Culotte de cheval
It was the first time they were meeting for twenty years. He had contacted her through one of those internet networks that all professionals feel they have to be present on to show that they exist. They had first corresponded, she reluctantly. She had not forgotten, thirty years on, his consistent betrayals of her. Then he had phoned her, and now they were to meet again. They could renew their casual relationship without any strings attached. It was enticing, particularly after a long stretch of celibacy. He could be what was now called a ‘fuck buddy’. A friend with benefits.
Janine looked at herself critically in the mirror. Sixty years old and a few kilos too heavy. Pear-shaped. Her heart must be in good condition; apple-shaped people were at higher risk. It was too late to drop the weight. Her face was alright and she had nice rounded shoulders. Her neck was beginning to show wrinkles, but no more than her face, so at least her appearance was consistent. She observed how the wrinkles either spread out from or gathered into one place. Around her eyes, they spread out from the fold of her smile. Her neck wrinkles spread down in a V to join her bust. In fact it almost looked like the inverted V above her bottom crack. She peered round at her backside to see if that were so, but her glasses slid down her nose and she lost focus. She wondered whether according to fractal law the wrinkles, both large and minute, were self-similar across her body.
She pushed her glasses back up onto the bridge of her nose. Her arms were goodbye arms, wobbling at her every move. Her breasts had experienced the pull of gravity, though her nipples still reached up to greet the sun. Her bottom was wide and round; in a few years it would be at her knees. Her legs tapered off, emphasising the size of her posterior. Her feet, upon which the entire structure was perched – day in, day out – were tiny. It would just have to do. On a good day she could dress to make herself look ten years younger.
Moving away from the mirror, she opened her cupboard and scanned the clothes anxiously, wondering what would be most appropriate. The only certainty was that she would wear what she called her Julia Roberts boots. Unlike the star actress’s shiny patent leather ones, these were not black, had neither a pocket for condoms nor were the worse for the wear. They were a winner: every time she walked into a room, the guys would look at her with Pavlovian reflexes, minds busily fantasizing about what she might do in or out of bed.
Then she had to work her way up from there. Should she wear tights, stockings and garters or socks? Frilly knickers, slit boxers or slim thong? Leggings and tight top or skirt and blouse? Matching bra or disparate underwear?
She flicked through the hangers. Winter clothes were not as enticing as summer clothes. She could show more off with summer clothes. Janine was singularly proud of her slim waist. Most women her age had that tell-tale menopausal thickening around the midriff. Her years of assiduous abs every morning had ensured that her stomach remained flat. The downside was that the thin waist underlined the large and sinking buttocks.
When they had been together, she had had more of a stomach and less of a behind. He used to fold her tummy fat between his fingers and say, nodding his head towards the suggestive fold, “Doesn’t that look like an ass?” She could never work out quite what he meant. She really wanted to see him. To see how well he had aged compared to her. To see if he could still bring her to the brink of orgasm and back several times. To see if his penis would still leap to attention or whether it would lie, placidly, requiring coaxing and cajoling. She briefly wondered whether he took Viagra. She wanted him for the sex he used to give her.
Janine hadn’t had meaningful sex for what seemed like an age. Having read in a magazine that the vagina shrunk if it wasn’t properly exercised, she had bought a dildo after her divorce and diligently exercised her vagina in the vague hope that some real sex might happen one day. And now it was about to occur. And she did not know what to wear. She reminded herself it was not a first date, they had had sex before. But it was a first date at her age; and it was a first date after many years.
She decided to start with the boots. She pulled on some black lace socks, and slipped into the boots. She went back to stand in front of the mirror and took a good look at herself. The tops of her thighs were starting to show their age, as the skin folded slightly over itself down the inside of her leg. No longer elastic and smooth. The outside was even worse – culotte de cheval – that ugly protrusion just below her hips towards the back, full of fat, over her boots, bunched in unsightly cellulitic complacency, was living proof that she had abandoned her legs for her abs. She should have done a complete workout every day all these years. Gravity was stronger than will and her body knew it.
Perhaps she should wear garters and stilettos instead. He had loved garters. The first time she had worn them he was so aroused he had taken her in the lift and come with a speed and violence that neither of them had expected. He had slipped his hand under her skirt, felt the slight protrusion and practically ripped off her panties. She sighed. She had left him when she had found out that he favoured lunchtime trysts with prostitutes who wore red garters and black bras. Thirty years ago. A whole generation. The thought was depressing.
He had always been turned on by unusual situations. They would go running in the forest and, hot and sweaty, he would sit on a log, pull her onto his knees and unbutton his shorts. She would wear long t-shirts so no one could see that in fact they were having congress. Someone had nearly discovered them while climaxing, merely running past with an enquiring stare. She remembered one business dinner where they had left the restaurant with some colleagues and he had pulled her back, lifted her skirts and taken her from behind. They had stood, pretending to watch the others walk away.
Ten years after they had broken up, she ran into him again at a wedding. The pull was irresistible. She had not yet met her husband and he was in between relationships. Or so he said. Of course, she soon discovered that he was playing the field more than ever. In the meantime, they picked up where they had left off. His games had become stranger. He asked her to put him on a leash and treat him like a dog. At first she thought he was joking, but he had been in earnest. He pulled out a red dog collar studded with brass spikes, and a matching leash. He put the collar on and handed her the leash.
“Down boy!” Janine had said laughingly, scarcely believing what was happening. He had dropped to all fours.
“Woof! woof!” he barked.
“Come along now, let’s go for walkies.”
He wagged his behind and she had been able to see his erection, filling out his trousers. She had tossed the leash back at him and fled.
She pulled off her boots. Boots were ridiculous, it was May and much too hot to wear boots, although since global warming had begun one never knew what the weather would be like. She gazed vacantly into her cupboard. Nothing really inspired her. She decided to start with her underwear instead. Black bra and matching knickers. She examined her Brazilian shave in the mirror. At least her public hairs were still black. Sparse, but black. Black lingerie might not set that off. So matching white lacy bra and pants. She pulled them on and looked at herself critically. That would do, from the front at least. She spun around to look at the back.
She scolded herself for not having faced the facts earlier. The lace fell delicately over a wide expanse of puckered skin that dropped downward. A Verdun battlefield, pockmarked with shell craters. The smooth curvaceous lines of her youth had disappeared and Time’s distentions had replaced them. She could not ignore either that or the fat. She turned away again. Well, she could strip in the dark and perhaps he would not notice. She would get up in the dark, dress and leave before he could see what time had done to her.
She gazed despairingly back into her cupboard. Perhaps a flared skirt to show off her waist and a small tank top. Black skirt and purple top. That might do it. Open high heeled sandals. She pulled everything out and dressed slowly. Twirling in front of the mirror she thought that for a sixty year old it was a pretty good turnout. But was it really worth all the hassle? She would pretend to be uninvolved and then once the night was over she would moon for weeks over perhaps and might be and if only. Could she really warm up an icy cold relationship and fan the flame to white hot again? Did she really want it?
She undressed slowly and padded downstairs to the sideboard where the bottles were stored. Pulling one out, she decided that yet again Jack Daniels would be her sole bed companion.