Reversal:Curio Vignettes 03(7)

By: Cara McKenna

She takes a seat on the edge of the bed. “When you shut the curtains or go inside a hunk of brass or between some woman’s legs…you’re not fixing anything that’s upsetting you.” The words are forceful, but her tone kind.

“It soothes me.”

“But it doesn’t heal you any. You have to feel that stuff. Distracting yourself and hiding just puts the pain on pause. It doesn’t actually go away.”

My cock goes limp. In my rational brain I know she’s right, but the frightened child in me resents her for it. This room is the single place I can rely on to make me feel capable and in control. The safest corner of my tiny world, and she wants to take that away?

No no no no no.

Why does the woman I care for the deepest insist on causing me the most distress?

I speak slowly, feigning calm. “I could wallow in how anxious I feel for hours but it won’t fix me either.”

“It will. Over time.”

“Letting the pain become familiar won’t lessen it. It’ll only numb me. Why not numb myself with pleasure instead?” I reach for her, but she moves farther down the bed, stretching her legs to build a moat between us.

“I don’t want to be treated like an alcoholic’s drink,” she tells me.

“That’s not fair—”

“And the pain will lessen, if you make yourself feel it. It’s like…it’s like a storm. It can’t rain forever. You have to ride it out.”

I crawl to her, uninterested in being swayed by any logic outside the carnal. “It can rain all it likes, but I don’t see why I should stand outside and be miserable. Not when I can be warm and safe. Inside.” I nudge her knees apart with my own, but she braces her palms against my shoulders.

“Fine. Not a storm then. But it’s homework. It has to be done if you’re ever going to graduate to what’s next. And ignoring it won’t make the pile any smaller. Don’t give it the power to make you hide.”

I sit back on my heels and sigh, relenting.

“I won’t pretend we’re the same,” she says, “but you know how I used to be. So anxious about being with men I nearly turned thirty still a virgin.”

“Not such a terrible crime.”

“Maybe not, but pretty cowardly. It wasn’t easy coming here, to be with you. I stood on your doorstep for ages, too nervous to ring your bell. But I did, and I did the work, and the reward’s been worth it. So worth it,” she says again, and rubs my thighs in gentle concession. “I know it’s not the same. But find a reward. Something to make the work bearable. A place you want to visit. A friend or a relative you’ve had to shut out of your life, who you could see again.”

A woman whose respect I want so desperately to earn. Whose body should stay here, wrapped in mine each night, under these covers. But the pain hurts so badly and there’s no guarantee she’d want the same, even if I could become functional again.

I let a long breath rattle from my throat then meet her gaze. “Do you not want me tonight?”

“No, of course I do.” In a near-mumble she adds, “I always want you.”

Relief loosens my back.

“I just don’t want you to medicate with me.”

“That’s never my aim.”

“I’m sure it’s not. But I don’t want you all…”

Weak? Pathetic? Exactly as I am?

“I don’t want you all worshipful.”


“Not when I know it’s to help you get out of your head.” She looks thoughtful a moment, staring past my face toward the window. Slowly, a smile curls her lips and she meets my eyes.


“Why don’t you let me seduce you for a change?”

My brows rise. This is unlike Caroly indeed. If sex is a Sunday drive to her, she’s perfectly happy to come along and see the sights—but she’s never once asked to steer. And I don’t know how I’d feel, not having my hands wrapped firmly around the wheel. Even with clients who wish me to be passive, I always feel in charge of the experience. The performance.

She’s not after a performance, though. Already my mind is racing. It feels as though I’ve drunk several espressos, anxiety buzzing at the edges of my head, drying my mouth. Tonight of all nights, I want to fall back on what makes me feel competent, in control. Tonight of all nights, I want to be the one doing.

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