Go with Flow

byjeanne_d_artois©

Flow stopped talking. She sat up, pulling herself away from my shoulder.

"You don't mind me telling you all this, Sarah?" She asked.

"No, Flow. That's why we're here. I'm a friend who wants to help."

"OK. There's more, much more."

Flow stood up and walked around the bench. She was looking at the view as if she had never seen it before.

"I think it is helping -- to talk about it. I haven't. Never. To anyone. The only person I might have been able to talk to was my grandfather. He died two months ago. He left me some money. When probate is settled I could buy a better flat outright. But I'd rather have him -- not the money."

Flow sat down again.

"Freshers' week. It's changed since two years ago. But then? It seemed a relic of an older age. The older tradition was that Seniors would try to set a record of how many female Freshers they could have sex with in the first week. Even two years ago all that was different was that female Seniors also tried to have sex with Freshers -- either male Freshers, or if the Seniors were Lesbian -- female Freshers. Freshers were almost hunted."

"I know. They didn't get anywhere with me, Flow, not after I had decked one Senior."

"I remember that, Sarah. He wasn't up to your weight. Few Seniors were. They left you alone after he needed treatment for a broken nose."

"He deserved it. Without any preliminaries, not even a word, he grabbed me between my legs."

"And earned a straight right to his nose. I wish I could have done that, Sarah. I haven't got your strength. But I was hunted by Seniors. At first I was flattered. It soon became clear that I was just a potential fuck. One asked me for a date. He went too far, too soon and reminded me of the rape. He was very close to raping me -- on this bench. I objected. He persisted. I kicked my shoes off, hit him in the privates with a stiletto heel, and ran down the hill carrying my shoes.

He wasn't the only one. In my first month five Seniors took me out on dates. They all ended in attempted rape. I'd go back to my flat and cry my eyes out. All they wanted me for was to get their pricks inside me. At the end of that month I believed all men were rapists. I know they're not but every date had ended with me escaping from rape -- again and again. I'm scared of dating men. Worse. I'm scared of dating men or women because some of the lesbians are just as bad. All they want is sex, sex, sex!"

"Most of our friends aren't like that, Flow. Even the men who have asked you for a date as part of the auction aren't like that. You've rejected most of them before and they've accepted your decision -- reluctantly, with regret, but they haven't pushed you, have they?"

"No. They haven't. That makes me feel bad. They want me as a girlfriend, and have been considerate, but every time a man asks I'm back to thinking about being raped or near-raped. Your Mike isn't like that. He's great. He's your friend as well as your boyfriend."

"Mike's your friend too, Flow."

"I know. Mike would never rape you."

"He wouldn't. If he wants sex and I don't? He accepts that. If I want sex and he doesn't? That's usually different because he's a man. I can persuade, and yes, seduce him so that he changes his mind. It doesn't take much to get him in the mood for sex. He knows he can't change my mind. He doesn't try. He just waits until I'm ready. If not today, tomorrow will do. He is patient and understanding. I wish..."

"You wish what, Sarah?"

"I wish you had someone like Mike for yourself, Flow. Someone you can trust, someone who will respect your wishes every time, someone who loves you so much he would never hurt you or even make you sad."

"Your Mike is like that for you?"

"Not always. He tries. He's not perfect. Neither am I. Sometimes we can snap at each other but it doesn't matter. Our love means we can't be annoyed with the other for long."

"A man like that? Maybe. Perhaps. But he would have to be very, very gentle with me, Sarah, and back off whenever I'm even slightly reluctant."

"Mike could do that."

"Mike? But he's yours! You haven't said it aloud but we all know you and Mike are effectively engaged."

"It's not really a secret. But if it would help you, I'd lend Mike to you..."

Flow looked at me as if she hadn't seen me before. She didn't say anything for at least a minute.

"What does Mike think about being lent? You must have asked him..."

"I did. He would do anything for you, Flow, and not just because I've asked him. He loves you. Not like he loves me, but he appreciates Flow for who she is. Whatever he could do to ease your pain, even without knowing what your pain is about, he'd do it. For you, not for me. For his friend, not because you're my friend. He would go with Flow."

+++

It was fortunate that neither of us had lectures that afternoon. We sat on that bench for another two hours just talking. Much of it wasn't about Flow's problems but the auction, the carol service...

By the end Flow had reluctantly agreed she would go on a date with Mike. She didn't want him to know what she had told me but she would go with him for a day, Sunday.

I told Mike that evening.

"What sort of date, Sarah?" he asked.

"Up to you and Flow," I retorted.

"OK. I'll speak to her tomorrow. I have an idea that might work."

We left it like that. I was lending Mike to Flow. I trusted both of them. Nothing would happen that would worry me, or more importantly, Flow.

+++

However when Mike and Flow returned from a day out on Sunday evening I wanted to know all the details -- if Flow was happy for Mike to tell me.

Flow kissed me on the cheek.

"Thank you, Sarah. You can have him back now. And yes, he can tell you about today. I might have but he's got nothing to confess..."

Mike pretended to be embarrassed.

"I've been out with our friend," he said. "She's still our friend."

"And that's a considerable achievement, Mike," Flow added. "I've been on a date with a man and enjoyed myself. Thank you."

She surprised both of us by kissing Mike full on the lips. A tear rolled down her cheek. She brushed it away.

"That's happiness, not distress. But he's yours, Sarah." She said before kissing Mike again. She left with her usual smooth movement leaving Mike and I stunned.

"Come on," I said. "I'll make coffee while you tell me about it."

"How do I start?" Mike asked.

"At the beginning, of course," I replied. "When you and Flow decided what to do today."

"Oh. That. Yes. I suggested that we went to the local stately home. It's the last month it's open before they close for Winter. We would be together but in a public place. I thought that would be safer, no, not safer because Flow would be safe with me wherever we went, but less threatening for her. She agreed.

I picked her up at exactly ten thirty this morning. I opened the car door for her, checked her skirt was inside, went around to the driver's door, climbed in and drove away. Flow was very quiet and tense for the first ten minutes or so. She said something unexpected.

"Mike? Would you mind if you called me Florence today, not Flow?"

"Of course not -- Florence. Any particular reason?"

"No." Flow paused. "Yes. I want to be different today. I want today to be different, the start of something new with no overtones of the past. I've been Flow for over two years. Today I want to forget that and be myself as Florence."

"I'll try, Florence, but please forgive me if I slip up. If I do, thump an arm or kick a shin."

"It isn't that important. I'd just feel, I don't know, perhaps more relaxed as Florence."

"Then Florence you are."

I was very good. I had to stop myself a couple of times but I managed to call her Florence all day.

At the car park I went round and opened the door for -- Florence -- to get out. She thanked me and waited while I locked the car. As we set off towards the ticket kiosk her hand slid into mine. She felt my surprised reaction. She squeezed my hand; pulled us to a stop.

"We're on a date, Mike. I'm holding your hand because I want to. Any objection?"

"No, Florence. You can do whatever you want. I like your hand in mine."

She lifted our joined hands.

"My hand is in yours. It's almost lost in there, so small compared with yours, but that's where I want it to be."

She held my hand as we walked around the formal gardens. The house wasn't due to open until twelve thirty. Shortly after noon I turned to walk towards the house. She stopped me.

"We haven't done the woodland walk, Mike. It will get dark early. I'd rather do it now, before the house. If you don't mind?"

"Of course not, Florence. It's your day. We do what you want, when you want to."

There had been a few people walking in the formal gardens. There were none on the woodland walk. She and I were alone in the woods. I was worried that she would be scared. I had suggested the stately home because we would be with others. The woodland walk is about a mile long. Halfway there was a seat under a tree. We sat down on it -- her idea. Seconds later I had Florence on my lap. She pulled my arms around her and snuggled against my chest.

"This is what I want on a date," she said. "A hug from a big man who will respect me, allow me to do what I want, and make me feel safe and protected."

We sat there for at least half an hour. Florence almost went to sleep on me. If she had been a cat, I think she would have been purring loudly. As it was I thought I heard a faint snore. Why not? She had worked most of last night. She roused herself, reached up, pulled my head down and kissed. She kissed me. It was a gentle kiss, not like the kisses between you and me, Sarah. Was it sexual? I don't think so. Not then."

"Not then?" I queried.

"Later, Sarah, later," Mike replied.

I kissed him.

"I don't mind, honestly, if it helped Flow."

"Florence, today."

"Whoever."

I kissed Mike again.

"We continued the woodland walk but my arm was around her shoulder; her arm around my waist. We walked slower like that. We went to the cafe for lunch. She insisted on paying because I had paid the admission. We ate the lunch. I suggested that we booked for a house tour. They're every half hour. There were so few visitors today that we could have joined any of the tours.

She said "Forget the house. We're here on a date not a tour of a historic house. I want to go back on the woodland walk."

"We did. Even through the formal gardens Florence had her arm around my waist. Back at the bench she climbed on my lap again. This time we kissed properly, again and again. Florence pulled one of my hands inside her jacket, under her top and against her bra. I stroked and squeezed as we kissed again. She went further. She straddled me, lifted her top, unfastened her bra, and pulled my head against a naked breast."

"Wow!" I said.

"Wow! Indeed. I was surprised but if that's what Florence wanted I wasn't going to say no. I kissed, nibbled and sucked both of her breasts. I was prepared to stop if she showed a slightest sign of reluctance. She didn't. Eventually she started a series of orgasms. She was squealing so loudly I was afraid someone else might hear. There wasn't anyone around. I don't think anyone else went on the woodland walk today. We were on that bench until the light began to fade. We left the property about ten minutes before it closed. I drove us back here."

"And you made Florence happy," I said. "Should I be jealous? No. That's what I wanted you to do. The pair of you did more than I had hoped, more than I had expected would be possible, but everything was her choice. But now? Now I want my man, back in my bed, showing me just how much he loves me."

We were in bed for a couple of hours. Mike knows how to arouse me, how to play with me for a long time until my need for him inside me becomes unbearable. Even when he has reached a climax he will wait until I want to let him go. I love Mike. I love the way Mike makes love to me. I love him for who he is. I think I loved him more today for what he had done, and not done, with Florence. He had gone as far as she wanted and not an inch beyond.

+++

Flow was back as Flow the next day. She had been Florence for Mike but she was Flow again. She was a happier Flow but still fragile.

Over the next week we made progress on activities for raising money for the charity. Mike had spoken to the vicar who issued an invitation to the university students to attend a special carol service before the end of term. There would be a collection for the charity. The university's choral society would perform with the church's small choir. Rehearsals had already been scheduled for the two choirs to practice together.

The Dramatic Society were dubious about the Nativity Play. They would discuss it and suitable short play scripts at their next committee meeting. If it could be done with a very small cast? It might be possible.

The Christmas party planning had started. Like the Carol Service and the Nativity Play it would be earlier than normal because so many students would leave before the final day of term.

The auction would be the first activity to take place. Most of the promises would have to be delivered by the end of the term. Flow's eight hours of fashion advice might have to run into next term if they weren't going to interfere with her studies.

At the end of the week Flow asked Mike and I to have Sunday dinner with her. She wanted to talk to both of us, and asked that Mike should bring the original list of requests for auction promises, including the names of those who had asked for dates with her.

We agreed with a proviso that I should help with the preparation of the meal. I'm a better cook than Flow. She is too precise in her measurement of ingredients, efficient but she follows recipes too exactly, even when they are wrong.

That's one of the attractive things about Flow. She knows what she can do, what she can't do, and which things other people can do better than she can. She appreciates other people's skills and says so. She is always willing to try to do something new, to learn from others, and to compliment others on their talents. She likes my cooking. So does Mike. Mike helps me with food preparation and can cook. He, and Flow, know I'm better at cooking than they are.

+++

Flow had been working as a shelf stacker on Saturday night so she slept until early afternoon. We had arranged to come to her at five o'clock, to start meal preparation for the dinner at seven thirty.

Flow wanted a roast dinner that would cook in about an hour and a half. The three of us were in Flow's tiny kitchen. Mike decided to sit in a corner out of the way. He would prepare the vegetables for roasting while Flow and I danced around each other getting the meat ready for the oven. With three of us working efficiently the meal was ready to start cooking an hour before it needed to be. I set the timer to start the oven at the appropriate time.

The three of us went into Flow's sitting room with glasses of white wine. Mike opened his briefcase. He had the list of requests for the auction. It was the original handwritten sheets from the notice board, not the word processed summary he had handed around.

"Here you are, Flow," Mike said. "As requested -- the list of auction suggestions."

"Thank you, Mike," Flow said.

She looked at the list carefully, particularly the names of those asking for dates with her.

"I thought so," she said suddenly. "Bert's on the list."

"Bert?" I asked.

"Yes. Bert." Flow repeated. "That must be someone's idea of a joke. Bert only dates other gay men."

"You're right," Mike said. "I should have noticed that. But the amount of money and the number of requests agreed. Someone must have paid a pound to put Bert on the list."

"I'm not sure every one of the others is genuine. These two, for example. The ink is green. Of course someone could have lent their pen to a second person but the green writing for both names looks very similar."

"Can I have a look?" I asked. "I've only seen Mike's summary."

Flow passed me the paperwork. I agreed with her. The green names looked suspicious.

"How many... and who... do you two think are genuine requests for a date with me?" Flow asked.

"Bert is a joke," I said. "The two names in green ink? Probably another joke. That leaves eleven names. Those five..."

I pointed to the five names. Flow and Mike watched as my finger moved down the list.

"I think all of those five have steady relationships with women. Andy's with Rachel, for example. So why would Andy want a date with you, Flow? It could annoy Rachel."

"I think you are right, Sarah," Mike said. "Do you agree, Flow?"

"Yes. I was shocked that fourteen men wanted a date with me. It seemed unlikely that there were fourteen that weren't already in relationships. If we were first years? Possibly. But third years? We've had time to get to know each other, to have dates which worked out - or didn't -- and to move to steady commitments. If we eliminate eight names we're left with six."

"Flow? Is this just an intellectual exercise?" Mike asked.

She paused. She leant across and kissed Mike on the cheek.

"Until I went out with you, Mike, yes, it would have been. But if any of the requests were genuine, and from men who might treat me as you did? I might... But NOT as part of an auction. What I want to know from you two... Which one on the list should I consider?"

"Are you sure?" I asked. "My Mike is special."

"You think so," Mike retorted. "I think you are special, Sarah. I think Flow is too. But I'm not the only considerate man around. If Flow wants a good man, and many of the good men are already claimed, she is right to be careful."

"OK. If you are sure, Flow." I said.

"I'm not. I'm petrified," Flow said. "Mike showed me that being with a man can be enjoyable and not frightening."

"I have an idea that might help," Mike said. "Why not a double date? Sarah and me, and Flow and whoever, together. If that works, you could try going solo for the second, third or whatever date."

"That's a possibility..." Flow said slowly. "But which of the six?"

"I have a single candidate," Mike said. "But I would prefer you two to say yours first. Sarah?"

"There's only one. How about we three write our choice down on a piece of paper?" I suggested.

"OK," Flow said.

Mike tore off three strips of paper from one of his drafts. We each wrote a name, hiding it from the others.

"Turn over after three," I ordered. "One, Two, Three!"

The same name -- Tom.

"But he's a nerd," Flow objected.

"And you're not, Flow?" I asked. "Tom's a Physics nerd. You're a Mathematics nerd. He's shy. If his name is genuine I'm surprised he went as far as suggesting a date with you for the auction. Even if he did, I can't see him really going through with a bid in public. He'd be too embarrassed."

"How do I know he really put his name on the list?" Flow asked.

"Simple," Mike said. "I ask him. As Chairman of the fund-raising committee I can tell him that dates with Flow have been disallowed. I can say that there are doubts that the names were genuine. Was his?"

"That might work," I said.

"Or Flow could ask him," Mike said. "But I think that would embarrass him, and embarrass Flow if Tom didn't put his name on the list."

"I agree, Mike," Flow said. "YOU ask Tom. And if he did put his name on the list, I'll go on a date with him AND you two. That should protect me and shy Tom."

"One thing about Tom," I said. "I think he could do with Flow's advice on how to dress. His sweaters..."

"I'd forgotten his sweaters," Flow said. "It's his Harris Tweed jacket I notice more."

Tom's jacket is ancient with leather patched elbows. It has burn marks from some of his Physics experiments. His sweaters are hand-knitted by his sisters. Either they, or Tom, might be colour-blind. They are garish and seem to be made of the brightest wool available, knitted in horizontal stripes.

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