I decided to post a story today. It’s a longer piece, which I found odd when I realized it this morning because back then I stayed in the 1500-2500 word range. It’s a f/f story featuring a Brazilian and American woman, originally published in Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica edited by Jolie du Pre.
I wait for Lucinda in the living room, my restless limbs shaking and tapping against the bottom of the couch. I have been waiting this time for two hours – she had arrived last time at four- and now almost a quarter after six, the cars only continue to pass, horns honking, brakes screeching on these rainy Brazilian streets.
I have a mantra that I always practice in my head while I wait for her: Let her knock twice. Count to five. Walk slowly. Be sure to look surprised. Don’t look as though you’ve been waiting – never let her know how long you’ve been waiting.
I’ve never stuck to that mantra, though, and today is no different. And at five ‘til seven, when, finally, one of the vehicles slow and stop, I spring from my seat as though I’ve been pushed.
I hurry to the window and see Lucinda let herself out of the backseat – she’ll take no help from the driver – and bend over for her bags. From behind the curtain, she looks as though she is loaded with energy, like she could run the hundred feet to the door, her heavy bags in tow, without even giving out of breath.
Lucinda pays quickly before I can even get outside to offer and brings her own bags to door. She drops them on the mat before she brings up her fist to knock softly and swiftly.
When I hear her knock, the goofiest and most ridiculous smile you’ve ever seen plasters itself across my face. I snatch open the door, and if she had the energy, I’m sure she would laugh and tell me how silly I look, but she just cocks her head and lets her arms fall at her sides.
I reach out as if to catch a collapsing body. With my hands around her shoulders, I guide her inside the door. She barely makes it into the living room before her body gives in and she falls onto the couch. I step outside and gather her bags and carry them into my bedroom.
We don’t make plans or even speak outside these few days. Before she arrives and after she leaves, she does not exist for me and I do not exist for her. But, when she is here, we become what we are for this time, and for this reason alone, every summer, I wait.
I used to make a big fuss about the day of Lucinda’s arrival, making sure the house was cleaned up real nice and my best bottle of wine was chilling. I always had something good simmering on the stove, and a long, romantic movie to watch in bed. But I learned two years ago that it was a waste, all of it, as Lucinda always sleeps the first twenty-four hours like she’s been drugged.
So, now I do other things.
I leave her sitting on the couch sipping from a bottle of water while I run Lucinda’s bath. She likes the water hot and clean, none of that fizzy, smelly stuff I put in my own bath. She prefers the washcloth to a loofah and a bar of soap as opposed to the stuff that comes in a bottle.
I undress her slowly, slipping the straps of her sundress off her shoulders and pulling it down over her small breasts. It slides freely down her long body and lands in a white heap around her ankles. I resist the urge to kiss her, to press my anxious lips on to her dark berry skin, to whisper in her ear and sweetly suggest that we bypass the bath all together and fall into my bed and get tangled in the sheets.
But I know that will come in time.
Lucinda stretches her arms high above her head. Her breasts rise slightly on her chest like small hills on a dark stretch of land. She pulls her dark locks atop her head and slides in bobby pins to keep it in place. Last year they had barely grazed her ear and she had kept them away from her face with scarves and wooden headbands, now they are past her shoulders.
I place her clothes in a pile to be washed later. We walk slowly into the bathroom and Lucinda steps into the tub, lowering her body into the steaming water. Too tired to move once her body is submerged, she lays back against the bath pillow and I begin to take care of her.
I pull the washcloth down her back, paying close attention to the many small ridges of her spine. I wash her shoulders and her neck. Lucinda shakes with fits of giggles as the washcloth tickles the lobe of her ear.
I reach around in front and gently wash her breasts and belly. I wash her legs, her thighs and her knees. I pull the cloth between each toe and wash the bottom of her feet.
Then I part her thighs and wash there, too. She relaxes then and closes her eyes. She throws back her head and licks her lips. I know not to go farther than this. I know she is not quite ready.
I tap her on one wet knee and say, “All done.”
Lucinda grabs my hand and uses my shoulder for leverage as she steps out of the tub and onto the towel I have stretched out on the floor. With another large towel, I dry Lucinda’s body. Then I wrap it around her and she steps back into the bedroom.
She sleeps in a t-shirt and a pair of gym shorts. I opt for a tank top and panties. She crawls into the bed and slides under the covers. I lay down on a pallet of quilts and sheets on the floor beside the bed. I used to climb into bed beside her, cradling her in my arms, but she never slept well that way, not on the first night, so now, this is what we do.
I have long since given up on talking the first night, of catching up on the past year and chatting until we are both asleep because I know that as soon as Lucinda’s head hits the pillow, she is transported into a world far, far from here.
She is the only one who sleeps peacefully the first night because I always have to fight to keep myself from reaching up and touching her, have to fight to keep myself in place and not lay down beside her, to not begin to ask the many questions that clutter my mind.
The only thing that calms me is the fact that she is here, that for the next three days we will lay, we will speak, we will love and this is what warms me, and on the first night, gently rocks me to sleep.
On the second night, I feed her. Lucinda is always hungriest when she is here. At home, she says she eats like a bird, sometimes forgetting to take breakfast or even dinner when she comes in from her studio too tired to cook. But here, in my home and at my little kitchen table, her thin, moist lips are always eager for new tastes. She often jokes that she had planned it that way, that she had decided her next woman would have to be a damn fine cook to keep her interested.
And though I know she is only joking, I cook tons of food when she comes, as if feeding her will keep her here. I make things especially for Lucinda, flavor them with seasonings that I know will make her lips curve and eyebrows arch. I fix things I don’t normally care to eat myself or even care to serve customers from my stand at the beach.
The second night, I fill my kitchen with baked codfish and rice, lettuce salad and fresh mango. I serve Lucinda from dishes rarely touched.
She tastes everything – chewing, nodding, and smiling. She shares her food with me as if she is showing me something I myself haven’t experienced before and I take it from her fork, from her palm, from her fingers as if it is the newest and sweetest taste in the world.
After all, it was this food, these tastes that first bought Lucinda to me five years ago.
She had been coming from America to Sao Luis every year to teach a workshop in the summer. She came to my stand one day and asked for one red fish, whole. She had heard it was good and if it really was that good to ask for half would have been a waste and frankly, half of a divine tasting red fish would have pissed her off.
I remember how I watched her devour every bite, how she followed each morsel with a piece of white bread, how she ate everything from the napkin before she crumpled it in her palm and wiped at the corners of her mouth.
It was as good as they said, Lucinda had told me, turning up her small cup of rum punch. She wondered, then, what other dishes I could make that were half as good as my red fish.
So, that very night I invited her over for breaded beefsteak and fed her with my fingers. She showed me some of her paintings for three days after, we talked and touched and loved.
Then she was gone. And although I slipped my phone number into her satchel next to her sketchpad and paintbrushes, she never called.
The next summer, she arrived on my doorstep and every summer after, it has been as though she never left.
Lucinda’s lips taste sweet when she is done eating, and I can’t keep mine off them.
Her energy has returned in a thunderous roar. We leave the dishes where they are and stumble to the bedroom.
Between kisses we remove each other’s clothes and she guides me to the bed. She stretches her long body above mine. Her locks fall against my shoulders and chest. Her nipples graze my own. Her knee is wedged between my thighs and she parts them quickly, roughly.
Lucinda lowers herself on top of me, rubbing her thigh against my cunt. My nipples rise and harden and I am slick between my legs, sensitive to everything. She places her hand there, sliding her palm against the wetness, her thin fingers finding their way inside.
She explores the inside of me as if seeking something and I lay hoping she never exhausts her search. She kisses my neck and shoulders; she licks my nipples. She slides down my body, her lips nipping at my navel while her fingers work their way in and out.
I know Lucinda wishes I would wait. I know she wants to sink between my thighs and put her mouth there first, but I buck and jerk and unleash my orgasm against her hand.
When I can breathe again, I rub my hands cross her belly. Hovering above her, I take her small breasts into my mouth one by one. I am finally free to explore her and I part her knees gently with my palms, pulling my hand against the warm skin on her thighs until I find the fuzzy center just below her navel.
Every time I touch her it is as if touching her for the first time. There is always something new to explore, something that has always been there but I’ve never seen, like a deep curve in her hips or a scar on her legs.
Her eyelids flutter now when my lips touch her. She folds her lips, terribly close to orgasm; she breathes heavily immediately following.
We are never as close as those few moments after we make love. When we lay where we’ve collapsed as if moving would disturb the calm.
“I like your hair like this,” she says, reaching over to touch it. “It’s sassy. It’s you.”
“Really? You like it?” I reach up and pull my fingers through the slick waves, shy, self-conscious.
“I love it, Gabriela,” she says.
I am sure my cheeks are flushed.
I say, “It’s been a hot summer and I needed a change. Yours has grown a lot since last year.”
I reach for it, twirl the rough tendrils between my fingers. A smile spreads across her face as she places her hand on top of mind and guides it from her hair to below her waist where it is wet and warm and waiting for me.
On the third night, Lucinda and I sit together in a tub of warm, soapy water, my legs wrapped around her. My hands slide over her long, lean body, washing and massaging her soft, dark skin. I rub my lips across the slick places on her neck and shoulders. I slip my arms underneath hers and clasp my hands across the slight curve of her belly and pull her body back against mine. I inhale her scent and enjoy her warmth.
When the water goes cold, she sits straight up. With her back still turned to me, she speaks.
“I’ve been offered a fellowship back home,” she says.
I smile because I like when Lucinda speaks of home, when she lets me into her world for brief moments like this, I am happy. I am proud.
“Oh really?” I say. “When did you find out?” I never ask her questions, but she makes me feel that this time it’s all right.
“I found out a few months ago, right before I left to come here.” She hesitates for a moment, and then she adds, “It starts next summer.”
I try not to be alarmed at the words. “Oh. Early summer, then, or later when you’re done here?”
Lucinda turns to look at me. Her smile is slight. She reaches for my hand.
“No, it’s mid-summer, actually. And no, there won’t be any here next year.”
The washcloth falls from my hand into the water. I hold on to the tub for balance. I don’t look at her when I repeat, “No here?”
Lucinda immediately begins speaking again. “I know what you’re thinking, Gabriela, and I want you to know it wasn’t easy for me at all, but this is such a great opportunity for me. It offers a lot of money, more than I ever made coming here all these summers and it would mean a lot more chances to show my work.”
She pauses, licking her lips. “I thought about not telling you at all. I thought about just leaving here and not looking back, but next year this time… knowing you’re expecting me, looking for me, waiting for me… It wouldn’t have been right and I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself.”
“It isn’t right,” I say and step out of the tub.
I pull a towel from the rack and wrap it around me. “It isn’t right for you to do me this way, for you to come here this time like it’s no different from any other time. You might as well have said it as soon as you hit the door, Lucinda, or better yet, not come at all.”
“Would you have wanted that?” She steps out of the tub and takes the extra towel. She brushes her hand against my arm.
I shrug. I feel a tightness in my chest that is uncomfortable and unfamiliar.
Lucinda is speaking again. “Look, we never made plans for the future. We never really said what this would be.”
For the first time I want to ask if she loves someone else, if that is the reason. I am careful not to look at her, to walk into the bedroom and busy myself with putting on my nightclothes and brushing my hair.
She approaches me from behind and holds onto my hips. I am angry and I don’t welcome her touch. As much as I want to, I don’t turn around and fall into her arms.
I crawl into bed and turn my back to her when she climbs in beside me. My eyes remain wide open as night goes to day and I rise when I know it is time for Lucinda to prepare to leave.
We busy ourselves with getting her bags packed and calling the taxi. I send a fish sandwich and a small mango with her. I give her my cheek when she leans forward to kiss me.
When Lucinda takes her bags from the living room to the end of the driveway, I do not offer my help. And when we hug, I beg the tears not to fall.
I close the door behind her. I do not say goodbye.
When I arrive, I am tired and I am hungry. I long for her arms, for her lips. I wait outside her door until she arrives, satchel in hand, stained smock covering her cropped t-shirt and baggy jeans.
I look at her face when I can’t keep my eyes away any longer. I want to see it there, what she feels, what she doesn’t, what she wants to say and cannot.
Lucinda doesn’t speak. She doesn’t ask how or why. She only drops her satchel at her feet and crouches in front of me. She cups my chin in her hand, her fingers soft against my cheek. Then she stands and offers her hand.
I grab on and struggle to my feet.
She reaches into her pocket and pulls out her keys. “I haven’t had a chance to clean up around here, so, you’ll have to excuse the mess,” she says as if these are words she speaks to me every day.
She pushes open the door and steps aside to let me in first.
“Oh, it’s fine,” I say, just as casually, and step over a bag of garbage she forgot to put outside.
“I don’t know if you’re hungry but I usually get in pretty late around here. I end up ordering out all the time. Mostly pizza. You like pizza, right, Gabriela?”
Before I can answer, she pulls a large flat box from the refrigerator and I mumble, “sure.”
“Microwave’s in the kitchen. I think I’ve got some paper plates in the cabinet.”
Lucinda rubs her hand across the front of her jeans. “I’m just gonna go grab a quick shower before this paint sets in. You just, uh, make yourself at home.”
She disappears into the bathroom and her shower takes longer than it takes for me to eat, clean the kitchen and take out the trash. When Lucinda emerges, she is dressed in a man’s t-shirt and pale blue drawstring pants.
She wipes her hands against her pants and stuffs them in her pockets. “So, you wanna watch a movie or something?”
“Whatever you want to do.” I am sitting patiently on the couch, my hands folded in my lap.
“Well, I’m pretty tired. Worked really hard tonight.”
“Then, we can go to bed.” I stand up and look down the hall towards the closed doors.
“Oh, yeah sure,” she says. “I didn’t even show you to the bedroom, did I?”
I am not sure, but I think her eyes soften a bit and she smiles reaching out for me to take her hand. She leads me to her bedroom where she places my bag against the wall below the large window.
Lucinda’s eyes dart across the room as if she herself is in a foreign environment.
“I’m gonna let you get changed, then I’ll come in and say goodnight,” she says.
I stop pulling at the button on my blouse. “Then you…you’re not… staying?”
She folds her lips, pulls at the drawstring on her pants. “Well, it was a long trip and I figure you must be pretty tired. I’m just gonna crash out here on the couch tonight so you can get some rest.”
I want to tell Lucinda that I didn’t come here for rest, that I could have rested at home if that was what I wanted, but I say nothing. I simply watch her turn and walk away before I pull my nightgown from my bag and slip it on.
I lie down on Lucinda’s bed, bury myself beneath the covers, pull her pillow close to my face and breathe. I listen for her coming through the door. I wait to feel her to crawl into bed beside me, whisper in my ear how happy she is to see me.
I do this all night.
“I’ve been waiting for you. I’ve been up since seven.”
I sit on the couch, my legs tucked under me. I watch Lucinda as she walks through the front door, purse and plastic bags in hand.
“I swung by the studio. Then I stopped and grabbed some breakfast. I didn’t know if you liked your eggs scrambled or sunny side up, so I got one of each and you can just pick.”
“You could have said something.” I don’t mean to snap, but it comes out venomous anyway.
Lucinda exhales loudly. “I didn’t want to wake you.”
“Then you could have called. I was worried.”
Lucinda drops everything in her hand. “You see! That’s exactly what I was afraid of. I don’t need you to worry about me, Gabriela! I don’t need you here waiting for me. I’m not used to this.”
I hold my head down when I don’t know what else to say.
Lucinda continues. “Listen, I don’t know how to do this. I’m out of my element here.”
“I see.” I can barely speak the words.
“We have our thing. Four days once a summer. It’s the way it’s always been–”
“Except it’s not anymore, Lucinda.” I say.
Then I ask. As much as I don’t want to hear the answer, I ask. “By the way, how is your fellowship going?”
“Oh, that… well…”
“I’m sorry I came here, Lucinda. I’m sorry I’ve made things difficult for you.” I stand and straighten my skirt.
“Gabriela, I tried to be as sensitive as I could about it, but you came here anyway. What were you thinking? What were your intentions, to check up on me or something?”
“I said I was sorry.” There is a lump in my throat and quiver in my voice.
“Look, I’m sorry I’m being such a bitch about it, but you gotta know that’s how I am most times. All those times when you’re not around, I’m stone cold. See, you get the good parts of me, those four days when nothing else matters and everything is perfect,” Lucinda says, head cocked.
“Right.” I bite my bottom lip.
“So, why don’t we just nix this whole thing and I run you to the airport? Life can go on as normal… you have yours in Sao Luis and I have mine here. You have things you need to get back to, right? There’s your stand and your house…”
I only nod. Speaking is too risky. Speaking would surely bring tears and screams and words I’m not ready to hear.
I stand on unsteady feet. I wait while Lucinda brings my still packed bags from the bedroom. She loads them in the backseat of her car and waits for me there.
The ride to the airport is silent but for whatever songs they play on the radio and her humming along every now and then. The kiss she gives me at the terminal is quick and dry.
I don’t look back.
I sit on the couch, legs shaking, my hands restless in my lap. I jump at the sound of every car that passes. None of them is Lucinda.
I try and remember the way she looked, the way her voice sounded when she said her last words to me. I think of how long her locks would be now, if there may be a few strands of gray there.
I wonder if Lucinda is happy, if she’s finally reached the level of success she was after in her career all those years. I wonder if she ever made time for love, if she ever will. I wonder if someone calls her honey, if someone calls her mama.
I wonder if she knows I am here, that on the first night of the seventh summer Lucinda hasn’t come to me, I am sitting and I am waiting.