Copyright KT McColl
Chapter 1: The Seeds of Submission
My gaze passes over the sleekly coiffed heads of the assembled throng until it comes to rest on a black porcupine. I do a double take, but the porcupine is gone.
With the exception of the vision I now doubt the existence of, the crowd is polished and smooth. There’s a steady hum as chatting, shiny people navigate the room like well-oiled parts of an incomprehensible machine. They casually lift wine from passing waiters and sip.
It’s a good turnout and I’m happy for the artist. I’ve come to the show as a favor to my business partner, Sharon. She knows that my network contains some movers and shakers who might be able to help the artist’s career. The artist in this case is Sharon’s lover, an imp by the name of Rose. I’ve taken to calling their union the Rose of Sharon. They think it’s cute.
In truth I would have preferred to watch the game on the tube but Sharon refused to take no for an answer. Can’t say I blamed her. She’d gone to her fair share of weddings and funerals and asinine stag and doe parties with me when there was no one—or no one suitable—in my life at the time. I owed her.
This isn’t for me, she said. This is for Rose.
I suppose I can make some calls.
The work is edgy, she said, as though that fact alone made my participation a foregone conclusion.
I shrugged. My familiarity with edgy had long ago blunted its effects. Did you model for any of the works? I asked. Sharon is as beguiling as she is unattainable—for me at least—but I’m not above seeing her through her lover’s eyes.
Perhaps, said Sharon. You’ll have to show to know. Besides, there are sure to be lots of women.
I said nothing.
Ooh, I said. Sounds like fun.
I see that Rose has taken pains to be provocative. Her palette consists of grey and reddish brown. Grey limbs entwined, inexplicable splatters. Fluted vulva here, thickly veined cock there. Leather and chrome and machinery. The wine-toting crowd staunchly refuses to be openly provoked by all of the messy coupling on canvas and wanders among the framed sex and blood and leather all world-weary and jaded. Like them, I smile and carry on. This crowd doesn’t offend easily. Or rather, it’s too worldly to give voice to offense lest they appear weak and morally ambiguous. I overhear someone discussing the artist’s use of menstrual blood and ox semen. I wonder if Sharon planted that particular chestnut. It’s a rumor, says the other half of the conversation, designed to shock. I suspect that he’s right and want to add that it also prevents people from licking the artwork when I hear a voice in my ear.
“What do you think?” says a woman beside me, nodding to a painting of a pair of cuffed wrists rising from a roiling sea of limbs. “I’m thinking that it might look good in my bedroom.”
“I’d have to see it.”
She appraises me. I feel objectified. “I’m sure we could arrange it.” She sips her wine. “You could help me hang it.”
I pause for a beat while I objectify her in return. “I’m sure that can be arranged.”
She flashes her over-white teeth. “Good. Later maybe.”
“Maybe,” I say as she moves off.
I mingle for a bit until I find myself in an eddy. The woman who has her hand on my forearm looks at me expectantly and I nod and smile encouragingly. I hope that she hasn’t told me that her cat had died or something. She smiles back at me and I’m reassured. The woman with plans for my interior decorating skills left an hour ago. This woman might be as predatory but hides it better. It’s quite possible that I’ll go home with this woman, whose husband, I learned earlier, is in India on business, leaving the marital bed cold and lonely and uncomfortably large. For the woman, cold and lonely is a pimple on the pure complexion of her life. The woman tells me that the husband is likely enjoying some subcontinental hanky panky himself. She doesn’t appear too concerned. They have an open relationship, she says earnestly, as though trying to convince me. She wants me to believe her. She wants to believe that it matters to me. It doesn’t.
I’m in my mid-thirties and devoutly single. The first makes me young enough to be interesting but old enough to know what I’m doing most of the time. I’m in my Goldilocks years. The second, my singleness, is largely irrelevant to anyone else but me. I tend to be loyal to whomever I’m with until I’m not with them anymore. My life is complicated enough without having to keep multiple entanglements straight and women tend to find my serial monogamy, if they care about it at all, quaint and endearing.
My married friends pretend not to be jealous of the state of affairs I’ve architected for myself. They fond of saying, sometimes vociferously, that they, at least, will not die alone, to which I reply that it’s unlikely that anyone will voluntarily go with them and it’s of absolutely no consequence that they have someone to hold their hand when they shuffle off their mortal coils. They will be afraid or relieved or whatever, but they will take the trip alone, regardless of what contracts they’ve signed or DNA they’ve left behind. That shuts them up and they become somewhat less vociferous after that.
The porcupine swims back into my field of vision. I see that she wears her hair in a crown of short black spikes and that it contrasts with a smooth, pale complexion. Her face is like a virgin canvas upon which two large eyes and full, dark red lips appear to float. There’s a hint of a delicate nose. Myrna Loy comes to mind in this respect. In the light of the gallery, eyes and lips appear almost black. The effect is striking and a little disconcerting.
She looks like a goth without the aggressive scowling and ennui that marks that tribe. She’s wearing a grey blouse under a short leather jacket and a black skirt that consists of layers of some gauzy material, as though she might perform the dance of the seven veils at any moment.
My companion finds an acquaintance and I disentangle myself. I wander over to the queen of the damned partly because she’s a bit of a novelty in this crowd and partly because I want to see if she’s as pretty in living color as she appears to be in black and white.
I approach her obliquely so as not to suggest that she is the target of my sneaky, special forces maneuver.
I grab another glass of wine from a passing waiter and turn to her, feigning surprise at finding her there. I ask her whether she knows the artist.
She seems perplexed by the question or perhaps the fact that I have addressed her. “No.” She sips her wine and gazes at me, daring me to ask another question. She has nice eyes, large and widely spaced.
“How did you know about the show?”
“I was just walking by.”
“And thought a little wine would be nice. And the art is interesting. A little derivative perhaps.”
She looks at me as though I’m daft. “Tamara de Lempicka comes to mind. Channeling von Sacher-Masoch perhaps.”
Okay, so she’s not stupid.
I notice that she’s prodigiously pierced. A row of studs navigates the edges of both ears. Metal glints from her nose and lips. I wonder where else a metal detector might squawk.
The girl shrugs and looks around the room. I seem to be boring her and realize that I’ve come off sounding like an interrogator. She turns to me and asks what I do.
I tell her that I own a small advertising agency. I’m proud of my little empire, the fact that I’m my own man, beholden to no one.
“So you’re in the business of arousing desire in those who would otherwise be indifferent to what you’re selling?”
She says it with some disdain and I replay what she has just said, carefully parsing it in case I’ve misinterpreted something. No, I conclude. It is clear that I am arousing absolutely no desire in her. Ouch. Shot down in less than two minutes without having opened the bomb bays of my charm. “Sounds so bleak when you say it that way.”
“So what do you do?” I ask.
“Huh.” I sound like someone older, confronted with a completely incomprehensible specimen of a younger generation. “You seem to be advertising too,” I say, nodding to the metal that impales her flesh.
She’s unimpressed by my astute observation.
There’s nothing going on here. I clearly irritate her. Time to cut bait.
“Nice to meet you, er…”
She studies me. There’s something guileless and penetrating about her gaze. She appears to be evaluating me. Her eyes hold mine effortlessly, unwavering, even when I’m tempted to look away. “Dex,” she says finally. “My name is Dex.”
“Dex,” I repeat. “That’s short for…”
“Ah, well, Dex. It’s been a pleasure. Enjoy the paintings.”
I turn to escape this prickly creature when she grasps my wrist.
Again that unnerving look that I can’t quite decipher.
She steps close to me then, well into my personal space. I feel a tingle along the spine like you sometimes get when someone walks behind you. She puts her other hand on my shoulder and rises. I incline my head. Her whispered words flutter hot in my ear. “You want to fuck me.”
I’m not sure that I’ve heard right. I’m not sure whether it’s a question or statement or hypnotic suggestion. “I do?”
“Find me. Later.”
I meander through the crowd, shaking hands and chatting with acquaintances and clients. I occasionally scan the crowd for Dex but she’s nowhere to be seen. She’s probably just some young harpy out to yank my chain. I’m more amused than anything. There had been no connection between us beyond my initial curiosity—the idle “what-if” I engage in whenever I see an attractive woman. I have no clue what she thinks of me, despite her unexpected if crass invitation to shared intimacy, if that’s what it was. Try as I might though, I can’t shake the distracted thrill that her words have awoken in me.
I navigate the gallery twice and catch no glimpse of her. She’s a fuck up, I conclude. A tease. At least I might still find solace in the woman who has lost her husband to the heart of India. I look for her. She’s chatting with one of the waiters who, by the look of him, might be compelled to serve something other than wine in a few more hours.
I’m about to intrude on the nascent union when I notice Dex by the stairs leading to the basement where I know the washrooms to be. She catches my eye. A man walks past her and gives her an appraising look. Pig, I think. A pang of lust highlights my hypocrisy. Another glance at me, this one with a meaning that I hope I’m not misunderstanding, and she moves down the stairs.
I excuse myself as politely as possible from a couple who aren’t even aware of my presence and hurry after. Once downstairs I look around but she’s nowhere to be seen.
On a hunch, I enter the men’s room. Dex leans against a sink, arms crossed. She holds the pose for a moment, watching me. Finally, she shoves off and approaches. “No words,” she says.
She scowls at me as a teacher might a particularly dense student. There’s no mistaking a flash of irritation.
She places a hand on my chest and walks me back into a stall until I’m forced to sit down on the toilette. Thankfully, the seat is down. In my befuddlement, I hadn’t thought to look. She locks the door and hangs up her jacket from a hook. The light in the washroom is brighter and more honest than the light upstairs. It doesn’t reveal any hidden flaw in her. No mole. No drug-addled predatoriness. In fact, she appears all the more mysterious and beguiling. I see past the flashing metal that impales her face to the fine geometry of her features and the clearness of her complexion. Her eyes are green, I see, and reveal more confidence and self-possession than I would attribute to one of her youth. The eyes take me in without hinting at a motive. I convince myself that I see no duplicity, imbalance, or lust.
What does she want with me? I ask myself stupidly.
She approaches me—really no more than a half step in the confines of the stall—but the distance seems protracted, as though in a movie. My heart thunders.
She lifts her skirt and I catch a glimpse of a shapely hip and toned leg and the briefest flash of something metallic from the shrouded apex between her legs. No underwear. I wonder absently whether she is one of those rare women who normally go commando or whether she had planned this in advance. She straddles me and drapes her forearms on my shoulders. I’m surprised at how light she is. Without the advantage of her shoes, I’d peg her at only a little more than five feet tall.
A smoky halo of dark grey and some flecks of gold, I see now, surround the green in her eyes. A smile quirks at the corners of her mouth. She has seen something in me and knows that she has me now. If this is the exercise of power, I am prepared to relinquish it.
I desperately want to ask her any number of questions that begin with “why” but I keep them to myself. She has evidently come to some kind of decision because she leans toward me and places her lips on mine. It surprises me. It’s a long, slow, lingering kiss, the kind shared between people who’ve had the benefit of a long past and share the promise of longer future. I feel the lip piercing and it turns me on for some reason. She owns her body, I think to myself. My hands are on her waist and I’m tempted to let them roam but don’t. I don’t know the rules of the game yet. As trite as it sounds, her kiss has taken my breath away and I’m strangely transfixed by it. Whatever spell this girl has woven, I’m reluctant to break it.
She inches closer to me and I feel her hand at the back of my head, pulling. Her tongue, small and wet and tasting of peppermint, insinuates itself between my lips. I wish I’d had the same forethought and hope that I taste of wine rather than the stilton cheese that I’ve been nibbling on all night.
I’ve had my share of strange and unexpected liaisons and romantic trysts in unusual places. This one, in its anonymous spontaneity, takes the cake. A voice of caution sounds in my head—there may be some danger, some unexpected consequences to the path this girl has steered me onto. My eager erection, however, banishes prudence.
She leans back and unbuttons her blouse. I glimpse a jewel at her navel and, as she pulls the halves of her blouse apart, piercings through both nipples as well. Her breasts are firm and shapely and in enticing proportion with the rest of her. The nipples, distended slightly by the metal that penetrates them, are small and puckered.
I finally find my wits and push the blouse over her shoulders and then pull her to me. I kiss the valley between her breasts and then move to the right, brushing my lips against the hard nipple and the harder piercing.
Someone enters the bathroom at that moment and I hear muted thunder in the urinal and an unself-conscious sigh of pleasure. Dex has stood up and is unbuckling my belt. She deftly liberates me and soon my pants are pooling around my ankles. She doesn’t appear to care about the four feet that might be visible under the partition. I’m grateful when the door closes and we’re alone again.
She turns around then and faces the door of the stall. I lift the layers of her skirt. She arches her back a little and gives me an eyeful of her ass and pussy. My mouth is dry as I reach for her, grasping the silken curves of her buttocks and spreading the cheeks.
Her hands, fingers splayed, are on the stall door. Her hips describe a slow circle and I lower my hand between her legs, cupping her pussy. I find yielding velvet smoothness and warmth and the heady slickness of arousal.
She lowers herself and her hand reaches for me from between her legs. Her fingers grasp me and she positions me. It’s a breathtaking view. The head of my cock splits the labia. I feel the pressure and warmth of her. She swivels her hips and my eager cock, trapped, faithfully follows the motion. Her hands have moved now to my knees and she lowers herself slowly, swallowing my turgid length. Her skirt falls, obscuring my view, and I lift it out of the way as she rises, unveiling my sex-slick shaft until, again, only the crown remains, blessedly buried.
A few slow and deliberate strokes follow. She’s silent and self-possessed. I wonder whether her eyes are closed to better focus on her possession of me. I’m surprised that it matters to me despite the fact that my own eyes are wide open, hungrily taking in the action. The motion of her hips is, it seems to me, pure artistry, a sublime dance. They sway and flex, exploring the possibilities of contact and pressure and I respond with a sigh that sounds far too loud within the stall.
I want to move, to assist her in our headlong rush to release but am unable to. I am at her mercy.
I hear what might be a whimper of pleasure but I can’t be sure. I hope that her eyes are closed. I hope that there’s a look of breathless concentration on her face.
She has found an elusive spot that gives her pleasure. Her movements are short and concentrated, the angle of entry firmly controlled. I could be anyone now, as far as she’s concerned. I am anyone, I remind myself.
She silently shudders while her hips swivel and undulate to some imperative that I can’t share. Fingers press painfully into the muscle of my thighs while her own muscles, those that hold me in their grip, constrict in a final statement of possession. There’s a deep breath and several languid strokes and finally she descends and rests. I am completely buried within her, my length in the tightest of embraces. I could remain like this forever.
She can’t have enjoyed her release for more than a couple of seconds when she begins again. Whether it’s the risk of discovery or the sublime play of flesh on flesh, but my staying power has deserted me. A stall in a public bathroom is no place for Olympian feats of self-control, I remind myself. I feel that familiar tingle that presages climax and nonetheless try to fight it. I try to moderate my breathing, I think of the hockey game my father took me to as a child, of the chores that await me at home, of anything except the warm embrace that descends on me. I read the graffiti on the stall walls. Random, meaningless initials. Hearts scratched into paint. A thickly veined cock engulfed again by darkness and the tantalizing sensations that lie within. None of it helps. I give up and take a long, shuddering breath.
Two more strokes and I’m teetering on the edge, my gasping breath sounding loud and animal.
In a smooth movement, the girl disengages from me. She leans over me in a half-crouch and presses her lips to the crown of my cock. Her hand closes around my base and squeezes while the other cradles my balls. Cheeks sucked in, she envelopes me. Her eyes catch mine through her upper lashes.
There’s something about watching, about the connection between the visual and the physical, that I can’t resist. A raspy, uneven breath and I’m pumping myself into her, shuddering and making noises that I can’t quite place as my own. All the while our gazes are locked.
Even though I’ve done nothing but receive her attentions, I’m spent. I lean back, feeling light-headed and bemused by what has just happened.
She stands and for the first time I notice a tattoo on her lower abdomen and reach out to trace it with my finger. She freezes for a moment as though this touch is an intimacy that I haven’t yet earned.
The girl straightens and runs her index finger across her lips. It takes nothing for her to put herself back together. In a moment she appears as she did before—a little flushed, perhaps, but still that monochromatic, prickly creature that I’d met only an hour or two before.
She digs into her handbag and pulls out a tube of lipstick. I think that she’s going to apply some but instead she approaches me. On my chest she begins writing.
“You can reach me here”, she says. “Leave a message. No promises,” she adds.
I look down. She has written a telephone number.
It’s evidently okay to speak again. “The butterfly?” I ask. “What is it?”
Then she’s gone.
Back in the gallery, half of the patrons have left. I look for the woman whose husband is away but don’t find her. I hope she has found someone to warm her bed.
I wave to the Rose of Sharon, who are talking to some banker type as I exit the building.
I feel the telephone number on my chest, as though I’ve been branded there somehow. I might call, just to see where we might go from here. Then again, I might not. I can’t imagine anything that wouldn’t be anticlimactic after this.
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