They are in Julia’s apartment, in her bedroom. Marianne is undressed. She is sitting on her heels, arm bent to scratch at her elbow. She rolls her body forward, distributing her weight between her knees and hands, and says, “Come here,”
Between her bureau and a bookcase, Julia leans against the wall like she’s taking in a show.
Marianne is shaking her head, moving her body so that her legs hang over the side of the mattress. She says, “Stop it. Stop smiling like that.”
Julia feels Marianne’s slow movements in her feet, the bed frame making the floorboards throb. She presses her lips together and is surprised by their sudden dryness, by how sore Marianne has made them.
Marianne’s body is thin, white everywhere except for at her neck and chest, ruddy now in spots that have been disappearing with the passing minutes. With only the bedside lamp on, Julia has an easier time tracing with her eyes a faded summer tan, the marks left by her shirt and shorts. But she is distracted as Marianne lies back on her palms, the muscles in her stomach, the curves, the flesh, over her hips, and her breasts moving simultaneously. Julia finds herself blinking slowly, drowsy, running her tongue along the backs of her front teeth. Her arms are crossed behind her, bearing her weight against the wall. Palms flat against it, absorbing its chill.
Marianne moves her lips to blow at stray strands of hair that rest on her cheek, caught in her eyelashes. She tilts her head back, to the side, and her hair follows the motion. She says, “Come here,” and, with her foot, marks the spot on the floor, the space between her legs.
Julia is wearing old jeans that have started to fray at the cuffs, black socks, a black shirt to match with the buttons undone down its front. It is one that cost too much, but is easy to iron. Beneath it, a bright pink bra with a tiny ornamental bow between the cups in a gentle green. She bought it after finding it on a headless, bottomless mannequin that sat atop a table display. She noticed the outstretched arms, still mobile somehow, and the small ivory hands, thin fingers in delicate bends. She paid in cash.
Marianne says, “Julia.”
She pushes off the wall with hands now painful from cold. She takes only two steps before bringing herself to her knees and works the rest of the way over to the place that’s waiting.
With half-closed eyes, Marianne looks down and smiles as Julia fills in between her knees. Smiles until Julia’s hands move for her thighs, and when she leans forward to grab Julia’s wrist, an index finger, she says, “No. Don’t touch me.”
For Julia, there is a moment of panic that comes when she finds Marianne’s face as stern as her voice, but her body, that white skin, is still so close, with her knees flexing quickly together, brushing Julia’s sides. She lets Marianne lower her hands and she keeps them there.
Marianne says, “Jesus. They’re fucking freezing,” and then the sound of wet lips forming a smile, the quick breath of a quiet laugh. “What’s happened?”
She rests her forearms on Julia’s shoulders, their faces close. Julia knows to keep her eyes down, but tonight with Marianne, she decides to watch.
There is a warmth there, to Marianne’s eyes. She tries to look past it, look for any reflection, and finds nothing but dark blue, large black pupils.
There is a heat much greater, though, where she kneels, coming from Marianne, that is warming the skin on Julia’s stomach. It feels less focused, more selfish. It’s one Julia knows how to deal with.
Marianne wraps her hand around the back of Julia’s neck, brings Julia’s face forward to her chest. She straightens her back, brushing a breast, her nipple, against Julia’s nose, her cheek, and then finally to dry lips. She smiles with the sudden feeling of teeth, a fast tongue.
Marianne feels Julia’s shoulders tense, but she’s quick to hold her hands down. Julia is talking softly, quietly into her chest. Talk about fucking her again, and there’s a please in there, and with that it’s almost over for Marianne, this moment. But instead she uses her hands to push Julia away, again by her neck, and she says, “Keep your hands down.” She presses her thumbs into her, tightens her grip, until she feels the muscles moving. Not fighting for air, but fighting to swallow.
Marianne lets Julia fall toward her other breast, delights in the sound of the sudden intake of air. She positions Julia lower so that her arms can roam down her back, pulling free from her jeans what’s left of the shirt still tucked there—not much. She pulls the fabric up until she gets to her bra clasp, works it free with her fingers. She wants Julia up facing her, but doesn’t want the wetness, the forcefulness, of her mouth taken away. She keeps pulling her shirt up, rolling it with both hands, until she finds the beginning of the tattoos that run along her upper shoulder blades and down the length of both arms. She traces it with a fingertip, a stormy cloud or angel’s wing, she’s not sure.
Julia makes a noise, is no longer working her mouth on Marianne’s body. She is pressing her face, her forehead, over Marianne’s heart. She is shifting her weight on her knees.
Marianne commits this sound to memory, fixes Julia so that she no longer leans against her. There is urgency now, she feels it. She bring herself to the edge of the bed, her turn to lean into Julia, her naked skin on denim, her naked skin on Julia’s. She pulls on Julia’s arm, brings her hand up and rests it on the mattress. It is heavy, gives no resistance.
When she looks, Julia’s eyes are shut.
Marianne keeps one arm around Julia’s neck to keep her from falling back. With her free hand, she works the buttons at Julia’s wrist. Before she speaks, Marianne clears her head. She thinks of the view outside the bedroom window, the pattern of the window’s curtains.
Marianne presses her lips to Julia’s ear, says, “Why don’t you take your clothes off? You never take your clothes off.”
Julia does not speak. Julia is only breathing in a way that makes Marianne feel like she will ruin all of this.
With the button free, she lowers Julia’s hand again, shifts her weight to bring the other up, shifts her weight to rub herself against Julia. She moves her head so that Julia is breathing in her ear, so that it’s all she hears.
Marianne says, “Let me take them off for you.”