Chapter 10: Lucy's Party

After our adventures at the board-games shop, I was more than a little hot and bothered. We trammed back to my place. As soon as the door closed behind Lily, I pounced.

"Gotcha!"

"Eek!" She wriggled within my clutches.

"To the victor go the spoils."

"And what is the victor's pleasure tonight?"

I buried my face in her hair. "You smell nice, have I told you that?" And I nuzzled at her neck, and felt her melt a little in my arms. "I want to devour you slowly. Come on, upstairs."

I was in a smoochy mood and it took us a while to get to the bedroom because I kept stopping to kiss her and run my hands through her hair, but eventually we tumbled onto my bed and rolled around for a while just snogging, neither of us looking to rush things. A little nibbling, a little stroking, a lot of cuddling.

Throats are pretty, and I'd tipped her head back so I could graze on hers, my lips brushing along her jawline, down her neck, tickling softly at her collarbone. I ran a fingertip down over her blouse and whispered, "You never did button these back up again."

Lily felt for the buttonholes. "Oh shit! I didn't. Well, I suppose anybody on the tram got an eyeful."

"Such language! I must be rubbing off on you."

She giggled. "Is that what you call it?"

I was working on the remaining buttons when a burst of music rang out from her handbag.

"Sorry, it's my parents, okay if I—?" I nodded, and she scrambled for it. "Hi Mama! How are you?" She was frantically re-buttoning her blouse with one hand, turning to check herself in the mirror as she spoke. "Hang on, let me see if I can get the picture working." A moment longer to straighten her collar and tidy her hair, and then she stood up straight and her face shifted into a smile of questionable authenticity as she held the phone up to point at her face. "Hi Papa! Yes, I can see you both! Me? Oh, not much, just hanging out with Sarah." From there she switched into Hindi. By the tone of her voice and occasional apologetic glances in my direction, I got the impression this wasn't going to be a quick call.

After a few minutes I thought I'd make things more interesting, and began to creep along the floor towards her with designs on her ankles. But she gestured an emphatic no and I backed off, sitting back on the bed and amusing myself with my phone.

Anjali sounded defensive—she usually did when talking to her parents—and by the sound of it they were doing most of the talking. Most of her responses were just "ha... ma" and "nahi... ma", which I was pretty sure meant "yes, mum" and "no, mum", although there was a bit in there about Professor Cheng and something about Aldi's. Now and then she mentioned my name, which I assumed was her trying to tell her mother that she had to go, but it was a good quarter-hour before she managed to extricate herself from the call and fell back on the bed beside me.

"So sorry about that. She doesn't take a hint easily."

"It's okay. By the way, is that a new phone?"

"It is. I missed a couple of calls from them because the battery in my old one was dying, so they sent me this one as a gift a couple of weeks ago."

"That's nice, I guess?

"It is, but..." She slipped into mimicry of her father's voice. "'Anjali, we called you three times last night but you did not answer, is there a problem with the new phone?'"

"Oh, right. One of those gifts."

She nodded, and held her hands up—what can you do? "At least they're speaking to me. It was touch and go for a while there." After their initial panic when their daughter disappeared, they had shifted quickly to fury when they found she'd walked out and gone back to Melbourne, and it had taken all Anjali's diplomacy to establish some kind of truce. "Anyway, I think you had something much more enjoyable in mind than talking about my parents?"

I bent over and kissed her, slow and deep, and gradually I felt her relax and her hands came up to cradle my head. "You're getting good at that," I whispered, and she chuckled.

"Practice makes perfect."

I kissed her forehead, then I trailed down to her chin, and she mewled as I nibbled at her throat, her nails prickling my scalp. It had been a warm day, and she tasted just slightly of salt. Pausing at her throat, I reached up to stroke her shoulder, running my fingers down over the sensitive spot at the inside of the elbow, down to her wrist.

She made a soft little sigh. "You're going to make some girl very happy."

I went on caressing her until she started to giggle. "Ticklish now!" Then I nuzzled my way down to her neckline, easing her buttons free, continuing down to her navel, letting the pressure of her hands in my hair tell me just how to touch her. My hands were at her calves now, sliding up to her knees, and she drew her legs up as I stroked them, making it easier for me to slip my fingers inside, stroking at the back of her knees—ticklish again—and her thighs, and the insides of her thighs, and her nails pricked my scalp.

She squirmed as my fingertips wandered further up, up to the edge of her panties, tickling, and then inwards to graze over the gusset. She was warm, and I could just feel the dampness of her developing arousal, perhaps mixed with that of several hours before. As I made contact she flinched, and then pressed her hips up against my fingers.

I'd played with her often enough to know the kind of pressure she liked, and I gave her about half of that, enough to tantalise without fully satisfying, and she whimpered and squirmed until I took pity on her. Tugging the gusset aside, I found her labia and stroked them and eased them open, working up to the little nubbin that made her wriggle so delightfully.

Without ever relinquishing my finger-hold, I rolled back and slid up the bed to be level with her. "I think you can take that bra off now," I told her, and she acquiesced, and I rolled back to take her nipple in my mouth as I circled her clit more firmly, eliciting a sudden gasp.

"Don't stop," she added, "that's lovely."

I obliged, settling into a rhythm that I knew she loved, with just a hint of tease to keep her working to grind against my fingers. Gradually they slipped down, and pressed between her thighs, and entered her. I swirled and twisted them inside her—she groaned—and then I withdrew them, sliding back up to spread her moisture to her clit.

"Mmm. Yes, Miriam..."

Sitting back, I unzipped her skirt, tugged it down off her hips—she arched to help me—and tossed it to the floor behind me. Then I took her foot in my hands, raised it and kissed the tops of her toes, began to nuzzle my way back upwards. By the time my cheek brushed against her curls, by the time my fingers slid back inside her and my tongue-tip began to play against the bottom margin of her clit, she was already breathing hard in anticipation. I curled my fingers to stroke the spot I knew she loved, lavished attention on her with flickering tongue and eager lips, as her fingers found my hair again and urged me closer. I felt her muscles tense, I heard her breath come faster in little gasps... and when she was almost there, I pulled back.

"Oh, Miriammmm..."

"Patience, darling."

I sat up, shed my jeans, went for my drawer. It had been a while since I'd used my harness, so she didn't immediately know what I was after, but when I took it out she smiled and licked her lips. "Somebody wants to ride me."

"Somebody does."

After the obligatory faffing around with straps, I approached her. As I drew near she reached for the dildo, held the tip, pressed her lips to it and slowly took it into her mouth. That was new for us. I stroked her cheek as she pressed forward—looking up to me for the approval I was only too happy to give her—and bobbing, pressing the base very pleasantly against me.

"Good girl," I said. I ran my finger over her lips as I eased out of her mouth and lay back on the bed. "Now how about you climb aboard?"

Lily grinned, straddling me, rubbing herself against the shaft before I reached down to position it against her. Then she bore down onto it, eyes half-closing as the silicone slid into her. Once she'd settled and made herself comfortable with its bulk, she started to rock, grinding her hips in circles, and I reached up: one hand caressing her torso possessively, nipples and breasts and belly and hips, and the other lower down to tease at her clit once more.

While fetching the harness I'd put my glasses back on, and so I could see the ripples of pleasure on her face as she moved, the slight flush that came with her arousal. Then I reached back behind me and pushed myself up so that we were sitting face to face, clasped in one another's arms, moving rhythmically in slow shared enjoyment. I squeezed her close against me and nuzzled her ear, and she went limp like a scruffed kitten.

We rode together like that for some time. Neither of us were quite getting off, but it felt delicious—not just the carnality but the closeness—and we might have gone much longer that way, if it hadn't been for a sudden growl from my stomach, loud and long, that had both of us falling over in giggles.

"Oh yeah, we never did have dinner," I said.

"Or lunch," added Anjali.

I reached for my phone and we ordered delivery, then reassembled with a new challenge: to get there before the delivery guy did. We were halfway successful: I lay back, Lily straddled me again, and I used my fingers on her frenetically until she came in a series of muffled yelps and then sprawled out on me once again. That's when the buzzer rang, and I sent Anjali to the door wearing a borrowed dressing gown that was much too long for her, because the catches on the harness were fiddly and I didn't want to startle the poor guy.

"So, I guess we ticked off 'public'," I said as we ate. "What did you think?"

She gestured mouth full, and I waited until she could talk. "Not what I'd expected. I'd been thinking of, I don't know, something like a club situation? Not secretly in a normal place. It was fun, but I don't like the idea of making people uncomfortable if they notice. And if we're going to go there again, for games, I don't want to get thrown out. So I'm going to say, fun but wouldn't do that again the same way."

I nodded. "Fair enough. For what it's worth, I was keeping a good eye out to make sure nobody could see, but yeah, I get you. And I want to be clear, you're always allowed to safeword if I'm doing something you're not comfortable with."

"I know. I wasn't sure whether to... sometimes one don't really know where one's limits were until after one's passed them. Chalk it up to experience. Anyway, no harm done. I had a delightful afternoon, and I'd love to try some of the other games, if you want to do that as a replacement for trivia."

"Splendid. I'll let Lucy know. Now, after dinner, I believe you owe me..."

She smirked, then stuck out her tongue at me and waggled it.

* * * * *

Games Pixie was a smash hit with Lucy. From the moment she saw the selection she was like a kid in a candy store—as, let's be honest, was I—and although the games were a little different to those she'd been used to, she was a quick study. The three of us spent a solid evening trying out new games, hammering one another back and forth for hours until at ten-thirty Punky Hairdo, aka Shaz, regretfully informed us that it was half an hour to closing time.

We finished up the card game we'd been playing—I hitched Lizzie Bennett to Mr. Bingley, leaving Lucy's Jane stranded at the altar while Anjali's Lydia eloped with Mr. Darcy in a match of unprecedented incompatibility—and repaired to an ice-cream parlour nearby for post-game dessert.

"So, what did you think?" I asked Lucy in between mouthfuls of mango sorbet.

"Excellent. Would do again."

"Thursday nights good?"

"Absolutely." She turned to Anjali. "And you?"

"Same as before," Anjali said. "I can't come very often, there's so much to do with my thesis project. But I'll try to make it once a month."

"Sounds good," said Lucy. "Maybe I'll get some of the guys from trivia to join us."

But in this she was unsuccessful. The next couple of weeks it was just Lucy and myself. I didn't mind that, but it limited our choice of games; although there were still plenty we could play, a lot of the ones I was interested in required at least three players. After the second or third time of me looking hopefully at a game box and then being disappointed by the player requirements, Lucy did something that I can only describe as dark sorcery:

"You really want to play this one, don't you?"

"Crushing the Old World under a tide of chaos sounds like just the ticket today." It had been a rough week for me, as Lucy knew. Our storage and retrieval system for the Schiphol project was about to go live; I'd been pulling some late nights stomping out the last few bugs in the system and coordinating my minions to get the documentation finalised, and grumbling to Lucy about it on our breaks. "Oh well, maybe another time," I added, but Lucy was already in motion.

"Okay then!" She stood up and before I could stop her she called out, "Hey everybody! My friend really wants to try this one"—she waved the box—"and we need another player or two. Anybody want to join us?"

Of course I understand that it's possible to call the attention of complete strangers and ask them for things, in the same sort of way it's possible to strip naked and jog around the floor until somebody calls the cops, but the idea of actually doing it hadn't even occurred to me. Part of me wanted to vanish into the chair, horrified by being the centre of attention, and for a flash I resented Lucy for putting me in that position. But then...

"Sure, we'll play!" said a twenty-something guy with his partner in tow.

Two hours later, the Old World lay in ruins and Lucy and I had murdered, tainted, tricked, and corrupted our way into a friendly rapport with our new acquaintances Jeff and Kay. "We're here every week," Jeff said, and Kay added "Usually we have a bigger group, but people have assignments due."

Afterwards Lucy told me, "I would have had you if you didn't keep running away."

"Yeah, that was why I kept running away. Not about to feed my precious little cultists to the Lord of War." She chuckled, and I went on, "It's about tempo. When you blort your big guys onto the board right away, you run out of power too early and then I can just get out of your way and go do my own thing in peace."

"Yeah, I worked that out a couple of turns in, but it was a bit late by then. Next time, Sarah." She shook her fist in mock anger. "Next time!"

There were quite a few next times. Jeff and Kay's friends showed up the following week; most of them were a few years younger than me and Lucy, but they didn't seem to mind that. They introduced us to some new games, and here and there I was able to do the same for them. When Anjali showed up a couple of weeks later, they brought her into it as well. They had a couple of players who didn't like to compete, and so only played cooperative games; Anjali mostly gravitated to the cooperative group while Lucy and I embraced more warlike pastimes, but we crossed over often enough.

At one point, during a particularly cut-throat round of Terraforming Mars, Lucy paused and said, "It's fascinating watching the two of you play."

"Oh? How so?" I asked.

"Such different playing styles. Anjali plans out the cost of everything. End of Turn 3, she was perfectly positioned to play everything in her hand on Turn 4, with exactly enough money to afford it. And I'm pretty sure you're keeping track of what's still in the deck."

Anjali nodded. A smile touched the corners of her mouth.

"And Sarah," Lucy continued, "you're always thinking about the timing. You always know when you want to play fast so you can grab territory before we get in the way, like that titanium mine, and when you want to play slow to force us to commit ourselves before you block our forests. I saw you keep cards in hand and forego income on Turn 2 so you could have a killer turn next go and grab both the temperature bonuses."

"You have me there, though that was also about keeping my options open. So what's your style, Lucy?"

Now it was her turn to smile. "Why, try to figure out what the two of you are up to, and then plan against that—" She trailed off, looking towards the front of the store. "Hold that thought a moment. Just want to get a shot of something in the display."

Before I could point out that it was her turn and it would only take her a moment, she'd picked up her phone and gone over to take a couple of snaps of the new games in the window before coming back to the table.

"So, you were saying?" I prompted.

"I was? Uh... sorry, forgot. Never mind."

By then we'd gone through a lot of the games in the library, and I'd spent enough time browsing the shelves to notice several more interesting-looking games that weren't in the library. I ended up buying a couple for myself, ostensibly for my own collection, in truth mostly to play with Anjali and Lucy and our new-found friends.

A couple, did I say? Well, two or three. Four perhaps? Half a dozen at most, not much more than that.

Don't judge me.

Work continued unabated—the Schiphol project was going into final testing—but I was feeling mellow, and it wasn't just the retail therapy. Aside from Anjali and more recently Lucy, it had been a long time since I'd had a regular circle of friends to hang out with, and although I'm an introvert I still enjoy spending time with my people (nerds, that is) now and then. I'd forgotten how good it could be.

I'd love to write more about them, but this story is long enough and complex enough already. Maybe I'll write about them some other time. For now, let's just say that we clicked, and so when Lucy threw a birthday party it seemed only natural that she should invite the games group.

* * * * *

Every game has some kind of rule to decide who goes first. When I was a kid it was usually the youngest player, or chosen at random. But for some games it's the tallest player, or the one who's last been to an island, or who last caught a cold. And for some...

"First player is..." Lucy peered at the rules. "...whoever last went on a date."

"Last Saturday," I said without thinking, just as Anjali also said "Last Saturday" and Jeff said "Sunday". Realising my blunder, I glanced over to Lucy. She looked to be thinking a moment before she said "2015".

Lucy was housesitting for an uncle and aunt who'd decided to spend a season in Europe, as one does when one has way too much money for one's own good. Since her return from London more than a year earlier she'd been bouncing around from one unsatisfactory rental to another, and so she'd leapt at the chance of a few months rent-free in their McMansion. "Besides," she'd said, "it comes with cats." Not to mention four bedrooms, and a wine cellar, and a pool table, and a fireplace clad in white marble.

We'd arrived early, as had Jeff and Kay, so we were playing the new game they'd gifted Lucy while we waited for the rest to arrive. The aforementioned cats—a tabby named Egory and a tortie named Astrophe—had sniffed at me and Anjali briefly when we'd arrived, and then made themselves scarce.

Trev and his wife Jacinta arrived halfway through the game bearing booze, followed soon after by Jerry and Davie—mutuals of Trev and Lucy, I hadn't met them before—and then Seungmin, another of our gaming buddies, and some other Lucy-friends who I didn't know. For the size of the place it wasn't a large party, maybe a dozen people in a lounge room that could easily have held twice that number, and I remembered that Lucy had mentioned having to rebuild her social circle after her time overseas.

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