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Destined to play, p.12
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       Destined to Play, p.12

           Indigo Bloome
 
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  ‘Do you mind if we talk about some aspects of my research now, while we are driving?’

  ‘No, not at all.’

  ‘Just wanted to check, as you looked deep in thought.’ I shake my head to dislodge my feelings.

  ‘Please, I’d love to hear about it.’

  ‘Okay, great. As I mentioned earlier, there is a group of doctors and professors from around the globe collaborating to research the connections between physiology and cognitive neuropsychology in regards to sexual activity. I am now heavily involved as a result of my research into the explicit links between sex-related issues and depression. To cut a long story short, I had the good fortune of meeting up with Samuel a few months ago in Hong Kong when both our flights were cancelled due to volcanic ash, so we had the rare opportunity to discuss our work in detail.’

  ‘Ah, so that explains why he was so up to speed with your work.’

  ‘No doubt when you met for lunch Sam informed you of their research into the female orgasm and the scientific discrepancies and medical controversy regarding ejaculation.’

  I nod in confirmation, fully absorbed in his words. I love it when he is in professional mode and his work fascinates me. I can hear the passion in his voice.

  ‘We ended up brainstorming the possibility of developing a formula produced from natural serotonin that would not adversely affect the chemical balance of the human brain in the medium to long-term. After much testing and analysis in our labs, we discovered there are potential links between our areas of research, given certain scenarios, that significantly reduce the likelihood of depression — particularly involving the concept of “adult play”. This indirectly led us to analysing the secretion of fluids from female orgasm for each blood type.’

  ‘Wow, that sounds amazing.’ This is Jeremy at his best, why he is recognised globally for his research. I can’t help but be in awe of his capabilities and the way in which his tangential mind operates to find solutions others completely miss. He is always open to exploring the unlikely.

  ‘We believe there is another potential link, one that we haven’t explored in detail as yet, which relates to our discussion earlier.’

  He pauses and I sense a slight hesitation in his voice.

  ‘It involves sensory connectivity, the neural pathways that may exist between the body and brain in relation to sexual activity, and the corresponding hormones secreted and released. We need to secure a Research Psychologist before we can progress with our plans for experimentation. Your specific expertise is highly sought after, particularly on a project of this nature and our review board specifically asked me to discuss it with you and assess your interest in the role.’

  Jeremy knows full well that professional flattery will get him everywhere and this subject is close to my heart. He is playing his cards well and his timing, as usual, is perfect, especially given the state I’m currently in — that he, in fact, is responsible for.

  ‘You really are a clever man, Jeremy.’

  ‘Thank you, as you are a clever woman,’ he says with a smile in his voice. ‘I can provide you with more information, if you’re willing to consider it. It would mean you’d be working closely with myself, Samuel, and Ed — Professor Applegate in the US, that is — and Dr Lauren Bertrand in France, she’s a prominent chemist, along with Professor Schindler, a German neuroscientist, and one or two others from the UK we are in the process of confirming. It would involve a bit of travel, you know, from time to time …’ His voice trails off, as he knows this has been an issue for me in the past. ‘We’d all immensely value your involvement, Dr Blake. You come highly recommended regardless of your connection to me and you are the team’s first choice in filling the role. Your lecture on Friday sealed the deal from our perspective,’ he adds seriously.

  ‘Gosh, I’m not sure what to say … It sounds incredible, Jeremy.’ I am secretly thrilled they are even considering me and so pleased we can still have a professional conversation after everything we have been through for the last however many hours. What an opportunity, to work with such distinguished minds in their chosen fields. It sounds like a professional dream come true. I consider Elizabeth and Jordan. They are both older now, at school full-time and have their own friends and activities. I think of the endless pick-ups and drop-offs — soccer practice, piano lessons, dancing, gymnastics. Kids have busy lives themselves, these days. They are more able to cope with me being away now, I reason, and a little time away here and there would be exciting, good for me to be living my own life. Robert’s job has the flexibility to work around school hours more easily than my career. I have put so many other opportunities on the back burner for my family, maybe now is the time to finally say yes. How would I feel if I let a chance like this slip by?

  ‘Actually, I’d love to be involved. Count me in,’ I say decisively.

  ‘Honestly? Hey, that’s great! We’ve no doubt having someone like you on the team will make all the difference to the practical applications of our analysis.’

  He really is in flattery mode, I think to myself.

  ‘Thanks, Jeremy, I really appreciate it.’ It’s like receiving accolades for years of hard work

  — I’m completely chuffed.

  ‘And just so you are perfectly clear, I’m expecting you to be personally involved in both the conceptual development of our theories and their application. So, no more sitting on the sidelines, Alexa. Do you understand what I am saying?’

  My stomach does a full somersault as I realise the meaning of his words.

  ‘Really?’ Do I still want this?

  ‘We don’t break new ground and make life-changing discoveries without challenging convention, and that has to begin with ourselves. Your willingness to engage in and experience both sides of the experimentation process will be paramount to our success. We are depending on it, so it is non-negotiable for us.’

  My lover has instantaneously transformed into my new boss. Incomprehensibly, my groin warms in anticipation of what could be ahead of me. Oh, jeez, Louise! Both sides of the experiment?

  Our journey suddenly comes to an abrupt end, as does our discussion. I’d anticipated a much longer ride back to the hotel. Jeremy is at the door in seconds and carefully guides me out of the car.

  ‘Well, here we are. How are you feeling?’

  ‘Slightly shocked by your last comments, still blind, of course, but perfectly well otherwise.’ He chuckles as I stretch.

  ‘Can I take care of the car for you, sir?’ The voice startles me. I haven’t heard another voice for quite some time.

  ‘Of course, thanks.’ I hear the tinkle of keys whizz past.

  He takes my hand and leads me up some steps. I feel him reading my face and he no doubt wonders when I’ll ask something about where we are, but I keep deliberately quiet. I hear a door open.

  ‘Greetings, sir, welcome.’ A chirpy male voice greets us from nearby.

  I’m disappointed there isn’t a good morning, afternoon or evening to give me a sense of time. Is everyone conspiring to keep me in the dark? Where could we possibly be now? It’s all sounding very formal. I feel conspicuous about being blind in yet another new environment and tentatively raise a hand to my eyes.

  ‘Stop fiddling, Alex, you look fine. Nobody will notice anything.’

  ‘Easy for you to say.’ I hold on to his hand a little more firmly.

  ‘Please make your way to reception, sir. Your luggage has been taken care of.’

  ‘Luggage?’ I whisper toward him, as we move on. ‘We don’t have any.’

  Our footsteps echo around the expanse of the room. The rubber soles of our boots are squeaking against a hard marble floor.

  ‘Welcome, Dr Quinn, we have been awaiting your arrival. We are so pleased you have made it on time. Everything is arranged, so please follow me. If we can be of service in any way, don’t hesitate to ask.’

  ‘That’s very kind of you. Thank you.’

  We take a few steps as someone presses the button for t
he lift.

  ‘Have you had a good day thus far?’

  ‘We have had a great day, thank you, and very much looking forward to settling in here.’

  ‘Excellent, sir. We certainly hope you enjoy the experience we have to offer.’

  I feel like I’m somewhere between being the invisible woman and the giant pimple on a face that everyone can see but is carefully choosing to ignore. Butterflies commence their flight once again in my stomach … you would think I’d be accustomed to their presence by now. The lift doors open, and for some reason I have the sense that we are travelling down, not up. I’m steered out of the lift.

  ‘As discussed, this entire floor is yours and there will be no disturbances unless otherwise arranged. We hope you have a very enjoyable stay.’

  ‘Thank you very much. We certainly intend to.’

  I hear the lift disappear into the distance. I realise I’m on shaky ground again, being in a new place. I had memorised most of the layout of the penthouse suite which had at least provided me with some reassurance of my surroundings.

  Jeremy takes my hands and leads me to a lounge. ‘Here, have a seat, try to relax. Would you like a drink?’

  ‘Yes, that’d be great, thanks,’ I say, relieved.

  He hands me a chilled glass filled with a mix of berry flavours. I can taste the likes of cranberries, raspberries and blueberries blended in creamy yogurt. Not at all what I was expecting.

  ‘Certainly a potent mix of antioxidants in this.’

  ‘You are no use to me sick, Alexa. I need to keep your immune system humming.’

  What a strange thing to say.

  ‘Do you mind if I take a quick shower after this drink? I’d love to get out of these clothes.’

  ‘Yes to the former, and I’ll help you with the latter.’ He sounds a little distracted, although I have no idea why. He puts my drink down and unzips and unbuckles here, there and everywhere.

  It is such a relief to have these heavy clothes removed, I feel at least five kilos lighter.

  He assists me in putting on a T-shirt and gym pants and I’m grateful not to be left solely in the French knickers. I stretch my feet and allow my toes to sink into the luxurious thickness of the carpet. It feels good to be free of the boots.

  He hands my drink back after guiding me back to the lounge.

  ‘Shower?’

  ‘I said yes, I do mind if you take a shower. It’s not time to wash yet.’ I’m a little stunned by his controlling response.

  ‘Well, you certainly are on a strict schedule, Jeremy, aren’t you? I didn’t realise we were being timed to the minute!’

  ‘There are many things you haven’t realised yet, sweetheart,’ he whispers close to my ear, his voice sounding shadowed, dark. A shiver races right down my spine to my tailbone.

  ‘Do you feel more comfortable now?’ His voice is back to normal.

  ‘Oh, ah, yes, much better, although I’d still love a shower.’ I find his thigh and caress it with my hand. ‘Are you sure I can’t persuade you to take a shower with me?’ I start edging my way off the seat.

  ‘No. Now sit.’ This time I am aghast at his order. His hands push me firmly back into the lounge. My mouth is open in shock. ‘Please, sit down. We need to conclude our discussion, come to some agreement.’ His tone is only slightly more gentle.

  Oh, great, I need a shower and he needs to talk.

  ‘Fine. I’ll smell and you talk,’ I say as defiantly as I can. ‘Then I’ll shower.’ Making sure it is a statement rather than a question.

  He places my drink back in my hands and shifts closer to me on the lounge.

  ‘You know I respect you?’

  ‘Most of the time, I suppose.’

  ‘Alex!’ He can sound so commanding with one word. If only I had that skill. Obviously this is to be a serious conversation.

  ‘Yes, okay, I know.’

  ‘I want to play with you, create some edginess. I want to take you to a place you have never dared to go, give you an opportunity to embrace your sexuality like you truly never believed possible.’

  Seriously in overdrive, yet again! His voice is engaging and tantalising, teasing my sex and my mind simultaneously. How does he do this to me? Just using words, for god’s sake. I temper my breathing as I take a moment to absorb his statement.

  ‘We have been playing with each other since we first met, Jeremy, and this weekend has been a never-ending physical, mental and emotional roller-coaster of “play”, to use your word.

  Where else could you possibly take me?’

  ‘But you’ve enjoyed it so far, haven’t you? You’ve said so yourself.’

  I sigh before answering.

  ‘As much as I hate admitting it to you out loud, yes, I’ve loved it. It scares me, though, at the same time.’ I pause as I reflect back on our conversation in the car and how it links to theories of play. ‘You know some psychologists believe that play is perhaps the most powerful source of joy humans can experience — as it encompasses both fun and fear. Some believe it can even protect against depression —’

  I stop myself as the word leaves my lips and it finally dawns on me. I’ve been so comprehensively distracted by him that I have been embarrassingly slow on the uptake. ‘This is what you want to explore further. This is what you have been doing, ensuring I’m kept on a roller-coaster ride of fun and fear!’

  ‘Exactly, Alexa, hopefully now you understand. The concept being that “real” play is essentially a simulated anxiety attack.’

  ‘Well, you’ve given me plenty of those since Friday. So, if that is what you have been hoping for, you have well and truly succeeded.’

  I can’t help but wonder if I’m still missing something … is there more to this? I feel like he has been deliberately keeping me in the dark, literally and figuratively since we met. Now he is doing the slow reveal on the real purpose of the weekend. Is he creating experiences enabling me to learn more about how I handle stress, or ‘play’ as he calls it, or am I merely a pawn in some greater game?

  ‘I have been involved in the studies analysing the amygdala, the cell clusters in the brain specialising in fear, and how they relay messages to the frontal lobes of the brain.’

  Of course he has.

  ‘And I’m particularly interested in investigating dopamine reward circuits and the release of chemicals such as opiods. Our initial data analysis shows an unexpected correlation to Sam’s work from a pleasure perspective. This is why we need to study it more thoroughly.’ His comments put me on a new learning curve, his intelligence more prominent than ever.

  ‘I must admit I never anticipated feeling like this. I can’t ever recall a time when my body and mind have been on higher alert, or more stimulated, or aroused, I suppose you could say. I am literally buzzing inside and out, with both fear and pleasure.’

  ‘Fascinating, that’s great. It means it’s all working.’ He sounds lost in his thoughts.

  ‘What’s working, Jeremy? Where are you going with this, anyway?’

  ‘That is another two questions, Alexa.’

  I am completely exasperated. He completely ignores my exasperation.

  ‘I want to play harder, I want to push the boundaries further between you and I.’

  ‘Push the boundaries. How much more could you push?’ My voice sounding instantly high-pitched, staccato. More questions! ‘Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to ask …’ I trail off, not knowing what to say. He is turning me into a submissive, blind mute.

  Oh, dear god. Another ‘aha’ moment … and now it comes full circle. Of course there is more to it; when is there not with Jeremy? How could I have been so naive? My thesis! He really does want to take me to a place I have never been, never dared to go. I knew I should never have given him a copy of the damn thing, I knew when I did I might live to regret it. Who would have thought it would come back to haunt me after so many years?

  ‘I’m going to push you, further than we ever have, but I want you to know that I will ensur
e you are safe, looked after.’

  ‘And you want me to be the experiment for your research, Jeremy, don’t you? Just admit it.’

  ‘Yes, I do.’ I’m a little shocked that he has admitted this so readily. ‘I need your body and brain on both sides of the experience, like I said. I think we are honestly on the cusp of discovering a cure and you are one of the few people who can help us. Your role is critical.’

  ‘Of course I’d love to be involved in discovering a cure for depression, Jeremy. Who wouldn’t? But I do have questions, plenty of them, you must understand that.’ A few spontaneously erupt in my brain just to prove my point … to myself, that is.

  How do you want to push boundaries?

  What does that mean?

  What’s different this time?

  What if I don’t want to?

  How do I know I will be okay?

  Are you crazy?

  Am I crazy?

  What the f**k could I be getting myself into now?

  ‘Of course I understand, sweetheart, and I would tell you if I could, honestly, but in this particular instance it can’t work that way. Why do you think I made it a condition of this weekend?’

  Oh shit, I have played completely into his hands. His two conditions for this weekend — no vision, no questions. What has been driving my fear and anxiety? Exactly those two things!

  Maybe my brain is slowing down as it reaches middle age. Why hadn’t I come to that realisation sooner? He has carefully constructed the situation I’m in right now where I must ultimately decide whether I’ll take this personal risk for the greater human reward. A decision he knows I will, for the first time, honestly consider. Will I continue this journey into exploring my personal darkness with him, a journey I have never been courageous enough to experience until this point in my life? He really is the consummate mastermind.

 
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