Terminally single, diehard monogamous Lucy has accidentally ended up in a relationship-of-sorts with Charlie, a sexy 40-year-old lawyer who’s polyamorous and planning a wedding to his partner of three years.
So now that she’s finally getting regular bedroom action, Lucy decides it’s probably about time she did a sexual health check.
It may shock you to hear that sensible, organised Lucy hasn’t actually been tested since the day, some 8 or 9 years ago, that she and The Ex decided they would stop using condoms. Yep, bad Lucy has been, ahem, intimate, with ten different men since then, and hasn’t been checked out once. *Slaps wrist*.
Before you judge her too harshly though, please remember that she’s always been careful about using protection, and her sex life has mostly been so sparse that it just never felt necessary. Even so, she hasn’t always been as rigorously careful as she perhaps she should have been, so maybe it’s time for a quick check. Just to be on the safe side.
She goes online and books an appointment at her local clinic, but no sooner has she done this than she sees a link to order a free at-home self-testing kit. Lucy’s never done one of these before, but she’s heard good things, and it seems so quick and simple that it must be worth a try. She orders one, but decides not to cancel the appointment for now – they’re pretty hard to come by and she might need it if the kit throws up something alarming.
Less than a week later the kit gives her the all-clear. When she shares the good news with Charlie over the phone, he’s delighted.
“You know, I’ve been tested recently too,” he tells her. “Maybe this is a good time for us to talk about not using condoms any more…”
Well. This is new. Lucy’s only ever had unprotected sex with one other person, The Ex, and only after many months of dating, getting tested, knowing full well that they were exclusive AND she was on the pill. She and Charlie may be in a relationship-of-sorts, but unprotected sex?! With a man whom she knows for a hard, painful fact is sleeping with at least one other person? When she isn’t using any other form of contraception? That all sounds pretty fucking dangerous and irresponsible for a good girl like Lucy.
But even so, she’s tempted. After all, condoms are chafy and awkward, and she would like to really feel Charlie’s skin on hers… So what should she do?
And amidst all that confusion she forgets to cancel the clinic appointment…
It’s a Wednesday, and as usual Charlie’s coming over to Lucy’s after work for dinner, sex, and naked together time. Lucy’s so excited and horny for him that it’s just about all she can do to make it through the day without saying something deeply inappropriate to her boss.
At lunchtime she goes to M&S to get something for dinner. This seems to be the deal now: Charlie travels an hour across London to see her, and in return she provides food. Occasionally he points out that there’s no reason why technically she can’t come to his place once in a while, but she shoots that idea down with a rocket-powered grenade of absolute hard NO-ness. She doesn’t give a flying fuck if it’s allowed, there’s no fucking way she’s going to his place and having sex in the home he shares with his fiancée. Not if it was the last place on Earth. Just imagine, the space full of her, her stuff, her smell everywhere. Having sex on the sofa they’ve cuddled up on, or in the kitchen she cooks in, or in the shower they’ve definitely done it in too. Accidentally seeing one of their sex toys. Or, worse, what if she comes home early and walks in on them. Even the thought of just being in this woman’s personal space makes every muscle in Lucy’s body tense up. So no, not a chance. If Charlie wants to see her, he’s going to have to come to her. Non-fucking-negotiable.
So Charlie makes the weekly journey to bang Lucy in the comfort of her own home, while Lucy supplies food, leaving the wine to Charlie. Except today, because M&S are doing one of their excellent ‘Dine In’ meal deals with Prosecco. So as well as lasagne, salad and apple pie Lucy picks up a bottle of booze, and then because her mind is so full of Charlie and getting home and naked with him as fast as humanly possible, she leaves the entire bag in the work fridge and doesn’t realise until she’s almost home.
While Charlie pours wine, Lucy peers anxiously into the fridge. Because she’s a single girl-about-town (who is almost never home because, well, obvs, she’s far too busy being out ‘about town’, whatever the fuck that means), there isn’t a great deal of choice. Blocks of cheddar and parmesan, some Philadelphia, eggs. Cheese omelettes, maybe? A few apples, some mushrooms and a head of broccoli. Pesto, tomato puree and some out-of-date mango chutney. Plus prawns, peas and hash browns in the freezer. This feels like a really crap episode of Ready Steady Cook.
“Right, you can have pasta with peas, prawn and pesto,” she says, nerdily enjoying the alliteration. “And broccoli. Or you can have takeaway.”
“Pasta,” Charlie says, and Lucy can’t decide whether to be pleased that she gets a chance to impress him with her domestic goddess skills, or pissed off that he’s expecting her to cook for him.
She puts the pasta on to boil and gets to work chopping broccoli. As she does so, Charlie steps in behind her and begins kissing the back of her neck, slowly and sensuously touching his lips to each patch of skin, tenderly working his way across her shoulders. At the same time he pulls up her skirt, reaching underneath and burrowing his fingers inside her knickers, massaging her in all the places that definitely don’t need massaging when you’re trying to focus on cutting vegetables without slicing your fingers off, FFS. I mean, it’s lovely to be desired, but does he want his dinner with blood in it or not? Upon inquiry it turns out he doesn’t, so she shrugs him off and sets him to work chopping mushrooms. The other stuff can wait.
As soon as one appetite has been satisfied Charlie’s ready to focus on another, taking her hand, leading her into the bedroom and swiftly dropping her clothes to the floor.
“So what do you think?” he breathes between kisses. “Shall we not bother with the condom this time? I get tested regularly. My fiancée doesn’t have any other partners. There hasn’t been anyone else since I met you, and even if there were, I always use protection with casual hookups. So it’s safe, I promise. I want to feel your skin on mine…”
Lucy hesitates. Yeah, they’ve discussed this, but can she trust him? Is he telling the truth? Who might he have trusted that he shouldn’t have? He knows he’s safe because she definitely isn’t fucking anyone else, but how well does she really know him?
But then she remembers how honest he’s always been with her about everything, and how much she loathes condoms, and how much less chafy sex is without them, and in the heat of the moment, bedazzled by the closeness of him, and the way he makes her bones melt and her brain liquefy and her stomach sing, and emboldened by the knowledge that she’s not just a throwaway shag but an important person in his life now, she agrees.
As he fucks her, skin-to-skin this time, covering her with kisses, gasping words of pleasure (God you turn me on SO much! God your body is amazing), she clings onto him like a life raft in a storm. And the added intensity, that next-level intimacy that Lucy’s only ever had with one other person in her entire life makes her feel secure and loved for the first time in, well, such a fuck of a long time that she can’t even remember.
But then, as always, a tiny voice in the back of her head starts nagging. Is this faith in him misguided? How many other women is he fucking anyway? Is all the relationship stuff just lines he’s feeding her to get her to do things like this?
And of course there’s another risk.
“You have to make sure you don’t come inside me,” she breathes between thrusts. I don’t think either of us is ready for a pregnancy!”
“Not a problem,” Charlie grins, “I was planning to pull out and come all over you. OK?”
It’s another first for Lucy. She was on the pill all the way through her relationship with The Ex, and has used condoms religiously with everyone else, so pulling out has never been necessary. Now she listens as Charlie’s breathing becomes increasingly faster and more ragged, until, gasping hard, he jerks his hips away from her, reaches down with his right hand and with a few quick strokes tips himself over the edge. Lucy locks eyes with him and watches his face wrench with that final hit of intensity as the warm fluid lands lightly on her stomach. She looks down at it glistening on her skin and feels a weird sense of pride, as if Charlie’s marked his territory; he’s branded her and made her his. And then he hands her a tissue and she wipes the mark away, the temporary moment of belonging gone again, just as impermanent as their relationship.
The next morning a phone alert reminds Lucy about that appointment at the sexual health clinic – the one she forgot to cancel. It’s too late to do so now, so she decides to go anyway. They might pick up something the kit missed.
The clinic, in Hammersmith, is clean and bright. A few other men and women are sitting in reception, and Lucy can’t help wondering about them, what sorts of things they might be getting up to behind closed doors. Funny how you can interact with people on a daily basis without ever thinking about their sex lives, but see them sitting in an STI clinic and suddenly all the filthy curiosity comes straight to the fore. She pretends to read her phone and hopes they don’t see her looking at them. She wonders what they’d think if they knew she’d had unprotected sex last night – twice – with her engaged polyamorous lover.
There’s an attractive guy over the other side of the waiting area who probably gets up to far more. She wonders if it would be weird to pick up a date in an STI clinic.
A receptionist calls her name and shows her into a small, white consulting room. At the computer is a stern-looking older lady doctor with a steel-grey bob, and to her right a young medical student sits wordlessly. Opposite them is an alarming-looking examination table complete with footrests and an anglepoise lamp for shining into areas where bright lights really shouldn’t be shone. Lucy looks at it – and them – and takes a deep breath.
“Have a seat,” says the doctor briskly. “Now, I’m just going to ask you a few questions about your sexual history, OK?”
“OK,” replies Lucy. It’s just a few questions, right. How hard can that be?
“Are you sexually active right now?” begins the doctor.
Yes, yes I am, thanks for asking. And by the way, it’s fucking amazing. Lucy manages to hold all this in and replies with a simple “Yes.”
“And when did you last have sex.”
She beams with pride. “Last night.” Yep, I did. Twice actually. That’s if you don’t count the awesome blowjob I also delivered.
“Was it with a man or a woman?”
Well fuck, I love cock, all the cock, and only cock. So definitely a man. And what a man! Did I mention he’s sexy AF and bangs like the Duracell bunny?
“Um, man,” she manages.
“And did you use protection?”
Ah. Lucy blushes like a naughty schoolgirl caught smoking behind the bikesheds. “No.” Oh the shame.
“Was there oral sex?”
Ok, this is all getting a bit fucking personal now. Does this stern schoolmistressy doctor really need to know the intimate details of exactly what Charlie did to her, and she to him, last night? Does she really need to ask all these questions, or is she just doing it for shits and giggles?
Fucking hell, this is a bit much! What does she want next, photos?! Lucy wants to crawl under the lady doctor’s desk.
“NO!!!” she squeaks.
Lucy’s torn between pride that she: uncool, hopeless-with-the-boys nerd that she is, finally has an actual reason to be in a sexual health clinic answering these kinds of questions, and mortification that she’s having to talk about her sex life with a woman who reminds her uncomfortably of her A-level English teacher. Even for an oversharer like Lucy, this interrogation is getting a bit much.
“Is this a regular partner?” asks the doctor.
“Yes,” says Lucy, pleased as punch that finally, after four painfully long years, she can answer this question in the affirmative.
“How long have you been seeing him?
“Three months.” Hurrah! Get me, I have a boyfriend!
“Has he been tested?”
“He says yes. I wouldn’t have done it otherwise.” Come on, lady, gimme a break, I’m not a complete idiot.
“Does he have other partners?”
Oh. Fuck. Lucy wasn’t expecting that to come up so soon.
What exactly is she supposed to say? Yes, I’m dating a guy who says he’s ‘ethically non-monogamous’ and who’s engaged to his long-term partner and may or may not have several other sexual partners, I don’t even really know, but I went and had unprotected sex with him anyway because he seems honest and decent and TBH he’s hot and I fancy the fuck out of him and I got a bit carried away…?
She settles for a simple, “Yes,” and wonders what the silent med student makes of all this.
“Have you slept with anyone else in the last three months?” asks the doctor.
Lucy remembers her last home visit from Josh, a couple of months ago and has no choice but to say yes to that too. Fuck, now I sound like a slut! “But we used protection!” she hurriedly explains. “And I was seeing him before. There was just a bit of an overlap!” Aware that she’s sounding (a) slutty and (b) lame, she tails off.
But at the same time, she does feel a bit proud. Check her out: grown-up Lucy, having actual sex with real men. And more than one in the space of three months! This is unprecedented! Unconfident, unsexy, crap-with-boys Lucy, living, if not her best life, then certainly a far better one than she ever did in her twenties, when a visit to a sexual health clinic would have resulted in a pitying look and a security guard escorting her off the premises for time-wasting.
Interrogation over, the doctor has Lucy remove her tights and knickers and lie on the scary examination table with her legs spreadeagled while she peers up inside her with the bright light. Surely not a pretty sight, Lucy thinks and feels a flash of pity for the poor woman having to do this all day, every day. How many vaginas even is that per day? she wonders. And then, God, I hope mine doesn’t look too weird!
If it does, the doctor is too polite to say, simply producing an oversized cotton bud and using it to probe uncomfortably inside Lucy’s lady parts. Lying helpless on the table, Lucy can’t help thinking of the last time anyone stuck anything in there, and just how much damn hotter it was then. Ahh, how she misses Charlie already.
After a brief wait for the results of the swab the stern doctor pronounces her fine, and lets her off with a warning. “If you caught anything last night it won’t show up yet, maybe you should think about getting tested again in two weeks.” She hands her a strip of rubbery, NHS-issue condoms with a pointed expression, and Lucy, relieved but shamefaced, scurries away.
To find out what happened next, go to Part 10 – Parallel Universe
Next time: In an attempt to break her addiction to Charlie, Lucy goes on a date with a new man.
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