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But Perry wasn’t a stripper. Perry was Perry. And this was bound to happen, from the beginning. It was just better this way for me, to get it out of the way before I did something really stupid and started coming onto her or something. Or coming. In general. You know, in my pants.

It didn’t take long at all and I came out of the bathroom feeling dirtier than ever. Fuck, just what was happening to me? This was the man I’d become?

In typical fashion I decided to revel in it. I motioned for Marla to come over. She was leaning against the bar, scouting the bar for eager participants. Upon seeing me, her face lit up.

“Hey Sugar,” she said in her silky voice. She put her hand on my forearm and squeezed it. “Haven’t seen you in a long time.”

“Been busy,” I told her, grinning cheekily. “I was wondering if you could give my partner over there a lap dance.”

“The girl I saw you come in with?” she asked incredulously. “I thought she was your girlfriend.”

“No, she’s not.” I didn’t want to elaborate. “But she needs to let loose, I thought you could help her.”

“Isn’t that your job?”

“Not yet.”

She smirked at me through sticky pink lips. “So this is all for her benefit, is it?”

I reached down and smacked her barely clothed ass. “Go on, I’ll make it worth your while.” I slipped out a few twenties from my pocket and stuffed them in her bra.

She flashed me her expensive veneers. “No problem.”

She sashayed toward Perry. By some wonderful luck, the song “Stripsearch” by Faith No More came on. I decided to hang around by the bar, lurking in the background, watching, listening. What had Perry called me earlier? A pervy weirdo? Yeah, that sounded about right. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that I was the biggest pervy weirdo around.

And considering where I was, that was saying a lot.

I watched Marla approach Perry, her fake breasts in Perry’s face. They exchanged a few words and I could see how fish-out-of-water Perry was. But surprisingly, she hadn’t turned Marla away. I expected to see Marla attempt to grind on her then Perry flip out like she often does. That would have been enough to fulfill my dirty mind. But instead, Perry sucked it up and let Marla do her thing.

My eyes were laser beams on them both as Marla slid up and down Perry’s thigh. I watched as Marla’s top came off and slithered down to the floor. I couldn’t have been more turned on if I tried. Yet there was this strange feeling of pride amongst the perverseness. I was actually proud of Perry.

It was mesmerizing. Hands down, the best $40 I could have ever spent. It was a memory I’d draw on in the future when my life was down the shitter and I couldn’t remember ever feeling free.

When Marla finally finished, she slipped on a robe that seemed to come from nowhere and worked her past me. She shot me a sly look out of the corner of her eye and I leered at her form appreciatively. Credit was needed where credit was due. Then I took in a deep breath and got ready to face my partner who may or may not have been waiting to kill me.

I approached the table cautiously, putting my feelers out. Perry’s face was flushed pink again but I didn’t know if it was because she was angry or embarrassed. Or both.

I took the seat across from her. She now looked a bit enlightened, like she was having an epiphany of sorts. Dear god, I hoped she hadn’t liked the lap dance too much.

“What?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she said. Lying. What a liar. She got a lap dance from the hottest woman in club (aside from her, of course), a dance that her partner orchestrated for his own perverse pleasure, and she had nothing to say? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t incredibly disappointed. Yeah, the dance was totally for me but I’d hoped she’d, I don’t know, at least thank me for the experience.

She pulled out her phone and let out a puff of air as she looked at it. I first thought she had gotten another angry tweet or anonymous blog comment but she was just looking at the time. It was getting late. She obviously wanted to put it all behind her.

“You want to go?” I asked, knowing it was probably the smart thing to do.

She nodded with an unsure smile on her lips. “I had fun though. Obviously you had more fun than me, though you weren’t in the bathroom all that long.”

Could she have known what I was doing in there? I was probably a hell of a lot more obvious than I had thought. Did she think it was because of her though, and did she like it? That’s what I wanted, needed, to know. I studied her face, trying to read the slight melancholy look in her eyes, the tense way her jaw was set, how soft and pouty her lips were when the smile wore off.

“I hope you remember what I’ve said,” I told her quickly before polishing off the rest of my drink. I got out of the seat and held my hand out for her. I was still a gentleman, remember?

She let out a small laugh, one that lit up her whole face. God she was gorgeous.

“Every time I think of strip clubs, I shall think of you,” she said in such a feminine voice that the minute she put her hand in mind, I grasped it hard. I pulled her right up into me, feeling her breasts hot against my chest, her heart beating fast and steady.

My chin grazed the top of her head and I caught a whiff of her coconut shampoo. I closed my eyes for the briefest instance and in that instance we weren’t in a dirty strip club in Vancouver. We were somewhere else where it was just her and I and nothing else mattered.

It took all my effort to take a step back and hold her at arm’s length when all I wanted to do was lean over, grab her firmly around the waist, and taste the inside of her mouth.

I was just so tired of wanting something I absolutely knew I could never have.

DIGGING THE GRAVE

“Truth or dare?”

The minute Perry uttered those words, I knew I was totally screwed. Listen, people, I don’t care who you’re playing with and how close to them you are but truth or dare is never a good idea.

Ever.

You’re demanding truth when life is better, smoother, with lies. And just in case you didn’t feel like being honest, you had a dare. Dares are the stupidest shit ever because no one ever does them. They don’t! You ask “truth or dare” and they say “dare!” and then you say, “I dare you to eat this entire jar of wasabi” and guess what? They don’t do it! They never do it. Why, oh why, didn’t I bring a jar of wasabi on this camping trip? If I had, I would have made Perry eat it instead of pouring her heart out to me.

OK, so that sounds kinda uncaring. Mean, maybe. And really it was the game “I Have Never” that started it all. Truth or dare shouldn’t get all the blame.

But Perry is already my soft spot – my weak spot. It didn’t make me feel good to hear about how her douchebro boyfriend Mason had cheated on her. It made me feel wretched and terrible to learn that she had an abortion. And when I had to deny her dare...because it was the right thing to do? It broke my fucking heart.

“Truth or dare?” she had asked me.

Perhaps I brought it on myself. I didn’t want to say truth because I knew what truth she was after and I didn’t want to go there. Oblivious and ignorant, that was my way. Let’s worry about the ghosts and lepers, but screw dealing with our real problems.

So I said, “Dare.”

And she said...

“I dare you to kiss me.”

As I said. Heart-breaking.

Perry was leaning on her elbows, eyes glazed but still beautiful, swaying back and forth from the throes of alcohol. She looked so earnest. So real. So...everything I wanted.

And I was going to have to say no.

It broke my fucking heart.

I tried to wipe the fear off my face. I smiled at her, though I don’t know if it was convincing enough.

“I can’t do that,” I said desperately trying to hide the gravity in my voice. She couldn’t know how it affected me. I had to treat it like a game.

She looked at me with pleading round eyes. Talk about a dagger to my heart.

“But you have to. You said during the hockey game...if you were dared. This is your dare.”

Crapity crap crap. Of course I said that as a joke, and even if I wasn’t joking I didn’t think she’d hang on to it. I never thought she take that as word. I never really thought she’d want to take that as word. But that was all before Jenn’s phone call.

That one phone call.

Everything was so different now. I knew the dare. And I knew the truth. And the truth was that if I did as she dared, I would lose myself to her completely. There were so many times already on the trip, when the ghosts spooked me out and I was afraid and my adrenaline was running higher than anything, that I wanted to turn to her. I wanted to shut her up with my lips, to take her in my arms.

But I couldn’t.

There was Jenn. And even though sometimes I thought Jenn didn’t matter, she did now. She mattered and so did my unborn child. I swallowed hard. This was the most I thought about it in days.

“It’s kind of inappropriate,” I explained weakly. I know how lame that sounded. I wanted to tell her that I wanted nothing more than to kiss her. But what fucking good could ever come of that?

She tried not to look rejected. She really did. But it was clear as all hell on her face. In the way she bit her lip. The way she stopped swaying. The sadness in her eyes.

“Whatever, you have to take truth then.”

She smiled at me coyly. It was false. Oh so false. She was shutting down. Turning her soul away from me. She laid herself out there and I turned it down.

It fucking burned.

Well, if she was going to shut down, I was going to open up.

“Ok, give me the truth then,” I encouraged.

She smiled. And I knew what was coming.

“What was the phone call about?”

See. I knew it. I knew that was the plan for this game all along. But it didn’t matter. I owed this to her. I could at least explain why I couldn’t kiss her...and why she and I could never ever be.

I took in a deep breath.

“Jennifer is pregnant.”

WHEN GOOD DOGS DO BAD THINGS

I was already awake when the terrible wailing sound came crashing through the trees. I couldn’t sleep at all with Perry crammed up next to me in our sardine can sleeping bag, especially when my thoughts were torn between her and Jenn. It was all starting to sink in. I had never been so fucking screwed in my whole life. I couldn’t even blame anyone for this except myself. Jenn was on the pill and we’d been having frequent sex for three years straight. The pill wasn’t magic. Logic says that one of the little guys were bound to slip past the barrier. I suppose most guys, if they weren’t freaking the fuck out, would be a bit proud at this accomplishment. You know, “my sperm is so powerful it punched that pill in the uterus” or something like that. But I felt scared shitless.

If I’m being honest here, there was a time when having a child wouldn’t have been so scary. When I was with Abby, and in stupid, retarded love, I often thought about having a family together. A baby, marriage, the whole shebang. I wanted to give a little version of myself the life I never had. I wanted to live vicariously through them and pretend my whole fucked-up life never happened. That’s a pretty selfish way of looking at having children, but come on, it’s me we’re dealing with here. If you looked up “selfish” in the dictionary, it would be my picture there.

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