short stories ~ literary fiction ~ social commentary
copyright © 1999 - 2013
I bought something just for you.
She changed her mind, unsure, hidden, sweltering in the overwhelming feeling to turn and walk away. Besides, she reminded herself: it’s just coffee.
“I expected more people.” He scanned the room, his eyes returning to hers, looking down. He wasn’t much taller, only three inches. “We don’t have to stay. I thought we’d have a crowd to get lost in.”
“It’s okay. It’s okay. Coffee? Yes, coffee. There, in the corner.”
Mabel’s Kitchen was a quaint hole-in-the-wall, the perfect place for a close encounter of the third kind, where they’d not stumble over anyone they knew. A nook with a homey feeling, a maximum capacity of thirty-five, the absence of windows shut out the bright afternoon sun.
A nod, leading, almost to the table, a glance over his shoulder, taking her wrist, not pulling, not dragging, her in tow. The door opened, Men, closed. He turned on her, close, her back to the door.
She took his wrists, pulling a breath, his hands worked the buttons, her hands impotent, riding his. This is not a good idea, she thought. She poised the declaration No, but couldn’t give it voice.
“Pretty. New? Black lace and flowers. Perfect.” His calm, it-seems-like-we’ve-done-this-a-million-times demeanor disarmed her.
She knew if she admitted buying the bra for him, she’d be admitting too much. Her cheeks caught fire. “Yeah.” Deep draw on the air, hands flat to the door, back arched.
Slipping in her shirt, his right palm cupped her ribs, his left hand cradled her right breast.
“I got little tatas.” Her self-perceived inadequacies rushed in on her like a backdraft. She wanted to pull she shirt closed. She burned to turn away. His gaze trapped her, contradicting everything she felt about herself.
“Cute little tatas.” His lips barely caressed the waterfall of color running down her neck onto her chest, pausing on the exposed bulge of her breast.
“Damn.” She tensed against the door. This, is not the plan.
His fingers worked the buttons again, his eyes watching hers, her eyes watching back.
“That’s as naked as I need you at the moment.”
Helping with the buttons, she sighed with relief. She sighed with disappointment.
Like a butterfly’s wing, his lips touched hers, hers, his.
Tapping sang from the door. “You okay in there?”
She blushed. He snickered.
“You’ve really been married three times?” she asked casually, watching first her coffee, and then his seaweed brown eyes.
“Marry young and marry often.” His hand roamed the small table, a finger glancing the back of her free hand.
“Where’d you tell her you are?”
He shrugged. “Where’d you tell him?”
She shrugged back. “Just curious, I guess. Like –” She narrowed her cobalt eyes, a surreal color belying the reality, calling into question the soft sun-bleached winter wheat of her hair. “– I know you’ve got this life you haven’t told me about.”
He mocked her eyes. “When I was seven, I was out playing and got to laughing so hard, I peed my pants. I went to the birdbath and dumped in on myself, telling my mother it spilled on me when I was changing the water.”
“That was smart, I guess, but what’s that got to do with anything?”
“Many things happened in my life – are happening in my life.” He cradled her hand, running his thumb across her pallid flesh. “None of which has anything to do with this moment.” He nodded toward the restroom. “That moment, or any other moment with you.”
She bit her pinked lower lip. “I was just –”
“I was going to say: the time to address your guilt was when I suggested with meet, but really: the time for you to address your guilt was when I first IMed you.”
“Most people want to make a complex stew out of life. It’s not. It’s simple. You told me things you thought I wanted to hear, I’ve told you things I thought you wanted to hear.”
“It’s been a good friendship, us supporting each other unconditionally. The thing I like about the Internet is I can at least pretend people are listening to me. This – meeting ¬– is something different.”
“We lie to our self twice about our lover. In the beginning to her benefit, then in the end to her detriment. Here, in this moment, we just have now.” He sat back, taking in the room. “You’re the most beautiful woman here.”
He twisted a smirk, leaning forward, taking her hand again. “Oh, if you only knew.” His eyes danced from her face, down her neck, pausing on her breasts as if to see through the soft white cotton of her shirt. “Then, allow me to add: in this moment, to me, you are the most beautiful woman in the room.”
Oh, man, she thought, blushing deeply again, considering her coffee. If my husband would look at me like this. “Or look at me at all.”
“Just thinking aloud.” She rolled her eyes, unsuccessfully trying to withdraw her hand. “I can’t remember the last time –”
“Love can change, become comfortable.”
She sighed. “Not fiery.”
“Do you pull your wife into bathrooms –”
“She’d think it stupid and embarrassing. Besides, the smell of the urinal blocks makes her gag.”
“That’s too bad.” She glimpsed the door. “I’d not noticed –”
“That would be the point.”
“How’d it go?” he asked, not looking from the computer.
“As expected. You’re home early.”
She meant: Why are you home early?
“I was thinking.” The buttons came undone. With much lip-biting, she opened her shirt. “What do you think of this?”
“You have to turn around and look.”
“Just a sec. I gotta harvest this.”
Thirty seconds dripped by. Finally, he turned. “You’ve got a muffin top going.”
She closed her shirt, hugging herself. Fifty years on the planet and squeezing out two kids will do that. “I meant the bra.”
“Oh, whatever, you don’t have much to fill it anyway.” He swiveled back to Farmville.
The dig, which was similar to any dig on any given day, didn’t sting as usual. She closed her eyes, embracing the memory of a firm hand and soft lips. “Cute little tatas,” she whispered aloud.
“We just talked,” she said into the phone, watching her eyes in the mirror, now unhappy with the contact lenses, lenses that changed her eyes from tanned leather to surreal blue, lenses that her husband hadn’t noticed, or at least hadn’t commented on in six months.
“Is that all?” The question stung sharp, like an accusation.
Well, he did drag me into the restroom where he torn my shirt open and we made out. “We had coffee, too.” Okay, we didn’t really make out. Unable to explain what happened, she didn’t try.
“So, we still don’t know.” A long pause dripped in the air. “Now what?”
“He is a charmer. And, a flirt.”
“You’re telling me stuff I already know. I can see how weak-minded women can fall for that crap.”
“I’m going to have to see him again.”
“He didn’t bust a move at all?”
“I wish you’d never involved me in this.”
“You’re the only friend I have who hasn’t met my husband.”
Friend. We knew each other in high school decades ago. If not for Friendfinder – “I thought the roleplaying would be interesting, if not fun. Now, I don’t know.”
“I do appreciate you doing this for me. I thought about hiring a PI to kick the door in and catch the sleaze ball in the act, but that costs money.”
“I understand.” She broke the connection, still watching the mirror. “He has cheated, what’s passed between us already online.” She dropped her eyes to the phone. “I’m not sure you’d understand that, and I’m not sure it’d matter.”
The card read: Franklin Plaza Hotel, Saturday, 8 PM.
Her first thought was: I hate going into the city. The flowers were impressive, a bold gesture. She was glad the affair wasn’t secret. Punching keys on her phone, aware of stares from her coworkers, she asked for her husband. Minutes leaked by.
“I have to go out Saturday night.”
“With that guy?”
She closed her eyes. “Yeah.”
“You aren’t going to fuck him, are you?”
“Just kidding. I think this is great you doing this for your friend. Like something out of those cheesy chick flicks. Maybe I’ll go down to AC. The guys have been talking about a road trip.”
She hoped he trusted her. She knew the reality was that he thought no one would wish to fuck her. “I’d like to go to AC, with you, sometime. All I seem to do anymore is work, clean the house and take care of you.”
“I’m low maintenance!”
Get real. It’s like having a kid back home. “Yeah, you are.”
“And, you spend a lot of time on the computer with that guy.”
“Because Sharon asked me to, not because I want to.”
“Whatever. I’ll be back sometime Sunday morning.”
“Want me to harvest your crops while you’re gone?”
She didn’t call Sharon with an update, not wanting a PI to kick the door in.
“Sharon,” she said to the rushing hot water of the shower. “I’m getting the idea you’re the loser, not your husband. Maybe if you’d turn off whatever you’re doing, my guess is Farmville, and look at him and talk to him, he’d not be trolling the Internet for someone to listen to him.” She rolled her eyes. “Isn’t that all any of us really want?”
She realized she was talking about herself and in that moment, decided not to go on the date.
A tremendous sense of relieve came over her with the decision made. She resented Sharon calling out of sun in left field, feinting a friendship in high school, talking like they were best friends back in the day. She knew of Sharon. She did not know Sharon. They ran in completely different circle.
The request appealed to something primal, something reptilian deep in the recesses of her mind squirming, yearning to be born. They had touched in cyberspace like she had never been touched before. “Okay,” she said to the computer, deleting the email she had started. “I can’t break up with you electronically.”
She wanted, needed to watch his eyes watching hers one last time. She got dressed, not like she had planned the past week as she looked at the flowers on her desk. She wore simple underwear, white cotton, not the complex black lace and flowers she bought for him. Jeans, comfortable, a size too large topped by a navy gray sweatshirt sporting a black and white cow graphic, pink socks and sneakers. “Sneakers, in case I have to run away.”
Her makeup subtle, she left her contact lenses in the case, tying her shoulder-length hair back and high.
The house was quiet, comfortable, her husband having left hours before, excitedly rushing for the door like a teenager off to an amusement park with his friends, no kiss goodbye, no hug. She washed the dishes, dried them, putting them away. Signing onto her husband’s Facebook account, the crops needing harvesting were done in fifteen minutes. Another fifteen minutes melted away gathering his clothes for washing the next morning.
“Comfortable,” she said. The years had been that, comfortable. The relationship was always safe. “Would be nice if you’d not say mean things to me all the time.” Women in the office would tell stories of their husbands saying mean things, which sounded like grade school whining. “Some men are just like that,” she said, closing the door behind her. “Their insensitivity is more about their insecurity than it is about any reality. My boobs are small. I do have a muffin top.”
The train let her off underground six blocks from the hotel. She didn’t like driving in the city, never finding a place to park, and when she did, the cost was shocking. A mature man held the door, nodding a greeting. The restaurant was easy to find. She assumed they’d meet in the restaurant. She felt underdressed, but knew she would; however, she wasn’t the only one in casual clothes, the Franklin being popular with tourists from around the world.
With a quick survey of the room, she chose a spot at the bar away from the restrooms. “Seltzer with a twist, please.”
The young man nodded, mechanically producing the drink. “Anything else, Mrs. Emerson?”
“Huh? What?” She blushed. “Who are you?”
“Sorry, you don’t remember. Corey and I went to school together. We chaired the student committee at the PTA. You were one of the few parents who never missed a meeting.” Holding her eyes, he still returned the blush as if she could read his thought.
“Eh, nice to see you again.”
“How’s Corey? I’ve not seen her since graduation.”
“Getting married, actually. After graduation next year.”
Hands floated on her shoulders, warm lips touched her cheek. “Bourbon, rocks,” he whispered.
The young man reach across the bar. “Joey. Pleased to meet you, Mr. Emerson. I went to school with Corey.”
He took Joey’s hand. “Nice to meet you. Busy with work, I missed so many of Corey’s friends.”
“Life’s about choices, sir. My parents were all over me, but now I have to work my way through college.”
“Difficult to say which is the better choice.”
After supplying the bourbon, the bartender retreated to other patrons.
“Nice save,” she said.
He didn’t sit, standing close. “I have a room.”
“We need to talk.”
“Rooms are good to talk in.”
“I think here is just fine.”
“Joey’s friends might stop in.”
She bit her lip. “Good point.”
“That going to be okay?” he asked, swiping the card, the door opening.
“Yes. I’ll jump out in front of it, call Corey in the morning, just in case.”
As the door closed by its own power, he turned on her, cupping her face, stepping close.
“William, eh, we need to talk.”
He drank her eyes. “Shh for a moment. All you need do is say no.”
His lips floated near hers, pausing. She reached deep for no, but couldn’t bring the air across her vocal cords.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment a very long time,” he said.
She inhaled his bourbon-scented breath. She knew somewhere in the drama she’d have to kiss him, even before they made contact on the Internet. In thirty years of marriage, she’d not kissed another man romantically. In high school, she kissed a boy she hated, selling the kiss, when she was cast in the role of Juliet.
There, with her face in his hands, alone in a hotel room in the Franklin Plaza, she had all the evidence, though empirical, that Sharon was looking for. Her knees grew weak and her lower lip trembled, her hands coming to his stomach to push him away. Again, she reached deep for the word no, again fruitlessly.
I want to be kissed by him.
His lips met hers, just like that, motionless. The universe sighed, time stood still. The forever moment passed too quickly, his lips kneading at her. She resolved not to kiss back, finding herself doing just that, their mouths playing at each other, her arms snaking around him, her right leg twitching.
He backed a half step, bringing her forehead to his lips. “Thank you.”
“Eh, your welcome?”
He smiled into a light laugh, moving across the room. “Drink?”
“No, thank you.” With narrow eyes, she said: “Thanks for the flowers.”
“I was going to just send you an ecard instead.”
“That would work with Corey. You weren’t online all week.”
“Too busy thinking about you. What did you want to talk about?”
She blushed, holding his eyes, crossing over to him. “I forget.” With her cheek on his shoulder, she curled her arms on his chest. “Hold me?”
His arms were already around her.
“I don’t know how I got here,” she whispered. She knew Sharon had asked her to make herself available to her husband, to see whether her husband was cheating. That was the plan.
“Does it matter?”
I don’t know how I got here, wanting to make love to you.
“I thought it was enough, you know,” she muttered into his shoulder.
He snuggled the side of her head. “Liking someone and having that someone like you, saying nice things?”
“Affirming me, yes.”
She shivered, and then let out a long sigh. “Last week, yes. You eating me with your eyes. Your desire, your lips barely touching mine. Your lips resting on my breast. All filled me up. I thought that was enough.”
Wrestling from his grasp, she backed away, reaching behind herself, laddering the back of her sweatshirt, watching his eyes, pulling the shirt over her head in front of her. “All you have to do is say no.”
He smirked, sitting on the bed. “Okay.”
She released the shirt down her arms, to the floor.
“I’ve always liked the classic cotton, natural, like the brown of your eyes.”
She shrugged, dropping the straps down her arms, tugging the bra around, releasing the hooks. “I thought the blue might be sexy.” The bra joined the sweatshirt.
“You, are sexy. I knew your – what did you call them?”
“Yes. I knew your tatas would be adorable.”
She blushed again, but kept his eyes. She’d never dream of underdressing with her husband watching. She’d undress in the same room, but not with the intention of having him watch. “No comment about my muffin top?”
Pinching flesh with both hands, she said: “Overhangs my pants, like a muffin top.”
“Endearing name. Like the brown of you eyes, I like that you’re well-fed, that you eat well, that you don’t starve yourself, punish yourself, deprive yourself. Your muffin top, too, is sexy.”
This is not a good idea. She placed a foot on his knee. “Little help?”
He loosened the shoestring, flipping her sneaker off. “I like, too, that you didn’t dress up. Real, honest, like our relationship has been.”
There’s not been anything honest about our relationship. She supplied the other shoe with the same result.
“I guess you expect me to get undressed, too,” he said.
“Not if you don’t want to.” Undoing the snap and dropping the zipper, she bowed to the waist, worming her pants to the floor. With a bend of the leg in turn, she pulled her socks off. “Still sexy?” she baited.
By the intensity of his stare, she had no reason to doubt the statement.
Under the covers, she stared at the ceiling, listening to the shower run. She thought of her husband down the casino with his friends, ogling the woman with big breasts. She didn’t actually catch him, but she knew he masturbated a good deal. She’d lost interest in him losing interest.
After thirty years of marriage, sex with her husband had become mechanical, she feeling she wasn’t anything more than a sperm receptacle, something to masturbate in.
“Still here?” His voice surprised her.
Naked, he moved around casually, as if they’d been married for years. “I didn’t really need a shower. I thought I’d give you another chance to run for the door.”
He wrestled his way under the covers, propping his head on his hand, watching her face. She turned on her side, watching back, his knee slid up between her legs, her leg moved over his, his arm over her shoulder.
“Nice mesh,” he said, kissing her softly.
“I was just thinking the same thing.”
For what seemed like hours, his mouth danced on hers, her lips playing back, his hand exploring her ear, the side of her face, her neck, her breasts and finally slipping between her legs, his fingers working her moist vagina open, sliding up, his finger slowly circling her clitoris.
She gulped, raising her leg, allowing comfortable access. “Oh, my.”
“Like that, huh?” His warm breath raked her face.
Opening her eyes, she blushed, finding his eyes dancing on her face. “Yeah,” she whispered, wrapping her arm around his head, planting her lips on his, accepting his tongue into her mouth, lost in the overwhelming experience. His forefinger slid down, penetrating, his palm applying firm pressure, up about an inch, down, then up again slowly, each movement drawing a moan as she pushed back.
This is not the plan, she reminded herself as he rolled on top of her. She tried to lay her legs flat on the bed, together. He worked between her legs, taking either side of her head, his thumbs on her temples, his eyes drinking hers.
“You’re the most beautiful woman in the room.”
She giggled. “I’m the only woman in the room!”
“Don’t cloud the issue with facts.” He kissed her quickly, softly. “Let me ask you something.”
She felt trapped, but not a prisoner. “Sure. You have my undivided attention.”
“You sure you wish to do this?”
No. She could feel his penis against her. She knew, given her position, he could force himself in, but it wouldn’t be easy without her cooperation. His lips came to hers again, her legs spread and her knees rose in answer to his question. Without moment on his part, she drew him in. He closed his eyes, burying himself deep within her.
“Sweet,” he said, holding his position, pulling away just a little to watch her face. “Tell me about the tattoo.”
Watching up at him, she said: “Huh?”
“Birds of Paradise, my guess, looking like a waterfall of color leading from your neck to your yummy what did you call them?”
“Yes, tatas.” He rolled his eyes, taking three long strokes, than pausing deep in her again. “Is it spiritual? Religious?”
She tried to breath, successfully grinding just a little. “Neither. It’s kinda embarrassing.”
He matched her rhythm playfully, kissing her cheek and then her ear. “Tell me.”
She worked her hands down to the small of his back, pulling to match his stroke, working her hips to the motion. “High-school-to-piss-my-parents-off.”
He laughed subtlety. “You should at least make up a better story than that. Maybe some lurid tale about a vacation in the islands.”
He lifted away from her, reaching between them.
“You’re not going to have to do that,” she whispered, taking his face in her hands.
His lips found hers again, his hands on her cheeks, their cadence meaningful. The universe took a breath. She lost herself in the sensation, pulling, pulling, pulling. Her body rippled like a flag in the wind, she shivered, she shook, her legs convulsed. She tried to pull away, and couldn’t. He buried deep in her and held. She pushed back.
She screamed through her clenched teeth, convulsing again, breaking into a wonderful sweat.
He kissed her cheek, her ear and then her forehead. With her breathing close to normal, he softly kissed at her lips, her kissing back.
“Wow,” she said into the kiss. “I’m not a screamer.”
He snickered. “Today, you are.”
Watching her eyes, he picked up his rhythm, her working back against him. In moments, he withdrew, planting his penis on her stomach, his mouth on hers, moaning softly as semen flowed up to her breasts.
She expected him to push off and run for the bathroom, maybe getting dressed on the way. They made out for a quarter of an hour, him humming sweetly. Finally, he rolled on this back, pulling her to him. They spoke of her children, college, her job, and her sweet breasts for two hours.
“You can have the shower first,” she offered.
“I want to smell like you when I get home.”
She bit her lip. “Oh, that would be fun, but I can’t afford it.”
Man, she said to herself, watching the image in the steamy mirror. Drying off, she slipped into her bra and panties, returning to the room.
He watched her in the mirror, adjusting his tie. “I love you,” he said.
“I can tell,” she answered, worming into her jeans. “I love the idea of you.”
He narrowed his eyes at the reflection, smiling. “This is it, then, huh?”
“Yes, this is it.”
The sun peeked over the trees, washing the night away. Sitting on the lawn chair in her backyard, she shivered at the memory of the violation she allowed to her body. From the first IM, she enjoyed the romance, always rationalizing she was doing a favor for Sharon. Somewhere black and white became gray. “Yummy,” she said aloud, thinking of his eyes watching hers as he penetrated her, as she pulled him inside her.
She punched numbers on the cell phone, sipping her coffee.
“Do you know what time it is?”
She chuckled. “Not really. Around sunrise.”
A moment leaked away. “Oh, so?”
“I’d say he’s a womanizer, and a flirt.”
“So, he’s cheating?”
“No, Sharon. Sorry to disappoint you. He’s what we called a pussy winkle back in high school.”
“He gets a girl all worked up, then doesn’t deliver. I think he just gets off on the romance, the chase. It only looks like he’s hitting everything in town.”
“Damn. I was hoping to void the prenup.”
Bitch. “Sorry to disappoint.”
She no sooner broke the connection, when her husband stumbled out into the yard, dropping on a chair. “Man, what a night.”
She shrugged. “How much did you lose?”
“It’s not about that!”
“That much, huh?”
He looked to the grass like a scolded puppy.
“I want a divorce.”
“What? Where’s this coming from? Is there someone else?”
She smiled. Yeah, there’s someone else: me. “We can decide who gets what. I don’t really need anything.” I’m okay.
“What am I supposed to do?”
“Move in with your mother?”