I decided to go for truth. I didn’t know what else to do; besides our lives were working and that was too important to f**k with by not being honest.
“What did we do just now that bothered you, Ellen?” I asked.
Micah hugged me a little harder, as if in warning.
I glanced at him. “We can’t avoid upsetting her if we don’t know what upset her in the first place.” I looked at Ellen, and tried to look helpful, questioning, waiting.
She glanced at Richard.
“Anita has a point, if we don’t know what makes you anxious we can’t avoid it.”
She looked from one to the other of us. “I . . . I . . . it was just so . . . intimate. Holding hands, kissing, hugging, sitting close, and rubbing your faces against each other’s necks and faces. The way your hand keeps disappearing underneath the table and I can see your hand moving, Anita.”
“I’m petting his thigh, Ellen, that’s all. My hand may be close to his groin, but I would never do that sitting in public and especially not in a situation where I’m trying to help convince you that this is all somehow normal and okay. That would be rude and stupid. I’m trying not to be the first, and I’m not the second if I can avoid it.”
She blushed. “I’m sorry . . . I’m so sorry.” She stood up.
Richard caught her hand. “Ellen, please.”
“No, Richard, she’s deliberately trying to make me feel stupid and rude, and just . . . I can’t do this.”
“For the love of God, Ellen, if you don’t tell us what upset you we can’t fix it,” I said.
She shook her head. “I thought I could do this, Richard, I really did. I thought meeting Anita and seeing her with someone else she loved would make me feel more secure about it all, but it doesn’t. It just doesn’t help at all.”
“Ellen, please sit back down and talk to us,” Richard said. He still had her hand in his.
She pulled on his hand for a moment and then, as she stared down at him, her face softened. Looking at how yummy he was always made it hard for me to be mad at him, too, or had once. Being in love with someone gives them a lot of extra clout. She finally let him ease her back into her chair.
She looked at us; her eyes were shiny with unshed tears, but her voice was calm when it came. “I thought I could do this, but I don’t think I can. I love you, and you are everything I want, all I want, Richard. I was willing to believe that you needed rougher things in the bedroom than I was comfortable with, so I thought I could accept you needed someone for that and for bondage, but now I see her and you have to stop lying to me, Richard. It’s not needing to be rough, or needing bondage, it’s just her. You want to keep her in your bed, and that’s that.” The first hard tear started down her cheek.
Micah hugged me tighter, and said, “Trust me, Ellen, it is rough sex that they do together. Rougher than anything I enjoy. I accept that Anita needs some things in the bedroom that I just do not want to do.”
She stared at him and again there was that soft horror on her face. “You’ve watched . . .”
“No,” he said, very firmly, “but I’ve seen the marks on her body afterwards. Anita and Richard are not a couple in the way that you and Richard are, Ellen. He loves you, is in love with you, just like I’m in love with Anita.”
“Marks,” Ellen said softly, “what kind of marks?”
Micah looked at Richard. “I don’t think that’s my question to answer.”
Richard hugged her close and said, “Bruises sometimes.”
She looked stricken. “You beat her?”
“No,” he and I said together.
“I would never let anyone beat me, Ellen,” I said.
“Then I don’t understand,” she said looking from one to the other of us.
I looked at Richard, because I got bruised from struggling pitting my strength against his. I didn’t fight as hard as I could, and neither did he. We didn’t want to really hurt each other, but we liked seeing how far we could push it sometimes in our little rape fantasies. But there was no way I was saying the phrase, “rape fantasy,” to Ellen. That either came from Richard, or no one; besides, honestly, it still embarrassed me a little. It seemed so anti-feminist to enjoy being overpowered in the bedroom, but under the right circumstances, with the right people I loved it. I was tired of pretending about the things that made me happy in my life; I’d decided I’d rather just be happy.
“I would never allow Richard to abuse me, or any man for that matter,” she said.
“I am not an abuse victim, Ellen. I’m not a victim at all. I own my sexuality in every sense, and I top some of the men in my life. It’s not just me on the receiving end of the rough.”
“You abuse some of the men?”
“It’s not abuse.” I was getting pissed and trying not to be.
“You hurt each other. How is that not abuse?” she asked.
“This is my sexuality; it’s what makes me happy. You saying that it’s abuse is insulting; it would be like me saying that your idea of sex is boring.”
“How do you know what kind of sex I enjoy?” She looked at Richard.
“I didn’t say anything about our sex life to anyone,” he said.
“I’m assuming some things from your reaction, Ellen, that’s all. I hope I’m wrong for your sake and Richard’s.”
“Wrong about what?” she asked.
“Your idea of sex.”
She squirmed in her seat, and wouldn’t meet anyone’s eyes. “It’s none of your business.”
That was it for me. “You sit there and demand that we tell you intimate things about our sex life, our relationships, but you share nothing. You get all embarrassed, why can’t we be embarrassed, too?”
She looked startled. “I just thought . . .”
“Thought what, that because we like kinky sex we can’t be embarrassed?”
She glanced at Richard, then back at me. “I guess I assumed that if you were this open it didn’t bother you to talk about it.”
“It doesn’t bother me to talk to my sweeties, but to someone who I’ve just met and who is judging every word I say, yeah, it bothers me.”
“I’m not judging you,” she said.
Micah hugged me a little harder. “It’s okay,” he said.
“No,” I said, “it’s not.” I looked at Richard. We had a moment of looking deep into each other’s brown eyes, but it wasn’t a love look, it was a soul-searching one. The look you give someone that you know well, or did at one time, as you’re wondering what the hell they’re doing to their lives. Richard had finally worked through his issues so it was nice to have him in our lives again, and part of me wondered if Ellen was his new way of denying himself. It was a nice way of setting himself up to withdraw from the bondage and the rough sex without admitting that he was conflicted. He wouldn’t be conflicted, he’d be giving it all up so he could be married and have that white picket fence dream. Was it possible to lie to yourself so well that you didn’t realize you were doing it? Hell, yes. I’d done it myself for years.
“There,” she said, “that look, how can I not feel threatened when the two of you have such a strong connection?”
“We weren’t looking lovingly into each other’s eyes, trust me on that,” I said and cuddled in against Micah. I just wanted to leave. I was so done with this conversation.
“Then what did that look mean?”
I shook my head.
Richard answered, “Anita is wondering why I want someone who is so uncomfortable with so much of my life, right?”
“Yes,” I said and looked at them both.
“It’s just sex, not his whole life,” she said.
I gave Richard very direct eye contact, and raised an eyebrow at him.
“What?” she asked, “What is that look you’re giving each other?”
“If you believe that sex isn’t that important to you, that’s your choice, but . . .” I stopped without finishing the sentence.
“But what?” she asked.
I looked at Richard.
“Just say it, Anita,” he said.