ast midnight, all the guests were finally gone and the house was finally dark, its many denizens in their beds. Cora, exhausted, kept drifting toward sleep, yet her still-buzzing mind refused to let her tip entirely over the precipice. And so when the door to her room opened, she wasn’t sure whether it was reality or a dream.
A man, warm, hairy, muscular, slipped into bed beside her. Wriggled out of his boxer shorts.
He turned toward her and took her in his arms.
“What are you doing here?” she cried, pushing him away.
“Sssssh,” he said, touching her lips. “I want you.”
“I love you,” he said.
“Cora.” He kissed her cheek. The side of her mouth. Her neck.
Groaning, he rolled onto his back and lay there, staring at the ceiling. Her eyes were wide open now and she could make out his features easily, even see the bulge under the coverlet that betrayed his excitement. It was so weird to have him here, with her, and at the same time felt completely natural, as if there’d been no break in the 20 years of nights they’d shared a bed.
Now that he had pulled away from her, she allowed herself to roll toward him. Propped her head on her hand, gazed down at him.
“I couldn’t take all the other women,” she told him.
“I know,” he said miserably.
“Or the bossiness.”
He shrugged. “What can I say? You can’t blame a cat for having a tail, or sharpening its claws.”
“You can get rid of the cat.”
He turned toward her. “I miss you, Cora.”
Did she miss him? Not usually. But here, in bed, she missed him desperately.
“I can’t go back there,” she said.
He ventured a hand onto her hip. “But what about now?” he said softly. “Nobody has to know. It doesn’t have to count.”
She saw herself rolling over so that she was on top of him. Pulling her nightgown over her head. Moving so that he was inside her. She knew exactly what it would feel like.
And then she shut off her mind and let her body follow her imagination. It was like pulling a cork out of a bottle, like turning a dial and letting the music fill the room. She went from feeling like a giant roiling head dragging a small insignificant body after it to feeling as if her body — her hands, her lips, her breasts, a place at her very center — was an ungovernable force and her brain was just trying not to get tossed overboard. She felt like a bumper car and her brain was the steering wheel, except the steering wheel wasn’t really attached, and turning it left or right, that didn’t really matter. The bumper car, her body, her real self bounced along, out of her control.
Medhi’s hands steadied her hips. She opened her eyes and looked down at him, confused. He brought a finger to his lips and pointed his chin toward the hallway. There was a tentative step out there, and then another. Not the step of someone who belonged in the house, but of someone who didn’t.