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Part 1: The Phone Call

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"Hello?"

"Hi."

"Hey...hello there." Rosemarie could call Sam three times a day and he always sounded so wonderfully pleased.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm finishing up next week's strip. What time is it?...Damn, it's six. No wonder I'm starving."

"Do you have anything in your fridge? Besides week-old pizza?"

"Yes...I have DAY-old pizza."

Rosemarie laughed, as she knew Sam wanted her to.

"What're you doing?" he asked.

"Nothing," she said quickly. Too quickly. "I just...was wondering if you've got plans next weekend?"

"Valentine's Day weekend? Hell, no. I'm staying home and out of the crosshairs."


"I thought I'd buy you a plane ticket and force you to come out."

"I'll come but you're not buying the ticket."

"Yes, I am. My finger is hovering over the mouse and I just have to hit the 'Charge' button."

"Well you'd better haul that finger back right now."

"No. Can you come?"

"Not if you buy the ticket."

"Don't be an ass. I've got a reason."

"What reason?

"I...I want to use you."

She heard the grin in his voice. "On Valentine's weekend? That sounds promising. What am I going to be doing? Wait. You're not going to make me paint again? You didn't pay for my ticket that time."

"You wouldn't let me. I bought you dinner."

"Chuck E. Cheese does not count."

"The girls needed out of the house. And I gave you tokens. See, this is exactly why I want to buy your ticket. Then I don't have to feel guilty if you're...uncomfortable."

"Uncomfortable?" He stuttered a laugh. "What are you going to make me do?"

"I think we should have sex."

The silence after their rapid-fire conversation was deafening. Its roar filled Rosemarie's ears. But she couldn't have proposed it any other way. It had to be quick, like ripping off a Band-aid. Business-like, like suggesting lunch. Instantly and without thought was the only way she could ask for what she needed.

At Sam's continued quiet, Rosemarie began to panic. She couldn't even hear him breathe. She'd coached herself to give Sam the time and space to react however he needed to -- as long as he didn't say no. She looked at her computer screen, where the arrow throbbed over the "Charge" button. She clicked her mouse. "Screw it," she thought. She'd guilt him into having sex with her.

"You know..." his voice, when it rumbled through the phone line, quiet and measured, made her stomach clench. "...When you first said...what you said...I thought you were joking. I was waiting for the punch line." Now she could hear him breathe, a whopping inhale. "Rosemarie, what is going on?"

She laughed nervously. "I think it's pretty obvious. I want you to have sex with me."

"Fuck! Stop saying that."

His bewildered anger -- complete and hurting -- stabbed at her through the phone. She was stunned, the realization that she had offended him crawling over her. She had never heard him angry at her. She almost thought it was impossible.

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