"Let's talk about fear, Anna."
"Because fear holds us back. It prevents us from being who we are meant to be. Shame is a form of fear, fear that our inner thoughts and feelings will be discovered and judged by others. I want you to understand your fears so that you can let them go. This won't happen all at once, but the way to start is to talk."
"I'm afraid of you."
"That's natural. Your situation here is very different from what you've been told to expect from a home and a guardian. I hope to earn your trust over time. What do you imagine when you think about your fear of me?"
"I don't know what you're going to do to me."
"Yes. Fear of the unknown. I expect that you felt that very intensely when you were living in your mother's car."
She shivered. "That was the worst. At night. Sometimes people banged on the windows. Sometimes police. Sometimes... others. They were all scary."
"But you're safe here. No one will be threatening you that way."
"Nobody but you."
"Have I caused you any physical pain, Anna?"
"I guess not. You make me... do things."
"Things that you don't like, that you don't want to do."
"Did your mother ever make you clean your room? When you had a room."
"That's not fair. That's different."
"Oh, I think it's quite the same, actually. When you told her that you didn't want to do it, what did she say?"
"Usually she said, 'Shut up and do it anyway.'"
"Hmm. I would have hoped that she'd use that opportunity to teach you about personal responsibility, how important it is in achieving your goals in life."
"She wasn't so good at responsibility, I guess."
"Yes, of course. Hence your current situation. So not the best example. What do you think I'm trying to teach you, Anna?"
"Sex. Cuz you want to have sex with me."
"Are you afraid of sex?"
"I don't want to do it."
"Why not? You're starting to understand the pleasure it can yield."
"Cuz... only nasty girls do it."
"All girls do it, Anna."
"I guess I mean... only nasty girls like it."
"Ah. I see. You don't want to be considered a slut. I expect that's a word you know. Perhaps your mother used it."
Anna chewed her lip and looked away.
"She caught you with your hand in your pants, innocently exploring your body. And she shamed you for it. And later, when you were in the apartment, she knew about the man who came to visit. She knew, and she was jealous. I imagine she took this out on you, even if she didn't understand it herself."
"I don't want to like it. I don't want to be nasty."
"Now we're at the heart of it, Anna. This is what I hope to teach you. It's not nasty to like it. It's joyful. It's a natural part of living, of being human. Why would we have the capacity for this pleasure if we weren't intended to enjoy it?"
She was quiet for a time. I broke the silence. "Let's watch something together, shall we?"
"Are you going to make me masturbate?" She was now able to use that word without profuse blushing. Slow progress.
"No. But you may do so if you like. Scooch over and make room, please."
She begrudged me a side of the bed. I propped up pillows and laid beside her. She tensed.
"We're just going to watch and talk. May I hold you?"
She was surprised. "You asked me."
"You don't ask. You tell."
"This time I'm asking. If you say no, I'll respect your wishes."
She skewed her mouth sideways as she considered. Adorable. After a moment she moved a little closer. I draped my arm behind her, giving her the option to rest her head at my shoulder. Eventually she did so. A lovely feeling. A new level of acceptance.
I balanced the Kindle on my tummy. As the screen began to flicker, she first blinked. Her eyes widened, then squinted. Her body tightened.
"Yes. Always. You might have guessed from the videos of Miranda."
Her cheeks were instantly shot with crimson. She wiggled away from me. Her gaze searched the room for the camera and eventually found it, unobtrusive as it was. She was clearly agitated but her voice was remarkably low.
"I hate you. I hate you soooo much."
"I understand. You're ashamed. You want boundaries. You've not had much privacy in your life, and you crave it. Something that can be just yours, yours alone. We'll come to that, Anna. But to get there we first have to strip away the bad boundaries, the stupid things that you've been taught. That's why I started by stripping you naked. It's a symbol for letting go of bad boundaries."
"It's a symbol for you being a fucking pervert."
I couldn't help but smile. It was the first time she'd used an obscenity in my presence.
"By most standards, I am a pervert. But no fucking. Not yet. And not until you're ready. In fact, we won't fuck until you ask me to fuck you, Anna. That's perhaps difficult to believe right now, but I assure you that it's true. So let's watch, together."
"I know what it is. I don't want to watch."
"Yet you've watched Miranda masturbate dozens of times."
"I really do hate you." A sob shook her.
"And I'm proud of you. Very proud of the step you've taken. It's an intensely, profoundly beautiful thing, what you did. I want you to embrace it."
I let the video play. Her gaze darted to the wall but then back to the screen, both unable to watch and unable to look away. At points her eyes also rested on me. I was visibly erect in my pants, not exposed but the outline was unmistakable.
"It's such a lovely sight, your discovery of yourself. Of course it affects me. You're so lovely, Anna. You may think that I hold all the power in this situation, but I assure you - your joy is compelling to me. I want to nurture it and help it grow. That should never be a source of shame."
As the scene concluded, she buried her face in a pillow.
"What was it like, Anna? Your orgasm."
"None of your business."
"Hmm. I'd say that it's all of my business at the moment. I won't go until you tell me."
She squirmed. Finally, "Scary. It was scary. Just like... too big."
"Yes. So big for such a small body. But it's awake now, your cunt. It won't ever forget that feeling. It will hunger for more. We're going to feed it."
"I hate you."
"Don't you like blowjobs?" The boy was wiggling impatiently in his seat as he spoke.
"I love blowjobs, Jacob. At an appropriate time and in an appropriate place, they're one of my very favorite things."
"You really like that word."
"Which word? Be clear."
"It's an important word for you to understand. You'll need a much better sense of appropriateness to live in the world."
"I'm not sure I want to live in the world."
"What's the alternative?"
"Live here. Why do we have to go anyplace? We can just stay here and have sex all day. I thought that's what you wanted, that you're one of those men."
"It's a tempting idea, Jacob. But my aspirations for you are much higher. You deserve a life. You'll need to be a functioning adult. This may seem very distant to you now, but if we don't get you on the right track it will be increasingly difficult to change things later."
"What do I need to change? Am I supposed to not like it anymore?"
"No, Jacob. It's good to like it. It's also fine to like candy. But if we just eat candy all the time, we won't survive."
"Can I have some candy?"
I put my hand on his head. "What do you think my answer will be?"
He sighed. "At an appropriate time?"
"Yes. And in an appropriate place. And of an appropriate measure..."
"Are we done with school?"
"For today, yes."
"Then can I suck on your penis?"
He was confused. "But I thought after school was the appropriate time."
"Yes. But in this case, the answer is no."
He was growing visibly angry. "How come?"
"Because you masturbated without permission."
"I did not." His response seemed reflexive. He normally hid nothing. Perhaps boundaries were beginning to form.
"Consider your next words carefully. I won't tolerate lying."
He stared at his sneakers. "I didn't..." I raised my eyebrows. He looked up sheepishly. "I didn't... mean to."
I smiled. Pulled him to his feet and hugged him. "That's better. We can control our actions, Jacob. We can't control our feelings - those come to us unbidden. We can only decide what to do with them. As you develop your sense of what's appropriate, you'll be allowed to make more decisions on your own. For now the rule stands."
I could see that his mind was working. "Ya but. How did you know?"
"I know all things." I said it with a wink.
He wasn't satisfied. I wasn't yet ready for him to know that he was under constant surveillance.
"No really. How did you?"
"That's a puzzle for you to work out. Believe me when I say that you won't get away with being sneaky."
For Jacob, a puzzle was like a splinter in his brain. He had to keep picking at it. This was a great asset in his studies. He was dogged at problem solving, especially in mathematics.
Finally I gave him a false clue. I was reminded of Allied counter-intelligence in World War II, when the British had broken all of the Axis codes and could intercept and read all of their messages. It was vital that the Germans not discover that this was true, so the Brits planted false evidence that could plausibly explain how they might have otherwise discovered the Nazi movements.
"I must say that I wondered how the battery in your toothbrush could possibly have gone dead in such a short time. On closer inspection... let's just say that I guessed where it might have recently been."
For the first time ever during his stay with me, Jacob actually blushed. I viewed this as a milestone.
"I hate you." A sly grin belied his true thoughts.
I kissed his hair. "I know."
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