Chapter 33: Indecisive Finishes

on September 21, 2011 in Volume 2 Book 2: The Trouble With Twyla, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Things Are Put Off

Afterward, when Amaranth had freed my arms and we were cuddling on the bed, I told her about Nicki. It was easier with my eyes bound, somehow. I didn’t feel like I had to think about what I was saying, I could just open up and let the words fall out.

I hadn’t told her at dinner because I didn’t really want it to be a whole big public thing in our group, especially when I didn’t know what I was doing or what would happen… Nicki seemed nice, but five minutes of conversation isn’t always enough to know if you’ll get along with someone for any longer than that.

“It’s up to you,” she said. “Though really, you should try to be as clear in your intentions as you can. It’s one thing if someone won’t take no for an answer, but another thing if you’re trying to skirt around ‘no’ and leaving them to guess.”

“I was trying to be clear,” I said. “I think she’s the one who was being coy about her intentions. I mean, she said she’s not looking for a date but I think that’s pretty much exactly what she wants.”

“Well, there’s one thing,” Amaranth said. “If she said she just wants a dance, there’s no reason you and I couldn’t go together… that way you could give her a dance if you want to, but you’d have…”

“An escape portal?”

“Support,” Amaranth said. “And don’t interrupt people when they’re talking, baby.”

“Sorry, ma’am.”

I felt the blindfold loosen, though she hadn’t seemed to touch it. My first thought was that I had done something to break the spell somehow.

“Oh, that’ll be the time limit,” Amaranth said when the knot undid itself and it slipped off my face entirely.. “Thirty minutes. It’s a safety thing.”

“That was only thirty minutes?” I said. It felt like we might have been entwined in the bed for longer than that, to say nothing of what had come before.

“I renewed it a couple of times,” Amaranth said. “You seemed to be finding it restful, but then I got restful, too. Do you want it back on?”

“No, thank you,” I said. There was no disappointment or big feeling of coming down, but it really did feel like some magic had run out of the blindfold now that it was off. The fact that the words came out “no, thank you” and not “no, ma’am” showed that… as did the fact that Amaranth had offered to put it back on me instead of deciding to do so or not on her own.

“Maybe we could all go to the dance together,” Amaranth said.

“Who’s ‘we all’?” I asked. “Are you talking about a group outing?”

“I was actually thinking just you, me, Ian, and Steff, if she wants to go,” Amaranth said. “We’ve never really done a group date. When the three of us stayed in town last Veil, I thought it was kind of nice… though we had a lot of other things going on and we weren’t all doing things together.”

“Yeah, I was going to say that ‘nice’ is not the word I would have chosen for that particular weekend,” I said.

“Well, that’s why I’m sad we never did anything like that again,” Amaranth said. “We should go out and do things for pleasure, not just because we’ve made a mess and need to pull together and deal with it.”

“You mean I’ve made a mess,” I said.

She she reached down and put a finger to my lips. It was a gesture from earlier in our relationship that she rarely needed to employ any more. Once she had used it because I was stubborn and argumentative. Now she was using it to stop me from going after one of my favorite targets.

We,” Amaranth said. “Being together means you are never in trouble by yourself, baby. I want you to remember that.”

I could have argued that while I appreciated her solidarity, I had simply been speaking accurately about the situation… it really was more correct to say that I had made the mess, even if it had involved her and even though she would have stood by me no matter what.

But my statement hadn’t been motivated strictly by a desire for accuracy or honesty, and Amaranth knew that. So she kept her finger in place for a few more seconds, until the desire to argue passed.

“Anyway, let’s not talk about bad times,” Amaranth said. “A multiple date… what do you think?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I mean, you’re all dating me but you’re not really dating each other, are you?”

“I don’t think that could be said of Ian and me,” Amaranth said. “Or Steff and me.”

“It’s Ian and Steff I’m thinking of.” I said. “They aren’t intimate, and there isn’t any interest there. And Ian’s a lot more open about poly stuff than he was, but I think being out in public on a date with multiple people at the same time might be more than he wants to take on… especially if he’d have to break out a diagram to explain that he’s there with you and me but not with Steff.”

“It’s not like everyone who saw the four of us showing up together and even dancing with each other would know about our relationships,” Amaranth said.

“Some of that is common knowledge, in some circles,” I said.

“Well, people who do know it, know it,” Amaranth said. “And if they think he’s dating Steff or they assume that we all just have sex together, not seeing all of us together at a dance isn’t likely to change their minds. Anyway, baby, I think we’re both forgetting that we haven’t asked either one of them.”

“I thought we were figuring out if it’s a good idea to ask both of them.”

“If you don’t want to go as a group, that’s one thing,” Amaranth said. “And if Ian doesn’t care to go for the reasons you’re citing, that’s fine… I’m confident that he’d be mature about it if asked, and that Steff wouldn’t feel slighted. And I’m not sure Steff would want to, anyway… she likes group sex but I get the feeling she likes dating to be one-on-one. I think the mistake would be assuming we know what either of them would want without asking… that’s where the hurt feelings would come from.”

The tiny but still present reflexive argument… reflex… quietly pointed out that she was speaking from experience there, but so what? The fact that she’d made that mistake herself in the past and was still prone to doing so sometimes didn’t mean that it suddenly became the right thing to do when she was the one who pointed it out.

“You’re right,” I said.

“Of course, you do have a point… we haven’t decided for sure to ask them, in part because you haven’t said for certain that you’re going,” Amaranth said. “Or if you want to go with me. What do you think, baby?”

Suddenly I had not just one decision to make about Saturday but three… I wondered if being in a relationship had ever simplified anything.

“Well, I’m pretty sure that I don’t want to go by myself,” I said. “With you would be fine… with you and the others would be fine… but it’s not like I enjoy dancing enough that I’d be excited just to go to one, and I don’t want to count on hanging out with Nicki the whole time to fill the void.”

“You sound like you’re not expecting to like her.”

“Maybe we get along great but she’s there with a bunch of other friends,” I said. “I’m… better one on one, or with people that I know.”

“Okay, baby, that’s fair,” Amaranth said. “You don’t have to decide right away… though we should ask them by tomorrow, and the earlier the better, I think. If you wait until Saturday, it might end up being you and me by default.”

I realized at that moment that I hadn’t even been considering that there was a tomorrow… at least, not one that fell between that day and Saturday. Somewhere in the fog of post-intimacy and the discussion about weekend plans, the day had morphed into Friday for me.

The problem with doing anything too climactic… no pun intended… on a Thursday night is that by that late in the week you’re already ready for the weekend, and this doesn’t help anything. It felt like it should be Friday already, like the next day should be Saturday.

In the course of my journey to the pinnacle of wisdom that comes with being a sophomore, I’d come to think of this sort of thing as where the real motivation killer came from when it came to attending classes and giving them my full attention… yeah, there were teachers I wasn’t a huge fan of and subjects that I wouldn’t have chosen to study for myself, but thinking about how much I might dislike going to those classes was an exercise in reminding myself that I had to.

It’s when I started thinking things like it feels like it should be the weekend already that ran into trouble, because it’s hard to argue with “feels like” and “should be”.

Okay, it’s not that hard… you just say “yeah, well, it isn’t”.

The real problem was that it created a sort of malaise that didn’t seem to need answering. I’d learned to psyche myself up about classes that I just needed to get through, but my techniques for coping with the general feeling that I shouldn’t have to be out of bed before ten and listening to a lecture on this particular day were less well-developed.

“You’ve gone quiet,” Amaranth said. “What are you thinking?”

“Maybe Ian had the right idea about waiting for tomorrow,” I said. “This would have made a great end for the week, you know?”

“If we’d traded nights, wouldn’t you be thinking that about whatever he did with you?”

“Probably,” I admitted. “It’s more just… I don’t know.”

“I suppose we could have both held off,” Amaranth said. “Would you rather we had consulted with you before planning?”

I thought about that.

If she had asked me, I probably would have said yes, because why would I want to say no to Amaranth? But maybe I would have decided that it was best to wait for the weekend… as much as I’d needed the release, I hadn’t needed it in the sense of being driven to distraction by the thought of missing it. There were more drawbacks to fooling around the night before we both had classes and so many benefits to doing it on a night where we didn’t have to get up early the next day.

But still…

“No,” I said.

“Are you sure, baby?” Amaranth said.

“Honestly? It’s just not something I care about,” I said. “I mean, I don’t like being dragged somewhere without being told where I’m going or why… in fact, I’m not really a fan of surprises in general. But I’m in a relationship with both of you. I expect that, you know, this sort of thing will happen. And… well…”

“Go on baby,” Amaranth said. The flush that had started to creep across my cheeks darkened.

“I like the idea of you and Ian deciding who’s going to have me when.”

“That I definitely understand. But would you like to be more in the loop?”

“I actually was in the loop, sort of,” I said. “And I told him he should talk to you. Honestly, I’ve had a lot of things coming at me today, and I’m kind of glad that I didn’t have to think about this.”

“You know that you can tell me if you don’t like something,” Amaranth said, sitting up in the bed and scooting back towards the head of it. “It’s not a bad thing to assert yourself.”

“I know,” I said. “But it’s an effort. I have to assert myself when I’m dealing with other people. It’s like navigating a dungeon full of traps. I don’t want to have to do it with you. I want a space in my life where I don’t have to think… a place where there are no traps or pitfalls or things to trip over or walk into, where I don’t have to second-guess every decision I make because I’m not the one deciding.”

“So… you are okay with this?” she said.

I noticed for the first time how uncertain she sounded. Amaranth could tell what someone was into as easily as she could tell what they looked like. She knew what a person craved… but even at her most naive, she’d know there was a difference between craving and wanting. Or to put it another way, there are different ways of wanting. I could say in all honesty that I wanted to be treated like a toy, an object to be used and put away. Okay, maybe I wasn’t to the point where I could say that out loud without prompting, but it was true. I wanted that, for a certain value of “want”.

But it wasn’t all I wanted. I had desires and plans that were incompatible with that. Amaranth knew that, and she knew she couldn’t read my mind or even my heart. Sometimes, she was the one who needed reassuring.

I shifted my head into her lap and looked up at her. I wasn’t trying to look at her any particular way. Amaranth could wield her expressions like a precision instrument. I wielded mine like I wielded my staff: flailing around with more force than grace. Artifice was out of the question, but hopefully unnecessary if my eyes reflected any of the adoration I felt for her.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said, trying to invest that second word with as much firmness as I could. I tried to imagine how she might explain something to me. “Sometimes you might take me by surprise… it’s like coming around a corner and finding yourself three inches away from a friend’s face. The fact that you jump and yelp and take a big step backwards doesn’t mean you aren’t happy to see them. It just means you weren’t expecting them to be right there.”

Amaranth laughed.

“I didn’t think it was that funny,” I said.

“No, it’s just… well, your usual metaphors are… it’s not what I was expecting,” she said. “But as you say, that’s not a bad thing. That’s really a good way of putting it. Anyway, I did think you would be happier this way, and I’m glad I’m right. I mean, I’m glad that you are happier.”

“You’re also glad to be right,” I said, and she smirked and gave me a little bop on the nose.

“Honestly?” she said, giving her hair an exaggerated toss. “I stopped noticing when I was right a long time ago. It’s just like… background noise.”

“Of course,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“Of course, what?”

“Of course, ma’am,” I said, and we both laughed.

“So… you’re going to sleep on Nicki, then?”

“I’d prefer to say I’m sleeping on the dance,” I said. “But, yes.”

“Don’t forget about Twyla, too,” Amaranth said.

“I thought you didn’t want me to say anything to her before next week.”

“I know, but I also know how things… and people… slip your mind, and then catch you unprepared for dealing with them when they suddenly blow up,” Amaranth said. “Like you said, you have a lot of things coming at you right now. I don’t watch you having the rug pulled out from under you if anything more happens with her.”

I sighed. I did have a lot of things coming at me, and it seemed like a lot of them had to do with Twyla, and in theory those should have been the easiest to avoid. She had been ready to turn away from my door when I opened it. I’d given her advice. It hadn’t worked out, so maybe the best thing to do now would be to walk away. It wasn’t like I’d be losing a friend.

Twyla’s own problems were real, but my trouble with her had been of my own making. The question was, was this something I needed to walk away from… or something I needed to fix?

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19 Responses to “Chapter 33: Indecisive Finishes”

  1. Reminder: next chapter will be on Sunday the 25th. Thank you for reading!

    Current score: 0
  2. Trystia Indraea Olyphis Farrower says:

    I find myself really disappointed with Mackenzie. She should have admitted her failure in Callahan’s class today, and committed to putting in even more effort the next day to make up for it. Omitting something like that feels like lying.

    Current score: 1
    • Zergonapal says:

      Actually I believe you are wrong in 32 Amaranth said that this wasn’t a punishment and she made it quite clear Mack was no to remain quiet unless prompted so Mack was not permitted to offer information on how her day went, nor did Amaranth ask her to.
      Perhaps Mack considered the beatdown both physical and verbal she received in Callahan’s class was appropriate for her lack of concentration. I have no basis to compare how intense Macks submission to Amaranth is, but I think it is entirely in character that she didn’t feel necessary to come crawling to Amaranth because of that.
      Besides failing Callahan’s class would ultimately be the worse punishment of all anyway.

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      • Zergonapal says:

        btw how do you put something in quotes or italics here?

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        • Oni says:

          In wordpress, the software powering this place, you should be able to do it like this; you use the less-than/greater-than symbol brackets with “em” in the starting bracket and “/em” in the ending bracket.

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  3. Spec Grim says:

    “I don’t watch you having the rug pulled out from under you if anything more happens with her.” The “watch” in this sentence should probably be a “want”.


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  4. Gmorg says:

    I am so sad that I have finally caught up with the story! I must move on to read “More Tales” to fill the void ’til the 26th (here in Australia at least!)

    To make some notes on Trystia and Zergonapal’s comments seems appropriate here. So I hope you don’t mind- I mean none of these as criticism, just notes from an eager reader.

    As Zergonapal mentions- Amaranth has not given Mack the means nor opportunity to raise the subject of her seeming failure in Callahan’s class. In my personal summation of the situation, Mack and Amaranth are still in the beautiful beginnings of a relationship- be it a D/s relationship or a vanilla one everyone goes through the “testing of the waters” in the early days- Mack and Amaranth are sill discovering their limits and boundaries. They have just come back together after a period of relative solitude and they have both grown as people… (something I am sure our esteemed author will show in the future as events unfurl.)

    Mack’s desire and willingness to submit to Amaranth may be one thing, but we also have to remember that Mack avoids confrontation when possible, pushing it to the back of her mind whenever she has the opportunity… she has more than likely done this with her thoughts of Callahan’s class and it wont be until she is either questioned, or her memory is prompted in some way, before she tells anyone.

    AlexandraErin, I would just like to take the time to thank you for my last few months of “reading for fun” material. Its great to take a break from the mundane world and get lost in a land of extremes in imagination.


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  5. Tomo says:

    “Like you said, you have a lot of things coming at you right now. I don’t watch you having the rug pulled out from under you if anything more happens with her.”
    should be want maybe? Other than that, great chapter. I love the way the characters interact in this story.

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    • Zergonapal says:

      Does AE watch Dead Like Me? Because in an episode I watched today George said something very similar. Or maybe its just a common turn of phrase.

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    • Luke Licens says:

      I second the ‘awkward construction’ thought. It just doesn’t parse right to me, though I suppose it might be a regional dialect thing.

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  6. Burnsidhe says:

    I very much empathize with Mack here. Making decisions quickly on the basis of little information is stressful; having someone help or make decisions for you is a relief.

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  7. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report

    She she reached down and put a finger to my lips.

    Too many “she”s.

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  8. Avire says:

    (yes im still lurking around ;P )

    this sentence I don’t watch you having the rug pulled out from under you if anything more happens with her.”

    is that supposed to be like that? and odd phrase but not native English speaker so i might be wrong? so i am wondering if this is intentional ?

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    • HiEv says:

      I’d guess it’s supposed to be, “I don’t _want_to_ watch you _have_ the rug pulled out from under you if anything more happens with her.” The “want to” is missing and “having” should be “have”.

      Also, this isn’t wrong, per se, however I’d change the end of, “Amaranth had offered to put it back on me instead of deciding to do so or not on her own,” to “instead of deciding whether or not to do so on her own.” Seems slightly less awkward that way. That might just be my opinion though.

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  9. Zathras IX says:

    An indecisive
    Finish isn’t an un-
    Finished decision

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  10. Khazidhea says:

    I don’t watch you having the rug pulled out from under you if anything more happens with her.”
    ‘Watch’ maybe should be ‘want’

    Current score: 0