A Night and a Mourning
He opened his eyes to the sun-tinted white wall next to her bed, a glaze of burnt orange filling up all he could see. He didn’t remember closing them, just remembered trying to hold himself still, knowing he wasn’t gonna sleep and forgoing the tossing and turning that might prevent her from sleeping. All he remembered was the slight change of blues as the moon pushed its light through the curtain on her side of the bed.
Her side of the bed, as if one night amounted to such things.
There had been little relief in his separating himself from her—pressed into him, an arm and a leg draped—enough to stretch his own leg over the side of the bed and reach his arms out into the blue-colored world. Out into the coolness beyond the over-puffed comforter that most girls his age seemed to have, he hadn’t been under most of them or many of them, a few, but he’d witnessed them in passing and in friendship and… He was always struggling with his own heat in the pursuit of sleep. His own choice of bedding was a single worn-out flannel top sheet. While she apparently relished the heavy thing. He liked that she liked it, but wasn’t sure he could oblige on a regular basis.
Dangerous to make plans.
She told him she wasn’t going to have sex with him. A way of holding out her independence to him, letting him know the terms of this—whatever it was—were not his. So they drunkenly fumbled, the white wine spritzers swimming in his head, her body on top of him, her skinny limbs pressing and squeezing and leaning on him while the stoutness of her middle simply bent and hinged at her hips, giving him her mouth and then taking it away again. The hint of wine-soaked berries sweetening the bite of the alcohol still there. Sending a hand exploratorily up her stomach to one of her pointy breasts. Toying and then being shown by her how such a thing should go. Lifting her shirt up, squeezing and pulling way past the point of playful. He showed her he could learn and watched her moan with her head tipped back as he committed the small, violent act.
The thoughts of their fumblings, mixed with the empty space left by the alcohol escaping him like vapor, left him with a tingling that wouldn’t convert itself into anything substantial. His hand grabbed out of habit as he rolled onto his back, kicking the heavy cover off and looking at the tonal difference in the small eve above the bed compared to the wall. He lifted his head to find the bathroom door with a gap in it, the sound of the shower seeping out along with some steam.
She looked at his back and wondered if he was awake and pretending not to be. She was so close that all she could see was the back of him, the wall beyond and some morning light bouncing off both. Some of his longish hair stuck under her face, irritating her cheek. Finally rolling away, she turned her alarm off long before it was set. Wanting to let him sleep or pretend to well past the time she was required to get up and get ready. Still she waited to get out of bed, looking and thinking too much. Back and forth between him rolling over and the intimacy of morning kisses with unwashed mouths and having him to stay just the way he was until she pushed his shoulder and told him she had to get to work.
She got to the bathroom and reached down to touch the stickiness between her legs. What was left of him doing the things she’d allowed him to do, almost as impressed with her own willpower as she was of his. She grazed it just right and had to stop herself. She didn’t have the time? Waking him up would be too much of an effort towards something that she still had so many questions about.
She tried to shake herself of thoughts with hot water beating down on her head. She thought too much about what this thing was. This thing between him and her. Whatever it was, it felt good to her and nice. Two things she was not used to. Not with boys. Not like this.
She pulled the towel down over her face, looked in the mirror and wondered what he liked besides that face. Teasing him with everything else while giving him her eyes and her mouth mostly. Telling him it wasn’t gonna be something because she was afraid she might want that same thing. There was too much in her small corner of the world to add something so big. At least that’s what she kept telling herself.
She didn’t have time to care whether he was asleep or still pretending to be as she switched on the dryer and brushed and shook and sprayed and combed and shook and poked and shook a little less vehemently. Trying still to get the thoughts that wouldn’t be good for either of them out of her head. The head he seemed to like so much. His hand there, guiding it to a place that he could look at it just so. A place so naked she struggled to look back.
She dragged the liner off the corner of her eyes the way he said he’d liked it and didn’t realize it was for him until she was done—not the normal face for work. It didn’t matter, the make up and the hair were an armor against morning possibilities with this boy. An excuse to not give him anything she might want—anything he might want. An excuse about the cost of time and how little she had to spend.
The waiting and playing it cool was all he could do. He probably should have gotten up and put his pants on and been ready to be out the door by the time she got out of the bathroom, but he wanted her to see him in her bed, he wanted to remind her of how far they’d gotten the night before, more unconsciously than not, but still. It had taken so long to get there that he didn’t want her to be able to pretend it hadn’t happened. Didn’t want her to give into the things that he could see behind her eyes and hear in the pauses that came after questions asked when he was really trying to talk. Things seemed much easier when it was so quick to a bed. There wasn’t any build up to it. There couldn’t be any lingering thoughts when it came so quick after meeting a person. He felt he had to keep pushing, but in a way that only made her get closer.
Thinking too much again took his eyes to the slanted ceiling above the bed and back to counting moments until she was there again, in the room.
There was a door creak and padding feet that brought his eyes away from the ceiling. There she was, with perfect hair tucked around her delicate face, legs working out of a barely tied silk robe that stopped in a place long enough to cover up and short enough to…
“You’re cute,” he told the ceiling in a sleepy voice.
“You are,” she said.
He felt her get on the bed, but move no further than the edge of it. He looked and saw her legs tucked up under herself and his hand swept across the overstuffed comforter with a mind of its own. He described her robe as fancy and she told him about how her mother used to wear a robe like it in the mornings. How her mother would put it on after she got out of the shower before she got dressed for work. While she performed the ritual of hair and makeup. There were orchids climbing up from the bottom of it and a few damp patches darkening its purple silkiness.
Then she innocently confessed that she got the robe when she moved out. Because she thought it was a grownup thing to do. It was one of things she did during the day that made her feel like an adult, she said, and looked at the window with an embarrassed smile.
He smiled about her smile and noticed the grey lace of her panties peeking out from under her robe, arranged around the cleft of one hip.
“What are these?” he asked, investigating with a curled finger.
“I have an affinity for lacy underwear.”
“It certainly seems that way. Come here, lemme see those.” He pulled her down gently next to him. She placed her elbow down and rested her face on her knuckles to protect her perfect hair.
He slid the robe up to reveal the whole wonder of her grey lacy panties. He began his inspection of the way they wrapped around her curves and the feel of them. The color of her flesh dappled through the intricate patterns. He proceeded to expand his investigation to what was so delicately placed underneath them. Pulling them away from her stomach and looking down them to the crest of where her torso ended and her sex began. He pushed past the top of them with his hand and felt the faintest of stubble growing. He slid his hand further to where…
“I have to go to work,” she told him, breaking the trance she had watching him not notice her watching him. She pressed her free hand to his chin and brought him back to her face.
“Do you?” he said, half question.
“I do,” she gave him a falsely sad little smile. He made the adjustment of an inch or so with two fingers and she had no choice but to close her eyes. She would allow herself a moment, then she reached down to his forearm and pulled his hand away from her. Which she did.
He made his own moan of complaint and fell back on the bed.
“Sorry,” she said. What am I doing with this boy, she thought. Wanting to let him do more things, wanting to do some herself and settling for placing a kiss on his cheek. She realized in the moment that all the urgency of the thing was coming from her and not from him. Urgency to make it something. Urgency to make a decision about that something. He’d told her plainly that he just wanted to be with her and that he was happy for any allowance she gave him. She wanted to accept such a proposal and couldn’t stop herself from questioning its legitimacy. All boys wanted things that were beyond what they were getting, didn’t they. If you gave some, they wanted all and if you gave all, they imagined still more and eventually, probably, they just ended up wanting someone else.
His head turned from the ceiling, their eyes locked together and it was enough to get her to stop thinking and only gaze.
“What are you thinking?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she said, not able to stop herself and not able to let herself go.
“I don’t believe you,” he said with soft eyes. Eyes that she wanted to be in, eyes that made her push herself up to sitting on the edge of the bed, her back to him, her mind making itself up without asking her.
He watched how close the hem of her robe came to the bottom of her ass until she was out of sight behind her closet door. He closed his eyes and listened to her get dressed. He wanted to get up and watch and his hand wandered again. He closed his eyes and looked at the short time ago of her lacy grey panties and the vantage he’d been afforded.
She took her time and he heard one shoe drop and then the other. Then he heard her shoes walk out of the room. He rolled over on his side and looked at what sky he could see in between the blinds. He wondered about sleeping more and that made him wonder about whether she thought he was a deadbeat or not. It’s alright, I can afford it, she’d told him a week ago at a bar, placing a card down and smiling at him, then looking away. Would they have made it this far down the road if she did? How far was this, exactly?
“I don’t want to leave this bed,” he told her absence.
Footsteps reentering the room, “What?”
“I don’t want to leave this bed.”
He rolled over to find her in a business suit and heels, “Oooh… business lady.”
“It’s required,” she looked down at her attire.
“It should be,” he watched her for a moment.
“You can stay here if you want to.”
“When are you gonna come home?” The last word barely slipped out before he thought of its implications. This was such a new thing and that is such a comfortable word. A word that takes some people years to get to.
“Five thirty-ish,” she said, apparently unfazed or not noticing.
“I don’t think I can.”
This whole thing was so nice and easy. He feared how quickly it had gotten so good. He was willing to be in whatever space she allowed them to be. But she worried him. There is always one person wondering where the other person is inside. Even though they’re right there on the outside. She stood looking at him and he wondered if she could be thinking the exact same thought.
“Do you want me here when you get back?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“It’s not fair to answer a question with a question.”
“I’m alright with it.”
“Come over here.”
“I’m already gonna be late. Do you want to stay?”
It felt like she was requesting it. Which made it so much more difficult.
“You can,” she said again, walking away.
“Hey,” he stopped her and waited for her to turn, “come over here.”
She looked annoyed as she left the room.
He got up and got dressed. “So, can I really see you tonight?”
“I think so.”
Not the answer he’d hoped for. He finished putting on his shoes and sat there on the side of her bed thinking about not getting up. If he didn’t then she would be there in a mere eight hours. If he did then he might end up counting time away from her in days instead of hours. It was becoming an ultimatum. Stay and see her. Leave and maybe not.
He got up.
She rushed the rest of what would be an unsatisfactory lunch, but a lunch all the same. She wasn’t sure whether she wanted him to stay or not. She couldn’t know how she’d feel about such a thing until he was there when she got home. She heard him get dressed. She’d let him decide.
He came into the room putting on his glasses.
“So that’s, like, kind of a maybe?”
“We’ll see how tired I am and I’m pretty sure I have an ulcer,” she looked up at him and was met with a concerned face.
“You’re too young to have an ulcer.”
“I don’t know what else it could be.”
“Maybe you should see somebody,” he turned away from her, grabbing a glass off the counter.
“I’m going to.”
He filled his glass and leaned against the counter and she could feel him staring, “What if I stay?”
“You’re not going to.”
“What if I stay and you get home and feel like absolute death?”
“I guess we’d find out.”
He turned and walked to the bathroom, not looking back as he said, “You’re the worst.”
The door closed behind him, she smiled at the way he said it, he’d said it before and she’d come to understand that it was coded—just how coded made her kind of nervous. She went back to moving around the kitchen and glancing at the clock over the stove. Days had a way of sneaking up on her sometimes. Especially when the night was filled with white wine spritzers and this boy. She didn’t really want to go, but knew she should and needed to, kind of, maybe. What was she thinking? Staying? They were talking about him staying and now she was thinking about staying herself and him staying and they could go back to the bed right now, right when he walked out of the bathroom she could take his hand and drag him and he’d be willing and she could stop trying to stop herself from doing what she wanted to do, which might be to love this boy and that thought stopped everything.
She left the kitchen before he got out of the bathroom. To put some things away that didn’t need putting away. Not really. She hated to come home when things were even remotely out of place. But only to the point of preference and hadn’t quite entered into the realm of obsession.
She came back into the kitchen and found him sipping water and staring off into the room.
“I gotta go now,” she said.
He turned to her and just stared. She waited for him to say something and he didn’t. She finally said, “Like now.”
“If you must,” he pushed himself off the counter and came towards her.
“I must.” He stood close to her and looked down at her eyes. She liked how big he was.
“Ok.” He brought a hand up to the side of her head and his face down towards hers. She closed her eyes and waited for his mouth to arrive. It did and it was as nice as always. Kissing was something she held dear, one of the reasons this boy scared her. When she was done being caught up in the kiss she opened her eyes to his and smiled.
“Got everything you need?” She said as she grabbed her lunch and keys.
“Yeah, I’m good,” he said, standing in her way. She addressed his weak tactics by looking him in the eye and almost rolling hers. He held up his hands in defeat, stepped aside and let her past.
He followed her to the door. Watching the way she walked in her business lady outfit. It was new to him and he liked it. He was a few feet off the floor if he was gonna be honest with himself, but both things were dangerous. She held the door open and he walked out into the daylight. He took a couple steps by and turned to watch her. Who is this girl? He wondered, smiling about it.
She finished locking the door and turned to him. He couldn’t stop staring.
“What?” She asked in a cute but defensive way.
He smiled and said, “Have I told you lately that you’re the worst?”
P.M. Baird, born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, is a primarily self taught multi-disciplinary artist, who has been focused on fiction for the last decade. He is currently finalizing his second novel and will have his work featured in the upcoming spring issue of Amarillo Bay Literary Magazine.