She pauses in the hallway. She stops. I glance over my shoulder. She has seen someone, perhaps someone standing in the other room. Behind me there is a party in its last sordid throes. A death rattle of celebration, someone’s shoes cast adrift on a wine-stained carpet, pâté on the furniture, the final gurgle of wine in the bottom of a cheap cask. I am a little drunk but not so much so that I might think that this woman is looking at me. She has been incendiary. She started with laughter, short and bright as fireworks. This at the beginning of the evening. It was impossible not to notice her. She had arrived with a young biology student who seemed disinterested in her. He flopped into a couch with his bottle of vodka cradled in his lap and proceeded to drink it with steady diligence. But now the biology student is asleep. His position has barely changed, the bottle still propped up in his lap, his cup resting on the arm of the couch, his head tipped back and his lips slightly parted. I am not sure if they were together or just sharing a lift as a matter of convenience. There is no one behind me. She is looking at me.
She hesitates, as if about to make some momentous decision. She will approach me, or she will leave. I am suddenly aware that the next few minutes will change the course of my evening. I have drunk just enough to make something of it. I step towards her.
“You speak French?” I say this in French and her eyes seem to focus. I have somehow taken on a new shape, an unexpected substance. I see her smile. She has probably drunk too much champagne. She shakes her head enthusiastically and her whole body seems to be swayed by that one gesture.
“Non.” She says and then her brow furrows, “No.” And I imagine that even this simple French word is only vaguely familiar to her. Perhaps “non” is not the right word to reach for.
“You speak English?” she asks me.
And I say, “Non, no. A little petit” squeezing my fingers together to indicate none at all.
I have reinvented myself as someone else, someone more exotic, a French speaker. A fabrication, and yet I am just sober enough to stand by the lie of it.
She points to herself. “Jenny.” She says
“Je t’aime” which I can only assume is one of her only french phrases. I laugh and nod.
“Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir” which has taken the conversation in an interesting direction.
“Oui” I tell her and follow with some French I memorised from a poem. She isn’t to know it is a verse about donkeys and she nods and grins and there is a little explosion of her laughter. I do indeed wish to sleep with her tonight. I recite some lines from Flaubert. She nods with no idea of what she is agreeing to. I take her hand. Her fingers are tiny like the porcelain hands of a doll my grandmother might have played with. I take her to the stairs without really knowing what rooms are on the second floor. The party is a friend of a friend’s and I have never seen the bedrooms but when I open the handle of a door the room beyond it seems familiar. Posters of bands I know, academic awards framed and hung on the wall, text books strewn on the floor. It could be my own room or a room belonging to any number of my friends. I lead her in and sit on the edge of the unmade bed. I whisper a few more passages from Flaubert. I am running out of material and wonder if she will notice if I begin to repeat myself.
She fumbles with the zip at the back of her dress and pulls it down enough to shift the straps of the dress so they can fall into the cradle of her elbows. I cannot see her breasts but there is a promise of them, the soft swell of skin suddenly revealed seems to highlight all that cannot be seen, the rest of the picture is suddenly brought to attention. I imagine she wants me to undress her.
When I lean in closer to her, her skin looks like the solid layer that forms on the top of custard while it is cooking. She smells faintly of vanilla. She makes me hungry. I open my mouth and breathe the taste of her. A hint of nutmeg on the top of my palate. When I push with the tip of my finger her breast becomes exposed and I hold my mouth so close to it that she must feel me tasting the air surrounding her. Her nipple responds, reaching into my mouth. It would be a small thing to close my lips and bring my tongue just a little forward to touch the clench of dark brown flesh. Instead I sit back and mutter a few sentences in French that are irrelevant. It is the language, more than the champagne perhaps, that has caused her to drop her clothes like the petals of a flower. She stands and pulls her dress off completely and I look at her, the gorgeousness of her skin, the perfection of her nipples, the little creases where her panties have marked her thighs.
I pick up her knees and move them. Her body turns with them. I am steering a sleek and gorgeous boat, her breasts point proudly towards the deep blue unknown. In English I am far from a skilled captain, I steer the ship awkwardly in my native tongue, buffeted by waves I have not anticipated. Somehow in French, the whole thing takes on a gracefulness that is unexpected. When I move her elbow her knees part. When I touch her shoulder there is a tilting of her hips that allows me to enter her. I remove my clothing without the usual awkwardness. There is nothing to hinder me. I push in and the passage is easy, her arousal has ensured this. She wants me with a wet openness that is encouraging. My thrust is her parry, she folds herself into the hug of my arms as if she were born to nestle there. She brings her feet up onto my chest and there is the glorious gape of her flesh and all of me to fill it. My climax is the call and her response is given with a short but sweet enough delay. I am returning back into my body in time to feel her leaving hers, the desperate clutch of her flesh as she succumbs to the pleasure of it.
“C’est magnifique” I whisper into the pale plane of her neck. I hear her pulse beating beneath the fine skin. My mouth waters. My flaccid penis is beginning to show renewed interest in the task at hand.
In English I would slip out of her body. I would lie politely in her arms until it is time to dress and return to the party. In French I am rising inside her, I am reinvented as the kind of man who you might meet in Paris.
“Je ne suis pas moi-meme aujourd’hui” I say.