Friends and Benefits
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 34 - 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.
My first letter was to Sharon, simply because it was easier to write. I said I was disappointed that I hadn't heard back from her and thought our friendship was stronger than that. I said I was sorry I'd screwed up, but wasn't going to grovel. I told her a little about my life and about making new friends in D.C. I closed by asking her to write me and said I hoped to hear from her soon.
My second was to Tina. I hesitated. I expected a letter from her in the next week. Did I want to wait, or have them cross in the mail? And what exactly did I want to say? She already knew I wanted her and that I'd do what it took to be with her. Pushing for more now didn't seem right.
Allen's words came back to me. "She'll make it easy for you."
That was enough. I decided to include a comment in the next letter that offered to start talking on the phone whenever she was ready to, and leave it at that. When it was right, she'd make it easy.
Was that it? Was that all I had to do?
No. There's Lisa. She's made it too easy.
The problem was, I still wanted to sleep with her. I just didn't want to date her, or lead her to believe that there could be more than sex. I'd talked to her, but had she really gotten it?
I wasn't sure. I could talk to her again, I supposed. But was talking enough? I needed to think about it.
At least with Sherri, things were clear. She liked me and cared for me, but wasn't going to fall in love with me. At least not romantic love—what did she call it? Eros. Sherri might feel agape and philios toward me, but no eros.
Which is how I felt toward Lisa. True, I wanted to have sex with her, but just friendly sex. Maybe agape sex, but mostly just friendly. Philios.
I snorted. I was kidding myself. There wasn't much agape involved at all. Was I having sex with Lisa because it was good for her? From some unselfish, divine kind of love?
No. It was purely selfish. Well, not entirely. She wanted to sleep with me too, after all. I settled back on the term "friendly." It was 'friends with benefits, ' pure and simple.
As for making sure I wasn't leading her on, there was a simple solution, I realized. Talk to Sherri. She'd be able to give me advice on exactly what to say to Lisa, since she probably had a good independent take on Lisa's state of mind.
I rubbed my eyes, realizing I was tired. I couldn't figure everything out in a day, and I'd had enough revelations for now. I decided to blow off and get myself a movie from Blockbuster for the evening. When it was over, I fell into a contented sleep.
The next night the phone rang. It was Sherri.
"I talked to Susan," she said. "She said yes!"
"She said she'd loan me the money for the in-call and even gave me some suggestions on what to look for."
"Wow. What about the stock?"
"She'll loan me some for that, too. She said that if it took off like we thought, I could pay her back for the whole loan from the shares."
"That's great! So when do you get started?"
"With the business? This summer, I think. I need to graduate and then find a suitable space. Susan wants me to put together a business plan, too. I'll probably head down there this summer to go over it with her."
"Why not have her come up?" I asked. "It might help if she could see the space you have in mind."
"Well, she's pretty busy during the summer. She runs a camp, and it'll be easier for her to visit in the off-season when the families have all left."
Sherri's rich friend runs a summer camp? "Huh."
"Besides," she continued, "that gives me time to really get it in shape before she gets here."
"Okay. So what exactly are you looking for?"
"Well, I'm still figuring that out..."
We spent about twenty minutes talking about the things she wanted from her sexual healing studio, though sometimes she called it a school and sometimes a center. She wanted a room big enough for her to have small group meetings, sitting in a circle on the floor, and a second room where she could put a bed for more 'intimate' instruction. I pointed out that she'd need some office space and asked if she was planning on a bathtub. She liked the idea, but wasn't sure she'd be able to find a place.
"You're really looking for a house," I said, "that you can convert to a business."
"You're right. Which means I need to look at zoning, too."
"Yeah, location is going to be key."
"Isn't it always that way with real estate?"
I chuckled. "You probably know as much about business as I do."
"True. But I'll still need your help for the computer stuff."
"Anything for a friend."
"Thanks." I could almost hear her grin through the telephone.
"Speaking of friends," I said, "I could use some friendly advice."
"What is it?"
"I'm a little worried that Lisa will want more from me than just 'friends with benefits.' I did talk to her the other night, but I'm not sure that's enough."
"Oh, Joe. It's good to hear you say that."
"It's good to hear you really thinking it through," she said, "at a deeper level. Not a lot of guys would do that."
"Well, I'm learning."
"Good," she said. "I'll talk to her, but talk won't be enough. I suggest you also quit going out to dinner with her. At least dressed-up dinners that can feel like a date."
"Ah," I said, getting it. "It can't feel like a romance, or it'll confuse things."
"I can do that."
"Good. I also have an idea..."
I waited a handful of clock ticks. "Yes?"
"I know a guy ... Would it bother you if she stopped sleeping with you?"
"Because she got involved with some other guy? Not really."
"Well," I equivocated, "the sex was really good, and I'd miss it if I was celibate, but if the guy made her happy? I think I'd be happy for her."
"Good. That would help."
"Anything you want me to do?"
"No," she said. "I'm not sure Robert is the right guy for her, but he certainly wouldn't hold her past against her and he's looking for something serious."
"A past client of yours?"
"Yes," she said. "He's a nice guy, and he really doesn't need my healing services. He's just ... shy around women."
I laughed. "Lisa'll cure him of that."
Sherri laughed with me. "She will indeed."
We talked a little longer before hanging up, returning to the topic of her center and her planned services. I couldn't help grinning at her enthusiasm, which was definitely infectious. I certainly hoped she'd find her space.
It only took Sherri a couple of months to find a good space. She located an old house in Takoma Park that had been used as a meditation studio and was thus zoned commercial. Now it was shuttered due to the owner's desire to follow his guru in a pilgrimage through India. She had to buy the property, which meant a bank loan, and then do some renovations. I thought the latter would be difficult, but Susan recommended a friend of hers who was happy to help. By mid-October, the work was done and she was ready to open.
I hadn't expected to see much of her while she was getting things going, but surprisingly, we ended up getting together most weekends. A lot of the time we just went out to dinner or a movie, though she also asked me to come to a Gay Pride rally, which I did. Lisa, Robert, and I waved to Sherri as she marched by, arm in arm with two butch- looking women.
Lisa's romance with Robert blossomed and, while she flirted with me, she made no more suggestions that I take her out or take her to bed. I was surprised by their pairing. While he was quite handsome, in an Ethan Hawke kind of way, he was very quiet and rarely spoke when the four of us got together. I was surprised to learn he was a contracts officer for the government, regularly negotiating big contracts, because he seemed so meek. But he delighted in just watching Lisa and listening to her talk. If I didn't know better, I'd have considered them 'beautiful people' without problems, but instead, I just felt a warm glow watching them flirt and caress and interact.
I had felt a tinge of jealousy when Lisa gushed about him after their first date, which of course had ended in her bed. Sherri, though, solved that problem by immediately inviting herself over for a "B&B" the following Saturday morning. I got the message. Thereafter, whenever I was feeling particularly horny or lonely, I gave her a call. I asked, and more often than not, she said yes.
Meanwhile, Tina's return letter said she appreciated my willingness to call, but that she wasn't quite ready for that. We continued to write, with me receiving a letter one week and sending my reply within a couple of days, to get her reply the following week. We wrote about movies and books and what we were doing. Toward June, she got a little cryptic about who she was going to some of the movies with, but then in September, she was once again writing about spending time with Marcy and some of Marcy's friends.
Sharon never replied to my letter. I was no longer surprised at that. After an evening of being discouraged, I just let it go. As much as I wanted to be friends, I couldn't do it on my own.
As a result, the weeks blended into each other and the summer slid by. Sherri set Friday, October 29 as her opening day and debated about having an open house. She eventually decided to just have a small private party, as a couple of her continuing clients had expressed discomfort at a public event. So, I posted advertisements to some of the newsgroups and got a page up on the World Wide Web that discussed her services in more detail, while she took out a small ad in the City Paper. I wasn't sure the page on the web would help, since so few people were on the Internet, but Sherri reassured me that it'd reach some of the men who could really use her services.
The week before she opened, Sherri seemed nervous under the surface. While she put on a confident face, I knew her well enough now to recognize when she was acting, at least when I paid attention. We'd crashed on her couch after a movie when I decided to ask.
"What's going on?" I asked during a lull. "You seem more jittery than I expected."
"It's the opening."
"Yeah, but you've got that under control, right?"
She bit her lip and nodded. Then she looked at me, searching my face for a moment.
"I've been thinking about naming the center after Danny."
I let out a whoosh of breath. "I thought you'd let go of your guilt over him."
She shook her head. "Not entirely. Oh, I've talked to Susan about it, and a couple of my old professors, but..."
"You don't want to name the center after Danny," I stated. "I know you mean it as a tribute, but do you really want your brother's name associated with you having sex?"
She snorted. "Well, when you put it like that..."
"Do something else. The Astarte Center is a good enough name."
She sighed. "I'd thought, maybe a ceremony. A tribute of some kind..."
"I think a ceremony is a great idea." I paused and moved next to her. She leaned into me, and I put my arm around her. "Isn't that what funerals are? Ceremonies to help the living say goodbye to the dead and move on?"
"I was in too much shock during Danny's funeral."
"Yeah," I said with a nod. "I can imagine. But it's never too late to say goodbye."
She looked at me, eyebrows arched.
"Write him a letter," I suggested. "Or go talk to his grave. Or create your own ceremony. Have a tribute. Just don't name the center after him."
"You're pretty firm about that," she said shaking her head.
"Well, someone's been teaching me to be decisive," I said.
She chuckled. "I may yet regret trying to help you."
I laughed. "Nah. You won't. Besides, you had to try. It's not my fault that I reminded you of your brother."
"Just your situation."
"Yeah. You may look somewhat like Sharon, but I'm really not that good of a resemblance to Danny."
Sherri paused and then tilted her head and looked at me.
"What?" I asked.
"Nothing. No—something. But I need to think it through."
Sherri pulled away and stood up. "I definitely need to think this through."
I chuckled and shook my head. "Well, it's late, so I'll get going and you can think all you want."
I smiled. "I'm not sure what I did, but you're welcome."
We hugged and kissed goodnight and then I headed home.
Sherri didn't need much time to think, because she called me the next day.
"Joe, can you meet me at the center Thursday evening, say seven?" she asked.
"The night before you formally open? Sure. What's up?"
"Great," she said. "I've come up with a ceremony and I'd like your help."
"No problem. What is it?"
She took a deep breath I could actually hear over the phone. "I'd like you to stand in for Danny. I may not be able to say things to him, but I can say them to you, in his place."
Wow. "I'd be honored."
"Thanks. I really appreciate it."
"So what do I have to do?" I asked.
"Show up. Role play a little. Mostly follow my lead."
"I can do that."
"Thanks. I deeply appreciate it."
I felt my face flush. I wasn't signing up for anything tough enough to warrant her gushing thanks. "No problem. What are friends for?"
"Great. I'll see you Thursday."
We said our goodbyes and hung up and then the over-analysis kicked in. What sort of ceremony was she likely to do? What would it entail? Should I do anything special, other than show up? Maybe try to look like Danny?
My mind kept returning to the questions, and so I eventually resorted to my now-standard walk to the 7-Eleven to clear my head. I really don't need to solve this one, I realized. I just need to help.
Thursday I showed up a few minutes early, a little nervous because I didn't quite know what to expect, but also a little eager. I could finally pay Sherri back for all her help, and that sense that I was doing something good compensated for whatever nerves I might have had.
I'd decided to wear jeans and a t-shirt. I couldn't remember the pictures of Danny very well, but I figured it'd be closer to a teenager than most of the rest of my wardrobe. I brushed my hair back, checked my watch, and opened the main door.
Lights flickered from the Center's main meeting room. I walked to the entry and paused. What I saw took my breath away.
Candles filled the room. There must have been over a hundred, making it as bright as dawn. Tall and thin, short and fat, they were on the walls, the bookcases to one side, and on the floor all around the edges of the large Persian rug centered in the room.
Sherri sat cross-legged on a raised low pillow on one side of the rug. Another pillow lay a few feet away from her, almost in the center of the rug. She was in white—it looked like linen—with no ornamentation other than the barrette that held her hair back. Next to her was the large framed picture of Danny that had once held a prominent place on her bedroom wall. On her other side sat a glass pitcher and small bowl.
She met my eyes and smiled. Then she gestured toward the vacant cushion.
"Thank you for coming, Joe." I could sense the forced calm over her nerves. She was more tightly wound than I'd expected.
I just nodded, any comment feeling inappropriate. I sat down across from her, cross-legged.
Sherri put her hands together, as if in prayer. She looked at me and waited. I duplicated her gesture and then met her eyes. She took a full breath, and then another. I joined her on the third. Then she bowed slightly, not breaking eye contact.
"Namaste," she said.
I bowed the same way to her. "Namaste."
She then took the picture into her lap. She looked at it once, smiling unsteadily, before meeting my eyes again.
"When I hand this picture to you," she said, "you will become Danny's stand-in." She took a deep breath.
"When I ask you for a response," she said, "please say 'In Danny's name, I... ' and then the response."
I pursed my lips in a small smile of understanding and nodded.
She took another deep breath and then thrust the picture toward me. I took it in my hands and lowered it to my lap, facing her. She looked at it for a moment, and then up at me. I smiled and she held my eyes, and then nodded.
"Danny," she said, "I'm sorry."
I nodded in acknowledgement but didn't speak. There didn't seem to be much to say.
"I loved—love you," she said. "The way you'd look at me, when we were talking together ... the way you always wanted to read the books I was reading. The way you'd follow me around ... trying not to be a pest ... even when I was playing with my friends. Though I'm not sure you enjoyed it when we dressed you up in our clothes."
I couldn't help grinning at that image. Sherri couldn't help grinning back. Then she grew sober.
"I know," she said, "there were tough times. Scary times. Like when Mom lost her job." She looked away, lost in thought, before taking a deep breath and returning to meet my eyes.
"But we were there for each other," she said. "We'd lie on my bed and talk. Or go for a walk. Or Mom would take us for ice cream. Remember?" Her eyes were almost pleading.
I hesitated, and then nodded.
The corners of her mouth dropped, as her eyes grew a little unfocused.
"But I wasn't there for you the last time," she said. She sucked in another deep breath. "I wasn't, was I?"
I started to think about how to respond, and then caught myself. Go with the flow. Gently shutting my brain off, I nodded.
"I was too excited to be with my friends ... I thought I could get back to you ... I thought..." She took in another deep breath and what came out was a sob.
"I didn't listen," she said as the tears welled up. "You died because I didn't listen."
I sat while she sniffled, but my gut churned. I couldn't just wait.
"No," I said, surprised at my own voice. "I died because I slit my wrists."
Sherri started and stared at me wild-eyed. I'd gone off-script.
Screw it. This feels right. "I died," I said, "because I was young and headstrong and impulsive. I died because I made a bad choice. I didn't die because you got off the phone quickly with me."
She sucked in her breath, trembling slightly, still staring at me.
"I love you, Sis. It wasn't you. In fact, I wouldn't have done it if I'd known how much I was going to hurt you."