Friends and Benefits
Chapter 28

Caution: This Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Fa/Fa, Consensual, Romantic, Light Bond, Group Sex, First, Safe Sex, Oral Sex, Masturbation, Petting, Sex Toys, Exhibitionism, Voyeurism, Slow, School,

Desc: Sex Story: Chapter 28 - I told her "It's a long, complicated story about friends with benefits. Or without benefits. Or... I don't know. Friends and benefits." It was the story of my mid-twenties and sorting out my confusion about women, love, and sex. But it was only in telling my story to a non-traditional "therapist" that I really found the answers and learned about the varied forms that love can take. Note slow code.

I started having second thoughts the moment I hung up the phone. Maybe I should have called Tina and discussed possible travel plans before booking my flight. Maybe I should have flown directly to Phoenix to see her dad, instead of flying to Tucson and driving up. Except I really wanted to see her before him.

But was I really prepared for that? I started to get chills just thinking about all the ways I could screw up that conversation. Either conversation. Heck, I could screw things up just simply by surprising Tina when I knocked on her door.

My mind started to whir through a dozen different ways I could avoid calamities, and a dozen different contingencies for those. Not to mention alternate Plans C, D, and E. Or the contingencies for those.

I chuckled and shook my head when I realized what I was doing. It was probably time for another walk. I grabbed my coat and headed for the door

Once again, I didn't win anything with my lottery scratch-off ticket. The brisk trip down to the 7-Eleven and back cleared my head, though. I was overthinking this, which was a huge clue that I was on the verge of making a mistake. I was probably better off with no plans than with too detailed of a plan.

Except 'probably' was too thin a line to hang my hopes on. I needed a second opinion. Fortunately, I knew someone to ask.

Sherri answered the phone this time, instead of Lisa. We said our hellos and then I took a deep breath.

"I got a letter from Tina," I said.

"Oh, really? What'd she say."

"Let me read it to you." I shifted the phone so I could hold the letter in my other hand. Despite the fact that I knew it almost word for word, I didn't want to get anything wrong when I read it.

"Wow," Sherri said when I was done. "That's surprising."

"Really?"

"Most women wouldn't have given you a second chance."

"Yeah," I said with a sigh. Sherri hadn't given her client a second chance, after all. "But it looks like she is, and so I'm going to Arizona and I could use some advice."

"Okay."

I told her about my airplane reservations and my tentative plan to see Tina and then drive up to Phoenix to see her father. Then I told her about my worries and some of the things I thought I might say. I started to go into detail, and then caught myself.

"In the end," I said, "I'm torn between wanting to make sure I have the right words, and worrying that I'm overthinking things."

"Hmmm." She paused, and I waited, my heart starting to pound more than I'd expected. "Well, you have to tell her that you're coming. And you can't surprise her father, either. He needs to know you're coming."

"Yeah. I was kind of hoping Tina would help me out."

"And how well do you think that will go over?"

I sighed. "Not well." I bit my lip. "I'd better call him directly, huh?"

She snorted. "That would be a good idea."

I grimaced. While she was right, I didn't like her tone.

"I'll call him," I said. "After I call Tina and tell her I'm coming. But once we've handled the logistics, I don't know what words to use."

"So don't use words. Show her what you mean. If phone calls aren't enough, why would just talking to her be?"

My eyebrows shot up. "Ah. Like flowers or something. When I get there."

"Go with the 'something.'"

"I'll have to think about that. What that could be, that is."

"I'm sure you can come up with something creative."

"Uh, okay." I considered asking her if I could bounce ideas off of her later, but then decided no. I need to come up with it on my own. As scared as I was, I knew it'd be better if I could say it was entirely my own idea.

"Do you want to call me when you get to Tucson?"

"Maybe. Do you want me to call?"

"I'd like to hear how it went," she said. "But it's up to you whether you call or just wait until you get back."

I paused. "I think that's going to depend on how it goes," I said. "Can I wing it?"

"Sure. You're arriving in Tucson next Friday, right? I may be out that night, but I should be home Saturday during the day."

"Out? Are you working again?"

"Sort of," she said. "I'm meeting one of my old regulars, but it's not quite a date."

"Oh?"

"When I told him I'd quit the agency, he said he had a business idea for me. We're meeting for dinner."

"Business?"

"Yes."

I had dozens of questions, but they died on my lips. I really didn't want to pry, even though I wanted to know.

"Well, good luck," I said.

"Thanks."

"And I'll call if I need advice," I said. "And when I get back, of course."

"Great." She paused. "And good luck."

"Thanks."

We said our goodbyes and hung up. I started getting out pots and pans for dinner while mulling over a way I could show Tina what I meant without words. Before I started cooking, I realized I was low on milk. If I was going to have to go to the store, I might as well do it for the week, I realized. I headed to the cookbook shelf to start to plan the next several meals.

That's when I saw the cookbook Tina had made for me and it all fell into place. I could make Tina something. Something like what she'd done for me, that reflected all of our good memories together. Something like a scrapbook. Or a photo album.

A photo album.

I added an album to my grocery list. I wasn't sure Safeway would have one, but I could always get one from Staples if they didn't. I started thinking of the pictures to include as I finished the list and headed out to the store.

After dinner, I knew I needed to call Tina. If she didn't want to see me, I'd need to change my reservations, and the sooner I knew the better. I took a few deep breaths to steady my nerves and then I dialed the phone.

"Hello?" It wasn't Tina's voice.

"Uh," I said. "Hi. Is this Marcy?"

"Yes it is. Who's calling?"

"Hi Marcy, this is Joe. I, uh, got Tina's letter."

"Oh, hi, Joe. Tina's not here."

"Okay." I could feel the panic rising. "Well, like I said, I got her letter and so I'm coming to Arizona. I'll be there the 11th. I was hoping to see her that night and then drive up to see her father the next day. I'll call him to arrange that, though."

"Oh? Okay. I'll tell her."

"Thanks." I sagged against the wall, feeling the relief washing through my body. Then I realized one other thing I had to say.

"Uh, listen," I said, "if she doesn't want me to come, please tell her to call me back. I still have a little bit of time in which I could cancel the reservation."

"Okay."

"Thanks."

We hung up and I once again sagged against the wall in relief. I was sure that if coming out was a horrid idea, Marcy would have said so. I couldn't be 100% sure, but I didn't feel as nervous as I had just a little while ago. I needed to work off some of the residual nerves, but I didn't feel like another walk. As a result, my bathroom ended up getting a scrubbing like it'd never seen, before I finally collapsed in happy exhaustion.

The next day, work went by in a nervous flash. I kept envisioning Tina's reactions when Marcy gave her the news of my visit, and of course, my mind kept sliding to the worst case scenarios. I tried to concentrate on my programming, but after hours of not being able to find a misplaced comma, I finally gave up in frustration. I did paperwork and file maintenance until it was time to go home.

My foreboding grew as I walked in my apartment. The message light on my answering machine blinked alarm red and I knew without checking that it was Tina. With a deep sigh, I pressed play.

"Hi, Joe. This is Tina. I got your message. I'm ... I'm glad you decided to come. Dinner on the 11th sounds good." Pause. "I'll let my dad know you'll be calling him about Saturday. I ... well, I'm glad you decided to come."

I let out a deep breath, relieved. It looked like I might be able to dig myself out of this hole yet, even though it was going to be a lot of work.

But was it worth it? After all, I could just chalk this whole thing up to "lessons learned" and move on. Dating someone new like Lisa would be a heckuva lot easier than trying to repair things with Tina or Sharon. A lot easier. I could cancel my reservations, and just stay here.

Except that would hurt Tina again, and I couldn't bear that thought. Not only for her, but for what it would say about me. I could already see the coldness in Sherri's eyes if I told her I'd backed out.

That was the coward's way and I was done being a coward. Wasn't I?

I snorted. I couldn't believe I was asking myself that question, seeing where I'd ended up by not being bold. Going to Arizona was bold. Even if things didn't work out, going to Tucson was the right thing to do.

And there was one other thing I still had to do. Feeling a little fortified, I went to my desk and found Tina's parents' phone number. I took a deep breath and dialed.

A male voice answered.

"Hello, this is Joe Miller, may I speak to Mr. Delgado?"

"This is he."

"Uh..." I took a quick breath before my courage could waver. "Mr. Delgado, I'd like to start seeing Tina again, and I understand that I need to talk to you in order to fix things."

"That's correct."

"So, uh, I'm coming to Arizona in two weeks. I was hoping you'd be willing to talk to me on Saturday the 12th. Say early afternoon?"

"You're coming here?"

"Yes. I'm planning to fly into Tucson and drive up."

"I see."

Silence filled the phone and my gut started to churn madly. I was sure he was thinking about what I had just said and I had no idea what to say next.

"Be here at two o'clock."

I let out a deep breath. "Thank you, sir."

"Don't thank me yet."

"Thank you for agreeing to talk to me."

"I'll see you on the twelfth."

"Yes, sir."

"Goodbye." With that, he hung up.

I slowly lowered the phone to its cradle and listened to my heart pounding. I felt exhilarated and nervous at the same time. Making the call had been such a small hurdle, but it felt like I'd just won the lottery.

That made me grin. Maybe I should try my luck and walk to the 7-Eleven. The exercise would do me good. I grabbed my coat and headed to the door.

My luck partially held. I won ten dollars, which went into buying myself some ice cream and a can of root beer for root beer floats. It wasn't as good as a good glass of wine, but it'd be a good private celebration nonetheless.

The next two weeks went by quickly. I devoted my evenings to getting the photo album ready for Tina. I quickly realized that my text was longer than the photos, making it more of a scrapbook. Nonetheless, I continued on.

I also continued to feel my nerves rise before checking the mail. It had been long enough to hear from Sharon, but each day passed without any letters or calls. I had pangs of regret and loneliness on the nights we'd usually talk, but they slowly got better. I realized I could call Sherri, but somehow that didn't seem right. Instead, I just kept myself busy, either working or cleaning or reading, until it was time to travel to Arizona.

When I realized how early I'd have to get up, I regretted taking such an early morning flight. I tried to sleep on the plane, but it was difficult; I was just too nervous to really be able to relax in such cramped seats. Fortunately, no one claimed the middle seat, so I was at least able to sprawl a little without elbowing the person next to me.

Leaving the terminal, it was a little disorienting to be headed to the rental car counters instead of the main parking lot. The guy at the counter tried to upsell me to a convertible, and, in a moment of bleary-headedness, I agreed. I had some vague notions of driving up to Phoenix with Tina's hair blowing in the wind, but by the time I'd gotten to the car, I realized that was stupid. I'd almost certainly be doing the drive by myself.

I stopped by my hotel, but the clerk told me it was too early to check in. I shrugged. I had plenty to do before dinner as it was. I grabbed my camera and headed to campus, before driving by the Bluebird Café, the movie theater, the Hilton, and my old apartment. I briefly considered seeing if the current tenants would let me in, but decided they'd just think I was strange. I settled for taking a couple of pictures of the steps and one of the door. Then I decided to swing by the Safeway before hitting the one-hour photo lab. I made it back to my room in time to get everything assembled, wrap a ribbon around the album, and take a quick shower before leaving for dinner.

Surprisingly, on the drive to Tina's dorm, my nerves were steadier than I'd anticipated. I must have shifted to autopilot, I mused. At the dorm, I headed for the phones to call her, but some girls ahead of me held the hallway door open for me, despite its being against the rules. I smiled, thanked them, and walked down to Tina's room. Without pausing, I knocked.

Tina opened the door and her eyes grew wide as she saw me.

"Hi," I said with a nervous smile. "I followed some of your dorm mates down from the lobby. Can I come in?"

Tina nodded. "Sure." She stepped back and then walked over to her bed.

I hesitated, not wanting to sit next to her on the bed. I ended up moving to the chair at her desk. I looked at her. "Thank you for seeing me."

She shrugged. "I'm surprised you came."

"Well, it's not every time a guy gets a second chance."

She tensed.

"—Besides," I quickly continued, "it was the right thing to do. Even if we don't have a second chance, you deserved a face-to-face apology."

Her eyes narrowed. "You've already apologized. A lot."

I nodded. "But words aren't enough, so I'm here. I also brought you this." I held out the wrapped photo album.

"What's this?"

"A record of some of my best memories."

She looked at me warily.

"Don't worry," I said. "It's not those type of pictures."

She accepted the album, slipped the ribbon off, and opened it. Her eyes widened and then a small smile appeared. She slowly thumbed through the pages before turning back to the first one and beginning to read. I pulled out the chair from Marcy's desk and sank into it, watching from only a few feet away.

I'd finally finished the album with one to two pictures per page and three long accompanying paragraphs, describing my memories of Tina at that particular location. I kept the descriptions g-rated, since I knew other people might one day see it, but some of my choices certainly hinted at more. In addition to the poster shop where we'd met, the movie theater where we'd had our first date, and the Bluebird Café where we'd often dined, I had pages that described the dorm lobby where I'd picked her up her freshman year, the lobby of her current dorm, the Student Union cafeteria, and the Chi O steps. The description of the Hilton discussed our Valentine's Dinner there with only the slightest hint about our time in the room. Similarly, the pictures of the Grand Canyon described our hike and how beautiful she was in the sunset, without mentioning she was nude at the time.

Three pages weren't of places, but were simply collages of things. One was a pile of videos with the covers I knew she'd recognize prominently displayed. The next was a pile of textbooks, with the paragraphs waxing poetic about studying together. The final page had photos of food from the supermarket tucked around pictures of pots and pans, with a picture of the cookbook she'd given me prominently displayed.

Not all the photos had come out great, but I was happy with them. I was a little more nervous about the text, as I hoped I hadn't gone too over the top, nor sounded too bland. I watched Tina carefully as she read. As she slowly relaxed and her smile grew, so did mine.

When she'd turned the final page, she looked up. "Wow," she said. "This was a lot of work."

"You're worth it," I said. "And even if we don't get back together, you need to know how much I really appreciate you and all we've had together."

She nodded.

"Besides," I said. "I have a lot of great memories of us and I wanted to share them."

She looked back down at the book. "I noticed you didn't share all of them."

I grinned. "Well, I thought your father might see that some day and I'd like to survive the encounter."

She smiled, nodding slightly, and then grew still. She looked up at me, her eyes serious.

"He's not going to be happy with you. I told him everything."

"Everything?"

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