Valerie Brundage

Valerie Brundage began writing about her secret and repressed desires after her divorce. She's found that's almost as much fun as being able to live them out in real life. Her novel "365", only loosely based (she promises) on her promiscuous college years, is available through eXtasy Press.

 

Careless Whispers and Cut Glass

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The boys they laugh and swipe and pull at my bra straps. I water down my scotch because someone's filled it up again without me watching, and I don't know exactly who did exactly what.

I wasn't a scotch person until Mark introduced me to its velvet pleasure.

It started with a whispered comment at the corner bar after day two of the convention. We weren't too far from home, just 400 miles and an hour flight from Denver. In Salt Lake City. The rest of them were strangers.

I leaned on him, maybe I shouldn't have. But he kept laughing at my jokes.

The comment was about my dress. "Sorry, that was careless," he said. "That was supposed to be a whisper." He smiled, as just then George Michael was on the piped-in music. What an asshole. I asked him if he was serious, in the way you beg the pardon of a teenager who just cut in front of you. Mark was acquisitions librarian at the college. We'd had a dozen conversations about budgeting on the phone before I ever set eyes on him.

It was the scotch talking. It led me to reveal a little more of my baggage. This can be construed as small talk. I shouldn't have sat with him in his hotel room. He was a natural at flirting and he had a way about him which allowed me to accept his advances without thinking they were particularly effective.

He kept his eyes on me, and I knew what was coming. He touched my collar bone with his finger, a gesture I found moving as well as erotic. That night I blew him, but that's all. What happened in Salt Lake stayed in Salt Lake.

But the idea held a crude power over me. A month later we were a part-time item, lurking in the early and late hours. Doing our best to feel more than we did.

He always took me to bars and I began to realize it was a critical part of his routine. The other boys jostled me, seemed to know him by sight if not by name. No one from work. I wasn't a scotch person but wine wasn't doing the trick.

Mark took advantage of me a couple of times, once pinning me against the couch in an unexpected and slapstick manner. At least he never made me pay for my Lyft. I grew to like him, and he had a nice cock and was giving in bed, which was something I didn't want to give up just yet. He tried to attend to my orgasm if there arose the remote possibility of it occurring. The thing I liked the best was he kept flirting after we'd fucked and I told him it was time I go.

He'd run his finger along my spine. Play with my bra straps, like they were a secret release to his own pleasure.

He was harmless in the end. I used him or maybe he used me. What more is there?

There were more moments. Mark and I fought over things trivial and serious, about the future of the pets we wouldn't ever own, the cups wrong-side up in the dishwasher. He took one layer of my self-esteem away, revealing me to myself as too needy, especially when I had that pregnancy scare. I think I loved him up to a certain point, but the Venn diagrams didn't line up.

I took from him a taste for good scotch and the skill to drink it properly. Don't mix with anything, let it slowly open up and use the right style of glass so your hand warms it at the correct rate.

Swirl evenly to coat the inside.

I showed up at his place drunk on Gallo burgundy one night screaming on the sidewalk. I threw my shoe at the window but it hit the one next door and the guy in that one yelling he was going to call the police made me break down and cry. Mark let me in and I begged him to take me somewhere. He said we should cut the bullshit -- and we stripped. He gave me the best oral sex I ever had that night and I had an explosive, debilitating orgasm as he held me down by my hips.

I didn't blow him in return. Because I hated him. How dare he make me come when we were broking up? So he pushed me back on the couch and just stuck it in.

 

* * *

 

The girls they just laugh and look into my eyes when they talk to me. They keep their hands to themselves. The drinks were wine now, in narrow thin glasses that caught the light from the top, and kept getting filled without much notice.

My god, two bottles already. Without any obvious notice. I was laughing at Marie's sarcastic jokes. She was the funny one, and Marie never showed her teeth, just a wry crease when she smiled, that emphasized the sharpness of her comments.

Joselyn and I just about fell off our stools by her comments about the bartender, the music, each other, the way those people danced.

Marie's sardonic comments about our love lives, our work habits, our waistlines never reached the threshold of abuse. It was the wine that did the trick. Maybe I knew Marie's ribbing was her own kind of therapy. She'd just broken up with a long-term boyfriend that kept resurfacing between various tempestuous relationships. A sardonic, fatalistic worldview defanged her discontent, washed away her insecurity, made it mean nothing. It eroded the pain points.

To my great amusement. So she keeped talking.

And to tell the truth I liked the attention. I also knew Marie's ribbing was flirting. Joselyn had kissed her share of girls in college and was probably disposed to making it with women if given her head (sorry), although she was married. When we went to a spa or some pool party Joselyn was the first to take everything off, even her underwear, while changing in front of us.

I admired the obvious comfort she had with her body. Pretending to merely glance, I'd notice her layers (camisoles), her thighs (thick), her aureoles (dark), her pubic hair (landing strip). I wondered if Marie was trying to suggest, through her ribald comments, her interest in something that didn't involve negotiating the doomed male-female scripts that kept beaching her.

We played this game over a series of Thursdays. I guess I'm telling instead of showing. There was a voyeuristic tension between Joselyn and Marie with me a mere observer. I was invisible and a bit jealous because Marie would take Josie's attention away from me. That was what I thought when we left the bar one Friday, Josie not there because she was off for something, her daughter's play. Marie walked me to my car.

She were talking about recruiting and if it was smart to move to another proctor's office if they knew each other, and could spread gossip. She got in on the passenger side, and in the moment I thought she wanted me to drive her home, perhaps because she'd walked to Drake's. "Where do you want to go?" I asked. I looked at her and she looked at me. Her smiled with just that crease, no teeth. I saw there was something behind her eyes, something twinkling, sharp.

I let out a breath, a kind of small laugh, a signal of approval I guess, and she leaned in and kissed me and at once I became frozen, my mind stopped functioning and I was open. Exposed as Joselyn, willing and slick.

Then I felt I had somehow tricked her. By saying nothing. By laughing at her jokes, letting Joselyn come back with the retorts. "I wanted to do that all month," she said.

We'd been meeting for almost a year. Not sure what had changed a month ago. "Me too," I said. "I thought were flirting with Josie."

Marie said, "Really? I thought you were flirting with me."

Her fingers wrapped around my waist. He fingers went under into my waistband, touching the skin above my buttocks and she kissed me again. The intimate contact fired my entire body.

Her skin was soft. I rubbed against her, felt her breasts through her blouse, through my shirt, my bra. I reached in and pulled my bra up and away, releasing my nipples, letting them push against the inside of my shirt. Against her.

And she stopped. Looked. Put her hand on my face, in that way a friend does. "Dear, dear." Her eyes were cloudier than they'd been 20 seconds before.

Oh god, here it comes, we can't do this, I have to stop, sorry. Forgive me.

"Do you... do you have to be anyplace?" she asked.

It was careful, quiet. Not at all seductive. I was scared. She was shivering too. I thought of David. He wouldn't be coming by tonight.

"Eventually," I managed to say.

"I live a little ways," she said.

"Okay," I said.

"Do you want to follow me?"

"In your car," I said.

She nodded. She smiled, but didn't make a joke. Would have been a great opening line. But she didn't make the joke. She got out, and I watched her walk down the street while I readjusted my clothes.

I followed her Prius down Balboa, onto Mt. Brundage. An apartment duplex. I thought about the baggage I had that David would never know about. The stories in my past he'd never shake loose. I was sure he had stories he'd never tell me.

Inside Marie poured me a drink. She had a set of cut crystal highball glasses. I wondered where they came from. Seemed like a wedding gift.

She dropped some ice in and poured a rye whiskey into the glass and added water. She looked at me, making sure it was okay. More? Less? I smiled and took it.

She began to undress me and I kissed her hard. We laid down on her couch. It was a casual exploration at first, playing with each other's layers. Touching my arm, every curve, fingering every latch.

We didn't exactly fuck, as there was no penetration or sweat or aggression. We sat naked and kissed and I fingered her. We stood at the counter and I tried to enjoy this unexpected moment in the dark. She buried her head in my neck, in my breasts, between my legs. She was intoxicated.

The next time we met she was on her period. We drank wine from her cut glasses. When we met at the bar a couple weeks later, Joselyn and some guy from Intake were there too. I watched Joselyn laugh at his jokes, and Marie's sarcastic jokes were the same.

I shouldn't have switched to margaritas after the first bottle of wine but it was still light and I didn't realize how late it was.

I'd embarrassed myself and promised myself I'd never go out with them again. A week later, there I was. Marie walked me to my car, and in the parking lot she asked if I was okay. Her look was warm, and not at all cloudy. I told her I was fine. She put her hand on my forearm and I felt a tingle of electricity. But this wasn't the moment.

I shrugged. I knew she wasn't something I was looking for. Her skin was soft, warm, her touch careful. Her tongue a weapon. The realization didn't hit me until I'd pulled out, headed up Balboa, that I wasn't something she was looking for, either.

I never made her come. Would that have made any difference? And if so for how long?

 

* * *

 

The arrangement separated the music, the bedding, the hours each of us had alone in the apartment. David stopped sleeping with me and was probably getting something somewhere else, and I had to pretend I was, too. Then he moved out. I cramped his style more than he cramped mine.

I reclaimed the apartment, with my own dishes, my own CDs, my own bed covers, my own egg recipe. You like?

I still invite other people over. Those dates come and go, and rummage through my personal belongings when I'm in the kitchen. Raid my medicine cabinet, go through my bedside table. I don't know if they were looking for my dildo, my grass, or some other secret. Last year a couple pairs of my panties went missing, fished out of my hamper.

What are they doing with my dirty panties? Don't answer that.

This mating dance takes energy. I have to remember the moments that happened between us.

Sometimes I want to lay in the dark and have someone whispering in my ear. I want to drink your scotch and feel your fingers run under the fabric of my camisole, down the curve of my shoulder blade. I want to sit on your couch, and laugh together in the dark with no clothes and no pressure and all this scotch. I want to wake up the next morning and follow each other home in our cars.

I don't need to come. Sometimes a careless whisper is enough. And sometimes I want you to yank my pants down, push me down on the couch, and just stick it in.