Four couples, one awkward card game.
The only light in the room came from Chad’s phone. Al reached up and ran his hand lightly down Chad’s arm then slid closer, nuzzling his neck. Chad wriggled his shoulder, indicating his displeasure. Al made a frustrated noise and rolled onto his back, elbowing Chad in the ribs.
“Hey!” Chad protested.
“You’re more married to that thing than you are to me,” Al groused. “Shut it off, will you?”
“I just have to—”
“No, you don’t.” Al snatched the phone away, and Chad reached for it. He was too slow. Al had already tossed it in the drawer of the bedside table, plunging the room into darkness.
Chad flipped on the light next to him and sat up, glaring at Al, arms crossed. “I was looking for an app.”
“And now you’re not. Besides, I have a better idea.” He winked.
“Mm. I’ll bet you do.” Losing some of his irritation, Chad leaned down to kiss Al.
Al put his fingers in the way to stop Chad. “Uh-uh. You’ll have to wait. Let me get it.”
Chad raised his eyebrows. “Get what?”
“This.” Al rolled sideways and reached down to pull out a long box. “It’s a game.”
“I thought so.” He opened the box and set the contents on the bed. There was a deck of cards, a timer, and something that looked like a buzzer. Al slit open the pack of cards and handed it to Chad.
As he read through the cards, Chad’s eyes widened. “Well, this is…interesting. Not sure all of these are exactly appropriate for us, though. Where did you say you bought this?”
“It was a free gift at that conference last week.” Al shrugged. “We can modify some of them. I think there might be better ones toward the back of the deck. It did say it was for any couple.”
“I see. Were they going for ‘something for everyone’?” He sifted through the cards. “Yeah, I’m not seeing much. Oh, well. At least it was free.”
“Like I said, we can modify.”
Chad huffed. “Like most of the rest of our lives,” he muttered. He was starting to see a pattern. “How do you play, anyway?”
Al looked in the box. “I don’t see any instructions.” He snorted. “Like we need them. I suppose we basically just play it however we want to—you know, pick a card and do what it says. Or a weird version of truth or dare, maybe.” He plucked a card from the deck. “This looks good.” He showed it to Chad.
“Yeah, I would do that.” He frowned. “Probably not in that position, though.” He smirked at Al before drawing him closer.
Just as things were getting interesting, an obnoxiously loud buzzing filled the room. Both men jumped and sprang apart, looking first at each other then down at the buzzer.
“Sorry. Must’ve rolled on it,” Al said apologetically.
They tried again, and the same thing happened. Huffing, Chad grabbed the buzzer and flipped it over. “There’s no battery compartment.”
“Just put it in the other room, then. I don’t want that thing going off all night.”
Chad held the buzzer for a moment, thinking. “Wait a sec. Let me try something.” He set the timer on the bed before he leaned over and kissed Al, who responded enthusiastically. Chad slid his hand over his husband’s shoulder, across his chest, and down—
Groaning, Chad flopped onto his back. “Give me the box, please.”
“Uh, sure. Why?” Al handed over the box.
“I want to see who produced this thing.” He examined the bottom of the box. “Al! You complete turducken. What were you thinking?” He swatted Al in the arm.
“Turducken?” Al laughed. “That’s a new one. What’s the problem?”
“Look at the makers.” He showed Al the mark. “So that means…”
“…the damn buzzer really is going to go off all night, no matter what we do. ‘For every couple’ my ass.”
“Exactly!” Chad snickered. “Just put it back in the box. At least it won’t be as loud.”
The scooped everything into the box, and Al shoved it back under the bed. He turned over to face Chad. “I don’t want to completely waste our night.”
Chad grinned. “Me, neither.”
They reached for each other, resulting in many distracting minutes during which they failed to hear the buzzer screeching with angry desperation from inside the box under the bed.
Terrie arrived home to find the house lit from end to end with candles, a stick of cherry blossom incense burning on the mantle, and a magnificent dinner on the dining room table. She smiled. Bill certainly knew how to make a birthday feel special. She dropped her purse by the door and stepped into the kitchen.
Bill was just pouring the wine. He turned around to smile at Terrie. “Happy birthday, honey,” he said. He set the wine bottle on the counter and crossed the room to wrap her in his arms.
Grinning, Terrie said, “Thank you. This is perfect.” She kissed him, first on the cheek and then on the mouth. Their embrace threatened to extend long enough for dinner to get cold, so they reluctantly separated.
They relaxed as they dined, sharing about everything and nothing—not much different from any other night, really, though the conversation was muted somewhat by the romantic atmosphere. Terrie could hardly wait to finish up and retire to the bedroom. She knew Bill had something planned there, too; it was his style to make her special day feel wonderful in every way.
When they were finished at last and the table cleared, Bill led Terrie into their room. The hearts and flowers extended there, too: a bouquet of fresh flowers on the night stand and everything laid out for a massage. Terrie smiled.
“Oh, this is amazing,” she breathed. “You sure know how to spoil me.”
“Nah. I know how to spoil us.” He put his hands on her shoulders and gently rubbed. “I have another surprise.”
“Really?” She knew it wasn’t her present—Bill had already given that to her in the form of concert tickets for the end of the month. She wondered what it could be.
Bill stepped away from her and rummaged around in a drawer, finally producing a long, thin box. There were hearts and a smiling couple on the front. Terrie wrinkled her nose.
“What on earth is that?”
“It’s a game,” Bill replied. “For couples.” He gave her a mischievous look.
“Oh,” Terrie said, catching on. “Hm, that could be fun.” She sat gently on the bed so she wouldn’t disturb anything.
Bill opened the box and drew out the contents: a timer, a deck of cards, and, for some strange reason, a buzzer. Terrie bit back a giggle. After handing Terrie the other items, Bill pulled the plastic wrap from the cards. Once they were open, he took one from the top.
“Yes?” he asked, passing Terrie the card.
She read it. “Sure. But what are we supposed to do with these? I don’t see any rules for playing a game. It might as well just be like those ‘lovers decks’ with the suggestion cards.”
“Well, I think that’s more or less what it is. I have no idea what you do with the other things. Probably for if you want to have a time limit or something. Maybe the buzzer is if one person thinks it’s getting too kinky.”
“Got it.” Terrie set the card down and picked another one from the middle of the deck. She read it and gave it to Bill. “I like this one even better.”
He grinned at her. “You’re the birthday girl. Anything you want, you can have.”
He pushed the other things on the bed aside and sat next to Terrie. They kissed and undressed slowly, and Terrie delighted in her husband’s gentle explorations. In no time they were tangled in each other, enjoying every moment.
Until the buzzer sounded.
“What the hell?” Terrie sat bolt upright, her heart pounding. That thing was scary.
Bill frowned. “I don’t know.” He grabbed the buzzer. “Sheesh. I didn’t realize it came with the batteries already installed.” Shrugging, he tossed it aside. “Hopefully that was just a glitch.”
It took a few minutes to catch up to where they had been, but eventually, Terrie relaxed and began to enjoy herself again. Bill poured out some of the massage oil and ran his hands over Terrie’s skin, making her shiver with pleasure.
This time, Terrie had to hold back a yell of frustration. “Please turn that thing off,” she begged.
Bill flipped the buzzer over, but there wasn’t a switch. “I don’t know how.”
“Well, then, just put the stuff back in the box. We’re not really using it anyway. Where did you say you got that game?”
“One of the pastors brought it back from that marriage and family counseling conference last week. Had a whole bunch of them—said they were giving them away at the conference.”
“I should have known.” Terrie rolled her eyes. “Well, at least we didn’t have to pay for it.”
While she was talking, Bill packed up the box and shoved it back in the drawer. “I’ll get rid of it tomorrow.”
“Good. Now, where were we?” She pulled Bill back onto the bed. “Ah, yes. I think you were going to give me a massage followed by, hopefully, a spectacular—”
She didn’t finish that sentence because suddenly, her lips were far too busy as Bill kissed her passionately. Both of them ended up so lost in each other that they didn’t even hear the buzzer wailing at them from inside the drawer.
The movie ended, but Claire and Lindsay missed it because they were occupied with other pursuits. The sudden silence distracted Lindsay momentarily, and she reached around Claire for the remote. Claire stretched.
“Maybe we should move this upstairs,” she suggested.
They padded up to their bedroom, and Claire flopped on the bed. She was tired, but not so tired that she couldn’t admire how graceful Lindsay was. She smiled. “How do you still look gorgeous at this hour? I’m positively frumpy by five o’clock.”
Lindsay smirked. “That’s my secret. I’ll never tell.” She stripped down to her underwear and slid into bed next to Claire.
Remembering something, Claire sat up. “I almost forgot. If it’s not too late, want to check out what I got?”
“That depends. What is it?”
“A game.” Claire giggled then pitched her voice low. “For lovers.”
Lindsay laughed. “Cheesy. And do we really need it?”
“No, of course we don’t need it. It just looked like fun. I’ll show you.” She snatched the box off her nightstand and set it in the middle of the bed.
Eying the box warily, Lindsay said, “It looks like something out of the fifties. That illustration is weird. Are you sure there’s anything in here we can use? It looks kinda aimed at, you know, straight couples.”
“It says right here that there’s something for every couple,” Claire pointed out. “They probably have different stuff inside. Let’s open it and find out.”
Lindsay sighed. “Fine.”
Claire opened the box and they pulled out the contents. Dropping the timer on the bed, Claire tore the plastic wrap off the cards. Lindsay held up the buzzer and arched an eyebrow at Claire.
“Why would anyone need a buzzer for a sex game? Is it that kinky that you use it instead of a safe word?”
Claire shrugged. “Well, light BDSM is popular these days. I guess that’s for people who want to pretend to play it rough.” She drew a card out of the deck. “Huh. Well, here’s one.” She passed it to Lindsay.
“I’m not sure we could do that.” She turned the card upside down. “Is that even physically possible?” She put the card back and took a different one. “We could try this, I suppose.”
Meanwhile, Claire was sifting through the rest of the deck. “Seems you were right. I mean, some stuff works for pretty much anyone, but a lot of this is pretty bland het stuff. What a bizarre game. I have an idea—let’s modify the one you picked out.” She grinned wickedly at Lindsay.
Before long, they were thoroughly enjoying themselves, experimenting with variations on the card they had chosen. Just as Lindsay maneuvered to change their position, the loudest buzzing she’d ever heard startled her. She knocked into Claire, causing them both to collapse onto the bed in a heap of limbs.
“Ow!” Claire complained. “What the heck was that?”
“Stupid buzzer from the game. Must be something wrong with it.” Lindsay frowned.
“Strange. Well, give me a minute to calm down from my heart attack, and we can pick up where we left off.” Lindsay adjusted so she wasn’t crushing Claire anymore and they wrapped their arms around each other.
They kissed lightly and resumed their lovemaking. Lindsay trailed a path downward from Claire’s lips, moving lower and lower—
“Argh! Damn it. I am going to shut that thing up if it’s the last thing I do,” Lindsay declared. She grabbed the buzzer and made to hurl it across the room.
“Wait!” Claire reached out her hand to stop Lindsay. “Just stick it back in the box. If we can’t use this thing, maybe someone else will want it.” She sighed. “At least it was free.”
Lindsay huffed. “Fine.” She tossed the buzzer into the box along with the cards and the timer. “Worthless piece of crap. I’m glad you didn’t pay money for it. Actually, where did you get it?”
“A woman I know said she got it at church. Someone apparently brought a bunch of these back from some conference.”
“A conference for extremely uptight people, obviously. Never mind. We don’t really need it.”
“No,” Claire agreed, “we don’t.” She set the box aside and reflected that at least she was now fully awake to enjoy spending quality time with Lindsay.
They returned their attention to each other, focusing on enjoying their night. As they tumbled into passionate oblivion, they both missed the buzzer’s miserable howls from inside its cardboard prison.
Moira arranged and rearranged everything in the bedroom to make it just so. She still wasn’t comfortable experimenting with new things, but for her own sanity she needed to try. Freeing herself from a lifetime of expectations wasn’t easy. Fortunately, Jeff was patient with her. He understood why it was important.
When Jeff arrived home after a late meeting, Moira thought she was ready. They both needed to unwind after a long day. The kids were all in bed, and they had time to themselves. Moira led Jeff to their room.
“I have a surprise for you,” she said.
He looked at the bed warily. It was no wonder; Moira’s “surprises” were notorious. There didn’t seem to be anything amiss, so he relaxed. “What is it?”
“Well, remember what a disaster it was when I tried to follow all those rules in the marriage and sex book?” She flushed at the memory.
“How could I forget?”
“I thought we could try something different.” She sat down on the bed and patted the space next to her.
Jeff joined her on the bed. “Okay. Is it another book? I mean, there are some good ones out there.”
“Nope.” Moira reached around behind her and took out a long, slender box. “Here.”
“Uh…what is it?”
“A game.” She lowered her voice. “A sex game.”
“Geez, Moira. It’s not a dirty word, you know. And I can see it’s a sex game, but that doesn’t tell me much.”
“Let’s open it and find out.”
She pulled the lid off the box and set the contents on the bed one item at a time. Jeff picked up the timer and turned it over in his hands. “I have no idea why anyone would need a timer in a sex game,” he remarked.
“I don’t know either.” Moira made a face when she held up the buzzer. “I wonder if it’s like that game where you have words you can’t say. Do you buzz your partner when you don’t want to do some sex thing?”
“Who knows?” Jeff opened the deck of cards and rifled through it. “Looks like I’d be using the buzzer a lot, then. I probably wouldn’t do half of what’s in here.” His eyes widened at one of the cards. “How do people even do that?”
Moira peered over his shoulder. “No idea. Just skip that one, then.” She pointed to the next one in the deck. “Oh, what about that? It’s different, but not in a bad way.” She blushed. “I wouldn’t mind trying it. I mean, if you’re okay with that.”
“Sure,” Jeff replied. “Just give me a few minutes to get comfortable, okay?” He stood up and bent down to kiss Moira on the top of her head.
A short time later, they lay in bed together, the game pieces on the bedside table. Jeff reached for Moira and they spent a long time kissing and simply enjoying reconnecting after a long day. Soon, they moved together, heat and desire building between them. They shifted so that they lay together differently, experimenting with their position. Just as they found a rhythm, an angry buzzing startled them both, and they flew apart.
They lay on their backs, panting—unfortunately, it was out of fear rather than a more pleasant sensation. Eventually, Moira looked around. She spotted the buzzer at the foot of the bed and wondered how it had ended up there.
“That thing scared the living daylights out of me,” she said.
“Uh-huh,” Jeff agreed, still too breathless to speak.
“I guess I kicked it or something.” She rolled onto her side and put her arm across Jeff’s middle. “I hope you didn’t think I wasn’t enjoying what we were doing.”
“No, no. I figured it was an accident.” He kissed her.
One kiss led to another, and in no time they were ready to try again. As before, they changed position and moved together, both enjoying the feel of the new angle until—
This time, Jeff actually yelled.
Moira grabbed the buzzer, which had somehow worked its way up the bed until it sat right next to them. She gave it a little whack, and it buzzed feebly.
“There is definitely something wrong with that buzzer,” Jeff muttered. He picked the box up off the floor and put the buzzer in it then swept the rest of the game pieces off the bedside table into the box. He held it in his hands for a moment. “Where did you say this came from?”
“A friend of mine went to that conference a week ago or so and brought some back. Free samples or something.”
Jeff turned the box over and examined it. He burst out laughing. “Well, that explains it.” He showed Moira.
“The Missionary Courtship Association? What is that?” she asked.
“They do a lot of this stuff. Must have something to do with that abstinence app they put out last year. Something tells me this isn’t your typical sex game.” He set the box on the floor and gave it a good shove so he wouldn’t trip on it if he got up in the dark.
Moira sighed. “I’m sorry. I seem to be zero for two here on finding anything to spice up our sex lives.” She flopped back against the pillows.
Jeff lay back down and put his arms around her. “If you really want a book, I probably still have a copy of The Joy of Sex somewhere. But I’m not sure we need it. Moira, I like being with you. I don’t care if we do anything different or not. I know it’s important to you—and heck, I’ve certainly benefited. Honestly, though, I’m not feeling neglected.” He kissed her.
Moira smiled against his lips. “I liked what we were doing before that buzzer so rudely interrupted us. Could we start with that?”
With that, they spent the rest of the evening making love and pointedly ignoring the pitiful sobs of the devastated game buzzer, alone and neglected in the corner.