WINNER of the 2009 Quill Award for "Best Erotica."
Thank you so much to Mara ♣ McBain for the beautiful black ribbon.
Ten Days In January
by Charlie Maddox
Author's Note: I have given one of the main characters, Skylar Baron, some of my own characteristics: profession, place of residence, etc. When I decided to write this story, I thought putting a little of myself into this character would make her, and in turn the story, more believable--nothing more; nothing less. Despite our physical and circumstantial similarities, the story contained herein is purely fictitious.
I was scared shitless. Not only was I not used to flying, the thought of finally meeting Jesse after all these months was almost too much to bear.
I boarded the plane at 2:50 p.m.--Delta Airlines Flight 4395 from Boise to Salt Lake City for a one-hour layover, then on to St. Louis. The entire trip was scheduled to take approximately four and a half hours. I'd brought my computer along, though I wasn't sure I'd have time to use it. If things went according to plan the last thing on my mind would be my computer. I also wanted to bring my camera, but my computer was the only carry-on I was allowed to bring, so I bought a large purse and threw my camera inside. There, I thought. Everything I need for ten days in a new city.
I found my seat, 3D, tucked my computer into the overhead compartment, and plopped down next to the window. I hope I don't get stuck next to some big fat guy who wants to talk the whole way, I thought as I pulled the latest edition of The Writer out of my oversize purse. This is my insurance--look busy reading and people will leave me alone.
The captain's voice came over the intercom and the flight attendant pantomimed how to use the oxygen masks, showed us where the emergency exits were, and demonstrated how to fasten our seatbelts should the plane experience difficulties. Yeah, right! I thought. Like a friggin' seatbelt is gonna help us out if we go down.
"Statistically speaking, you're more likely to be struck by lightning than die in a plane crash."
I turned to my left and looked into a very large but friendly face. He was sixtyish, graying at the temples, and he wore glasses that were way too small, but his smile reached all the way to his eyes. I liked him instantly.
"David Tibbets," he said, extending a hand. "I teach Anatomy and Physiology at Boise State University."
"Skylar Baron," I replied, taking his hand. "I'm a nurse at St. Al's but secretly aspire to be the next great American novelist. Nice to meet you, David."
"Now that's a nice firm handshake for a girl, Skylar. A nurse, huh? Were you in my class? You look familiar."
"No, I went to nursing school in Nevada."
"Hmm. I wonder where I've seen you before. I never forget a face. Oh well, I suppose it's neither here nor there. Where you headed?"
"St. Louis to visit a friend."
"You're kidding me?" David's face beamed. "Me too! Well, I'm not going to visit a friend. My youngest daughter is getting married in three days."
"We will now begin our taxi down the runway," the captain said. "Please turn off all electronic equipment and remain in your seats with your belts fastened. Thank you for flying Delta Air Lines."
I turned my attention back to David. "Oh, congratulations! Getting married, huh? Two things I tend to avoid are weddings and funerals. They make me cry. But I hate funerals more and rarely go. There's far too much death in my life as it is."
"Yes, I can imagine. Nurses see terrible things. I don't know how you do it--all that suffering and death. No one should be subjected to that much pain in their lifetime."
I was suddenly uncomfortable. I didn't want to talk anymore--not about this subject. Just what I was afraid of--a fat guy who wants to talk the whole way. I glanced at my magazine in my lap and drummed my fingers across Edwidge Danticat's beautiful face.
"Oh, I'm sorry," David said, a look of embarrassment on his pudgy face. "I'm keeping you from your magazine, aren't I?" He leaned in closer. "I do that, too," he whispered. "No better insurance against talkative strangers than a CD player, book, or magazine."
I was mortified. "No, I--"
David raised his hand to stop me. "It's okay; I understand. We'll have plenty of time to talk," and with that he leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes.
I sighed and shook my head. God, I'm such a jerk!
I opened my magazine but couldn't concentrate. I'd read an entire page and had no idea what I'd just read. I glanced over at David, now asleep beside me, and thought I'd do the same. I pulled the flimsy blanket up under my chin, closed my eyes, and thought of Jesse.
We'd met online. I'd been a member of a certain website longer than he, and he emailed me one day to ask me a question. I responded. What transpired was a series of email and instant messages, talking about our families, our experiences, our hopes and dreams--sometimes for hours. We had a lot in common, and we made each other laugh. We exchanged phone numbers and addresses, though neither of us used them. Until....
One day, a month or so into our friendship, he asked me in an instant message, "Can I call you right now?" I was excited--terrified. Ohmigod! What do I do? Why am I so nervous about talking to him on the phone?" I wondered. I waited, I paced, then sent him an instant message that read simply, "Yes."
So we heard each other's voice for the first time that day, and when I heard him laugh I thought, Uh oh. I knew then what I felt for Jesse was more than friendship. I'm in big trouble.
Jesse and I were already married.
"I'm sorry to bother you, ma'am, but would you like a snack?" the flight attendant asked.
I opened my eyes to peruse her wares: cookies, peanuts, chips, granola bars, snack mix, coffee, orange juice, sodas. I shook my head. "No, thank you."
"You look troubled."
It was my pudgy-faced neighbor to the left. Suddenly I was glad for the company. "Do I?"
"Yes, you do. You wanna talk about it? I'm a good listener."
I sat up and looked at him, smiling again at the concern on his face. "What did you say you teach?"
David laughed. "Well, I teach A&P, but my wife was a counselor."
I looked at him, at the genuine concern in his eyes. "You know, I've kept this secret for six months. There's no one I can talk to about it. No one I can trust, anyway."
"Might do you good to get it off your chest, kiddo."
"Well, it's about my friend."
"The one in St. Louis?"
"Yes. We met online about six months ago, and we're meeting for the first time tonight."
"Oh, how exciting!"
"Yes, well ... when we left our houses this morning we didn't tell our spouses where we were going."
"Oh," he said, the truth dawning on his friendly face. "I see. What's his name, sweetheart?" David asked, handing me a tissue.
"Tell me about Jesse."
And I did. I told him everything, and he was right ... it felt great to get it off my chest.
David and I arrived in Salt Lake City as friends. With only thirty minutes before my plane to St. Louis departed, I scrambled to the nearest kiosk for something to eat.
"Hungry?" David asked.
"Yeah, there's something about purging my conscience that makes me hungry. I'm famished! You want something? I'm buying."
"No, but thank you. I'd better be going to the terminal. These old legs don't keep up like they used to."
"But we're on the same flight, aren't we?" I dug my ticket out of my purse. "I'm on Delta Air Lines Flight 4537, seat 4D."
David laughed as he stuffed his ticket back in the pocket of his tweed jacket. "Kismet."
My mouth was too full of Polish sausage and dry hotdog bun to speak, so I asked, "Huh?"
"Delta Air Lines Flight 4537, seat 4C," he replied, tapping his pocket with his sausage-like fingers. "It appears we will be neighbors once again, Miss Skylar."
"Getthefuckouttahere!" I squealed before I could stop myself. "Shit, sorry. I forgot to mention I have a potty mouth."
"No apologies necessary. I am sixty-one years old. I have heard that particular word a time or two. Besides, it's kind of refreshing to see a woman comfortable enough in her own skin to speak her mind. If people don't like it--"
"That's right," David laughed. "Fuck 'em."
We boarded the plane and found our seats. Mine was next to the window again, and I offered it to David. "Really, it's alright. You can sit by the window this time if you'd like."
"No, that's quite alright, Skylar. I'll keep the one I have, I think, though I do appreciate the offer."
I could hear David's stomach growling and knew the meal we had coming would leave much to be desired. "I bet you're wishing you took me up on that Polish dog now, huh?" I asked.
"Oh, I'll be smelling it all the way to St. Louis, no doubt," he said with a smile.
I laughed. "Yep. The gift that keeps on giving."
Once again the captain's voice came over the intercom, and once again the flight attendant pantomimed how to use the oxygen masks, showed us where the emergency exits were, and demonstrated how to fasten our seatbelts should the plane experience difficulties.
"I've often wondered if they really believe our seatbelts would save our lives if we crashed." David mused aloud. "I mean, what's the point? They put seatbelts on airplanes, but not on school buses. Does that make any sense to you?"
"None. It's like people who order Big Macs and large fries with a Diet Coke. Completely irrational."
As the plane took flight I realized I was clenching the arms of my seat a little too tightly. Calm down, I thought. "Statistically speaking, you're more likely to be struck by lightning than die in a plane crash." I remembered David's words and smiled.
"So, tell me about yourself, David. How long have you been teaching?"
"Oh, a long time. Over thirty years now."
"You said earlier that you have a wife?"
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean--"
David raised his hand. "Nope, that's quite alright. She passed away in August. Cancer. It's been a tough six months."
"I'm so sorry. What was her name?"
"Sara. We were married for forty years. High school sweethearts. I sure do miss her," David said, turning away to hide the tears in his eyes.
No wonder he wants to talk. He's lonely. Wait a minute ... Sara Tibbets. I know that name. Holy moly, I remember now! I--
"David, I cared for your wife in the hospital. I remember her." I conjured up an image of her in my mind. I could see her lying there in her bed. Her bald head looked so vulnerable; her hands so frail. She'd lost so much weight from the cancer that I could lift her off the mattress. "She was lovely, David. She was so gracious. I never once heard her complain about the pain."
David cried, unashamed. He pinched his eyes shut beneath his too-small glasses, sending tears streaming down his round face. "Yep," he finally choked out the words. "That sounds like my sweet Sara."
This time it was me who handed him a tissue. I rubbed his back as he blew his nose and wiped his eyes. I hate death. It's not the dying I empathize with--they are usually ready and accept their fate, but the living ... no matter how much warning they have, no one is ever prepared for this.
David turned to me and smiled. "I knew you looked familiar. I never forget a face."
I knew then that David and I would be friends for life.
I slept. Stress has a tendency to make me tired. Maybe it's a coping mechanism--an escape. For six months my mind had been tormented and bombarded, my conscience at odds with my will; my mind at odds with my heart. Am I making the right decision? Am I making the wrong decision? What will my life be like after this trip? What will happen if I go? What will happen if I don't go? Can I walk away from my husband? If I stay with Robert, I will have to give up Jesse. Am I willing--able--to do that?
Jesse had become a part of my life, my heart, and we talked every day. When Robert was home, Jesse and I chatted online. When Robert wasn't home, we'd talk on the phone. The whole thing was so out of character for me, so ... duplicitous. I'd been the faithful wife and mother for twenty years. Now our youngest child was months away from turning eighteen. I hadn't been happy for years, but I was content--resigned to the fact that this was my fate: a distant relationship with a man who felt more like a friend than a husband. I'd been a silent passenger, watching my life pass me by as if it were someone else's. As the weeks, months and years ticked away, I became more apathetic; complacent. There was no passion, no intimacy, no excitement. Sure, there was sex, but that's all it was: a physical act to fill a physiological need.
Jesse had opened my eyes to what I'd been missing, and I wanted more.
I dreamt. The hum of the airplane superimposed itself into my dream; the soothing rise and fall of its engines mimicking the gentle lullaby of the Pacific as the frigid water lapped against my bare feet.
I was dancing--arms outstretched, I raised my face to the sunny sky and smiled. Fresh autumn winds whipped my hair against my cheeks and into my mouth, but I didn't care. I was happy.
In my dream I could see Jesse watching me. He stood just a few feet away, his hands shoved deep into his pants pockets, his jacket zipped all the way to the top. The ocean air chilled me to the bone and my face was numb, but I danced anyway. I skipped by him and grabbed his hand, wanting him to join me, but he pulled me close instead. I unzipped his jacket and slipped my arms around him, nestling against his warm body.
"Hey," Jesse said, raising my chin until our eyes met. "I love you, Skylar Lynn Baron."
"I love you too, Jesse Blaine Miller." I buried my face in his chest and breathed him in. "Can we stay here forever, Jesse? Just you and me? Just the two of us?"
Jesse sighed and hugged me tighter. "Baby, I would love nothing more. I can't imagine going back to the way my life was before I met you. I don't want to imagine it."
"Skylar," a distant voice called. I could feel my mind slowly rise above the fogginess of sleep, and sadly, my dream of Jesse and the beach faded away. "Skylar, wake up, dear." David shook me gently, and I opened my eyes.
"So sorry to wake you, but we're landing in St. Louis soon."
"Oh my ... have I been asleep that long?" I felt panicked and nervous. I looked at my watch--8:40 p.m.
"Yes, and I didn't wake you for supper. I figured you could thank me later."
I glanced down at the dinner tray on David's lap as he lifted the lid covering the plate and wrinkled my nose in disgust. "Is that hummus?"
"Indeed it is, my dear. I figured Jesse is planning to take you out for something much better so I didn't wake you, but I held on to the tray just in case."
Ohmigod! 8:40. Jesse is down there waiting for me right now. I must look.... I examined my reflection in the window and groaned.
"Excuse me, David. I need to freshen up before we land," I said, scooting past him.
"Of course," he replied, moving his legs out of the way. "Excuse me, Miss. We're done with this tray now. Would you mind taking it?"
The flight attendant brushed past me. "We're landing in just a few minutes, ma'am. You really should remain in your seat with your safety belt fastened."
"I'll make it fast," I said. "It's an emergency."
I twisted my blonde hair and clipped it to the back of my head. The cold water felt glorious on my sleepy skin. I brushed my teeth, applied a fresh coat of my favorite wine-colored lipstick and another layer of mascara. My blue eyes were still bloodshot, so I dug in my purse for just the thing. There, I thought, instilling one drop of Opcon-A® into each one. That's much better.
"When is your return flight?" David asked as I took my seat next to him.
"Um ... February first, I believe. Yours?"
"I'm not sure, but it's not that far out. That's 10 days from now. Would you mind if I rescheduled mine? Flew back with you?"
"I would love that!"
I dug around in my purse for my return flight information. "I know it's in here somewhere." Instead I found the one picture of Jesse I'd brought with me. He was sitting at his computer, writing, a distant look of daydreamy determination on his face. The black and white of the photo gave it an antique, artsy appeal.
"Is that him?" David asked. "He looks a bit older than you."
"Oh, yes. He is a little older. Fourteen years, to be exact. He turned 54 in August,"
"He's got a good face."
"I think so, too. I wanted to bring a picture of him with me so I would recognize him at the airport. I would be so embarrassed to walk past him."
"Something tells me he won't have any problem recognizing you, my dear."
"Aw, thank you, David! That's very sweet." I blushed. I never was very good at compliments.
"Say, do you have a pen and paper? Let me give you my cell number. That way you can just call me later with your flight information. No sense digging through all your stuff right now. We'll be on the ground in less than five minutes."
I entered David's number into my phone just as the plane's tires hit the tarmac. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. My nerves were getting the better of me.
"There is no such thing as pure pleasure; some anxiety always goes with it."
"Ovid," I say.
"Yes! Another I like is, 'Love will enter cloaked in friendship's name.'"
"What about, 'We are ever striving after what is forbidden, and coveting what is denied us?'" I ask.
David reached over and squeezed my hand.
I was shaking. My knees felt weak, and my heart felt as though it would pound right out of my chest. We disembarked, slowly snaking our way through the windy, suspended tunnel and into the airport. It was crowded. So many people coming and going. I wondered who they were and what their lives were like outside this place. What if I can't find him? What if we don't recognize each other? Will he call me and have me meet him in a coffee shop somewhere?
"Skylar?" The voice came from behind me. It was a voice I'd heard so many times before--a voice I'd memorized and grown to love. It was a voice that sent shivers down my spine, and I felt myself crumble. Hands on my shoulders, Jesse turned me slowly to face him, his own eyes moist with tears. I could feel him trembling.
"Shh," he said as he pulled me close. "Don't cry, baby. Everything's gonna be alright. God, I'm so glad to see you."
"I knew you wouldn't feel like going out tonight," Jesse said from across the hotel room table. "How's your steak?"
I closed my eyes and moaned. "It's so good. And these garlic mashed potatoes are like a little dollop of whipped heaven. Thank you, Jesse ... for everything."
He smiled. His eyes bore holes into my soul, seeing me deeper than anyone had ever seen me before. I could feel them caressing every inch of me, their heat raising goosebumps across my skin. "Jesus, you're really beautiful, you know that?" he asked.
My breath quickened. My heart pounded in my ears, and the desire in his voice set the bellyflies aflutter. I lowered my gaze in an attempt to catch my breath; regain my composure. "Thank you."
"Why are you blushing? Hasn't anyone ever told you how beautiful you are before?"
Jesse raised my chin with the tip of his finger. "Look at me, Skylar."
I opened my eyes to look at him. The candle flickered soft orange hues across his whiskery face. My bottom lip started to tremble and my eyes blurred with tears.
"You are...." Jesse shook his head and sighed. "You take my breath away." He ran his thumb over my lips, his fingers trailing a gentle path across my cheek, down my neck to my decollete where it lingered just a moment. I inhaled sharply, and his exploration continued to my shoulder, my arm, until his hand enclosed mine. "You are gentle and kind, generous and gracious, tender and loving, humble and sexy without even trying. I love everything about you, girl."
I raised his hand to my lips and kissed his open palm, pressing his warm flesh against my cheek. "Thank you. I ... I've just never been very good at compliments."
"Well, you better get used to them. I can't take my eyes off you."
The bath Jesse had drawn for me was so hot my skin turned pink. It felt good. I dipped the back of my head below the water's surface and was startled to realize I was falling asleep. I pulled the plug and climbed out, toweled myself off, and slipped into my white tank and red tartan jama pants. We'll see if he still likes me without makeup, I thought. I quickly combed my hair, stroked some raspberry lip gloss across my lips, and opened the bathroom door.
The room was dark, and it took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust. The television flickered, and I cringed as Bear Grylls raised a ball of elephant dung and squeezed the water out of it into his mouth. "Ugh! Not one of the better drinks I've ever had," he said.
"I bet not," Jesse laughed.
I searched the room for him and finally saw him propped up on one elbow on the floor in front of the television. "What're you doing down there?"
"Well, there's only one bed, so I brought this sleeping bag," he said, patting the flannel material. "You take the bed. I'm good down here."
I slipped under the covers and pulled the comforter up under my chin. My body sunk into the mattress, suddenly exhausted. I closed my eyes. "I trust you," I whispered.
I heard the TV go silent and felt the left side of the mattress sink under his weight. He inhaled deeply and sighed. "You smell like sunshine."
I smiled and reached for his hand, lacing my fingers through his in the dark.
Sleep was an invisible assailant pinning me down against my will, refusing to set me free. My eyelids felt weighed down like 10-pound sandbags, and I had to force myself to open them. I squinted against the harsh sunlight that streaked through the half-open curtains, and for a moment I didn't remember where I was. Then I saw Jesse sitting across the room, watching me.
I rubbed my eyes and sat up. "Good morning. What time is it?"
Jesse looked at his watch and smiled. "Oh, it's almost noon. You know you snore when you sleep on your back? Real soft ... barely audible. I've been watching you since seven."
"Oh, God." I jumped out of bed. "I'm so sorry. Why didn't you wake me up? Shit, you must be starving ... and I do not snore!" I blushed.
I padded over to him and plopped onto his lap. Wrapping my arms around him, I buried my face in the crook of his neck. "Whoa!" he exclaimed, surprised. Then I felt him melt beneath me as he surrendered to my touch. Jesse pulled me closer into him and groaned. "You better be careful," he whispered in my ear. "I'm not sure I can behave myself."
His gruff, lust-filled voice sparked a yearning in me, an ache in the very core of my being I'd never felt before. I turned to straddle him and squeezed him tighter. I breathed him in, brushing my lips against his neck as I bit down gently. "I could just eat you up."
Jesse grabbed my hips, pulling me down hard onto him. I gasped at the sudden movement. His erection pressed urgently against the thin layer of pajama material that separated us; I'd never wanted a man inside me more.
"You're playing with fire, Milady."
My cell phone rang. "You've got to be kidding," I said, the mood broken.
"Who do you think is calling? Your husband?"
"No." I stood reluctantly and reached for the phone. "I told Robert I needed some time alone. He promised to give me my space. Oh, it's David!" I said, flipping my cell open. "Hi, David!" Jesse looked at me, puzzled. The guy from the plane, I mouthed.
"Hey, kid. I was wondering if you and Jesse feel up to lunch today. Ruth's Chris Steak House on Brentwood in an hour? My treat."
"Jesse, David wants to know if we'll meet him for lunch in an hour."
"Ruth's Chris Steak House on Brentwood."
"Oh, good choice. I'm game."
"We'll be there, David. Alright, see you then. Bye."
"David and I are gonna have words," Jesse said with a smile. "That guy's on my shit list now. Talk about bad timing."
"Can I take a raincheck?"
"You can take anything you want."
Lunch was nice and the food was good, but I had a hard time focusing. The morning's events replayed in my mind like some crazy looped video clip. I could still smell Jesse's freshly-washed skin, feel his whiskers against my cheek, taste his masculine essence on my lips.
Jesse put his warm hand on my knee under the table. I turned to look at him and he winked. It was an inside joke; a torrid secret only he and I knew.
I scooched down in my seat, eager for his touch. The skirt I wore rose just a bit as I relaxed my knees. Jesse raised an eyebrow, a slow, smouldering smile curled up the corner of his mouth.
David rattled on about how great his food was, how cold it was this time of year in St. Louis, how much his daughter's wedding was costing him. Jesse nodded appropriately and interjected the obligatory, "This really is a damn good steak," and "Missouri's always cold in January," and "Thank God my daughter paid for her own," while his hand slowly worked its way up my thigh.
"Skylar, you alright?" I heard David ask.
I suddenly realized I'd been sitting there with my eyes closed, my breath came in short, shallow gulps. "No, actually. Jetlag I suppose. I think I need to lie down." Jesse's finger traced the line between thigh and pubis and I gasped.
"Sure. Absolutely," David said. "You are planning to come to the wedding on Sunday, right?"
"Mmm-hmm. What time again? And where did you say...." I felt my panties being tugged aside as his hand slipped under the lace. Jesse ran his middle finger up my shaved cleavage from bottom to top. "Um ... where did you say? Which church again?"
"I'll call you with all the details. You don't look so good, kiddo," he said, patting my hand. "I think Jesse needs to get you outta here to get some rest. We'll talk later."
We paid for our food and left the restaurant. I felt weak, wobbly. I leaned on Jesse for support, worried my knees would go out from under me.
The cab driver knew the quickest route, and the hotel room was a short ten-minute drive away.
I stumbled backward through the hotel room door locked in Jesse's embrace and he kicked it closed behind us. Six months of repressed affection, longing, and lust had culminated in this one moment of frenzied hands and fevered lips. Jesse ripped open my shirt, sending the buttons flying. Without bothering to unclasp my bra he scooped my right breast from its confines and suckled hungrily, grunting as we toppled onto the mattress.
My head was spinning. I couldn't breathe. I hiked my skirt up and fumbled with Jesse's jeans, releasing his weeping cock into my hand. He groaned, reached down to tear my lace panties from my body and slip his hand under my bottom--holding my gaze as he shoved himself inside me.
"Oh!" I cried. The room spun around me as I swooned. "Oh my God. You feel so good, Jesse." I hugged him tight as my orgasm slammed through me. My juices dripped between my cheeks and onto the bed. "Jesus!" I trembled beneath him, the sweet release squeezing tears from my eyes.
Jesse raised himself up on his hands. I grabbed his ass, pulling him deeper. It was all the encouragement he needed. He lifted my left leg over his shoulder and thrust into me hard, scooting me up in the bed, his face so close I could feel his hot breath on my cheek. "I want you to come in me," I whimpered. Jesse's entire body shuddered as he came, clenching the bedding in his fisted hands. He flexed inside me, filling me. A bead of sweat dripped from his nose onto my exposed breast, and he collapsed onto the bed beside me, spent.
I rolled to face him, spearing my fingers through his damp hair. A single tear streaked down my cheek; Jesse wiped it away with his thumb. "Aw, babe, don't cry." Jesse pulled me to him and held me tight until I stopped trembling. "Shh," he soothed. "God, I wish I could just melt into you, absorb you," and I fell asleep tangled up in him.
I awoke to my shirt being slipped from my shoulders, followed by my bra, my skirt, until I lay naked on my back in the darkness. Jesse's labored breathing reverberated off the walls; his craving palpable. A flame suddenly flickered to life next to me and I watched Jesse ignite a small candle on the end table, illuminating my exposed flesh. I'd never felt more naked, and I reached for a nearby pillow, embarrassed.
"Please don't," Jesse whispered. "I've waited so long for this moment, Skylar. For you. I just want to look at you."
I let go the pillow and closed my eyes. I could hardly breathe. I didn't know what to do, so I lay there and let him look at me, let him devour me with his eyes.
He licked my right nipple gently with the flat of his tongue--a long, lingering, slow lick that made me shudder. A crisp evening breeze blew softly through the slightly-open window, cooling his saliva, coaxing my nipple to a slow erection. He moved to my left nipple, watching the effect his touch had on my body.
I began to quiver. My vibrations excited him further and he pinned my wrists above my head with his right hand as his left worked its way down my body. I could feel him, hard and throbbing, against my thigh.
He knelt before me, pulling my hips toward him till my buttocks were at the edge of the mattress. He caressed my calves, my knees, my thighs, his fingers lightly brushing through the tuft of hair in between. "Spread your legs," he whispered. Trembling, I let my knees drift apart, presenting my most secret recesses to him. "Damn, girl." Shaved from the mons down, I could feel his hot breath as he moved in closer. "I've daydreamed about having you here like this; fantasized about what you'd taste like."
"But I haven't showered since ... since before we...."
Jesse smiled. "Babe, that doesn't bother me, but ... alright, wait here. Don't move." He returned carrying a steaming towel and placed it between my legs. The heat was exquisite against my bare skin as he began to wash me.
"I've never had a man do that to me before," I sighed. "It feels good."
"I've never wanted to taste a woman more than I want to taste you," he said, taking up position once again between my legs and leaning in to part my body with the tip of his tongue. A guttural, animal-like moan escaped him as his hands slipped under my buttocks, lifting me to his face, his mouth, his tongue as he partook of the most sacred part of me.
Oh ... my ... God! My breathing stopped. My heart pounded urgently in my ears. I'd never much cared for having oral sex performed on me, but this was ... different. This man knew me, knew what felt good to me as if my body had been created solely for his pleasure. He started slowly, delicately, and once again I surrendered to him completely. I held his head in my hands as I writhed beneath his touch, and just when I thought I couldn't take any more, he took my clit into his mouth.
"Oh!" I gasped. "I'm gonna cum." A scorching tingle started in my belly. Every hair stood on end; every cell at peak sensitization as gooseflesh broke out across my body. My breasts swelled, my pussy ached, and Jesse held on tight, suckling my inner folds, his finger stroking around the rim of my opening as my orgasm crashed through me--a devastating tidal wave of pleasure that reduced me to a quivering mass of wasted flesh in its wake.
Jesse stood and leaned in to kiss me. I wrinkled my nose. "But you've just been ... down there." I said, pointing.
"Oh, but you taste so sweet," he said. I kissed him, tentatively at first, then eagerly as the musky smell of my sex filled my nostrils, my mouth. Jesse lay on top of me, grinding himself into my groin. I couldn't believe I was holding him in my arms. I pictured him down there ... doing that, and the thought sent a rabble of butterflies aflutter in my belly. I tugged his briefs down over his hips and rolled him onto his back. His shaft stood ready and glistening as I straddled him, positioned him at my cleft, and slid him into me to the hilt. He felt huge, stretching me, filling me, and I could feel his pulse from the inside.
I sat still for a moment, savoring the feel of him inside me before leaning forward to lick his neck, taste him, nibble him until he moaned. "You taste good," I said. "You feel good."
He closed his eyes, and I could feel his legs tense under me. "I won't last long if you keep doing that," he whispered.
I leaned back, resting my hands on his thighs. Another orgasm was building in me as I glided slowly, deliberately, back and forth against him. My eyes fluttered closed as I clutched Jesse's legs in my hands. "Jesus, look at you," he said, shaking his head. "I've never seen anything sexier than you are right now. I just wanna...." He grabbed my hips and thrust hard into me.
"Ugh!" I screamed, throwing my head back as a second orgasm coursed through my body. Jesse watched my every move, his undulations slowing as he came.
"Ah, fuck!" he moaned, grasping the metal framework of the headboard. I arched my back and rode him through his orgasm, watching as wave after wave washed over him until, finally, his muscles relaxed, his breathing slowed, and he opened his eyes to look at me.
He glowed. He looked beautiful lying there with his eyes half open, a small, contented smile curling the corners of his lips. "Jesus, you're killing me. Uncle!" he laughed, tapping my ass in surrender. Our essences mingled and pooled, thick and warm, onto the sheet beneath us.
Jesse pulled me down onto him and kissed my forehead before settling me in the crook of his arm. He stroked my back gently, breathed in the scent of my hair. "I love you, Skylar."
I looked him in the eye and kissed his mouth, and it took every ounce of strength I could muster to keep from bursting into tears. "I love you too, Jesse."
"What're we gonna do?"
In my dream Robert and I were in a bar. The music blared in the background--some modern-day uber techno version of You Spin Me Round (Like A Record). I watched as shirtless young men in their twenties shook their asses on the dance floor. The good ones had women flocking to them in droves, grinding their butts against their crotches, and I thought they looked like they were having sex with their clothes on.
"I think you're beautiful," I heard Robert say from across the table.
I turned to him, his eyes hazy from drink. "What?" I asked, though I'm not sure why. I'd heard him clearly the first time.
"I said I think you're beautiful." He reached across the table and unzipped my sweater a little further, my ample cleavage held in check by a now-visible red lace bra. "I like to take you out like this--show you off. I like it when other guys eyefuck you. I don't mind if they look, but I'm not sharing that sweet pussy with nobody."
I lowered my head, suddenly embarrassed. I've never been very good at compliments.
"You are kind and thoughtful, generous and loving, dedicated and lovely ... and you have the prettiest fuck me eyes I've ever seen. Even after twenty years I still get a hard on just looking at you." Robert reached across the table and took my hands in his. "I love you, babe, and even when we're not together, I'm thinking about you most of the time that I'm awake."
I woke up crying and sick to my stomach. The alarm clock on the end table said it was 5:13 a.m. and Jesse slept peacefully beside me. I reached over and delicately placed my hand on his chest, watching it rise and fall with every breath he took.
I'm not sharing that sweet pussy with nobody.
I ran into the bathroom and vomited in the toilet.
I turned on the tap and rinsed my mouth, splashed some water on my face. I wondered if I'd be able to stand to look at myself in the mirror, and that's when I saw Jesse standing in the doorway behind me.
"Wanna talk about it?"
"Not particularly." I dried my face and turned to face him.
He sighed heavily as he weighed his next words. "You know, pretending they don't exist won't make our spouses disappear. We have to talk about it eventually, Sky."
I fell apart.
"Oh, babe," Jesse said, hugging me tight. "It's okay. Shh." He smoothed my hair and kissed away my tears. "There, all better. Tell you what ... I'll make us some coffee, okay? It's about time to get up anyway."
I giggled. "Oh yeah, for who? The proverbial early bird?"
"Scoot," he said, swatting my behind. "That's an order, young lady. Two coffees and loaded bagels coming up."
"Thank you for the coffee and bagel."
"You are very welcome, Miss Skylar. Now, aren't you glad we got a room with a mini kitchen?"
I nodded. "Mmm-hmm! This bagel's yummy. I love cream cheese so much I could eat it with a spoon. I have, actually."
Jesse smiled and kissed the top of my head before sitting down beside me. "So ... tell me what prompted your bout of projectile vomiting this morning. You haven't been recently possessed, have you? Shall I call an exorcist?"
"No!" I laughed out loud. "You're funny. And I did not projectile vomit."
We sat holding each other's hands, the smiles slowly fading from our faces. My bottom lip started to tremble and I scrunched up my face as I began to cry. "This is so hard for me, Jesse. I'm not usually like this, you know? You are only the third man I've ever been with. I've been faithful to Robert since the day we married in 1989. I am literally sick with guilt over all this."
"Babe, I would never want you to do anything you'll regret. I couldn't live with myself if I knew I'd caused you pain."
"I could never regret you, Jesse. You have made me so happy these past six months. I feel more alive with you than I've felt in years ... maybe more than I've ever felt. I have a connection with you I've never experienced with anyone, not even Robert. It was there from the very first day--like I already knew you. I mean ... we finish each other's sentences."
"I know. I feel it too. I keep thinking that something that feels this right can't be wrong, can it? I've never known anyone like you, Skylar. I have waited for a woman like you my whole life. Where were you thirty years ago--before I got married?"
I giggled. "I was ten."
"Oh yeah," he smiled. "I keep forgetting about that. But now that I've found you I can't imagine giving you up."
"I worry about Robert's reaction to all this. He already takes antidepressants. So does Lisa, doesn't she? You know, he has his problems, but for the most part he's a good man. He's never laid a hand on me except in love. He's always taken good care of me and the kids. God, the kids!" I said, rubbing my forehead. "I worry about the kids--your four; my three. Then there's the grandkids. And we both have whole lives, people who rely on us and love us. Family members and friends and, in your case, employees. You've got a business. And our backgrounds! I was raised in the church; you and Lisa are still active in the church ... oh, it's just an impossible situation, Jesse."
Jesse sighed. "It does seem ... insurmountable, doesn't it? But I refuse to give up. We will figure this out, Skylar. I promise."
"All I know is that I have all your emails, your IMs, our telephone conversations, these ten days here with you ... no one can ever take those things away from me, Jesse. No matter what happens or how this all turns out, I will know that you did exist. You weren't just a figment of my imagination. You did happen to me."
"Come here," Jesse said, pulling me into his arms. "I feel myself withdrawing from my life. I spend more and more time alone. When I get home from work in the evenings I avoid any semblance of meaningful conversation with Lisa. I hate going to church anymore and will use any excuse not to go. I only go for Lisa's sake anyway--have for years. I feel like I'm on autopilot ... going through the motions, and I'm tired of living that way."
"Me too. I feel like a silent passenger ... watching as my life passes me by. I don't participate in it, I'm just along for the ride. I haven't been truly happy in years ... at least ten years. I look back and think if I'd only done what my gut told me to do all those years ago...." I sighed. "But instead I stayed. Not for myself, but for everyone else! Now I'm forty. What's it gonna be like ten years from now? I'll be fifty then. I'll have wasted twenty years of my life and nothing will have changed."
"Funny, isn't it?"
"That the things that attracted us to each other, that made us love one another, are the very things keeping us apart?"
"I'm fine. I just need some time."
Did we leave the TV on last night? I wondered as I sat up in bed. After our long early morning heart-to-heart, Jesse and I had fallen asleep in each other's arms. Now it was 8:47 a.m. Where's that damn voice coming from?
"Lis, I told you I need a few days. I've got a lot going on right now with work and ... I haven't had a vacation in over ten years. I want some time alone to clear my head."
It was Jesse. He was out on the patio talking to his wife. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and waited.
"No, I don't want to talk about it. That kind of defeats the purpose of coming here alone, doesn't it?" He sighed. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you. I just ... I just really need this right now. I'll be back on the first of February, okay? Alright, I'll talk to you in a few days. Bye bye, hon."
Jesse slid the glass door open on its runner, trying to be quiet. He'd closed the door and set his cell down on the table before noticing I was up.
"Did I wake you? I'm sorry," he said, gesturing to his phone. "Lisa called and--"
"You wanna get out of here?"
"Oh, this is so exciting!" I exclaimed as we took our seats in the tram. "I came here once when I was seventeen, but you just don't appreciate stuff like this when you're seventeen."
There were only five seats in the tram, and I knew that in four minutes I would be looking out a window at the top of the Gateway Arch. As we ascended I marveled at the narrow stairway that parallelled the tram. "Can you imagine having to walk up those steps to get to the top? There must be hundreds!"
"Over a thousand, actually," Jesse said, squeezing my hand. "I like this way much better."
"How many windows are at the top? There'll be eighty of us there, right? I hope I get a turn to take a picture."
"There are thirty-two windows, sixteen on each side. They're small--seven inches high and twenty-seven inches long. And don't you worry about getting a turn. If I have to I'll open up that can of whoopass I pack around for occasions such as this."
"Oh, you will, will you?" I laughed. "I'd like to see that, I think."
"I bet you would. You gonna nurse me back to health after I get my ass kicked?"
"Of course! I would give you sponge baths and everything." I kissed him on the cheek. "And I'm impressed. How do you know so much about the Arch?"
He laughed and waved a piece of paper. "I read the brochure."
I elbowed him. "Cheater," I teased. "Hey, have I ever told you about the time I came here when I was seventeen?"
"I don't think so."
"Well, at that time there was a McDonald's down there on the river ... in a boat. Who knows, maybe it's still there. Anyway, I'd never seen a McDonald's in a boat before and I just had to go in. Another thing I hadn't seen a lot of were African Americans. I mean, growing up in Alaska the way I did I can only remember seeing one--and I lived there for fifteen years. So I walked into this McDonald's and a black girl about my age walked to the counter to take my order. As I read off what I wanted from the menu I glanced down at her name tag. It said Puddin."
Jesse threw his head back and laughed--a genuine belly laugh that made me smile. "You're joking."
"Nope, swear to God. Her name tag said Puddin. I thought it must be a nickname. I mean ... I'd never heard of anyone named Puddin before, but I have heard women call their children that, so I thought--"
"It wasn't a nickname, was it?" he asked, shaking his head.
"I don't think so, but I thought it was kinda cool. Unique, you know?"
The tram stopped and we got out to climb the final few feet to the observation area. "Oh my God, would you look at that!" The Arch cast a long shadow on the buildings and grounds below; a gigantic sentinel keeping watch over the city. From our vantage point we could see the Historic Old Courthouse, Busch Stadium, and the unforgiving Mississippi River.
"Would you mind taking a picture of us?" I asked the guy standing next to me. "Just point and shoot," I said, handing him my camera. "The button's there on the top, right ... yeah, that's it. Thank you so much!"
Jesse and I huddled together in front of the tiny window, leaving enough space between us for the camera to capture the view. "Thanks, man," Jesse said, taking the camera back. "Our first picture together," he said, turning to me. "That's something I want lots of these ten days--pictures of you."
We stood there in silence a little while longer. It was a comfortable silence. Neither of us felt the need to speak, completely content to lean against one another and absorb as much of the beauty as we could. The moment ended all too soon, however, when they announced it was time to load for the descent.
"It's almost noon," Jesse said looking at his watch. "You hungry?"
"I am, and I wanna go to Pi."
"Where?" he asked, amused.
"Pi. It's a pizzeria down on Delmar Boulevard. I heard about it on the radio yesterday. It's supposed to be really good."
Jesse chuckled and shrugged his shoulders. "Pi it is."
"Ohmigod," I slurred over an overstuffed mouthful of Bucktown deepdish. "This is the best fucking pizza I've ever had!"
"You kiss your kids with that mouth?" Jesse winked. "These prosciutto pi’tites are pretty damn good too. I'm full as a tick and ready for a nap."
"The wedding's tomorrow. Remind me to call David later, okay? I need to find out when and where."
"So," I hesitated, playing with the food on my plate. "Is Lisa okay?"
Jesse shook his head. "She's just worried. I've never done anything like this before. It's out of character for me. She's suspicious."
"I probably would be too," I admitted. "Robert knows something's wrong. He's been anxious--more anxious than usual--and he's been having bad dreams. But what good does it do to talk about it? I've tried for twenty years to talk to him about it. Nothing changes. Things improve for a few days, but we always end up right back in the same old rut."
"Can I ask you something?"
"Why do you stay with him? If you've been unhappy for twenty years, why do you stay?"
I sighed. "It's not that I've been unhappy for twenty years, it's ... I suppose we all do things we don't want to do sometimes. I love Robert in my own way, but I'm not in love with him. My family adores him. It's just...." I stared down at my plate. I'd lost my appetite. "You know how sometimes it's better to lie than to hurt someone's feelings with the truth? It's kind of like that. We've been together so long I think our identities revolve around each other's presence. We're each other's security blanket. I don't think he'd know what to do without me. I wonder if I would know what to do without him sometimes. I'm just so used to him being there, you know?"
Jesse reached across the table and slid his hands over mine. "Yes, I do know."
"I'm sorry, Jess. This isn't what we should be talking about right now."
"Baby, this is exactly what we should be talking about. This is the biggest decision we've ever had to make. I want it to be the right one--one we will both be able to live with."
"That's the thing."
"I'm not sure I'll be able to live with it no matter what I decide."
"Thank you so much for dinner last night, David," I said, my cell squished between cheek and shoulder. "I'm sorry we had to leave early."
"No, no. No apology necessary. I'm just glad you're feeling better. I was a bit worried about you, truth be told. How are things with Jesse?"
"Good. He's wonderful. I feel as though we've known each other forever, but there's a lot of baggage, you know? Nothing's black and white."
David sighed. "These things have a tendency to be like that, I'm afraid. Murky waters you're wading through, kiddo, but you're a smart girl. You'll figure it out, of that I have no doubt."
"Well I'm glad one of us has faith in me. I'm feeling pretty discombobulated lately."
"Twitterpated and discombobulated--bad combination, I'd say."
Jesse had gone down to use the hotel's gym, leaving us to talk in private. The conversation had turned uncomfortable, and I found myself wishing I'd gone with him.
Although he was fifty-four, Jesse was in better shape than most men half his age. I loved his body, the contours of his biceps, the ripples of his stomach, the graying hair covering his chest. I'd never felt safer than when he held me in his arms; never felt more loved. Jesse felt like home.
"You have a pen and paper?"
I heard David ask the question and realized I hadn't been paying attention to the better part of our conversation. What's wrong with you? David deserves better. First dinner, now this? "Yes, yes I do," I said, yanking open the drawer that housed the hotel's complimentary writing implements. "Go ahead."
"Okay, the wedding is being held at the Old Town Wedding Chapel in Florissant at 10:00 a.m. The address is 646 Rue St. Francois. Did you get all that?"
"Yep, Old Town Wedding Chapel in Florissant at 10:00 a.m. 646 Rue St. Francois."
"You got it, and you've got my number if you get lost."
"I do. And what do they need? I should bring a gift."
"Posh! Your presence is gift enough, my dear. I'll see you in the morning, and please bring Jesse along. It'll be nice to have someone to talk to for a change. I'm stuck over here with twenty-somethings who think good conversation consists of discussing the latest American Idol contestants and whether Brangelina is still together."
I smiled. "Brangel-whatta?"
"Hallelujah, there is a God!"
When I finished laughing I said, "I'm so glad I met you, David."
"Me too, kid. Me too. See you tomorrow."
I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down at the patio table. The evening traffic buzzed around me and I wondered where everyone was going--all those vehicles and their drivers oblivious to the fact that they were being watched.
My cell phone vibrated in my lap. I stopped breathing when I saw NEW TEXT MESSAGE on the screen. I scrolled to VIEW NOW,clicked and read, I miss you. It was from Robert, and I burst into tears.
I was instantly transported back to 1985. I was sixteen, quiet, smart, kind of goofy, a loner. Every day I'd eat my lunch outside under a tree while reading a book until one day I heard, "Whatcha readin'?"
He was tall, a couple inches over six foot, and he had a kind face. Look at those puppy-dog eyes, I thought. I'd seen him around. He was popular. The girls liked him. He was a football player and played bass in the school band. He was good, too. "Pet Sematary," I said.
"Stephen King, huh? You don't strike me as a horror kinda girl."
"No? What do I strike you as?"
"Oh, I dunno ... maybe St. Elmo's Fire or The Breakfast Club or Sixteen Candles or something."
"I like those too, but I have to be in a certain mood to watch movies like that, just like I have to be in a certain mood to read books like this," I said, raising my book for him to see.
"And what kind of mood is that? To make you wanna read something like that, I mean."
I thought about it for a moment and said, "Ostracized."
And so it went. Every day Robert would talk to me under that tree. I never did finish Pet Sematary--not until years later, anyway. I found myself liking him more and more until one day I called him after school. "I have something to give you tomorrow."
"What?" he asked.
"Well, I'll give it to you tomorrow--at lunch."
The next day I waited outside. As soon as I saw Robert I grabbed him by the front of the shirt, pulled him around the side of the school, and kissed him on the cheek. "That's what I wanted to give you," I said.
"What was that for?" he asked, surprised.
"Thank you for being so nice to me when no one else would."
I think I fell in love with Robert that day.
I looked back down at the cell phone in my lap--a lap that was twenty-three years younger when Robert and I first met. We were just two kids then, but two kids who were crazy about each other.
"I miss you too," I replied.
Four outfits, three hairdos, and two pairs of shoes later we arrived at the church with fifteen minutes to spare. The sign on the door said maximum occupancy was 150 people, and the church was packed to the gills. Jesse and I slipped into the back row of plush blue chairs on the left side of the church--the bride's side--and I glanced around the room looking for David. "I don't see him anywhere."
"He'll be here. He should be walking down the aisle any minute."
The pianist warmed up on stage while small children ran up and down the aisle. The groom, his best man, the bridesmaids, the flower girl, the ring bearer, and the pastor waited patiently at the front of the church. The women in front of us were weeping quietly, wiping their noses with tissues. Even a few of the men were teary-eyed, and I noticed no one was talking. Shit! Now I remember why I hate weddings. What the fuck am I doing here? I tugged the pocket-sized package of Kleenex out of my purse just as the Wedding March began to play.
Everyone turned in unison to see the lovely bride standing in the doorway, ready to walk down the aisle with ... "Who is that?" Jesse turned to look at me, the same questioning look on his face as he shrugged his shoulders. Something was wrong. "Are we at the right wedding?" I whispered.
The two made their way past us. I noticed she'd been crying. Her hands were trembling.
"Who gives this woman in holy matrimony?" the pastor asked.
The mystery man said, "Her aunt and I do."
I tapped the woman sitting in front of me on the shoulder. "Is this David Tibbets's daughter's wedding?" I whispered.
She nodded, bursting into tears.
I pulled Jesse close. "What the fuck is going on?"
The rest of the ceremony was a blur. There were vows and a kiss. There were tears, but they weren't tears of joy. These people were suffering, and I had no idea why.
"Can I say something?" the bride asked the pastor, who nodded. She turned to face everyone gathered there and said, "As those of you who are closest to our family already know, my dad passed away last night. He's had heart problems for years." She lowered her head, choking back tears. "He had heart problems for years," she corrected, "but after Mom died Dad stopped taking care of himself. He wanted nothing more than to join her. The doctors tell us he didn't suffer--that he most likely died of a heart attack in his sleep, and that's a blessing. I considered postponing the wedding, but Dad wouldn't have wanted that."
My mind was reeling. I fucking hated weddings and funerals--now it seemed I would have to attend both.
"Is Skylar Baron here?" the bride asked.
I was frozen with shock and glued to my seat. I looked nervously at Jesse, who nodded at me. I forced myself to stand.
"Hi, Skylar. I'm Katherine, David's daughter. It's so nice to finally meet you. Dad told me about meeting you on the plane and about how you cared for my mother when she was sick. I can't thank you enough for that," she cried. "And I also want to thank you for making Dad's last few days such happy ones. He was thrilled to have met you."
I started to cry. Jesse squeezed my hand.
"Dad always said everything happens for a reason--that there are no accidents, and I believe that's what brought you together.
"Last night before he went to bed Dad said you are facing a very difficult, life-altering decision. He also said you are smart, and he was confident you'd make the right one. He said you've forgotten that your heart speaks louder and is more demanding sometimes, but that you're better off listening to your gut--that your gut will never let you down. That's why God gave us intuition. I thought you might want to know that--that maybe it would help you somehow."
"Thank you," I whispered, sinking back down into my seat. "Thank you for telling me that. And I'm so sorry about--" I was sobbing too hard to continue.
The church cleared as everyone left for the reception. Jesse and I remained in our seats. I was stunned. I felt empty, deflated. "I can't believe it. Oh my God, I feel sick."
I grabbed my purse and ran outside into the crisp Missouri air. I ran down the steps, across the frozen grass, into the street, and onto the sidewalk on the other side.
"Skylar!" Jesse yelled behind me. "Skylar, wait!"
I stopped and concentrated on not retching, my hands on my knees. Sobs racked my body. My sides hurt. My eyes stung. I felt like I'd been sucker-punched, and I was devastated and pissed off at the same time.
Jesse placed his hand on my back. "I'm so sorry, Skylar. I know how much you liked him."
"I can't do this, Jesse. I--"
"I know," he said, turning away from me to hide the pained look on his face. "I know."
We skipped the reception. The ride back to the hotel was a quiet one. Neither of us spoke as the cabby drove in silence.
I was overcome by a smothering sense of loss that deepened with each mile, finally settling in my bones and taking up residence there. By the time we slushed our way from the parking lot into the hotel I was inconsolable, and I collapsed in despair onto the bed.
Jesse snuggled up next to me and caressed my back, my shoulders--brushed the wisps of tear-soaked hair off my face. "Wanna talk about it?"
"You care if I do?"
I kissed his fingers. "No."
Jesse sighed and began. "I understand, Skyler. I really do. It's important to me that you know that."
Jesse exhaled as if he'd had the wind knocked out of him. "I've actually fantasized about hearing you say those words, but not in this context."
"I'm sorry, Jesse," I said, touching his face. "I'm so sorry about everything. God, what a fucking mess."
"Don't be sorry, babe. I'm not. I wouldn't trade meeting you for anything. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me."
"And you to me."
"What a pair we are, huh?"
I smiled. "Pathetic."
We laughed and held each other close. "It's times like this I can't imagine letting you go--watching you get back on that plane and flying out of my life forever. I can't ... I'm not sure I'm strong enough for that."
I nuzzled closer to his chest and closed my eyes. "Me either. I don't want to go, Jesse, but my gut's telling me I need to because--"
"Too many people will be hurt," we both said at the same time.
I started to cry. "We would be so great together, Jesse. We're perfect for each other."
Jesse pulled me closer and kissed the top of my head. "Shh. Don't cry, babe. It's going to be alright. We'll get through this, I promise."
I held his face in my hands and kissed his mouth, parting his lips with my tongue.
"Are you sure you want to do this, Skylar? I mean ... considering the circumstances? Don't get me wrong ... I want nothing more than to make love to you all day every day, but won't this make it harder for you?"
I succumbed to the agony as tears streamed down my face. "But it's the only thing I can give you right now."
Jesse held my head in his hands as he rolled me onto my back, the weight of his body pressing me into the mattress as he kissed me--a tender, lingering kiss full of love mingled with tears and impending loss. I held him tightly as I memorized how he felt, how he smelled, how he tasted. My hands slipped under his shirt, my fingers tracing invisible circles on his back. I pulled his shirt up and over his head then unbuttoned my blouse. I wanted to feel his skin on mine--to have nothing between us.
I closed my eyes as Jesse slipped my blouse from my shoulders and unclasped my bra. I began to tremble, unable to stop. I bit my lip as tears stung my eyes. He slipped my shoes from my feet and I lifted my bottom off the bed so he could pull my skirt and panties down over my hips, my thighs, my calves. The tears were flowing freely now, and I squeezed my eyes shut tighter. I heard a belt buckle being unfastened, a zipper, the soft floomp of pants dropping to the floor--felt warm flesh on my body as Jesse lay on top of me, sending shivers up my spine.
"Look at me, Skylar," he said, stroking my hair.
My chin quavered. "I don't want to," I cried. "It hurts too much to look at you."
He kissed me gently on the ear and whispered, "Open your eyes, baby."
I did as he asked. Jesse's hazel eyes were soft as he leaned over me, running his fingers through my hair.
"I love you, Skylar. I want you to know that." He smiled a pained smile and his eyes filled with tears. "This is the hardest thing I've ever done--finding you, loving you, and letting you go."
Tears slipped from the corners of my eyes, down the sides of my face, and into my ears. "I love you, Jesse." I kissed his mouth, his lips trembled as he began to cry.
"Ugh, you're killing me."
"Shh," I whispered, pulling him close. "Come here." I kissed him again, raking my fingers through his whiskers and down his back. I wrapped my legs around him as he entered me, a soft groan escaping his lips.
We held each other tight, whispering our love for each other as we made love for the last time on that cold Missouri afternoon.
Rather than prolong our suffering I decided to fly home the next morning. Saying goodbye to Jesse at the airport was devastating, but I suprised myself by surviving it. We thought we could remain friends, but we agreed to give each other some time to acclimate to our old lives first--smooth things over at home and attempt to function without each other. We figured since we were going back to our spouses we at least owed them a real attempt at making it work.
Robert was kind and forgiving, as always. "I don't care where you've been or what you've done," he said. "It doesn't matter. What matters is that you're home and you're safe. Those few days without you were a real wake up call. I know we have some things we have to work out--things I need to work on--and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make you happy, Skylar. I love you. I've always loved you."
I spent the first few days crying, but as the hours, the days, and the weeks passed, the tears passed, too. They weren't gone, but there were fewer of them. Robert and I were getting along okay, and he was making a genuine effort to change. We were taking things slowly, though, getting to know each other again. It's strange how you can live in the same house with someone for so many years and really have no clue who they are.
I pored myself into my work and my writing, picking up every extra shift I could get my hands on. It kept me busy, my mind occupied. My kids and friends came to visit. Everyone told me how much they'd missed me and how happy they were to have me back. I looked at them, at my husband, at my house and my job and my life, and I felt empty. I tried to ignore it--wouldn't allow myself to think about it. This is my life. This is the choice I made, and I'd better learn to deal.
I decided to write a story about my experience--a story about Jesse and me. Our story, I thought. That way I won't ever forget. Even when I'm old and gray and all shriveled up in bed with Alzheimer's and shitting myself, I will have proof that we happened, Jesse. I put some fresh paper in the printer, plugged in my thumb drive, and opened a new document in Microsoft Word. I sat there staring at the white screen, drumming my fingers on my desk as I tried to think of an appropriate title. "Ten Days in January," I said aloud with a smile. "Now that's a great title!"
I was typing it in when I heard the familiar chime announcing an instant message. I maximized the window to see a message from Jesse waiting for me, and I burst into tears. All my attempts to move on came crashing down in that one moment--my love and want for him as real, as raw as it ever was.
"Hi," he said.
"Hi yourself," I typed back.
"How have you been?"
"Okay," I lied.
"I've missed you, Skylar, more than you will ever know."
I sighed. "I've missed you too, Jesse."
"Can I call you right now?" he asked.
"Gateway Arch." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 17 Apr 2009, 00:22 UTC. 17 Apr 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gateway_Arch&oldid=284320146>.
Pi Restaurant. 25 April 2009. <http://www.restaurantpi.com/>
Old Town Wedding Chapel. 27 April 2009. <http://www.oldtownweddingchapel.com>
Originally written for Mara McBain's "Erotic Tales of Pleasure & Pain~closed! " [18+] but I missed the deadline. I could have SWORN the deadline was May 31, but it was May 1. Dammit! Five months of work down the shitter! Oh well. I have no one to blame but myself. At least I got what I consider to be a pretty damn good story out of the deal. I hope you like it. Thanks for reading! I'm slinking off to cry in private now.
A few wonderful friends have reviewed this piece for me and, in turn, touched me as deeply as this story touched them. Each of the reviewers below gave this story a 5-star rating, and I have copied/pasted their original PUBLIC reviews here. Thank you so much for your encouragement and support, my friends.
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Adriana Noir says, "It took me forever to compose myself enough to be able to type ... and I am still bawling my eyes out. This story is one that will stick with your readers, stabbing straight into their heart. The raw force of the emotion within this tale delivers a heavy blow, and it is told with such candid, detailed honesty that you CARE about these characters and what happens to them. We root for the underdog in this story, and hope for the impossible. This is a powerful story of love ... and loss on the most grand scale.
This was very well written without any weakspots, errors, or flaws to deract from your work. Furthermore, I will be honest. As I read this, I felt as if you had glimpsed into my own heart and struggle ... and penned it. This story struck home and hit hard. I can only hope that the choice Skylar was forced to make turned out to be the right one for her in the end ... that she does not go back to being a silent passenger, numb and living only for others. It makes me wish to God I had the strength and courage to, for once, care about me.
Brilliant work. This is one story I will not forget."
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Mara ♣ McBain says, "You were not crying alone. I read this story with a dread ball in my stomach and an aching heart, not allowing the tears of understanding to fall until the end, though they blurred my vision from time to time.
I have to ask you if you know me beyond the walls of WDC, because so many of the feelings and even small details are so very personal to me. If these feelings hit home with you as well ... know you are not alone.
The type of love you describe here comes once in a lifetime if we are lucky. Isn't it the cruelty of fate that many of us find ourself in Skylar's very shoes, holding back out of duty and responsibility towards others ... making promises of a next lifetime and living on dreams.
I deeply regret that you missed the contest deadline as well as this is a truly amazing story. Your friend told you true. While it would not be fair of me to allow the late entry ... I hope you will still enjoy the awardicon I have sent. Black for the loss of David, and for the pain of loving that one person you can not have ... the only one who makes you complete.
Thank you for this amazing gift and please write on, my friend."
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Jeff says, "Hi Charlie Maddox
I'm so sorry for taking so long to get around to this review. I finally had a chance to read your story today and have enclosed a few comments below, for your consideration. Please keep in mind that my opinion is only that of one person, and you - the author - are in the best position to determine what's most appropriate for your story. Feel free to use or disregard any of the comments below as you see fit.
The concept of a forbidden affair certainly isn't new to the erotica genre, but then again, there's a reason why it's such a popular choice. The appeal is universal, the motivation understandable, and the excitement palatable. Nice job.
The storyline was excellent. Everything worked, from her stalling relationship with Robert, to the friendship with David on the plane, to the romance with Jesse. Every single thing in this story worked... and it left me breathless.
The depth and richness which you instill in these characters is like something I would expect from a full novel. You send your protagonist Skylar spiraling through an entire series of emotions - all in a relatively short span of time - and your reader follows along, engaged in every single sensation of her life... her joy, her sorrow, her contentment, and her despair. Your characters are truly remarkable in their complexity and realism.
Your dialogue is great. It works well for the story, it's realistic, and it moves the story along in all the right places. No problems here.
The structure of this story is excellent. The decision to break the events up into chapters helps give the reader a sense of finality to certain scenes, while simultaneously allowing you to move around without clunky transitions. From a narrative standpoint, the structure is simply amazing. A roller coaster doesn't have this many ups and downs! You manage to drag your reader along through every soaring high and despairing low, always leading forward with a promise of more to come.
Just two typos I noticed, both in the spelling of Skylar's name:
"Jesse placed his hand on my back. "I'm so sorry, Skylar. I know how much you liked him."
"Are you sure you want to do this, Skylar? I mean ... considering the circumstances? Don't get me wrong ..."
*Author's Note: These typos have been fixed. Good eye! Thank you, Jeff!
You've taken what could have been just another erotic encounter or affair, and infused it with emotion, background, and character... causing it to transform into something greater. This is, quite simply, the level of writing that all erotica should aspire to achieve. This story is, truly, one of the most remarkable short stories I've ever read, in any genre. Simply fantastic.
I hope that you've found my comments and observations useful. Thank you for allowing me to rate and review your item. Keep up the good work and keep writing!
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Jace says, "Hi Charlie Maddox . I'm Jace, and I have the honor of reading and reviewing your offering "Ten Days in January" [XGC] under the "Blazing Hot Reviews" banner.
Overall Impression: Without a doubt, this is the finest story I've ever read on Writing.com. In my opinion, your story surpasses any published story I've read. The sheer emotion of this offering leaves me in awe of the inspiration that prompted its writing. I can almost imagine the intensity of two souls who have made a connection across time and space, who have shared innermost feelings with each other, and who now take terrifying step toward physically meeting.
The anticipation, the fear, joy, anxiety, even the love that goes through Skylar as she wings toward her love washed over me like a Missouri spring flood. I found myself racing through the words wanting to hurry her to that fateful meeting.
Your dialogue is fabulous--each thought, each action, each spoken word transported me to seat 4B, soaking up every word between Skylar and David. I couldn't wait to meet Jesse. But I was there, and could no more hurry time than I could push a rope up a hill.
When I finally did meet him, I was not disappointed. He's a much stronger character than I am. A man, imbued with a major flaw--for God's sakes, he married--has the courage to step out of his box, to take control of his own destiny. It's what every man, or woman, really wants--to be who he really is, not what other's expect of him.
Your portrayal of Skylar, Jesse, and even David is so real and complex, they are endeared to your reader. I cannot deny how much I identified with Jesse, and how much I wanted to be him. To have such passion for a woman is surely the pinnacle of a man's existence.
Technical and Editorial Considerations: I've read this story several times, and found it impossible to get past the visceral (yes, I did use that word) nature of your writing to even find such mundane things as typos or punctuation glitches. To be sure, I found none.
There's so much depth to this offering, I scarcely know how to explain my true feelings for your characters and their interaction. The tension that rises and ebbs throughout the story is perfectly mirrors real life. Indeed, never once did I feel I was reading a story; I was living in your world, walking, talking and breathing with your inhabitants.
All the flaws that exist in us are readily apparent in your characters. They are impetuous, selfish, and somewhat naive. Yet they are humorous, strong-willed and sensual. They are what we aspire to be as humans.
Favorite Part: Incorrigible, you have captured my heart.
'Look at me, Skylar,' he said, stroking my hair.
My chin quavered. 'I don't want to,' I cried. 'It hurts too much to look at you.'
He kissed me gently on the ear and whispered, 'Open your eyes, baby.'
I did as he asked. Jesse's hazel eyes were soft as he leaned over me, running his fingers through my hair.
'I love you, Skylar. I want you to know that.' He smiled a pained smile and his eyes filled with tears. 'This is the hardest thing I've ever done--finding you, loving you and letting you go.'
My Rating: 5.0 PERFECT!
Thank you for sharing this offering. Please accept these comments as offered in friendship and support. They are but my humble opinion."
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m_blackwell says, "This is definately the best piece I have read on writing.com. Actually thinking about it, I think it is probably the best written erotica piece I have read on any site. You write all of the characters so well, that I felt like I knew them rather than them just being a random person filling a role in the story. I also thouroghly apreciate the research you put into the story. I don't think I have read an erotic piece that has gone to the lengths you have.
Every item you put in the story seemed to be there for a reason. Longer stories such as this it is often easy to put some element in an then never tell the poor reader why you bothered to include it. I found no such stray elements in this story.
This is a very engaging story. Even though you had chapters which would have permitted me to stop and come back to the story, I found myself unable to step away. I just had to continue on. Not only was I emptionally invested in Skylar, you managed to make me connect to every single character in the story. I applaud you for this as it is very difficult to do.
You kept the conflict of the story going all the time, even when the main characters had made their decisions you did not let the conflict disolve and simply write a everyone lived happily ever after content with their decisions ending. Again good job not taking the easy, lesser path.
I eagerly await your next piece..."
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Jaye P. Marshall says, "Hi, I'm Jaye. I just found your piece in the Drama Newsletter dated July30 and was intrigued by the title.
General Impressions: This is a excellent tale that moved me to tears and left a lump in my throat. Your scene of the parting was truly heart-wrenching and I could actually feel the pain experienced by your protagonist.
Favorite Part: I loved the whole piece.
Characters: You did a terrific job of writing your characters to be really believable.
Dialogue: Dialog seemed realistic and natural.
Grammar & Punctuation: I found only one possible suggestion as follows:
Specific Suggestions:In this line, ‘Delta Airlines flight 4395 from Boise’
Suggest: Delta Airlines Flight 4395 from Boise
*Author's Note: This typo has been fixed. Good eye! Thank you, Jaye!
These comments are only my personal opinion. My suggestions are made in the spirit of making a good piece even better. Keep writing!"
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afineline says, "This was a fantastic story, one that took common themes and wove them together into an intricate web of depth and beauty. Every character was lovable, memorable, and felt as real as one's own family. You are an amazing writer, with fantastic attention to detail, a genuinly beautiful plot.
"I especially was moved by the main characters pain at her dream of her husband, in during the text message saying 'I miss you.' I myself am having some relationship problems right now, and the pain she went through was described as accurately as anyone could possibly have done.
"There were no grammatical or sentence structure errors to be found, allowing the poignant plot to flow smoothly and thus, be more impactful.
This story was so realistic that I have trouble believing it really never happened. Keep writing, and I hope you get published one day- you deserve it!"
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esotaria says, "Thank you for sharing this story. The depth of your characters is phenomenal. I am not a big tear-jerker fan. But I was moved by it. It's not easy to bring many levels of human relationships into one story. You did it better than I think even Nora Roberts. She is one of my favorite mainstream writers.
You touched my soul with your story.
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percy goodfellow says, "This was a wonderful strory, but I would have preferred reading it in smaller pieces. My brain has good software but a small processor. Somewhere between the forth and sixth chapter I went into lock up and had to give it a rest. Sex is such a poweful force, and when it is written in such an intense and compelling manner it gets to be overwhelming. Maybe that's why it's only supposed to last for about half an hour per session (or maybe that's just me). I think a chapter a sitting after Chapter 5 is about the right pace. What I think, however, that really set this story apart was the way it blossomed in context. So much erotica I read fails to pass the context test. When I read it I think, This had some heat, but where outside an erotica contest could it ever fly? Maybe that's why you chose to make it longer, so the context could dampen out the passion and emotion. Anyway, thanks for writing it and sharing. It shows where the standard is and it's way the heck up there ... so high, I have to squint to see it.
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