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Sexy Little Thing


Beth is up at dawn toasting bagels and making coffee while Paul showers. She doesn’t have to be up this early. Beth doesn’t start work until 9 and Paul wouldn’t mind if she slept till later but she always enjoyed the breaking day for her own reasons. The lack of traffic and barking dogs. No school busses engulfing over-charged children. The ability to think without the cacophony of the world crashing in. Paul always gets to the distributorship long before the other salesmen. Beth admires his work ethic yet she knows he is among the poorest producers. Low man on the totem pole. He has to work twice as hard to keep up with the others. He lacks the gift of gab, she thinks, preferring to get in, make the sale and get out rather than schmooz convivially with his mostly male customers. He doesn’t lack charm but he performs better for a female audience.

She notices the slip of paper serving as a bookmark in the paperback laying beside his work papers. The name Claire written on the top of the slip. She glances toward the bathroom. Opens the book and examines the paper. Claire. 505.9673. Sexy little thing. April 23. 7 p.m. Today’s date. On the back of the slip is an address and directions. Beth tears a sheet from the pad beside the telephone on the child sized desk squeezed into the kitchen corner and copies the information.

Here we go again, she thinks. And on my birthday. Tomorrow she turns 38. She is off birth control. They are trying again to conceive but if it doesn’t happen by her fortieth, then that’s that. What is, is what is.

But now this. The last time nearly torn them apart. She found the naked pictures on his i-phone. Yes she was snooping, after he came back from the convention in Las Vegas, but that is beside the point. He swore that the lady had offered the intimate photos without any actual sex being involved but that doesn’t make any sense in her world. She was lady in her forties, maybe older, but hard bodied and with great wheels and nice headlights as Paul would say. The sessions with the counselor where Paul promised nothing like that would ever happen again. Now this! She feels sick to her stomach as he emerges from the bedroom in suit and tie and sits down for his quick, meager breakfast. She mentions not a word about what she has found but her mind is already made up. Never again! She is done!

She drives to work in the old V.W. Jetta with the torn driver’s seat and the cracked windshield and the check engine light that has been glowing since she can remember. Paul has promised a better car once they can afford it. She isn’t expecting new just something more reliable. And presentable. Meanwhile she drives the ratty old Jetta while Paul enjoys the newer B.M.W. He needs to look more successful than he is, he explains. Looking the part lands you the part, he says. And where does that leave her? An aging wife of an insecure underachiever? A woman with no talent, least of all sound judgment, who will put up with anything and everything. If she had applied herself she might have been much, much more.

Beth can’t concentrate at the clinic. The billing records are blurred and her fingers can’t navigate the keyboard. She feels sick. She goes to the bathroom and vomits. She would wonder if she is pregnant under other circumstances but hopes this is not the case. It’s the stress of discovery, she believes. Exiting the ladies’ room she notices the young man, Neal, at work at his desk. The new guy. Tall and handsome and confident. What is he, 26? He looks at her in the way that men have always looked at her, even now as she approaches middle age. She goes back to her desk but knows today is a lost day.

She calls Paul, not to accuse him but to give him a chance to explain on his own. To confess. To offer whatever explanation no matter how implausible. Something. Anything.

“What do you want for dinner?” she asks.

“Honey, I’m sorry I forgot to tell you. I’m going to be a bit late tonight. I have to run all the way across town to meet with a customer. I’ll be dealing with rush hour traffic and all of that bullshit. Why don’t we go out for a late dinner? It is the eve of your birthday, after all.”

Okay, there it is, she thinks. Nothing rings true. He was going to present her with a last minute situation is she hadn’t called first, leaving her no chance to think before the deal is closed.

All the times before, in their youth. Like a fool she believed he had outgrown his cravings like a childhood allergy. Her mind returns to the psychiatric ward. Up until that time she would have guessed that catatonic was a cocktail or a faraway country which it is, sort of, when you think about it. What she remembers most are Paul’s sweet and reassuring words that worked their way into her muddled consciousness and flowed over her fragmented mind like water over rough stones, gradually smoothing over the pain, polishing and polishing until her mind was, once again slippery enough for the gears to turn.

Lunch doesn’t go any better. She stares at the chicken salad sandwich like something vile. She abandons the food and walks to their bank nearby. The balance in their shared account is seriously short of what she expected but she has never wanted to deal with the money end of the relationship so she wouldn’t really know. She drains the account but doesn’t close it, leaving behind less than $10.

Back in the office she says to Neal, “I have had a tough week. You want to knock off a little early and go have a drink?” His excitement is undisguised. “Say four o’clock or so?” she asks.

###

They go to the bar at the Renaissance hotel. Beth arrives first and books a room. When he arrives she already has a bottle of expensive champagne on ice at the bar. After they polish it off she takes him upstairs with a second bottle. She issues very specific instructions in a language and tone of voice that shocks him. A little. Neal is to fuck her in the ass. Paul says she has the most beautiful ass he has ever seen. Neal is to take pictures of the penetration with her phone. He has to save himself so that after he withdraws he can ejaculate on her face while she wears her new glasses that Paul was effusive about though she questions his sincerity. He is to photograph that event as well.

After the session she quietly and stickily weeps. Back downstairs to the lounge for yet more champagne she meets a well dressed but unsightly man. Bald and thick with a huge, protruding gut. She leads him to her room and without much needed coaxing enumerates the same set of instructions. He is larger in all respects than Neal but less compliant with her wishes. He painfully penetrates her anally and takes the requested pictures but flips her over and forcefully takes her in the conventional way, unconcerned with issues of hygiene. He has nothing left for her face but forces her to lick him clean with a hairy pawed vice grip on her head. The man whose name she can’t recall, if she had asked for it at all, leaves. He throws a twenty on the bedside table. She weeps more. Kneels before the toilet and vomits again but, like from the man’s penis, little but a trickle of clear fluid ensues. Dry heaves and a flushing of her face like she has come in from the cold.

This is what prostitution is, she thinks. It comes in many forms. Not hard work but a hard life for sure. Beth loses consciousness for a short while. Upon awakening, still groggy and confused from the booze and abuse, she reaches for her iPhone on the nightstand. With difficulty she finds the sex photos amidst vacation and family. She loads the best/worst of them as attachments to an email to Paul that says “I hope you are also having fun”.

She didn’t mean to send it. She really didn’t. But it was too easy. Too easy to accidentally press send. Too easy to be reckless, in her sorry state. Too easy to be a vindictive, regretful whore.

Several minutes awaiting for the devastating consequences. Like standing on the gallows. A floor that you know will give way beneath you at any moment with the tight, coarse noose around your neck. She fishes the slip of paper from her purse mixed in with credit card receipts and what is left from her bank account withdrawal. She drunkenly dials Claire’s number, getting it wrong the first time but making a connection on the second try.

“Is this shexy little thing?”

“What?” Claire asks.

Knowing she is slurring her words, Beth tries again. Slowly. “Is this. Sexy. Little. Thing?”

“Oh. You’re calling about the ad? I’m sorry but I sold the Mazda Miata just a little while ago. A surprise birthday present for his wife, the gentleman said.”

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