Men always told her she was too "reserved," "traditional," or "good. With Damien, she decided to be different. A little bolder. Try new things and not care later. That became the plan. He asked her out on Tuesday during their lunch break and she decided right away that Friday would be the night for the "new Tina."

After work, she went straight to the mall and directly to the trendy young miss section of the largest department store. For once, she didn't even look at the clearance rack, and instead moved right to the stand in the front with all the lanky faceless mannequins around it modeling the new fashions. She decided on a tight, black shirt with a plunging v-neck and splurged on a pair of Calvin Klein hip-hugging jeans. When that was finished, she catapulted over to the lingerie section and purchased a matching black lace bra and panty set. It was her first thong underwear and she decided to give it a try the next day at work.

As soon as she stepped into the large leg holes and pulled the thong up to her hips, she felt transformed. The thong definitely gave her a new attitude. She was a woman who dared to walk on the wild side. At lunch even Damien said that she seemed rather "energized" for the middle of the week. Little did he know. Tina enjoyed her secret. Thongs were not "traditional" wear for "reserved" women--at least she didn't think so. This was the strategy: feel like a new person, be a new person.

By Friday afternoon, Tina felt ready for the big date. Damien was to meet her for dinner at the Sunflower Mill at seven o'clock. She spent an extra half hour dabbing on make-up, spraying perfume on all her pressure points, and carefully sliding into her new sexy outfit. When she opened the dark glass door of the restaurant, the tornado of anxiety whirled faster than ever inside of her. Immediately, she spotted Damien seated at a cozy table along the wall, staring out the window into the parking lot. Tina took a deep breath, lifted her chin, and sauntered into the dining room past the hostess. Damien noticed, stood up and gave her an inviting smile. He also wore jeans. Good call, she thought, and the inner cyclone downsized to a mild mid-west storm.

"Tina, you look great." Known as the office hottie at the local ad agency where they worked, Damien had the reputation of being a reformed frat boy. Everyone knew about his wild past because he sure wasn't shy or embarrassed about it and always told stories in the break room. He just plain knew how to have fun. When Tina joined the office staff two months ago, he was the first one she noticed. Sea-green eyes; thick black hair, slightly gelled; and a body that knew the inside of a gym. Tina didn't let many people in on her private life except Barb, the sixty-four year old secretary and "mom" of the office. Only Barb knew she was a church-goer, visited her grandmother weekly at Candle Light Nursing Home, and baked bread in her spare time. She enjoyed doing these things because they made her feel good. Maybe others could sense this wholesomeness about her, but then again, she hadn't been with this company long. Regardless, she knew herself and was surprised when Damien started to show interest in her--loitering at the coffee maker when she was drawing a cup, passing her desk to go to the fax machine a few too many times per day. When he stopped and chatted with her on the way back from an errand and played with the stress ball on her desk, she knew something was going on. Hey Tina, do you know what they're serving today at the CafŽ? Perhaps it was then, she realized that, indeed, the office hottie had a peculiar interest in her. She felt she had to live up to his expectations and bring out the untamed Tina.

Damien scooted around the table and pulled out her chair. Seated, Tina automatically lifted the napkin off the plate and smoothed it across her jeans. Her date returned to his seat and gazed through the daisy arrangement at her. With admirable subtlety, he pushed it aside. Tina's petite frame in the high-backed oak chair made her feel like Alice after a bite of the great Caterpillar's mushroom. The seat wanted to swallow her up. With the non-traditional underwear, she struggled to find her identity in the restaurant like confused Alice did in Wonderland. But she had no time to worry. Damien stretched an arm out and squeezed Tina's elbow. "You really look beautiful."

"Thanks." Her breath quickened. Long dark strands of hair her father had always called "mousy brown," sheltered her ensuing blush, but glimmered in the quiet lights of the Mill. Tina twisted them into tiny coils.

The color in her cheeks began to wane when a waitress swooped in on them. Two glasses, crimson with wine, settled in front of their plates.

"I hope you don't mind that I ordered for you," Damien said. He mesmerized her with those wide as the ocean eyes and all Tina could think was I am with the office hottie. "The first day I saw you, I knew I was going to ask you out," he said. Tina raised her eyes to his. "There was just . . . something about you that made me want to know you better." Damien moved forward a little. "I think it's your independence. That's really appealing to me." He relaxed in his chair and brought his wine glass to his lips, sipping while he had her attention. He then set his glass down in front of him and dropped his own napkin in his lap.

Tina didn't know what to say. She watched the ruby red liquid sway in his glass. From the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of an elderly couple easing their way past the window arm in arm. Dressed for dinner. Tina turned back to face Damien.

"Well," she said. "I was raised only by my mother. My--"

"Were you really?" Damien interrupted. "That must be it. Hey, here comes the waitress. You know what you want?" Tina gaped at him as he opened his menu. The waitress indeed returned to their corner of the restaurant, her cute blond ringlets still in motion. She had to be all of seventeen. Eighteen tops. Tina unfolded her menu. She didn't really have a chance to assess her choices, but she'd been there before and ordered her healthy standby: Lemon butter dill fish and a garden salad.

"Yes. Melody." Damien sat at eye-level with the name-tag. "I'll have the filet mignon with a baked potato. Extra sour cream. And some bread when you get a chance. Oh, and a bottle of this wine," he turned to face Tina, "if that's OK with you." Tina nodded. The waitress scratched down their orders and scurried away.

Damien then started to talk about the mayhem in the office. Tina just nodded. She delighted in watching Damien's hands flicker about as he talked. She liked it even more when his fingers darted near hers, occasionally touching them as they rested around her wine glass. After Melody returned with a fresh bread basket and the wine, Damien reached out and seized Tina's tiny hand with both of his. He held it right there in the middle of the table for a few brief seconds. A warm touch with soft, delicious skin. Sweetness itself, Tina thought. But the enormous blue and gold ring on his pinky finger caught her eye. "The alma mater," he said when she asked about it. He touched his heart. "It's a big part of who I am."

Damien applauded Tina's perceptivity on the matter and choked down his pleasure when she asked about his college years. His numerous stories occupied the mealtime conversation. Damien told her he was his frat's president senior year as the white platter of Dill Fish was lowered to the table. And it was his idea to issue a rebirth of the 1950's panty raid. Damien made his new pledges hunt for girls' underwear and at the end of a certain week, whoever had the most would receive a case of beer. On him. Their choice. But he made it harder than that.

"What I did," he explained, "was to make a few particular rules. The panties had to belong to someone. That was the whole point. The pledges couldn't go to the store and just buy some. That'd be cheating. And," he paused, lowering his voice. Tina edged closer in her chair. "And, they couldn't be Fruit of the Loom or anything like that if you catch my drift. They had to be thongs." He laughed, slapping the table, making the dishes clinker. "Thong underwear! That's great, isn't it?"

Tina started to choke on her wine and felt the fizz enter her nasal passage. It stung. She lunged for her glass of water and knocked half of it over on the table before getting it up to her mouth. "Are you OK, Tina?" He jumped up to blot the table with his napkin.

"Uh, yeah, I'm fine. I just--it just went down the wrong tube." Tina swallowed another big gulp of water and set it near her plate. She ignored his intense stare that was piercing her forehead and grabbed a dinner roll from the basket between them. She shoved the end of it into her mouth.

"Well anyway, that was the big task: who could collect the most pairs of thong underwear."

Tina shifted a little in her seat. "Uh--How many, uh, thongs were retrieved by the winner?"

Damien grinned, pride emanating from his bottle green eyes. "Thirty-seven! John Hunter. Ring a bell? He's our CEO's son, can you believe that? Damn he was good!" Tina blinked. Then she started to wonder what Damien did with thirty-seven pairs of underwear.

She reached for her glass of wine, this time finishing it with ease. The diminishing Alice inside of her replaced the glass on the table and Damien, with a smug look on his handsome face, refilled it.

After dinner, Damien suggested they go shoot pool at O'Flannigan's across the street. Even though she had only played a few times before, she agreed. He ordered a Heineken and she asked for the same. Tonight, she was going to cut loose and drink beer. For a short, quick moment, she thought she heard her mother's voice behind her say, "Nice girls don't drink beer." But spinning around, she realized it was only her vivid imagination. She chuckled to herself and took a swig out of the bottle.

The pool table stood in the back of the bar by two big screen TV's. A group of college kids hung around it, resting their beers in the pockets, watching the screens. But none put down quarters to play. Damien grabbed a pair of cues and gave her a wink. She giggled in a way the untamed Tina might, and glugged more of her beer.

The shouts and shoe-skids of the basketball game echoed overhead. Whenever Tina went to shoot, Damien would sit down on a stool, watch the screen and guzzle his beer. Tina found it easy to knock in the balls when this happened. Her hand worked so much better than the cue. He seemed surprised when she won the first game.

She soon decided that pool was a fun game. When it was her turn to shoot, Tina got to lean over the table and look sexy like those women in jeans adds. If only Damien would watch once in a while. By her third beer, leaning over the table wasn't a conscious decision anymore and Tina felt like she was starting to relax more with him. She wasn't the nervous bread-maker at pool, but instead a novice shark in the water, swift and smooth. Or maybe that was Damien. One time when she was walking past him on the stool, he rapped her on the butt with his cue. Tina, a bit startled, jumped. Her hand flew to her rear end and gave it a rub, not sure what to think. When he walked by her a couple rounds later looking for a clean shot, she decided to return the favor and whacked him with her own cue. He didn't even flinch. It was as if he expected it, wanted it. With a wiggle of his hips, Damien knocked the last striped ball into the corner packet and zeroed in on the eight ball.

But Tina learned a lot about Damien through the smoky fumes of O'Flannigan's. "I want to own my own advertising agency some day, be my own boss," he told her. She asked a lot of questions and he reveled in the attention. He loved designing campaigns and shmoozing clients even more. During the fourth game of pool, he rested his stick against the wall and came over to her. With a certain self-assurance, he cupped both hands around her face. The smoothness of the metal from his ring felt cool on her cheek, and Tina shut her eyes. "I can see myself getting serious with someone like you." Tina smiled and lifted her droopy lids to see his face very close to hers. The thought that he might kiss her right then and there in the middle of the bar passed through her mind, but instead of that, he dropped his hands, retrieved his cue. As he did so, he announced to the bar, "You have a really cute butt," then paused to look at her reaction. "Should I not be telling you that?" he added, leaning over the pool table. Damien missed his shot and turned back around to face Tina. She stood there, Heineken in hand, cheeks flaming hot. All she could think was, He knows about the thong. Excusing herself, Tina hurried to the bathroom to examine her butt in the mirror.

With some reassurance that he could not tell either way whether she wore a thong or not, she trashed her empty beer bottle on the way back to the pool table feeling a little light-headed, but happy. Tina could hear the music thumping from the jukebox near the bar and watched two girls stuff in a dollar. Then she saw Damien strolling towards her. He held her cue in one hand, a new Heineken in the other, and gave her both.

"After this next game, you wanna rent a movie?" Damien asked as his fingers skipped up her back.

"I don't know," she hesitated. It wasn't like her to go home with someone on the first date. It was already eleven o'clock and she had an exhausting work week with the new Cheese Campaign and buying the thong and all. She knew she was attracted to him, but she was also tipsy. Tina didn't know if she should trust herself with him or if it would send him the wrong message.

"Why not?"

"It's our first date...I'm not so sure." Tina shrugged and averted his look. Damien's beer bottle stopped en route to his lovely red mouth.

"What's wrong with a movie? You never heard of renting a movie on a first date?" He drank and sighed. A smile twitched on his lips. "You know you're beautiful," he said, and squeezed her side.

On the way to the video store, Tina knew that no matter what movie they chose, they weren't going to watch it. The shelves were pretty picked over by that time of night, but they soon made a choice. Damien decided--with Tina's approval--on a romantic flick and they left the store with arms around each other.

"Man, what a major throng of people in there," he said once they got into the car. Tina jerked her head sideways to see his face. Was he making fun of her? He laughed and then reached across to her in the darkness. With a practiced deftness, he grazed her cheek with the back of his hand. Tina crossed her legs, aware of her tiny thong, and accepted his advances. Then her mind went numb and he pulled her face towards his.

Tina felt dizzy with bliss as Damien pulled into his apartment complex. They were kissing on his couch before the previews had ended. A million thoughts were running through her head. Most of them were, I love his hand on my back like that and I love how he's touching my face. She opened her eyes as he kissed her neck. Her arms hung around his shoulders and she could smell the dull woodsy scent from his skin as his head bowed under her chin. It had been a long time since she'd been this close to a man. What a beautiful back he has, she thought as she ran her nails up and down his spine.

Damien's lips worked their way up to her ear and she felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end as unexpected tingles rushed over her body. Tina closed her eyes and let his tongue outline her earlobe. He pulled back and kissed her once again on the mouth. A hand glided down the small of her back as he guided her forward and he leaned back on the couch. When she was on top of him, she drew away for a look. She admired his sharp jaw line as his face glowed in the soft blue light from the TV. Damien's eyes were closed and the ends of Tina's hair danced on his cheeks. Brushing her hair back, he smiled and then pressed his lips up to hers. Kissing him felt good. Tina kept telling herself that these feelings were normal. Making out on the first date was normal in this day and age, and so was lying on top of your date. Damien emitted sexuality with every breath and it was anything but easy to slow down now. The voice in the back of her head that admonished her and said, Take things slower and get some control! disappeared with Damien's soft words: "Baby, I like the shape of your lips." Tina kissed his mouth again to prove him right. She could hear Kevin Costner's voice in the background, but could not distinguish his words. Their movie was on.

Then something disturbing happened. Damien's hand crept down her back and into her Calvin Kleins. His fingers slid under the top, middle portion of her underwear and kept moving lower. Aware of her thong, and his warm hand on her cold behind, Tina jerked upwards, sending a knee into his groin. With his hand still in her pants, Tina watched Damien's face contort in pain as he tried to shove her off of him with the other hand. "Oh! I'm sorry!" she said, but as she did so, she felt a sudden yank on her thong. Tina emitted a sharp cry. Damien twisted in pain. His other hand could not reach his groin. He was trying to sit up on the couch, but with all the movement, Tina fell to the floor. Damien's hand, however, was still lodged in her jeans. His class ring had gotten snagged on her lacy black thong. Tina screamed with pain and together they howled until finally Damien's agony subsided enough for him to unhook his finger from her underwear.

They stood up.

"How in the hell did that happen?" he asked.

"Never mind," she said. "I think I'm ready to go home."

"What? What'd I do? Tina, I like you. Weirder things have happened. Right?"

"Not really. I don't think I should be here any more." It was a sign. "I'm ready to go." The thong had spoken.

Monday morning Damien found a puffy white envelop on his desk. A message scripted with wavy lines caught his eye. It read: "Here's No. 38. As you know, it's used, but it's not that old. Do with it as you please. There aren't any more where this came from." Tina watched Damien's shoulders fall as his eyes skimmed the words.

Beneath her desktop, Tina placed one nyloned knee over the other and adjusted her mini-skirt. She then pealed the lid off the Tupperware container sitting in front of her. Inside lay several slices of banana nut bread. Savoring the first bite, Tina swashed the morsel around in her mouth, her tongue playing with its delicate texture.

About the author:

Mary Jo T. Marcellus received her Master's Degree in English from Kansas State University in 2000 and is currently an English teacher in northeast Ohio. She has dozens of guinea pigs who critique "anonymous" writings periodically throughout the school year. Her inspiration comes from the school's halls, from colleagues, from overheard conversations, and not the countless, student essays. Mary Jo wishes to thank her mother for help in editing, "Thong."