Her body wobbles next to mine as I lie, awake in the dark, pondering the miracle of my being here with her. Her thunderous breathing regulates my thoughts, the heavy intake and expiration of breath like a train crashing through the night. Her side of the bed leans dangerously close to the floor, while I lie light as a feather on mine, trying a funambulist’s act not to roll down against her. I think irrelevantly of Power Plates, the micro-muscular structure solicited as people balance precariously on the machine, pretending to be astronauts. I am like them, but my balance is fragile and my body is now weary. It is the winter of my life and she lies beside me, the most unlikely mound of flesh I have ever considered and the one I love most.
Just when all seemed well with the world, once Jack and Jill have fallen in love, have moved in together, have bought their first apartment, have decided to marry and have a baby – or two, have moved gently up the jobs and housing ladder, have established a circle of good friends and a dinner-party-giving social life, have holidayed in Cuba or other cool middle-class destinations, have swapped their left-leaning politics for more centrist ones, have organised their granddaughter’s naming day, have reached the extraordinarily ripe age of fifty-two and forty-nine respectively and are, indeed, a ‘perfect couple’, Jack and Jill, at the top of their hill, just then, when everything seems just peachy, then things… oh dear… then that’s when things can go awfully wrong. And here’s how they did.
I had rented a cabin north of Billings on the edge of the Bull Mountains. My line of work gets slow in winter and I wanted the time out to do some writing. The snow started toward the end of October, kind of early but not unusual and nothing serious. There was something of a wind chill though. So as I drove down the dirt road from my cabin to the highway I was intrigued to see a figure trudging along. We arrived at my junction at the same time. The figure turned out to be a girl: stocky, round of face under her parka hood. She was carrying a long rifle. I recognised it as a buffalo rifle, and an old one at that. She had stopped to let me pass. I wound down my window. “I’m headed into town, can I give you a ride?"
It killed him to see her like that, spread across the bed like a gisant. He was twenty-four, and she, at forty-three, was supposed to be the mature one, the one with her ducks in a row. But he believed she needed him in all of the same ways and for all of the same reasons the twenty-somethings did. But her needing him stung in a unique way. It was the sting of a woman’s need and not a girl’s. You see, young women, they have their whole lives in front of them.
I’m always afraid just before I fuck you. While you wait, betraying no impatience, even though inside I know you’re needy—begging for it. It’s cliché but I’m sure it’s true. You’re empty in a way only I can fill. So you wait, watching me like you know exactly what you’re going to get. It makes my mouth go dry as much as it makes my clit throb. My pulse jumps. I move my hands slowly, adjusting the strap-on harness. I know it gets you impatient when I’m so deliberate, but I’m also buying time.
In every wardrobe hides an item of clothing that magically confers a gift on its owner: the exquisitely cut suit in which you are a warrior; a pair of heels that reconstruct your walk into a look-but-don’t-touch strut (with matching attitude); the softest mohair jumper whose feel on bare skin is a soothing balm that warms you both inside and out. These can transform your appearance and behaviour and so should be treated with circumspection and respect, for they can lead to unsettling… adventures.
My good friend Belle worked in the Book & Burger in a small town not far from Missoula. She was a sparky and good hearted woman – quite petite in a chunky way – with a mane of very blonde hair. She was well-liked locally but her real source of respect and fame was her way with cars. She fixed, drove and raced them with great skill. To be specific, she – and her family – were obsessed with the Dodge. By family, I mean parents, uncles, cousins. Her ex-husband was not so keen. The cars were her children so maybe that’s why he became an ex.
There was no siren, no news bulletin, our town just filled like a glass under the tap, before anyone could say the first word of alarm.
Jane wrinkled her nose, knowing that the bar’s smoke would stay on her skin even after she’d showered. Still, she wandered further into the bar, letting her eyes adjust to the shadows. The walls were a classic black; she wondered if it was due to a lack of imagination or a need to showcase a hard outer shell, to prove its authenticity. Some of the wallpaper was peeling and exposed a light brown paint. A scratched mirror hung near the hallway that lead to the bathrooms, and a pool table sat under one of the few lights, unoccupied. Budweiser flashed in red, seemingly timed with the alternative rock. She had heard of this place, but had never been, and she knew she was overdressed.
Fat Tanya was on duty the night the robbers came into the store. She shot dead the big one holding the knife with the old .38 revolver that was kept under the counter by the till. His companion, a small guy, fell to his knees and begged for mercy. Tanya sat on him until the deputy sheriff arrived from Baker.