How did I get this tired? My limbs are made of lead, my chest of glass, my spine bored brittle by safe choices and bland ambitions. There’ve been a few false starts and bitter splits, both platonic and romantic. The last one sucked me dry.
Yet, I have a comfortable life, with a comfortable job—for which I am grateful in this uncomfortable economy. I live close to the city in a comfortable apartment. Everything within it boasts a neat palette of beiges and blues.
Even now, it’s a comfortable time of night. Several hours after work, several hours before bed. I feed my blue cat and scratch his small cheek. He purrs against my knuckle.
I begin to draw a hot bath and fill it with scented crystals. I admire the way the low light refracts off the cool, gleaming tiles and catches at the tiny rose-hued shards as I pour them into the turbulent water. I hum to myself and imagine I’m filling my bath with diamonds.
It’s been too long since I took time to just… think. Recently, I’ve been doing my best to avoid it.
I set my phone on the ceramic sink and put on some music. Classical. Comfortable. The sound irritates me. The beautiful string harmonics set my teeth on edge. I’m so tired of being comfortable. I switch tracks.
I search out a genre of music beyond my standard taste. As I begin to peel off my corporate outerwear like layers of skin, I feel the new beat thrumming through me, pulling at the threads of feelings I’d forgotten were there, hiding in the quiet corners. I feel awake.
I pay attention to the elegant detail as steam curls around me, like a teasing lover. I unzip my skirt and allow it to fall to the floor. I feel the cool, dampening rustle of satin against my skin as I drag my blouse up and over my head, languishing in the exaggerated movement. The bath is halfway full. The crystals have clustered near the plug, swirling in the mild currents of the tap’s jet. I rub my stockinged thighs together, bouncing to the music as I bend to coax the crystals into a tighter swirl, coercing them to release their perfume.
Even alone in my own bathroom, I feel slightly exposed as I bend, displaying my thinly-clothed vagina to my bathroom mirror. I think of how my ex would stand behind me and run her hand between— No. No, I can’t give that thought enough rope, or it’ll hang me.
She’s gone. It’s fine. I’m fine. I splash my face with bathwater. I can almost pretend I’m not crying.
I want to shut off the water and unplug the drain, to crawl to my bed and bury myself in the dark, to sleep through another month.
But a deep and sudden rage clenches my hands into fists and locks my teeth together. All the hurt, all the sadness, all the doubt and insecurity and frustration that I’ve felt for months combusts, setting my apathy on fire.
I don’t need her hand. I have my own.
I deliberately stretch into the bend, slowly relaxing into the feeling of raw arousal. I look over my shoulder to view myself. My stockings shimmer in the muted glow of the bathroom light. Even with black underwear I can see the distinct outline of my vulva as I bend even further over the tub, continuing to stroke at the water with one hand.
The sight of my own body at such angles excites me. I see my face flushing in the steam, my lips plumping with the moist heat, soft strands of hair frizzing into ringlets around my face.
I stand and turn to face the mirror directly, one arm wet to the elbow. I pluck at the band of my stockings, uncomfortably tight around my waist. I pull them down around my hips, revealing faint red marks from the elastic across my middle. I fold the waist band down until it cuts across my pubic line. I look at myself and rub at the red marks soothingly with both hands, one dry, one wet. Beads of water wend rivers down my arm, licking a damp path across the smooth skin of my stomach. The velveteen dryness of my other hand creates a sensual contrast, almost as if one of hers—
No. These are my arms. My hands. They’re all I need.
I move my dry hand down my stomach, my nails tickling a line below the elastic of my bottoms. I pluck at the small generic bow stitched into the front. In plucking I lift the waistband forward and glimpse the smooth skin beneath.
I continue unfurling my stockings, first down one leg, and then the other, sliding them delicately off each foot in turn. In the mirror I see the bath is filling rapidly behind me. I lay the stockings neatly down on the tiles and shut off the tap. The bath is full. Uncomfortably full. The idea of my body displacing water over the confines of the tub excites me in a childish sort of way. The idea of making a playful, chaotic a mess.
I return to my reflection in the mirror. I can see that my eyes are bright. Bright with arousal that has long been lacking. Bright with a grief yet to heal, and an anger that may finally allow it to.
I turn my attention to my bra. Plain. Black. It matches my bottoms, down to the tiny silk bow stitched into the cleavage.
I hook a finger under one strap and let it fall off my shoulder. I pull it further down, uncurling the thick silken cup away from my breast. I revel in the slow exposure of my skin, the feel of the damp air as I uncover myself. I pull the cup down completely, tucking it under my naked breast. The stiff material plumps it up. My nipple stiffens from the contact with the cool air as well as the erotic thrill of exposure. I rub a thumb over the peak and feel a sweet dart of pleasure in my clitoris.
I no longer feel tired as I stare at myself in the mirror. Yet, I feel like a stranger to myself. It’s been so long since I’ve felt desire, for myself or for others. Not since her.
Yet now, I feel fully aroused and fully aware.
I think of Holly from work, and the way she had been flirting with me over break. I had ignored it. Or rather, not consciously noticed it. I think of her now, feeling for the familiar intrusion of guilt that often blankets such erotic fantasies. Like I’m committing infidelity against the ghost of the love I’ve been clinging to.
I think of Holly and her eyes, pretty with the light of mischief as she had leaned forward to whisper some piece of social trivia. I think of the way she had casually clasped my arm in affectionate excitability. The guilt starts to rise, but I bridle it. Nonetheless, it creates a bitter-sweet ache in my chest as I focus all my thoughts on Holly and the way she had arched her back as she shrugged out of her cardigan, amplifying the swell of her bust as she had thrust her chest forward. The small buttons of her blouse had struggled to contain her as one popped open without her notice. I recall the small slice of bright colour hinting at exciting secrets beneath. I recall her playful wink when I had pointed it out to her, and the way she held my gaze as she re-buttoned.
I pull and pinch my nipple with deepening lust, and I slide my fingers down to press against the urgent pressure building between my legs. I curl a finger between my labia to draw lubrication up around my clitoris. I rub the soft pads of my fingers in gentle circles over the sensitive peak.
It’s not enough. I fumble to quickly unhook my bra, my breasts falling heavily in the heat of the steaming air. I drag my underwear down and off, seating myself on the cold edge of the bathtub. At first I keep my thighs clenched together, clamping my hand between my legs as I grind my compressed fingers in feverish circles, building pleasure low in my plexus. I rove my eyes over my naked skin as I continue to face the mirror. I spread my legs slightly to allow my hand better access. I rub myself faster, then slower, then faster again, controlling the ebb of pleasure. I continue to spread my legs, inching them farther and farther apart until my vagina is completely exposed to the mirror. I move my hand slower to better see the plump flesh of my labia, the glistening pink ruffles of my inner folds.
I think of Holly’s button. The pleasure builds and builds and then crests. I cry out as I climax, my voice trilling off the tiles in gasping echoes. I clench my legs against the side of the bath to anchor myself as I arch back, pleasure pulsing up through my centre and down through my thighs, causing my legs to shake.
The cold of the ceramic against the heat of my skin feels soothing. I relax into the sensation as my breathing slows to normal.
I smile at my reflection. I take in the flush of my skin, the sheen of sweat and condensed steam that makes my body glow. I carefully spin myself to the side, swinging one leg over the edge of the tub into the hot water. I straddle the lip of the tub, pressing my clitoris against the cold, hard surface. The new sensation makes the muscles in my thighs and lower stomach clench, and I gently grind my hips until I relax once more. I sit there for several moments, content and comfortable in a different kind of way.
I climb into the tub, the water exactly the right temperature, the excess volume splashing over the edge to wash away the slick evidence of my sex. I sink and am submerged, warm to the core. I no longer feel tired. The lonely ache and bitter longing that has made its home in my chest these past months softens and dissolves like crystals as I soak.
I emerge from the tub when the water starts to cool. I watch as the smallest of undissolved bath crystals swirl down the drain.
I slide into bed still naked, still a little damp, and dream of Holly’s smile.
"Good morning!" Holly greets me with her usual exuberance. The infectious spark of her mischief lights up my own smile. She strides on past me, and I wish I could pull her back and stay inside her sphere of warmth.
I spend the day pacing through the usual choreography of my daily tasks. The metronome of the wall clock sets a rhythm for the nine-to-five two-step. This dance has long since grown stale.
Today, I extend myself into each motion, smoothing the edges of my movements into something graceful. I luxuriate in the sensual feeling of bodily awareness, of deliberation and control.
I notice Holly watching me. I’ve noticed her watching me before, but somehow I’d never really noticed it. Today her attentions only serve to heighten my own self-awareness, down to each breath. I feel seen. I feel admired. A corset of giddy tightness binds my chest, and a dampness gathers between my legs, as Holly’s attentions excite me.
I wonder if I excite Holly as much. I look over at her, a shy glance of appraisal as I turn my head her way. I catch her watching me. She holds my gaze. I look away first. I can feel Holly’s lingering gaze like a kiss on the exposed skin of my neck. It sends erotic shivers up my arms and down into my chest, hardening my nipples against the thin material of my bra. They create visible peaks beneath my blouse for anyone who cared to see, which only excites me further.
We miss each other at lunch hour, but as the day winds into night, Holly strides up behind my desk.
"Hey chicken, how’s your day going? Looks like a busy one, hey?" Holly drapes an arm casually across the back of my chair and leans over my shoulder to peer at my spreadsheets. I feel her breath against my cheek.
I turn into it, almost so as to kiss the side of her mouth. "Like you wouldn’t believe."
I hear her swallow, and see the sharp angles of her clavicles as she shifts her shoulders. I feel, rather than see, her gaze brush over my peaking nipples as they harden visibly once more beneath the near-sheer fabric of my shirt.
"I’d say that deserves a drink," Holly’s honeycomb voice drips with lust.
"Shall we, then?"
Holly smiles coyly and jaunts a coquettish hip in assent. I stand and grab my purse.
She leads me to a local lounge. As we walk through the streets and laneways, Holly clasps my hand, lacing her fingers through mine. She walks half a step ahead of me, pulling me on like a nymph luring the uninitiated into secret games. the way through the growing dark. The door is easy to miss, but then most of the best places are half hidden.
The lighting is dim, the decor old-world classic with a little modern zest worked into the detailing. Holly steers us to a corner with small comfortable couches.
"Your favourite spot?" I ask.
Holly smile is lascivious as she shakes her head. I smile at the unvoiced double entendre.
She claims her seat like a Queen does her throne, legs crossed, arms relaxed across the low back of the chintz lounge. Now that we’re out of the office, Holly presents differently. It’s a subtle shift; a touch more authority in her stride, a little more confidence in her bearing, a new gravity in her movements that emphasises heavy curves and elegant angles.
I sit opposite her, suddenly aware of how awkwardly rigid my body feels in comparison. Everything about her presence is effortless, sumptuous, sexual. I feel out of my depth before this creature.
A waiter approaches and sets water before us. "What can I get you ladies tonight?"
Holly quirks an eyebrow at me and my thoughts melt. I pause as I deliberate the list before me. I can’t think of what I like. Holly rescues me from my awkward hesitation. "Ever had a cherry sour?" She asks. I shake my head. "Wonderful, two of those please." The waiter leaves us alone.
"Are you alright? You’re very quiet. Even more than usual," Holly smiles at me, warmly, encouragingly.
"It’s just," I clear my throat and sip some water, "It’s just been a while since I’ve been out with anybody. Out like this, I mean." I look down and adjust my posture, trying to find somewhere comfortable to put my hands. Holly reaches forward and enfolds them in her own.
"Are you not? Out, I mean?" Holly’s eyes and voice are gentle. I smile and shake my head.
"I am, yes. I’m not worried about that. It’s more… my history leaves a lot to be desired."
"It’s okay. We can do this slowly. It’s just drinks," Holly’s warmth, her gentleness, puts me at ease and I smile at her. "I don’t want just drinks."
Holly leans forward and whispers conspiratorially, "Neither do I, love." I laugh, feeling more and more at ease in her presence. She holds me steady, both anchor and raft.
She leans further across the low table to give me a whisper-thin kiss before pulling back as the waiter approaches with our drinks. A minimalist tumbler is set before me filled with a foamy pink liquid garnished with a rose bud. I take a sip, relishing the creamy texture and subtle cherry flavour.
Holly watches me expectantly, eyes alight with anticipation and humour.
Holly giggles and leans forward again. She cups my face in a warm hand and runs her thumb over my lower lip. Tenderly, she runs the very tip of her tongue over my upper lip. "Foam moustache," Holly grins and begins to pull back again, but I won’t let her. I wrap a hand around the back of her neck and press my lips against hers.
Suddenly we find it very difficult to keep our kiss appropriate for our public setting. I feel her kiss pour through me, warming me down through my centre, the energy of it pooling between my legs. I’m desperate to feel her hands on my skin, I’m desperate to feel hers under my hands.
Reluctantly we pull apart and the bridge of distance across the table seems too much. I skirt around the table and nestle myself into the crook of Holly’s hip, her arm draping across my shoulder line.
It feels simultaneously like the most comfortable and most exciting place in the world. She lazily traces circles on the back of my neck with her thumb, her fingers massaging down the side of my neck. We sit in companionable silence as we sip our drinks, enjoying the sensual comfort of our bodies curled into one another.
"I saw a print the other day that reminded me of you," Holly murmurs in my ear.
"Oh? Did it look like me?"
"Not a thing. There was just something about it… Here, I’ll show you." I raise myself out of my cosy recline to peer at the image on Holly’s phone. It’s abstract, a chaos of geometric shapes and so…
"Colourful," I murmur in surprise. I study the painting. It’s nothing like what I would ever have chosen to hang on my wall, but there’s something about it that captivates me. I think of myself, my comfortable, average life, and fail to see anything even remotely comparable in the visual riot before me.
"How does this make you think of me?" I ask as Holly twirls the loose curls escaping down my shoulders.
"There’s just something about it… The angular shapes seem so reserved, yet they bathe in vibrant swirls of colour… The pieces seem to yearn to move and rearrange themselves…" Holly trails off as I tilt my head to smile up at her, both overwhelmed and elated that someone could see so much in me.
"Would you like to come home with me?" I ask, feeling vulnerable as I meet Holly’s eyes.
"I’d love to," Holly kisses the curve of my ear and we make to leave.
"You have a bath!" Holly exclaims delightedly. The first thing she had done was race to the bathroom. "Bladder like a pea!" She’d exclaimed, rushing after the general direction I had pointed.
I grin to myself, recalling the night before. "Yes, I’ve only recently begun to use it more often."
"Perhaps we ought to have a soak together sometime," Holly steps closer, wrapping her hands around my hips.
"Perhaps we ought to now, it doesn’t take so long to fill," I lean in close until I feel our breaths combine.
Holly closes the distance and suddenly I can feel her everywhere. I pop open the buttons of her blouse as she reaches around my to tug at the zipper of my skirt.
Articles of clothing fall like a waterfall as we help each other discard them. Standing in our underwear sets, mine black, Holly’s a palette of neon, we roam each other’s skin, exploring curves and angles with our hands and lips and tongues. I find a freckle below Holly’s ear and suck on it. Holly finds the scar on my left thigh and brushes soft fingertips across the thin, raised tissue, reading it like Braille.
I run my thumbs over the top edges of Holly’s bra cups, tugging gently at the firm material until the pink of Holly’s areolas are visible. I trace this skin with my thumbs as I cup the full weight of each breast in my hands, massaging and lifting them further from the confining fabric. Holly reaches behind her and unclasps her bra, allowing it to fall loose, held in place only by my hands.
Holly grins at me, daring me to expose her. I allow her bra to drop to the floor, revealing Holly’s heavy breasts, bouncing with easy grace as she presses them against my chest, reaching around me to unclasp my own bra.
We stand chest to chest, standing in underwear bottoms that are growing increasingly damp. Holly reaches down to stretch aside the fabric of my bottoms, her fingers gliding easily between the lips of my labia. She finds my clitoris with skilled hands and strokes it with two fingers. Her touch is so different to the way I touch myself. The unfamiliarity of it is incredibly erotic. I feel a burning warmth spreading from my clitoris up into my stomach and down my legs, all the way to the soles of my feet. Holly increases her pace, but lightens her pressure, setting me alight with taut lust.
All my limbs begin to go limp and I struggle to stay upright. Holly supports me with a hand on the small of my back as her other hand continues to work confidently, bringing me nearer and nearer to climax. My hips buck and I thrust against the pressure of her hand, needing more. I feel her breath on the side of my neck, the tempo matching the rising tide of my climax as with a few more thrusts of her hand, Holly sends me over the edge. I wrap my arms tight around her neck as Holly holds me through my orgasm. I laugh as the electric sensations subside.
"Good?" Holly whispers with a smile.
"Much better than good," I murmur through my teeth as I bite her neck. Rejuvenated, I clasp Holly’s hand, damp with my own fluid, and lead her into the bathroom. I turn on the bath taps and throw a rough handful of crystals into the water.
"I want to make you come before this bath fills." I push Holly against the tiled wall. She gasps at the cold as I sink to my knees. I peel Holly’s bottoms down, revealing the smooth, plump pink of her mound. The fabric sticks a little, before I pull them all the way down and off.
I gently spread the lips of her outer labia open to reveal her clitoris, slick and swollen, budding beautifully from its hood. I flick the tip of my tongue in tight, pressured circles over it and feel Holly’s legs shudder. I lick, up and down, side to side, faster and slower, measuring my pace and adjusting my rhythm to the sounds of her moans. Her the sound of her husky vocals fills me with an aching need to feel her hand between my legs again.
I work my tongue relentlessly, feeling Holly’s legs twitch as she approaches her climax. I probe for her entrance and slide two fingers inside her, curling the tips in gentle pressure against the ruffled skin of her g-spot. Her moans are loud and aggressive, her legs shake from the effort of standing.
I look up at the underside of Holly’s large breasts, heaving with the heaviness of her breath. I see her delicate throat and jaw line as she tilts her head back in ecstasy.
I hear the bath filling behind me.
I lick faster and harder, chasing the bud of her clitoris as it retracts under its hood, Holly approaching the point of orgasm.
It takes only a few more moments before I feel Holly contract around my fingers, her moans echoing off the tiles.
Holly sags against the wall as I turn to shut off the taps. The water is perfectly level with the rim of the bath.
"Just in time," Holly laughs breathlessly as she slides down the wall to sitting, her legs shining with sweat, her sex glistening with the fluid of orgasm.
"Bath time!" I pull Holly back to her feet with a grunt. We both step into the tub, giggling like girls as water splashes up and over the side.
We sink down, facing each other, interlocking ourselves in a comfortable tessellation. We bask in the combined warmth of the water and chemical rush of climax.
I submerge further into the tub, further into her. I think of the image Holly showed me. I feel like that now, a shifting mass of colours and shapes, my insecurities displaced by this rebellion of new desire. I smile at Holly. She smiles at me and spits water playfully across the distance. As we laugh and splash and wash away all but the thought of play, I resolve to buy that print.
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