Plus-One With A Vengeance : 19 / 29

Plus-One With A Vengeance : 19 / 29

[ An Altered Fates Story ]
by Iolanthe Portmanteaux


"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."
— Kurt Vonnegut


I'll confess -- I haven't had sex very many times, but it was always at night, when the world was already dark. Today was my first time in the light, with the early-morning sun pouring in the windows, illuminating the white bedsheets and brightening the entire room.

And Max -- I've told you Max is a good-looking man, but I'd never seen him like this -- naked torso, leaning over me, smiling, solicitous, eager, yet cautious.

Above all, this was my first time as a woman, as a literal virgin.

Max told me, "You're holding your breath."

"I can't help it."

"It's okay," he said. "Try to relax, remember to breathe. It's going to be okay. We're going to go slow and gentle. Ready?"

It was more than okay. It was better than good. It was a whole new world. To have gone from sex being something I had to perform, to something I could simply receive was a mind-blowing inversion. If that wasn't enough, the vivid, overwhelming sensation of someone inside of me -- my eyes could not have opened any wider. I felt astonished to the very tips of my fingers. I kept forgetting to exhale.

"I wish you could see your face," Max said. "It's incredible! It's so expressive and it's changing every second."

I could only grunt softly in assent.

At first it was frightening, exciting, and exhilarating. Then it hurt, but not massively, and once he broke through, it didn't continue to hurt. Thank God!

I had tried to read up, to know what to expect, but all the kind and otherwise helpful internet pages emphasized that the experience was different for everyone, which drove me crazy. I wanted a preview, not a list of possibilities! But now, I'd had the experience. I got the vaccination. No longer a virgin. It did mean something. It was a step, a big step, for me.

I let out a high-pitched oh! when it happened, and I held on to Max for a bit after that, my arms locked tight around his chest. I asked him not to move; to just stay, joined together, but still. I closed my eyes, recovering, until he said, "Babe, if you want to keep going, I'm going to need to start moving again."

I nodded and opened my arms. After that, it was fun. Awkward fun, but fun. Max certainly knew what he was doing, even if I didn't. Somehow, my past experience was not transferable.

You'd think there wasn't much to figure out, but thinking something and picturing something are not like actually doing something. It was all wonderfully new to me.

We did it.

Which is exactly what Max said when he, glowing with satisfaction, flopped back on the pillow next to me.

"We did it. We finally did it."

"Yeah, we definitely did."

"I think it's safe to say that we broke out of the friend zone," he said, turning his head to look me in the face. "I'm mean, I'm half-joking, but seriously, it's an awkward transition, to go from being friends to being--"

"Lovers?" I offered. "I mean, we are, we will be -- right?"

A little smile played on his lips. "You do want to do it again, don't you?"

"Oh, absolutely!"

"Then we're lovers."

He sat up and kissed me on the stomach. "I was hoping you'd stay last night," he confided, "but then I got drunk and blew it. I was planning on asking you to be my plus-one last night, as well." He sighed, but smiled down at me.

"This morning, not knowing you were here, I felt like an prize idiot. And then Amber came." He shook his head. "Spouting all her crazy bullshit. And I thought All the time I wasted on this woman... and all the time she was talking I was telling myself that I needed to make things right with you. I was going to get some forgive-me flowers, take you up to Sauerbrook Lookout, to apologize and ask you to go out with me, and to be my plus-one."

I smiled back. "That's a nice plan. Although, I think this worked out better." Then-- his mentioning Amber brought something back in mind. "Hey, Max -- didn't Amber say something about a note from Nessa?"

He looked irritated. "Yes, she did."

"What did it say?"

"I don't know. I didn't read it."

"Where is it?"

"She stuffed it in the pocket of my shirt." He gestured toward the floor, where his clothes lay in a crumpled pile. "It's there. But I wouldn't read it if I were you. It's no doubt some wacky shit that Amber wrote, and not from Nessa at all."

"Even so..."

I jumped out of bed and picked up Max's shirt from the floor. He followed my every movement. "I have to tell you, Lorelei: I thought you were beautiful with clothes on, but you're drop-dead gorgeous without them."

"Heh," I responded a little stupidly. I wasn't used to so many compliments.

I drew the note from Max's pocket. It was in a white envelope. The card inside had a printed border of silver scrolling curves. It was about one-and-a-half by three inches. The message was written in black ballpoint: "Can't wait to see your plus-one!" and it was signed "Nessa." I read it out loud, then held it for Max to see. "Is that Nessa's handwriting?"

He shrugged. "Could be. I don't know."

"But it doesn't look like Amber's handwriting, does it?"

Max shook his head. "No, definitely not Amber's."

"Do you know what's weird? This card looks like it's from a set of wedding stationery."

"How is that weird?"

"The envelope is way too big for the card. Which is wrong. In sets like this, every detail is perfect. Thank-you notes fit thank-you envelopes, Invitations fit the invitation envelopes, and so on."

We looked at each other and both of us got it in the same moment: "Nessa sent the note to Amber!"

"And Amber recycled it," I added. "She wanted to nudge you, to remind you that you needed a plus-one."

"Huh," he grunted. "Wouldn't it be ironic if Amber was the one stuck without a plus-one at the wedding?"

"Especially after weedling her way into getting an invite."

I put the note back in the envelope and set it on Max's bureau. Then I realized he'd been staring at me, making me conscious of my nakedness. I blushed. He patted the bed next to him, and said, "Come back here, you. Are you ready to go again?"

I hesitated a moment, and his expression changed to one of concern. "Are you sore? Is it too soon?"

"It's not that," I said. "I am a little... well, sore isn't quite the word, but I'm fine. Could we go again tonight?"

"Absolutely!" Max agreed. "It's not a problem!"

"Silly!" I said. "No, there's something we need to do -- we ought to pick up some condoms, unless you've got some already."

"Condoms?" He seemed genuinely confused. "But... are you saying you can... are you actually -- you can--"

"Yes, of course! What did you think? I'm definitely capable of getting pregnant, so I want to be careful."

He looked at me as though I was insane. "It's a little late for that, don't you think? I mean, a woman can get pregnant the first time. God! If I knew you could, I would have taken precautions."

"Oh, come on, Max, it's okay. I mean, what are the chances?"

"It doesn't matter what the odds are, Lorelei. It only takes one time."

"I know," I said. "But I wanted my first time to be that way. To be like that. From here on, we can be careful."

"Oh, my heart!" Max exclaimed. "You're going to give me a heart attack! I don't know... I just assumed that maybe, I don't know, that the change didn't change... everything--""

"I guess you haven't heard your mother going on about grand-babies, then."

"Grand-babies? God help us!"

I couldn't help it. He looked so genuinely alarmed, that I started laughing.

Max still had his hand over his heart, and he wasn't laughing. "Lorelei, can you just... just let me know as soon as you know, okay?"

"I will. But seriously, Max, don't worry!"

He groaned and shook his head. "And promise me this: make sure you tell *me* before you say ANYTHING to my mother, okay?"

When he mentioned his mother, unbidden the image of Melissa squealing grand-babies! popped into my mind, and I smiled.

"Lorelei, I'm serious! Swear to me."

"Okay, okay! I promise, I swear. Nothing is going to happen, but if on the crazy off-chance something does, you will be the first to know. Okay?"

"Okay," he said, calming down. "But this isn't funny and it isn't a game."

"Okay," I acquiesced. "You're right. But... speaking of your mother... can you drive me to your parents' house? I need to get some clothes, and fix my hair and everything."



In the car ride over, Max asked, "So when are you moving in?"

I turned to look at him. "Moving in? Just like that? You want me to move in?"

He frowned, puzzled. "Yes, of course I do. Don't *you* want to move in?"

"Of course I do!"

"Then what's the problem?"

"I don't know. It's so fast! What are people going to think? Everyone's going to wonder who I am, and where I came from."

Max shrugged. "What's the alternative? Are you going to live with my parents for a year, and then move in?"

"No, that sounds crazy, too." I sat in silence for a moment, thinking. Then, "Max, I would love to move in now, today, but like I said, it just seems so fast."

"It isn't fast at all. We've known each other our entire lives, and until about a week ago, you DID live with me."

I fell silent again, then said, "Max, why don't we do this? While I get dressed and ready, you can invite your parents out to brunch, just the four of us."

"Brunch? Isn't it a little late in the day?"

"No, it's only ten-thirty. We were up super-early this morning."

"That damn Amber," Max muttered, shaking his head.

"Any, the point is, we can tell your parents that we're moving in together, and see how they react."

"And then?"

"And then-- I don't know. I guess I just move in!"

"I hope that makes sense to you, Lorelei, because it doesn't make any sense to me."

"I'm used to relying on your mother's opinion. She's helped me out a lot."

"She's going to love the idea. Her and her grand-babies. You already know what she's going to say."

"True," I admitted. "As far as asking someone's opinion, your mother's the worst. But your dad, on the other hand -- he has no idea what's going on, or why I'm living in his house. I think he's completely bewildered. His opinion is the one I want to hear."

"Poor guy," Max commiserated. "He's in the epicenter of all kinds of craziness, but he hasn't got a clue. Does he?"

"No, he doesn't. He really doesn't."



I changed into a yellow sleeveless gathered dress that ended a few inches above my knee. It was a perfect dress for brunch, being all at once comfortable, cute, casual, and eye-catching. Without a belt it would have hung like a tunic, but the belt gathered it all together into interesting vertical folds and bunches. A pair of big round sunglasses finished off the look.

By the time I arrived back downstairs everyone else was more than ready to go, so after some perfunctory compliments we piled into Paul's car and took off. Max suggested the terrace restaurant at Sauerbrook Lookout, knowing it was one of his parents' favorite places.

The moment we sat down, Melissa leaned forward, eyes gleaming, hands clasped in excitement. She asked, "Should we order champagne?"

Paul, sensing an ambush, turned his head slowly to take in her expression. "Is there something that everyone knows but me?" he asked.

"No, Dad, no," Max assured him, "There's no call for champagne."

Melissa, not missing a beat, quickly followed up with, "Prosecco then. Prosecco."

"That's just like champagne," I pointed out.

Paul scratched his nose, but said nothing.

After the glasses were poured, Melissa raised hers, as if to make a toast. Paul eyed her expectantly, with a little suspicion. "What exactly are we toasting to?"

"What are we toasting to?" Melissa repeated, and appealed to the two of us. "Max? Lorelei?"

"Let's just toast to being together," Max told her, and clinked glasses with his mother.

It was a funny brunch. I mean, funny ha-ha, not funny weird. At times I had difficulty keeping a straight face. Melissa had grand-babies! written all over face, and it was the secret payload to every word that came from her mouth.

At last I threw her a bone. "Melissa, Max wants me to move in with him. Do you think it's too soon?"

I could have, and probably should have, chosen a more opportune time. Melissa let our a whoop! heard in every corner of the restaurant. Paul was sipping his drink, and was so startled by Melissa's outburst that a generous dose of wine ended on his plate. He shook his head and made the best of it.

"Oh, no -- Too early? Definitely not! It's not too early, at all!" Melissa replied. "When, today? Today? I can help. I want to help. I *will* help. Oh, my!" She squeezed herself and let out a more discrete, better-contained squeal.

Paul cleared his throat and asked, "How long have you two known each other?"

Max and I glanced at each other. Neither expected the question. "Uh, a long time," I replied.

"Yes, um, years," Max confirmed, nodding.

"Then why are we only seeing you now? It seemed as though you materialized only a week ago."

Melissa turned her head slowly, dangerously. "Is there a problem, Paul?"

"No, of course not," he replied. "I think Lorelei is a perfectly lovely young woman. She's a delight to have around. She's wonderful company and a welcome guest. But she did just ask our opinions, and I have one or two questions. It's just that... well, I think we've met most, if not all, of Max's friends. They've been over to the house for parties and such. I thought we would have seen Lorelei before now."

"Hmmph," Melissa said in a cagey tone, looking down as she sipped her water. She clearly didn't want Paul to frustrate the flow of events.

"Well, then, tell me, how did you two meet? I'm sure it's a cute story."

"We met through Vivianne, Max's aunt," I told him.

Paul wasn't ready for *that* curve ball. "My sister?" he asked.

"Yeah, good old Aunt Viv," Max replied.

"Well, that's certainly a name to conjure with," Paul muttered.

"Vivianne is friends with my mother," I lied. The lie came as a whole cloth: once I started, it flowed seamlessly out of me. Plus, I felt confident that Viv would back up whatever I said. "The reason you haven't seen me around is that my family lives in Omaha. I met Max when we were growing up, at Elliot's house. Elliot's my cousin, you know. And it's true... I never came to your house, and I wasn't around that much, but as you can imagine, Max made a big impression on me."

Paul smiled and nodded. He reached over and squeezed my hand affectionately. Paul nodded and smiled. I felt as though I'd passed the test. Then he reached over and gave my other hand a squeeze, and I was sure I'd passed.



Melissa and I bagged up my dresses, pants, tops, and outerwear into large clear plastic trash bags, and sealed them with tape. My shoes went into another bag. Melissa lent me a suitcase for all my intimates and pajamas. She had a set of pouches for my cosmetics and toiletries; they went into the suitcase as well. Everything else (meaning my Elliot gear: documents, laptop, and the last existing set of Elliot clothes) went into a cardboard wine box. All told, I didn't have much.

While we bagged up all my stuff, Elliot and Paul carted everything downstairs, one trip after another, and loaded up Paul's car, which Melissa drove. Max and Paul came in Max's car, and the two men hauled everything upstairs to Max's bedroom. I found it enormously embarrassing, and couldn't turn off the redness of my face.

Melissa smiled and gave me a playful hip bump. "Why are you suddenly so bashful?" she asked.

We were standing in the middle of Max's bedroom. It was a BIG bedroom, with a king-size bed. Paul and Max had each dumped a bag of my clothes on the bed and gone back downstairs for more.

"This is, like, a public acknowledgment that we're sleeping together," I told her, turning even more red as I spoke.

"Oh," Melissa cooed. "I understand. If it's that embarrassing, the two of you could just get married. I think *that* would definitely make you feel better." And she giggled. "You know the old phrase, to make an honest woman out of you."

"Oh, Melissa," I groaned. "Stop! Slow down there! You can't just make things like that happen!"

"Oh no?" she countered. "Look--" she gestured around the room, and at my clothes, lying on the bed. "Look! Look where my pushing got you. Huh? Huh?" She poked me in the ticklish spots in my sides.

"You're too much!" I cried, and burst out laughing. She hugged and hugged me. "I will be a great mother-in-law," she whispered. "You'll see! I'll be the best!"

"One thing at a time," I told her.

"Or two, if they're twins!" she quipped. I rolled my eyes and shook my head.

Once all my stuff was in the room, the men went out back to smoke cigars and indulge in "man talk." Melissa helped me organize and put away all my belongings.

"I feel like I'm taking over the bathroom," I confided.

Melissa responded, "That's what we do. We need the space." She nodded three times to emphasize the point.



Once the move was finished, Melissa and checked the fridge and kitchen cabinets to see what food was on hand, and together we whipped up a cold rice salad, which apparently everyone liked. We heated up a frozen baguette and laid out a small charcuterie plate. Max popped open a crisp white wine.

We ate and drank and talked and sat, and after the sun went down, Melissa and Paul drove back to their house.

I stood in the driveway, watching their car grow smaller in the distance. Max came up and embraced me from behind.

"You look thoughtful," he said, holding me gently. "How do you feel? What are you thinking about?"

"I'm fine," I told him. "And I'm thinking about two things: One is that I'm going to miss the pool at your parents' house, and the other is that I need to talk with your aunt about... things."

"Things? What things?" he asked. "Should I worry?"

"No, of course not. I want to talk to her about the implications of staying Lorelei forever."

"Mmmm. But that's easy, though, isn't it? You don't have to do anything. It's not like the spell wears off or something, does it?"

"No, it's permanent. It's forever. The thing is, what do I do about Elliot? How do I make him go away? I think I need her help on that."

"I get it," he said.

"She's done this before, so... you know."

"Right," he said. Then he bumped his hips against my behind. Then he did again. And again.

"Hey," he whispered in a low, soft, breathy voice. "It just so happens that I have a few of those things you were talking about earlier."

"What things?"

"Condoms," he said. "I'm not quite ready to live dangerously -- at least, not just yet."

As he spoke, I could feel his excitement building. My breath caught in my throat.

"You're holding your breath again," he observed. "Does that mean you're getting excited?"

"Yes," I said, "but you know what? Before we go upstairs, I want to check out that Christmas present-- the one with the P. I've got a feeling about it."

"Oh!" he murmured into my neck, sounding surprised. "That sounds promising! But after the present--" he jiggled his body against mine, a soft, insistent human jackhammer "--we'll see what magic those condoms can provide."

I laughed. "You goof!"

"Okay. Let's go open a Christmas present! I hope you'll like it as much as I do!"

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