About Her

by JL Peridot 3 months ago in fiction

At least no one found out what happened after.

About Her
Photo by Eunice Stahl on Unsplash

This is the long-awaited part two of About Henry from the CapriLuxe Chronicles. You can read part one for free on Wattpad.

I didn’t tell Audrey everything. Thank fuck for that too, because shit hit the fan after the CapriLuxe files got leaked. It never occurred to me that she wouldn’t redact my name in her write-up. But I guess it never occurred to her that those write-ups would go public.

It wasn’t long before word got round to, well, pretty much everyone I know. Even my grandma had something to say about it. Not to me directly, of course, but I got the gist of what she was saying to Mum.

Small blessings: at least no one found out what happened after.

That’s kind of why I’m here now. I want to tell you how it all turned out. If nothing else, it would be nice to share. And I know you won’t judge me. At least, I hope you won’t.

At least, the old me hopes.

Henry Aston and his wife were gone a long time. Six weeks, in fact. They extended their time away and, in turn, their hotel stay. While they were gone, I didn’t meet up with any of my Tinder matches. I deleted the app and all the apps like it.

I just…wasn’t up for it. I was angry. Yeah, I thought he’d get in touch, even just a text, you know? To ask how I was.

But at some point—maybe two weeks in—I faced the facts. I was a holiday fling. A fuck-and-forget. Hell, everything he said about him and Melody was probably bullshit, and when they got back, he’d pretend like nothing happened. Guys do that, don’t they? When they know they can get away with it. I should have known.

Maybe I did know. Maybe I didn’t care. Henry Aston made me feel special at the time, and who doesn’t want to feel special? So I turned a blind eye to what was right in front of me. The key he left was no more than an ego trip for him, a way to tease the small city girl who’d enviously flip through the pages of his diary.

So, fuck him, y’know?

I felt like shit, though. I went dark on everyone. My friends would’ve just asked what was wrong, and then what would I have said? None of them would have approved of my affair with a married man. I knew they wouldn’t.

Turned out I was right in the end. When the CapriLuxe papers got out, every single one of them cut me off. But I’ll get to that later.

It also turned out that the solitude was good for me. I wasn’t gutted about things with Henry. I mean, it’s not like I was in love with him. I never had visions of us running away together or anything like that. I just felt stupid and used.

And embarrassed for how needy I was, for letting myself get sucked into someone’s lie. What would be worse, really? Falling for a bullshit story or wanting so badly to feel special that I convinced myself he was telling the truth?

Evenings alone in my apartment, not seeing anyone, not talking to anyone—with no one around to judge me—I didn’t have to think about how humiliating it was. I spent all my spare time on myself. Lost some bad weight, put on some good. It’s amazing what three nights a week at the gym will do to your body in a month. I definitely wouldn’t have fit Melody Aston’s dress the way I did before, and I liked how I looked. I felt pretty amazing.

So amazing that when I noticed the Astons were back, I thought absolutely nothing of it. Nothing. And when I saw Henry Aston sitting in the lobby bar, I kept on walking. Never mind that he’d caught a great tan while on the road, I was taking myself to a movie that night—some action-comedy starring The Rock. Henry’s bedroom baby blues and salt-and-pepper shadow could be some other sucker’s taste of whisky.

One evening, Melody Aston strode past reception near the end of my shift. Actually, she was more like a bird in flight. She headed for the front entrance, dressed to the nines, wearing that green dress. She smiled at me on her way out, and paranoia wrenched my gut.

Surely, surely there was no way she could have known I’d been in her room, wearing her clothes, lying in their bed… I would have already been fired if she knew.

Hah, as if that would’ve been such a bad thing. It’s not like I was getting anywhere at CapriLuxe. I thought I’d at least have the chance to work at their other hotels, but turned out my odds were only slightly better than a snowball’s in hell. So report me, Mrs. Aston, I dare you. I fucked your husband. I probably deserve it.

I needed a drink.

After my shift, I hot-footed it up the hill to the CBD. The city’s half-dead on Saturday nights, but Bar Lafayette was open with its upmarket vintage vibes and an Indonesian guy singing lounge covers by the door. It’s a quaint “hipster tax” sort of place. Maybe the kind Henry would like.

But also, fuck Henry. I was here by myself, for myself. It’s the new me, baby. I took a table outside and ordered a Maple Baby Blazer.

“Would you like to open a tab or pay as you go?” the waitress asked.

Before I could answer, a certain blue-eyed someone who shall remain nameless took the seat across from me. “It’s on my tab. And make it two, please.

“I can pay for my own drinks,” I snapped as soon as we were alone.

The nerve of this guy. I didn’t want to share my quiet time at all, and especially not with him.

But Henry Aston just smiled and thumbed the edge of a cardboard coaster between his fingers. “It’s good to see you too, Julie. You know, if you’ve been avoiding me, you don’t seem to be doing a very good job.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Spending time. One of Melody’s associates recommended this place. They have excellent taste.”

“I see. And is Mrs. Aston here with you?”

His smile deepened. Was that some move I was meant to fall for? “She’s in Mandurah tonight, catching a theatre show. A friend’s daughter is in the cast.”

Our drinks arrived, two deep pink concoctions barely up to the widest part of the brandy glass, served hot with a slice of strawberry. The fumes stung my eyes. I closed them and sipped. It tasted like warm, syrupy bread.

“It’s a tad sweeter than what I go for,” Henry remarked, empty already and rolling the fruit in his mouth. “And it goes much too quickly. Let me pick the next one.”

I should have argued. I wanted to. And yet…in spite of myself, I was already enjoying his company. I was at ease with him. Maybe I was over it—like, totally over it. And, no two ways about it, he looked like he wanted to be here.

So I let him order the next drink. We sipped slowly while he told me about the Yarra Valley in Victoria, Braidwood in New South Wales, about coming back to WA and camping in Karijini National Park. He talked about a small town named Marble Bar, and sunsets over the Kimberleys. I hadn’t eaten dinner yet, but I wasn’t hungry. The drinks flowed. His stories were beautiful.

I felt beautiful. Spending time with Henry, you can’t help but come under his spell. It’s like magic, the way he looks directly at you, the way he talks. There’s a bit in the movie Fight Club where Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter talk about the difference between when people really listen to you instead of waiting for their turn to speak. So many people, in real life, don’t do that.

But Henry Aston does.

I guess that’s not magic. And it’s not exactly a player move. But when the whole world has an agenda, when everyone’s in it for themselves, it’s something else to be around someone who’s genuinely interested in you and isn’t afraid to show it. Suddenly, you’re someone to be looked at.

It’s like waking up.

“I wasn’t avoiding you, you know.”

“I didn’t really think you were.”

“If anything, I thought you were avoiding me.”

“Now, why would I do a thing like that, Julie?”

So many reasons. None I would dream of saying out loud… usually. But the way he idled with the crushed ice of his Kyoto Crush cocktail, well…it was inviting. Tempting. I was tempted.

“Cos maybe you were lying.” First, the trickle.

“About what?”

Then, the flood. “Your ‘arrangement’ with Mrs. Aston. How do I know—I mean really know—you’re not just some dog of a husband looking for a holiday fling behind his wife’s back?”

“That’s a fair question. Go on.”

“And then you go away, and I don’t hear from you. So, what am I supposed to think? You’re with your wife. She’s gorgeous. She’s loaded. You travel all over the world and have all this free time. Like, so much of it. Seriously, you get days where nothing happens, and you’re okay with that. It would drive me crazy. I have to make every minute count, and I can’t even do that because I don’t know where to start. The life you guys have is amazing. You go off and do stuff and then…there’s me. Still here.”

“Why do you say it like that?”

“Say what?”

“’Still here.’ You don’t just mean the last few weeks, do you?”

“Well…”

“What happened, Julie?”

Sometimes when the flow starts, you just can’t stop it. “CapriLuxe declined my application for a transfer. Again.”

“Again?”

“It’s like my fourth one. I’ve been here three years now, maybe? Feels like longer. The whole reason I wanted this job was cos I wanted to travel. But they’ve knocked me back every time.”

“I had no idea you wanted to travel.”

“Yeah, well. There’s not much point talking about something that’s not gonna happen, is there?”

“What stops you from going anyway?”

I shrugged. It was a reflex. It must have made me look like a sulky toddler. But at that moment, I didn’t care. And Henry didn’t seem to care either.

Even with the way things worked out, I still look back and wish I could do that conversation over. If my head had been clearer, if it didn’t feel so pitiful to say so, I would have told him it’s because I was scared.

But instead of owning it, I sighed very pointedly at him. And like the attentive gentleman he was, he took the hint. In his own way, at least. He let me steer the conversation back to not avoiding him, back to his trip, back to his incredible wife—which, by the way, is like moving a mountain when you’ve had that much to drink, even when the other person follows your lead. A half-chewed bit of cocktail garnish fell out of my mouth at one point. He pretended he didn’t see.

Remember when I said Melody Aston was the sort of person I would’ve talked shit about in school? I wasn’t kidding. And that urge was with me still. Why not take someone down a peg when they already have everything, you know? Especially when they have everything you don’t. Guess I wasn’t as over it—over him, over her, over my own shit—as I thought I was.

They say a drunk girl’s words are a sober girl’s thoughts. Well, I sure convinced myself I meant it as I sang Melody Aston’s praises. But deep down, I knew I was overcompensating, maybe even fishing for him to be the first to say she wasn’t all that. That there was some problem between them that fuelled their open relationship.

I wanted him to tell me I could give him something she couldn’t.

And you know what? He did. But not in the way I expected.

He leaned across the table and put his warm, smooth hand on me. It was electric. Everything I thought I didn’t want anymore hit me the way lightning splits a tree. I looked at his hand, wanting it everywhere on my body. I burned for him, with only the diluted ends of my drink to cool me off.

“It’s not a competition, Julie,” he said. With his gravelly night-time voice, piercing gaze, and tender squeeze of my arm, it might have been enough. I would’ve accepted that pocket wisdom, then gone away and chewed on it. But as long as he kept talking, I wasn’t going anywhere. Fuck, I wanted all night with him. “You and Melody are different people. Don’t compare yourself to her.”

“Why? Because I’d come up short?”

“Of course. And if she compared herself to you, she’d come up short just the same.”

“Bullshit.”

“It’s true. Everyone’s got their own thing going for them—we’re as unique as cocktails. And pardon me for saying so, but if you’re spending this much effort worrying about someone else, well…what’ve you got left for yourself?” He glanced at my shoulders with an encouraging smirk. “Although, maybe you figured that out already. You’re looking good.”

I withdrew my arm. He’d struck a nerve—a good one. Real good.

“Thank you.”

“So, what’s in your cocktail, Julie Ho? Two shots of wanderlust, a dash of the gym, that place on the back of your neck where you like to be kissed… What else can I learn about you?”

I thought I was past this. I really did. I mustered all the strength I could to turn him down. Then I threw it in the river.

I felt sick, but in that good way, that craving way—craving him. It lit me up, made me bold. He made me bold. Enough to push my drink aside and reach for his arm.

“Why don’t we get out of here, and I can show you?”

I never bring guys back to my place. I’m not one of those women who has her shit together enough to make a bachelorette pad out of a cheap one-bedroom rental. Why would I? When I moved to the city to be closer to work, I didn’t think I’d be staying long.

But before I knew it, I’d signed another lease agreement, then another, with old moving boxes still sealed, still lining the living room wall.

I tried, though, while the Astons were out of town. I went to IKEA, bought a respectable looking flat sheet, and draped it over the boxes. A new lamp, a stack of books, and three half-empty bottles of liqueur now disguised the whole thing as a sideboard. I’d grown up a lot over those six weeks.

Henry seemed impressed. As he walked around the room, his fingers danced over my furnishings like they were piano keys. I was nervous, having him—having anyone—see my dump of an apartment.

But boiling in my gut was also this feeling of fuck it. This place was me, a snapshot of who I was at the time. And maybe I still wouldn’t invite just anyone over, but Henry…well, I wanted him to see. And if he didn’t like it, he could go back to his luxurious hotel and talk to the people in uniform who got paid to be nice to him. I was off the clock. And this place was me.

One by one, he read the spines of the books piled up on my sideboard. When he got to the bottom, he broke into a big smile.

“I love his book.” A world of gushing in just four words. This man was art.

The book he held up, on the other hand, was some banged-up paperback with a weird looking guy on the cover.

“Oh, I haven’t read it. One of the girls at work gave it to me before she transferred to London. What’s it about, then, two people hooking up?”

“That, and more. It’s always about more.”

“I didn’t think trashy books were your thing.”

“Trashy, no. But books can’t be defined by their category. This one’s a good book.” He put it back on top of the pile. His expression was different when he looked at me again.

Was he judging me, maybe for the books he didn’t deem good books? Or maybe for the wisps of dust that had rubbed off on his fingers while touching them? Or the pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen sink?

He stood over me. With my back pressed against the wall, I found it much too close yet still not close enough. My heart thumped so hard, I’m sure he saw the vein in my neck pulsing. His body radiated heat, and he watched me like...I don’t even know what.

Was it a challenge? And examination, maybe? I was a bug under his microscope, and if he’d been anyone else, this whole situation would’ve creeped me the fuck out.

But not with him. Henry, the rich white foreigner in my home, seemed perfectly at ease in my disorganised East Perth pigsty, with not a single smart-arse comment about last year’s Chinese New Year calendar hanging on the wall. Right then, right there, I felt seen. And I felt safe.

“This tell you enough about me?” I asked him. I scratched his scruffy stubble. Did Melody touch him that way too? He gave a lopsided smile.

“Not nearly. How about you show me the bedroom next?”

I don’t recall everything as well as I’d like. I remember the lights not working. I remember my bra hook getting caught in my hair. And I remember Henry’s socks. Now, I hate the sock thing as much as the next girl, but I remember telling him to keep them on. I liked that they were a gift from his wife.

I remember looking up with him kneeling over me, my knees over his shoulders, his arms around my waist, and his face between my legs. His tongue worked sharp, soft, textured, slow, then fast in just the right place. I was drunk, I was numb and warm and scattered and helpless in his grasp. Every muscle in my body tense with anticipation. I was on the edge—right on the fucking edge—ready to go over. But then he pulled away.

“God, why—”

“Not yet.”

Henry opened the window. The night breeze rolled through the room, cooling my skin. My nipples tightened from the sudden chill—I love how they look when they get that way. I hoped to see them cast on the wall, but that detail was lost in the shadows. And with a flick of a switch, those shadows went too, the only light now coming from outside, teasing the contours of Henry’s taught body and magnificent cock as he stood by the bedside lamp.

He shoved the bed against the window. Effortless. This guy was stronger than he looked. When he was done, I leaned across the bed and ran my fingers down his abs. I remember him catching my wrist. I remember a kiss.

I remember my hands on glass, a breeze on my belly, his hands on my arse, and his mouth on me again as I knelt over his face. How did I get there? I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s exactly where I wanted to be—on the edge again, with him again. I looked down, and his gorgeous eyes smiled back. It was enough to send me reeling.

At the start of the night, I was determined not to even think about Henry Aston. But there I was, only hours later, trembling above him, squeezing his head between my thighs, gasping night air, wanting his tongue to never stop, and then so suddenly needing him to stop.

I climbed off him and went to return the favour, but he didn’t want a turn. Watching me was enough, he said. Besides he was too drunk, and would it be all right if he spent the night? Of course it would be. I let him know with a kiss. His taste, my taste, mingled with sweat and booze. Divine.

Even after we cleaned up, it lingered with me. I remember dreaming about it and waking up the next morning to find him watching me.

We fucked a little in the shower. It was slow and clumsy and went nowhere, but it was nice. The perfect tonic for a hangover. I took him to Mary Street Bakery and insisted on paying since he bought all those drinks. He didn’t argue.

Later, once we parted ways, I felt a bit sad that he and Melody would be flying back to the States within the week. She was due back from Mandurah that arvo, and I wondered if that night might have been my last time with Henry.

Turns out it wasn’t.

The night before the Astons checked out, I worked the cabana bar. All day, and then all evening when the person after me called in sick. When the tiki clock struck 9pm, I put out the velvet rope and CLOSED sign, then got my gear off and jumped in the pool. I’d never done that before—the nuddy run to the towel rack and back. It was just a short dip, but it was so welcome. The day had been long and hot, and I kind of regretted not making a bigger deal of saying goodbye to Henry.

That’s so not me. Emotional farewells aren’t my thing, and I felt silly dwelling on it while getting dressed. I guess even though he was a fling, Henry had come to mean a lot to me. He made me see myself differently. Just being around him, hearing him say his wife’s name and my name in the same breath with quiet confidence and that dreamy, earnest look on his face, I realised I had no reason to doubt him.

Sure, whatever, he could still be lying, but…I guess I didn’t think so anymore. So I also regretted spending all that time being mad at him while he was away.

I wasn’t ready to go home yet, so I decided to give the bar a proper clean. Not just a wipe down, but the full-on spray, tidy, check the paperwork and such. At 11pm, the terrace door opened.

“Still here, Gaz,” I called out. “I’ll lock up when I go.”

“Julie?”

I recognised the voice. And it wasn’t the night man.

“I’ll have the usual.” He’d shaved. He smelled great.

“Didn’t you see the sign? We’re closed.” Two glasses, then—one for him, one for me. “Usual whisky or usual cocktail?”

I hit the lights behind the bar, leaving the cabana bathed in a blue glow with fairy lights slowly pulsing around the poolside trees. We drank to interesting sights and safe travels.

“I noticed you and Mrs. Aston didn’t ask for a late checkout. Would you like me to take care of it?”

“No, thank you. We’ll head out early and stop somewhere for breakfast. Anywhere you’d recommend?”

“If you don’t mind a detour on the way to the airport, there’s a little place called Tablespoon in Bayswater. They spell it T-B-S-P if you need to look it up.”

He noted the name, admired their Instagram, and we drank to fusion foods at cafés with trendy names. I wish I could tell you romantic things like how his eyes caught the light, how his smile showed off his pearly whites against his sun-touched skin, how refined he looked with the occasional greys in his hair. But it was far too dark for that. Shame. I wanted to memorise everything about him, in case I never saw him again.

It was perfect in its own way, though. Just the two of us and the song of crickets on a balmy Perth night. I was never so at ease with people the way I was with Henry. And I was bold enough to tell him so.

“I’m glad I met you too, Julie.” And we drank to fast friendships.

“So, how’d you know I’d be here?”

“I didn’t see the other lady around, figured you might have worked a double shift today.”

“You notice these things?”

“I notice some things. So…” He leaned across the bar, nice and close, voice low. “When are you planning to travel?”

“Hah! That’s a great question.”

“Does it have a great answer?”

“Well, I…maybe? I don’t know. I mean, I’d like to someday.”

“And when did you expect someday to be?”

“I haven’t really thought that far. Do we have to talk about this? It’s just…it’s not that easy.”

“What if it was?”

“It’s not.”

“It doesn’t have to be for you to think about it. There’s no limit on fantasy.”

This was another conversation I wish I could do over. There was a time I fantasised every minute about travelling all over the world—comfortably. Then when I realised I’d never make that kind of money, I started dreaming about where CapriLuxe could send me. Then I stopped bothering. And I didn’t want to talk about it on Henry’s last night in town.

He smelled so good, he leaned in so close, and the gravel quality when he talked softly like this, I just…the thought of never seeing him again took a bite out of me. In too few hours, we’d be oceans apart, worlds apart. But here he was, right this second, inches from my face.

So I kissed him.

Unlike our first kiss in Kings Park, there was magic in this one. Some odd spark, a magnetism. He thumbed my cheek, and I think I whimpered, but I’m not sure. When he pushed our drinks aside and climbed over the bar, tongue still teasing mine, I realised shit, I think I love this man.

But it wasn’t the kind of love where I wanted to own him. No, this was something else. If my friends knew, they’d feel sorry for me, the left-behind Perth girl who caught feelings for the rich married foreigner she couldn’t have. Except I did have him, in my arms, in my mouth, and god damn it, under my skin too.

And even after he left town, I’d still have him. I knew it in my gut. We had a connection, Henry and me. And somehow, that was enough. I didn’t need him to stay. I didn’t need him to leave his wife for me. I just needed to know this wasn’t one-way.

How do you ask someone if they feel the way you do when this is how you feel? You can’t put this into words. There’s too much behind it. How do you say ”I love you” to a stranger without giving them the wrong idea? How do you say it to a married stranger? You just can’t.

So instead, I unbuttoned his shirt. He let me, helped me, took over when my hands started to shake. He guided my arms around his neck and pressed me against the counter with his body. He was rock hard, ready.

For me, that was his yes, a confirmation he felt it too. Strange thoughts again maybe, but I wanted it—wanted us to fuck like that first time, weeks ago. But nothing’s ever like the first time, is it? There was no city view here, for one. And, besides, Henry Aston had other ideas.

He spun me around, lifted my hair, and kissed the back of my neck. Fuck, he does that so well.

“I have a surprise for you, Julie.”

“I want it.”

“Are you sure? You don’t even know what it is.”

“Mm, well, if you’re offering, I’ll take it.” And I rested my arms on the bar to let him know.

He laughed. At me, to me—it made no difference when he pulled my panties down. He nudged my feet apart and stood between them, squeezing my butt while he lifted my skirt. His fingers, wet and wandering, went everywhere but the one place I wanted them. Then they strolled, gliding steps along my cunt, venturing inside just enough to tease. And tease again.

“Henry, you’re killing me.”

“It’ll be worth it, I promise.” He kissed my neck harder and gave my shoulder a playful bite, leaning his weight on me as he tickled a path down my belly.

It was heaven when he found my clit. I was warm from his body, heating up from his touch, and melting into the bar. I closed my eyes, cheek resting on the polished surface, and lapped up the bliss of his idle strokes and slow circles, tension building in me all the while, in spite of myself.

When I felt both his hands on me, I sparked. When he teased me with the tip of his cock, I kindled. And when he finally entered me, well, it was kind of brilliant. He held deep and gave me time to grind and savour before we got going. As he moved harder, faster, the cabana roof rustled, the hanging palm leaves shook and swayed, the cricket song paused, and I bit my tongue to remind myself not to be too loud.

It’s exciting to fuck where you might get caught. In the back of my mind, I imagined the elevator stopping at this floor, the night man’s keys jingling from his belt, all three of us freaking out. Did guys like Henry even freak out? Hah, it’s funny where the mind goes. I even thought I heard the terrace door as he held me down against the bar, his strong hands gently squeezing as he fucked me slower. Slow and sensual, to the rhythm of footsteps coming our way.

Footsteps?

“I’m sorry I’m late.”

Familiarity hit me first—flowers, fruit—before I recognised her voice. Shit. I hadn’t imagined it at all. I froze, but Henry continued, slowing again, now to long draws and an easy pace. Like we were strolling on a lazy Sunday. But this wasn’t a lazy Sunday.

Even in this light, Melody Aston was gorgeous, regarding me with...well, I’m not sure what kind of look. But no one’s ever looked at me that way before. Especially not with their husband fucking me in front of them.

“May I?” she asked, looking deep—too deep—into my eyes.

Her hand hovered at my cheek, and I was terrified. Why was she smiling? Was this a trick? Any second now, she’d turn and things would get ugly...wouldn’t they? Isn’t that how this kind of thing played out? Awful scenes from hundreds of movies rolled through my mind. I wanted to tell Henry to stop, tell her I was sorry, but my heart was in my throat. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t cry. The edge of the bar dug into my elbows.

I couldn’t help myself. I just nodded.

Her cool, soft fingers brushed my face. She combed back my hair, tucked it behind my ear. “Henry said you were beautiful. And you really are.”

“I…thank you.”

Her husband wrapped his arms around my waist, his chin pressed into my shoulder. He kissed me—there, again—on my neck. I don’t know what kind of face I made at Melody Aston, but it felt all kinds of wrong to be enjoying this so much. And yet, she seemed delighted.

“May I kiss you?”

Yes. Was this really happening? Even when her soft, full lips hit mine, I didn’t quite believe it. Her tongue was tentative and playful, fingers gentle as they clasped my hands. We must have looked so awkward over the bar, but right there between Henry and Melody, I just…

There’s something different about a woman’s kiss. It’s softer, smoother, and speaks in a way a man’s doesn’t. And it was pretty—so pretty—even as she got firmer and more forceful. I tried to bring her closer, but she retreated.

“Wow.” A breathless whisper, drowned out by the hum of the pool filter. And yet I heard my voice like it was the loudest thing in the world.

“Julie,” Henry’s husky chuckle was close to my ear, “this is my wife, Melody. Mel, this is Julie.”

He stepped back. The sudden emptiness of his departure had me anxious. I pulled down my skirt, straightened my top, and thought to tidy up my hair, but it made no difference. Melody was already on this side of the bar, close enough to see the wrinkles in my clothes and smell her husband on me.

She, on the other hand, smelled incredible and looked pristine. She held my hands again, told me she was glad she got to meet me properly, and I wondered if my body told her how much it wanted hers. Could she sense it through my palms, through my skin? And when she asked if she could join us, could she tell how warm I felt inside?

As she undressed, she kissed me. It wasn’t until Henry guided my hand to her hip that I realised I’d been holding my breath. He held my hair, held me close to his body, asked if I needed help.

And I did, so much. Maybe my hands were shaking again, I’m not sure. And maybe it was for the best because the sensation of Melody’s deft fingers working the zip of my skirt while her husband undid the buttons of my shirt...well, that fucking set me ablaze.

She leaned into me, so we were belly to belly with her trimmed and tidy hair tickling me when she moved. Unlike her, I’ve always been self-conscious about my hair. It’s an insecurity so normal and always-there that I never actually questioned it…until now.

Maybe it’s because we’re told not to compare ourselves to others that we can’t help doing it. Maybe because too much is left to the imagination that the threat seems much bigger than it is. But seeing, touching, grabbing, kissing Melody Aston’s naked body and having her all over mine, I realised Henry was right. We were different. She was beautiful. And next to her, even looking nothing like her, somehow I felt beautiful too.

“There, not there,” he instructed her, sharing the places and ways I loved to be kissed. He knew them already, this man. When Melody found my nipple, I leaned my head back on his shoulder. My knees went weak, but he held me up the whole time she carved a path down my body.

She nudged my legs apart and found me where he’d left me just days before. Her tongue was wet velvet across my clit, her skin so soft against mine. Of course it would be nothing like Henry’s, whose freshly shaved cheek still hinted at his ruggedness. But everything about Melody Aston was neat as a pin as she licked and sucked and toyed with me with a delicate touch. Her fingers, strong and slender inside me, pressed in places that got my attention real deep. Whatever she was going for, she found it. And something in me caved.

How can I describe this sensation to you? It was an orgasm, maybe, but not the kind that takes over the body, clutching you tightly in its grip or shaking you until you fly away. No, this one, guided by another woman’s deft fingers, was something else. I was here, clear-headed, fully aware of her touch and of her husband’s firm hold on me.

But inside, I was somewhere else, lost and quaking, caught in a secret tidal wave of pleasure that coursed through my blood, flooded me, surfaced on my skin. Other orgasms wreck you ’til you’re done. This one, I could carry with me all day, live it, breathe it. And fuck, I would have too.

I ground against her, hungry for more. With her free hand, she squeezed my arse. It was everything and nothing, lightning without the strike, thunder without the clap. Somehow, I was there and overloaded. And it felt so fucking good.

“Please don’t stop,” I think I whimpered, tried to. And unless I was hearing things buried in the white noise of the pool and leaves shifting in the breeze, she may have laughed at me. She stopped just long enough to bite the crease of my thigh. It made me jump, but Henry’s grip was unwavering. Melody held on, and that strange sensation rolled through me over and over.

She must have known. My breath catching in me, my inability to speak, whatever my face must have been doing. I didn’t mind her watching. I was so comfortable with her. But when she smiled, I realised she wasn’t comfortable. Not yet. She had other plans for us.

She withdrew her fingers. Electricity calmed to a gentle pulse, then dulled to a throb. When Melody stood up and curled an arm around me, touched her husband’s cheek with a wet palm, and gave him a lingering kiss, my heart raced. Then she turned and kissed me, and with the taste of her and him and me mingling in the space between us, she played between my legs again, fingering me idly while her tongue danced with mine, and Henry drew circles in the small of my back. Was he doing it to her, too? Just thinking about it slayed me.

I wanted to touch her too, and I was feeling bold again. I reached for her breasts. She guided my hands across her chest and the rest of her body, never breaking our kiss as she instructed me on how she wanted to be touched. Then she brought me to her husband’s cock. Henry Aston sucked in a strained breath as Melody’s fingers closed over mine and moved with me. He held my hair and nuzzled against my forehead. Fuck, I love it when a guy nuzzles.

It wasn’t long before he made us stop. He was hard, so hard, and the greedy beast inside me wanted it. But there’s an etiquette for this kind of thing, isn’t there? It was Melody’s turn now, wasn’t it? Henry led us to the poolside. She dipped her toe in and smiled at me. I thought she’d want to swim, but instead, she chose a wicker daybed with no view of the terrace door.

She sat first, pulled me closer, kissed my thighs. Soft lips, smooth chin—I have no words for just how nice it felt. Meanwhile, from behind, Henry turned my head and kissed me. He was passionate, rough—it made my head spin. I’m sure I stumbled when Melody shuffled back and pulled me on top of her. I straddled her lap while she sucked my nipples again.

I’m not sure what gave it away, but at some point, I realised she had no intention of letting her husband fuck her tonight. Maybe it was the way she held me, where her hands applied pressure, how her shoulders moved as Henry stepped behind me and rubbed my shoulders. She wanted him to fuck me.

Well, that made two of us.

Or three.

But I wanted something else, too. I remember my lips moving, but no words coming out. Again, those bloody words you can’t ask with. Not for something like this. Maybe she could, with her confidence and worldliness, but not me. When a flash of worry crossed her face, I knew I had to toughen up and just ask or the opportunity would disappear. If I’d learned anything from my time with Henry, it was to take an opportunity when I saw one.

I squeezed Melody’s shoulder, gave her a reassuring smile, and rolled us over. Her concern gave way to sly conspiracy. Her soft brown eyes flicked to her husband, then back to me, and I manoeuvred onto the daybed, on my back, beneath her. She lifted her leg and let me in.

This, this was what I wanted. I parted my knees for Henry and pulled Melody Aston’s tender cunt to my face. I watched the silhouette of a hand clasping a hand and pressed my tongue into the delicious tension of her body, moving with me, as Henry fucked me so good. She was musky and fresh, like rain after a January heatwave. God, if this was a cocktail, I’d drink it ’til I died.

Henry massaged my clit as he fucked me and I almost lost my cool. Melody had left me raring to go, it was hard enough not to lose it when he first entered me. I know it’s different for us, it’s not just wham, bam and over. But this was about control. At least enough control to let Mrs. Aston have her turn first.

I wanted her to come. I wanted to know it was me who made that happen. The sounds she made as she drew closer gave me this strange satisfaction, more than the satisfaction of seeing Henry come, more than the satisfaction of coming myself, but I hoped that would all happen too.

There was something special about being the reason this incredible woman was in this state tonight. When her thighs trembled either side of my head, I realised I wasn’t jealous of her anymore. I didn’t need to be. She let me do this for her, let herself be vulnerable for me. I suppose in asking, I let myself be vulnerable for her, and she accepted me. Maybe that was all I needed.

Isn’t that sad? Not to need it, but to need it so much and not even realise. But I guess all it takes is just one person to see you. You, the person behind the person they’re expecting you to be. I thought it was just Henry who did that, but no, it was Melody too. I think that was the look she gave me when she showed up tonight. She saw me. And she was all right with me.

Her hand searched for my hand, and now it was my fingers she entangled. Her body asked if I was with her. Maybe that surprised me, I don’t know, but something changed, and I didn’t even have time to reply. She gripped my hand so tight, it hurt. But the pain was exquisite, matched to the way she shuddered, the way she ground against my tongue, the way her husband kissed her to cover her cries. It was incredible, and I let go, let Henry have his way, curled my free arm around Melody’s leg, and gave in to him. It was extra sweet when he came too, pushing deep into me while his wife tongued his earlobe.

I felt the cold when she climbed off me, when he withdrew. But then they held me, and we must have spent another hour on the daybed, cuddling, touching, sometimes kissing. I heard the story of how they met, how young they were when they got married, how every good relationship needs nothing more than trust and honesty and friendship; everything else is negotiable.

My heart hurt. I knew it’d break a little when they left Perth. But the whole time we lay there, they held me like they were never letting go. I knew I was setting myself up for pain by buying into the atmosphere they made. But it was worth it. What’s a little anguish in exchange for the most breathtaking night of your life?

They asked about my career, where I wanted to travel. I didn’t have much to say, but they didn’t mind. We talked, we laughed, and eventually got dressed.

The Astons were gone by the time my shift started the next day. Karen from Housekeeping found an envelope with my name on it in their room. It was a notecard from Melody, the initials M.A. embossed in the corner and a simple thank you in her perfect handwriting. I almost laughed at Karen when she asked if Mr. Aston had left me a tip. No, Kaz, he gave me the whole thing last night.

Just like before, I didn’t hear from Henry after they left. But I was fine this time around. Something about that night gave me closure, I guess. I realised too that all the times we spent together, he never once got distracted by his phone. He must have been the kind of person who made a point of being wherever he was with whoever he was. I decided I wanted to be that kind of person, too.

I read that book, by the way. That romance novel he said was good. It was…okay. Not my thing, but I could see why he liked it. Good writing, good story, happy ending—something you can relate to, maybe, if you live that kind of life. Sometimes in the shower, I’d imagine we’d have conversations about books. Then we’d fuck.

I don’t know how the CapriLuxe papers got out. I found out in the worst way possible, too. My so-called friends started acting funny. Then the guys got all seedy about something but wouldn’t say what. Eventually, one of the girls felt sorry for me and told me. What else? My cousins found out on the internet and told my aunties, who then told my parents. Mum went ballistic, Dad couldn’t even look at me, Grandma stopped speaking English.

If I had to call it, I’d say rock bottom happened the day I printed out yet another application form for a transfer. By that point, I didn’t care where CapriLuxe would send me. In fact, I gave so few fucks that I filled out the preferred location box with “anywhere but here.” And when I got to the bit where they asked for twenty-five words or less on why I wanted to go, I burst into tears. I smashed a martini glass on the bar, ran down the fire stairs to the Commons’s kitchen, and threw the form into the deep fryer.

The day manager called the head of HR for Asia-Pacific, who escalated this all the way up to Audrey Holloway. It was four AM in her timezone. She insisted on giving me two weeks’ paid stress leave. I didn’t argue.

Two days later, a courier dropped off a padded mailbag. There were no stamps, and I didn’t recognise the return address, but when I saw it had come from the US, I tore into it. Inside was a smaller envelope and a one-way plane ticket to New York. Inside the envelope was a card that looked just like the one Melody Aston left me, only with someone else’s initials in the corner.

What if it was that easy, Julie?

He must have known. But how? According to the date, it was delivered overnight. Maybe Audrey…?

On the back of the card, he’d written a name and phone number I could call for an expedited background check and visa. Just like that, huh? There might have been no limit on fantasy, but there was definitely no limit to the doors that money and influence could open for you.

I called the number. My paperwork cleared in four business days. I emailed my mum while waiting for take-off, emailed Audrey from somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

Was I just running away from my problems? Hardly. Well, maybe at first. But I’ve been back to Perth three times since leaving. And before that, I followed the Astons to London, Rio, San Fran, Dubai, Seoul, Hawai’i, Osaka, New Caledonia…Henry and Melody were intent on showing me the world.

They met my family the last time we were back. Melody insisted. And then she and Henry won them over. My folks still don’t understand my itinerant new life, but at least they don’t disapprove anymore. Maybe they’ll understand one day, but I’m not holding my breath.

Out of my whole group of friends, only two apologised for how things soured between us. But that’s fine. The whole mess made me realise that just because you care about people, it doesn’t mean you belong with them. I’d grown up with those friends, spent my whole childhood with them, but really, that’s all we have in common.

Although…one of the girls who apologised just recently applied for a job at a Melody A design house in Singapore. Maybe she’s realising some things about herself, too. I think I’ll put in a good word.

So here I am, writing this in a first-class cabin aboard a luxury charter jet. The captain is a big-hearted giant of a Scotsman and one of Melody’s paramours. We alight in Taiwan tomorrow, then catch a helicopter to a remote five-star resort in the Xueshan Mountains. A former lover of Henry’s runs the place; she organised our stay. Henry is teaching me the ins and outs of how to run a business, starting with the business plan. It’s what Mel told me to get on top of before she invests in the cocktail bar I want to open on Little Bourke Street in Melbourne.

I know I’m lucky. Once upon a time, after three years of transfer knock-backs, lacklustre dates, and Tinder mismatches, my life was a shambling pile of not-much in a quiet corner of a small city. Meeting Henry Aston was a one-in-a-million golden ticket, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity…

Or was it? I’m questioning this a lot lately.

When I think about it, the Astons travel a lot, meet a lot of people. Maybe it’s not so rare to be one of those people eventually. Maybe opportunities are all around us, we just have to be open to them. At least all those setbacks ended up with me being in the right place at the right time. If I’d doubled down on being my cynical, scared old self, I might have said no to dinner with Henry Aston. I might have looked down my nose at his open marriage, might have stayed mad at him when he and Melody went away the first time. Or maybe not.

I guess I’ll never know for sure.

fiction
JL Peridot
JL Peridot
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JL Peridot

JL Peridot is a 3rd-culture 1st-generation Aussie raised by tiger parents, sweet-smelling books, and a love-hate relationship with words. Find more of her work at jlperidot.com.

See all posts by JL Peridot