Welcome to the August installment of First Sunday Short Fiction. Please enjoy the story, and remember if you want to submit a story of your own, you can find instructions on our submissions page.
Any Woman by Kate Barber Bradford
You can see she's feeling it. Her head is thrown back against the curve of the sofa. Her eyes are closed, her face soft and dreamy behind the heavy eyeglasses. You can't help watching as they perform their lovemaking in the middle of the university student commons. How disgusting, you think. Why don't they find a more private place to indulge in this intimate ritual? And then, petty, jealously: why couldn't it be you?
She's nothing to look at: her body a flabby Rubenesque, she is no proud possessor of perky, upright breasts; hers are pendulous, the shapeless nipples prettied only by stimulation. The curves of her hips are just curves, not poetically inspirational, though rhyming "flat" and "frumpy" might be quite the exercise in construction. Her face has no distinctive feature except for the single thick eyebrow framing deep-set eyes hidden behind heavy lenses. Her legs are not slender or shapely, just chunky female flesh propped upon the coffee table next to his. Her lips are thin, narrow like her nose, and her oily hair lies in limp imitation of waves. But he is kissing her and you can see she is feeling it.
He kisses her lips and her mouth opens slightly. He moves his kisses down along her neck. You can see her back arch ever so slightly, her chest raising and lowering rapidly as she breathes hard against the waves of desire. She might be nineteen, maybe twenty, so much younger than you. Has she done this before? Is it her first kiss? Is he the first man to pay attention to her, the first to make her feel like a woman? Does he want her whole being or only her body, or just his own relief? Does she know the difference or is she overwhelmed by the attention, by the sensations he elicits with his kisses? Does she care?
You don't care that your voyeurism is observed by others as you stare openly at this public display of lovemaking. You wish the couple would stop stinking up the air with their pheromones and chemistry. You realize you stare from a distance of decades, experience, class, and culture, all of which complicates the proximity. You miss the days of your youth when all ills were cured with penicillin and the response to the moment provided immediate gratification. Then, you could focus on the body with little thought given to consequences. Of course, you weren't like any other women: you would not catch or die of disease, and you would choose the appropriate time for conceptions of children in your life, or mis-conceptions for that matter. After all, science, medicine, and technology had joined in this last quarter of the twentieth century to give women control of their bodies, and their emotions, and their lives, and you were certainly intelligent enough and capable of employing available technology, just as she was. Right?
You hear a soft noise from her. He has placed his hand on her hip. How far will they go here in the middle of the commons at midday? Will he touch another part of her body? Will he touch her soul while distancing his, for the sake of his body? You cannot think of his thoughts. You have never understood the ability of some, most, men to share the most intimate physical connections without thought of the feelings attached to the other body. You thought too much about it. You were too analytical about the process, and as the years crept by eventually you felt the loss of power from giving your body without the commitment of the soul. The loss. Her loss. Your loss.
They are looking into each other's eyes. You can see only his, full of wanting, impatient, uncomfortable, needing to take care of his desire, knowing they are unable to here in the middle of the university commons. You imagine her eyes, longing, needing his love, his full commitment of heart before she can give the physical part of her self. Is it right this time, the real love this time? The man to give her life, and love, and body to this time? But her lips need the kisses; her body rules. She pulls her back away from the sofa and velcroes her body against his, initiating, wanting, needing more kisses. Is she so naïve she is not aware of his bodily desires? Is she wanting only the affection and attention of his warm lips, listening only to the need in her body for once? Has she decided to give herself away? Not now, of course, and certainly not here, but has he won her future commitment, her body, and her soul with these few kisses?
You let your imagination wonder about the rest of their story. How much history do they share? Is this merely a spillover from some hot unmade bed of lovemaking begun many days before that still hasn't cooled? Will he decide to leave and become (to her) the cad, the expletived, male-bashed, non-commitment-oriented model of the nineties? Or will she be the first to turn away becoming (to him) the frigid nymphomaniac or the godless whore? Why is this business of sharing bodies so damned complicated? Could they ever possibly achieve the romantic troubadour celluloid version of the couple who loves well and intensely together for the rest of their lives? Does such a state exist or is it a novelized fiction created for art or capitalism? You sigh, thinking too much again. He pushes her back against the sofa, not taking his kiss away until she is fully relaxed and feeling it, giving it back. He pulls back; they look at the clock, pick up their books, and stand to leave. He puts his arm around her waist to lead her away, turning slightly as he does to flash a beguiling, debilitating smile at you, behind her back. A little leering wink twitches from his left eye. His cheek and half his mouth crinkle in parenthetical agreement as if to say I saw you watching. It may as well have been you. It could be any woman. You feel your eyes and cheeks burn as you quickly turn down your face, watching from under your lowered eyelids as they walk away, and he knows you're feeling it. Oh yes, god, you're feeling it.
story ©Kate Barber Bradford, 2017
photo courtesy of Pixabay
About the Author:
Kate Barber Bradford is Editor in Chief at Hagstone Publishing. Kate has a BA from Pacific University in Creative Writing and English Literature.
Read her blog at https://sassykas.wordpress.com