense my muscles in my leaking pussy. The pixyish grin, the coquettish pose all come flooding back in my memory as I begin to breathe more rapidly, the girl's weekend at the cottage is forever burned on my mind.
One last look around the office. It is temporarily abandoned, deserted, silent. Slowly I swivel in the chair to the left; my back turned to the doorway and the general entrance to the office. I am semi protected from prying eyes. My lap is below the level of the desk. It is hidden from anyone sitting in front of me. I slip my hand under my long black skirt and slide it up the inside of my leg. The waistband of the pantyhose stretches and I wiggle my hand inside, splaying my fingers, and slide them back down through the course black hair of my bush. I gasp at the sensual feel. The touch is electric. Every muscle in my body tenses. My eyes glaze and my eyelids droop, seeing nothing around anymore. I slip my fingers out of my cunt and pulling my hand out from under my dress I bring my fingers to my nostrils, sniffing my juices, my scent, my arousal. Like a cat, a sleek, smooth coated feline, I lick and suck my fingers, tasting my salty juices.
The breath rasps in and out of my tortured lungs. Quickly, while I am still controlled by the rational side of my brain, I double-check the office to ensure I am still alone. The hand slips back inside my long skirt and back under the waistband of the pantyhose to gain access to my sopping cunt. The index finger flicks my clit, stimulating it, teasing it, and encouraging it to rise up out of its little, fleshy cave, to come out in the open light of day, to come out and play with me. Quickly, it rises to the challenge. My fingers dance and thrum on my stimulated clit. Deeper and deeper I slip into a sexual trance. As my fingers explore my pussy, I feel my climax rushing toward me, uncontrollable, inevitable, promising, no guaranteeing, total satisfaction, and total fulfillment.
"Janie, I'm... back,... sorry."
Whirling around I whip my errant fingers out from my cunt, drop my skirt and look up all in a fraction of a second, only to see the top of Stephanie's head bob back down under the level of the 5 foot divider. "Ah, Jesus, ah... fucking, Jesus H. Christ!" I silently scream to myself.
Like a drowning woman, I desperately grasp for a straw of hope. I examine her line of sight. Is it possible she really didn't see anything but my facial expression? The answer is immediately obvious. Where she popped over the partition is the one place in the whole fucking office where my lap could be seen. Fuck, fuck and double fuck, I curse. What do I do and what do I say to her? Damage control is in the forefront of my mind. Will she go to Jeff, the asshole? Will he believe her? The answer to the second question is far easier than the first. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, he will believe her, I conclude.
Always a realist, even if a cynic and a pessimist I know what he will do. He would never dare to fire me but he would hold it over my head for the rest of my professional life at Beyea Associates. Blow jobs and quick fucks after office hours will become the order of the day, if she talks. My mind is racing, gnawing at the pivotal question. Will she tell?
Agitated, I toy with the idea that the clock is an animate object, with a will and a personality of its own. That it has maliciously planned to drag all afternoon and then race through Stephanie's coffee break while I was fantasizing so I would be caught, exposed, revealed to all the office for what I am, what ever that may be. Ruefully, I answer my own question. A sexually frustrated woman, that's what I am. A sexually frustrated woman who has come to the realization in the last several minutes that she has a craving to taste the sexual favors, the hidden delights of another, younger woman. I finally admit the truth to myself. Rising from my desk, straightening my skirt, patting my hair back into place, I go to face Stephanie and whatever fate has in store for me.
Stephanie is at her desk, madly typing at her keyboard.
As I approach I know she is aware I am coming but her head stays down, studiously ignoring me. "Stephanie... " I whisper in a hoarse voice.
"What did you see just then? What do you think you saw just now, when you popped your head over the divider and looked into my office?"
"Nothing, Janie. Nothing, I promise I didn't see anything." Her head stays down, her eyes avoiding mine. If there was any lingering doubt that she may, in fact, not have seen anything, her next comment totally destroys it.
"I promise, Janie. I'll always come around to your door from now on, forever. I promise, cross my heart." She has stopped typing, but her eyes remain down caste. The silence is absolute.
The two of us are frozen in this moment in time. Immobile, neither of us is able to act, to speak to move forward. It is as if a terrorist has thrown a bomb into the office and we stand frozen, looking at it and each other, incapable of acting, watching our lives flash before our eyes. Nothing happens, a slow fuse, a dud? Has fate intervened?
"What were you thinking about in your office a few minutes ago?"
"Sorry, Stephanie, I wasn't thinking, I was just acting irresponsibly."
"No, Janie, that's not what I mean."
"What do you mean then?"
"I mean what were you fantasizing about when I so unexpectedly popped up over the divider?"
The question flusters me. "Well... really... I... I... was just thinking romantic thoughts.".
"Were they about Gerald?"
"Were they about Gerald," she repeats more insistently? Still I fail to answer.
"Then they were about something or someone else, weren't they?" It is not a question. It is a statement of fact. For the first time, her eyes rise from the keyboard and she looks me directly in the eye. "Janie... "
"Yes... " I whisper as she looks away.
"You were fantasizing about me, weren't you?" Again it is a statement of fact, not a question.
I am mute, my mouth goes dry and the words of denial die in the dust in my throat. I cannot hold eye contact. My head drops and I focus my eyes on my hands, fidgeting in my lap. Everything has been said that needs to be said and no words have been exchanged. Suddenly, the gung-ho, take charge businesswoman dressed in power suits is no longer in charge, in command. She knows my innermost thoughts, my most secret, private urges. "Janie... ?"
"Look at me!"
Unable to resist the command, my head rises and my eyes are drawn to her.
"I think it would be a very good idea if you were to go into your office and call Gerald and tell him you are going out for drinks to-night and to see my new condo and you will be home in the morning."
"Don't you agree?"
"Yes, Stephanie. I'll go and call him now."
"Good, I'm glad we finally have that out of the way. It's proven to be a good day after all in spite of the rain, hasn't it?"
In a state of shock I can only nod mutely as I rise to walk back to my office like a zombie. The desk clock continues its to methodically ticking 3:47:06 P.M... 3:47:07 P.M. but I hardly even notice it. Head in hands, I stare at the blotter on my desk, dazed, wondering what has happened. My world has been turned upside down in 17 minutes, or has it? Nothing has happened, yet. Will something happen; is the question I ask myself? Stephanie won't talk, that is obvious. The ball is in my court. Will I step up to the line and join the game or will I return to the stands to watch life, a passive spectator, content to yearn, dream, fantasize, but not participate. Is the risk worth the potential rewards, the price I may have to pay if I am exposed? What would my mother and my dad think? Gerald, could he stand the public embarrassment? Would he stand it? Do I want to lose him?
No, no, a thousand times no, I silently scream in my private hell. All logic, reason, instinct, common sense, education, family background screams to let this situation pass. But oh, my emotions, my hormones are in full flight. Just the thought of the tight curve of her trim ass, the promise of her luxuriant bush that I had but a peek at, the gentle curve of her breast only partially hidden by her bra and loose fitting blouse sends shivers down my spine. I tightly clench the muscles in my thighs trying to stem the flow of juices trying to leak out of my aroused pussy and further soil my pantyhose. A bead of perspiration forms on my upper lip and my nostrils flare, as I smell my own scent, the smell of a bitch in heat. Do I have the will power to resist? Do I want to resist? My mind is a maelstrom of conflicting thoughts and emotions. Loyalties and needs fighting each other for supremacy, for control of my body and actions. The urge to break down and cry is overwhelming. What have I done? What have I started? I am like a dog that has always chased car tires. Finally I have caught one, now what do I do with it? The secret yearnings hidden deep in the recesses of my mind have been exposed. Stephanie knows of my hidden longings for her, longings than even I have never been willing to admit, even to myself. She has issued the challenge. Do I dare accept?
My head rises from my hands, my eyes focus and inexplicably I look at the clock once again, 5:00:00 P.M.
"Janie, its time."
Slowly my head rotates in the direction of the sound, the voice.
"It's quitting time Janie. Have you called Gerald and told him we have plans for the evening?"
Blankly I stare at her, uncomprehending.
"Have you called?"
Stephanie says nothing for several seconds. Finally, quietly but firmly, she says, "I'm going out to my car to have a smoke and warm it up. I'll be ten minutes. It's your decision. If you make it before I finish, join me and we will go to Joe and Curly's before I take you to show you my new condo. If not, I'll see you Monday morning." Abruptly, Stephanie turns and leaves, and the office is enveloped in the sounds of silence. The clock ticks away. 5:01: 00 P.M... 5:02:00P.M. 5:03:00 P.M... 5:04:00 P.M. The numbers fly, I can't believe it. There has to be a power surge. It simply can't be going that fast. 5:06:00 P.M... 5:07:00 P.M.
The hand attached to the end of my arm develops a mind of its own. The telephone receiver rises from the console, the speed dial is pushed, and ringing followed by the answering machine. A strange voice belonging to a strange person unknown to me leaves a message and it is done. The decision has been made.
Someone else, who has temporarily taken possession of my body and mind, has made it. I am possessed, or maybe it is just that my inner desires have overridden my senses. Numbly, I retrieve my coat and purse and, with one last look at the clock blinking on the desk, I exit the office into the driving rain of the parking lot.
Initially, I think I have procrastinated too long and a feeling of relief courses thought my body immediately followed by a deep feeling of disappointment. Squinting my eyes, to look into the wind, I cannot see Stephanie's old maroon Chevy. Before either elation or depression can set in, a small dark car stops in front of me. The passenger door squeaks open. Quickly I slide in and stare directly ahead as I fasten my seat belt.
"Hard Decision?" Stephanie asks, in a low, comforting voice.
My head moves up and down of its own volition.
"Call home, Janie?"
"Wondering if you are making the right decision?"
"Oh, yes, big time." A trace of my old confidence returns for the first time in a couple of hours.
"Guess what?" I turn, and meet her eye, for the first time since the whole nightmare started almost two hours ago.
"What," I respond?
"All the questions, worries, running through your mind," she says leaving the sentence unfinished.
"Well, there all running through my mind as well Janie. The only difference is that they are probably different ones than yours, not more important, not less important, just different."
Stephanie pulls out of the parking lot and almost instantly pulls into the next parking lot down the street. The garish neon sign of The Elm Tree Inn beckons, promising liquid solace to my jangled nerves and turbulent emotions. One of the benefits of working next door is that we are both well known regulars at Joe and Curly's, the local watering hole, located in back of the ground floor of the inn looking out on the pool. Surprisingly, the pool has been filled since our last visit. The seasonal accoutrements have not yet been installed and even the usual compliment of children, in with their parents for the weekend shopping package, are absent. Only a polar bear would brave the elements for a dip tonight.
Seated, at a table for two by the closed patio doors, two Coronas are placed before us by the regular bar tender. "Enjoy ladies. Long week followed by a miserable weekend."
The bar reeks of class, of money, but for some strange reason it is sparsely occupied. Undoubtedly, the inhospitable New Hampshire weather has something to do with it. Any friends we have among the regulars are conspicuous by their absence to night and, under the circumstances, that is a godsend.
"Yes, Stephanie," I respond with raising my eyes from the table.
"Look at me please."
My eyes continue to wander for a few seconds but finally, reluctantly, they are drawn to Stephanie by the tone of her voice.
"That's better. I'm nervous, uptight and apprehensive about what might happen tonight too," Stephanie responds.
"How did you know, how did you ever know," I ask? "Did I give it away? Did I do something, say something?"
"No, Janie, you didn't give it away."
"Does anyone else know," I ask, both hopeful and fearful at the same time.
"No, Janie, our secret is safe."
"Then how did you know Stephanie?"
"I simply guessed Janie. It was an intuitive guess, a stab in the dark. I think deep, deep in me I wanted it to be true and that you gave me keener insight, but yes, I just guessed."
A secret thrill of admiration runs through me. "I knew you were smart, Stephanie, but I never suspected that you were capable of such far reaching flashes of intuitive brilliance," I respond as I smile at her for the first time. "Even I didn't know, at least in my conscious mind, until this afternoon. I never, ever saw myself even in the recesses of my mind, as a lesbian or is it bi-sexual before. I like good fucking too much." My hand comes to my mouth, not believing that I actually said such a coarse thing. "I'm sorry, that was not a nice thing to say."
Reaching across the table, I caress Stephanie's fingers in an intimate way before quickly withdrawing my hand for fear of discovery. Then it strikes me with full force, the phrase she uttered that didn't fully register, "I wanted it to be true." Encouraged, my comfort level rising, I ask, "Stephanie, what did you mean, 'I wanted it to be true'?"
Stephanie says nothing for the longest time. Her eyes sweep the room and find nothing of interest. Finally she returns to the table and reaches for a cigarette. As she lights it I can see her fingers shaking ever so slightly.
Encouraged even further I smile, "Your just as nervous as I am in spite of your bravado, aren't you?"
"Yes," she responds, in a voice so low it is barely audible.
"Why Steph, you seem so sure of yourself, so self confident?"
"Well, I'm not," she almost barks at me. "Sorry, Janie. I guess I'm just as nervous as you are. Look, this is the way I see it. We're both sitting here and we both know why. We're each nervous, apprehensive about carrying through with what is on our minds. Are we safe from discovery? Can each trust the other? Will it affect our working relationship, right?"
I make no response sensing that the question is rhetorical.
"Do you want to get up and leave, forget this ever happened? Everything returns to the way it was at 3:30:00 P.M." Stephanie persists in her line of thinking.
The silence is pregnant.
"No," I respond, surprised at the forcefulness in my voice. "What about you, Stephanie? "Do you want to forget it?"
She answers immediately, without hesitation. "No, I want to go forward, to experiment, but I want you to know one thing."
"What is that, Stephanie," I inquire, wondering what she is about to say.
"I have never done anything like this in my life. Never! Not anything even close!" The vehemence in her voice is disconcerting and I look around the room seeing if anyone has overheard us.
"Well Stephanie, guess what?" Her eyes look at me questioningly. "In spite of my age and sexual history, neither have I. We will be initiating each other. Stephanie, I'm here because I love Gerald but he doesn't sexually satisfy me anymore. Why are you here? You're young, attractive and you have a fantastic personality. Any normal guy would be drooling to slip your panties down and get your ankles around his ears."
The sheer graphic description seems to shock her. She takes a deep drag on her cigarette before she answers. I think, Janie, therein lies my problem."
"How is that," I respond, truly puzzled at where she might be leading.
"I've told you a lot about how I grew up, the nights out with my mom drinking and partying and the need to be on my own, to see, to try and make it, to have a better life. I could see where I would end up if I stayed at home. The image scared me. The thought of failing and having to go back, my tail between my legs terrifies me. There is a lot I didn't tell you, and I am not prepared to talk about it to you, at least not yet. Maybe later that will change." A shadow of a smile touches the corner of her mouth, just enough to take the hurt, the sting out of the comment. "Janie, you're a take charge woman, at least around the office, you know what you want and how to get it. You're a doer, not a talker, and a dreamer. Why does your sex life suck? Why don't you just take charge and solve it? Are you saying there is a role reversal in your sex life, that once inside the bedroom door Gerald is in charge?"
An embarrassed smile crosses my face as I look down at the table and start to fidget with the package of cigarettes. Several seconds pass and I still do not answer the staccato series of questions that Stephanie has put to me.
"Cat got your tongue, Janie? The way I see it, we are two sleek felines sitting here in the bar on a rainy Friday night. We're both in heat and we are eyeing each other with that special look that only females have. It doesn't seem to me to be the time to be shy, to hold back, does it to you?"
"Yes, Stephanie, when you put it that way, I guess not. When the bedroom door closes Gerald is in charge and therein lies the problem. I love him, I truly love him, and he's a good husband and a great father. He is hardworking, faithful, dependable."
"I sense the 'but' coming, Janie," her eyes rise quizzically.
"The 'but' is that our sex life sucks. He is in charge and our sex life absolutely sucks. He has no imagination, no desire to experiment and, contrary to what you hear, quantity does not make up for quality." Once the initial ice is broken I find it easier and easier to talk on the subject. "I am finding it harder and harder to get off with Gerald. More and more I find I have to resort to my imagination, to fantasize even, to get close to an orgasm while he is pounding away in me."
"Have you tried talking to Gerald about this?" Stephanie asks giving every appearance of being genuinely interested.
I look away for a moment as if I don't want to answer the question but quickly come back as if I am hesitant but don't want to break off the discussion. "Yes, but either he is not hearing me or he is not interested in changing. I just don't think he is all that interested any more, quite frankly."
"What makes you think that?"
I hesitate to answer but then I mentally decide to push forward.
Stephanie senses it and once again our fingers touch just for a brief instant. "You know the sex shop a couple of miles down the street?"
Stephanie simply nods.
"I went there and bought a vibrator, a lilac colored one, the other day."
Again she nods as if encouraging me to go on.
"Last week I was so horny one night I went to bed early after dropping a few, not too subtle hints, as to what I had in mind. Gerald didn't come to bed, so I took out the vibrator. I was just getting warmed up when he came into the room."
"Boy, that must have got his motor jump started, Janie!" she says with a grin.
Flushing, I break eye contact and gaze around the room. This time Stephanie doesn't prompt me. It is my decision and mine alone to decide whether or not to continue. Just one more of a whole series of turning points today it would seem. "No," I continue in a subdued voice. "It started nothing. He apologized for interrupting me and said he would go and watch the news until I was finished."
"Wow, I'm sorry, Janie."
I continue as if I haven't heard her words of consolation. "I know there is no one else. I just know, but he doesn't seem to have any sexual interest in me any more or, more precisely, any imagination that can re-kindle our sex life. I love him and he loves me, I know that. I'm not looking to have an affair. I've done that in the past. I don't want to run the danger of hurting him and the kids."
"But," Stephanie prompts?
"Sexually, I am starting to crawl the walls," I blurt out.
"Well, Janie, I understand. It makes sense to me but I have one question. "Why me? Why am I the center of your sexual fantasies?"
"Good question, I'm not sure I can properly articulate my answer and I'm not sure it is something you want to hear, but I will try. The bottom line of what I am going to say is that I think it might be me. I've seduced my share of men in my life. Men think they seduce us but you and I know that is not the case. There was a time when just the suggestion that I was in a receptive mood, that I was in heat, would drive Gerald crazy. He would be beside himself to get my panties off and drive his pole into me. Now, that's gone. I'd like to have it back only because of the power it gave me over him. Sounds awful, doesn't it?"
Stephanie says nothing prompting me to continue.
"The real issue is I am beginning to wonder if whether I am really interested in the sexual gratification a man can give me. Physiologically, I think I have moved beyond that. More and more I find my mind dwelling on other women lately, and you specifically. Can I excite you, can I bring you sexual gratification, and can you do the same for me? This isn't about love and commitment; it's about physical gratification. Can you, another woman, scratch my itch? Can you sexually gratify me? There, I've said it. I'm sorry, but it is now out in the open between us."
Dead silence follows my revelations. Stephanie says nothing. No empty, simpering words of understanding, no indignant words of condemnation, no expression of moral outrage, cross her lips. She doesn't stand up and throw the remnants of her beer in my face. She says nothing, and she does nothing. Her eyes glaze over and she stares into the distance as if mesmerized by the sheets of rain beating against the patio windows. Psychologically exposed, the urge to babble on is overwhelming. I resist, and with nervous fingers, fumble for a fresh cigarette in the pack in front of me. Several minutes pass and she says nothing. As my mind races, I cannot help fear for all the possible negative consequences that can arise from exposing myself so recklessly. Better that I had kept the closet door closed on my secret sexual urges.
"Stephanie, I'm... "
The silence continues.
Finally, Stephanie's mind returns to her body. She lights a fresh cigarette and looks me in the eye. "Have you ever read any of the works of Rudyard Kipling?"
Totally disconcerted, I utter, "No, I don't think so, I'm sure I haven't, why?"
"No reason, just wondering."
Stephanie continues as if it is totally irrelevant whether I have ever heard of him or not. "He was a nineteenth century British writer. He wrote a lot about the British Empire, India, Africa, and places like that."
"Oh, no, I am sure I haven't, not my taste," I smile.
"Is that so," she responds. "I thought your tastes were the subject of out conversation?"
My heart and eyes compete with each other in their plunge to the floor. My mind races trying to recall the nearest exit.
"I'm sorry, Janie, that was a thoughtless way to put it. It didn't come out the way I meant it. I'm struggling too." Her hand snakes across the table and squeezes my fingers hesitantly but just a fraction too long for a friendly gesture, before returning to her side of the table. "Kipling, among other things, wrote about the rogue tiger who developed a taste for human flesh and had to be hunted down and killed. It was a very dangerous job for the hunters but it had to be done."