“It’s not polite to stare,” she whispered to him.
“I was just thinking…” Michael began.
Ana stole a glance at the couple that had caught his interest. To her surprise, the woman wasn’t beautiful, the kind of woman Michael usually looked at, furtively, out of the corner of his eye, hoping she wouldn’t notice. Her male companion, on the other hand, was attractive and slim.
“I was thinking about how much I identify with that poor fool,” he finished the thought.
“The one sitting across from that chubby woman over there,” he whispered.
“You’re judging a book by its cover. That girl might be a very nice and accomplished person. And the guy next to her might be a jerk,” Ana pointed out, also in a whisper.
“That’s what Karen would like to believe too,” Michael replied with a smirk. “But the truth of the matter is that when there’s such a big physical discrepancy in a couple, something’s definitely off. I began to notice this once we started dating.”
“What do you mean?”
“People don’t look at us with surprise or disapproval, the way they do when I’m with Karen. If anything, they look at us with envy. Or with this silly grin that says, ‘Oh, aren’t they cute together!’” He paused for a moment then added, “Once I met you, I realized that I was settling in staying with Karen.”
Ana felt flattered, as usual when her lover paid her a compliment. But at the same time, she was somewhat perturbed by his thinking. After all, one could always find a better looking or younger partner than the one currently had. By this logic, would Michael feel like he had settled for her when the next attractive woman came along? “I hope you care about more than just how a person looks,” she commented.
“I care about everything,” he grabbed her hand. “I care about how she looks, how she thinks, how she acts, how she screws and how smart she is. I want the total package. I want you, Baby.”
“And I you,” she reciprocated, giving his hand a reassuring squeeze.
“Let’s get the hell out of here!” Michael suddenly got up after they had finished their ice creams. “I have a little surprise for you.”
“Again? You and your surprises! I hope this time it’s not about Karen.”
“I’d like to treat you to a little something,” he whispered into her ear, walking behind her with his hands covering her eyes, as they stepped out of the ice cream parlor.
“Where are you taking me?” she asked, disoriented from having followed him blindly across the street into a warmer place which, she surmised, was somewhere indoors.
“I did this to test your trust in me,” he removed his hands and turned to face her. “Wait. Don’t open your eyes yet!” he cautioned, still leading her along by the hand, as they made their way backwards down an isle. “Okay, now you can look.”
Ana blinked several times in disbelief. “Macy’s? This is your big surprise?” she tried not to sound too disappointed. “I come here on my own about once a month,” she nevertheless blurted out.
“I want to dress you up like the cute little doll that you are, my Papusica. Any dress you want, if you look good in it, I’ll buy it for you,” he offered, stepping away a few feet from her.
“Why are you moving away? Are you afraid I might filch your wallet?” she laughed.
“I just want to admire you from afar, like a voyeur,” Michael replied, his voice husky and earnest. “It feels so good to know this hot little number’s all mine,” he declared with a possessive glitter in his eyes. “Other guys can watch you, but I’m the only one who has you.”
Ana shook her head. “You’ve watched that movie, 9 and 1/2 weeks, one too many times.”
“Maybe. But the truth is that we get to spend so little time together that most of the time we’re up-close and personal. All I get to see is fragments of you. Your face, your eyes, your tits…”
“Shhh!” Ana rushed towards him and placed her index finger to his lips. “There are kids in this store.”
“You think you’re embarrassed now? Wait ‘till we get into the changing booth!”
"So what kind of dress should I try on?” she quickly changed the subject, knowing full well that, for once, Michael was being perfectly serious.
“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “Just pick out whatever you like. In the meantime, I’ll feast my eyes on you.”
“Suit yourself, but you’ll die of starvation.” An expert at shopping, Ana nimbly passed her hands through the racks. Michael paced back and forth, observing his girlfriend from different angles: now tantalized by her curvy behind wrapped up in the gray pencil skirt she often wore to her art exhibits; now enchanted by the her dark flowing hair narrowing down to a point on the small of her back; now yearning to taste the nipples he could barely discern through the thin fabric of her white blouse.
“What do you think of this one?” Ana pressed up against her body a black sequin dress cut slightly above the knees.
Michael contemplated it in silence for a moment. “Nice, but a little too cabaret. Can’t you find anything hotter?”
“You must be joking! This dress is as sexy as it gets without being illegal!” she pulled demonstratively at its clingy fabric and sparkly sequins.
"It’s too predictable. Let’s find something more striking. Like you are,” Michael approached her stealthily. He took Ana into his arms, his hands plastered on her behind, with reawakened desire.
“Have you no shame?” she pretended to chastise him.
“I sure do! It would be a damn shame to let any opportunity to make love to you go to waste,” he responded playfully and kissed her again, this time on her throat, sucking her tender skin between his teeth and tongue.
“Stop it, you little vampire!” she protested, her eyes shifting nervously. She noticed a few women observing them. “Can’t you see that they’re looking at us funny?”
“So what? Let them. They’re just jealous. They want what we have.”
“Oh yeah? Then why don’t more couples make out in public like us?”
“Because, as the song goes, they’ve lost that loving’ feeling.”
“But then why do they stare at us with such disapproval?” Ana rebutted.
“Because they don’t want to be reminded of that fact,” Michael concluded with confidence.
“So should we buy this dress or not?” she returned to business, seeing it was no use trying to persuade her lover to show some common decency in public.
“And by ‘we’ you mean…”
“You, of course,” she completed his sentence.
“I think we should look for a sexier outfit,” he decided. Taking matters into his own hands, Michael began to search among the racks. After a few minutes, he emerged victorious: “This is the one!” he announced, exhibiting a black micro fiber minidress with a crisscross shoelace design along its plunging neckline and on the sides.
“This isn’t a dress. It’s lingerie. Somebody must have placed it here by mistake.”
“Nonsense. This dress is perfect. Sexy yet tasteful. Quirky and unique without being weird. Plus it’s short enough not to overwhelm your petite frame.”
Ana directed him a look of profound skepticism. “I’ll try it on, but only to please you. Because I still think it’s way too revealing, even for an evening out.”
Once they stepped together into the dressing room, he watched her unzip her skirt, letting it slide smoothly down her thighs and legs. With one swift gesture, Ana swung her blouse over her head. Her dark hair cascaded over her shoulders, framing her pale breasts.
“You’re so beautiful!” he said.
Encouraged by his compliment, Ana slipped on the black dress he had selected. After taking one look at it, however, her immediate instinct was to remove it. “It’s way too short and tight. It looks like I’m tied up by a pair of ugly shoelaces. I look stupid.”
“Not at all!” Michael disagreed. “You look so appetizing in it,” he approached and began kissing her.
“I much prefer the sequin dress,” she maintained between his kisses.
“That’s too bad. Because that one’s more common. I’ve seen dozens like it. This one’s intriguing and unique.”
“Maybe, but I still don’t like it.”
“Then could you please wear it for me?” he asked her very sweetly.
Ana felt torn between giving in just to please him and the uneasy feeling that sooner or later, kiss by kiss, plea by plea, Michael always got his way on everything.
“Don’t wear this dress for anyone but me, okay? You’re my pretty little doll,” he unwittingly confirmed her intuition.
“But I prefer to be my own person,” Ana objected, sliding her tank top over her head. Michael stopped her with his hand, just at the moment when the shirt covered her face and her naked breasts lay exposed.
“You’re my sexy little doll,” Michael repeated. He bent down to suck each nipple, one at a time. Ana hoped that the security camera inside the changing booth didn’t record what happened next.
As she drove back home with the new dress Michael had bought her, Ana couldn’t help but wonder how long her lover would derive pleasure from his new doll before moving on to others. What perturbed her even more than these vague fears of infidelity, however, was the sense that her own wishes were so often ignored: only in such a sweet and seductive manner that she herself was beginning to forget what she wanted and who she was.
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