Anna met Martin in a bar. She never went to bars to go to a bar, the way the people Anna thought of as cool did, but her friend Violet wanted to have a glass of wine before she headed out on her date, and she wanted Anna’s advice, too, she said, so there Anna was, not even old enough to drink but sipping coffee as Violet went on and on about the guy who had invited her to the symphony.
“I mean,” Violet said, “don’t get mad, but I want to get the perspective of a virgin on this. He works for one of those big corporations that are taking over government functions—you know, under the new laws?—and everyone I meet who works for them seems to be, like, totally on board with that idea the president started talking about last year.”
“The New Modesty?” Anna felt her face flush very hot. “Look—”
“I said, don’t get mad! I want to make him think I’m totally innocent. I think he likes that kind of thing, the kind of thing you do, Anna, whenever anyone talks about sex—covering your ears and blushing and all that stuff, like you really don’t want a man to touch you between your legs, ever, let alone put his long, hard cock in your tight little virgin pussy.”
Anna knew Violet was teasing, of course. She also knew, though, that at the same time her friend was trying to make a point. Violet understood Anna much too well; the wicked words had indeed made Anna’s cheeks turn scarlet and caused her to put her hands over her ears.
“Stop!” she said. “You know how that embarrasses me! I don’t know how you can say that stuff, let alone…”
“Do it?” Violet said coyly, arching her dark brown eyebrows high above her hazel eyes. Violet had a sort of sultry beauty that Anna knew contrasted sharply and maybe even piquantly with Anna’s own youthful bloom, as she liked to think of her looks, casting her imagination back to the old books she loved so much. Yes, Anna still had her innocence, and she didn’t mind having it—except when friends like Violet talked about what Anna thought of as that stuff.
Anna just looked back at her friend as fiercely as she could. An expression of sympathy replaced the arch, mocking one on Violet’s face—the look of a more experienced woman pitying a less experienced one who simply had no idea what she had in store. That made Anna even angrier, her blood running all the hotter because she knew Violet had the truth on her side.
“Anna, you’re going to have to have sex some time,” she said.
“What makes you so sure about that? Some people…”
“I know, but you’re not one of them.” Violet looked steadily at Anna for a long moment, and Anna couldn’t hold her gaze after a few seconds, had to look down at the light brown surface of her coffee.
“Anyway, Ian says he wants to have anal sex tonight…”
“And I said I hadn’t ever had it, I don’t know why, I think because I could tell it would make him hot for me. So I lied. And when I said it, he said it was really hot, and he would be gentle with me. And that made me all hot and bothered…”
“Vi, you have to tell him the truth!” Anna couldn’t believe she was having this conversation. Her heart pounded and she felt like all the blood had now drained from her face in some ultimate gesture of shame that went far beyond blushing.
“I will! I will… but not tonight, and so…”
Anna shook her head in puzzlement. She couldn’t seem to find the slightest idea on what Violet might actually want her opinion. “So… what?”
“Well, the thing is, I’ve had anal a few times, with a couple different guys, and I kind of like it…”
“Oh, God,” Anna whispered, her cup rattling against the saucer as she picked it up to take a sip that would cover her discomfort.
“Oh, Anna, it’s not even, you know, a thing… anymore, at least. It’s like you’re living three centuries ago.”
Anna’s mind whirled. The idea of sex itself, with the man’s big, hard… her mind did the mental equivalent of swallowing hard… penis inside you—even where it belonged, between your legs, in front—in your… vagina (she could usually think that one without the mental gulp, though she always felt like she wanted to call it her private part, like a schoolgirl)… well, that idea held quite enough shame and anxiety for her. She didn’t have any need, or the slightest desire, to think about the other way—the way that, yes, of course, people talked about, but no one Anna knew (she had previously thought, at least) had ever done, or would ever do.
Anna had supposed that girls like Violet probably took their boyfriends’ penises in their mouths sometimes—a thing Anna herself planned never to do even when she got married, which, truth to tell, she felt pretty sure she would someday. Even if her eventual husband asked her to kiss his penis, Anna had decided she wouldn’t do it. And the sort of man she would marry wouldn’t tell her to do that, or tell her to bend over the arm of the sofa with her panties down, or anything like that.
On their wedding night, he wouldn’t even get to see her naked, no matter how much he wanted. Anna would wear a nice silk nightgown, and no panties under it, and she would spread her legs and let him pull the nightgown up so that he could put his penis inside her down there, and do that back-and-forth thing you apparently couldn’t avoid seeing in movies these days. It might not be so terrible, though she did know from her reading that it would hurt the first time.
“Well,” she answered Violet. “I guess it’s still a thing for girls like me.” She tried to look daggers at her friend, to get her to stop talking about this stuff.
“And that’s why I want your advice,” Violet said. She checked the time on her phone. “Damn, I have to go. Just answer one question. If you had a boyfriend, and he told you it was time for anal sex, what would you say?”
Anna felt her brow furrow. “I’d tell him to go back to… hell, or… wherever he came from.”
Violet’s eyes widened in surprise. “Wow,” she said. “Okay, well, what if you really loved him? And you were sure he loved you?”
That brought Anna up short. How could she ever love a man who wanted to do that? Let alone to do that to her?
“I…” Unwelcome images crowded her mind. “I guess I would ask him if I could… I don’t know, do something else. And…” The images started to coalesce in the most awful way conceivable, and she found that her mouth seemed to be continuing to speak without any wish on her part to utter anything further. “And if he said that he would punish me, if I didn’t let him…”
“Whoa,” Violet said. “Who said anything about that?” She studied Anna so closely that Anna had to look down again at her coffee, now nearly empty.
“I didn’t mean, you know, punish,” she said lamely. “Just, you know, get mad, or something.” She raised her eyes to Violet’s to find her friend looking back at her in what seemed like mild confusion.
“Okay,” Violet said. “So I’ll go with…” She made her voice higher, falsely innocent. “Please, Ian, can’t I do something else for you? I’ve never had a big, hard cock in my little bottom. Won’t it hurt?”
Anna had no idea what to say, so she said nothing. Her lips had compressed into a tight line and she hoped her face conveyed exasperation, as if to say, “Done yet?”
Violet rose. “Thanks, love,” she said, bending down to give Anna a kiss on her cheek. “I mean it. I know it was kind of cruel to you to do that, but I really needed to know. Call you tomorrow? I promise not to say anything about what it felt like to have the most gorgeous man in New England deep inside my ass.”
“Violet!” But now Anna felt like she had returned to more familiar ground, where her friend would tease her a little, but not press the way she just had—not make the unwelcome images flood Anna’s brain, so that her body went hot and cold and, above all, odd, like she had stopped being herself but had at the same time suddenly become much more herself than she ever felt she could be.
She watched through the window and took the last sip of her coffee as Violet hailed a cab. What would she do tonight? Or, she thought with an inward sigh, shouldn’t she just rephrase that as What should she watch on TV before she curled up in bed with a nineteenth century novel? Anna gazed into the empty bottom of the cup, sitting primly on its saucer with the spoon beside it. All tidy.
The voice came from above her, to the left side of the little table between the two low chairs that Violet had chosen, off in the corner of the hotel bar. The retrospective realization that Violet had chosen the secluded spot because she had wanted to talk about that sent a flash of heat to her cheeks, as if the owner of the masculine voice must be saying excuse me because he felt the need to leave any place where girls had disgraced themselves by talking about sex at all, let alone wicked sex.
Anna didn’t know why, but the voice seemed absolutely to be that kind of voice: very masculine, very deep, very serious.
All these confused impressions took only a fraction of a second to run through Anna’s mind, though, leaving her with the rest of that second to look up and see the man. Black blazer, crisp white shirt with no tie. Tight jeans, but not too tight. As tall, dark, and handsome as they came, if not-quite-clean-shaven made the grade.
Out of my league. Way, way out of my league. Anna didn’t care how many times Violet and some of her other friends told her that she could look like a model, or an actress, if she would just try a little harder in the morning and walk less like she thought something was going to jump out of every doorway at her. She knew what she saw in the mirror.
She looked at the man, sure the alarm she felt on her face would cause him to walk away, probably without even apologizing for confusing her with someone else.
But instead he said, “I apologize for how forward this will seem, but may I sit down?”
Alarm changed to deep confusion. “I…” she started, sure that so confident-seeming a man would simply sit without waiting, sparing Anna the need to figure out what to say. But again he surprised her, and waited for permission. “I was just leaving,” she said, starting to prove it by beginning to move muscles that seemed frozen, in the general direction of standing.
“I think you may want to stay just a few more minutes,” the man said. “May I sit?”
At first, Anna’s head went side to side, but it wasn’t a gesture of negation, nor did the man seem to perceive it thus. Anna just couldn’t seem to figure out what had happened, was happening. At last she developed enough control over herself to nod, and even to say, “Yes,” though her voice came out of her mouth sounding truly strange to her, as if a different person had spoken for her, assenting to the reasonable request that seemed suddenly and bizarrely such a very big deal.
He sat. Anna felt her eyes following his movements as if they had a will of their own. Every part of her, now, seemed to have become detached. Nothing remotely like this had ever happened to her before; maybe it was natural that she should feel that this movie-star handsome man had somehow begun to pluck parts of Anna away from other parts. Voice, no longer hers. Eyes, compelled only to look at him. Mind, unable to attempt any other thought but What the hell is he going to say?
He sat in the low leather armchair, leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees, and looked intently back at Anna. “My name,” he said, “is Martin Lourcy.”