Hurrying through the cold rain, my head down and hood up, I scolded myself. “For god sakes, you grew up in Seattle. A little New York weather shouldn’t bother you,” I muttered. It had started in the middle of the night, and when I woke up around three, tossing and turning and tangling the bed sheets as my nightmares raged, sounds of the accompanying thunder and lightning did nothing to calm my racing heart. I spent the rest of the time until my alarm rang with eyes wide open, seeing things in the darkness that I knew weren’t there. Now I was grumpy and wet, wishing I could curl up on my couch instead of dodging raindrops on the way to the bookstore. Goddamn literature class and its endless materials list.
Spotting the familiar doorway, I stepped into the warm entryway of Last Stop Books, the appropriately named shop famous for saving college students hundreds of dollars – if they were willing to read in between annotations and fact check information that might be out of date. Pulling down my hood and shaking my hair of errant water drops, I glanced around the crowded space. Sometimes it was packed with people, pardoning each other as they squeezed between the towering stacks of volumes. Today, though, it seemed that it was just myself, the elderly woman who ran the front desk, and a few other damp-looking customers.
Taking in the calm atmosphere with a deep breath, I began to sink into the smell of worn pages and fading ink like one sinks into a hot bath. Remembering my mission, I jolted out of my reverie and made for the back-right corner of the store where the old textbooks were kept. The beginning of the fall quarter meant a whole armful of new (to me) tomes, and had my apartment not been relatively close by, a couple different trips would have been necessary. As it was, I found all but one of the titles I was looking for, and proceeded to thunk them down on the counter. Then, settling myself onto the third step of one of the tall ladders used to reach the top shelves, I opened to the middle of an impossibly large edition of The Arabian Nights and allowed myself to get lost amidst its labyrinth of stories.
Sundays were the only day I didn’t have at least one class, and because of this I purposely never scheduled anything else so that I could have the time free to tie up loose ends and run errands. However, I still felt perfectly fine letting the next two hours and countless pages fly by, moving only occasionally to shake out the pins and needles from my toes. Ah, the life of a book addict. Here and there the little bell on the top of the door would ring and footsteps would enter in, sometimes leaving quietly and sometimes pausing to ask Etta, the wrinkled but kind lady at the register, a question. I seldom took notice, far too absorbed by the world in front of me to pay attention to the world around me.
So it was, as the sky darkened the way it does only during late mid-winter afternoons, when the bell jingled yet again and another pair of feet wandered in. If I had looked up just then, I would have seen a tall man in Doc Martens, faded black cargo pants, and a patched-up jacket glance curiously around, the storm outside still fading from his eyes. I was completely engrossed in The Arabian Nights though, and as such paid no mind. Not when he began to stroll down the aisles, or requested recommendations from Etta; nor when he laughed softly at the blurb of a novel located in the philosophy section.
All these sounds, all the air he moved as he walked, all the vibrations in the floorboards from his steps, and yet it was the silence, the sudden stillness, like that of a deer as it stares into the headlights of an oncoming car, that snagged my senses and dragged me from my tale. I looked up, and drew a sharp intake of breath that caught in the back of my throat.
The breath was good, in the end, because after a moment of surprise and confusion, I used it to stutter out, “Sean?” He grinned in that way that made it seem as if the past ten years had never happened, and then the shock was over. “Hey, Violet. Why am I not surprised to find you in a bookstore?” I laughed, in one motion setting aside my book and standing up, closing the distance between us. “It’s good to see you,” I said, as I stood on tip-toes to give him a hug. Pulling away, I felt as I always used to when his arms were around me, like even as I stepped back I wanted him to stop and hold me closer. Sometimes he had, but those days were over.
“So what are you doing in New York?” I followed up, moving the conversation along in hopes of avoiding the dreaded awkward silence.
“I actually have a piece being exhibited in this little gallery show that just opened on Friday, down in Chelsea,” he said, his grin turning sheepish. I returned the grin. “Wow, that’s amazing! I mean, I can remember when you were just doodling on the pages of your notebook in Biology.” He chuckled, and then some part of his expression changed, there behind his smile. Remembering, I suppose, all the time we had spent together when we weren’t in Biology. A moment of silence ensued, but it was comfortable now, relaxed; both of us feeling that particular sense of nostalgia that only people who have known one another a long time can share. We opened our mouths to speak at the same time, and then laughed, stumbling over each other’s words. I gestured for him to go ahead, keeping my lips sealed. “So, would you want to grab a coffee or something?” I faltered for a moment at his question. This wasn’t like him, to initiate something. Then again, I hadn’t seen the guy in over ten years. People can change, right? Wasn’t that a cliché for a reason? “Sure, I’d love to,” I replied. On our way out the door, I paused at Etta’s desk. “Any chance I could come back and pick these up later?” I asked, gesturing to the textbooks I’d already paid for. “Sure honey, you know we’re open till 10.”
While I’d had my nose buried in books, the rain started coming down even harder, if that was possible. Turning to Sean, I shouted over the noise of the thunder. “C’mon, I know this great little cafe just a couple blocks away.” We pulled our hoods up and made a run for it, still ending up soaked by the time we arrived. The cafe was warm and softly lit, chipped tea cups balanced on the edges of overstuffed armchairs. It was crowded, but we found a table tucked into a corner and gave the waitress our orders. Three cups of tea and several scones later, we had caught each other up on the events of the last decade. He had bounced between art schools and nearly gotten married; I had reported in southern Africa before returning to New York for a couple years of graduate school. It took a few espressos and a giant chocolate chip cookie to get into the deeper stuff. The dark places we had each been in, the familial happenings that took their toll. I’d never quite forgotten what a great listener he was. Slowly, the cafe emptied. Then all of a sudden it was 9:30 and I remembered that my books still needed to be picked up.
The sky had cleared some, and the walk back to Last Stop was much more pleasant, both because of the weather and the easy nature that had settled back between us. The bell jingled once again, and there was my stack of purchases on the counter. I eyed them with some resentment, sure they hadn’t looked so heavy before. “Thanks Etta!” I called out towards the storeroom. Sean watched as I picked them up, my brow creasing as I pictured my two flight walk up. “Hey, you need some help with those?” I tried to smile reassuringly and only ended up grimacing. “No, no, it’s fine. My apartment’s only five minutes away.” Chuckling, he replied, “Violet, I hate to say this, but you don’t look as if you could make it two steps.” I tried to look offended, but it was true. I doubt even he could’ve carried them alone though. I told him so as I handed half the pile over, ducking under his arm as he opened the door for me.
We huffed and puffed our way up the building’s stairs, finally arriving outside my apartment, where I managed to both drop my keys and try to use the one for my mailbox on the front door. With a click though, it swung open, and we were in. I switched on the little lamp on the entryway table, and with a thud set the books down next to the bowl I use to hold spare change. “You can just put them right there,” I motioned. “Thank god,” he replied, “I wasn’t sure how much longer I could last.” I rolled my eyes. “Oh yes, ha ha.” he responded by winking, the right corner of his mouth turning up in another grin. “Well,” I said, moving away from the books to face him. “Well,” he repeated. This time when he spoke though, there wasn’t so much of a smile in his voice. It had been replaced by something huskier, his tone matching the melting way his eyes gazed at me. A few seconds passed, and the tension between us deepened. I could feel my breath become shallower, my heartbeat pick up. He took a soft step towards me, the tips of his fingertips coming to rest gently on my waist. I looked up, lost in the chocolate warmth of his irises. As teenagers, we’d spent much of our time together high or drunk, watching movies and playing video games, making out in the park or at parties. This moment felt miles more intimate, and not just because we were alone. He had never looked at me like this before, like he was memorizing the lines of my face. His gaze dropped to my lips, and then he was leaning in. Instinctively, I tilted my face upwards and lifted myself onto my tiptoes, meeting him in the middle. His mouth barely brushed mine at first, and the feeling was similar to that of peering over the edge of the high dive. Less than an inch apart, our eyes met. And then we dove.
My arms came up around his neck, fingers gripping his shoulders as he bent me over backwards with the force of his kiss. Arms fully encircling my waist, pulling me into him as if trying to make up for all those lost years. My breath began to come in gasps as his attention turned to my neck. Apparently he hadn’t forgotten what I liked. It was a good thing he was holding me so securely though, as my knees kept threatening to buckle. He had his back pressed to the wall now, and slowly began to lower us to the floor. My legs came to rest on either side of him, kneeling, hips pressed against his abdomen. My fingers sought out his jacket zipper, pulling it off. The black material of his long-sleeved t underneath revealed a pleasantly surprising fact – he’d been working out. I had always been the more exercise-focused one, but he was clearly going to give me a run for my money.
My head fell back as he again began to explore the hollow of my throat, and then as he started dropping kisses along my collar bone. I felt his hand come up to hold the back of my head, the other slipping under the soft fabric of my oversized shirt, which was already falling off one shoulder. I didn’t know where my raincoat had gone, but if I thought of it, it was only for a moment. Anything other than the man seated beneath me seemed unimportant. My eyes fluttered closed as our lips met again, tongues battling for dominance this time. He faltered for a moment, and I took the opportunity to gently bite his bottom lip, teasing it between my teeth. His grasp on me tightened, and as I took my turn nibbling his ear he growled my name, a guttural sound filled with a pleading kind of need. “Violet, I swear to god…” I smiled a bit at his intensity, relieved that it matched my own.
Leaning down, I whispered my wants in his ear, witnessing his eyes close for a moment, like the eye of a storm, before he suddenly picked me up and forcefully lay me down on my back. Right there in the hallway. My head came to rest on something soft. So that’s where my raincoat had disappeared to. Lowering himself down beside me, he used one arm to support his weight and leaned over me, letting the other stroke my body from shoulder to thigh. Then that hand came to rest between my legs. A low moan escaped me as it began to move, lightly at first and then with more pressure. “Sean…” I pleaded, knowing he was tormenting me on purpose. He chuckled, but then moved to kneel beside my feet, slipping off my shoes, the fuzzy socks I had hurried to put on that morning, before moving to the button of my jeans. I felt them slide off, the cool air not the only thing raising goose bumps to the surface of my skin. His hands caressed my legs, up and down, once and then again, before hooking his thumbs under the edge of my skimpy black panties. The cool air hit differently this time, heightening a sense that was already going into overdrive. Feelings of self-consciousness flashed through my mind, but they were soon put at ease as he began to kiss my thighs, murmuring words like “gorgeous” and “beautiful.”
A crack in the ceiling that would have normally caught my attention blurred as I felt his warm breath on the part of me that was aching so badly. It then dissolved completely as his tongue came into play. Dear god, did that feel good. It glided around my edges, across my slit, before sending stars through my vision as it grazed that little button that makes women go wild. This went on, him bringing me up and then moving away, leaving me crazed and begging for more. Finally, though, he seemed to begin focusing more attention on that one spot in particular. I was lost, drowning in bliss, when I felt a couple of his fingers slip inside me. “Yes, Sean, yes!” I managed to get out, afraid that he would stop using this combination of fingers and tongue that made me realize what people meant when they talked about nirvana.
I had been with other men before, of course. Boyfriends, one-night stands, friends with benefits. Being with them in that way had always seemed like work though, as if I had had to really try to have orgasm. This was completely different. As he kept going, moving his tongue in ways I hadn’t known were possible and curling his fingers up to hit my g-spot, I couldn’t have stopped it if I’d wanted to. “Yes, Sean don’t stop, don’t stop!” I cried. Waves of pleasure built up inside me, fire pooling in my womb. Spots danced in front of my eyes, even as they closed. All feeling in my body left; I was no longer aware of my hands in his hair or the floor beneath my body. “Yes, yes, fuck yes!” My back arched up, I was approaching the edge, at the edge; those waves crashed and swept through me, my mouth parted in a silent scream, and then I was over the edge.