Truth Or Dare

It was around eleven o’clock and the party was progressing well when, in the middle of “Truth or Dare,” Steven Anderson urged his wife to confess the worst thing she had ever done, and she announced she had been unfaithful to him.

There’s a context, a background. There always is. Bonnie wasn’t just being bitchy. She had been drinking. Well, who hadn’t? They were all celebrating the season and the end of the semester. There’s more. She hadn’t been feeling well. There was this persistent chill and a vague malaise in her shoulders. It was almost bad enough to make her miss the party. She thought she might be coming down with something, but Steven had insisted they go.

Then there was the game. They were playing “Truth or Dare” to remind themselves of when they had been kids. The game and the alcohol helped Bonnie a little, but there was a kicker, that she was angry with Steven. Oh, not terribly angry. Just doing a slow burn. (Steve, stop grandstanding! Just be quiet for a change!) He was expounding on the Iraqi war and on global warming, on the worthlessness of their students, on everything in general, being terribly overbearing, finally telling anyone who would listen that the worst thing Bonnie could ever have done was burn a roast.

People were laughing and tossing one-liners, trading urban legends and cutting each other off. They were reaching across to the coffee table to snag nuts or candy or other hors d’oeuvres, sometimes spilling a little wine or whiskey. The small fireplace put a smoky smell into the air, and those sitting close by were ruddy from the flame, even Bonnie, who was trying to draw some warmth from it. Everyone else seemed to be having a wonderful time.

Just before her turn at the game, Bonnie saw Will Jeffries kiss Dina Mclock under the mistletoe. This wasn’t surprising, given all the teasing and flirting that was going on, but it was far too long a kiss, and he had one hand on her waist and the other at her cheek, in a way that was. He whispered something to her. It was obvious, and indiscreet, but no one else noticed. Allison Jeffries was in the middle of the urban legends group. Roger Mclock was three-quarters drunk, staring into the fire and occasionally looking up to howl at the end of a story.

It came around to Bonnie’s turn. She could tell from the progression of dares that hers would be to pull her skirt up to her hips so everyone could be flashed by her thighs and panties. She wondered who would be the first to have to show a body part. Steven was laughing. “Hey! That’s only for me!” — (Stop it!) — leering around — (Stop it!) — then saying “Come on, Margie! Tell them your little truthie,” and Bonnie felt the muscles around the base of her neck grow tense, thinking (Damn it, Steve!) and getting wound tighter and tighter, so when it slipped out it was with a snarl:

“I was unfaithful! To you!”

And then it was too late not to say it.

* * * * *

Bonnie remembers that her husband’s expression didn’t change at first. He held the leer, but it became more and more forced, until finally he let it go. They were looking directly at each other, and his expression became so bland he seemed almost serene. The room filled with silence. The party noise didn’t dial down all at once, but it was quick enough. Those who were closest by had begun to howl like Roger Mclock when they first heard her confession, but they’d caught on right away. Those away from the game kept up their conversations until it became clear to them that something momentous was happening over by the fireplace. All ultimately turned to stare. Bonnie was the center of the world. No one spoke. Even Roger was paying attention.

“Would you explain?” It was Steven. He was no longer being Steve. He sounded sober, quiet, thoughtful, not the least bit belligerent. She would have thought he’d be belligerent. Why was he being so soft about it?

She thought, `My marriage!’

Then the full truth of who knew hit her. Their whole circle of friends. All of them sitting or standing around her, all of them waiting for the whole story, the dirt, the stuff that would let them feel superior to her and to shun her. Did she suck him? Does she like anal? Does she do threesomes? Did she pull the train? They would become so charged up with thoughts of a found-out, honest-to-fuck cheater in their midst, a bona fide, flesh-and-blood slut to replace their pale imaginings, that they’d have extra-good sex when they got home. How wonderful to have Bonnie’s real infidelity in mind. The husbands would suppose that she’d be easy, and the wives would think it too, and fear it, but they’d enjoy the idea that Steve-the-cuckold might need consolation. One in particular would even act on the fantasy, though that’s neither here nor there.

(Oh Steve, please no.) Bonnie was still looking at Steven, then her friends, again at her husband. She doesn’t know when her hand moved to her mouth. (Steve.) She remembers a whine or cry forcing itself past her hand, but for what seemed the longest time she didn’t actually say anything. She was asking his forgiveness only with her eyes. (Please.) She remembers somehow getting to her feet. (Please.) She remembers looking around, finally saying “I’m sorry” while she tried to get out of the circle without touching anyone, one “I’m sorry” to each person she came to, each person she bumped against. Finally making it to the hall, where there weren’t any people, then to the bathroom, shutting the door, locking it, sitting on the toilet, putting her face in her hands and rocking forward and back, because she knew that with five words she had destroyed her world.

* * * * *

It can’t have been long before the knocking started.

Poor Bonnie, sitting on the pot in a freezing bathroom in someone else’s house, knowing what would happen — not every step but the terrible, long course. Thousands, millions of people have shared the experience, but she did not feel part of a community. Poor Bonnie, trembling and wiping her face with her palms, first the left side, then the right, then the left. How much of the trembling was shivering? (I can’t face him. I can’t watch him despise me.) By now, Steven would be gone. He would have grabbed his coat and left her there alone, his outrage having been multiplied by his public humiliation. (Where will I stay?)

The bathroom felt like a cell, all the better for locking herself away, she thought. It was small like a cell. From the door to the back wall it had just barely enough length for a small linen closet, a plain sink below an ordinary medicine cabinet with a weak light, the toilet, and the one fancy thing — an old-fashioned bathtub with four claw feet. It was perfect for her. The tiny, casement window at the back wall had milky glass, so she was cut off from the world. It was cold like a cell. Was that because it was all tiles, colorless ones, black and white, set in checkerboard? So cold. Bonnie hunched down and hugged her arms close to her body. She couldn’t hear the people from in here, just vague murmurings, so she was safe for now. She imagined staying forever. It would soon be a terribly lonely place, but she didn’t deserve any better. (I fucked him and fucked him.) There was no other place for her. Could she stand the cold? Maybe she could wrap some towels around herself. What would happen when other people needed to use the toilet?

More knocking. It seemed to reverberate off the tiles. Even the sounds hurt her. Sharp noises ricocheting off the walls. Bonnie pressing her palms to her temples. Hammers in her head.

“Margie?” It was Ellen, the hostess, her friend. Bonnie looked at the door for a moment and pulled more tightly into herself, to resist the chill. Again, “Margie. Hey, let me in, kiddo.”

“Ellen?” Was her voice strong enough to get though the door? Rise up, Bonnie. It was a trip of only seven feet, but Ellen called a third time before she got there. By then, she was shivering terribly and her arms ached from the holding. When she opened the door and saw Ellen was smiling, she fell on her, put her head on her friend’s shoulder, and broke down completely. For her part, Ellen let her stay a minute, patting her back. She seemed completely at ease, as though friends fell on her neck in her bathroom and cried every evening. “Come on, kiddo. Let’s wash your face. I’ll heat you a washrag.”

“Close the door.” Bonnie was shivering enough to put a quaver in her voice.

“What?”

“Please close the door.” Shivering. “I don’t want anyone to see me.”

“It’s okay.”

“Please close it!” That effort took what was left out of Bonnie. She staggered to the toilet and sat and, when she did, she sagged to one side with an eddy of vertigo or syncope.

“Sure. But it’s okay. Steve explained everything.”

Bonnie blew on her hands. She put a hand on the side of the tub and leaned, to stop the bathroom from rocking. Then she turned and gave her friend a look of complete incomprehension. It would have been funny in a comedy. Pure shtick, the character taking long moments to realize what she had just heard. Or Wile E. Coyote running across the air, delaying his doom by lack of realization. It wasn’t at all funny to Bonnie, who didn’t get the joke because there wasn’t any joke. “What do you mean?”

Ellen’s face changed. “Ohhhh!” She blew a quiet little whistle, the kind used mostly by men, that signals significance. “Well, that explains it. He’s covering for you, and doing a pretty good job, I might add. He’s a quick-thinking guy.”

“I don’t understand. What are you saying? What’s Steve doing that?”

“He explained that you two cooked up your, um, confession in advance, but you never expected people to take you so seriously, and you’ve had a few too many drinks. You know. Yadda yadda. People want to apologize to you, but he’s telling them you need a few minutes alone. He’s got them telling drunken-friends stories. He’s the center of attention again.”

Bonnie still looked like she didn’t understand. Finally, she put her face back down in her hands. “No one would believe that.”

“Well I was almost fooled.” Ellen chuckled. It had a snide sound. “Anyway, you have deniability.”

“But,” began Bonnie, and almost stopped, “he knows the truth.” And therein lay the real problem, the one without a solution, to be contemplated while Bonnie huddled on the toilet, now sensing the beginning of nausea. Now grabbing the seat below her to make it stay still, and was awash in memories.

* * * * *

(Their bathroom was different. One afternoon we did it in their house while his kids were home. How could they not notice me? We did it in the shower, fornicating under the water jet while Ted’s children were watching TV downstairs, not forty-five minutes before Janet was due home. I had to dry myself and rush getting my clothes back on, then sneak out the side door. My hair was still wet and dripping down my back. I was terrified the whole time, terrified and hot.)

“What? I’m sorry.” Whatever Bonnie had was getting worse, She was too weary to hold herself up. (I need to lie down.)

“I asked, when did it happen?”

Bonnie wiped her eyes with the washrag. She unfolded it, spread it completely over her face, and inhaled the heat. “It was a long time ago. It started the night of our tenth anniversary.”

“Oh my! Sounds like you had some serious issues.”

“It wasn’t that serious. It was stupid. Steve hadn’t gotten me a present. And he had to cancel our dinner out because of a meeting. I was hurt, and furious.”

“And you ran into Mr. Soft-Shoulders.”

“More like Professor Gorgeous.” (Please stop pushing.) Ellen reached out and Bonnie handed her the washrag. Ellen soaked it in hot tap water, wrung it out, and gave it back to her.

“Who was it?”

“Don’t. He’s not here anymore. No one ever knew. Not until tonight.”

She couldn’t keep it from herself, though. She couldn’t keep from remembering because she was weak with whatever she was catching, and the drinks, and what she had said. It was so small a thing in the big picture, being upset with your husband. Then she saw good-looking Ted Jackson, at the club without his wife, and they got to flirting. She thought she shouldn’t dance with him, but she did. She knew he shouldn’t walk so close, but she let him. She was afraid something would happen, and she let his hand first brush her hip, then hold her fingers. When they got to her car he said, “What you need is a good anniversary kiss.” He gave her a sweet, almost chaste kiss that went on and on and became something completely different. (Before he let me up, I knew he was going to have me.)

“So how long did it last?”

“Three months.”

“Three… oh my goodness.” Ellen’s eyebrows rose high. She whistled again. It was the exact whistle Steven used. “I thought maybe you fell off the wagon for a weekend.”

“No. I fell off big time.” Bonnie tried to laugh, but it came out as a whimper.

“I guess it was the real deal.”

“It was so crazy. I know people say that, but it was.”

Ellen asked something else, but the past came back and pushed Ellen aside. It made Bonnie remember the first time, in Ted’s minivan in the parking lot at the club. She remembered herself saying “No. We can’t. Not here,” and Ted answering, “Watch.” It took a couple of minutes to lower the back seats. There was a plush sleeping bag. The windows were tinted. It wasn’t until weeks after he broke it off that she realized he had prepared for her, or for someone.

“Are you all right? I mean physically?” Ellen was still there.

“I don’t feel very well.”

Not Saturday night at the party, but six years earlier, Bonnie had felt impelled, excited, scared, unspeakably high. Ted Jackson and she had French kissed, and he had squeezed her breasts through her dress. He’d unbuttoned the dress, pulled her bra up, and licked a nipple. (I was out of my mind.) He’d worked the dress down to her waist and up from her legs, petting her, kissing her, removing the bra entirely, pulling off her panties and fingering her like her senior-year boyfriend had. (I felt guilty, but I wanted it. I knew I shouldn’t but I wanted it too much. It was electrifying.) Finally, he’d pulled his pants down and gotten on top of her, and when he’d pushed his erect penis inside her, the first new penis in twelve years, she had come, and kept on coming, one wave after another, until he was finished. (My God. Why did you have to let it be so much more exciting than sex with Steve? Why couldn’t it have been awful? I’m sorry, God. It’s not your fault.)

It was exactly like high school except that she came and she hadn’t back then. Neither was even naked. Her dress was rumpled around her middle. His pants were down at his knees, but he hadn’t bothered to pull off his shoes or remove his jacket. Floating outside the minivan was a thought of Steven, and how she was fouling the nest and should get home. But, inside, Bonnie felt the pressure of Ted’s penis, the dampness between her legs, aftershocks from her vulva — and the weight of a man who wanted her, who planted intimate little kisses on her, and who bathed her in hot breaths.

At home it was different. Steven was absolutely apologetic, as hang-dog as a man can be. He’d gotten her a nice card, and flowers, and an expensive bracelet. He promised to make the evening up to her. But. But, but, but. He was too late for all that. He had failed her. And there was still the humming up and down her slit, put there by another man, and the memory of the rush. And – (Oh my God!) – her thighs were damp. She could smell the sex. She hurried into the bathroom to cleanse herself and became so horrified that she almost confessed everything to Steven that very night. But — the final but — she had lain awake until 3:30 a.m., playing back the details of Ted Jackson pumping her. When he had called her the next day, she’d dithered and hedged and finally agreed to go to his house. (I’ll explain to him why I can never do that again.)

By the end of the day it got a lot easier.

* * * * *

Six years into the future, Bonnie couldn’t stop her memories and couldn’t shield herself from the understanding that her actions had finally struck her husband, her marriage, her family, everything. (Why did it have to happen? It almost didn’t seem like me, but it was me all right. I thought about you all the time. I obsessed about your body, about your penis. All day I thought about doing it with you, wondering how you’d use it on me next. After I’d been with you in the afternoon, I’d think about it that night. I’d be out of sorts until I could be with you again.)

More knocking. A quiet double-knock.

“That will be Steve. I’ll leave you two alone.”

“No! Don’t leave me with him.”

But Steven wouldn’t have it. “We need to be alone, Ellen.”

Steven closed the door and Bonnie rose and stepped back against the tub, far enough that she pushed the shower curtain with her body. Her feet were now cold, all the way up her shins. Somehow the curtain felt prickly and bad where it touched her skin. She didn’t have any strength. The shivering was worse. It wracked her in surges. It was time to sit again, wasn’t it, or lie down? She couldn’t keep standing like this. Would Steven understand if she couldn’t stand? She couldn’t look him in the face anymore, not even to plead with him, certainly not to ask if it was all right to sit. Here is where retribution began. She was almost rocking as she tried to stand still. She held her hands together in front of her, as though in prayer, and Steven… well, Steven took a breath and asked:

“Are you all right, honey?”

His voice was soft again. His Steven voice. It wasn’t right. He would use the voice that cut through her. He would demand an explanation, or he’d tell her he was through with her, or he’d slap her. She half-hoped he’d hit her but at least let her go home with him. (Whatever you did to me, I’d deserve it.)’ She tried not to start crying again. (That won’t fix anything.)

“I’m so sorry, Steve.”

“Oh, that’s all right. I was being an asshole. I deserved it.”

“That’s not it, darling. You know it’s not. I never meant for you to find out.” Tiny black dots, a mist, began to appear in the air.

“About the affair? Well, that was a long time ago. I think Ted Jackson is out of the picture. At least I hope he is.”

Steven smiled and, once again, Bonnie didn’t understand. She tried to think, but instead she felt something terrible happening inside her. The room grew darker, and she sensed a rushing, and the next thing she knew she was sitting on the edge of the tub and Steven was kneeling in front of her, holding her so she wouldn’t fall into it. He was apologizing. “I’m sorry, honey. Lean on me. That’s good. Put your head down. Okay. Okay. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have shocked you like that.”

He sounded far away.

* * * * *

They were floating somewhere, Bonnie and Steven, drifting together among the clouds. Maybe it was a dream. She was wrapped in him, safe in his arms, held by him, pressed against him, smelling him, protected by him. (My Steve.) They were floating somewhere far away, high above the ground, somewhere green and tropical. She and her husband. It was a blazing hot day. It felt wonderful.

“Can you hear me?” Her Steve was talking. Then, “My God, now you’re burning up.”

Bonnie was aware again, and she had some awful combination of muscle-pain and weakness, and dizziness. Her head ached. Her eyes were wet. “Steve? What’s happening?”

They were on the checkerboard-patterned floor, beside the tub in the Edwards’ bathroom, where Steven was holding her. He was stroking her face, kissing her, and looking worried. Her face was hot. Her whole body was radiating heat.

“Lie still.”

“I’m sorry Steve.”

“You’ve definitely got a bad bug, honey. I’ve got to get you home.”

Bonnie tried to stretch out a leg. It was caught behind the toilet. She twisted, writhed in Steven’s arms, and suddenly she knew what he had said, the importance of it. (He knows! And he still loves me!) Once again a comedic shtick, once again nothing funny about it, for what comes with that knowledge? Guilt, relief, regret, thankfulness, humiliation. Memories. It’s a potent blend. Bonnie began crying once again, but this time she did it into Steven’s chest and let him comfort her. (He loves me!) She couldn’t stop crying, because Steven loved her.

* * * * *

Steven let Bonnie cry herself out. He spent the time extricating her leg and adjusting her body, so that she could lie more comfortably, then he put his mouth to her forehead. “Shh. It’s okay, honey.” He was holding her like he often did after they made love.

When Bonnie could talk at all she said, “I thought you’d hate me.”

“You’re my sweetheart. Don’t worry. Nothing’s coming between us.”

She cried some more, then asked, “How long have you known?”

“From the beginning. No. Don’t look that way. I don’t know exactly when it started, not the day and hour, but I knew for a few weeks before it ended.”

He, too, could keep a secret. (I wish I didn’t know so much. You never thought to empty the deleted email folder on your laptop. It was too easy to find out everything important. I could even tell the investigator where you would be, in advance, so he could get the photos.)

Bonnie made a sound against Steven’s chest, half a cry, half a whimper, a moan, something. (Weeks!) “Oh my baby!” Steven just kissed her head again.

“It’s okay. It’s past.” He raised his head and called out. “Ellen! Can you get Margie something cold and sugary to drink?”

“But you never showed it.”

What Steven said was, “I couldn’t let you know. I had to decide what to do. And it’s past.” What he thought was this: (If you knew how much I covered up hating you, you’d be terrified. I’d never felt that way in my life.)

Bonnie reached a hand up to his face, but she felt too shy to actually touch him, now that she knew he knew. “It must have hurt you so much.”

“Yes. It did.”(It still does sometimes.) He took her hand and kissed it. “And we don’t have to go over it.”

Steven tried to help Bonnie to her feet, but she grew lightheaded again, so they went back down to the floor. He called to Ellen and her husband again, and Bonnie was again assaulted by memories. (I thought I was so careful. I thought if we had sex once in a while and I gave you a nice `O’ show, you would think everything was fine.)

There were questions Bonnie didn’t want to ask, but now had to. They were of the things she’d known would be the cost if Steven ever found out, that she had worried about, on and off, across the years. She had to ask him now, because he’d known all along.

“How could you stand to stay with me?”

To this, a sigh. Bonnie felt it in Steven’s chest as much as heard it. “I saw a `Dear Abby’ column. A woman asked what she should do about her philandering husband, and Abby told her to decide whether she’d be better off with him or without him. I followed the advice.” Another sigh. (I’d want you. I’d want to hurt you. I’d want what was best for the kids.)

“But how could you still love me?” Bonnie almost didn’t ask that question, because she was afraid he would decide, after all this time, that he didn’t.

“That was harder.” For a long time he thought he didn’t. (I was trying to be practical.) That changed when he’d remembered how they had been before, how once they had held hands, and talked, and walked with arms around each other, and played. He remembered the little things she had done for him because she was affectionate. (Somehow, I’d grown irritated with you. Why? You took time away from my work. You talked about things that bored me. You didn’t do chores efficiently. Stupid things. We argued over nothing, Margie. It wasn’t all bad. It was just flat. Why wouldn’t you look around?)

What he said was, “But I missed you, and realized I’d lost you, and my only hope was to win you back.”

Bonnie noticed the hesitation in Steven’s voice. She saw him stare at nothing in particular. A towel rack. The door. (You loved me all along. You did. Even then.) She touched her hand all the way to his face, and when she moved the syncope grew worse.

Steven helped Bonnie to stand again, leaning against him, then swung his left arm under her knees and picked her up like a child. (My poor darling. I once believed, because you’re so powerful, that you couldn’t be hurt.) The room rocked and then they were out in the hall. Bonnie’s right arm was swinging back and forth, like a doll’s arm. She couldn’t hear people. (I must have broken up the party.) She pulled her arm from down below, all the way up to Steven’s neck, pulling herself in with whatever energy she could find, so that her face was at his shoulder. “My strong man,” she whispered. He smiled. (Would you carry me like this if you knew just how bad I was? Could you still love me? Could you stand to even touch me? I’ll tell you if you ask, but please don’t ask.)

Steven carried her into a den in the back of the house. The room was all wood–floors, walls, ceilings. To Bonnie it was like a shelter deep in the woods. Safe with her Steven, who took care of everything. (What if you knew about the time in Ted’s office? He made me take off my clothes and masturbate right in front of him, then suck him all the way. Students were waiting out in the hall, to see him. I don’t want you to know about that. I don’t want you to know how turned on I got when I thought about it later.)

Steven lay her on a leather couch and took a glass of apple juice from Ellen, and helped Bonnie drink. Ellen rested the fingers of one hand on Steven’s thigh while Bonnie sipped. She wasn’t obvious about it, and Steven ignored her.

(This is so much better, Margie. It’s so good being tender to you. How long did I want to crush you? I wish you hadn’t brought it back up. At one point I planned to convert everything to cash and disappear with the twins. When you got home, we’d be gone. All you would have would be the photos from your affair. But then there was the other side.)

Ellen left again.

“I remember what you did. I didn’t know why you were suddenly so sweet.” Bonnie’s forehead was now covered in a fine sweat. “Right after it ended. That was when you arranged the surprise trip to Blowing Rock, just us two, and your mother came in to baby-sit the twins.”

“Yeah. Part of my plan. I didn’t know what I’d do if you refused to go. It was either that or… I don’t know.” A shrug. He was losing the words. “I didn’t know if it was already too late.” So much had changed. (When we were first together, you’d sparkle when you were around me. That’s the word my mother used. Sparkle. I thought it was silly. Childish. It embarrassed me. Then you weren’t sparkling anymore.)

“What if…?” She almost stopped herself. “What if it hadn’t ended then?”

“You were both married. You both had kids. I had to count on it.”

Bonnie didn’t need to know everything, didn’t need to know Steven had stormed into Jackson’s office with copies of the photos, and told him, “If you ever see my wife again, I’m giving these to Janet and passing them around the university! You call Bonnie this minute and tell her it’s over — that you’re tired of it!” (I could have killed that motherfucker.)

“Well, you were right. He dumped me.”

(And I surprised myself by feeling sorry for you, at how sad you became. I would have thought I’d bask in the glow of your broken heart. But that was my chance to come back into the picture.) All Steven said was, “He was a dick.”

Bonnie knows Ted was more than a dick. He was a dick without a conscience or limits. While Steven helped her to her feet, her face hot, her body hot, her energy draining to the floor, Bonnie was remembering. (Once he just pushed me over the back of his divan and did me from behind. I didn’t want him to come, because he’d stop.)

“How could you ever trust me again?”

“It just took time.” (I know when I became certain you wanted me again. I was grading papers, and you leaned over the chair to kiss my head, and you played your hands over my nipples. You asked, Don’t you need to come to bed? Maybe I could tell you that. I also snooped in your laptop for over two years. I still do, every so often. I’ll never tell you that.)

Bonnie raised her head as though she was going to make a point, then stumbled from the den, though the hall with her hand across her mouth, back to the bathroom, where she began throwing up onto the toilet seat. Steven followed her and held her hair out of the way. When Ellen looked in he said, “I’m sure it’s the flu.” They let her retch until she was empty, then carefully, ever so carefully, helped her out to the car, half carrying Bonnie, who was still remembering despite everything, the nausea, her shoulders, her head: grunting and pounding against Ted to wring her last climax from a session. Being completely winded and sweaty. Dozing, tangled in each other.

* * * * *

The next day, Bonnie was sweaty and winded in bed at home, and dizzy, nauseous, guilty, miserable. Steven had set a plastic trashcan beside her, in case her stomach took her short, and a travel-mug of iced ginger ale. When she thought she couldn’t eat anything, he proved her wrong by bringing in soda crackers and a cold, peeled, navel orange, and when he set them down she grabbed him around the waist and held onto him like she was drowning.

“I love you so much!” She was crying again. Maybe it was weakness from the flu. Maybe it was relief at being unburdened. Maybe it was love. “I promised myself I’d never do anything like that again. I promise I’ll never hurt you again.”
 
“I love you too, honey. And I know you love me.” (You began acting sweet to me. I thought you loved me again, but it seemed too soon. Then one day I surprised you at your office at lunchtime, and you began to sparkle.)

Steven peeled her arms away and tucked her back in bed. Her eyes were still feverish. He took her temperature, then kissed her.

“Don’t. You’ll catch it too.”

“Then you can nurse me.” She pulled him back down and kissed him. It made her dizzy. Everything made her dizzy.

“I want to do that. I want to nurse you. And I want to make love.”

“You’re on. That’ll be the best way to catch it.”

“Steve. If I ever so much as look at another man, will you please beat me?”

“I promise. I’ll smack you right on the kisser.” He made a fist and touched it lightly to her lips. (I’d hurt you. The next time I would.)

“I’m serious!”

“So am I.” He laughed and kissed her forehead. (I might kill you.)

Steven had to go back to the kitchen, to make dinner for the twins, so Bonnie had plenty of time to think. There was so much she couldn’t tell him, ever. (You don’t understand, my darling. I love you so deeply, you could never know. But I was never your rutting bitch. I wish I had been that way with you. It’s the worst thing about the whole period, how thrilling it was.)

As Bonnie was drifting off, she thought that Steven would certainly catch the flu from her, and she would be able to care for him. When the bug made him as weak as a kitten, she would give him a long, slow blowjob into the night, to thank him for loving her. She could hardly wait.

Meanwhile, Steven went on line to check that Ted Jackson was still at a university far away.


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