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If I Kiss It, Will It Make It Better?

Tags: stripper

I see Ewan in the street, just before he nearly dies.

He sees me at the same moment. He shouts across and staggers, as if the shouting unbalances him. Fighting to right himself he topples forward. His cheek smacks the wet pavement. So many people hear, so many look round.

I sprint to him, but someone’s already easing him up. Ewan’s eyes are swimming.

‘I’m with him,’ I say. But the guy who’s got Ewan says we need an ambulance.

Ewan is standing, but still not there by the time the ambulance arrives. When I step into it behind him, an odd thing happens. This other guy – the guy who helped him up – follows me in.

I think that’s creepy.

 

At the hospital, me and this weird guy end up next to each other on plastic seats that ache your arse. Nurses and trolleys and snottery kids pass in front of a glass door opposite, and through its reflection, I study the weird guy. There’s something odd about him. His expression is docile – maybe his eyes are apologising for being too close together – yet his nose is blunt and crooked as a boxer’s. He has the neat hairstyle you’d expect to see on a corpse; a bony jaw and sticky-out ears. It’s a face constructed from a box of leftovers.

He’s looking at me in the reflection too, but doesn’t catch my eye because he’s looking lower. Probably eyeing my tits or my legs – guessing my availability.

Sure enough, weird guy clears his throat and nods in the direction Ewan went. He says, ‘He your boyfriend?’

I pretend not to hear. After a minute, he tries again. ‘Are you ok? This isn’t how anyone wants to spend a Sunday.’

He’s right. I hate Sundays. It was a Sunday when this started. I know because, trust me, you remember everything about the day you decide to take your clothes off for money. Every bit sticks in my mind, from the moment I woke and reached for the bedside radio. I kept pressing the button, but only heard church bells outside – that’s how I knew it was a Sunday.

Ewan lay next to me, already awake and smoking a reefer the size of a cigar.

‘We’ve been cut off,’ I said.

Ewan sucked in until his face went scarlet.

I nudged him. ‘Ewan, we’ve been disconnected.’

He breathed out through pursed lips. ‘We’ll be ok, pussycat,’ he said. Ash dropped from his joint. He looped his other hand around my arse and drew me to him. His fingers slipped under the elastic of my pants and kneaded the flesh of my backside. ‘Things fall into place, baby.’

I sat up. ‘You keep saying that, but nothing happens. We’re always too fucked up to do anything.’

'That's not true.' The way Ewan’s eyes skited about the room I could tell he was thinking. Finally, he said, ‘You know Big Jim? He was doing fuck all. Now he’s running a strip joint uptown.’

‘Aye, and how did he get the money, Ewan? From his dad.’

Ewan took another puff. Eyes skited again. ‘What about Julie Strachan? She works there. She was just about sleeping rough before Jim took her on. Jim says she earns hundreds a week.’

‘Doing what, though?’

‘Whatever. Stripping, I suppose.’

I trapped Ewan’s hand inside my pants. ‘Julie who used to be in my class? That Julie? She’s got a face like she stood on a rake.’

Ewan chewed his lip. ‘Aye, fair point.’

‘And she earns hundreds?

‘Aye.’ Ewan’s eyes shrank to pinholes. Maybe he guessed already.

‘I could do that,' I said.

Ewan pulled his hand away. ‘You? You couldn’t –’

‘Why not?’

‘No reason, but –’

‘We can’t go on like this, Ewan.’

‘No.’

'Would you talk to Jim?’

‘Aye,’ Ewan said, helplessly, as if our conversation had drifted beyond his reach.

 

Ewan looks every bit as helpless now. He’s in his own hospital room, wired up like the back of a TV; tubes sprout from his wrist or disappear under the sheets. But he’s still handsome. I know he’s not the same as he was three years ago. Thinner, unshaven and there’s no other way to say it: his complexion is fucked.

But we’ve both changed since that sunburned afternoon when Ewan took my hand on the back green. He didn’t say anything at the time – it was never Ewan to say things – but he didn’t need to persuade; I had loved him as long as I’d lived. We were neighbours, and he was two years older; gorgeous, charismatic and troubled. I adored him without expectation, because I was all schoolbooks, gymnastics and music, and physically so one-dimensional it was as though someone had scissored my body out of the pages of a comic. But the moment his hand surrounded mine felt conclusive.

It was why, after a minute, and still, without a word from him, I let him lead me to the side of the shed in the corner of the green and kiss me with a damp intensity. His fingers scrawled up my leg, lifting my skirt. Scatty fingertips pried up my underwear. My spine bubbled, my body submitted. Ewan’s finger stretched inside my pants and worked across. Our heads cracked together and I kissed him so hard my teeth carved into his lip.

His tongue, tasting of iron, explored the gum-slick interior of my mouth. My feet slid apart, my legs rootless. I closed my eyes and smelled Ewan’s sweet breath and heard birdsong and shouts from open windows, and a car pass. But above this my own murmur in his ear and the wet sound of his finger entering me, again and again.

It was also why, that same evening, while Mum was downstairs with one of her men, I led Ewan upstairs to my bed. We took our own clothes off, my duvet tugged tight to our chins. Underneath, our restless hands felt each other. Everything about Ewan was soft and warm, other than that which was hard: his elbows, the strap of his watch, the bump of some bone at his hip and his penis, which thwacked against his belly when my hand pulled it. I recaptured it between two fingertips and drew it between my legs.

I was overwhelmed when he pressed in; it did not feel wonderful, but it felt right, which was just along from wonderful. After, I ran a finger through his come as it cooled on my tummy; my other hand cupped my tit as if it belonged to someone else. Ewan patted the duvet to see me properly and I noticed how his neck glistened. My hand snaked to cover his cock again. It was cool and slimy and moved against my palm. He closed his eyes and I kissed his eyelashes, long and dark as a girl’s.

 

Ewan’s eyes are closed now too. I sit by his pillow and slip my book out of my bag: William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying. I like the way Faulkner’s words carry you between each page, helpless as litter in a breeze. Ewan doesn't like readers. One day they're cunts; the next they're wankers, so I don’t read much now; only when he’s out somewhere, or sleeping it off.

I don’t hear the door open, but at a polite cough, I lift my head, expecting the doctor, who will tell me, again, that Ewan must stop drinking or there will not be a next time.

But it’s the weird guy. ‘How’s the patient?’ he says. He nods at my book – ‘Hope you didn’t choose it specially’ – and stands at the foot of Ewan’s bed, where he studies the nameplate. ‘Ewan Macdonald,’ he says, giving it weight. He flips round. ‘I’m Ed, by the way.’

I tell him I’m Kirsty.

Ed shuffles around the bed, does a self-conscious pirouette with one big foot on top of the other. He fiddles with his sticky-out ears. At last, he sighs and goes, ‘Tell me to mind my own business, but is he often like that?’

‘Like what?’

‘The way he shouted at you. What he called you.’

‘Maybe,’ I say, slipping a bookmark into my book and snapping it shut, ‘you should mind your own business.’

He laughs, embarrassed. ‘Sorry.’

I crowd my book into my bag and head for the door where I turn. ‘He called me a slut. That doesn’t make me one.’

 

I had to leave anyway. I can’t be late for my shift – I’m the newest of the three of us working at the club tonight. We’ll each do a couple of stage dances. The first will be a warm-up to the second, itself a topless tease to tempt the punters to pay for a private dance. My outfit complements the music I’ve chosen as well as my body and complexion; the milk-white of my skin and the red of my hair. My lips are an incarnadine red and I wear a high ponytail. A borrowed black and green parade jacket just about covers black PVC hot pants (eBay). My white legs are accentuated by scuffed Doc Martens.

It’s Kat, who wears kitty ears and whose skin is the colour of oak, who draws the crowds. At the climax of her act, she lifts her skirt to show a fluffy tail sprouting from her arsehole. The punters love her, and she loves them back. ‘On every face, I picture a ten-pound note,’ she told me.

Then there’s good old Julie, who earns her popularity by breaking rules: pulling punters up and yanking their jeans down to reveal lolling penises in various thicknesses and stages of excitement. She plants her volunteers in front of her, backs to the crowd and drops to her knees theatrically. She mimes disappointment at their size before nuzzling her concave face into their groin. Everyone thinks she’s miming, but the punters at the side of the stage see her give a couple of enthusiastic, lingering sucks before sending her volunteers back with a smack on their behinds and an urge to have the job finished.

Julie wears a lot of make-up. Her face is that way because she was in a car crash. We all have different stories; maybe stripping is our escape from them.

Whatever my story is, it lives inside me. When I’m at my best – when Big Jim gives me a thumbs-up from the bar and announces that the name of the song I danced to would henceforth be changed from Hot in the City to Hottest in the City – I’m clouded with confidence without full knowledge of how I came to be half-naked.

I lose myself, the way I often do with books or music or Ewan. When I had piano lessons as a kid, the teacher whispered that I was a prodigy; the truth was I disappeared into the music. I played my first Chopin prelude at twelve and got so practised at it that as I played its final notes I couldn’t remember starting. I haven’t played piano for a while.

 

What would my old piano teacher have thought the day I stood by Ewan in Big Jim’s club? A cramped, dark box of a strip joint that reeked of ammonia. A short bar took up most of one side. Next to it, crammed into a gloomy corner, was a raised stage. High stools littered the floor, though there were no tables.

Jim was behind the bar, six-foot-five-worth of fat and muscle condensed into a body much shorter than mine. Flesh overflowed everywhere. Jim’s eyes sank inside his head, which made it hard to tell what he was looking at. He must have been watching me checking the room, because he said, ‘Small isn’t it?’ His shoulders began to bob ahead of his punchline: ‘No room to swing a cat – but plenty of space to wave a pussy around.’

I waited for his wheezy laugh to end. I hoped he would say I was pretty and tall and he loved red hair, and when he didn’t I prayed he wouldn’t mock me for being too flat-chested or too pale or too ginger. Jim did neither; just looked. Though I couldn’t tell what he was looking at, I felt he was undressing me; in his mind, he had already taken off my plaid shirt and was busy pulling down my short skirt to fall messily around my ankles.

Ewan, meanwhile, clasped the free pint Jim had poured for him and shuffled backwards to perch on the edge of the stage.

Jim rotated his body in Ewan’s direction. ‘You know the score, Ewan. A couple of stage dances every shift. The money from private dances is all theirs.’

‘No-one touches her, aye?’ A wee doubt in Ewan’s face.

‘Not on my watch. Where has she stripped before?’

‘If you’re talking to me,’ I interrupted, ‘I’m new. But I did gymnastics –’

Jim swivelled his body towards me. ‘Tell you what. I’ll let you know when I open a circus, love.’

Ewan coughed and swallowed his beer. ‘Captain of the team, though, Jim, eh? You should see what she can –’

‘I need experience,’ said Jim.

Ewan giggled and wiped his mouth.

‘I want to strip,’ I said.

‘I want to be a DJ,’ Jim said. ‘But I'm shite.’

I was on my toes, ready to walk. But I held myself. I lifted my hand to the topmost button of my shirt and undid it. I waited a few seconds to make sure I had Jim’s attention. I twisted the button below. It popped. Another pause, then the third button. My eyes stayed on Jim. When the fourth button snapped open, the sides of my shirt swung apart to expose a pale channel of skin between bellybutton and neck. I drew my shirt open; it dropped off my shoulders. Jim’s expression registered no surprise at what I’d done, or that I wore nothing underneath my shirt.

But he spoke at last. ‘Fuck, aye,’ he said. ‘You’ll do. We’ll call you Fire.’

 

Ewan didn’t speak till we were on the bus home. It started with a sigh that became a short, bitter laugh. Then a statement. ‘I can’t believe this,’ he said.

I twisted the bus ticket between my fingers.

‘I mean,’ he went on, ‘letting dirty fuckers leer at you?’ Another laugh.

I made a wee knot of the ticket. ‘You said it was okay, Ewan. We need money.’

Ewan stood and pressed the bell to light the BUS STOPPING sign. ‘Who suggested it, Kirsty? You couldn't wait to show Jim your tits just then. Maybe you’re gagging for everyone else in this city to see that sweet wee cunt of yours too.’ The door hissed open and Ewan jumped to the pavement.

I didn’t see him until later, when he stumbled into bed clothed and with his back to me. In the darkness I said, ‘It’s just looking Ewan. Nothing happens.’ But he didn’t reply. He did not speak for days, not properly. We were as brittle as cake frosting with each other. The conversations we had were disjointed, as if bits of us didn’t fit together.

 

I still hold out hope that we’ll talk like we used to. But next morning as I enter Ewan’s hospital room he’s talking – but to Ed, who’s dragged a chair up by his bed. No doubt Ewan’s filling him in on the full details of the 'Kirsty is a slut' story.

I turn about and I’m back in the corridor before the door’s even closed.

I hear Ed’s footsteps clattering behind me.

‘Look,’ he says, catching my arm. ‘I’m not trying to interfere. We just talked.’

I shrug him off. ‘Is that right?’

‘Kirsty, I want to help. Ewan needs it.’

I stop. ‘Don’t you think I help? Is that it?’

‘Of course not. Professional help, I mean.’

‘What would you know about it?’ My finger is up and jabbing at him. He looks around, worried we’re the centre of attention.

He lowers his voice. ‘I’m just here on holiday, from London. But I’m a psychiatrist. And I have personal experience. I had a wife –’

Had a wife? That gives you the right to lecture me?’

I start walking again, he scampers up to me.

‘It’s not just for him. It isn’t healthy for you. You deserve better.’

‘How, Ed? How do I deserve better?’

 

How can you deserve better than perfect? If Ewan had flaws – everyone said he did – they only attracted me more. He was crazy, and unreliable, but I liked that, and how he was funny and caring and an irresistible fuck.

I never officially moved in with Ewan. I went round to his place the day after he took my virginity and never left. Didn’t even tell Mum. On my first day there, he said, ‘Don’t go to school today, pussycat.’ I said I ought to, but lay there, aching for his persuasion.

‘You’ll be late, pussycat,’ he teased, drawing his finger up the inside of my thigh and sensing my arousal – was I always wet in those days? He pulled the sheet off me and his tongue, red and pleased, lapped at my nipple, making it spring up. He drifted above me, his shadow falling on my face and his weight prising my knees apart. He guided his cock to press on my clit and rotated his hips.

He asked what subject I’d miss now. I gasped, ‘English’. He said, ‘English or this?’ ‘This, this!’ I begged.

Ewan did a lot of drugs. He knew half a dozen dealers and floated through the day on their samples. That, and beer and vodka and corn flakes scooped from the packet, was all he lived on. We’d hardly move from the bed for days. We fucked and smoked and dreamed of becoming rich, though our plans were shapeless as clouds.

I didn’t bother with exams. ‘Who needs them?’ Ewan said. ‘World’s bursting with cunts with pass marks.’

On the day I’d have sat English, Ewan snorted a line of coke from my freshly shaved pussy. He licked it clean, though it numbed and burned for hours after. It made us fuck like animals, chasing an orgasm we couldn’t catch. We exhausted ourselves, sweat baking on us, but still fervent.

We lay naked and breathless, facing each other on the bed with our legs splayed brazenly. My knee touched his. We shared a joint and as I let the smoke fall out of my mouth I said, ‘Ewan, put your finger in my arsehole.’ Sometimes I suggested awful things like this, either because I was stoned or because I wanted him to think I was stoned; he excited me so much, I was rudderless.

Ewan pressed his middle finger between my legs, behind me where he couldn’t see it. He pushed in and when it gave my body shifted up a fraction.

‘Like this?’ he smiled.

I nodded. He twisted his finger in like a screw, right up to the knuckle and with that finger he drew me towards him. We kissed, and began to fuck again.

Later, when we showered to clean ourselves he yelled that the water stung his dick. I kneeled, water spraying off my head in a waterfall, to look. His cock was a carmine red. He said, ‘Don’t touch it, baby.’

But I giggled, ‘If it hurts, shouldn’t I kiss it better?’ It twitched, ready, as always, for my lips.

 

I often think about these moments as I dance; they help excite me, build tension, and increase my self-absorption to the extent I don’t notice the crowd.

But tonight, something – I can't say what to begin with – catches my eye and after the first song, I shade my eyes and peer out again. Someone familiar at the back of the room.

The second track comes on just as my face reddens in realisation. It’s Ed.

I’ve done this song a hundred times, and know its milestones – the point where I flash open my jacket, the instant I turn and bend and present my black-clad arse, the very beat the jacket is abandoned and I spray whipped cream on my boobs to tease some loser at the front. But tonight my movements are robotic. I lose my cues. By the time my jacket is off and I start spraying the cream, the song is too close to its end. And the cream doesn’t spray properly. I have to shake it, putting me further behind. The music dies completely just as a spatter of cream farts out of the can onto my tits.

I jump offstage. Jim silently hands me a towel to wipe flecks of cream off. Julie, twisting her mouth in sympathy, tosses over my jacket. I pull it on and, head lowered, I squeeze towards the toilets. When my path is blocked, I know who it is.

‘Hi,’ Ed says.

‘Fuck off.’

In the background, Jim’s voice bellows.

‘Gentlemen, she may be short of whipped cream, but Fire will now offer a more intimate private dance to anyone who pays. Ten pounds for one. Twenty for two.’

I glance either side. No rescuers.

Jim continues, ‘The good news is she’ll have to think of something else to rub into her tits. So in the words of Bachman-Turner Overdrive…’ Here Jim fumbles with a button on his CD system to launch belatedly into the chorus of You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.

I push past Ed, but he anticipates me. I go the other way and Ed’s in front of me again and this time his wallet is out. He pinches a twenty between his fingers. I stall. I could give Jim the signal for the touchers and Ed’s feet would be out of the door before his head. But this, after all, is my job. Wordlessly, I snap the note out of Ed’s hand and nod towards to the booth.

 

The booths are our place of business. All that separates them from the rest of the pub is a swing door and a curtain, but they have their own protocols: punters only get you totally naked for the second dance. As Ed follows me in and I pull the curtain, I clarify the other rule.

‘Don’t fucking touch me,’ I whisper.

‘I just want to talk,’ Ed says, quiet-like. But he sits on the bench, hands locked under his thighs, like any punter. I tap the iPod on the wall.

It’s only when the music starts – Genie in Bottle – that our proximity unsettles me. I've never danced for someone I know, far less someone I dislike. I keep my back to him for the first few bars, restricting myself to a gentle see-saw of my hips. And slowly, slowly, these turn into wider circles, hands on my backside. Even in this song, there’s something sensual to attach my body to and let it swim as though I really have been locked up for a century of lonely nights.

Hip rotations blend into a body sway and the movement lifts my arms, wrists crossing above my head. I think of Ewan to help me. Back down my arms come, on cue for the chorus, to catch the shoulders of my jacket, nudging it backwards with my thumbs. It tumbles and lands on Ed’s lap. I cup my tits, twist around. Ed’s gaze is averted; as if he’s studying the progress of an insect up the wall. Making out he’s above this. Too bad.

I keep swaying, lower, knees bent, then rise and uncover myself, my hands shooting up behind my head. His eyes flick to my tits, then up to meet my eyes, then back to my nipples. I turn my back on him again, and when I glance over my shoulder he's looking at my hot pants. I grind my hips, edge back and squat over his lap, my arse a breath away from his groin. He draws his knees together, as if he’s at church, and I lower myself and slide back on his lap until I meet the barrier of what might be an erection. Then forward, push up and turn to face him. My extended fingers draw up the front of my thighs to my pants and toy with the button.

The song ends. Silence.

‘Kirsty, I –’ He’s looking at my nipples, pink and proud and shining. All over, my skin glistens with drops of sweat like condensation.

‘The name is Fire,’ I say. ‘This is my job. It doesn’t make me a slut.’

‘I don’t want –’

‘Leave if you want,’ I say. Though I don’t want him to. I have something to prove. I tap the button for a second dance.

This one is slower, sadder. Back to Black. And while it speaks to me – always has – my head remains above it, conscious of my effect on Ed even as I face the wall and open the button at the front of my pants. I inch one side down. Transfer my weight and drop the other hip, thumb levering. Repeat and repeat, easing them over my cheeks, before bending forward. We’re so close an arse cheek touches his nose as my shorts fall. Naked to my boots, I sit on his thigh again and push back. It is an erection back there, and it presses against my arse before slotting between my cheeks. I have to fight a pang of arousal. He does too: his leg presses up against my groin.

I stand again and turn, sensing his abdication is close. His muscles have relaxed; he’s openly staring at my pussy. I lean over him, hands flat against the wall above. My breasts brush his cheek. He turns his head away. There’s a sheen above his lip.

I lean into him. My tit slides down his forehead. It hesitates at his nose, the nipple catching on his nostrils and then dips lower, brushing his lips. I hold it there, until his mouth forms an ‘O’. I move away.

‘Song’s over,’ I say.

Ed slumps back. He looks broken. I want to feel good about that, but as I dress I am breathless and aroused too. And I know how it feels to seek intimacy and be denied it. It makes me think of the time, not long after I started at the club, when Ewan and I were in bed one morning. Ewan was drinking Scotch, neat. Hadn’t touched me for weeks.

I bit his ear and began to lick his body. I had never wanted to lick so much; to make each lick perfect; to feel every hair on his skin and make each respond; to lick around his nipple, slowly; to make him curl and stretch and harden like porcelain.

The way the light came in from the window lit up a hundred, a thousand, of his hairs so they looked like they were on fire and my tongue was dampening them. I climbed over him, willing him to touch.

Then he said, ‘Do you do that for all the boys?’

After Ewan said that, I gave up the club. I wanted to repair what was broken. But Ewan didn’t stop drinking. He grew worse, sometimes staying out all night. He’d call my mobile and say awful things, only to apologise in the morning. Then he'd disappear for days.

And when my savings ran out after a month, without either of us saying anything, I went back to work.

 

I do not think I will see Ed again, but there are no certainties. This city, which I love, has taught me that. A sunny day can disappear in minutes when haar bullies its way inland to envelope everything in a wistful mist.

So next morning, as I open the door to Ewan’s room, somehow I am not as surprised as maybe I should be to see Ed by Ewan’s bed. I hesitate at the door, but steel myself to continue, plonking down my bag and sitting at the other side. Between us, Ewan sleeps on.

Neither of us speak until abruptly Ed says, ‘Sorry about last night.’

‘It’s ok,’ I say.

Ed stares ahead of him.

Finally, over Ewan’s head, I say, ‘So what happened to your wife?’

He doesn’t say anything for a minute. I’m wondering whether to repeat the question when he says, ‘I’ve kept her favourite mug.’

‘That’s good.’ I take my book out.

‘It’s funny how we cling to physical things in the end, isn’t it?’

‘Maybe,’ I say. I don't know what he means until I remember the watch. So I say, ‘When my Mum died, Ewan got rid her stuff. Whatever we got for it just went – Ewan drank it I think. But I found a man’s watch in her drawer. Maybe it was my dad’s. I’ll never know. Thing is, I pressed in the bit at the side – what’s that called?’

‘The crown.’

‘The crown, yeah. Pressed it and twisted and the watch came back to life. I held like this –’ I put my hand to my ear. ‘Its tick was like a heart re-starting. Made me wish I could do that: start everything again from the point it broke. I suppose that doesn’t make sense to you.’

Ed goes, ‘It makes sense. So did you sell it?’

‘No.’ I glance down at Ewan, sleeping. ‘I’ve hidden it.’

Ed smiles and rises. He walks to the door. ‘I better go. I’m back to London tomorrow. I didn’t mean to interfere, Kirsty. Maybe I got too involved. But good luck,’ he says. The door clacks behind him.

In the silence after, Ewan stirs. His eyes open. ‘Hello, pussycat,’ he says.

 

Tonight everything comes together on stage. Every movement appears unconsciously sensual, each exposure seems timed for arousal, and there’s a pervasive, underlying explicitness to my act. Or that’s what it feels like. When it’s over, Jim hands back my jacket and says he’s never seen me like it. Thought he’d have to hose the punters down, he says. He’s already fiddling with his CD player. He looks up. ‘Did I do that joke about Hot in the City last week?’

I nod, but I’m looking at the man standing at the bar. Ed.

He shouts across, ‘Do you have a minute?’

I glance over my shoulder at the booths, ears reddening. ‘You’ll have to pay.’

‘Anywhere we can talk?’

Jim butts in. ‘There’s the VIP suite.’ He gives Ed a wee sideways glance and a toothless grin. ‘The special treatment room.’

‘It’s fifty pounds,’ I say. Ed pulls out his wallet.

I lead him through the back, past the booths into a small room bathed in purple light, where two fake leather couches face each other and a mirror lines one wall. I nod to one couch to indicate where Ed should sit, while I perch on the other, untying my boots.

‘You don’t mind? These fucking kill me,’ I say.

‘Kirsty,’ he says, sitting forward, ‘I don’t need you to strip. Just something I didn’t say earlier – to look out for yourself.’

‘Do you want music?’ I say, ‘Some guys don’t.’

‘Seriously. This is about you.’

Barefooted, I step towards him. I nudge my half-open jacket off my shoulders to the floor. I glimpse myself in a mirror, my upper body still shining from my stage performance, my nipples like stones.

‘This is about me,’ I say. I kneel in front of him. ‘And you.’

He pulls his knees together. ‘You could go to university, or college.’

I look up, hold a finger to my lips.

‘You’re too bright. Go back to school.’

My hands push his knees apart. ‘I failed my highers.’

‘So do them again. Go back, Kirsty. Don’t give up. I know –’

My hand reaches up to cover his mouth. His breath is damp on my palm. My free hand trails up his trouser leg. I tug at his zip – it stutters open – and yank at his briefs. His cock swings out, huge and slow.

‘It’s been a long time. Hasn’t it?’ I say. He snorts on my hand.

I begin to wank him, just the tip, with my free hand, loosely curling it around his shaft. I’m looking at his cock – each time I pull up his foreskin a pool of liquid gathers at the head like a tiny paddling pool – but I hear his breathing run jagged.

‘Such a long time,’ I whisper. I lower my lips. My tongue skitters along his cock’s filmy head. At every touch, Ed’s body twitches, legs twisting away from each other. The hand I’d covered his mouth with slips and my fingers briefly enter his mouth where his teeth grip them.

I swallow him in one movement, reaching half-way down. He bucks, hips push into me almost making me gag. It is here I lose some sense of where I am, almost as if I’m watching my body, unaware how it got there. I can’t tell when his hands first touch me, but I see them in the mirror; holding my ears, mussing my hair, pulling my head up. My view of spit drooling from my mouth is abstracted, like someone else is sucking him off with their forefingers gripping him at the stem.

I see myself fumbling one-handed with the button on my hot pants, with Ed’s cock still planted my mouth. I see myself naked, twisting like a gymnast, to climb and perch on his thighs with my back to him. My toes grip his skin as if I’m on a balance beam. I notice my knees are an ugly red, but do not feel their rawness. I can almost see the flutter in my veins. I arch my spine and lift myself high enough to reach underneath and lever his penis up. He says words – are you sure? – but my hearing is dulled. His hands scurry to my thighs where his whitened fingertips press into my white skin. I see my skin yield. I sense it too, the yielding.

I’m sure.

The instant between him not being in me and being fully in me is registered by a gasp. As soon as he’s inside his hands climb my torso and clutch my tits. My hands cover his and I turn into him, tongue out, searching for his mouth. The taste of Ed’s kiss is shocking and unfamiliar; tomorrow, when I am back in the hospital with Ewan, I will run my tongue over my teeth trying to recall its flavour.

Ed’s hips drop away. Instinctively I lower myself too, but he thrusts up again. Our bodies meet with a smack, and a second. My legs go lax. Like a book falling open, my knees pitch apart. His hands slip into the valley between my thighs and he rubs me with the instinct of someone who has always known how to.

By now, my head is tucked into his neck. I can't see, but in the darkness, a sparkling and vibrating warmth rises in me, far too quickly. His thrusts slow, but everything races beyond our bodies.

Oh, oh. I’m going – His voice distant, echo-like.

It’s okay. It’s okay.

Ed grunts and jerks forward, tight to me. My body answers in a series of shivering waves, stuttering on him for long seconds.

Oh.

We wait, gasping but otherwise mute, in the purple light. My arms are goose-fleshed. We don’t move until I twist on Ed and rest my forehead against his. Then I kiss him, right between the eyes. I don’t know why. I hoped it would make me feel better, but I’m not sure it will.

 

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