A Taste of A Life Less Monogamous – Chapter 10
Jennifer rested her head against the passenger side window, watching the dancing colored lights as they zipped by between lengthening blinks. She wondered if they’d actually get any snow this year. Third week in December already, still not a flake. She also wondered what it might be like to get closer to Bruce.
The thought wasn’t fully formed, which could be attributed to the general haze and warmth of the wine from the evening, but also to a general resistance to allowing it to coalesce. Jennifer rarely fantasized about people, except that actor who’d played Benedick in last year’s Chicago Shakespeare Theater run of Much Ado About Nothing, but she felt he was acceptable. He’d come up a few times in her head, always with the best lines. I don’t know him, I’ll never meet him, it’s just fantasy. There was also the question of whether those fantasies were that actor or actually Benedick, leaping from page and stage to court her.
Once, in an attempt to have some spicy talk, to see if that would jump-start their libidos for the evening, she and Ryan had discussed which of their friends they’d be interested in fucking. Fucking had been the operative word there. It conjured slapdash, unplanned, heat of the moment, raw energy passion. “Making love” would’ve been an absurd concept to attach, and even “having sex” felt too intimate for the game. So it’d very much been fucking. To both of the Lamberts’ dismay, neither had been able to conjure a friend they’d like to fuck.
“I suppose, Patti?” Ryan offered hesitantly after a long while, shaking his head to himself as he said it.
“I think,” Jennifer said, ducking the question, “We may need to, even beyond the realm of this game, expand our social circle.”
Ryan agreed. “I don’t really want to fuck Patti,” he told her, to put a coda on things. Their little fantasy game, a failed attempt to turn on the sexual lights, had instead left them pondering a need to be friends with more than two couples. Perhaps even some people who weren’t coupled. Perish the thought!
But after tonight, thought Jennifer, I might have a different answer for the fantasy game.
She smiled at the twinkle lights zipping by and sighed a contented sigh, all the while trying to stuff that “getting closer to Bruce” thought down the memory hole, way deep down. The game had ended so, well, not badly, more depressingly, last time that it was unlikely they’d play it again.
She tilted her head so she could see Ryan’s face as he drove, while still leaning against the window for support. This was important, of course, because every time Jennifer sat up, her head would loll and begin to put together ingredients for an epic headache. Ryan was driving focused, purposeful. Perhaps he’d had more than she thought and was trying to focus through the creeping drunk until they got home. It wouldn’t be long, just had to successfully navigate out of the ritzy section of town, back down to where the regular folk lived.
He caught her looking and smiled, but the smile was holding back, missing something. He returned his focus to the road so quickly afterward, too. Something was off. Before she could ask what it was, he asked her “Did you have fun?” his voice flat.
She blinked a few times. Perhaps she shouldn’t be analyzing moods this late and this drunk. She smiled. “Yes. Fun. Everybody was so nice.”
“Yeah. Nice.” Flat, again.
“It was so nice to talk to people,” Jennifer said, drifting back to the conversation in her head, the feel of Bruce’s hands on her shoulders. “And have real conversations.”
She smiled to herself. If Ryan was in a mood, for whatever reason, he could either tell her about it or just grump to himself as usual. Jennifer decided that she wouldn’t let him mess with her good feels. “You know who’s nice?” she said, not really asking. “Bruce Shepard.”
“He’s nice. He gave me a massage.”
Ryan glanced over at her. Jennifer’s head lay against the window. A little puff of condensation appeared and disappeared as she breathed. There were little rumblings of jealousy in his stomach and chest; he should be upset that she got a massage, right? Wasn’t that how it went, when another man touched your wife? He looked back to the road. That felt so…owner-y. But the feeling was valid, especially given the information Noah had shared with him.
“They’re swingers,” Ryan said. He supposed it made sense. Normal people don’t touch others that much, the leaning in, the now-clear flirting, the hugs. That’s not really what you do with people you’ve just met.
The revelation had altered his whole perception of the evening, like one of those twist endings in a film, where they go back and show what really happened, and all the dialog seems different now, even though it’s actually the same.
“Swingers,” he’d repeated to Noah in the hall, eyebrow cocked, all skeptical.
“Yep.” Noah nodded.
“Like from the 1970s? Or are they holding onto that late nineties dance craze? Old Navy fans?”
Noah frowned at him. “You know what I mean, Ryan.”
“Paige dragged you off somewhere. You know what I mean.”
Ryan looked at his shoes. He heard accusation in Noah’s statement. He found it hard to process both things at once. That this really wonderful couple they’d met were somehow…into this thing, this weird thing, this, he supposed, deviant thing, and now Noah seemed to be lumping him in with them.
“I didn’t do anything.”
“Well, you looked awfully cozy. So, I thought you should know.”
“Do you not like them?” Ryan asked, puzzled why Bruce and Paige would’ve been invited to the Christmas party if Noah wasn’t on Team Shepard.
“No, they’re fine,” Noah reflected and lightened his tone a bit. “I just didn’t want you to get too far down the line into something and realize later.”
Ryan pondered Noah’s reasoning, as he waited for Jennifer’s response. Maybe she hadn’t heard him.
“Did you hear me?”
“Bruce really got that kink in my neck worked out.”
Ryan frowned. “I need you to focus for a moment.”
She lifted her head off the glass and turned fully toward him. She held still for a moment, then nodded, blinking slowly. “Focused.”
“Bruce and Paige are swingers. Noah told me. They have sex with other couples. Together.” He thought about it. “Maybe separately, too, I don’t know.”
As Ryan spoke the words, flashes of realization cycled through Jennifer’s mind. Bits of the conversation replayed themselves as though watching a play. Context changing. “Just the other day, in fact, Adam, the older one, told me he knows we’ve been lying to him his entire ‘adult’ life. But now he sees through it, he knows what Paige and I are up to.” They’d been interrupted before he’d replied to her follow-up asking what, in fact, they were being accused of lying to their son about.
“Really?” was all she could offer to Ryan. Her brain, so recently on the verge of sleep, began cycling back up, sliding around data, looking for more clues that she should’ve picked up on. Well, of course that’s why they were so free with the touching. Normal people don’t touch like that.
As Jennifer climbed under the covers at home, a general sense of unease stuck with her. Her lips pursed as she thought it through. It seemed so unfair. Like a violation of the social contract. Here she and Ryan followed the rules, while people like Bruce and Paige got to go off gallivanting around doing God knows what with God knows who. It wasn’t… Well, she really didn’t have a problem with it from an ethical point of view. What other people got up to in their bedrooms had always been a curiosity to her, sure, but never had there been any clucking tongues or tsking. Not from her.
She shook her head. She was very tolerant. But this. These two. The Shepards. They were acting as though the rules didn’t apply to them. “People shouldn’t do that,” said Jennifer.
Ryan paused a moment, t-shirt pulled over his head, and looked at her. “Shouldn’t do what?”
“Be with other people.” She didn’t look up from her hands, folded on top of the duvet, white in places from clenching. She loosened them.
“Oh. Bruce and Paige.”
Ryan tied his pajama pants’ drawstring. “I think, when you get married, that’s it. You’ve made your choice.”
Now she did look at him, her pursed lips transitioning to a frown. “You say choice like it’s a—”
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
He climbed into bed. “I just meant…”
She looked back at her hands. “It’s not fair.”
Ryan looked at his wife, wearing an old Ghostbusters shirt of his that was long enough to be her pajamas. She looked sad and frustrated. He tilted his head at her. “Tell me more about that,” he said, then immediately regretted the phrase, cribbed from their sessions with Dr. Petrillo.
Jennifer took a rather dramatic deep breath and turned to him, not just her head, but her body, too. Deep under the multiple layers of blankets, her toes touched his flannel-clad legs. “Well, I mean, why should they be allowed to sleep with whoever they want?”
“Allowed?” he asked.
“Like, we can’t just drop our lives and our commitments and go—”
“Wait,” Ryan held up his hand. Jennifer dropped hers back to the covers. “We? Us?”
She rolled her eyes. “Yes, we, us, who did you think?”
“Didn’t know if we were speaking hypothetically, here.”
“No, the literal we, Ryan.”
He took a breath, spoke in his most calming tone. “Okay.”
Her lips were pursed again, tight enough that he could see them turning white. “Should we have sex? I’m…probably still drunk.”
“Well, do you want to?” Ryan thought about it. Did he want to? It’d be fine. He’d have to get the condoms out of the dresser, of course. One of these days he ought to actually follow through on the vasectomy, shouldn’t he? His mother would be grumpy with that decision, but she didn’t need to know. Though, if she didn’t know, he’d keep getting “When am I getting a grandchild?” for the rest of his life.
“Maybe tomorrow,” Jennifer said.
Problem solved. He reached over and snapped off the lamp on his bedside table. Lines of pale blue light, the moon peering through the vertical blinds, penetrated the darkness. He rolled onto his side, wincing when he saw his clock. 3:08. Shit.
“And Paige was all over you when you came through the room. She must be into you,” came out of the darkness.
Ryan contemplated that. In retrospect, yes, it seemed that might be true, that Paige was coming onto him all night, but in a gentle, relaxed fashion. Hearing Jennifer reiterate it, though, made him less self-conscious about the thought.
“On second thought,” she said from the dark, “I do want sex.”
He heard her pull her shirt over her head, and saw it cross through the shafts of light. She flung the covers back and staggered a bit as she made her way to the dresser. Flashes in the moonlight, her ass, a nipple, then she was back, tugging at his drawstring.
He reached down to help, but she’d yanked the pajama pants down. The erection, brought on by the Paige reminiscence and the flash of desire from his wife, was swiftly clad in latex, and he pushed into her before he knew it.
As she rode, he could see she’d closed her eyes.