This story is by Sevan Ivory and won an honorable mention in our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Sevan Ivory is always writing, whether she’s traveling abroad or grabbing a cup of coffee. She teaches special education language arts in middle school. Though she’s published reviews of books and American Idol, this is her first fictional story to be published. Her first novel is in the works.
Don’t , I tell myself.
But I do.
We have sex.
We make love.
Okay, if we’re being honest, I hate all of these terms. One is too forceful, one too straightforward, one overly romanticized. So what else is left? We sleep together? That’s not any better. It’s a euphemism.
That’s the real problem. None of these words actually say what it is that we do.
At least, what Jon and I do … It can’t be explained in these figures of speech. It’s none of the things above. It’s so much more … slow and tender and more beautiful than any of those colloquialisms or any time I’m with my husband. It cannot be described and waved away in a mere word or phrase.
It starts with a light kiss, a gentle pressing of the lips together. I feel tiny, I feel completely unworthy of having this man standing above me, looking down on me. He is burly sinew, he is mature, he seems like a god, he may actually be one. What am I doing?
Yet there is an electricity between us I haven’t felt in a long time, like a shock, and it spreads a sparkly warmth down to my toes.
Then, in the middle of this tentative kiss, there’s a palpable shift. Before, Jon was a coworker I stared at for too long, a pretty face on the other side of the table. I caught him staring at me more than once, his eyes lingering long enough to give me butterflies. I convinced myself that I was imagining his reciprocal looks, but after a work seminar and a few glasses of wine, we’re alone in his hotel room. A new entity takes him over, one who slides one of those hard muscled arms around my waist and pulls me in closer. It’s not a move of a handsome man I barely know. It’s one of a lusty lover finally putting something right.
His lips become more forceful, and mine are no longer limp but are just lined with a hint of firmness. Then his lips open just a little. In automatic response, mine lower as well. Our oral chasms hover over each others, breath passing between us at an elevated rate.
Am I really going to do this?
Finally his tongue probes into my mouth hesitantly. It is asking me a question — Do you want to dance? Mine is like a middle school girl, hanging back against the wall but knowing that I so desperately want to dance. So, after some consideration, my tongue meets his in a tentative manner, the girl slipping her hand slowly into the boy’s, asking him to lead her to the floor.
He does so masterfully. He has taken ballroom lessons, he has years of experience, he knows exactly the right moves to make. Even better, not only has he learned what to do, but he executes it artfully, as if he, his lips, his body were made for this sole purpose.
And me? I’m swept off my feet.
There is silence in snowfall. The whole world comes down in those little white crystalline structures, all innocence and glitter. Everything else that is not a snowflake ceases to move, stands still and holds its breath while the bits of icy lace pile atop each other. They put a blanket of pure white over the dark ground. The slate sky is soft in its silence. I could watch the world come to this crunching, comforting halt for days on end. Is this coverlet of white a blank slate? Does it let us start anew with a fresh palette?
Will I tell him?
I’m wondering this, staring out the window at the falling snow, and Jon is laying behind me, propped up on an elbow, his bare, perfectly sculpted chest on display atop a different white blanket. He is staring at me, and it makes me self-conscious.
“You are a goddess,” he murmurs, not taking his eyes off me.
“I’m not,” I whisper, shaking my head.
“Enough self-doubt,” he deadpans. “You are stunning and you are brilliant. And these last few days with you …”
I turn back to him. Truly, he is the other worldly being, his face and body so perfect that I can’t help having wondered if he’s real. I lay back down on the bed next to him, and his lips insist to me that yes, he is very real indeed.
Will I tell him?
“I’ve dreamed of this,” he whispers to me between kisses. “From the moment I saw you. You’re so goddamned gorgeous.”
Really, I’m so goddamned average, but I have forgotten that in the next moment. If it were true, how could this perfect specimen pour over every inch of me, sing my praises this way? No one has ever called me sexy, no one has ever wanted me for my body. I am transformed, I am a butterfly spreading my wings and folding them around this man forever.
The fire between us blazes, even against the clinically pale hotel sheets.
I have a husband. He is my best friend. I love him dearly.
Will I tell him?
I wonder this when I drive up to my house after having been away for days due to the snow. Through the front window, I see him cutting up vegetables for dinner. He is a good cook. He does everything for me.
When I was in eighth grade, my health teacher advised my class to marry your best friend. I always remembered that piece of advice, and I followed it. We have been the envy of our pack. They place us on a pedestal. The couple that never argues. That goes everywhere together. Laughs and talks and keeps no secrets.
Except for this one.
My husband calls me princess and cutie. He tweaks my nose and kisses my cheek. We are attracted to each other. We hold hands and share pecks in public constantly.
But I have never felt as wanted with him as I do with Jon.
I close my eyes and inhale deeply. The scent of Jon is still in my hair, on my skin. I can still feel his muscles pressed against my flesh. I want what we did last night again.
And I will not get that feeling of pure lust inside my own house.
Will I tell him?
What I will get is a different love, one that is quiet but strong and unwavering. One that takes pride in our home and shines throughout it. That rubs my feet. Cares for me when I am sick. Reads late at night in bed with me, discusses politics, gives me time to write and work out and do things that I want while still planning for a future that is nothing but together.
I may not get ravaged when I walk through that door, but I will feel all the warmth and love of stability and comfort.
I had decided to tell him on my drive home. Decided that I couldn’t live without Jon and that magical spark that was ignited and has become a roaring blaze. But now, standing here, watching my husband do an adorable little dance around the kitchen as he puts something that smells delicious even from all the way out here into the oven, I realize that stability and comfort are firm foundations for a contented life, a fire that has been well tended for years that warms the entire house.
Is it a good decision to hide this affair from my husband? Of course not. It is a secret that has been planted between us. I am god awful at keeping secrets. My own feelings constantly fall out of my mouth, and my husband always listens with a smile and vindication.
But nothing can make this one right. My selfishness dawns on me, whips my heart and leaves a bleeding, scarred line across it. Every time I see him (my husband, Jon, whichever), the scar will throb.
“You are a goddess,” Jon told me last night.
“You are my princess,” my husband has told me every night for the last fifteen years.
My husband knows that I’ve always loved tiaras.
I will have to live with the pain.
I reach down and dig my hands into the feet of pure, white blanket of snow that glistens like a Christmas card across the lawn. Last night, I wondered if snow cover lets us start fresh, and I had been thinking of Jon. Rolling this clump into a ball, I urge it to purify my deeds instead.
I take aim at the kitchen window and throw it. My husband looks up, and a smile lights his face. He blows me a kiss.
Don’t, I tell myself.
He doesn’t need to know.
I smile back, a smile that reaches all the way to my own heart, and I go inside.