“What about you?” I ask, stirring the brief silence. “Were you ever afraid to try something sexually you had the urge to try?”
He thinks about it a moment and says, “Yeah, when I was younger, like around seventeen, but I was only afraid to try things with girls because I knew they were….”
“They were what?”
He smiles softly, pressing his lips together and I get the feeling there’s about to be some kind of comparison.
“Younger girls, at least the ones I hung out with, were ‘grossed out’ by anything unconventional. They were probably like you in a way, secretly turned on by something different than the missionary position, but too shy to admit it. And at that age it was risky to say: ‘Hey let me do you in the ass,’ because chances are she’d be freaked out by it and think you’re some sexually disturbed pervert.”
A laugh pushes through my lips.
“Yeah, I think you’re right,” I say. “When I was a teenager, I was grossed out when Natalie would tell me things she let Damon do to her. I didn’t start actually finding them hot until I lost my virginity at eighteen, but…,” my voice starts to trail thinking about Ian, “…but even then, I was still too nervous. I wanted to…umm…,”
I’m nervous admitting it now.
“Go on, just say it,” he says, but not with any measure of playfulness. “You should know by now you can’t run me off.”
That takes me aback (and makes my heart flutter). Is the truth written all over my face, that I’m afraid of giving him any bad impressions of me? He smiles gently as if to give me that much more assurance that nothing I can say to him will give him a bad impression.
“OK, if I tell you, do you promise not to think it’s an invitation?” Perhaps it is, even though I’m not sure about that myself yet, but I definitely don’t want him to think that. Not right now, maybe never. I don’t know….
“I swear,” he says, his eyes serious and not at all offended, “I won’t think that at all.”
I take a deep breath.
Ugh! I can’t believe I’m about to tell him this. I’ve never told anyone; well, except for Natalie, in a roundabout way.
“Aggression.” I pause, still feeling embarrassed to go on. “Most of the time when I daydream about sex, I’m…,”
His eyes are grinning! When I said ‘aggression’ something triggered in his features. It almost seems as if…no, surely that can’t be right.
He softens his eyes once he notices.
“Go ahead,” he says, smiling gently again.
And I do, because for some reason I’m less afraid to finish than I was seconds ago:
“I’m usually dreaming about being…manhandled.”
“Rough sex turns you on,” he says evenly.
I nod. “The thought of it does, but I’ve never really experienced it, not in the way I think about it, anyway.”
He seems faintly surprised, or, is that contented?
“I think it’s what I meant when I told you I always end up with tame guys.”
Something just clicked in my head: Andrew knew before me what I really meant back in Wyoming when I said I ‘end up with’ tame guys. Without realizing it, I basically expressed that ending up with them was unfortunate, something I didn’t prefer. He may not have known my definition of ‘tame’ until now, but he knew before I did that it wasn’t something I wanted.
But I loved Ian, and right now I feel awful for thinking this way. Ian was tame sexually, and the thought of having any bad thoughts of him at all makes me feel guilty.
“So, you like hair-pulling and…,” he starts to say inquiringly, but his voice trails when he notices my eristic expression.
“Yeah, but more aggressive,” I say suggestively, trying to get him to say it so I don’t have to. I’m getting nervous again.
He shifts his chin sideways, his eyebrows rise a little. “What, like….wait, how aggressive?”
I swallow and look away from his eyes. “Force, I guess. Not like flat-out rape or anything extreme like that, but I have a very sexually submissive personality, I think.”
Andrew can’t look at me now, either.
I turn enough to see that his eyes are slightly wider than seconds ago, and full of shrouded intensity. His Adam’s Apple moves gently as he swallows. Both of his hands are on the steering wheel now.
I change the subject:
“You never did technically tell me what you were afraid to ask a girl to do.” I smile, hoping to bring the playful atmosphere back from before.
He relaxes and grins looking back over at me. “Yeah, I did,” he says and adds after an odd pause, “anal sex.”
Something tells me that’s not what he was really afraid of. I can’t put my finger on it, but that whole mention of anal sex I think is just a smokescreen. But why would Andrew, out of the two of us, be the one afraid to admit the truth? He’s the one pretty much helping me to be more comfortable with myself sexually. He’s the one who I thought wasn’t afraid to admit anything, but now I’m not so sure.
I wish I could read his mind.
“Well, believe it or not,” I say, glancing at him, “Ian and I did try that once, but it hurt like hell and needless to say, I mean ‘once’ in the most literal way possible.”
Andrew laughs lightly.
Then he looks up at the road signs and seems to be making a quick route decision in his head. We ease off the highway and onto another one. More fields are sprawled out on both sides of the road. Cotton and rice and corn and no telling what else; I really don’t know the difference in most crops except the obvious: cotton is white and corn is tall. We drive for hours and hours until the sun starts to set and Andrew pulls off the side of the road. The tires grind to a stop onto the gravel.
“Are we lost?” I ask.
He leans across the seat towards me and reaches for the glove box. His elbow and the under part of his lower arm grazes my leg as he pops the glove box and pulls out a rather worn road map. It’s folded awkwardly as if after it had been opened it was never folded back into the same creases. He unfolds the map and lays it against the steering wheel, examining it closely and running his finger along it. He twists the right side of his mouth in his teeth and makes an inquisitive clicking noise with his lips.
“We’re lost, aren’t we?” I want to laugh, not at him, just at the situation.
“It’s your fault,” he says, trying to be serious, but failing miserably seeing as how his eyes are smiling.
I let out a spat of air. “And how is it my fault?” I argue. “You’re the one driving.”
“Well, if you weren’t being so ‘distracting’, talkin’ about sex and secret desires and pornography and that slut, Dominique Starla, I would’ve noticed I was taking 20 instead of staying on 59 like I should have.” He flicks the center of the map with the snap of his finger and shakes his head. “We drove two hours in the wrong direction.”
“Two hours?” I laugh this time and slap the dashboard. “And you’re just now realizing this?”
I hope I’m not bruising his ego. Besides, it’s not like I’m mad or disappointed; we can drive ten hours in the wrong direction and I wouldn’t care.
He looks wounded. I’m pretty sure he’s faking it, but I grab a hold of this opportunity and take a chance at doing something I’ve wanted to do since our time together in the rain on the roof in Tennessee. Reaching over my waist, I unlock my seatbelt and slide across the seat and sit next to him. He seems quietly surprised, but inviting as he lifts his arm so that I can curl myself underneath it. “I’m just messing with you about being lost,” I say, laying my head against his shoulder. I feel a little bit of reluctance before his arm comes down around me.
It feels so right to be here like this. Too right….
I pretend not to notice how comfortable both of us feel right now and be as nonchalant as before. I look up into the map with him, running my finger along a new route.
“We can just go this way,” I say, running my finger south, “and hit 55 straight into New Orleans. Right?” I tilt my head over to see his eyes and my heart jumps when I notice how close his face is to mine now. But I just smile, waiting for him to answer.
He smiles back, but I get the feeling he really didn’t hear much I said. “Yeah, we’ll just hit 55.” His eyes search my face and briefly skim my lips.
I reach out and start to fold the map back together and then I turn the volume back up. Andrew moves his arm from around me to put the car in gear.
When we pull away, he rests his hand on my thigh pressed next to his and we ride like that for a long time; the only time he moves his hand is to take better control of a sharp curve or to adjust the music, but he always puts right back.
And I always want him to.
“ARE YOU SURE WE’RE still on 55?” I ask much later after dark and haven’t seen any headlights coming or going in either direction in forever, it seems.
All I see are fields and trees and the occasional cow.
“Yes, babe, we’re still on 55; I’ve made sure of that.”
Just as he says that, we pass another highway sign that actually reads: 55.
I lift away from Andrew’s arm, which my head has been pressed against for the past hour, and start to stretch my arms and legs and back. I lean over and massage my calf muscles afterwards; I think every muscle in my body has infused like cement around my bones.
“You need to get out and stretch your legs for a while?” Andrew says.
I look over to see his face in shadow; a light blue hue is washed over his skin. His sculpted jawline looks more pronounced in the dark.
“Yeah,” I say and lean up toward the dashboard to get a better look out the windshield at what the landscape looks like. Of course. Fields and trees and—there goes another cow—I should’ve known. But then I notice the sky. I press myself up further against the dash and look upward at the stars wrapped in the infinite blackness, noticing how easy they are to see and how many of them there are without any light pollution for miles.
“Do you want to get out and walk around?” he asks, still waiting for the rest of my answer.
Getting an idea of my own, I smile brightly at him and nod. “Yes, I think that’s a great idea—is there a blanket in the trunk?”
He looks at me curiously for a moment. “Actually, yes, I keep one in that box back there with the rest of my emergency roadside supplies—why?”
“I know it might be cliché,” I begin, “but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do—have you ever slept under the stars?” I feel a little silly asking, I guess because it is kind of cliché and nothing about Andrew thus far has come anywhere near cliché.
His face spreads into a warm smile. “As a matter of fact, no, I have never slept under the stars—are you gettin’ all romantic on me, Camryn Bennett?” He looks at me with a playful sideward stare.