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Designs on You

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It hit her on the beach.

Luke had suggested that they take a day and go up to Campbell Park, home of family reunions, barbecue, and the learn-to-swim program that Grace's parents had rejected in favor of the shiny private pool back in Arcadia. She'd thrown a fit, at which point her mother had pulled her aside and told her that the lake had sharks in it. Grace had found out that was a lie eventually, of course; the first great lie she'd discovered on her own.

Anyway, Luke said he wanted to go. Grace thought that was kind of weird. Actually, at first she thought it was Joan's idea, but apparently it wasn't. ("Like I want to think about Luke dating. Gross.") It still seemed more like a Joan idea than a Luke one, but whatever. Lying around on the beach wasn't usually her thing, but the humidity was just brutal, and she didn't mind the thought of a swim at all.

Lunch was Doritos, Chips Ahoy, hummus, pita bread, and a couple of apples that Luke swore were organic though Grace had her doubts. Still, she appreciated the thought. They went into the lake afterwards, and then stretched out on the sand, slathered in sunscreen. Luke had some math book that he'd been working his way through all summer, and Grace had a notebook too, because she'd known the math book was going to be playing the part of the third wheel this afternoon. She was roughing out an argument about the environmental impact of creating a beach where there should be mud or cattails--invasive species? check energy use for transport. BUT: increased attachment to natural surroundings? fake still count?--when Luke made a little, disgusted noise, and she looked up.

He was sitting cross-legged, hunched over his book, scribbling something in the margin. His glasses were slipping down his nose a bit, and the hand that wasn't writing was gesturing something in the air, which clearly meant something to him even though it didn't look like it was supposed to be communicating anything to the outside world.

Grace looked back down at her notebook, and wrote, very carefully, I want to have sex with Luke Girardi.

Then she crossed it out.

Luke wasn't always the best at respecting boundaries, but she trusted him about her notebooks. Well, enough, anyway--enough to feel comfortable writing whatever she damn well pleased with him sitting a foot away, so long as she tilted it so he couldn't see it without actively trying to eavesdrop.

Have sex was no good. Not specific enough; what did 'have sex' mean, anyway? Grace didn't think she'd done it yet, whatever it was--well, not with anyone else--but other than that... no. Not good enough. She got three words into I want to have intercourse with Luke Girardi before she crossed that out, too; clinical, chickenshit language, the stuff of sex ed. Make love had the "unspecific" problem and the "chickenshit" problem; no go. Fuck had the right kind of feel, kind of blunt and messy and punk, but at the same time it sounded... violent. One-sided. Penetrative. Which was the point, of course, but...

Luke ate a Dorito. Grace thought briefly about leaning over and taking an orange-stained finger into her mouth, then went back to her task.

Okay. Fuck was out... what about screw? Actually, yeah, screw worked for her. Kind of rough, but it felt like something you'd do together. One person fucked someone else, but for screwing both parts would exert some force.

Maybe. She'd managed to forget a lot of her physics.

Still, she liked it. She wrote I want to screw Luke Girardi in her notebook, smiled to herself just a little, and then went back to contemplating where the Arcadia County Parks Department might have gotten all this sand from, anyway, and how much tax money exactly had gone into it.

That went on until Luke's watch went off at 4:30, reminding them to pack up and catch the 5:15 bus. By 4:50, Grace had Luke backed up against a tree, with her tongue in his mouth and one of his hands under her shirt. Which was good, but not enough, and they were in public so she pulled back and replaced Luke's glasses.

"Whoa," he said. "Or don't whoa. You don't have to whoa."

"There are five-year-olds around. Political protest I'll get arrested for, but indecent exposure is not worth it."

"You started it," Luke said, but he was just teasing, not really pissed. Grace figured he had a lot invested in the whole I'm-a-sensitive-not-Kevin-guy thing; he wouldn't ever push her that way. Besides, the Catholic issues were genetic. He smiled his goofy smile, the embarrassed-looking one. "Not that I'm complaining. Are your parents home tonight too?"

Grace leaned in and up—Luke was getting tall on her—and kissed him firmly before drawing back with a smirk. "Yeah. They won't always be, though. So hold that thought."

Even after a year—well, on and off, depending on how you counted the contract period—the wanting still made her dizzy sometimes. The whole ride back on the bus was like that; she was damned if she'd cuddle in public, but she snuck her foot around the back of his and settled it in between his sandals, poking his pinky toe with her big one until he brought his feet together, trapping her. She grinned and brought her other leg around to trap his in turn; he contemplated the tangle they'd made of their lower limbs, then slouched down in the seat and stroked around and around her kneecap until they reached his stop.

It was great. It was exciting. It was… okay, scary. Which she was not going to admit to anyone, because she was a woman of the twenty-first century, comfortable and forthright with her sexuality, and there was no reason that the final decision to go ahead and screw should change how it felt to be touched.

On the other hand, it had taken her months before she'd let Luke into her bedroom. On the other other hand, she'd wanted to let him in for a long time, and hadn't, and that'd been wasted time. Now? Grace was done wasting time.

The problem was, there really wasn't anyone she could talk to about it. Joan was Luke's sister, and besides, her issues were a mile high and climbing. Not to mention the whole Rove thing, which also took Rove out of the running. Plus, he was a guy. Unless he was planning to swing the other way—always possible, but he'd never given her any hint of it—he wouldn't have any sympathy for her end of the mechanics at all.

Obviously she and Luke would have to figure some stuff out for themselves, just like they'd been doing since that first fantastic, shocking, sloppy, awkward kiss, but there was no reason to go in completely blind. Which is why, after some less-than-accurate experimentation involving tampons and fingers, and a moral dilemma regarding her father's supply of Shabbat candles, she trucked down to the grocery store—okay, trucked to a grocery store that wasn't somewhere her family usually went—and hit the vegetable aisle.

She bought some condoms while she was there, too, because there was just no way that Luke had any. So that led to a pretty damn obvious shopping basket; every phallic vegetable she could find, from carrots all the way up to a daikon (hey, why not think big?), plus some nice slippery plastic to go on top. Unfortunately, if the woman working checkout noticed—come on, she must have noticed!—it didn't show on her face, which kind of pissed Grace off. I'm buying food to use as a sex toy, woman! Look shocked!

Nothing. Grace considered trying to provoke a reaction, but that would be kind of mean, and more importantly, counterproductive. She should want society to support her in her embracing of her sexuality, right? Even if that was a lot less fun than making people jump.

A random woman at a store she never visited was one thing, but her parents were completely different, and making them jump would not have been fun; she waited until they were asleep, and then locked her door for good measure. Once she gave in and admitted there had to be some foreplay first—really, all she wanted was a checkmark, not an earthshattering experience, but apparently she didn't work that way—it actually all went quite smoothly. Well, okay, the daikon wasn't happening, but she managed the English cucumber without much trouble and how big could Luke be?

The vegetables went into the compost at 2 AM, and on the way back up the stairs Grace started running scenarios—how was she going to have this conversation with Luke, anyway?

She was surprised to discover that she wasn't nervous at all.

Luke had invited her over for Saturday night barbecue the day before Grace's great vegetable experiment. "It's just us and a few friends. Friedman's going to be there, not that that's a plus for you. I don't know about Adam, and I am not going to be the one to ask Joan about it." So Grace got there an hour early and said to Luke, "Listen, I want to screw you blind."

He froze, monitor lighting his face. Blue Luke wasn't one of her favorites, but it was certainly characteristic, so she let herself enjoy the view anyway. "You're kidding. No, you're serious. Now?"

"Girardi, your entire family is downstairs. No, not now." Okay, yes, she'd planned that part. Which was a little cruel, maybe, but whatever. He'd get over it.

For this, Luke was even willing to push back from the computer. "Grace, this isn't about Joan and Adam, is it? Because you know I wouldn't—"

"Okay, moron, everyone in the room who got paranoid because of that breakup raise their hand." Luke didn't move. She glared at him, then finally gestured come on. He put his hand up, a little sheepishly. "This has nothing to do with your sister's sex life, which I cannot believe I just mentioned. It has to do with ours. If you don't want to…" She trailed off, essaying her best challenging smile.

Luke had always liked that smile. He shifted in his seat. "No, no, I mean, I want to, but I don't want you to feel, you know, pressure, because this is kind of a big thing…" He trailed off, helplessly.

Grace glanced at his crotch, then back up. "Is it?"

Luke flushed. Grace let her smile soften a little, because for once she was the one pushing, she was the one who was sure, and it felt pretty great. "Seriously," she said, "we don't have to. But I really want to. And you're a guy, so."

"If someone said something like that about a woman, you'd complain about sexism."

"So you don't want to?"

He stood up, walked over, kissed her—very confident, head tilted at the right angle, just enough tongue. "I didn't say that."

Turned out he'd done some research too. She had to disapprove, officially—pornography bad, unrealistic, objectification of women, etc. etc. They had a very satisfying argument about that, in which no one convinced anyone else, and Grace got to make fun of Friedman in the process, which was always a good deal.

Six days later, they had sex (Luke had categorically rejected "screw") and it was just the next thing, no bigger than letting him into her bedroom, much smaller than telling him about her Mom.

Way more fun than either, though. So that was good.