Words and actions exchanged and performed in a dimly lit room at night become pink elephants in the morning. I awoke at Odera’s movement, in a warm tangle of arms and legs. Appropriate and situationally correct behaviours and conversations held last night now felt taboo in the light of day. I required solitude to process the transition, so I faked sleep. After moving the hair off my brow and planting a light kiss, Odera padded out of the bedroom. Speechless by emotions not experienced for many years, I viewed the messy sheets like a soldier reconnoitring unfamiliar terrain, scanning for ambush points and defensible positions. Waves of doubt and uncertainty raced my pulse. Stronger than a shriven confession imparted on bent knee, Odera’s faith in me became my absolution, my redemption from the lip of the abyss I had only minutes ago stood upon. Faith and trust filled a void no longer open for bids from the Archenemy. In the wake of this realisation, followed freedom from fear and worries, and confidence to face whatever awaited us. The bathroom door had been left ajar when I deployed.
I tapped on the door.
“It’s open for a reason,” she called out.
“Let me guess.”
“You don’t have to. Are you ready to tell me why you pretended to sleep?”
Odera poked her head out from behind the shower curtain. Putting aside my surprise, I stepped into the shower and into her embrace, where she hugged me closely, yielding herself until I was aware of everything different about us. Hungry lips searched out mine imparting ardent fervour that conveyed absolute certainty last night was neither a mistake, nor a whimsical decision.
I said, “Am I to have no secrets?”
“Just one.” She placed a soapy washcloth in my hand before presenting her back. “Would you please?”
“And that would be?”
“The specific hour that you take us official,” she announced in a voice filled with unspoken promises.
“That’s taking a lot for granted.” I meandered over her backbone, layering it in rivers of slippery suds, before returning my attention to the nuchal curve of her neck.
Odera leaned back and pulled my hands around her shoulders. She clasped them in front across her breasts.
“Not really. We’re fated. Do you still deny us?”
If something was fated, then no action a person performed would alter the outcome. Fate abrogated free will. Odera and I would make our own future. But I kept that existential belief to myself. I wasn’t a complete relationship moron.
“Your fate and my curse,” I said.
Odera looked over her shoulder. Glints of deep-blue steel set her eyes sparkling.
“It’ll be your curse if you procrastinate too long.”
“How long is too long?”
I turned her around for a rinse.
“You’re a smart boy. You’ll work it out.”
I soaped up the cloth to wash the twins.
“Until then you’re on probation.” She snatched the washcloth from me with teasing glee when it neared her breasts. “Momentarily in my good books until you bring us out of the shadows.”
“Probation, eh? Ever consider a career in the Forces?”
“And have to put up with a squad filled with the bull-headed likes of you? Not! Wash your hair; I’ll get the rest,” she offered, and frolicked below my waist with the soapy cloth as I turned for shampoo.
“Get it up and you get it off.”
“Is that your rule?” she purred into my ear. She stepped closer, one leg between mine. Her breath blew summer warm in my ear. “Or one that you just made up?”
“House rules,” I decided as the twins pressed against my back and her hands frolicked.
“Then the House always wins!”
At the treachery leaching out of her declaration, I began to turn, but in that turning, she stepped out of the shower shutting off the hot water along the way. Cold water blasted my chest, and below, deflating amorous hopes. In their warm stead, icy cold needles snatched my breath away.
“Mansbridge!” I bellowed dancing out from beneath the chilly spray, banging into the wall and the soap dish.
Odera chortled at my blind, groping hands. I found the hot water tap and twisted it open. Through a cracked and soapy eye, I spied the twins, now bound in a towel, bouncing mockingly with each bout of her victorious laughter. I shut the curtain conceding my hand to the House, while recognizing the rules of engagement had changed. Acknowledging that the odds were stacked against me provoked a feeling of having found my equal.
“Don’t dally. You owe me breakfast.”
“There’s a new toothbrush in the medicine cabinet. Where do you want to eat?” I asked sluicing soap and shampoo.
“Uh uhh, you’re on cooking duty.”
“Who said anything about cooking?” I protested opening the curtain to find a towel pressed into my hands. “No chance in hell do you deserve home-cooked.”
“That’s a shame,” mourned Odera as I secured the towel around my waist and reached for the hairbrush.
“Why is that?”
“Because,” she said leaning close, her voice husky-velvet, “if we eat out, I can’t show my appreciation afterwards.” Nuzzling my earlobe, she added, “But if you’d rather not.”
The hairbrush hit the floor as I rolled out the door quicker than a Ferrari Indy car.
“Are pancakes and eggs fine with you?”
Laughing with both hands clasped to her mouth, Odera remarked, “Have you no shame at all?”
“Sunny side up, scrambled, or over-easy? Apple juice or orange?”
“That’s a definite possibility, but my pappy didn’t raise a fool,” I said opening the refrigerator to find an extra carton of eggs.
“A typically male response.”
“Treasonous folly man’s cock doth wed,” I muttered under my breath as Odera exited the bathroom.
“Pardon? I didn’t catch that.”
“It’s your job to straighten up the bed,” I answered counting syllables.
“But I’m a guest!” she exclaimed before relenting. “Never mind. Unlike some people, I know how to quit when I’m ahead.”
She detoured toward the bedroom.
“There’s a first,” I mumbled.
“I heard that!”
“You were supposed to.”
“Scoundrel,” accused Odera re-entering the kitchen to snatch the towel from my waist. She darted back into the bedroom laughing. “You never answered my question.”
Question? And then I remembered. The woman was neurotic about loose threads. I reached for the barbecue apron.
I said, “After breakfast.”
“I’m not going to forget. Quit stalling. Why did you avoid me this morning?”
Fresh tightness in my chest replaced my fleeting happiness. The constricted feeling changed to another kind of firmness when Odera appeared wearing my pin striped shirt opened down the middle, but for two buttons closing the tails over her delta.
“Turn off the stove. There’s no point in making the bed if it’s just going to get mussed up,” she said gliding over to me, her long wet hair no longer towel encased.
“What of last night?”
“Let’s just say for the moment I derive pleasure in other ways.”
I said, “It’s better to give than to receive.”
Christians practise fine principles.
“I don’t think you’ll need this,” she noted casting the apron to the floor. I began to speak. Odera pressed a finger to my lips and shook her head. “Just because I’m not ready to make love, does not mean that I do not want to. Don’t think, just feel.”When our lips parted, I abided her request. Although I wanted to bring equal pleasure and joy, I waited. Her eyes locked onto mine, resurrecting part of my soul. Sharing my joy made it hers as well. Our intimacy did not make me want to look away this time, did not provoke embarrassment. The opposite happened. Our bond became intensely erotic when our eyes stayed locked until the end. The act became weirdly fulfilling. Light years beyond hooker sex. People no longer perplexed me. Compared to Odera’s complexities, most others were a crayon colouring book, but that thought arrived after the blood returned to my brain and Odera took comfort in my arms. I made up my mind to speak with her father the next time we met.