The Erotic Mind-Control Story Archive

Phase Zero Clinical Trial: Response To Hypnozamine In The Human Female

by B Pascal

Chapter 8

I slept, and when I got up I dug out my lab journal and made some notes. First, the suggestions seemed to last longer than I had thought, ten hours at minimum. The trigger still worked when I told her to cum this morning.

And all the responses that I had programmed, such as when I sucked her nipple or put a finger in her ass, worked exactly as I had told her. I had made mental checkmarks as I validated them. I also inserted a question to myself about whether skipping so much time in the arousal process had an adverse effect on the woman’s orgasm or how it made her feel. I wasn’t sure how I would test that, but it was worth thinking about.

I put the journal down and closed my eyes while I thought about Sara. She was really an extraordinary woman. I liked her. She was smart, gorgeous, had a world-class ass, she was funny and insightful, and also a scientist. We had a lot in common. I could almost see her as steady girlfriend, maybe even marriage material. My mother would be thrilled beyond words, if she knew. I think she was beginning to despair.

But I knew not to rush things. We should let things develop naturally. I also had no idea if she felt the same way about me. Well, still early days yet.

I was suddenly aware that it was early afternoon and I was hungry. It had been a long while since breakfast. I found some deli ham and a couple of slices of cheese in the fridge and made a sandwich, which staved off imminent starvation. I also found a bottle of beer in the back of the fridge. I couldn’t even remember when I had bought that, so it must have been sitting for awhile. I took it out and opened it.

I sat on the couch, ate my sandwich and drank my beer, and thought about this thing I had created. I was still holding some reservations about using it so gratuitously without proper testing. I was enough of a scientist to be aware of the dangers that might pose. But so far I had detected no negative behavioral effects.

I had no way of determining long-term physical effects, but I did know that the substances I had modeled my compound around were well-known and had been tested thoroughly, so that gave me some confidence that any physical effects were minimal or non-existent.

Again, I slapped myself for continuing to call it “a thing” or “the compound”. I gave it some thought and came up with the name ’hypnozamine’. I didn’t think that was quite right, since there were conventions for how a drug should be named, but it would work for my immediate purposes.

There were obvious ethical issues here, and I was avoiding them, I knew. I didn’t think I had forced any of my few subjects to do anything they might not have done otherwise, but in fact I had bypassed their fully informed consent. That was enough of an ethical violation to get me thrown out of any standardized testing trial. But, I had decided, given the purpose for which hypnozamine was designed, it would never get to the testing stage to begin with.

I speculated about other unethical ways in which I could use it. A loan officer at a bank, convince them to give me very favorable terms on a loan because they trust me. A home seller or a mortgage banker might persuade themselves that the asking price was way too high given the condition of the house, and offer it to me at a discount. A stockbroker assures himself that I present great potential to the firm and suggests the hottest stocks to me, the ones usually reserved only for their best customers.

Our friend Bernie Clark persuades himself that he is really not very good at directing research and allows his staff to manage themselves while he happily plays solitaire on his PC. Bernie’s boss suddenly sees how brilliant I am and offers me my own lab and staff. I could probably go on all day. None of these are ethical, but all are tempting.

I was suddenly exhausted and put the journal away. I eventually turned on the TV and watched some British historical drama on PBS.

On Monday I checked the state of my experiment for Clark and got some moderately encouraging results, which I noted. Frank Wisowicz, I discovered when I chatted with him, had gone out with Eden Mallory again on the weekend. Judging from the smile on him, it had gone well. He looked like a man who had finally gotten laid, but I refrained from commenting.

I brought a sandwich from the cafeteria back to the lab so I could write up a report that was due later. I must have developed a kind of internal alarm, because when I looked up it was just after two and that made me think of Liz. Well, I needed coffee and a snack anyway, so I headed back to the cafeteria. Maybe she’d be there, maybe not. I grabbed a journal to bring with me just in case it was the latter.

I found a table in the corner and sat with my back against the wall. She wouldn’t surprise me this time, if she showed up. I ate my cookie and read my journal.

A movement out of the corner of my eye made me look up as she approached my table with a cup of tea and some grapes on a plate. Today she wore a gray suit over a pale pink blouse, and the jacket for the suit looked like it was having some trouble staying closed. I wondered what it looked like without the jacket.

She raised an eyebrow at the empty chair and I nodded. I looked at her plate of fruit and said, “I already feel healthier by osmosis.”

“You should try the real thing, it’s even more effective.”

“Are you trying to shame me into healthy eating?”

“I’m sure you’ll see the light eventually.” She took a sip of her tea and asked, “Your weekend?”

“Pleasant, unremarkable. And yours?”

“Busy, actually. And it’s your fault.”

I looked up, surprised.

“Your comments about my stories, I mean. I got to thinking about them, and it made me make some changes in what I’d written, and that stimulated some other ideas, so I spent the bulk of the weekend writing. It was both wearing and gratifying.”

“I don’t know whether to look guilty or proud.”

“I’m saying that I broke through some creative block I had and I think it was because of your comments.”

“Oh, well, then I’m happy that I could help, in some small way.”

“It was helpful, Sam. And now I want to ask a favor. You seem to have a way of looking at my writing and seeing things I don’t, like a good editor sometimes does. I told you I was a bit scared of other people looking at my writing because I felt like they’d be judging me. I still think that, but maybe a little less with you. So, if you could see your way to do this, I’d be very grateful if you’d read some of my other stuff and let me know what you think.“

I was surprised, and it probably showed, because she added, “I’ll understand if you don’t want to, I know you’re busy, so just say so if you can’t do it.”

“No, Liz, you misunderstood me. I was a little taken aback that you thought so much of my comments. I didn’t think they were that profound or insightful, just some thoughts that struck me while I was reading. I’m really quite flattered that you’d ask me to do it, and of course I will.”

Damn. Look at that smile. It just lights up the room. She reached for her bag on the floor and as she did I caught her upper body in profile and I think my heart skipped a couple of times. She took out a manila envelope, a little thicker this time, and offered it to me, tentatively.

I took it from her, saying, “It’ll be a few days, I think, but I’ll return it to you after I’ve made some notes, if that’s okay.”

“Of course it is, Sam. I’m really happy that you’re doing this, it helps a lot.” That smile again.

She finished her tea, while chatting about office gossip and the like. Eventually she glanced at her watch and said, “Gotta run. Bye.”

I watched her head toward the door, as did every other guy in the room, and marveled at the skirt and what was underneath it. I started to have some fantasies, then shook them off, saying to myself that I should keep my fantasies at least semi-realistic.

Not much happened for several days. I did read what she had handed me, and there were a couple of short stories that were clever and touching, and a rewritten first chapter of her novel (which flowed much better, I thought) and another chapter and a half that followed it.

I continued to be surprised by her powers of observation and the way she was able to paint her characters that made them almost real. I took more notes and added some questions. I decided to keep them a couple more days because I wanted to think more about them.

On Wednesday evening I got a call at home.

“Sara, nice to hear from you. How’s your week been so far?”

“Not bad,” she said, “some progress on my work projects, which is gratifying. Listen, I wonder if you might have thirty minutes to meet tonight, maybe have a drink?”

That sounded mysterious. But the upside is that I’d get to see her for a little while. We agreed on a place and a time, and I went to change my shirt.

I’d never been to this particular bar but she knew it, so it was probably a comfortable spot for her. It was fairly late on a work night, so it wasn’t that crowded. I spotted her at a corner table. She was taking off her coat, so she must have just arrived. I waved and she smiled.

The waitress came up just as we seated ourselves, and we ordered. She talked about something inconsequential until our drinks arrived. I dropped a twenty on the tray while Sara drained almost a third of her drink. Uh, oh. Liquid courage, this must be a serious conversation she’s working up to.

She was quiet for awhile and looked like she didn’t know what to do with her hands. She finally looked at me guiltily and said, “I’m having a harder time with this than I thought I would. I’d planned it out beforehand and thought I had it, but...”

She took another sip, and looked at me. “Sam, I had a really nice time last weekend. More than I’d thought I would. I’m usually a little, I dunno, reserved, I guess, the first couple of times I go to bed with a guy, not trying anything out of the ordinary, trying to see where the boundaries are, his and mine.

“But it wasn’t like that with you. It was like I was open to almost anything because I felt safe with you, that I could trust you not to hurt me, either physically or emotionally, you know what I mean?”

I nodded and tasted my drink. She went on.

“And I surprised myself that I was able to tell you about those weird sex encounters, and... and especially about my fantasies.” She swallowed here, looking like her throat was dry, so she took another sip of her drink. It was almost gone.

“I’m losing track of what I wanted to say. Damn, this is hard. Okay, so I mentioned my neighbor, the apartment next to mine, the flight attendant who’s almost never there? Well, it turns out she chose that night, late on Saturday, to get home from a tour and back to her apartment.”

She picked up her drink and found it was empty. She caught the eye of the waitress and raised her glass.

“So the next morning, after you’d left, I opened my door and chanced on her in the hall, and we did the hi, how are you, thing. Then she looked me right in the eye and said, “I got home just in time to hear the finale last night. Lucky you, if I could cum that hard, I’d be doing cartwheels down the hall! So who’s the guy? What’s he like? What’s he like in bed?"“

The waitress showed up with her refill and Sara looked really grateful. She grabbed it and took a healthy gulp.

“I told you she was a bit of a slut, didn’t I? It’s usually me hearing her, but not this time. And Carol—that’s her name, Carol—wouldn’t let it go. She kept poking for the details, no boundaries whatsoever. And here’s the weird thing, it was like I wanted to tell her, maybe it was bragging, maybe it was to make her jealous, I don’t know. Maybe it was the fact that I wanted to share it with someone, and I’d be too embarrassed to tell my friends and she was safe because she was, like, almost anonymous, I don’t know her that well.

“So I started telling her—we’d moved into her apartment by then so the other neighbors wouldn’t hear. And it was like she was getting a little jealous, complaining that her boyfriends just weren’t doing the job, and she wished she could have a shot at this one. And she joked—we were into the wine, now—that I could even watch if I wanted. Or we could do a threesome.“

Another drink.

“And that flashed me back to the conversation we’d had about fantasies, and I suddenly realized how turned on I was by the thought.”

She looked like she’d hit a brick wall, like she couldn’t figure out how to tell the rest of it, a little ashamed. I asked, “What happened then, Sara? What did you and Carol talk about?”

It took her a few moments. “And once I’d started thinking about the fantasy, it was like I couldn’t get rid of it, the possibility got more and more real. She... she started talking about some... encounters she’d had in the past, some threesomes, describing them in some... detail. And the more she talked about it, the hotter I got.”

She grabbed her glass and swallowed the rest of it.

“Now I’ve gotten this far, and it’s even harder to say it. By the time we’d finished the wine, she’d said straight to my face that she wanted to do a threesome, she and I, and you. And as she said it, I realized that I wanted it, too.

“I told her I didn’t know if you’d want to do that, and she said ’Well, all you can do is ask, and if he says no he’ll still be flattered that two hot babes wanted his bod.’ Can you believe that?”

I leaned against the seat back. I think my mouth was open, I’m not sure. She looked terrified.

“I used to read about things like this in Penthouse Forum when I was a kid,” I said, “but you know that stuff never happens to you. So, let me make sure I understand this fully. Your neighbor, Carol, wants a threesome with you and me. You think this is something you want to do, that it would be a turn-on for you, but you’ve never done one before. Right?“

She nodded, still looking like she’d committed some grievous offense, waiting for her punishment.

“Sara, I’ve never thought about it, other than as a passing fantasy. I know I mentioned it the other night, but it was a speculative fancy. I wasn’t suggesting it to you. Are you completely on board with this? I have to admit that the idea of you and me and your hot neighbor in one bed gives me a stiffy.”

She smiled through her embarrassment.

“Have you thought this through, Sara? What if you suddenly find you don’t like it when you’re in the middle of it?”

“We actually talked about it, Carol and I. Carol said her first threesome, she had to sit out part of it and just watch, but her second one was fine, fun even. So in the worst case, I’ll sit on the chair and take notes or something.”

I laughed at that. Then I asked her, “Do you think you’d feel, I dunno, jealous or something, seeing me fucking another woman? I think that’s what I’d feel if it was you, me and another guy.”

“I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. But I won’t know till it happens. Sam, what this is, I think, is from us talking about boundaries and fantasies, and I think it’s me experimenting with my boundaries, questioning them. This is an almost-safe step outside the boundaries, because I trust you, and I don’t know her that well, so if it doesn’t work out, well, I won’t lose a girlfriend. The only thing I’m worried about is that you’ll think less of me, taking this step. I’d just feel safer if it was you there with us.”

“Sara, like I said, I haven’t given this any thought as an actual, real encounter. And I don’t think any less of you for considering this. As you said, you’re experimenting with your boundaries and that takes some real courage to make that step. Now I have to think about how I’d feel. The prototypical male in me says, ’Hell, yeah, orgy, many women, fuck like rabbits’. The male who cares about you is asking how I’d deal with sharing you with another person.”

She smiled and put her hand on mine. “Thank you for having that thought. So what do I tell her?”

“I’m not sure. Can I think about this and call you tomorrow?”

“Sure. Just so you know, she’s off schedule this Friday and Saturday, so she’ll be around.”

So we agreed to make the decision tomorrow on the phone. I asked her, “Did you drive here? You’ve got a real buzz on now.”

“No, I took a cab, ’cause I knew I’d have to drink.”

“Okay, let’s get you a cab. You need to sleep this off, I think.”

I settled the tab, and waved down a cab on the street. Through the open window I said, “I know this must have been a tough conversation for you. Thanks for trusting me. Talk to you tomorrow.”

At home, I sat on the couch, still in my coat, and tried to sort out my feelings. The thought of Sara and Carol and me was, to be honest, pretty damn hot. I wasn’t sure I’d have the stamina for both of them. What was giving me pause was how she’d react after the threesome was over. I’d hate for it to affect our relationship by, for example, her feeling ashamed for having suggested it, that I’d think her cheap.

But to give her credit she seemed to have thought this out and mostly had a handle on her feelings about it. I’d think about it overnight and make a decision tomorrow.

On the way in to work on Thursday I had that question pop up frequently, asking me for my decision, but I was still ambivalent.

The main problem was that I expected Carol to be disappointed, because she wouldn’t react the way Sara had, unless I “primed her pump” beforehand with a dose of hypnozamine, and I couldn’t do that unless I got her alone for ten minutes or so. Since I hadn’t yet met her I couldn’t just drop by her apartment and invite myself in.

That problem was replaced with another as soon as I walked in the lab. Clark was on the warpath again. He was berating Ted Markey, and from the look on Art’s face had already finished with Art Birnbaum. He glanced at me on the way to my desk and I saw that I was next on the list. None of us worked on the same experiments, so whatever this was about was unrelated to actual work.

I hung up my coat and sat at my desk. In a minute it seemed that Clark was finished with Ted because he turned to me and opened his mouth to begin his tirade, when he stopped and said, “The rest of you, back to work. Halloran, in my office.”

I got sympathetic looks from the other two and followed Clark down the hall to his lair. From the set of his shoulders I thought Clark was going to be contentious for the rest of the day. He stepped into his office, leaving me to close the door behind us.

“Where is that report,” he said, rummaging through the stack of papers on top of the credenza, “I just had it.” And in that moment I made a decision. I reached into my pocket and tucked the aerosol into my palm.

“Sit down and stop hovering while I find this,” he snapped, his back still toward me. I gave him a quick spray over his shoulder, then stepped back toward the door, pulled out my handkerchief, and placed it over my mouth and nose.

“Excuse me,” I said through the cloth, “I think I’m going to sneeze.” I made some pre-sneeze movements, while I watched him out of the corner of my eye.

His movements slowed to a stop, and he stared thoughtfully at a spot on the cinder-block wall.

“Dr. Clark, are you all right?”

“I’m fine. I’m trying to remember where I put your report.”

“I’m sure it’s here. Why don’t you sit down in your chair, and I’ll bet you’ll remember right away where you put it.

He moved to his chair and sat, while I held the handkerchief over my face and moved to the guest chair, far away from the credenza.

“Sorry about the handkerchief, I keep feeling like I’m going to sneeze. Seasonal allergies.”

He nodded, staring at the wall behind me.

“If I may say so, you seem a little aggravated this morning. Did something happen? Why don’t you tell me.”

He opened his mouth and nothing came out. I could see the lips and jaw moving, but it was as if he couldn’t bring himself to say what was annoying him.

“Sometimes it helps to say it out loud, it makes a problem more realistic, easier to address. Why are you so upset today?”

He finally pushed through his normal secretive tendencies, and said, “The research board is questioning my progress and thinking about stopping this line of inquiry and shifting us to other projects.”

“Oh, I see. That is concerning. I can see why you were upset. Was there a particular reason you were reprimanding Ted and Art and me?“

“You three are in charge of the main areas of research, and if we’re not making enough progress for the research board, one of you must be at fault.”

Ah. The cartoon light bulb goes on over my head. Clark cannot conceive that his hypothesis might be somehow flawed, so he blames those who are running the very experiments that he requested and designed. We’d all suspected that we’d run up against this sooner or later, and here it was.

“I see. It must be really frustrating to be so close to your goal and have outsiders step in and try to stop you. I can understand why you were aggravated. This must be a lot of responsibility to carry by yourself, I don’t know how you do it.

“I’m wondering what we might do to help. There’s no reason for you to worry so much about the details of the research. I think your genius is to analyze the results and see what new paths are worth following up on, don’t you?”

The word ’genius’ was the one he homed in on, I think, so he nodded.

I went on. “I think what might be really fruitful is to suggest avenues of inquiry rather than giving the staff specific experiments. Since we all work together, we have a shared intuition of where the research is leading us, and that might help us to decide what would be the next best step, don’t you? That’s what you’re really good at, isn’t it, pointing at a place and saying ’This looks like an interesting place to visit.’”

“So why don’t you call a meeting and suggest that to the research staff. I’m certain they’d be really enthusiastic, and I’ll bet you’ll get some really interesting results in short order.”

He nodded. I could see his eyes starting to become a little more active, so I’d have to finish up.

“You might have been a bit hard on Ted and Art, Dr. Clark, it might be good if you said you’re sorry for taking it out on them when you were really aggravated at the research board.”

He nodded again, thoughtfully.

“Dr. Clark, when I say the word, ’stroganoff’, you will block out all the sensations and stimuli around you, and will hear my voice alone. And you will want to do what I suggest because you know I support you fully, I have good intuition, and I’m a good researcher. And when I clap my hands, you will awake again and remember nothing of what we said, but you will still do the things I suggested, because they’re what you believe, too. What is the word you’ll be listening for?”

“Stroganoff, " he said quietly.

“That’s right. I’ll leave you to think, now. We’ve resolved all the problems you were having, and in a few minutes you can go talk to Art and Ted, okay?”

He was nodding like a drinking bird toy, looking at nothing in particular, so I stood up and put the handkerchief away and left him there, clapping my hands once as I left.

When I walked into the lab, everyone looked at me. I said, “I think it’s fine. Just wait for a while.”

I took my lab notebook and noted down the morning readings for the latest experiment, and entered them into the report I’d send to Clark at the end of the day.

As I was doing that, himself walked into the lab and went up to Ted, motioning Art to join them. I couldn’t hear what was said, but I could see the relief on their faces.

As he turned to leave, Clark raised his voice and said, “Can I have your attention for a moment? I want to do a research meeting this afternoon and I want you all to be there. I have meetings earlier, so let’s say three o’clock. I’ll send out a reminder memo. Thanks.”

Art and Ted looked at each other, wondering what had just happened. Art came over and asked me, “Did you have anything to do with that?”

“Not really. I could see he was upset, so I got him talking and asked some questions and made a couple of suggestions. We’ll see what the afternoon meeting brings. You can never tell with him.”

Art walked away shaking his head. At lunchtime he and Ted suggested I accompany them to TGIF for lunch, and Frank invited himself along. As we ate we talked about the job, our research, and the frustrations. Ted said he’d been toying with the idea of jumping ship.

I planted the idea of comparing results with each other, rather than reporting directly up the chain of command to Clark, and they agreed it might be productive provided it didn’t piss Clark off for cutting him out of the loop. I said that maybe we should talk about it after the afternoon meeting.

The mood was lighter when we returned to the lab. In fact, we were a few minutes late, but Clark wasn’t there looking pointedly at his watch.

I got up to date on the rest of the research in our section, using Clark’s summaries, perhaps not ideal since he had a tendency to buff the rough edges and make the reports more appealing to his bosses. But it was what we had until it was replaced by something better.

When I looked up it was after 2:00, and I realized I wanted to catch Liz and return her writing samples. I scuttled quickly down to the cafeteria and got coffee and a donut... “No, cancel that, I’ll have the fruit salad.”

I found a seat at an empty table and started on the fruit salad. By the second spoonful, she came in the door and smiled at me. She raised a finger and detoured to get tea and fruit salad.

Today she was wearing black pants and a loose print blouse, more informal than her usual costume but expensive looking. The pants were... attention-getting, especially when she turned around. I swallowed, my mouth suddenly a little dry. I took a sip of coffee.

She sat down and got herself settled, then looked approvingly at my fruit salad.

I said, “It was like a mysterious voice inside my head, saying, ’Fruit salad, get the fruit salad’. It was weird.”

“Your guardian angel, perhaps.”

“Of course. That must be it.”

I reached behind me on the windowsill and picked up the manila envelope. I took out the top sheet containing my notes.

“You made notes?” she said.

“Well, yes, I didn’t want to forget anything. Just a few observations and a couple of questions, if you have time.”

“Of course. I’ll make time. I’m interested in what you thought about it.”

I started down my list, noting that I thought the first chapter of her novel, if that’s what it was, flowed much better and resolved some of the uncertainty I’d had about the protagonist and the situation. I complimented her on the short stories, commenting on how concisely she had woven the story, leaving only what was essential, nothing extraneous.

We talked—well, mostly I talked—for ten minutes. She made a couple of notes to herself on the back of one of the pages, nodding while she did it.

When she looked up, she smiled at me. She reached out and put her hand over mine. It was like an electric shock pinning me to the table and I couldn’t move.

She said, “Thank you, Sam. I can’t tell you how helpful this has been. Your comments always seem to give me new things to think about. I really appreciate your doing this.”

I choked out that I was happy that I’d been able to help.

She removed her hand and now I was able to move again. She collected her things and stood up, then turned and said, “You realize how cleverly I’ve lured you into my trap, forced you to review my stories and suggest ways to improve them, don’t you?”

“Yes, curse you, Writer Woman, and now I’m helpless in your clutches.”

She gave a little laugh at that, then waved and walked off. I spent an entertaining few seconds watching her depart. I still felt like I’d been granted an honor to be able to spend a few minutes with her every few days, talking like normal people. I don’t think any of the men at RBP had ever gotten this far, and I knew many of them were jealous. This was as close to her as I or any of them was likely to get, and I realized it was a privilege that I’d been given.

When I felt like I was able to stand again, I dumped my crockery and went back to the lab. I found the meeting reminder, and we did busy work until it was time to move to the conference room.

When the last of us was seated, Clark welcomed us and started by saying that he apologized for how tense and critical he had become of late and assured us it was really nothing to do with us, just frustrations at the way research was controlled here.

He thought that perhaps he’d been a little dogmatic in the way we we were given our tasks and that it wasn’t working out. He’d like to try something new. He saw his role redefined as a kind of guide, pointing us to a direction in which to move but not giving us the specific path. We would figure out ourselves how to get there.

By this point, heads were swiveling around the table, as people turned to look at one another. This was like an unexpected Christmas gift. I could see the wheels turning inside every head.

After fifteen minutes or so, he said, “That’s really all I had to say. We’ll have to evaluate how this is working periodically, but we’ll give this a try. Any questions?”

One brave soul asked about reporting results, and he answered that it should be pretty much the same as now, except you’ll have to add some comments about why you’re moving in this direction and what you expect to discover or rule out. One or two more desultory questions and we were done. He left, off to another meeting.

The room was silent, then everyone started talking at once. Frank, down at the end, was pumping his fist, saying “Yes, yes!” quietly to himself.

I cleared my throat and when conversation finally died down, I said I thought this might be the opportunity we’d been looking for to collaborate and I suggested we try for a brief group meeting each morning as we tried to figure out what questions we would need to answer.

We left the conference room with as much enthusiasm as I’d ever seen outside of the annual Christmas party. But alcohol was involved there, so it didn’t count.

Ted booked a room for tomorrow’s first meeting and we all finished up the remainder of our daily tasks. Frank said, let’s go out to dinner and we’ll brainstorm, and a bunch of people signed on.

So we did that, the conversation aided by applications of alcohol, and was a little loud by the time I begged off to head home. But there had been some good ideas generated, and we’d follow up tomorrow.

Sometime during the chaotic events of the day my unconscious had come up with a possible solution to the Carol problem. I would need to convince Sara so she could be my uninformed assistant to this deception, and that’s what I was headed home to do.

At home, I hung up my coat and got a large glass of water because my mouth was dry. I picked up the phone and called Sara. It rang three times, when she picked it up and breathlessly said, “Hello?”

“Did I catch you at the tail end of your evening jog?”

“Oh, Sam. No, I stopped at the market after work and I had just gotten home, so I had my arms full of bags and I had to put them down. What’s up?”

“Well, I had said I’d call tonight and let you know what I’d decided about yesterday’s conversation. You’ve had almost a day to think about it. Are you still signed up for this?”

She was silent for a moment. “Yes, I think I am. It’s a little scary but sometimes it’s good to stretch your boundaries. So, what did you decide?”

“I decided that the only way to make a decision like this is to meet all the parties involved. I’ve met you, but I’d like to meet Carol first before we all jump in feet first. So what I’d suggest, if she’s up for it, is that we meet on neutral ground somewhere, she and I, maybe a coffee shop or something like that and just talk a bit, see if we like each other.”

“Oh. Well, I suppose that’s not a bad idea. It’s what I’d do if I’d been talking to someone online and they wanted to meet in real life. A neutral, public place. I can see that.”

“I suggest that you propose it to her, that we meet at a place of her choosing, maybe tomorrow after work sometime, preferably not a bar, and we spend thirty minutes talking and seeing if we like each other. If it goes okay, I’ll say yes. You want me to call you afterwards, or would you talk to her?”

“Why don’t I ask her to come by my place afterwards and give me the decision. That may be easier, fewer phone calls. I’ll go talk to her and I’ll email you the location, provided she agrees.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Sam? I find it a little disturbing how arousing this idea is, now that it’s close to reality. I’m really turned on by this. What I mean is, if Carol doesn’t work out, would you consider trying it with someone else?”

“I guess I would. This is all new to me, too, and just a little intimidating. But one thing at a time. I’ll wait for your email. Bye”

Twenty minutes later, my laptop dinged with an email. Carol was in, it said, and gave me a time and the location of the Starbucks where we’d meet. Sara added enough of a description so I’d recognize her.