Elsa watched from across the empty dining room as Mark handed the last of the boxes to one of the movers. Within minutes, the truck had pulled away, and Mark and Elsa were alone on a warm Georgia evening. It was September, so the heat wasn’t unbearable, but after a day of packing and loading boxes, they were both sweaty and a little the worse for wear. The waning sunlight danced on the cherry hardwood in the foyer.
It wasn’t the fanciest house in the world; a small ranch on a quiet cul-de-sac. Really, it was scarcely different from many of the others they had looked at, but Elsa had been won over by the stained glass windows on either side of the front door. Delicate roses twisted and strained upwards on either side of the door, as if reaching towards the sun. But, it was something that personalized the house for Elsa, and now she sat cross-legged on the hardwood floor and looked at the glass. She closed her eyes, and a single tear slipped from the corner of her eye. The house was no longer theirs.
It was a perfect storm, really. A sub-prime mortgage, followed by financial problems as the rate adjusted upwards. Then the restaurant had failed. Ah, that wound was still so fresh. The word “failed” still tasted so bitter! But that was it; the restaurant had failed, and the creditors had come like wolves, looking to tear a chunk of flesh from the rapidly dwindling kill. Somehow they had escaped without bankruptcy, but in just another two hours, they would have to hand over the keys to the house to a young couple with a baby. With the housing market in the dumps, they had sold at big loss to a couple who seemed to represent the limitless potential of the future. They’d already had their shot at a future, and come up empty. They had a big pile of debt, and a month-to-month lease on a tiny apartment in a seedy part of town to look forward to.
The sound of a door closing distracted her momentarily, and she looked up to see Mark coming back into the room, dusting his hands off on his jeans. He was tall, just over six feet, and lanky. He didn’t weigh more than a buck-eighty soaking wet. His blonde hair was close-cropped, almost military in appearance. Many years ago he had worn it shoulder-length, but once he started working as a chef, he didn’t like the way it felt under his hat, and had been buzzing it ever since. It still made her smile to watch her husband in his chef’s outfit. With his beanpole frame and chef’s hat – his toque – he looked like nothing so much as a giant, grinning Q-Tip. He wasn’t grinning right now. It seemed like forever since either of them had smiled or laughed in anything approaching a carefree manner. He looked up at her.
“I think that’s everything. I checked the back closet and the basement too.” He glanced over at her, and concern spread across his features. “Elsie, are you OK? What’s wrong?” He moved across the room and knelt in front of her. Elsa covered her face, hastily wiping the tear away, embarrassed. She hesitated, then looked up. He was staring at her intensely, his blue eyes flashing. It was too direct, too much pressure. She willed her gaze past him. The dining room yawned openly behind him, completely devoid of furniture, knick-knacks, anything. Empty.
That’s what it was . . . emptiness. It was pushing in on her, swallowing her, taking everything from her. They’d lost their restaurant. They’d lost the house. They’d lost their baby. Soon there would be nothing left. She burst into tears, her breath coming in great heaves, and she fell forward into the arms of her husband.
“Oh God, Mark,” she sobbed, her voice quavering and hesitant, “it’s just . . . it’s just too much for me, Mark. I feel so empty. We’ve lost everything!” Mark made soothing noises, his face buried in the crook of her neck.
“Shhh, Elsie, shhh.” He stroked her auburn hair slowly and rocked her back and forth, just the slightest bit.
Slowly, the panic subsided, and Elsa felt her pulse slowing. Her breathing eased, and she took a deep, shuddering breath and let it out in one long exhalation. They stayed like that for another minute or two, quietly rocking, while the sun dipped lower. The quality of light in the room changed, from a yellow summer sunlight to a soft orange like maples leaves in autumn.
Mark pulled away, sitting back on his haunches. He reached up and pushed a lock of Elsa’s hair back behind her ear. He looked around the room, deliberately, scanning the home that soon would no longer be theirs, and then his eyes met Elsa’s again. A wicked grin spread across his face. Mark’s grins were infectious; to this day they mimicked precisely the untainted joy that Elsa had seen in childhood pictures of him and his two brothers at his home in Ohio. Feeling the corners of her lips turn up in spite of herself, she asked, “What?” He shook his head, mute with mirthful delight. She burst into a smile and shoved him back off of his haunches. Sprawled on the floor, his legs and arms akimbo, he laughed out loud. Elsa flung himself on top of him, straddling his waist and pinning him down.
“What is it?” she demanded, “Fess up, you!” Mark sat up on his elbows and regarded his wife with a sparkle in his eye.
“I was just wondering, how evil would it be to give this house one last . . . test run?”
She didn’t quite follow him at first, but looking down at his grin, she suddenly understood, and felt her cheeks flush.
“Mark!” she said in surprise, her jaw dropping, “It would be VERY evil! Like, ‘burn in Hell’ evil!” He placed his hands on her waist and wiggled his hips provocatively.
“Who’s gonna know? The way I see it, we have about an hour left to put our stamp on this place before we have to head for the hills. I can’t think of any way I’d rather spend it!” He waggled his eyebrows at her comically.
Elsa made an exasperated noise and turned away, trying to hide the silly grin that had broken out on her face. They had always been good lovers, although perhaps more conservative in the bedroom than some of her friends. Truth be told, after she had lost the baby, and then subsequently when they were fighting to keep the restaurant afloat, they were both often too exhausted or too depressed to consider it. It’s not that they were avoiding it, it just… it was never the right time. Sitting astride him now in their empty house, she was hard-pressed to remember the last time they had had sex.
Mark reached up and gently turned her face back towards him, looking up with those piercing eyes, and she felt her resistance breaking. Absurdly, she realized she was blushing.
“Come on, Elsie, it’ll be fun…” He wrapped his hand around her neck and pulled her down towards him. His tongue reached her lips first, dancing softly along her lips, and she felt a warm fluttering sensation in her belly. She shivered and leaned in closer, but he wasn’t quite ready to kiss her yet. Mark’s hands, long-fingered and agile – perfect for a chef, even better for this – cupped the heart-shaped frame of Elsa’s face and drifted slowly downwards, touching her neck and then the portion of her shoulders exposed by her loose t-shirt. Small trails of sensation blossomed in the wake of his hands, then faded, and she inhaled sharply. Those gentle fingers continued down, caressing the backs of her arms. Reaching her hands, which were against the floor supporting her weight, they traced the outline of each finger, then they returned back to her face following their original path. When they arrived at their destination, Mark held his face in her hands and pulled her into a full kiss, his lips warm against her. At the same time, she felt his hips move beneath her, and she moaned into his lips.
Elsa pushed her tongue into her husband’s mouth, tangling with his tongue, savoring the wet, smooth sensation. He tasted just right, he tasted like he was hers, and today, slightly nutty. Absently, she recalled the Planters’ peanuts the movers had been snacking on all morning. She moved her hips from their perch on his stomach, past his belly, then gasped into his mouth as she met with his hips, surprised at how hard he was underneath her, even through two pairs of jeans. Warm, moist heat blossomed between her thighs, and her breath came in quick gasps as the friction rubbed against her. Mark moaned audibly beneath her, and his hands gripped her waist tightly, trying to prolong the contact.
Suddenly nervous, Elsa sat up and looked around the room. It was still empty in all directions, but at least the window treatments were there, so anyone approaching wouldn’t see them. She was straddling Mark in the center of the hardwood foyer – it couldn’t be comfortable for him. She slid off of him, despite his protests, and led him by the hand to the living room. She turned back to him and tilted her face up, straining to reach him. At 5’4 and, well, a little more on the voluptuous side, they’d always made an awkward physical match, but hey, it was always worth working for! Mark met her halfway, and their kiss continued. He leaned in, pressing her backwards, and they half-staggered until he had her pinned up against the wall. He shifted his body lower, his lips still on hers, and ground his pelvis against hers. She gasped and wrapped her arms around his back, hands tense and grasping at him. Was he always this hard? She could already tell that she was getting wet down there, and she pushed back against him eagerly, trying to find just the right pressure.
Mark’s hands slid up underneath the old Georgia Tech t-shirt she was wearing, stroking her back. She was hot and sweaty from all of the work, and felt a flash of self-consciousness, but it quickly passed. He reached her bra and deftly unsnapped it, an action so graceful that it made her laugh out loud.
“You were never so good at that when we were first going out!” she teased.
“I didn’t need you as much then as I do now, Elsie,” he replied with a lopsided grin. He grabbed her t-shirt and pulled it rapidly over her head, bra in tow, and she inhaled sharply in excitement and surprise. Gently, he spun her body to face the wall, and began rubbing his fingers along her back, ever so gently. First they ran in vertical tracks, from the top of her jeans up to her shoulders, and then back down again. Next, they went side to side, painfully close to being ticklish, but all the more delicious for it. Then, suddenly, his strong hands pressed in firmly, stroking the muscles of her back, and she felt her knees start to grow weak. But, just as quickly, it was back to the lightest feathery touch. This time, up her sides, so hard to stay still. She squirmed, but he persisted. Reaching up and around her to her neck, he started there and headed downward, and she held her breath. But just as he reached her breasts, his hands moved outward, just barely grazing the outsides of her breasts on their way to her belly. They dipped lower still, sliding briefly just below the waist of her jeans. Teasingly, they ran all along the edge of her jeans, as if probing for a way in, then it was back up her torso. Only this time, they paused to trace an outline around her breasts, and then right up between them. As he brought his hands up to her neck again, his forearms brushed incidentally over each of her nipples, and she cried out involuntarily, and she could feel them stiffen immediately in reaction. She couldn’t see him, but these faceless hands were torture. She couldn’t imagine where they were going, what had happened to her traditional husband with the quick foreplay. They ran north and south again, and again brushed against her on the way back up.
He spun her back around, and she could see the desire in his eyes. Her eyes drifted lower, and she could see the stiff outline at his crotch, straining against his worn blue jeans. She reached for him, longing to press up against him, but he fended her off, shaking his head with a smile that was decidedly more sensual than his earlier grin. She was surprised – normally they would have been done having sex by now. She wanted him badly, but was too curious to see what was coming next to disobey. He bent down in front of her, almost kneeling, and started in with his hands again, still avoiding her full breasts. She was aching for him to touch her there, her nipples stiff and exposed. She threw her head back, eyes closed. He leaned forward toward her chest. On the next downward stroke, with only his left hand, his fingers found the soft skin of her breast and traced five soft lines around its fullness. At the same time, he exhaled slowly, his mouth just above her breast, and warm, moist air flooded over her nipple. She groaned audibly, and her hands scrabbled on the wall, looking for any purchase. She knew what coming next, but was powerless to stop him as he repeated the same on her other breast.
Suddenly anxious to see, she opened her eyes and looked down at her Mark, seeing the spot on his head where the hair curled in one direction. She was shocked at her breasts, how full and sexy they looked, shiny with a fine sheen of sweat, in what was now the early evening light. Her nipples stood out painfully, but she was afraid to move, afraid to break the spell. Mark leaned forward, his arms resting on the wall behind her. Now no part of him was touching her, and as she watched him, he extended his tongue towards her nipple. She was entranced. It seemed like forever before it reached her, and then it did, and a bolt of electricity shot through her, straight to her groin, and she very nearly bucked involuntarily. He immediately pulled away, then did the same to the other nipple, just the slightest touch. Then his tongue flashed out again, washing in a circle all around her nipple, and her stomach flip-flopped and she was sure she had soaked all the way through her panties now. She tried to pull him closer, but he resisted, going after the other nipple now, and adding his hands to the mix, caressing up and down her legs. Her hands swam and clutched aimlessly, unable to stay still, but forbidden from touching Mark. She had never felt so close to the edge as this, without him even touching her between the legs.
To be continued…