On the bus home from work, as usual, Jillian pulled out her phone to check messages.
“Beep. Jill? I’m sorry, something came up and I’m going to be doing major overtime into the weekend. I know I said I’d help you move some of your stuff into storage Saturday and supper afterwards, but I really don’t have any choice about this. I’ll make it up to you, I promise. Love you! Beep. To save this message…”
Delete. Jillian looked morosely at her phone before going on to the next.
What to do? The storage space was paid for. She’d made arrangements with a local handyman with a truck. Technically the two of them could take her things down a flight and a half of stairs and load it, then she could hop in the truck alone with a complete stranger to go to the storage facility, the two of them could unload it, and she could figure out how to get home from there. Not having a car usually simplified her life but occasionally it was problematic.
Kaylee had a car, but she and Christine would almost certainly rate their day off as preferable to helping.
Asking elsewhere couldn’t hurt.
She hit the speed dial for Min.
“Hello, dear. How’s packing going?”
“Poorly, and I just had a new wrench tossed into the works. Remember I said I had to cancel tomorrow because Gary and I were moving some stuff to storage? He has to work and I’m on my own. I badly need to start getting stuff out so I have some room to work in to pack the rest, there isn’t even anywhere to put boxes when they’re full. I’m open to thoughts. I’m paying a guy with a truck tomorrow at ten, but it’s going to be a real job for two instead of three, and I don’t know him well enough to be sure I’m safe alone, y’know?”
“Sensible. Hm. Let me make a call or two.” She chuckled. “I’m obviously not much use on that one myself, but I know people. I’ll call you back.”
She hadn’t even made it home before her phone rang, and the screen identified Min.
“You said the truck will be there at ten?”
“Then Dagrun and Flair and I will likewise be there by then. And there is plenty of room in Dagrun’s van for you, and for any items too fragile for the truck. Plan for it to be the whole day—afterwards, we can go downtown, have late lunch or early supper in the park by the water, maybe do a little shopping. I expect Flair will want to stop in a couple of places.”
“We might be too tired for much.”
“It will be much quicker and less exhausting than you expect, dear. Just don’t ask any questions about how, please.” Min sounded amused. “Perhaps it would be a good time for Flair to stay with you afterwards, so you can have her help on Sunday. Don’t stay up tonight worrying about it. Relax and have a little time to yourself, sleep well, and we’ll see you in the morning.”
“Okay. You’re wonderful.”
You made me dress as a fetish toy and get manhandled!
Somehow, that still felt remote and unreal, and less important than getting the whole packing and moving thing out of the way.
“I don’t like to see you stressed and unhappy. I think you’ll feel much better once you get through this move, and anything I can do that will make that easier, I will do my best to arrange. I know Flair likes you and is concerned about you and wants very much to find a way she can help. I’ll talk to you soon.”
What was she going to do with her evening, all on her own, with nothing that needed to be done?
She wandered around the apartment, wondering why she felt lost and alone.
On an impulse, she opened the drawer of the table next to her bed. The collar and toy were still inside. Jillian hadn’t been able to bring herself to touch either.
Jillian picked up the toy, running a finger along it. Despite the glossiness, it didn’t feel hard or cold. In fact, the texture was very similar to real skin, and specifically to the faint recollection she had of a moment she’d been so lost in lust she’d wrapped her hand around the satyr’s penis, desperately wanting it somewhere more intimate… but Min’s promise was more absolute than a locked steel chastity belt. The symbol on the base nagged at her, vaguely familiar, a V with a sort of squiggle off the right side. Astrological, maybe? She should look that up.
She was alone tonight. But she could do something other than vegetate watching TV or reading.
The fridge offered up leftover lasagna for supper, not the classiest meal but one she enjoyed thoroughly, and that mattered most. She put it on to warm up, and went looking for what she wanted.
I won’t feel bad about feeling good.
Oh, shut up. You’re supposed to be long gone out of my head.
Even if it is good advice.
She turned music on, a playlist of favourites, and made certain her phone was on Do not disturb. Kaylee and Christine knew she was moving in two weeks but couldn’t seem to hold the thought. Gary probably wouldn’t even notice the lack of response while he was working. Min would leave a message if something changed.
There was no need of electric light yet, not with the long summer days, but she did locate her half-dozen LED candles in a box and took them to the bathroom for later. She pondered for a moment, then decided that the pink toy was sure to be waterproof, so she brought that to the bathroom as well. In the bedroom, she investigated her small collection of naughty lingerie, but she wasn’t happy with any of it. They all felt too insubstantial. So she looked in the back corner of her closet, where things collected that she rarely wore. She pulled out a knee-length dress of soft slinky fabric that would stretch and hug her body—too much so for her to be comfortable wearing it in public, as she’d realized after buying it and repeatedly skipping over it. She’d bought it for the texture of the fabric and the beautiful rich blue colour, and hadn’t been able to bear to get rid of it, despite her self-consciousness. She laid it on the bed with her sexiest bra, not bothering with panties. Since she only had pantyhose, not stockings, she skipped that, too.
With a rather irrational feeling of being rebellious, she stripped down to just her panties and bra and curled up in the corner of the couch to eat, her plate braced on the arm of the couch.
Rather than turning on the TV or picking up a book and then eating distractedly, she tried keeping her attention on the lasagna. On the pleasant heat, the tang of the sauce, the mellow creaminess of the cheese, the slippery smoothness of the noodles. She turned each bite over in her mouth, taking her time. How would she describe lasagna to someone who had never tasted it? Simply listing the ingredients and how to put them together might give someone a general idea, as long as they were familiar with pasta, with tomato meat sauce, with cottage cheese and mozzarella, with oregano and the other spices. The more of those they were missing, the less accurate their extrapolation would be.
But even if someone did have experience with each ingredient, they wouldn’t be able to understand the way they all fit together. And on top of that, everyone made it differently, even to the same recipe, let alone all the other recipes. Trying one still wouldn’t give you an overall awareness of lasagna-ness, only of a single version. That made blanket statements about liking or not liking lasagna precarious.
But she could say, quite firmly, that this particular batch of lasagna had turned out wonderfully, and that she was relishing every bite and its complex textures and flavours.
Finished, she ditched the dishes in the sink to deal with tomorrow, filled a large glass with ice water, and retired to the bathroom.
The flickering of the LED candles was barely visible with the sun still up, but as it moved a bit farther, this side of the building would be cast in shadow, and the candles were a gentler light than the overhead. She ran the water, added a liberal quantity of berry-scented bubble bath, and stripped off her panties and bra.
She stepped in and leaned back, wishing for an antique claw-footed tub that would let her recline more comfortably. This was adequate, though, especially when she pulled her inflatable pillow into place.
Every motion made ripples against her skin like a feather-light caress. The water supported her weight, though at this depth and angle, that was a subtle thing—usually noticed less in its presence than in its absence when getting out. The heat soaked into her muscles, loosening them, helping her sink further into relaxation. Against any skin that broke the surface, bubbles tickled, barely perceptible, whispering at the edge of hearing when she moved and they popped. The scent of the bubble bath was a mild one that she quite liked, one that was perceptible without being overwhelming, and not cloyingly sweet or chokingly musky.
She lay where she was, trying to absorb every detail with every sense. Min had told her that humans didn’t have senses to perceive some aspects of the world. How often in her life, she wondered, had she actually paid attention even to all the things that her senses could tell her, rather than always being distracted and busy, always trying to get things done, always thinking about what she was going to do or had done without actually being in the present? Not since she was a child, probably. Even during sex, when in theory she should be focused entirely on sensation and intimacy, part of her mind was always tracking reactions, making sure she responded to Gary in ways that would encourage him, monitoring everything around her for the unexpected.
Quite possibly, Flair lived more or less constantly within her own sensory world without all the constant noise that Jillian had come to accept as normal. Childlike, in the sense of existing here and now and accepting everything her senses gave her without judgement. Probably there was something there worth thinking about in more depth later.
She had, to a considerable degree, reached that sort of state once recently. Admittedly, one set of sensory input had been strong enough to more or less drown out nearly everything else, the way the sun’s light hid the stars during the day. But it had been… an interesting state to be in.
She reached for the pink toy, and held it balanced across her palm.
“Fuck me,” she told it, and watched it bulge up in a ring near the base, then the bulge began to travel up and down the length of it. “Fuck me faster.” It sped up. “Fuck me harder.” The size of the bulge increased, and she could feel the force pulsing through it. “Stop.” It went inert. What else could it do?
She experimented with instructions, and discovered that clinical or dispassionate commands got no response at all. “Make me buzz,” as it turned out, made it vibrate, which could then be adjusted via “Harder,” or “Not so hard.” Remembering an expression about it not being the size of the rod, it’s how you wiggle your worm, she tried, “Wiggle it,” not really expecting anything at all but willing to try anything at this point, but the whole toy began to do exactly that, a sine wave of motion shimmying endlessly along its length.
She actually didn’t know very many expressions that got any response at all—talking dirty wasn’t exactly something that had been a part of her life. The ones she did know, she’d never actually said before, and she had no idea where she’d picked them up, but it was a small wicked thrill speaking them out loud. She deliberately avoided the phrase, “Eat me,” nervous that it might take it literally somehow despite the evidence pointing at the toy being benign. “Lick me,” however, made the surface quiver and, briefly, a tongue-like extra appendage formed, waved around for a couple of seconds, and melted back into the main body, maybe because it found nothing to lick. “I want you to fill me up,” made the whole thing swell in girth, though not much in length. She wondered how many more tricks it could do.
She ran her free hand absently around one breast, and down to toy with her nipple. When she’d been quite young, her substantial breasts had drawn attention, sometimes unwanted, and she still had a constant struggle with a tendency to hunch her shoulders forward, minimizing their size—and destroying her posture. They’d never been particularly perky, thanks to mass and gravity, but as she’d grown older, they’d inevitably begin to lose some of their firmness. They were less of an erogenous zone than lovers tended to assume—sensitive, but not to the degree that was apparently expected, so she’d learned to fake it.
Her own finger, circling the soft areola, did feel good. Just not directly erotic. Why were men so certain that, because they associated breasts with sex, that had to be automatically true for women? Presumably there were exceptions on both sides, but she wondered how many other women were faking it.
She abandoned that and let her fingers slide down into the water, down over the rounded tummy that was her despair, down between her legs to stroke gently. Furry: her body hair had all grown back by the time she woke. She wasn’t sure how she felt about having rather liked the feel of bare skin there, but she had at least trimmed it as short as she could with scissors, and Gary liked it. Playing with the toy had triggered early stages of arousal: her outer labia were puffy, though not yet stretched tight, and she found evidence of lubrication, though the water stole it quickly.
That latter would make playing with the toy in the tub tricky and potentially uncomfortable. She set it aside and closed her eyes.
She knew her memories of the details of the party were fuzzy. The glimpses she did get were just too big and too alarming, and she’d been going along with how much easier it had been to let her thoughts slide elsewhere instead of clinging to the memories to look at them. But that didn’t mean they hadn’t happened. She’d chosen to keep the memories, despite everything. Maybe facing them would exorcise the hold they had on her and let her make peace with them, so she could stop finding flashes creeping into her mind at inopportune moments and rousing unsettling feelings.
So, for the first time, she tried her best to play back through the entire party. At first she started in the shower, then she mentally rewound it… back to Flair first moving, then back further to the gnawing summons she’d begun to feel at work, telling her to go to Min. Lazily, she let her fingers stroke her outer labia, venturing inside intermittently, but not in any particular hurry despite the heat inside that ramped up rapidly. Her own mind resisted, trying to keep the comforting blur, but when she persisted, it dissolved and let her have it all. Twelve hours of high-intensity experience, imprinted with merciless detail by the vivid emotions.
When the water, ignoring her own flush, began to cool, she paused the memories, pulled the plug, and took her time drying off. In the bedroom, she set the toy on the bed, put on her sexy black bra and pulled the blue dress over her head, enjoying the slickness of it as it slithered across her skin and down around her body.
I’ll try my best not to feel bad about feeling sexy.
Feeling sexy feels good.
Oh, be quiet.
Black and white satin would look sexier.
Okay, now you, definitely shut up! And why are you still in my head, anyway? You were supposed to be gone in a few days, and it’s been three weeks!
She avoided looking in the mirror, certain that it would just be an invitation for the critical part of her mind to wake up and start telling her all the reasons she wasn’t sexy. Right now, she felt it. That was enough.
She sprawled on the bed, stroking the soft dress over her thighs. Not layers of short satin skirts, but it felt good.
She closed her eyes, and went back to trying to work through the memories. Unpleasant little spikes, like the comments from Roshanak and the two small fae and the threat from Zipporah, were vivid. Moments that had felt the most deeply embarrassing, those were perhaps excessively vivid. Being cupped protectively in Dagrun’s hands would be hard to ever forget. Far too much of the rest was a haze of desire and fear, but she could piece things together.
Before much longer, her hand was beneath her skirt.
A short time after that, she reached for the toy. It didn’t fit inside her as effortlessly as it had after hours of high arousal, despite her current slipperiness: she had to wiggle it and thrust a bit deeper each time to convince her body to accept it.
“Fuck me,” she told it, to begin with. “Slowly and gently.” She could increase it as she went.
Three orgasms later, she fell asleep, her thoughts still on the memory of Sati’s hands posing her for photographs she had yet to have the nerve to ask Min for.
Next time: a day spent with Min, Dagrun, and Flair, part of it on a storage unit run, part of it enjoying downtown, and Jillian gets a present.