Playing Cat and Mouse



FIVE DATES. Two overnights. Feeling her up… me holding both of us back from doing the dirty deed. Because, you know, going for the real deal was supposed to mean something. I’d been trying to remind myself of shit like that lately, if for no other reason than to avoid complications.

If I try hard enough, I just might convince myself of this.

And last night came the real deal—one evening of nonstop, strenuous fucking.

I sighed probably a little bit too loudly and immediately regretted it.

Shit, man, what are you thinking?

Not turning my head even slightly, unwilling to take the risk that the smallest movement might wake her, I allowed only my eyeballs to slide to the side to ensure that Maddy was still asleep. I shouldn’t have worried. She was stretched out on her back, arms and legs flung wide, sprawled without inhibition. Out like a fucking light—just the way I liked her.

An unwelcome image of my sister, Darcy, having been used in this tasteless manner, flashed through my mind. With instinctive repulsion, I pushed it away, but it was too late. The image had already taken shape in my head.

Although Maddy had drifted off into a satisfied slumber, I could still see traces of perspiration on her upper lip, and puddled up on her temples, curling the wispy, dark auburn hairs that outlined her face. Last remnants of the spirited passion, boundless energy, and enthusiastic emotion resultant of her efforts at lovemaking. I made a half-assed attempt to console my guilty conscience with the notion that Maddy had enjoyed herself thoroughly last night.

My attempt was, at a minimum, unsuccessful.

In regard to Maddy O’Reilly, I feel nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Shit, no… that last claim was a goddamned lie, because I was presently experiencing several quite distinct feelings, in addition to other rather vague and disconcerting ones. Physically, I was pretty much spent. We’d fucked long and hard. Turned out that sweet Maddy wasn’t as reserved as I’d originally thought. No. Maddy was, to put it bluntly, a sexual tigress. Insatiable and aggressive, she’d come to bed armed with a slew of roughly playful ideas, which led to a clear understanding that my role in this bed was not that of the predatory cat, but that of diminutive mouse. Slightly humiliating, maybe, but still my body was sated.

And “sated” is what this guy would call a distinct feeling. So there you go….

I leaned back and forced myself to identify what else I was feeling without any degree of uncertainty. Oh, that was an easy task; I felt guilt. I always experienced a sentiment of “you shouldna done that, Bradley” after a night of carnal pleasure with a woman. And as luck would have it, the more pleasure I’d enjoyed, the more guilt I suffered. My conscience was having a field day with my brain right now because, as I acknowledged before, Maddy was a gratifyingly innovative tigress in bed.

So why the guilt, Bradley? After all, didn’t you get exactly what you came here for?

Again an image of my sister—used and cast away like last night’s empty pizza box—splashed into my consciousness.


But it wasn’t as if Maddy was my girlfriend or anything; we’d never had that “talk.” You know, the “I’m not seeing anybody else, are you?” conversation I’d long ago come to dread. So I didn’t owe her anything, right? Last night was purely voluntary, meaningless sex between two consenting adults. No strings….

Yeah, right, Zelder. Tell me another one.

Maddy and I both knew that if one of us didn’t pull the brakes in the very near future, this little “relationship” I found myself strapped into would soon be racing along in the fast lane, heading for Seriousville. But right now, lying here beside her, suffering with my predictable sense of tortured apathy—marked by the fact that I hadn’t even the slightest urge to spoon her—I knew it was never gonna be anything more than this.

Which pulled my thoughts directly back to the thing I didn’t feel for Maddy O’Reilly. Interestingly, it was the very same thing I hadn’t felt for Wendy Waterson, Eliza Sompton, Regina Renato, and…. Well, the long list of women I couldn’t fall in love with went on and on. And believe me, I’d tried like hell to fall in love. I’d given it the good ole’ Bradley Zelder college try. I grimaced at my reference to college, which was my secondary source of mental self-torture.

So how do I describe this elusively missing thing?

Well, I could start by admitting to myself that I’d rather flee alone—stark naked, as I was—into the cold night, than cuddle with Maddy. And that I’d choose a late-night slime-burger, sitting bare assed on the curbstone of a drive-through restaurant parking lot, over indulging in a romantic midnight chocolate fondue in her cozy kitchen. Not to mention that I’d prefer to sleep alone on my dirty sheets in my filthy apartment in my bad part of town than remain ensconced in Maddy’s sweet-smelling bedding in her condo with a view in this charming and upscale neighborhood.

So what is missing, Zelder? Maddy O’Reilly’s a nice enough lady, so what gives?

An easy response popped to the front of my mind. Giving a shit.

I just plain old didn’t give a shit.

With that depressing thought in mind, I turned gingerly on my side and fell back to sleep.



I LITERALLY wiped the sweat from my brow as I escaped from the lion’s den. Tripping down the rustic brick stairway in front of Maddy’s quaint condo—taking it two steps at a time—I couldn’t contain my pure and untainted sense of “Free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!” And it had been tough as hell to get out of there without making a series of tender promises, which I knew for certain I wasn’t gonna be able to keep.

No use in adding insult to injury, is there?

Round One of Bradley Zelder’s Great Escape went something like this:

“So, honey, you gonna come over to my mama’s place for Thanksgiving dinner? She’d really like to meet you.” Maddy, all hopeful and demure, had asked me that question the very split second I’d woken up. It was as if she’d been lying in wait for me to crack open a single eyelid, so she could put that baby out there.


Most concerned parents would like to get to know the guy who’s been doing their daughter for the past month, give or take a week. It was only natural to want to size up your daughter’s potential life partner, and I got that. But I’d been through this little two-step with a woman a time or three, so I was ready with my refusal. Not that I didn’t feel like a piece of dried dog shit stuck to the bottom of a well-used jogging sneaker about it. If some asshole pulled this crap on Darcy, well, the results wouldn’t be pretty.

Bradley Zelder even sleeps ready to shoot babes down. Sooo not proud.

Though still half-asleep, I’d managed to yawn—just once, but I took my damned time with it—to stall while I frantically scraped the dusty back corners of my brain for an effective excuse. Mere seconds later I’d responded casually, “If I go to your house for Thanksgiving dinner, where will that leave my mom?”

Ugh…my mom. Another woman in my life who I’d give my eyeteeth for. She raised me to treat women better than this.

Maddy had wrinkled her tiny, freckled nose in an odd combination of recognition of what I was saying and frustration at the same thing. “Yeah, I guess.” Call me a mind reader, but I could tell her hopes hadn’t yet been sufficiently dashed.

Round Two of Bradley Zelder’s Great Escape: Now You See Him, Now You Don’t:

“Well, then, how about you come over the night before Thanksgiving? Since our family’s all in town, we always set up our….” I’d hopped to my feet and lunged in the direction of the bathroom partway through Maddy’s detailed explanation. Every year, it seemed, her family, from her pimple-faced teenage brother, Kev, to her frequently farting Great-uncle Ralph, gathered in “Mama’s sitting room” the night before Turkey Day to set up the Christmas tree. Which was incredibly sweet, but I knew I wasn’t going to be hanging tinsel on the O’Reilly family’s Scotch pine this year. Or any other year, for that matter.

I experienced yet another stab of guilt to my innards.

It is amazing how closely pangs of guilt resemble genuine physical pain.

“Huh?” I’d semishouted from behind the closed bathroom door. “Can’t hear ya too good. Be out in a few, ’cause, you know, there comes a time when a guy’s just gotta do his business.” Shit…TMI. Nonetheless, I flushed the toilet for emphasis. And then I flushed it again in a further conversation-preventive measure. I came out of her sickeningly floral bathroom after showering and dressing in my usual uniform of a thick L.L. Bean plaid flannel button-down and worn Levis, rubbing a hot pink towel with the lime green initials M.O. through my longish curly hair, displaying an outward appearance of devil-may-care nonchalance I didn’t feel. But by then I was suitably prepared with that morning’s I’ve-gotta-get-the-hell-outta-here-and-fast story.

“Care for a mug of coffee, Brad?” She sauntered across the kitchen toward me, her fingers seductively working the knot tied at the waist of her fuzzy pink robe, and I knew if I were still in the mood to play “Maddy’s catnip-filled toy mouse,” the offer was back on the table.

“Shit, no… can’t. I gotta fly. Meeting Bill at the gym in like fifteen minutes, so….”

I am nothing but a goddamned heel.

“You showered so you could go to the gym and sweat?” Those round green eyes of hers narrowing in growing skepticism, and for good reason. “Puh-lease.”

Oh. A trace of sarcastic disbelief. So maybe sweet Madeline possesses an iota of spirit, after all.

“Can’t get caught smelling like sex while sweating it up at the gym, now, can I, babe?” I made for the door. The big cat stalked me. “So, uh… thanks. Had a blast last night, Maddy.”

Maddy was stealthy, though. She’d beaten me to the coatrack and already had my Carhartt jacket clasped tightly between her hands. I couldn’t make my exit until she forked it over—you see, I really liked that jacket. Mom and Darcy had given it to me for Christmas the previous year. How ironic in a bad way. Still I wondered, for just a split second, if I had the balls to snatch my beloved coat from her hands and run, but doing that would be just too close to a chew-and-screw for my emotional comfort.

No, Bradley. Face it—there is nothing about “Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am!” that you’re comfortable with.

“So you gonna call me, hon?” Again I heard the distinct sound of insecurity that so didn’t work for me.

I’m an asshole of the highest caliber.

I sure was gonna call her. I was gonna deliver the “see ya later, sweetie; it’s been swell” over the phone, but I was definitely gonna give it a couple of days. At least until the high from her multiple orgasms wore off. But I replied gamely, “Duh! Course I am!” I reached out and ruffled her hair in a you are such a silly girl to doubt me manner.

Way to rid this good-bye scene of any remnants of romance, Zelder.

I mentally patted myself on the back for that one. I was a sharp, if relationship-phobic cookie. And a first-class asshole, I reminded myself.

Maddy had then “helped” me into my coat, trailing her sharp, pink fingernails erotically across the sides of my neck as she adjusted my collar. And she pouted coolly as she did it. I, on the other hand, was already sweating.

And then in what felt like a last-ditch attempt to hang onto me, she grasped my moist palm with her claw-extended paw… or, uh, her pointy-nailed fingers. I stole a fleeting glance at the door. It was so damned close, maybe just three small steps away, and I wanted out so frigging badly I could practically taste it. I considered chewing my hand off at the wrist—guys like me called it Coyote Ugly Syndrome—in an effort to get away, but I shoved aside that reckless thought. At that point, I was still fairly optimistic I’d need that hand to turn the doorknob on my way outside. Finally Maddy lifted her tiny frame onto tiptoes and purred into my ear, “Well, I’ll talk to you r-r-r-real soon.”

I winked at her and made my big move, stepping onto the landing, the frigid outdoor air threatening to freeze those loose curls Maddy loved so much right against the back of my neck. I had never felt so fucking relieved to be out in the cold in my thirty years of life.

Another budding emotional disaster, at least for me, had been averted.

Potential relationship with Maddy O’Reilly—nixed.

But at what cost to yet another nice girl?

What had seemed to be the real deal at the beginning of last night, was a done deal in the light of day.

Yeah, without a doubt, I’m the asshole king.