by Henri Colt
“It’s just sex,” she said.
Kelley slipped on her stockings as I watched, her body still covered with sweat from our recent love-making. I was lying on the floor, naked except for my socks.
“It’s never just sex,” I said. I looked at the messy pile of clothes at her feet, hoping she might toss me a shirt. Instead, she continued to dress hurriedly. I had obviously overstepped her boundaries.
“Don’t ‘hmph’ me again from behind that cute smile of yours,” she said. “Anyway, I told you, I’m not falling in love with you.”
I playfully cocked my head and puckered my lips.
She laughed. “Don’t do that.”
“I don’t get it,” I said. “I presumed we were exclusive. You said that you didn’t sleep with someone for the hell of it, and you haven’t had sex since what’s his name, so I figured if you slept with me, it was special.” The music from my stereo grew louder. “Besides, we’ve known each other for months.”
“I don’t need to love you to have sex,” she said.
“No need to raise your voice, Kelley. Look, I'm sorry if it sounds like I’m making demands, but I thought we were more serious, you know?” I wondered if I had misread her signals. Or maybe she missed something.
Kelley’s squint was barely perceptible. “Why?” she said. “Because I finally had you inside me? It’s fun, okay? You make me happy.”
I restrained a smile. “We’re in the fashion industry. Happy is our business.”
She stood over me in her printed lace stockings. “And you work for me, right? So don’t be stupid,” She put her hands on her hips. “And don’t be so untrusting.”
“I’m not untrusting.” Considering I had just complained about her going out every evening, that didn't sound smart. “I can only see you alone on weekends,” I said. “What am I supposed to think?”
“You’re supposed to think that our dating doesn’t give you the right to reign over me,” she declared. “Besides, I’ve been around.” Turning her back to me, she stepped across the room, grabbed the remote control, and hit the mute button. Silence replaced the notes of a Mozart sonata. I sat cross-legged and numbly reached across the floor for my underwear. I wondered why she never had the bunion on her right foot removed.
Kelley rolled her eyes and shrugged. “You even had the gall to say you would teach me to love again, remember?”
I got up and pulled my briefs on the old-fashioned way, one leg at a time. It was a bit comical, but sliding into them with my butt on the floor didn’t feel right. “That’s not quite accurate,” I said. “You were upset. We were talking about what’s-his-name.”
“Jason.” She spat it out.
“You see, you’re still angry about what he did.” I couldn’t tell her that I wanted her to love me, only me.
“You’re probably a bigger narcissist than he is,” she said. “Why would I need you in the first place?”
I sat at my desk and pulled on my jeans. “Need me or want me,” I said. “It’s not the same thing.” I watched her bend over to position her pendulous breasts judiciously into a double D bra she held in both hands like a sling. She straightened her torso, and everything was in place by the time she fastened the clasp between her shoulder blades. It was like watching a fisherman cast his net over a school of sardines.
“Aren’t you going to wash before you leave?” I asked.
She scrambled the papers on my desk to find her car keys. “I don’t have time,” she said, “and I don’t want to.”
An uneasy feeling stirred in my gut. I knew Jason had called her again. Somehow, she sensed my flare of insecurity.
“If you’re going to ask if I’ll be unfaithful, the answer is I don’t know," she said.
“Kelley, look, I never meant for..."
Then she pushed me, laughing. I watched her pull on her skirt and button her blouse. It was one of those python-print pieces by Roberto Cavalli, all crepe-de-chine silk with a ruffled mock neckline and cascading bib. Its long sleeves hid the subtle flabbiness of her upper arms.
“What are you staring at,” she said. “I’m not one of those flat-assed bimbos you put on the runway.”
I wanted to get up before answering, but she put her hands on my chest and sat me back down.
“Look,” she said, “I’m telling you I’m not going to fall in love with you. I’m not going to call you every five minutes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with you. When you want to see me, you have my number, and you know where I live.”
She took her hands from my chest and stepped across the room, draping a black Ecuadorian shawl over her shoulders. It was of her own design, and it matched the large leather bag now in her hands. I marveled at how she stood into her shoes and adjusted her hair. Streaks of grey were faintly visible. She leaned into the mirror, pouting as she applied her lipstick. Everything about her made me want her again. I was about to stand when she turned and walked toward me with a matter-of-fact look on her face. She knelt and tapped me on the chin, then rose to kiss me with an audible smack that I knew left a glossy red imprint of her lips on my forehead. When she dabbed her teeth with a handkerchief from her bag, I couldn’t help but notice the unmistakable fragrance of Chanel no. 5.
“Ciao,” she said, and turning on her heels, she left.