PART THREE: NOTHING LIKE A DAME
“Am I a degenerate?”
Avoiding her roommate’s eyes, Lily fumbled around Clare’s dressing table until she found a red lipstick.
“What are you talking about?” Clare’s voice was calm as she lined her eyes in the mirror, her bare shoulder touching Lily’s.
“Because all I can think about is–”
Two decades of living in a small house with countless siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, either pious or inclined to repeat depending on their age, made Lily stop before she said the next word. The S word. And she didn’t mean “sin.”
Clare rolled her eyes and put the brush down. “You can say it louder, Lily. Actually…” She put her hands on her hips. Because Clare was wearing only a chemise and tap pants, Lily could see her nipples poking through and looked away, ashamed. “I’m going to make you say the word, or you have to move out.”
Lily looked for a joking smile on Clare’s face, but saw none. Blinking back tears, she turned on her heel. “How dare you make fun of me!”
“Lily!” Clare stopped the bathroom door before Lily could slam it in her face. “I’m sorry for teasing you, but…” Now a little smile played around her painted lips. “You can say sex without going to hell.”
Three minutes ago Lily felt comfortable and happy, putting on makeup with her roommate in their underthings. Now she felt terribly exposed. She crossed her arms over her chest and collapsed on Clare’s bed with a sigh. Clare perched next to her.
“It’s all I think about,” Lily said quietly, studying her knees so she wouldn’t stare at Clare’s perfect face, the eggshell white of her chemise, the temptation of her erect nipples. “All day at work. Then we go out and I feel like I’m staring at everyone.” Her cheeks colored – apparently Lily wouldn’t need rouge tonight. “I’m getting obsessed.” She turned to Clare, eyes wide. “It’s frightening! I thought I was a good girl.”
Lily thought of her pleasure device and romance novel, both hidden under her mattress. She remembered last week’s alley encounter with Charles, all hot breath and primal screams, and her nipples stiffened. Horsefeathers.
Clare sighed. “Wait here.” Lily heard her rustling around in their tiny kitchen before returning with a silver flask.
“Where did you get that?”
“Never you mind. Just take a sip.”
Lily obeyed and felt the whiskey slide down her throat, warm and sharp.
“You are good,” said Clare, now completely serious. “You work hard, you’re generous and sweet. Thinking about sex, wanting to feel things, doesn’t make you bad. I don’t care what your mother or your pastor told you.” She held out her hand for the flask, took a deep swallow. “If you were a man, we wouldn’t be talking about this at all. You’d just go out and do what you wanted, not even thinking about it.”
Lily remembered her brothers, catting around town on Saturday nights and bowing their heads in church on Sunday mornings. She knew Clare was right.
“Do what you like,” Clare said. “Don’t worry about anyone else. Will you promise me that?”
Lily looked at her loyal roommate, who cut her hair and loaned her dresses and took her to parties. She could smell the rose of Clare’s perfume, and Lily knew she was exactly where she was supposed to be.
Taking a generous swig, Lily stood up to finish getting ready.
Clare stood up at the same time.
And maybe it was gratitude, or liquid courage, or the combined aroma of powder and rose perfume and possibility. Whatever the cause, Lily found herself leaning over and gently placing her lips on her roommate’s.
Clare let out a little mmph! of surprise but didn’t pull away. Instead, she brought one hand to the nape of Lily’s neck, stroking the soft hair there, while her other slid down Lily’s waist, pulling her closer. The kiss deepened, and Lily marveled at her friend’s skill, and if she was being honest, her own. Their lips and tongues were soft but hungry, dancing with one another, gently probing but playful too, seeing how far the other would go.
Lily’s nipples tingled, and she could feel Clare’s own hard nipples through the thin material of her chemise. Lily wanted to touch her more – badly – but for some reason, it didn’t feel right. Next time, her mind said as she savored the soft, lovely kiss.
She supposed she should be worried about what this would mean for their living arrangement, their friendship. Instead, Lily was grateful for the moment, the embrace, the tenderness.
As they pulled away, noses still touching, her blood pressure soared as she braced herself for Clare’s words, “this was a mistake” or even “you should move out tomorrow.”
Instead, Clare giggled – a high, girlish sound Lily had never heard from her strident, confident friend – and kissed Lily’s nose, her eyes sparkling with mirth. “You have lipstick all over your face, doll.”
Lily put a hand on Clare’s cheek in reply. “Sex,” she said, clear and proud, and the two of them dissolved into laughter.
There was no mistaking that voice. Lily turned around and rolled her eyes at Charles. “You know my name, palooka.”
“How’d you know tonight’s password?” He grabbed her hand and they brushed past Marco, the doorman who was the size of a barn but, as Lily knew from her frequent visits, was made of marshmallow on the inside. Lily blew him a kiss over her shoulder and he winked at her before making his face serious and scary once again.
She breathed in the cigarette smoke and cologne of the club, already feeling like a different person from Clare’s naïve roommate – Lily blushed, remembering their kiss half an hour earlier – and Hal’s trusty, hardworking assistant. Something changed in her when she entered this speakeasy with no name. Her voice became lower, her tone no-nonsense. “Spunky”, the boy who took her virginity back home called her, and Lily felt it in this speakeasy, only a more urbane, sophisticated version.
She turned to Charles, liking the feeling of his large hand enveloping her small one. “Why am I Cinderella?”
“Because,” he said, leaning in so she could hear him over the shrieked conversations and frenetic jazz beats, “you took off after we…”
His lips brushed Lily’s ear and she shivered. After their shared cigarette, they’d gone inside and she’d lost him in the crowd, more or less on purpose. She needed to digest what had just happened, the new person she was becoming in this city of dreams. Someone who touched herself, who drank stars, who got herself a job with the handsomest boss in the world and made love to a man standing up in an alley. Who was Lily now? She needed to think about this, and she couldn’t do it around Charles.
“What’s it to you?” Lily thanked her lucky stars that she could raise one eyebrow – a skill that allowed her to pretend a confidence she didn’t always feel, suppress the urge to lead him out to the alley and do unspeakable things once again.
“Feeling sassy tonight?” he asked, smirking. Lily laughed in spite of herself, her cool exterior completely melting away. “I was going to ask if I could take you out, but if you’re not interested…”
“Oh, I am!” Lily blurted out. She bit her lip – why was she always so eager?
Charles grinned. If she wasn’t mistaken, he looked a little excited too. “Do you have a phone at your place?”
“We share it with the whole hallway, but yes.” She fumbled in her tiny beaded bag, unearthing a crumpled but clean cocktail napkin and her spare Woolworth’s lipstick. “Turn around.” Charles obliged, and Lily scribbled her number in bright, bold crimson. Even under his vest and shirt, she could feel the strong muscles of his back. Her fingers tingled.
“Thanks, dollface.” He accepted the napkin and as their fingers brushed, pulled her close. Lily’s knees grew week at their kiss, harder and more demanding than Clare’s but equally sensual. If this was what being a degenerate felt like, she was ready to commit.
“Chaaaaaaaaarles!” A female voice rang out, and Charles and Lily broke apart. In a small nook next to the restrooms, Fleur was waving, wrapped in a red silk robe, a frantic expression on her beautiful face.
“Summoned again,” Charles said, sighing. “Come on.” Taking Lily’s hand, he pulled her along as they elbowed through the crowd on their way to the burlesque dancer.
Fleur pulled them both into her makeshift dressing room – really, a janitor’s closet with a large mirror propped up against the wall at a precarious angle. Sparkling lingerie was scattered everywhere and Lily thought of Hal. She wondered how her boss spent his evenings.
“What’s the problem?” Charles asked, concerned. “You’re on in five.”
“Maybe not,” Fleur whispered, looking more terrified than anyone Lily had ever seen. “Dario Morelli’s out there.”
“The producer?” Lily asked. Even she’d heard of him. According to every gossip rag Clare brought home, Morelli’s new speakeasy was the berries. All the important people went there, and he paid his performers top dollar. No wonder poor Fleur was so nervous.
“I can’t go out there,” Fleur moaned, sinking down on the padded chair next to the mirror and makeshift dressing table cluttered with cosmetics. “I’ll make a complete fool of myself.”
“Hey, don’t talk like that.” Charles crouched down so they were at eye level. “You’re the best dancer in the city.” He gestured to Lily. “We know that. Dario knows that or he wouldn’t be here.”
Suddenly, Lily had an idea. She cleared her throat, and Fleur and Charles looked up. “Charles, can you give us a moment?” She mouthed trust me and he nodded, getting to his feet and shutting the door behind him.
“Ohhhhh,” Fleur moaned. “Your hands are magic.” She leaned back in the chair, her face relaxed and blissful.
“Am I hurting you?”
“Not a whit,” Fleur said, closing her eyes. “You can go harder if you want.”
Thank you, Rebecca, Lily thought. Massaging her sister’s back and shoulders had gotten Rebecca through labor five times. And apparently it also worked on burlesque dancers with intense stage fright.
“You have a lot of knots,” Lily observed, digging her fingers into Fleur’s delicate skin. She smelled lovely, like powder and lipstick and just a dash of whiskey. And then Lily felt it: that sensation she’d felt with Clare and Charles and Hal and alone, with her fingers and her magic device. Oh no. She squeezed her legs together, realizing they were trembling slightly. She hoped Fleur couldn’t see.
“Better?” Lily asked, voice trembling.
“Much.” Fleur turned around so Lily could see her face, fully relaxed and calm. She smiled, and the room lit up. Lily’s face grew warm, the sensation between her legs intensified. Where was Clare’s flask when she needed it?
“Lily?” Fleur placed her hand over one of Lily’s, began stroking her fingers. If she kept this up, Lily was going to collapse on the floor and probably knock over the costume rack.
“Y-yes?” Lily swallowed hard, willing herself to stay upright at the sound of Fleur’s voice, like bourbon sliding over ice cubes, smoky and forbidden and utterly irresistible.
“Is there something I can do to thank you?”
Don’t think. Just feel.
Those four words popped into Lily’s head and gave her courage to pull Fleur to her feet. Fleur immediately took control as their lips met, soft but sure. Lily moaned into her mouth as their tongues tangled, a rush of adrenaline nearly knocking her sideways. Even barefoot, Fleur was taller than Lily, and Lily stood on her tiptoes as Fleur pulled her closer, drinking in the beautiful dancer’s slow, magnificent kiss.
“Have a seat,” Fleur said in Lily’s ear, her voice husky.
Lily sank into the chair, and Fleur got on her knees, robe gaping open so Lily could see her small, perfect breasts, her shell-pink nipples. Placing her hands on Lily’s knees, Fleur gently pushed them apart. “Is this all right? Will you tell me to stop if it’s not?” she asked, wide blue eyes meeting Lily’s, and Lily nodded, trusting Fleur but not her own words.
Fleur smiled. “Then hold on to your hat, love,” she murmured, before diving her face between Lily’s legs.
“Ohhhhh!” Lily cried, not able to contain herself. The cacophony outside was so loud, she doubted anyone could hear, and she wasn’t sure she cared anyway. As Fleur’s tongue swept over her core, making gentle figure eights, Lily was awash in pure sensation. No one had ever kissed her there. She didn’t know that was even possible, but now that Fleur’s face was between her legs, Lily had no idea why everyone didn’t do this all the time.
Fleur moaned and the sound vibrated against Lily’s sweet spot. Involuntarily, she threaded her fingers through Fleur’s silky, smooth black hair, pulling her closer and moving her hips. Knowing she wouldn’t last much longer, she began to grind her against Fleur’s face, remembering Clare and their kiss and Charles and their alley encounter, ready to give herself over once again.
Then Fleur’s tongue was inside her, moving in and out, going deeper and deeper as she began to finger Lily’s hardening nub, the dual stimulation of tongue and fingers sending Lily straight over the edge. “Yes, yes, yes!” Lily cried, throwing her head back and inhaling the sweet scents of herself mixed with powder and whisky, relishing the pure decadence of this otherworldly woman pleasuring her, sweetly relentless in the pursuit of this climax, the most intense Lily had ever felt.
Once Lily’s moaning quieted to a low purr, Fleur lifted her face, now tinged with pink and shining. Her eye makeup was smeared, her lipstick askew, her smile angelic. “Did you like it?”
Lily opened her mouth to answer, when a deafening police siren mingled with insistent banging and a shout outside the door:
Lauren Emily lives (and loves) in Chicago, and is the author of the novel SATELLITE. Check her out at laurenemilywrites.com.