David was late to his sister’s housewarming party. More than once he’d nearly turned his car around and gone back home. Now at her apartment door, uncomfortably warm in his winter coat, he fought the urge to leave again. Somewhere inside this apartment his ex-girlfriend Cassie, with new boyfriend at her side, was mingling with his sister’s guests.

The boyfriend was one she’d picked up at his sister’s wedding three months earlier. The wedding that David, stuck in Arizona for a convention, couldn’t attend. Cassie went to the wedding without him, ‘to represent him,’ she’d said. That was some representation: the girlfriend of the brother of the bride hooking up with the groom’s college roommate in the limousine behind the church. Just one of the many wedding highlights David missed.

David didn’t know what he’d say to Cassie when he saw her. He had to make a decision. He sighed, pulled off his knit cap, patted his hair down, then pushed the doorbell and waited, his stomach twisting with the hope no one would hear the bell. A minute later he pushed it again because he really did want to be a good brother.

Finally, the door opened and his new brother-in-law Kevin looked up at him. Kevin was a small man, muscular and alarmingly bowlegged. His face was tanned and weathered. He looked as if he belonged on a ranch in Wyoming instead of pressed suit to suit on the Blue Line train five days a week.

“David, come on in,” Kevin said. They shook hands and David entered the apartment. The apartment was warm with the body heat of too many people in too small a room. David unbuttoned his coat and turned to talk to Kevin but he was gone, probably to tell Debbie of his arrival. The living room was crowded and loud with conversation and underneath it all was the faint pulsing beat of music that David couldn’t quite place. Something pitched low but rhythmic. David had brought with him a bottle of wine and he clutched it close to his body as he wedged himself into the party.

At six-foot-four and weighing in at two hundred fifty pounds, David was a big man. He rolled his shoulders forward and took small steps into the crowd, trying not to jostle the partygoers and their conversations. Faces turned to look up at him, smiles faltered and conversations stuttered to a stop as he moved past people still in their work clothes. Men with their ties removed and shirtsleeves rolled up and women in silk shell blouses, tweed pencil skirts and impossibly high heels. In his wake the conversations began again and he heard them talking about the Kardashians and the Blackhawks’ chances at another Stanley Cup. In the midst of them, he spotted his sister’s pixie-cut dark blonde hair and he changed direction.

“I’m glad you came,” Debbie said when he was close enough. She went up on tiptoes to hug him. She pulled away a little to look up at him. Her face was flushed pink. “I was worried you wouldn’t.”

“I missed your wedding. I wasn’t missing this party too,” David said.

“Oh, the wedding,” she said, turning her head to smile at a woman who said hello as she went by. “It was for Mom, you know that. The old maid princess finally finding her prince and all that romantic crap, besides you didn’t need to be there for our mama’s drama.”

Another wedding highlight he’d missed. David had heard about their mother’s wedding antics, which included trotting out the baby pictures of Debbie. “My Deborah,” she would say to each person that she showed the pictures. Then she insisted on a dance with the groom before the bride danced with him, citing some bizarre ritual she probably read about in some mother-of-the-bride chat room. Later, she proceeded to get a little too tipsy and ended the night in the bridal suite with the saxophone player, who was five years younger than Debbie. The newly married couple found her there having sex with the saxophone player on the loveseat. No one deserves to see their own mother naked in the throes of an orgasm on their wedding night.

“Anyway, I’m glad you’re here now. Are you okay with the Cassie thing?”

“Cassie, who?” David kissed Debbie on the cheek.

“Good because there’s someone I want you to meet.”

“Deb, I didn’t come here to be set up. I’m here to wish you and Kevin a very happy life together in this very nice apartment.”

“Come on. She’s lovely. You’ll see.” Debbie fixed his tie, took the bottle of wine from him and sent him in the direction of the coatroom. He didn’t see another familiar face as he moved through the living room and the knot in his stomach loosened. The coatroom was a small room overwhelmed by a queen size bed. Winter coats were piled high on the bed. Suit jackets, both men’s and women’s, were stacked neatly across a small dresser that crammed itself into one corner. David folded his own coat carefully and tucked it under other coats near the head of the bed. He walked to the little room’s sliver of a window and looked out into the night and onto the street below.

The street was empty and the traffic lights changed for cars that weren’t there. Snow was falling now and all the streetlights had an ethereal glow. Across the street, in the other apartments, he could see lights and the shadows of other people, other lives. Even with the sounds of the party behind him, David enjoyed a few peaceful minutes looking at the new winter world. He smiled and thought this was why people stayed in Chicago despite the bitter cold, for moments just like this.

He glimpsed his own reflection in the glass and sighed. He was a little jealous of Debbie but that was nothing new. They were twins but were hardly a matched set. She was outgoing and up until meeting Kevin, she’d never really latched onto a guy. David, in his heart of hearts, was a homebody more at ease in his favorite chair than out on the town. He’d always wanted a family of his own and because of that he invested himself far too easily in women’s affections. In the wake of Cassie though, he was trying to let go as easily as Debbie did. Before Kevin, she always seemed content to be alone, dating when the mood took her, never lingering with a guy if she didn’t feel something for him.

He supposed the most telling difference between them was how their mother treated them. Debbie, petite from day one and with her gift for singing, won the admiration of their mother and all of their mother’s friends at an early age. According to their mother, David had outgrown everything by the time he was five and she decided he’d be better off in hand-me-downs than new clothes. When their parents threw parties, David had to go to bed while Debbie stayed up and entertained the adults. The only consolation was that later Debbie would come into his room, crawl into his bed and tell him everything she’d seen.

She told him about the big fishbowl on the coffee table where the grown-ups put their keys. The way Mrs. Henderson laughed when Mike the Mailman put his hand on her knee. Their own father talking and laughing with Mrs. Jones as if he really liked her even though he often said she was a snob because she didn’t like Jews or something like that. David had loved every word of it and tried hard to remember the stories so that when he got to school the next day he could tell his friends all about it.

David took a deep breath, smoothed his tie down, and prepared himself to go back out into the party. He thought of the mystery woman Debbie had set him up with. He needed to be more open-minded. He needed to see this set-up as an opportunity. Sure, Cassie and he had gone wrong but maybe his blind date would be the one. He’d recently been offered a new territory. The firing of a decent guy who couldn’t sell a needle to a junkie meant David had a new southern territory on the top of the chunk of Midwest he already covered, David would be out of town maybe forty weeks in the coming year. Three weeks out of every month spent in subpar hotels and motels with beds that were too hard or too soft or smelled too weird for him to sleep well. Three weeks out of every month David would wish for his own sheets and pillows. He’d make good money, but he’d end up too tired to even worry about his online dating profile, much less have the energy to go out on a date. He was sure he’d never meet someone serious with his travel schedule. “And you want serious, don’t you, David?” he asked himself. “Yes, I do.”

David wanted someone who could deal with his travel schedule and who’d still want to have sex with him when he finally got home. Someone who wouldn’t complain that he didn’t fix the toilet seat last time he was home. Cassie was good for that, he remembered. She’d wait until he crossed the apartment’s threshold then she’d be on him, complaining about all the things he hadn’t done for her. Debbie was giving him an opportunity.

David stepped out of the bedroom and was immediately spotted by Debbie. She grinned devilishly at him, wrapped her tiny hand around his wide wrist and pulled him into the ocean of people like a tugboat leading a freighter into port. Along one wall was a deep leather couch and perched on an arm was a woman in a gunmetal grey pantsuit and a low-cut grey blouse and when she stood her bra-less breasts moved under the fabric. This was Annalise. Introductions were made and then Debbie slipped away, evidently sure of her matchmaking skills.

“So you’re a big one,” Annalise said. David heard the disappointment in her voice and saw it in her face as she looked him over again.

“And you’re a snazzy dresser.” There was an edge to his voice he regretted instantly. Really, he just wanted to crawl into a hole and stay there.

“Don’t let the suit fool you. I’m a secretary,” Annalise said, smiling up at him, suddenly perkier. She had a large glass of wine in her hand and took a large gulp and seemed to teeter.

“I’m a drug dealer,” David said. Annalise spluttered and choked on her wine. Then she let out a low small laugh, controlled and precise.

“I’m a pharmaceutical rep,” David added.

“Right.” She gestured for him to lean closer and when he did she said, “Do you have any?”

“Any what?” David asked.

“Drugs. Samples. Of the good stuff, mind you.” She took another swig of her wine and looked at him hopefully.

David focused on her glass of wine. “Is there more of that somewhere?” he said, pointing at her glass.

“Oh sure. In the kitchen,” she said.

David turned on his heel and escaped back into the crowd.

He headed for the kitchen and found five or six people there, getting drinks and chatting. One was a pretty brunette. Her hair was tossed over one shoulder and a tattoo was crawling up one side of her neck. She was opening a beer. David said hello and gave his best smile. She glanced at him and then walked away without a word. David blew out a breath. He turned his attention to the liquor arrayed across the kitchen counter. He pulled a plastic cup from the stack next to the double sink and poured a liberal amount of bourbon into the cup. He gulped it down and enjoyed the burn of it.

David poured more liquor into his cup. A woman’s arm appeared beneath his, reaching for the open bottle of expensive-looking red wine next to him.

“Here, let me,” David said and grabbed the bottle. The woman said thanks from behind his right shoulder and the hand disappeared and reappeared with a glass that tilted for him. He put his hand over hers to steady the glass and felt her soft skin as her hand pulled away slowly. He filled the glass, then turned to see the glass’s owner.

She wore black leather boots and a burgundy dress that clung to all the right places. The neckline of her dress dipped low to reveal just enough cleavage. She was brown-skinned with dark brown eyes. Her hair was a thousand intricate braids that hung down in curls framing her oval face. She looked up at him from under her lashes and gave him a small smile that he found sexy. She said thanks again and David said hello. She lifted her glass at him in some informal salute and began to leave.

“I don’t know you,” David said quickly. “Are you friends with my sister Debbie or are you here with someone?”

She turned back to him. “Debbie works with my cousin. He’s here out there somewhere. There’s too much crowd for me,” she said, waving a hand in the direction of the partygoers. “And why is it so hot?” Circling her neck was a silver chain with a simple diamond pendant that fell into the hollow of her throat and moved when she spoke.

“Yeah, it’s incredibly hot. Not that liquor is helping that situation any.”

“Oh, yeah, right. Well, it’s good wine.”

“Good wine.” David repeated and looked down at his own cup “Good bourbon, too.” Why had he said that?

“I’m a pharmaceutical rep. I go to doctor offices and try to sell them on certain drugs. It’s a noble profession, I think. Did you know…?” And David was off on his spiel. Honed and crafted over many years of pitching to doctors, tweaked slightly for women.

David had been on so many first dates he had lost count. David had had women. Women who thought he was handsome in a non-threatening way. But these women never wanted to stay with David. He was the transition guy, rebound guy, the friends with benefits guy. These women blamed the one-night stands and the unfulfilling lunch dates on David’s crappy travel schedule but really he knew it was just him they found lacking.

Cassie was the first woman in years to see him as husband material. She’d thought he was attractive enough. She thought he was as close to a doctor as she would ever get which was why she moved into his apartment so quickly. Within a year that assumption was proved false as she subsequently met and fell in love with a handsome podiatrist named Steven. David received this revelation in an email after he came home to an empty apartment a week after the wedding.

When Cassie left him, she left behind their bed and his favorite leather chair and its matching ottoman, which she hated. She’d taken the backup drive with all their photos, music and movies on it. She wrote in that goodbye email that he still had the computer so he wouldn’t miss the drive. Besides, she’d bought most of the music and movies anyway. That wasn’t true but he could get another drive. Getting another girlfriend was the tricky part. He hated starting over. It’d been two months since Cassie left and David’s profile on hadn’t received a single hit yet. He hadn’t given up hope yet. After all, there was his sister who had found her someone even if it had taken over twenty years of dating.

As David talked on about his territories and the last conference, he saw the effect he was having on the woman in front of him. She smiled at him but it was obvious she didn’t want anything to do with him. She kept nodding at him vaguely and leaning to look at the people behind him. He knew he should turn away and let her go and he started to do just that when he saw the familiar shape of Cassie off to his right. And much to his surprise David felt a flare of longing for her bloom in his gut. David missed spooning against her at night. He missed the soft angles of her body and the way her red hair would tickle his nose. His missed the freckles that dusted her shoulders.

He turned away from Cassie, looked the woman in burgundy dress in the eye, and stepped closer to her. Her eyes widened and she backed up against the counter. She was trapped by the counter to her right, to her left a woman with a flat ass and big hair who talked while waving her lit cigarette wildly, and so she folded one arm around her middle and brought the other arm up, wielding her glass like a protective shield in front of her.

David said, “You’re a beautiful girl but you know that, right?” She tried to hide her smirk behind her glass. “Beautiful girls make men do stupid things.” David pointed at himself and nearly sloshed his drink down the front of his shirt. He was failing at this. The laughter, the liquor and the music were making the room hum in his ear. He wished he hadn’t worn a tie and long-sleeved shirt. He could feel perspiration prickling his scalp. The sweat would reflect the overhead lighting, drawing attention to his thinning hair and receding hairline.

He took a big drink from his cup, then continued, “My buddy, Mark, he ran into this girl we knew from high school. She was a beauty back then and of course, she was the one he could never get with. Now he works for some international bank, he’s here in Chicago on business, and he sees her while he’s walking down Michigan Avenue. He’s thinking ‘Holy crap, it’s her.’ Now he’s smoother, you know? He walks up to her, says ‘Hey’ and they reconnect over coffee, and this time she wants him.

“So Mark calls off his meeting and heads to the closest hotel he can find and they go up in the elevator kissing and making out like they’re sixteen again. It’s all hot and heavy. When they get in the room, the woman of his adolescent dreams starts taking her clothes off, real seductive-like. She gets down to her heels, bra and panties and that complicated pantyhose shit. You know the thing with the clasps and whatnot?”

“A garter belt,” said his audience of one. She lowered her glass into a less defensive position.

David barked out a nervous laugh. Peripherally, he saw heads turn his direction. He said, “Yeah, her garter belt. Sexy. And this woman goes into her purse and pulls out a little blue pill. She’s got Viagra in her purse like it’s aspirin. Who does this? Anyway, she gives this to my buddy and says—and I’m not kidding you here, this is what she actually said:

“‘You’ve got a decision to make, Mark. Here’s what you need to know to make your decision: First, I love to fuck on this. Second, we can go all night. Third, we can do it any way you want: (a) up against that window, leave my ass print on the glass, or (b) in the shower, fingers and soap in places you’ve never seen on your own body, or (c) on the bed with your hand around my throat, or (d) all of the fucking above.'”

Someone laughs behind David and he shifts to see two men off to one side of the counter more out in the party than in the kitchen but still obviously listening.

“He picks D, of course, because who could refuse an opportunity to have sex with your dream girl?”

“I could.” The beauty in the burgundy dress took a sip of her wine.

“You could?” one of the guys said. David looks him over. Shaved head, nice tie, extremely hairy forearms. But he was drinking the cheap, high school beer that his sister used to make bread. Not a threat, David surmised. But his friend dressed in a dark pinstripe suit and looking like he didn’t ever sweat was eyeing David’s audience like she was the new Prozac.

“Sure. Some guy I’ve been in love with forever suddenly shows up on my doorstep and throws himself at me? I could absolutely tell him no. There’s a reason for this behavior,” she said.

David jumped in with, “Maybe he just realized you were the one.”

“The one? Please. If I’d been his one, we’d be married and living our blissful life somewhere. Some guy from my past shows up like that he must be dying or he’s getting married and trying to get all he can while he can.”

“So you’re a glass half-empty kind of girl?” David asked.

She shrugged. “I tend to assume the worst but I’m open to surprises.” She looked at David and gave him a nod. He wasn’t sure if she meant him or if she just wanted him to go on with the story, so he went on.

“Okay, so Mark feels like a sex god. He’s never been so hard. Never before has he made a woman scream quite like that. She’s insane in the sack, kissing, biting, and clawing at him.

“However, after she’s sore from hours of ceaseless sex, from the friction of body against body, my buddy discovers a few things: (1) his cock is still hard, (2) it’s starting to hurt, (3) that after jacking off and (4) after a thirty-minute cold shower, and (5) after jacking off more, that (6) his cock is still hard and now hurts in a new and amazing way.

“Then his adolescent dream girl, seeing that this is a problem for professionals, helps get him dressed and drives him to the nearest emergency room. Because his pride can’t bear to have her there with him, he waits alone for a medical professional.

“Did I mention he’s in pain? Mark, good guy that he is, tries not to make a scene in the ER. He’s sweating and nearly in tears sitting in a chair in the corner of the room. His coat is draped over his lap and with every breath the pain increases. It’s a throbbing, radiating pain like heat from a fire and there’s this pressure too. It’s tectonic. Diamonds are being made in his urethra. He’s terrified of what his cock looks like after what feels like hours of pain. He imagines his cock as a dangerous, swollen, purple thing ready to explode or maybe detach from his body and run wild among the legs of the other patients before being put down like dog with rabies.”

His audience of one shook her head. Another couple arrived and were listening, crowding David and the woman in the burgundy dress.

“Finally, they call his name and Mark limps behind the triage nurse who shows him to his curtained room. He tries to get up on the gurney. He eases an ass cheek on the bed but that causes his pants to tighten across his groin, which in turn makes him whimper. He tries to sit on the little stool next to his bed but that’s just a different kind of awful. In the end, my buddy takes a deep breath and hops up on the bed, biting back a scream. He leans back and waits for some kind release. Death, maybe.

“Mark’s release comes in the form of a nurse with the palest blue eyes and the blondest blonde hair he’s ever seen. He’s got an erection tenting his suit pants as tall and as hard as the Sears Tower and the steel girders that support it. He swears he can feel every metal tooth of the zipper on his pants. He thinks he’s dying and there he is in front of Heidi, like from the book you know? She even has her hair in two long braids tied with white ribbons at the ends.

“Mark explains his problem with as little eye contact as possible and Nurse Heidi goes to get the doctor. The doctor comes in, a very nice old guy who pats my buddy on the shoulder while telling him ‘never to do this again, young man, because Viagra is not for young men. It is for old men who can’t get it up.'”

David paused to survey the group gathered around him now. At least twenty people had turned to him, listening and sipping at their wine, murmuring softly to each other. Then he realized that Annalise was front and center and her face was a shade of pink that might not be due to the wine or the heat in the room. Maybe this isn’t the best story to be telling, David thought. From behind Annalise, his sister emerged, her face the perfect imitation of their mother’s puckered, pissed off face. David grinned and threw himself into the story, deciding to treat the kitchen as his stage.

“By now it’s been like an hour and a half since Mark arrived at the hospital and he’s squirming on the table. Nurse Heidi shows back up, has him change into a gown, and tells him to lie back and think of the least sexual thing possible. She snaps on blue latex gloves and lays sterile cloth over his legs and belly, then hits his cock with ice-cold lube. He watches as each blue finger slowly wraps around him and then begins to give him the worst hand job in the complete A-Z history of hand jobs. He sticks his hand in his mouth to stop from screaming. It’s the combination of her hand on his thigh, gripping nearly as tight as her grip on his cock and Mark’s fear of what might happen if he leapt off the table, which keeps him still. Or mostly still, he’s twitching with every stroke. The hand that isn’t in his mouth is gripping the side rail like it’s the only thing that keeps him from going under. The nurse is seriously hot but Mark’s not having fun. She’s telling him to relax, it’ll be fine. That it’ll seem like forever but it won’t be that long. Her arm is going, methodically up and down. She probably has tennis elbow by the time she finishes with him half an hour later. But she does finish him, his erection goes down.”

There was a burst of laughter and the woman in the burgundy dress said, “Oh, that’s awful.” David turned to see Debbie crossing her arms but her face had softened.

He watched the beauty next him as her smile grew bigger and worked its way across her face. David wanted to lean in. He wanted to touch her hand and feel her soft skin again. He wanted to go back to the beginning of their moment, and take the time to appreciate the feel of her hand under his. David wanted to find out if he could feel the heat from her body as she stood behind him. He missed that chance before, so wrapped in his own thoughts at the time. These are moments you aren’t supposed to miss, he thought. That first touch, like the first kiss, should be remembered, not guessed at. David wanted a do-over. But now his sister and others were watching.

“You’d think he’d have learned a lesson from all this. Mark leaves the hospital, then he leaves town. He and the high school dream girl call each other every night and it’s hot and heavy even over the phone. My buddy thinks he’s in love and he takes some vacation days and meets up with her here in town.”

People around David groaned and the beauty in the burgundy dress put her hand over her face, giggling into it, as if embarrassed by her laugh. David stepped closer to her. The crowd shifted around them forming a circle. He settled his hip against the counter next to hers and she looked up at him with an expression that said “tell me more”.

Behind the circling partygoers, there was the sound of glass breaking and the apartment fell silent in stages, everyone turning to look. Debbie disappeared back into the crowd. From the opposite side of the room David heard a woman say, “Aw, shit, Debs. I’m so sorry. That was your mother’s vase wasn’t it? Shit, Debs.”

David straightened up, trying to look over the crowd for his sister. To know she was okay. Sometimes during their parent’s parties, he would sneak out of his bedroom and watch his sister sing from the darkened hallway. She sang “Amazing Grace” or “I’m a Little Teapot”. She sang whatever played on the radio if she knew the words. She enthralled everyone. They would wait in silence until she finished. The partygoers waited now to see how Debbie would perform. Debbie was a giver and whoever the woman was had Debbie’s pity. David heard her say, “It’s okay, Marge. Don’t worry. That wasn’t Mom’s vase, honest. It’s okay. Let’s get you into the bathroom and get some cold water on your face.”

The group around David thinned and a gap formed between the bodies of people. David stepped away from the beauty in the burgundy dress for a better view. He’d placed a foot over the threshold between the kitchen and living room when he heard Cassie. Her voice was clear and cutting like every time he would come home to her. Toned to be pleasant but edged to destroy. She was on the move in David’s direction but he couldn’t move. He heard her saying, “Excuse me. I need to get to the kitchen. Need a broom and a towel. Excuse me. Fucking move, man.” She emerged from the crowd, her face flushed and her curly hair frizzed. They were inches apart. Her deep-set green eyes raked over him. David stepped back into the relative safety of the kitchen.

“Oh, here you are. I heard Debbie invited you.” Cassie was five-foot-eight but in heels and with her demeanor, it was always as if she were looking down that Roman nose of hers at him. Around them conversations began quietly again, backs staying turned to David. His audience was abandoning him.

David said, “Course she did. I’m her brother.”

He looked Cassie over. She wore a V-neck sweater in the shade of blue David loved on her. He noticed her double chin was gone and her collarbones were more prominent than he remembered. He almost told her that she looked thinner but that would imply all sorts of things that if he were feeling meaner David might actually want to say to her. However, David remembered in time that this was a party for Debbie, not for him. He decided he didn’t need to confront the woman who left him for a podiatrist. David needed to find her the broom. He set his drink on the counter, found the broom in the space between the stove and refrigerator, and handed it to Cassie.

“Here’s your drink,” said the beauty in the burgundy dress. She pressed it into his hand. The two women looked at each other.

“I’m Cassie.”

“Nice to meet you.” His companion smiled at Cassie then up at David. He couldn’t help but smile back. Opportunity was an angel in a burgundy dress.

“I didn’t know you were dating someone,” Cassie said, one hand on her hip, the other gripping the broom’s handle.

“We just met. David was telling me a story.”

“Yeah, I heard part of that one before. God, can he go on and on or what? Don’t let him talk your ear off. You know, this man even talks in his sleep. Fucking annoying, right?” Cassie laughed.

“I don’t know. It might not be so bad.”

Cassie frowned at this. David tried not to choke on his bourbon.

“I didn’t catch your name,” Cassie said.

“It’s Rebecca,” she said.

“How do you spell that? I know a black girl in my department named Diana but she spells it with a Y and two Ns. So how do you spell Rebecca?”

“Traditionally, I would say.”

“With two Cs?”

“More like biblical tradition, with a K and an H.”

David’s heart sank a little. He was telling that story to what, a nice Jewish or Catholic girl? All this time she was being nice to him, listening to him go on and on about Viagra and cock, of all things.

“Then, I guess I’ll go.” Cassie’s gaze lingered on David for a moment longer, then she turned and went back into the crowd. The music got louder, the conversations pitched higher and David wished he’d stayed home.

“Look, if I’ve offended you in any way, then I’m sorry, Rebekah.” David mumbled into his cup.

“Finish,” Rebekah pleaded. She pulled him by the arm until they were both leaning against the counter again. She was waiting and he began again.

“Okay then. Mark hooks back up with her and they’re back in the hotel. It’s even hotter than last time and they’re going at it big time. He’s singing the praises of her ass, the beauty of her skin and she stops him, leans down over him and says please. She gives him another Viagra. She tells him it was a fluke. A one-off. A one-in-a-million side effect of the drug.”

Rebekah shook her head.

“I know, I know, but he does it anyway. This time he tries to be a little smarter about things and he takes only half. And hello world, they are off and fucking. On the rug, in the tub, up against the hotel room door after room service delivers pancakes topped off with whipped cream.”

David put his hands up. “I didn’t ask details about the food. Nevertheless, like last time, she’s tired long before his engine is done and he’s back in the shower praying to God that his erection goes away. Finally, he gives in and has her drop him back off at the ER. Once again, he’s in a curtained room and of all the fucking nurses that work in that hospital in walks his Nurse Heidi, once again assigned to relieve him.

“Mark can’t even look at her, he’s so embarrassed, as he should be. I mean, he’s nearly forty. Nurse Heidi lays out the sterile cloth again. Again with the arctic lube. Again with the death grip on his cock. This time Mark can’t shut up. He’s nearly crying with apologies to this nurse. ‘Gawd, this isn’t what you think,’ he tells her panting through the pain. It doesn’t take as long this time and once he’s done, he swears to the doctor, the nurse, and to everyone else within earshot, that he’s never gonna do this again. Nurse Heidi looks him in the eye and says, ‘You should find a nice girl. I’d give you my number but I think you may be too weird even for me. And I’ve dated guys in prison.'”

David went on, with Rebekah laughing next to him and eventually a few of the other partygoers returned to hear the end of the story. Some asked if it was a true story. Others asked for another story. Rebekah leaned in close to him and together they faced his audience talking and laughing with them. Across the room Debbie stood next to Kevin and nodded like she approved.

Nikki Dolson’s fiction is forthcoming or has appeared in The Vignette Review, The Northville Review, and Red Rock Review. She occasionally tweets at @nikkidolson and tumbles over at

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