“Absolutely not,” I’d said when she first asked me. “Absolutely not.”
I could see her bright, lipsticked mouth tug downward, even over the screen’s pixelation and lag. Screaming Orgasm, I wanted to say cheekily, to show her that I still remembered the trademark shade she wore every day, even in college, the one that graced dozens of worn notes and ruined my white T-shirts. Without thinking, I ran a finger over my own lips. I pulled it away — revealing no sudden swatch of color — and felt the unexpected rise of a sigh.
“Is Max there?” She asked.
“No.” My boyfriend, Max DiMarco, the up-and-coming model who’d recently scored the spot in a Giorgio Armani ad, was gone for the weekend on shoot, somewhere tropical. Go with him, my publicist had suggested icily, in her way that felt more like a demand. Let Us Weekly snap a picture of him rubbing sunscreen on your back, or whatever. I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt the buzz around your new movie.
With the invisible presence in the room vanishing, Ava stretched out on her bed. I made out the quilted purple throw pillows behind her head and a painting of the Kansas City skyline on one side of her wall. The brushstrokes looked loose and fat — one of those BYOB art class canvases. I pictured Ava gripping her paintbrush in a way that made another woman stare down at her long fingers, her voice dropping lower to ask, Will you tie my apron? I pictured Ava’s hands on the small of another woman’s back…
Ridiculous. I was with Max now. I’d had the opportunity to stay with Ava in a Midwestern metropolis, going on adorable dates and making cute crafts for our apartment. I probably would’ve kept acting as a hobby, appearing in small community productions while I worked as a barista or in a bookstore.
Instead, there was the movie. After commercials for shampoos, gym memberships, and vacuum cleaners, after spots as an extra in sitcoms, and, finally, after an arc on a popular teenage drama, I’d landed it. I’d made the struggling, scraping years worth it. Now, everyone thought of me as an “overnight success.”
Besides Ava. She knew how hard it had been. She knew how much I’d given up.
“Do you have a poster of me on your other wall?” I asked Ava teasingly.
“Yeah. You know how there used to be posters of Katie Holmes, Sophia Bush, or whoever, that you could tear out of magazines? Well, I guess I’m the new ‘girl next door—’”
I heard Ava pretend to retch.
“Stop! I know it’s crazy, but that’s really what they’re calling me. Yes, the big, ominous, invisible ‘they’ who decides these things. And it makes me feel weird that guys are probably jacking off to my picture now. It helps… I know this sounds stupid, but it helps to think maybe you still touch yourself to me, too.”
I saw Ava’s eyes soften into molten hazel. God, I knew that look… It was the look she’d given me on the first day of our college screenwriting class, when I’d first spotted her long, strawberry blonde hair, curling in wisps at her neck, and asked if I could sit by her. That semester had stretched agonizingly slowly, with me smelling the citrus notes of her perfume as it wafted across the small amount of air between us. On nights after the class, I’d turn every assignment into an offbeat, R-rated rom-com, letting my hands trail down my pants as I wrote long, slow-burning sex scenes.
It was also the look she’d given me when we’d teamed up on the final project. After Ava, the true aspiring writer between us, had written the last line, I’d… rewarded her. All night long. After that, we were inseparable. Until…
Ava could tell I was getting lost in my thoughts. “Tell me about the poster,” she instructed softly. “What did they have you wear?”
“A low-cut top, of course, because obviously America wants to see this…”
I pulled down the soft fabric of my Gucci sleep shirt, exposing my breasts. As I watched Ava take them in, I ran a finger over my nipple, feeling it bristle with hardness.
“And then my stomach’s exposed, too,” I continued. “Not too much. Unlike the men, women have to walk the line between being sexy and sweet. We have to keep things hidden.” I pulled up the shirt, showing the taut lowest section of my midriff. Ava’s eyes traveled, and I could tell she was thinking about what came next, what dipped lower. Despite my better judgments, I was, too. I felt myself getting wet. My memories played in a sexy, unstoppable montage— that time in the shower, that time backstage at our winter production, that time in the park…
“Show me something they don’t get to see,” Ava pleaded.
Oh, thank god, I thought as I pulled my shirt over my head. With only a pair of light pink underwear still on, I caressed my neck, my breasts, my stomach, and my inner thighs. A moan escaped my mouth.
“I do still touch myself to you,” Ava murmured. I opened my eyes to see she was wearing just underwear, too, the boy short kind, covered with big, red cherries. As we took each other in, we began to do what we’d first done back when I first moved to New York and we thought we would stay together — before the long shoots, before Max.
We each slid off our underwear. I took in her soft, pink openness as she spread her legs and moved her fingers to meet her clitoris. I did the same, becoming drenched and slippery as I found a rhythm. First, slow, deliberate circles, the ones like Ava’s tongue used to trace. Then…
“Faster.” I loved it when she got bossy. I obeyed and watched her emulate me, both of us slinking inside frantically. My breaths grew heavy and fast, erupting from a place inside of me I hadn’t found in a while.
Between gasps, I told her what I wanted to do to her. “I wish I were there to feel you on my tongue… I would feel your legs start to shake… I would lap you up as you came for me…”
A sudden release made me quiver. “Oh, God, Viv!” Ava let out. “You still make me so wet every time.”
Ava calls me Viv. To the rest of the world, I’m Vivian Medina, magazine cover star. That’s why I didn’t entertain what Ava had proposed earlier. But now, with a post-orgasm calmness spreading through me, my legs turned to jelly, I reconsidered.
“Okay,” I said with a deep breath. “I’ll be on your show. I’ll come back for the weekend. To Kansas City.”
Ava hosts her own podcast. While it hasn’t gone mainstream, it boasts 10,000 Twitter followers and has gotten some write-ups in independent, feminist magazines. It’s called FirstTimes — featuring interviews with queer-identified women about their firsts: the first time they realized they were attracted to girls, their first kisses, their first sexual experiences…
And their first loves. That’s what she wants me to talk about: our love story. Ava started the podcast because she wanted to prove that queer women could have those rom-com moments, too. Sometimes, I wonder if my experience is a direct contradiction of her premise. Even though being gay is more accepted now, I’m a straight girl in the movie. It feels like people expect me to be straight in real life — with the gorgeous, straight, six-pack-ab guy as my red carpet date to prove it.
I tried to push those thoughts away. I was home for the weekend, away from those pressures and assumptions. Ava was waiting for me at the baggage claim.
“Hey,” I said when I saw her. With us, it was never just the words that counted. She pulled me into her, and I smelled that familiar shampoo, citrus mixed with honey. I leaned in to kiss her. As I felt her lips part beneath mine, my heart sped up. My hands clung to her hips.
“More of that later,” she insisted, pulling away. Oh. We were in an airport. I always forgot with her, as if the outside world just vanished to give way to our pounding heartbeats, our weakening knees, our hungry, grasping hands.
She threaded her fingers through mine. “My car is this way.”
As soon as Ava pushed open the door of her studio apartment, she led me inside her bedroom. The whole way home, I’d rubbed one hand over the crotch of her dark skinny jeans, feeling her squirm beneath me as she tried to keep her eyes on the road and a steady hand on the wheel.
“How is living in New York?” she’d asked. As she punctuated her sentence with a tentative question mark, I both punctuated my slow, lingering movements and gave her an answer — unbuttoning her pants. I loved the way she couldn’t resist tilting into me, matching my eagerness with her own.
“Is New York really what you want to talk about?”
Living in New York is good. Worse without you.
Now, I sat on her bed and heard the springs sigh as she collapsed next to me. It had been years since I’d been in this bed with her. Yet my limbs filled the space naturally, buzzing with anticipation as they stretched out on her soft, pink sheets.
Ava lowered her body on top of mine. I moved my hands through her waves and down her body. I felt the hairs on her arms stand on edge and her nipples harden through her tank top. As the fabric began to bunch and heave with her panting, I ripped it out of the way gave one nipple a long, generous suck. It let out a slippery sound as I released it. The other pointed, yearning for me, and Ava gripped my hair with newfound ferocity, her body rocking and shuddering. I could feel her heat through both of our jeans.
But I worked against her expectations, my kisses starting at her neck before I finally let them travel. When I did, I savored every inch. I licked circles around her stomach, then her hipbones, then arrived at the buttons on her pants. I undid them slowly, meeting her eyes as the tension built up in both of us, adding weight and warmth to the muggy August air.
“I love you, you know,” I told her. I needed her to know that she was the only one I’d fly back to the Midwest for, the only one who would convince me to be on a sex podcast (especially before I’d run it past my publicist). She was the only one who gave me the steadiness to know that being my real self was worth it.
“I love you, too.”
With the feelings that had anchored us even through four years of separation spoken aloud, we plunged into the realization that we could really have everything we wanted. We took our clothes off and became a tangle of hands, mouths, and limbs.
“You really do remember everything I like,” I told Ava as her teeth tugged at my earlobe. I loved when I could hear her moan this amplified and close.
“Oh yeah. Everything,” she whispered, diving her head between my legs. Her tongue prodded my clitoris before delving inside me. My wetness pulsed as I thrust to meet each of her firm, twisting strokes. My legs wrapped around her head to bring her deeper inside me as every muscle began to shake and crumble.
My head fell back against the pillow and I screamed the name I had been stifling for too long, the name that came to me in spontaneous dirty text messages and in dreams. Even as Ava gave my throbbing clitoris one last slow suck and plopped her head down next to me on my pillow, I could still feel her in between my legs. A delightful, warm ache spread through my body. When she kissed me, letting her tongue dart between my lips, I could taste myself — the strong saltiness of yearning and release.
An hour later, Ava and I both sat on her bed, our naked legs against each other. I watched her set up sound equipment and pull up computer programs, entranced and turned on by the determined knowledge in her eyes. She clipped a microphone to the robe I had pulled over myself, her hand tracing my breast as a mischievous smirk spread across her face.
“I’m Ava Levin, and this is the First Times podcast,” Ava said smoothly. I remembered how many times I had touched myself to the warmth and confidence in her voice. Now, it purred just inches away from my ear. It was somehow as if her words were for the whole world and also for me alone. “Now, I just finished giving today’s guest the best sex of her life. She’s someone you might think you know, but there’s much more to her than you expected.”
I drew Ava close to me and placed my hand over both of our microphones. “But what will I say?”
She kissed me deeply, lingering so that I felt the smile that played across her lips.
Also by Flora: