Asking for it, p.10
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       Asking for It, p.10

         Part #1 of Asking for It series by Lilah Pace
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  Just wanted to say that I’m glad we worked things out tonight. Looking forward to next time. —J

  Next time. The next time I let Jonah pretend to rape me, and I get off on it.

  It took me a while to realize how thoroughly Anthony had screwed with my head. After the rape, I stopped masturbating. Completely. I didn’t want to think about guys’ bodies when the only one I’d ever seen aroused was my rapist. When I started having sex with my senior-year boyfriend, Derek, I flashed back to that night—every single time. It was like Anthony was back on top of me, inside me, turning me from a person into a body.

  But my boyfriend was a good guy. He had no idea what was wrong with me, why I didn’t seem to enjoy sex as much as he did. So he did his best. Went down on me, fingered me, took me in every position he knew and a couple I think he invented. Plenty of men never become as generous in bed as Derek was at seventeen; his wife must count herself lucky.

  Bit by bit, my body woke up to the pleasure of touch. But every single time, I was thinking of Anthony too. Night by night, stroke by stroke, arousal and my rape were woven together. My mind turned the opposites into partners. I couldn’t peel them apart any longer.

  When Derek finally got me off, I was remembering a hand clamped over my mouth so I couldn’t scream. And that orgasm—my first in three years—felt so goddamned good that I didn’t care how sick my fantasy was. I only wanted it to happen again.

  If Derek thought it was weird, the way I asked him to hold my hands down or pull my hair, he never said anything. Like most teenage guys, he was just thrilled I was finally into it. Even though I felt guilty every time I touched myself while fantasizing about being forced, I didn’t stop. The only way I held myself in check was refusing to let myself think about Anthony anymore. Instead I came up with new scenarios, new kinds of violence—whether brutal or deceptive, as vicious as being bound and gagged or as commonplace as having a guy take advantage of me while I’m too drunk to fight him. The fantasies became more elaborate, just as I was learning how to bring myself off and how to teach a guy to take care of me.

  And so here I am, twenty-five years old, only able to come when I think about being raped.

  Believe it or not, I’m not the only one. Based on what Doreen has told me, and some psych books I’ve read, other victims sometimes find themselves having rape fantasies too. No, that’s not the usual reaction. But it’s not unheard of. Maybe that should make me feel better. It doesn’t.

  Page 37

  At least now I’ve accepted this about myself—my need to dive into this darkness, to claim my most secret and forbidden desires. And I’ve found the man who’ll go there with me.

  Already I know that I’ll feel the sting of Chloe’s anger, and the weight of those old memories, until I’m with Jonah again. Then I’ll be in a place where none of it can touch me—every pain, every memory, everything that holds me back. Jonah can take me there.

  •   •   •

  “God, I miss coffee,” Shay says, staring at my venti mochaccino with sorrowful puppy-dog eyes.

  “Some pregnant women drink caffeine,” I say as we claim the last available table in the campus coffee place. “I’m sure I’ve seen them do it. ”

  But Shay shakes her head. “I had some spotting early on. It turned out not to be a big deal, but after that, Dr. Campbell said to knock off the caffeine completely. Doctor’s orders. ”

  “Look on the bright side. It’s only another nine weeks. ”

  Shay’s face lights up, with a kind of glow that has nothing to do with old wives’ tales about pregnancy and everything to do with happiness. “Before Christmas. I can’t wait for baby’s first Christmas. ”

  “We’ll all be spoiling him or her rotten,” I promise. Shay and Arturo have refused to learn the sex of the baby; they say they want to be surprised. Personally, I’d think you’d be on such an emotional roller coaster that day that the “surprise” would get totally buried, but it’s their call.

  The two of us make an odd pair, I guess. I’m dressed up for a departmental meeting this afternoon—pencil skirt, silky caramel-colored blouse, and heels—while Shay is wearing some vibrantly patterned 1970s pregnancy smock she must have thrifted and has added a few blue streaks to her burgundy-colored hair. But she wanted to meet up on our mutual free hour, and . . . well, since Chloe’s message, I’ve tried to avoid having too much downtime. All I do with it is brood.

  A happier idea occurs to me. “Hey, we need to have a baby shower soon, don’t we?”

  For some reason, that wipes the smile from Shay’s face. “Yeah. Guess so. ”

  “Hey. What’s wrong?”

  “It’s just—” Shay bites her lower lip. She’s curved both of her hands around her bottle of water, looking at that instead of at me. “My whole family’s back in Perth, and they’re not exactly thrilled about this—”

  Their daughter went off to school in America and informed them via Skype that she was marrying a man they’d never met, no older than her, and having his baby. As much as I love Arturo, and as much as I believe in his relationship with Shay, I can see why the Gillespies took it badly.

  “—so I thought it would be my family here who would throw the shower. ” She’s staring down at our table, forlorn, completely unlike her usual bubbly self. “I thought it would be Carmen. But she hasn’t said a word. ”

  “I’m sure it just slipped her mind. ” Actually I’m not sure of that at all, but saying so won’t help. “She’s been buried with her classwork. ”

  “You know she doesn’t like me. ”

  “She does!” Not liking Shay would be the same as not liking oxygen. It’s impossible. “She’s just worried about Arturo settling down so young, especially before you guys have finished your degrees. ”

  “We can do it. If I didn’t believe that, I would never have gone on with—” Shay can’t finish the sentence. She already loves that baby too much to even say the words.

  “I believe in you too. Carmen’s just a little harder to convince. She’s a numbers person, remember? They don’t like soft squishy feelings. They like facts. ” I lean forward, hoping I’m getting through to Shay. “Even if Carmen has her doubts, she’s with you all the way. You know that, right?”

  Shay nods, but I can tell she’s not convinced. Seeing her like this is like watching a dandelion wilt.

  So I promise, “I’ll throw the baby shower, because I count as family too. Don’t even try to argue. ”

  “I wouldn’t. ” Her smile starts to return. “Yeah, you count. ”

  “Carmen will pitch in too. Wait and see. ”

  “Hope you’re right. You’d just think—” Shay pauses, then says, “You’d think Carmen would be more excited about becoming an aunt. Weren’t you thrilled when you found out Libby was on the way?”

  Page 38

  Libby, whom I haven’t seen since last Easter. Libby, who begged me to braid her long golden hair. I slid daisies into the plaits, and she thought that was the most magical, beautiful thing ever.

  “My emotions were complicated, actually. ” I only say this because I know Shay realizes that I keep my distance from my family, and she doesn’t snoop into the reasons why. “But I love her more than anybody else on earth. ”

  I love Libby that much, and I never see her.

  Shay and I have to get back to our respective departments, so I down the last of my mochaccino. She’s back to her usual bouncy self, while I have to struggle to keep smiling. As soon as we part, I let my face fall. The world around me seems to blur. I’m trapped inside my own thoughts, and my own regrets.

  In my mind, I hear Libby singing on that voice mail I’ve saved. Happy birthday, Aunt Vivi—

  Tears blur my vision. Undergrads swarm around me, a sea of ponytails and backpacks and laughter, but I feel alone. I push my way blindly through the crowd until I hear, “Vivienne?”

  It’s Jonah.

  Amid the bril
liantly colored T-shirts and jackets of the students around us, Jonah stands alone, stark in a crisp white shirt and dark jeans. He’s the only one who stands still, the only one who’s looking at me. The only one who knows who I am. Although he doesn’t come any closer, his gray eyes search mine. I know Jonah didn’t call my name just to say hello. He said it because he can see I’m upset.

  I attempt a smile, badly. “Coffee’s that way,” I say, pointing to the Starbucks that must be his destination. “Talk to you later. ”

  Jonah nods. I turn away from him to head toward the Department of Fine Arts. It takes about seven minutes to walk the distance. Seven minutes is how long I have to pull myself together. When I walk into the meeting, I have to be calm. Assured. Confident. Anyone but myself.

  The department meeting goes well.

  Like I said, by now I’m pretty good at faking it.

  •   •   •


  Originally I’d planned to go get sushi with Carmen and some of her friends from the math department, but I text her to beg off. Worst headache ever, I type out, lying without guilt. She wouldn’t really understand, anyway.

  As much as I love Carmen, as close to her as I am, I’ve never told her about the rape. I never told Geordie, either, or Derek, or any of my other boyfriends. The one time I told people I love the truth about what Anthony did to me—that didn’t end well.

  I’m too tense and distracted to grade student essays. For a while I try to watch movies on Netflix, but none of them can hold my attention. Finally I take my frustrations out on the housework. Soon my little house smells like Comet and lemon Joy. With yellow rubber gloves on my hands, I scrub every dish, both sinks, the toilet, the tub, and even the grout between the tiles. By the time I’m done, this place will be spotless.

  Just as I lean up to wipe sweat from my forehead with one arm, my phone rings. Generic ringtone. I strip off the rubber gloves as I go to answer. Probably it’s one of the other TAs, but if this is another election robocall, I swear, I will not be held responsible for my actions. “Hello?”

  A pause follows. Then: “Hi, Vivienne. ”

  It’s the last person I expected to hear from tonight.

  It’s Jonah.


  I thought Jonah would call for only one of two reasons: either to let me know about some last-minute change in our plans—or to make new plans for another of our games.

  But here I am, at nearly eleven P. M. , listening to Jonah . . . being concerned.

  “I wanted to check on you. When we bumped into each other today, you looked . . . ” His voice trails off. How strange, to hear someone as sure and stoic as Jonah Marks sounding uncertain. “You didn’t look good. ”

  What am I supposed to say? A bad habit of mine—I try to think of what people want to hear, instead of just telling the truth. But I have no idea what Jonah wants.

  “I realize I’m out of bounds here,” Jonah says, and now he sounds more like himself. “Still, if I was any part of why you were so upset today—if what we’re doing is turning out to be a problem for you—just say so. We can always call this off, or wait a while. I wouldn’t want to be a part of anything you found disturbing. ”

  Which is hilarious. From the first moment I laid eyes on Jonah, my life has been nothing but disturbing.

  That doesn’t mean I want to call it off.

  “We’re fine,” I say. “What got to me today didn’t have anything to do with you. I promise. ”

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  “Okay. That’s good. ” To my surprise, Jonah doesn’t hang up then and there. “Are you all right?”

  “Yes and no. ”

  We both fall silent. Maybe Jonah is afraid I’m going to start spilling my guts to him. Sharing my secrets. I have no intention of doing so. That kind of intimacy can’t be a part of our arrangement.

  Yet he stays on the line. He’s giving me the option—or, more likely, can’t think of a polite way out of this.

  When Jonah finally speaks, he sounds steady again. Strong. His voice alone makes me flush with heat, from my cheeks to between my legs. “Do you want me to hang up now?”

  I crave that steadiness, that strength. More than that, I crave him.

  Very quietly I say, “No. ”

  “What do you want to talk about?” He’s wary, but willing.

  My bed is only steps away. I lower myself onto it, propping myself up on the pillows. “Anything. Just—distract me. ”

  “Not the usual distraction, you mean. ”

  I wonder what phone sex with Jonah would be like? There’s something about the way he speaks—and it’s not just his mesmerizing voice. Every single word seems to have been rationed. Measured. He reveals nothing he doesn’t want to reveal. No emotion slips through unless he allows it. The totality of his control, his command of himself . . . it’s even more intoxicating now that I know the intensity he’s just barely holding back. And it reminds me of how fucking incredible it felt when he took control of me.

  Phone sex with Jonah might be amazing.

  But I still smell like cleaning products, and I’m wearing my grubbiest Longhorns shirt, and I feel about as sexy as Jabba the Hutt. If I’m going to get in to the mood, I need a moment.

  Softly I say, “Not the usual . . . yet. ”

  “Interesting. ” I can imagine his fierce smile as he says that. “So, what would you prefer as prelude?”

  I notice that Jonah volunteers nothing. We aren’t going to discuss our personal lives or our emotions—that would violate our covenant to remain strangers to each other as much as possible. So I need a completely neutral topic. The first thing that springs to mind: “Tell me about Antarctica. ”

  “You want to talk about a place with no rain, little life, and temperatures down to a hundred degrees below zero. I wouldn’t have guessed that was your idea of foreplay. ”

  “I just meant—” I have to pause while I pull my T-shirt up over my head. “It’s somewhere I’ll probably never get to see. ”

  “You don’t have to apologize for being interested. I was teasing you. ” Jonah pauses, and I realize he’s searching for words. “Antarctica is . . . brutal. But beautiful. Unlike anything else on earth. ”

  I lie back on my bed. I’m topless now, clad only in my panties; the sweat on my skin could have been earned a very different way. “By brutal you mean the cold, right?”

  “The cold, and the katabatic winds—those are the ones that scour the ground, stripping away all the snow. ”

  “I thought Antarctica was covered in snow. ”

  “Some areas are. But a lot of the continent is desert. The most desolate place on earth. ”

  “So why do you call it beautiful?”

  Jonah thinks for a few long moments before answering. “Weakness can’t survive there. People live with as few possessions as they can manage, on the very edge of survival. Even the air is clearer. The sunlight can be almost blinding. It’s the only place in the world with that kind of purity. That’s why I call it beautiful. ”

  For Jonah, savagery is beauty. I can believe that. “What else?” I ask.

  “The aurora australis, I guess. That’s beautiful. ”

  I’ve heard of this. “Like the northern lights, but southern, right?”

  “Right. They paint the sky green and gold, and the light surrounds you. ”

  I wouldn’t have thought of Jonah as someone who’d be enraptured by anything so poetic. Then again, maybe the aurora australis is truly exquisite. Even a man carved out of stone would be moved.

  Though I know Jonah’s not made of stone. Until this moment, I hadn’t realized I knew that.

  How much am I learning about him, as we go through this?

  How much is he learning about me?

  Then I feel uneasy once more—off-balance, unsure of anything. In the valley between tantalized and afraid. Which is just where I like to be, with Jonah.
  “Maybe we should make plans,” I say. “For next time. ”

  Page 40

  If Jonah is surprised by my change of subject, he doesn’t show it. But when his answer comes it’s in a deep purr that’s almost a growl. “Anything you want. As long as it’s soon. ”

  “How soon?”

  “As soon as I can have you. ”

  I suck in a deep breath. Already my nipples are hard, darkening even as I lie here on my bed, all but naked and alone.

  He wants me to name the scenario. It’s not that I don’t know what I want from him; it’s that the list is so long that I hardly know where to begin.

  Besides, the control should be Jonah’s. When I do this, I turn myself over to him, completely.

  “When you imagine taking me,” I whisper, “what is it like?”

  “So many ways. Different positions, different speeds. Slowing down to pin you under me forever. Speeding up until I’m pounding you senseless. ”

  Oh, God. I writhe atop my covers, my panties are already starting to get wet. “Yes,” I say.

  Jonah keeps going. “Sometimes I think about that night we met. I hated myself for the things I wanted to do to you, but I still wanted it. Wanted you. ”

  “I wanted you too. I wanted you to—to make me thank you, or just push me into the backseat. ” Those fantasies tormented me so much that night. Now they’re fuel for the fire building within me. “So let’s do that. ”

  “That’s what you want next time? To act out how we met, and what we really wanted?” Jonah likes the idea; I can tell. “Whenever you want. ”

  My cunt pulses so hard that for a moment I think I’m going to come right here. “Tonight. ”

  After a moment of silence, Jonah says, “Now?”

  I sit upright on the bed. “Now. ”

  “We’ll need thirty minutes. ” He sounds impatient; even half an hour is too long. “Meet me—in Zilker Park. On Columbus, past that first side road. Wear that little sundress again. ”

  Am I really going to do this? Head out into the dark right before midnight, to turn myself over to Jonah?

  “Yes,” I say, and I hang up without another word. It’s not like that was good-bye.

  I take a two-minute shower so I won’t go to our rendezvous smelling like detergent. My hair gets a quick comb-through, and I waste a few precious moments in front of my jewelry box, trying to remember which earrings I wore that night. In the end, I just grab some simple silver studs. The red sundress is clean, and without my bra, I appreciate the softness of the cotton more than ever before. Panties are probably a waste of time, but I bet Jonah’s dreamed about tearing them off. When I met Jonah, I was wearing pretty simple sandals, but tonight I put on crazy high stilettos. Then I hurry to my Civic and drive to the rendezvous.

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