One nice thing about Josh having more money than God these days, even if the rest of it is colossally weird: whenever they hang out now, the food is always amazing. "Remember in high school when we used to cut seventh and go to Taco Bell all the time?" Natalie asks, knifing a slice of cheese off a block that probably cost about as much as this semester’s grad stipend. They're sitting on the back porch of Josh's cabin, sun just starting to sink and Lake Michigan glittering through a cluster of pine trees, a long pathway snaking down to a dock.
As she inspects each of the roundish shapes, she plays with her toes, as if they are buried in sand. The smell of the sea plays with her nostrils and at that very moment she feels the breeze beginning to go round her legs. She turns around in a pleasant shock to investigate which window has been opened and who the source is to that immense act of kindness. The windows are still shut. A woman has walked past her, in a pace too brisk for the context. She follows her steps with her eyes and moves her head up slowly, from the tan, ankle-length boots to tight black jeans, the narrow camel belt, the white, white, white shirt. The mystery woman stops across from her and watches out the window. She likes her cropped, blond hair and the simple elegance that she carries.
I yawned and opened my eyes. Early morning sunlight was streaming in through the blinds. A cool breeze ruffled pleasantly through my exposed pubic hair. It tickled. I felt myself becoming aroused. I glanced down at my body, dappled with the warming rays of the sun. My breasts were bare. My belly was bare. My thighs were bare. In fact, the only part of me that wasn’t bare was my right foot, to which still clung to the more stubborn half of a cotton ankle sock.
Why should I be bound to thee,
They weren’t brothers but people thought they were. They had been asked three times since they had come here. Once Richard had agreed when someone asked and the stranger had nodded. They had only known each other two days. Now they sat on the shore. Richard looked right into her eyes when they fucked but then as he got closer to coming he’d reach up and take a handful of her hair and pull it then twist his other arm under her, between her body and her arms so she was pinned with her breasts arched out against him. He would tell her he was coming and she would turn her head so his breath was warm in her ear. John was different. Slimmer. He was easier to laugh with. With him sex was rough but then he would find her mouth and kiss her with tenderness.
I’m sitting in the hospital lobby, waiting for them to come out and call me. It’s packed: everywhere you look, pregnant women sit by themselves, with their partner, with other children clinging to their knees and crying for attention. Some of their faces are happy, some tired and worn out by one too many sleepless nights, some are reading baby parenting books like they hold more truth than the Bible. The high pitched squeals do nothing to soothe my nerves: my eyes keep darting to the ultrasound room door. I just wish I could tell them all to shut up and be quiet, but somehow I don’t think that would go down too well with the hormone-crazed women sharing the room with me. So I just slouch a little in my plastic chair and go back to staring at the door.
Come round, she says, Johnny's got the kids. I baked. It's August. I rarely leave London but now I feel like I'm on holiday, walking to Lucinda’s. I could almost sling off my shoes. Gina. She grins at me as she opens the door. I started without you. You goofy bitch, I say. Three kids? You'd never guess. Concave waist, long perfect legs, dark pretty eyes like a bad fairy.
He gripped my hips with smooth hands, failing to control my thrusts. I changed the rhythm of the rusted springs: a frantic pulse became a slow drumbeat. I heard him catch his breath. He suppressed a deep-throated whimper and leaned over my back, sweet breath stung my sunburnt neck. I tightened every muscle and forced his groan to escape. His whole body jerked backwards – a sculpted arc glistening with oil and mingled sweat. My body shuddered and silent screams exploded from my core. We collapsed. I laughed.
By the time she arrived at the restaurant, everything was glowing. An alarming number of candles and dark red lights gave her the feeling that she might be shanghaied by the end of the night. Although in this bone-deep coldness, would being shanghaied be so bad? Maybe not. Her friends, along with some people she had never seen before, occupied the far corner of the restaurant, the sticky table in front of them covered in shot glasses and empty plates. Squeezing in beside two of them on the tiny bench, she pushed her bangs to the side and took a sip of the nearest drink. As she lowered the glass, she noticed someone staring at her—a tall, lanky man with hair cropped slightly too close to his head and sleeves pushed up above his elbows. The certainty with which he looked at her gave her pause. True, there was nothing odd about his gaze, but it was fixed on her, unflinching, unapologetic.