Chapter 6: The Inflater

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They say that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. If that is true, then I am guilty as charged. It all started with an afternoon of boredom while I was typing away at my computer trying to finish my medical reports for the day. I was feeling antsy. All I did every day was sit at my computer typing. I longed for something more. “There must be more than this provincial life,” as Belle sang in Beauty and the Beast. That was how I felt.

Notifications popped up, distracting me from my contented musings. I frowned. “Stupid games, I hate it when people send me those app invites!” I clicked back to my homepage and began to browse. My boredom mounted. Nothing interesting was happening in the Facebook world. I could peruse my friends list to see if they have any cute single guy friends? The thought hit me like a ton of bricks out of nowhere. No, I shouldn’t. That’s kinda weird. My sensible side disapproved. Oh, what could it hurt? My adventurous side pleaded. You haven’t had any interesting guys in FOREVER! I grimaced. This much was true. I made my decision.

The next hour and a half was spent perusing my friends list, looking at pictures and profiles and trying to find some attractive, single guys who looked like they were Christians. I scrolled down slowly and my cursor came to a dead halt. My mouth dropped open. The picture in front of me was intriguing. I clicked on it for a closer look.

The guy looked to be in his mid-twenties, with dark curly hair and eyelashes so long they almost put mine to shame. His eyes were piercing blue green and he had a prominent cleft chin which masculinized his face. His eyes were kind and sparkled with intelligence. Absently, I closed my gaping mouth and grinned. Now we’re talking! This guy is CUTE!

Luckily for me, the mystery man didn’t have his Facebook information hidden and I was able to peruse everything about him. It all seemed to check out. He had a clean newsfeed and didn’t cuss. His pictures didn’t have booze or partying. He had Bible verses and good values in his quotes section, and he claimed to be conservative. I sent him a friend request and crossed my fingers.

I didn’t have long to wait. Within minutes, Ben Carmody, my mystery man, accepted my friend request. Almost instantaneously, my Facebook messenger popped up.

Hey stranger! Do I know you? Ben’s message read.

 I couldn’t contain a giggle of excitement. Well, sort of! I typed back. We have mutual friends on here and I saw your picture pop up. You intrigued me.

Is that so?! Why do I intrigue you? Ben was a fast typist, the only one I’d ever chatted who could actually type faster than me.

I chewed on my inner lip pensively, then decided to be honest. I confess, it was your picture that caught my eye. You’re handsome! But when I checked out your profile, we seemed to have similar values so I thought it might be fun to be friends.

 Ben seemed content with my answer, and we continued to chat. Fast and furious, our conversation continued for the next hour. I learned that Ben and his family were Messianic Christians, Ben loved animals like I did, and his personality leaped off the screen. Our exchange was witty and engaging, playful and fun. Time zoomed by.

Finally, we both had to go and our chat ended. I had SO much chemistry with this guy! I wonder what he would be like in person…I couldn’t help the surge of excitement that rushed through me. Maybe I would finally connect with someone. I’ll give it time and see how it goes! Time reveals all…

~©~©~©~©~

Pain exploded in my eye socket and I yelped. “Sasha!” My Siberian husky had the annoying habit of greeting me by boinking me in the eyeball with her nose. I think her intention was to kiss me on the mouth and she always missed and got me in the eyeball. Sasha looked up at me adoringly and thwapped my leg with her fluffy plume of a curly tail. I rolled my eyes and patted her head. Even if she was on the rough side, Sasha was too adorable to stay mad at for long. Her energy was as boundless as her affection was devoted.

Two weeks of chatting nonstop with Ben Carmody was producing fruit in the form of my budding emotions. I’ve never talked to anyone like him. He just understands me and is so empathetic and complimentary. Starved as I was for male attention, every time I got affirmation from Ben I drank it in like I was dying of thirst. You’re pathetic, my inner cynic scoffed. My expression fell. Maybe I was pathetic. It just felt so good to get some attention from an attractive guy my age. All of my life, I had been groomed to be a wife and mother someday. It was my biggest dream, and the only one I had been allowed. Having a career didn’t fit the conservative Christian mold. I couldn’t fulfill my dream without a man. How could I help getting a little over invested when I found someone I liked?

Ben was just so…likeable! And charming…And handsome…My thoughts drifted into daydreams and I shook my head when I realized the ridiculously stupid grin I had on my face. I’ve got it bad. My phone buzzed with a text message and a jolt of excitement shot through me. It was from Ben.

Hey beautiful! You should send me a picture of your amazing self! I want to see you. J

I grinned, flattered by his smooth words. A few selfies later, I was satisfied by my sun kissed picture and what I hoped was an appealing expression. I sent it and waited. Within seconds I got his return text.

WOW. Your eyes are like golden orbs of bliss. I could look into them forever!!

I basked in the glow of his praise. It felt good to be appreciated, to be noticed. I had felt so alone for most of my life. Being raised with few friends and sheltered to the point where I had little chance of making more, I grew up with the impression that I was odd or that something must be wrong with me because I couldn’t make genuine friends. Ben’s words were a welcome comfort to my lonely heart.

We continued texting and then a text came through that made my heart jump.

I was thinking…I’ve been really enjoying texting you. How about I call and talk to you on the phone tonight?

Excitement made my face flush pink. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you too, Ben! I should be available tonight. Any time after six is great!

 Ok then! I’ll talk to you later beautiful. 😉

 I sighed happily. My day was made.

Right on schedule, after six o’ clock, my phone began to vibrate. I rushed into my room, jumped on my bed, and took a deep, calming breath. Act calm, don’t be nervous, I told myself.

“Hello?” I winced at the excited jitter in my voice.

“Heyyy Lotte!” Ben’s voice sent a shot of excitement through my body. “What’s up?”

“Oh, nothing much! Just finished my medical reports and that was pretty much all I did today.” I finally got my voice to level off and sound calm.

“Medical reports…geesh. That must take a lot of brains!”

I found myself blushing. “It’s definitely a bit of a challenge. For the record, almost all doctors talk just like they write…atrocious.”

Ben laughed. “Horrors! I’m impressed you can understand that at all!”

I shrugged. “It isn’t easy! But it makes me some money so hey, a girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do, right?”

“I know the feeling!” Ben chuckled.

“What do you do for work?” I asked.

“Oh…this and that. Right now I deliver pizzas most of the time. I am in school for nursing currently.”

“Really! I have some friends that are studying to be nurses. The difficulty of those tests are legendary, I hear! Apparently I’m not the only one with brains!”

“I’m not sure I would go quite that far.” Ben laughed. “I’ve barely started, and it’s been terribly dry and boring so far. Not sure if I can make it for the duration. Honestly, I got into it because I like helping people and it pays well. I figured why not kill two birds with one stone?”

“I like that!”

“Thanks!”

I could hear the smile in Ben’s voice. “So tell me,” I asked, “what are some of your other hobbies?”

“Definitely animals.” There wasn’t an ounce of hesitation in his response.

“No way! What are your favorite animals? I’m a HUGE animal lover!” I felt my excitement growing at one of my favorite topics being broached.

“Oh…that’s hard! I love dogs, cats, anything really. But those two are probably my favorite.”

“Mine too! I have a Siberian husky and a cat. They are so much fun! They play together and love on me and I just adore them!”

Ben’s grin came clearly through his tone. “That’s awesome! I have a Newfoundland and a cat too!”

We proceeded to spend the next hour talking about our pets and our mutual love for animals. The time flew by. I couldn’t contain my feeling of excitement and bonding over mutual interests. I REALLY like this guy. We seem to share a lot of similar passions and he’s so fun to talk to! He seems really good hearted too.

 “Sad as I am to say this, I have pizzas to deliver tonight.” Ben said, his tone reluctant. “I’ll have to let you go, Lotte! I had an awesome time talking with you! I’ll be calling you again soon!”

“Sounds great, Ben! I’ll look forward to it!”

“Good night cutie!”

Ben hung up and I sighed happily. Ben seemed perfect. He was sweet, well mannered, considerate, good hearted, a hard worker, and had good sense of humor…You are getting too invested in this guy! My inner cynic warned. You don’t know any of his faults yet! Time to rein in those raging feelings and be careful. I grimaced. My inner skeptic always knew how to rain on my parade. I DO need to be careful. I could fall for this guy so easily. I feel compatible with him, and THAT’S saying something! I rarely feel this way. I chewed my lip pensively. Ben Carmody seemed almost TOO good to be true. I shrugged off my doubt. I had no reason to doubt him. Nothing Ben had communicated thus far gave me any reason for concern.

I will continue to observe and get to know him…and try to keep my heart in check. I sighed. This was going to be problematic.

~©~©~©~©~

My days became increasingly chock full as my time spent talking to Ben increased. I would get up, workout, finish doing medical reports, prepare and eat dinner, and then Ben would call me. That wasn’t including an entire day laced with constant texting. I wasn’t bothered by the constant inundation of Ben attention. It delighted me.

I hummed a sprightly tune as I straightened my room and settled on my bed with Sasha. Ben did not disappoint. A smooth, jazz tune alerted me to his call and I grabbed my phone.

“Hey Ben!”

“Hello my Portuguese beauty!”

I literally wanted to vibrate off my bed with exhilaration. His every word mesmerized and excited me. I felt alive when I talked to Ben.

“So how was your day?” Ben asked.

“Oh…same ole same ole pretty much! Just dry reports and I worked out. How about you?”

“Oh nice! Pump it up, baby!”

I blushed. His easy use of endearing words made me feel a mix of hesitancy and pleasure. It felt premature and yet, natural at the same time. I liked him so much I was willing to allow the endearments, even given their early use.

“I did pump it up! P90X kicks my butt!” I laughed.

“Whoa, impressive.”

“Do you workout at all?”

“Eh, not really to be honest. Never really been my thing.”

Disappointment clouded my nearly perfect picture of Ben. Working out was a huge passion of mine. Well geez, we can’t be 100% identical. I rolled my eyes at myself. “How come you don’t like working out?”

“Too much work!” Ben laughed. “I’d rather go walk my dog then lift weights.”

I quirked an eyebrow. So he’s not entirely hard working, apparently. “Can’t say that I blame you there. Working out kinda sucks. But it’s worth it.”

“Well whatever you are doing, don’t stop! You have a sexy body.”

I gulped, surprised by his bold statement. “I-uh-thanks!” I giggled nervously. A guy had never told me I was sexy before. My sensual inner tigress began to purr, and I blurted, “I think you’re sexy.”

“Do you?!”

“Mmm hmm.” My face flamed red. “I get lost in your eyes, and you have a very masculine face.”

“Thank you, Lotte! Now you’re pumping me up! See, I don’t even need to workout!”

I giggled. “You could workout with me!”

“Oh yeah? I don’t know…you’re too sexy! I think I would be distracted the whole time.”

His affirmation soaked into my senses with an enticing sugary sweetness. I was in heaven. Finally, I had a guy who liked me and I liked back. It was the first time I’d ever felt this way and I exulted in the feeling.

Hours passed. Ben and I could not stop talking. We shared our hearts and feelings, and then he shocked me further!

“Lotte, may I pray with you? I feel like connecting with someone spiritually is important and I wanted to share that with you. When I get married someday, I want to pray with my wife and kids every day. It just helps to set my focus straight and connect me with God.”

I was dumbfounded. Could this guy get any more amazing? He’s everything I’ve ever wanted! “I would like that very much, Ben!”

“Awesome! Is there anything I can pray for you about?”

“Um…nothing off the top of my head.”

“Ok!” He was silent for a moment before beginning his prayer. “Dear heavenly father, I just wanted to thank you for introducing me to Lotte, this sweet, beautiful, smart, amazing person. I’ve just really enjoyed getting to know her, and I can feel my heart bonding to her. I just pray that you would bless her and guide me in knowing how to handle our relationship. I want everything that I do to be your will, not mine. I pray that you will guide us in getting to know each other. In Jesus’s name, amen.”

I was speechless. Never before had a man poured out his heart before God about me in front of me. I felt tears prick my eyes. I was moved, humbled, and encouraged by his heartfelt prayer. Finally, I managed. “That was a beautiful prayer, Ben. Thank you so much for praying with me.”

“You’re welcome, Lotte! I just felt led to do that.”

“I’m so glad you did! I’m not used to praying with people. Sadly, I’m out of practice. Not many Christians like to pray with each other anymore.”

“That’s not the way it should be!” Ben was emphatic. “There is such power in prayer! People should utilize it more!”

“I agree!”

Our conversation ignited me inside. I felt a passion for Ben growing like a raging fire, despite my best attempts to control it. I had never been so attracted to someone in my life. The strength of my feelings frightened me as much as delighted me. It felt too good to be true. I tamped down my doubts and resolved to just enjoy the ride and try not to worry unnecessarily.

“So are you in bed right now? I know it’s getting late.” Ben asked.

“Yeah I am, actually.” I couldn’t resist the yawn. “I can’t believe it’s one a.m.! Do you need to go?”

“I should…but I can’t stop talking with you!” Ben confessed. “This is crazy! We’ve been talking for 2 hours!”

“And I don’t want to stop either!” I giggled. “Just let me know if you have to go.”

“You’re worth losing a few hours of sleep for.” Ben’s voice was smooth as honey.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yessss.” He drew the word out seductively, and I swallowed hard. My inner tigress raised its head and began to purr.

“Can I see a picture of you right now?”

That is inappropriate! He knows you’re in bed! My inner critic warned. I ignored her. “Um…sure! But I’m not wearing anything sexy you know…just worn out PJ’s.” I laughed.

“I don’t care! I just want to see you. It’s hard to talk to you and not lay eyes on you.”

“I can understand that. Let me call you back in a few minutes so I can send you a picture.”

“Don’t stay away long!” Ben begged.

“I won’t!” I couldn’t subdue the enormous grin on my face. A few selfies later, I was satisfied. My skin looked smooth and the soft light of the lamp enhanced my bright eyes and subtle smile. I called Ben back.

“Hey princess! That was fast!”

“I tried!”

Ben went silent for a long moment.

“Did you get the pics I sent?”

“Lotte…did I ever!” Ben’s voice sounded a little breathless. “You are absolutely stunning. And it doesn’t look like you even have makeup on, do you?”

“No I don’t.”

“You’re amazing! I can’t take my eyes off you! Do you know how unbelievably sexy you are? These pictures drive me wild!”

I suddenly felt bad. Were my pictures seductive? I wondered. The pics I had sent were decent, I thought. I was fully clothed, not posed, or anything. I wasn’t sure how to respond to his remarks. “Um…thanks!”

Ben let out a little groan. “Why do you have to be so sexy?!” He laughed. “You’re such a tease!”

Now I definitely felt bad. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be sexual.”

“No Lotte! You didn’t do anything wrong. You’re just so beautiful!”

His words assuaged my guilty conscience. “Thanks!”

“Have you ever kissed a guy, Lotte?”

His question startled me. “Uh, why do you ask?”

“I’m sorry, I was just…curious. I’ve never kissed anyone.”

His admission encouraged me to be more forthcoming. “Really! No, I’ve never kissed anyone,” I admitted. “I don’t believe in “saving the first kiss for the altar,” I think that’s a bit much, but I am saving myself for my future husband.”

“That is so awesome! I feel the same way about my future wife.”

This thrilled me. “I can’t tell you how rare that it is to hear from a guy, especially one who is older than 25! Almost everyone I’ve talked to in their twenties has already had at least 4 partners. It’s depressing.”

“I think that’s wrong. I believe that sex before marriage only takes away from the marriage bed.” Ben’s tone was serious.

“I’m with you on that one.” I agreed.

“Still…that doesn’t mean it’s easy to be good…” Ben’s words trailed off and my heart beat faster.

“I knowww.” I let out a groan. “I mean I’m 19 years old and I’ve never even held a guy’s hand! Women have needs too you know.”

“What kind of needs, Lotte?” Ben’s voice was quietly seductive. I swallowed hard, my inner tigress now straining against her restraints.

“I-I think you know.” I demurred, knowing I shouldn’t divulge anything.

“I won’t know unless you tell me.” Ben prodded.

I let out an embarrassed laugh. “Oh you know what I mean! It’s hard to never have sex in a sex satiated culture! I feel like I’m constantly surrounded by sexual things and I never get to partake. It’s torture sometimes!”

“I agree! It’s extremely hard! Don’t you just want to indulge sometimes?” Ben sighed.

“Yes, I do. Not gonna lie.” I giggled, my face red. “It doesn’t take much to push my buttons these days. Drives me insane sometimes.”

“What do you mean, buttons?” Ben pressed.

I was torn. It was obvious that Ben was prying for details about my sexuality. My inner tigress roared and clawed for control, my carefully tamped down sexual desire demanding to have release. At the same time, I knew I should refrain, that I should be careful. I was in deep water now, struggling to keep my head above the depths. It thrilled and frightened me. No one had ever taken me to the depths before.

“C’mon Lotte. You know you can trust me. I won’t tell a soul.” Ben breathed into my ear, soft and lustful.

I squeezed my eyes shut, willing myself to be good. Don’t be sexual! It will only set a bad pattern for your relationship! You don’t want sexual things to be the primary focus! My inner tigress roared in protest.

“I want to tell you, Ben. But I don’t want to be inappropriate with you. I want you to respect me.”

“Oh Lotte! I do respect you! I’ve never met another woman like you!” Ben exclaimed. “You can tell me anything! I’m just trying to get to know you.”

“Well I appreciate that! Just ask me something else.”

“What size bra do you wear?”

“Ben!” I was shocked. “Why are you asking me these things? It isn’t right!”

“Why not?” Ben was unmoved.

“B-because! I don’t know you that well. I would tell my boyfriend or fiancé that but not someone I haven’t even met!”

“You just need to open up a little, Lotte.” Ben chastised.

I felt guilty. Was I doing something wrong by withholding things from Ben? I didn’t want to be a stick in the mud or overly sensitive.

“There’s nothing wrong with talking about your sexuality, Lotte.” Ben soothed. “We aren’t doing anything wrong by sharing things with each other.”

Was he right? I wondered. I was way out of my element now, unsure of how to behave.

“Pleeeease?” Ben begged. “I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I just am super curious about you!”

I was tired of the tug-of-war between my conscience and my inner tigress. “All right,” I relented. “Ask your questions. But you have to answer some of mine too!”

Ben laughed. “Fair enough!”

Ben proceeded to grill me on every facet and detail of my sexuality. My bra size, my weight, what I would like to do in bed someday with my husband—nothing of my personal desires was left unmolested by his pressing questions. I felt bare—exposed by Ben’s persistent questions. In my heart, I felt it was wrong how he was pressuring me to sate his curiosity. I felt violated somehow and yet enlivened at the same time. My inner tigress was purring and happy, finally allowed to express herself somewhat.

I was not about to be outdone by Ben. In turn, I fired questions at him, pressing him about sexual things as he had pressured me. I muted my jumping up and down conscience and sank into the bliss of sensuality that engulfed me.

Another hour passed. Our voices grew hoarse from talking and sleep deprivation. Inhibitions slipped lower. The tidal wave of desire climbed higher. Unable to resist the most basic of needs, we finally succumbed to indulging our pleasures.

Our desire came crashing back down to earth, subsiding into a calming pool of stillness. Only our heavy breathing could be heard over the phone. My racing heart finally began to slow.

“Oh Lotte,” Ben breathed into my ear. “Sweet, beautiful Lotte. You are the sexiest woman I’ve ever known. I love you.”

I was jolted from my euphoric state at his words. “You love me, Ben?”

“I know it’s a bit soon to say it, but I can’t help but express how I feel.” Ben said softly, his voice seducing and engulfing me in a comfortable blanket.

I swallowed hard. Did I love Ben? We had only been talking for barely 3 weeks. I felt like I loved him. But did I really? My heart leaped up to shout: YES! You DO love him! Say it! Stop holding back and being afraid!

“I do love you, Ben.”

“You love me Lotte?” Ben’s voice was surprised, as if he hadn’t been expecting me to reciprocate.

I threw my reservations to the winds. “Yes, I do. I love everything about you, and I am falling head over heels for you.”

“And I you, amazing Lotte. Oh, I wish I could kiss you and hold you right now!” Ben groaned.

“I wish you could too, Ben. I ache for you.” My heart longed for him. I’d never felt this way before.

“Lotte, you’ve completely stolen my heart.” Ben’s voice cracked with emotion. “I almost can’t bear to say goodbye, even though I have to work in like, 3 hours.” He laughed.

“Ohh, poor you!” I giggled. “I’ll let you go.”

“Nooo, I don’t want to!” Ben protested.

“You must get SOME sleep!”

He sighed dramatically. “You’re right. But don’t make me hang up first. You hang up first.”

“Me? Why me? No fair!” I giggled.

“Please, Lotte?” Ben pleaded.

“Fiiiine.” I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. “Good night and au revoir for now, Ben Carmody. Pleasant dreams.”

“Good night my love, my beauty. I can’t wait to see you in person and talk to you again.” Ben’s voice was dreamy.

I had to force myself to hang up.

I fell quickly into an exhausted sleep, filled with blissful dreams of the handsome Ben Carmody and the pleasure we had shared together that night.

~©~©~©~©~

Morning came brutally soon. Despite the mere 3 hours of sleep I obtained after staying up for seven hours on the phone with Ben, I had never felt happier. My heart sang and I felt like skipping. He loves me! He really loves me! My thoughts streamed with replayed memories of our amazing night on the phone. I had never felt more connected to a man before. The intoxicating combination of shared hopes and dreams and then the sexual connection we had experienced might as well have been Cupid’s most successful arrow. I was a goner.

I shared my feelings with my mom and she voiced valid concerns about our behavior but nothing fazed me. I was in too deep now, determined to pursue my relationship with Ben. I had longed for what I had with Ben for my entire life, and I wasn’t about to give it up just because he was too sexual or too forward in professing his feelings. I was in love. I embraced it and was willing to fight for it.

And then, things began to get weird. My conversations with Ben started to have an increasingly disturbing new trend. He was always referring to “inflating me.”

As I lay down to sleep one night, my phone pinged with a text. It was from Ben. All it said was: “Do you mind if I stick a bike pump up your butt and inflate you for a while?”

I was floored. What. The. Heck. My inner cynic squawked. Unable to contain my confusion and mild horror, I showed the text to my mom. She was equally floored.

“What in the world does THAT mean?” My mom exclaimed.

“I have no idea!! What a disturbing thing to say!” I frowned.

What on earth does that mean, exactly, Ben? My fingers flew furiously over my iPhone keyboard. That is really bizarre and disconcerting!      

I like to think of you inflated! It turns me on. Ben’s texts flashed across my screen.

My brow furrowed. First of all, I don’t want him being “turned on” all the time. Secondly, what is the deal with this inflation weirdness? What do you mean…inflated? I typed.

I have a secret fantasy…kind of a fetish I guess. I like to think of women being inflated. It fascinates me and I have this fantasy of inflating women and then riding around on them like a big hot air balloon in the sky.

I showed my mom the text and we gaped at each other, wordless. What the HECK!!! My thoughts shouted. This guy is a freak!

You’re totally freaking me out. I texted. I have NEVER heard of an inflation fetish.

Just because you haven’t heard of it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist! Ben’s tone was defensive. What then arrived on my phone was an increasingly disturbing collage of pictures from Ben showing different forms of inflation, all in cartoon form. I stared at the pictures, horrified. The pictures showed women with hoses stuck into their belly buttons or other orifices and their bodies inflated to look like giant overfilled balloons. It was equally grotesque and disturbing.

I showed mom the pictures and we both stared at each other, disturbed.

“Now what?” I asked, fighting back tears. “I REALLY like Ben. He seemed totally normal up until this point. Do I just cut him off now? This stuff is freakish!”

Mom was silent for a long moment. “I know how much you like him, Lotte. I hate to see this end because I know you’re invested in Ben. What he just told you is VERY strange. To air on the safe side, I would keep Ben at arm’s length from now on. I know that will be hard for you, but I don’t want you to get hurt or end up with someone who has a freakish fetish like this appears to be.”

I felt sick. Things had just begun to blossom between Ben and I. We had talked every day incessantly for the last 3 weeks and my heart had already fallen pretty hard for him. The LAST thing I wanted to do was cut him out of my life. What do I do NOW? I wondered.

Mom leaned over to give me a hug. “I think it would be best if you were to distance yourself from Ben. This is a huge red flag and not to be taken lightly.”

“I know you’re right.” I tried to hold back my tears. My hopes had just been crushed with Ben’s bizarre words.

Mom rubbed my back comfortingly and stood up. “Pray about it, Lotte. Sleep on it. Don’t brush this aside. What Ben said is extremely weird and indicative of a deeper problem. Probably some kind of sexual dysfunction. You don’t want that!”

“I agree! It’s just hard. I already got invested in this guy. I don’t want to cut him off.” I sighed.

“Well, pray and sleep and go from there.” Mom smiled at me and bid me good night.

I didn’t sleep a wink that night, my mind replaying different scenarios and solutions. What my heart wanted and what my mind said to do were at opposite ends of the spectrum. I poured out my heart in prayer and begged God to show me what to do.

~©~©~©~©~

I rose late the next morning, feeling draggy and emotionally wrung out. My brother’s birthday was tomorrow. I gratefully plunged into the process of baking apple pies with my Mom, a welcome distraction.

“So how are you doing?” Mom asked. “Have you heard from Ben?”

I felt dejected. Not only had I heard nothing from Ben, I couldn’t forget the weirdness that transpired last night.

“I’m…ok I guess. No, I haven’t heard from him, which is kind of weird. He usually texts me a good morning every day.”

“I’m sorry about Ben, Lotte. I know it’s a big disappointment.” Mom wiped her floured hands on her apron and gave me a hug.

“Thanks Mom.” Her love encouraged me. I felt a little better.

I jumped as my phone vibrated in my pocket. I grabbed it hurriedly. It was Ben.

Hey was all his message said.

I frowned. That’s all he has to say? First he goads me into revealing all kinds of sexual things to him and then he exhibits a bunch of freakish weirdness, and all he has to say is “hey?”

Hey yourself I texted back.

How’s my baby? Ben texted.

Honestly, not great. What you said last night really bothered me. I didn’t sleep a wink. I responded.

I didn’t sleep much either. Ben’s texts flashed across my screen rapidly. We should not have had the conversation we did the other night. I feel like it went too far and was too sexual. In future, can we not talk about sexual things? I think it’s wrong.

I was taken aback by his tone. It almost feels like he is holding me responsible for the conversation. I was the one who tried to get him to stop!

I agree with you, Ben. I felt bad about it and I’m sorry for my part in the conversation. I don’t want to be sexual with you either. It’s not appropriate or right.

We are in agreement then. It’s very hard for the man to be on good behavior when the woman behaves sexually.

This floored me. Now he IS holding me responsible for what happened on the phone! It felt unjust, but at the same time, I could not deny my inability to resist his advances and persistent questions. Guilt descended on me. Maybe he’s right. It is my fault.

Ben wasn’t finished. As for what I said about inflation last night, when can you talk on the phone? I want to talk to you about that.

I swallowed hard. He struck the raw nerve that plagued me all night. I’m available now I texted.

Within seconds, my phone rang.

For the next hour, Ben proceeded to fill my ears with assurances that his fascination with inflation was something he had fully under control. He said he had counseling from his rabbi and his brother and was aware that it was not a healthy interest. He apologized for bringing it up and begged me to help hold him accountable. My heart was moved by his honesty and mollified by his apologies. I decided to trust him for the time being.

A week passed. Ben remained true to his word and refrained from his suggestive comments and innuendo, as well as any reference to inflation. My heart took a deep sigh of relief. Perhaps everything would blow over and be all right after all. I just needed to give him a chance. People did not change overnight—it took time…right?

Despite my hopes for Ben’s change of heart, his newfound good behavior did not last long. Bit by bit, his sexual innuendo and inflation references crept back into our conversations and texts. It was so gradual, I hardly noticed it. I desperately wanted his approval and to please him. I ceased to challenge him on things he said, even when I knew it was wrong. My heart and my feelings intercepted my conscience, muting it. Deep down, I felt like I was on a train destined to wreck and I was powerless to stop it. All I wanted was to be loved and appreciated for who I was, and I wanted it so badly that I was willing to accept even a piece of this feeling.

My entire upbringing had drilled into my brain that the most important thing for a woman was to be a wife, homemaker, and a good mother. I had no other aspirations, or if I had, they had long since been driven from me by years of indoctrination into conservative values and teachings. My entire life purpose was wrapped up into finding a husband and becoming a mother. This was what I had been taught, and it was all I knew, but it blinded me to seeing Ben’s flaws and evaluating him with unbiased eyes. All I felt was infatuation and a strong emotional attachment that overwhelmed any logic or solid reasoning.

More weeks passed. It had been two months since we first started talking. Our relationship had grown, blossomed, and taken deep root in my heart. The constant flow of affection, proclamations of love, and steady affirmation from Ben was everything my heart had longed for in a man. I could see nothing but good in him now.

~©~©~©~©~

It was hot. As I looked out my window, I could see the heat waves rippling up from the hot asphalt driveway. The hay in the field next to my house had turned a beautiful golden color, and the trees were a lush green. It was the dead of summer and I was thankful for my air conditioned room.

Reluctantly, I turned my attention to the medical report at hand and concentrated on finishing it. Listening to doctor’s speak their gibberish all day drove me insane. I hated it, but I could do it from home and since my parents did not want me working outside the home, my options were limited.

My phone started ringing and I grabbed it. My favorite person was calling.

“Hey Ben!” I smiled.

“Hey baby! What’re you doing?”

The sound of his voice sent tremors of excitement through me. “Nothing much. I just finished my medical reports. How’s your day?”

“Look at you go! My little brainiac!” Ben praised.

I blushed and giggled.

“I was mowing lawns all morning and just got cooled off in the shower.”

“Bet you’re squeaky clean now!” I giggled.

“I hope so!” Ben chuckled. “So tell me about your day!”

I shrugged. “Nothing too interesting. I painted my fingernails for the first time! I figured it was long overdue.” I giggled. The line was silent for a moment. “Ben? Are you there?” I asked.

“Lotte, do you know how sexy you are? I’m just thinking about you and it’s turning me on. I want you right now.” Ben said breathily.

His comment stopped me dead in my tracks. That’s perverted! My conscience protested. You were talking about nail polish for crying out loud! You were not being sexy or doing anything provocative!

“Ben, that makes me uncomfortable and I don’t think that’s appropriate.” I said somberly.

This didn’t faze Ben. “I have a confession, Lotte.” He said quietly.

“What is it?” I asked, almost dreading the response.

“Sometimes I please myself while I’m talking to you. Your voice is just so sexy, I can’t stand it!”

I gasped. “Ben! You can’t be serious!”

“Actually, I am serious.”

I felt disgusted and taken advantage of. “I’m not comfortable with that Ben! You JUST got done telling me that you wanted to be on good behavior with me! That’s not acceptable and it’s disrespectful to me!”

Ben sighed. “I’m sorry, you’re right. Forgive me?”

I let out an exasperated breath. “I forgive you but please stop doing things like this!”

“All right, Lotte. Let’s change the subject. I wanted to ask you something.”

I almost dreaded hearing what else he had up his sleeve after his first admission. “What is it?”

“We’ve been getting to know each other at such a whirlwind pace. It’s been amazing and I love it—I love you, and I was wondering when we could meet in person?”

My heart nearly stopped. I had been waiting for this moment for weeks. “I would love to meet in person! What did you have in mind?”

“Since I live in Arkansas and you in Missouri, I was thinking we could meet halfway maybe? You can bring someone with you if you like, I know your dad probably won’t like you gallivanting off to meet some guy he’s never seen before.” Ben chuckled.

“Um, yeah! That sounds perfect!” I was ecstatic. “When were you thinking?”

“I don’t know how much notice you need. Fridays work well for me, what about you?”

“Fridays are good! I think I’ll probably drive with my Mom if that’s ok. Just because we’ve never met before. I know my dad wouldn’t let me meet a stranger alone.”

“Definitely! I totally understand.” Ben agreed.

We settled on a tentative date and I hung up feeling more elated than I had in my entire life. I felt like I needed to peel my excited self off the ceiling. I couldn’t stop grinning.

I spoke with my parents and communicated with Ben and we nailed down a time and place to meet on the upcoming Friday. Three days away!!! My thoughts trilled happily. Three days until I can meet the man I’m head over heels for.

The week dragged by. The night before Friday, I hardly slept a wink. My heart felt like it was skipping beats. Finally, the morning dawned and soon my Mom and I were off to Arkansas to meet Ben.

I can’t believe I’m finally meeting Ben! My thoughts raced excitedly. We pulled into a Red Robin parking lot and I rubbed my sweating palms on my jeans and swallowed hard.

“This is it!” Mom smiled at me. “Let’s go see what this guy is like in person!”

I tried to calm my quaking nerves and stepped out of the car, looking around for Ben’s car.

“Hopefully this isn’t painfully awkward.” Mom elbowed me and rolled her eyes. “I know it’s awkward bringing me but Ben bringing his mom too is kinda weird, isn’t it?”

I laughed. “You’re not kidding. I don’t know why he’s bringing his mom.”

We surveyed the parking lot, and then I saw him.

Ben was just getting out of his car and walking towards the Red Robin entrance, his mother in tow.

I took a deep breath and slowly drank in my initial response to him. He was shorter and thinner than I had pictured, looking about 5’8” and probably weighing about 155 pounds. His dark hair was thick and curled tightly around his head. He was dressed in nice jeans and a button up shirt.

I waved at him and he smiled, making his way towards me.

“Ben Carmody, right?” I smiled.

“That’s my name!” Ben reached out for a hug and I accepted.

He held my hands gently and I looked deep into his eyes. All of my nerves melted away. In his eyes, I saw kindness, intelligence, joy, and light. I saw nothing to fear. I smiled at him.

“Lotte Graham, it’s so good to finally meet you! And this must be your lovely mother.” He turned to my mom and extended his hand.

“This is my mom, Judith.”

Judith confused me a little bit. As warm and welcoming as Ben was, his mother had a hardness about her that was intimidating. It was as though life had burned her and she was bitter about it, evidenced by the frown lines around her mouth and forehead. She wasn’t rude, but neither was she friendly.

We exchanged pleasantries and moved into the restaurant to eat lunch. I felt Ben’s eyes upon me, and I could tell he was absorbing every detail about me. I felt self-conscious under his scrutiny.

He smiled at me. “You look beautiful, Lotte.” He encouraged. “Your earrings are pretty too.”

I blushed. “Thank you. You look nice too.” I examined my fingernails, feeling shy.

Never before had I been more grateful for my social, outgoing mother. She carried the conversation and eased the awkwardness between the four of us. Meeting a guy for the first time was awkward enough, let alone both of our mothers being there. I had no idea why Ben had brought his mother.

I was grateful for the distraction of food, even though my shyness had obliterated any appetite I had. I munched away on my salad and made small talk with Ben and Judith about how we met.

The day flew by faster than any day ever had as I soaked up my time with the man who had stolen my heart. Chemistry sparked between us, a simmering flame that was making me jumpy. Every nerve on my body stood at attention. I didn’t know how to combat my overwhelming attraction. It was scintillating and completely new to me. I simultaneously loved it and was scared of it.

Our next excursion took us to a pretty park to take a few pictures, Ben’s idea. We started out innocently holding hands and by the end of the “photo shoot,” we were acting like an engaged couple. This bothered me somewhat given its prematurity, but Ben led with his behavior so I followed his lead.

He nuzzled me and kissed my head and cheeks and nestled me close to him, like his most prized possession. I felt incandescently happy.

The day slowly came to a close with dinner at a steakhouse where Ben and I sat together and our moms got a separate table. I was grateful for a little privacy. We talked and talked, laughing and sharing our hearts and passions and time flew by.

Despite the perfection of the day, I felt a growing sense of urgency. Like Cinderella, I felt midnight drawing near. It all felt like a dream that was about to end and I didn’t want it to.

Finally, we all made our way to the parking lot where our cars were. Our moms went ahead out of eyesight so we could say our goodbyes. I was surprised by the tears welling in my eyes. I could not shake the feeling that I would never see Ben again. How silly, of course you’ll see him again! You’re just paranoid. My thoughts derided. I tried to shake off the premonition.

Ben leaned into me, pulling me into a tight hug and nestling his face in my hair. “Lotte,” he breathed. “I’ve never had a more special day. This meant the world to me. I am 99.9 percent sure that you are the one for me. Yeshua would have to hit me over the head with a two by four to change my mind about you.”

His words reassured me. I pulled back and looked deep into his eyes, seeing love there.

“I love you so much, Lotte.” Ben breathed, his face inches from mine. Our noses touched, and I closed my eyes for a moment, drinking in the raw emotion between us.

“I love you too, Ben.”

Ben let out a wistful sigh. “I want to kiss you so badly.”

This surprised me, shattering the bubble I had been in. I don’t want my first kiss to be in a parking lot. I hesitated, and pulled away from him. “I-I don’t think I’m ready for that yet, Ben.” I said. “I WANT to kiss you, but I’d like to officially be your girlfriend and not be in a parking lot to do it.” I laughed.

Ben winced. “You’re right.” His smile was rueful.

“I don’t want to say goodbye!” I buried my face in his chest and he hugged me tightly.

“I don’t want you to go!” Ben pressed fervent kisses into my hair.

Reluctantly, we separated after several lingering hugs and kisses on the forehead.

“Thank you for the amazing day, Ben. I am SO glad we met.” I smiled up at him.

“Thank YOU, Lotte luv. You’re the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. Later baby! Have a safe drive home.” He blew me a kiss and got into his car.

Watching him walk away was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Man, I’ve never been so emotional in all my life! It feels wrong and right and scary and wonderful all at the same time! I let out a wistful sigh and got into the car with my mom.

The drive back home passed in what felt like the blink of an eye. I was so happy, nothing could break my good mood. I fell into bed and slept like a baby that night, filled with happy dreams of Ben.

The next day, I awoke in the best mood I had ever been in. I was on Cloud 9. I hummed happily and couldn’t stop grinning and my Mom made fun of me.

My phone vibrated in my pocket and I answered it. “Hey handsome! What’s up?”

“Lotte luv!” Ben’s smile came through the phone. “How’s it going beautiful? I just had to hear your voice again.”

I skipped happily to my bedroom and shut the door for some privacy. “It’s good to hear yours!”

“Can you believe it, I miss you already!”

My heart jumped at his words. “That’s exactly how I’ve been feeling! Isn’t that crazy!”

“Yesterday was the best day ever.” Ben said.

“I agree!”

“But Lotte, I do want to say, I don’t want you to get all your eggs in one basket with me.”

I froze. What on earth does that mean? My inner panic button began to beep a warning. “What do you mean, Ben?”

“Oh,” Ben laughed and I could hear the shrug. “Never mind, forget I said anything. I just don’t want you to get too invested in me.”

Now I was getting angry. “Ben! You call me every day, you tell me I’m the woman for you, you say you love me, and then you tell me not to get too invested? What the heck?!”

“I just don’t want to hurt you!” Ben sidestepped.

“Then don’t hurt me!” I said emphatically. “It’s up to you, Ben! You are the man, you are leading this relationship! I follow your lead! If you don’t want me to get overinvested, maybe you should stop saying how cute I might be pregnant and how you’d love to make babies with me if we were married!”

Ben sighed. “I know, and I’m sorry. It’s just so easy to get carried away with you, Lotte. You’re so wonderful. I’m sorry I said anything.”

This somewhat placated me. “Don’t say things like that! It freaks me out!”

“Ok Lotte. I’m sorry.” His tone was contrite.

We talked for a bit and then said our goodbyes. Ben’s strange behavior plagued me for the rest of the day. He was giving the classic signs of cold feet and yet when I confronted him, he denied it. I just wanted him to do what HE wanted to do. I hadn’t pressured him in the slightest. All I had done behavior wise was follow his lead. And boy how he had been leading! Fast and furious with no sign of abating until now, for some reason. I had to force myself to forget about it and hope for the best.

An uneventful week passed. Ben showed no signs of cold feet again and I began to relax. Maybe he just had a moment or was in a bad mood, I thought. I did my medical reports and was just about to workout when my phone rang. It was Ben.

“Hey Ben!” I said cheerily.

“Hi Lotte.”

Immediately, my heart sank into my shoes. Ben’s tone was downcast, his voice sounded totally different than usual.

“Is something wrong, Ben?” I probed.

“I just need to talk to you. Are you free?”

I began to tremble, fearing for the words to come, sensing that something horrible was about to happen.

“Lotte, I was awake all night last night praying about you and about us. I desperately want things to work for us but I just don’t feel like the timing is right. I’m not ready for a serious commitment. I feel like you’re at a different place than me and I can’t grow up enough to match you right now. I just don’t have peace about us. As much as it kills me to say this, I feel like we’re done.”

I felt like a sword had just entered my heart. I couldn’t gasp, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t scream. Nothing registered but mind numbing, agonizing pain. The very thing I had feared most had happened. It was over. Finished. Done. The finality of it made me sick.

“Lotte, say something.” Ben begged.

I drew in a ragged breath. Don’t cry, don’t cry, hold it together for a few more minutes and save your dignity. “I don’t know what to say, Ben.” My voice cracked. “You did everything to make me fall in love with you, and now you say it’s over. Love doesn’t work that way. It’s not something I can just take back.”

“Don’t say that, Lotte!” Ben groaned.

“I WILL say it Ben! What else am I supposed to say?! You told me every day for the past two months that you loved me! I fell for you! Why are you leaving me now? I don’t understand!” I choked back tears.

“I’m sorry, Lotte! I’m a loser, I’m a mess! I shouldn’t have talked to you that way. But I couldn’t help myself! You are so beautiful and pure and godly and amazing and I just fell for you, even though I’m not ready!” Ben’s voice cracked.

“You’re not a loser, Ben.” I finally let my tears flow uninhibited down my cheeks.

“Are you crying?”

“Yes.” I didn’t bother trying to deny it.

“Lotte, please don’t cry. I can’t bear it when you cry.” Ben begged.

“I can’t help it!” I tried to swallow the lump in my throat. “Ben, I love you! You MADE me love you! You talked about wanting to have babies with me and we shared our hopes and dreams and I bared my soul to you! How could I NOT have fallen in love with you?!”

“Gahhh, I’m such a failure. I’ve been double-minded, Lotte. One foot with you and one foot walking away. It’s never felt right, being with you.”

His words hurt me deeper than any ever had. I couldn’t fathom how he could have acted the way he had and not been totally invested in me.

The conversation lingered painfully on for an hour. I cried the entire time, unable to stop the lamenting of my heart.

“Why are we still talking, Ben?” I said tearfully. “Just end it. Say goodbye. You don’t want me. There’s nothing more to be said.”

“Don’t say that, Lotte! I want you more than I’ve ever wanted anyone! It’s just not the right time for me. I have issues and things I need to work through!”

“Fine, Ben. Work through your issues. Goodbye.” I tried to end the conversation.

“Don’t go, Lotte. Please!” Ben pleaded.

“What more is there to be said?!”

I can’t bear to say goodbye yet!” Ben admitted.

“You are torturing me!” I cried.

“It’s just so hard to say goodbye. I don’t want to, Lotte! I pictured us being married and having children together. I want that so badly!”

“Then stay with me! Don’t leave.” I almost whispered the words.

“I must, Lotte. I just don’t have peace about us.” Ben said.

“Then tell me goodbye and let me go! I can’t keep talking to you, this is only hurting me worse!”

“All right, Lotte. You’re the most amazing, beautiful, wonderful woman I’ve ever known, and I will always cherish the love you showed me. I’m so sorry I’m not the man for you. The timing is just wrong for me. I love you.”

“If you loved me you would stay and make it work!” I exclaimed.

“It’s not that simple.” Ben could barely speak, his voice was wrought with emotion. “I just can’t! I’m sorry. Goodbye my lovely Lotte. I will never forget you.”

“Goodbye Ben.”

I listened intently for several long moments and the line was silent. I assumed he had hung up. I clutched the phone to my ear and let out a soul wrenching wail. The sound echoed the pain of my bleeding and shattered heart. I sobbed uncontrollably now.

To my horror, Ben was STILL on the phone. He hadn’t hung up! “Lotte, why didn’t you hang up? You were supposed to hang up!” I could tell he was crying now.

I choked down my anguished sobs and managed, “You be a man, YOU hang up!”

“Are you going to be ok?”

“No Ben! I’m broken hearted. Goodbye.” I threw the phone down and curled into a tight ball, wrapping my arms around my knees.

I lay thus for hours, drenching my bedspread with tears as sobs wracked my body. I couldn’t believe Ben was gone. It was over. No thoughts entered my head. I felt nothing but the pain of my broken heart.

~©~©~©~©~

The next few days were hell. Every night, I dreamed of Ben and woke sobbing in the morning. All during the day, I couldn’t stop the thoughts of him entering my head and I would run to my room and cry. I had never felt pain like I felt now. My heart felt like it had been lacerated a thousand times and it pulsated with an excruciating persistence that I couldn’t numb.

I tried ice-cream. I tried chick flicks with my mom. I tried hanging out with friends. I tried going to the movies. I tried listening to music and playing piano. Nothing numbed the pain I felt. I felt no joy in the things I used to love. Depression descended on me like the darkest of clouds and I felt myself sinking into the black oblivion. So, I can say now that I have been in love, and had my heart broken. Isn’t that nice. I thought. I looked into the mirror and my eyes were like a murky, bottomless pool of pain. I woke in the morning and I didn’t want to rise from my bed. I wanted to sink into oblivion and never rise again. I wanted to close my eyes and die. This was the living death. I felt nothing but pain. No joy, no surprise, no happiness, no curiosity, nothing at all but pain and sorrow.

Weeks passed. The unbearable pain receded to a throbbing ache. Finally, I could get through an entire day without crying. What tormented me most was the countless thoughts and memories I had of Ben. Everything reminded me of him and I hated my inability to block him from my mind.

Even now, just remembering talking to him, I got a bigger smile on my face then I got from all of the past guys I’d talked to combined. My mind commanded me to never be with him again. He was too big of a risk. Damaged goods. Not a good guy. But my heart whispered to me how much I adored him. Looking into his eyes and holding his hands, I would never forget how much I loved that. When I was with him, it felt like the other half of my soul was loosely floating next to my side, just waiting to be fully joined to me. He felt like the missing piece I had been seeking. I don’t know if I will ever find that feeling again.

Hind sight is 20/20 isn’t it. I thought. Looking back, I could clearly see that Ben completely sucked me into a dysfunctional vortex. The most tragic thing about it was that I was still in love with him. I was like a child, innocent, pure and vulnerable clinging to the one she loved when, without provocation or warning, her loved one whips out a dagger and delivers the death blow. He did everything in his power to cause me to love him. He was smooth. He flattered and complimented. He drew out of me confessions and feelings and thoughts and shared his own. We bonded on a deep, emotional level. For two months, we talked nearly every day, for hours and hours at a time, pouring out our thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams. He made it impossible to keep things in a neutral, impersonal tone.

I realized that the HUGE mistake I made was allowing Ben to continue to get to know me at the rate I did. My original plan had been to only let him talk to me once a week at most. I should have stuck to that. Ben was constantly sending me warning signs that he was going to back out. I was in constant turmoil in the relationship. That was why when he wouldn’t text me I would start to feel panicky, and when the tone changed at all I would have a million worries. He would literally, in the space of one conversation, say “Oh baby, baby, I love you,” then a few minutes later, “but babe, I don’t want you to get all your eggs in one basket…” The crux of the issue! He was constantly sending conflicting signals! One day it was “I love you so much I want to marry you and pump you full of babies,” the next, “don’t get too invested, it may not work out, I don’t have “peace” from God yet.”

I am done with men for a long time. If this is what being in love feels like, I don’t want any part of it. I vowed to myself. I need time to heal, time to get savvy, and time to forget everything about Ben Carmody. I will not be misled like this ever again.

Though my innocence had been shattered, it brought with it more wisdom and experience. In time, I knew I would be grateful for the things I learned. Until then, I would distract myself with work, trust in God, and wait for the one I knew He intended for me.

© Laura Schoonover, 2015-present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Laura Schoonover and https://cupidchroniclesblog.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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