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I can’t adequately put into words how I felt in that moment, with Marisa hanging limp in my arms. Dread, fear, “blood running cold”—nothing even comes close to capturing what I was feeling. What I can tell you is that, the moment her body went slack, I felt almost like I was snapping out of something—like I’d been having an out-of-body experience and had been wrenched back into consciousness.

I have no idea how long I actually held her in my arms. It felt like minutes, but it was probably just a few seconds. You know how that goes. I wish I could say I’d been about to call for help or lay her down and start administering CPR, but, honestly, I was still frozen in time when she took a deep breath in, sighed, and reached up to pat me on the shoulder.

“All right, I think I’m good to stand up now. You really know what you’re doing down there. Kudos.”

I released her and stood, staring, as she rearranged her clothes and turned around, smiling and smoothing her unkempt hair. When she saw my expression she frowned questioningly at me.

“What?”

I gaped at her. “What do you mean, ‘What’? What the fuck was that?”

“You made me come. Don’t act surprised—no one’s accidentally that good at getting a girl off.”

“Jesus Christ, come on! You know what I’m talking about—the vectors, the whole orgasm-is-fatal thing—”

“Yeah, well, only for 96 percent of the population.”

It took me a second to process what she’d said. “Wait, you were immune to the vaccine?”

“That’s right.”

“How’d you find out? Is there a test—I didn’t know—”

“No, nothing like that. I found out by accident. My boyfriend at the time was pre-med, and he suggested we try a bromide compound. We got some from a guy who used to deal us coke.”

“This story doesn’t sound like it has a happy ending.” I’d dabbled in bromides myself, and they’d killed my libido, as promised, but after I started slurring my words, stumbling around, and hallucinating, I’d flushed the remainder of the powder and never touched the stuff again.

“Yeah, no shit. It’s not very effective in females, I guess. Or maybe it was just me, I don’t know.”

I sat down on the floor, crossing my legs, as I soaked this information in. Marisa followed suit. I was lightheaded, and my knee bounced up and down. This was the most personal information Marisa had ever revealed to me, and it felt good to be the one asking questions for a change.

“Why would you even do it?”

“Do what?”

“Try to have sex. Bromides are so potent, I’m surprised either you or your boyfriend even felt like it.”

“I didn’t suggest the bromides, but I was the one who proposed that we try to find a low-risk way to engage sexually somehow. He wouldn’t even touch me for months. I just wanted him to feel safe enough to touch me, to put his arm around me. The bromides worked true to form on him, so we couldn’t have sex—you’re right, he didn’t even want to—but we fooled around a bit for my benefit. It ended up going a bit too far, I guess.”

“Is that why you broke up?”

Marisa frowned, uncomprehending. “How do you mean?”

“Did you break up because he pushed you too far? I mean, he must have seen it coming, right? No pun intended,” I smiled. Marisa didn’t reply; instead, she looked down and started picking at the carpet. “Sorry, that was a lame joke.”

“No, it’s not that.” Her voice sounded husky, like she might be about to cry. I was alarmed. Until that day, I’d never seen her anything less than bemused.

“Shit, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry—”

She waved her hand as if to brush my comment away. “It’s okay.”

We sat in silence for a few moments until I said, “I should go. I’m really sorry. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.”

She didn’t speak to me for the next two weeks.

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