"I can understand that," she said. "But there must be one thing that gets to you all the time."
"A smile," I said after pausing briefly.
"Really?" she asked in disbelief.
The conductor came and we stopped talking while he took our tickets. He paused a moment to flirt with Daphne. I couldn't blame him. She was beautiful. I waited until he left and threw out the next question.
"How far have you ever gone with a guy?" I think I was almost as stunned as she was by my question. It wasn't the one I planned on asking. "You don't have to answer if it's too personal."
"Of course it's too personal!" she said, but then shrugged and added, "But I'm willing to answer if you keep it between us."
"Well then," she said, with a slight blush. "I've let a guy touch my breasts."
"Lucky him!" I joked. She slapped me, but not hard and then she continued.
"I've also taken care of a guy, but only through his sweatpants with my hand."
"And I thought you were such a nice girl."
"Don't be a jerk!" she snapped. "I told you I was a virgin, not a nun."
"You just had to bring Janice into this conversation, didn't you?" Daphne looked at me in surprise and then burst into laughter. I smiled. It was the first time I could joke about what happened with Janice. I guess time does heal all wounds.
"Okay, it's my turn again," she said once she was done laughing. "Since sex seems to be the only thing on your mind, who was your most sexually satisfying partner?"
"Do you really want to know?" She looked at me and nodded, so I shrugged and told her. "It was a girl I met on a road trip during college. Truthfully, I can't even remember her name."
"You're a male slut!" Daphne joked, but there was something in her voice that made me explain.
"Not really," I sighed. "It was right after Sally left me for another woman. I was drunk and I'm not even sure how I ended up in this girl's room. She wasn't even all that pretty."
"And she was the best you ever had?"
"Yes," I shrugged. "Whatever else she was, she was comfortable with herself and her body. She liked to try new things and really enjoyed both giving and receiving pleasure."
"Okay," Daphne shrugged. I knew what she wanted to ask, so I answered it even though it was my turn to ask a question.
"For the record," I said, looking into her eyes. "I've only slept with four women."
"My sister, Sally, Janice and this road trip girl?"
"Yes," I replied honestly. "If that makes me a male slut, then so be it."
"I think it's time to move away from the sex questions," she said. "Friends probably shouldn't be talking about this stuff anyway."
"Agreed, these are things you only talk about with your lover or best friend. Maybe one day we can talk about it again," I said, and then quickly added lamely, "Because I think there's a good chance we'll be best friends one day."
"I hope so," Daphne smiled. I had to look away. Yep, a smile could definitely get to me.
"So, here's my next question," I said, moving us away from the sex questions as agreed. "What do you miss most about being a kid?"
"That's easy! Guilt free cookies!" she said excitedly.
"Like your cookies, do you?"
"Oh yes!" she replied. "Do you remember what it felt like to eat a cookie as a kid? It was heaven! No worrying about anything like pesky calories or cholesterol." Daphne licked her lips.
"You can't possibly be hungry after the meal we had at that restaurant you chose?" I asked.
"No," she sighed. "But the thought of cookies, maybe even milk and cookies, still makes my mouth water."
"Mine too," I admitted. Cookies were weakness of mine also. They weren't as bad as ice cream, but they were a close second. "Your turn."
"Okay," she said, obviously trying to think up a good one. "If you could go back in time and totally remove one person from your life. Who would it be?"
"Hmm..." I thought. It was an interesting question.
"And don't your dare say me!" Daphne joked.
The thought of it struck me. What would my life be like if I never met Daphne? Would it really be that big of a deal? Truthfully, I didn't know her all that well. Would it be worse than if I never met someone else in my life that I cared for? For example, her sister Bette? Or Sally or even Janice? Suddenly I didn't want to play the question game anymore.
"What's wrong?" she asked, seeing my expression.
"Nothing," I said, but then added, "Something is not sitting well. Do you mind if I just close my eyes for a bit?"
"No, go ahead," Daphne replied. She sounded concerned. I felt a little guilty, but I hadn't actually lied. Something I thought wasn't sitting well. I left my eyes closed for the rest of the train ride and said goodbye to Daphne quickly. I needed to go home and think.
Daphne called me twice over the next few days. I didn't return either call.
"Lillian," I said as I met my cousin at the restaurant she specified. "I'm glad you wanted to meet for dinner, but I'm surprised you chose this place. You're not much for steaks."
"I get a craving every once in a while," she replied with a shrug. "So how are you doing? We haven't talked in a couple of weeks."
"I'm doing good," I replied. "Busy at work."
"I meant how are you coping with the Janice situation," Lillian clarified.
"Oh!" I said in surprise. "Actually she hasn't been on my mind all that much lately. I guess it's a good thing our engagement fell through."
"If she's not on your mind, then who is?"
"Nobody special," I replied. "I decided to enjoy the single life for a while. Although, there is this redhead at work I'm thinking about asking out."
The conversation drifted for a while as we caught each other up on our lives. I didn't mention Daphne because I really didn't want to talk about her. I hadn't seen her in a week and a half. I'd made my decision. Now all I had to do was live with it.
"Hey! Isn't that the girl you brought to the family party?"
It was as if the thought of her caused Daphne to materialize out of thin air. She was being led to the table right next to ours. Wouldn't you know it! Her sister Bette and some guy were with her.
"Michael?" Bette asked in surprise, and then cried, "It is you! How are you?"
"Hello Bette," I said, forcing a smile. "I hadn't heard you were home."
"My husband Claude and I only arrives this past weekend," she said. I looked at the guy sitting with Bette and Daphne. So now, here is the sick part. I wasn't jealous or anything. What I really felt was relieved because he was with Bette and not Daphne.
"Congratulations," I smiled, giving her a quick hug and shaking Claude's hand.
"I was going to tell you about Bette's surprise marriage and the fact that she was coming home when you returned my call," Daphne said, looking at me pointedly.
"Hello Daphne," Lillian said, rescuing me. She then turned to Bette and Claude and added, "I'm Lillian, Michael's cousin."
"Lillian!" Bette said in surprise. "Michael used to talk about you all the time. You seemed to have grown out of your tomboy phase."
"That's was my cousin Debbie," I said. "And she has grown out of it. Well, sort of." Daphne and Lillian laughed.
"My mistake," Bette said.
"No big deal," Lillian shrugged. "There are a lot of cousins."
"Lillian's the one who used to sleep over with my sister and drive me crazy," I smiled. "You remember! The one I used to call the Bossy Bitch."
"You know," my cousin sighed. "My boyfriend Vic is supposed to meet us here in a little while. I'm thinking about having him beat you up. What a horrible nickname!"
"Wait!" Bette said. "I remember now! But didn't you also say the Bossy Bitch was like a second sister to you?"
"Oh well," Lillian smiled, obviously forgiving me the nickname. "Vic's a lover and not a fighter anyway."
"Why don't we all sit together so that you guys can catch up on old times?" Claude suggested.
"You are such a dear," Bette said, smiling and giving him a quick kiss. I smiled as I watched then together. It looked like Bette had finally found the right person for her.
"I don't mind," Lillian said.
"Good! Then it's settled!" Bette said before either Daphne or I could voice an opinion. The tables were put together and somehow Daphne and I ended up sitting together.
The meal was good and the conversation interesting. The only problem was that Daphne hardly said a word to me. I didn't blame her. Vic showed up around dessert. We'd met a couple of times. He seemed like a nice guy.
"Well," my cousin sighed once the bill was paid. "Work tomorrow. We should be going."
"Us too," Claude said. "Bette's parents want us up as dawn for some ceremony."
"If they offer you something to drink," I grinned. "Be careful! Her father likes to mix some interesting concoctions."
"Thanks for the warning," Claude said, shaking my hand.
"Michael, would you mind giving Daphne a ride home?" Bette asked. "Her apartment is a bit out of the way for us."
"No problem," I said, hiding my grimace.
"I wouldn't ask, but Daphne mentioned that you two were becoming friends. I'm happy for you both. It's important to have friends. I don't know what I'd do without Claude. He's my best friend."
Moments later all the goodbyes were said and I found myself in my car giving Daphne a ride. Neither of us spoke until I parked my car in front of her apartment.
"So, are you going to explain what happened?" she finally asked. "I thought we had a good time, but you suddenly got quiet on the train. I thought maybe you had food poisoning or something, but then you didn't return either of my calls."
"I'm sorry about that," I said, ignoring her question.
"Look, do you want to be friends or not?" she asked. "I don't see what the big deal is, unless of course you're feeling something more than friendship for me. Is that it? Are you afraid it might turn into something more?"
"Maybe," I said carefully. "And I'm not ready for anything more."
"Fine," Daphne shrugged. "But that doesn't mean we can't be friends. Didn't you have a good time that day in the city?"
"Yes," I admitted.
"And can't two adults of the opposite sex have a strictly platonic friendship?"
"Then that what we'll be," she finished.
"Okay," I said as she opened the door and stepped out of the car.
"Call me," she said and went to her apartment. She stopped at the end of the drive and turned back. "You know, if all you want to do is be friends, then you'll have to stop staring at me like that." I nodded dumbly, but didn't stop looking at her. She shook her head and went in.
"So what are you doing this weekend?" Daphne asked. I couldn't believe I actually called her. I rationalized, telling myself that only a real heel would not call after the conversation we had in front of her apartment, but I knew the truth was that I wanted to see her.
"Not much," I said. "It's supposed to rain so I was thinking about a movie."
"That's where I was before when you left the message," Daphne replied.
"At the movies?"
"No," she replied. "I was out renting a few movies."
"Anything good?" I asked.
"Mostly chick flicks," she replied, causing me to laugh. "I did get one adventure." She told me the name.
"Oh wow!" I said. "I've been waiting for that to come out for months. I missed it while it was in the theaters."
"You can borrow it when I'm done," she offered, and then paused briefly before adding, "Or you can come over and watch it with me?" The safe thing to do was say no thank you to both offers, but that would make me seem unfriendly.
"It's too late tonight. Think you can wait until tomorrow to see it?" I asked, and then shook my head.
"Sure," Daphne said. "I've got plenty of other movies to watch."
"How about I come over around lunch time? I'll bring Chinese."
"Sounds good to me," she said. "Do you mind if I dress in couch potato clothes?"
"Couch potato clothes?" I asked with a frown. "What that? Burlap bags?"
"Very funny," she said, but she was also laughing. "I'll be wearing sweats, a tee shirt and that's about it."
"Sounds good to me," I shrugged. "See you then."
I arrived at her place at around one the next day. Her apartment was small, but I liked it. It was very tastefully decorated.
"It's about time!" she said as she threw open the door. "I'm starving! I hope you got ribs?"
"Among other things," I smiled. My expression froze when I saw what she was wearing. She hadn't lied to me. She was wearing sweats, a tee shirt and that was all. Both were reasonably modest, but Daphne without a bra was an amazing site to see!
"You're staring again," Daphne sighed. "Do you want me to go get a bra on?"
"No, that's okay," I found myself saying. "Friends should be able to be comfortable around each other."
"Friends don't look at each other the way you're looking at me right now," Daphne said pointedly.
"I bet they do when they're of opposite sexes and one of them is built like you," I said honestly. Daphne looked at me a moment longer.
"Maybe you're right," she shrugged, taking the Chinese food from me. Her eyes drifted down my body. They paused briefly. I glanced down and saw that my sweats were doing a bad job of hiding my feelings for her.
I groaned to myself and made to say something that probably would have been stupid at best, but thankfully, Daphne was already in the kitchen with the food. I went to the bathroom and threw cold water on my face. I waited until I was once again in control of myself before joining Daphne in the kitchen.
"Better hurry!" she said. "The food is getting cold, what's left of it anyway."
"Hey! I hope you saved me some ribs," I cried.
"One or two," she replied with a grin. Daphne was sitting and her breasts were thankfully not as noticeable.
"Please pass the white rice," I said reaching for one of the cartons. We ate in silence. It was pretty obvious that we both were hungry.
"I think I ate too much," Daphne said when we were done.
"You?" I groaned. "I think I'm going to be sick."
"Let's go relax on the couch," she said as she stood and stretched.
'Shit!' I said to myself as I watched her. 'Coming here was definitely a bad idea!' I could feel my cock stirring once again.
"Like what you see?" Daphne asked with a grin as she finished.
"I'll have to take a cold shower if you do that again," I said with some difficulty. She laughed and went into the living room. I followed cautiously.
Daphne popped the tape in and we sat on opposite ends of the couch. The movie was as good as I hoped. I soon relaxed and got lost in the story. Somewhere in the middle we laid down, still on opposite ends of the couch, but now our legs shared the middle cushion.
"That was pretty good," Daphne said once it was over.
"I thought it was excellent!" I replied as I sat up and stretched. I noticed Daphne watching me as I finished. Unable to resist I teased, "Like what you see?" She started and then burst out laughing. I joined her.
"I'm going to get myself a glass of wine," she said as she stood. "Care for one?"
"Sure, why not," I replied with a shrug. I rewound the movie while she was gone and looked around the room. She had pictures of her family and friends all over the place. It gave the room a warm feeling. I noticed that Bette was in quite a number of them.
"What do you think of Bette and Claude?" Daphne asked tentatively as she handed me a large glass of wine.
"They look happy," I replied. "She's not one to be by herself."
"The word you're looking for is 'needy'," Daphne sighed. "I know she's older, but I worry about her."
"She'll be okay."
"Do you still regret that you two broke up?"
"It was bound to happen eventually," I sighed, still looking at one of the pictures of Bette. "Opposites may attract, but that doesn't mean they're meant to be together."
"You sound like you still love her," Daphne said. Her voice sounded odd. I turned toward her and saw that she was looking at me expressionlessly.
"Daphne, your sister Bette was my first love," I said, trying to explain. "Not only that, but your family was my first real exposure to a completely different environment. Truthfully, both were intoxicating in there own way."
"I understand," she replied, moving to the VCR to remove the tape.
"I'm not sure you do," I said, surprising myself. "Your sister will always hold a special place in my heart, but that's not the same as me being in love with her. I will always remember my time with Bette fondly. Well, all of it except her decision to leave me and go to Tibet."
"You know," Daphne said as she sat down next to me on the couch. "She wanted you to go with her." I thought back to the night Bette left me. I could see that what Daphne was saying was probably true, but did I know it back then? Was I blind to the truth or just unwilling to face it?
"I know," I finally admitted, to myself as well as Daphne. "She never came right out and said it, but deep down I knew. I just couldn't do it."
"So, in a way you broke up with her," Daphne said. I looked at her and frowned.
"It didn't seem that way to me."
"I know, but that's how Bette saw it," Daphne said. We sat on the couch while she flipped through the channels.
"That all old history. Bette married the man for her and she seems content. I'm happy for her. Now let's talk about something else," I suggested, and then pulling off my sweatshirt added, "Like how hot it is in here!"
"I'm not hot."
"You most definitely are," I said without thinking.
"Thank you," Daphne smiled warmly.
"Please stop doing that," I said with a shake of my head.
"Smiling," I replied. "I told you how some women's smiles affect me. Every time you do it my brain turns to mush!"
"There you go again!" I cried. Daphne started laughing and I groaned.
"My laughing bothers you too?" she asked.
"Yes, but in a totally different way," I replied. "You do realize what happens when you're not wearing a bra and laugh?"
"They shake whether I have a bra on or not," she replied, laughing some more.
"There they go again!" I joked.
"Michael, you're staring again."
"Of course I'm staring!" I cried.
"I'll go get a bra on."
"No! Don't," I snapped as I took her hands and pulled her to my side of the couch. Daphne looked up into my eyes. There was a desire there that I recognized. It matched my own. I leaned forward and kissed her. Her lips were soft and she accepted my kiss willingly.
"What happened to just being friends?" she asked once we broke apart.
"Is that what you want?"
"No," she admitted. "You already know what I want."
"Yes," she replied softly. "I want you to love me as much as I love you."
"But how could you? We barely know each other."
"I just do," she said confidently.
"I'm not even sure I know what love is and I supposedly had it three times already. How can you be so certain?" I asked sadly.
"I am," she shrugged.
She was too certain. Daphne was too sure of emotions that she couldn't possible feel. I knew what I had to do, but it was going to be hard. Possibly the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life.
"Well, I'm not sure."
"Then tell me what you feel," Daphne prompted. I should have refused to answer, but she was looking into my eyes again. I swallowed hard once before answering.
"Certainly desire," I admitted.
"You do seem pretty enamored with my breasts."
"That's not all," I continued. "There isn't a part of you that doesn't excite me."
"It's nice to know you're physically attracted to me," she said carefully, for the first time not sounding happy or amused by my interest. I leaned forward without thinking, lifted her chin and kissed her again.
"It's not just your body I want," I said honestly. It wasn't the smartest thing to say considering, but I couldn't let her believe that. "I've already told you what your smile does to me."