Sara was sitting on the kitchen floor, arms hugging her knees tight against her body. The tears had stopped some time ago, but the trails they had followed were marked in grey lines of deliquesced mascara on her cheeks. She stared at an indeterminate spot on the floor in front of her with red-rimmed eyes and tried to think. Her mind was an anarchic collection of disparate thoughts; she couldn't fasten onto any one long enough to figure out what she was going to do.
She was so lost in her personal universe of misery that she didn't hear the door open when Rebecca came in. She sat and stared, adrift on distant mental shores.
"Sara?" concern permeated Rebecca's voice. "Oh, God, honey. Are you all right?"
Sara heard the voice, knew it was Rebecca, but had no idea what to say to her. She looked up into brown eyes filled with worry, and felt tears begin anew. Her shoulders shook as silent sobs overcame her.
"Oh, Sara…" Rebecca knelt beside Sara on the floor and wrapped her arms around her shoulders, hugging her tight. "What happened?"
Sara couldn't tell her, couldn't admit how the utter foolishness of her actions had led her to feel so exploited, so used. How could she admit to letting that happen, especially the risk she now faced of having some disease? She couldn't make herself say it.
"You want to talk about it?"
Not even her best friend could know the depths to which she had sunk. Sara knew it was her own fault, her own twisted needs that had put her in that situation. She choked out a question between sobs. "What's wrong with me?"
"Nothing's wrong with you." Rebecca said it matter-of-factly. "What happened? Was it Josh again?" He was the only one of their friends who had ever made Sara cry.
"No." Sara sniffed back her tears.
"What is it? Was it your… plan?" Rebecca moved back and gave Sara a critical look, her voice becoming less worried and more solemn. "What happened?"
Sara said nothing. She felt anger rise inside her at the mention of her plan. Rebecca had disapproved from the start, and having her throw it back in her face was not what she needed. Couldn't she just be there for her, hold her, tell her everything was going to be all right?
"It was your plan, wasn't it?"
Sara nodded, barely moving her head, but confirming what Rebecca had suspected.
"Why are you doing this to yourself?" Exasperation replaced earnestness.
Sara shook her head. "I don't know." It was a whisper, barely audible.
"This was a bad idea from the start. I told you so. 'You're going to get hurt,' I said, and here you are." Rebecca had moved away, and her frustration was clear in her words and body language.
"You were right. I was wrong. Are you happy now?" Sara knew it wasn't Rebecca's fault, but she let her bear the brunt of her anger.
"Don't get angry with me." Rebecca stared at her flatly. "The only person you should be mad at is yourself."
Sara was too upset and nervous about what had happened to stay heated. She wanted to tell Rebecca to fuck off, but she knew she was right. It was no one else's fault, and getting mad at Rebecca didn't make it any better. She wanted to yell and scream and let it all out, but instead, tears began to flow.
Rebecca moved closer, rubbing one hand on Sara's arm. "Do you want to tell me what happened?"
In a blubbering outpouring, she did. She spilled everything, in far more detail than was necessary. She described her first meeting with David, the mysterious woodsman. She told Rebecca about Evan in the backseat of his car, her second run-in with David, the missing security tape, the failed attempt at a threesome with Josh and Rob, and the total stranger in the bar and how she had used him. The details of her night with Kevin were vividly exposed, as well as her meeting with both Kevin and David in the park, and she finally explained the entire scenario that had left her crying in her kitchen: the threesome with James and T.
Sara waited for the comments, the questions, the smart-ass, condescending tone, but it didn't come. Rebecca said nothing for a long time, just kept running her hand over Sara's hair as if petting her.
"You've got to stop this. Call it quits." Her voice was calm, a reassuring presence. "It's only going to get worse if you keep going. Please, honey. For yourself if not for me, stop this thing."
"I can't." Sara wiped at her tears, smearing dark, semicircular smudges of mascara under both eyes and across her left cheekbone. "You don't understand."
"You don't have to prove anything to anyone. You and I are the only two who know about this. Just stop it. Please."
"It's not about proving anything. It doesn't even matter if I forget the whole thing. I'll still want it all the time." Sara had relaxed some, her legs stretched out before her across the kitchen floor.
"So see someone. A psychiatrist or something. Don't they have a 12 step program for sex addicts?"
"I'm not a sex addict." Defiance. Or was it denial?
"Then what are you?" Rebecca tensed when she said it, but she stopped before she went any further. "I'm sorry."
Sara sighed. "No, you're probably right. I'm definitely a freak."
"I didn't say you were a freak. Jesus, calm down some." Rebecca rubbed one hand against her own forehead as if trying to think of something. "Right now you just need to relax. Let's get you washed up and into some clean clothes."
Sara looked down at her blue sundress, now ripped and stained. "Yeah."
Rebecca helped her up and guided her to the bathroom. "I'll get it nice and hot for you, and you can just soak and let your worries slip away."
"Like in the commercial."
"Calgon, take me away!" they both said in unison.
Sara tried a half-hearted smile on and found it felt okay. Maybe she would be all right, as long as she had her best friend by her side. The smile on Rebecca's face conveyed not only their friendship, but a deeper caring than most friends share. Maybe she could relinquish this absurd goal she had set for herself. Maybe she could just be normal, or as close to it as was possible for her. In fact, she was going to do it. To hell with the thousand and one nights, she thought. Starting tomorrow, I'm free.