Rob stood at the bar trying not to feel insecure. This wasn’t his scene. He was good looking enough–brown hair, stubble beard, fit body–but he didn’t have that ephemeral “it” that made women want him. He’d had girlfriends but, the chemistry had never been strong enough to make things last. He was at this trendy bar with his buddy Mitch, who had shamed him into coming.
“Come on Dude, you can’t honestly want to sit home another night? You’re turning into an old man in your thirties.”
“All right, but we know how this will end. The girls will swarm around you, and I’ll be your lame side kick. Then you’ll go off with a prize on the back of your bike and I’ll Uber home alone.”
The night was playing out as predicted. Mitch was on the floor dancing and schmoozing, but Rob couldn’t find the energy. He sighed and stared at the remnants of foam floating in his beer. When he raised his eyes, he saw her.
She sat on the other side of the rectangular-shaped bar. She watched him. No fear, no aggression, no obvious seduction. She just watched him, like his mother’s cat used to do. He glanced behind him to make sure that he was the target of her gaze. When he looked back, she still watched. She had beautiful red hair–fluffy with a slight curl at the ends that rested below her shoulders. The lights of the bar glinted off it. He kept his eyes on hers and walked towards her. Her gaze never left him.
As he drew closer he saw that her eyes were amber and outlined in black eyeliner, like a pinup from the 50s. She wore a black sleeveless dress. Her skin had a light tan and glowed with fitness and health.
“Hi,” he said when he reached her.
His mind grasped for one-liners or small talk but words failed him. He looked into her eyes and a strange feeling of home washed over him. The one place where you could be yourself and know you were loved.
She smiled with beautiful white teeth and held out her hand with a bent wrist, as though she were a lady of old and he were to kiss it. He nearly did. But, instead, he took it and rubbed his thumb over the top of it. Her skin felt smooth and soft. Her manicured nails were painted black. He bit his lip, imagining how they would look caressing his chest. He looked up and met her gaze. Her eyes had dilated, as if reading his thoughts.
“Do you want to go somewhere quieter?” he asked, leaning into her ear to be heard over the noise.
He inhaled her scent. He vaguely recognized her perfume, it had an earthy, woody scent that sent a jolt to his manhood.
“Take me home,” she said.
He wondered if he had felt the light lick of her tongue on his cheek or just imagined it because her slow, breathy voice drove all rational thoughts from his mind.
He realized he still held her hand so he gently pulled her to standing. She picked up the large black tote bag that hung on the back of her seat and followed him. It took no time at all to lead her out of the club and get into a taxi conveniently waiting at the curb. After giving his address to the driver, Rob turned to the woman.
“I haven’t even asked your name,” he said.
She smiled, and he noticed her eye teeth were slightly pointed. “You can call me Zorra.”
Rob reached out his hand and touched her red hair, running a strand through his fingers and marveling at its silky softness. “You are exquisite, Zorra.”
“You seem like a good man,” she said and leaned in to him inviting a kiss.
The oddness of her compliment left his mind as he kissed her, his hand slipping through her hair to cradle the back of her head. Her lips were wet and soft. As their kiss deepened it seemed as though he stood outside of himself and marveled at how perfectly they fit together. No teeth scraping or awkward rhythms in their kiss. They both instinctively knew what the other wanted and the kiss seemed to go on and on, transitioning from soft and tentative to firm and breathless with rising passion.
“Wow,” he said when it finally ended. They faced each other breathing heavily. Her eyes were half-lidded from passion. “You are an incredible kisser.”
A lazy, confident smile passed over her face. “You too,” she whispered leaning in for another.
By the time they reached his apartment their fire burned. Rob closed the front door and leaned her against the wall, pressing his body against her. He cupped her chin in his hands and devoured her kisses. Her hands traveled all over his body, feeling his muscles and kneading them with gentle pinches. His arm bumped her large tote bag as his hands slid down her body. He started to take it off her shoulder. She grabbed it fiercely and struggled to get away from him.
“Did you just growl at me?” he asked, stepping away from her.
He didn’t understand how things could go south so quickly. All passion had left her and she stood, clutching her bag and edging towards the door. He raised his hands in surrender and backed away from her. His internal voice repeating its mantra: You always screw things up with women. You will be alone forever.
He shook his head to clear the voice. He headed towards the kitchen to put more distance between them.
“Look, whatever I did wrong, I’m sorry. You don’t need to be afraid of me.” He pulled out his phone, “Let me call you a ride.” He finally looked at her on the last syllable.
She no longer looked scared. Her tote bag hung from her hand, an inch above the floor. Her shoulders were relaxed. She stared at him, the way she had at the bar earlier that night.
“I’m fine,” she said.
Her tote dropped to the ground. She stalked towards him. Her hair was tangled in a sexy mess from his hands and her lips wet and swollen from his kisses.
Once she reached him she placed her hands on his pecs and then slid them up onto his shoulders. She stepped closer. One hand kneaded the back of his neck and the other threading through his hair. She pulled him into a kiss, the aggressor. His body responded immediately, effectively shutting up his thoughts of surprise before they could ruin the moment. She clawed at the buttons on his shirt, and he reached up to pull it off his head. She tugged at the end of his belt and unbuckled it before scratching his stomach in her rush to pull off his Levis.
He felt a moment of–was it fear? But quickly pushed that feeling aside. He backed up towards his bedroom, kissing her and untying the belt of her wraparound dress. They stood beside the bed naked and looked at each other, chests heaving with excitement.
“Lay down,” she said and he obeyed.
Then she pounced. There was no other word for the beautiful leap she made onto the bed and onto his body. Her warmth, silky skin, long hair, and earthy scent overtook his senses. He closed his eyes to savor them. Then she was kissing him again and, as he rolled her onto her back, she made the sweetest little noises of delight.
All he wanted to do was give her pleasure. He slid down to her feet and sucked on her toes, also painted black, he noted. She watched him with her amber eyes, half-closed in desire. He kissed his way up her calves, leaving a hand to caress her feet and gently massage her ankle. She moaned. Up her legs he traveled and she spread her legs willingly. All his life he had wanted a partner like this. A woman who would let him adore her body and not pull back into a shell of body shame.
Her hands moved all over his body: caressing, squeezing his muscles, grabbing his hips to pull them closer–delighting in the feel of him as much as he did with her. By the time he finally entered her he’d lost count of how often she had found release. She wrapped her legs and arms around him and he looked into her eyes. She felt warm and wet and willing. He paused as the senses washed over him. He had never felt so wanted.
“Welcome home,” she whispered and he knew that was where he was and what he had been searching for his entire life.
They made love for over an hour and he marveled at his ability to not give in to his own body demanding release. All he wanted was to make this magic, this connection, last as long as humanly possible.
When he finally couldn’t take it he plunged into her, lost in his own body and hearing her release with him. When they finished he lay on top of her, nuzzling her neck and drowning in her softness, her scent, her essence as he caught his breath.
Then he lay on his back with her tucked under his arm, her hand caressing his chest hair.
“Please don’t leave,” he said, wanting her to spend the night.
“I won’t,” she said and his heart leapt at the sound of it.
Rob had to go to work the next day, and he left her sleeping in his bed. He put a note on the kitchen counter, next to the coffee, asking her to write down her phone number before she left.
. . .
But she didn’t leave. Rob came home at 5:30 p.m. and saw her standing at the stove stirring a pot that smelled like a delicious stew. A tingle of relief went through him, and he couldn’t hide his smile as he walked towards her.
She watched him, in that way he loved and pressed her body against him when he hugged her from behind. She turned off the stove and guided him to the bedroom. As if the night before had only been practice, their lovemaking reached an even higher level. Their eye contact and familiarity with each other let them reach a spiritual connection that Rob had never experienced. Time didn’t exist. All that existed was that moment, their bodies and the never ending delight they found in pleasing each other.
When they were finished and laying together in the afterglow, Rob realized that the bed was made with clean sheets, and the dirty clothes from his hamper were clean and neatly folded and stacked upon his dresser. He hugged her shoulder, loving how it felt to have her head resting upon his chest.
“You were busy playing the house frau today, weren’t you?”
She raised her head and looked into his eyes. “I’ll make this our home as long as you want me.” She stared at him, awaiting his reply.
Yes. Forever. His heart shouted and it almost reached his lips before his rational mind jumped in to make its case.
Are you crazy? You don’t even know this woman. Doesn’t she have a job? You met her in a bar and now you are going to let her freeload off of you?
His heart argued back. I support myself already so having her here isn’t much of an expense. Home-cooked meals, clean house, a gorgeous woman ready and willing in my bed? Why would I let this go? I’ll never have a lover like this again. She wants me.
“O.K.” he said to her, cursing himself for his unromantic answer.
But it seemed to satisfy her and she gave a happy sigh and rested her head on his chest again.
“You must promise me one thing,” she said after a few moments.
Rob felt a flicker of dread go through him. “What?”
She pushed herself up so she sat on the bed and looked down at him. “Never look in my bag.” She pointed at the black tote bag that hung on a hook on the back of the bedroom door.
Pandora’s box, said his rational mind. Then he felt her hand caressing his leg. He looked into her amber eyes with her red hair falling around her face and her sexy smile.
“I promise,” he said, and she made good on all the promises that had been in her eyes.
. . .
The pair settled into an easy rhythm. Every day, Zorra cleaned the house and cooked a delicious dinner. Foods from his childhood–soups, stews, casseroles and pies. He didn’t give her money for groceries, but she kept his refrigerator full. Every night she made love with him, sometimes it was playful and filled with wrestling and laughter. Sometimes it was quick and satisfying. But most often it was that slow, spiritual union that he’d never experienced with any other woman.
“What do you do all day?” he asked her one evening over dinner.
Zorra shrugged. “I go outside, into nature.”
She didn’t elaborate and somehow Rob knew she didn’t want him to question her further.
Maybe there is a clue in her tote bag. His mind prodded him. More and more his thoughts traveled to that forbidden bag. You promised, his heart chided. He stood up and cleared the table.
“I’m gonna run to the toilet,” he said and motioned towards the bathroom.
But, instead of using the one in the hall, he headed to the bedroom. He paused behind the door, trying to look into the tote without touching it.
He caught a whiff of musk. He stepped back and could no longer smell it. What is in there? He wondered, but as he stood there he saw Zorra peek her head around the door.
“Are you waiting for me to join you?” she asked in a sexy voice.
She pounced on the bed and looked over her shoulder at him. The tote bag was quickly forgotten.
But the bag loomed in his mind. He came home from work in the afternoon, hoping she would be out and he could look inside of it. She wasn’t home, and the bag was gone. He drove around the neighborhood. He went to the local park and looked around hoping to see what she did during the day, but he couldn’t find her.
That evening, when he returned home he went into the bedroom to change clothes and spied the bag hanging on the door. He didn’t even need to walk close to it before the smell of musk hit him.
“What’s that smell?” he called out.
Zorra came into the room and sniffed. “I don’t notice anything.”
He gestured towards her bag, “It’s coming from there.”
She turned and the look in her eyes frightened Rob. They held accusations and betrayal. His heart knew that look and begged him to leave the bag alone.
“I must be imagining it,” he said and sniffed his sleeve. “Or maybe it is me,” with a false laugh he fled the room and her gaze.
They ate a silent dinner and he knew better then to try and make love. She lay far on her side of the bed, her body curled around herself. He lay on his back and stared at the bag.
He could smell it. The musk of a wild animal–like when he visited the foxes in the zoo. When he was a kid he’d stand in front of the cage, his nose pressed between the thin wires and sniff. He had loved that smell. Until he did that on a school field trip and the other kids had seen him. “Look at Rob! He likes stinky things because he’s stinky. Gross.” Their voices still rang in his head sometimes. It bothered him that he let it bother him.
He’d learned then to hide his pleasure in wild earthy things. He avoided the zoo and farms and stables. He became the proper urban male, seeking his entertainment in cultural events like concerts and theater. It was easy to avoid the wild in the City, and he rarely had a reason to leave it.
He inhaled a deep breath in the silent room. The smell was overwhelming. How could Zorra pretend she noticed nothing? He started to get out of bed, determined to look in the bag. Zorra rolled towards him and grabbed his arm. Startled, he looked at her and saw the pleading in her eyes. He jerked his arm free from her hold and marched for the bag, his shoulders back and his resolve strong.
He took it off the hook and ignored the yelp of fear he heard from the bed.
He reached his hand in and touched fur.
“What in the hell?” He pulled the fur out of the bag.
It was a red fox pelt. The smell of musk overwhelmed him. He looked at it in confusion and then at Zorra. She got out of the bed and crept over to him.
She pulled the fox pelt from his hand and pushed it into her tote. Slinging it over her shoulder, she looked at Rob with glittering eyes.
“You couldn’t trust your own wild heart.”
She stalked out the front door. It shut with a slam that closed off a portal to another world.
You will be alone forever. And his heart knew it was true.