And now for something completely different! My good friend Exhibit A is running an erotica contest, so I figured I’d brush off the dust and work on some new fiction. I chose the prompt “What’s the point in always looking back?” which also happens to be a Manic Street Preachers lyric from a song I’d never heard before.
Here’s “The Backroads.” Enjoy!
Rose couldn’t remember the last time she brought a boyfriend home to Massachusetts. It must have been when she was in college and the whole family still lived under the same roof. The house was more of a mess back then, Lyle’s soccer cleats always on the stairs, Rose’s bedroom cluttered with projects started over the summer and forgotten as soon as the fall semester kicked off. Yes, it must have been her senior year when she held a boy’s sweaty hand and walked up the stone front steps, delighted to have found someone she could keep.
For a while at least. Six years later and she knew better now.
Tucker adjusted the bouquet of flowers in his lap, the plastic wrap crinkling against his knees. There was no suggestion of nerves on his smooth face, green eyes studying the leaves mid-color change as they rolled down quiet streets she knew like the veins in her wrist. As a teenager she took this route home after parties because there were fewer cops to notice her inventive relationship with the lines on the center of the road, not drunk but wet and giddy. She was never a rule breaker, only an occasional bender at the encouragement of a boy with a snide voice. Rose could practically hear Arcade Fire on the stereo and the air pouring through the open window smelled the same as at seventeen.
A hand curled around hers and Tucker gave her a reassuring wink.
“You would have hated me in high school,” Rose noted, weaving her fingers through his.
“I find that hard to believe.” His voice was calm.
Maybe she was exaggerating for dramatic effect: teenage Rose was a sweet kid, if sheltered. Her head was busy with ideas and fantasies and the occasional pettiness of a girl growing up in the stuffy suburbs of New England. She babysat for the neighbors and read magazines under the summer sun wearing skimpy bathing suits. She wondered what it would be like if Oliver Aston kissed her neck on the dance floor the way he did to Zoe that night after the spring concert. Wondered what her skin would taste like to him, if he’d bite just a little. That was back when Twilight was still big.
“I was a know-it-all,” Rose said.
Tucker laughed, not unkindly. “Of course you were. Wise beyond your years.”
“I was very inexperienced.” He wiggled his eyebrows, and she flashed him a wry look. “But I read everything.”
And she did: romance novels, classic American literature, erotic Star Trek fan fiction, anything that seared with anticipation. As a teenager that was all she had, the build-up of a hand pressing against her stomach, eye contact held too long across the music room. She could make a brush of fingers on a desk last for weeks, untangle every detail and breath until her body was ready to snap. Sex was barely a word in her vocabulary, an irrelevant possibility she couldn’t outline in her thoughts. But at seventeen everything was sensual, even the briefest little touch.
“Do you ever think about how exciting it was back then to just… make out?”
His eyebrows rose, a smile playing at his lips. “Do you not find making out with me exciting?”
“You know what I mean.” She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze before letting go to turn the steering wheel. Gravel popped under the tires. “When no one was having sex yet and you just…devoured your crush like a horny idiot. And everything was new.”
Tucker reached out to place his hand at the back of her neck, thumb playing with the hair at her nape. “I remember the first time someone gave me a hand job,” he said. His voice took on that velvet dark she liked, a bedroom voice not at all out of context on the backroads of her hometown. He fit everywhere. “Someone else’s skin touching me like that… It was like seeing new colors.”
“I used to love grinding.”
“No, like…” Rose could feel herself getting hot under her sweater, the cashmere suddenly harsh. His hand was warm and firm at her neck. “Sitting in someone’s lap and—what’s the word—”
“Rutting?” Oh god, his voice was low. Practically dripping.
“Did you like going home at the end of the night all hot and sticky?” he asked. She could feel his eyes watching her face and she tried to focus on the road, looking for the right corner. She didn’t want to miss it. “Sneaking in late with your hair all mussed?”
“I lived for it,” Rose breathed.
He nodded slowly, a suspicion confirmed. “I know you did. So desperate to feel good, only to go home dissatisfied.”
“No.” She bit her lip, more of an observation than a protest.
“I wasn’t dissatisfied. More like… still hungry.”
“That’s my girl,” Tucker purred. “Insatiable.” He moved his hand from her neck to her chin, brushing her cheek. She leaned into his touch and some of the intensity left his face. Affection was a good color on his skin. “I would have adored you in high school,” he said, the words thick.
She smiled, grateful in a way she couldn’t articulate. Tucker’s hand settled in her lap, knuckles brushing the hem of her corduroy skirt.
And then there it was, the hidden shoulder under a thicket of pine trees that she’d been hunting for. She eased the car off the road and into the shadows, brown and red leaves licking the windshield. The engine fell silent as she twisted the key in the ignition.
“Where are we?” Tucker asked. He placed the bouquet of flowers on the dashboard
Rose turned and unfastened her seatbelt. “Somewhere I used to come when I lived at home.”
“Did you come here to read?” he teased as she climbed across the gear stick. He fumbled for the recline lever while she settled across his lap, straddling him with as much grace as she could manage. She was out of practice.
“Oh yes,” she said, playing with the buttons of his polo shirt. “Many, many books.”
“So studious.” He finally found the lever and the seat lurched back to a 120 degree angle. She laughed against his neck. “And so romantic.”
“Shut up and make out with me,” she commanded.
In an uncharacteristic development, he didn’t seize the last word.
The truth was that kissing Tucker was exciting: gentle and confident, comfortable but surprising. On the night they met they’d kissed like old friends and total strangers, her back up against some wall outside of the bar. His hands didn’t wander or demand; he held her face in his palm, a promise in how he took her lower lip into his mouth and bit down just so. I want you and I am going to take my time, he seemed to say, and what he actually said was almost better, the low murmur of “This seems promising,” with a grin caught in each syllable. She mentally agreed, finding herself at a loss for words.
The kind of kiss when you know the sex will be fantastic but you’re happy to take your time getting there. The kind of kiss you get a handful of times in your life if you’re lucky.
Today he tasted like coffee and a hint of spearmint gum, boyfriend flavors. He was hard against her thigh and she whimpered as he dragged her down against him, denim scraping the cotton of her underwear. Fingers were tight at her hips, digging into her skin—he wasn’t being careful. Teeth grazed her neck, a light threat she couldn’t wait to take him up on.
“Is this what you remembered?” he asked and she felt her voice flicker and fold in her throat, useless in the wake of this much heat.
No, it wasn’t, because Tucker touched her like a man, held her in place and explored her without needing permission. She could feel her body melting, mind narrowing down to the grind of him against her, to the flimsy calculation of so much fabric and could she wait and just how much caution could be thrown to what distance. She ran her hands down his arms, up his chest, through his hair and he kissed her again, mundane and electric. And then he pulled away. “I asked you a question.”
He held her hips, snapping her forward and pushing her slowly back. She squeezed her eyes shut like it would make it easier to dig up the words. “No,” she said.
How many boys did she take here to make out over the years, and how many did she really remember? Robert’s jersey on the dirty floor behind the driver’s seat. Her hair getting caught under Oliver’s forearm. Flirting at the brink of orgasm but never falling off the edge, palms sticky with someone else’s sweat. Kissing and kissing and kissing and never knowing if they wanted her or the soft curve of her breast.
Her favorite part was always driving home alone at the end of the night. She would flip through her rolodex of detail and weave fiction between each touch to make it warmer, more personal, worth remembering.
Tucker stared up at her. One of his hands returned to her throat, tilting her chin up and pressing against her pulse point.
“Better,” she said, and she swallowed the dryness of her mouth. “You are so much better.”