A Taste of A Life Less Monogamous – Chapter 19
Paige’s nails running down the sleeve of Bruce’s shirt made a soft shhh sound as she sat on the stool next to him. The Horn Lodge’s bar was nearly empty past nine on a Sunday. “You have concerns,” she told him, not asking.
She could tell when Bruce had concerns about a playmate, she could see it in his reactions, his gestures, even the way he laughed at a joke. One of his tells: wiping his hand down over his nose and mustache. She wasn’t sure that he even knew he did it, and she didn’t want to tell him and lose this valuable insight. His tell.
“Yeah. Mild, but yeah,” agreed Bruce. He mouthed water at the bartender and held up two fingers. “You?”
She really didn’t have concerns, and that made her feel good. Jennifer and Ryan had a spark. “I did, at first. I mean, just the fact that they’re so close with Barb and Noah alone was cause for concern.” She smiled. “And they’re babies!”
He laughed and passed a glass of water to her, courtesy of the bartender. “Well, there is that, but that doesn’t bother me.”
“Of course not.” She poked at his side. “Another beautiful young thing throwing herself at Bruce Shepard.”
He glanced over at her, eyes narrowed, smile a bit tighter.
She shook her head. She enjoyed pressing his buttons, to be sure, but not while he was concerned. That would be cruel. “Well, would you like to share your concerns?”
He took a long drink of his water. “I feel like they’re willing to give it a go, but it might be too much.”
He shrugged. “All of the above.”
She agreed, their nervousness and enthusiasm showed a sort of blind ambition that could very well lead to a negative outcome. “We were like that.”
“Eh,” he shrugged a bit. “I think you remember it differently than I do.”
She remembered it vividly, a wild discovery that there was this thing in the world, and people they knew did it. This thing that sat behind closed doors, forbidden, just starting to re-awaken to the modern age, utilizing AOL and Prodigy and this wacky new thing called categorized chat rooms. One moment they were looking down the road at the future and saw monogamy, kids, grandkids, perhaps retiring on a sailboat — and then there were swingers, and they were everywhere.
It had taken until the mid-nineties for the swingers to start re-emerging from the bomb shelter they’d hidden themselves in, after the eighties made sex truly frightening, and killed all the goodwill that the seventies pioneers, the progenitors of the “open” movement, had fought for. She and Bruce had ridden the wave of resurgence, a coincidence where technology and desire worked in tandem.
And everybody got laid.
They had jumped into the deep end straight off the high dive. “Did some flips along our dive in, if I recall,” she said, putting her arms around Bruce’s shoulders.
“Perhaps you’re just forgetting the stress.”
“I’m not forgetting the stress. I’m saying the difficulties were worth it.” She leaned forward and whispered into his ear. “And that couple over there has seen behind the curtain. It was an apocalypse, darling. The veil has lifted and they’ve seen the possibility that exists in the world. Nothing will put that back in the bottle.”
“No,” he agreed with reluctance.
“So, what I’m saying is that those four eyes have seen the glory of the coming of salvation.” She grinned and snorted. “And, I don’t know if you got it from context, but I’m choosing to spell that c-u-m.”
“I got that,” he returned a laugh. “So does your revelry have a point, or are you just sloshed.”
Paige put a hand to her chest and expelled a mock gasp. “My point, my handsome man, is that we can tell them they ‘ought to think about it for a couple weeks,’ and we can hope that they sit down and weigh the pros and cons and come up with a real analysis of whether or not their relationship can handle the stress fracture that this occasionally causes…”
He could hear the ellipses in her sentence. “Or?”
“Or we could tell them that we like them, and we want them.”
“We already did that,” Bruce returned, “at the beginning.”
“Yeah, but now they’re sitting there wondering if they passed the test.” She sighed. “You know how difficult that is.”
“So we can tell them that we like them, and we want them, and we want to take it at their pace and not do anything they’re not sure about and all that stuff. And be that wonderful couple they seem to think we are.” She drank the last of the water he’d handed her. “See? I’m spacing.”
“They think you are wonderful, at least,” he pointed at her. “You’ve got them both wrapped up. Without question.”
“Oh, please.” Paige waved the comment away, not deigning to let it exist.
“I don’t want to overwhelm them.”
“So don’t.” As if to emphasize the ease of it all, Paige shrugged and lifted her palms skyward. “Look, I get it. We don’t want to scare off the noobs so badly.”
“And I understand what you’re saying. If not us, it could be someone else.”
“Someone who wouldn’t be looking out for their best interests nearly as much as us.”
Their first couple had been mediocre at best; a decent first date, then drama, fights between them in private rooms at parties, then fights in the center of parties, then the emailed accusations towards her and Bruce had begun. She wondered if the first few years would’ve been easier, if they would’ve made fewer mistakes, if they’d had better people to talk to.
“Well, I’m in. You?” Bruce asked, pointing to her.
“Do you have to ask?”
“No, your nipples speak volumes.”
Paige opened her mouth in mock shock, looked down at her nipples asserting themselves, and covered the small bumps with her hands. “But you don’t think tonight’s the night?”
“I don’t think they’re going to make a move, and I think we should let them make the first one.”
“We should tell them we had a great time and call it a night.” Bruce threw a couple bucks on the bar and waved to the bartender.
Paige held up her thumb and index finger a bit apart.
“It’s just postponing. We can even offer to put something on the schedule for Friday.”
“Friday is Christmas.”
“Well, maybe we can unwrap the Lamberts.” Bruce winked and held out his hand. She took it.
As they walked back to the table, she moved from handholding to snuggling against his shoulder, her arm tucked into his. This man of hers. This considerate fine man. Of all the men she’d ever met — a number which, by her own reckoning, had increased exponentially since they’d begun swinging almost two decades ago — this man was something special.
“So, guys,” her man began when they returned to the table. “We just wanted to say that we had a wonderful time tonight, and that if you ever—”
Jennifer stood quickly and stepped forward. She took a deep breath and reached for Paige’s other hand. Uncertain, Paige decoupled from Bruce and allowed herself to be drawn forward by the lovely woman, red-cheeked, wide-eyed. She laughed. “What’s up?”
Jennifer’s lips touched hers, the overture surprising her. What began as a tight-lipped, almost familial, kiss loosened, and she felt her lower lip tugged by Jennifer’s. Then their lips parted, and tongues danced, the sounds of the world around them fading away. Bruce’s muffled, “Well, I guess that changes things,” almost like music being played the next ballroom over. Jennifer brought her hands up to Paige’s hair. Fingers slid between the locks, and Paige felt Jennifer’s nails slide against her scalp, sending shivers down her spine.
She wasn’t sure how long they stood like that, though at some point Paige distinctly noted that their position had shifted about three feet to the left and two back, because the round body of a wine barrel was now pressed against her back. Their heads were tilted at complimentary angles, noses brushing against each other, lips and tongues, breathing together. Paige wrapped her own arms around Jennifer’s waist and pulled her body closer.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the kiss ended. Lips separated, hovered mere millimeters from each other. Noses rubbed again. Eyes fluttered open, an extremely close view that didn’t offer clarity, but detail shone. Flecks of brown in Jennifer’s hazel eyes.
Sound began to return as Jennifer exhaled an almost silent laugh. “Sorry,” she offered.
Paige’s loud laugh startled all of them. “Sorry?”
“I should’ve asked,” said Jennifer, stepping back a bit.
“Oh, well,” Paige said, and immediately regretted the laugh, “listen you lovely thing, that was…amazing.”
“Yeah, it was,” Ryan said, though it wasn’t clear if he was talking to the group or assuring himself he’d actually seen it.
“I just,” she searched for the words, “didn’t expect it.” She gripped both of Jennifer’s arms, pulling her closer again. “Thank you so much for doing that.”
This reassured Jennifer, her bashful smile returned. “So, we were talking. And. Um.” She looked at Ryan, who nodded. “Want to come back to our place? Tonight? Like, I mean I know it’s late, so right now. Maybe?”
“I’ll be honest,” Ryan added. “We don’t know exactly what inviting you over after a date, erm, dinner, means or implies, but we’re intrigued enough to take the risk anyway.” He took a long pause. “So, thoughts?”
Paige blinked her surprise and turned her head to Bruce.
He pursed his lips for a moment, then shrugged. “I’m game,” he said, but then poked his finger toward the small tray with the bill and Ryan’s credit card on it. “Though if you think for a moment I’m going to let the two of you subsidize my ridiculous wine habit, you’ve got another thing coming.”
“Oh, thank god,” said Ryan, “I just thought it was a good move, but damn, that wine was expensive.”
“Anything worth doing is worth overdoing,” said Bruce, throwing his own credit card on the bill.