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By Christina Rosso
Two women sat at a high top table in the corner of a hotel bar. The hotel itself was decent, affordable, not run down, yet not the kind of place people wanted to stay or spend any more time in than they had to. These two women had come to the bar alone, one to get away, to lose a piece of herself, the other to gain one. Each had a short fat glass in front of her filled with a brown liquid. Bourbon. One glass was sweating, the ice inside melting into shapeless blobs. The other drink was poured neat. One of the women had hair the color of fire, tones of red, copper, and gold painted onto the thin strands of her long mane. When she leaned in to touch the other woman’s arm, the curled, golden ends lapped at her date’s tan flesh. This woman had curly, nearly black hair with a purplish sheen. She seemed comfortable with the redhead, even though they’d been complete strangers an hour before.
The dark haired woman’s name was Camille. The red haired woman never offered her name, even when asked. She said she liked to keep an air of mystery.
“So what’s your story?” Camille said, trying to get the other woman to open up. Her tone was playful, inviting.
“Me? I don’t have much of one. You, though, I’m sure you have quite the story, Cath--,” the red haired woman replied.
“Camille,” she said. This was the fifth time the redhead had forgotten her name.
The red haired woman smiled without revealing her teeth, then ran the tip of her pointer finger over the silver hoop around one of her nostrils. “Camille,” she said, almost purring.
Camille shook her head, exhaled. She placed a smile on her face, desperate to make a connection, to lose herself in another person for a night. “The usual type of story. Girl from the trailer park dreams of something better. Got straight A’s in school, a full ride to Columbia. Haven’t looked back.”
“What did you study in school?”
“Mhm,” she said, nodding. She began to trace figure eights on the top of Camille’s hand. Her eyes, tawny and catlike, bore into the dark haired woman, as though they were scooping out these stories, collecting them, like a plastic shovel does sand.
“Don’t judge me.”
“I won’t.” She grinned, flashing perfectly white, square chiclet teeth.
The red haired woman nodded, struggling to hold in a laugh. She pulled her lips together, then released them, creating a light smacking sound. Camille’s eyes drifted to the other woman’s lips. They were pink and plump, tiny saliva bubbles popping as she studied them. The red haired woman watched Camille study her lips as though she was itemizing them, thinking of all the places she could press them to her tan skin. “So,” she said after half a minute of silence, “You sang and danced your way out of the trailer park.” Her lips parted, revealing her teeth again. Her pink tongue slipped out and slid over her upper lip. Her yellow eyes narrowed, warm and smiling.
Camille nodded. She smiled. “You could say that,” she said.
The redhead placed her hands under her chin, the table propping up her elbows. “What were you better at--singing or dancing?”
For the first time since they’d moved from the bar to the table in the corner, Camille took a sip of her bourbon. She returned the glass to the square puddle of condensation on the table’s surface. “Dancing,” she said. “I could always kick and jump higher than the other girls and do more pirouettes.”
The other woman palmed her bourbon. She didn’t sip from it, and hadn’t since they’d begun talking. “So everyone hated you.”
Camille smiled, her cheeks lightly flushed. “If I had been a better singer, definitely. My inability to carry more than a basic tune made me more human.”
The red haired woman leaned in, her small breasts pressed into the table, her cleavage protruding from her V-neck shirt. “I’d like to see you dance,” she said. Her voice was soft like a cat purring.
“I’d like to dance for you,” Camille replied. She placed her hand on the other woman’s leg.
Their bodies moved together, fluid and confident, on the thin mattress. Camille’s breasts were large and pear-shaped, with dark brown nipples that stood high in the cool air of the hotel room. Her body was lean yet curvy, tender yet muscular. Like the hair on her head, she had an area of clipped curly black pubic hair between her toned, fleshy thighs.
The red-haired woman’s body was long and full of caverns and hollows. Her collar bone pressed through her pale pink skin, its sharp angles in all their glory. Her hips bookended her sides like two pointed mountaintops. Her breasts were even smaller than they’d appeared in the bar thanks to a good push up bra. Her body was hairless besides the fiery tendrils on her head.
The redhead’s lips were cupped around one of Camille’s nipples, creating suction. Her tongue twirled and flicked the hardening tissue. Her right hand massaged the other breast, her left, the area between Camille’s thighs. Hot wetness covered her fingers. A smirk sparked on her face, and then was gone, a flame snuffed out. Her face was serious now, angular and stone-like. Her mouth released Camille’s nipple. She rose to meet her lover’s dreamlike gaze, bringing her hands to frame the woman’s head of curls. Camille’s eyes were black slits, and they fluttered opened and closed. She was in the height of pleasure, soft and warm as if she was a little girl wrapped in a thick blanket.
“Tell me,” the redhead said, her small breasts dangling near the other woman’s chin. Camille licked her lips, begging for a taste. The red-haired woman dipped her breasts, allowing the tip of one to graze her lover’s mouth, then the other. “Tell me your first memory.”
Camille’s forehead wrinkled. Her eyes peeled open, focusing on the woman in front of her. “What?” she said.
“I,” she said and kissed the other woman’s left cheek, her nipple tickling the flushed skin. “Want you,” she kissed the right cheek, her nipple dangling above Camille’s mouth. “To tell me your first memory.” She pressed her lips gently against her lover’s.
The redhead pulled away, still hovering above Camille, waiting. Camille flushed deeper as she said, “Okay. Uh, my first memory...I was three, maybe four. My mom had taken my sister to dance class. I must have fallen asleep and she didn’t want to wake me. She always told my dad not to disturb her baby when I’d fall asleep in their bed.” She smiled at this. “My dad said I needed to learn to be a big girl. To sleep on my own. But my mom said, ‘Don’t wake my baby up or you’re going to find somewhere else to sleep tonight.’” She shook her head. A tendril of dark hair stuck to the side of her face. “Anyway, I had fallen asleep and my mom didn’t want to wake me. She’d be right back; the dance studio was only down the street.
“Of course I woke up as soon as she left. It had started to storm, and thunder had jolted me awake. The house was dark; only silence responded when I called for my mom and big sister. I didn’t know what to do; I was scared...of the storm and being alone. My mom usually held me during storms and told me stories. Once she said thunder happened when God was having a tantrum.” She laughed, warm and sticky like butter; the laugh echoed in the small hotel room. “I thought that was so silly. I guess I still do. But without my mom to hold me and tell me stories during the storm, well, I was beside myself. So I did the only thing I could think of--I left the house and rain through the storm to my next door neighbor’s. Mrs. Ryder. I banged on the door until she opened it and took me into her arms. She brought me inside and tried to put me down so she could wrap me in a blanket to warm up. But I wouldn’t let her, so she draped a blanket over me and cradled me in her arms until my mom came to get me. I remember my mom scooping me out of Mrs. Ryder’s arms and squeezing me tight. ‘My baby,’ she said in my ear.” She pushed the piece of hair from her face.
“To this day I still don’t know how my mom knew I’d be there.” Camille shook her head. “That’s enough about me. Tell me about you. What’s your first memory?” She pressed her lips together softly, waiting, expecting some kind of cute, heartwarming story from her new lover.
The red-headed woman leaned closer, her teeth pulling down one side of her bottom lip, exposing the pale pink veiny inside. Her mouth was in a wicked, lopsided grin. “That’s not how this works,” she said.
Camille frowned. Her cheeks darkened momentarily like a cloud passing over the sun, its brightness temporarily hidden. She swallowed, the sound of saliva and air bubbles swishing in her throat clear and sharp. Something was wrong. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. The lines across her forehead and between her eyebrows deepened.
The redhead released her lower lip, her grin expanding until it encompassed half of her face. She closed her eyes, tilted her chin towards the ceiling, and inhaled, the air contracting audibly as it entered her nostrils. She tipped her head to the left with a crack, and then the right with a slight clicking. “Ah,” she said and exhaled. Out of her mouth came a whistling sound like a steaming kettle. She lowered her chin and opened her eyes, her pupils dilated, any trace of yellow erased, her black gaze penetrating Camille’s.
“Your memories are good. Real good. Thank you for giving them to me, Cara.”
She pressed one hand against Camille’s mouth and shook her head, her fiery tendrils dancing around her like dozens of snakes. “Don’t. You don’t want to use up too much energy.”
The red-haired woman tilted her head to the right and studied Camille like she was an experiment. “It’s going to get foggy in there. Your head, I mean. Losing vital memories, well, it’s like one domino falling; the rest go down too.”
“What are you--?”
“I hope you consider yourself lucky. Not everyone has a bank of memories to return to. Or to create. It’s a luxury able people take for granted.”
Camille went to speak and found she couldn’t. Her chest rose and fell rapidly. She tried to sit up but couldn’t. Something was definitely wrong.
“Shh, shh, shh. Relax,” the red haired woman said. “You’re going to be okay. It’ll be over soon. You just lost a part of yourself; believe me, it takes a lot out of people. Don’t worry, you’ll still be you, or some semblance of you. I took your first memory, so some connections will be gone. But the good news, baby, is they can come back.”
Camille’s mouth closed, her lower lip quivering. Her eyes filled with tears. She swallowed, then mouthed, “Why?”
“Because I am not as lucky as you. Because any memories I gain, I can’t keep.”
She moved away from her then, climbed off the mattress with a creak, and began to dress. When she was done, she came and stood beside Camille’s head, her lanky figure towering over her. Camille was still lying on her back unable to get up or speak coherently. The redhead met her lover’s panicked, watery gaze. “This was fun,” she said. “Thanks for the memories.”
She turned and walked towards the door, leaving Camille alone. The metal latch for the deadbolt kept the wooden door from closing completely. It swung back and forth loudly, clapping like thunder each time the wood met metal. Camille’s face clenched and she let out a whimper as though she recognized the sound but couldn’t place it. Then her face calmed like a slate wiped clean. She lay there and listened to the door swinging, her eyes on the ceiling, a small whimper escaping her mouth every so often, despair painting her face, before she quieted, her face relaxed.