One Knight's QuestbyBuckyDuckman©
"Don't say that," Holly Hillson said as she flipped her straight brown hair over her shoulder. Louis watched the way her hand moved with the casual motion and studied how the fine curtain of her long hair fell into place with the simple elegance of a shampoo commercial. Was there a single element of Holly that didn't infatuate him?
"It's true," he promised her in response to her challenge.
"No, it can't be and you shouldn't say things like that. Especially to someone like me."
Louis shook his head and smiled. "No, especially to someone like you," he corrected. He meant it when he said "anything." He couldn't imagine Holly finding a way to change his mind. He knew what he felt was a classic case of puppy love. Grown men shouldn't feel a crush as hard as the one he felt towards the skinny girl with large breasts and a tight ass. He had to acknowledge how attractive he found her body. To do less would be disingenuous. Looks weren't everything, but a pleasant appearance could turn a man's eyes. A pleasant physique earned a second glance. Was she everything to every man? No, he knew some guys would think her chin was too pointy. Others might think she was too skinny. Still others wouldn't be attracted to her d-cup sized breasts, brown hair or her long legs. Holly Hillson didn't have a model's classic good looks or a movie star's perfection. She was a skinny girl with plain brown hair and big boobs. But the combination worked for Louis. Combining that package with a witty personality and a rare intelligence that would intimidate most men, and Louis was hooked.
Holly sighed as she looked at him. She wore a bemused smirk on her face. "Okay, tell me how this isn't some kind of negotiation designed to get into my pants." In her typical fashion, she was cutting through the bullshit and calling him out. Louis smiled. This was a question he was ready to answer.
"Before we consider how it's not that sort of negotiation, let's pretend that it's exactly what you believe, okay?" he asked. Holly nodded. "Are you a whore?"
Holly blinked in disbelief and gave him a wide-eyed look as if Louis had slapped her face or reached across the table and grabbed one of her breasts while making a clown horn honking sound. "What the fuck?" she asked.
"Answer the question," he insisted. "Could I give you money in exchange for sex?"
"Maybe, if you had enough of it. We all have a price. But beyond that, no."
Louis nodded. It was as truthful of an answer as he could hope to receive. "So you're saying you have morals and values, right?" Holly nodded and smiled. She saw the rest of his argument. "So if I say anything to you, what's the value of it?"
"Only a demonstration of your sincerity. But you're leaving out an important element. What If I accept your challenge? What if I maliciously decide to test you for my own amusement?"
"Yeah, what if?" he asked in response. "You're suggesting your malice would be so great that I would do more than just refuse. I would both refuse and discount you as a human. You're suggesting I would unfriend you while I'm suggesting that it's not possible."
"Because you're an idiot," she said. She smiled as she said it but he knew she meant it, too. "You're assuming that because I value our friendship, I'll either a- not test you and realize you want to take our relationship to a new level. Or b- that if I were to test you, I would be reasonable. But literature is filled with examples of women being unreasonable in their requests."
"I know," Louis acknowledged. "And I don't expect you to be reasonable with your request. And for the record, you're missing a key element." Holly raised her eyebrows, eager to learn what she could possibly be missing. "Perhaps I want to be tested."
"Ah, but perhaps I desire a mate who doesn't deserve to be tested."
"True. Or perhaps, you can't acknowledge me as a potential suitor without testing me. I aim to change the game, Holly. I know you enjoy my company or we wouldn't be having this conversation. I know you value me as a friend for the same reasons. We know attraction has a variety of levels we barely comprehend. So how can I encourage you to view me as a potential mate? Test me. I would do anything to be with you."
"You realize the pompousness of your statement, correct?" she challenged.
Louis nodded. "I do. I'm suggesting that if you but to give me a chance, my skills in the bedroom would be so great as to persuade you to consider me above all others. If that's not an arrogant suggestion for me to make, then I don't understand the word 'arrogant.' Do you truly believe I don't have a grasp on the English language?"
"I think you're a damn fool," Holly laughed. "You're disqualifying yourself by your offer."
"Or I'm intriguing you into considering how far you can push me."
"And why should I?"
"The obvious answer is, 'because you can.' But the hidden answer is much different. If you were to truly push me, what would you be revealing about yourself?"
Holly's smile grew as she considered his contention. Louis admired her bright white teeth, their even rows and the playful twinkle in her eye as she accepted an element she hadn't considered. "You realize you're making matters worse for yourself?"
He nodded. "As I said, I aim to change the game." They stared across the table at each other as they weighed the ramifications of his suggestion. "I said I would do anything for a single night with you. One night of bliss is payment for my services."
"Now you're making me out to be whore," she protested.
"We all have our price," he reminded her with a big smile.
"You don't want this," she cautioned.
"I would contend it's quite the opposite. You don't want to reveal yourself. You don't want to choose a challenge that would truly make a difference for you. What if I'm right? What if I can change your impression of me? What do you have to lose if you find true lust?"
"Not true love?"
"I'm settling for lust," he said smiling. He was reaching her, he was sure of it. He only needed her to take the leap.
Holly reached across the table and held his hand. "You know I like you?" she asked. He nodded. "You know I value our friendship?" She received another nod. "You know I have no interest in doing this?" One more nod from him. "And you accept the burden you're placing on me?"
"I accept it and acknowledge it. I'm asking too much from you. I have no right to ask this much of you or any other person. But might I add another element?" he asked. It was her turn to nod. "If you weren't interested, our conversation would have ended a long time ago. You do like me, just not in the way I require. So I will give, in order to receive."
"You'll win only my favor."
"It will be enough, my lady," he said. He watched her carefully. He watched the way she bit her bottom lip as she considered his offer. How many times had he seen her doing precisely that as she worked her way through an unsolvable problem? He couldn't count. They were scientists. They were prone to thinking before acting. They were trained to consider all elements before beginning an experiment. The scientific method required one to consider as many elements as one could. Failing to recognize that ambient temperature was the reason why increased ice cream sales and forest fires correlated was key to conducting research.
"I hate you," she said.
"No, you're intrigued and challenged by me and that proves my plan is working."
"I'll crush you," she warned. "I'll ruin you and we'll lose this relationship we already have. Are you willing to sacrifice it?"
"Yes," he confirmed, glad she had finally asked him the most important question. "And if that answer doesn't confirm everything you're thinking, then you're not as smart as I believe you to be."
"I'm all that and more, you know that," she said and he couldn't argue with her. Holly had a way of playing with her long hair which drove Louis crazy with desire. When she was musing over an entertaining prospect, she would reach behind her head with both hands, capture all of her hair in a ponytail and caress the length of it. Louis loved watching her hair float back into place as much as he enjoyed how the gesture accentuated her breasts. She did it twice as she considered his proposal. "Conditions?" she asked.
She stroked her hair again and smiled. "Stop looking at my breasts."
"Stop pointing them at me." He smiled back but made sure his eyes were focused on hers. She put her hands back on the table in front of her.
"There's one more element you haven't considered. I prefer alpha males. Doesn't the nature of your suggestion eliminate you from consideration?"
His smile never faded as he shook his head. "Who would consider a knightly quest to be wimpy? If proving my manhood is what tips the scales, so be it. But now you're telling me more about the nature of your ideas than the nature of my suggestion." That's when he saw a new expression on Holly's face. He watched her blush and look away from him. "Just as I thought."
The annoyed frown on her face didn't match the fading pink color of her cheeks as she glared at him. "Is this a sex game for you?"
"It could be. Is that what it is for you?" His smile grew.
"You're getting yourself in deeper," she said. He shrugged. "I will break you." He gave her another shrug. She gave her hair another over-the-head, backhanded caress and laughed. "I can see how this plays against me. A true test infers as much about me, doesn't it?" He didn't need to nod, but did. "But what if I play against character? Would you know? Couldn't I insist you disqualify yourself from consideration by doing things that grotesque me?"
She caught him off guard. It was an element he hadn't considered. He blinked hard as he thought it through. His mind worked fast, as fast as hers. "I remain at your mercy."
"Even if I have none?"
"My original question stands. Do you realize I would do anything for a single night with you?"
She frowned again. "I don't like this. It won't work. I like you Louis. You're a brilliant researcher and a wonderful colleague. I can't say I find you remarkably attractive. You're too skinny, too slight of frame. However, you have kind eyes. In fact, they're a pretty shade of blue. I prefer taller men, too. As witty and intelligent as I find you, I'm afraid the physical preferences are unchangeable."
Louis listened and withheld his growing disappointment. Had she preferred brown eyes, he would have bought contact lenses. While there was little he could do about his metabolism he could start drinking protein shakes and begin a rigorous work-out schedule in an effort to bulk up. But there was little he could do about his height. Lifts in his shoes might add a couple inches, but he doubted it would be enough. At five feet, five inches, he was shorter than average and knew Holly preferred men who bested the six foot mark. "And yet..." he insisted. He didn't need to repeat his offer.
Holly looked annoyed. "Stand up," she told him. He slipped out of the booth of the cafeteria and stood, braced for another comment about his lack of vertical aptitude. Instead, her eyes appeared locked on his crotch. "Piss yourself," she said.
Her suggestion surprised him. They were dining in the company cafeteria. While the primary lunch hour had ended there were still diners scattered around the big space. He wasn't sure which surprised him more, her suggestion or the location of it. Was this something she wanted or was she playing against type? Did it matter?
Her brown eyes flickered up to his face to gauge his reaction. Her expression remained blank as she stared at him before a kind smile grew on her lips as she raised her eyebrows. "See what I mean? I would be cruel. Please withdrawal your suggestion."
"Too late," he said and he waited for her to notice. He saw her smile fade as her eyes grew wide and she looked back at his crotch. He couldn't excuse the dark stain on the front of his khaki pants. The stain began too low on his pants to infer he had spilled a liquid on himself. The way it ran down his left leg further indicated what he had done. Rather than leave a puddle on the floor, he had filled his left shoe.
"Oh-my-God," Holly said. "You can't go back to the lab like that!"
"I'd rather not."
Holly started laughing. "Go home and get changed. I'll make excuses for you."
Louis thanked her and did the best he could to ignore the looks he received from other tables as he left the building, headed to his car and drove home to shower and change. It was an hour before he returned to the lab. Holly was analyzing data at her workstation. The smile she gave him as he walked into the lab made the embarrassment of his earlier actions worthwhile to him.
"You're crazy," she told him, returning to her computer.
"I got your attention," he said and returned to work with a satisfied smirk. Before the day was over, he pushed his luck. "I'm thinking dinner tonight would be in order."
"Because you followed a single instruction?"
Yes, he thought. That would be in order, but he knew he needed to give a better reason. "To discuss what's next," he suggested.
"Fine. Where do you want to take me?"
"I'm not going to take you anywhere."
"Afraid of what I might make you do?"
"Not in the least," he assured her. "I'm thinking seven o'clock at your place. Does that give you enough time to cook?"
Looking up from her workstation, she gave him a bemused grin. "Yes," she said and went back to work. Louis made it a point not to pine for her the rest of the day. He believed he was making his point.
A third shower to the day felt redundant to Louis. He considered what he should wear. Part of him said he should buy inserts for his shoes to give him a lift. He thought about wearing running shoes to suggest his athleticism. He realized he was overthinking the moment. He arrived at Holly's westside townhouse in the same clothes he had worn back to work. He parked his Prius on the street among the older cars and beat-up pick-up trucks. His car stood out. The westside was being reclaimed. There was a battle raging between young, up and coming professionals who required inexpensive housing against the remnants of working and lower class people with the same needs. The businesses lining the street around the corner from Holly's townhouse demonstrated the confusion of demographics. Sandwiched between a high end coffee shop and a jazz bar was a liquor store with bars on the windows and advertisements for the lottery and various brands of cigarettes. Past two art galleries was another bar known for their drag queen shows. A storefront church occupied the space next to another bar. An older man in dirty clothes sat on the step of the empty church sucking on the opening of a bottle inside a brown paper bag.
Holly's townhouse mimicked the scene being played outside its doors. Her front door was in need of paint. Wrought iron bars striped the lowest windows. But inside her home, Louis was greeted with modern furnishings and elegant décor. The space was well lit and well appointed. Holly had changed into a tight dress that would have been inappropriate for work. The clingy maroon fabric hugged her large breasts, accentuated her lack of a waist and showed the curve of her ass. Louis felt underdressed and ignored the feeling. He was making a point by remaining in work clothes. He brought a bottle of wine.
Dinner was held at her tiny dining room table and featured white asparagus, medallions of beef with sautéed mushrooms and a tossed salad. Like her home, it was simple and elegant. Holly made a joke about "no peeing on my floor" and they laughed as they ate and drank. Light fusion jazz played from her stereo and when the meal was over, they retired to her living room. It was a small space and they shared her couch.
While it was his first social call, it wasn't the first time he and Holly had been alone. They had traveled to conventions and seminars together. They typically had lunch together. Their conversation was light. They spoke with the ease of old friends breaking bread together but crouching inside the lulls of their conversation was the constant acknowledgement that more was expected and it colored their conversation. It made easy laughter feel forced.
"We should have done this sooner," Holly said. She opened a second bottle of wine. "Without the pressure of maybe."
"Maybe has always been there," Louis pointed out.
"For one of us," she said, sipping at her glass.
"Says you," Louis corrected and smiled. If she wasn't considering him, he wouldn't be there. He rode the wave of her actions.
"About that," she said, setting down her glass of wine. "I don't see this as working. The more I consider your offer, the more I realize how shallow I am." Louis raised his eyebrows and wordlessly encouraged her to continue. Holly sighed. "You'll think less of me." He laughed at her words. "Every challenge that occurs to me is sexual in nature, is that wrong?"
Louis hid behind a sip of his wine as he considered her question. Was this a test? "A knight performs a quest. He doesn't counteroffer," he said. He knew her attraction to medieval times and flights of fantasy.
"I'm not a princess."
"But I would blow an ice dragon for you," Louis said and they laughed without conditions for the first time that evening.
"No matter what?" she asked. He assured her that was the case.
"I pissed myself in the cafeteria this afternoon, what do you think?"
Holly's reaction was a sound Louis couldn't remember hearing from her. She giggled. Was it the wine? That didn't make sense. This wasn't the first time they had shared a drink or two. He remembered a conference last year when a tipsy Holly Hillson had confessed she loved attending conferences because she loved fucking smart strangers. As if to prove her point (or celebrate it), she threw herself at a tall man sitting at the bar and left with him fifteen minutes later, leaving Louis to pay the bar tab before he returned to his room horny, alone and reduced to taking matters into his own hands as he imagined what Holly might be doing with her newly found friend.
"It's too bad I'm not attracted to women," she said, picking up her glass wine again. "You'd make a pretty girl." She caressed his cheek.
"I have parts women don't."
"You could tuck them away. That's what the drag queens do."
"You've gone into that bar?" Louis laughed.
"I may have conducted a field survey out of scientific curiosity," she said and she giggled again. "Some of them are remarkably convincing. Did you know it's socially appropriate to refer to a man dressed as a woman as a female? They insist upon it."
"Interesting," Louis said. He knew nothing about crossdressers, transsexuals or drag queens. He had no way of analyzing their motivations or dissecting their mental processes. While he was slight of frame, Louis was a man and had never wished to be otherwise. "Are they homosexuals?"
"Some, though they don't perceive it that way. It's an interesting concept. Some seem to genuinely feel as if they are a woman trapped inside of a man's body. Others, it's less clear. I don't think there's a one-size-fits all explanation, though I would caution any man who picks up a woman along this block to be sure to check inside her panties. Though I think some men actively seek out the crossdressers as a more palatable way to explore their same sex curiosities."
Louis and Holly studied polymers and plastics for a large corporation. While neither had a background in sociology or anthropology, they shared a common quest for knowledge. They mused about the dynamics of men dressed as women and the men who were attracted to them. Holly's knowledge of the differences between crossdressers, drag queens and transsexuals surprised Louis. "Have you met any of these men?"