Isabelle Carruthers resides in New Orleans where she works semi-diligently in the field of immigration law. Her short fiction and poetry has appeared in Zoetrope All-Story Extra, Clean Sheets, Physik Garden, Moondance, and WordSalad. She is on the editorial staff of Clean Sheets and is the creative director for MindKites, a literary webzine for freethinkers.
Correspond with Isabelle Carruthers.
Paige sat across from me, worrying the delicate stem of her wine glass. "I just feel so unsatisfied, sometimes," she said. "My life is too safe, too normal. I never take risks. Not like you."
"Like me? I don't live dangerously," I replied with an amused grin. "Besides occasional attempts to cook something more complicated than spaghetti, I don’t take on big challenges."
"Well, you know. Like…sexually. You’re not afraid to be yourself, Katie. You aren’t hung up on convention. You’re so upfront about you who are, what you like, what you want. I admire that."
"But it’s not like it’s a conscious choice, you know," I offered. "I’m just me. It wasn’t always easy. My parents freaked when I came out. My mother is convinced that I just have some hormonal imbalance."
"I know, but still… I wish I was as brave as you are. I want to try things, to open myself up to new experiences, to see what it’s like to be completely uninhibited. I’m just such a chicken." She tossed back her wine and filled her glass again. "Like, being with a woman, for example. Or even doing a three-way. Maybe it’s kinky, I don’t know. But still… I think about it. But I could never be that way with Barry. He’s so conservative. He wouldn’t understand."
Barry was her boyfriend, a senior economics major and a hardcore right-winger, a future leader of Corporate America. He was attractive in a big-man-on-campus way, but I always thought he’d look better with duct tape over his mouth. I never understood how Paige tolerated his rampant prejudice towards everyone who was different. She was nothing like him.
"I think a lot of women want to try stuff like that," I said, trying to reassure her. "There’s nothing wrong with exploring other avenues until you find what makes you happy. It’s not the same for everyone. If Barry really loves you, he’ll understand that."
Propping her arms on the table and leaning closer, Paige opened her mouth to speak, then hesitated. "Never mind."
"There’s just something I’ve been wanting to ask you. And be honest."
"Okay, go ahead." I poured more wine and waited as Paige rearranged her glass countless times.
"Have you ever wanted to be with me?" Paige asked. "Whatever the answer is, it won’t bother me. I just want to know."
The question caught me off guard. Of course I had. I just wasn’t sure whether or not I should admit to it. Mostly I wasn’t sure that I was ready to handle the consequence of my answer. There was always fall-out.
It wasn’t the first time I had been faced with this dilemma. Or opportunity, depending on your perspective. It was one of those things that probably happens, at one time or another, to all lesbians with straight friends. When you first come out to the people who think they know you best, at first they are surprised. Surprised but accepting. But, for some, the surprise gives way to an uncomfortable distance, and not long after that they stop calling, stop returning your calls. For those who remain, eventually they become curious. The questions begin, the why and how. And, sometimes, the curiosity feeds a longing they never even knew they had.
Gwen was the first of my straight friends to take the plunge. After a night of heavy drinking, she climbed into my bed, horny and mumbling vague endearments. Feeling that I would be taking advantage of her drunken condition, I tried to talk her out of it, hoping she would pass out before I lost my resolve. But she didn’t, and my protests grew weaker. When she draped her leg over my hips, trapping me beneath the warm heat of her cunt, I stopped thinking of consequences and did what anyone else would do.The next day, she wouldn’t look at me. Within a few days, she acted as if we had never met. I told myself that I wouldn’t make that mistake again. But then, there was Julianne.
Julianne’s parents had a beach house about two hours away on the coast, and she took me home for the weekend, ostensibly so we could study for mid-terms without distractions. We spent the evening on the sand, drinking margaritas while she entertained me with her long history of sexual conquests. Much later, when the cottages that lined the shore had gone dark and silent, she stripped off her clothes and waded out into the surf up to her hips. Then she turned and stood there, waiting for me, with nothing between us but moonlight and that thing left unsaid. I broke my cardinal rule, and I became yet another of her conquests.
Julianne didn’t turn away from me after that night, although she pretended that nothing had happened between us when we were around other friends. Occasionally, secretly, she came to my bed when the mood struck her. But as time passed, I began to feel that I was just an experiment, more like a lab rat than a lover. After a few weeks, I refused her advances, and told her I just wanted to be friends. That was the end of that, and the end of Julianne.
As I sipped my wine and pondered how to respond to Paige’s question, this sordid history of bi-curious liaisons was uppermost in my mind. Paige was the last of my straight friends. I wasn’t ready to complicate our relationship just because she had decided to take a walk on the wild side.
"Well? Have you?"
"Sort of," I replied, trying to be honest without inviting disaster. "You’re pretty, and you’re a woman. I’m attracted to women, especially pretty ones. I’d be lying if I said that it had never crossed my mind. But our friendship matters much more to me than anything else. I’d never do anything to endanger that."
"What if I maybe wanted you to?" She looked at me with an open expression, an invitation. My ethics scrambled for higher ground and I looked away from her.
"I’d be afraid that you would change your mind later, and decide it was a mistake. Maybe wish it had never happened. And that our friendship would be ruined by it," I admitted. "If you want to try it once, just to have the experience, to see what it’s like, then you should. But I think it shouldn’t be with me."
"Oh." She looked down and stirred her wine with her index finger. I could see that she was hurt by my answer. She must have expected that I would jump at the chance to take her to bed.
"You understand what I’m saying, right? This isn’t about wanting you, or not wanting you… just about the value I place on our friendship. I don’t want to risk it on a one-time thing that you may end up finding is… well…not your cup of tea."
"Sure I understand," Paige smiled as if to shrug away her disappointment. "And you’re right. It’s not worth the risk." We finished our wine in awkward silence. I imagined that she was probably wishing she had never raised the topic. Some things are better left unsaid.
We left the pub and walked through the parking lot to my car. "Where to?" I asked. "It’s only 10 p.m. Want to hit another bar or catch a movie or what?"
"Sure, let’s hit a bar. Take me someplace I’ve never been."
"I think we’ll have to go to a different town then. You’ve been to every bar in this city." I unlocked my door and tossed the keys across the roof of the car to her.
"No, I haven’t. Not to the kind of bars where you go."
"Ah. That kind of bar." I got in the car and started the engine, fiddling with the radio as I tried to decide whether or not this should happen. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be responsible for her initiation. If she hated it, she might hate me too.
"Yeah. A lesbian bar. Will they let me in?"
"I don’t know," I teased. "You don’t have the official Dyke ID."
Paige laughed, undeterred. "Well, I could always slick my hair back and attach my key ring to my belt loop. Will that be good enough?"
"Are you sure you want to do this? You know that women will be hitting on you left and right. Don’t go there if you’re not ready for it."
"Sure, I can deal with that. " She smiled at me confidently. "Katie, I was serious about what I said tonight. I understand that it won’t be you, but I really think want to try it. I’ve thought about it for a long time. I just want you to… help me make the leap. C’mon, bitch. I wanna get laid tonight."
We drove out to the suburbs, to a smaller club where I was friends with most of the regulars. It lacked the glitz and glamour of the trendier places downtown, but I knew it would be less overwhelming to her. My friends could be counted on to respect her limits, whatever they might be. They would flirt with her, but not forcefully or coercively. And, most of all, I knew that Maria would be there, as she was every Friday night. She was expecting me later, and so I knew she wouldn’t have made other plans. I couldn’t think of a better choice for Paige’s initiation. This, I decided, would be my gift to her.
The Body Shop was a late night gathering place, and the crowd was still thin at this hour. Acoustic music and ambient lighting lent a coffeehouse atmosphere. We were greeted warmly by a group of my friends who had already snagged a table in the corner. I introduced Paige around, and I could see that they were watching her with interest, wondering why I was there with a strange woman they hadn’t met before. I always came alone.
We were invited to join the group, and two more chairs were dragged over. I positioned Paige next to Maria and seated myself on the other side.
"Paige is my best friend at college. We roomed together last term," I announced to the table at large. "I’ve mentioned her before, I think?"
"Oh yeah, you have," Maria replied, then turned to Paige. She leaned closer so others wouldn’t hear. "Katie’s talked about you quite a bit. You’re the…um… straight friend, right?"
"Yeah, that’s me," Paige grinned. "You don’t mind that I’ve crashed the party I hope?"
"Hey, the more the merrier," Maria said, beckoning the waitress to bring another pitcher of beer. "And any friend of Katie's is a friend of ours. Can I buy you a drink? Or would that be against the rules of etiquette?"
"Who cares about etiquette? I’m here to have fun tonight. And I’d love some wine," Paige answered, and there seemed an invitation implicit in that simple statement. Maria looked at me and I smiled, giving my blessing to whatever she might have in mind. Pleasantly surprised, she winked at me and turned her full attention to Paige. After a few drinks, they moved to the dance floor. I watched them together, noting the easy way that Paige relaxed against her, gradually drawing closer until they were tightly embraced, no longer strangers.
Near midnight, Maria motioned us aside. "I was thinking I’d head home in a little while and maybe smoke some weed," she said. "You want to go?" The invitation was clearly directed at Paige, but Paige looked at me for an answer. I raised my eyebrows with an innocent grin and shrugged, leaving it to her to decide.
"Sure, it sounds like fun," she replied. "We’ll follow you, okay?"
As we drove the short distance to Maria’s house, Paige babbled with giddy excitement. "Maria’s really nice, you know? And so pretty. You know her well?"
"Yeah, she’s great," I answered. "I’ve known her for a couple of years. She’s a good friend."
"Do you think she’ll… well… do you think she’ll try to…"
"Probably… do you want that to happen?" I asked, ready to turn around if she seemed unsure.
"Yeah, I think so. I mean, the idea of it doesn’t bother me. Does it bother you?"
"No, of course not. Whatever you want is okay with me."
"Will you stay with me?"
"You mean… stay in the room while you’re…?"
"Well… yeah. That probably sounds weird… I know," she stammered. "But -- I think I’d like for you to be there, just in case I change my mind or something. Would that be okay?"
"Sure, I guess so," I replied. "That would be okay." I pulled into the driveway and parked behind Maria’s car. "You ready?"
In the starved beam of light from the street lamp, I could see that Paige was nervous, her teeth nibbling at her bottom lip. But she was smiling. "Yeah. All systems go."
Maria had already lit candles on the coffee table, and had some soft blues playing on the stereo. We opened a bottle of wine and passed around glasses. Paige sat on the couch with Maria, while I took up a position on the floor by the coffee table. There was a pleasant tension in the room, because we all knew what would happen. The only question was when it would begin.
"Ready to smoke that joint now?" Maria asked, looking at me briefly before settling her eyes on Paige. "Wanna?"
"Sure, if Katie wants to," Paige answered.
"Come on. I only smoke upstairs so the living room won’t smell like pot." Maria stood and took her by the hand, leading her up the stairs. I grabbed the bottle of wine and followed.
Maria’s bedroom was a seductive landscape, dark blue walls and a huge bed in the center of the room, draped with white netting and covered with brightly colored silk pillows. We all climbed on the bed and poured more wine while Maria lit candles and turned down the lights. She passed a joint to Paige and reclined on the bed. Her hand rested on Paige’s thigh, slowly caressing, waiting for a response. After a few moments, Paige leaned down to kiss her.
"I’d love to fuck you tonight," Maria murmured, reaching beneath the hem of Paige’s dress. She did not wait for a response, but pulled Paige down to lay beside her, kissing her mouth and neck. I moved to the foot of the bed and curled up near the place where Paige’s head rested. She rolled toward me, nestling her head against the curve of my hip. As if seeking reassurance, she grabbed my hand and pulled it against her cheek.
Maria’s hands moved over Paige’s pale thighs and hips, pushing the black silk of her dress up until it tangled around her waist, leaving her lower torso bare. In the dim light, Paige’s body was a shadowplay of curves and angles, the auburn fur of her pubis visible beneath white lace panties. Maria stroked between her thighs, fingertips pressing into the sheer fabric until Paige’s legs parted slightly.
"Don’t be nervous," she said, pausing to slip Paige’s sandals off and dropping them to the floor. "Nothing will happen tonight that you don’t want."
Maria bent low and began to kiss Paige’s stomach as she worked her fingers inside the panties and slowly drew them down, past her calves and ankles, tossing them aside. She unbuttoned Paige’s dress and pushed it away, pausing to nibble and suck at the taut peaks of her breasts as her hands drifted slowly downward. With gentle pressure, she moved Paige’s legs apart until her thighs were spread wide, open and waiting. I began to regret my decision as I imagined the view I was missing.
Maria caressed her with practiced fingers, stroking the pale softness of her thighs and the cleft between, delving inside with smooth motions. Paige pressed her lips against my hand and moaned, lifting her hips, seeking deeper penetration. Maria crouched between Paige’s legs and brushed her mouth against the open flesh of her sex. "Do you like that?" she whispered.
"Yes, mmmm, yes," Paige breathed, closing her eyes. She laced her fingers through mine as Maria began to go down on her, pressing her thighs up and apart, licking with teasing slowness along the full length of her cunt. The wet sound of Maria’s mouth mingled with Paige’s rising moans and filled the room with the symphony of their lovemaking.
Maria sucked the swollen flesh with increasing pressure and slid two fingers inside, withdrawing only to push deeper. Paige moved her hips to the rhythm of Maria’s persistent exploration, rocking against her mouth with breathless gasps, as if the air in the room had grown thick. Keeping her at the edge, Maria pulled away and languidly licked the moisture from her.
Paige reached for me then,
and I could see in her eyes that she wanted something more. She wanted
me, and there was no uncertainty in her touch as she pulled at my hand
relentlessly until it was between her thighs. She pressed my fingers
against the slick heat of her cunt and held them there, her body in motion
toward the release that she craved. Maria’s tongue was warm and wet
on my skin, coaxing my fingers into the willing flesh that lay beneath.
My hand rested between them, still and undecided, as they waited for me
to finish what they had begun.
Copyright © 2000 Isabelle
Carruthers. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2000 Mind Caviar. All rights reserved. Mind Caviar is a trademark of Two Blondes Productions.