10: Uneasy Conversation
There was a Motel Spin about 12 miles away from the Baxter Building, tucked in between locations easily overlooked. It was the one Nedra and Victor used most often; they would meet after his workday ended and before hers began and spend two hours rutting like animals or engaging in acts of shameless debauchery. Nedra was a fan of rough sex and dirty talk, and being in a trash-ass motel brought those characteristics screaming to the forefront. She encouraged Victor to call her names and the first time he was hesitant, but then she slapped him across the face hard enough to split his lip and he called her a bitch before he realized what he said. It was a most unusual circumstance.
“That’s right,” she encouraged. “Right here, right now in room 12 of the Motel Spin, I’m a sneaky, dirty ass bitch and a filthy slut, and I deserve to be punished…are you man enough?” Then she backhanded him hard enough that he almost fell. “Are you man enough, Victor?”
After that, he had no problems calling her all kinds of names and allowing all kinds of filthy descriptors to flow out of his mouth like a river of garbage; stuff he never thought he’d ever say to a woman. Likewise, she countered with her own brand of trash talk, goading him to acts and climaxes that were unbelievable. Sometimes she let him slap her around, but he never hit her hard enough to bruise—he wasn’t stupid—but it was a trigger for her and they would actually fight sometimes before having sex. Her comment about Jon’s fear of hurting her made a lot more sense once Victor understood the depths Nedra was willing to sink to for her own hedonistic pleasure. She let him climax all over her; his favorite place was her stomach (to her surprise; she expected him to prefer her ass), and they always took a quick shower when it was over and went their separate ways.
Victor arrived before she did, and lay on the bed, drinking a Heineken while watching shitty-ass cable TV. Saturday was four days away and he was expected to go ghost when that day came, but he wasn’t sure he could. He wasn’t sure if Nedra wanted him to. Too much had happened between them since the Shanghai trip, and while sex was the foundation, far more had been built on top of it. His mind was filled with questions. He expected to get no answers to some of them.
Nedra walked in, carrying a shoulder bag that contained a change of clothes and a bath bag. She wore a well-worn denim miniskirt and an equally worn Semper Fi T-shirt that had been converted into a halter at some point. Her hair was in two giant puffs. She closed the door and put her bag in the empty chair before smiling at him.
“Hey,” he said.
Normally, they would have been all over each other at this point, but the vibe was different today. Victor had the TV on. The TV was never on.
“You’re watching TV.”
“More like it’s watching me.”
Nedra walked over to the bed. “What’s the matter?”
Victor put the bottle on the nightstand and took her arm, pulling her on top of him before rolling her off to the side. She smiled at him and scratched his beard. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” he said. “Just not in the mood for our usual shenanigans.”
“Oh dear,” Nedra said. “That’s not good. What happened?”
“Jon’s coming home,” he said. “I’m expected to disappear that day.”
“Well, yeah. That’s the plan.”
He put a hand on her cheek and rubbed her lips with his thumb. “I can’t.”
Nedra sighed. “Victor, we’ve already talked about this.”
“Is it that easy for you, Nedra?” He continued to rub her lips. “Is it so easy for you to shift gears and pretend you won’t long for me while he’s here?”
“No,” she said. “It’s not. Especially after...well, you know.” She put a hand on her throat. “But we both knew the day would come and we both knew who I’d choose. So we both have to deal.”
“You’re not losing anything,” he said. “You have me and you have him. I’m the one who has to go without for however long he’s here.”
“I don’t have you when he’s here, Victor. I’m giving up a lot in this too and I got a lot of feelings about it. You and I…we’re fire. Fires eventually go out, however.”
“We’re more than that,” he said. “You know it. You’re glossing over the truth because it’s easier to pretend that it’s just sex. You love him but you have feelings for me.” His thumb went round and round and round.
Nedra put her hand over his. “Victor, I don’t want to talk about this now. I want to fuck. That’s why we come to this place, remember? Come on now, don’t hold back on me.” She began unfastening his belt, but he grabbed her hand.
“I know you like it when I treat you like a whore within these walls, but I don’t like it when you treat me like one when we’re not here. I know what I agreed to, but frankly I’ve changed my mind.”
“Victor! You can’t do that!”
“Why the fuck not?”
“Because I explained everything and you agreed to it! You can’t renege now.”
“Actually, I can.”
Nedra whined. “No! Come on, quit playing! I have to be at work in two hours and I really need you to bend me over.” She went for his belt again and he actually slapped her hand.
“No,” he said.
Nedra sat up and looked down at him. “You’re serious?”
“You’d deny me? And yourself?”
She whined again. She couldn’t help it. She was horny. “WHY?”
“Because you need to own up to this. You want me to go away so you can love him in peace, but there are things he can’t give you that you need. You would not let me do all the things that I do if you didn’t. He probably finds your dirty inclinations distasteful and therefore can’t acknowledge them no matter what you say and no matter how you feel about each other. I, on the other hand, will go as far and as low and as deep as you want. You can’t treat me like a light switch. I won’t allow it.”
Nedra closed her eyes. “Victor, please. Please. Let’s just have sex, ok? Don’t be difficult.”
Victor put a hand on her stomach and fingered her scar. “Look at it like this: I’ll back off, but only superficially. Let’s see how long you can go without making some form of contact with me while he’s here. I bet you won’t be able to stay away from me, no matter how much you love him. If you so much as send me a text message or accidentally call…” he made quotation marks with his fingers, “then you’re going to have to figure out how to explain me to him.”
“You’re being unfair, Victor.”
“I’m being fair to me. I deserve better, don’t you think?”
Nedra moved and sat on the edge of the bed, her back to him. “I’ve always thought so.”
“So there you have it, Nedra. You want me to vanish, but all I’ll do is step back just a little…and wait for you to contact me. You will. I know you will. This thing between us is as taut as a bow string.”
She stood up and looked at him. “So…is it safe to assume that we won’t be fucking today?”
“I’m good,” he said. He really didn’t feel like it.
Nedra nodded. “Okay then.” She got up, grabbed her bag, and pulled out a change of clothes. The whole point of the outfit she currently wore was easy access, as Victor had a CFNM fetish he liked to indulge. She removed the skirt and put on a pair of dark blue jeans and swapped her halter-top for a blue long-sleeved T-shirt that covered her wrists. She had a matching scarf to wear around her neck to cover the bruises.
“How are you going to explain those?” Victor asked.
“I’ll figure something out,” she said, unable to keep the snark out of her tone while adjusting her attire. She was angry because she wanted Victor to give her a good hard fuck before what was going to a long day at work. “You don’t need to concern yourself with that.”
Victor kept his smile on the low. She was furious and it showed. He watched her fluff her hair and pack up her bag. Nedra slung the bag over her shoulder and walked towards the door. Victor picked up his Heineken.
She turned and gave him a vicious side-eye. “What?”
“If you don’t like what I’m saying, then prove me wrong.” He took a long drink and raised the bottle to her. “Can you stay away from me?”
Nedra rolled her eyes. She glared at Victor and slammed the door on her way out.
Nedra was at the airport, waiting for Jon’s plane to arrive. She was sitting in a coffee shop at the terminal, sipping a cappuccino and thinking about the past week. One thing was for sure: she and Jon needed to have a serious conversation. Victor was correct in his understanding of Jon’s feelings about her sexual proclivities. He didn’t like them; he found the idea of desecrating her distasteful and repulsive. Jon understood she had particular kinks that he couldn’t satisfy, but he would go above and beyond to please her in every other way. They never spoke of it again and Nedra was content with their relationship as it was.
Then she had to go and meet Victor von Doom. A man she was deeply attracted to; a man she had feelings for; a man who understood her base desires and met her at the level she required. She happily gave over control of her body to him and did not regret doing so. Because of Victor, she was learning more and more about her limits and boundaries. Her trust in him was as strong as her trust in Jon.
Did he trust her? Nedra didn’t think so. He bared his soul to her that night he bound her and ordered her to do no more than think about everything he confessed. She was still thinking about it. Could he trust her? She’d been nothing but honest with him…except she never shared her feelings with him. But she trusted him and he had to know that was significant. She hadn’t seen him since she left him at the motel. Nedra spent the past three days immersed in her work, working additional hours to keep her mind occupied. But she missed him. It irked her that she missed him.
She saw Jon coming out of Baggage Claim and got up to go to him. A smile broke across his face when he saw her. They embraced. Nedra closed her eyes and inhaled. Jon always smelled good and it was always wonderful to be in his arms.
“Jonathan,” she said.
“Roxy,” he replied.
She kissed him and he grabbed her ass. When the kiss broke, she rubbed his cheek. “You got your stuff? Let’s go.”
As they were driving home, Nedra looked over at him. “So baby, what’s going on?”
Jon looked at her. “I miss you. Kosovo took longer than I thought. It frustrates me when that happens. It got me to thinking about making some changes.”
“You want to leave Titan?” Titan was the corporation he worked for.
“No; just change my assignments so that I’m not overseas so damn much.”
“Will they allow that?”
“I haven’t talked with any of my supervisors yet because I want us to discuss it first.”
“Jon, if you want to change your schedule, it’s all right with me. I just don’t want you to leave the job. You’ve been with them since you retired and I know how much you love doing what you do. That, and all the money you make. Frankly, you’ve spoiled me.”
Jon chuckled. “Then I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do, but I’m tired of being away from you so much, Roxy. Six months out of the year…? That’s too much.”
“Jon, it’s never been a problem before…unless you’ve never said anything about it prior to this week. I mean, we’ve always had an understanding about your schedule. Before you retired, I saw you less than that.”
“I know,” he said, reaching over to take her hand. “I just want to be with you. I know that you work all the time and keep crazy hours and your research keeps you busy, but wouldn’t you like it if I were home more often?”
She laced her fingers with his. “Yes. Of course! But what will you do? You know you get bored easily. I’m not changing my schedule, but then again I’m always here.”
“I’ll figure it out.” Jon looked over at her for a long moment. There was something different about her. He first noticed it in the airport, but she was in his arms so fast that he didn’t have a chance to remark on it. “We’ll figure it out.”
A little while later, they were at Jon’s house. The day before, Nedra sent a maid service to clean up and she bought groceries and opened up the house so that it would be fresh and ready when he got home. He went to take a shower and she ordered food from Sherpa’s. Nedra was nervous. She knew there was more to what Jon said, and she also needed to tell him some things. But she didn’t know how to broach the subject, or even if she should do it this night. When the food came, she set it up in the kitchen and got a Corona out of the fridge. Jon came out, dressed in a T-shirt and sweats, smiling at her as she fixed his plate.
“Is that a double bacon cheeseburger from Cleve’s?”
“And a loaded baked potato. And a slab of lemon pound cake.”
“You spoil me, woman,” he said, sitting down and opening the Corona. Nedra sat next to him and plated her own food: a single bacon cheeseburger and steak fries. She also ordered a large salted caramel shake because even though Cleve’s had the best hand-scooped milkshakes this side of town, she rarely indulged.
She noticed that Jon kept looking at her as they ate.
“There’s something different about you, Roxy,” he said. “There’s a light in your eyes, something that’s given you a glow.”
Nedra took that moment to take a sip of shake so she could think. When she swallowed, she said, “I’m just happy to see you, Jon. I miss you too. I’m lonely when you’re not here.” At least she was before she became involved with Victor.
“No,” he said. “Not saying you don’t, but this is something different.” He took a bite of his burger and stared at her.
“Well, I’m not sure what you’re seeing,” she said, “but if you see a glow, it’s because I ordered my electron microscopes a couple of days ago. Super-geeked about it too. And Franklin told me that I was going to get the laboratory space I asked for.” This was true.
“Good,” he said. “I’m glad to hear that.” He took a bite of baked potato and the meal continued in comfortable silence, but Nedra noticed he kept looking at her. Did the bruises on her neck show? She wore a scarf and her sleeves covered her wrists, but had they slipped and revealed the marks? Then she realized it didn’t matter because she was spending the night with him and he was going to see all of her bruises and she needed to have an explanation ready.
To her surprise, he said, “Have you seen that guy? The one that followed you to China?”
“Funny that you ask,” she said, sipping her shake. “I have. He’s a mechanical engineer with two or three PhDs in his back pocket, and he’s been advising me on the equipment I want to purchase. He’s also helping me design the new lab spaces. The man is a genius and he knows things. He’s pretty damned useful.”
“Is that right,” Jon said, looking at her.
“Frankly, I believe he’s been so helpful because of what he did in China. After you left, I went off on him and he was apologetic. So I think this is his way of making things right.”
“So you’ve had regular contact with him?”
“On and off, yeah. He’s got his own research, so he’s really busy, but he stops by the lab from time to time to offer his advice. He saved me from purchasing defective equipment.”
“Has he come on to you?”
“Jon, what’s with the questions?”
“Answer that one and I’ll answer yours.”
“I knew he would. And what happened?”
“Jonathan…what is going on in your head?”
“What happened, Roxy? Did you send him on his way like you said?”
Nedra closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. Lying to Jon wasn’t something she did, but she did not know what was going on in his mind and she could not read his expression. If she lied, he would know…and their relationship might not survive it. But would it survive the truth?
Best to be honest. She looked at him. “I tried to, but you were right. He’s too strong, and he’s difficult to manipulate.”
Jon closed his eyes. Nedra stood up and grabbed his hand. “Come with me. If you really want to have this conversation, then we will have it. But there is something you’re going to see soon enough, and I may as well show you now. You won’t like it, but if I can make you understand it…maybe you’ll have some peace.”
He followed her to the bedroom and turned on the lights. “Sit down,” she said. He sat on the edge of the bed and Nedra stood in front of him. Quietly she removed her scarf and the sweater. Jon stared at the bruises on her neck and arms and looked up at her.
“Nedra, what in the hell happened? Who did that to you? Was it him? I’m going to fucking rip his goddamned head off!!” Jon jumped to his feet and Nedra grabbed his arm.
“No you won’t. Let me talk and please listen, and then you can speak when you have all the information. I have agonized over how to bring this up, but may as well just spit it out. Sit back down, baby.” She caressed his cheeks. “Just know that I love you. I love you so much. That won’t ever change.”
“Tell me,” he said, closing his eyes. He sat back down.
Nedra put the sweater back on. “You were right. He didn’t give up or let it go. I slept with him. Victor is tenacious and I acknowledged that I found him attractive, so there came a point where it was extremely hard for me to fight him off. He appeals to me in a…ummm…he appeals to my base needs and I gave in. Victor…” she sighed, “…does the things that you don’t care for, and once I crossed that line it became difficult to cross back over. The scars…I allowed him to do that. He didn’t hurt me. He never has.”
“How many times?”
“How many times what?”
“How many times did you let him tie you up? That’s what he did, right? Tied you up? How in the hell did you get that bruise on your neck? Did he put a rope around it?”
Nedra put her hands behind her back and linked her fingers to keep from fidgeting. “Twice. No. I have a collar. It was my first time using it.”
Jon’s hands were on his knees and they rolled into fists. Nedra continued to speak. “I slept with him more than once, but if you ask me for a number, I can’t give it to you.”
Jon’s eyes were still closed. Nedra heard him taking deep breaths. He said, “Do you love him?”
Nedra took a deep breath of her own. “I developed some feelings for him because what we did was very intense and it evokes raw emotion that defies description, and he helped me figure some things out. But he’s not you, Jon. I’m not in love with him. I like him very much and he really is a fascinating man, but I love you. He’s keenly aware of that.”
“What do you feel when you’re with him?”
“Well, he’s a prodigy in three disciplines and we’ve had some fantastic theoretical conversations. He’s passionate about his work and the things he wants, and he’s funny. I enjoy being around him at times. I feel a measure of satisfaction because he’s able to give me what I need; what I can’t get from…um, anywhere else.”
“Nedra, you know I’m not into that sort of thing. But I guess I underestimated how into it you are. I didn’t know that neglecting that part of you would bring us here.”
“Neither did I, Jon. I didn’t plan this. And I certainly wouldn’t deliberately hurt you, but I’m not going to lie to you. You please me in so many ways and I was satisfied for a very long time. I didn’t want for anything. Yes, I had the yearnings and the kinks, but I could suppress them. But I can’t do that anymore. I can’t.”
Jon opened his eyes and looked at Nedra. “Part of me desperately wants to know exactly what he did and part of me can’t bear to hear it. You let him tie you up hard enough to leave bruises. Dear God, what else did you let him do? How far down the rabbit hole have you gone?” Could he even compete?
“Are you actually asking or just thinking out loud?”
“I don’t know,” he said.
“I’ll tell you one more thing and then you have to decide if you want to know the rest. You won’t like it. You won’t understand it. You’re going to hate me or at least be disgusted with me…and maybe you’ll decide that you don’t want to love a woman who can allow a man such liberties.”
Jon took a shaky breath. “What?”
“We go to a motel sometimes…usually once a week.”
Jon collapsed on the bed and put his hands over his face. “GOD, NEDRA!!!”
Thin tears slid down her cheeks. “I told you,” she said.
“FUCKING HELL!!! YOU LET HIM…DO THAT?!”
“Yes.” Her voice lowered. “I like it. It makes me feel a different kind of sexy. I wish that it didn’t bother you so much because I would love it if you did it…if you had it in you to…”
“I didn’t realize,” he said, hands still covering his face. “I really underestimated your needs. I fucked that up…and here we are. You have another man in your life.”
“I don’t want you to feel bad about this, baby. It’s my fault. I let Victor in and now I can’t get rid of him. It’s my fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s me.”
Jon sat back up and stared at her. Nedra wanted to go to him, cup his face and shower it with kisses, but she was scared to do so. His expression was unreadable and she didn’t believe he would accept any kind of comfort from her.
“No,” he said, “I didn’t keep up my end of the deal. I made a promise and I didn’t keep it. I became complacent and I made the assumption that you were content. I have to own my part in this.”
“Jonathan, don’t say that! It’s not true! You’ve done everything you said you would do. You’ve done right by me. This is my fault! Mine! I’m being extremely selfish. I’m the cause of your pain, so please direct your rage at me.”
Jon stared at her and Nedra hated herself for the look she saw in his eyes. Shame burned her face and she turned away, unable to handle the agony in his expression.
“I should go. You need to process this. I would never deliberately hurt you, but lying to you would have been a thousand times worse. Call me tomorrow if you want, and we can discuss it some more if you want to. Or if you don’t...okay?”
Jon put his head in his hands and said nothing. Nedra walked towards him and put a hand on the back of his head. He recoiled and she jumped back. Then she turned and walked towards the bedroom door. “I’ll understand if you don’t want to talk to me tomorrow or the next day, but please don’t shut me out, Jonathan. I love you.”
He didn’t move. Nedra sighed softly and left the room. She quickly cleaned up the kitchen, grabbed her purse and left. If he made the decision to end their relationship, she was going to be devastated.
Victor was walking towards his apartment building, deep in thought when he heard someone call his name. He looked around. There was a Harley-Davidson Softail parked next to the fence and a guy was standing by it. Victor stopped walking when he realized who it was. The man started walking towards him and two thoughts popped immediately to mind: flight or fight? Victor wasn’t known for running, but physically he wasn’t a match for Nedra’s big ox of a boyfriend. That didn’t mean he didn’t stand a chance in a fight if one occurred; he could defend himself and he was a strategist, if nothing else.
Jon’s expression was blank as he stood in front of Victor.
“What do you want?” Victor asked.
“You know what? I’m not even sure why I decided to come here.” Jon said. “But here I am.”
“We have nothing to discuss.”
“Oh yes we do,” Jon said. “We have quite a bit to discuss.”
“Is that so?”
“You know good and goddamn well what this is about. I know you’re involved with Nedra.”
“Is that right?” Victor said, staring at the larger man. He wasn’t scared.
“Let’s not play games,” Jon said. “She already owned up to it.”
Victor remained calm; he already knew about it from his video feed. “And…?”
“What I want to do is beat your ass all over this parking lot. What I’d like to do is snap your neck. But…that wouldn’t be right, and it wouldn’t solve anything.”
Victor cocked his head to the side. “You don’t think I’m just going to stand here and let you beat my ass? You got the wrong one, good sir.”
Jon closed his eyes. “You’ve had your hands all over my woman. You know her in a way that I’m very uncomfortable with. You’ve done things with her, to her…and…”
“I detect no lies. And?”
Jon’s hands were in fists and Victor warily took a step back, thinking about going on the offense within the next three seconds. If he caught Jon off guard, that would give him an advantage.
“I’m not going to hit you.” Jon said. “Although it would make me feel a whole lot better, this isn’t your fault. It’s Roxy’s and mine. That’s what sickens me.”
“If you didn’t come here to fight, then what are we doing? You know everything…or do you?”
“What do you mean?”
“What did Nedra tell you?”
Jon put his hands inside his pockets to keep them from forming fists. He really wanted to lay the man out, but…
“She said you were persistent…and then the time came when she couldn’t resist.”
“That’s true,” Victor said. “But you shouldn’t have been surprised to hear it.”
“I know. I saw it in your eyes when we were in China. It was all over you like a scent. You wanted her and you didn’t stop until you got her. My existence didn’t matter to you.”
“Still don’t,” Victor said. “But what is it that you want me to say? What is it that you came all this way for? An apology? To hear me say that I’ll back off and leave her alone? Nope, can’t do that, and I’m not sorry. Nedra is an unusual, amazing woman.”
“Are you in love with her?”
“I feel something for her. Not sure if it’s love, as I have no point of reference. But it’s strong, it’s powerful, and it isn’t something I’m willing to give up. She makes me feel things; she makes me want things. So if you expect me to let that go, you’re crazy.”
Jon stood there for a long moment. Victor couldn’t read him, but he was tired of standing outside.
“Look, come on in and have a beer or something. You are obviously in your feelings and you need to speak on them, but the words aren’t coming and I don’t want to stand out here all night.”
Victor unlocked his door and walked in. Jon followed. Victor motioned for him to go up the stairs and he followed. He didn’t know if Jon was carrying, but he wasn’t about to get got. Not today. Ever cautious, he opened the door and moved so that Jon could enter.
Victor pointed at a chair. “Have a seat. Are you carrying?”
“No,” Jon said. He opened his jacket and did a 360 to show. He lifted both pant legs and Victor was reasonably satisfied.
“Nothing in your jacket?”
“I don’t own a gun small enough to fit in these pockets. I’m not armed. If I were, I would have shot you on sight. But I need to understand…all this…and killing you won’t give me the answers I seek. Though it would make me feel better.”
“Do you want a beer?”
Victor sat down at his desk and glanced at his security cam. “What is it that you need to understand?”
“What are you to her? What does she see in you?”
“You’ll have to ask her that.”
“She said that you fill in the blanks.”
“Blanks you left,” Victor replied. “Blanks she needs to have filled.”
Jon sat in the chair and put his hands on his knees. “I’m not sure if I want to know the details. She mentioned one of them and…and…”
“What did she tell you?”
“The motel thing.” Jon gripped his knees. “Weekly.”
“Are you sure you want to hear this? Because it looks like you don’t. Maybe you need to start by telling me what you expect from this conversation and what it is you think you can get out of me. What Nedra and I do is between us. If she chooses to tell you things, that’s on her. But you won’t get any juicy details from me. She’s repeatedly told me that you were her business, and as far as I’m concerned, you are. So if you feel a kind of way about what’s happened between her and me, she’s the keeper of the answers you seek.”
Jon looked at Victor and Victor was finally able to read one or two expressions. The man looked thoughtful…and not angry at all.
“You won’t tell me anything?”
“No. It’s nobody’s business what we do. Just like I don’t ask about what you two do. And to be fair, she’s never offered any information on that subject.” It was the whitest of lies.
“Who are you?” Jon asked.
“My name is Victor von Doom. I’m from Latveria, and I’m a mechanical engineer at Baxter. I’m 33, I live here, and that’s basically it. I’m a simple man and I lead a fairly simple life. My research takes up a great deal of my time.”
“She said you were a crazy genius with multiple PhDs and you were helping her with her lab.”
“I am all of that.”
“And there is nothing I can say or do—short of murdering you—that will make you leave her alone.”
“Nope. Sure you don’t want a beer or something?”
Jon merely stared. After a moment, he said, “No.”
“Are you going to leave her?” Victor asked.
Jon was silent for a long moment. Victor waited patiently. The man was full of emotions that he could barely contain; that much Victor could see.
“I met Roxy shortly after she enlisted. She was such a funny badass and we became friends. Any woman who can handle herself with a multitude of weapons including her fists is a woman I want in my life, friend or otherwise. She was so competitive, but she had a good heart and a fiery spirit I adored. She made me laugh, made me think, inspired me to be better and do better. I don’t know when I fell in love with her, but I did and I fell hard. She made it so easy and I couldn’t help myself, especially once she owned up to her feelings for me.”
Victor listened intently, wondering if Nedra would ever give him the same courtesy. Jon continued to talk.
“During our tour in Afghanistan, we saw combat and I got shot in the leg. She came back to help me and I remember an explosion nearby and her falling down, holding her stomach.” Jon closed his eyes. “She tried to get up, but she couldn’t. I managed to get to my feet and drag her out of harm’s way, and then some members of our squad found us and got us to safety.”
Victor remained quiet.
Jon rubbed his hands together. “We talked about getting married at some point and having two or three kids. I come from a large family and I wanted one with her. It wasn’t until later, after we came home that I found out that Roxy was pregnant and the shrapnel she took injured her uterus. She had to have a hysterectomy. She didn’t know she was pregnant. When she found out that our child did not survive the injury, and she wouldn’t be able to have another one, she left the Corps and she left me. It was my fault. I got shot and she came back for me. Had I been a little more attentive to my surroundings, I wouldn’t have taken a bullet and she wouldn’t have had to try and save me.”
Victor stared. It was as if Jon were talking to a therapist or someone other than him. But now he knew the real reason behind the scar that disfigured her belly. He closed his eyes. Whenever they had sex in the motel, he would pull out and remove the condom before jerking all over her stomach. From the very beginning, her scar fascinated him, but she told him that it wasn’t something she wanted to discuss and so he never brought it up.
He understood why, now.
“I tried to move on. I continued to serve and move up in rank, completed my assignments and buried myself in the Corps. I tried to date other women when circumstances allowed it. I tried to figure out what a life without Nedra would be like and eventually I realized that there was not one scenario which existed that included me being happy without her. So about two or three years after she was discharged, I searched for her and found her at Cal Tech. Time apart gave her clarity and I begged her forgiveness. I told her that if she would have me back, I would see to it that she never wanted for anything. I promised her that I would never let anything happen to her and that I would protect her above all else.
“She took me back and we’ve been together ever since. The only thing that changed was that she no longer wanted to get married. I have kept my end of the bargain, or so I thought. I’m in your house right now because I failed to give Nedra everything she needed. I’m here because I didn’t really understand those needs. I’m sitting here because you know her in a way that I don’t, and it is not a way I am capable of or comfortable with. I’m here because I have to understand if it is even remotely possible for me to be okay with…this…if it makes Nedra happy. I need her to be happy. I owe her that.”
Victor listened carefully.
“I need to know who you are, Victor. I need to know the man whom Nedra trusts enough that she allows him certain liberties. I need to know you.”
“Jon, if you’re worried about me hurting her—”
“I swear to God if you do, I will skin you alive and cut your fucking head off. I promise you that if you cause her to lose an eyelash she wasn’t supposed to lose, I will happily murder you and dispose of your body. I know how, believe me. So who the hell are you?”
“Before I answer that, I have to know one thing.”
“Have you ever made her feel bad about having those particular needs?”
“I don’t recall ever shaming her, but I may have without realizing it. She did ask me to do the motel thing, but I couldn’t bring myself to act the way she wanted. I couldn’t do the things she asked me to, and in not doing so, I left some slack...and took for granted that she was content with our relationship. I never imagined that there would be another man who would pick up the slack. I was wrong.”
Victor said, “I met a woman who I found quite appealing, and I wanted her. I told you that I wanted her the moment she walked in my door. And since I’m used to getting my way, I didn’t stop until I got what I wanted. She asked me how I felt about certain things. It just so happens that I appreciate the lifestyle and could give her what she wanted.”
“You’re caught up with the sex aspect, but it’s not just about sex. It is a lifestyle that many people engage in; a lifestyle I imagine Nedra had some experience with before she became involved with you, because she knows exactly what she wants. There are protocols in place that responsible partners adhere to in order to ensure safety while obtaining pleasure. Basically, I do whatever I want within the parameters Nedra sets. It is she who tells me how far I can go, and if she does not like what I do, we stop. You really should do some research. And you really should talk to Nedra, because some of what I’m saying may be more palatable to you coming from her.”
Jon’s head hurt, as if it was being pumped full of information and imagery. The images of Victor tying her up and doing the things she wanted were overwhelming. “I have a headache,” he said, standing up. “I need to leave.”
“There’s something you should know. Nedra was insistent that I not contact her whenever you come home. She has reassured me more than once that she loves you and that you are entitled to her full attention when you’re here. I had to agree to those terms.”
Jon looked at him, taking it in. “It’s more important for me to know if she loves you.”
“I can’t answer that. You’ll have to ask her. But did you get what you came for?”
“I still don’t know who you are.”
“You should get that information from Nedra as well, and then I can fill in the blanks. But I can assure you that I have not and will not hurt her.” Physically, he was sure of it. Emotionally, he wasn’t. But Jon needed some peace of mind and Victor wanted the man to leave in a good place.
“This isn’t over,” Jon said. “We will talk again, and soon.”
“You know where I live,” Victor replied.
“Tainted Love” –Gloria Jones
“I Feel for You” –Chaka Khan
“Straight Up” –Paula Abdul
“Need You Tonight” –INXS