I knew he was gone when I awoke shivering. Silly me for thinking this time would be different, that a random man you bring home from the bar would have the decency to stay at least until sunrise.
The hardwood floor feels like ice on the bottoms of my feet. I need carpets, but with what money? I’m too cheap to turn the heat on before the first deep freeze. Bedroom slippers will have to do for another month. At least the alcohol leftover in my system keeps me warm from the waist up. What need do I have for a man?
But I remember the sweet heat we made, driven by the booze that filled us to our limbs. When it was just our skin and sweat that separated us, and his tongue explored every inch of me, lapped me up like a steaming mug of coco.
How we made it from the bar five miles down the road in his rattling 1992 Toyota pick up remains a mystery to me. The air conditioning blasted our faces—he had no heat either—but it didn’t matter because we both sweated through our clothes, and I sat on his lap naked, bouncing on every pothole, every bump in the road. But it wasn’t to make the ride more titillating.
He couldn’t see.
I remember now. I was helping him drive, and teasing him at the same time. He juggled whether to put his fingers on the steering wheel or lift me up by the rear and slip them between the cracks.
But it was dark. No. Foggy. And something was falling. And the wipers did nothing but make the dirty windshield dirtier.
Damn him. I wish we had crashed. It would have been better for me to die than have him fill me up and empty me out all in one night.
I glance at the clock on my bedside table. There’s more light coming through my window than is normal for quarter to six. A thought comes that maybe it’s the headlights from his truck. He hasn’t pulled out of the driveway yet. I rush to part the curtains, give him a full view of what he’s leaving behind, what he’ll surely miss when he’s back home with whatever woman that’s got him running from me.
There’s always another woman. It’s my fate, my curse, to share or have nothing at all. But now I long for nothing, because I’ve never felt this abandoned since the night my father left my mother and I in the middle of a blizzard to pay the electric bill, and never came back.
And now my glowing backyard tells me what was falling from the sky last night.
Snow. At least an inch or more.
I shiver again, deep within myself, bones knocking. This day feels too familiar, too much like my childhood. I spot a trail of boot prints stretching from the back of the house toward the woods. His truck is still here. Damn thing must have died. Fluids frozen. He left it here. Somewhere there’s a man, half-naked, hungover, marching down the side of the road to the nearest service station, maybe looking for a hitch. With my luck, it’ll be a girl prettier and tighter than me, with less baggage.
I feel more used seeing his truck, here to remind me of every poor decision I ever made in life, drunk or sober. I’ll call a tow to have it removed, make sure he’s the one that has to pay for it.
I’m a traditionalist when it comes to communication. No cellphone. I still keep a phone book by the landline downstairs. I jog down two flights to get the feeling and the warmth back into my thighs and my feet. But a crackling halts me at the bottom step. I’m still naked, and despite what happened the night before, I’m not willing to let another stranger in.
I notice it’s warmer down here. The chill in my joints is gone. I cover my breasts and follow the heat through the foyer, to the living room, where the fireplace I haven’t touched in years is brought to life by dancing flames.
And he is standing over it, tending it with the poker.
“You’re still here?”
He looks up, smiles at me trying without success to hide the body parts he’s seen, and touched, and kissed, and licked all through the night. And I remember the set of footprints I saw from my bedroom window, how it lead into the forest. But then there was a second trail, afar off, coming back.
He’d gone to get firewood.
He comes over, touches my hand still covering my breast.
“You start a fire burning…” I say, but I’m short of breath. I’m shaking once again, but it’s not from the cold. I still can’t believe he came back, and for me. What did I do to deserve this? Can any of it be real?
“Come by the fire,” he says, but he draws me into him, wraps his arms around me, cups my bottom, a middle finger slipping in between, kisses me with his open mouth. Our tongues meet in the middle, our hot breath touching our lips, and every inch of me is set ablaze.
Written for #MarquessaChallenge, a Fiction Friday challenge that uses song lyrics as prompts. Today’s prompt is: With the touch of your hand, you start a fire burning…