‘You’re so annoying,’ he said in his elegant French accent, with a note of petulance.
Louise was trying to leave. It was only five or six in the morning and still dark outside but she was keen to get away from the unfamiliar room and unknown French boy. It seemed vital to leave before light came.
‘It’s too early,’ he said, pulling her back down on the bed.
‘I have to go.’
‘I don’t want you to see my face in the morning,’ she said quietly, in a casual way. ‘To see that I’m older.’
‘That’s why you want to go?’
‘Partly,’ she said, turning over on her side, away from his searching eyes.
‘That’s so sad!’ He said this with sincerity.
Louise knew she wasn’t really old, but was feeling conscious about her age because he was so young. He seemed like the youngest boy she had ever to made love to but that couldn’t be true, because her first boyfriends must have been this age. But she would have experienced them from a self-conscious girl’s point of view. Now she was seeing this boy in a different way. With his warm, golden brown skin and supple contours, he seemed like piece of paradise to her. It inspired her tell him what she liked about his body as she admired it.
‘I like the comments you make,’ he said, ‘when I fuck you.’
To anyone’s eyes he was a beautiful boy, with his sensual mouth and luminous white smile. His dark brown eyes that glanced over her body with lazy, endless appetite. His body was sculpted from playing tennis, a sport he practised avidly in his own country, which he had described to her as a place with clear blue waters, tall palms and white sands. Most of all perhaps, it had been his fine form and aura of sound health that had lured her into his bed. Healthy body and healthy mind, she had thought, imagining his psyche to be something like the landscape he was born in, with nothing ruined or defiled there, everything natural, wide open and warm.
‘It will be awkward in the morning,’ she said, as he lay behind her running his hands over her body. Their fingers entwined like romantic lovers.
‘Why will it be awkward?’
‘You’re a stranger to me,’ she said.
‘Then ask me something about myself,’ he said proudly, resting back on his arms. ‘So I won’t be a stranger anymore.’
She had tried to think of a question to ask, but just then she had experienced a serene but sinking feeling; a disinclination to find out anything more about him, or the rest the world overall.
After a pause she said. ‘I don’t have any questions for you.’
Her lover stayed quiet and she realised she had hurt his feelings. It was unkind to show no interest in him beyond his physical being and the way he made love to her. She wondered if he was after all a sweet boy, which would be a surprise, because in the bar he had told her that he was a player. To her mind this conjured an insensitive type who could seduce with a passion and dismiss with nonchaloir. In fact, the disclosure that he was a womaniser had been the unlikely enticement to interest her sexually. That night she had not been looking to meet anyone. She had only joined the others at the Irish bar because her friend Emma had told her that she could not spend her last weekend in New York on her own.
‘You’re pretty but you’ve just lost a hundred points.’
These had been his first words to her. She had been buying a drink at the bar and had taken the cigarettes out of her bag to look for her purse.
‘I lost points?’
‘Because you smoke.’
Annoying, she thought, but having detected his accent she was not entirely put off. He stayed beside her while she paid for her drink. She could feel his eyes following her movements but sensed curiosity more than licentiousness in his regard.
‘Can you play tennis?’ he said.
‘Tennis?’ This was a leap conversational theme. ‘Yes. But I haven’t played for a while. My father taught me. I play with two hands, like this.’ She put down her glass and placed her right fist over the left as if holding a tennis racket.
‘And how is your back hand?’
‘Not as steady as my forehand,’ she said professionally.
He gave her a generous smile, ‘You’ve just scored two hundred points!’
‘Thank-you.’ Then quietly and confidentially she added, ‘You know I’m not sure you’re supposed to tell me what I’m scoring, I think that’s supposed to be a secret between you and your friends.’
The French boy giggled and she realised he was even younger than she had first thought.
‘Don’t you wonder how many points you’re scoring?’ she asked.
‘Am I scoring badly?’ he said, with his face straightening in defence.
‘What are your three favourite things?’ she asked him.
He struggled for an answer and then told her three things about his job and material ambitions that in her view were not interesting at all.
‘I lost points didn’t I?’ he said.
She nodded, and as he looked away she watched his body take on the agitation about loosing.
‘Can I tell you what I really like?’ he asked.
‘Yes. I’m a strange girl, I’m only interested in the truth.’
He had quietly repeated her words ‘I’m only interested in the truth’, before going on to say; ‘I like women. I like different types of women. I like to make love to them and then I let them go. I’m a player.’
He cautiously waited for her response, not knowing that her attraction to him had just increased. So here was a healthy, good-looking boy with joie de vivre and a penchant for making love to one woman after the next without any desire either to keep hold of them or take possession of their world. A self-confessed player who was nothing like the man she had been living with for the past ten years, who had been so overbearing and demanding of her attention. The man she had finally left, just three days before.
‘So you’re a player,’ she said.
‘You don’t mind me telling you?’
‘No, because one of my favourite things,’ she said, ‘happens to be players.’ And she tilted back her head slightly to look at him under lowered lashes in a poise of allure.
The French boy had flashed a sly smile and a fast-growing current of sex had sprung up between them.
The conversation had continued in an intimate and confiding manner. He had told her which female details evoked his desire, how he left these women, and how he managed to keep them as friends, despite behaving badly. She expressed an interested and impartial attitude toward the secrets he was revealing, intrigued to hear his male view on a subject she was usually excluded from. But since he was neither her lover, nor her friend, she had no reason to judge him. She took pleasure in being spoken to so openly and being able to listen without having to fill in the gaps, decipher ulterior meaning or be told tales that she would eventually recognise as lies. Of course she was comparing this conversation to the sort she had recently been having with Adam. The French boy’s honesty relaxed her and gave her a placid feeling. This was helped along by his handsome face, charming voice and the white wine and two shots of tequila she had drunk so far.
When the bar grew less busy and people had begun to leave, he asked, ‘Can I kiss you?’
She was stood against a wall and couldn’t have recoiled even if she had wished to. Perhaps this was part of the stratagem, and he had been rounding her up into this position all along. It would be the first kiss she would receive in ten years that had not been from Adam. She tried to feel a sense of misgiving but the sentiment was less forthcoming than the urge to experience something new. His mouth pressed against hers and she kissed him back.
‘You’re not a violent kisser,’ he said strangely, kissing her again.
She could feel his sex was hard, with his body pressed against hers and their kisses became deeper, his hands moving beneath her blouse to her naked back. His urgent and all-encompassing desire to have sex was fascinating. The delicacy of his seduction had been replaced by an expression that clearly read; where can I fuck her? Loosing patience he pulled her hand to his groin. She pulled it back again.
‘I would like to touch you, but not in front of all these people.’
The French boy looked around and she examined his profile. His full mouth projected to the same degree as the flat bridge of his nose. He was an exotic and valiant young prince looking beyond the rabble for a place to make love.
‘Let me take you home,’ he said.
Louise had then thought quite clearly; if I go home with this boy I’ll never return to Adam. That will be the end, the absolute death. I can never go back.
She thought of her last row with Adam, not the worst they’d ever had but had it seemed the most serious, because afterwards she had felt nothing but a sense of desolation, one that would continue into the future if she stayed with him. She didn’t want him to say sorry or hold her in his arms and patch over wounds with promises. Every thing of good between them had been obliterated. There were no pieces to pick up, even if she had looked for them.
And finally she felt no empathy towards the man standing before her. She would have liked the terrain to crack open and the two severed halves of the Earth go spinning off into opposite ends of infinite space.
‘Ask my friend,’ she said. ‘Ask Emma if you can take me home.’
Emma was a girl from work whom she had not known well until the week before. And she had been the first girl to offer Louise a sofa to sleep on when she found herself with nowhere to go. A smart, sophisticated girl: sociable, but professional and Louise knew she would have the right idea about how to proceed.
The French boy went over to talk to Emma without hesitation. Rather than achieving a moment of privacy to gather her thoughts, Louise only had time to feel slightly lonely.
The boy returned. ‘She says you should come with me.’
‘She did?’ Louise looked over and saw her friend happily waving goodbye. Then she was being put in her coat and guided toward the exit. In a few more moments she was in a taxi with him pulling her hand to his hard-on and asking the driver to take them to Park Slope.
‘What’s your name?’ she said.
This seemed remarkable because it was almost the same name as hers. Close friends even called her ‘Louie’, which sounded exactly the same. She wanted to say something about this wild coincidence, but she couldn’t pin point exactly why it was so important. And now the French boy was less than talkative, with his hands all over her body, trying to get under her clothes. In the lair of the back seat, the final strains of courtliness had been cast aside.
The ride went by in blur of traffic lights and raising body temperatures. When they stepped outside onto the empty unfamiliar streets it was freezing and her teeth began to chatter, a reaction exaggerated by her nerves. The cold air had sobered her but she fought against becoming shy. Turning into a shrinking violet now would be a shame – a crime in fact – towards this boy who was expecting to sleep with a woman and not a girl. He did not turn on the lights in the flat, or his bedroom. She could barely see his silhouette and it bothered her that his form had been taken from plain view.
‘Its dark in here,’ she said.
‘Women feel less insecure when I keep the light off,’ he said.
Was he interested to know that she did not feel insecure about her body at all? It’s because he’s used to sleeping with girls, she thought, and pulled away from him to take off her clothes without coyness, but with gentle grace. She returned to stand naked in front of him. He put his hands on her waist and then forcefully turned her around and pushed her against a wall. She wondered if he was going to take her like this without any prelude, but after running his hands over her back and hips he brought her round to face him again.
He took off his own clothes and pulled her onto the bed.
‘No, stand up,’ she said, wanting to see all of him.
‘You know what you want,’ he said.
She slid a hand on his shoulder and stood close, looking over his body. Each muscle was pronounced but the flesh encasing them was soft: there was no tension coming from him.
‘Your skin is so smooth,’ she said and her hand went to his penis. It was exceptionally rigid. It seemed immaculate compared to others she had known.
‘Do you want me to put it in my mouth?’ she said, already knowing what the answer would be.
She came down to her knees and gave his sex the hot wetness of her mouth, he touched her hair gently and when she stopped and sat back on the bed he reached over to a drawer to retrieve a condom. He put it on with an easy casualness. It was clear he had been through this scenario a few times before.
‘Let me between your legs,’ he said. And he pushed her back on the bed and was inside her before she was expecting him to. She breathed in and moved her hips to experiment with the feel of him inside. She continued to notice fascinating things.
‘You smell so clean.’
Then she became aware that he was not making a sound and, despite the energy of his lovemaking, there was no carnal note to be heard, with only the sounds of her own pleasure marking the atmosphere. When he turned her over she rose on her hands and knees and arched her back in a supple, fluid motion. She drove back onto his sex two times, hard. Hearing his breath catch she was pleased to know that his self-control was not beyond her power to subvert.
When they brought their bodies back together he said. ‘I love your tiny ass. I want to play with you all night.’
‘You’re very easy to make love to,’ she said.
‘Are others not easy?’
‘I don’t remember.’
‘You don’t remember,’ he repeated, perhaps remembering what little she had told him about her situation. He slowed down, taking him self out of her, and put his mouth to her breast before moving toward her sex.
‘I don’t want you to,’ she said, sitting up.
‘It makes me shy.’
‘Just tell me to stop when you want.’
He brought his mouth back to hers.
‘I want to hear you come,’ she said.
She felt him hesitate and then he found his own rhythm inside her to orgasm as silently and smoothly as he had made love. Afterwards he put her hand on his sex, which was still hard.
‘You don’t think I can go again?’
‘I don’t doubt it at all,’ she said and they both laughed. After a few moments she sat up and looked round the room and then glanced down at his body. She put her hand on it, and with an inquisitive air said; ‘You’re so dark skinned.’
He laughed and lifted a hand to touch her hair. ‘Maybe I shouldn’t say this.’
‘You’re like a little girl.’
It was observant of him. The main partners in Louise’s life had always been older and feeling very young had been the natural way for her. But now this girlishness was fused with experience and she wasn’t sure what it was like for a man to make love to her.
‘I’m used to feeling like a little girl,’ she said. ‘I’ve had older boyfriends.’
‘Your last boyfriend was older?’
‘Yes. And jealous.’ She was suddenly in awe of what she had done. Adam would be murderous if he found out that she had slept with someone, and so soon. She turned away from her lover to face the window.
He leaned over. ‘He was jealous?’
‘Possessive is a better word. I belonged to him, like his watch – or his shoes.’
‘Is he going to come after me?’
‘No,’ she said. ‘He doesn’t know who you are.’
Louis turned her round to face him and brought his eyes close to hers. ‘I shouldn’t look into your eyes. They’re dangerous.’
She smiled shyly. To mention her eyes now after the event seemed quite generous of him.
‘What colour are they?’ She tested, knowing he wouldn’t be able to see them in the dark.
‘Green with a little bit of blue,’ he said, which was correct.
‘You’re very good at being a player,’ she said.
‘I’m the worst kind, I’m a complete asshole,’ he said. ‘I want the body.’ He put his hand on her stomach, ‘I want the heart,’ he slid his hand to her chest and kissed her breast. ‘And I want the mind.’ He kissed her mouth. ‘I’m a complete asshole.’
And however artful and practised this line may have been, it sounded good anyway and she let his hand come between her legs and he touched her there, and they lay close like this for a while, until both falling asleep in each others arms.
After a short while Louise woke and seeing the luminosity at the windowpane realised darkness was thinning and it would soon be daylight.
‘Can you call me a taxi?’ she asked.
“I have to leave.’
‘It’s too early.’
But she had been determined, and it was then he had called her so annoying.
So annoying as she left his arms to search for her clothes. He had watched her attentively and unhelpfully while she failed to find her black camisole in the dark pools of the floor. Giving up, she had returned to his embrace.
‘See,’ he said.
Her resistance depleted, they settled into a deeper sleep, to wake some hours later in the light of morning.
He leaned over to look at her face. ‘Now I can see that you are old,’ he said, teasing.
‘Is it awkward?’ he asked.
‘I’m too tired to feel awkward.’ And she stood to dress.
The taxi arrived too quickly; they could hear the horn beeping below. Louis got out of bed to say goodbye and touched the golden snake necklace she was wearing.
‘I should have taken this off in the night so you would have to find me again,’ he said sweetly, without any regret.
‘I’m moving back to England,’ she said vaguely. ‘Next week.’ She took a step toward the door but returned and they kissed hard before she finally left.
Outside on the street Louise was surprised to find that the run-down neighbourhood had transfigured into something different from what she had taken in the night before. The bright morning sun was lighting up all the leaves and there was a layer of pale gold over the road and the car tops, making them all shine.
In that moment everything looked brand new to Louise.