A Twist in the Tail
By Dingo Marhax
Maria was the virgin. She worked in a cheap gift shop, selling plastic flowers, trinkets, wind-up toys, assorted kitsch. The customers were schoolgirls and girls like Maria. It was late October, and the first snows had fallen and melted into muddy slush. The air was as crisply cold in the shop as outside, in the slushy, dirty street.
When I called her number, she told me she had short dark hair and green eyes. She also said she was twenty-three, so I wasn’t sure she was the one, as I stepped into the shop. She looked about sixteen. But she was alone behind the counter. Hunched up against the cold, arms folded tightly across her breasts. But she had short dark hair, and, as I walked up to the counter, green eyes. She wore no make-up, except for lipstick, inexpertly applied, with a dark outer contour. With hindsight, I should have realized: she was still learning how to use lipstick.
“Hello, I’m Richard. Are you Maria?”
“Yes, I am Maria. It is a special pleasure to meet you, sir.”
“It’s a pleasure for me, too.” I was used to the stilted formality they used for conversation between strangers. I offered my hand, startling her. Gingerly, she unwrapped her right hand from within her coat’s lapel. I leant over the counter and grasped the ends of her fingers clumsily. They were cold.
“But you’re not twenty-three!” I was sure.
She looked down at the counter and fidgeted with a plastic dome that simulated a Christmas snowfall. “Well, no…I have nineteen and a half years, sir.” She looked up at me with big green eyes, keeping her head bowed. Then, tilting it up defiantly, “But if I didn’t lie, you would not have come, would you?” Her teeth chattered from the cold. Or perhaps she was afraid.
I changed the subject. “Happy Birthday!”
“Thank you! How did you know it is my birthday, Mr Richard?”
I knew because earlier in the day my driver said ‘Happy Birthday’ to the cashier at a petrol station. I asked him how he knew it was his birthday. He told me it was Saint Maria’s name day. In Romania, everyone named after a saint has a ‘birthday’ on their saint’s name day. The cashier had a name tag: Marian.
“It’s St Maria’s name day!” I showed off my knowledge of Romanian culture.
She was unimpressed. Every Romanian knew this. “I suppose you aren’t interested in me any longer.” A statement, not a question.
I didn’t understand. “But why not? You have very pretty eyes.”
She blushed and smiled for the first time. Quick, nervous, fleeting. Big, white teeth. They appeared perfectly even, which is rare in Eastern Europe. I wondered if they were real. I made a mental note to look carefully next time she smiled.
“No, I mean now you know I’m … too young.”
“I’m a bit surprised. I’ll have to think about it. I was expecting you to be twenty-three. Do you know how old I am?”
“You said forty-five in your advertisement, Mr Richard.”
I had lied too. I was already forty-eight, but ‘mid-forties’ sounded better than ‘almost fifty’.
“Look, just call me Richard. My family name is Brown, if you wanted to be formal, you could call me Mr Brown, but I’d like us to be friends. Maybe ‘Dick’ would be easier. Some people call me ‘Dick’. Don’t you think I’m too old for you?”
“I don’t think age is important, if two people understand each other well, sir.” Standard answer, by the book. She was getting advice.
“Why is such a pretty girl like you answering old men’s ads? Why don’t you find somebody your own age?”
“You are not an old man, sir. It is probably different in your country, but in my country, young men don’t know how to treat a girl properly.”
And they don’t have much money, I thought.
Her perfect white teeth ch-chat-tered again.
“You’re cold. Here, wear my coat.” I began to take off my leather coat.
“No, please, I’m alright.” She looked mortified. I wondered if I had somehow transgressed Romanian etiquette, but I insisted.
“Come ‘round here.” I beckoned her to the customers’ side of the counter.
As she reluctantly approached, I assessed her body. Too slender for most men’s taste. Automatically, I estimated her weight. High breasts, barely B cups. Teetering in three-inch heeled boots brought her eyes level with mine. She flashed another nervous smile, as I helped her on with the coat. Teeth a little too broad to be perfect, so they were real. But my wrist pressed against her breast as I straightened the coat. She was wearing a padded push-up bra. Real teeth, fake breasts. Deduct a kilo, forty-nine. Perfect!
Just then the proprietor came into the shop, from a back room somewhere. About forty or so, slim, shoulder length chestnut hair. She would have been quite attractive, but sadly, she had the crinkled upper lip of a chronic smoker. Maria introduced us, Mrs Doina. I raised the back of her hand to my lips.
“I kiss your hand.” This was the custom in Romania, but I still felt a bit silly.
Mrs Doina extolled Maria’s virtues. Maria was very honest and polite, and she had high moral standards. It was Mrs Doina who had prompted Maria to respond to my ad. It was the shop’s number Maria left in her message.
“I have been like a mother for Maria,” she declared, “Because her real mother was not good to her.”
Maria nodded. She admitted it was true. Later, she told me her aunt and uncle had brought her up since she was five because they couldn’t have children of their own. Her own mother hadn’t even suckled her: a neighbour, a Gypsy girl had shared the milk from her ample bosom between her own child and Maria.
Maria’s uncle and his wife could offer her a better life. Maria’s parents were poor factory workers, and they already had another child, Maria’s elder sister. But Maria had returned to live with her parents the year before, because her aunt began to drink more heavily, and she began to beat her more often. Her father had lost his job a few years before, so her parents were not pleased having to suddenly share their meagre resources with another child.
I asked when Maria finished work. Mrs Doina said they were closing soon.
“Can I take you somewhere for a drink, so we can talk some more?”
“No thank you, sir. I don’t drink alcoholic drinks. But you are very kind.”
“A soft-drink then, or coffee?” I turned to Mrs Doina. “Mrs Doina, will you come, too?” Last resort, a chaperone.
Maria interrupted. “I don’t drink coffee, either. And my mother will be very angry if I’m not home by eight o’clock.” It was already past seven.
“So how do you get home?”
She caught the bus. The stop was a couple of hundred yards down the same street. I persuaded her to let me walk her to the bus stop. She protested that it was too cold for me, unused as I was to their winter. I parodied macho.
“I’m a man!” I clenched my fist and grasped my bunched bicep through my jacket. The cold was starting to bite, though. I thrust my hands deep into my jacket pockets as we walked towards the bus stop, dodging slush-filled holes in the slippery footpath. She slipped on a frozen puddle and almost fell, so I held her upper arm until we reached the bus stop. She agreed that her boots were a peril, but they insulated her feet from the cold concrete gift-shop floor.
On the way, I learned she lived with her parents and her grandmother in a small village across the river. Their house only had two rooms, so she had to share a bed with her grandmother. Her grandmother was fat, and she snored. Maria hoped there was still hot water on the stove. If not, she would have to fetch a pail of water from the well across the road, before she took off her jacket and scarf. Then she would have to wait for it to warm before she could wash herself. She was making me aware of her attention to personal hygiene.
I asked if I could see her again the next night.
She thought for a while before she answered. “You don’t have to say that if you don’t mean it.” She was sure I had already met many prettier girls.
I didn’t deny it. It had been three weeks since my ad first appeared in the local newspaper. I said she had the prettiest eyes though.
In fact, I was already hoping I had established an ongoing relationship with a certain Roxana, the worldly daughter of a giant pawnbroker. He had a reputation with a baseball bat, weapon of choice for burly Romanian pawnbrokers and loan sharks. Roxana was younger, prettier and sexier than I had dared to hope for, but even so, I couldn’t resist the temptation to meet more girls on my list.
I was relieved to retrieve my coat when the bus came. My ears were already numb and crisp. We said ‘Goodbye’, and I offered her my hand again. This time, mine was colder than hers.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said.
The next evening I came with seven red roses. The number is important; it must be odd, because an even number of flowers is only offered at funerals. After three more visits to the gift shop and three more walks to the bus stop, she finally let me drive her home. By then, she had confessed she was a virgin.
I held the door open for her, and she crossed herself before she got in. On the way to her village, she pressed herself against the car door, maximizing the space between us. She was hoping I wouldn’t detour to a secluded place and rape her. She knew just climbing into my car of her own free will would be regarded as assent in Romania. We passed a church on the way, and she crossed herself again.
When we arrived at her street, she asked me to stop the car at the corner, although she lived at the other end of the pot-holed gravel road. Snowdrifts covered stacks of chopped wood in front of each tiny house’s rickety picket fence. She was terrified her mother would find out. She had come home with a strange man! Strange and old, I thought, ‘Old’ would be the main embarrassment.
I asked if I could see her Saturday, but she had to work. Sunday, too. She had to work every weekend.
“When do you get a day off?”
“On Christmas Day. Only St Nicolas works then. And perhaps New Year’s Day.”
She worked seven days a week, twelve hours every day, on her feet in a freezing shack! She had told me how much she earned, and I calculated it to be about twenty dollars per week. I was having second thoughts about Mrs Doina.
“It’s inhuman! I’ll talk to Mrs Doina.” I said.
“Please don’t! I don’t want to lose my job!”
She calmed down only when I promised not to talk to Mrs Doina, but I had my fingers crossed. The woman was ruining my weekend plans! I wondered if I could buy Maria’s time for the weekend. But how would I go about it? It was almost curfew time, so we said ‘Goodnight’, and I wondered if I should try a kiss. Perhaps on the cheek? She reached for the door handle.
“Wait! Let me open it.”
“Don’t be silly, Mr Dick. It’s too cold out there.” But she waited.
“Look at me,” I said. I had my arm on the headrest of her seat. As she turned to look at me, I took her by surprise. I kissed her full on the lips. I expected her to recoil, but she submitted docilely. I was kissing a pretty teenage virgin! I felt a sudden tightening in my crotch. Swell! After a bit, I stopped kissing her, and I leaned back to look at her.
I apologized. I didn’t know what had come over me.
She avoided eye contact. “I have to go, now. My mother is waiting for me.”
I manoeuvred my knee between the gearshift and the seat, to get closer, and I gently tilted her head towards me. This time, I was ready.
I pressed my lips against her mouth.
I thrust my tongue between her teeth.
I found her tongue.
After a while, she started to caress the tip of my tongue with hers.
She didn’t kiss like a virgin! Eventually, she pulled away. “I really have to go.”
I gulped some air. I temporarily couldn’t speak any Romanian. I turned and opened my door, but by the time I came around to the passenger side, she was already climbing out.
Light snow was scurrying, and some flakes had settled on her fringe. We said ‘goodnight’ very formally in case the neighbours were watching. I returned to the warm sanctuary of the car and watched her totter down the road. She was gawky, not the least bit graceful, and she walked with her arms folded across her chest. I wondered if it was a habit because she was embarrassed by her small breasts, or if it was just because of the cold.
When I picked her up on Saturday night, Maria seemed happier than usual. Excited, even. She had good news! She had persuaded her mother to let her visit a friend after work. She didn’t have to be home until 9.30! I offered to drive her to her friend’s house. She laughed delightedly. She had come to work with a change of clothes, and she went out into the backroom to change. Mrs Doina tried to engage me in conversation, but I replied in monosyllables. I wasn’t going to suck up to her anymore.
When Maria reappeared, she had changed one pair of jeans for another, and she wore a fluffy fake wool pullover, with Minnie Mouse on the front. As I helped her on with her jacket, there was a whiff of cheap perfume.
In the car, she started to giggle.
“I’ve got a secret!”
“What is it?”
“I’ll tell you if you promise not to think I’m bad.”
“I lied to my mother!”
“…You’re not going to your friend’s now?”
“No! I can stay with you until 9.30!”
This complicated my plans for the evening. Seeing the expression on my face, she guessed the problem.
“But you’re meeting Roxana, aren’t you?” She was crestfallen. I hadn’t tried to hide my relationship with Roxana. She understood men needed sex regularly, especially rich foreigners. All Romanian girls knew this, even virgins. She accepted that I saw Roxana most nights, after I dropped Maria home. She believed it was my right, since she wasn’t ready to offer me what Roxana offered.
It was very convenient. I saw Maria between seven and eight, and Roxana was never ready until 8.30 at the earliest. She always washed her hair, and she had to wait until it was perfectly dry. Romanians believe death is certain if you go outside with wet hair. Perhaps they’re right. So, Roxana didn’t need to know about Maria. I was cheating on my girlfriend with a virgin!
I made a decision. “I’ll call Roxana and say I’ll be late. But you’ll have to take a taxi home.” She cheered up a little.
I took her to the ritziest restaurant in Buzau. The place where all the foreigners passing through took their young Romanian girlfriends. She was awestruck. When the waiter tried to take her coat, she resisted at first. She didn’t understand what he wanted.
It took me weeks of coaxing before she consented to visit my apartment. It was about 7.30 one cold, clear, starry night in December. As I was hanging up her coat and scarf, she insisted I leave the door open, so she didn’t feel trapped. If I tried to rape her the neighbours would hear her screams.
She consented to sit beside me on the divan, to watch TV. I arranged the lights so it was unlikely my neighbours on the other side of the stairs could see us through the peephole in their door. I gave her the remote control, and she flicked through the channels. She giggled at a Tweety and Sylvester cartoon for a while, but she was completely oblivious to the obvious sexual allegory. When she saw that I was less than amused, she started flicking again. Eventually, we compromised on a South American soap opera with Romanian subtitles. When the slapstick violence gave way to dramatic romance, I took my cue.
For three consecutive evenings, we spent our hour together like this, kissing and wrestling. But I was getting nowhere! Time to change tack. I tried to show her she had nothing to fear from me. It was really just her welfare I was concerned about. I wanted to rescue her from a life of freezing misery. I would like to help Maria to improve her position in life. As for marrying her, though, it was an impossible dream, alas!
“You are way too young. You would find someone younger eventually, and adios, amigo!”
She protested that she would never stray. If I loved her, she would love me forever, no matter how old, ugly, and wrinkled I became.
I wasn’t buying it, although perhaps she believed what she said. “You are too young to know that, Maria, even if you believe it now. You know next to nothing about love.”
She offered to swear on all that she knew was holy.
“Let’s wait until we know each other better before we make such declarations.”
“But I already know you are a good man.”
I wondered how she had arrived at such a wrong conclusion. “How do you know?”
“Because you have had many opportunities to rape me, but you have treated me honourably.”
I began to feel slightly honourable. One percent honourable, ninety-nine percent lecherous and bad. She was as naïve as they come.
I persuaded her she would be much more confident and attractive if she straightened her shoulders. I got her to walk from the lounge room to the kitchen and back in her high heels, with a book on her head. Call me Professor Higgins. I persuaded her she needed a massage, to help relax the hunched muscles in her neck. And in her back. Even the muscles in her buttocks. O, to insert an apostrophe in the middle there!
“No, not my bottom. My legs, if you must, Mr Dick.” It was a fair trade for the relaxing work I had done on her hurting parts.
“Call me Richard, please!”
Kneading the backs of her denim-clad thighs seemed to give her almost as much pleasure as it gave me, but I couldn’t resist moving up again to her delicious arse, and then the massage always ended abruptly.
We continued this game for several evenings. Gradually her resistance to my groping of her nether regions eased from violent to languid. One evening, I launched a determined assault. I thrust my hand between her legs and managed to keep it there for several delicious seconds before she pushed me firmly away. I thought I had gone too far, but then she asked me to close the door. At last!
I shut and bolted the door, then I sat down beside her and tried to kiss her again. But she pushed me away again. We had to talk. There were some things I had to understand if I wanted to keep seeing her. Firstly, we could not have sex until we were married. No, we couldn’t make love either, not until we were married. Many rich foreigners came to Romania to buy a girl for sex. She didn’t want to be bought.
And I would have to stop seeing Roxana. She had heard there were other ways to satisfy a man sexually, without actually having sex. I wouldn’t need Roxana anymore because Maria would satisfy me.
Glory be to Bill Clinton for re-defining sex! – “Ah did not have sex with that woman!”
“What do you have in mind?” I tried not to salivate too conspicuously.
“Well, I’m not sure. Perhaps you could explain it to me. What do other girls do, besides sex?”
I said the first thing that came into my head. It didn’t have far to come. “OK, you know how I often say what a fantastic kisser you are? And what beautiful lips you have?”
“If you are thinking of oral sex, forget it! That is disgusting! I could never do that!”
So, what should I be thinking about? I wondered. A hand-job? Better than nothing!
So, I showed her how to do it. First, she made me swear I had always used condoms with Roxana. I was ready to swear to anything. While we were kissing in the dark, I undid my fly and guided her hot little hand to the disgusting business.
Thus, we established a pleasant routine for almost two weeks. One night she asked if we could do it with the light on. She was fascinated by the whole business. She relished her newly discovered power. But I was yearning for the hole business. We started using KY Jelly when my skin began to feel a bit sensitive.
When I came, she deftly took care of the icky business with the tissues and flushed them down the toilet. Then she washed her hands, while I lolled on the couch in a post-pseudo-coital endorphin rush.
One night she asked me if she could borrow the tube of KY, and she took it home with her. She wouldn’t tell me why.
Gradually I habituated to her delicate touch. It was taking me longer and longer, even though her technique was improving steadily. She had learned to tug more gently. Even so, I started to worry my skin might peel. I was even finding excuses to avoid sex with Roxana!
Maria suspected that my tardiness meant I no longer loved her, but I tried to explain that it was a natural progression. One night I begged her to show me her breasts, to boost my level of arousal over escape velocity. She refused categorically.
“Maria, please believe me. It’s a myth all men only like big breasts. Small breasts can be even sexier than big ones: it all depends on the shape and texture, and most of all, on the nipples. And your shape and texture are wonderful!”
She eventually confessed that her nipples were indeed the problem: she didn’t have nipples like other girls.
“But all girls have different nipples, and most of them are attractive in their own way.”
“You don’t understand. I don’t have any at all!”
I knew this wasn’t true. I felt one of them once, fleetingly, through her blouse, when I managed to hike up her bra, before she brushed my hands away.
I played my ace. “Look, if we’re going to get married, you’ll have to show me sooner or later.”
I eventually persuaded her I would continue to love her, even if she had no nipples, as she claimed. So, she reluctantly turned her back to me, unbuttoned her blouse, and unclipped her bra. Then she turned around and held her bra up there, biting her lip. Eventually she unveiled them. Her breasts were pert, and her nipples were a lovely shade of rose. The problem was they were inverted.
“You see! I don’t have any,” she declared petulantly.
She became annoyed when I appeared to laugh at her misfortune. I eventually convinced her many girls have nipples like hers, and it was a problem easily rectified. Before she could object, I engulfed her right nipple with my mouth, and sucked it greedily, while she tried to push me away. Her protestations gradually subsided as her nipple swelled and thrust outwards. I twirled it around with my tongue for a while. She acquiesced tamely as I turned my attention to the left one.
When both nipples were proudly erect, I led her into the bathroom. I told her to clasp her hands behind her back and let her admire her new silhouette in the mirror. She was delighted.
“If I suck them like that every night for at least a half an hour, your problem will soon be resolved.” I doubted this was actually true, but it was worth a try. I persuaded her to parade again, in her high heels, with the book on her head.
“Wow! Sexy!” I said.
She beamed. She was far too grateful that I had transformed her breasts from grotesque curiosities into beautiful and desirable badges of femininity. She clung to my arm with both of hers. “What exactly does ‘sexy’ mean? Will you teach me to be sexy after we are married?”
I plotted how to profit from her gratitude.
But it was a small town, and Maria soon discovered I was still seeing Roxana. She wanted to stop seeing me. She had been betrayed! She had committed disgusting, unholy acts with that disgusting Dick, that same dick I had been sticking into Roxana’s every hole! (If only!) How could I do this to her?
I calmed her down eventually when I said I loved her, not Roxana. The Devil had lured me back to Roxana. Hand-jobs just weren’t enough. I dabbed at her tears with a tissue.
“But why didn’t you tell me before, when we first discussed ways to satisfy a man, without actually having sex?” she said between sobs. “I had something else in mind, anyway. I didn’t even think of wanking.”
I was surprised at her use of such a crude word, but apparently it wasn’t as vulgar in Romanian as in English. I needed to think for a moment. I paced across to the refrigerator. Ways to satisfy a man sexually, without actually having sex? Excluding ‘wanking’ as she put it. (I preferred ‘manual love’). Ways less disgusting than a blowjob? I was stumped. I took a beer from the refrigerator and flipped the cap off.
“Well, where do I put it?”
“You know, the other place!”
Raising the beer to my mouth, I turned to look at her. She stood up and turned around. With her knees together, she poked her taut denim-ed bottom out towards me and blushed.
I spilled beer down my shirtfront.
“In your bottom?”
She nodded bashfully.
“So anal sex is not really sex?” I almost blurted out. No, better to accept her definition of non-sex and see where it leads. I feigned disinterest and dabbed at the spilt beer on my shirtfront with some tissues. Then I sat down beside her, covering the very interested bulge in my trousers with the TV guide.
Apparently, when her grandmother was learning about sex, it was common for girls to fan their fiancés’ ardour by offering their ‘road less travelled’, as her grandmother said. I tried to imagine the circumstances when her grandmother had divulged that particular piece of lore.
Maria knew her offer wasn’t as good as the real thing, but it was all she could offer until I married her. If I didn’t want to marry her, it would be better if I stayed with Roxana. I reassured her. I would prefer to make love even to her cute little bottom than to any part of Roxana.
She giggled. For Maria this was a preposterous exaggeration. Roxana was like a goddess! She made love with me! On the other hand, Maria could only offer her anus, which was her least desirable feature, she was sure. But if I loved her, I should wait.
“And anyway, I have heard some men actually prefer anal sex,” she said defiantly. “Perhaps you could learn to like it.”
I tried to look doubtful. Then I tried to persuade her to show me where I should put it.
“Don’t be disgusting!”
By then it was time for her to go home.
On the way, in my car, she told me not to worry, ‘he’ would fit. She reached across boldly and gave ‘him’ a gentle squeeze.
“How do you know?”
She giggled. “I tried it! With a carrot. … but you’ll have to twist him a bit!”