IaW Ch. 01: In a World

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Amateur

I was in line at the checkout counter of the Central Public Library. Wasn’t really looking up, I was on my phone as all civilized people are when standing in line.

We moved forward a step and when I finally did look up, I was treated to the backside of a frumped-out redhead. Tattered plaid miniskirt, pale legs, and a half-tucked blouse. My first thought was school girl after a fight, but this look was too crafted. Then her calves caught my attention: they were slender but well-defined.

Yeah, this was no school girl.

Uptown heroin chic? Maybe a redhead version of Harley Quinn, minus the weapon. Note, though, that all this came from checking out her backside. Honestly, what else are you going to do in a checkout line?

I was there looking up local history, trying to get a feel for this bedroom community where I’d just bought a duplex.

She was… I leaned to peek around her shoulder. She was checking out DVDs: Frankenstein, the Mummy, and a stack of classic horror.

I couldn’t help myself. “Cool! Let me guess: film class?”

She glanced behind as she shook her head. “No. Not in school anymore. I’ve just… I’ve always wanted to see them, and I don’t have anything better to do, so I watch old movies.”

“Oh, wow. Okay.”

First of all, holy shit. Her face was fit for a magazine cover. High cheekbones, sharp jawline, tiny nose and huge green eyes. Caramel freckles sprinkled over a creamy complexion. Not a lick of makeup on and she still had intimidating good looks.

Taking in the whole package, she wasn’t bony enough for true heroin chic. Thin, yes, but very toned. There was shape to her. Based on the face, I guessed maybe twenty years old, but that bod was sculpted by something beyond metabolism. Dancer, maybe?

I glanced for a ring, and I guess I was too obvious.

She shook her head. “I have a cat, not a boyfriend.”

“Lucky cat.”

“Are you hitting on me? In a library?”

“Yeah. Weird right? By the way, I’m Rick.”

“Ginnifer,” she blurted.

“Gin? Like the drink?”

She nodded.

“I’ve always been a tequila guy, but you make gin very intriguing.”

The librarian was shaking her head.

“See? It’s so much easier to hear you here than in a bar somewhere.” –Librarian actually agreed with that one– “So, that was easy. Now I’m a friend — and a boy…”

“You’re sweet,” Ginnifer smiled, biting her lip.

“Probably tangier than I am sweet. Like BBQ with a bite.”

“Oh, my god.”

“See? We’ve just met and I’ve already got you saying ‘oh, my god’.”

Her jaw dropped, and just behind, the librarian was deep in a facepalm.

I took a post-it off the counter, wrote my name and number on it, and handed it to her. “If you’re bored, and you’re hungry, gimme a call. I’m still learning this town, maybe you can show me where, I dunno, to get good BBQ…”

She took the slip of paper, nodding. “Thanks. I just might do that.”

She slid her stack of DVDs off the counter and strode out, looking down with just a hint of a blush and a grin.

The librarian watched her walk out, then turned to me. “Okay, don’t bother with Yelp, there’s only three good BBQ places within fifteen minutes of here…”

###

We’d met on a Monday evening. She called that Tuesday and it became an over-the-phone icebreaker. Hobbies, job, favorite hang-over remedies. I suggested we meet that Friday, she gave a tentative okay and said she’d call me back Thursday after she could confirm she didn’t have to work late.

I had a couple of buddies that lived back over the hill and they seemed to sense something was up. Same thing for a couple of Friends With Benefits, both actresses, and both of whom wanted to know her name.

For my crew, it was all just “touching base” updates. Since I’d moved to the Valley, our regular get-togethers weren’t that regular any more. I loved my friends dearly, but LA traffic blows.

Thursday rolled in, the phone call came — and we were on!

Movies were her thing, so despite my better judgment, I suggested Tony Roma’s BBQ right by a nearby theater. “You pick the flick.”

There was a pause on the other side. “Dinner and a movie?”

“Sure, I’d love to!”

“But, wait, uh…”

“Well, you don’t have to call it a date, just two friends hanging out.”

There was a pause from the other side. “But can I call it a date?”

“You can definitely call it a date.”

“It’s a date!” she bubbled.

###

I picked her up, did the whole gentleman routine, starting with: “You look great!”

“Thanks!” She did a twirl in her Little Black Dress as we headed to the car.

Let me tell you, she looked very different in an LBD. She was sleek.

Five-seven, I’d guess an athletic one-twenty-five. Her auburn hair was up, a couple of chopsticks keeping it in place, revealing a long slender neck. Oh, and boobs. Not big, I’d guess b-cup, but they looked perky and Ginnifer wasn’t afraid of showing off some cleavage.

That face, though: big, pale green eyes and a ton of freckles. Lips were pouty-puffy, but not “bee-stung.” anime porno Still, with that bright red lipstick, she liked attention on her lips. File that away.

Actually, between cleavage and lips, these were good signs for a first date.

Completing the package, she had a slender nose, sharp jawline and nice cheekbones. I could stare at her face for hours.

Okay, I know I said “car,” but I don’t drive a “car.” I drive an old, trail-modded Bronco. It is an extension of me, and I am the personification of it. I bother to share this because it has a modest lift and larger-than-average all-terrain tires. Meaning one has just a bit of climb to get in and out.

Ginnifer practically floated into the passenger seat. In heels and a little black dress. Frankly, I was boggled at how fucking graceful she was. And, for as high-maintenance as she looked, she was perfectly at ease in the Bronco.

Jesus Christ, I’d been in her physical presence a total of three minutes and I was falling in love.

I slapped myself a few times as I climbed in and let Siri guide us to Glendale.

Small talk picked up right where it left off from the phone. I really hope I sounded smart, because I was using up all my conscious control just trying to not make an ass out of myself.

I was not used to being this discombobulated around a girl. There was something about her and I was struggling to put my finger on it.

One thing I learned that you can’t get on the phone: she was a physical person. She had an easy smile and a steady stream of little touches here and there. She laughed at my jokes. Hell, she got my jokes, so I was impressed right off.

I followed directions to the public parking garage, but wasn’t paying attention and wound up in the valet parking lane. Fuck it. I rolled with it, hopping out and tossing the keys to the driver.

The passenger side valet wasn’t shy about staring at Ginnifer. He must’ve seen well up that short dress and I’d swear she leaned over just a bit getting out. I could tell by the smile, he’d gotten an eyeful of… probably everything interesting.

The other valet drove my Bronco away and I shook my head, smiling. “Such a flirt!”

She blushed, the freckles coming out. “Oh, my god! I was just…” she saw me smiling and she smiled back. “Okay. Guilty.”

“You’re cute when you flirt.”

“You think so?”

“Well, you’re ‘hot’ most of the time, but definitely ‘cute’ when you flirt.”

“Cute-hot? I can accept that…”

We got into the Tony Roma’s and I flashed a smile to the hostess. “Hey! Two for ‘Rick’.”

“Right this way…” I got a nice look from the hostess, and maybe a twinge of jealousy from Ginnifer. “Your server will be right you.”

“Thank you!”

Gin glanced between me and the swing of the departing hostess. “Was that a flirt?”

“Nope. I’m just friendly. Probably gets misinterpreted though.”

“So you’re not a flirt.”

“Not on purpose. Not like you…”

Her jaw dropped a little, but she recovered. “But I’m cute when I flirt, right?”

“Very. It was fun to watch.”

“Oh, you like to watch?” Gin laid it on thick, grinning as she bit her lip.

“Yeah, well…” She’d pitched kind of a double entendre, but honestly, it felt more straight-up salacious. “I’m a fan of the genre, so yeah, it’s fun to watch.”

She tapped her chin for a second, thinking about it. “Are you talking about porn or flirting?”

Woo! Check and mate. “NASCAR. Porn. Uh, flirting. Wait, what’s the right answer?”

“Flirting is the right answer,” she instructed. “Porn, maybe a little. NASCAR? Isn’t that where they ask all the girls to show their tits?”

“Do they do that?”

“They do,” she confirmed.

“Ah, well, good. Would you?” I asked, hopeful. “If NASCAR works out, maybe we can try Mardi Gras, too.”

She shook her head. “You are everything I need to run away from.”

“Can I run behind you? You know, just so I can watch your butt.”

She leaned on her hand, studying me. “You’re a better flirter than me.”

“Is that flirting?”

“It’s the delivery,” she nodded. “Without even trying.”

“Hey, I’m just being friendly. But you like to flirt, don’t you? Actual flirt-flirting.”

She sighed and looked down. “Yeah, I guess I do.”

“And you like flirting in front of your date.” I gave her the naughty-girl finger-wag just to show I wasn’t offended. That actually seemed to help a little.

“Well, okay, yeah…” It was a thousand-yard stare that eventually melted into a nod. “I like flirting because it makes me feel appreciated. But there’s something special about flirting with other people when you’re out with one person. Don’t get me wrong: you have to flirt first with the person you’re with, but then… there’s kind of a side game.”

“How so?”

“If your date sees others flirting with you, that signals more people want you.”

“Then your date wants you more, too?”

Ginnifer nodded. “You soak up the attention where you can, then see how your date handles it. You want somebody who wants you, asyalı porno but you don’t want somebody who gets all possessive.”

“A balance?”

“A balance! You feel out your date or significant other or whatever, and use that to

balance out how much each flirt connects. If your date seems jealous — and you don’t want to lose them — you dial it back.”

“But you don’t stop?”

“I probably should, but I can’t. It’s just habit. It’s also kinda more exciting that way.”

Between her lips and her cleavage, it was exciting on my side, too. “Ginnifer, you are a very interesting girl.”

“Call me Ginny. Or Gin is good, too.”

The waiter arrived and tried hard not to look at the cleavage. “Evening, folks, can I get you started on drinks or an appetizer?”

I cracked a smile. “Yeah, I think Ginny is all about the appetizer.”

She blushed again, and self-consciously ran a finger down the neckline of her shirt… but didn’t actually close it. She might’ve opened it a little.

The waiter asked for ID and lingered a little longer before disappearing.

It was a complicated game and I was getting play-by-play from a player on the field. Beyond the Art of the Flirt, our convo had some electricity as we jumped through small talk.

She was a receptionist at a private little law firm and was thinking about going back to school. She was four months post-major relationship, after a bad, bad breakup. I was taking in the details and asking questions, getting her to laugh as I drew more out of her.

By the bar, I saw the waiter prepping our stuff. All this flirting had sparked a plan, so I held up my phone. “Work just messaged. I’m gonna step out and call back. I’m sure it’s nothing, but I’ll be right back.”

“Okay,” she nodded.

I made eye contact with the waiter on my way out and gave him a “go-ahead” nod. From his look, he knew encouragement when he saw it.

Once outside, I turned to look back in. Sure enough, the waiter was flirting with her.

She was flirting right back.

Good. With any luck, I was getting laid tonight.

He tore off a piece of bar napkin and wrote something down. Name/number, I’m guessing. He slid it across to her just as I came back inside — and she was watching me as much as him.

The waiter retreated and she half hid the number as I sat down. I was chuckling as I slid into the booth. “His number, huh?”

Gin facepalmed, hiding the blush. “I’m sorry. I am a flirt. Not a slut, but I am a flirt.”

“Well, that’s a shame…”

“That I’m a flirt?”

“That you’re not a slut.”

“Oh, my god! Seriously?”

“You say ‘slut’ like it’s a bad thing.”

“It is a bad thing!” she scolded.

“Bad things are so good.”

“It’s a bad thing for a girl who wants a happy ending.”

“That’s why guys like sluts. We like a ‘happy ending’ too.”

“Not that kind of happy ending. Well, yes, that kind for one special guy.”

I gave her a long, analytical look. “So, serial flirt, but otherwise a good girl? You’re addicted to the excitement of being wanted.”

“That’s, wow… that’s a good way of putting it,” she nodded. She held up the paper, considering it. “I have this whole scrapbook of guy’s numbers, but I… haven’t really done much in that department.”

“You called me…”

She bit her lip, nodding. It looked like a habit of sorts, and it looked good on her. “Yeah, I had to give points for talking to a girl in a library.”

“Yes!” I gave a little ‘victory’ fist-pump, then put on my psychotherapist face, complete with air-notepad. “So, describe ‘not much in that department’?”

“So, doctor, I’m not exactly a virgin…”

“Do tell! I am a fan of that genre…”

“Right! The guy who likes to watch,” she laughed, nodding. “Okay. Gory details?”

“NC-17, X-rated, triple-X; whatever you’re comfortable with.”

“Well,” she took a deep breath. “I’ve had three serious boyfriends. Slept with them, of course. I’ve gone down on…. I think six guys besides them?”

“Not a bad start, but I’m hoping I’m
7 for my next girlfriend.”

“Clerks!” She pointed. “I love that movie!”

I held up my beer, toasting her. “I am so glad you got that reference.”

“Veronica,” she nodded, smiling, but there was something complicated under there. “Nobody really wants Veronica.”

“No, everybody wants Veronica.”

“Yeah, for a night.” She took a sip of her cabernet and it looked like she washing down regret.

“Well yeah, that too. You see, Veronica is a treasure.”

“Because she’s a slut?”

“Exactly.”

“That’s not what Dante thought. Trust me: I know Dante…”

“Dante was a hypocrite with a sense of irony. That’s the point of the movie.”

Ginny took a deep breath. “So, going down on three… six… nine guys isn’t too much?”

“It’s well short of thirty-seven.” I took a sip. “So, what? Six casuals?”

“A couple near-misses, a sort-of-friend with benefits and I’ll admit a few one-night stands.”

“Seems like the conservative side of normal. How old babes porno are you?”

“Asking a girl her age?”

I nodded. “You’re young, I’m just hoping you’re not too young.”

“Twenty-three.”

“Twenty-three but not yet thirty-seven.” –she almost spit her wine– “How much is too much depends on the girl. For a flirt, you were meant for more.”

“Ugh. That’s what my last boyfriend said. He kept wanting me to go down on a friend of his, and you know what…?”

“What?”

“I wanted to!”

“You should’ve!”

“I did!” She covered her mouth, wide-eyed. “I mean… well, that escalated quickly.”

“Kinky…” I nodded.

The look on her face, though: she wasn’t playing. “That was the sort-of-friend with benefits.”

“Of course.” I put away my imaginary note pad as her story pieced itself together.

I leaned in, and whispered like a co-conspirator. “So you did the deed, which is awesome, but you’re not together anymore. What happened? No, wait, lemme guess: actual boyfriend got jealous.”

Ginny took a long drink of water. “He used his friend like a trap. He wanted me to do it, then called me a slut — in the bad way — and he broke up with me. He instantly had another girlfriend.”

“Instant…? That wasn’t instant, that asshole was cheating.”

“Ya think?” Ginny leaned back. “As a parting gift, he posted a, umm… intimate video of me on YouPorn. After that, I had a nervous breakdown.”

“I’m so sorry. YouPorn? Like a revenge video?”

“I guess?”

“Yeah, I could see a freak-out after that.”

“Medical freak-out,” she specified. “Psychiatric hospitalization for a week. I’m still going to therapy.”

“Wow!” I carefully slid her wine glass away from her. “Is it helping?”

“Well, I’ve discovered that I’m a ‘pleaser’.” She took the wine glass right back, but she had a hint of a smile. “Anyway, that’s not healthy, so I’m trying to get over it.”

“It’s good to be healthy…”

“It seems like there’s a ‘but’ in there.”

“Kind of. Your butt.” –She rolled her eyes at me– “No, seriously: you just described ‘pleaser’ as Who You Are. If that’s your core, you don’t fight that kind of thing, you find a way to make peace with it.”

Ginny squinted at me, blinking as she worked it out. I’m not sure if she was parsing out my dime store wisdom or just marveling at the chutzpah.

Squinting or not, her eyes were absolutely stunning. Big pools to the soul, they were somewhere between Helena Bonham Carter and Christina Ricci in pale jade. Perfectly offset by that auburn-red hair.

She took a deep breath, then shook her head. “I’m still trying to figure out what healthy means. Yeah, I’m a flirt, but I’m hoping — even after YouPorn — that I can still find a storybook ending. True love.”

“Oh, that’s complicated. True love but stay a flirt?”

“Well, I didn’t really say that. I would assume…” She took another sip of her wine — then just drained the glass. “I was going to say true love despite the sex tape, but sure. I’ll go there. What guy would do that?”

“A guy who digs a kinky girl?” I finished my beer. “A shame your ex ruined that.”

“The ‘pleaser’ is so far outside of kinky, or even flirting. It’s not even sexy,” she shrugged. “I’d pick up dry cleaning for them, and cook, and do stuff for them…”

“So a little bit submissive?”

She tapped her chin again, thinking about it.

It was the perfect lull for the waiter to come back, carrying another round. Ginny put on a show for both of us, leaning forward ever so slightly as she thanked him — giving a spectacular view deep into her cleavage. She smiled — at both of us — each for ever-so-slightly different reasons.

When he was gone, she held up the wine. “You know, I do own a pair of handcuffs. I never really put it together until now.”

“You’ve used handcuffs but hadn’t put ‘submissive’ together?”

“No, I said I have handcuffs, not that I’ve ever actually used them.” She took a sip. “Wishful thinking, maybe?”

“Who would the handcuffs be used on?”

“Me,” she nodded. “The submissive thing. I can’t believe I’m telling you all this.”

“There’s nothing wrong with lavishing all that pleaser attention on somebody so long as they reciprocate it — or at least appreciate it, depending on your relationship equilibrium. That’s your ‘happy ending’.”

She stared at me a moment, her big eyes blinking. “Yeah, you sound like my therapist.”

“He’s right, but he’s not accounting for the flirt.”

“No. We haven’t really touched that part.”

“What… a… crime…”

She broke into a smile. “Thanks, Venkman.”

“Oh my God, you are so awesome!”

She was smiling, drinking it in. “So, doctor, what’s your diagnosis?”

“Your personal yin-yang.”

“My yin-yang? On the first date?”

“Funny!” I held up my right hand. “The storybook princess builds her touchstone relationship…” I held up my left hand. “And the flirt has her stream of passing relationships. If you give up either, the other will always suffer resentment from parts you can’t control. It’s part of your nature, princess: accepting your inner ‘flirt’ is the only path that’s psychologically sustainable.”

“Wow.” She shook her head. “That’s…”

“Entirely based on your words. Correct the parts that are wrong.”

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