A Theory About Valentine's Day

“You know what I love about Valentine’s Day?”

It is rhetorical seeing as I have no idea that he loves anything about Valentine’s Day. He takes a sip of his drink, surveying the packed restaurant. “All the premature proposals. A guy thinks he needs to do something to the woman he really likes and almost loves so he pops the question.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

He turns to look at me and I know it is going to be one of his smart-ass comments.

“It’s too early. Half of them won’t make it to the altar and half of the other half won’t make it to five years. Trust me.”

Where he gets his data is a mystery. But he seems convinced. He always seems convinced. I have long since given up trying to third-degree him so I simply roll my eyes.

“It’s what I like to call,” he turns back to look out at the diners and waves his hand across, “the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.”

He is pleased with his little joke. I groan. I will never give him the satisfaction of informing him I am often pleased with his little jokes.

We have a seven-thirty reservation, and it is nearing seven-forty-five. We are in no hurry. He and I have been meeting in this place on the second and fourth Thursday of each month for a year-and-a-half—except for Thanksgiving—when we are both in town. He is my oldest and closest friend. The standing reservation is important.

I realized earlier in the week that this Thursday is Valentine’s Day. He said we were fine. If we sit at the bar, we sit at the bar. Which is what we are doing.

I am a little late, arriving about five minutes ago. The subway got stuck but I texted him when I got to the street. The restaurant is not far from our apartments. It is medium-sized, on Amsterdam Avenue, serving standard American fare. There is nothing special about the place except it is our place. The bar is to the left when you walk in, past a few small round tables in the corner.

The restaurant itself, much of which you can see from the bar, is to the right. The prime tables, including our usual, are in the front by the windows that face out to Amsterdam and the side street. The windows in front are tall, often open, except in winter, to an outside seating area. Ours is the one in the very corner. The other tables stretch out to the back and the door to the kitchen. Unlike those by the bar, they have white tablecloths. The walls are a light cream colored with sconces above darker cream wainscoting.

The subway was stifling while I was stuck, and I am sweaty, particularly since I rushed to get here. As I walk in, he waves and turns to Mike, the bartender. I hand my coat to Marie, who checks it, and by the time I reach him, with a kiss on or near the cheek, my vodka tonic is in front of my stool. It’s “our” drink. I do not drink much and usually just wine on the weekend, but we always have vodka tonics on our “Thursday date.”

“Relax. It’s not ready,” he says. I look over and see a couple, late forties/early fifties, on their desserts at our table. The place is packed and there are other couples at the bar and standing near it waiting for tables.

He nursed his drink, so I do not hurry to catch up. That is when he pontificates about his theory about Valentine’s Day. He is been making his little jokes since I met him in freshman year at Boston College. We happened to be next to one another on a bench in Economics 101. It was towards the back, and I got to know him through his little, sotto voce comments. They were almost but not quite mean and always clever. We took to leaving class together and I took to getting to class early to be there when he arrived.

There is nothing more to it, then or now. We had a few more classes together over the next three years and somehow he became my best friend and I became his. We’d share in our anticipating dates and give each other comfort when they went nowhere, as they generally did. We both had a few relationships that lasted several months, but none made it through winter or summer break and we shared gallows humor about where our love lives were headed.

When we both got jobs in the City after graduating and found apartments not far from one another, we agreed to our Thursday dates. We spoke often and hung out together on most weekends. After a while, our date became my favorite thing to do.

“Maybe we should have a thirty- or forty-year deal.”

He sees my confusion.

“You know. If neither of us is married when we turn thirty or forty, we marry each other.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“Hey. It’s me too.”

Before we get further, just before eight, the couple leaves our table. A twosome standing by the bar is eying it, but it is not to be. June, our waitress, tells them it’s a standing reservation and leads us over when it’s ready. We carry our drinks.

He asks June how things are in the mayhem of the day.

“If it were this busy every day, I’d be all-in with tax cuts for the rich.” She laughs as she hands us menus. We don’t need them, but it’s part of the date.

“The usual?” and we nod and soon she returns with our second vodka tonics and a busboy brings us bread and fills our water glasses.

“Yes! Yes! For real?”

We hear it from a table toward the back. He turns to me.

“Do they make it to the altar? Yes or no?”

I tell him how evil he is, but he pushes the issue. I turn to see the couple. Both young but not too young. She stares at her ring as several other couples look over to them, assessing their chances. Wondering whether they were ever so young.

“They look like a couple. I say ‘yes.’”

He reaches over and extends his pinky. I hook it with mine.

“You’re on,” he says.

How we learn who wins is unsaid.

He returns to his early query.

“Let’s do it at forty.”

“What?”

“The getting married.”

I extend my hand. I compromise. Thirty-five, and he shakes it and we have a deal. Perhaps a bet. Maybe a Valentine’s Day proposal?

We’ve now slid into our routine. He codes for a tech company on the West Side and I am an insurance adjuster. Our work lives are incredibly boring, and we spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about the mundaneness of our careers and the peculiarities of our co-workers. We both make enough, if barely after student-loan payments, to afford our tiny places. Mine is in a mid-block brownstone while he is a bit larger, a one-bedroom on the ninth floor of a newish apartment building on Columbus Avenue. Over the years, apart from four or five conversations and meetings that stand out, what we do and say together is some ways as mundane as our careers.

That does not sound good, I know. What I mean is that we had hundreds, thousands of exchanges that became what he as a coder might call the layer that gave a part, and eventually a dominant part, of our lives meaning. Every once in a while, I would see something or hear something that would recall me to an always pleasant incident with him. He is, as I say, my best friend.

By eight-fifteen, the restaurant is far more crowded than is usual for a Thursday, and the din of the room is loud, the clattering of silverware on plates and the occasional shout from the kitchen. A very slight string quartet recording under everything.

As usual, we skip dessert. Instead, we head to a small patisserie on Eighty-Second Street. It was made famous by “You’ve Got Mail”—there’s a plaque—and there are a few empty tables. You’d recognize it. It is up a flight of steps and the décor is wood paneling. It has a big display case as you walk in, showing a variety of pastries and other desserts. Against the far wall are espresso and other coffee machines. It has eight or nine small tables and we take one by the front window, looking out onto the street. I get a decaf cappuccino and he goes with a double espresso. We share a chocolate mousse.

We’re about half-way through the mousse when he drops his fork.

“Shit.” He jumps up and picks it from the floor before getting a clean one at the counter and retaking his seat. After a sip of his espresso, he places something on the table. I look. It is a jewelry box.

“Listen. I know we have that deal about getting married when we’re thirty-five if, you know, neither of is married. But, really, why wait?”

“You’re full of shit.”

“Just open it.”

And I do and it is a small, tasteful diamond ring, simply set.

“What are you talking about?”

“I want to marry you. What do you say?”

And I say he is nuts but if he is serious, I need to think about it.

He reaches and closes the box. More serious than I have ever seen him, he says, “Take all the time you want. I’ll wait. Forever.” He puts the box with his ring in his coat pocket and takes a final sip of his espresso.

There is not much mousse left, and he says, “you can finish it.” I absently run my spoon along the glass in which it is served and turn it as it enters my mouth, my tongue licking the remains. My eyes turn to my cappuccino cup. The foam is gone and the coffee is tepid, and I stir it with its little spoon before placing it down and finishing the cup.

“It’s so unexpected. I need time.” I say it while looking at the empty cup. I feel him reaching for my hand, his right atop my left. When I raise my eyes he looks different. Different from what he has looked like in all the years I have known him.

“I understand. But I mean what I said.”

I feel a tear developing in my eye—how could it not?—and hope he does not notice.

“I know you do,” and we get up and leave together. He reaches for my hand—actually my glove—when we’re out on the sidewalk, and I hold his glove-encased hand as he walks me to the stairs of my brownstone a few blocks to the north and east. I turn to him at the foot of the steps. It is all so sudden.

“We’ll talk,” I say as I reach for him. His arms are around me, and mine pull him closer. His lips whisper, “I love you,” and I can only say, “I know.” We break apart and I step up to my brownstone’s front door. I turn. He has not moved, his gloves in his pockets, the right likely fondling the box. I wave and say, “We’ll talk,” and go in.

*      *      *      *

By the time I climb the stairs and am through my apartment door, I am a mess. I drop my bag and my coat somewhere between the door and the couch, turning on a light somewhere along the way. My apartment is small. It’s on the third floor of a walk-up. It has one bedroom, a living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom with a small shower. It looks out the back so I don’t hear much street noise. I see the lights of the back of the buildings one block north, like in “Rear Window.” I leave the shades up. I do not care who sees me from Eighty-Fifth Street as I sit alone on the couch and stare into space.

It was a simple Thursday night date. It began like all the others. Chatter. Vodka tonics. Chocolate Mousse. Enjoying each other’s company and then—what is the song?—he had to spoil it all by saying he loves me and, worse, he wants to marry me. And of course I love him. But like that?

Who am I going to tell this to? Can I ask him to put on his best friend hat to tell me what to do? It’s like I have the Stockholm Syndrome. I’ve been with him so much and so often that he’s the only one I can think of to talk to. About him.

So I call my mother. She is over the moon with the news. She has always liked him. She shuts up when I tell her I did not say “yes.”

“But you didn’t say ‘no’ did you?”

I assure her that I did not say “no.” That I need to think.

*      *      *      *

On Friday, I ask Brenda, from my department, to lunch with me. We engage in gossip about our love lives and various other things one talks about with a work colleague. I do not know that I ever spoke to her about him, though. Why would I? My relationship with him is the antithesis of a love life.

“Someone proposed to me last night.”

Given that I had not mentioned seeing anyone for a couple of months she is surprised.

She looks at me, trying, I assume, to remember whether she’d forgotten someone I’d told her about.

“For real?”

So I tell her about him. The whole he’s-been-my-best-friend-for-years thing.

“For real?”

“For real.”

We sit in a small place that specializes in salads and soups. It’s cold so I dab my slice of bread into the three-bean soup while she chews on her salad.

“Best friend to lover. That’s orig—”

“Not lovers. Jesus. I hadn’t gotten there. The first time we held hands was last night. And it wasn’t even hands. Gloves.”

She looks up, fork in hand. “OK. Best friend to guy-whose-glove-I-hold. Got it.”

“Don’t tease me.”

She apologizes.

“Do you love him?

Another dip of the bread.

“I love him. I don’t know if I love him like that.”

She thinks. “Can you see yourself in fifteen years with him?”

Now I think. I realize that I can’t see myself in fifteen or thirty years without him.

“You have your answer.” She smiles. I nod. We finish our lunches and head back to the office.

*      *      *      *

He is noticeably silent on Friday and into Saturday. So I call him at about noon on Saturday

“Can I talk to you about something?”

“Hey stranger.” He turns serious. “Of course you can.”

“Look. There’s someone who I’ve known for a long time and he’s like my best friend. And we have a routine and I really like our routine. Just really, really good friends, you know?”

“Got it. So?”

“So . . . out of the blue, completely out of the blue, on Valentine’s Day, it’s like he was shot by Cupid’s arrow. We’re doing what we always do. We’re having mousse at—”

“You always have mousse?”

“Well, sometimes we go for the tiramisu. Sometimes the cheesecake. But that’s not the point.”

The bastard is making me laugh, and it is no laughing matter.

“So what is the point?”

“OK. We’re sitting having the mousse.”

“What, did he take too much? Is that why you’re telling me this?”

“No. that’s not while I’m telling you this. I’m telling you—”

“Cause I’m just trying to keep up.”

“He asked me to marry him.”

“Did he give you a ring?”

“He opened a box and—”

“Was it nice?”

“Will you stop? I need you to take this seriously.”

There’s a pause until he says, “I love you more than anything. I don’t want to only spend time with you only a few times a month. And I want to—”

This is going very quickly and suddenly I’m thinking of what came up with Brenda. Being his lover. Him being my lover. I cut him off.

“Take me to dinner. I want to go on a real date with you. And we’ll see where it goes.”

That comes out before I can think. I want to be romantic with him. I know I love him terribly. I want him to romance me. But . . .

*      *      *      *

He buzzes my apartment at seven-twenty. I don’t know how he’ll be dressed, but I go all out. It’s February so I can’t go too light. I pick a maroon dress with swirling cream lines dancing throughout that drops a few inches above my knees and hugs my hips as it does. I managed to get a hair appointment, and it’s up, an intricate French curl in the rear. I have a pair of diamond studs my parents gave me when I graduated from college. They are in my ears, and a gold necklace dangles from my neck.

I have one ring on my right ring finger, but decide to keep the left one empty. I’m not so good with heels, but go with my best pair of two-inchers, in black. Finally, I dab myself with Channel No. 19, another gift from my parents. It is the first time I wear it.

I am as dressed up as I may have ever been. When I open the door, he has a bouquet of roses. Red. He’s better dressed than I ever recall him being. He too took care of his hair. It is a little trimmer than the somewhat unruly mess he favors. His navy suit is pressed, with a white shirt and blue tie. He wears French cuffs with gold, engraved cufflinks. Black shoes, polished.

When I take the roses, he asks for a glass of water. His hand shakes slightly as he downs it. His normal banter is absent. I feel we’ve been dropped into some alternative universe. This is not us. Except it is. It is us as grown-ups.

Dinner itself is a blur. It is a high-end place, and he is stretching to pay for it. We sit in the smaller of the two dining rooms. We decide on wine, but not too much, so we each have a glass. And when our waitress returns with them she takes our orders. It’s February and cold outside and we each order soup and then I get chicken and he has beef.

The meal moves as uneventfully as our orders, just being together but with a tinge of expectancy. He braves a second glass of wine when he gets his steak and we share dessert. It’s an apple pie confection, and very good.

As we prepare to leave, he helps me with my coat and whispers whether I want to come to his place. It’s cliché, but I tell him I’d like to. We hurry to get there, more to get out of a sharp wind coming down Broadway than anything more. It is very cold and his arm is through mine as we go the blocks to his building.

We recover our body warmth in his lobby. His hand shakes slightly as he puts his key into the building’s front door and they shake even more as he opens the two locks on his apartment’s door.

I’ve been here plenty of times. The heat is on. I am warm yet shaking slightly. Petrified. He turns on the entry light and takes my coat, hanging it with his by the door. I follow into the living room, where he turns on lamps on either side of the sofa. It is placed so that there is a view out the window, albeit across to another apartment house, to the right.

He’s converted it into what he imagines is romance itself. There are flowers in several vases. The apartment is on the ninth floor of a newish building, and its colors are neutral. Some of his furniture is new but several pieces are from his folks. Somehow, though, they come together. A sofa, a pair of armchairs, and a simple coffee table dominate, and a china cabinet, a bookcase, and a small table in the corner, on which his TV sits. A large, if slightly-worn, rug completes the room. The apartment faces the front of his building, so even with the windows closed the sounds of traffic are heard.

“Water?”

I nod and sit on the sofa while he gets it. He turns off the entry light as he brings us two glasses. He sits beside me for what seems like forever as we sip our drinks. He is nervous and waiting.

“I like your perfume.”

“Thanks. It was a gift from my folks. This is the first time I’ve worn it.”

“It’s nice.”

It’s too much. I place my glass on the table and take his, putting it next to mine. I turn to him and he to me. Praying that I know what to do, I lean my head towards his, and we kiss. He is at first tentative. His mouth surrounds my lower lip, pulling it slightly. I feel his teeth on it, and as they touch, something shoots through me. Cupid’s arrow? I turned to him to take control, but he is in charge and were I able to speak I’d be begging him to kiss me properly. Instead, I moan as he pulls his head from mine.

Then he is up. He takes his jacket off and places it on the arm of the sofa before stepping across me, straddling me. I reach for his cheeks with my two hands, noticing how smooth they are. I look, really look, into his eyes for the first time. I’d never noticed how the color of his irises seems to flow around his pupils, a molted brown, now large in the low light of his living room. I pull him towards me, moving my hands to the back of his head and we turn our heads slightly and I close my eyes and we kiss, really kiss, for the first time.

His tongue is searching my mouth until I force mine into his. I must pull back for air. I say, aloud, “fuck it” and pull his mouth back. His hands slip to my side, moving to my waist. It is uncomfortable, him bending down over me. I push him up and off the sofa so I can lie down on it. He again straddles me. It’s a tight fit. His weight is largely on his legs, but I feel his chest against mine.

That room is quiet except for our breathing and a slight din from Columbus Avenue nine stories below. I put my right hand to his left cheek, looking again into his eyes. I tell him I love him. For the first time. He leans in to peck my lips with his. “I know,” as he pulls back. He has the look he gets when I admit he is right about something. I love and hate that look in equal measures. He can be a smug ass at times.

But I love him. I said it aloud. I don’t wonder or care when it happened. Lying beneath the man I love, with a ring for me somewhere in his newish apartment on the ninth floor.

So I say, as any lady would say to his jibe, “Fuck you,” and his smile gets bigger and I can’t prevent my giggle. Again he waits. He has won me—“She’s beautiful, and therefore to be wooed; she is a woman, therefore to be won”—but I have won him too.

I run my hands down his sides. We are all seriousness. His lips crash into mine. When he releases my mouth, I say, as any lady would say, “Fuck me,” and he leads me into the bedroom. In my head and in reality, it’s worlds apart from my prior visits, The bed no longer just a piece of furniture taking up a disproportionate share of the floor space. The vases with roses on the side tables.

As we cross this threshold, he calls out, “Alexa. Play Chopin” and a wonderful piano fills the air.

I turn to go to his bathroom, cursing not bringing some Channel to re-apply. I reach down before I pee and realize how wet I am. After I clean off, I look in the mirror. My makeup is slightly askew, but I wear little and it is easily fixed, with a fresh coat of a rose-colored lipstick. A few of my hairs seem out of place in the brightness of the room. My dress hangs as it is supposed to hang, and I nod to my image as I leave. I have never been as sensuous as in that instant. I have never been as aroused as in that instant.

When I return, he is sitting on the side of the bed. He’s pulled the covers to the side and pats the mattress beside him.

“No bullshit. No it’s-Valentine’s-Day-and-I’m-lonely. No, I’ve-had-a-nice-dinner-and-I’m-horny. We’re past that. You’ve had time to think. If you need more, you have it.”

He starts to get up but changes his mind.

“I love you and have for a long time. I have blind spots, as you more than anyone know, so I didn’t realize I love you as more than a ‘friend’ until Christmas.” Now he gets and stays up.

“When I saw how happy my folks were in just being together and I understood that they’d always been like that.”

I’ve met his folks a few times. They never gave the slightest indication that they hope I’d be something more than his friend. And they are happy. My parents love each other but there is always a slight strain between them. But always there is love.

These thoughts ricochet through my brain in an instant, and his speech continues as he . . . gets on a knee.

“And since the holidays I’ve been picturing us that way. And loving that picture. I swiped one of your rings when I was last here”—I hadn’t noticed—“for size.” He leans to a side table and lifts the jewelry box from the drawer. He opens it.

A girl, or at least this girl, thinks of this moment. The proposal. The tears. The “for real?” The videos in Disney World or at Madison Square Garden. On the beach in the Hamptons or in the middle of the New York City Marathon. None of them compare to the moment my best friend kneels in front of me, holding open a box containing a small, tasteful diamond ring, simply set, and says, simply and for the second, and last, time, “Will you marry me?”

I say, “I will marry you.”

I hurry to have my ring on my finger. I jump up and he stands and I hug him and kiss him and pull back to loosen his tie. He tries to reach for my dress and, I daresay, other things of mine, but I stop and tell him to be patient.

“You have a lifetime to explore me.”

I undo each of his shirt buttons, kissing his chest each time.

“And me you,” I say when done. I pull the shirt from his trousers and push it over his shoulders. He has to undo the cufflinks. I hold my hand open and he places them in them. They bear his initials.

“My parents gave them to me as a graduation present. But I don’t wear French cuffs often.”

He seems embarrassed as I study them. They are gold with the initials.

“I love them.” I kiss each and put them on the side table next to my box.

His shirt off, I toss it to the side. I’d seen his bare chest but I’d never seen it. I lust for his body. There’s some light hair, but not much. He’s not built-up, but perfectly proportioned, down to his flat stomach. He arms are smooth, and I will enjoy them wrapped around me.

They reach around me, but not to hug. To unzip. He is nervous and the apartment is warm and I inhale his sweat. I hope he can smell mine, either with or without a tinge of my Channel, as his head is beside my neck. I’ve fallen into the music.

With my zipper down, I face him. I let him push my dress from my left and my right shoulders, and he pushes it past my hips and to the floor. I step out of it, lifting it and placing it on a chair, and turn to him. I am in lingerie I bought that afternoon. It is a cream-colored lace. The bra is racier than I would normally wear. It covers my nipples and only a bit above. I don’t have much cleavage, but it is enough for him. He’s seen me in a bathing suit and in a sports bra. He’s never seen me in a cream-colored lace bra that covers my nipples and only a little bit above.

I am displaying myself. His eyes move from my chest down and I can only imagine what he is thinking as he takes in my panties. I don’t know whether there’s a stain or an outline of my pussy lips. I don’t care. I don’t fucking care. I am in my lingerie and two-inch black heels and nothing else.

His hands move to my hips. He leans down and they—his hands—move to my ass. He kneads my cheeks slightly and closes on me. I feel him through his trousers. I have never been in heat like this, fighting, as I am certain he is, to maintain control. My hands are on his ass. A man’s ass, and now I hold it, as he holds mine.

Again all of these thoughts rifle through me as his mouth meets mine and I am, somehow, more excited. I push back and reach for his belt, awkwardly undoing it and then his zipper and the button on his trousers. He kicks his shoes off. I back away so he can remove his pants and socks, and he takes them and throws them close to where my dress is folded.

He is too close. I cannot look at his briefs and I cannot see the outline of his dick until he again steps back. It is my turn, and I reach around and unclasp my bra, pulling the strap over my right and then left shoulder. I look up to him, but his eyes are looking at my bra. I pull it away and I hear a moan. I don’t think he realizes he made it. His eyes are a man’s eyes, looking at my boobs. My hard nipples.

“Holy fuck.” I don’t think he realizes he says it. At this point, I’m not waiting. My hands reach the waistband of my panties. I kick my shoes off, dropping down two inches, and unceremoniously remove the last of my clothing.

If I thought he is in awe of my boobs, it is nothing compared to his seeing my pussy. It is trimmed, but only lightly. I know it is glistening. I know I am drenched. He has no control over his eyes. He’s embarrassed by being so superficial, but I cannot blame him. A man’s eyes.

Of course, I can see the outline of his dick in his briefs. He regains some control, and he, also without ceremony, removes them. I am also not prepared. I’d slept with four men. But if I recall what any of their dicks looked like, those memories evaporate. Complete irrelevances. Before me is the perfect dick. The perfect penis. The perfect cock. I have no idea about its size. Its length or its girth. It is his and therefore it is perfect. With a drop or two of pre-cum at its tip. He has pubic hair, but as with his chest, it is light. I can just see his balls dangling.

I lean to him. Our hands are again on each other’s asses, but this time I feel his dick against my stomach. I spread my legs slightly so I can feel the slightest touch from his left thigh. I hope he doesn’t notice that I move slightly up and down on his leg, and I swear I can come from doing this alone. I force myself to step back and turn to lie on his bed. I am straining to maintain calm, but it’s a charade. My body is in a turmoil it has never known and that I hope it will be known again and again and again with him.

He looks down at me. The idiot asks if I want him. I know I shouldn’t refer to him that way but, really, he is an idiot, with me giving out more signals than Commissioner Gordon with the Bat-Signal.

Unfortunately, I use my outside voice. “Fuck me, you idiot. Fucking fuck me.”

His smile goes from bewildered to ecstatic as he reaches into a drawer. Days later (so it seems) he’s gotten a condom out of its wrapper and it is on his dick and he is above me, between my legs.

“Are you sure?”

Jeez. This man truly is an idiot. I grab his ass to pull him closer and then my hand reaches for his dick and puts it at my entrance and he finally gets the hint and the man I love unreservedly finally puts himself inside me and it is without a doubt the most wonderful moment of my life.

*      *      *      *

It’s dark and for a moment I have no idea where I am. I hear someone breathing in the bed and I remember where I am and who I am with. It’s too dark to see him but I sense his presence in the closed air of his bedroom. I turn on my back and replay the recent hours. He is a kind lover. I’ve not had many lovers of any kind, but he is different. It’s not technique. Neither of us has experience enough for that. It’s him.

I have no idea what time it is and for a moment I think of ripping the covers from him and taking him. But he’s in too deep a sleep. I decide to chance making my way to the bathroom to pee, trying to recall where the door is and whether there are any obstacles along the way. Inch-by-inch and using my hands as a guide, I find the door and am in the hall. It is brighter—the shades aren’t down and ambient light enters through the front window.

I get into the bathroom and close the door, my eyes adjusting to the stark light.

I pee and wipe myself and put the lid down on the toilet so I can sit. I’ve been here many times. It, too, is different. I see where I will put my things. My toothbrush and makeup. My tampons and the pills I sometimes need for the shoulder pain that flares up now and then from a fall I took when I was twelve. The tub with its curtain and showerhead. I think of him taking me there. Of me “innocently” leaving the door ajar while I’m showering and him pushing the curtain aside and joining me. As the image grows, I slip my hand in my lace panties, running a finger up my folds. My left hand goes beneath his t-shirt, the long one he lent me to wear to bed, and I’m rubbing my boob as I picture him doing.

I’m jolted back by the knocking.

“Are you OK?”

It takes a moment, but I regain my composure.

“I’m good. Just taking care of business.”

“OK. Come back to bed,” he wearingly responds.

When he’s gone, I wipe again and flush. I sniff my middle finger after I stand and turn to the mirror. I’ve never done such a thing. Touching myself like that. Smelling myself. I see my face. I know I’m not pretty. But it’s a pleasant face. Welcoming and kind. Now it is framed by bed hair, a few strands sticking well out to my right and one or two draped over my forehead. I pull them to the side.

My lips. Are they kissable lips? Would a man want to put his lips to them? Would this man want to put his lips to them? Yes, he did. He proved that he did. And he proved how much he wanted all of my body. He loves me, yes. But he lusts after me as well. I place my hands on the sink to steady myself. Crazy thoughts. I need to get back into bed—our bed—and feel and smell him.

I turn the light off and give myself a minute to allow my eyes to get accustomed to the dark. With a final sigh, I open the door and head back.

He’s put a small lamp on. He is on his side. His top is off, but he still has his pajama bottoms on. He’s made room for me. When I get in, I kiss his lips. I prevent his tongue from invading; he’ll discover my morning breath soon enough. I turn on my left side and reach to turn the lamp off. I settle on the pillow and feel his right arm encircle me. His hand grazes my left boob, but I shoo it away and it’s on my shoulder.

His lips brush against the back of my neck and I hear, barely, “I love you” and I echo it, my hand squeezing his against my shoulder. It doesn’t last long. I feel his erection against my ass. There’s no way we’re going to sleep like that.

I mumble, “Either you—both of you—turn away from me or there’ll be hell to pay.”

The bastard replies, quietly and breathfully in my ear, “If this is hell, I’m one happy sinner.”

Fuck it. I know he’s hard. He’ll soon know I’m wet.

“Get a condom.” He reaches for one he’d conveniently left on the table by his side of the bed. He shimmies his PJs off as I turn the light back on. He opens the package and slides the condom on. I turn the light off. I shimmy to take my panties off and pull the t-shirt over my head and toss it aside.

I am wet, and we need no foreplay. I straddle him and hold his dick as I lower onto it. It fills me immediately, sliding in. Completely. Perfectly. I savor his hands on my boobs, and then he’s rubbing my nipples as I’m rolling on him, lifting myself slowly before letting my full weight impale myself on him. My legs start to tire so I push his hands away and lower myself to him, my boobs crushing against his chest as my hands grip the sides of his head, and my mouth is all over his face. Kissing his nose, his forehead, until his hands grab my head and pull me to his lips and we, this sweet, simple pair of best friends, lose all control, animals in heat. He shoves his hips up at me as his dick moves in and out. It pops completely out at one point and in a panic I reach down to get it back in, a wave of relief passing over me.

Though mostly we kiss because we are fucking, in part we kiss so we don’t wake the neighbors up. Until I push away.

“Jesus fucking Christ. Jesus fucking—”

I stiffen, a corpse, my pussy like the beginning of the universe, exploding in less than an instant and sending all that is and all that will ever be to my body’s farthest reaches. In that moment, with him moving insistently inside me, I know perfection.

From somewhere in my universe defined by our two bodies I feel his final thrust. He is completely inside me and I want his seed but it is too early for that as he grunts like the male animal he is and bucks again and again until his ass collapses on our bed and he is done.

I am above him, and I move down and he comes out of me. I place the side of my head on his chest. His heart is beating. Fast, as his chest moves up and down in his struggle to get his breath back. I have never been like this with anyone, and I take in the scent of our sweat mixed with those from my pussy and his dick.

All I hear is the sound of his breath, and perhaps my own, and the occasional horn from Columbus Avenue. All I smell is sex. His arms wrap around me and he whispers “I love you,” and I run my hands up his arm and tell him “I know” and let him wait for several beats before saying, “I love you,” getting a “you just love my body” in response. And it’s true. I love his body. More than I imagined. It is under twelve hours since I first looked at it with a woman’s eyes. I have no idea about its particulars. It is his, and it is perfect.

His fingers ran through my hair till he reaches over and picks his phone up from the side table.

“It’s 4:22. I have to take care of something.”

It takes me a second to understand and with a peck on the top of my head, he leans over and turns on a small side-lamp and gets up to go to the bathroom. He awkwardly cradles his condom-encased dick and I wonder what his cum tastes like. A thought that never, I assure you, passed through my head before that moment. What would it taste like direct from the source. Am I becoming a horny slut? For him?

The toilet flushes, and I get up, passing him in the hall. We’re both a bit embarrassed, both naked, and we reach to touch each other’s fingers as we pass. When I am in the bathroom, I close the door. I clean myself off and, without daring to look in the mirror, I rejoin him in bed. Perchance to sleep. He kisses me and reaches to turn the lamp off and plops down on what is now “his side” with his arms above his head. He says, to no one in particular, “I can’t believe how beautiful you are.” I smile then I settle in and close my eyes. Perchance to dream.

*      *      *      *

It’s light when I wake up, and the bed is empty. After orienting myself, I pull the covers off. I realize that the only clothes I have are his t-shirt and my dirty lace panties. I can’t imagine what my pussy smells like and the room smells even more of sex in the light. I have no choice but for him to see me like this—he’s already seen more, of course—so I stand and stretch and hope to dash to the bathroom.

After I open the door, I hear him in the kitchen. He has this strange fixation of old rock music. “Classic rock.” I hear it from the kitchen, although it’s Bowie and tolerable.

“‘Can you hear me, Major Tom? . . . Can you hear me, Major Tom?’” I stick my head to the door.

“‘Am I floating—’”

He stops when he hears my “I’m up/I’m going to the bathroom/I’ll be right out.”

He dampens the music and turns.

“Good morning. I put a clean towel for you. Also, there’s a new toothbrush next to the sink.”

I wave and head to the bathroom, hoping he didn’t see too much of my disheveled face and hair.

With the bathroom door closed, I turn on the light. My first look is in the mirror. I look like crap. It’s probably bullshit, but I look not just truly and well fucked but truly and well loved. I know, I know. It’s a delusion but for at least those few moments it can be my delusion. With an idiotic grin.

I turn on the water and rinse out my mouth using my hand as a cup. To the right is an unopened toothbrush next to—I’m sure innocently next to—an open 36-count box of Trojans. The presumptuous bastard. I’m tempted to see how many have been used, but resist. Though I lift it. It seems pretty full.

I brush and rinse. Shower? I need one. The bathroom smells of my sex even with the dampness from his shower. There’s a plush towel and another t-shirt on the downed toilet sheet, which I have to lift to pee. I get the shower going and strip. My lace panties are stained and I wonder if he’d like to smell them. No. I don’t wonder. I know him well enough now to know he would. I feel kind of slutty at this realization about my fiancé and me. But needs must and I’ll have to put them on when I’m done. “Panties” become the first item on my to-bring list.

The first wave of shower water is blissful. I let it run down my chest and down my legs and turn so it can drown my back. When I turn forward again, I grab a (new) bar of soap—he has been considerate—and soap myself down. My fingers run through my pussy in a pleasing combination of need and desire. I savor a second of one finger’s invasion. I think for a second of him being with me. I mustn’t linger though, what with the real thing sitting in the other room drinking coffee. I turn and soap up my ass cheeks and my ass crack before rinsing. Finally, I wet my hair and face. I leave my hair unwashed.

When done, I dry and put on the t-shirt. It is long, reaching mid-thigh. Still, I put my panties on. After dangling my towel on a bar, I emerge and head to the kitchen. A new woman. He’s sitting in the living room immersed in his tablet. When he notices me, he jumps up and the tablet crashes to the floor. And if I have ever seen a man taken over by an expression of lust and love before, I don’t recall it. He is standing in his pajama bottoms and a long t-shirt.

“Morning. There’s coffee in the kitchen.”

I hesitate before turning.

“And some cereal. Special K and Raisin Bran,” I hear as I leave him.

The light is bright in his kitchen, and he’s put some light classical music on his Alexa. A cup for coffee and bowl for cereal are on the counter. He has a French press coffee device, and I pour some, getting milk from the fridge. I pour Special K into the bowl and douse it with milk. As I put the container on the counter, I feel his arms encircle me. I place my own on his forearms and back slightly to feel him.

I feel him harden. He realizes it, and pulls away, embarrassed. I turn and pull his lips to mine and explore his mouth and push him back.

“You flatter me.”

“I’d like to do more—”

I put my finger across his lips.

“Plenty of time for such foolishness later. We have to talk.”

His expression sags so I leap in with, “Happy talk. Very happy talk,” and I follow him into the living room with my bowl and a spoon. He has my cup.

Which is how our first morning as a couple begins. Talking about us, about things, about our wedding. Talking about who we’ll tell and when. Talking about where we’ll live. Talking about what things it’s too early to talk about.

By the end of our first day, and after several trips, a mixture of my underwear and clothing have found places in his dresser and closet. A toiletries case has my essentials, and he’s made a spot for them in the bathroom. It’s amazing how all those short trips add up and by six we sit exhausted in his living room, waiting for our Chinese to be delivered.

He shames me by using chopsticks as we sit across from one another at his small, round kitchen table, glasses of wine to the side. We are so tired that we go to bed—to sleep—at about ten-thirty after watching a movie from his couch. I quickly drift off after I hear that he’s asleep with his arms around me.

*      *      *      *

I spend Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday nights with him. We fuck each of those nights before sleep. In other regards, too, things go well. Our families and friends are told—“what took you so long?” said by more than one—and my ring is admired at the office. We still have our own places, but his is bigger and more modern.

On Saturday morning he goes for a run and when he returns he goes for a shower. He “forgets” to close the door all the way, and I pull the curtain back and join him. After he turns, I run kisses down from his face and squat in front of his dick. I am going to taste his cum from the source. I ignore the water cascading over me and run my hands over it. Then I go down on him. Simple as that. I go down on him. He turns the water off. I have no idea what I am doing, but he seems to enjoy it. His hands pull me closer. My right hand goes to his balls, and I play with them. His hands are lightly on my head. After bobbing up and down several times, my hands gripping his ass, I begin to choke as he begins to come.

He relaxes his grip and I pull back, trying to keep all of his cum in my mouth. It is too much, though, and I have to pull off, his final stream hitting me on the side of my face. We rinse each other off and we kiss—his tongue tasting some of himself—before we leave the shower together. After toweling off in silence, I lead him to the bedroom. I pull the shade. We’re naked, and I lie in the middle of the bed.

“Eat me.”

He is between my legs. His mouth, with the slight bristle of a day-old beard around it, is, well, “pleasuring” me. He has little more experience doing what he is doing than I had doing what I did in the shower, but the result is the same. I guide him to where I want his tongue to be and I lose it when he slips a finger in me. I pull his head almost inside as I ride out the orgasm. It is a Saturday morning in late February and he crawls up to me and we lay naked on the bed as I recover my senses.

When I look over, the bastard has the most self-satisfied grin on his face, which is saying a lot. It’s late morning and he pulls the covers over us. While we’re lying there, with him behind me and his damn erection again against my back—I’m resigned to spending many years feeling it when we’re like this—we decide not to wait too long to be married. I never had a dream of a dream wedding. Getting married to him seems simply another step in a natural evolution. We’ll have a simple ceremony. We don’t have that many friends. It is mostly just “us.” Being married would simply more of it.

Any concerns about sexual compatibility are by the board. We speak about kids and agree we weren’t ready and maybe never would be. Having kids is not something that I pine for. Religion? We are both raised Catholic but are agnostic and went to our respective churches only on Christmas and Easter. Still, we’ll look into getting married in a Catholic Church. It’d make our families happy.

It’s February 23. A June wedding would be nice. With that thought, I quickly drift away, held by my fiancé.

*      *      *      *

It’s two weeks since Valentine’s Day. Since we sat at the bar and he joked about people proposing and we sat in the patisserie and he proposed. I’ve packed a lifetime of passion in these fourteen days. Yet things haven’t changed as much as you’d think. Yes, the sex. The glorious, varied sex. In, and out of, bed. I love to taste him and he loves to taste me. At times I think he prefers eating me out more than fucking me. But much as I love giving him head, it is nothing compared to when he is inside me. And the future.

But, as I say, surprisingly few changes. Take tonight. The fourth Thursday in February. He is at the bar at our place when I arrive, and my vodka tonic sits on it when I reach him. He’s not told Mike or Marie or June. He leaves it to me, and I flash my ring at the bar and then show Marie. When she comes to take us to our table, June notices as well. She, of course, adds her name to the it’s-about-time committee before hugging me. After she spreads the news to some regulars, several come to congratulate us and wish us well.

The guy we always see at the patisserie congratulates us, lowering his voice to say he’d seen what happened when we were last there and wondered whether I’d say “yes.” Cheesecake, cappuccino, and espresso on the house.

And now we are in our bed. Me on my right side and he on his left. It is the last day of February and it is cold outside, but the heat makes it cozy. Being beneath the covers makes it cozier still, but they’re too restricting for what we do when we lay in the bed facing each other naked, as we are doing now.

His hands are around my waist. I reach beneath my pillow. With it there, I tell him I have a present for him. I love surprising him. Out comes a round, plastic container. In it are twenty-eight pills. The pill. I’d never thought of it before. Sex was infrequent. Condoms not a big deal. Again, I had all of four lovers before this.

I ache for him to come inside me. To feel his cum in me. I realize it’s not foolproof and we’ll use a bit of the rhythm method—my periods have always been regular—but. . . To feel his cum. A consummation, devoutly to be wished.

Of course, he signs on immediately. It’ll take a while for it to kick in. But it will kick in. Maybe I should have waited till then to tell him. I am too excited. He reaches for a condom. I tell him, “not yet.”

He looks disappointed and a bit confused. “Let’s do it in the dark,” I say. I break his grip to turn the lamp on my side off. It’s dark, but not pitch. Even when my eyes adjust, I won’t see anything but shadows. It liberates me to do things I might not do otherwise. Tonight I crawl down. He is hard. Has been since about ten seconds after we got on the bed. I reach for his dick with my right hand, leaning over him. My left goes beneath, caresses his balls. I know his hands are behind his head, as I service him. I don’t mean for that to sound like something submissive. It never is for us. It’s just that I’m focused on giving him pleasure.

He jumps slightly when my tongue touches the tip. I begin to move my right hand up, my left lightly squeezing his balls. I encircle the head with my mouth as I run my right hand up and down. Increasing the pace. It has been building since we were at the restaurant. The anticipation. He might have two vodka tonics in him, but it is not affecting his arousal.

He can’t keep his hands idle, and they touch my head, as if he’s balancing a feather. His ass is rocking and his breath is labored. He’s mumbling something but either it’s too quiet or I’m too distracted to make it out. I do hear several “Oh”s. He cedes all control to me. To my mouth, tongue, and teeth. To my ten fingers.

Soon my right hand is gone from his dick, and it pats his stomach. It is replaced by my mouth, now fucking his dick. No. He is not fucking my mouth. I am fucking his dick. My pussy is drenched, but she’ll have to wait. This is him. But the wait will not be long. His grip on my head tightens. I haven’t gone down on him many times, but I already know when he is getting close. He knows I want him to come in my mouth so he releases my head.

His body stiffens. His dick explodes. I time my swallows so I can get most of it. When he is done, I give his balls a final squeeze and his dickhead a final kiss. He wants me to kiss him. He likes to taste himself from my mouth. But he’s done and I don’t care about what he wants. Instead of the lips on my mouth, my pussy lips are on his mouth as I straddle his head and lower myself.

This is why I want it dark. I want him to guess what I am doing. Now he knows. I am grinding my pussy into him. I grab my pillow and double-up his so he has a better angle. He may just have come, but it is one continuous sex act. He came, yes, but he’s yet to come down and it won’t be long before he’s hard again. I don’t care. I’m grinding my pussy into him, my hands grasping his shoulders and my mouth begging him for “more-more-more.”

“Forget your tongue. Use your fingers. Both hands.”

His head drops back as I loosen my grip on his shoulders and back off slightly. He awkwardly but enthusiastically puts three fingers of his right hand inside me—I am drenched—and runs one of his left fingers up and down my folds. The combination puts me over, and I shift my hands to grab the sides of his head and burst. My legs spasm as I glare into the dark until it passes.

I collapse to his side but instead of lying on my back I turn on my side and reach for him. He turns his head and I kiss him and I hate myself for it but when my hand feels his erection I’m without the energy to do anything. He whispers, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of him,” and I don’t worry as his hand starts pistoning on his dick. His head turns up, and I have energy enough to nibble on his ear, running my teeth down its lobe, now exhorting him to “Come for me, baby, think of being in me” and at the sound of the “m” in “me” he explodes for the second time, cum shooting over his stomach and landing on his chest until his orgasm dribbles to an end.

He’s too spent to do anything, so I hop up and turn on the lamp on my side of the bed. I leave, wiggling my ass for him, and grab a hand-towel from the hall closet and, after dampening it in the bathroom, I return and clean him off. He’s still breathing heavily while I do. In a sense it’s a waste of perfectly wonderful cum but I, too, am done and unable to do anything about it. Plus I’ve already had my recommended daily allowance.

It’s still not late. I toss the towel somewhere on the floor, making sure to avoid the area rug, and again lean against him. He pulls the covers over us. I must have dozed off as I awaken by his shaking my shoulder with his right hand.

“It’s falling asleep,” he says as he extracts his arm from beneath me and I apologize. He pecks the top of my head and tells me how much trouble I am before pulling the cover aside and saying he needs to get ready for bed and I cover myself with the blanket and watch his ass leave our room.