She looks, to use an overused word, radiant. Black dress. Cut low. Cleavage. Cut deep. A hint of eye shadow. Lips look natural. Hair perfect. Dark. He knows that under that dress on each thigh is a tattoo. The left one is a water dragon. The right one is an ice dragon. He knows because he's seen those thighs. He's been between them many times.
He looks as he normally does. Shirt with two buttons open. Jacket that looks like he slept in it. Hair is unkempt. His khakis creased in a road map pattern. He hasn't shaved in seven days? He's lost count.
The food is secondary. Pasta for both. His has clams. She's not into seafood or veal. Both make her gag. Neither has eaten much, but they've both been through two glasses of wine.
"What are you thinking?" she asks.
He smiles at her. She knows what he's thinking. It's the same thing he's always thinking. What he says, however, is, "Why do we go through this dance every damn time?"
Now it's her turn to smile. "It's fun."
"You and me ... we have different definitions of that word."
"It's still fun."
"Are you wearing anything under that dress?" he asks.
"Do I ever?"
He shakes his head ever so slightly. He appreciates her nude form, but he appreciates her clothed form even more. It leaves more to the imagination. He's seen her sans clothes dozens of times. He can trace her body in his mind, as he has committed it to memory. But nothing gets him more excited than picturing her without panties under that dress. Well, that and the way she moans.
"Where are we going to go?" she asks.
"Anywhere your boyfriend isn't."
She rolls her eyes. "Right now I'd say he's stuffing dollar bills into the panties of some beggar stripper in Vegas. Typical male bonding before the night of a wedding."
"Do you think he'd be doing that knowing what you and I are going to be doing later?"
"Yeah. I do."
"Sinful," he says. "He's left a woman as marvelous like you home alone to fend off the wolves."
"For the last time," she says. "This is it. We're done after tonight."
He leans forward. "What? What do you mean 'this is it'? When the fuck did you get a conscious?"
"It's not that. He and I are moving. He got a job offer in Sac, and I'm going to go-"
"No. Bullshit. This does not end this way." His finger jabs at the table with every word. Now he notices the people looking at them.
"Let's not make a scene."
"Then don't make fucking declarations like that."
He is silent for a moment. Then, "What we have is good."
"No. What you have is good. What I have is a problem explaining why it hurts to walk for two days and why I can't fuck him."
"I do more damage than I should."
She agrees with that.
"But you like it," he says.
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't."
"Should we go?" he asks.
"You have someone lined up?"
He nods. "That I do. Craig's List is filled with young ladies looking to get kinky for only $100 an hour. I've assured Barbie -- not her real name, I'm sure -- that it would only be an hour, and that the level of kink was nothing out of the ordinary."
She laughs. "And did she believe that?"
"She says she's eighteen. Her picture says twenty. Either way, she's about as smart as a fourteen-year-old, so I would say she believes it."
"Will she have security?"
He shakes his head. "She told me, without prompting, that she operates solo. She wanted me to know all the money goes to her for her 'education.'"
"Oh, she's in school?"
"Yeah, she's a college student, and I still have my medical license. Let's go. I'll call her from the parking lot."
They take their individual cars to his place, at which point she gets in his car, her dress riding up her thigh. "Where are we meeting her?"
"Parking lot of Target," he says.
"And then to the cabin?"
He puts the car in drive. "Where else do you think we'd go for this?"
They pick her up. She sits in the pack of the Prius. She is quick to tell them she's only done "it" with girls "like two or three times."
"That's not an issue," he tells Barbie. "You don't have to do a damn thing but watch."
"Yes," the woman in the passenger seat says. "We fuck. You watch. We like to get rough sometimes, so don't be surprised by that."
"Okay," Barbie says. This was not the kink she was expecting.
"You know what that makes this?" the driver asks.
"No," she responds.
"The easiest hundred you ever made."
As they make their way through the hills, they engage in the usual small talk. It doesn't take long for the man and woman to figure out that Barbie is not a college student. Nor is she much of a conversationalist. All attempts at anything other than the basics are met with silence or mumbled answers. He starts to suspect she's on pills of some sort. His partner doesn't care.
"Can I smoke?" she asks.
"No," the driver answers sternly. "The car already smells like your shitty perfume. I don't need the odor of Camel Lights adding to it."
"Hey," Barbie says, hurt, "it's expensive perfume."
"Still smells like shit," he tells her.
They get to the cabin. It is the only one in sight. He has left a light on inside as well as the porch light on. "This is it," he says, getting out of the car. "Casa de Depravity for the next hour. You get to watch me do this lovely lady in all the places God forbid, and all you have to do is keep your pretty little mouth shut."
They take her to the bedroom and point to the chair in the corner where she is to sit. "No talking," he reminds her. "No masturbating. No texting. No updating your Facebook status. You watch this like you are watching your favorite show, got it?"
Barbie nods and settles into the seat. For the next half an hour she does nothing but watch. She doesn't say a word. Not when he pulls her hair. Not when he takes her from behind and she screams. Not when he chokes her or punches her in the stomach. Barbie is thankful for the fact that it is the other woman that is on the bed and not her. The man was right. This was the easiest hundred she ever made.
At minute forty-two, everything changes. The woman, who is underneath the man, makes eye contact with Barbie. "You like ... this?" she pants. The man is thrusting into her hard. Sweat is dripping from his face. He bends his head down and starts to bite her nipple. The woman screams, and Barbie lets out a single word. "Damn."
The action on the bed stops. They both look at her. The mood interrupted. "What the hell?" he says.
Barbie points to the woman. "Her nipple is bleeding."
The woman pushes the man off her and marches over to Barbie. Three quick slaps land on her face. Then her throat is grabbed. The woman's face is close to her's. Too close. "You were told to keep your damn mouth shut. College girl not know what that means?"
Barbie was afraid to say anything. Wasn't even sure she could.
"Answer her," the man tells her, "or I'll take out your teeth."
"I know ... what it ... means," she gasps.
The woman pushes her back into the chair. "Strip," she says. "Get up and strip."
"I want to go home."
The man walks over. He calmly says, "We paid you for an hour. We have fifteen minutes left. What's the worse that can happen?"
Forty-five minutes later they are in the car heading back to Target. Barbie is in the back seat. Silent. Tears are drying on her face. She is holding her left hand. It is wrapped in a towel loaded with ice packs.
"I'd drop you off at the ER, but they have cameras," he tells her as he takes the car onto the highway.
"I can drive ... I hope," she says.
The woman looks back at her. "The bruises will heal. The bite marks will go away. That small patch of hair will grow back. But you'll want to get that hand looked at. I heard at least two of them break."
"You'll both be going to jail," Barbie tells them. Again, she proves she's not the brightest.
"Do you have someone lined up?" she asks him again.
He seems to register the question. The restaurant is still packed. "What?"
She sighs. "Jesus. Are you even listening? Do you have someone lined up? You know, for our usual."
"Oh," he says. "I did. She backed out at the last moment." He shrugs. "Something about studying for finals." He is lying. She didn't back out, but he's not going to pick her up.
"What the hell is wrong with you? You're acting weird."
He smiles at her. "I was just lost in thought. Picturing what life would be like without you, I guess."
She signals for a waiter. "I don't think I can do this if we don't have someone watching. You know how I feel about that."
"Do you and your boyfriend have an audience?"
"No, but he's not beating the shit out of me, either."
"And you're asking what's wrong with me."
The waiter gives them the check. He gives the young man his American Express card and watches him walk away. "I'm sure it will be fun without some young whore keeping silent in the corner."
"I doubt it. This is a horrible last date."
He is erect now. "Oh, I'm sure I can figure out a way to spice it up." He is thinking of the hacksaw in the shed next to the shack. He'll tie her up, blindfold her, and then get to work on her leg. Two inches above the knee.
"And how do you plan on doing that?" she asks.
He pictures heating up a fork on the stove and then shoving it in her mouth. "I don't know," he says with a playful smile. "Leave the shades up for the deer to watch? They won't say a word."
The waiter returns the card and they leave the restaurant. She gets into his Prius. "I'm still not into this idea," she says.
"How about we make tonight just about us then? No hooker watching. One last romantic evening ... our final one together. What do you say?" He starts the car and looks at her.
"It sounds boring," she tells him. "If I wanted boring, I'd wait for Lyle to come home and get on top of
"I promise I won't bore you," he says, patting her thigh. "I promise this will be a night to remember."
He pulls out of the parking lot and starts heading toward the cabin.
"Okay. Deal. But no rough stuff. It feels weird without someone watching."
He smiles, but she can't see it in the dark. "Don't worry. We'll make do. I promise."