When he wakes up he can feel with his nose the faint moisture of his breath against her shoulder. They’re both naked and face down. He turns his head and takes in the smell of her hair. It’s sweet from product but there’s a light, clean musk from sweat and oil. It’d been a muggy Halloween.
The vague, clammy heat around his groin reminds him they’d had sex before passing out. They hadn’t blacked out, but the memory was definitely coming back to him in slow motion. Them walking to the spare bedroom to find some smokes he could give her. Putting his arm around her waist without thinking about how close he was holding her. The surprise that flowed through him like warm liquid when she’d kissed him.
Reaching below her Little Bo Peep skirt, hands traveling past the little red bows on her stockings. Feeling cool skin, the curve of her ass against his squeezing palms. Her undoing his belt with one hand, reaching into his fly with the other.
Kissing from one shoulder to the other across her bare back. Her arching her head and running her tongue against his ear.
The recollection is priming him to go again. Pressed against her as he is, he’s quickly growing hard. With anyone else, the idea of wake-up sex would be a more he’d never cross. But they used to do it all the time before she’d move out.
This isn’t her costume’s maiden voyage. It’s seen more use outside of Halloween than on it.
He rolls off her, and as the sheet falls away he takes in the sight of her. Muscled from college lacrosse, and long. She drapes so easily across the length of this bed. Tan skin and bronze hair. With the heat he feels coming off her while she sleeps, he thinks of her as an errant stream of molten gold.
The urge to lie back down and hold her pulses through him. He feels the familiar urge to want to keep her safe from harm. It’s an awkward thought; she’s taller than him by an inch, and though she’s slimmer he’d bet she’s a good deal stronger. If anything, all he could ever do is serve as a human shield. He thinks that maybe that’s what lovers are once the sex runs out.
Then he shakes the silly melancholia out of his head and slides his ass to the edge of the mattress, letting the sheet slip off and land on her in a heap. He grabs his boxers, shaking them free of the red lace panties they’re somehow tangled with. He sees the whiskey he carried in here last night. Somehow, despite the stumbling and rattling, the bottle had sat upright all night, uncorked. Wasn’t there a patron saint for alcohol?
He thinks of pouring a hair-of-the-dog shot, but he’s clearheaded and doesn’t have a hangover. He’d cut most of his drinks last night with tap water, so when the drunk hit it hit smooth. He picks up the open bottle and smells it, huffing the robust malted odor. It almost smells like molasses.
He doesn’t want to leave the bottle behind, but he also doesn’t feel like searching through a house full of sleeping people for the cork. Bad enough he has to make it to the bathroom to flush the condom. He looks back to the bed, lifting the sheet. It’s sitting between her legs, a few inches from her pussy. Condoms are so sad once they’ve been used. This one looks deflated, like someone’s gutted it. The wetness around it gives him the impression it’s bleeding out.
Jesus, was he always this depressing? He shakes his head again and runs a hand across his face, blinking and taking deep, deep breaths to wake up. He sweeps dark curls out of his eyes, takes a couple tissues from the desk, and uses them to grab the condom, then chucks it to the floor to pick up later. He pulls on his clothes and tosses the Hannibal Lector mask he wore by the door.
She sighs, turning her head, and snuggles deeper against her pillow. She twists her hips, and curls her legs – still in those striped stockings – almost to her stomach. She’s one of those people who look like they’re smiling when they sleep.
He walks down the hall to the toilet and flushes the condom, and on his way back he finds the cork for the whiskey. He stuffs the mask in his back pocket, grabs his wallet, phone, and keys, and totes the booze with him when he leaves. He takes a moment to look at her before setting the lock on the knob and closing the door, pulling until he hears the clang of the latch in the frame.
He checks the time on his phone. Three missed calls from her. The other her. The one who’d had plans across town last night. One text: “Hey, I miss you! <3”
He leans against the wall for a moment. Goddamn. He considers deleting the text. He needs a shower. He needs to watch his drinking. He needs to watch his hands.
The jack-o’-lantern on the counter is dark and cold, but it smiles warmly in the dim light of the early, cloudy morning. The kitchen window behind it ticks with streams of rainwater funneling off the roof. A few empty plastic cups crowd the pumpkin to the right. He pops the cork and pours a shot into one.
“Have one on me,” he says, looking past the triangle eyes to the lumpy, melted candle. “You’ve seen more than your fair share.”
He stoppers the bottle and heads out. The whiskey goes in the trunk, the clapping of the lid echoing through the quiet neighborhood when he closes it. The engine starts with a smooth grunt, and it’s the only noise he hears the entire drive back to his apartment.
The jack-o’-lantern sits vigilant by the sink. Steam from the whiskey continually builds and then fades against its rind. A single gnat buzzes around its nose. It sits, the steward of those sleeping in these dead moments when the living know they’re alive.