The Morning After
My breath caught as she stood, morning sunlight streaming through the windows. Her back was a masterpiece. In last night’s rush and sweaty mess, I hadn’t really looked at it.
“Good morning,” I whispered, standing up and pressing my body against hers. She stiffened as I kissed the turquoise and purple feathers fanning out against her back.
“I’m going to shower,” she said. “Wait here…” She paused, searching.
“Ion,” I filled in. “My mom always wanted me to have a positive charge. It’s weird,” I mumbled. She nodded.
“Why a peacock?” I asked. She turned back, considering me.
“Vanity,” she replied, a smirk jumping at the corners of her lips. I smiled, noticing the places on her torso where the feathers peeked out, a teaser trailer of what was to come.
I wrapped up in the covers, stretching my body out across the softest sheets I’d ever laid on. With my head on the pillow I remembered our adventures, how she’d been rough and gentle at the same time, caressing my breasts and leaving marks of her conquest all over my body.
I traced the outline of one of the hickeys on my stomach. It sat close to a tattoo of my own, the outline of a cow, marked into sections and labeled. My family were butchers, keeping a dying art alive in a small town one steak at a time. My studio above the convenience store downtown was a shithole compared to this place, and I rolled around, drinking in the luxury.
Junot reappeared, wearing a dark silk robe with a metallic shimmer. Two men flanked her, emerging out of the shadows of her hallway.
“What the hell?” I said, gripping the covers around my mostly naked body.
“These are my friends.” They walked into the room, in step; one had a small messenger bag strewn across his chest, the other had his hands shoved deep into his hoodie pocket.
“I’m not into that,” I said, glancing around for my clothes while trying to keep my eye on the men walking towards me.
“Not into what?” Junot asked. Her voice was a harsh steel tone, different from last night’s platinum record. The shivers her voice sent down my back were different, too.
“Group sex,” I said.
“I thought you liked sex with men,” Junot replied. I paused. We hadn’t discussed our sexual orientations, other than that, as we left the bar, we were oriented towards each other.
“Sure, but not in groups,” I said, scooting towards the pillows as Junot ran her fingers across the sheets.
“You slept with my husband,” she said. “And now you’re going to pay.”
“What?” I squirmed as she grabbed my ankles under the covers and pulled me down towards the end of the mattress, dangling my feet off of her bed.
“Don’t fight me.”
“Please, I didn’t mean to sleep with anyone’s husband,” I said.
“But you did.”
“I always ask. He lied to me,” I pleaded. “I asked you if you were married, didn’t I? You lied to me too!” Junot shrugged, reaching out to touch my skin.
“Doesn’t matter.” Junot nodded to the man with the bag and he started unpacking his tools. I recognized them, and I shook my head at Junot, a picture of what was going to happen to me burning into my brain.
“Really, come on, don’t do this,” I said, trying to kick. Junot dug her nails into the flesh of my calf.
“Don’t move.” The man approached the bed and pushed the covers up, exposing my stomach.
“Please, don’t,” I said, hearing the hum as his machine started. I winced as he touched my skin, hating the familiar sensation.
“It won’t take long,” Junot said. I took a deep breath, fighting off tears.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t know.”
“Shut up,” Junot said, crossing her arms and standing above me. Minutes passed, broken by the vibrations and my occasional gasps of pain.
“Control your breath,” the man said after a few minutes. I didn’t reply, but made an effort to steady my lungs. I had tight lines on my face where my tears had dried.
“Why a cow?” Junot asked after a while.
“I’m a butcher,” I replied. Eventually the man moved away. Junot looked at me and smiled.
“You can go,” she said. I looked down at my stomach, red and swollen. A single peacock feather danced around my ribcage.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” I whispered. In spite of myself, my anger at the violation lifted as I noticed how beautiful the piece looked, shining against my skin.
“Get her out of here,” she said, walking out of the room. The men turned their backs to me, giving me privacy while I gathered my clothes. I pulled on my shirt and one grabbed my arm, marching me into the kitchen.
“I didn’t know about your husband,” I said. Junot sipped her cup of coffee.
“I don’t care,” she replied.
“Are you going to tell me who he is?”
“It doesn’t matter,” she replied. She looked at me, and I realized she was playing a game where only she knew the rules.
“Clearly you’ve done this before,” I said. She sipped again, not answering. “What, are there girls all around Athens with your mark on them?” Junot walked over to me, gripping my jaw in a hand that was still warm from her coffee cup. She kissed me, biting my lip. The metallic taste seeped into my mouth and I felt a flush spread through my body, followed quickly by disgust at my desires.
“Just keep sleeping with women and find out,” she said. She waved her hands, and the men turned me towards the door.
“Why don’t you just leave him?” I called over my shoulder. Junot responded with a cold laugh, high pitched and tinny, as they pushed me out of the house.
“Because this is just so much more fun.”