Esme's heart was pounding, and she held her cell phone in a shaky hand. She had Ben's number dialed but hadn't had the courage to press the 'send' button. What was she doing? Why was she doing it? She wondered briefly what she would do if she accidentally hit 'send' and the call went through before she was ready. The possibility terrified her, and she quickly cleared the screen.

She was on her way home from dinner with her friend Fiona when she decided that there was no time like the present, decided to call Ben and try her luck at another reunion. She had been missing him lately. She was lonely and anxious about where her life was going. In high school she used to joke about being 'the old lady with lots of cats', but something inside her desperately wanted the normalcy of marriage and children. In that respect, it made no sense that she was turning to Ben. Yes, he wanted kids. Yes, he wanted to end up married. No, he didn't want that now. Did he want it with her? Time hadn't been able to tell her 'yes', but her heart was unable to tell her 'no'.

She had pulled off the road into a small parking lot attached to a somewhat bigger playground. The lot was empty, and she debated getting out and walking toward the tire swing that hung from a tree branch. The calm night wind pushed the tire, and it swayed slightly from side to side.

Esme let her head fall forward onto the steering wheel. It was something they did in the movies or in books to show a character's frustration. She went through the motions, but every action felt scripted and forced. How many times could you go back to one man before admitting that you hated him more than you hated yourself? Was aligning herself with him a way of punishing him for not leaving her earlier?

The cell rang shrilly beside her and Esme nearly jumped out of the car from fear. Her hand had gone to the door handle reflexively, seeking escape from the confines of her roomy SUV. It was ridiculous, the thought of escaping her car by running into a wooded area late at night. What was there to escape? She hadn't even called him yet; surely he hadn't chosen this moment to call her.

A second ring sounded, and surprised her almost as much as the first. She felt foolish when she jumped at the sound, and even more foolish when she glanced at the caller ID. Fiona. What on earth would make her think it was Ben? The idea was ridiculous. He was off somewhere being nonchalant about his feelings, she was sure. Still baffled by her last rejection of him, months earlier, but unwilling to demonstrate any wish to understand her motives.

This was probably for the best, as even she didn't understand her motives.

"Hel-lo?" Esme said into the phone, trying to sound upbeat.

"Did you call him yet?"

Esme's response was a shake of her head, but she soon remembered she was on the phone, and pouty head motions could not be transmitted. "No...not yet."

"But you will." Fiona said, and they both knew it wasn't a question anymore.

"I was about to."

"Well, I still say you shouldn't, but what do I know? I'm only looking out for your mental health. Good luck, anyway. Guy's a creep but you want him, so I'll wish you luck."

"Thanks." Esme was smiling, picturing the crossness that must have been plastered on Fiona's face. She tried to be so tough.

Fiona hung up without another word, and Esme dialed Ben's phone number again. This time she pressed 'send' without a second thought, and waited through four rings for the familiar sound of him to fill her ear via a voicemail greeting.

She waited for the tone and spoke hurriedly. "Hey, Ben, it's me...Esme. If you want, you can give me a call." She recited her phone number onto his answering machine and disconnected, then pulled her rearview mirror down and glared at her reflection. Brown eyes stared back, but they didn't hold any answers.


Esme was dreaming of breakfast cereal when the phone rang. The suddenness of the noise made her entire body stiffen, and for a moment she didn't know where she was. Her eyes slowly adjusted, and her personal effects slowly came into view. Her TV. Her coffee table. Her goldfish, Harry, swimming in circles around his plastic castle. She gazed at her cell phone on the table, lying face-up. She'd done that intentionally, she recalled, so the sound wouldn't be muffled when he finally called. Despite her fears, she'd had little doubt that he wouldn't call. Her fears were of something else.

She glanced at the clock and wondered how long she'd been unconscious, and how many glasses of wine had led her to lie down on the couch and close her eyes. It was nearly two am, yet the last time she remembered looking at the clock it was only ten.

She answered the phone, steeling herself against the wave of emotion that would flood through her at the sound of his voice.

"I'm sorry it's so late," the caller said. "I just got home and heard your message. I had to call you."

Their phone conversation was brief, little more than a request that she come over, to which she agreed. Her pussy had dampened at the sound of his voice, and she couldn't have said 'no' if she'd wanted to. The drive to his apartment was as uneventful and predictable as their telephone dialogue, and Ben met her at the door. He was still wearing the clothes he'd worn out to the bars, or at least she assumed he was. He smelled like cigarettes.

She could tell by the bulge in his pants that his cock was already hard for her (or was it for her?), and the moment she closed the door behind her he had her pinned to the wall. His mouth sought hers and she opened her lips under his. Any prudence she might have brought with her to his door dissolved under the press of his lips against hers. His tongue wrestled for entry into her mouth and she submitted, snaking her arms around his neck. Her fists clenched around handfuls of his pullover as he tugged at her bottom lip with his teeth, dragging a moan and a shudder from her.

When his mouth moved to her neck she moved her own hands down to his jeans. Fingers fumbling, she managed to unfasten his belt. Next to go were the button and the fly of his jeans. Eagerly, she freed him from the denim, pushing the jeans down passed his slim hips until they gathered around his knees and she could comfortably slide a hand inside his boxer shorts. His body was pinning her to the wall, or she'd have been on her knees for his already.

He grazed his teeth over her neck, leaving it pink and tender and susceptible to the assault of his stubble, as she endeavored to wriggle free. He responded by grabbing a handful of dark curls and pulling her head to the side, exposing her neck to his mouth. As he licked and sucked and nibbled his free hand traveled down her body, over her hip, down her thigh to the hem of her skirt, wherein he changed direction and started the trek up the inside of her bare thigh, under her skirt.

Esme was nearly holding her breath when he found her, already hot and wet and ready for him. He skimmed a finger over her pussy, teasing, but groaned despite himself when it penetrated her effortlessly, the slide in slick and smooth.

"Ben." Her voice was hoarse and needy. He pulled the finger out, swept it over the nub of her clit, and plunged it in again, this time adding a second finger. She shuddered slightly. Her pussy clenched a little around his knuckles. She swiveled her hips, pressing into his hand, but he pulled out each time she strained for more penetration.

In an attempt to regain some semblance of control of the situation she slide a hand down into his boxers and wrapped her hand around his erection. He filled her small hand deliciously, and she stroked him coaxingly. When her fingers closed around his cock his mouth sought hers. "I missed you," Ben whispered against her mouth as she stroked. "Did you miss me, Esme?"

"Yes," Esme answered, though they both knew it was a rhetorical question.

"You're so wet, baby," Ben said. He pulled his hand from between her thighs and pulled her sweater up over her head. Next off was her skirt, and she was suddenly naked in front of him, wearing only heels and a bra. Ben smiled. "You're so beautiful," he said.

Unable to wait any longer, Esme dropped to her knees in front of him. He watched hungrily as she took his cock head between her lips and started to suck. She kept her eyes open and watched his reactions as her mouth applied suction and her tongue teased and coaxed him.

Ben watched Esme go down on him as if they'd never spent a day apart, a hungry look in his eyes that made her feel desirable and sexy. It was an empowering feeling in a relationship otherwise devoid of empowering feelings. She had his attention when her lips were wrapped around his erection.

"Slow down," Ben said, his voice husky. A lazy smile danced on his lips. "I'm ready to cum already."

Of course this was the point. The point was he not be the one in control, so she took him deeper into her mouth. She increased the suction as she stroked him with her tongue, breaking contact only long enough to catch her breath. She sucked on him until her cheeks were sore and her pussy was drenched, anticipating his entry.

"You suck dick like a goddess," Ben said, grabbing a handful of hair and using it for leverage to insert himself deeper into her throat, remembering how she always reacted to being dominated. She'd been a virgin when they met, and she'd opened her legs for him almost immediately, and had rarely denied him anything during their off-and-on relationship. Never actually his girlfriend, in the traditional sense, his friends, when they spoke of her, (which wasn't often because they didn't like her much), called her his fuck-buddy.

Barry was the only one of them who asked about her if Ben didn't bring her up first, which had always worried Ben a little. He and Barry had a habit of liking the same girls and getting to Esme first had been quite a coup for him.

"I'm gonna cum if we keep this up—" Ben warned. Esme opened her eyes to look at him, her nostrils flaring as she struggled for breath, and sucked harder. Ben's cock started throbbing and Esme grabbed at his ass cheeks to pull him into her face but Ben pushed her away as his balls released their store of cum and gushes of hot thick liquid came spurting out of his cock.

He held her in place by the hair as he emptied his balls into her mouth, his cock positioned just far enough away that he could watch the creamy liquid surge into her waiting mouth. Most of his cum hit its mark, but the portion that didn't trickled enticingly between her breasts. Even her tits were perfect--on the small side but firm with nipples so responsive to his touch he usually had her arching her back, aching to be touched and kissed and sucked.

She looked divine on her knees in front of him, swallowing down what cum made it into her mouth. He watched in awe as she gasped and licked at her lips, which had been rubbed red with the friction of the blowjob.

He stepped back and looked down at her. "Your turn. I want you to make yourself cum while I watch." She slid her hand between her legs where she knelt, but Ben shook his head. "No, no. Sit down and spread your legs for me. I wanna see that pussy."

Esme complied, sitting her bare ass on the cool tile in the entryway. There was a draft coming in from under the door, but it didn't do anything to cool her off. She spread her legs and bent them at the knee. The heels still on her feet, one of the many pairs of 'fuck me' shoes in her wardrobe, made the picture even more enticing. Ben watched Esme spread her pussy lips apart with one hand before stroking her clit with the middle finger of the other hand. She knew what she liked and was soon gasping her way through an orgasm as Ben watched, transfixed, at the fingernails that were painted nearly the same shade of dark pink as the insides of her pussy lips. By the time she'd brought herself to orgasm, Ben was hard again.


Esme feigned sleep until Ben disappeared into the shower. She threw her legs over the side of the bed once he closed the bathroom door and crept into living room when the sound of the shower assured her that the coast was clear.

She had spotted the envelope on his coffee table when she arrived last night, but hadn't been alone long enough to investigate its contents. It looked like a woman's handwriting, and she was even more certain because Ben's name was scrawled on the front of the envelope in purple ink. Frowning, Esme opened the envelope and pulled out a Valentine's Day card.

She felt a pang in her chest, but couldn't decide whether it was from guilt or hurt or shame. The inscription on the card was presumably in reference to a gift and read, "These are so I can take advantage of you later. Audrey." Esme recalled the unopened package of designer boxer shorts in Ben's bedroom, something he would never have bought for himself. They were purple.

"I guess that explains that," she whispered to herself and sat on the sofa, fearful that her legs might give out. She was trembling, and though it might have been from the cold morning air against her bare skin, she knew better by the way her heart pounded in her chest. A feeling of loneliness crept into her, but she was confused as to whether she was lonely because she knew what Ben was, or lonely because Audrey didn't. Ben was not Valentine's Day material.

Esme slipped the card back into the envelope and stood, placing the card on the computer desk instead of the coffee table. The message was complex and simple all at once.

She slipped back into the bedroom and under the bedcovers. Staring at the exposed rafters in the ceiling, she wondered briefly what Audrey looked like. Was she taller? More slender? Were her teeth whiter? Was her hair blond?

Recalling that Ben returned her call the moment he got her message, Esme decided it was Audrey who should fret. She and Ben may have been on and off more times than she could count over the years, but it still didn't speak well of Audrey that Ben hadn't given her a second thought last night. He wasn't ready to settle down, but when he was surely she'd be the leading candidate.

Hearing the shower water turn off, Esme rolled over and closed her eyes. She feigned sleep until he was dressed for work and in his heavy down coat, sitting beside her on the bed, stroking her hair and brushing his lips against her cheek.

"Thank you for coming," he said when she finally opened her eyes to acknowledge him.


Wrapped in the covers on Ben's bed, Esme listened despondently to the ringing phone. The ringing, which had started at 8:50 and was still going strong five full minutes later, irritated her. The pattern repeated incessantly, four rings and Ben's message, and then a click as the line was disconnected. Then four rings again. Then the answering machine. A vicious circle robbing her of tranquility. She wanted to lay on Ben's bed and think of nothing except how familiar it all felt, how much she missed him.

She pushed the bedcovers off and swung her browned legs over the edge of the bed. Browned because it was winter and the weather was cold and the sky was dark and every chance she got she took herself to the tanning salon.

She turned her head to get a glimpse of the alarm clock. If Ben wasn't already at work, he still wasn't late. It couldn't be his boss calling. Trotting into the bathroom, she turned on the shower and ducked inside. There was, of course, girl shampoo; a volume enhancing formula that smelled of citrus. It pleased her to think that maybe Audrey had thin, listless hair. The least the girl could do is have bad hair. The phone was still ringing, and she wondered if it was Ben. She dismissed the idea almost immediately, because he would leave a message, wouldn't he? "Esme," he would say, "It's Ben. Pick up the phone." Yes, he would do that.

The shower took about twenty minutes, and another ten was devoted to calming her dark curls. She typically weighed down the thick mass with moisturizing shampoo and a deep conditioner. The volumizing shampoo had her on the verge of looking like Albert Einstein. Finally satisfied, she coiled her hair into a twist and clipped it to her head, letting a few short tendrils fall where they may around her face.

Padding back into the bedroom, Esme pulled her sweater off the floor and slipped it over her head. It was black and fuzzy, and fit snugly against her curves. She liked this, because it made her feel sexy. She reached for her skirt and pulled that on, too. She liked to dress in black, head to toe, because it made her feel like a secret agent. Tights would have completed the look, but have cost precious time last night in the fumbling to get them off.

She was back in the bathroom brushing her teeth when she heard a loud thump on the door. She stiffened, wondering who it could be and at the same time realizing the phone had stopped ringing. She spit and walked to the door, her feet gliding across the floor. Absently, she wondered if Ben's instructions not to answer the phone included not answering the door, as well.

There was no security peephole in the door, so she simply stood next to it and listened for noise. She had no intention of opening it. She didn't want to meet this girl. She didn't want to make her existence a reality. And she wanted to be a secret.

"It's cold out here," a male voice bellowed, and the pounding on the door renewed. "Open the Goddamn door." Esme's skin prickled. There is something sexy about being told to 'open the Goddamn door', and she considered it.

"I know you're in there!" the voice said, and now that she thought about it, maybe it was a familiar voice. She unlocked the door and opened it, not because it was a familiar voice but rather because it was not a woman's voice and the person she didn't want to meet was a woman. She was pleasantly surprised to see Barry on the other side of the door. And she recognized the feeling as pleasure, and her cheeks reddened slightly. His own cheeks were red, but that was because he was standing still as the beginnings of a snowstorm swirled around him.

"Oh," she said as he brushed past her into the house. His hair looked unkempt, and unnatural. His hair was shockingly blond, and she would bet it had taken someone a decent amount of time to get it so devoid of gold tones.

"I thought it might be you," he told her, nodding his head toward the street. "That a new car?"

She nodded at him, and he looked at her crossly. "What happened to the Blazer?"

"Ben isn't here."

"I know... his truck's not out there. I was hoping he would be running late for work again and I could catch him before he left, but I saw an expensive SUV parked out front and got curious."

"Just me. He left awhile ago."

"Haven't seen you at the gym lately."

"I've been going in the morning. He's probably to work by now."

Barry gave her a disarming smile. "You're pretty desperate to get rid of me. You hiding a boyfriend in there?"

Esme bit her lip, unsure whether or not to play dumb. "I'm not the one hiding people."

Barry nodded appreciatively, "I always knew you were smarter than Ben. He's not too sneaky, then, is he?"

"He tries," Esme shrugged into her coat. "It's not his fault. I'm smarter than a lot of people."

"How long have you been seeing him this time?"

"Just last night. Look, we shouldn't be—"

"Christ, and you know already...he's pretty lousy at the cheating thing. The girl, she's pretty decent. This would break her heart."

"I'm sure Ben thought of that."

"I'm not so sure he has."

It only took a moment for her to decide she could live without the lecture, and Esme slipped into her shoes, bending at the waist to buckle the straps. She didn't bend at the knees because she wanted to give him a view of her legs. The shoes had three inches of heel, and were black and strappy. They were the most expensive pair of shoes she's ever bought, and they were sexy as hell. She was about to break and ankle walking down the snowy sidewalk, but it was a small price. "You'll lock the door when you leave?"

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