The next few hours were a sensory odyssey; I reveled in the feeling of Adam’s fingers gently gliding above my dance gear, the sound of his breath in my ear intensifying as he brushed past my intimate areas, and the smell of his spicy French cologne permeating my nostrils. I had never before felt such arousal in my life, especially considering that we remained fully clothed. We both dozed off as the sun rose, completely intertwined, faces lightly touching. Upon waking fully, I crept out of his dorm room into a misty rain without a word, mindlessly stumbling through my day on pure adrenaline and a dizzying self-mindfuck of lust and shame.

When I returned to my room after class, I found him waiting for me outside my door. Without a word, I let him inside and we stared at each other for what felt like an eternity. He finally broke the silence.

“I want to be with you, Ella,” he stated simply. I felt a commingled wave of exhilaration and crushing guilt. These were the exact words I wanted to hear, and yet I didn’t want to start a relationship like this.

“Well, we can’t,” I curtly replied while crossing my arms. “You can’t. And, that cannot happen again.” I wanted to mean these words so desperately, but the siren call of his mocha eyes and feline movement toward me rendered them meaningless. He carried me to bed and kissed me for the first time, never moving beyond those lines that night. It was the epitome of Tantric connection. But we didn’t stay in that realm for long. Night after night for weeks, we would brave slightly newer intimate waters, until we reached full sensuality with only our hands.

What made Adam stand apart from my boyfriends was how beautiful he made me feel. Me, the requisite high school ugly duckling plagued with a mortifying first name (Ella was my nickname) and who had been the school punching bag since second grade. Who had been invisible to most of the boys she pined for while her stunning model best friend Ariana held their captive attention.

Somehow, Adam saw straight through my reinforced shell of insecurity and coaxed out my timid inner vixen. He once stood me in front of a mirror completely nude and demanded that I look at myself. Did I understand what a beautiful, sexy body I had? Such long, wavy hair? Such lovely blue-gray eyes? The truth was, I had hidden from my own body because of the fear of inviting in the wrong eyes and hands. He would even let my hideous name roll of his tongue in moments of passion, transforming what had been a curse into a seduction.

And he allowed many seductive treasures to roll off of that deviant tongue. How he had never met a woman who intellectually stimulated him as much as I did. How I was the kind of woman he wanted to marry. And, during a moment of deep conversation about our nightly breaches of his relationship boundaries, that he was falling madly in love with me. Despite telling him that he couldn’t let that happen because he was committed, there was nothing my hungry heart wanted to hear more. And he knew it.

Still, I refused to allow his manhood inside my sacred chamber. This last bastion of intimacy was the hard limit I placed on our indiscretions as if somehow forbidding penetration made me less guilty of helping him cheat. This was about to change with a major rupture I didn’t at all anticipate.

One evening, I met him at his dorm for a faux date to a live jazz club. I found him in a distressed state.

“I just broke up with Lissa,” he growled. I was shocked; I knew they had some rough patches, but he still sounded so in love with her despite our affair.

“What happened?” I asked in earnest.

“She gave me some bullshit about needing affection at home. I just know it’s because she’s fucking this dude who was hanging around us when I went to visit her in the fall. I told her we were done, she called me an asshole, I hung up, and that’s that, ” he said robotically. Adam grabbed a pack of stashed menthols from his underwear drawer and lit a fresh cigarette.

I was at a total loss for words, and could only offer a meek “I’m…sorry.” Despite feeling deep compassion for both of them in this final rupture, I was ashamed to acknowledge the fountain of excitement I felt at this news. At last, Adam and I had a chance to be together cleanly, without the self-loathing of infidelity. A tidal wave of relief washed over my guilty, voracious limbs.

When we returned to my dorm that night, and I began unlocking my door, I turned around to find Adam leaning against the opposite wall, staring at me hungrily. As my hand turned the key in the deadbolt, he lunged forward, grabbed my hair near the scalp, and pushed me inside. The exquisite ravishing I would experience in the next six hours surpassed anything I had experienced before.  

His seduction was masterful; unzipping and removing clothing at an excruciatingly slow pace, laying me down ever so gently on my bed, whispering wanton desires in my ear, and kissing and caressing every inch of my trembling body. And this time, my body was more than ready to receive him fully.

By the time he prepared to penetrate me, the sacred space between my thighs was slick with anticipation. He inched his way inside, pausing for a moment and whispering how far he had gone in. His final push sent a shockwave of ecstasy shooting up into my torso, knocking me breathless. With each thrust, my insides released and enveloped him, completely surrendering to his will. 

The level of fever in our lovemaking did not diminish over the next three months, and Adam became the yardstick for all of my future (mostly less-skilled) lovers. There was no location safe from our passion. In the driver’s seat of his sleek black Audi A4, in our communal dorm shower, with his roommate in the room, on the floor of the den of a friend’s home surrounded by eight sleeping bodies. Our dual-Scorpio energy fused us into an insatiable frenzy.

Adam broke many of the rules I’d encountered with my first boyfriend; for one, he wasn’t afraid of having sex during my period. My ex, in his own words, was wary of any creature that bled for seven days without dying. And unlike with my ex, the passion didn’t end with Adam’s final climax. It would extend long into our post-coital haze with whispered sweet nothings and serenades in Spanish. But most of all, he was a giver. He didn’t ask for oral sex once and was only too happy to focus upon worshipping my body. Considering my aversion to giving fellatio, this was a dramatic difference that ironically inspired me to “give back”.

Suffice it to say, as only my second lover, Adam set my sexual bar high. However, our torrid sex life didn’t come prescribed without unpleasant side effects. As soon as we physically consummated, Adam persuaded me to go on the birth control pill since he didn’t like condoms. Although it seemed an innocuous request at the time, I didn’t fully comprehend the legacy of hormonal havoc this decision would wreak upon my developing body in the years to come. And yet, men often insist on their women ingesting a tiny pill that tricks their bodies into thinking they’re constantly pregnant, merely for their pleasure’s convenience.

Due to his legitimate fear of impregnating me, I never experienced the thrill of receiving his climax inside of me, and as such, I always felt a bit disconnected afterward. During one encounter, his penetration went so energetically deep that it triggered a wounding from a long ago, and I found myself crying in his arms after. But he only scoffed at me, asking why in the world I was crying after sex. I was too ashamed to explain and I vowed never to be that vulnerable again during lovemaking.

There was one other surprising nuance that only years later would I realize in retrospect. Adam never gave me a single orgasm. Not a one. Mind you, I often entered what I now believe to be an extended orgasmic state under his mastery, but I never experienced the complete “little death” as the French call it. Even worse…I faked them. Over and over again. Sometimes eight in one night. Now, I honestly believed I was climaxing, but all the while in the back of my mind I questioned the authenticity of my sensations. And according to my few friends lucky enough to have experienced orgasms by this nubile age, there’s no mistaking it.

Interestingly, my torrid infatuation with Adam did not confine my eye to his obsidian gaze. At least two other boys from class had caught my attention, and there were moments where I wistfully bemoaned being restricted from exploring outside. I found this curious as I was so sexually fulfilled with Adam, and wondered if there might be something wrong with me.

As the weeks wore on, my feelings for Adam deepened dangerously with no safety net. Despite even more warning signs that I wasn’t emotionally safe with him, I allowed my infatuation to transmute into hopeless enamorment. He possessed my waking and dreaming thoughts, and I began to envision a future of backyard barbecues and little ones running through sprinklers at luxurious summer homes in Cape Cod.

After about six weeks, I was still so entangled in his web that I made a bold move. I bought a thoughtful card and wrote a heartfelt note about all of the wonderful ways he’d turned my life upside down. I closed the note with a leap of vulnerability: the three magic words. I watched him read the card with anticipation. He politely thanked me, and casually replied, “And, of course I feel the same way.” Then he put the card down and changed the subject.

And, I continued to ignore the harbingers of doom. As I began to reveal more about my past and my thoughts, his judgments of me flowed faster. Judgments like “you have so much potential, if you would just change [your clothes, your hair, the weird things you say, etc.]” More and more focus was placed on what was wrong with me rather than what was right. And as the clumsiest dancer I know, my slapstick-worthy trips and falls were met not with gleeful endearment, but rather, his embarrassment. It was as if the gallant man in the mirror began changing his angle, creating distorted, circus mirror-like reflections of my deepest insecurities.

Both my intensifying attachment and increasing self-doubt came to a head on a rainy night during the final week of exams. A soft knock rapped at the door of my dorm room as I was straightening my hair. I beckoned the visitor to come in; it was Adam. Even though my body predictably lurched in excitement at his presence, the joyless look on his face was inescapable.

Something was very wrong.

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