"Hi! I'm Alan Whitman! This isn't a pick up line ... we're supposed to mix and meet people, aren't we!"
"Hello, Alan! Stella Morgan! Thanks for talking to me: I'm not very good at this sort of thing!"
"Me neither! So what course are you on, Stella!"
"Well I originally applied for English Literature; but I think if you find out you don't like it, you can change. How about you, Alan?"
"Telecommunication Engineering. Yes, it is flexible, but I hope that I don't have to change! Look, Stella, I suppose we really ought to move around a bit, but let's get a coffee some time!"
"Okay, I'd like that!"
They both drifted off to see what else was at the Freshers Fair. Stella did more looking than talking: she wasn't particularly shy, but she was just finding the whole university experience a bit overwhelming, to say the least! For Alan it was more of an adventure. He had been interested in electronics for ages; but it wasn't really something that you did a lot at school, so it was more of a hobby than an academic pursuit; but he was good at maths and physics, and it was his good A-level grades in these subjects that had got him into Essex University.
Stella was the daughter of teachers, so she had always been an avid reader; as well as growing up in an environment where the value and benefits of education was understood. To be honest, though, she had never had a career path in mind ... although becoming an academic or an educator were always options!
"Ready for that coffee now!" Alan asked her.
"Mmm ... I think so! I'm in South Courts: Manningtree."
"Oh, right! I'm not far from you: Walton! Do you want to go to one of the cafŽs; or I've got a kettle!"
"Me, too! Why don't you come to mine now, and yours the next time!"
"Okay, deal!" Alan said, "Have you seen all of the campus yet ... it's pretty big! But at least we won't have to go out for much!"
"No, I've only seen the map. I'm not particularly sporty, but as you say, we're well catered for! It just seems a pity that we're not actually here for the nicest months of the year! Where are you from, by the way, Alan: my parents live in Chelmsford; that's why I wanted to come here."
"I came for the course, mainly; but we're not that far away ... Sudbury, just over the county border, in Suffolk."
They reached the accommodation block where Stella would be living at least for the next academic year. In all but location, the study room was practically identical to the one Alan had a short distance north of hers. The kettle was filled, and she prepared two, new mugs. Alan took off his jacket and hung it over the back of the easy chair he sat in.
"Do you know many other people here yet, Stella?"
"Well I think there's a couple of other girls here doing Literature, so we'll probably be in lectures together; and maybe the same seminar and tutorial groups. How about you: are there any more engineers in your block; do you think they try to keep the same groups together?"
"Maybe! It makes sense ... you and I wouldn't necessarily have much in common, would we, so we'd only meet in social situations ... but I'll see the people on my course every day."
Stella handed Alan his coffee, then sat cross-legged on her bed.
"I don't smoke, Alan, but if you want to, just open the window!"
"No, thanks ... I'm okay!"
"Alan, I know we've only just met, but there's something quite important that I want to tell you; but I'll kind of lead up to it in a roundabout way, if that's okay!"
"Sure!" he said; really quite intrigued by what she was about to tell him.
"Okay, then! So although we've only just met, Alan, I think you're a nice guy and that we could be friends ... but I differentiate between being friends and being friendly. We are being friendly now, but a real friend is someone who you like being with and who you trust enough to confide in, knowing that they can keep confidences. I think that I can be that, Alan ... how about you ... do you want to go down that road! I won't like you any less than I do now if you don't, but we'll know where our boundaries are!"
"I think I can be that person, too, Stella: but I will promise you that whatever you tell me now stays between us! Of course, what you tell me may decide what comes after!"
"That's a good answer, Alan! All right ... here goes! I'd like you as a friend, Alan, but there's nothing else on the table ... you have the right to know that now. You have come to university as a young man, with a young man's expectations, which probably involves enjoying yourself and getting laid! Well, you're a fit, good-looking lad, and I expect you will ... just not with me! And that's not because I don't like you ... I'm actually completely asexual ... I just have no desire to have sex with anyone!"
Alan looked at her and smiled: which was kind of the reaction that she'd hoped for.
"Can I say first, that of course I think that's a pity ... you are a pretty girl, and I'd be lying if I said it hadn't crossed my mind ... but thanks for being brave enough to tell me up front like that! I'm not going to run screaming from the room, shouting..."Freak! Freak! ... and what I just said still goes! And you won't find it too intrusive will you, if I want to find out more!"
"No, of course not! Ask me anything: but shall I just tell you about how it affects me. Firstly, I don't see it as being a problem, or an illness ... it just is what it is! And in case you're wondering, I have, shall we say, 'experimented'. Physiologically and emotionally, there's nothing wrong with me, Alan: I have periods, and I love my mum and dad and my brother, and I like cuddles and intimacy, and if I see cute puppies I go 'Ah!' just like other girlies do! And I still cry when I'm sad and laugh when I'm happy! But I've never understood sexual attraction ... because I've never experienced it!
" ... And as I said: I've experimented, sexually ... I'm not a virgin, Alan. I tried masturbation when all the other girls at school talked about it; but when I touched myself I felt something, but it wasn't pleasure ... just ... odd! I even bought myself a penis-shaped vibrator off of the Internet when I was fourteen, so I would know what it felt like to have something inside me; but I never had an orgasm using it! And then when I was sixteen I asked a close male friend to have sex with me ... and he did his best, bless him; but he came and I just got bored! Apparently ... and I've read about it, of course ... it's not unusual for asexual woman to have sex with someone they care about; but they do it to please the other person, not themselves! So I could sleep with you, Alan; and you could, to put it crudely, fuck me, or I could bring you off; and I might even enjoy it ... but only from your pleasure; not my own!
"So basically what I'm saying, Alan, is that we can be good friends and socialise if we want to; but if you want a girlfriend and sex, don't let me hold you back ... I'll even help set you up with any female friends I make here!"
When Stella stopped talking, she waited expectantly for his response ... she didn't have to wait long:
" ... Okay! I'll keep all that in mind! But shall we go and get something to eat now; and do you fancy coming with me to the disco tomorrow night!"
"Yes, to both, please! I'll get my coat!"
In a way, their conversation had made it possible for them both to relax even more than they had been previously: they still liked each other, and Alan at least couldn't forget completely that she was an attractive young woman; but he was more or less able to switch off that part of his brain that saw her as a potential sexual partner. And there were benefits, too, that he hadn't appreciated: other woman saw him at ease in the company of Stella, and that made him somehow more attractive to them! The campus was well-lit and secure, but after eating together Alan still walked her back to her block, although he didn't go in.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Alan! If not during the day, then, say, eight to eight-thirty; either here, or come up and knock for me!"
He was actually there at ten-to-eight: and not because he was eager to see her again; but simply because he was ready and it didn't take him long to cross the short distance between their respective residential accommodation.
"Hi! Come in! I won't be long; just the finishing touches!"
Stella stood with just a towel wrapped around her, in front of a mirror, applying eye make-up. That done, she unwrapped the towel as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do in front of someone she'd only met yesterday ... but which of course, for her, it was! Her brain didn't think 'man'; it only thought 'friend'! And Alan wasn't embarrassed, or aroused; he just quietly admired from a distance as she first put on underwear and then a short dress. With her shoes on her feet, she was ready.
"Very nice!" Alan remarked; which was what she wanted to hear.
"Shall we go then!" Stella said.
The Student Union occupied part of the central complex of buildings and it was a fair way to walk from the accommodation blocks; but in the warm late autumn air they could already make out the rhythmical throb of music.
"Now remember, Alan," Stella said to him, "we're going together, but don't feel that you have to stick with me all the time ... so if you meet someone; go for it!"
" ... I'll remember ... but as far as I'm concerned, if we arrive together, we go back together! If I do meet someone, I can always arrange to see them another time! But If you want to walk back with someone else, that's okay!" She smiled.
"Understood ... thanks, Alan!"