I'm beginning to wonder if there was just something in the air this weekend. Extreme tiredness, perhaps? I know Brian has been putting in some late nights on his current project, and I was worn out by last week's festivities... uh, I mean business trip :-) Things seem pretty much back to normal - as normal as they can be after a bizarre blowup like Saturday night. No more eggshells, but still an occasional worried look.

Email from Terry this morning, setting up a meeting with me at ten o'clock on Wednesday. That's very strange, he usually just stops by and asks me to join him. I guess I'll find out Wednesday what's up.


Someone suggested in email that Brian may have been reading my journal last week, which is why his behavior has been strange. (Though we seem to be back to normal now.) But I don't see it. Apart from the fact that he said he wouldn't, I really don't see anything last week that he could be upset about.

On the other hand, he was peeved about my leaving, perhaps he could have ignored his agreement and tried to catch up with what I was doing. But if that's what happened, there was a hell of a lot more jealousy than I'd have expected from him.

Anyway, I have news. Strange news.

I went for my meeting with Terry at 10.

"How have you been finding your responsibilities?"

"I'm doing fine, I guess, I don't know that I understand the question."

"Managing your team."

"Fine, I think, I don't believe the other admins have a problem with me. I've spent so much time away, though, I haven't spent as much time with the other admins as I would have liked."

"But it seems that you've made adequate arrangements when you've been away."

"I guess," I said, then realized that I was underselling myself, though I still didn't know where he was going. "Yes, I've taken my responsibilities seriously, and I've done a good job."

He nodded. "Do you feel that you could function as a manager?"

"I think I could. Especially with the people in the IT group."

He had been maintaining eye contact, but here he switched and started talking to my chest. He cleared his throat. "Uhh... that wasn't what I was intending. We have an application that we're seriously considering for the IT manager position. I'm interviewing him next week."

I was disappointed. "I'm confused, Terry. Why ask me about managing?"

"I haven't talked to you about this, because, to be frank, not everyone signed on to my idea immediately. I've been dumping tasks on you quite deliberately, and you've been doing well. Last week I interviewed all of your team, and they're very happy with your leadership."

Now I was even more confused. If he wanted me to manage, and my people were happy with my management, why bring in an outside manager?

"From the reports you've given me of your trips, you have a good grasp of the software development process. Would you agree?"

This was also puzzling, because it went to the problem I'd had with the trips he had sent me on, which seemed to have nothing to do with admin work. "My degree is Computer Science. I haven't done much development here, except for scripting, but I guess I'm okay with software." He looked to be expecting more. "You're asking about planning, scheduling, modeling, right? Yes, I understand the process."

"I want you to take over my old job. Software Development Manager."

Oh, damn. That was not what I'd expected. "Software? But surely you have better developers in the group..."

"Exactly," he said, "and I'd like to keep them there. I was in development, but when I managed the group I had no time for coding. We can't afford to lose any engineers right now, they're too hard to replace. And quite frankly, I don't think any of our current engineers have the people skills that are needed. The leads - perhaps we could use one of them, but they're so invested in their projects, they wouldn't want to change, and it would take too long to make the transitions. Besides, I've worked with all three of them, and they wouldn't want the job."

"It seems you may be opening a can of worms, Terry. How will the engineers take moving someone in over them?"

"Better than they would bringing in an outsider. And I think you can take the inevitable challenges."

Did he? I wasn't so sure. But it was a heck of an opportunity...

"Can I think about it?"

He shrugged. "Until the end of the week. And if you say yes, I'd like for you to be available for a management retreat on the weekend of the 28th and 29th. Would that be a problem?"

It might, I thought, if Brian gets upset with me going out of town again... but that's a problem I need to solve whether or not I agree to the job. "No, I'm pretty sure that's clear."

"Do you have any questions?"

"Yeah, I guess I'd like to pick your brain on your experience with the group."

"Okay. Lunch?"

So I went to eat with Terry, and heard some interesting stories of deadlines, project problems, and personal conflicts.

He promises that being responsible for engineering, he would keep pressure off me as much as possible. But those kinds of promises, I've found, are worth pretty much what you pay for them... it's the manager who gets sandwiched between the process and the company requirements.

So I'm still thinking about it. I'll talk to Brian tonight, but it's my decision, and I already know what I'm going to say.


Brian and I talked last night. He seemed more solicitous than usual, compensating, perhaps for last weekend? We talked in the hot tub, and he encouraged me to do whatever I felt was best for me, that he'd support whatever I chose.

"You weren't very happy when I left last week. I might have to travel at short notice again."

"Yeah, I'm sorry about that," he said. "I was selfish. It seemed like I'd hardly seen you for weeks, and then you were gone."

"Tell me, were you tempted to try to keep up with me through my journal?"

He seemed puzzled. "No, I wasn't. Didn't."

I'm sure he was telling the truth.

"Well, if I have to travel, we'll just have to make up for the deprivation when I get back, okay?"

He grinned.

"Have we made up sufficiently for my being away last week, yet?" I asked.

He grunted a negative, and reached for my hand.

So we did :-)

I asked to see Terry this morning.

"Will there be a pay raise?" I asked. "It seems that you'll be expecting a lot of me. I want to know that you put a value on those expectations."

He asked me what I though the value should be, and I aimed high, of course... He countered, more for the sake of testing under pressure, I believe, than for trying to cut costs, because we compromised very close to my original figure, and he seemed pleased with the outcome.

So. Shit. I'm now the Software Engineering Manager.

Well, not yet, actually. Not until after the reorg announcement next week...

I called Clarice to tell her, but she wasn't in. I left another message... I'd left a message Tuesday, but she hasn't returned my call yet. Her company is probably in the middle of some big promotion, which always eats up all her free time. So I called Rob, and I'm going to have lunch with him tomorrow. He's thrilled for me.


I've been playing with this idea since not long after I started keeping this journal. Remember "The Spot"? I added the link, I assume the site's still alive, though it isn't what it once was. For the uninitiated it was a web soap opera, based on a place in California where a group of young people lived together... and reported on their lives in daily journals.

Well, I was thinking that, rather than keeping my own journal, it would be fun to keep a fictional journal as part of a group. Kind of an adult version of "The Spot", with amateur writers rather than a professional scriptwriter, and no need for actors and photos.

I think the idea came to me when I received my first email from a writer, and since then there have been several others... it could really work. It could be fun. In my case, I think I could base most of my writing on my own life... but with a critical difference. That it would be fiction. That I'd be free to create or omit any situation I choose.

Probably it would interfere less with my story writing, too. Right now I'm probably four-fifths through my current story, and it looks like I'll be putting it on the back burner for a few days at least...

The idea of fictionalizing my life seems especially attractive right now, and having an honorable way out of keeping this journal would be very welcome. Perhaps I'll soon stop keeping it even without an alternative. Because I'd rather run a marathon than write about today's events. I don't know when or if I'll feel like writing about today. Maybe I'll do it tomorrow. Maybe not.

Because I've found out what was going on last weekend. Why Brian was so angry. He took it out on me, but it wasn't me he was angry with. It was himself.

And it wasn't about any actions actions of mine last week.

It was about his.


And then, having made the decision... not that I really had any other option... but having made the decision to expand on the last entry, how do I go about it?

Sometimes, since conceiving the idea for a web-journal soap opera that I mentioned Friday, sometimes I look at the friends I write about and think, how would they feel to know they were already in a soap opera, of a kind. Because some things regular people get up to, and which I talk about here, some parts of our lives are soap opera material.

And then something like Chris happens, or Friday's revelations, and I wonder how I feel about being part of my own soap opera.

I haven't exactly been procrastinating this past week. Several times I've started to write and abandoned the effort. I've even put some time into two new stories I'm working on, rather than maintain my journal. But now I have some time at this silly company retreat. The facilitator encouraged us to stay as late as we wanted to consider how to put our new "team spirit" into practice (if I hadn't been assured otherwise, I'd say he meant "meditate" on our new-found "beliefs". Sometimes religion and motivational speaking are closer than I like). So I'm using my medit... uh, consideration time to finally put this entry together while I have a little distance.

I went for lunch with Rob. We spent most of the time talking shop. He thinks I'll make a great manager.

Towards the end of lunch, he said, "Well, I tried to persuade Clarice to join us for lunch, but she had work she needed to do."

I realized that I had talked about myself all lunch time, and I apologized. "I didn't realize you were back together. I haven't talked to her in a couple of weeks now."

"Yeah, it was a surprise to me," he said. "She called me, must have been last weekend, invited me over. She seemed... well, for a time she seemed scared that we might have left it too late for reconciliation, but I apologized for being an ass, and I guess she did the same, and we've been fine since then. Back to normal, except less bickering."

I grinned. "That's great, Rob. I was sorry that it wasn't working out for you. Brian and I went through an awkward time, and I guess I still don't know quite where we are, but I'm sure we'll be okay."

It wasn't until he was talking again that the possibility came to me.

"I'm keeping the apartment," he said. "For a time, at least, we'll see how everything goes. Give each other space. But I think... Helen, are you feeling okay?"

I forced myself to pay attention. "I'm fine, Rob," I lied. "I think... maybe I'm still under stress about the job. I should be getting back."

He was solicitous, paid the check and walked me to my car. I appreciated his concern, because, though I tried to hide how I was feeling, my stomach was churning.

It wasn't only what he had said. I think if that was all I'd had to work with I still wouldn't have figured it out. I just - I don't even know how I made the connection, except that, thinking about Rob getting back together with Clarice reminded me of the first time they met, and a niggling little fact clicked into place.

I headed straight back to the office, and went to find Brian. He was working alone in his cubicle.

"I need to talk to you."

"Can it wait until this evening?" he asked.

"Right now. Outside."

He shrugged and abandoned his work.

Outside our building is a walkway, landscaped around a small. There are seats and a small bridge. I leaned against the side of the bridge. Brian watched me nervously.

"What happened last weekend?" I asked.

"I don't know..." he started.

"Brian, please don't lie to me. Don't you think we deserve better of each other?"

He thought for a moment before relenting. "God. How did you find out?"

"I found part of a condom wrapper beside the nightstand. I was surprised, because we haven't used them in so long, but I didn't understand what it meant until Rob told me how Clarice's behavior had changed."

"Oh, no. We didn't... we didn't..."

"You're trying to tell me the condom was ours?"

"No, I'm not," he said. "I guess I'd better tell you everything. I've wanted to... no, that's not right, I didn't want to tell you, but I knew you had to know. I didn't know how..."

"Consider this an opportunity," I said, harshly.

"Yeah, yeah, okay." He paused for a moment. "Friday, it must have been. A week ago... Clarice came over to see you. She didn't know you were out of town, and she wanted to talk to you about Rob. She figured she'd come over and borrow you and the spa."

His eyes were fixed on the pond, where a couple of the bigger Koi were close to the surface. "I told her you weren't available, but she was welcome to the spa.

"'I don't have a swimsuit,' she said. 'You never do,' I said. 'Why should today be different?'"

"Oh, God," I interrupted.

"Yeah," said Brian, dejected. "I know it was stupid. I knew it was stupid. But it was exciting, too. That was the problem, I guess.

"So I took a couple of beers and we sat there. And without you around, I couldn't hide what effect she was having on me. She teased me about it, which made things worse, and moved to sit close to me when I tried to distance myself. She wasn't coming on to me, not seriously. I don't think so, anyway, she was just playing. We both were. But once we started touching..."

He paused again, summoning his courage, apparently.

"Then, I guess," he continued, "we went from playful touching to... to not playful touching. Do I have to tell you this?"

I nodded. Listening to him was putting me through the wringer, but I had to know.

"Then we were kissing, and we were all over each other. I... really wanted her, Helen. So much for being safe around her. So we dragged each other into the house... into bed... and fooled around for a while before I got the rubber.

"If I say she pushed me away before we could... do it... it sounds like I was trying to rape her. That isn't it. She helped me with the rubber, it was only afterwards, when I was ready that she changed her mind. She said 'Damn him,' I think, and ran off to the bathroom to get her clothes. I don't think she meant me.

"Helen... we didn't... you know... but it wasn't because I didn't want to. I have to tell you that I wouldn't have stopped if she hadn't made me, and I feel worse about that, when you trusted me, I feel even worse about that than... well, than what I did do."

"I'm going home," I announced. "I'm going home, and I'm going to call in sick for the afternoon." It was true enough.

"Do you want me to come?" he asked. I shook my head. "Later?" he tried again. "May I come over after work?"

"Hell, you live there, don't you?" I wasn't giving an inch. I stalked off, leaving him on the bridge, and drove straight home, where I could cry without anyone seeing.

He came home at his usual time, a picture of anxiety. I was over my tears by then, and I knew I wanted to try to live with what had happened. I loved him. I do love him. And it isn't like I've been as pure as the driven snow while we've been together...

We talked about anything but Clarice at dinner, then I sat beside him on the couch, and we held hands.

"Brian? I don't know how we're going to get through this, but I hope we do."

He nodded. "So do I, Helen."

"Right now... I don't want to talk about it. Not yet. But right now, I want you like I've never wanted you before. I want you inside me so much it hurts. Take me to bed," I ordered.

So he did, and we took each other so violently it was as though we were trying to punish each other with sex. This was not making love, it was raw, instinctual, animal passion. I was on top, dragging him into me, trying to consume him, and instead burning myself up. When I came, I bit his shoulder hard enough to draw blood.

I will continue the story. Tomorrow, I hope, because a lot has happened in the past week. We're still together, of course... or were when I left home yesterday morning :-) and I'm sure Brian is sufficiently terrified that he won't be doing anything silly this weekend.

Before I get to the next part, though, I've come to a decision this past week. Tentative, for now... but I've decided to cut this diary off at the one year mark. I'm finding the emotional impact of writing just too hard to take. Stories are okay. I can distance myself from the characters in my stories, and even when I get painfully close to one, like I did with Janet in Critique, or Alex in Sleepover, I know it's only temporary. That's why The Old House was so hard on me, because the involvement was so long. This diary is like "The Old House", but more so.

I guess I wouldn't have worked out as a novelist.

So look for the last entry to be sometime next February, unless I change my mind beforehand.


Sunday - the 22nd, that is - was another adventure. It seems that last week was a week of them. But I decided that I had to see Clarice. She had been avoiding me. Understandably. But it had to end at some point.

By then I'd had more than a day to get used to the idea, though it hadn't helped, and...

I'm going to have to digress. I should probably have planned this entry more carefully, but I'll take it as it comes.

In the first story I wrote, or at least the first I put online, The Trade Show, there were some feelings very much from my past. I said in the introduction "I am Elaine", and in my fantasy I was, but in a very real sense I was Anita, in the third section, where she starts imagining her husband in bed with their friend.

I've always felt that in spite of the rawness of "The Trade Show", there's a feeling in parts of it that is much more immediate than most of my writing. That's one. The idea of the man who's such a part of you, whose body and soul you share, your ferryman to ecstasy, the idea of him offering that pleasure to someone else - it's sickening. Frightening, gripping you in the pit of the stomach.

And profoundly erotic.

When I learned about Ted's long-term affair, I was devastated. I barely knew the girl, but imagining them together... it tore me up. And at the same time... there was a guy whom I liked, but hardly knew. I let him take me home, and we didn't emerge for days. Perhaps what we did wasn't a recognized grief therapy, but when we were through, Ted was a memory, and I'd thoroughly enjoyed the recovery process. So had my friend... and I wish I could recall his name.

So when it came to Anita's feelings as she imagined her husband making love to Elaine, slowly undressing her, caressing her boobs, kissing her nipples... I'd been there. Imagined the same things. Responded in that way...

I've extrapolated the feeling, too, in Guilt, Susan... in fact, as I look through the list of stories, I think there's a trace in many of them - where a reaction of fear or a kin emotion, like guilt, produces a response of desire; the lust for the forbidden fruit. And quite honestly, I have no idea whether these connections are valid, psychologically, but they certainly feel real to me.

And now it's happening again.

I have a feeling that more happened between Brian and Clarice than he's willing to say.

Okay, I'll accept that there was no intercourse. In the strictest sense they didn't have sex. He might try to avoid the issue, but he wouldn't lie to me about that.

But he isn't telling me the whole story. And I think he senses that I don't want to know the whole story. I don't think I do. But not knowing has the nasty ironic consequence that it leaves me free to imagine, and I can imagine a lot of both of them. Brian has learned well, and Clarice... is Clarice. Who begged a condom off me so she could make love to my brother, in my house, on the day they met... And no, in case that rings a false note, no, I don't have any problem with that. In fact, I think it was quite lovely, just that it was also very Clarice, if you see what I mean.

So... let me see if I can figure out why I began this diversion. Ah, yes, because given my imagination and my reaction, you can understand why when I went to see Clarice, less than two days after discovering the truth I still was feeling very unsettled. Why I still flash on Brian and Clarice, naked in my bed... And, dammit, why it turns me on.

I arrived at Clarice's at the perfect time. Rob was just leaving. We talked in the entryway for a moment - of course he knew nothing about why I was there. He let me into the house as he left.

Clarice was in the kitchen. I heard her moving dishes around. Her back was to me as I entered the room.

"Hey," I said, quietly.

She jumped, then looked around. "Uhh... hi," she said, looking panicked. "I didn't hear you."

"Rob let me in," I said.

We stared at each other for a few moments. Then I dropped my purse on the floor and hugged her. She was startled at first, but then squeezed me as though we were seeing each other for the first time in years. Or the last.

"Oh, God, Helen, I'm so sorry," she said at last. She snuffled, and I realized she was crying. For some reason, that made me start, too. She pulled away from me and found us some tissues.

I held her again, tissue at the ready.

"I'm so sorry," she said again. "I really didn't mean to..."

She lapsed into silence, and I said, "From what Brian says, you were both very stupid, but not malicious."

I felt her nod. "It was just a game. Yeah, it was stupid. I was feeling really depressed, and he helped me feel better... and keep feeling better. Suddenly I thought he was the answer to my problems, and I guess I created new ones for both of us."

I released her, and took her hand. "Not by yourself, Clarice. You had some help."

"Don't think too harshly of him, Helen, he's just a guy. He didn't have much choice. I don't think he even likes me very much."

"Clarice, don't be stupid. He likes you a whole lot. I'd really be pissed with him if he slept with someone he didn't like."

She was startled. "We didn't..." but her face was bright red.

"I know, you didn't, and I don't want to know what you did. I'm having a hard enough time dealing with this. I just want you to know that I'm still your friend. And so is Brian."

I squeezed her hand. "Let me make us some coffee," I said.

"I thought you were off coffee."

"Not anymore," I replied, "but only in small quantities."

I made instant flavored coffee for us, and we sat on the couch in the living room to drink it. Rob returned before we were through, and if he noticed our smudged makeup, he didn't make any comment. But he was sensitive enough to stay out of the room.

"I think Brian's always been a little infatuated with you, however sensible he tries to be. He's still quite innocent in a lot of ways."

Clarice started to choke on her coffee, had to yell through to Rob that she was okay. "Yeah, innocent. Plus some of Helen's education." She was blushing again.

I tried to supress my imagination. I reached out and stroked her damp cheek. "I think I understand what he would see in you. I almost feel that I'm more jealous of him than I am of you..."

I'd said more than I'd intended to. Clarice caught my hand as I drew it back. "Yeah," she said. "I think you're pretty cool, too." She squeezed my palm and released me.

I said my goodbyes to Rob, and left, feeling more comforted, though no less confused, than when I had arrived.


While I've been not maintaining my diary, I have at least been writing. The story I had begun before all of these revelations, that one I've put aside temporarily. I should be able to get back to it, but it seemed difficult for a while. Not that the story is especially close to my current situation, just that I needed a change...

So what I did was start another, and I put the finishing touches to it this morning. Check out The Hostess. It's based on... or at least, suggested by... a story I heard many years ago from a friend. The original story went like this: my friend had been mooning over a waitress in a local restaurant. He was fairly shy, and she was so quiet and gentle, he was terrified of upsetting her, and never struck up more than a casual conversation. But he thought she was beginning to respond to him.

Then, on a Friday, a co-worker, who had a reputation of being a ladies' man, went to the same restaurant, on a night when my friend didn't, and he ended up taking my friend's gentle, quiet, demure waitress home and doing the nasty with her for the entire weekend. He bragged about it next week, about this girl he had found who was a demon in bed, not knowing any of my friend's history (or lack of it) with her, and when my friend figured out who it was he was talking about, he was devastated.

I've always figured it would be an interesting story to tell, but couldn't figure how. In the end, I abandoned it completely, you won't see the above story in "The Hostess", but you'll see where I got the idea. And I think I told the story very differently from my recent work, more like the older stories here. More sex, less seduction... which I think has much to do with the way I'm feeling right now.

Actually, I find a part of this idea very erotic. I touched on it before in Two Step - the idea that the entire phase of seduction, up to commitment, is done openly, that by the time you've found a quiet place you're already past the point of decision, and are already mentally ripping each other's clothes off.

It's a little like sex itself, the gorgeous frustration of being held back from climax until your world depends on being allowed to explode... If you're already in each other's arms when you pass the point of promising intimacy (e.g. Susan), well, that's beautiful, and sexy, and exciting... but lacks a certain challenge. If you reach that point while dancing ("Two Step") or drinking with friends ("The Hostess"), and you know you're going to have each other, but a thousand things could go wrong, and you have to get him alone right now, but nothing will move fast enough... that's exciting in a whole different way, and can lead to a pretty incredible experience.

I hope I managed to convey that, though it wasn't originally the point of the story.

It looks like I'm not going to get to any events today, so let me add a couple of other non-journal notes.

Someone sent me a link to some lovely - and very sexy - erotic art. Please check it out. I'll add it to my links page, too. The photographer seems to have achieved much the same as I try to work towards, with photos that are explicit, but not crude.

Also, if you haven't signed up for my mailing list, you might want to do so... I've had a lot of emails lately asking if I could send new stories, or when there was a story due... I love to get mail like that, because it lets me know you really do like to read them... but practically, you can get that information more quickly from the mailing list. I don't spam, honest :-)