Steamy bath water robbed their bodies of all urgencies. Paz Duarte nestled against Ian Abercrombie. He formed a bulky cushion between her and the tub. His lap the plinth which erased their height disparity. When she didn't slump Paz could turn and level her hazel eyes with his.
When she straightened up, Paz' ass pushed his waist, allowing her to play with his dick much as if that flesh were her own appendage. In Paz' curious hands she made it a quite responsive toy.
Paz had bound her shoulder-length auburn hair in a scrunchie, leaving her neck and lobes vulnerable to his lips. Abercrombie's heavily muscled arms coiled loosely around her midriff; his wide chest almost a winged chair for Paz' back. Sometimes when she shifted her shoulder blades tugged whole swaths of his chest hair.
Hot water, bath aromatics mixing with her own scent, stirred him nearly as much as their contact. Of course the bath oil was some flowery concoction marketed to women. For his sole use Abercrombie would've found such a bouquet off-putting. She was the ingredient which lent the sweet smelling stuff its persuasive lure.
During the evening, Paz remarked how he sniffed, nipped and pawed her like an animal. She admitted finding strange favor in his feral attentions. A feeling their watery languor prevented her from explaining.
They lazed in her tub. After once or twice at his place Paz declared "no more!" She felt his residence too masculine and would never be at ease there.
Since this was her cauldron, Paz had set out candles. The unscented kind thankfully. These ochre flickers complemented the wine, light and fruity on the tongue, as well as the chamber music playing on the CD player.
Abercrombie forgave her the wine, but the aural needed more careful selection. Her compositions were too tidy. He thought now the right time for bass-heavy/falsetto-reaching 1970s soul tunes.
Or as he said to perplex her, "the songs you were conceived to."
No go. Paz' place. Her picks.
Theirs was a celebratory loll. Six months of permanent residence. Hers.
Having arrived as a child, becoming American in ways perceptible and instinctive, then routinely jumping backwards through procedural hoops, some little men in nameless offices relented and let the facts match the paperwork. At least that's how it seemed to Abercrombie, who admittedly had something of an emotional investment in Paz. Considerable as her own frustrations were, his exceeded hers.
If his predecessors hadn't started killing Indians in the 1600s, Abercrombie saw himself as one bad immigrant. Patience and education aside, American entitlement failed preparing him for the process behind gaining what he received by birth.
The most confounding part about Paz' acceptance into the fold was who enabled it. The director of the school where she taught art, Monsieur Ghisalbert. Without his facilitation she still would've been rolling sixes, if not a candidate for administrative deportation.
Yet M. Ghisalbert knew people who had means. Right words in the right ears, proper papers shuffled, and back scratching abounded. Last but not least, Paz originated from Spain, not Mexico.
Naturally there was a fee. Sex was part of the bargain. The naïve might've regarded such an exchange as exploitive. Paz, though, knew it the cost of business. She behaved accordingly.
M. Ghisalbert's depravations should've angered a man other than Abercrombie. However, "the victim" herself refused embracing her victimization. Since Paz saw nothing wrong, why should he? Despite nearly being twice her age, she showed far more understanding of this way of the world.
Besides, her telling him how lousy a lay M. Ghisalbert was greatly mollified any unjust outrage.
Well-endowed as she acknowledged M. Ghisalbert, his foreplay and love-making bordered on rude. He left Paz sore, never satisfied. His detachment disappointed her and surprised Abercrombie.
M. Ghisalbert was Abercrombie's senior by 10-12 years. The younger man assumed her gentleman would look upon any time bouncing on Paz as a joyous confirmation of continued vitality. Instead, having met M. Ghisalbert Abercrombie realized the Frenchman merely saw such sweet favors as his due.
Ramrod-straight, lean, balding, M. Ghisalbert saw the world though gimlet eyes. His manner was relentlessly imperious. Abercrombie comprehended how he might frighten timid women and intimidate weak men.
"His balls hang lower than yours," Paz once told Abercrombie.
"Now there's a sight," he replied. "Another guy's apple bag."
Apparently it was a privilege of M. Ghisalbert's to acquire young female protégés. Take them under his harshly protective and coldly instructive iron wing. He'd mentor them in ruthlessness, they'd pay through compliance. Never the stupid nor naïve because such novices always failed the interviews. Prospective candidates needed to show they possessed maturity and discretion as well as elan.
Yet even as cool a customer as M. Ghisalbert must've paused upon first evaluating Paz Duarte. While life had steeled her core, she retained a sultry exterior. The fine-bone figure, perky breasts, eyes a man could swim in, and a pliant, though not servile, attitude probably made a hard case like him double-clutch.
Better, Paz had scant innocence to left to steal. "Innocence" in the American sense. By the time M. Ghisalbert crossed her path, she'd even lost her youthful intense adult gaze. Why absorb when the lesson's already been learned?
Once she gained residency Paz didn't know how matters might conclude between administrator and teacher. No longer beholden would he become spiteful? No. He soothed and released her in a very civil manner.
After one last unforgiving fuck, their post-coital chat (these always less frosty than the run-ups and acts themselves) had the tenor of a successful exit interview. He didn't grade with warmth but did skitter around gratitude. Paz thought his esteem of her increased when she offered simple thanks for efforts towards legalizing her status.
She knew he preferred his women distant. An overt emotional display surely would've questioned his judgment. Since then the two never behaved as if Paz gritted her teeth while M. Ghisalbert vengefully rammed her sweet ass.
"Pain like memory fades," Paz said. She often cited this to Abercrombie. After that refrain, when possible, she tried snuggling closer as if his stolidity mitigated both aspects.
Unsavory as well as ultimately rewarding as her exchanges with M. Ghisalbert had been, Paz professed no shame. The pair hadn't even entered any kind of agreement. M. Ghisalbert implied; Paz inferred.
Deep into their sexual comfort, or after Paz took Abercrombie into her trust, he told her about another woman he knew who also placed propriety in its correct context then used her wiles and tools to advance. Marianne Witmershaus. Although their circumstances were night and day, they shared similar aspirations: higher rungs on the ladder.
Despite initially excising snippets or whole swaths of Marianne's rise, the German nonetheless intrigued Paz. She found favor in another woman knowing her travails. It wasn't the sort of information one imposed on family or friends. Guiltless sexuality unnerved many people. Their squeamishness could force painful personal reevaluations.
Marianne lacked no compunction about opening herself to Paz. Did she reciprocate to make it easier for the younger woman? Or did Abercrombie just present a same-sex sounding board upon which she might unburden herself? Who knew or cared?
Moreover, how he and Marianne relayed items captivated Paz. The two actually still posted letters! She found this mode "wonderfully archaic!"
"E-mail is too bloodless for our sort of frankness," Abercrombie explained.
Their correspondence styles suited the different personalities. Using confident cursive, Marianne wrote hers out on expensive stationary. Some perfume always wafted off the creamy pages from envelopes he suspected she sealed with kisses.
So chained to keyboard and printer, Abercrombie's penmanship had through disuse degenerated into its own secret code. His letters to Germany carried the charm of dunning notices.
Regardless of how they were conveyed, their words disclosed exacting honesty. Only traitors could've divulged more of themselves.
Abercrombie was fond of saying, "There are no secrets between us. Just things we haven't gotten around to telling yet."
The concept behind such extreme openness interested and frightened Paz. She asked what he had betrayed about her to Marianne. His smile was involuntary, not guilty. Either more clever than he suspected or by youthful naivety Paz intended acquiring Marianne's level of intimacy. He reflected on their differences.
Abercrombie and Marianne had reached this point after shared experiences shaded and shaped their mutual judgments.
On the other hand, Paz elevated promiscuity and exploited the recent phenomena of forfeiting one's anonymity on social networking portals. While utterly unburdening himself to any trawling stranger would make him wary, Paz and her generation discounted the dangers. Apparently she assumed Abercrombie also beguiled by the new technology.
That was some jump! All the way around.
Abercrombie declined confessing how he and Marianne had acquired a familiarity far greater than just by sleeping together. They'd done "things." Of course having endured as much as she, Paz might've rightly taken offense at his condescension. It was a relativism she wouldn't see, if ever, for some years and many mishaps yet.
Instead Abercrombie shifted focus. He decided informing Paz what he'd recently shared with Marianne about her. The woman in his lap started. She turned around, roiling water, fake fury vying with honest curiosity shot across her face.
"Yes, you, silly rabbit."
"Only the good stuff."
Somewhat pacified Paz settled back into Abercrombie's chest.
"What do you really tell her about us?" Paz asked.
"Bathtub bashfulness, Paz? No. I don't mail Marianne blow-by-blows every time we fuck. Anyway, I'm sure she'd get tired quick of me generalizing the extreme desire we create."
Paz twisted her head and their eyes met. Skepticism ruffled her wide thin lips. She accepted his facetiousness as flattery then rested her head aside his. Abercrombie continued.
"So I tell her the outlandish stuff. Your knives for instance."
Her loud laughter frothed water, shook them both and shot off walls. Abercrombie imagined that had also been Marianne's reaction. She too luxuriated in baths. Daily. Alone, though, because her tub was really the only place she could decompress.
Marianne relayed she waited to soak before reading any of his letters. She required her water temperature just-so, the proper amount of fragrance added, an indulgent vintage within easy reach, a joint or two to further round off that particular afternoon. Somehow he always imagined the waterline slicing across her nipples instead of lapping her breasts.
When he inquired, Marianne confirmed, "Naturally."
"The knives" were an ultimate bequeath from mother to daughter. One inherited during the Duartes' Vera Cruz into El Norte migration. Senora Elena Duarte Herrero, Paz' mother, made the coyotes aware of those blades and her readiness to defend.
Looking down from his comfortable perch, Abercrombie considered the mother's precautions unnecessary. Those coyotes then were nowhere near as cutthroat as the current guides. A change Abercrombie ascribed to improved border vigilance, more nihilism, less value of lives and those same northward routes being crowded by drug couriers.
Today, a Duarte Herrero scrambling through Mexico towing her young daughter needed brandishing a gun, not a knife.
Abercrombie lacked deep comprehension of psychology. Especially women's psychology. He adhered to Hemingway's dictum: action is character.
Yet even Abercrombie realized the blades stocking her apartment and art studio drawers signified handy deterrence. Somewhere in the still closely-held uncertainty of the girl's trek, the woman kept that past at bay by projecting capable defense.
Mere possession ought have sufficed. However, Paz extended that projection.
She and Abercrombie maintained one solid non-exclusive relationship. Meaning, much like a man Paz guiltlessly sampled other partners. Some she even tarried with as lovers for awhile. Nevertheless several prompted the doubtlessly eons-old female lament: "Why did I ever fuck that guy?"
Prospective partners' sexual ignorance or their dysfunction failed troubling her. Instructing or nurturing willing men in satisfying techniques promoted her own fulfillment. It also allowed these eager students to eventually spread joy-inducing practices on down the line.
Although voicing a preference for "substantial men," Paz was young. Often the handsome and superficial muscle boys answered their own yearnings. Exclusively. Only during coitus could she determine worthiness or deceit.
Paz' misjudgments bothered her. Immensely. Men, as she told Abercrombie, lacked any discerning mechanism. For men almost any woman who presented herself sexually sufficed.
Surprising neither, he agreed immediately.
Since women bore greater risks and consequences, they ideally required more convincing. Far more. Despite her criteria, every woman sometimes made regrettable choices.
Paz' knives fixed such instances.
Occasionally she suffered the public charmer who became churlish in private. Paz demanded foreplay. Lots. It was her right, his privilege.
While she preferred partners who fucked her hard, she didn't like playing rough. Accidental bruises proved fervor. Ones inflicted purposely not only hurt worse, but also revealed an insecure man. Ah, the worst kind.
Those times she endured caveman treatment, Paz resorted to the knife. Never failed. The guy was always too engrossed in ripping her apart to notice she wasn't flailing but reaching for the nearest drawer.
Handle grasped, Paz fought all urges concerning plunging the blade in his back. Once he'd chugged through his climax, self-sated ecstasy inevitably heaving him off her onto his back, Paz rummaged among his crotch until she seized scrotum. Loose skin gathered in her fist, now bulbous testicles sizzled atop her curled fingers.
Male vanity being constant, these partners deluded themselves in believing their exertions, exhaustive as they were, had created an insatiable bed monkey. That though he'd exceeded human endurance, she wanted more!
Indeed. She did. His blitz-fast terror the moment he felt flat cold steel lain against his hot nuts.
"Their absolute stillness doesn't surprise me any more," Paz said. "From frantic thrashing to marble. Instantly. They already imagine the edge has drawn blood."
The prone men posed the usual questions. Actually they whimpered them. Her answers rested behind coy smiles. Having seen that dimply grin, Abercrombie knew their horror. It easily let her "victim" agonize over his imminent higher-octave future.
She cruelly chastised thoroughly. Her every word became Scripture. Contrition was quick. And heartfelt. Paz never doubted the penitent's sincerity. Nonetheless after absolving the convert, she had him collect his clothes then regain his dignity and wits in the hallway.
Paz could only guess what late-arriving neighbors thought. Somehow coming upon gorgeous, shaken, unclothed men frantically dressing outside her door never led to neighborly chat.
"And those dopes, they never realized the sharp edge faced away," Paz spat.
"Trust me," Abercrombie said, "knife against nuts leaves zero room for rational thinking. A butter knife would've produced the same jolt."
Paz snorted. "Hardly!"
She slid hands beneath the water and played with his balls. Afterwards Paz clutched Abercrombie's growing tool. Once rigid, she drew forward, his erection parallel against her hairless slit, and rubbed. He peered over her shoulder. The murky scene: a rider sitting too close to the pommel. Paz glanced back at him, contemplation making her face cute.
"What's it like walking around with all this junk between your legs?" she asked.
Abercrombie didn't seriously consider her question. Instead, he palmed her small breasts, massaging their stippling crowns. Through direct gentle contact she released his pole and encouraged his affections.
"What's it like sporting these pieces of sweater meat?" he responded. "Pretty normal, huh?"
Her hands covered his and pressed. She spoke in dreamy tones.
"Tell me something about her. About Marianne."
Abercrombie assembled his impressions. Definitely nothing incriminating would pass his lips. He breathed deeply.
"She married a Turk."
Ahmet Olgun, Marianne's husband, was an ethnic Turk. While German born, few of his "countrymen" recognized him as a citizen. Indeed the Federal Republic itself only allowed Olgun to occupy its passport after he'd petitioned the state.
Marianne met him in Cologne. The Witmershaus women had forsaken Hamburg for the Rhine river city once the Pole's remittances started. (The Pole had been a revered naturalized American philanthropist/former opportunist whose handsome, though immorally acquired, wealth derived from the chaotic aftermath of immediate post-war Central Europe. With Abercrombie's assistance, Marianne forced the old profiteer to knuckle under and fork over a chunk. In perpetuity.) The appearance of so much sudden money would've prompted uncomfortable questions. The kind both Witmershauses wished to avoid honestly answering.
In Cologne, the newcomers owned clean slates and clearer consciousnesses.
In Olgun Marianne found a man who was transparently ardent, needy and grasping. Unlike the clientele she formerly entertained, who regarded her as a flesh-and-blood trifle, or the men who controlled those establishments who treated her as exploitable meat, and Abercrombie who ultimately respected her, Olgun would be hers to adore or abuse as she wished. He was more than willing. However, Marianne reached that conclusion after infatuation insisted upon marriage which produced a daughter.
Before all that Ahmet Olgun was simply an exotic craving. Domesticated, yet exotic nonetheless.
The younger, newly-flush Marianne loved Olgun's olive complexion, the soulful eyes below long eyelashes, and full sensual lips. His slim build permitted her to dominate him if she wished. At least up to a point. He was still a man. While not physically imposing, Olgun retained a male's core strength. To overcome his advantage she would needed to have gained 50 kilos.
Olgun became the only other man she willingly wanted to support financially. How appropriate then Olgun expressed no shame in drawing off her. Such power thrilled Marianne.
Full acceptance of Western values enabled Olgun's acquiescence. Better than secular, Olgun practiced his Islam disinterestedly. His parents migrated to West Germany from Anatolian Turkey. As Olgun saw during occasional childhood visits there, they left nothing but sheep, goats, dust and ignorance. Therefore, impure and immodest as she was, Marianne Witmershaus permitted his effortless entry into ease and pleasure.
If Olgun ever loved Marianne at all it stemmed from the advantages she offered him.
"Sounds like real love," Paz scoffed.
"Plenty and lack of worry have mutated our understanding of that word," Abercrombie said. "We're talking about people, cultures, who've been up against it a lot more recently than us."
"He's an accessory, she's his ATM. That's not a relationship. That's a good deal on both sides," Paz said.
Abercrombie laughed. "Whatever you call it, it worked. At least for awhile."
Years into the Olgun-Witmershaus marriage (Marianne kept her name. Germans generally scorned Turks or Turkish surnames.), he discovered blondes. Germany being overrun by that species, Olgun couldn't help but be aware of them eventually.