If I’m honest, I accepted the challenge as a way of shutting Greg up. Okay, so maybe there was an element of broadening my horizons, of seeing things – or not seeing them, as the case may be – from a completely new perspective, but really, I just wanted to wipe that smug smile off his face.
Greg Harford and I had been rubbing each other up the wrong way from the morning he’d breezed into the tutorial class and become its most vocal member. Until then, I had been one of the more outspoken students in the group, always ready to argue my corner and defend my point of view to the hilt, especially when I knew I’d come up with a suggestion no one else had considered. Now, I’m not one of those people who particularly likes the sound of my own voice, and I’m no show-off, despite what you might be thinking; I’ve just never been a girl who’s happy to sit in a corner quietly while the men are speaking. It might not be an attitude that will guarantee you a date on a Saturday night, but I was happy the way I was – until Greg turned up.
Greg was a couple of years older than anyone else in the group, having taken time out after leaving school to travel the world and learn more about it – and himself – in the process. Well, that was what he claimed, anyway. Whenever he started telling us about his time helping out in an orphanage in Goa, and the awful things he’d seen which the rest of us would struggle to comprehend, I just had a vision of him lying on the beach, head on his backpack, topping up the nicely golden tan that lingered on his skin months later. For all his pose of wanting to help the underprivileged, there was something phoney about him, as though he’d taken a few choice phrases from an Alex Garland paperback and weaved them into the anecdotes that had the rest of the class wide-eyed with admiration.
It didn’t help that all my female friends were totally in lust with him. With his body toned from what he reckoned was hard work on his travels and I suspected were a few sneaky sessions in the sports science department gym, and the bleached-blond hair that flopped into his startlingly blue eyes, he practically had them queuing up to fall into his bed. My roommate, Lindsay, couldn’t understand why I disliked the guy so much. She would have been yet another of his conquests if she hadn’t been so determined to remain faithful to her boyfriend, Steve, back home in Blackpool.
‘I just think he’s a poser,’ I told her, as we sat in the student union café, nursing mugs of milky coffee.
‘But don’t you think he’s good-looking?’ she asked.
‘It doesn’t matter what I think, because he thinks he’s good-looking, and that’s what puts me off,’ I said, taking another sip of my coffee.
‘Speak of the devil..,’ Lindsay said, gesturing to one side with a subtle nod of her head. I looked in the direction she’d indicated, and saw Greg wandering towards us, carrying a tray which contained a clingfilm-wrapped salad and a sports drink.
‘Mind if I join you?’ he asked, pulling up a chair and settling himself at the table before I’d had the chance to tell him where to go. ‘You know, you made a couple of great points in class, just now, Helen, but I couldn’t help thinking what I often do when you’re speaking–’
He pulled open the cap of his drink and took a long drag. Beside me, I could sense Lindsay’s eyes were fixed on the sucking motion of his mouth, no doubt imagining his full lips fastened somewhere else and suckling. I was just waiting for him to resume the conversation, wondering how he was going to casually insult me in front of my friend in the guise of offering me some friendly advice.
At last, he spoke again. ‘You’re very confident about your opinions, but sometimes you just need that little bit of life experience to back them up.’
‘Meaning that if I’d had the money to take a year off just dossing like some people…’
‘You can be really touchy sometimes, you know?’ He smiled, and peeled the wrapping off his salad. ‘I just wish you could have seen those little blind kids I met in the orphanage, saw how they coped without any of the advantages you and I take for granted. You should try putting yourself in their shoes.’ He paused for a second, forked lettuce into his mouth and chewed thoughtfully, before delivering the killer blow. ‘Try coping for a day – no, even an hour – without your eyesight, and you might realise just how easy you have it.’
I shouldn’t have got involved in his stupid mind game, but he’d quickly realised I could never resist rising to a challenge. ‘Try me.’
‘Are you serious?’ Greg asked. I met that stunning blue gaze, refused to be stared down. ‘Okay, then we’ll do it. You spend an hour blindfolded–’
‘That sounds a bit kinky to me,’ Lindsay chipped in, but both of us had almost forgotten she was there by now, we were so intent on goading the other.
‘Name the time and the place. I’ll be there,’ I said.
Greg considered the proposal for a long moment, and I realised that he’d been expecting me to back out. ‘Okay, I’ll let you have home advantage. It’ll be easier for you in familiar surroundings.’
Patronising bastard, I thought.
‘You can do it this weekend,’ Lindsay said. ‘I’m off up to see Steve, so you’ll have the place to yourself.’
Greg and I shook hands on it, and then we left him to his lunch. As Lindsay and I walked off to collect our bikes from where we’d left them chained behind the engineering building, I tried not to wonder exactly what I had agreed to.
We had arranged that Greg would be round at eight on Saturday evening. At five to, I was taking a calming swig of brandy from the bottle Lindsay kept in the top of her wardrobe for emergencies. The two of us shared a room in Fitzwilliam, a rambling Victorian house which had become part of the hall of residence complex when the surrounding land had been bequeathed to the university in the late Sixties. It was the Saturday before Hallowe’en, and most of the other girls in the house were off to a ‘vampires and virgins’ theme party which was being held in the union building. I could hear them shrieking and laughing in the communal bathroom as they put the finishing touches to their make-up and slipped their fake fangs in place. I half wished I was going with them, rather than being left here alone with Greg Harford and his ludicrous challenge.
There was a knock on the door. I shoved the bottle back in its hiding place, went to answer it, and saw Greg, dressed in a pair of faded jeans and a tightish, plum-coloured teeshirt that seemed to draw attention to his firm pecs. If it had been Lindsay standing where I was, she would have grabbed him by that teeshirt, dragged him to the bed and thrown herself underneath him. I was made of different stuff.
‘Come in,’ I said, keeping my tone friendly. ‘Can I get you a coffee? Something stronger?’
He shook his head. ‘Afterwards, maybe. We both know why I’m here, so let’s get on with it.’
So much for my efforts to be nice. ‘You’ve brought the blindfold?’ Greg had insisted on that, bearing in mind that he’d so graciously allowed me to conduct this daft experiment in my own room.
‘Here we go,’ he said, pulling it out of his pocket. I’d half-expected a scarf, or maybe one of those sleep masks they give you on long-haul flights – and Greg should have picked up enough of those on his travels – but this was something altogether different and a lot more heavy duty. I didn’t ask where he’d got it from, though I suspected he’d paid a visit to a certain shop in the centre of town, which had blacked-out windows and a clientele that was strictly over the age of eighteen. As he fastened it over my eyes, it blocked out the light so completely it really did seem as though I had suddenly lost my eyesight. It was a scary feeling, and I realised he had deliberately put me at a huge disadvantage, but there was no way I was going to back out now.
‘Okay, so what next?’ I asked, trying to sound more confident than I felt.
‘You mentioned something about a coffee,’ Greg said. ‘Now, I’m not going to ask you to make it for me – I wouldn’t like to see you scald yourself or anything – but why don’t you go to where you keep the mugs and the coffee and get them out for me.’
‘They’re in the kitchen, down the hall,’ I replied. ‘I mean, I could go out and get them, but there are still people about, and might ask questions if they saw me running around like this.’
‘Yeah, you’ve got a point. What about that something stronger? Is that in the kitchen, too?’
‘No, Lindsay’s got some brandy in her wardrobe. Stay there–’ as if I knew where ‘there’ was exactly, now I only had the sound of Greg’s voice to indicate his location ‘–and I’ll fetch it for you.’
I could do this, I told myself. I had spent the last hour or so fixing the room’s dimensions in my mind, pacing the space from bed to desk to door and back again. Five paces to the corner of the desk and– On the fourth, my bare shin barked against a wooden-backed chair. That hadn’t been there a few moments ago, I was sure. Had Greg moved it on purpose? Was he watching my efforts and laughing? Was he even still in the room, or was the sound of the door clicking shut as he quietly slipped away, leaving me to make a total fool of myself, only in my paranoid imagination? I shuffled along the side of the desk, a lot less confidently than before, then sidled my way to Lindsay’s wardrobe, managing not to fall over the leg of her bed as I did so. I found the door handle after some groping with my fingertips, reached up to wrap my fingers around the brandy bottle and take it down from the top of the wardrobe. Everything was taking longer than I had expected. Greg was right; it was much harder to perform even the simplest of tasks without being able to see. But had the orphans he’d talked about ever had their eyesight, or had they lived their whole lives in the dark, coping because they had to and never mourning what they had never known they missed?
I had read somewhere that if one of your senses was lacking, the others became sharper to compensate, which was possibly why I was aware of the tangy whiff of Greg’s sweat beneath his citrus-scented aftershave as he came up behind me and took the bottle from my grasp.
‘Don’t want you falling and hurting yourself on broken glass, do we?’ he said. So at least he’d stayed to enjoy my humiliation. His free hand snaked round my waist, pulling me to him.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked, startled.
‘It’s a good little experiment, this, isn’t it?’ he said, his voice soft, almost seductive in my ear. ‘I think I’ve achieved what I set out to do. I wanted you to explore, to break down those barriers you put up to stop people really getting to know you.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ I snapped, aware that Greg’s hand was now softly massaging my stomach through my silky top.
‘What I want to know is whether you’re willing to break down those barriers in bed, too? After all, you’ve found out how different other things can be when you don’t have your sight to rely on. Imagine what sex is like when you have to use your other senses…’
‘Is this what all this was about?’ I asked. ‘Trying to get me into bed? Because it won’t work, Greg, I don’t–’
And then I felt his lips on the back of my neck, sucking softly. The warm, wet pressure, combined with the feel of his hand, which had worked its way under the hem of my top and was moving in small, relentless circles up towards my breasts, almost had me moaning. Whatever Greg thought about me, I could still just about count the number of times I’d had sex on the fingers of one hand, and I had never been with anyone who was able to find my sweet spots as unerringly as this man could. That’s because he’s been with too many women, a little voice in the back of my head murmured, but I didn’t want to listen to it.
I heard the clunk as he set down the bottle, so he could use both hands on my breasts. He kneaded my nipples though the sheer cups of my bra, bringing them to little peaks, while I sagged against him, not having any idea where he might touch me next. My senses heightened by my lack of sight, I was feeling every stroke, every pinch more keenly than I otherwise might have. The little ‘snick’ as the catch of my bra was undone seemed unnaturally loud in the silent room, but I didn’t make any move to stop Greg from pulling up my top so he could play with my bared breasts. He was going to strip me and fuck me, and I was going to let him.
Not that this was going to be entirely a one-way process. I could feel the hard bulge of Greg’s cock digging into the small of my back, and I reached behind myself to unbutton the fly of his jeans and grab for it. I felt daring and, as Greg’s hand slipped into my little lacy shorts and began to touch my pussy, dirty. I was wetter than I would have liked him to find me – after all, I wasn’t supposed to be able to stand having him anywhere near me – but he just gave a little chuckle as he probed between my sex-slippery lips.
‘I’m going to take you to the bed,’ he said, and I let him guide me the few steps to – my bed? Lindsay’s? I couldn’t tell where I was any more. I lay there, wearing only my shorts, and listened to the rustling and fumbling noises of Greg undressing. His trainers hit the floor, then his jeans, and I couldn’t stop myself giggling at the thought that he might commit the ultimate sin of leaving his socks on, and because I couldn’t see them, I wouldn’t know till afterwards.
I just had long enough to ask myself if I really knew what I was doing, and then I felt warm, bare skin next to mine, smelled that horny combination of citrus and aroused male. I tensed my body, listening for any clue that would tell me what Greg was about to do next. Instead, I heard him say softly, ‘Touch yourself.’
‘What?’ I murmured.
‘Go on,’ he urged. ‘Play with your pussy. I want to see you do it.’
If Greg had really wanted to see my barriers come down, he couldn’t have made a shrewder request. I had never touched myself when anyone was watching; it seemed somehow seedy, as though they would see how skilful I was at it, and realise how that meant I must do it whenever I had the chance. But there was a pulse beating madly between my legs, almost drawing my fingers to the heat and wetness down there, and so I wriggled down my shorts and did as he asked. The first touch was almost too much; the evening’s bizarre events, combined with Greg’s teasing caresses, had turned me on like nothing I had known, and I was in danger of coming before I’d really got going.
Greg must have seen the strength of my reaction, because he whispered, ‘Take it easy, sweetheart. We’ve got all night.’
I eased off a little, barely skimming my clit. I could only imagine how I might look to the watching Greg, my lacy underwear down round my ankles, my finger circling and rubbing in the pattern I knew was guaranteed to bring me to orgasm. And then I heard a vaguely wet, slapping sound, just as rhythmic in its way as my own movements, and knew exactly what effect I was having on my appreciative audience. I wanted to tear the blindfold off, to watch Greg as he wanked as his cock, getting the same pleasure as he was clearly getting from watching me, but that wasn’t part of the game.
I was on the verge of coming, my bottom squirming on the blankets beneath me and my breathing fast and shallow, when I felt Greg’s fingers close around my own and pull them away from my pussy. I almost squealed with disappointment, but then he guided my hand to his cock and encouraged me to take hold of it, and my squeals became ones of anticipation.
He was big, and even through the condom which already sheathed him, I could feel the hot hardness of his shaft. ‘I suppose you think you deserve to be on top, don’t you?’ There was a teasing edge to his voice.
‘And why not?’ I pouted. ‘I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me.’
‘And done it beautifully, too, sweetheart, but now it’s my turn.’ He encouraged me to lie back on the bed, then I heard him shuffling into position between my legs. Spread wide and deliciously vulnerable, I felt him guide himself into place, just the tip of his cock entering me at first. He sighed. ‘I wish I’d got some handcuffs to go with that blindfold, now.’ I shivered at the vision of myself cuffed and completely helpless, then I groaned as he began to fuck me with slow, shallow thrusts. Instinctively, my legs came up to lock around his lean back, and I gave in to the rhythm he was setting, still depending on my other senses to guide me. Every noise, every scent, every movement seemed magnified. Greg was right: I had crossed a barrier, and I had found myself in a place I’d never been before. With all the stimulation my body had received since Greg had first secured the blindfold around my head, I was suddenly spinning into an orgasm more powerful than any I’d experienced, colours seeming to burst and spread behind my sightless eyes. And then Greg was calling out my name as he came, muttering, ‘Thank you,’ over and over as he slumped, panting softly, against my supine body.
We lay together for a while before he murmured, ‘Close your eyes, you’re going to have to adjust to the light,’ and I felt him fiddling with the fastening of the blindfold. I blinked a couple of times and then opened my eyes to see Greg smiling down at me. I took a moment to admire the glorious sight of him naked, sweat glistening on his naked skin, fringe flopping into eyes that smiled at me with what seemed like genuine desire.
‘You’re amazing, you know that?’ he said, stroking my tangled dark curls back from my face. ‘I never thought you’d agree to any of this, let alone go as far as you did.’
‘Well, you wanted me to prove a point, so I proved it. Or was this all just a trick to get into my knickers?’
‘You’re smart, you work it out,’ he said.
‘But I am right,’ I persisted. ‘All that stuff about the orphanage was made up, wasn’t it?’
He held his hands up in mock surrender. ‘Okay, it’s a fair cop. Yeah, I did go to Goa, and I did do some bits and scraps of work there. But you’re right, I did spend a lot of the time bumming around, and I didn’t work in an orphanage. And do you want to know why I say I do? It’s because girls like to hear it, because it makes them think I’m caring and sensitive.’
‘And what about the ones who don’t like to hear it, or the ones who know it’s all a load of crap?’ I asked, suddenly remembering why I had spent most of the time up to this evening itching to slap him.
‘They’re the ones who are the biggest challenge.’ He smiled. ‘But it’s worth it, because they’re the ones who, when the barriers come down, are the best fuck of all…’