by Julie Lemolo ©
You called it the Charlie Brown sweater. You wanted a picture of me in it, though when you said it I felt too young: it wasn't the ladylike clothing I would prefer to be captured in, just household gear. Jeans, a loose shirt. You know I'm not a jeans person, but I use them. So I stood in the kitchen feeling awkward, knowing I never came out well in photos. You told me to smile, so I suppose I did: I heard the click.
"It'll look the same!" I protested.
"Closer up. One of just your face."
At that I grimaced, but composed my features and you snapped one close, in half profile, I remarked that you'd exhausted the possibilities then, and you said by no means. I pondered this but made no reply. You asked whether we could do another and I said I was sick of this sweater that made me feel like a child.
"So take it off."
Well I did and I heard you snap me as I had my hands high and my face hidden in it, with only the flash of midriff below my shirt to show there was anyone in there. I needed to brush my hair, I said, but you said you liked it ruffled. I know you do: you've ruffled it enough times. But I had to run my hands through it and drag back a little before I dare be seen in that viewfinder. You came up to me and helped, untangling strands and smoothing waves with both hands, hooking it back behind my ears, palms against my cheeks, and stood there a little while face to face contemplating the effect. Your eyes settled on my lips and I didn't want to kiss you because if I kissed you I'd do more than kiss you.
Your eyes settled on my breastbone. Your hands descended with a tactile sweep down my throat to the wings of my shirt-collar, which you spread out and flattened. You picked up the camera. After a moment's composition of the picture you undid one pearl button and laid the wings out wider for a fuller view of the beginnings of my chest. You took that.
Your hand again went to the next button, popped that open, and rested in the exposed dip between my two breasts, and your little finger hooked itself under the bra, tunneled in a little. When you withdrew you laid it contemplatively between your lips and I parted mine slightly. You took me then like that, those parts, then withdrew and took another of me full length.
Your familiar hand found another button and I fell open more. Just then the family car sounded into life, reminding us of who was in the yard outside. I had been wearing a sweater because of the cold, and felt its want now.
"Not this," I said. "I want to get into something pretty."
"I like that idea," you said.
"You always do."
As we traipsed upstairs, me with the sweater over my shoulder and you behind me, you called "hey" and I looked back. You snapped me. I must have looked surprised. "I wanted to catch the shape of your breasts," you explained. I smiled in contempt and carried on.
"You always do."
Upstairs I was in my room, wardrobe door open, looked round, you weren't there. You came in upon me a moment later, having changed your camera. As far as I knew your other one was perfectly good, but last week you had bought a Polaroid, and I raised my eyebrows at it.
"No-one else needs to see them."
I rustled through my satin blouses, three hydrangea-hued: a carmine, a mauve, and a sky-blue. I undid the remaining buttons of shirt, facing away from you, noticing you watching me in the mirror. You shut the door behind us. I turned round to face you, my shirt swinging open across my belly.
"Which one do you like?"
"I like them both."
"Of the three?"
"Oh, those. Try each one on and I'll tell you."
It took a long time. I unhitched the shirt from my shoulders and prepared to let it fall, but you stopped me with a click of the Polaroid and made me wait till that developed, then you took another with it fallen away and only my bra between you and me. You took me again in the carmine one, you took me again from behind when I had discarded it, you took off my bra and took my breasts in your eager machine, close up as a bust, further away to get my navel and the top of the jeans, again from the side, and finally very close to survey the dimpled topography of my areola as the nipple stiffened in the cool air. We decided not to try the other two on, and remained as we were, stiff and in need of warmth.
You said you wanted my lower half to be equally pretty. You came and turned your hands on the soft folds below my belly, took the little hard thing that stuck out, and pulled it downward. With my jeans thus partly unzipped, looser on my hips, slipping as your hands parted them to compose a better picture, I breathed heavily in the afternoon and looked down at your hair, down near mine. Your light kiss moistened me. You took me from that angle. You took me with my jeans off, in my slight pants. You slid those away and captured my downy hair.
I lay on the bed, legs close, and you took me. I lay, wide, and you.
Familiar hair, but not easily recognizable because her eyes are closed and her mouth is absorbed by the downward bow of someone's penis in it and the shadow of the belly above her.
Clearer this one: you'd recognize her from the smiling eyes and dark blonde hair, as she's looking up from the penis this time to show a better angle, and the man's belly, lying down, is flat from gravity. Anyone who knew Julia could see this was her sucking a man, but you would have to be as intimate as she is to guess at the man from what shows of him: and no-one is as close as she is.
In this one Julia's lying on the bed, her face contorted in pleasure, taken from high up, high enough to see that her pubic hair is mingled with another's body.
Here her breasts are pendulous, expanded, her smile eager and predatory, all viewed close to the photographer, and the ceiling and curtain rods behind her to calibrate the angle: her nether parts descend into blurring so you can't tell where her body ends, or how much is the other's.
One of them side by side, their faces close, looking at the camera, their chests close, a section of Julia's areola, but the picture is badly framed, from Mark having to hold the camera awkwardly out with one arm, whose extension itself distorts the view and shadows her breast till you can hardly make it out.
Parallel ones of Mark's head and body taken from the perspective of someone very close to him, too hard to identify. We would need sounds, her voice, her cries.
They all capture something, but none proclaims "You know us both, you know our names, if you ever see these you will know the full degree of our relationship."
There is a revelation missing.
We happened to be away at the same time once, you to the south for one of your conferences, and me to the east to visit some friends, and possibly some other friends a little further on. We happened both to think of a hotel we knew in a city we knew, east of you and south of me, far from home for us both, and we met there almost by chance, and by day we enjoyed the markets and parks, and by night concert, food, wine, and by night we knew each other and no-one knew us.
The first day you celebrated by getting me a present; I hunted through trays of rings, of old silver lockets, of garnet necklaces and turquoise, of amethyst pendants and amber. I rubbed the amber between my fingers and found the shape I liked, but noticed that it was substantially more expensive than the rest. I queried this with the old woman of the stall and she pointed out that what I had seen as a facet of darkness was a minute insect.
"Insect!" I said in wonderment, looking at your enlarging smile. We bought it. That night in bed I kept it round my neck as a symbol of our bond, and you toyed with it as you did with all other things about me. It featured in the next shot, between my breasts as I had my legs spread waiting for you.
And in the next: resting in your pubic hair as I took you in my mouth and looked up to be seen. And another, the warming resin nestled by my clitoris, your tongue pushed in deep beside it: but however much we put the symbols in, our photographs were divided worlds. We need a third person to bring us together for all to see, someone in a city where no-one knew us.
Two days of search, not knowing how to recognize what we were searching for. In a cafe' there was a little girl, an extraordinarily pretty girl, and I chided you for paedophilia -- there are some sins even you should keep clear of. I assumed she was walking around purposefully waiting for her mother, while we were waiting for a waitress. Then she came to our table and turned out to be our waitress. Fourteen, surely, fifteen at most? The owner's daughter, no doubt. Amazingly pretty: I began to warm to her, watching her movements, and couldn't blame you for being unable to take your eyes off her.
Then I heard her say "I gotta get another job. This crummy place isn't paying for college", and I was startled. Surely not old enough? So next time she passed and asked us if everything was okay, the cafe' being quiet and her duties light, I asked what college she was at and what she did there. A small local one; photography. We looked at each other casually, trying not to make our raised eyebrows too obvious. We carried on talking to her in a friendly way, and after looking about the place a couple of times for customers waiting, and finding none, she pulled up a chair and straddled it facing the outer door, and lit a cigarette. She let her long hair flop down, and pulled it back with a sweep of her hand. The gestures were adult and she suddenly looked old enough to be doing what she said.
What sort of pictures did she take? She liked natural things: the desert, the whorls of flowers, twisted roots and winter trees, dogs in the street, nudes. Oh. In life classes? No, more sort of natural, at home. Just the students taking each other or what friends they could persuade: the college might not approve. I imagined, as I am sure you did, the queues of students and their friends that would build up when they heard of these private sessions. But she was continuing to speak as if it was only art school commonplace, like art theory and lighting. Name? Ambie. Hi, and we introduced ourselves. Ambie, that's unusual. Oh it's short for Amber.
Ahh. Yes, we both knew, she had to be the one. "Would you be interested in doing some more nudes?"
She was hesitant: "What do you mean?"
"Look, I don't know you guys--"
"We've got a hotel room, it's a respectable hotel, and busy, lots of people about all the time."
"We can hand you the keys so you know the door's always unlocked. Check out the room and the corridors first and if you're okay with it, we've got a camera."
"Now wait a minute, I'm not joining in any--"
"No, no, we need a photographer, that's all. That's all we need, a third party, to take the shots we can't."
"Look, this still sounds kinky."
"It's not kinky. It's straight. Ordinary. The ordinary things. We just want a record of it and we can't take that ourselves. Not everything."
"Tonight, if you like. Whatever suits you."
"Well okay, should I bring my own stuff?"
"Oh no. This is strictly Polaroid. We've got our own."
Ambie arrived in clothes that made her look both older and younger, a royal blue velveteen dress over a white sleeveless blouse, and the length of dress added years and the frailty of those thin pale arms belied it. She was satisfied that a cry away behind her was a bustling corridor, and she stood uncertainly here and there, seeking to understand the light, as Julia and Mark began to undress. She ignored this at first, but when they stood naked and facing her she smiled nervously and said "I've done this before, but that time it was kids I knew".
It was an age of freeze frames, of actions stopped in the middle, of voices of passion stilled as the young woman moved in and adjusted their limbs, of actions repeated, of long waiting and cool analysis by all. They were growing used to the touch of Ambie's hands, to the brush of her long fiery hair as it fell over them, of her clean smell so close. She parted Julia's vulva with one hand and tugged slowly on Mark's penis to reverse his detumescence as she eased him towards his love at an angle she had judged the clearest. They wanted the shots to be of real events, not posed ones unconsummated, and this compromise had led to many tests and repeats. When Mark at last ejaculated into Julia, their faces were both clearly visible, identifiable, full of love for each other and their mutual passion.
Here they rested awhile and Ambie chatted about her college, her home, waiting for them to be ready for the next sequence she had planned. After a few minutes she ordered Julia to stand. Ambie knelt down and spread Julia's legs, watching. Finding nothing, and with her camera put aside, she reached in and pulled about, as Julia's face lit up in unexpected pleasure, and pulled out a glistening mass of white, which she spread with art-studently consciousness out of the hole and over the thigh. Wiping her hand dry against her bare left arm, having nowhere else safe to despoil, she took up her camera and had Mark kneel down close by with tongue ready to take it up, and found an angle that took in both their faces.
When he had satisfied himself there, several pictures later, he stood and offered to kiss Ambie. She hesitated a moment then drew back with a brief smile. "Are you ready yet?" she said.
"Ready for what?"
She responded by holding his penis and manipulating it until he was fully erect in her hand and her palm was becoming sticky from the residue. This hand she touched very briefly to the point of her tongue before redirecting him to Julia's face. He straddled her and inserted himself, and they carried on as lovers do, guided also by the impersonal demands of their choreographer. When he muttered that he was coming she cried "Out! Out!" and grabbed his belly from behind. The result was just as she had expected: a jerking stream hit Julia's mouth, eyes, forehead, nose, and dripped from her ear onto the pillow.
When the first picture of that had developed and she was ready for another she moved in close to Julia's face to scent possibilities. When Julia's arm encircled her and locked there, Ambie's face registered a little alarm, and doubt when Julia began tightly drawing her close. Mark stood apart as Ambie resisted, stopped resisting, accepted Julia's kiss on the lips where the semen lay, and did not want to resist when Julia began pushing her tongue through and deeper, and so they squirmed. When they parted it was only for Ambie to begin licking all over her face, taking in the foods of love, going back to Julia's rich mouth, and sharing them.
Mark, by now having his curiosity turn to greater desire, had taken Ambie's skirts and had lifted them up, but when she felt his hands descend through her pants into her cleft behind, she separated and said she had to go, she had done all that they asked.
"Can't we entice you to stay?"
"No. I'm just a photographer, remember?"
"Your face is... not clean."
"Let me," said Mark, and took her in her his arms, unlustfully, with restraint, like a brother holding his sister, and began to kiss across her face. They kissed. She held him underneath, then left the room.
The next night would be our last, so the next day was spent in a lazy haze of unforced tourism. Of course we visited the same cafe' but there was no-one we knew there, and we were disappointed, but went on to watch ducks on ponds and skateboarders shouting and bragging, went into the local museum and saw the stuffed specimen of a bird that no doubt helped contribute to its extinction. We wondered what we would do with our recorded memories. When we arrived back about seven we took them out from their locked bag and reviewed them with amusement and wonder.
There was a knock on the door. What on earth would a chambermaid be doing at this time of the night? "Sorry, we're in here," we called.
"It's Ambie, can I come in?"
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