“I’m guessing the kissing wasn’t so great then?” I asked, and Afric grimaced, like even the memory of it made her ill.
“It was terrible. Gary was gorgeous, but his breath was atrocious. I was too young and in awe of the fact that he even agreed to be my boyfriend to request that he brush his teeth or at least chew some gum before he kissed me. And his kissing technique was all tongue and slobber. Absolutely no finesse. I hated it, but I didn’t want to lose him as my boyfriend. All the girls at school were so impressed that I’d managed to snag him, so I went along with the meeting up and kissing thing for weeks and weeks until, eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore. I finally found the courage to break up with him.”
“Did you tell him why?”
At this, she chuckled. “Yes, I did. I told him he needed to start brushing his teeth regularly and to get some tutorials on how to kiss. He said I was wrong and just being a frigid bitch. Anyway, I was glad to be rid of him, but then a year later, when I started going out with another boy, the idea of kissing him literally turned my stomach. I just couldn’t do it. It was like that original experience with Gary had given me a phobia, and I’ve been this way ever since.”
I was frowning now, my attention on the road ahead. “I’m sorry. That’s awful, Afric.”
“My brother Ryan got sick once from eating some gone off chicken, and he hasn’t eaten poultry since. I guess it can happen with anything.”
“Did any of your boyfriends ever complain or find it odd that you wouldn’t kiss them?” I asked, then winced. “Sorry, that was intrusive. Forget I said it.”
“It’s fine. You’re just curious, and I get it. It’s a weird preference. And just so you know, there hasn’t been a long string of boyfriends. I’ve had four. Four after Gary, that is. Dev was the most recent. And no, none of them seemed to be bothered about not kissing so long as I’d do, you know, everything else with them.”
“Well, I would be bothered,” I blurted.
“You couldn’t be in a relationship without being able to kiss?”
“Definitely not,” I said adamantly.
“I shouldn’t be surprised. You are terribly romantic.”
“Sure. Our friendship was forged on our mutual enjoyment of period romances, and I’m pretty sure you enjoy them even more than I do.”
“I like stories about people falling in love. It’s not a crime.”
“I never said it was. All I said is that you’re a romantic. It’s one of my favourite things about you.”
“Well, I’m glad you appreciate that side of me. Few of my past girlfriends ever have.”
Afric gasped. “They took your romantic side for granted? The ungrateful hussies!”
I chuckled. “Everybody has their preferences. It’s not their fault if I’m not what they desire. My first girlfriend, Richelle, said I was too nice, and she really just wanted someone who was prepared to …” I trailed off, suddenly realising this topic wasn’t something I wanted to discuss with Afric.
“Someone who was prepared to what?” Afric questioned, leaning forward and eyeing me curiously.
“Someone who was prepared to be more vigorous in the bedroom,” I finished.
“She wanted to be fucked hard then,” Afric surmised.
I frowned. “Do you have to be so crude?”
“Yes, I do, especially when it makes you blush so handsomely,” she said, reaching out to pinch my cheek. I shrugged her off.
“The thing with Richelle was that I was only nineteen, and she was the first person I’d ever been with. If she’d only given me a chance to mature and learn, I might’ve gotten around to … doing that to her, but I was just so inexperienced. I had no clue what I was doing.”
“And did you figure out what you were doing by the time the next one came along?”
“Yes. Kirsty was my longest relationship. We were together for three years. I was older then, twenty-two, and had several one-night stands under my belt. I was more confident by the time I met her. I definitely thought she was the one, was even ready to propose to her, but then we had a conversation about children, and she knew for definite that she didn’t want them. I do want children, eventually, of course, so we ended up parting ways.”
“That’s tough. Some people want kids; some people don’t.”
I cast her a quick glance. “What about you?”
“Me? Oh, well, in a perfect world, yes, I’d love to have kids, but my failed past relationships suggest it’ll be hard to find someone who’ll put up with me long enough for that. I mean, I get it. My job is unusual. It can be annoying to be with someone who becomes so distracted by virtual worlds when you just want them to live in the real world with you. Maybe once I’m financially stable enough, I’ll adopt on my own or find a sperm donor.” She paused then, and her expression turned mischievous. “Hey! Perhaps you could donate some sperm to me? I bet your kids would be cute as buttons and so well-behaved.”