Ana glanced at her watch. It was twelve thirty already. She quickly slipped on a pleated skirt, her white shirt with the rounded collar and a pair of Mary Jane shoes. Without even thinking about it, she had chosen the schoolgirl outfit that her lover preferred. She dabbed on some perfume behind her ears, even though Michael didn’t like it. He feared its scent might arouse not only his desire, but also Karen’s suspicions. She put on some lip-gloss, then changed her mind and removed it with a tissue. It would be pointless given all their kissing. Her heart raced. And how could it not? Breathless excitement each and every time they met. Hours of intimate conversation. Such a handsome, supportive, gentle, calm and romantic lover. Michael was exactly what she had longed for all along, only better. She hadn’t even fathomed someone so thrilling, something that felt so right.
Michael slipped on his periwinkle tee shirt, since several women had commented on how it brought out his chocolate eyes. No deodorant or cologne were necessary. He opted for the minimalist approach: the fresh scent of organic soap. He brushed his hair only with his fingers, sweeping his long bangs to the side, away from his serene forehead. As he gazed at himself in the mirror, Michael took pride in his own fuss-free good looks. Some people have to work so hard just to look average, he thought, his own fiancée coming to mind. Others are born with it, he observed, thinking of himself and his new girlfriend.
But then he qualified somewhat. Ana was attractive, he mused, recalling her doll-like features and petite frame, but not gorgeous like him. He’d be more desired by other women than she’d be desired by other men, he did a quick comparison as if he and Ana were engaged in a competition. A surge of self-confidence intoxicated him with a sense of his superiority. Women fall so easily for my boyish charm, Michael thought, his hubris somewhat tempered by the boredom of predictability. Ana, however, seemed more of a challenge to him. He was attracted to the combination of vulnerability and strength he saw in her. Michael tabulated Ana’s qualities, both the plusses and the minuses. But even the minuses seemed like plusses in his eyes, since he was keenly aware that her weaknesses could be turned to his advantage. She’s childlike and naïve, yet also educated and astute. She’s pretty without being too beautiful, like the kind of women most men drool over, who get a big head as a result. She’s pliable without being a pushover, the image of Karen suddenly popped into his mind, then quickly disappeared. She’s independent and headstrong yet also vulnerable and needy. It’s as if something has long been missing from her life and, fortunately, I was there, in the right place at the right time, to fill in the void. Or maybe it was fate, who the hell knows? Michael speculated. It sure felt like it to him, in that instant. When the doorbell rang, he rushed to open the door. At first, all Ana could see was a pair of dark eyes locking her gaze, then flowing all over her. Michael put his index finger to his lips to indicate that they shouldn’t dispel the magical complicity of silence. He led her by the hand into the bedroom.
For once, they weren’t pressed for time. Michael cradled his girlfriend into his arms, enjoying the lightness of her body, with the eagerness of a groom carrying his new bride over the threshold on their wedding night, but also, despite his virility, with the nurturing care of a mother holding her only child. “You’re my little Powderpuff,” he said, deciding that would be her second pet name, since she was so fragile and small. His gentleness surprised her. As he laid her down on the bed, Ana had the impression that she was levitating above it, floating with anticipation. Without removing any clothes, Michael allowed his hands to glide over her, in a gentle massage that simultaneously soothed and titillated her senses. Her body involuntarily moved to his touch, drawn to him.
But Michael showed deliberate restraint this time. Even when Ana extended her arms and pulled him to her, he didn’t give in to her urges, nor to his own. He was fully in control of the situation. As usual, he knew exactly what he wanted. On that day, he decided, he’d explore his new girlfriend gradually and slowly.
“Last night I dreamt about you and actually felt your soft skin embracing my whole body. I woke up quivering all over from that tactile impression of you,” he murmured. When her head approached his for a kiss, Michael moved slightly lower. His lips clasped the delicate skin of her neck. He sucked it so gently, and with such patience, that Ana couldn’t even tell that he had left the imprint of his teeth upon her skin until she was ready to go home. Then she glanced at herself in the mirror and hurriedly covered the mark with face powder, afraid that it would give her away. But the traces would reappear the instant the make-up wore off, exposing her illicit lover’s lingering presence.
As Michael turned her over, to caress her shoulders, her back, the moist mound still covered by panties. “You’re so beautiful,” he said, simultaneously moved and aroused. Ana turned again and they gazed at each other. As she lay on her back, he focused on the thick line of her bangs, which brought out the fire in her eyes. “Please always cut your hair like this,” he said. “I want you to stay exactly as you were on the day we met.”
Ana giggled at the adorable naïveté of his comment. “Then I’m afraid you’ll have to invent a genetic cure for aging.”
“You’ve already got the genes, Baby. All you need is the desire,” he replied, adding silently in his own mind, “to be mine for life.” Ana looked so youthful that he couldn’t imagine her ever growing old. She, in turn, thought about the implications of his comment. Somewhere in there, Michael was hinting that their love was for the long-term, just as she, herself, had hoped. When she turned over again, he whispered into her ear, with haunting sincerity, “I want you so much, Ana. I’ve never wanted anyone like this before.”
But they didn’t make love on that warm Friday afternoon. Instead, they explored each other with their lips, fingertips and tongues; with the whole surface of their warm, desirous bodies, without consummating their love. Michael was delighted by each and every physical attribute of his girlfriend, as if he were seeing Ana for the first time. The slimness of her leg, the fluid manner in which the curve of her torso seemed to melt into the straight lines of her legs, the sharp contours of her knees, the abandon in her gaze, the heavy softness of her hair, the delicacy of her lips, even the smallness of her feet. “You should cut your toenails, you little Romanian peasant,” he quipped as he lifted her foot to kiss each toe, one at a time.
Ana admired the perfect polish of his muscular form. “Do you work out a lot?” she asked him.
“A few hours a day three, maybe four times a week,” Michael estimated. “If I do anything less than that, I begin to feel literally sick,” he added, to imply that he exercised purely for health reasons.
“Most people work out to look good,” Ana speculated, since she didn’t.
“Not me. I don’t really care about how I look.” As he said this, Michael almost believed that false statement, forgetting how proud he was of his athletic physique. “I have a present for you,” he suddenly switched the subject, as if recalling something important.
“Are you sure it’s not for you?” Ana asked him playfully, since his last few gifts were all items of lingerie that he wanted her to model for him.
“Okay, it’s for both of us,” he compromised. He walked to his desk drawer and returned holding a little black velvet box.
“Open it,” he offered it to Ana.
She removed from the box a black silk cord, delicate and translucent, upon which lay suspended, like a teardrop, a pear shaped aquamarine pendant. “Michael, it’s absolutely gorgeous!”
“No, you are,” he replied, taking the necklace from her hands and walking behind her, to place it around her neck. “What I liked about this pendant is that it wraps closely around your neck, almost like a dog collar. Yet at the same time it’s so delicate and timelessly elegant,” he explained.
Ana examined herself in the mirror. “I feel like that girl in the Titanic.” She turned around to kiss Michael with gratitude.
“Let’s just hope that our ship won’t run into a huge iceberg and sink,” she added as an afterthought.
“Don’t worry,” Michael reassured her. “I’ll steer us in the right direction. I wouldn’t let anything bad happen to my Baby.”
A few minutes later, they were back in bed. Ana licked the crevices of his ear, small and vulnerable, crimson with heat, and breathed “I love you” into it. Michael’s whole body quivered, from head to toe, in a sinuous upheaval of sensation like she had never witnessed before. “You’re so sensual,” she observed. She was mesmerized by the potency of his touch and even more so by his extreme erotic sensibility, which, she felt quite certain, must be a symptom of his great emotional depth and sensitivity. Ana still recalled the repulsive sexual brutality of her first lover and had become quite used to her husband’s indifferent touch. But she couldn’t remember ever being loved like this before, explored with kisses everywhere, soothed by fluid caresses that barely grazed the surface of her skin yet somehow managed to probe to the very core of her being.
Michael noticed that his girlfriend’s eyes lit up like someone in a delirium. “So are you,” he replied, feeling like she was the one. At that moment, he wanted Ana to be completely his, from head to toe, from morning to night, as if the present were a living fossil perpetually frozen in the transparent layers of time. He was especially drawn to the ecstatic mixture of wonder and abandon he saw in her eyes. “I will love you for as long as I see my love reflected in your eyes,” he vowed. With a possessive yet understated gesture, his hand grasped the flat of her throat and rested there, immobile, as he covered her ear and cheek with a flurry of kisses.
“Why are you doing this?” She was surprised by the ominous placement of his hand upon her neck, so sharply contradicted by the lightness of his touch.
“Because I like to feel the softness of your skin upon the roughness of my palm,” he replied.
Ana’s skeptical laugh was more of a gurgle, flowing from her like a little stream of pleasure. “Don’t give me that! You like to feel like my life’s in your hands, you little vampire!”
“And isn’t it?” Michael asked. With an abrupt movement, he turned her head to the side, so she could look him in the eyes.
His face lay in the shadow, but his eyes glimmered like candles.
“Yes, it is,” she agreed, entranced. “I can’t help it. I’m so in love with you, Michael,” she mirrored his feelings. At that moment, Ana thought that whatever came to pass between them—whatever mixture of agony and bliss their love affair would bring them—somehow, this passion would be tremendously important to her.
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