A brilliant beam of sun falls across Madeline’s bed as she wakes from a beautiful dream. She can’t remember exactly what had happened in the dream, but she vaguely remembers it involving the top of a big green mountain, overlooking an endlessly expansive valley. The bright blue sky was full of large clouds, towering over her like giant puffy castles in the sky.
The faint memory of the mountain top makes her smile. Madeline stretches out her body fully, taking a big full breath. Her first big breath of the day. Madeline’s alarm goes off, but after snoozing it, she cuddles her pillows for another solid fifteen minutes. Madeline doesn’t slip back asleep fully, but she closes her eyes and tries to remember the details of her dream. It was so pleasant. She mostly remembers how it made her feel. Floating and free.
Eventually, she decides it’s time to roll out of bed. Her mind begins to click into a different gear, a little less dreamy and more grounded. Madeline recites her full day’s plans inside of her mind like she is trying to memorize a grocery list:
Quick yoga, indulgent shower, a light breakfast. Get dressed, and go to work. Work a full shift, then quick wardrobe change after work. Happy hour drinks with Chloe… wait no. That’s tomorrow.
Then her mind pauses. Arriving at this point in the day, she begins to feel noticeably giddy and involuntarily flushes in the face. Oh, yes. That’s right. Tonight is her third date with Robyn.
The last two dates had gone very well. Robyn has a beautiful smile that reveals the slight gap in between his two front teeth and the small dimple just to the left of his lips. On the last date, the quick good-bye kiss on Madeline’s cheek had turned into a long good-bye kiss on her lips. The kiss was a delightful surprise. Upon recollecting the way his eyes glinted before he had leaned in to kiss her, Madeline began full on happy-dancing on the edge of her bed. She is very excited for this third date. She has a really, really good feeling about it.
But first things first. Her daily grind. Madeline spent years crafting a healthy routine for herself. There was a lot of trial and a lot of error to get here. She promised herself years ago that she would work hard to create a lifestyle for herself that felt purposeful, motivated and enjoyable. Madeline never wanted to work a job that felt like it sucked too much life and energy out of her. And she always wanted to have sources of joy outside of her job; things that feel good and healthy for the sake of feeling good and healthy. Madeline really started to see and feel the results of that way of thinking on her daily wellness. ‘Life can be pretty magical sometimes, if you go after exactly what you want and after what feels good’ Madeline once said to her best friend, Chloe, at their weekly happy hour hang.
Madeline had to train herself to become a better morning person. It didn’t come easy, and sometimes it still doesn’t. She used to make a habit out of dozing and lounging around in bed for about an hour until she had just enough time before work for a quick bite of breakfast (if she had time to eat anything at all) and then for the commute to work. It’s not that there is anything particularly wrong with that type of routine, but she consistently found herself feeling rushed, stressed and cranky for the first half of the day. She also finds that she always feels more prepared for her day if she starts it off with a light stretch. If Madeline is feeling particularly ambitious and motivated, a full twenty minute yoga practice really gets her blood flowing. She likes how stretching instantly helps connect her body and breath and how it sets her up to feel more grounded. Madeline thanks herself for doing her morning stretches. The gratitude practice is something her favorite yoga teacher once taught her; she should reward herself with gratitude for the little things she does to feel good about herself. She loves the practice so much, she started thanking herself for little things a few times a day.
In the shower, Madeline has her routine down pat. She uses her favorite coconut shampoo and deep conditioner, especially ordered with certain organic oils for moisturizing her tight, curly hair. She generously lathers up with lavender scented soap. Between the coconut and lavender I smell like a fancy cocktail, she thinks to herself as she finishes up her cleansing ritual.
Last but not least, she props up her leg and removes her FemCap. She takes the opportunity to give the small silicone birth control device a quick rinse in the hot shower water. Madeline bought her first FemCap 6 months ago, and using it has been incredibly easy and helpful in keeping her stress level down. Removing and reinserting it at just the right intervals of time has been the most important habit she needed to add to her routine, and even still, she finds it simple enough. The general practice of using the FemCap has allowed for a huge sense of ease in comparison to her many stressful experiences with hormonal birth control pills or IUDs.
Two mornings ago, Wednesday morning, was when she last took out and cleaned her FemCap. Now it’s Friday morning, and even though she hadn’t had intercourse in those two days, she likes the consistency of reinserting it every other day just for the peace of mind. But then, of course, there was her date with Robyn tonight. Madeline doesn’t hold on too tightly to the expectation of where the date with Robyn will lead, as she’s always been a pretty go-with-the-flow type. But if the date goes according to how she hopes it will go, she is definitely going to need to have her FemCap perfectly in place beforehand. At the thought, there it is again… the happy-dancing.
Robyn had texted her yesterday evening saying how much he was looking forward to seeing her again, and that he’s actually thought about her every day since the last date.
She types back, grinning. “I’ve thought about you too.”
On their last date, they had seen a film. Madeline wasn’t swept off her feet by the film itself as much as she was by being with Robyn. In fact, she barely remembers the film at all because twenty minutes into the feature, Robyn’s hand had slipped into hers and the rush of excitement was quite distracting.
It was a good day at work. The customers were friendly and even though she was managing the shop solo, she feels that when her boss came to visit, that she had been pleased with Madeline’s work. They have a good dynamic. Her boss can trust Madeline and Madeline trusts her. Madeline loves representing her boss’s fine collection of antique furniture, second hand art, and local oddities well in the eyes of the customers. Madeline has never needed to try too hard to sell anything in the store for as long as she’s worked there. Her passion for the collection speaks for itself. Madeline’s favorite part of her job is witnessing the eyes of the customers light up when she’s providing the backstory behind a particularly special piece. The velvet love seat once belonged to a successful German composer. This small sculpture is only 20 years old, but it depicts the famous dancer, Martha Graham. Today, Madeline made a big sale, an antique armoire which had been restored to an excellent condition. A big sale for the store means a big extra tip for Madeline from her boss. Madeline’s least favorite part of her job is needing to say goodbye to a special piece that she had become emotionally attached to. But then again, that is her job, and the extra padding to her paycheck usually makes up for it pretty quickly.
Madeline locks up the store for the evening with a spring in her step. It had been a busy day. A lot of time was spent on her feet rearranging the layout of the store, but she felt energized all day. She had slept very well the night before and was definitely excited for later in the evening. She also noticed a huge shift in her energy levels 6 months ago when she stopped taking hormonal birth control pills. The transition was so noticable and so quick, it was actually a little bit startling. Usually, Madeline’s energy would dip significantly about half way through her shift, and she would feel like she needed a nap. Within a few short days of going off the pill, it was as though a fog had been lifted from her head and she could make it through her whole day without a dip in energy. Now, there is a short list of things she feels and doesn’t feel. The list of things she feels includes confidence and protection by the FemCap. On the list of things she doesn’t feel are any negative side effects or the FemCap itself. At first Madeline thought that it was too good to be true. When she first started wearing FemCap, she used to pop into the bathroom multiple times a day to check with her fingers that it was indeed still securely over her cervix, only to find it right where she left it every single time.
Now, in the bathroom of the restaurant where she is meeting Robyn in ten minutes, she does check one more time. Yup. There it is. Snugly and comfortably ready for her when she most needs it.
Madeline winks at herself in the mirror playfully as she fluffs up her hair and reapplies her lipstick. She feels extra cute and confident in her loosely flowing floral dress. “Thank you,” she says to herself in the mirror.
When she exits the bathroom, Robyn is at a table waiting for her. And there it is, that big charming smiling that melts her immediately. They talk spiritedly over dinner about all sorts of things. Films, books, a rocking chair that her boss recently acquired that Madeline wishes she could keep if she only had a place to put it. Robyn is a great listener, and he makes her laugh often. Even though he likes comic books way more than she does, she likes the way he gets excited when he talks about them. And they both love dogs.
“And when we were finishing up dessert, he reached out and took my hand,” Madeline tells Chloe over happy hour drinks the following day.
Chloe raises her eyebrows and smiles. “Oooo, do go on!” Chloe encourages her as she takes another sip of her wine. Having been best friends since middle school, Chloe and Madeline love sharing stories with each other about their love and sex lives.
Madeline blushes as she recounts the details. “Then he looked in my eyes and asked me if I wanted to spend the night at his place.”
Chloe suddenly squeals loudly, which makes Madeline burst out into a fit of giggling.
“It was a really really lovely time. I really trust him. He’s a good communicator.” Madeline says when the giggling finally subsides.
She is particularly referring to the conversation they had at his apartment after dinner. They had been cuddling on the couch and had begun kissing when Robyn politely asked Madeline if she is on birth control. ‘Yes,’ she replied confidently, fondly thinking of her FemCap already in place. ‘And I got tested for STI’s last month. All clear. How about you?” Robyn said he had been tested after his last partner and he was also all clear. She felt so comforted by his transparency.
“And then we shared a very.. *ahem*… lovely night together.” Madeline says winking to Chloe.
In the morning, Madeline didn’t need to rush anywhere, as it was a Saturday and she opens the store an hour later on Saturdays. She asked Robyn if she could take a shower to which he said, ‘yes’. The shower routine was a little different this morning. If she and Robyn hadn’t had penetrative sex, she could leave the FemCap in to fulfill it’s 48 hour cycle. But they had had sex, (much to her delight), and she needed to remove it and clean it, but not before a full 6 hours had passed. They slept a full 7 and a half hours, according to her count, so it was safe to go ahead and remove it. Other than that, she just missed her coconut shampoo and lavender soap.
“I’m glad you had such a good time. Do you think you’ll see him again?” asks Chloe.
“I hope so.” Madeline replies, thinking of the way he looked at her when he said goodbye. “We’ll see where it goes, but yes, I definitely want to see him again.”
They start laughing again, and together they do a little happy-dance.
As they finish their drinks, Madeline tells Chloe about her dreams of tall green mountains and big white clouds.