"What's that?," she said as I walked in. She was looking up at my face, her fingers with the short nails and the clear fingernail polish already coming up towards my face. I recoiled instinctively, until I saw her face darken.
"What's what?," I said defensively. I had my hands up, but I lowered them again as she approached me.
"What's that?" Her hands came up onto my cheek. She dusted at something, like I was a long ignored picture on the mantle.
"Is that glitter?," she asked. "It looks like glitter." I felt the weight of her pressing against me as she stood there. Her eyes narrowed. "Where would you get glitter on you?" She curled a piece of brown hair behind one ear.
"We had to entertain some VPs. They were visiting."
"Entertain," I said. The word didn't sound right.
"Where did you take them? Cherry's?"
"Yes," I said softly. The question seemed rhetorical. Her face fell as soon as she asked.
"Whose idea was it?"
"Of course it was," she said. She backed off, folding her hands across her breasts. There was a quarter moon of bare skin showing where her top gapped above her pants. "How was it?," she asked, her voice sarcastic.
"Sad, mostly," I said. "It's a parody of sexuality, everything out front. Loud, aggressive. Lots of 80s hair metal and hardcore rap. But they were satisfied."
"You had to bring them there?," she asked. She walked down the hall towards the kitchen. She had a pair of pink sweatpants on. She tugged them up as she walked. I followed her.
"You know we do. We need them to go home happy, so they will report back that we're doing well and leave us alone."
"You said that," she said. She started bending low to take dishes out of the dishwasher. I removed my jacket, hanging it across the back of a chair. I waited for her to straighten up, then reached in for a dish.
"I can do it," she insisted. I took the dish anyway and moved over to stand behind her, waiting for my turn in the cabinet. When she stretched out to reach high, her shirt rode up even higher across her chest. I wanted to run my hand over the perfect hard roundness that showed there. It seemed too large for her, straining at her silhouette like something was about to explode.
I put the dish away as she turned back to get more.
"I thought you werent supposed to go there anymore."
"We're not. Greg paid for it on his personal card, and he's going to get it reimbursed as a restaurant trip somehow."
"Grace wasn't with you?"
"No, her daughter is home sick and she wanted to be with her."
"And the visitors were OK with that?"
'I guess they didn't want her spoiling the party."
"You're probably right- if she was along we probably would have really gone to the steakhouse." I took a pan out of the lower drawer, running a towel over it quickly and sliding it into its home. She took out a glass, running a towel over it deliberately.
"How was it?"
"I told you. Sad. Lonely. Pathetic."
"You didn't get excited? At all?" She turned to set the glass into the cabinet. Her shirt gapped again, revealing a sliver of bare skin as she twisted. She tugged at the waist of her pants again, trying to cover the space. Her bare feet were tan on the dark wood floor.
"Well, I am human, hun. Seriously. There were naked women there."
She took out another glass, holding it in front of her like an artifact. "So you're horny?" She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
"No," I said quickly. I thought about the impassive faces of the executives, looking out over the sea of skin and improbable nipples. It was love as a commodity, sex as an object. We were ATMs to these girls. I thought about the lanky redhead with the sad eyes who seemed to spend half the night brushing against my side as she walked past..
"Come on," she said. "It's OK. I understand. You're only a man."
"I'm not," I insisted.
She took out another glass, checking the rim for spots. She saw one, and made an irritated face as she rubbed at it.
"Do you wish I looked like them?" She put the clean glass away, then inspected another.
"Oh stop," I said quickly. "You know I don't. I love you. You know that."
"I know you didn't insist that you had to get home to your pregnant wife. I know that." She sounded bitter, biting off the end of each word.
"I had to be there," I said.
"Grace didn't." She put two more glasses away.
"What do you want me to say?," I said plaintively.
"I am telling you the truth. I could have told you we just went to that new Brazilian steakhouse."
"Your face would give you away." She twisted again to put a wineglass away.
"The point is, I didn't lie to you."
"No, that's not the point."
"What is the point, then?"
"The point is that you went. The point is that you went there, and you stared, and one of them got close enough to you to leave some glitter on your face. I know you didn't cheat. In a strange way, I'd almost rather you did. That I could understand. I'm not pinup material, even before this." She put the last glass away.
"The point is that I don't know what you're thinking about now. Are you thinking of me, or of one of them? I don't know where your loyalty is, where your thoughts go when you daydream. I know things are different now, and I know you can't help your biology, but I have to know whose side you're on. Where your heart is. That is the fucking point."
She bent down low, reaching for the door to the dishwasher. I looked at the way her breasts hung down inside her top, looking somehow inappropriately oversized. I saw her belly looming under it, heavy and hard like she was carrying a medicine ball around. She stood up, slamming the dishwasher shut with a bang that rattled the plastic trays inside it. I watched her walk down the hall to her room, tugging at her recalcitrant sweats as she walked.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Jake Durkin challenged me with "'Good God!' she screams when she lays her eyes upon me, 'What the hell is wrong with your face?!'" and I challenged SAM with "'The lesson I take from this place is that the person who wishes for peace does not hide even a needle as a weapon. Even when driven into the need for self defense, if you have a weapon, you are qualified to fight-maybe-but you are not qualified to pray for peace.' -Dr. Paul Nagai, atomic bomb survivor"