I felt like I’d been kicked in the balls when I smelled the sex on Katherine as she came through the door. Had she played me for a fool? I’d been so eager to see her that I’d waited up. I pulled back as she reached to kiss me and watched the hurt play across her face. I looked into the depth of her eyes as recognition darkened them.
“I’m sorry, babe,” she said. “I’ll explain tonight.”
“I don’t think this can wait.” I grimaced at the tone of hardness in my voice.
“Please bear with me; I’m too exhausted to talk. I love you and only you, but I just can’t talk right now.”
She picked up her bag and struggled upstairs. I felt like a bit of a prick for not helping as I always did, but I just couldn’t bring myself to even this small act of kindness. While pouring an unaccustomed drink of rum and coke, I listened to her performing her bedtime ritual. Anger welled from deep inside me with a fierceness that shocked me. I felt like running upstairs and shaking Katherine until the truth fell out of her.
Long after I’d heard her settle into bed, self-pity and a myriad of other emotions followed rage. How could she do this to me? Hadn’t we vowed to be faithful to each other?
Well, actually no we didn’t, the voice of my honesty reminded me. Katherine had refused to make a vow of fidelity or obedience. She maintained that we could not predict what could happen in the fifty-plus years we had before us. She felt strongly that making a sacred vow that we probably couldn’t keep would be wrong. We’d spent hours discussing what would happen if one of us strayed. And now, my words came back to haunt me.
Hadn’t I been the one who advocated for sex if it was for its own sake? At that time she’d looked at me seriously with those onyx-streaked brown eyes.
“I’m not sure that’s possible, Tim,” she said. “Or if it is, it’s rare. I mean, as soon as you engage in conversation with someone, you’ve started a relationship.”
I recalled gaffawing at that naive sentiment. I said, “Maybe it’s that way for women, but rest assured that a man can have many conversations and indeed multiple sexual encounters without any emotional involvement at all.”
She said, “Several times? How is that possible? I don’t think I could do that with absolutely no emotional involvement.”
“That’s because women are usually looking for something deeper like a life-long relationship,” I said.
“I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. It’s just that I don’t think I could have sex with someone unless I liked the way he looked; for sure unless I liked the way he looked, and I felt safe with him. How would I know if I felt safe with him unless I talked to him?”
As we continued the conversation, I’d grown hornier by the minute as I watched her seriously consider what I had to say. She looked so cute sitting there cross-legged with her head tilted to one side. The ceiling fan gently ruffled her short black hair as she stared intently at me. That’s one thing about Katherine, she certainly is intense; and I’d seen her intense gaze make stronger men than I am squirm.
“So what would you do if I were the one to fool around?” she asked.
“Well, I guess I’d have to kill you,” I said.
“I’m serious, Tim.” The don’t-fuck-with-me tone was out in full force. This was not a trivial matter for her.
“Okay; I’m sorry. I guess that would depend.”
“On whether you had feelings for him. If it was just sex for sex’s sake, it wouldn’t be worth ruining our good relationship for.”
“So you’re saying that let’s say, I met some guy at a conference, got drunk, and ended up having sex with him that you’d be okay with that?
“I don’t know if okay is the way I’d put it,” I said. “Sure, I’d be hurt, but what I’m trying to say is that if it was just sex, then I’d get over it. Our relationship is more important to me than some meaningless sexual encounter.”
I had bitten my tongue to keep from laughing as I watched her struggle with a myriad of emotions. I had been so confident, so cocksure, that she would never be capable of such a meaningless sexual encounter. Then that fist hit me in the balls again; maybe she was in love with this guy. But she’d just said she loves me, and I believed to my core that she loves me deeply. Suddenly I realized what part of my struggle was – I had to be number one in her life, and always had been. Now, I wasn’t so sure.
I spent the rest of the night trying to find a sense of calm that I could bring to our conversation the next day. I thought back to our early days when we’d lived together as roommates who had frequent sex. I couldn’t help but smile as I remembered how inexperienced and curious she had been. Although somewhat damaged by men who had used her badly, she was still eager to explore; and I pushed the boundaries as much as I dared. There was no commitment on either side, and I had the best of both worlds while I explored her and any other woman who interested me.
I laughed out loud as I recalled how Katherine had responded to my encounters with other women. In the very early days, I actually believe that it wasn’t jealousy that drove her fury, but a deep sense of possessiveness – if I was going to have sex, then it should be with her. She was and still has the strongest sex drive I’ve ever seen in a woman. She was not one to make demands on me, but she put her foot down when it came to me having sex with other women in our apartment. A fiery little 20-year-old, she faced me down with arms akimbo and demanded I give her my word or she was moving out; and give her my word, I did. And I only ever broke that word once while she was in the apartment, but that’s a story for another time. But other than that once, she never made demands or ultimatums, which was one of the many reasons I found myself loving her.
As the years moved on and our relationship grew, I watched her battle with her jealousy as physical possessiveness turn to emotional yearning. Even though I hated to admit it, I had battled with some jealousy of my own when she took her turned experimenting with other men. Yet, I’d been reticent to commit to her. It took many years for me to admit my love for her, and even longer to marry her. She teased sometimes that she would be the only woman to go to her grave without having had a date, proposal or bridal shower among other firsts she hadn’t experienced with me. These were the only complaints I could recall and that was part of her attraction.
I ruminated the rest of the night away planning how I would manage the conversation about her infidelity. I must have drifted off because I awoke with a start to the drum of the shower.
Shower? She never showers in the morning. Bitch! She’s avoiding me.
Realizing I was working myself back into a fine frenzy that would get us nowhere, I got up and made coffee. Anything to keep myself busy until she was ready. At long last I heard her coming down the stairs and quickly sat at the table pretending to read the newspaper.
“Good morning,” Katherine said as she poured herself a cup of coffee. “Did you get any sleep?”
“I don’t know about you, but I’m not into small talk this morning. You’ve got a lot of explaining to do, Katherine.”
I watched her eyebrows shoot toward the ceiling, her eyes fixed on mine.
“So it’s that way, is it? Okay, if that’s the way you want it.”
She took what felt like her own sweet time adding cream to her coffee before she sat down across from me.
“Where would you like me to begin?” she asked.
“How about with his name,” I snapped. I surprised myself with the vehemence in my voice, but I had bigger issues to worry about. Would she break our vow of honesty and lie to me? Would she try to hide the truth? I felt my eyes burn into hers as I watched her face for any sign of deception.
“Do you love him?”
“No,” she said and I felt myself relax just a titch.
“Are you having an affair with him?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“You’re being deliberately obtuse, Katherine, and I haven’t the patience for it.”
Her eyes widened at my tone, but she continued to return my gaze without flinching. Knowing her as well as I did, I was sure that her nerves were so bad she felt ready to vomit. I hardened my resolve not to feel for her.
“No, Tim, I’m not being deliberately obtuse, Tim,” she said pronouncing every word. “I just want to give you the answers you need, and I’m not sure what you’re asking me. If you mean am I emotionally involved with him, then the answer is no. If you’re asking if I’ll have sex with him again, then the answer is probably; that is if you can deal with it.”
“If I can deal with it?” Sarcasm dripped off of my tongue. “Deal with it?”
She said nothing. I took a deep breath. This was not going the way I’d imagined.
“Okay; sorry,” I said. “Kat, I thought our sex was the best you’d ever had. I thought you were happy and satisfied with me. Has it all been a lie?”
“No, Tim, no.” Her voice was gentle and full of love. I watched her eyes fill with tears and could imagine the pain she felt knowing she was hurting me.
“No,” she said again, “it’s not that at all. I don’t even know for sure myself, but I’ll try to explain it. I love you and only you. I’m completely satisfied with our love-making. I didn’t go looking for this, Tim; it just happened. I’m trying to figure it out myself. I think that what it is is that occasionally, very occasionally, I get this itch for a certain kind of sex that you can’t completely satisfy because you love me.”
“Give me a break here, Tim. If you want to hear how I feel, then give me a chance to explain, okay?”
I stared at her for a beat, then said, “Okay, continue. What itch?”
“Okay, here goes.” She took a deep breath. “You know how a couple of years ago we started to experiment with dominance with me in the submissive role. I told you how much I liked it and that I wanted to try more, and we’ve had some great sessions. And after each one, I’ve wanted more.”
“More what?” I asked.
“That’s what gets hard to explain,” she said. “More force. To be controlled without being humiliated. Just more. Part of it is an attitude thing, I think, and I’ve discovered that you probably can’t be the one to fill this need because you love me. Connor doesn’t love me, and he’s all about dominance and control. When we were done, I felt like that itch had been scratched, and I think I want to see how far this will go. But I’ll stop now if you say so.”
“Is he married?”
“Yes, very. And he loves his wife, but she can’t give him what he needs in this way either. And we’ve agreed that is all we are willing to share about our lives. This really is about the sex, Tim.”
“How often do you want to see him?”
“I don’t know. Not often.”
“If we decide to go ahead with this, will you tell me when you’re meeting him?”
“If you really want to know, I will.”
I took a moment to think. I’d always fantasized about seeing her with another man, and in one way the thought of hearing about it excited me. On another level, however, I felt too emotionally fragile at the moment to hear the details. Maybe another time.
Katherine sipped her coffee and waited. I could feel the tension and worry radiating from her.
“Okay, here’s the deal,” I said. “I need to meet him.”
“Meet him. You can’t be serious.” Now this sounded more like the Katherine I knew and loved.
“I’m dead serious. I want to see what I think for myself.”
“I don’t think seeing us together will –”
“I didn’t say I wanted the three of us to get together. I said I want to meet him. Alone. Just the two of us.”
“This is not negotiable, Cat. If there’s any hope of us getting past this, I need to do this. Don’t worry. You can let him know that I’’m not interested in any kind of sordid confrontation. I just need to take his measure and satisfy myself that he’s not in love with you. So may I please have his phone number?”
“But I told you, Tim –”
“This is not negotiable, Katherine. Are you going to give me the number or do we take this discussion to another level?”
“Okay. I’ll get it for you.”
As she left to get the number, I wasn’t sure that I was doing the right thing, but time would tell. Time would most certainly tell.