Out of Your Own Waybycrialia©
Peter knew he wasn't Mina and Penny's closest friend. They always seemed to have more fun with the other students, those who gathered at the bar in the evenings and talked about how so-and-so had slept with so-and-so, and how such-and-such irrelevant television starlet had had her nose done. He didn't really connect through small talk, and felt out of place during those conversations. He didn't drink very much either, so trying to keep up with that group typically meant a very painful morning the day after.
Nevertheless, he was very close to both Mina and Penny. It was hard to be close to one without being close to the other, since they were inseparable. Mina and Penny had met on the first day of university, a few months ago, and to hear Penny tell it, Mina had decided that they were to be best friends there and then, and they had proceeded to do everything together ever since.
Neither had a boyfriend, although the rumour was that Michael Griffin had slept with Penny during freshman week and that Mina had tried to date Brian O'Connor, the school's star hockey player, but that it hadn't worked out. Brian played it cool, saying that they "just weren't compatible", and that it "wasn't meant to be", whereas Mina acted as if it had never happened, and simply stayed friends with him. The general impression given was that Brian was a little disappointed that it hadn't worked out better, and Mina simply hadn't found what she was looking for in the friendly but ultimately shallow aristocratic semi-jock. It was strange, since most of the pretty girls in class seemed quite taken with Brian, with his stellar sporting credentials, his family name and his easy confidence.
It was in contrast to people like Brian that Peter felt most inadequate. He was perfectly nice, intelligent and friendly, but he didn't feel that he had the charisma and presence of someone like Brian, and he didn't understand how that worked. It didn't trouble him all that much, but Peter occasionally admitted to himself that what he really felt was envy, not at the easy-going confidence Brian had, or the boorish aggressive alpha-male-like behaviour that were the hallmark of Mike Griffin, but at the fact that it had afforded Brian and Griffin the opportunity to at least know what it would be like to date one of these two girls.
Although quite different, the two girls shared the features that Peter found most attractive. Aside from the attractive physical attributes both had been blessed with, they were light-hearted without being ditzy, kind without being condescending, naturally affectionate, had easy smiles and generally brightened the room through their presence.
Penny was from the United States. Her parents both worked for a company that had sent them to England on a long-term expatriation arrangement, and so she was going through the British educational system. She had those cheerleader good looks that were the stereotypical image of America's female undergraduates in the minds of British students, although she had avoided the anorexic attributes that sometimes accompanied them and instead had a body shaped by years of lacrosse practice. Lacrosse not being a sport practiced at a decent level by the university, she had recently taken up swimming and running. Pale green eyes under long flowing blond hair, and with prominent but well proportioned breasts, she was almost a wet dream come true, but years of being chased by boys and an education from a mother who had shared the same looks in her youth had given her the skills to see off even the most ardent suitor without breaking hearts or causing undue harm. She was the most easygoing of the two girls, upbeat and enthusiastic about even the smallest things like a trip to the movies or an evening cooking dinner at a friends house.
Mina was, at first sight, Penny's opposite. Of mixed Asian and eastern European descent, with high cheekbones, defined features and a gentle Asian cast to her face, she was quieter and more measured than Penny but shared the same positive outlook on life. Mina was naturally thin despite a voracious appetite, and a tiny bit shorter than Penny when she wasn't wearing heels. Waif-like, she wore clothes that accentuated her shape: Long dresses and flowing tops that came off the shoulders, made from soft fabrics. She seemed to have an understanding of style and fashion that was beyond her years, although that was to be expected since her mother was a fashion designer for a small boutique line of expensive female clothing. Whereas Penny's femininity came from her shape, with breasts that made up for their average size with their gravity-defying perkiness, Mina had very small breasts, and it was through her attitude and the way she carried herself that she drew the eye and communicated her natural female charisma.
Peter had become their friend in the same way as he had made many female friends. By being completely unthreatening. There was no subterfuge involved, despite the fact that he found them both painfully attractive and that they had been the subject of the occasional guilty fantasy; His natural shyness came through in his behaviour and served to make girls very comfortable around him. This had gone further with Mina and Penny, as Mina had quickly decided that they were to be fast friends, and had made a habit of coming around to his room with Penny so they could work on their shared courses together. All three of them were smart and by putting their minds together during homework, revision and when reading the assigned coursework, they could easily achieve the highest grades.
Today was not going well. Peter was in a funk because after 5 months of university, he was still single, and a few of the guys had made jokes at his expense, suggesting he might want to review his sexual orientation.
The jokes were inoffensive and good-natured, with no harm intended, but they had served to remind him of his loneliness. With a few more years, he would have been able to identify what he felt as sexual frustration, but at the time, it just felt like unhappiness and anxiety. He wasn't particularly looking forward to Mina and Penny coming around this evening to review their coursework for Legal Precedents in Contract Law, since their presence would only serve to accentuate how he felt.
Being reasonably guileless, Peter wore his emotions on his face, and Mina noticed something was wrong the second she entered his room.
"Peter, is everything OK?"
He wasn't likely to talk to her about this, since that would only lead to uncomfortable questions about how he felt about her or Penny, and that would mean he would either have to lie, which he was sure she would see through, or he would have to tell her how he felt, which would certainly endanger a friendship that was one of the most important things in his life at the moment.
"I'm fine. I probably need more sleep. Just a little out of sorts. That's all."
Mina wasn't buying it, but knew better than to push him. She had good instincts for this sort of thing, and had known Peter long enough to have a solid understanding of his loneliness and his insecurities. In fact, she had an extremely good idea what this was about, since she'd been observing him a lot more closely than he thought. She had seen him look wistfully at some of the girls in the group at the bar over the last few weeks, she had guessed at his feelings for her and Penny, but she couldn't very well tell him what he needed to do without making it worse by pointing out that she had noticed his insecurity and shyness. Drawing attention to it could only embarrass him.
"Penny will be here in a few minutes, can I make myself a cup of tea?"
She walked directly over to the kettle by the computer on the desk, and his answer caught up with her.
"Sure, go ahead. I bought some different teabags, they're in the top drawer."
Mina was thinking about Peter's problem. If she was right, and she wasn't sure about that yet, then there was a real issue at stake. When she considered what would happen if he dated someone, she couldn't help but come to the conclusion that she would have to spend a lot less time with him, and that possibility provoked some unpleasant emotions. Sure, he was insecure and had a hard time getting close to a girl, but this was university, and if he didn't make a move soon, one of the girls in the group would take him aside, give him an experience that would satisfy all those pent up urges he hadn't quite come to terms with yet, and wrap him quite cleanly around her little finger. After all, he was clean, smart, well built and would make a terrific boyfriend. And if that happened, she and Penny would hardly see him at all, as the next year or two would become a voyage of sexual discovery for him with one of the other girls in the university. Worse, to keep him under her thumb, this girl would - probably without even realising it - encourage the very insecurities that made him so vulnerable in the first place.
In fact, the more she thought about it, the more her own emotions began to feel like a preface to jealousy. That raised interesting questions, such as, "how do I feel about Peter", which weren't really all that new. These were questions she should probably have answered before today, but which - because of his unassuming nature and his shyness - he had never forced her to confront.
Then there was the arrangement she had with Penny - that was satisfying although inevitably temporary. She didn't want it to come to an end just yet though. She wanted to find a way to make it all work out. It seemed that she had some decisions to make, and less time than she wanted in which to make them. A plan had already occurred to her, but she needed Penny to make it work.
Penny bounced into the room while Mina was fishing the teabag out of her mug. Her pale skin was flushed red from having run across the campus in the freezing cold. She'd just finished swimming practice and the swimming facilities were all the way across the university grounds. She was smiling broadly as usual.
"Hey guys! How's it going?" She dropped her bag onto the bed and gave Peter a big hug. He could feel how cold her cheek was against his. She radiated health and vitality.
Very soon they were all sitting on the double bed with books and papers spread around them, rapidly reviewing their knowledge of contract law and hurtling through their assignments at breakneck speed with the confidence of students who really understand their subject matter. They had no doubt that they were hitting all the important points for the assignment, and each took notes in his or her own way. They would write their essays up independently afterwards, but they knew that theirs would be three of the top five grades in the class. As always.
When they had finished their work, Penny suggested they hang out for a while, maybe watch a DVD on Peter's larger-than-normal TV. As always, they had consumed vast quantities of tea, so while Penny and Mina cleared away the papers, Peter went to the bathroom. When he returned, the papers were in a pile on the desk and the two girls had taken place on the bed, backs against the headboard, leaving no room for him. There was that sense that something had been discussed in his absence, and that it concerned him. He was about to ask when Mina spoke first.
"You look really tense and miserable Peter," Mina began, "so sit here so I can give you a back rub." She patted the space directly in front of her on the bed.
Peter thought that sounded both good and bad. On the one hand a massage from Mina was likely to be very nice, on the other it was likely to make his already confused and unhappy emotions all the more difficult to deal with. It would, however, be less than gracious to refuse, and if he did refuse, she might never offer again. He climbed over the bed and sat down where she indicated, between her legs, which were bent, her knees in the air and her feet flat on the bed.
This was immediately much worse than he had anticipated. Mina encouraged him to lean back, her hands on his shoulders, and soon his entire back was in contact with her. He could feel the warmth from her legs on either side of his ribcage, and the warmth of her chest behind him. In fact, given how she was seated, he could even feel the warmth of her body in her lower belly and between her legs. He was incredibly embarrassed to find that he was getting slightly aroused, but it would be impossible to tell through his jeans, and the feeling would no doubt pass as she got into her massage. Her long dress had ridden up slightly and he could see her slender legs wrapped in black tights and her small feet digging gently into the covers on the bed.
He noticed that Penny was smiling at him, and when she noticed him noticing, she went and fiddled with the DVD player.
A pair of incredibly delicate hands ran through his hair and settled on either side of his head, fingers resting on his temples, where they began to massage in gentle circles.
When she spoke, Mina's voice was right in his ear. He could feel her breath. She was talking very quietly, almost whispering to him.
"You need to relax. You seem very tense today. I don't like seeing you like this."
Her fingers felt wonderful. Peter made a small noise and settled back slightly, putting more of his weight on Mina. Her fingers continued their gentle rotations.
"You know we both care about you. You're so nice to us. It's good to have someone you can trust absolutely. We trust you, and that's a rare thing."
Peter was no longer paying attention to Penny, but if he had been, he would have noticed that she was no longer fiddling with the DVD player. She had stopped moving and was listening carefully, picking up on what Mina was murmuring in his ear.
"Relax a little more, Peter, lean back and let go for a bit."
She put one hand on his forehead, pulling his head back gently into her, while she ran her other hand through the hair at the back of his head. Her mouth moved a little closer to his ear, so he would feel her breath more clearly when she spoke. Peter hadn't expected her to pick up on how unhappy he felt, but it was nice to have someone who cared enough to notice, and what she was doing felt really good. His thoughts, which had been spiralling unhappily all day while trying to deal with his confusing emotions, seemed to be slowing down as her hands continued to massage the sides of his head.
"We both care about you, and we can tell you're not happy at the moment. We're your best friends, and we really want you to feel good. It hurts me to see you unhappy. That's why I wanted to give you this massage, to make you feel better."
She was running her hands through his hair now, her nails scratching his scalp, and the sensation was sending lazy shivers all over his head, through his neck and down his spine. He hadn't really heard her last few words, the sensations had been too distracting.
After a while, her hands returned to his temples and resumed their slow rotations.
"I want you to imagine that my hands are loosening the thoughts in your head. Your thoughts are coming loose and detaching from where they're stored in your head. The more you feel my hands massage you, the more thoughts come loose and start to move around."
Peter had closed his eyes to better enjoy the sensation, and he understood what she was trying to do. She knew that he was having troubling thoughts about friendships and relationships, and she wanted to free him from those thoughts for a few minutes, so he entered into her fantasy, imagining thoughts coming loose from their anchors in his head.
"As the thoughts loosen and come free, you'll feel more and more relaxed. Feel the thoughts come loose."
She moved a hand up to a part of his head that she had found to be particularly sensitive earlier and scratched her nails against it, causing Peter to squirm ever so slightly. "Thoughts about coursework", and he became acutely aware of his concerns about the coursework load for the next three weeks, but in a detached way, as though he was observing the concerns from the outside, becoming aware of his thoughts without actually thinking them.
"Thoughts about the bar crowd and your friends," and he saw his concerns about fitting in with the group of friends he and the girls frequented, and how those thoughts didn't help. How in fact their only impact was negative.
"Thoughts about loneliness," Mina's hand stroked the back of his neck in time with her words, soothing his sudden anxiety at the fact that she had figured this out, and he became aware of his loneliness as an independent thing, an observable unit of emotions and thoughts floating around in his head, like a pocket of unhappiness.
"All your thoughts coming loose one at a time, and as each one comes loose, you'll feel more and more relaxed."
All of his weight was against her now, and he could feel her heart beating through her chest, in the middle of his back.
"When all of your thoughts have come free, when they're all floating around freely in your head, you'll be so relaxed you won't be able to move anymore. You can't move your body when your thoughts are floating, you can only move your body when your thoughts are anchored. Since your thoughts are floating, you can't move your body." Mina's voice was getting softer and softer in his ear, and every time he felt her breath against his skin, he seemed to relax further.
"Now we're going to relax you more, by moving some of the thoughts away from your head. You see, Peter, the thoughts have different weights. Some of them are light like balloons, and some are heavy like lead. Thoughts that make you unhappy are heavy, and the more unhappy the thought, the heavier it is. Thoughts that make you happy, or that are important to you, these float up to the top of your head. The best thoughts float to the very top almost immediately."
"I want you to become aware of your thoughts about loneliness. I want you to see how fast that thought is falling through your body."
Her hands had been moving around his head, simulating the movement of thoughts inside. Now one of her hands traced down his neck and over his shoulder to the front of his chest, pressing lightly against him through his clothing.
"This thought is falling especially fast."
Her hand traced down his chest, over his bellybutton and onto his lower belly.
"It's falling all the way down.... to here."
A slender hand rested ever so gently on his crotch. He could feel it through his jeans. He could feel sudden stirrings of arousal, but he couldn't move. Despite the feeling and the relaxation, a part of him began to panic slightly at the unfamiliar situation, but after a short pause, the pressure disappeared and he felt two hands massaging his head again. The panic dissipated quickly.
"I want you to find the thoughts about the argument you had with Brian yesterday. Feel that thought dropping through your body." Her hand traced down his body again, and when it was halfway down his chest, she brought it back to his head and quickly followed up with another thought, that dropped again through his body.
Mina worked her way through all the bad experiences she knew he had had in the last couple of years, and threw in occasional guesses about things that were making him unhappy at the moment. The more negative the thought, the lower she traced her hand down his body, occasionally resting her hand on his penis through his jeans, whenever the thought was particularly negative.
"Now I want you to help me find a few more thoughts. I'm going to ask you some questions, so you can help me find them, OK?"
"I want you to think about me and Penny. I want you to divide the thoughts you have about us into two. The good and the bad. Whenever I tell you about a thought, it will become completely loose and it will have to float or sink. I want you to tell me, which is good and which is bad. When you say 'good' or 'bad', I want you to feel the thought either drop through your body, or rise to the top of your head, where it will be fresh and vivid, and make you feel wonderful."