At sixteen, Catharine Lewis had the sexed-up, predatory walk of a 35-year-old woman. It wasn't menacing, per se. It was self-assured. Supremely confident. And it had a devastating effect on me. Watching Catharine walk down the hall made my heart hurt and my skin buzz in a way I'd never experienced before.
And so it began. My world revolved around trying to get close to Catharine. For her part, she was happy to oblige. She wasn't attracted to me. If she was curious, she kept it to herself. No, Catharine toyed with me for one simple reason: I had a car.
To the raging disapproval of my mother, I became Catharine's personal chauffeur. When she needed a ride to her boyfriend's house, she called me. I was always available to give her a lift downtown, or home from school, wherever she needed to go. I'd break plans with my friends -- friends who actually cared about me -- just to be near her for an hour. Such was the depth of my teenage anguish.
What I remember most about that time were the tortured sleepovers. Perhaps they were Catharine's version of payment for services rendered. We'd stay in the guestroom and sleep in its double bed. I'd spend the night in a state of heightened awareness, smelling her hair on the pillow next to me, listening to her breathe, praying that her foot would brush against my leg. And if it did, did she mean it? Was she awake? What if I rolled up against her, feigning a deep, inviolable slumber, and my arm somehow, let's say, fell over her shoulders? Who could blame me? Everyone knows that the sleeping are beyond reproach.
Of course, I never did any such thing. I had professed my love, like an idiot, early on in the infatuation. The ball was squarely in her court as far as I was concerned. I was too scared to test the waters without her go-ahead. Catharine had complete control and she knew it. A tilt of her head, an "accidental" brush of her hand, and I was driving twenty miles out of my way, late for school again.
The chapter's final power play came just a few days after my high school graduation. I was a year ahead of Catharine, which meant I'd be leaving her behind. On to better things, I'd hoped. On to girls -- no, women -- who might actually want me. Like clockwork, Catharine called my house as I was on the way out the door to a graduation party. She wanted to see me, and like a dutiful servant, I decided to skip the first half of the party to answer her call.
She came to the door in a sundress. This I remember. The dress was blue like her eyes, and her bare shoulders showed the pink flush of a late-spring day spent in the sun. It was afternoon, and light was streaming into the entryway of her parent's nouveau-riche McMansion. I heard the Cowboy Junkies playing on her stereo upstairs, and thought: this is good. This is definitely good. We chit-chatted. Her parents were out, the day was beautiful, she looked great, blah, blah, blah. All the while, Catharine inched closer.
"Let's dance," she said, as if it were something that happened every day. I prayed that my knees wouldn't shake.
Catharine put her arms around me and our bodies were flush against each other. We began to sway. Margot Timmons sang "Sweet Jane. Oh, sweet, sweet Jane," in her dusky, somnolent alto that can still move me to tears, dreams, or lust, depending on my state of mind. Catharine sang along in my ear. I felt her breath on my neck, her hair brushing my cheek, and I wondered -- is this really happening? In retrospect, it was all too much. Too calculated, too contrived. But at seventeen, it was a slice of heaven. At seventeen, moments like this were not only possible, they were probable. A decade of John Hughes movies had promised us nothing less. And I, for one, believed in the gospel of Pretty in Pink.
"Postcard Blues" was the next track, a song that churns with so much sex just below the surface, it constantly threatens to boil over. When the plaintive bass line finally tumbled in, Catharine whispered, "Kiss me."
We met in a sweet, charged, tentative first kiss. Our lips were barely parted, just enough to feel her breath in my mouth. She lingered there for a three count at best, then pulled away.
Catharine kept her eyes locked on mine, her arms still around me. "I don't want to confuse anything between us," she said, then settled back into my embrace.
I lied automatically. "I'm not confusing anything," I said. "Don't worry."
But Catharine had one more trick up her sleeve. Her lips trailed along my neck, and down onto my shoulder. "Well, I am," she said, breathy and practiced.
Utterly whipped, I managed to stammer out, "I guess I am, too." But really, what did that even mean?
At the sound of my confession, Catharine pulled away. And a needle scratched across the proverbial record of what had suddenly become the "Most Perfect Moment Of My Young Life."
Catharine looked at me. "That's it then, isn't it?" she said. "I've got a boyfriend. There's really nothing else to say." She stepped away from me and added, "You can leave now."
And that's where memory fails me. I don't recall how I got out of there, what I said, or how I got home. There were no Thompson Twins playing "If You Were Here," no birthday candle happy ending. Catharine had delivered the ultimate mind-fuck. When the glow of my first girl on girl kiss finally wore off -- and I will admit, it took a while -- I was left with a seething sense of indignation. How could you do such a thing, Catharine?
Somehow, I managed to survive. If my teenage self was cursed with the ability to feel every emotion tenfold, it was balanced with the gift of easy distraction. At college, I met women who were more than happy to help me discover my sexuality. And with each encounter, Catharine was pushed further back into my memory.
Fast-forward four years. I had reinvented myself, but not necessarily for the better. Catharine might have remembered me as a hippie girl, with long hair, flowing India print skirts, and a mistrust of shoes. I had been sweet, gullible, and desperately unsure of myself as she knew me last. But I returned to my hometown triumphantly -- at least in my own mind. I'd traded skirts for Levi's, long hair for short, Birkenstocks for Doc Martens. And most importantly, I'd upgraded my insecurity to a false bravado bordering on cocky. I now wore my fear on the inside of a motorcycle jacket.
Catharine still lived in town. She still haunted the same coffee shops and the same record stores. It wasn't long before I ran into her.
She looked exactly the same when I saw her flipping through the folk section of Second Avenue Records. Her jet-black hair fell over her face, hiding her eyes, just as it had in the snapshot I'd kept in a shoebox under my bed all through school. I watched her for a few minutes, and felt a wave of sadness. I was seeing the Catharine I thought I knew. The Catharine I had defended when my friends all claimed she was a manipulative bitch. I thought she was beautiful and fragile, soft in places that only I could see. And she had let me in, from time to time. Hadn't she?
I stepped toward her. "Catharine?"
She glanced up, looking past me, confused.
"Catharine," I repeated.
Finally, she saw me. "Alex! What are you doing here?"
I walked toward her and we hugged.
"I'm staying with my parents for a few weeks," I said. "God, it's great to see you."
Catharine stood staring at me, almost looking perplexed. "You look -- wow. I mean -- you look totally different. You look great."
"Thanks," I said. "So do you."
There was an awkward pause, and the air was thick with things left unsaid.
Catharine broke the silence. "Do you want to have dinner some time or something?"
"That'd be great," I said. And I meant it. "Why don't I give you a call later and we'll figure it out."
"Well how about tonight?" Catharine asked.
"Actually, I'm on my way to pick up some friends right now."
"That's fine," Catharine said. But she didn't leave it at that. "Do you mind if I bum a ride?"
There were so many ways I could have answered that question, the simplest being "Sorry, I'm pressed for time." But that response would have required a level of maturity I had not yet achieved. Instead, I replied, "Sure." Because in the back of my head, a plan was beginning to form. I had seen the way Catharine looked at me.
We left the store together and walked a few short Portland blocks to my car. We drove home, catching each other up on our stories, and with every mile, the flirtation became more intense. I found out that she'd slept with several women while I was away, and when I sounded surprised, she confessed to having had her first same sex encounter during high school.
"What?" I was shocked. "Who? When?"
"I can't believe I didn't tell you this. I'm sure I did," Catharine said. She was backpedaling.
"No, I'm quite sure you didn't, Catharine." I tried to keep the hurt out of my voice.
"Well, it wasn't a big deal," she said, in an attempt to smooth it over. "It was that girl from the choir retreat. Remember her? Lisa somebody-or-other? You gave us a ride to the hot tub place. Remember?"
"I gave you a lot of rides, Catharine."
Catharine seemed oblivious to the sucker-punch she'd delivered and started in on the story. I listened, feeling a familiar sense of betrayal. She had been my first love. But to Catharine, I'd been nothing more than a friend of convenience.
Once again, I'd ditched my friends and driven forty-five minutes out of my way. And for what? To have sex with a girl who was totally unaware of anything but herself? A girl who had broken my heart for the sport of it?
Hell, yeah. Then and there I knew, fuckin'-a, right on, you bet I was going to. This was the chance of a lifetime.
I decided to tip my cards, settling into a flirty tone of voice as I asked, "So, was it a good fuck?"
Catharine turned to look at me. I watched her read the situation, saw her make the connection. She smiled that mischievous, knowing half-smile that had lead to my undoing so many times before. "It was okay." She said, purring a little. And the door was opened.
By the time we pulled up in front of her house, it was clear I wouldn't be meeting my friends any time soon. She didn't ask me to come in. It was understood. I stepped inside, right behind her, and closed the door. Catharine turned and faced me without a word. I looked down at the floor, then up to meet her eyes, with my head slightly down, as if looking over a pair of imaginary glasses. I'd like to say I hadn't practiced that look in the mirror, hadn't used it in bars on strangers, but I can't. It was a posture that gave me the feeling of being in complete control of the situation.
I stepped toward her. She stood her ground. I reached up, took her face in my hand, then leaned in to kiss her. No more shy kisses. Her mouth was as soft as I'd remembered, warm and wet. But this time, there was no hesitation from her. I ran my hands down her neck, to her back, along her sides, drawing a map of all the places I'd never been allowed to visit. She smelled exactly the same, a mixture of skin and perfume that reminded me of early autumn, like earth and leaves and dampness. I trailed my tongue along her neck, tasting her body for the first time, and I heard her take a quick, sharp breath. She held on tighter.
Almost stumbling, I led her over to the couch. We leaned against it, my thigh between her legs. Our hips made slow, lazy circles together. Just a little pressure in the right places, but not quite enough. As we kissed, the grinding became more insistent. I felt her hands slide down my back and grab my ass.
"What do you want, Catharine?" I asked. My hands moved up her shirt. She bit my lip by way of answer.
"Catharine," I said, "What do you want?"
We kissed harder.
Finally, she pulled away just long enough to say, "You."
"Let me hear you say it."
She made a deep, low growl of desire and pleading.
"That's not good enough," I said. I was hitching up her skirt. My hand progressing up the side of her thigh, just to the edge of her underwear. I would go no further until I heard her ask for it.
She answered me by grinding harder into my leg. I pulled away and lessened the pressure. She took my retreat as an opportunity to pull off her shirt. I grabbed her by the waist and pulled her closer again, this time putting my hand under her skirt and between her legs. I ran a single finger over the top of her underwear as softly as I could. She was wet right through the fabric.
"What do you want, Catharine?"
"Oh Jesus, Alex," she said. Her face was a picture of frustration. "I want you to make me cum."
I smiled. "That's all I needed to hear."
With a movement that rivaled ballroom dance, I turned Catharine around, guiding her to double over the arm of the couch. I pulled her skirt off and positioned myself behind her, leaning over her, kissing her bare back, running my hands between her thighs and between her legs. She almost whimpered.
"Do you want these off?" I teased, pulling on her underwear.
"Yes, please." She had moved beyond being coy, so I rewarded her straightforward answer with the swift removal of her thong. I was beside myself with wanting her, but I could deal with the ache in my pussy later. I pressed myself into her from behind, my leg between her thighs again, and reached around to roll her nipples between my fingers. Catharine was making a wet spot on my jeans.
Finally, I backed away enough to part her legs with my hands. Catharine moaned her approval. I slipped one hand over her ass, then down between her legs, still not touching her directly. I could feel how warm she was without even making contact. I took two fingers and stroked her from the middle of her pussy, to her clit and back again. Soft, teasing strokes, the kind that make you swollen beyond belief. There are orgasms born of furious wanking, and there are orgasms that spill out of you, almost against your will, simply from the suggestion of a touch. I was gunning for the latter.
"Fuck, Alex. My God."
Apparently, I was doing a good job.
Catharine was dripping. I made tiny circles around her clit, then switched back to languid strokes along the length of her. She started to shake. It took a lot of control not to give in and match her intensity. I kept the pace maddeningly slow. I could feel her getting ready to blow. I could hear it, the way her breathing changed, the way she sounded as if she was struggling to speak, not quite forming actual words. She started to push back into my hand, forcing me to give her more pressure. Catharine was about to explode.
And that's when I stopped. I pulled my hand away, stepped back, and just stopped.
"You know what?" I said, "I really have to go."
She held her position for a moment, ass in the air. Maybe she thought I was teasing her. In fact, she remained still until she heard my footsteps. Finally, she craned her neck around to look at me, her face a knot of confusion.
I stopped at the door and smiled quite genuinely. "It was great seeing you, Catharine. Seriously." I walked through the door, jumped in my car, and drove away without looking back. Late, but not too late, for meeting my friends.
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