Here There Be Tigers (NC-17)

“Well?” she prompted.

“Well?” he returned.

They both fidgeted, itching in their for­mal wear. She flashed a sudden, brilliant smile, an adrenaline-fueled grin, and he very nearly lost all of his pretended composure. Her eyes danced in the half light, color high in her cheeks. She started to unpin her corsage and he giggled — giggled like an eight-year‑old. He swallowed hard and wished he could grab that stupid, scared sound back, but like a man with a mission he refocused on the busi­ness at hand. When she reached for his bowtie he giggled even harder than before.

The plan had gone off perfectly. Alibis had been carefully arranged; as far as anyone knew they were both at separate parties at two different sets of friends’ houses. The room had been paid for in ad­vance by his understanding employer. “Slide it to ‘er one time for me,” Mr. Tillman had said with one of his inappropriate winks before dropping the key into his hand. There would be plenty of arched eyebrows and locker-room entendres to deal with tomor­row night at the pizzeria, but that wasn’t even the glimmer of a concern right now. The boy stopped fiddling with his cufflinks and kissed her deeply as she sat at the very edge of the immacu­late hotel room bed. Pulling back from the tremulous press of lips, they both inhaled sharply. He went back to work on his unfamiliar accoutrements with only one thought bouncing through his head. “Thank you, Mr. Tillman…thank you, Mr. Tillman…God bless you, Mr. Tillman….”

They had danced for three hours straight, even obliviously clinging together through the Class of ‘99 Prom Song; a synth‑driven oldie by a guy who changed his name to a symbol (more than once the boy had wondered how the Purple One signed his royalty checks). The retroactively timely tune had been receiving an obnoxious amount of radio airplay all year and the boy had memories of listening to a stifled version of it thumping from his old babysitter’s Walkman headphones its first time around the Top 40. But on this night “(Tonight I’m Gonna Party Like It’s) 1999” was the best song ever written. The only song.

Now, after the traditional bad catered food and the tradi­tional swiping of keepsake decorations, they were coolly damp through their respec­tive layers of clothing. Trembling, but not from the cold, the boy slipped his tux coat off and it hit the floor with a wet thud. She swept her fingers through the fine blond hair just above his reddening ears, finding it matted and dark from sweat. Another kiss and he sent his hands in search of the zipper in back of her dress, marveling at the tightness of the material, at the shape of her under satin. Their hearts hammered in their throats, their breaths small, quick, and out of sync.

It was clumsier than either had expected or wanted. The silences too long, the undressing too complex. He had never really thought about this part of it; somewhere in his pubescent wet dreams the clothes had just sort of ‑ disappeared. But here they were, heating up and shaky, going at strange, foreign clasps and buttons with run­away urgency, both trying to make it look easy, magical, sexy. He pulled his last shoe off, falling forward in the attempt but catching himself before butting her in the chest. His cheeks burned as the two shared another frightened smile. It was going to happen. Tonight. The boy tossed the shoe over his shoulder with masculine vigor, knocking one of the room’s two upscale lamps to the floor with a crash. They laughed and it came out a desperate yelp. It was really going to happen.

His shirt was off now and her eager fingertips reached out almost involuntarily, having to touch his smooth chest ‑ having to right then. She bunched her shoulders in, fingering the strap of her dress and easing it down. The gown slid and shuffled towards the floor, catching a second too long over her hips for her taste and not nearly long enough at her breasts. Stepping free of it, the girl shiv­ered in her underwear, secretly wishing the other lamp had smashed too. It was too bright, he could see her too well. She felt uglier than she ever had before ‑ if he had run for the door screaming she wouldn’t have been in the least surprised.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6