Elise & Arthur's first intimacy.

Very gently he swept his thumbs beneath her eyes, wiping her tears away.

"Let me think about all this for a minute, Elise. Why don't you go back to your desk and get some work done? You've presented quite a lot of issues, and I need to sort out how best to help you."

"Okay." Elise whispered. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to trick you. I wasn't thinking."

Elise retreated from the dais and walked back to her desk. The pink bows below her tiny dress danced with every step.

Arthur watched her backside and mentally rubbed his hands together.

Elise, too, was very much aware of her exposed bottom. She carefully lowered herself onto her chair. The fishnet stretched tightly under her privates, providing zero insulation from the cool plastic of her seat. She felt both physically and psychologically stripped. Still, she kept her shoulders square and her back straight to keep her little waist chain from digging into her skin. She did not want Doctor Peters to think she was getting depressed... or worse, chubby.

Within half an hour, Arthur had thought through the next stages of his plan. Elise's revelation of her clit jewelry had not really altered them much. It just made his prospects that much more titillating.

Arthur exited the room through the connecting door to his apartment and returned a few minutes later carrying a sturdy box constructed of polished wood. He set the box down atop his desk and signaled for Elise to join him. Once she was standing beside him, he pointed out two stacks of blank index cards arranged in a plastic tray beside his office phone. One stack was white. The other was red.

"Life," he began with an air of professorial authority, "is made up of relationships. All sorts of other stuff will happen along the way, but essentially everything that matters to you will be a function of relationships. How you manage those relationships determines the quality of your life. Are you with me so far?"

"Sure," Elise replied.

"Good. Now, the way to think about each relationship is like a bank balance. The more you invest in it, the stronger it will be. Conversely, when you make a withdrawal, say, by breaking a promise or disrespecting a friend, your balance in that relationship goes down. If you withdraw more than you put in the relationship ends... or at least it becomes spiteful and begrudging. Make sense?"

"Yeah."

"Now, in your case, you seem to have trouble putting the needs of others before your own, so your bank balances are always low. Then your impulsiveness writes checks that your relationships can't cash. It's like taking money you don't deserve. It's selfish."

"Oh. But I'm not trying to be selfish," Elise countered softly.

"But you don't know better, do you? That's what makes you so frustrating. You need to learn to think of other peoples' needs rather than just your own. Otherwise you'll keep bankrupting all your relationships."

This did actually make sense to Elise. Her senior year of college had involved a lot of bankrupt relationships. "Okay," she said. "How do I learn to do that?"

"Practice. That's how everyone acquires new skills. To help you, I have prepared a little game. It will introduce some structured learning to your summer here at the lab, and I think you will catch on quite quickly."

Arthur lifted the two stacks of index cards and continued: "Each time you do something selfish, I'm going to give you a red card. Each time you do something selfless, I'll give you a white card. The cards you earn will all be placed into this box."

Arthur tapped his finger on lid of the wooden box. It was slotted in the middle like a ballot box.

"At the end of each day," Arthur continued, "we'll open the box together and do a little math to see if you're in debt."

"So," Elise asked, "if I have more white cards than red cards, that's good?"

"Exactly.

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