I had literally no idea how to respond to this, so I just drank. I’d never thought about these things, had instead preferred to just try anything and everything that a given woman wanted, but I found that I really liked that Ziggy pondered all of this.
“But lately, I’m kind of figuring out what I like,” she admitted. “That’s fun, but it’s hard not having a way to figure it out firsthand. Hence, porn.”
She took a long drink and then grinned over at me. Two weeks ago if Ziggy had said something like this to me, I would have been secondhand embarrassed for her to be so open in her inexperience. Now I found that I wanted to protect it, just a little.
“I can’t believe I’m encouraging this conversation, but . . . I worry p**n might give you a false sense of what sex should be like.”
“Because the sex you see in p**n isn’t very realistic.”
Laughing, she asked, “You mean most men don’t have a Pringle can in their pants?”
“I have had sex before, Will. Just not much variation. Porn is a good way to see what rings the old bell, if you know what I’m saying.”
She didn’t respond for several long beats. “That isn’t my name, you know.”
“I know. But it is what I call you.”
“Will you always call me ‘Ziggy’?”
She shrugged, swiveling on her stool to face me again. “A little maybe? I mean, it doesn’t really fit me anymore. Only my family calls me that. Not, like, friends.”
“I don’t think you’re a kid, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“No, that isn’t what I’m worried about. Everyone grows up being a kid, and learns how to be a grown-up. I feel like I’ve always known how to be a grown-up, and am just learning how to be a kid. Maybe Ziggy was my grown-up name. Maybe I want to let loose a little.”
I tweaked her ear, and she squealed, pulling away. “So you start to let loose by watching porn?”
“Exactly.” She studied the side of my face. “Can I ask you some personal things?”
I slid my empty pint glass down the bar a little and turned to meet her eyes. “You can ask me anything you want if you buy me another beer.”
She raised her hand, catching the bartender’s attention immediately. Pointing, she said, “Another Guinness,” before turning back to me. “Are you ready?”
Leaning forward, she asked, “Guys really like the anal, don’t they?”
I closed my eyes for a beat, holding in a laugh. “It’s just called anal. Not the anal.”
Sighing, I rubbed my face. Did I even want to go there with her? “I guess? I mean, yeah.”
“And you don’t think about how you’re in—”
“You don’t even know what I was going to say!”
“I do. I know you, Ziggs. I know exactly what you were going to say.”
She made a face, turning back to the television above the bar, where the Knicks were killing the Heat. “Guys can just turn off their brains. I don’t even get that.”
“Then you haven’t had sex worth turning off your brain for.”
“I think you turn your brain off even for mediocre sex.”
Laughing, I admitted, “Probably. I mean, you had mussels for dinner. That’s like . . . sinewy, chewy sea shit. But still, you could give me a bl*w j*b and I wouldn’t be thinking about how you just swallowed mussels.”
I detected a hint of a blush beneath her cheeks. “You’d be thinking about my awesome bl*w j*b skills.”
She started laughing, shaking her head at me. “See? You’re already speechless and I haven’t even done anything yet. Men are so easy.”
“It’s true. Guys would f**k every orifice they could.”
Turning on my seat to face her, I asked, “What?”
“Well, not every orifice is fuckable. Like a nose. Or an ear.”
“No.” She wrinkled her nose, and I glanced at her freckles. Tonight her lips seemed especially red, but I could tell she wasn’t wearing makeup. They were just . . . flushed.
“With me?” She pointed to her chest, and I struggled to not look down. “This doesn’t increase the odds.”
“?‘There once was a man from Nantucket. Whose dick was so long he could suck it. He said with a grin with some come on his chin, if my ear was a cunt I could f**k it.’?”
She regarded me steadily. “That’s . . . kind of gross.”
I loved that this was her first reaction. “Which part? The come on his chin or the ear f**king?”
Ignoring that, she asked, “Would you suck your own dick if you could?”
I started to say there is no way in hell, but then reconsidered. If it was even possible, I probably would at least once, just out of curiosity. “I guess . . .”
“Jesus, Ziggs, you’re really making me think here.”
“You have to think about it?”
“I mean, I would sound like an as**ole if I said there is no way I would swallow, but there is really no way I would swallow. We’re talking about a hypothetical situation where I’m sucking my own dick, and I like it when girls swallow.”
My heart picked up, not only faster but harder, as if it were punching me from the inside. This conversation felt like it was careening quickly out of control. “Do you?”
Ignoring that, she asked, “But guys don’t really like going down on girls, do they? I mean, if you’re being totally honest.”
“I like going down on some girls. Not everyone I’m with, and not for the reason you’re thinking. It’s intimate, and not every woman is totally relaxed about it, which makes it hard to have fun. I don’t know, for me a bl*w j*b is like a hand job, but feels way better. But giving a girl head? I feel like that’s a little farther into a relationship. It requires trust.”
“I’ve never done either. They both seem pretty intimate to me.”
I stopped, quietly thanked the bartender when he put the beer down in front of me, but had no idea how to restrain the weird victory surging in my blood. What was that even about? It wasn’t like I was going to be her first head. It wasn’t like I could go there with her. Besides, Ziggy was so up front about what she wanted . . . with a tightening of my gut I realized that if she wanted me that way, she probably would have already said it. She would have walked up to me, put her hand on my chest, and said, “Would you f**k me?”
“See?” she asked, leaning closer to grab my attention. “What are you thinking about now?”
Tilting my bottle to my lips, I said, “Nothing.”
“If I was a violent woman, my palm would be smacking your cheek right now.”
This made me laugh. “Fine. I was just thinking that it’s a little . . . unusual for you to have had sex before but not given anyone oral sex, or been on the receiving end.”
“I mean,” she started, leaning back a little on her bar stool, “I guess I kind of gave this one guy a bl*w j*b, but I literally had no idea what I was doing, so I ended up just going back up to the face zone.”
“Guys are pretty easy: you stroke up and down and we shoot.”
“No, I mean . . . I get that. I just mean for me. How to do it and breathe, and not worry that I would bite him? Have you ever walked through a china section at a fancy store and you have that panicked moment where you’re totally sure you’re going to flail suddenly and break all of the Waterford crystal?”
I leaned over, laughing. This girl was f**king unreal. “So you’re worried when you have a dick in your mouth you’re just going to . . . bite?”
She started laughing, too, and then before I knew it we were doubled over at the prospect. But almost at the same time, we died down a little and I realized she was staring at my mouth.
Swallowing, I admitted, “Yeah. I like girls to be a little rough.”
“Yeah.” A charged thrill ran through me just hearing her say those words. I swallowed heavily, wondering how long it would be before I’d be able to get the image of her doing those things out of my head. “How many guys have you been with?” I asked.
She took a sip of her iced tea before answering. “Five.”
“You’ve never given head but you’ve had sex with five guys?” My stomach dropped into an abyss, and although I knew my irritation was wildly hypocritical, I couldn’t rein it in. “Holy shit, Ziggs, when?”
She rolled her eyes, actually laughing at me. “I lost my virginity when I was sixteen. The summer you worked with my dad, actually.” Covering my mouth with her hand when I started to protest, she added, “Don’t even start on me, Will. I know you probably lost yours when you were thirteen.”
I closed my mouth, sat up. She’d guessed right.
With a knowing smile, she continued. “And please. I’m sure you’ve had sex with hundreds of women. Five is not that many. I slept with a few guys over the next couple of years and then decided I was doing it wrong. It wasn’t very interesting. I had one boyfriend in college for a little while but . . . I feel like I’m broken. Sex is kind of fun until the actual sex part. Then I’m like, ‘Hmmm, wonder if I have enough cells plated to run the dose response curve with the tool compound tomorrow.’?”
She studied me, and then shrugged. “I don’t think it’s supposed to be boring. I think it’s boring because most guys my age have no idea what to do with the female body.” She looked away, and I almost told her to come back. I was growing addicted to the buzz I felt when she was looking directly at me. “I’m not blaming them. That’s some complicated stuff down there.” She waved a hand over her lap. “It’s just been so long since I met anyone who made me want to see what the big fuss is about.” She looked at my lips before blinking away and studying the wall of draft beers on tap.
I blinked down to my beer in front of me, turned it in little circles on the coaster. Of course she was right, and so many women I knew had sex for reasons other than getting off. Kitty once told me she felt close to me after we fucked. She said it right as I’d begun mentally cataloging my fridge. I felt so much closer to Hanna right now than I’d ever felt to Kitty before, during, or after sex.
Something about her made me feel hungry, like I wanted to be as honest and calm about everything in my life as she was. I wanted to know Hanna, to hear her thoughts on everything.
I paused, my fresh beer partway to my lips, and registered that I’d thought of her as Hanna. It sort of felt like letting out a long-held breath.
Ziggy was Jensen’s sister. Ziggy was the kid I never knew.
Hanna was this uninhibited, self-possessed woman in front of me who I was pretty sure was going to effectively wreck my world.
I’d come to a decision: if I was going to monopolize Will’s time and insist on training with him, then I would have to actually . . . you know . . . train for something.
I’d decided to get serious, to stop thinking of it as a game and start really treating it like an experiment. I started going to bed at a decent hour so I could get up and run with him and still get to the lab early enough for a full day of work at the bench. I expanded my running wardrobe to include some quality workout gear and an extra pair of shoes. I stopped thinking of Starbucks as a food group and cut back on the complaining. And with much flailing on my part and much reassurance on his—we signed up for a half-marathon in mid-April. I was terrified.
But it turned out Will was right: it did get easier. Just a few weeks in and my lungs had stopped burning, my shins had stopped feeling like they were made of brittle sticks, and I no longer felt like vomiting by the time we reached the end of the trail. In fact, we’d actually been able to increase our distance and move to his normal trail along the outer loop. Will said if I could handle the six miles a day and get up to eight-mile runs twice a week, he wouldn’t need to train additionally without me.
It wasn’t just that it started to feel good. I’d started to see a difference, too. Thanks to genetics, I’d always been relatively thin, but never what you’d call fit. My stomach was a tad soft, my arms did that weird jiggle thing when I waved, and there was always this damn little pooch over the top of my jeans if I didn’t keep that shit sucked in. But now . . . things were changing, and I wasn’t the only one who noticed.
“So what’s happening here?” Chloe asked, eyeing me from inside my closet. She pointed a finger at me and swept it around. “You look . . . different.”