After a delightful dinner on Wellington Road, Hugh switched on the bedroom TV and lay on the spread, still wearing his shoes. Marguerite took off her dress. The day before, she had gone to Agent Provocateur and carefully selected lingerie from their exclusive Caught in Charlotte’s Web collection. This was her daring attempt to ignite a dash of passion in Hugh, the handsome British bachelor she had been sleeping with for the past six months. In the boutique’s fitting room, when she saw herself wearing the bra, panties, stockings with the garter belt, she almost gasped and bit her lip – her reflection in the mirror was tantalizing. Barely there tulle with satin strips in a cobweb design, it was like a tattoo against her skin, a spider pin crawling in the centre of her bra.
She turned around and unveiled herself for Hugh like a 1930’s pin-up girl.
“Marg, turn off the lights and come to bed, luv,” he said with a placid smile, and went back to watching BBC.
She kisses on his neck until he pressed her head down to his chest and locked her immobile in his firm grip. She lay quietly and thought about the best lover she ever had. Alexander. Every kiss with him, be it hello or see you later, was the beginning of a new love-making session. He lived in a hostel with a shared bathroom on the fourth floor, so after sex she had to climb the stairs wrapped in a bed sheet, dripping with juices, just to wash her face and wipe herself. She looked at Hugh… Hugh had three bathrooms in a beautiful house he had built with his own hands, and a garden with a fragrant pine tree where she loved to sit and read a book.
“Every time I do my washing, my vests shrink,” Hugh announced suddenly, full of angst. “They barely reach my belly button. Darling, it’s maddening! Same with my socks – they seem to vanish in the machine, there is always one odd sock left!” he exclaimed into the dark.
Marguerite squeezed her thighs together, the tulle prickling between her legs. “Why are you telling me this? About the socks?” she asked carefully, hiding her dismay.
“Who else should I tell?” he laughed. “Should I call mum in Chichester? Or maybe ask one of my interns at work – chap, what happens to your socks in the washing cycle?”
The second best lover she ever had, Lorenzo, could perform cunnilingus on her for hours and hours and hours, a lone swimmer in the Mediterranean Sea. Unfortunately, he didn’t speak a single word she could understand. When she wondered if this language barrier could be solved with basic ESL classes, his friends hinted that he didn’t speak much better in his native language.
“Well, Hugh, I must confess,” she started. “While we are on the topic of domestic issues, you must know – your shower doesn’t work for me.”
“What?!” He turned on the night lamp. “What do you mean – it doesn’t work for you?” The house was Hugh’s only passion, it spoke to him like a woman, with hints coming through the pipes in the basement, and whispers from the thermostat.
“The stream doesn’t reach me. It hits the wall. I know you are six foot three, but I’m not! Perhaps you should date a taller woman,” she suggested, resentful of his iciness in bed.
“I don’t need a taller woman,” he said, preoccupied. “So how did you shower all this time?
She looked at him – he had the body of Apollo, the face of Cary Grant. “I’ve struggled.”
“Oh dear,” he pressed his lips to hers as if he was trying to stub out a cigarette. She knew exactly what came next. Sex. Mechanical and rehearsed, like step-by-step instructions to assemble an IKEA bookcase. He kissed her left breast, once, then her right breast, climbed on top of her, and after six to eight lusty oh yeahs, convulsed, pecked her on the cheek in gratitude, and fell asleep.
The third best lover she ever had, Adidas, could do it three to four times a night. A quick change of condom and he was ready to go at it again. He was now in prison in Michigan because while out on bail for credit card fraud, he decided to buy himself a stolen Harley-Davidson.
“Wake up, darling. Your coffee is ready.” Hugh snatched the duvet and tickled Marguerite’s foot. He always got up earlier than her, did things to the house, made breakfast, read emails.
She walked to the bathroom naked, her underwear in hand. As she lathered herself in the shower, she tried to remember that joke. How did it go? In heaven, your mechanic is German, your policeman is British and your lover is Italian…But in hell, your mechanic is Italian, your policeman is German and your lover is British. She towelled herself dry, put her Agent Provocateur lingerie back on; how it mocked her now, bullied her as if she were a teen girl in braces.
She headed for the bedroom. Hugh was lying on the bed in his suit.
He looked at her, a predatory carnivorous stare, as if he was seeing her for the first time – the supple breasts, the voluptuous body bursting with cravings. “So…” he whispered.
She stopped in the doorway, curving her almost naked body like Lady Godiva. “So…”
“What did you think?” he asked, excited like a child.
“The shower! I fixed it while you were sleeping! It was actually quite easy. What I did was, I readjusted the valve to make the trajectory…” as he droned on with intricate details of plumbing and engineering, she retreated to her memories. “Marg? Darling? Did you enjoy it?” he asked.
She heard this question before…from different men…in a completely different context.
“Yes, I did,” she nodded. “It was rather wonderful. No one ever adjusted a shower for me.”
Yes, she thought to herself, she would…stay with him, she would lock away her lust like a fur coat in the middle of July, shove it so far back inside her closet no one would ever see it again. Hugh’s parents were coming from West Sussex next week to meet her. She would say yes to it all. Yes, she would be faithful. Yes, they would live in a beautiful house with three bathrooms and she would read books in the garden under a pine tree.
Marina Rubin’s work has appeared in over seventy magazines and anthologies including 13th Warrior Review, Asheville Poetry Review, Dos Passos Review, 5AM, Nano Fiction, Coal City, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Jewish Currents, Lillith, Pearl, Poet Lore, Skidrow Penthouse, and The Worcester Review. She is an editor of Mudfish, the Tribeca literary and art magazine. She is also a 2013 recipient of the COJECO Blueprint Fellowship. Her fourth book, a collection of flash fiction, Stealing Cherries, was released in November 2013.