Words with Friends with BenefitsbyIroniclaconic©
MedMax played CAD for 32 points.
It was a solid play. The "C" was laid on a triple letter score and counted twice, filling in between an "IT" above and an "H" below to also form "ITCH".
Max trailed by 40 points, performing better than in most games against Jasmine. If she fell into tile trouble, he might still jump ahead.
Jasmine sent him an in-game message: "What girl did you mistreat today? Tasha I hope."
How the hell did she know? Ah, she didn't. She was just riffing on his last play, but it was a segue into his big news.
He typed back: "That was my best play, but as it happens, Tasha and I broke up this afternoon."
Her response came seconds later: "Good".
Jazmatazz played BYE for 22 points.
She had hooked the B to also play BITCH vertically.
Max had been sipping his evening coffee, and his laughter caused him to inhale a teaspoon of Guatemalan dark roast into his maxillary sinuses. She hadn't hit any colored tiles with that play, and had probably skipped better options on the board just to play those two words. When she saw a word in the tiles that seemed to fit their conversation, she almost always played it, and she usually beat him anyway.
MedMax: "That was one of your better ones."
He used the I in BITCH to play "SAKI", landing the K on a triple letter.
The game suddenly disappeared. Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" crescendoed, and Jaz's photo slinked onto the screen. He liked the photo. He had taken it in front of Shedd Aquarium. Mischief twinkled in eyes framed by exquisite cheekbones. Strands of her hair counterfeited an auburn veil, blown asunder by the wind off Lake Michigan.
Max answered the phone, and had to move his ear a few inches away to avoid being deafened by Jaz's rendition of "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead."
When she paused for a breath in the middle of her discordant wailing, he interrupted, "Don't hold back, Jaz, tell me what you really thought of her."
"Youdidit! Youdidit! What happened?"
"She had a depressive episode, and I found out she stopped taking the Lithium I had prescribed."
"Yeah, she tried to say it was the side effects, but I had warned her after she flushed her Prozac and Zoloft that she needed to tell me when she went off her meds."
"And you followed through, instead of staging another rescue attempt?" Jasmine sounded impressed.
"She strung her last boyfriend along for six years. I ended it in six months. I figure I got off easy."
"You could have saved yourself five of those months by listening to me when I first met her. 'Don't date losers, Max,' I said."
That annoyed him, but he kept a lilt of humor in his voice. "You should talk."
Jasmine's tongue tsked him through the airwaves. "Don't break our rule! After giving our initial opinion, we can only insult each other's bad relationship decisions once they have ended. It has worked well for ten years."
"It won't happen again. So where is your current bad relationship decision tonight?"
She made a raspberry sound. "Jack has a gig in Milwaukee."
"Milwaukee hasn't yet banned Linkin Park cover bands? Good for Jack." He had known too many poseurs back in college, and could spot the guys who only saw music or art as a means to score drugs or women. Jack was all about both, but like most of Jasmine's boyfriends, he was buff, chiselled, scruffy ("rugged", Jaz always called it) and oozed an aura of rebellious danger that made her knees weak.
"Post mortem time," Jasmine said. "How was Tasha in bed?"
They did this after every breakup, sharing the intimate details in order to learn from each other. Both had found it valuable, as if they were reading the other team's playbook. "Best sex ever for about a month," Max said. "Then it tapered off."
"How was she at oral?" Her tone was that of a teacher going through a grade sheet.
"A-minus, but more for enthusiasm than technique. When we were first dating she liked to go down on me in public places, which was amazingly hot."
"What's so hot about sex in public?" Jasmine asked. "A few boyfriends have pushed for it, but I just worry about getting caught, and the stress dampens the mood."
"I don't know. I think it's the woman wanting me so much she doesn't care whether she gets caught. There is nothing sexier than rampant, uninhibited, female lust."
"Most of my boyfriends would disagree," she said with a tone of disappointment. "What was wrong with her technique?"
"I think she learned it from watching porn, which had it's upsides, but it was like she was playing a role, giving me what she thought I wanted, without actually paying attention to whether I liked it. She would do something amazing with her tongue and she would suddenly use her hand too fast and hard, without noticing that she was hurting me."
"So she wasn't paying attention to your responses. Check."
"You are looking for tips on oral?"
"I don't think I am that good at it, and I am trying to figure out why."
"I doubt your problem is technique."
"Uh huh. Why do you say that?" Jasmine's tone indicated she knew she was being set up for a punchline.
"I just doubt you could stop talking during the act."
She made another raspberry sound. "How about the actual sex?"
"She loved cowgirl, missionary, and doggy, which are my favorites, so that was all good. But she had this thing for impossible kama sutra positions that look much better on paper than they feel in practice. I think I would have to be packing fourteen inches in my boxers to actually pull some of those off, which I don't think a woman would find comfortable most of the time."
"Don't knock it 'til you've tried it. Any kinks?"
"Nothing major. She had a knack for talk, and was a hell of a screamer. Literature really turned her on. She would ask me to read from the letters of Abelard and Heloise, and then she would hump my leg while I did it."
"Those are wonderful. Had I known she was a fan, I would have liked her more."
Jasmine laughed. "Well, I would have respected her taste, anyway. How did she handle the breakup?"
"Desperation made her horny. You should have heard what she promised me when I told her I was ending it."
"She would get your permission before cutting herself next time?"
"Come on, she wasn't a cutter. No, she promised me the 'abject sexual submission of a woman to a man'. I wasn't sure what she meant by that, but it seemed to include on-demand fellatio for eternity."
"You must have a will of iron to decline an offer like that."
"If I had believed it, I would have put a ring on it."
That made Jasmine laugh again. "You can do better. I have to go to bed. Early day tomorrow. Your move." She hung up.
His phone buzzed again as her next move arrived.
Jazmatazz played "EXCEL" for 57 points.
Dammit, she managed to reach the triple word score.
MedMax played VENTRAL for 39 points.
Her text came a minute later.
Jazmatazz: Bah, you should have drilled me better on vocab during Biology.
His vocabulary only exceeded Jasmine's in medical or biological terminology, where he could sometimes burn her. She hadn't seen that her earlier play of "VENT" allowed him to extend three common letters to hit a triple word score. He was now ahead by ten points, and with only a few letters left to play, he might score a rare win.
They had met as lab partners in Introductory Biology their freshman year of college. Max had been on the Pre-Med track, and Jasmine had been filling a cross-disciplinary science requirement for whatever liberal arts major had been her whim that semester. He had carried her through the class, and she had made it fun.
MedMax: Usually when I am beating you it's because you get stuck with letters that only spell words in Serbian. What's up?
Max could tell she wasn't in tile trouble. She was just missing plays where he himself could see a better use of the tiles she had played. At one point, she had laid a "ZA" down on the board for a mere 13 points, missing a location where she could have quadrupled that.
Jazmatazz: I caught Jack in bed with a skanky groupie, and dumped him.
"The fucker!" Max said after she picked up her phone in response to his ring.
"Don't pretend you're shocked." Jasmine had a weariness to her voice which Max recognized. She had been on this particular merry-go-round before.
"I am not shocked, but it's my duty to tell you he is a lying, cheating, dickless fucker who wasn't worthy of you, and then wait until you're all cried out before I say I told you so."
He heard a snort, but it seemed to be amusement, not derision. "You always know how to cheer me up."
"You want to talk about it, or bury it deep down until it forms a festering canker of bitterness on your very soul?" He knew that if she hadn't wanted to talk, she wouldn't have told him.
"I had an eye appointment today, where they dilate your pupils and you stagger around for the rest of the day like Gizmo in Gremlins screaming 'bright light!', but I left my sunglasses at Jack's apartment, so I stopped by and used the key. I hear Minutes to Midnight coming from the bedroom, which gives me a sinking feeling, as it is Jack's favorite sex soundtrack. Sure enough, some barely legal blonde with pneumatic tits is lying on the bed with her butt in the air while he screws her from behind."
"So I scream, 'What the fuck do you think you're doing!' The blonde is shocked and starts to move, but Jack holds her in place, looks at me and says 'unless you want to join, you will have to wait until I am done,' and he keeps screwing her!"
"Oh God." There hadn't been any news reports today of musicians thrown to their deaths from sixth floor windows, so it must not have been as bad as it could have been.
"The rat bastard knew he was busted, but wanted to get off and save face with his new pet skank."
"What did you do?"
Her voice was silk over a razor blade. "Why do you think I did anything? Maybe I just left?" He could hear the smile.
"Not without a personality transplant," he replied.
Jasmine chortled. "He had switched positions into missionary by the time I pulled out my Taser."
Max doubled over, imagining the look on Jack's smug face.
Jasmine wasn't done. "You know how a Taser makes you convulse? I think the skank liked the effect it had on Jack. I was sending fifty thousand volts into Jack's ass, and she was pounding the headboard screaming for Jesus. You know, I might have to taze my next boyfriend myself during the act of love."
Max couldn't resist. "It would be a pre-emptive taze. He will deserve it eventually."
That deflated Jasmine's mood. "Yeah, he probably will," she sighed.
"Sorry, I was planning to hold off longer for the toldya-so."
Jasmine changed the subject. "How about you? Any opportunities?"
"Just the usual nurses and lab techs trying to play matchmaker for me."
"Your hospital's brigade of wannabe Yentas doesn't count. I meant are there any opportunities you're actually considering?" The older ladies at work were always trying to set him up with a daughter or niece, but they never knew what he was looking for, and the attempts just resulted in awkward conversations and hurt feelings.
"None, but I haven't been looking hard."
"It's been a month. Don't you have needs, Max?"
It was his turn to change the subject. "So, are you going to give me a debrief on Jack?"
"Yeah, I could use closure."
"Bedroom skills?" Max looked forward to Jasmine's debriefs. He couldn't help but picture her performing the acts she described, despite realizing long ago that dating her would be disastrous.
"Oh my, yes. Jack knew his way around a woman's body. He had this assertive ferocity that was very sexy. There are some things I don't normally like, but he made me like them."
"I didn't take you for a submissive."
"Ha! No, I meant he made them seem sexy and forbidden."
"Um... I would rather not say."
Max suspected he knew. "Alright, how did he change your mind?"
"He, um... built it up one night, saying that for me it was a taboo. I argued with him, and he said I was afraid of just letting go to lust - that good sex was raw and carnal and dirty. It got me thinking, so I tried to approach it his way, and it was really hot."
"You know that's one of the oldest tricks in the book, right? Overcoming a woman's resistance to... something new... by saying there is something wrong with her, and laying down an implicit challenge for her to disprove him?"
"Well, it worked." Jaz sounded annoyed. "Jack could also last forever, but now I wonder if it wasn't because he was unloading elsewhere."
Max didn't know what to say to that.
"Am I shallow, Max? Is that my problem?" The anxieties always poured out after one of her boyfriends showed his true face. "I know it's my slutty side, but I just love sex. I know I need to stop thinking with my hoochie, but all I can think of when I meet a guy is how he would be in bed. If a man is a disappointment in the sack, his number is deleted from my contact list before his underwear is back on."
"There have to be phenomenal lovers out there who aren't assholes."
He heard Jasmine grunt noncommittally and he could hear typing. Her question had been rhetorical, and he was pretty sure she hadn't even heard his response. Instead, she had been playing with her phone. "Anyways, gotta go," she said, just as his phone buzzed.
Jazmatazz played SCUM for 11 points.
Jazmatazz played WASTED for 10 points.
She had merely added a D to his earlier play of WASTE. It was Friday night at eleven, and Max suspected she might have sandbagged the play on account of inebriation.
MedMax: You OK?
She didn't respond, so Max typed his own word.
MedMax played DEALT for 14 points.
He hit a double word score, and playing off the T in WASTED.
He had a Saturday shift at the hospital starting at six, so he went to bed. As he entered the cozy realm of semi-sleep, Thelonious Monk wailed from his phone.
What now? "Jaz, it's midnight."
"Oh, thank God, you are still up! I need to call in some friend favors. I will make you dinner for a month, just please come get me. Pleasepleaseplease."
It wasn't the first time. Jasmine didn't trust cabbies — too many bad experiences late at night flying solo. "Where?"
She told him. It wasn't a good neighborhood.
Max arrived twenty minutes later, in time to see her arguing with a rough-looking guy in front of the apartment building she had given him as an address.
Fuck. He pulled over.
"Max!" Her voice had the high pitch of panic turning into relief.
The man turned to appraise Max. "This your white knight?" Scruffy goatee, long hair, and muscular. Jaz's type. He was looking at Max with deliberate contempt.
"Get in the car, Jaz," Max commanded, exiting the car and striding to the sidewalk. He left the engine running.
"Fuck that," said Scruffy, grabbing Jaz by the wrist. "She owes me a new TV."
"You can bill her. Get your fucking hands off her, asshole. She is leaving now." It was a deliberate attempt to shift the animosity to himself.
It worked. Scruffy relaxed his grip on Jaz, and Max recognized violence in Scruffy's narrowed eyes. "Asshole? Let's do it, geek."
Jaz looked panicked again. "Max, don't do this. Get back in the car and call the cops."
She didn't think he could take Scruffy. Max assessed his opponent's build. Max was taller, but more wiry than beefy, and had no experience in fights. Jasmine's pessimism of the outcome was probably correct.
"Get in the car, Jaz. Now. I know how to handle this. Trust me."
Jaz said nothing, but she climbed into the car, brow furrowed in worry.
Max looked at Scruffy with what he hoped was cool disdain, and slowly removed his windbreaker, stepping back to the car door while never taking his eyes off his opponent, who waited for him with clenched fists. Max opened the car door, and made as if to throw his jacket into the driver's seat... and quickly slid inside the car beside Jaz.
Before Scruffy could figure out what had happened, the doors were shut and locked. Max shifted to drive and hit the gas.
"Motherfucker!" Scruffy's fist hit the hood of Max's new Prius as they drove off.
Jaz's fingers were a vise on his bicep, only relaxing when it was clear they were safe.
"Oh thank God, he didn't dent your hood."
Max gave Jasmine a quick once over to make she herself hadn't been dented. She looked fine. More than fine, in fact.
"I thought he was going to kill you," she said.
"I told you I knew how to handle it."
Jasmine closed her eyes, leaned back in the chair, and whispered, "You did. Thank you."
Max shared her relief. That had been a gamble. If Jaz hadn't moved, or if Scruffy had figured out what he intended to do, that might have ended badly. Max was very fond of his teeth and intended to keep them. "Did you really break his TV?"
"You can probably guess." Jaz was descending into the world-weary-cynic stage of intoxication.
"Guessing can be mistaken for judging. I would prefer that you just tell me."
Jasmine looked down, causing her long auburn locks to fall forward, across her face. She would wear her hair in a braid or ponytail when she was working at the museum, but she wore it down for play, which is where it was tonight. She brushed it back behind her ears. "Allison and I went to that new club. I met Keith, and we hit it off, so I sent Ally home. But Keith started acting like an asshole when we got back to his place."
"What did he do?"
Jasmine kicked off her pumps, straightened the hem of her red skirt across her upper thighs, and leaned back in the car seat, looking at Max. "There is normally a fine line between sexy self-confidence and being a boor. Keith leaped it in a single bound. He started calling me a slut, like I would think it was a turn-on. 'Sluts like you just want the cock' — that sort of thing, like he took lessons from Tom Cruise in Magnolia."
Max had heard Jasmine call herself the same word, but he didn't think he should point that out right now.
She seemed to read his mind. "When I call myself a slut, it is 'an empowering embrace of my identity as a modern woman'." She recited the last bit as if she were quoting Cosmo. "But when he did it, it felt degrading — the way you didn't like it when Keith called you a geek, or the way white people can't use the n-word."
Max didn't think he agreed that the latter example was the same thing, but he let it pass.
"Anyway," Jaz continued, "I told him I changed my mind and said I wanted to go. He didn't like that, and started to get violent. I locked myself in the bathroom. I checked for my my Taser, but I must have forgot it, so I called you. I stayed there for twenty minutes, then I made a run for it when I heard him getting his toolbox to remove the hinges on the bathroom door. He chased me when I ran, and I ripped his TV off the wall and threw it at him. I hoped he would catch it, but he just backed up. One broken flat screen later, we were arguing in front of the building, where you found us."
She was looking at him again. "He called you my white knight. He was right."
Max didn't feel like it. "I got in the car and drove away."
"That was just smart. You handled it perfectly. No one got hurt. No police trouble. Girl rescued."
She tilted her head down, and gazed at him with exaggerated, adoring, doe-eyes. "You are my hee-ro."
Now she was mocking him, again.
She saw the annoyance on his face. "I am embarrassing you," Jasmine said. "Sorry. I don't like needing to be saved. Why don't I ever meet the nice guys?"
Max was halfway through rolling his eyes when he caught himself, and glanced over to make sure she hadn't noticed.