Previously: Tessa changes into a t-shirt, and Hardin tries to get his sneak peaks in.
Marines: Hardin’s eyes are on fire (“blazing”) as he pulls Tessa onto the bed and on top of him. Tessa is straddling him, which she’s done before, but now she’s straddling him with very little clothing on. She stays up on her knees so they aren’t touching but “Hardin isn’t having it,” and he pulls her all the way down. Because clearly what Hardin’s having is the only thing on the menu.
The t-shirt Tessa’s wearing bunches and exposes her thighs, so we pause a second so she can be thankful she shaved her legs. Now that they are touching, Tessa’s stomach starts turning, but she thinks it’s a good thing. She thinks all this stomach roiling means happiness. She thinks she’s Cinderella waiting for the clock to strike.
Samantha:: This is such nonsense. Trust me, being in a relationship that makes your stomach hurt is WAY overrated.
Mari: I generally do like to do anything that makes my stomach hurt, including date someone.
Hardin calls this position much better and gives her a crooked smile so drink up if you are drinking. Tessa knows that he’s being “nice for him” because he’s drunk, but “right now I will take it.” I don’t really understand what behavior he’s exhibited that makes her think this is “nice.” Pulling her around into the position he wants her in? Okay. (S: Mari! He HALF SMILED at her. He’s practically a saint.) Tessa thinks, “if this is truly my last time around him, then this is how I want to spend it.” In case you were wondering why exactly this would be Tessa’s last time around him all of a sudden, she further elaborates that she’s telling herself that she can do whatever she wants with Hardin tonight because starting tomorrow, she is going to Stay Away From Hardin™. Also, Tessa excuses taking advantage of drunk Hardin by telling herself that she is just as intoxicated by him as he is by a bottle of scotch.
Hell to the no.
Samantha: Just. Stop it. That is not an accurate or true or okay excuse.
Mari: Hardin just keeps staring into Tessa’s eyes, to the point where she gets uncomfortable because she doesn’t know what to do next. Hardin’s like, “oh, hey, what’s wrong? Is it creepy that I am just sitting here staring into your eyes saying nothing?” He doesn’t say that.
Tessa says she doesn’t know what to do. Hardin tells her to do whatever she wants to do and not overthink it. She leans back away from him to create space, and I laugh because, even though it’s unintentional, the first thing Tessa does when given “permission” to do whatever she wants is GIVE HERSELF SOME SPACE.
Samantha: Todd doesn’t even know that subconsciously her brain was like “RUN AWAY”.
Mari: Anyway, Tessa puts her hands on Hardin’s chest and starts tracing his tattoos. Hardin is breathing heavily, and when Tessa gets to his boxers, he looks all nervous. She asks him if she can, um, touch him. She hopes he doesn’t ask for more details because she can’t say any of the words that mean penis.
“Who is this girl straddling this punk boy and asking to touch him… down there?”
Legitimate question! Is it Anastasia Steele? It could be.
Hardin gives his permission so Tessa starts just kind of grazing her hands over his “growing bulge.” After a paragraph of this, Hardin asks if she would like him to teach her what to do. Tessa nods and he basically just puts her hand around his penis? I really want to know what she was doing before that he was like, “no, no. Let me show you. Step one- touch penis. Thus endeth the lesson.” Just kidding. I don’t want to know at all.
Tessa looks up at Hardin “through her lashes” and Hardin is all “no don’t do that it is too sexy, too innocent.” We all know what those through-your-lashes looks do to boys.
Samantha: Is this the Ana biting her lip of this book series?
Mari: Impossible on account of looking up through her lashes was also the Ana lip bitting of the Fifty Shades series. ELJ covered all the terrible bases.
Tessa wants to throw herself back onto the bed and let Hardin have his way with her. She wants to be free for a moment from whatever makes her scared all the time. I’d like to say that thing that makes her scared all the time is the realization that she’s dating an abuser, but we all know that’s not true.
Tessa keeps up her hand job and we’re treated to all her deep thoughts about it (should I go faster? Should I squeeze tighter? Should I take off his boxers?). She does none of these things, but does start kissing Hardin’s neck. He dirty talks that her hand feels so good, and encouraged, Tessa squeezes him even tighter. He has to quickly tell her, “not that hard, baby.”
I don’t want to laugh because open communication in a relationship is so important, and also there is no shame in being inexperienced. I do want to laugh because of the sequence of events. The struggle is real. (S: Same struggle happening over here.)
Hardin’s hands go up to Tessa’s chest and this happens:
“His hands go to my chest and he cups my breasts beneath his hands.
“Can I. Take. Off. Your…bra?””
I. Fell. Asleep.
In the…. middle?
Samantha: Is this. How. Humans. Speak when. Aroused?
Mari: If you’ve been doing it wrong, no need to confess in the comments.
Tessa gives him permission and he expertly removes her bra. Tessa only thinks about how much practice he must have doing that, but shuns such horrible, horrible thoughts away. Very soon, Hardin says he’s going to come. His kisses get all sloppy (?). I’m sorry for the visual, but the best way I can recap the rest of this scene is by saying that Tessa’s thoughts are Jim Carey and Hardin is a fire hydrant.
Tessa says that after Hardin comes, her chest fills with this strange new sense that she’s one step closer to becoming a woman. Ah yes, bringing men pleasure, that universal key to womanhood we all know so well.
Mari: Tessa just stares at the wet spot on Hardin’s boxers as he recovers from what he says was a totally unique experience for him. Tessa’s on-the-hand-job training apparently gave him the greatest orgasm of all time. What he actually says is, “I have never come like that before,” and Tessa gets all embarrassed, taking it to mean that she did something wrong. Hardin tells her she was so good at that! Usually it takes more than someone just grabbing him through his boxers to make him come. Of course, this just again reminds Tessa of all the women Hardin has been with, so she gets sad and jealous. She tries to take solace in the fact that she’s better than all them, but alas. Tessa doesn’t know why she bothers to be jealous since she’s planning to Stay Away From Hardin™. She laughs at herself as she thinks about how much she wants to just live in this moment, since she’s not a living in the moment kind of girl.
Hardin asks what she’s laughing out loud to herself about. She doesn’t want to tell him about her jealous thoughts. Hardin starts to tickle her, and we get another moment that is indicative of a woman trying to convince herself that her abuser loves her:
“His laughter booms through the room– and it’s the most beautiful sound I have ever heard. I have never heard him laugh this way, and something tells me hardly anyone has. Despite his flaws, I consider myself lucky to see him in this moment.”
I truly do not understand this idea that even though the bad stuff is really bad and really prevalent, it makes the good stuff more valuable because it’s so difficult to come by. PSA: the laughter of someone who treats you well and laughs often is no less precious than the laughter of dick because you only hear it once a year.
Samantha: It’s true. Contrary to popular belief the brief laughter of an abuser does not erase all the abuse.
Mari: Tessa is out of breath and tells Hardin she’ll tell him what she was thinking. Spotting his wet boxers, though, Hardin tells her to hold that thought because he has to change his boxers.
AND THAT’S WHERE THE CHAPTER ENDS????
WHY IS THAT A CHAPTER ENDING REVELATION OR ACTION?
Samantha: Am I laughing or crying? Even I can’t tell anymore.
Next time on After: Hardin changes his boxers in chapter 34.