The first cold rains of late September gusted down the street, pelting at Melissa as she ducked into the bistro that she had picked out. Shaking off her umbrella, she looked around the restaurant. From the back, Serena waved to her.
Melissa waved back, then hurried over as Serena stood up. The two women hugged. Melissa sighed as she stepped back. Taking Serena’s hands, Melissa said, “It’s really good to see you again.”
“You too. I was missing getting together; it’s been a few weeks.”
They both sat down. Melissa apologized, “I’m sorry. The start of my semester has been insanely busy.” She frowned, “August was a lot quieter.”
Serena nodded agreement, “Things have picked up for me too. August is always slow. Everyone’s on vacation.”
Melissa smirked, “Cept for Erik.”
Serena nodded, then said carefully, “So, you know, I saw him two weeks ago. I think it was the first time he’s been back since his new gig started… He looked terrible. He’s lost a lot of weight.”
Melissa looked at Serena, questioningly.
Serena explained, “He was in town for that ceremony at your school about the grant thing he was doing. He said something about inviting you, but you didn’t come.”
“I couldn’t… he hardly communicates… an e-mail here or there. No phone calls. Besides… I can’t go back to living that way.”
Serena sighed, frustrated, “I’ve already told you that you’re full of shit. You don’t have to give up school and career to live the way you want. Look at Deborah.”
“Yeah – and she’s happy? She wants kids someday. That’s going to happen?”
“With Michael? Probably not, but that has nothing to do with a kinky lifestyle. It’s because he’s older and has already had kids. Besides, you want kids? You didn’t say anything about that.”
“Well, someday, I guess.”
Serena nodded, then pointed out, “You know, kids mess with a career too.”
“Yeah… I know. But at least those are normal sorts of problems that everyone deals with. Being some guy’s sex slave isn’t exactly normal.”
“‘Some guy’s sex slave,’ huh? You telling me Erik is just ‘some guy’?”
Melissa sighed, “No.”
“Been dating anyone else since the semester started?”
Melissa shook her head.
Melissa shook her head again.
“Girls? A couple of times, but no.”
Serena said, “I ran into Deborah last weekend. She says you’ve been avoiding her.”
Melissa hung her head. “I talk to her on the phone and all, but I’m afraid of getting together with her. I, ah, I don’t want to get all horny, and wind up in bed, or something.”
Serena gave her a puzzled look.
Melissa explained, “I’m trying to live a normal life.”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“You think that’s going to work?”
“I was sort of hoping…”
“Yeah right – just as a reality check – what do you fantasize about when you masturbate?”
Melissa looked down at her hands, knowing she was blushing.
Serena said, “Thought so. And, ah, if you’re going to go vanilla, why haven’t you been dating other guys?
“Other guys? After Erik? Where am I going to find somebody like him?”
Serena nodded. Then with a deliberately casual shrug, she offered, “Well I’m sure there’s lots of nice vanilla guys around, and, of course, there’s other nice doms too.”
“As awesome as Erik?”
Serena shrugged again, “Sure.”
Serena paused, then smiled wryly, “Not fair.”
“So, if you’re saying there’s no one for you but Erik, then what the fuck are you doing sitting here, feeling sorry for yourself?”
Melissa retorted in frustration, “First off, he’s not around, as in, across the fucking country with less than twelve hours notice. Second, he’s totally and completely fucking shut down emotionally right now – like he’s got some goddamn light switch that just turns everything off. And third… well… you know I’m still having problems wrapping my head around being a submissive. I can’t see giving up my PhD and a career, for a collar and a leash.”
“You know I think that last part is pure bullshit. Kink is not an either-or decision… but… you’ve got a point about Erik. He did pull the rug out from underneath you. That’s the bad old Erik, where he divides his life up into these tidy little blocks. I thought his being around you had changed that… I think part of why Erik’s so shut down right now is that he doesn’t have you. What makes it worse is he doesn’t think you’re coming back.”
“He tell you that?”
“No. Not in words, but I’ve known him for a long time. It was amazing how happy and open he was with you. I never saw him like that before, not consistently. Now, he’s using work to distract himself, and his work is really, really distracting. Michael told me this new deal is much bigger than anything he’s done so far. Plus, Michael said that he’s still really busy with that musical instrument company. When I saw Erik two weeks ago… I’ve never seen him that exhausted and ragged.”
Melissa felt pangs of concern undermining her resentment. “I do worry about him, even if I’m still angry about the way he left. Some part of me still loves him. The thing is, even if I wanted to, it’s not like he’s going to let me – help him, I mean.”
“Yeah, he’s sort of in his ‘one man against the world’ headspace, trying to save two companies at once.”
“Does he know how insane he is?”
“It’s made him a lot of money.”
“But is he happy?”
Serena shook her head sadly, “No. Both of you are in shitsville right now, and it’s so fucking stupid. I want to slap you two idiots upside the head. Do you have any idea how much it hurts to watch two people I care about fuck themselves up like this.”
“I’m sorry. I know I’m being a wuss about accepting the whole submissive, BDSM, kink reality. Malcolm tells me the same thing.”
“I don’t get it, Mel. I saw you last summer. You were amazingly brave. You just dove into the deep end – sometimes, it scared me – but you were fucking awesome. What happened?”
“This summer was… my God – the fancy house, the Aston Martin, the clothes, the BDSM clubs – it was a fantasy. I could let myself go. Now…” She waved at the cold rainy day outside. “It’s real life. If my professors knew what I was, how could they treat me seriously?”
“Again: total bullshit. Once upon a time, maybe that would have been true. Now, not so much. Plus, it’s not like you have to flaunt it. A lot of subs don’t wear a collar in public. You know, like Deborah: working hard, competing hard, winning.”
Melissa nodded, sadly. “Even if you’re right. Even if I do manage to ‘screw my courage to the sticking place,’ what does it matter without Erik? Why would I want to be a submissive without him?”