A Taste of A Life Less Monogamous – Chapter 16
Jennifer scrolled down to Barbara Watkins’ name in her phone and took a deep breath through her nose. She exhaled slowly, glancing at Ryan, emptying the kitchen garbage can to give himself something to do while she did this part. She pressed the call button.
When the pleasantries were done, and thanks made for the party, the conversation stalled into awkward silence.
“Well, Noah and I are about to head—”
Jennifer interrupted, blurting out, “So, we were hoping to get Bruce and Paige’s phone number.”
“Bruce and Paige’s phone number,” Barbara said.
“Yes,” Jennifer agreed.
She hadn’t expected to need a reason, and somehow, “Well they’re swingers and we want to be that too,” didn’t seem like the best tactic. “They were friendly. Seemed nice,” she offered. Then, a little defensively, added, “We liked them.”
“They are nice,” Barbara agreed, a bit begrudgingly. Another long pause. “Look, I just want to say one…” she trailed off.
Muffled, she heard Barbara say, “They want to talk to Bruce and Paige.”
Then from Noah, “Well if you don’t want them scooping up your friends, you should stop inviting them to things.”
“What did you want to say,” asked Jennifer into the phone, frowning. She wanted to point out that she and Ryan were grownups, for chrissakes. They could make their own decisions and choices. Had she wanted to, she could’ve probably just found Bruce and Paige under Shepard in the phone book. Though she did wonder if she still had a phone book. White Pages online, then. But more importantly, fucking grownups! “Barbara!” she said instead, firm.
A sigh on the phone.
“Do you not want us to hang out with them?” Jennifer needled. She knew what this was, Barbara being protective, but it wasn’t warranted. Or necessary.
Ryan stood at the hall door, staring, waiting, quarter-full garbage bag in hand.
“No, honey, it’s…” Again with the pauses. “It’s nothing. Don’t worry. Have a pen?”
As it happened, Jennifer did have a pen. After writing the number down, and saying a terse goodbye to Barbara, she stared at the yellow note with a phone number on it, stuck to the linoleum table top.
Once Jennifer had started writing, Ryan had taken the bag out to the can in the garage. Now he stood in the kitchen doorway, hands in his pockets, uncertain. “What do we do?” he asked.
“Well,” she began, then paused. “I guess we call them up. Ask them out.” Neither of the sentences were questions, but she noticed her own voice going up at the ends, implying a question mark she hadn’t intended.
“Ask them out,” Ryan repeated. “Like a date.”
Jennifer felt a flush in her cheeks, feeling suddenly very exposed by all this. This was happening too quickly, after all, wasn’t it? They’d met a couple on Friday, and here on Sunday night they were planning to ask that couple out on a date! What did that even mean? “I think a date. I mean we don’t just call them up and tell them we want to fuck them, do we?” She grinned at Ryan, a loopy grin, one that revealed the absurdity of this all. One thing was certain, she liked saying fuck better than sex.
He sat across the table from her and also stared at the Post-it. “I think it would be in our best interests, and disagree with me if…well, if you disagree with me, to get together with them to talk. Probably should have drinks.”
“Lots of drinks,” Jennifer agreed.
“And just, sorta, ask them about…what they do.”
Jennifer thought she might be nodding too much.
“They might not even be interested,” he said.
She hadn’t considered that, the possibility that this couple was extremely flirty in general, that it was just how they “did” parties. The possibility that she and Ryan might get…rejected. “Well, shit.”
“Now you made it like high school.”
“What’d I do?”
“Now I get to worry about rejection.” She slapped her hand on the table and scowled, folding her arms across her chest.
“Oh, honey.” He leaned toward her, both of his palms flat on the table top. “I wasn’t talking about them not being interested in you.” His emphasis spoke volumes, and she turned back toward him.
Her husband looked pale, nervous, needed reassurance, needed to hear, “Of course she wants to fuck you.”
He looked surprised when she said it, and more surprised when Jennifer jumped up and sat on his lap. “Yeah?” he asked.
After a moment, and a kiss, Jennifer grabbed her phone, typed in the number from the note, and held her finger over the call button. She looked at Ryan, smirked, and asked, “Are we go for launch?”
He laughed. “We’re go, flight!”
She pressed the button, then immediately pressed the one next to it, and the tinny sound of a phone ringing filled the kitchen, echoing. Another ring. Another ring. This must be a home number. Jesus, what if they’re not home? Jennifer didn’t think she could handle having to leave a message, or waiting to hear back if—
“Hello?” asked Bruce’s voice.
Seconds ticked by. Neither of them said anything. Both stared at the phone.
“Hello?” This time the voice was more puzzled.
He’d hang up in a second. One of them had to say something. One of them had to grow a pair and just—
“Bruce!” exclaimed Ryan.
He laughed at the enthusiasm. “Yes, this is! And who might you be?”
“Ryan. Ryan Lambert.”
“Ryan Lambert. We were wondering when you’d call.”
Jennifer watched as that response threw Ryan for a loop. “Oh, we weren’t trying to—” He frowned. “I mean, we didn’t want to be obvious when—”
Bruce laughed again.
Jennifer jumped in to save her husband. “I’m here, too! Jennifer. I mean, hi!” She shook her head at her own awkwardness.
“Well, hello again, Jennifer. Shall I get Paige on the line? Make it a foursome?”
Ryan and Jennifer looked at each other, lobbing a polite, nervous laugh between them.
“So, what can I do for you both? It’s not Paige’s baked Brie recipe you’re after, is it? I warn you, she’s taking that to her grave.” He waited for a response. When none came, he continued. “Sure, I know what you’re thinking, how unique could it be, it’s baked Brie after all. But if it wasn’t so unique, you wouldn’t be calling to ask for—”
Jennifer couldn’t take it. “We want to do the thing!”
Bruce waited in silence.
“With you.” She felt, perhaps, she needed to clarify. “The date thing. With you and Paige. The thing you do. Swingers. We want to. Okay?”
Another moment of silence. Shit. Could that have been any more awkward? Here came the part where he told them that they’d misread the entire situation. Would probably start with something like, “Listen,” and then follow along with, “We think you’re great, and we’d love to be friends with you both, but—”
“Sounds lovely,” said Bruce. “When?”
They hadn’t thought that far ahead. Jennifer grabbed at her phone and opened the calendar app. Shit! Christmas is this week, then New Year’s next week. She showed the calendar to Ryan, who scowled.
“Hard to plan these things, what with the holidays and all,” said Bruce.
“But you know what…” They heard Bruce cover the phone with his hand. He was much better at hiding the other half of the conversation than Barbara had been. “Got plans tonight?” he asked when he returned.
Jennifer scrolled back to today, Sunday. Empty. She looked to Ryan who, wide eyed, shrugged. She didn’t want to think about the implication of having a date in less than twelve hours, or to think about what that date could mean, or contain, or imply, so she just answered the question directly. “No. We don’t have plans tonight.”
“Would you like some?”
“Sure,” said Ryan, jumping in.