While Ward was finally getting his first taste of the Real Thing, Harlan was off with Audre, getting his own initiation into a very different and no less real side of the boy-girl thing.
But before we look in on Harlan and Audre and their after-school recreation, we cannot leave you with only a few thin slices of Ward and Regina’s horizontal dance, and no idea of what Ward would bring to his debriefing with Harlan.
Ward’s tumble in the sheets with Regina was thrilling and sensual. The denial each one had about their mutual attraction resulted in neither of them being prepared for sex that day. They did not have a condom.
Now they were in Regina’s bed, too hot to stop and consider a better way to go about this.
The Thrill of this encounter was not unlike the antisocial activity of the FOSOA. This, too, was a flirting-with-the-margin that separates the nice, legal things from the nasty, illegal ones with all their lingering consequences.
What motivated the FOSOA was their need to break from their obedience and take on something antisocial to stretch against the restraints built into their ambitious lives.
Whereas the desire that ultimately stripped off Ward and Regina’s clothes, tossed open her bed-sheets, and cranked up the space heater angled near the bed, the better for them to rub their naked bodies together without the encumbrance of bedding, was another imperative: the unrestrained mammalian reproductive drive that cares for nothing more than the replication of genes, the sooner the better.
The Sensuality, as it happened, had the same cause as the thrills: sex without a condom, turgid penis against vaginal walls wet with estrus, rolling waves of lubricious mucus membranes that coaxed the turgid penis to deposit its life-bearing fluid near enough to the uterine opening to spark the miracle of life, all in a rage of hormonal activity.
This, of course, will lead to other, very real thrills. Will Regina have a menstrual period in two weeks when she is due? Christmas Break, 2011: The Thriller.
The experience nearly closed off Ward’s mind from all rational processes, from all caution. From all but one tiny piece of consciousness telling him to pull that thing out of its happy place and launch its mess of come anywhere but the baby factory. He did, he thought, just in the nick of time. Or so they hoped.
Harlan and Audre were also experimenting. But their experiment’s parameters were set up along different needs. Less mutual, one might argue, though there are strong pieces of evidence that would counter that argument.
They took advantage of the early end to the school day to find some place to be alone.
Harlan would not normally have considered Golden Gate Park but his usual will had been diluted considerably by these feelings he had, a strange, previously-unexperienced emotional world in which he was light-headed and felt a welcome stupidity take over his usually incisive mind. All he knew was that he wanted to be with Audre.
But he was cautious about who might see him with her. Not all of him had gone dull and stupid with romance. While they were still in the vicinity of the campus, he did not take her hand in his or put his arm around her to tell her he thought she was hot.
This was not because he feared rejection. This might be the case with other young men, who fear that the action of baring their feelings, rather than opening the woman up to a mutual infatuation, will only annoy her and instead conjure rejection.
Harlan had no such fear. He could see that Audre was nuts for him. She was shy, flushed, weakened by some emotions that he thought she might not understand any more than he was able to understand what had taken hold of him. But he knew that she would not reject him or ridicule him for his silly state, because she was in a similar one.
Rather, his inhibition was from fearing the shift in his public image. He was the alpha smart-guy. Word had spread that he and Ward had messed around with black powder, had created an explosion that wounded Ward, who had lost actual flesh and would be forever marked by the experience unless a plastic surgeon someday rebuilt an earlobe for him.
These props to his image had given Harlan a bit of cred and more than a little bit of swagger, which he had found helped him to feel OK about being on the periphery of social inclusion. That bit of swagger, that alphahood as the smart guy, could all be spent in a mad hurry if he were no longer seen as the guy who was above all the teen silliness but, in fact, was caught up in the silliest of it.
But when he and Audre were far enough from anyone likely to see them, his inhibitions fell away. He did not care as long as no one from school could spy on them.
At last they were in Golden Gate Park walking along the asphalt paths. The early sunset of late autumn brought a chill breeze blowing from the northwest, off the frigid Pacific Ocean. Audre shivered as they stood on a little elevation above the merry-go-round and its herd of frozen horses circling in their harmless stampede.
Harlan put his arm around her and pulled her close to him. He had an erection, the same one that had gone from full- to half-extension several times since they first boarded the bus near the Hout Campus. Now it was in full telescope mode and he was feeling awkward because Audre seemed to him so innocent, virginal, even, and he did not want to embarrass her. Her hands were stuffed into the pockets of her open coat. Harlan could feel them as she wrapped her coat around him in a hug and held his waist with her insulated fingers.
She snuggled into him till he felt her press against his hard-on. Then she moved her hips a little bit and he felt the pressure of her body move away from his stiff penis. Then she pulled him closer again and he reached up to her face and opened the curtain of hair and kissed her carefully on the mouth.
Her first contact with him was chaste, as if she were kissing a grandma or an auntie. He kissed her again and this time her mouth opened a little and their tongues touched. They held each other closer and he could feel moisture at the tip of his penis. He hoped he was not going to come. She reached her pocketed hands behind his back and pressed her body still closer to his and they kissed again. And again and again. Their hips were rising and falling slightly with each kiss.
“Hey, get a room!” spat a weathered old homely man in his late 40s, as he hurried by.
This made them laugh, and they broke off the embrace. They held hands and began to walk but Harlan’s Bone Daddy was giving him great discomfort. He excused himself and stepped into the restroom near where they had embraced. In the stall, it took Harlan just a few quick strokes, a flush of the toilet and a quick fondle of his scrotum, to get him painfree and ready to walk.
While they strolled without speaking along the paths of the park, quiet smiles took over their faces. They were oblivious to any stimuli beyond the one they walked with hand-in-hand.
In this state of reverie, Harlan pondered. I don’t think I need to do the Real Thing with this girl. At least not today. Weird. Maybe I’m in love?
Audre interrupted this inner query with a gentle poke to his ribs.
“Hey. I think I like you.”
“Me, too, I think. I mean, you, you I like.”
“But I… I need to go real, real slow.”
“That’s OK. Real slow. OK.”
This was fine for Harlan. He did not need to get the Real Thing from Audre, at least not just then. That goal had flown from him. He was no longer regarding her as another target of his ambition. He liked that she lived outside that world with its drama of success or failure always hanging in the balance.
“And I want you to promise me something?” she continued.
Harlan wanted to pull his hand from her. Now it begins, he thought, the assignments, the requirements, the coercion. The buzzed feeling seemed to come for free, but now comes the hidden cost.
Though his hand loosened up slightly, it did not convey rejection or a new indifference. He needed to hear what she had in mind.
“So, like, promise you what?”
“Um. Like, boys talk? You know? Whatever happens, could you, like, promise you won’t tell anything to your friends?”
“Well, I don’t have many friends.”
“Ward. He’s your friend. And Mona Boggs’ twin brother, right? So promise?”
“Yeah. Yeah, sure. No problem.”
And there truly was no problem in this for Harlan. This was not going to be a hard assignment. Even before Audre had made her request, he was wondering how he could tell Ward that he felt something that made him not want to treat Audre like Gina Dunphy or the Porn Babes. No, this was an easy request. It was almost as if he had requested it of himself.
Just in case she doubted his sincerity he added, “No problem. Really. No problem at all. We are like Las Vegas. What happens here stays here. Right?”
Audre’s answer was non-verbal. She stopped them walking and wrapped Harlan in another open-coat embrace. Bone Daddy came back to life. Something felt different, though, this time, something sweet and pure. Then they kissed and kissed and kissed some more.
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