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Lesson Learned Ch. 04

After the sex, what's left?
“Are you sure you should do this again?” Gina asked me over lunch a couple of weeks later.

Lia and I had gotten together nearly every night during those two weeks and it was like it used to be. Fantastic sex at night, friendly acquaintances during the day.

“Why not?” I took a bite of my burger.

“I just thought you . . . I don’t know.” Gina shook her head, then pushed her brown hair back behind her ears.

“I don’t know either,” I admitted. “I don’t know what I want, or what she wants, but maybe we’re just hooking up for a bit without the pressure.”

“Iris, come on. Lia not knowing what she wants is the problem. We all know that. Truth is, I think that even if Lia decided on something, once she had it, she wouldn’t want it anymore. She likes the chase; you don’t mind the chase, but you like it when the chase ends.”

“She might like that this time.”

“Iris.” Gina gave me a sympathetic smile and patted my hand. “You’re in denial and you know it.”

“I know. What can I say? I can’t help it.” Everyone had a vice, something they indulged in despite the lack of benefits. For me, that was Lia.

“I don’t mean to be harsh, but maybe you should end it now?”

“I wish I could. I seriously do. Part of me hopes it works this time, but the rest of me knows that it’s just going to blow up.” I stared at my burger but my appetite was long gone.

“So why don’t you stop it now, before it blows up?”

I gave her a wry smile. “Because it feels so good right now.”

Gina sighed and shook her head. “Guess I’ll just have to let you learn your lesson the hard way.”

“Guess so.”

I figured it would take a while to learn this particular lesson. It wasn’t like I’d gotten it the first time around. I wouldn’t be in my current situation if I had. I was a reasonably intelligent woman, but like a compass around a magnet, my center got all screwed up when Lia was around.

So it went for the next month. Lia and I got together, downed pizza or Thai food, sweated up the sheets, ran the batteries down on our little purple friend multiple times, set records for orgasm intensity, and then passed out jumbled together on the bed. Outside of the bedroom our conversations rarely got more in-depth than an analysis of the last episode of Game of Thrones.

When we did talk about other things, it often devolved into a fight because aside from sex, that was what we did best. Lia didn’t want to talk about anything that smacked of deepening the relationship, and she would change the subject by initiating either sex or an argument.

I came home from work one night, exhausted. First thing in the morning, my editor had been on my ass to get the story done. I’d spent the day chasing sources around the city, both on phone and on foot, and had gotten through the day on lattes and chips. When I got to my apartment, all I wanted was not to move for the next week.

Lia came bouncing in from the bedroom, dressed for a night out. “Hey! I was wondering when you’d get here!”

“Hi.” I gave her a wan smile. “You look terrific in that dress.”

“I thought so, too.” She spun around to give me the full effect. The short skirt flared out and I got a glimpse of her ass. “Ready to go?”

“Go?” I propped up on my elbows. “Lia, I just got home and I’m beat.”

“Oh, come on, Iris. It’s Friday and you’ve been working all week.” Lia dropped into a chair and pouted. “I don’t want to stay in. I’m bored.”

“Well, excuse the hell out of me for not entertaining you every minute.”

“You do this all the time. You work and come home and sit or you want to talk.”

“My God, I’m a total aberration. Imagine going to work and wanting to relax afterwards. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Iris. You can’t go out once in a while? What, will it kill you? You act like an old woman and you’re not even thirty.”

“I’m an old woman because I don’t want to go to a club every weekend?” I glared at her. “At least I know when to act my age.”

“So now I’m immature?” she shot back.

“I’m not the only one who’s coming up on thirty, but I’m not the one going to clubs like I’m still in college.”

“I know what this is.” Lia stood up and crossed her arms over her chest. “You’re trying to keep me here with you.”

I barked a laugh. “What an awful thing, to want my girlfriend to spend time with me. How terrible that after a sucky week at work, I might want my girlfriend to put my needs a little ahead of going to a fucking dance club.”

“You’re trying to make me as boring as you are!”

“If I’m so goddamned boring, why do you keep coming back to me?”

“Me, come back? I don’t think so. I didn’t corner you in the club hallway.”

“Bullshit. You followed me down there and waited, and you weren’t trying to get my drink order.”

“I was horny and you were there.”

That hurt and I retaliated. “You have a lot of sex in club hallways with whoever’s there?”

“I’m not a slut, Iris, and you know it!”

“No, you’re just a free spirit, right? No being tied down to anything, just sailing through life. You hook up with someone and drift apart and call it being free and open. Bullshit. You get bored and you get scared and you don’t know how to be a grown-up.”

“If being a grown-up means letting my work suck the fun right out of everything, then hell, yes, I don’t want to be one.”

“Don’t worry, I don’t think you could if you wanted to.” I stood and faced her. “You’re too much of a coward to be a grown-up.”

She jabbed a finger at my chest. “Fuck you! I’m leaving. I am going to go to the club and drink and dance and have fun. You can sit here and play solitaire and watch Lifetime movies in your flannel pj’s and bunny slippers.”

The door slammed behind her and I stomped into the kitchen. Too tired to do much, I had a bowl of cereal and dumped the dishes in the sink. I changed into some sweatpants and a t-shirt and dropped back onto the couch. Our fight had left me frustrated. I regretted saying something to hurt her, but I was getting tired of the way she acted and that outweighed my regret.

With nothing else to do, I found something on TV and left it on, but I didn’t pay it any attention.

I was tired enough that I fell asleep on the couch despite both my anger and the television. The sudden absence of both jerked me awake and I sat up, trying to orient myself.

“Hey, sorry.” Lia set her purse on a chair and lifted one foot to take off a shoe. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“’S okay.” I rubbed my eyes. “What are you doing here?”

“What are you talking about?”

“The big fight we had before you left. You know, where you said I’m making you boring and you were leaving.”

“Oh, sweetie, I’m sorry.” She kicked off her other shoe and sat next to me. “I didn’t mean it. I was just upset that you didn’t feel like going with me. You know how I get. I just have a short fuse sometimes.”

I made a non-committal sound and tried to steel myself. “That doesn’t mean you can walk out of here like that and expect to come back, or expect me to like it.”

“Iris, really, I’m sorry.” She leaned in and kissed me. “I didn’t mean any of that.”

I couldn’t help myself. “Any adventures in the corridors tonight?” I aimed to hurt her, but whether I did or not, she laughed it off.

“No, no corridors. But there were some rather attractive people on the dance floor.” She grabbed my earlobe with her teeth and tugged before releasing it. “All that dancing, all those gorgeous bodies. It got me thinking.” She nibbled on my neck. “Got me horny.”

“Lia . . . .”

“Iris, come on. It’s late and I said I’m sorry. Let’s get into bed and I’ll show you how much. I’ll make it all up to you. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

With her hands and mouth and our purple friend, she most certainly did make some things up to me. The talk, as I expected, never happened.

It bothered me.

I wanted more of Lia and she wasn’t willing to give. I didn’t know why and it frustrated me. Why wouldn’t she open up? I didn’t want every detail of her life, I just wanted to know about her because, damn it all, I loved her. At least, I loved her as much as I could given the limitations she put on herself and us.

It made no sense and I was pissed at myself for it. I liked facts; I reserved judgment until I had as much information as I could get on anything. So why was I falling for Lia when I didn’t know what I needed to know about her, such as whether she loved me? Or even could? Why did I hope for more when she had given me no indications she would give anything?

The worst part was I’d been here before. I knew if I pressed her she’d withdraw, and she’d do it by starting a fight. It was classic deflection or whatever, and I went along with it every time, in no small part because the make-up sex was incredible.

We went together to Gina’s wedding. The ceremony was short, and it was good to see all of our friends again. As at the bachelorette party, I danced more out of duty than enjoyment, although I did let Lia drag me out to do the Electric Slide after I’d had couple of glasses of wine. Unlike the earlier party, I managed not to attack Lia in the corridor.

Gina and her husband were the most relaxed bride and groom I’d ever seen thanks to the simple plans. I saw no one stressing about clothes, shoes, food or centerpieces. The wedding was unaffected and casual, like they were, and I couldn’t help but envy them. Not the wedding itself—I was more the elope-to-Vegas type—but I did envy them the commitment, the security of knowing someone would be there at the beginning and end of the day for them.

I walked over to the bar to drown my envy in a Jack and Coke.

“There you are.” Lia came over and swiped my drink, which she tossed back without even looking. “Oh, ugh! That’s disgusting!”

I laughed. “That’s what you get for taking something without asking.” She gave me a dirty look and I relented. “Sorry. What do you want?”

“A glass of white wine. And thanks.” Lia wandered away.

I caught the bartender’s attention and ordered Lia’s wine and another Jack and Coke for me. I suspected it was heavier on the Coke than the Jack, but that was probably for the best. When they were ready, I added a few bucks to the tip jar before carrying the drinks over to our table. Lia joined me a few minutes later.

“This was a cool wedding,” she said. “More like a party, like a celebration.”

“Yeah. That’s the way it should be. I mean, it’s a beginning, isn’t it? So they’re celebrating the start of something new.” I was thinking out loud.

“Okay, you’ve had enough to drink, Iris. You’re getting maudlin.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. You’re going to be thinking about commitment and all that shit for the rest of the day. Then you’ll want to talk about it.” Lia rolled her eyes. “I think I’d better have more wine.”

I didn’t say anything because she was right, and I knew this meant we were going to be over soon. Maybe even tonight.

I didn’t want anything so unusual; most people want someone to share their life with. My problem was that I wanted that person to be Lia, and that was about as likely to happen as me going straight.

Gina came over to thank us for coming and not long after, she and her husband were off on their honeymoon. Instead of a trip to a tropical island or France, they were going to take a road trip across the country and stop at all the goofy sites in different states they’d read about. I’ve heard you never know someone until you travel with them. I figured this would make or break the marriage, and either way, better to find out early.

Lia laughed and gave me a small shove when I voiced the thought. “Good God, Iris, that’s a horrible thing to say.”

“I didn’t say they wouldn’t make it. If anyone will, they will.”

“Come on, it’s time to go. You really are getting maudlin.”

The reception was pretty much over by then anyway and I was getting a headache, so going home sounded good. I was quiet while I drove and Lia fidgeted in the passenger seat.

“Can we get the whole commitment discussion out of the way?” she asked.

“What discussion? I say something, you shut me down, and then it’s over. That’s not a discussion.” I pulled into the parking space and turned off the car.

Lia was out and around on my side almost before I could open my door. “So it’s my fault?”

I sighed as I stood. “That’s not what I said, Lia.”

“But it’s what you meant.”

“No. It isn’t. I was just stating facts. Whenever I bring up commitment, or even just relationships, you panic. You change the subject, or find some excuse to start a fight, and then because I love you, I drop it.”

We entered the building and stepped into the elevator. I was dying to have this over with and go to bed.

“I didn’t ask you to love me,” Lia said as the elevator climbed. “Don’t blame me for that.”

“I don’t. And maybe it isn’t love.” That ended the conversation until we got into the apartment.

Lia changed tactics and slipped her arms around my waist from behind. In her heels, she was able to run her tongue over my neck and shoulders. “Come on, Iris. Let’s not fight. It’s not worth it. Let’s go to bed.” She nipped at my earlobe. “That’s always worth it.”

I could have. I wanted to and it would have been so easy. Instead I turned around. “Then what, Lia?”

“What do you mean?” She ran her hands over my shoulders and gave me a soft kiss.

I closed my eyes and swallowed. This was hard. “I mean I love you but that doesn’t mean I’ll put up with being treated like a toy you can throw away and pick up any time you want.”

She stepped back, surprised. “I don’t do that.”

“Lia, let’s face it. We know we’re good in bed. What do we have outside of that?”

With a sultry voice she said, “What else do we need?”

“I know what I need, but I don’t know what you need.”

“Right now, I need you to use those incredibly talented hands and tongue to fuck me to an orgasm.” Her hands crept under the skirt of my dress. “Or I’ll do you first, I don’t mind.”

“Lia, stop.” This time I stepped back. “I know what I can do to you, and what you can do to me. I know how to touch you, that’s not the question. The problem is I love you, or I want to, but I’m not sure how.”

“You’re serious, aren’t you?” Lia put her hands on her hips. “Christ, Iris. What do you want me to say?”

“I have no idea.” I went into the kitchen. I wanted a drink but settled for a glass of water.

“Look, you know that I’m not someone who wants to have a white fence and all that, right?” Lia leaned against the doorway.

“Right. And I never said I wanted that, either.”

“So what’s the problem? We have fun together, Iris, and we’ve established that the sex is outstanding. What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing. I just don’t think it’s what I want. Or not all I want.”

“So what the hell do you want?” Lia threw her hands up.

You, I thought. Aloud I said, “Whatever it is, I don’t think you want to give it to me. And that’s okay. I don’t think you could.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake. Are we going to bed or am I going home?”

x-x-x-x

One night about ten months later, I got ready to go to Gina’s baby shower. She was as ridiculously happy being pregnant as she had been at her wedding.

Lia had gone home the night of Gina’s wedding and I hadn’t seen her since. I missed her, but I’d been through it before. I wasn’t so much sad as resigned; it would have ended, it was just a matter of when.

My life had calmed down, in large part because Lia’s drama was gone. I’d written my story and been nominated for a few awards and received a promotion and a raise. At a housewarming party for one of my coworkers, I met a woman and we clicked. We hadn’t done anything about it yet, but there was potential.

I grabbed my present and headed over to the shower. Traffic was light, and I flipped on some music. Everything in my life was good, I thought. Work pressure was off, the relationship front had some possibilities, and I was going to enjoy an afternoon with good friends and good food. I was more relaxed than I could remember being in maybe a couple of years.

All the good stuff coincided with Lia’s absence of my life. I loved Lia, I might always love her, but I was better off without her. The thought hurt, but I knew the pain would pass, and I could deal with that. I let out a long breath and felt the last of the weight fall off my shoulders. I even smiled and sang along with the music.

The shower was at a small restaurant owned by one of Gina’s husband’s friends. I’d been there once before and my mouth watered. They made the best desserts in town and I couldn’t wait to have some.

I walked in and waved to Gina. After I set the present on the designated table, I turned and saw Lia.

She looked better than a body had a right to, but I’d learned my lesson.

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