Drowning Slowly – Part 9
Jennifer’s heart was beating wildly and she tried to calm it as she passed through the automatic doors. They caught on a bump in the stiff, rubber backed rug and the thwack sound startled her like a shot. She had realized as she walked across the grey parking lot, pulling her sweater closer around her and pushing the shopping cart with Henry bundled in it a little quicker, that he could be watching her that very second. The idea made her heart skip and her stomach tumble and now that she was in the store it might as well be a fishbowl.
He could be anywhere. Would he watch from a distance to see if he was attracted, and then run away? That was what she would have done, she thought, would do, if she saw him first. Not that that was likely to happen, she realized since she was sporting a passenger who was equally loud, cute and attention drawing. She pushed the thankfully noiseless cart behind a rack for shelter and checked her phone for the tenth time since pulling in the parking lot. Shooting him a text to ask if he was there, she began the seemingly endless trek to the baby section at the back of the store. The florescent lights of the store felt bright and magnifying on her skin. She felt eyes on her constantly, her own darting around like a lunatic, or so she felt; she never saw anyone paying any attention to her.
Her shopping almost done, her anxiety to meet him had become a choking disappointment that he had either not shown, or had viewed her from a distance and ran. Consoling herself in one of her favourite places, the wine aisle, Jennifer scouted the Moscato section for a new brand. The golden bottles blending together as she distractedly glanced from one to another. She wondered if maybe she should branch out and try a Riesling, or maybe a white zin. Her heart isn’t in it though. She doesn’t want to try a new wine, she wants to meet Ben, she wants to see his face in person and hear his voice and see if the chemistry that they have online holds true in reality. She wants him to see her and fall in love and tell her she is the most beautiful woman that he has ever seen and that he can’’t live without her. A new bottle will only be a disappointment. No matter the richness of the fruit, the sweetness on her tongue, she will drink it alone.
Grabbing her favourite bottle and preparing to drown her sorrows she pushed her cart to the end of the aisle and directly into an almost handsome man wearing a shit eating grin. Looking up, her pulse began a staccato and her breath caught in her throat. ‘Hi’, she squeaked, immediately wishing that she had not opened her mouth since it seemed now that it would not close. His pillowy lips parted to reveal large enthusiastic teeth and there was a twinkle in his pale blue eyes. Jennifer was so relieved that at first she forgot to be nervous. “Hi” she squeaked and it came out much higher and much louder than she had intended. “Hi” he said and his smile got even wider and crinkled the sides of his eyes. He was wearing khaki pants, and loafers and there were tiny flecks of what looked like ink on the cuffs of his plaid button down shirt. Maybe from a sharpie, or a dry erase board? When he pulled her into a hug he smelled like air conditioning, and his body was rock hard, she felt her softness just mold into him. He was taller than her, but not awkwardly so, 5’9 or 5’10, she had to reach up on her tip toes as not to smash her face into his chest, and he had to bend over a little. Jennifer heard him smell her hair before they released each other.
Not really realizing how uncomfortable it would be to have any real conversation while pushing a cart with a toddler in it, or how she didn’t really want him to watch her buy toilet paper, they quickly checked out and exited the store. Somehow they had gotten to her car, driven to a quiet part of the parking lot and Henry was sleeping in his rear facing car seat. Turning to see Ben in the passenger seat, she moved her entire body and pressed her back into the door, wanting to create as much distance in the small space as she could. He was also turned, facing her, grinning almost foolishly. He was looking at her face, at her eyes, with an intensity that made her happy but, uncomfortable, twitchy. Peter barely looked at her, she wasn’t use to this kind of study. She tried to hide her own eyes, looking everywhere but at him. Ben almost vibrated with energy, it was catching. Jennifer couldn’t stop herself from smiling, giggling, getting caught in his web as his sparkly eyes enchanted her.
“Its really nice to meet you, to you know, put a face with a voice, or rather words I guess,” she mumbled, the end of her statement trailing off as she realized how ridiculous and cliché she sounded, so lame.
“You really have the most beautiful eyes.” Jennifer felt her face heat. Her cheeks burning, as she looked at him and became acutely aware of every movement her eyes made, blinking, looking down and back up again. Without warning, he reached over and gently cradling her face held her still as he closed the distance between them and took her lips with his own. His lips were supple, velvety on the surface but also pillow-like in density and his beard surprisingly soft against her chin. As if she was a puppet on a string her arms moved of their own accord and her hands buried themselves in his hoodie, his firm chest pressing back against her. Jennifer froze, but Ben didn’t, moving one hand to the nape of her neck, her hair between his fingers, pressing forward, urging her into him.
His tongue invaded her mouth and she tasted unripe peaches. Jennifer’s body yielded to Ben’s demands, he pulled her closed and trapped her against him. She could feel every rock hard muscle in his body pressing against her. Ben’s arms like vice around her. His pores breathed heat and lust and she soaked it up. Moving her head to the side she gave him access to her neck and chest which he hungrily lapped up. His hand sliding up her belly to cup her breast and pull her neckline down to expose it, a bolt of lightning shot through her as his hot mouth closed on her nipple. Reaching down she rubbed him through his pants until he shuddered and gasped into the side of her neck and her hand was damp and sticky.
“Shit!” he breathed into her hair, spent, as she climbed off him and back into her own seat. Not knowing what to say, Jennifer just looked out the foggy window. She was thinking ‘Shit” too, but she wasn’t going to say it. Her mind was racing and none of it was making sense. Ben was talking now, some small talk about kids or work or something, she wasn’t really paying attention, stuck on what just happened and trying to figure out what the hell she should do next.
“I’m really glad we decided to meet,” Ben said, and the earnestness in his tone pulled her back to reality. He was looking at her, like a puppy, like a satisfied puppy, his eyes wide and trusting. All she could do was smile. She wasn’t sure that she was glad that they decided to meet. All of this just got fucked up faster than she thought it could. She desperately wanted him out of her car and yet, she really really wanted him to say something about seeing her again. He grabbed his sunglasses off the dash and pulled the handle to get out. Jennifer realized that she hadn’t said anything since the face with the words comment, so she smiled again, like a dumbass and called “bye” as he closed the door. He leaned down and looked through the glass of the window for 3 seconds before he waved and climbed into his truck. Her heart was pounding and her stomach was in knots. She quickly drove to the other side of the large big box parking lot and put the car in park. Hands gripping the steering wheel to keep from shaking she took deep breaths and stared through the windshield at the freeway and the mountains beyond. She couldn’t believe what she had done.
She knew it was wrong. She knew a month ago when she started with the ads that this was wrong but she couldn’t help herself. She had felt so alone. She had wanted so desperately to know that she still had something.Finding those emails from Peter to his secretary, ones he hadn’t even bothered hiding, had broken her. The thought of him telling someone, anyone, let alone a twenty one year old girl that he wanted to see her naked made her sick to her stomach every time. He promised it was nothing, a flirtation, one step over the line, but she didn’t believe him. Her boat had been sinking for sometime now and she felt the water swirling around her knees. Jennifer leaned back, let out a big breath and closed her eyes. Pinching the bridge of her nose to try to relieve some of the tension in her face a laugh erupted from her. Here she was, a thirty-two year old, married mother of two, and she was sneaking around kissing another man in a parking lot, she couldn’t think of anything more pathetic, and yet so exhilarating.
She couldn’t remember kissing ever being so exciting. Maybe her first love, when she was thirteen, in the barn behind her neighbors house, his tongue cold her in mouth and saliva dripping down her chin, the scent of hay all around them, the bales scratchy against her back. Even then it wasn’t the kiss, it was the fear of getting caught, knowing the lecture that was sure to follow about being a good girl, an example for the other kids. Kissing Peter had never been like that, it had always been comfortable, an understanding between them. He was a good kisser, he didn’t have any bad habits, he wasn’t drooly or smelly breathed, or handsy. But he didn’t kiss her the way she dreamed of, and while he could get her off so easily, his touch didn’t ever send her heart racing, and it certainly didn’t now.
What kind of woman was she? She was ashamed. It had all happened so fast. More than anything she felt like a liar. She had promised Peter forever, she had promised him fidelity, and she had broken those promises. It didn’t matter that he had done it first. She knew that he would never know, that she was smart and didn’t get caught and most of all, she would never tell him. This was her burden, it wasn’t fair to tell him, to hurt him just to ease her own guilt. She knew when she left the house this morning that she wanted to kiss Ben, she wanted to do more than kiss Ben, she knew it was wrong and she still left. She could tell herself as many times as she wanted to that it would have been rude to stand him up, that it was just easier to meet than to explain that she didn’t want to, but none of that was true. She had to see. She just had to. She looked in the rearview mirror. Her cheeks were flushed and her lips were bright red, but she didn’t look like the tramp that she felt like. She looked exactly the same.
Next – Drowning Slowly – The End