Tease

The boat rocked as we made our way down the river. The sun shone overhead, its heat softened by the occasional passing cloud. I stood at the bow of the boat, casting my arm forward and back, trying to mimic the fly fishing cast I had learned before we set off. The rhythm of it soothed me.

“That looks great. Aim for that little pocket of darker water over by the shore. The fish love to gather there,” my companion said. I took aim.

Forward and back. Forward and back. Forward and back. On the third cast I let the fly touch the surface just briefly and was rewarded with a tug on the line.

“You got one! Real him in.”

Caught up in the excitement, I scrambled to follow the directions.

“He’s a nice one. Great work, especially for your first time,” my guide encouraged me, grabbing the net to contain the fish.

I smiled back at him. “Thanks for teaching me and bringing me out here. I’ve always wanted to try fly fishing.”

Having released the fish after the customary photo, I cracked open a Corona and settled into my seat, leaning back to feel the sun on my face.

My companion guided the boat towards a little pool of calm water to rest. This wasn’t our first encounter. We’d been regularly running into each other at the bar after work. He was young and made me laugh; the perfect distraction to ease the pain of a recent and brutal breakup. This fly-fishing afternoon was the first time we’d purposefully gone out together, and it was working. I felt relaxed and happy for the first time in months.

Caught up in the mood, I set my beer down and made my way towards him, straddling his lap.

“Really, thank you for today. It’s just what I needed,” I said, leaning in for a kiss.

I felt his hand run up my back, stroking it softly. “Sure. I like spending time with you.”

Our kiss deepened. His scruff was softer than my ex-boyfriend’s. The kiss felt foreign but not unpleasant. As the alcohol’s warmth descended, I lost myself in the moment, my body sinking into his as I let my guard down.

Then, I felt his fingers move from my waist, to my bikini strap, trying to free the knot. I stiffened, broke our kiss, and climbed off his lap, heading back to my spot at the front of the boat.

“You’re such a tease,” he said laughing. I flashed him a flirty smile in response, one that didn’t quite reach my eyes.

Such a tease. His judgement clung to me. I knew I didn’t actually owe him anything, and yet I felt I did. He had unknowingly bolstered my resolve to leave a destructive relationship by providing me with a distraction. His interest in me had helped me begin to move from self doubt towards confidence. His infectious, carefree take on life had brought about my first moments of joy after several challenging years.

I was grateful. But I was also fragile. A painful divorce followed by a terribly toxic relationship had left me wary of being used, afraid it would add baggage to a heavy load I already struggled to carry.

We floated slowly down the river as I worked through complicated questions. Do I really want to take the next step with him, or do I just hate being called a tease? Should I say no and risk losing his interest and company? If I lost him, could I resist returning to my ex and our destructive relationship? Was I willing to risk finding out?

The boat bumped the shore, jarring me out of my reverie. We’d reached the end of our journey. I helped to clean it out, picking up the empty bottles I’d dropped at my feet as I wrestled with the potential fallout of each decision. With the boat on the trailer ready to go, I felt the weight of the moment. I needed to make a decision. And one choice marginally outweighed the other.

While I wasn’t necessarily ready for sex, it seemed to be his preferred currency. And I couldn’t afford to lose him. There was simply more potential for damage without him than with him.

He is kind to you. We have fun together. No one will judge you. It probably would have happened one day anyway. I encouraged myself as I climbed into the truck and slammed the door.

“Want to come back to my place?” I asked looking over at him. He smiled broadly and nodded his ascent. I cracked open another Corona.

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