Jimmy was flat on his back with his head under the front end of the Fairmont. He was trying to loosen a rusty bolt at an odd angle.
As soon as he spat the word he spotted a small pair of lime green sneakers in front of the car. Lime green sneakers, white socks and the sapling-like shins of a child. A ratty looking teddy bear was hanging down beside the shins.
He put down the ratchet and blew a sigh. He didn’t like cussing that way around kids. It seemed contrary to the most basic and unwritten rules of living. Grown-ups had done plenty of cussing around him when he was a kid. It hadn’t harmed him, except maybe for growing up to be the kind of person to cuss a vapor trail of bile when the mood struck.
He slid out from under the car and squinted against the sunlight.
“Sorry, Jess,” he told the smiley, towheaded wisp. “I shouldn’t be using words like that.”
Jessica giggled heartily for a long time. Jim sat against the front bumper and watched her face break open with glee. Covered with sweat, fingers black with engine grease, the sound felt like something perfectly clean – something pure – like jewels raining over leather.
“It’s okay,” she said. “Mommy’s boyfriend says that all the time.”
Jim frowned. It didn’t make it okay. He’d never seen men coming or going from the townhouse unit the girl lived in with her mother across the parking lot. But she wasn’t a woman who would’ve been a long time alone.
The girl’s mother probably wasn’t twenty-five. She was darker haired than her child, with a kind of severe prettiness. She looked angry and in a hurry all the time. She’d never so much as given Jim a sidelong glance as she stalked back and forth from her car in tight miniskirts that showed off thighs and an ass that were just this side of thick. Breasts that would just fill a man’s hands.
He didn’t know her name, but he didn’t have to. The woman had to have survived her share of car crashes. It was hard to imagine anything as sweet and guileless as Jess keeping her sparkle in the midst of whatever it all amounted to.
Jessica always came to visit Jim whenever they were both outside their apartments at the same time. He’d come to look forward to her visits. She had this ethereal sense of wonder about her that made him feel good about being alive. He’d never wanted kids. Still didn’t. But if he did, it might not be so bad if the kid were like her.
He realized he’d never shown another person – a child – anything like how to tie a pair of lime green sneakers.
He wasn’t built for it anyway.
Two of Jessica’s friends were playing on top of the big, grey transformer box near the corner of the building. It had big red stickers on it that said “Danger: High Voltage”. The kids didn’t care that electricity for twenty-five apartments was constantly humming through that box.
“We’re having a birthday party,” Jessica said happily. “We’re gonna have cake and ice cream. And a sleepover party. You can come if you want to.”
Jim laughed out loud. He would have been an odd guest at a party like that. He almost asked Jessica if he could have a sleepover party with her mother instead.
Jessica was looking at him with a smile that could turn vinegar to sugar. In a few more years, she’d probably learn to look at the world through a haze of amorphous anger. Then he felt a brief wish that her mother had been like Jessica when she was young. At least there would be some part of her life that was free of anguish, and once in while, maybe she could reach backward and touch it.
“Is today your birthday?”
“Mmhmm,” the girl replied with a pronounced nod.
“And how old are you today?”
“Six.” She said the word with a little ring in her voice, as if reaching the venerable age of six was a rare and astonishing experience. Jim supposed it probably was after all.
“Well I hope you have a great party,” he told her.
“You can come, if you want to,” she said again.
“We’ll see,” he lied.
A little later, Jim went to the hardware store to buy some WD 40 to loosen those bolts. Driving through town, he started to feel bad about lying to the kid. Not bad enough to actually go to a six year old birthday party, but he thought he should at least buy her a present.
He stopped at a shop that sold toys and children’s books. It was full of brightly colored things, posters of cartoon animals, all happy and smiling. His clothes were grimy, and his hands were still stained with grease. He smelled like gasoline and rusty steel. Everything in the store was maniacally bright and cheerful. He couldn’t wait to get out of there and almost forgot why he’d gone in the first place.
He bought a book called The Polar Express. He didn’t know anything about the story, but the artwork resonated with him. It was hard to imagine pictures on the walls of Jessica’s house, and he thought maybe her imagination could use somewhere to go.
Late in the afternoon, he finished working on his car. He went inside to shower and change. Then he wrapped Jessica’s book in paper with little Santa Clauses and candy canes on it. It was all he had.
When he knocked on the door to Jessica’s apartment, one of the ladies who lived in the same block of apartments let him in. There were two mothers along with their daughters at the party. Jessica’s mother wasn’t there, and Jim didn’t ask about her. He just gave the girl her present. She got up from the game she was playing on the floor with the two other girls to come over and thank him. She even hugged him, and then went back to her game.
The mothers of the other girls were also neighbors of Jim’s, and he knew them both. He knew their husbands. At least enough to say hello, but not much more. He wanted to leave, but one of the mothers asked if he could stay with Jessica until her mother came home.
“We just can’t stay any longer,” the woman told him. “We’ve got to get back to our families. I’ll call Jessie’s mom and let her know you’re here.”
Jim wanted to invent a reason he couldn’t stay, but the two women were so anxious to leave they weren’t going to give him enough time to think of a good one. The woman who’d spoken was already dialing the number on her cell phone. She rolled her eyes when she was put through to voice mail.
Both of the mothers hustled their daughters out of the apartment like the place was on fire. Jim was committed, and he didn’t have a clue for how long. He looked around the small kitchen and living room. There were no pictures on the walls as he’d thought. No books, not even cookbooks, except for the one he’d given Jessica.
The girl was still sitting on the floor, playing and talking as if the other two were still there.
Half the cake had been cut and eaten. It was a store-bought cake, but it still looked pretty good. There were dishes covered with chocolate crumbs and traces of vanilla ice cream. He picked up the dishes and put them in the sink.
Jessica got up and stood in the kitchen doorway.
“Wanna have some cake and ice cream?”
“Didn’t you have some already?”
“Are you supposed to have more? I wouldn’t want you to get sick.”
“Yeah, but it’s my birthday.”
“Special dispensation, huh?”
She tilted her head and looked at him curiously, as if pretending she understood what he said. Then she giggled just like she had when he said fuck under his car that afternoon.
He finally found a pair of clean dishes and cut two more pieces of cake. He made hers a small one. He found the ice cream, too. Then they sat at the small kitchen table and ate.
Jim felt like he should say something, but he didn’t know what. Making conversation with a six year old wasn’t something he did very much. Fortunately, the kid was still a long way from learning how to feel awkward over gaps in a conversation.
“How about if we read your book?” he suggested after they ate up their cake.
Jessica’s face suddenly grew bright. “Yeah!”
They went to the living room and sat on the worn little couch so Jim could read and Jessica could follow the pictures. She was more interested in the pictures than the story, but she was quiet while he read, as if the sound of his voice were a good thing.
When he got to the end of the book, Jessica smiled and asked him to read it again. He read through it two more times. It was dark outside, and Jessica’s eyes were beginning to droop with sleepiness. Jim got up so she could stretch out on the couch and sleep.
It was a warm night, so he opened the apartment door and put one of the kitchen chairs just outside. He sat and waited. Long enough to start feeling angry. He wondered if Jessica’s mother had even heard the message their neighbor had left.
After a while, he got up and went inside. Jess was still sleeping soundly on the couch. The anger subsided, but he still felt profoundly off center.
A couple of hours passed, and Jim was still sitting in front of the apartment door when her car squealed into the development parking lot. He lifted his hand to shade his eyes from the headlights as the car stopped a few feet in front of him. The lights shut off, and he was momentarily blind.
She slammed her car door like she wanted to ruin it, then leaned against it and exhaled long and slow. She was unsteady on her feet, and wearing a dress so tight it seemed it couldn’t keep pace with the tired movements of her body. There were long, dark streaks of mascara running down her cheeks. She looked down at the ground and avoided looking at him. He put the chair back inside and looked around to see if there was a box of Kleenex. All he could find was toilet paper. He pulled a small wad off the roll and brought it out.
She took the toilet paper without looking at him and wiped at her eyes. It just made the smudges worse. He started to ask if she was okay, but she just held up her hand.
Up close, he realized she was something more than pretty. Even with the smudges on her face, she had the kind of beauty that turned the lives of some women into a lamentable mess. He was relieved she wouldn’t look at him. He didn’t think he could look back.
“Jessica’s fine,” he said. “We had some cake. Ice cream. Read a story. She’s sleeping on the couch.”
He waited longer than necessary for an answer, but she only nodded her head. He said goodnight and walked across the lot to his apartment.
His kitchen was insidiously bright, and he realized there were no pictures on his walls, either. He decided he would go out the next day and buy some posters. Maybe a few. Something with some nature. Something with some art.
There was a soft knock at the door.
She almost looked at his face now, but never actually made eye contact. Her face was clean but her eyes still looked damp. She looked younger than before. She started to say something, but her body shivered once and she started crying. She managed a strangled thank you.
“It’s okay,” he said. “She’s a wonderful kid.”
She cried harder then. Leaned against him and shook with violent sobs. He felt stiff and awkward, but he finally put his arms around her and touched her hair while she cried. She smelled of whiskey, perfume and a little bit of sweat.
Standing in the doorway of his apartment, hugging a woman whose name he didn’t know, he wanted to think of something useful to say. He could have told her that everything would look better in the morning, but he knew she wouldn’t believe him, and he wasn’t too sure he believed it himself. All he could think to say was, “Shhh. Shhh.”
He held onto her for a long time. Long after the sobbing subsided and she was just breathing against him. Breathing inside the circle of his arms, her breasts pressing and releasing on his body.
“Bad night,” he said. Question as much as statement.
“You could say.”
She was talking into his neck. He was talking into her hair. Her breasts pressed in harder, without the help of her breathing now.
“Good. Um. I don’t seem to want to let go.”
“S’okay. I don’t seem to want you to.”
“Maybe it doesn’t matter if you love someone,” he said. “Maybe if you just love the moments you spend, it’s enough.”
He didn’t know where it came from. Just something that drifted through his mind unbidden. His left hand fingered into her hair and held her head from behind. Her face burrowed into his neck, breath pulsing at his skin. His right hand drifted over the full curve of her ass. Her dress was thin and tight enough it was almost like touching her skin.
She arched against him, slightly, as if a barely perceptible wave had rolled up and down the length of her body once and disappeared. Her lips touched his neck but didn’t kiss. Breath. Touching his neck through an open mouth. A wider swath. Damp heat over his skin.
He moved his hand. Fingertips brushed across the hem of her dress, lifting it that scant couple of inches he needed to touch the under curve of her ass. Bare skin on the pads of his fingers. An illusion of flawlessness. His cock started growing, and another tiny wave passed through her body.
He wanted to say her name but didn’t know what it was, and he didn’t want to ask her now. He didn’t imagine she knew his, either, but then, a name was about the least you could ever know of anyone.
She was facing into the open doorway while he was facing out. He wanted to guide her inside, but the moment was crystalline and in precarious danger of shattering. The Fairmont was parked in front of them. Her car was where she’d pulled in before, parked in front of her door which was hanging open wide as his.
The open area between the buildings was quiet. Deserted. It felt later than it was. He lifted her dress higher, exposing the springy roundness of her ass, discovering the thong nestled between her cheeks as he clamped his hand onto one sphere.
“Maybe this is….” His voice trailed off into a total lack of conviction. “I’m sorry,” he started.
“Don’t.” Her lips pronounced the word against his neck.
At first, he thought she was telling him to stop. She probably should have, but her body was moving against his cock again. His grip tightened on her ass – soft hard pliant flesh – and he angled his head in to kiss her throat. He wanted her mouth more, but he was unsure. One person’s mouth on top of another’s – tongues dancing like lovers within lovers – was like setting foot in another country.
Tension ebbed from her body as he tasted the salt skin. Her thigh slid between his, pressing upward toward the vicious confinement of his ripening cock. She swallowed against his lips, and the movement of her throat made him harder and grip her ass more tightly. He felt in touch with the coursing flow of all the blood and nerves feeding her dreams.
Later, maybe he’d ask her if she had any dreams. He didn’t think so. But for now, everything depended on becoming one.
He moved to taste her mouth. Cigarettes, whiskey and fruit. His hand was still clutching the back of her head, laced into the roots of her long hair. Her lips formed a wide circle against his and with the first movement of their tongues, the act of kissing gave way to a kind of devouring.
She was trying to rub at his cock with her thigh while her hands balled into fists, clawing up hunks of his T shirt. The hand behind her head moved, searching down over the contours of her body until he found the top edge of her thong. Her hips arched back, giving him room to feel, but keeping her leg between his. He cupped his hand over the tautly stretched thong. It wasn’t as wide as the full shape of her pussy. His fingers encountered smooth skin everywhere they touched.
He cupped and pressed. She sighed into his open mouth while one of her hands released his shirt and moved to grope at the blunt shape of aroused cock in his pants. He fingered into her thong and grazed the flushed lips underneath.
“I’m sorry…didn’t mean to…” Wet velvet swallowed the tip of his finger.
“I know…I know….” The whisper rode her breath across his tongue.
Her thigh moved free of his legs as his finger nudged deeper, exploring the very mouth of her core and then retracting toward the hot bud of her clit. She gripped and rubbed at his cock. Agile and desperately clumsy all at once. Her other hand moved between them. She was reaching for his belt and zipper, but he was already moving down, kissing the trail of her pulsing artery to the tangy damp of her chest, his hands moving up to pull the top of her low cut dress over the swell of her braless breasts.
Both his hands scooped and squeezed at her buoyant mounds, his mouth searching for her nipples – hot and erect – kiss, lap and suck. She had his belt undone, groped again for his cock, but he was already moving lower.
His knees bent until he was on the floor. He sat himself on the step in the doorway. His feet stuck outside while she held onto the sides of the doorframe, planting her feet in each corner. He fingered her thong aside and ran his tongue over her slit and mound.
She made a sound like an animal awakening.
Body syrup oozed and seeped from her slit as he kissed her pussy like another mouth. She hunkered and bent her knees, rocking and grinding against his mouth. Thick, lacquered lips arched into his face. His hands were moving over the satin of her thighs, one finding its way back to her ass while the other sent a finger up inside her sheath. Then he trapped her clit under his mouth.
“Yes fuck do it yes fuck….”
The words dripped from her voice the way honey was dripping from her pussy. She held onto the frame and fucked his face. Rode his finger.
Phony sitcom laughter filtered through the walls of someone’s apartment. The walls of her sheath contracted in ripples around the steady pump of his finger while he sucked and lapped voraciously at her clit.
Moments later, she was hunkering even lower, settling on top of him. The dress was in bunches around her waist and under her breasts. Her face was still shining, but without the mascara streaks now. Hunkered in the doorway with her quivering breasts and bared pussy facing him, her naturally ripe curves seemed exaggerated. The quality of her body radiated an air of constant motion.
She kept her eyes on his face while she opened his pants and pushed them past his hips. Then she was looking back and forth between his face and cock while she took his shaft and balls in her hands. Caressing. Stroking his hard, throbbing length. Precum seeping onto her hand as she smeared it over his skin.
I’m here , he thought, trying to read her eyes. Gauging the distance between her mind and the glisten. I’m right here.
She moved back, lower across his legs, her exposed ass jutting out the door as she leaned over and held his cock to her mouth. She licked his shaft, tongue rolling over the head while she held him tight at the base. She was looking at his face when her eyelids hooded over and she slid her mouth down his shaft as far as her hand.
Jim melted against the cool floor while the roiling, wet heat of her mouth pulled at all his senses through his cock. He reached down and touched her hair while her head moved up and down.
“Did you ever just…look…at someone…and say…maybe there’s someone…living inside her…I could fall in love with?”
He had no idea whether he’d whispered or spoken. Maybe he’d only thought it. He would’ve hoped so if his mind had been his own just then. But a moment after he’d said it, she was moving back up to straddle his hips. Watching his face with that glistening distance in her melting chocolate eyes, she splayed her pussy with one hand and gripped his cock with the other.
The glisten flickered and smoldered as she lowered herself down, swallowing him up with her body. Bracing herself with her hands inside the doorframe, she began rising and falling on his cock, stroking him with the whole weight of her body. Her breasts quivered with her motion. He needed them in his hands. Needed the stiff points of her russet nipples in his mouth.
He started thrusting at her hovering body. Contrary motion and the hot slap-scrape of hard shaft and the slippery glove of her pussy. The raw warmth of her ass rocking down on his balls over and over.
She let herself fall forward, breaking her own fall with her hands on the floor on either side of his head. Hips rocking and grinding as he thrust himself harder, deeper, voraciously into the lathered clasp of her hole. He reached for her and pulled her the rest of the way down. Her breasts billowed against his body and their mouths lunged into each other for the kissing staggered by the movement of their bodies.
“Yeah…yeah…I said that…I said that.”
He was beyond knowing what she was talking about. He must have said something sometime. It could’ve been anything, yet nothing mattered now but taking flight.
Her pussy was rippling inside, the way it had when he fucked her with his finger. He wrapped his arms around her body and held her so tight she couldn’t move from the waist up.
She whimpered and fought to breathe against his mouth while he slammed his erupting cock deeply into her pussy. Until he felt the dripping warmth of their mixture inside her. The movements ebbed. Slowed. She laid her face against his chest and they both breathed. Her pussy held onto his cock for a long time.
“What did you mean,” he finally asked. It didn’t seem they’d be moving out of the doorframe anytime soon.
“That thing you said before,” she told him. “About a person living inside a person and maybe…ya know…maybe.”
“But that’s dangerous shit to talk about,” she added.
“Maybe it’s more dangerous not to.”
“In your world. But not in mine.”
“Okay. Sure. If you say.”
They lay silent a while. Eventually, Jim moved to sit upright. She stayed on his lap. Straddling. Facing him. Looking and not looking at his eyes.
“I was thinking of going out and buying some posters tomorrow,” he said absently. “Just…something to put up on the wall. Nature. Art. Whatever. Maybe you wanna come. Bring Jess or whatever.”
They’d all be out together. Shopping for pictures. Almost like a real family. Jimmy wondered if they’d like looking at the same kinds of things. It promised to be a strange day, but a good one. And sooner or later, he’d find the right moment to ask her name.
As always, much thanks for your time to read. Please take a moment to stop by my Amazon page if you can. Frank Lee on Amazon.