Let's Talk About Love

By: Claire Kann

CHAPTER 1

Everything was perfect before Alice unlocked her dorm room door.

“I want to break up,” Margot said.

Alice stood, stopping and starting whatever she had planned to say. Her mouth moved, forming shapes of words, but only tiny ticks of noise echoed in the back of her throat. A sharp, bruising ache crept upward from the pit of her stomach.

“I know this seems kind of sudden.” Margot had begun to wring her hands. One of the things she and Alice had in common was their aversion to direct conflict. “I wanted to wait until I moved out but I’ve really been thinking about things and it’s better to just get it out of the way now so I can focus on my finals. Instead of this.”

“Why?” Alice asked. Unable to meet Margot’s eyes, she stared at her arms crossed over her chest.

“Because you won’t have sex with me,” Margot answered.

Alice knew it before the words even left her mouth. Of course this was about sex—what else could it have possibly been about? She held her back straight, refusing to hunch her shoulders to hold the pain in. She allowed it to fill her, allowed that raging, anxious monster to spread. The tension in her legs kept telling her to RUN, but where would she go? They shared a room and still had a week to go before the semester ended. Eventually, she’d have to come back. Eventually, they’d have to have this conversation.

Couldn’t Margot just send her a breakup text like a decent human being?

“We had sex this morning,” Alice replied. Dread pumped through her veins, making her voice sound as skinned as she felt. “Twice.”

“That’s not the kind of sex I want to have,” Margot said. She tucked one of her wild blond curls behind her ear.

That monster flared white-hot inside Alice. The only reason why Alice bothered to have sex was to make her girlfriend happy. If Margot didn’t want it, what in the hell was the point?

“Sure fooled me. If I recall, which I do, there was a lot of happy screaming involved.”

“Because you’re good at it!” Margot stood, walking toward Alice, hands outstretched. “You know exactly what I like. I can’t say the same about you.” Margot sighed. “I want to touch you, Alice.”

“You touch me all the time.” Alice’s limp hands dangled while Margot held her wrists. “You’re touching me now.”

“I want to lie in bed and kiss you everywhere for hours. I want to be able to show you how happy you make me.”

“We do that, too. You know me: I need cuddles or I will die.”

“And that’s something I love about you, but when it’s time to get serious, it’s like you turn into a different person. I want to have passionate sex with you. It’s weird that I can’t reciprocate anything.”

“It is not weird.” Alice snatched herself away.

“It makes me feel weird,” Margot clarified, her voice pleading. “It’s like you don’t like me as much as you say you do. When we have sex, it’s because I want to. You never initiate it. I’m not allowed to do anything to you. On the rare times we do make out, I swear to God I can feel your mind wandering.”

“But I like kissing you!”

“And the worst part is you don’t trust me enough to tell me why.”

Why, why, why? Why did Margot need to know about the why? As if she were a problem to be fixed, as if Margot’s magic fingers could make it all better. She realized, before the concept of Them was even a blip in the universe, that Margot would never understand. Before they decided to be together, Margot had brought other girls to their room so often they had to create a Scarf on the Doorknob system so Alice could stop walking in on her frequent sexcapades.

Sex mattered to Margot.

And it didn’t matter to Alice.

“I trust you,” Alice said. Not a lie, but not the truth either. “It’s just hard to talk about.”

“I’m asking you to try. If you care about me, you will.”

The words I’m asexual knocked around inside Alice’s head. She knew she was, had known it for some time. She had also hoped she could wiggle her life around that truth like it didn’t matter or would never come up. High school had been hell, but college was a whole new beast dimension. Everyone seemed to be trying to have sex with everyone else.

And Alice was caught dead in the center of bloodied, shark-infested waters. It had gotten so bad, she had begun to give the disasters names: The Great Freshman Letdown: Robert Almanac Edition, followed closely by its sequel, Turns Out She Was Pansexual (And Totally Coming Onto Me), which then turned into an unexpected trilogy, Boys Like Girls Who Like Girls, and now it had become a quartet, The Hazards of Sex and Other Unwanted Lessons.

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