People joke about love at first sight because they know love has nothing to do with it. It’s uglier than that.
I met Lucy at a conference up at York the day before nature wrapped the whole of the country in the white blanket of winter. In front of a long table piled with labeled sandwiches with fillings that sounded good but probably tasted like crap. Each little triangle nestled in artisanal bread that was curling at the edges.
“May contain nuts.” She read the label out loud and then looked at me. “May? How could they not know?”
“Covering their asses?” I suggested. I glanced at the nametag on her lanyard. She’d presented one of the morning papers on something to do with colonialism in science fiction. I hadn’t gone to it; I’d been delivering my own atrocity on gender-fluid aliens.
“They should stop dissembling and make up labels that say ‘We don’t give a fuck.'”
The way she said the word ‘fuck’ snagged my attention, pronouncing it with a long, yawning ‘u’, as if it the word had a moist hole in the middle, braced by two brutal consonants. Not the way people say it when they toss out the word in casual conversation. The way they say it in bed, when they’ve had one already but are craving another.
That was what made me look at her. She wasn’t beautiful, although I would come to think she was the most beautiful woman in the world. But just then, there, at that dismal lunch table, I only saw a pleasant looking woman, approaching middle age, wearing a black pullover and a beige skirt and sensible heels. Her dark brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail. Too tight, as if to stress just how serious she was about her subject.
She was an imposter. That’s what I thought. Not a grave imposter – not a mergers and acquisitions manager masquerading as an academic – but something subtler, more enigmatic, and it drew me to her.
“How did your talk go?” I asked, following her over to one of the round, empty tables beneath an imposing window with a Gothic arch.
It was sleeting under an aluminium sky in the couryard beyond. There was an absurd bronze cow in the middle of the quad – a gift, apparently, from a rich, 18th Century farmer who wanted to remind the high and mighty academics where their funding actually came from.
“Oh, you know,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “I got a few good questions at the end.”
“I’m sorry I missed it.”
I wasn’t at all sorry I’d missed it, but I was sorry I’d missed watching her deliver it. Sorry that I’d missed the opportunity to spot all the other ways in which she might have given her secret self away.
“Don’t be. I bored myself.”
“That’s a shame,” I said, and held out my hand. “I’m…”
But she looked down at my name-tag as she took my hand. “Francis.” Her fingers were cool and damp, but strong – almost too strong – as they curled around my hand. “Yes, there are no surprises here.”
“Oh, I beg to differ. There are always surprises.” I arched my eyebrow and smiled.
“Really? Like what?” And even though her response was light, I knew I’d launched my arrow in the right place because, just below her eyes, at the top of her cheeks, she flushed.
“People in the lunch line who say the word ‘fuck’ like they need one.”
At first she said nothing. I readied myself for a firm rebuff.
The flush grew and spread. “Did I?” she asked. Not with any coyness but like someone who genuinely didn’t know.
“Yes, you did.” That was the moment. Part of me realized the room was now full of other attendees, and several of them had brought their plates to our table and had availed themselves of the seats. But it just didn’t matter. “Do you?”
“Yes, I think I probably do.”
* * *
That evening, the snow began to fall. We were cocooned in a drab room at the conference hotel, where time had stopped and everything but Lucy had ceased to exist.
I tugged her jumper over her head and caught the sharp, fermented scent of nervous sweat. It plummeted down my spinal column and forced its way down. Way down. And with the unzipping of her skirt, up rose the thick, cloying smell of her cunt. More than a smell, it was a command that make me drop to my knees, cup her panty-covered buttocks with my hands, and press my face to her crotch. My nose, my lips, my chin pushing into the saturated cotton, into the dense nest beneath, pushing the lips of her cunt apart. They were firm, engorged, ready to be split. And under all of it, against my tongue tip, the shameless, mindless little appendage that wanted, despite all her best efforts, to run her life.
Even on that winter’s night, on my knees, nudging her backwards with my face in her crotch, until her legs met the edge of the bed, until I grasped her hips and pushed her onto her back, I knew that I’d met my abettor. That nodule of nerves and I would conspire to have her all to ourselves.
Reclined, bra still in place, her body scored by the shadows of the paned window, she arched her hips for me when I dragged her panties down her thighs. The soaked gusset left a trail of effluvia along her inner thighs. I felt the cooling slipperiness as I pushed her legs apart to get back to her dark furred cleft. Its pink interior gleamed insolently in the poor light. Her hips canted up to meet my open mouth.
Greedy. She was so greedy. Above me, Lucy made curled, barbed noises the moment my pursed lips surrounded her demanding little sentinel. And something far less domesticated when I screwed two digits inside her. Buttery and smooth against the backs of my fingers, complex and cat’s-tongue rough against the front. I drew her clit into my mouth, snug against my tongue, and felt her muscles cinch my fingers together, drag them deeper into her voracious hollow, as if she’d take my whole arm if I let her.
I would have given her more than my arm. In that moment, and for many months after, I would have pushed, my head, my torso, my hips, my legs, into her. I would have fucked my entire body inside of her and looked out at the world from behind Lucy’s eyes. And perhaps, in a way, I did.
When she came, I pinned her to its agony, to teach her that no bucking or writhing or flailing on her part would free her from me. I brought her, trapped and thrashing against the barricade of my body, forcing her to come through me instead of beside me. The only thing that could escape me was the shredded, formless sounds she made as sinews locked, muscles jerked, and every orifice other than her mouth lensed shut in those long, jerking moments of her pleasure.
After, I bathed her in the dark bathroom, where only dim shafts of light found resting places on the ripples of the black water in the tub, or on the plane of her clavicle, or the hard curve of her knee. To cleanse her of her musk and her fluids. Not to be rid of them but to ensure that the next time they emerged I would be wholly responsible for their arrival.
She cooed, sensate and wordless, as I dragged the wet, soapy washcloth over her skin. She mewed when I kissed her: my mouth still briny with the taste of cunt, and hers lazy and sloppy at first – then hungry again, sucking my tongue onto hers. All it took was a soapy set of fingers under the waterline. Her legs spread, thigh skin squeaking against the porcelain tub. And there was my new best friend, hiding in her folds, demanding more stroking. More petting and more pinching, more thumbing and rubbing. Her hips pushed urgently upwards.
“What do you want, pretty Lucy?” I grazed the pad of my thumb against her swollen, sunken clit.
“You know. You know!” she hissed, reaching one hand beneath the water’s surface, clutching at my wrist, pushing my hand against her.
I dragged her arm out of the water and onto the side of the tub. “No interfering. Tell me and I’ll give it to you.”
“You know what. Fuck me.”
And there it was again. That lovely word with its brutal, violent edges and abyssal centre. The vowel as empty as her cunt.
I pushed a teasing index finger into her opening. “Like that?”
“Yes, no. More”
Adding another, and forcing them past all the fluttering muscles, I asked, “More like this?”
She groaned. Her hips bucked, making the water lap at the edges. The tendons of her thighs were rigid, pressing wide against the confining sides of the bathtub.
My fingers stilled inside her. My thumb stopped circling. “You have a greedy cunt, Lucy. You *are* a greedy cunt. That’s your little secret, isn’t it?”
Her panting echoed against the dark tiles. “Yes,” she said. It was so quiet. An assent lost in a breath.
I knelt beside the tub, and cupped my free hand around the back of her damp neck. I squeezed it tight. Damp tendrils of hair curled and tangles between my fingers. Nestling my lips close to her ear, I felt a droplet of her sweat on my lips, the salt stinging until I licked it away. “Show me what a greedy cunt you really are,” I hissed, and pushed a third finger up into her.
“Fuck me.” Her voice was sulky, needling. The walls of her cunt tightened like a prompt.
“No. Show me how much you want it.”
Lucy made a sound that began deep and closed in her throat, until need pried it out of her. Her hips bucked once in the water, then again. Her arms tensed as her hands gripped the sides of the tub, and she began to move her body, to slide herself onto my fingers. She was hesitant at first, almost gentle.
I strengthened my grip on the back of her neck. “That’s not exactly what you want, is it?”
“Show me how you want to fuck, Lucy.”
She was embattled. I felt it through her skin, heard it in her sounds, calling to what was possessive in me, to what delighted in her stubborn reluctance to lose herself in my hands. I wasn’t going to let her be some serviced rose. I would make her shed her petals, see them churned under in her convulsions and brew a perfumed soup of her flesh.
Each roll of her hips became more urgent, until she was using all her strength to drive herself onto me. Her movements and her noises lost every vestige of pride, of intellect, of decorum. She fucked herself with my fingers and I held her neck, forcing her contort her body into a headless thing, that drove and plunged and gorged itself full to bursting.
* * *
The next morning, the world was mute and white. Our feet squeaked like mice in the pristine snow as we walked through the grounds of the Minster, York’s old gates, and ancient battlements conquered by weather. Lucy, pink-cheeked and wool-wrapped, her hand in mine; I thought I’d conquered her, too.
I thought if I could keep her hungry to be what she had been that night with me, I would have her forever. That nothing could take her away from me.
But after the morning tea, when Lucy the scholar stood up and took her place at the podium, and began to speak, I knew I was wrong.