Authors: Kim Ablon Whitney
Tomorrow I would see Chris.
He called from downstairs. Van had gone to New York for the weekend in search of some secret show so Chris could have stayed in my dorm room. But as I glanced around it before I went to meet him, I knew we’d made the right decision.
I came around the bend by the rows of mailboxes, a few always strangely flung open, and saw him out the window of the door before he saw me.
Yes, he was still as amazingly good-looking. He was still Chris. He had on jeans and a black North Face puffy down jacket. The perpetual tan he had from working outdoors had faded somewhat in these late fall months but he still had a healthy color, unlike my skin which had quickly turned pale.
I took a deep breath. It didn’t seem possible. Chris Kern, who had competed and won at some of the country’s top shows, was standing outside my college dorm. Chris Kern, who was probably one of the most desirable straight men in the sport of show jumping, had traveled six hours in a car to give a clinic to riders, most of whom would never compete over three-six, in order to spend one night with me. Me. Hannah Waer. Previously a virgin until this past summer. Still a not-very-talented rider. Pretty, but not model-gorgeous. Nice, but not volunteering-for-Doctors-Without-Borders-selfless. So why me? It was a question that had plagued me over the summer but somehow I’d been able to get past it. I was able to convince myself that he craved normal to balance out his crazy life. Why me and not Mary Beth? I had told myself he needed an anti-superstar girlfriend.
Now, as I saw him here—at Tufts—those same questions started drumming all over again with more urgency. This made no sense. Why me? Why not Mary Beth?
Chris saw me and his face lit up. I opened the door and he immediately pulled me to him. I snuggled into his puffy coat, trying to ignore the voices in my head chanting,
why me, why me, why me
“So this is it? This is college,” he said when we let go. “What I saw of the campus driving in looks great. Beautiful.”
I felt like either he was lying, or he was seeing a different vision from what I saw on a daily basis. Probably the latter because I knew Tufts had a pretty sloping hillside campus, complete with attractive buildings and views of the Boston skyline. But to me everything looked gray and lifeless. The only thing that was in color was Chris.
Chris asked to see my room, which was sweet of him. We walked past the room of one of my hallmates and I wished the door had been shut. It was the prototype Pinterest college room. She had the super cute sheets, duvet cover, and throw pillows. The practical expandable shelf organizer. The artfully hung funky mirror. The precious string of twinkle lights suspended across the room.
Then there was my and Van’s room. Van had stuck up a few vintage posters from ’80s punk bands like the Dead Kennedys and Social Distortion. Otherwise the walls were blank. We each had our bed. Mine had pink bedding that made me look like I was ten. The only thing worse would have been if it had horses on it. Van’s bedding was an ugly beige color. We had no cute lamps or wastepaper baskets. There was nothing homey about it.
Chris sat down on my bed. He must have known mine was the pink one.
“I know what you’re thinking,” I said.
“What am I thinking?”
“How can I live like this?”
“Isn’t this college-living?” he said.
“Did you see the room we passed? With all the cute décor?”
“So that’s college-living?”
“I don’t know what college-living is, that’s the problem,” I said.
Chris cocked his head at me. “Are you okay? You seem kind of…”
I was glad he couldn’t find the right word. I shrugged. “I think I just haven’t seen you in so long and I’ve been imagining this moment since we left Vermont.”
Chris gave me a seductive smile. “Me too. Come here.”
I stood in front of him. He put his hands on my hips.
“Did you say Van’s gone?”
He moved his hands around to my backside and then pulled me so that I was straddling him on my bed. I was glad I’d closed the door behind us.
“I’ve always wanted to make it with a college girl,” he said.
His words hit me in a way they shouldn’t have because he had made it with a college girl many times—Mary Beth. Unlike Chris, she’d gone to college. She’d spent most of her time commuting to the barn and horse shows but she’d completed her college course work and had a degree. But I guess he meant a real college girl—one who wasn’t also a standout grand prix rider.
We started kissing and I forgot about Mary Beth for a while. I forgot to wonder, “Why me?” I just lost myself in kissing him. We lay back on the bed, shedding our clothes. I rolled on top of him. Once his shirt was off, I pulled back so I could stare at his chest for a few moments. I knew that besides the many horses he rode daily, Chris also found time to go to the gym and it showed in his body. He did it because he took his profession seriously and knew that to be the best rider he could be, he had to be fit, strong, and as resistant as possible to many of the aches, pains, and strains that came with riding.
I followed the small trail of dark hair leading from his bellybutton downward with my eyes and hand. He breathed deeply while I took hold of him.
“I’ve missed this,” he said.
I leaned over him and kissed him again, this time in a quick, teasing way. “Yeah?”
“Been getting a little too familiar with my own hand,” he said, smiling.
“Well, let me take over for a little while,” I said, as I ran my hand up and down his dick.
After a few moments, he put his hands around my back and somehow expertly flipped me over so he was on top of me. My shirt and bra were already off and he peeled off my jeans and underwear, kissing parts of my body as he went.
“You said you went on the pill?” he asked as he tossed my jeans and underwear onto the floor.
“Yeah, right after the summer.” I had done it because I had thought I was a college girl now and it was something college girls should do. I’d made an appointment with the women’s health group on campus and had a full exam and consultation—something I should have done in high school. I guess it hadn’t really mattered because until Chris I’d never been sexually active, besides one time messing around with one of Ryan’s friends. But now that I was in a relationship with Chris, an older man too, it seemed like I should be on the pill.
With his hand on one of my knees, he parted my legs. He touched me first, and listened to me moan. Soon, he put himself inside me. I swallowed hard at the first thrust, getting used to the feel of him again. I loved it. I loved the feel of him inside me. He lay over me, resting much of his weight on his forearms. It didn’t last all that long. Movies always made it seem like people had sex all night but it was probably only a few glorious minutes. It started to feel good for me too as he moved inside me, rubbing up against what I guess was my clit. I hated that word—clit. It sounded so illicit. But I thought maybe I should try to love that word. Because that word was all about female pleasure and what could be dirty about that?
I was surprised that I quickly found myself climaxing. I hadn’t ever climaxed before while we were having sex—only when he was touching me or going down on me. But there must have been something about the angle or the pressure because today it felt amazing. I always liked sex with Chris but in a different way than when he got me off.
He came soon after and then rolled off me.
“I came,” I said.
“I thought so but I wasn’t sure.”
“I did,” I said, still surprised.
He looked over at me. “I’m sorry if I practically jumped you. I hadn’t planned on that or anything but when I saw you, I just couldn’t stop myself.”
“I’m happy you didn’t stop yourself,” I said.
It was as if somehow having sex had been an easier way for us to reconnect after the time apart than talking. It was normal to be awkward with each other after the months that had passed since we had seen each other. And maybe if we hadn’t had sex within the first twenty minutes of seeing each other, that awkwardness would have naturally dissipated. It didn’t make sense that stripping off our clothes and participating in life’s most intimate act would be easier than just chatting until we got reacquainted with each other again, but somehow it just was. There was a muscle-memory in our movements, a familiarity in our lust for each other.
Now, as we lay next to each other, naked, on my pink sheets, it was like those months apart had disappeared and we had only just been together in Vermont.
“What are we doing for dinner?” I said.
“I made a reservation. There are supposed to be a few good restaurants right in the same building as the hotel so I figured we’d try one. I didn’t want us to go too far because basically all I wanted was to get you back in the hotel room and fuck you.”
I giggled. “Well, we already did that.”
“Once,” Chris said. “Only once.”
I gave him a little smile. “You ready to go again?”
“Okay, maybe not right now,” he said. “But definitely later.”
I stayed in bed while he jumped in the shower. His phone rang and I grabbed it from the bedside table. I looked at who was calling and I think I had planned to go into the bathroom and see if he needed to take it for any reason. I recognized the name of the caller—it was one of his new clients, Lily Teller. After Chris had lost Harris, he’d had to find a way to make his business profitable again, which meant taking on clients. He didn’t want to build a large training stable but he thought a few, decent clients could help generate income and also might translate into a future ownership stake in a grand prix horse. He’d been lucky in that he’d picked up Lily. She was nineteen, a sophomore at Princeton, and a decently talented rider. She also had beaucoup buckage. Chris was charged with keeping her horses, which included two very nice international level mounts and two younger jumpers, in shape and tuned up so Lily could fly in on her father’s private plane to show them. It was semi-rare that Lily would pick a trainer only a few years older than herself but Chris said he figured her family wanted undivided attention and also didn’t want to deal with the blustery attitude of some of the more experienced jumper trainers.
Instead of bringing Chris the phone, I kept it cradled in my hand. When the call had gone to voicemail, I found myself punching in his passcode and going into his texts. I hadn’t planned it. It wasn’t, as they say in murder trials, premeditated. But there I was scrolling down over the names and numbers. There were plenty of texts from me, of course. There was his mom, his brother, clients, other grand prix riders who were friends or whom he was doing business with.
I stopped on the name I was looking for. Mary Beth McCord. Okay, I tried to tell myself, no one says he can’t text with her. Of course he’s going to come in contact with her because they work in the same industry. They were going to see each other all the time once circuit started. That was just the way things were when you dated someone on the show circuit.
I read the stream of texts that started with Mary Beth asking,
Hey, when do you get down here?
December 28, why?
Chris wrote back.
Have a horse I want you to look at.
Don’t know that one.
Got her in Europe. Tons of scope but I can’t ride her to save my life.
That’s ridiculous. You know you ride great.
Smiley face emoticon. Then another line from Mary Beth:
You always did know the right thing to say.
That line right there killed me. She was flirting with him. Straight-out dead-on flirting. And trying to rekindle old feelings by bringing up their shared past.
No reply from Chris. Then Mary Beth again:
Will you come look at her when you get here?
Not sure I can wait…
That was the end of the string of texts. Not sure I can wait… For him to see the horse, or for her to see him? And what exactly did that ellipsis mean? Didn’t an ellipsis mean that there was more to come, something she was saying without saying it? Like what she really wanted to happen when she saw him?
Zoe had said on the last night in Vermont that Mary Beth wanted Chris back. I’d told myself that was just Zoe trying to make me jealous and stir up trouble. Only now it sure seemed like Mary Beth did want him back.