#20 Not sisterly at all
For the first time since I moved in here, Aimee, Holly and Ayaan are coming over. Khiêm has a full night of streaming in his studio ahead of him, so we’ve got the living room to ourselves. I check in on him before they come over, getting him something to drink and a snack.
He thanks me and cracks his neck, wincing at how painful that apparently feels. I move behind him, put my hands on his shoulders and start kneading.
“Ah fuck,” he grunts, dropping his controller and shifting into a more comfortable position. “That feels good.”
“Shouldn’t you keep playing?” I ask, pressing my thumbs into the tight muscles of his shoulders. Damn, he feels tense.
“I died,” he says with a low moan. “Been playing like crap all fucking night. My neck and shoulders hurt too much to concentrate.”
I massage his shoulders until he relaxes enough for me to move onto his neck. Aimee took course in massage therapy last year, and I tagged along, because let’s face it, I was bored and didn’t have opinions or goals of my own. I don’t like touching strangers that much – which was one of the reasons I wasn’t the best hairdresser ever – but Khiêm is not a stranger. Hearing him grunt in appreciation does something to me I didn’t quite expect. I feel a little…
No, that can’t be right.
I try to push away the strange feeling that is threatening to settle in my belly, moving my hands back to his shoulders to work out the last of the knots there. I let my gaze travel to the screens in from of him, and I see that his viewers are commenting on the fact that they can see me now – just my hands and arms, not my face, since the camera is pointed at Khiêm’s face, and he’s sitting while I’m standing behind him. Most comments in the chat are about our relationship, wondering if we’re more than just roommates, telling Khiêm to lock me down or something.
“What?” Khiêm asks with another content moan, reacting to my giggles.
“Apparently, your fans think you should try to get with me.”
“Of course they do,” he groans, leaning into my touch. “You’re a goddess. I already told them a million times that it’s not like that between us, though.”
Without deciding to do so, I move closer, feeling his body heat since my body is so close to his now. I keep massaging him until the doorbell sounds. Almost reluctantly, I let go of him and watch him get back to his game, looking more relaxed now. I close the door of his studio behind him and move to the front door to let my friends in.
“Bitch!” Ayaan yells, holding up a bottle of tequila and winking at me. “It’s been too long.”
I laugh and motion for them to come into the living room. None of them have been here before, so they look around before sitting down on the couch, taking off their heels to get comfortable. Ayaan and Holly are in tight black dresses, overdressed like crazy, but Aimee is in leggings and a baggy shirt just like I am.
“You look like shit,” Holly says, her eyes moving over me. “Did you even style your hair?”
“No,” I say, grinning. “Why would I? Only you and Khiêm are around to see me.”
“Don’t tell me you do groceries dressed like that,” Holly says, shuddering at the thought.
“No, I don’t,” I assure her.
I didn’t realize before tonight that Holly and Ayaan hardly ever see me quite this casual. We’ve seen each other in sweats before, of course, and we’ve all seen each other fresh out of bed, but normally when we hang out at night, I’ve got a full face of make-up and my hair is always styled to perfection. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve spent any time on my hair other than washing and brushing it the past weeks. Ever since moving in here, I don’t go out at night, and Khiêm doesn’t give a fuck about my hair, so I didn’t feel the need to look my best.
It’s kind of freeing, in a way, to just lounge around in old clothes and not bother with looking my best. Sure, I like dressing up sometimes, but just being myself when I’m at home with friends feels good. Better than good. I feel… amazing.
“Where is your roomie?” Ayaan asks, looking around again, like Khiêm might be hidden behind a chair or plant.
“In his studio, streaming. He needs to work tonight,” I explain. “He’ll be done around midnight, I think.”
“What’s it like living with him?” Holly asks curiously. “He seems so… boring.”
“Nerdy,” Ayaan adds. “Weird.”
“He’s not,” I say, a little annoyed with my friends. “He’s amazing. I love living with him. He’s one of the most interesting, fun and caring people I’ve ever met.”
“Hmm,” Ayaan says, unconvinced. “Do you have shot glasses? Let’s get this party started!”
While I grab glasses and fill a bowl with chips, Aimee turns on the TV, settling on some lame reality TV show to keep on in the background while we catch up. We spent the next hours talking about everything and anything. It’s nice to hang out with the girls again.
Ayaan talks about the gay doctor she’s dating to appease her parents, while she’s still sleeping around with every guy she can get her hands on. Holly shares some funny stories about a photoshoot she did for a new lingerie line where she had to walk out of a pool in a lace bodysuit, but she was shivering so much that they had to do it over and over until she was so cold her lips were blue. The photographer felt bad for her, and they ended up going out for coffee – and, of course, she slept with him.
“What about you?” Holly asks Aimee, throwing back another shot. She and Ayaan are both way past buzzed already, but Aimee and I are only two shots in, and I plan to keep it that way. “Dating anyone new?”
“No,” Aimee says, throwing me a small smile. “Nia and I made a pact to commit to ourselves before throwing ourselves into dating again.”
“Why the fuck would you do that?” Ayaan asks, stretching out her long legs on the couch. “Masturbation is nice and all, but I’d rather have a man worshipping me.”
“Hear hear!” Holly shouts, holding up het shot glass in agreement. “To getting good dick!”
“And to Aimee and Nia getting it on with their vibrators,” Ayaan giggles, winking at me.
“Hah, Nia doesn’t even-” Aimee cuts herself off, her eyes going wide.
Ah fuck. Why did she have to say that?
“Nia doesn’t what?” Holly asks, looking at me suspiciously. “Oh my God, don’t tell me you still don’t masturbate. I know you didn’t in high school, but surely… by now… I mean… you’re 22!”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I grumble, pulling a pillow into my lap and plucking at it.
“So it’s true,” Ayaan decides. “Why the fuck not, Nia? It’s free, easy, and makes you relaxed and happy. Especially when you’re not riding the dick train anymore, you will need your fingers, or a toy, or something.”
I know they’re never going to drop this, so I just come clean. “I can’t get off when it’s just me. It feels too… weird. I don’t know. I tried, but I don’t like it. So I don’t masturbate.”
“You don’t masturbate?” Khiêm’s gravelly voice says from behind me.
I shriek and turn around, looking at him with wide eyes. Fucking hell, when did he walk in? I realize belatedly that it’s past midnight, so he’s done streaming. Great timing, Khiêm.
“Can you please forget you heard that?” I ask, hiding my face in behind a pillow. “Oh God, I want to die now.”
“Hah, fat chance,” Khiêm says dryly. He grabs himself a beer before taking a seat in the corner of the couch, right next to Aimee. “You don’t mind if I join you, do you, ladies?”
“Of course not, we’ve been curious about Nia’s new living situation,” Ayaan says, letting her eyes travel over Khiêm. “About… you.”
“You can ask me anything,” he says with a grin. “Before you do, let’s focus on more important things. Nia, why the fuck don’t you masturbate?”
“Shut up.” I throw the pillow at his face, and he chucks it right back at me, harder than I did. It bounces off my chest into my lap, and I hug it tightly, needing some kind of comfort. This is not a conversation I want to be having right now. Not with Holly and Ayaan, and most certainly not with Khiêm. Aimee is the only one I’ve ever talking to about this… issue.
“You girls get yourselves off, right?” Khiêm asks my friends like it’s not the very first time he’s having a conversation with them.
“Oh yeah,” Holly giggles. “Definitely. Although I get enough dick to not have to all that often.”
“Sex and masturbation are to very different things,” he replies, getting comfortable on the couch. “Even when I’m in a relationship, I still masturbate. Doesn’t mean I need more sex, just means that I like beating one out most mornings. Is it different for girls?”
Oh my God, why are we talking about this?
“I prefer a man in my bed,” Ayaan says, “but I agree with you that it’s different. Sex is always this whole ordeal. When I get bored or I’m watching a show with a hot actor, I get out my vibrator and I can just get myself off in a few minutes, put it away and go back to whatever I was doing. It’s convenient. Easy. It relaxes me.”
“Exactly,” Khiêm agrees, his dark brown eyes fixating on me now. “Why don’t you? Especially since you’re single, I figured you would. Why else would you lock your door some nights?”
“I only lock it when I’m changing,” I say, embarrassed beyond belief. “And that was only the first few days. I trust you. I haven’t locked my door in over a week.”
“Why not?” he asks, not letting this go. “You do own a vibrator, right?”
I shake my head. “Doesn’t do anything for me, so I threw it out.”
“Doesn’t do anything for you?” he asks in surprise. “Wait… you truly never get yourself off? At all?”
“She can’t,” Ayaan explains when I don’t reply. “She thinks it feels weird.”
“Oh my God, and you just gave up trying?” he asks incredulously. “No wonder you slept around before. You do get horny, right?”
“Yes,” I say, wishing they’d all stop staring at me. “All the time.” Oh God, why did I say that? “It’s not that I don’t like orgasms, I just… feel weird when I’m… you know… doing… that. I’ve never…”
“You’ve never had an orgasm that wasn’t supplied by a man,” Khiêm finishes for me.
“And the guys she’s been sleeping weren’t exactly all that great in the sack,” Holly adds, making me wish for a hole to appear in the floor for me to disappear into. “Lots of guys don’t do oral, or they’re too harsh for our precious little Nia. She needs it gentle and soft. Unlike me. You can bend me over a table and fuck me so hard it hurts, and I’ll still come like sex-crazed maniac.”
Oh God, my friends have no filter when they’re drunk.
“Thanks for the offer,” Khiêm says dryly. “You’re not my type, though.”
Holly laughs so hard she tears up a little. “Trust me, you’re not mine either.”
His attention is still on me, smiling a little at how uncomfortable I am. “Let’s change the subject,” he proposes. “I think Nia is contemplating killing me right now, and I’d very much like to stay alive. You wanted to know stuff about me, right? Ask away.”
Ayaan is the first to open her big trap. “Why did you ask Nia to live with you?”
“Because she needed a change and I could provide that for her,” he says simply. “Plus, it gets lonely living on my own. It’s been great having her here.”
“You’re not just looking for a sex slave or something?” Holly says, giggling as she throws back another shot of tequila. “Nia has a reputation for being easy. She’s slept with a whole lot of ugly fuckers over the years.”
“Hey!” I complain, annoyed with her now. “Don’t call me that. And Khiêm isn’t ugly.”
I can tell that the comment got to Khiêm, even though he doesn’t like showing it.
“Relax, bitch, I’m easy too,” Holly says, still giggling. “No biggie.”
“Yeah, we all are,” Ayaan says, throwing me a wink. “No shame in sleeping around. We’re young, hot and fun. Why not live it up?”
Khiêm looks like he’s wondering why the fuck I hang out with these two, and right now, I’m wondering the same thing. It’s fine if they want to live like that, but I’m trying to stop being a miserable slut, and so is Aimee. We weren’t happy, so we changed things up. Why can’t we get some support from our friends?
“I think Nia is a lot stronger than she gives herself credit for,” Khiêm says, winking at me. “She doesn’t need a man. Sleeping around is all fun and games, until it’s not. I think it’s great she’s choosing herself over all those assholes.”
“Hear hear,” Aimee says, patting Khiêm on the shoulder. “Finally a man with an opinion on sex that doesn’t make me want to gag.”
“Well, I’m gagging,” Ayaan says, shaking her head. “Holly, are we still heading to the club?”
“Of course,” she replies, her eyes bright as she gets up, putting her heels back on. “Aimee, Nia?”
“Nah, I’m good,” Aimee says. “I’m gonna call an uber.”
“Nonsense, I’ll drive you home,” Khiêm offers immediately. “I’ve only had a few sips of beer, so I can still drive. Nia, are you heading out or staying in?”
“Staying in,” I decide right away. I don’t feel like going clubbing. Not at all.
“Sweet. If you’re still up when I’m back, we can watch a show or something.” He gives me a brief hug before moving to the hallway to put on some shoes so he can drive Aimee home. How sweet is that?
“I like him,” Aimee whispers to me as she follows him out. “He’s nice.”
He is, but he’s so much more than that. It’s obvious Ayaan and Holly don’t agree, but screw them. They call an uber to take them to a club downtown, and I tidy up the living room while I wait for Khiêm, flipping through the channels on the TV to find something to watch.
When he gets back, I’m watching a rerun of Friends. As Khiêm walks in, he immediately chimes in with the character on the TV show. “I needed a plan, a plan to get over my man. And what’s opposite of man? Jam.”
“Damn, you know this show too well,” I say, looking up at him with a smile. “Thanks for bringing Aimee home.”
“Of course,” he says like it’s no big deal. “God, it’s been a while since I’ve watched Friends. What’s your favorite episode?”
“I don’t think I’ve seen more than four full episodes and a few scenes here and there,” I reply, taking the beer he’s handing me and shifting to he can sit beside me. The couch is pretty big, but we usually sit pretty close when we watch TV. I don’t know why, we’ve just been doing that since the day I moved in here.
“Oh my God, you have no idea what you’re missing!” Khiêm says, perking up. “We should watch it. Right now.” He gets up to grab the DVDs from his bedroom, and pops them into his laptop, which he connects to the TV. “I’ve got the whole box set, with bonus scenes and everything. Fucking hell, I’ve never watched this with a Friends virgin before. I can’t wait to introduce you to their wonderful universe. You’ll love it.”
Honestly, I’m not into the show that much, didn’t really like the episodes I’ve seen over the years, but Khiêm is so excited that don’t have the heart to tell him. I’m also quite tired, but there is no way I’m going to bed right now. I love our nightly talks too much for that.
We settle in for the first episode, and when my beer is finished off, I lie down, propping a pillow against his thigh so I can rest my head there. We’ve never done this before, but I’m tired, and I liked the way he talked about me tonight. I feel close to him. I think the massage did that too. I liked touching him. I don’t know what to make of that, and I refuse to think about it too much, but I can’t help myself from finding reasons to be close to him.
Khiêm fingers move through my hair, softly stroking it, teasingly pulling at a few unruly curls, and I let out a soft moan at how good it feels. As we keep watching the show, he never stops caressing me, and I snuggle even closer. When he puts and arm around me, his hand rubbing my lower back, I don’t protest. It’s been a long time I was held like this, so tenderly and sweet. I’ve never felt this safe around a man who isn’t my father or my brother.
But… but it doesn’t feel right to think of Khiêm as an honorary family member, if I’m being perfectly honest. The way I feel when he’s playing with my hair isn’t sisterly. But it should be. He’s not my type, not even a little, and he’s my roommate, and my brother’s best friend. I always do this. Whenever a guy gives me even a second of his attention, I’m ready to strip naked and invite him into my bed. This is the old Nia rearing her ugly head, but I won’t let her ruin what Khiêm and I have. I cherish our friendship too much to fuck this up. I love living here.
“Are you falling asleep?” Khiêm whispers when my eyes eventually drift close.
“Maybe,” I breathe, letting out a content sigh when he starts massaging my skull.
“That massage you gave me before, that was amazing,” he says, his tone grateful. “You know you don’t have to do stuff like that, right? Bringing me drinks and snacks and stuff… Doing my laundry… I mean, I’m not complaining, but you’re my roommate, not my maid.”
“I know,” I murmur, so close to drifting off. “I like taking care of you.”
“The feeling is mutual,” Khiêm mumbles so softly I almost don’t catch it. “Come on, let’s get you to bed, lovely.”
Before I can move, he’s already off the couch, picking me up with ease. He’s not big or muscular, but he’s stronger than I thought, easily carrying me into my bedroom, where he puts me down onto the middle of the matrass and covers me with a blanket.
“Hmm,” I breathe, smiling while my eyelids droop close. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Nia,” he says, and then his lips press to my forehead.
I shiver, and he pulls away, quickly exiting the room before I can say anything. The shiver wasn’t because feelings his lips against my skin was unpleasant. Not at all. I was just… surprised. And honestly… I didn’t want him to leave my room. I’m too tired to give it much thought, and I drift off to sleep instead of dealing with the confusing feelings bubbling up from deep within.