Warning. This entire story is about sex, desire, and love. A full one-quarter of the writing could be called sex scenes. This means, of course, that three-quarters cannot be called as such. Act as you see fit.
Finally, there are two sentences of Chinese spoken in the story. Since our heroine doesn't understand them, they remain untranslated. If you want to know what they mean, you will have to send Feedback. I almost always respond.
The trade winds drafted down the mountain valley, through the high rises of downtown, and into the little office where I sat working. The breeze tossed the light fabric of my skirt against my calves, tickling my skin and reminding me of the world outside the spreadsheet in front of me. I closed my brown and green swirling eyes to concentrate on the sensation. The breeze narrowed, focusing on a spot on my neck, bristling the tiny auburn hairs. A breath. A cool breath from my lover coming to sweep me away. She bent over, bringing her lips closer to my neck. I leaned back into her kiss, content and happy.
A drop of sweat collected at the end of my nipple until it dropped from my dangling breast onto her stomach. A smile spread across her face and I collapsed back into her arms.
It was that image again. I shook my head of it and went back to comparing cereal box prices.
My mouth was full of the woman whose legs twitched around me. My tongue moved again and again over the hair and moisture. My heart raced with excitement and fear, but my hand was wrapped in hers, so strong and comforting, calming me.
"Did you want rice or pasta tonight?" my husband asked. "Hun?"
"I can do rice again if you want."
"Spaghetti it is."
I liked my therapist Chantrelle personally but I didn't really like seeing a therapist in general. She always seemed to understand what I was going through. I hated that. It would be nice to be a little different from all her other patients. Instead, I would walk into her office where her assistant would be expecting me. Chantrelle would greet me in her office with a smile and that mane of dark hair tied back in large braids. I would settle into her comfy burnt orange leather chair that you felt like you could slip out of at any moment and compare the freckles on my arm against the color of the leather. Then we'd talk.
It's hard to feel special with such a routine. Comforted and safe, sure, but not special and weird, which is how I wanted to feel. But, then, I was given her name by the gay and lesbian hotline I had called in a panic three months earlier, hoping they could make the images go away. Instead they gave me the phone number of a therapist who specialized in orientation issues, a former military psychologist who had dealt with a thousand don't ask don't tell cases. I almost expected them to say, "Welcome aboard," as they hung up.
Now, here I was spending our money and telling someone I barely knew about the woman in my head, all the time feeling guiltier and guiltier. Not only was I now hiding the images from my husband, I was hiding the fact that I was in therapy as well. Chantrelle and I did get along great, though. She always cut to the point.
"So, Ashleigh, you've spent a couple months now telling me about these little movies in your head. What are you going to do about them?"
"I thought I would see a therapist."
She smiled. "And this therapist would wave her wand and make them go away?"
"My therapist would use fairy dust. Wands are so last year."
Chantrelle bounced her pen against the brown skirts covering her knees as she always did before she said something important. "Ashleigh, it's time for you to make a decision. Much as I like your money, you need to get out of that chair and act."
"What do you want me to do? Put the images together and post the movie on the Internet? Pale redhead gets dirty with girlfriend?"
"Why don't you do the obvious thing?"
"And what's that?" I stopped my hands from fiddling with the long lock of hair dangling around my bosom. "The obvious thing would be to find out if I want them to be more than images."
"But the only way to do that is to, you know, try it."
"Are you talking about sleeping with someone?"
I tossed the hair back over my shoulder. It's good I didn't have Chantrelle's pen, because I would have been playing the rhumba with how nervous this conversation made me.
"Ashleigh, when you say this, how does it make you feel?"
"Like I'm a horrible person." I saw my chest rising and falling faster than normal, the pale green blouse on white skin puffing in and out.
Chantrelle paused for a moment. "So you are thinking about doing it? You are thinking about trying to get picked up or something?"
"No way am I going to go to a bar to have a one night stand."
"You've thought this through. It's far more to you than images."
I didn't answer. I didn't want to say yet how I was finding my head turn when an attractive woman was near, how I imagined the feel on my thin bare legs of the visiting consultant's skirts when she brushed against me looking over my shoulder, how I could still smell the perfume of the woman who gave me my coffee every morning. I wasn't ready to say any of this.
"A relationship then," Chantrelle continued. "Is that what you are considering? It doesn't have to be meaningless, right? Find a girlfriend; find someone to move in with-"
"No!" I hadn't meant to yell, but my heart was racing so much I couldn't stop it.
"Why not? Unless you aren't sure you want to."
"Of course I want to!" Dammit, she had led me right into that. Okay, she was good at her job, but still. "You know I can't, Chantrelle, and you know why." This was why I had called the hotline. I knew I wanted more than images. I wanted to cheat on my husband with another woman.
She waited, letting me calm back down. "Ashleigh," she spoke slowly. "I need you to talk to me. You know better than I that this isn't a game. I need to know what you are thinking, why you are scared. Everyone has fantasies. We talked about this on day one. What is scaring you?"
Had I been praising her directness earlier? "It's, maybe it's that I, I think about doing what we are talking about. I don't hide anything important from Ken, but when I'm on business trips I start thinking about looking up info on the lesbian scene in the town. I find myself fiddling with my wedding ring." I looked down and found myself sliding my ring up and down my finger as I sat there. I had never done that a year ago. Chantrelle watched me gently slide the ring back into its rightful place. "I can list the names and open hours for a lesbian bar in a dozen cities off the top of my head. I've never been to one, but I know their names."
Chantrelle's voice seemed to deepen as she spoke next in a way I had not heard before. "Sex between women is some of the safest sex you can have," she said. "Few diseases, no pregnancy risk. Info on dental dams and other protection is easy to find."
"Are you telling me to cheat on my husband?!"
She said nothing.
"I will never ever cheat on Kenji."
She still refused to speak. I just had to watch her foot tap slowly in the air.
"I love him and I will not do that. I won't." I could see Ken's face as I sat there. His dark hair so full, the scruff on his broad chin, the soft full lips, and then the pain in his charcoal eyes when he discovered what I had done. No, I would never cause that sort of pain.
"I know you don't want to," she replied finally. "Then what will you do with your desires?"
Hide them; let them die; anything to keep me with Kenji. Didn't she get this?
"I will just live with them. I'm not a child. I have will power. I'll just live with the pictures in my head." And the desires. And the heart fluttering when someone attractive looked at me a little longer than seemed normal.
"Every day for the rest of your life, you will dream about having sex with a woman, and you will never actually do it," Chantrelle said.
"Love how supportive you are being. It's the only choice because I don't lie to Ken."
"It's a lousy choice, Ashleigh, and you know that. That's why you're here. Because you aren't sure you can keep bottling it up. As far as I can tell you've been happily married for six years, but you won't be if you just ignore all this. Your desires will continue and slowly but surely, you will come to blame Ken for trapping you. The marriage that you want to save by just bottling everything up will either end or be a fragment of what it once was."
"You are a delightful person to talk to today. Can you audit me while you are at it? If that doesn't suck enough, you can do a pap smear. Ooh, ooh, no. Send me out to dinner with my boss."
As always she took my crap with ease. I'm not sure what I wanted her to do. Have her own brown freckles start glowing in anger? Why couldn't the hotline have recommended someone incompetent so I would have had an excuse to stop coming? I'm not a woman who revels in exploring my feelings. I'd rather have a cup of coffee and go do something.
"Alright then," Chantrelle started, "Let's go through the options. We've worked through having sex with another woman and not telling Ken about it," she replied. "That's out, right? You've rejected that. We've worked through not having sex, bottling it all up, and also not telling Ken, and that's out, too. So what's left?"
"Telling Ken," I admitted grudgingly. She was so fucking good at her job. I never could let her know I thought so. "I can't wait for that talk," I said instead. Would Ken ever touch me again if I told all of this to him? Maybe he would conclude I wasn't interested in men anymore, and yet his touches were one of the best things in my life, behind only his companionship.
"It's been obvious for several meetings that you needed to bring Ken into this, Ashleigh. Your great fear seems to be not having him in your life. If you can't get the other desires to go away, then you have to integrate them into your life, and Ken is your life. That's the starting point. Tell him."
I wanted to fight this solution, but it was so stupid obvious I knew not to waste our time doing so. "So what do I tell him?"
She tossed her hands up. "I have absolutely no idea."
I almost whined. "Don't make me figure it out, Chantrelle. I know this stuff is just your job, and I will be followed by someone trapped in someone else's body or whatever, but this is all I care about. You know I trust you. Just tell me how to do it right." Crap, if that wasn't an obvious admission of my respect.
"I really don't know, Ashleigh. All I know is that you have sexy images in your head that seem to be female. Only you know what you really want from this fantasy woman, from your husband. I can't tell you."
"Great." I looked up at the wall clock and listened to it tick. We had ten minutes left. "Can you at least ask me a leading question?"
She thought for a second and then said, "Is it okay if Ken is there?"
I stopped and looked up at her. Ken could be there? What-? How-? I'd always assumed Ken wouldn't be there. I mean, threesomes are things that drunk college kids and icky people do. But, but why not? I'd love that. I'd absolutely love that. I could have my pillar of support right there with me?! Really?!
We never got past that moment because I was out of her office as fast as I could run. I cornered Ken in an empty trailer at his construction site and told him I had just blown several thousand dollars on therapy for the last few months. I told him I had been dreaming about other women for over a year and I didn't know why. And I told him that I wanted him to be there when I was with her, whoever she was, for the first time in my life. And I guess he would have sex with her, too. We both would. And then we would see what it all meant because I just didn't know.
Ken had sat there just looking at me, reading me. His dark eyes scanned my face, looking over my thin nose and plum-colored lips, past my high cheekbones, and into my hazel eyes, looking for what was happening underneath all of that. He was the calmest person I had ever met, like the firewood to my flames. But he didn't fool me with his silence. He wasn't calm; his muscles were tensed as he wrestled for the right words, wrestled to understand what his wife was saying to him. My only hope was that he knew me; knew that I never acted like this. After longer than I could imagine he just made an observation, "It's important to you." I hadn't answered. I just cried on his shoulder until he took me home.
It was only in the car that I realized I might have just asked Ken to help me on the path to leaving him. Being forced to leave him.
"And then we would see what it all meant." Those were my exact words. But I knew what it meant.
I was becoming Jeannette from my last job, my mentor and model. She had been viciously smart, horribly competent, and always had time to help me out. Then, at the age of 42, married with three children, she fell in love with a woman in her choir. Her entire family life came crashing around her head with a painful divorce and a son who wouldn't speak to her for a year. It had been five years since I left, and I knew things had come around for her and her family. Her son was back; she had never been so in love; and even her husband had remarried. But I still didn't want that to happen to me. I liked my life as it was. Of course, that's what she had told me as well before it started.
When I finally calmed down, I wasted $200 more on flowers for Chantrelle. I had no idea where Ken and I were going, but at least we were moving again.
In time, Ken and I slowly wrapped ourselves around this weird possibility, and we came to agreement about two things. First, it was us as a couple. Secondly, at least the first time it wouldn't be personal. It wouldn't be someone we knew or would see again. That would give me time to think without emotional baggage. I didn't really like this too much, since I didn't really get why you had sex with someone you didn't care for in some manner, but I got the logic. Us together; someone we didn't know. Those were the rules
Nine full months later that's where we still sat. How do you get involved on an island with a bisexual woman that we would never see again? I spent one night in a Waikiki bar hoping to meet a nice tourist, but instead of a lovely encounter between three people on one passionate, tropical night, I felt like some sort of predator trolling for prey. I went home having spoken to no one and wondering what sort of person I had become. It was just as well that my office shipped me all over the nation every week. I hated being away from Ken, but at least I didn't have to worry about making our new fantasy become real.
Finally, one beautiful Saturday night, a solution seemed to present itself. And of all the possible sources, it came from my annoying boss in an email.
Sorry but Roger insists you go. I told him how much you've been traveling blah blah blah, but no dice. He says he wants the best on site with him, so I suppose that's you. In short, you're going to Vegas next Thursday. And I probably shouldn't put this in writing, but if you want to spend a little extra, I'll probably sign the form. I hear the Venetian's nice.
Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Wasn't that the slogan?
I knew he was awake. The last time I'd seen him, he'd been looking scrumptious in a pair of pajama bottoms reading the latest issue of Auto Tuner, the old car mag that he had written for when he was the creator of some of the hottest beasts to be found in the import racing world. That's one thing I didn't get about all my fantasies. Ken still made me wet. A broad chest with the smoothest skin. Hands that were rough feeling and as strong and gentle as could be. And that damn chin. Rugged, dashing. It didn't make sense. He had just shaved an hour ago and I knew I would be sucking on that chin before the night was through. He better not have fallen asleep!
"Yes, Mrs.Misagi?" he asked with a wry smile, passing into our cluttered little office / project room / second bedroom.
Mrs. Misagi. I remembered standing in that translucent negligee on our wedding night with my long red hair and pale skin, surprising him as he came in with the bags. "Mrs. Misagi," he had said simply. We hadn't discussed whether or not I would change my name, but as soon as he said it, I knew O'Connell was gone. Then he'd dropped the bags where he stood and swept me off. My skin was a bit more tan now, but neither the hair nor my love of being Mrs. Misagi had changed.
"Kenji, I've got another trip next week-"
"I thought you told Chuck you needed to stay in at least one week!? You just got back from L.A. this morning!"
"Don't get mad yet."
"How long do I have to wait? There's a reason they send you out and not him."
"I want you to come with me."
"Come with you? Where?"
"Vegas." He rubbed at newly squeaky clean chin. "I think I'm the only one left on this rock that hasn't been there."
"You know why, right?"
Kenji looked at me and knew but wouldn't say it.
"For our fantasy," I explained unnecessarily.
"The one?" I nodded and Kenji swallowed so slowly I could see his Adam's apple slide up and then back down. "I got ya. When?"
"I have to be on site all day Friday."
"How long do you think it will take?" he asked. "I mean to find someone."
"It's taken nine months and we haven't even spoken to a woman yet. I don't know. As long as it takes."
Ken pulled out his old notebook covered in drawings that he called a calendar for his business as an electrician. "There's no way I can leave until after Thursday. That's state inspection on the Wailapu project. But Rosaria can probably handle Friday and Saturday."
"She can't do Thursday, too?"
"In six months she'll be fixing my mistakes, but not yet."
Ken didn't make mistakes as far as I knew. "Then you'll just be a day after me."
He nodded. "So how do we find our mystery woman?"
"I can't wait for that conversation. 'Hi, my name's Ken, and my wife and I have this fantasy of being with another woman, so....'"
"Well, what's your idea?"
"I don't know. Club?"
"Same thing as a bar except people are drunk and dancing instead of drunk and standing."
Kenji brushed his dark rebelling hair from his forehead and collapsed on the sofa. I realized the man had gone all clean cut on me in the last few weeks. His long hair was now gone so that the black locks just tossed around his ears. His usual scruff on the chin had vanished with it. I wasn't sure which I liked better, since I felt like eating him up however he looked. "Good God, it's hard enough to date when you're single," Ken continued. "How are we supposed to do it married?"
"Internet," I told him.
"Are you going to search for 'Bisexual Vegas Girls?' You'll just get porn."
"How is life on Planet Kenji?"
"It's great, Mrs. Jetson. How's life in your flying car?"
"It's just a site with a bunch of ads listed by city."
"Ads like 'Want sexy Hawaiian couple for insanely nervous first time three'?"
"You never know."
We headed into Casual Encounters for Las Vegas but mostly found other couples like us, not our match. That had almost always been the case when I looked around previously, too.
"Do you think any of these people are real? Or serious?" Kenji asked as we perused an ad for a 21-year-old blonde wanting anyone, any time.
"I don't know." I suddenly felt exhausted. "Probably a few are and most aren't." I closed the browser window as forcefully as I could with a mouse. Whatever we thought of there'd be some reason it wouldn't work; it'd probably be like that until I died.