Dani Starling enjoys doing dirty things; she masturbates on the internet, writes filthy fiction, and cleans up other people’s messes. She grew up studying fiction on the West Coast, but currently lives in a southern beach town, working three jobs to support her erotic horror writing habit. Her work has been published in Erotic Review. Follow her on her NSFW twitter @danixstarling.
you are not the one you're rooting for
The Kingsmans were the type of people who would make perfect children: young, good looking, white, upper-middle-class, the kind who would be lucky enough to make fraternal twins of opposite genders who would be shipped off to private universities as soon as they entered into adulthood. Privilege that breeds privilege. But eight years into the marriage, Stephanie realized that at thirty-four, she may never actually conceive, and that it was her fault somehow. She wondered why it didn’t bother her.
She was spraying a long string of ants with glass-cleaner in the upstairs bathroom, their bodies seizing in the blue liquid. Her mother was coming for dinner that night and while she and Jack were not dirty people, her mother could pick up the hint of musk on an unwashed towel hanging on a rail. Her mother had made up for living on a single income by making sure that their home, wherever it was, was always spotless, as if to prove their cleanliness and respectability to everyone around her. Stephanie had picked up these habits, though not to the same degree. Still, she always felt the need to appease her mother, at least until she was satisfied enough to leave Stephanie alone for a while. She wiped the dead ants with a hand towel, their bodies like coffee grounds bundled at the bottom of a cup.
With Jack working late nights, her life had become an endless pattern of rituals: take care of the house, eat lunch, read a book, make dinner, and if he was home, rub his shoulders, but only if he wanted. Part of her questioned if he was really working at the office. He came into bed at night and grasped her breasts and ran his hands down her legs so that it felt like she was the only one he could want, even if this touch never ended in sex. She laid beside him, could feel the warmth of his body on her own skin, even though they were not touching. It felt better somehow, to know that she could do all of this for him and he still could not have her unless she beckoned him.
She went to the grocery store that morning after she had finished cleaning the entire house. Soft classical music played overhead, and the scent of cinnamon hung loose over the entrance, filling her nostrils. The domesticity made her smile until the marbled red shine of the tomatoes and apples made Stephanie think of toy trucks and lollipops. She shook her head. She ran her hands over the tightly wound mint stems, smelled the drops of water on her fingers for the sweet, earthy scent. She wondered if Jack would rather have a lemon pasta or a steak with potatoes, then wondered if her mother had any preference. It didn’t matter what Stephanie would make, because her mother would show her quiet repulsion for Stephanie’s efforts and Jack would pretend like everything was perfect. And it was perfect. They had a two-story house, two cars, and he had a career that would inevitably lead to promotions. He could provide for her like she never had growing up, and she was beautiful, wasn’t she?—even as she getting older. She gathered some summer and butternut squash, a cucumber and a red onion. She saw pre-made sandwiches near the deli counter. She texted Jack, Lunch?
The drive to Jack’s office was twenty minutes without traffic, and the lunch rush made it longer. He hadn’t responded to her message, but she figured his phone was on silent. The building, which housed nineteen different companies, was surprisingly empty for a weekday, but she attributed it to lunch. Twelve stories up, the ding of the elevator followed by the click of her heels. The receptionist’s desk was empty; the lights were off but the windows illuminating the space, so she let herself. It was a straight shot back to Jack’s office.
A heavy, unmistakable grunt, that rhythmic churning of bodies. Stephanie stopped, waited, heard a soft coo of a woman’s breath. The hairs on the back of Stephanie’s neck rose, and she inched to the left side of the walkway, peered through the glass door. A woman’s back, the skirt bunched up around her hips. The man’s light blue shirt was unbuttoned halfway, her hands rubbing his chest. Had Jack been wearing that shirt today? And then she saw his face. His eyes trained on the woman’s breasts, his mouth open like he needed to fill it. Sweat beaded on the side of his face.
Stephanie hid in a small office and sank to the floor. She heard their moans and felt her own face heat. She did not wonder who she was, or why Jack would do this to her. Instead, she asked herself, Does she feel better than me? Does she grip him tighter? Is her skin softer?
She called his phone, heard it ring in the other room, then hung up.
“Wait,” she heard Jack say. She quickly silenced her own device. His name appeared on the screen, and she rejected the call. Are you okay with pasta? she texted.
Pasta is great, he responded, a smiley face at the end. His phone thudded on the desk and then the wet slapping sounds started again. Stephanie was pleased that he stopped to check her phone call; it showed that he cared enough to stop fucking someone else, even if momentarily. But he had missed the initial text message, and that smiley face—it was like it was normal, flirtatious even, like nothing was wrong, and that made her stop.
“You’re gonna make me come, Jackie!” the woman said.
Jackie. How sweet.
Stephanie walked as quickly and as quietly as her shoes would let her. By the time she got to the elevator, she couldn’t hear them at all. She wondered if they could hear the elevator chime when the doors opened.
In the cool warmth of her car, she looked up at what she imagined would be Jack’s office window. High in the sky, publicity and anonymity, as if there was nothing and everything to hide. She thought of the woman’s blouse; was it unbuttoned too? Did she wear a special red and black bra because she knew Jackie, a name Stephanie only used when teasing him, would be undressing her that afternoon? She imagined Jack hadn’t even taken off his pants, a convenient state of undress so a recovery could be rendered easily. A hard cock shoved into a tight, hairless cunt, a young receptionist. What was her name? Was it Renee? Rebecca? She knew it was something with an R, and she regretted not paying attention. Stephanie imagined his hand reach up and cup the woman’s large breast, squeeze it like a stress ball. Stephanie spread her legs, pressed her fingers on her clit, the way it tickled her made her cheeks and forehead warm. She pulled her underwear to the side, blue to match her dress in case Jack wanted her too, and grazed her fingertips across her own trimmed hair, then slowly rubbed her clit in circles. Pushed her hips back into the driver’s seat. She imagined the scene with Jack again, seeing her name on his phone and clicking it silent. No, he’d let it ring—too oblivious to a noisy phone to take his eyes and cock out of the woman. She had seen the way his hands cupped the woman’s ass, like it was a baby animal you had to be gentle with, even though you wanted to play rough. Stephanie’s breathing quickened, and she rubbed herself harder, faster, dragged her finger down and felt her wetness, wondered if Jack had tasted the woman before, if he had licked her and came home and kissed Stephanie all the same. Mrs. Kingsman, Mrs. Stephanie Kingsman, Jackie’s wife. The one he would stand beside, the one he had sworn to die by, but not the one he would fuck like he could die from coming for her. She pictured the woman on his lap again, his cock pulsing inside of her, how his head would lean back ever so slightly as he came…
Stephanie moaned, then opened her eyes. She realized she was still sitting in the office parking lot. Two cars had parked to the left of her, and to the right she saw another pulling up. She straightened up her clothes and started the engine. She wondered if anyone had noticed, and looked up to the twelfth floor, as if Jack could hear and see her. The sandwiches in the passenger seat were warm now. She wasn’t hungry anymore and wondered what to do with them. She stopped behind a fast food restaurant and tossed the sandwiches in the garbage bin.
She cooked chicken, rice, and vegetables instead, a meal she didn’t realize was so bland until Jack said something a few weeks later. As she made dinner, she drank an extra glass of white wine, and watched as Jack and her mother spoke quietly at the table. Wine was always her drink of choice with her mother, a subtle signal not to ask about grandchildren because there were none, might not ever be. Raising a child, holding a baby on her hip, wondering when Jack was coming home: that was not a life she wanted.
At dinner, Jack put his hand on Stephanie’s thigh under the table. Her dress moved up her legs. What did she want, though? she wondered as his soft palm caressed her. Her mother’s forged smile, updating them on the current whereabouts of her grand-nieces and nephews, as if Stephanie cared. Stephanie nodded though, smiled back even, but was thinking about that afternoon. Before they had both arrived, she had checked the surveillance cameras, ones Jack had installed to make sure their home was safe. Stephanie had never bothered with it before, had left it up to Jack to take care of it, but she checked it that afternoon, flicked through hours of footage from the last few weeks, looking for some sort of proof that he had let that woman, any woman really, into their home. She couldn’t find anything. She knew she was supposed to feel relieved, as if it were undeniable proof that he wasn’t the cheating asshole society would tell her he was. But she was disappointed. She wanted proof. She wanted to see him fucking that woman like that, to hold it over his head, to make him tell her how much he truly enjoyed it. To see him lose himself, to be so virile that he needed more than her, that he could fuck a younger, prettier woman than her, one with a curvier body, nothing like her own thin frame...
Maybe she wanted a life where she could watch Jack fuck whoever he wanted, and he would come home to her and still want her desperately. That a man who could have anyone he wanted would still want his wife at the end of the day. Because she told herself she was beautiful too, and it felt good to see him like that.
“Stephie?” Jack asked.
She shook herself awake. “Hmm?”
“Your mother just asked if you’re excited to start fertility treatment next month.”
She hadn’t even thought about the treatment, not since she noticed how often Jack had been staying late at the office. “Oh, yes,” Stephanie said. “Very excited.” And Jack took over the conversation, staring at Stephanie, trying to figure out where her mind was. He rubbed her stomach like it was already growing something. This usually made Stephanie feel empty and angry, but for once, she didn’t care. She zoned out again, wondering if Jack came inside of that woman, if he wore a condom, if there were multiple women. In her mind, she pictured one woman at a time, always different. Sometimes she had black hair, dark skin, maybe a septum piercing, a freckle on her navel. The only thing that mattered was how opposite they were to Stephanie, as if it proved that you could have everything and still need one thing.
While her mother went to the restroom, Jack washed the dishes and Stephanie brought the plates to him.
“You look beautiful,” Jack said. He pulled her in and kissed her deeply, his wet hands on her dress. Her legs parted and his hand trailing suds between her thighs. She closed her eyes and imagined kissing him while he lay on their bed, a faceless woman riding him. Or maybe it would be better to watch them from the closet, to get off while seeing they didn’t know. She didn’t want to stop him.
“You have an ant problem,” her mother said, interrupted their kiss. She wrinkled her nose. “It’s disgusting.”
She wondered why her mother had bothered to go upstairs and knew that it was her way of checking and judging her every movement.
“It’s not that bad,” Stephanie said. She felt courageous, finally defying her mother, but she couldn’t help but wonder why Jack had married her. The most likely reason was that it was out of practicality; Stephanie was beautiful, and if you looked at her mother, despite the rigid personality, you knew she would age gracefully. Stephanie was the kind of woman you knew would take care of you, stand by your every decision, one who would love a man like him. Stephanie knew that now, even if she had once believed that he worshipped her. And maybe he did. Maybe cheating on her was his way of showing his love to her, staying with her even after she didn’t give him children, or hardly even slept with him, for that matter.
Perhaps it was because she never pressed him, that she loved watching him.
That night, she found the ants again, their bodies swarming over a used tampon that had unraveled, their black bodies covering the brown cotton. Stephanie was grateful that it was already in the trash. Watching them encircle it made her arms itch, and she thought about breaking open the can of poison to make them drown in it. As she dowsed them, she imagined going out to dinner with Jack, a yellow dress that showed off her slim shoulders, the freckles on her collarbones. The kind of thing that the woman from earlier that day, would not be able to wear. She hadn’t seen her well, but she had seen enough to know that she was not like Stephanie. She thought of this again when they were in bed that night, when Jack looked at her like he wanted her, like he loved her, and she looked at him the same way and still saw him fucking another woman. In her visions, she would have proof then, and she wouldn’t be angry. “You should invite her over,” Stephanie would say. She would sip her wine, knowing the glow on her cheeks was obvious, wondering if Jack would see her proposition as a game, if he thought she was taunting him. “I’d like to meet her.”
“I think you’ll like her,” he’d say. Because it was her dream.
“Me too,” she’d say.
How could he make her feel like this even as he fucked her? she wondered. Maybe it was love to see him cheating and not be jealous, but to feel desire and envy for him. Wasn’t she supposed to feel threatened? Jealous that he wanted this woman too? She did to an extent, but it didn’t stop her from feeling turned on. In fact, it made her feelings only stronger that he still wanted both of them. She turned to towards him and pressed into his body, then closed her eyes. Before she fell asleep, the sheets tickled her arm, and she wondered briefly if the ants would get to their bedroom too.