Well, first off, thanks for having me to visit, Jenny! I'm glad to be back. I'm really excited to be talking about my new novel,
And while she’d tried to make the space a little more cheerful, bringing in a small plant and hanging some funny—well, okay, relatively funny—quotes from great writers, the window remained the only perk in an otherwise awkward space that was sweltering in summer and damp in winter. But Leanne knew that as a graduate student, she was lucky to have secured any office, even this one.
Sighing, she abandoned the view and sized up the thick stack of term papers she’d collected during the last lecture. Determined, she opened one, but before she’d corrected the first run-on sentence, memories of the weekend hijacked her thoughts.
Ever since their wild encounter and subsequent humiliating discovery, she’d undertaken some serious soul searching, asking herself again and again what kind of person would abandon her so-called principles at the drop of a hat—or a bathrobe—for a pathetic thrill with some guy she picked up in a strip club. Even if he did have washboard abs and a killer smile.
And was hung like a Greek god…
Her devil-may-care side had chipped in a lot over the past forty-eight hours.
Until Saturday, she hadn’t even known it existed. She’d always played it safe. Done the expected and never strayed outside the lines. Now, she was discovering that she also had a Leanne-cares-a-lot side too.
The aftermath of their encounter had been awkward and tacky. Although the other dancers apologized profusely for their ill-timed interruption, there was no ignoring the subtle signs of approval they telegraphed their coworker. Or Brandon’s stony embarrassment, clearly conveyed despite his near-catatonic silence.
Dressing hurriedly, trying not to meet his eye, knowing the scorn and condemnation she would see in his face, she’d barely been able to look up from the floor. Only as she left the room had he spoken.
“Are you okay to get home?”
She’d turned, perplexed, all her thoughts focused on escape. “I don’t understand.”
“Do you have a way to get home? Will your friends make sure you get there safely?”
She shook her head and tried to overcome the after-effects of their incredible sex. There was no way she could face Gillian and the bombed bridesmaids. She’d rather be drawn and quartered. “No. But I can grab the bus or find a taxi…”
His lips thinned. “You’re not walking alone at this time of night,” he’d said angrily and picked up the radio from the dressing table. “Jay…Jay…come in…”
“Hey, Brandon. What’s up?”
“I need you to do me a favor.”
In the end, the bouncer waited with her out front until the taxi arrived. And when she reached her apartment, she discovered Brandon had also arranged for the fare to be taken care of, the driver making a show of the brightly colored chit he’d collected at the club.
Yet as she lay awake in bed that night, her body still thrumming with the incredible sensations he’d awoken, it hadn’t been his sexual prowess she remembered as much as his thoughtfulness, his protectiveness. He’d made sure she’d been looked after.
Maybe, she thought, if I went back to the club, we could meet again…
The notion of returning to the strip club brought her back to earth like a cold dash of water. What the hell was she thinking? Brandon was an exotic dancer; she was an academic in training. The sex might have been great but what would they ever talk about outside of bed? They had nothing in common. Nothing at all.
Now, as she shifted restlessly in her rickety office chair, she knew she had to put Saturday night behind her. She’d been over this and over this all weekend and the conclusion was always the same. So what if she’d had the greatest sex of her life? For him, it was probably just another anonymous sexual encounter. She should treat it the same way.
Trying to muster her willpower, she turned her attention to the next paper.
Bryon’s poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” is an important poem because it’s a really romantic poem about Harold and not the crazy sister that Bryon liked to sleep with.
Oh boy. Not an auspicious start, when even the poet’s name was spelled incorrectly.
The office door opened, and Cassandra Murphy, a fellow doctoral candidate and Leanne’s best friend, rescued her from reading another torturous line.
“Tell me again why earning this degree was a good idea,” she moaned as she laid a stack of books on the adjoining desk. “I’m in debt up to my eyeballs—I should be clear of it shortly before retirement—and Julia and I decorate with milk crates while eating no-name macaroni. My comps are in two months and I already feel like flinging myself from the observatory tower.” She threw herself dramatically into a chair. “I have been reading, I am reading, I will be reading.”
Leanne smiled sympathetically. She remembered how harried and emotionally drained she’d felt when she faced her own monumental two-day comprehensive exams last year.
“You’ll more than survive. You’ll blow them all away and get the green light to begin writing your thesis, which will wow the entire academy and make them say ‘Judith Butler who?’”
At the mention of the oft-controversial lesbian theorist, Cassandra grinned.
“I’d be willing to share the stage with her. As long as I get top billing in the conference programs.” Reaching for the shelf where they kept their not so emergency cookie stash, she continued between mouthfuls, “Julia had good news, though. She’s had her abstract accepted for the next MLA conference. It’s in St. Paul.”
For a moment, Leanne was distracted by the great news. Only the best humanities scholars were accepted to present at the Modern Language Association’s annual conference and being chosen was a huge feather in Julia’s cap. “That’s fantastic. I hope you took her out to celebrate.”
“I never need a reason to celebrate with the woman I love.” Cassandra laughed. “But yes, I let her supersize the fries and the drink. If that ain’t love, I don’t know what is.” Her eyes sharpened. “Wasn’t this the weekend for the ghastly Gillian’s hen party? Did you end up going? How was it? Really, really awful or just sorta-kinda awful?”
I had the best sex of my life and three orgasms, all within half an hour of meeting a perfect stranger.
“Right.” Cassandra snorted. “I’ve met Gillian. Fun and Gillian don’t usually travel together. So, tell me, did the bride-to-be get falling-down drunk and do something tacky and embarrassing? And if she did, puh-lease tell me you got pictures.”
“Well, Gillian didn’t…”
“Ooh, that sounds promising.” Cassandra rolled her chair over, straddling it with her long legs. Leaning over its back, her chin resting on her arms, she smirked. “Let me guess. You went to the strip club, got wildly drunk and had noisy, kinky, public sex with a total stranger before being discovered in a compromising position.”
“Um…yeah. That’s about the size of it,” she admitted before hastily qualifying her statement by adding, “but I wasn’t drunk.”