China has always been shy and reserved, but when she meets Jack and his friends, her world is opened up to a sensuality she never knew before.
The tea-light candles are tiny and white and encased in gold. “Light six of them at a time,” Jack said when he gave them to me. “Six is the sacred number of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.” I laugh when he says things like that, but I listen. “Bathe in salted water scented with roses, my love,” he said, “like a gentle ocean bath, and imagine that the water is the sacred fluid that will endow you with all the powers of love.” He gave me tiny packets of bath oil filled with rose petals, but somehow he forgot the salt. Morton provides that from the cupboard—iodized, of course. The candlelight flickers on the ceiling as I drop my robe and lower myself into the steaming water, pretending that he is here watching me while I practice. After our first night together I told him I would try everything for him. That was the night when he touched a part of me that I had thought was lost. He took me to his loft and removed the clips from my long hair and began to dance with me. He lit candles all around the room and danced me to the end of the night. I wanted to be a dancer when I was a little girl, but somehow never followed through on that dream.
Jack brought out secrets in me, he whispered to me of the magic of tantric sex, and then he had me blow out all the candles but one and made love to me slowly while I wrapped my legs around him and sat on his lap on the hardwood floor. “I will try everything for you,” I whispered when we woke up the next morning—surprising myself with the words, with the wetness between my legs just from looking at him, and with my desire to climb up on top of him while he was still asleep. “Wanton” is not a word anyone ever used to describe me. “Yes, you will, China,” was all that he said then. I just had no idea where he’d make me start.
There are so very many things I’ve never tried in my life: I’ve never worn a corset, I’ve never eaten a truffle and I’ve never touched another woman sexually. I had no idea that I wanted any of these things until I moved to the town of Boulder and met Jack and then made friends with Annie Braverman and her partner Sam. Annie has a closet that makes me blush.
I slide my hands under the water and feel the curve of my hips and the hardness of my thighs. I look at my body through Jack’s eyes, watching my nipples grow hard and rise above the water. I’ve had these large nipples ever since I was a teenager, and I used to be so embarrassed by how they’d poke out against everything and grow hard from the touch of the material.
“You will learn to go topless around the house, China,” Jack said, “especially when we’re cooking. There is nothing better.” I could think of a couple of better things, like aprons, but cooking is the height of sensuality to me and I’m good at it. I used to read books by M.F.K. Fisher when I was a teenager, and she wrote all those sensual things about food and hunger and for all I know maybe she did because she went topless, I don’t know. Yes, I said to Jack, and yes, and yes. I feel like Molly Bloom when I’m around him. Yes. Yes. I seem to be saying this to him all the time. But I want what he has. Yes.
My pussy hair is full and pale red, just like my very long hair that I always keep in a braid or tied up so that nobody notices it. Jack is always taking it down. He loves that I’ve hung onto that part of me from my strange childhood, and he loves that I’ve kept my name. My full name is China Sunflower Thomas. One read of this name and people can almost guess what year I was born. My parents lived on a commune and were never married—at least not to each other. A hundred times I’ve considered changing my name, but have never gotten around to it. My childhood only made me turn out conservative—I’m an accountant and live in a proper condo in the foothills of Boulder. I hide my long, wavy hair in a bun for work. I pay my bills on time; I read serious fiction; I go to church.
“But you’re only twenty-six years old,” Jack laughed when I told him these things. “You’ve forgotten to live.” I looked at him sitting in my office as I sorted out his messy financial affairs when he had the nerve to say that to me. I wanted to smack him, but, looking at him, I flashed on my childhood at the Grand Lake Cooperative and suddenly I couldn’t say a word. Long hair, knowing eyes and a great beard. A free spirit. He was definitely not my type. The only problem was that as he sat across from me at my desk and humbled himself to my calculator, I found myself crossing my legs to try to ignore the fact that just by looking at me he was making me wet.
In the candlelight of my bathroom none of it seems to matter. The only thing that’s important is that I learn to bring myself to orgasm with my own hands, no vibrator, no man; that I keep stroking my clit in this way that feels so right, that I close my eyes and learn how to lose myself enough so that I can do this in front of Jack some day. “Sex is all about the transference of power,” he told me, and somehow I knew he was not talking about my Hitachi Magic Wand and the electrical outlet in my bathroom.
“When you master this first challenge, China, we can start down the path to the secrets of high sex.” I want the secrets and I want the touch that I have right this second that makes me know I am indeed related to the goddess of love in some very distant way, and I want to smell like roses and see the flicker of tea-lights in my dreams every single night.
And of course I want to do all this before Jack comes over at eight, and Annie and Sam arrive for dinner.
I do not cook topless. Nor do I wear a corset that pushes my breasts up to the sky. I do skip my bra and wear a soft cashmere sweater that matches my hair, and I know that my nipples will stand out for Jack sometime during the evening and this will make him happy.
“Take your hair down,” Jack murmurs with the first kiss of my neck. When I hesitate, he takes the clip out of my hair, and I find I am enjoying this game of deciding how we will arrange my hair every time we greet. When he comes over he brings me roses, pale orange roses that he says look like me, sometimes a single rose, sometimes two dozen; he brings music; he brings wine; but mostly he brings so very many kisses. I started having sex on the commune when I was thirteen, but somehow the art of kissing and flirting and teasing got lost in the mix of free love and the constant nudity that embarrassed me every single day and the birth control my mother handed to me at fourteen.
Jack kisses me, he just kisses me, and I want to take more than my hair down and climb up and into this man and stay warm forever. Maybe it’s the way his beard feels against my cheek, maybe it’s the way his tongue is exploring every inch of my mouth, maybe it’s the feel of his hard cock up against my jeans or maybe I’m just turning into a slut. “Let’s cook,” he says with a smile, pulling away from me. “The wait is always worth it.”
Easy for him to say. For all I know, he can probably just light one single tea-light candle, turn on the hot water for his bath, touch himself and come before he even gets to the cold water. I think I’ll ask him about this someday, if I can ever find the words. Words about sex rarely cross my tongue. When he talked about masturbating, I told him, “I can’t even say that word, I hate it,” and I even hated having to admit this to him. “That’s cool, China,” he said. “We’ll just call it something else. Let’s call it ‘flying,’ because sometimes it almost is.”
When Annie Braverman enters a room the light shifts. She’s ten years older than I am, but she has an air of eroticism around her that makes me envious. She wears long flowing skirts and leotards and beaded earrings that dangle down below her chin, but she’s not exactly pretty in any conventional way. She has a basic natural Colorado kind of look, with long dark brown hair, or actually “espresso” colored hair as she told me once, direct from the bottle. She says she used to be a blonde and hints at having quite a past, but I can’t imagine Annie anywhere but right here and now, bringing energy to this room. Her lover Sam lives in San Francisco and is tall and dark and Jewish and seems smarter than anyone else I know, but he is still a bit of a mystery to me. I do so like to watch when he looks at Annie like she’s his own personal angel just come down from heaven.
“I brought you strawberries, China,” Annie says, “dipped in white chocolate.” Even her food offerings seem sexual.
Jack and I finish cooking and leave Annie and Sam in charge of the music and the wine. I only blush a little when Jack can’t find the salt and I have to sneak into the bathroom for it. Annie talks at dinner about her two adopted kids. “Raising these kids to be capable of joy and laughter and intimacy, that’s my thing,” she says. “My other passions right now are . . . let’s see: Red Rocks at sunrise, struggling to learn aikido, helping people through my work, feta cheese omelets, hot-air balloons, and poetry.”
Sam puts his arm around her and raises his eyebrows. “Of course, Sam, too — goes without saying,” she says. “It’s Sam’s eyes that I love the most.” She reaches to kiss him and there’s a level of intensity in the way their eyes lock and know and smile and I can barely stand it.
When they finally break apart, Annie turns to Jack. “You know, I think everyone should know their passions and keep them in focus. How about you Jack, what are your passions?”
“Passions? I guess I’d say making my pictures, making love, making connections. And then — snowboarding at Winter Park, good jazz, China. And baseball.”
At least I come before baseball. Man I hope she doesn’t ask me this question. What could I say — making money? Getting to work on time? Filing 1040s? Alphabetizing my bookshelves?
“How about you, China? I love knowing this about my friends.”
Only Annie can ask these kinds of questions without having people laugh and make jokes about it.
“Well . . . um . . . cooking . . . and, Jack.” It sounds so lame.
“China’s been taking flying lessons,” Jack says with a smile to help me out, and I think I might kill him.
“Yeah, right — not really,” I laugh and reach to kiss him instead of kill him, trying to act like Annie. “And you, Sam, what are your passions?” A master of diversion, that’s me.
He’s ready. I think a person would have to be ready to be with Annie. “Music. Words. Annie and her kids. Writing. San Francisco. Sushi. Leather. Four-poster beds. Brunettes. The Victoria’s Secret store on Broadway. Foreign films, Rome, skiing the back bowls at Copper Mountain. Baseball . . .”
Sam is only stopped by Jack’s discovery that they both love the Cubs. I have a feeling he could have gone on all night and I’m impressed.
“Yeah,” I offer. “I had to entice Jack away from watching that big Cubs game tonight for this dinner.”
The guys look at each other, check the clock, then eye the TV off in the corner.
Annie laughs. “Go ahead and watch the rest of it, you guys. China and I will just lock ourselves away and do girl things, like maybe try on shoes.”
I sure hope she’s joking, because even my shoes are boring. We pour more wine and wander off to my bedroom while the men grab the remote and hit the couch.
“So, China, what’s with the flying lessons?” Annie asks as we settle in to talk. She doesn’t miss much.
I break down and tell her everything. How hard all of it is for me, all the things that Jack gives me, how uptight I feel. She just smiles.
“All that sensual stuff is good for you, I think, but what do guys know? I’m an expert at flying every which way.
Remember, Sam lives a thousand miles away. All you need is a woman tutor. Those who can, teach. A tutor, darlin’, and then you need a good hard fantasy.”
Oh man, it was hard enough coming up with passions, and now I have to dig up a fantasy?
“I don’t really have any fantasies, Annie, except for Jack. But thinking about him during this just makes me nervous.”
“No problem, China. I’ll loan you one of my fantasies to try on. Kind of like sharing clothes, except after you try it on to see if it fits, you can keep it if you like. I’m fond of fantasies with faceless men, you know, the kind of guy you never cook with, or fight with. The kind of guy who doesn’t know that the TV even exists while you’re in the room with him.”
Annie locks the door, lights the candles, turns off the lamp and lies down on the bed beside me. “Close your eyes, China.”
“But the guys are out there. This takes me forever, Annie.”
“It won’t. Trust me. You have to find the wildness deep inside of you. I’ll even join in.”
I peek, and Annie is lifting her skirt next to me and it’s the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen a woman do. She wears nothing underneath and she has no hair at all on her pussy and it’s beautiful.
“You can watch me, China, or we can put a scarf around your eyes to help you lose yourself and take off.”
I want to watch. I suddenly can understand why Jack wants this. I take my jeans and panties off as she instructs and I lie back and spread my legs. She props me up with the pillows so I can see, but I notice that she has closed her eyes and is touching herself.
“There’s a man,” Annie says, “who has come to me after midnight almost every night of my life. He is tall and has long, very black hair. I don’t know him, but I know he wants something from me and that he has to have it. He scares me sometimes. Touch yourself in any way that feels right, China, and I will tell you what he wants from you tonight.”
Annie is not exactly touching me, but she is only inches away and I swear I can feel her skin.
We lie at right angles so we can see each other. Her voice is like velvet when she says, “Don’t say a word, China, just touch yourself and listen to my story.”
You are lying on the beach in St. Croix and it is very hot. You’re wearing a white bikini and you have a tan along with your freckles. Everybody gets a great tan in my fantasies.
You are stretched out on your blue beach towel that says ‘San Francisco Ballet’ across it in big letters. I am there with you, but I have left to wander down the beach to find us something to drink. You lie on your back with your hat over your face, but you can still tell that suddenly your sun is gone. When you take off the hat and look up he is there, standing over you, and he is tall with pitch black hair and soft brown eyes. You know him. It’s the same man you chatted with on the airplane, and who you have seen everywhere you go around town. He looks at you expectantly, and you can’t help but notice that he is fully dressed here on the beach.
“I’ve been watching you, China,” he says, and you think about moving and getting up but you don’t. Instead you look around and can’t figure out why there is suddenly no sun, no people, no noise, nothing except for this man staring at you.
“May I join you?” he asks sitting down right next to you, so close that he is just barely touching your skin, and you are hot all over again.
“Yes,” you whisper, because what else can you say.
It begins to rain, a gentle but steady rain here on the island. All you can see is the rain and the man and he moves until he’s blocking the rain from your face and he is inches away and he kisses you.
You think maybe you should get up and take this man to your room or maybe you shouldn’t, but then he says “Don’t move, China. I want you right here.“
The rain is not cold, but his hands on your legs feel like the sun and you move into his heat.
He asks you why you are wearing such bright red lipstick here on the beach and you say you don’t know, but then you remember your friend Annie made you put it on, and you remember that it is called ‘Scarlet Begonias’ and it is the same color that she put on your fingernails and your toes. You tell him this. He runs his finger across your lips. He begins to draw down your chest with his finger and stops just above your breasts.
“Take your top off,” he says, and you slip it off and arch your back for him like it is the most natural act in the world and you have known him forever. You’re sure that this is what you were born for, to lie here on the white sand with rain falling all around you and a man with black hair and strong hands lying on top of you and protecting you from it all.
“Spread your legs,” he says, and you move underneath him and say “yes” and you try and think of his name but it doesn’t seem to matter now. “Do you want me to fuck you, China?” he asks quietly, so quietly that you think his voice is coming from somewhere out there in the rain. His hands run down from the curve of your breast over your belly and he is taking off the bottom of your bikini. He kisses you where the softness of your red pussy hair meets your wetness, just one single kiss. He lies back on top of you and you can feel his hard cock pressing into you. You forget that you are here in the rain and that you barely know this man and that there must be other people out there somewhere and that if the rain stops they will all see you. It somehow doesn’t matter because all there is in the world is the sensation of every inch of your skin pressing into his and it seems that this man belongs inside of you but somehow you have to find the words to say yes. “Yes,” you hear from somewhere in the rain, and it sounds like your voice but it is not, it’s your friend Annie’s voice and she is there next to you with her hands on your ankles and she is saying “yes,” not to him but to you, “yes China,” she says, “yes,” like she is reminding you that you like to wear lipstick, and “yes,” like she is reminding you that you need to let go, and “yes,” like she is the only one who can tell you that you need to say yes to this man and this feeling and this place and that it is all okay and that of course this is what you want and what you need. “Do you want me to fuck you, China?” the man asks one more time, and it is barely a question. He holds your wrists together over your head and as soon as you say “yes, fuck me” you can feel Annie’s hands on your ankles and she is spreading your legs wider for him and watching. He begins to enter you, so slowly that you think you will die from the pleasure and your lack of control and then he is driving into you hard and fast and you hear Annie saying “yes” over and over and you are with her and with him and you hope everyone in the world is watching and feeling exactly what you feel.
I hear Annie moaning and coming to her own story and I am coming with her and I think maybe she really did have her hands on my ankles, but I’m not even sure where I am. It is all so amazing and I am laughing and hugging her. Real hugs, the one Jack calls the melting hug, where your whole body embraces the other person. Annie laughs with me. “Hey, it works for me every time. Get dressed, darlin’. I think we’re way past the 7th inning stretch out there.”
As soon as Annie and Sam have gone for the night, I hurry to find Jack, who is in the kitchen cleaning up. I can’t stand it. I turn off the water, wrap my arms around him and whisper to him.
“I need you to fuck me.”
His eyes widen, but I give him credit for not laughing. “Did I hear you right, China? Say it again.”
“I need you to fuck me, Jack.” I’ve never said that to a man before in my life. I pull my sweater off over my head and kneel in front of him and undo the belt on his jeans.
“Louder, China.” I can hear the smile in his voice and I take his hard cock in my mouth and wrap the words right around it. “Fuck me, Jack. Fuck my mouth. Fuck me everywhere.” I want to take him so far inside of me that I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m dripping inside of my jeans and I need him there too. I feel positively . . . well, wanton. “God, fuck me, Jack, please fuck me, here, in the kitchen.”
He is on me in a flash, and lifts me up and turns me around and takes off my jeans and lays me across the counter. “I guess this is not the night for learning the gentle Streaming Process, is it, baby.” His hands are hard and good on my ass and my thighs and he is spreading my legs back around his waist and wrapping me tight and all that floods my brain is fuck me, fuck me, Jack. My face is hard on the cold counter and he is standing behind me and when his cock slides all the way into my pussy hard and fast I begin to come, and he drives me harder and harder pulling me back against him and I know, I know, I know all the secrets of the fucking universe and he never stops until he comes so far up inside of me and reaches me in places I didn’t even know were there.
When I wake up at three a.m. and reach for Jack across the bed, I know what I want. If a woman wants to come for a third, or is it fourth, time in the same night, what on earth does this make her—a nympho? Just wanton? Or maybe even—interesting?
Jack struggles awake as I kiss him, long and slow with my tongue deep in his mouth, the kind of kiss I forgot existed for me, and there are dark men and strange women with beaded earrings dancing in my head, but mostly there is Jack weaving through it all, waiting, smiling, surprised. “Jack, darling . . . ”
“What?” he whispers from his half-awake state. I light the two candles on the nightstand and climb back into bed and pose for him.
“Watch me now.”