What’s she supposed to say, I ask myself, as I watch Lorna stand there frozen by my question. It’s certainly not my best player move, but then I’m not playing. This time’s for real. So I need to know. This was her idea, coming to my place. But maybe she’s having second thoughts. And if she is, I want to know that now. Before the lasagna gets cold.
Because she can go, I tell myself. I won’t stop her. Lorna Eaton won’t be the first and she probably won’t be the last. She just may be the best. However, she doesn’t go, she comes to me; and placing her hands on my shoulders, she leans down and seizes my mouth with hers. It happens too quickly for me to think about it. I only react, I respond, greedily taking control of the kiss, pulling her tongue into my mouth and her body onto my lap.
Her frame is soft and hard at the same time. She’s warm, sinewy. Her plump, full breasts caress my chest. I finally feel what she’s been hiding beneath all those middle-of-the-road, conservative clothes. It’s fire. She groans a little, whimpering softly. Or maybe it’s me making those sounds as I strain to receive every bit she’s offering me. What remains of my abs contract violently as if they would break through with a wake-up call to my dead dick. Groping her firm ass, I’m convinced I can sense the weight of it on my lifeless legs. The delusion of possibilities is almost real.
She pulls back after a time and I bury my face at her throat. I love the way she always smells of vanilla. Cupping my cheeks with her warm, moist hands, she brings my eyes to meet hers. “Yes, Eli,” she says quietly. “You are handsome.” I feel extremely foolish for putting her on the spot like that, but I’m glad too. The cards now on the table make me feel like a winner—at least for this hand. Gently she strokes my beard with her thumbs as a smile spreads from her lips to her eyes. I smile back.
“You’re very convincing,” I say sheepishly.
“I even like your beard,” she tells me and then delicately presses her lips to mine once more before leaving my lap.
My right knee does a little bouncing. We both ignore it.
“It’s a fairly recent development,” I reply rubbing my beard myself, recalling her touch.
“Gives you a certain gravitas,” she adds. “It makes you look like you should be hanging out in those smoke-filled rooms politicians are famous for.”
“Good thing,” I say.
“So shall we eat?” Lorna asks, as if to return the genie to the bottle. “I think the wine’s going to my head.”
She goes over to the sink and washes her hands.
“We can’t have that,” I say, enjoying the view of her butt covered in the tight denim. Her hips are comparatively narrow, but there’s a bubble in her rump, a tight womanly roundness.
During dinner she turns the tables on me, by mostly making me do the talking as she asks the kind of open-ended questions clever counselor-types are known for; the kind that gets them a guided tour deep into your life. Half-way through the meal and by the time I was working on my third glass of wine, Lorna knew all about the summer vacations Nancy and I spent in the Delta with Grandma Maggie, a woman determined to fatten up her citified grandchildren with barbequed pork ribs and fried cornmeal-covered catfish.
“Couscous was not really her thing,” I say talking about Grandma Maggie, Dad’s mom. “But she was a great cook and we loved it.”
“You’d be right at home in Red River Parish,” Lorna says.
Maybe I could be, I think, but I can just imagine the look on her parents’ faces if their only child showed up with a disabled boyfriend. Once upon a time I was a mother’s dream date: good brains, good genes, good body. Once upon a time…
Dinner with Lorna is great as usual. I literally enjoy her company, and even though I very much want more, the conversation with her tonight is not some bullshit preliminary round to endure before the main event. She’s the main event—the complete package. Too bad I didn’t meet her when I was—complete.
When it’s obvious we’ve finished eating, Lorna gets up and begins clearing the table.
“You don’t have to do that,” I say as she carries our plates to the sink.
“You cooked—sort of,” she replies. “So I clean—sort of. At least I load the dishwasher.”
Which she does while I watch, and she carries on with her interviewing. She pauses my storytelling whenever she needs information, like where I keep the Tupperware and do I recycle. She appears to be completely comfortable in my kitchen, and I’m encouraged to imagine her here many times, some of which are in the morning. But maybe that’s the wine talking I think to myself while she pours the last of the bottle into my glass. I decide she’s really not much of drinker, and think again how great it would have been to know her before. I might have been smarter in her company.
The kitchen cleaned to her satisfaction, Lorna leads us back into the living room, where she takes a seat on the sofa. My turn, I think, yet I hesitate. It’s not like she hasn’t seen me transfer before. I got in and out of the car in front of her, and that’s more of a process for me than moving onto the sofa. But I’ve got fucking butterflies, and if they could my knees would knock. My living room isn’t huge and somehow she feels a hundred miles away from me, as if she’s on an island of leather and I’m trapped on my tiny island of steel.
“Tell me about this painting,” she says turning to study the abstract over the sofa.
“I don’t know what’s to tell,” I reply pushing towards her. “Nancy picked it out.”
“Does it have a title?” Lorna asks.
“I’m sure it must,” I say locking my wheels and setting my feet on the floor. “Damned if I know what it is though.” I scoot forward and prepare to lift myself over to the sofa.
“I think I kind of like it, but I don’t know why,” she says. “I’m pretty traditional when it comes to art. Monet, Van Gogh, Jacob Lawrence.”
When I land beside her she turns back to me, smiling.
“I like folk art too,” she tells me. “Although I suppose that makes me country, as opposed to being citified.” She chuckles at the term I used earlier. “Me and Mis’ Maggie would have gotten along very well.”
I position my feet, and Lorna nestles in next to me. I drape my left arm around her shoulders and pull her in close. She tucks an arm across my waist in a place where I feel it. Regretting my earlier attempts to pump the breaks tonight, I realize now that I should have made a fire in the fireplace. It would have been nice, but I thought it would have been overkill or something. Oh well next time. I like thinking there will be a next time.
We’re quiet, listening to the music, and to our own private thoughts. The wine in me has calmed down the butterflies. Or maybe it’s not so much the wine, as it is the woman. She’s had a calming effect on me since day one. I smile. Maybe it’s the vanilla.
“You do know that I don’t go around picking up men on planes,” she says. “This has never happened before.” I can’t say the same thing. On more than one occasion I have met a woman on a flight and then met her later in a hotel room, and after that never saw her again. I guess we’re about at the point when we’re supposed to talk about this, the people in our past, as well as the ones in our present. It’s one of the big differences between relations and relationships. The relationship benefits come with entitlements.
Before, I usually wore a condom, even with Cindy. She insisted. “I know you, Eli,” she said. “You want it all.” I suppose I did. After all it was mine for the taking. Once my days of penetration were behind me, I didn’t worry about the bugs anymore, or the babies. After I had taken that one chance too many, and the worst thing in the world had happened to me, risk took on an entirely new meaning. “It’s like you said,” I say to Lorna now. “Meeting on a plane is classier than in a club, right?” And maybe I would have been better off for a lot of reasons.
The club remark makes her laugh softly, and she agrees, “There is that.”
“You certainly meet a classier type,” I say, lifting her chin and kissing her smiling mouth.
I think she was wearing lipstick tonight but between dinner and desire it’s all worn off.
We should talk about it, the past performances, the present ones too, although the present tense might be harder to discuss. There is Cindy, but I’m not sure I get to have my cake and eat it too. I’m also not sure I want to. This right here could be a game-changer. But I begin, “In the past I was always pretty careful. You know, condoms. And now, since…well there’s really no need. But if you want me to get checked out--”
“I trust you, Eli,” Lorna interrupts me.
I have to wonder if she should.
“I’m also okay,” she informs me about herself. “I’m not a virgin but I am particular.”
Every woman thinks she’s particular but if they truly were, men would have to be either gay or celibate. The truth is when it comes to men, it’s fairly obvious that women will regularly lower their standards. Lucky for me.
“Afraid my hands are pretty rough,” I say.
“You’re a man,” she replies. “They should be.”
She brings my hand to her lips and kisses the palm. My belly tightens. She’s right. I am a man.
Pulling her closer I take her mouth with mine. She makes the little whimpering sound, and places one arm around my neck. Goddamnit I want to be inside her! But all I can do is fill her mouth with my tongue. She sucks on it, pulls it deeper, almost biting it. The memory of what it feels like to enter a woman throbs down what’s left of my spine until it crashes into a wall of fused bone and titanium screws, and can go no further. Still I hold onto her, pulling her towards me until she’s up on her knees beside me. I separate my mouth from hers long enough to tell her to straddle me. I want her in my lap again so that I can feel her body with every part that I can. But she resists, and I panic. I’ve pushed her too far too fast. My hands fall away from her.
“What is it?” I ask as if I don’t already know.
“Eli,” she begins, and I prepare myself. “Don’t you think I’m too heavy?”
“What?” I ask dumbfounded.
“Your legs,” she whispers the explanation. “I-I don’t want to hurt you.”
I choke out a dry laugh.
“Hurt me?” I say. “Lorna, I’m not made of glass. A little titanium maybe.”
“It’s okay,” I insist. “I won’t break.”
“I’m not saying--” she starts.
But I raise my hand to stop her, and she purses her plain, pretty lips and is silent, sitting back on her heels. It looks like I’ll have to teach her about paralysis after all, but not now. The teacher wants a recess. I grasp my right leg just above the knee and lift it away from the left. “You’re not too heavy, Lorna,” I tell her as I then do the same with the left leg, moving it away from the right, creating a v-shaped opening on the sofa between my legs. “Now,” I say pulling her to me again. “Come close.” Kicking off her shoes, she does, scooting in tight, planting her bare feet on either side of my thighs, her arms around my neck. Her jean-covered crotch is so close to mine that my mind can lie to me and tell me that I feel her there.
Because I do feel her. Her hands, her mouth, her breasts, her breath. I reach down and press my fingers into the warm space between her legs, urgently massaging the sweetness I imagine just beyond the denim and cotton. She presses into me more. She does want this. She wants me. Emotions of desire and delight and desperate frustration do battle inside me. Running my manly hands under her blouse I grope for the tiny metal fasteners that are keeping her bra in place and denying me the naked access I yearn for to her delicious brown mounds. When at last the bra gives way she pulls back and raises her arms over her head. It’s all the invitation I need to remove blouse and bra; and I do, tossing them aside.
I stop for a moment to take in her succulence, the way her breasts move with her deep breaths, the hard dark points of her nipples. Before, by this time I’d have a woman pressed into the sofa with her legs spread open. But since sex is very different for me now, I rely on all my senses for the experience which takes more time, more finesse. That’s what they counselled in rehab; and it is what Cindy showed me. My banging days are over. Eventually I take each one of her aroused nipples between my lips, alternating between the two, drawing on them as if they were spouts in a vessel of nectar. As open, as willing, as she is, Lorna is also modest, and looks down avoiding my eyes. However, the way she kneads my shoulders, the sound of her ragged breathing, these things give her away and affirm and encourage me. I am pleasing her.
So when it’s my turn to remove my shirt, I do so willingly too. I allow her to pull it over my head, and when our eyes finally meet again, hers shine. Most of my life I have been pretty much a gym rat, even during the times when I am on the road. These days it’s really more out of necessity than vanity, but it pays off in both cases. I weigh much less than I used to but given that the lighter weight is about 50% dead weight it requires more energy to move it around. My arms, shoulders, upper back and upper abdomen are lean and strong. The top half of me can write the check, if only the bottom half could cash it.
But I have learned how to make up for it, I remind myself as she caresses my chest, her palms running along my pecs, and up and down my biceps. She leans in and kisses my neck. I’m tempted to tell her what I like, where I have heightened sensation, give her a roadmap to me as it were, but I don’t, preferring instead to let her explore, which serves to intensify each hot-spot experience she finds. I relish her roaming free. I revel in it. I had a feeling it would be like this with her, that she would feel so good.
But then her fingers fiddle with the top button on my jeans and my pleasure nose-dives, because beneath that button is the no-fly zone. I catch her hand and move it away. “There’s nothing there,” I say, shaking my head. Nothing there I want her to see anyway. I know it’s inevitable if we keep seeing each other, but I’m just not ready. A faint furrow shadows Lorna’s brow. She doesn’t believe me, so my actions come across as rejection. Which in a way I guess it is, a rejection of the me I became that night when the liquor was smooth and the woman was hot, and I did the dumbest thing I’d ever done in my young life.
“We’re never going to be naked together?” Lorna asks.
I’m being ridiculous I know. I want her nakedness. I crave it. But I know she won’t show it to me without a relationship, a friendship or more. And relationship benefits come with entitlements.
“Let’s take our time,” I say, killing dead the mood we have had.
“You don’t want to?” she asks meeting my eyes directly.
This is what I have admired so much about her since the first time we met. She’s willing to put it out there, for me or to me. She thinks I’m rejecting her and she demands I make it plain. She won’t play the game.
“It’s okay if you just want to be friends, Eli,” she dryly tells me, withdrawing, figuratively and literally.
The air around us chills. A minute more and she’ll get up, get dressed, and get out. I pull her back to me, holding her tightly.
“Baby,” I say, maybe even pleading a little. “I’m all in. Believe me…I just want us to take our time. I-I need for you to understand me. What I’m about. How things are.”
She pulls away again so that we are once more face to face.
All of this would have been so much easier if Lorna had known me before. Hell—she could have probably helped me make sense of this new me. Some of the guys I met in rehab had wives, fiancées, girlfriends, women who were more than just visitors and acquaintances. Before that night, I had been the kind of guy who pretty much prided himself on not needing anyone; but there I was in rehab needing everyone. Of course things got better. I’m not a pathetic victim anymore. I have worked my way back. I lost a lot but I’m not a loser. And I’m not good at it, losing I mean. And I can’t lose Lorna. I don’t even really know why because I don’t really know her, but I just can’t.
Oh fuck—my eyes are watering! What am I going to do now, cry? I haven’t done that since rehab. I swallow hard, determined to hold everything back. I feel myself trembling. Or maybe it’s Lorna. Maybe I’m having one of those goddamn spasms. “Okay,” she says quietly, her face softening. The deep breath I take indicates that I hadn’t being doing that for a minute. “You’re very hot,” she adds offering a smile that warms up the space between us. “But slow and steady can get it done.”
Steady. It’s a little crooked but I smile too. The word steady has an old-fashioned ring to it. I mean do people go steady anymore? I certainly don’t have a pin to give her. But I like what the word implies; even though definitely there are implications.
“Can we do it that way?” I ask. “Slow. And steady?”
Her face is cheerfully calm, but her luminous brown eyes smolder with a fire restored. And I’m already doubting my own proposition. I want her right now, this minute. Her heat radiating between us is enough to almost make me swear I feel warmth again where there can only be cold.
“As you like it, Mr. Abbot,” she says revealing a temptress she has heretofore kept concealed by her respectable modesty. “I’ll do my best. But I am the weaker sex. And I’ve got it bad for you.”
She leans in again and kisses my mouth. The muscles in my belly contract fiercely, as if to drag my dick along with them into an erection, and I strain forward with all that I have to show her.