Thursday, December 17, 2009

Erotic Fiction Contest--Cast Your Vote


It's week 9 and it's all ours. Check out how the voting is going on the 6th Annual Bettersex.com Erotic short story competition.  Way to go Sofi! ... This post continues!

Monday, October 12, 2009

BREAKING NEWS ABOUT BETTERSEX EROTIC FICTION CONTEST



Just got word that all three of our stories will be published on the contest site on the week of 12/14. This guarantees that one of our stories will make it to the semi's.

Woohoo!

All three stories required editing to slip under the contest's 3000 word limit.
Here are the full unexpurgated versions of
It's a big holiday traffic week for the site and hopefully lots of people will see our work, but time to get out your little black book (Vi) and your Twitter list (Sof) and get out the vote.

Please come and vote for your favorite. ... This post continues!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

News about Apostrophe


Word is out we'll have at least one story coming soon at the Erotic Fiction Contest at Bettersex.com. It's vote by popular accord, so we urge everybody to go to our stories when they come up. Check back here for details as it could happen as early as next week.

To all our friends. Two of our stories were featured in an Erotic Readers and Writers Association e-book "A Slip of the Lip, that that sought to anthologize, in the words of its editor, the fabulous, Remittance Girl,  the best, most innovative and original description of a kiss.”

Reviewer Jean Roberta observed that "A remarkable number of these short pieces look self-contained in the way that an acorn is a self-contained object that has potential to grow into a mighty oak tree. In several pieces, the kiss is an event or a goal in itself."

She noted later in the review that "Several other stories deal with more complicated situations: adulterous attraction (sometimes across a generation gap) ..." (Gasp, SL sounds awfully familiar. :-) Your finest writing yet, imho) 

"Riccardo Berra has several stories in this collection, all high-voltage. In “Screen Kiss,” a woman understands the significance of kissing in old Hollywood movies: “She’d never understood and assumed they [movie stars] were just acting. Kisses. Who knew?"

(BRAVISSIMA Vi!!)

The reviewer, Jean Roberta, closes encouraging ...
"Printed-out, this collection makes an excellent picture-book, the kind that is excellent for giving. You might even get a kiss in return."
    ... This post continues!

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    HOW TWOS BECOME THREE

    by Sofi

    Riding up in the Stanhope’s elevator with Riccardo, I am a bright doomed fish trapped in a gilded aquarium. When the door opens on the 15th floor, a sharp hook will snag my mouth and pull me gasping and flopping to my death. My mind swarms like a nest of bees around the certainty that in seconds I’ll be in a plush uptown apartment overlooking Central Park, staring down my rival, my man’s other lover, the lover he was so quick to take up with while I traveled Eastern Europe with my father. Christ, he (Ricc) practically pushed me out the door. Said it was “my duty to my father.” Said it would be “my adventure.” Said when I returned that “everything would be the same.”

    Yes, I am still the mistress of a married man twice my age.
    He is still my boss and mentor.

    No, I was not a nun while I was away. I had my adventure. A couple of them actually.
    I’m not even over my jet lag, but I know with certainty that he lied once, maybe twice last night and that alone means nothing is the same.

    The car lurches to a stop on the 15th floor. We walk past one entrance and Riccardo touches the second door. Slightly ajar, it opens on a view of her, a small, impossibly elegant olive-skinned woman swooping down the hall, descending on us. She's wearing something small and tight that was probably on a Paris runway last fall. Glossy raven hair, smooth unlined skin, high cheekbones, sensual, pouting lips--all the double-barrel allure of Italian women, and how I suddenly hate them, zipped into no more than a 4 foot 9 package. And how she smells? Oh my God!

    “Hello darling,” she says, pecking him on both cheeks, dark eyes flashing. “How’s the head?”
    “Better.” Riccardo rubs the welt on his forehead that he wouldn’t explain to me. I get a quick once over.
    “And hello dear...”
    “Sofi Levonov, I'm Riccardo's production assist ...” I stammer.

    “I know, cara. But we must go now. My apologies.” She hustles us back to the elevator.
    “Slight change of plans. Basta, basta. We must go. ”

    The door closes, the car descends with a slight shimmy and she extends a poised hand which holds an elegant business card with a small purple dot by her name, Violetta Este de Calinni, in a scripted font. On the back of the card is a short, handwritten note. What is that amazing scent she's wearing?

    “This, bellissima, is for you.” As I take it, Violetta sizes me up again. I can't read her face. Her eyes make me feel naked. “You are exquisite.”

    When I'm wound up or tired or both, I chatter like a squirrel. She won't find it endearing. I fully intend to pull off a cool, aloof, “Thank you.” What I actually say (in a headlong blur) is:
    “You are beautiful too. I know we have like an issue here. But I’m sure we can work it out like adults. After all …” Violetta cuts me off, not rudely, but decisively. I am almost grateful.

    Scusa mi. Truly, I am late for my meeting. We’ll talk ....” Her hand finds Riccardo's, and one beautiful nail, a sliver of polished jade, scratches out a sensual Morse code on his palm; a gesture I’m sure I’m supposed to see. The elevator door whooshes open.
    A domani?” she asks, staring me down, then before I can respond, bounds off quick as her clicking heels can carry her. Quicker than I ever could in those damned things. Damned if I know what I am supposed to say.
    “She keeps busy.” I fix an icy stare as Vi’s receding form hops in a small limo.
    “She volunteers at The Met. Something with reform school kids. And she now sits on the board.”

    My lover and her doorman say goodbye. They’re on a first name basis. In the bright daylight, Riccardo tries to cop a look at the handwriting on back of the card in my shaking fingers. I obscure it deliberately. I tease him a little. He deserves it.

    “This doesn’t say so, but I did some digging. Did you know your Violetta is actually Contessa Violetta Este de Calinni? Her husband is a Count Marco Di something or other and they come from two of the oldest, most important families in Italy.”
    “I knew all about it.”
    “So how does that not intimidate you?” I’m making the effort to stay cool. Riccardo adjusts his sunglasses and takes my hand.
    “I don't know. It just doesn’t.”
    “Well she scares me. This ..." I wave the card at him. "Lunch tomorrow, Café Japonais, 12:45. These Italian nobles these Medicis, Borgheses, Calinnis. They don’t play. So, do I go? Just us girls, sipping sake, eating sushi? A quiet tête-à-tête?”
    He chuckles like I said something terribly funny.
    “Tomorrow's just the museum shoot. The crew was booked weeks ago without you. One head more or less … ”
    “You really think humor is the way to play this?"
     “No, I don’t sorry.”
    He touches the bruise above his right eye. I now have a real good idea how it happened, but I want to hear him say it.
    “What happened last night?”
    “Nothing really." Mr. Evasive. He deserves another pop to match the one he’s got.
    “I just think it’s fuckin’ weird.” He shrugs noncommittally at me overtop his sunglasses and it sets me off.
    "Riccardo, I’ll call it off. I swear. I’ll call everything off!” Passersby turn to stare. So much for keeping my cool.
    “She just wants to know you. That's reasonable.”
    "Reasonable?!"
    "Sofi! If you want to call it off, say the word. Say it. Do you?”

    Do you? Do I?

    It’s a cruel question, those two words, because he knows exactly how I’ll react.


    As if relationships like ours can be undone with a flash of his assassin’s eyes or the cruel snap of two cruel words. I hate him pushing me to that edge, time and time again. Forcing me to look over. I won't push back; I will bend like the willow. I turn quickly and dab under my shades so he won't see the two perfect tears dribble down my cheeks. He adjusts his sunglasses and his eyes are just as unavailable.  I will squeeze his hand and find better words for what’s in my heart.
    "You don’t love me as much as I love you."
    "Not true!" He denies it so vehemently, his face stung, a rattle catch in his voice that I am happy to hear. However temporary, his pain means something.
    “But” I say.
    “But” he interrupts, “I'm not keeping score. Who loves who more—You already know how I feel." Already he’s recomposed himself so I do too. I take a step back and tell him what he wants to hear.
    “I know you love me. I’ve not come halfway around the world to lose you. Your Contessa. She scares me. But ... she’ll never get the better of me.”
    "I expect not."
    The sun’s warmth lays up against my head. A handful of wispy hairs fall across my forehead. I flip them back. It's his cue. Our latest in a long line of parting kisses is soft, sad and guarded; his usual gratitude, with added tenderness I expect comes from guilt. We’re always saying goodbye. I started out trying to tell him there’s no way I’ll do this, but he insists, as much as a man with two mistresses can insist on anything. The express train from my heart arrives at my lips so I kiss his earlobe and deliver my parting shot.

    “I can’t help but feel you're feeding me to the lions."
    ... This post continues!

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Screen Kiss


    Sofi carissima, it had been nearly a year and under vastly different circumstances that R and I had last seen each other. My life had just endured a series of changes, some you know of, none positive or worth dwelling on at the moment. So imagine my eager anticipation of a night in SoHo with Riccardo at the trendy Gallery G. I had no expectations beyond an interesting reunion with a charming man who'd shown me kindness in the past. It was to be a private reception, he'd explained, likely very crowded, a "pre-opening" for Gallery G's new Salgado retrospective. Riccardo had been invited, honored he said, to show six portraits he’d shot in Rocinha, Rio’s most notorious favela.

    That night, I had chosen a simple black Chanel dress with a scoop neckline and a provocative plunging backline. My best pearls and new shoes completed the ensemble.

    We stood, side by side, as Riccardo and a dealer he'd introduced as Emile, discussed the works of the great Brazilian photographer. And as they chatted, R’s hand nonchalantly strayed to the small of my back. The gesture, seemingly casual, sent electric tremors through my body.

    From the moment he’d called on me, I'd reacquainted myself with every detail of the man. Sofi, you know me to be a woman who notices and cares for details. My first impression, shock, as he'd lost so much weight, 50 pounds he'd said! I'd been waiting, impatiently I confess, and I hardly recognized his newly trim frame as he entered the lobby. Perhaps we have you to thank for this? He kissed me on both cheeks, European style. As R held the door for me and we drove off, I took further note of the quiet intelligence that had first attracted me, the handsome new angles emerging in his face, the fashionable stubble of beard, the bedroom eyes, his stylishly rumpled black suit, the grey silk shirt open two buttons, with just a hint of rugged brown hairs peeking above the open collar. I find it so curious that Americans regard this sort of masculine display as unsophisticated for it makes me weak at the knees with desire. This Anglo male obsession with hair removal puzzles me. When some ladies I lunched with expressed distaste for hairy men ...
    I thought ‘Fine, keep your hairless little boys; save the hairy men for me.’


    Now in a public gathering, elbow to elbow with art aficionados from two continents, I am shamefully, uncontrollably wet down in my own hairy patch, desperate to touch the manly tuft sprouting from his collar.

    But it was him touching me and in that moment, my attention only knew the few tingling centimeters of his fingers' contact with my naked back.

    Was he genuinely unaware of his effect on me? Was he teasing or had he knowingly crossed this line of our friendship with this touch? How was it that he didn’t have every woman in this gallery at his feet? Lulled by the steady pressure of his fingertips and resonant, sexy voice, I lost track of the words, listening to the tones and cadences like one who recognizes the melody of a favorite song in a new, unfamiliar language.

    It seemed that their conversation was going well, then the art dealer grew irritated with Ricci, though he obviously still adored him!
    “Enough Salgado, Riccardo, darling, you make me mad enough to spit!"
    "But why, Emil?"
    "You know full well. Last week Mel makes a date. You break the date. Why?”
    “It was rude of me.” Riccardo agreed. "Forgive me."
    “Meet us tomorrow and all will be forgiven. The Brazilian ambassador and Mrs. Ambassador are detained tonight, but arrive in the morning. They remember your work from last year. They are here for one reason--to be sold. So no more this down the rabbit hole. Promise?”

    Riccardo sighed and nodded; he seemed elsewhere. I'd barely taken note of the man beyond what is required for politeness. While they concluded their business, I'd become utterly engrossed in the nearest portrait, one of Riccardo's. The dealer shook his free hand enthusiastically, then with a stiff bow, withdrew.

    Ricci turned his attentions to me. He called my name, once, perhaps twice, but I, still lost in the liquid eyes of a beautiful orphan, made a startling connection, one that had eluded me until that moment. This was the creamy voice that called from my daydreams. Turning to him, I saw his face as if revealed and I knew it for the face behind the anonymous mask in all my fantasies. Shifting my feet, I realized I wasn’t just wet down there—my whole body felt like a stormcloud saturated with desire. His unmasked face, eyes narrowed, his pursed luscious lips, closing on mine, his hand slipping beneath the elastic of my panties, seeking my other lips, drenched, already parted in anticipation of his fingers hooking me hard like a fish on a line, finding no resistance, just desire, waves upon endless waves of desire.

    In truth, he'd had only touched my back.
    Only? Only?

    Could he not sense how vulnerable I was?

    I squeezed my legs together and rocked slightly on my heels.
    “Vi?” He asked.

    “Sorry. I was … elsewhere.”
    “No matter. Do you need to leave?”
    “No. I just need air,” my voice a hoarse whisper. “Come with me?”
    "There’s a fire escape off the second floor. It’s quiet.”
    I looked at him uncomprehendingly.
    “I need to confirm an appointment with the owner."
    “Que bello.”
    “Just up those stairs. I’ll only be a minute.”

    So I went up the stairs, down a hall, out the back, onto a tiny fire escape, above the dark street behind tall skyscrapers. I searched for a small piece of open sky in the darkness and hum of the city. The door had barely closed behind me with a metal click. I felt my chest tighten and scolded myself...

    ‘A man you haven’t seen in ten months sends you off by yourself to a fire escape and you just go.' Yes, I do, I just go.

    When I heard the his hand on the door I took a deep breath.
    He stepped out onto the landing, eyes twinkling, a business card in hand.

    “This is what I came here for.”
    “Is that all?” I said under my breath.

    A street light shone on my face and the moonlight on his. His lips, in wordless response gently pressed to my mouth. I felt the first delicious rush of excitement throughout my body.
    I thought of those many screen kisses I had seen in Italian dubbed versions of American romances. Lancaster and Kerr in "From Here to Eternity," Bogart and Bergman in "Casablanca," Stewart and Hepburn in "Philadelphia Story." Like most young girls, I'd practiced my kisses on the back of my hand, on girlfriends, boyfriends, even tried it once with Marco who simply pushed me away. Ex-lovers used kisses to seduce me.

    But who’d ever kissed me for kissing’s own sake?

    Up to this point, carissima, I’d never understood the attraction of "the screen kiss." Why had all the films made such a big fuss over it? Are you shocked that I assumed they were just acting? All those decades without a real kiss vanished as our lips met as if lips alone could know and tell the whole story. My tongue probed the line of his teeth and found his tongue. He liked this. I could tell. His arm tightened around my waist, one hand grazed my breast as men’s hand do, as if to ask, may I touch you here, will you push me away, do you like it? My answer? I pushed my aching breast into his palm, then guided his hand under to the soft curves of flesh, the nipples painful with the need to be touched and sucked.

    I placed a hand on his chest. He thought I wanted him to stop, but leaning against his chest, I reached under my dress and pulled my panties down past my knees, to give him, even on that darkened landing, a brief view of my small ass as my panties collapsed to the ground at my feet.

    He knelt, an elegant gesture, bending to take my shoe, pausing momentarily to admire it.

    (Sofia, I was so glad I'd bought the Manolos!) He removed my panties from my ankle and still kneeling, pressed his cheek boldly to my crotch, inhaling sharply to smell my body perfume. His hands traveled wildly under my dress, teasing up my calves, knees and thighs, cupping my clenched bottom, he rubbed my pussy which so craved his touch. All my long passionless decades melted like ice on a hot night as his strong fingers opened my vulva and my special hole, which also craved his most passionate explorations.

    “What do you like?,” he asked.

    “Oh darling. Everything. I adore … everything.” Looking down on him, I was hoarse with longing. Like the most shameless putana, I gave words to the terrible urgency of my desires. “Feel me," I cried, "Feel how completely open I am to you. You could do anything to me.”
    Standing, his hands wandered up my torso and he returned to devour my mouth. He was so hard, imagining as I did, how only the tiniest distance, the thinnest of fabrics separated it from where we both wanted it to be.

    Behind us then, a sudden noise. I jumped away guiltily. A gallery assistant stood at the door, tapping the window, mouthing the words “Closing time.” Poor Ricci, sweating and anxious, reached for me once more.

    "No, carrissimo," I begged, "Pazienza. Just … Take me home and we’ll …”
    “Darling, I … I can’t. I have to pick up my son. Then tomorrow, you heard ... Oh Vi, I’m going crazy. All day long, I couldn’t think of anything but you.”
    “No, this is not true.” I protested.
    “Yes, sometimes I get a, a thing in my head. And I can’t … “
    “Ha. You sweet, beautiful man. You obsessed over me. I am not worth it.” .
    “How can you say that?”
    “Ah, no matter. Just know, the next time you come to me and it will be different.”
    "Different? How?”
    “Different however you want it to be my darling. Different now that I know.”
    “Know what? What?"

    In answer, though it was no answer he'd yet understand, I reached up and gave a little tug at the chest hair I’d been admiring all night.

    As we descended the stairs, I leaned into him and did something very bold for me. I grasped his manhood through his trousers and squeezed. My palm could feel the heat of it pouring through the fabric. His breath whistled through his teeth. I released my trapped treasure just as the assistant reappeared at the first floor landing to escort us from the now empty gallery. Our poor man, holding a gallery program discretely over the prominence in his trousers. I watched the prim little assistant closely. Would her eyes stray to the agitation I'd caused? I felt so wanton and wicked at that moment, but the girl took no more notice than what was necessary to see us out the door. Perhaps lovers appear nightly on her fire escape and it is her duty to send them off to their beds!

    Strange how that night air on the street seemed cooler than the air two floors above. I had the sense of great time passing or none at all. How long had we been there? I signaled for a cab with a very unladylike whistle while Ricci caught his breath.

    Once inside I rolled the window down and beckoned him to come closer. As he leaned in, I called out “81st and 5th” to the driver. Then I pulled Ricci's sweet face to mine. I gave him another soft sweet kiss to remind him of our first kiss, our screen kiss, a promise of all that was to come. This kiss, though chaste in comparison to our passion on the fire escape, came with the answer I'd made him wait for, though not nearly as long as I had waited for him!

    “It will be different, now that I know you want me.”

    The cab started off and as if we were actors playing the farewell in a romantic movie, I turned and caught the eyes of our beautiful man, his expression so intent, as if somehow we, or at least he, had played this whole scene out before. Ricci, beloved, do you treasure this night in your memory as I do? Because it is only in reading Sofia's post, that I realize that fate, our fates are never a straight line, but many lines, some that branch, cross, circle and return to close upon themselves.

    Write to me, carissimo.
    Vi
    ... This post continues!

    Saturday, August 29, 2009

    I have no professional relationship to deepen Part 1

    Sofi carissima, I cannot deny I feel twinges of envy when I read your second to last post as you have been able to be with Ricci on a professional level not just an intimate one. Even though you felt so nervous and apprehensive meetingme the first time, as you so beautifully express yourself in your very last post, how enriching it must be to be able to work with a man you are also deeply involved with emotionally and physically! I may know more of life due to my age and opportunities to travel and meet such a varety of people the world over. I know I have an inate ability to mix with anyone and make people feel good about themselves and frankly Ido not think I could have managed our menage a trois so well if that had not been the case. You have so often praised me for being understandng and making you feel relaxed about our threesome. I know you were hesitant at first and honestly so was I! I now examine our love triangle from afar in Europe and realise that each one of us has contributed so much to the other. I had no idea when I arranged to meet Riccardo that night at the gallery that he had already started an intimate relationship with you. I imagined he was just a married man who had the occasional short affair and somewhere deep down had hoped he might think of me as more than just a friend, the mother of his daughter's schoolfriend. I was so insecure about it as when first I met him I would never have thought I was his type sexually. Silly really, as now we both know him so well we realise he appreciates women of all types, shapes and sizes, after all you and I are so very different on that score! Enough on that for now and let me tell you about my weekend in Paris visiting my friend, Etienne. She took me to a cocktail party of people in their fifities. Elegant women, professional or well-heeled, immaculately turned out! I was not feeling my best as I had been over -stressed by family business in Rome and Marco was being a pain - bad-tempered and irritable. I was dying for him to go to one of his regular dominatrixes and get a good bondage and whipping session, quite honestly! My French had deteriorated because of being in the USA so long and little chance to practise and I felt unusually intimdated by the crowd before me. At he entrance to the apartment in Rue de Poitiers, a hig windowed early 19th century maisonette, guarded by the inevitable curious concierge who drew the lace curtains of her lodge every time a guest arrived at the door. In France many apartments surround a courtyard and there is a large exterior door where you must dial a code to press the door open. This always makes me think that illicit lovers may never enter and leave unobserved. What thoughts and fantasies a spinster concierge must have! They say that romantic steamy novels are the read of first choice for many an elderly female concierge! How often the 'cinq a sept' visits of clandestine lovers must excite her fantasies as she looks up from her novel! What transpired at this cocktail, or rather in the end did not, will be Part 2 of this post! Wait until you hear what the lady concierge said to her fellow concierge as I left the cocktail! -:) Ci sentiamo al prossimo post! Baci di piu come sempre, Vi
    ... This post continues!

    Thursday, August 27, 2009

    Our professional relationship deepens

    Even thought the previous three posts touch on unpleasant parts of the past, I feel it's important as a woman to deal with them however she sees fit and move on as best as she can. So let me be the first one to request that we don't dwell on "the dark side" anymore. My suggestion--lets look to happier, better times. Vi, how about "first kisses" with Riccardo. Specifically the first time you knew it was "real."

    From the moment I took Riccardo's Senior Semiotics Class at NU, I was a smitten kitten. I loved the way he challenged me in class to think beyond my pre-set notions. I loved the feedback he gave on my dissertation, though I was kind of a shit and never told him so. I sort of withdrew in the class. I was dealing with a lot of shit at school and on the home front and frankly, I didn't want to be seen as "teacher's pet. Still, I thought about him all the time. These feelings were just way out of line. He never knew that I once stalked him to his office just so I could see where he worked. I'm an ambitious girl, but when I begged Daddy to arrange an internship with FalconFilm it was not just to learn the art and science of filmmaking from the best.

    Riccardo and I worked very closely over the spring and from the very start, he was so generous with his wisdom and experience in the industry. We spent a lot of late nights together, as all the learning experiences were very much on his schedule and on the job. He's so passionate about his work and so, so patient with all my questions. A girl looking to break into a craft as tough as filmmaking has to take advantage of opportunities as they present. A girl looking for something more has to do the same thing. One night, late, we were doing inventory and shelving equipment and I brushed past him.

    You probably thought the contact was accidental darling, but I knew what I was doing when I rubbed up against you and I knew what you were looking at while I was bent over shelving the Dedolights.

    Still, you didn't promote me to camera assistant because you liked the way my jeans and tees fit. I worked harder than I ever did in school, busting said tight little ass to prove to you that I am as capable as any man to be at your right hand. All along, I tried to separate my personal ambitions from my professional ones, but the more time went on, the more hopelessly entangled they became. Someday I'd have to confront this and it scared the shit out of me. What if you rejected me? But you didn't.

    So may I now share how our working relationship became something much deeper and more erotic?


    Like a lot of stuff between men and women,
    it begins with a kiss:


    Halfway through the hottest July in decades, on a ‘streets like Hell’s furnace Wednesday’, I invited Riccardo and Mel out to celebrate my promotion and new paycheck. We sat at a busy little bar a few blocks from FalconFilm. It’s a new place with cheap booze and good music, frequented by students. The guys sat on either side of me. Me so sweaty and shiny in my short denim skirt and sleeveless lime green tee. It’s a favorite, the one with a sequined parrot pecking her way between my tits. It leaves little to the imagination. I rarely wear bras. I don’t need them and I hate them, especially in summer. So the tight fabric of my favorite summer tee was all the more clingy with the humidity. Since I draw stares whatever I wear, the way I look at it, I might as well be comfortable. So we're drinking beers and all these men and many of the women (yikes) are making all kinds of eye contact, particularly this scary Amazon bartender stalking me with her eyes between pours. Like Rita Hayworth on body-builder steroids, she looked like she could pretty much have snapped me like a twig and picked her teeth with the pieces, if I’d have given her so much as a dirty look. Riccardo, my protector, caught her eye and stared her down.

    Anyway, I'm feeling loose, proud of myself and the new paycheck burning a hole in my pocket. But Riccardo was sort of reserved and troubled-looking, as if he had something unpleasant to say to me. Whatever he was mulling over, I'd made up my mind that I was going to speak my piece tonight. But I needed the right opportunity.

    Fortune favors the prepared. Halfway through our second beer a tall, doe-eyed Hispanic boy with a blonde tint drifted past the bar and there was some unseen exchange, a couple words in hushed Spanish. Mel coughed softly and mumbled an excuse to go to the bathroom. Yes!

    “You think he and that boy …” I asked Ricc. I've always been fascinated by the mating rituals of gay men and with Mel now out of the way and a couple of beers under my belt, I was feeling no pain. Riccardo laughed quietly.

    “I never ask … He and I don’t usually discuss our love lives.” Then like some total dope I let out this insane laugh, loud as a horse, as if he’d said something immensely funny. Immediately I'm embarrassed, so I slammed down the rest of my beer. These guys, now business partners, have known each other since college and their relationship is something I didn't understand until much later. I'm not thinking about their relationship at this point. I'm thinking, I totally humiliated myself and I probably embarrassed him too. This was getting off to a real bad start.

    “There’s something I’ve been meaning to say to you,” he ventured, switching back to his oh so serious voice.
    “I need to talk to you too,” I replied trying to sound as serious as him.
    “You want to quit?”
    “Nooo!” Why would you say that?” He saw the wounded look and hot tears in my eyes. His face said he regretted the cruelty of that remark. I instantly forgave him.
    “I love my job. Love it! You have to tell me now. What’d I do wrong?”
    “Nothing, say your peace.”
    “No. Please. Don’t torture me.”
    “I’m not. It’s delicate. I want you to be taken seriously …”

    At this point, I'm convinced he's about to fire me.

    “Me too. So what am I doing wrong?,” I blurted out, more than halfway to bawling my eyes out.
    “God, I’ve never seen anybody work so hard. But your ah … uniform.”
    “My what?”

    My what, boss-cat? My uniform? Spare me a fucking break. Film crews always dress casually and this was one of the hottest god-damned summers on record. Legions of women all over the city parading around practically naked.

    I see how you look at them boss-cat.

    And when you think I don't see you, I know you are looking at me too and because you're so into lists, you probably have a mental inventory of every skintight midriff-baring bouncy shirt, blouse and tiny tee.

    You see, I do know you.

    I also know what I have under these outfits. I know how pert my nipples are pushing up under the merest wisp of fabric. I know how firm and round my breasts are and how they they fill out a top or move when I'm lifting equipment or running from one place to another. You think I don't see how men look at me?

    I’ve never been a model. We discussed that earlier. So what if I’m untutored in the art of appearance? I know that whenever I enter the room, conversations stop, and men particularly, look at me and smile. I'd like to think it's because I'm super-efficient and a nice person, but I'm not stupid. I take the looks and attention in stride.
    I'll say one thing. Ricc and Mel get all the glory (which they totally deserve), but I'm the one who makes stuff happen behind the scenes in that studio. For instance, I never have any trouble booking exactly the crews Riccardo wants. The guys hear my name on their voicemail and even if they're halfway around the world, I get immediate callbacks, lickety split. No girl should never flaunt her assets, but I say she shouldn't be afraid to use them to make things run well.

    Meanwhile, my poor Riccardo has twisted his cocktail napkin into a tight, fraying knot.
    “You’re making this hard,” he says. “But here it is. You are driving everybody wild –crews, clients, even Melchiore. You need to dress um, more modestly. There, I said it. I hope you’re not offended.”
    “Should I be?” I wasn’t. I was relieved. If that's he had on his mind, this conversation was going exactly where I wanted it to.
    “No. It’s in your best interest.”
    “I get that. But what about you?
    “What about me?”
    “Have I pierced that impeccable armor of yours?”

    There, I dropped the bomb. He was either going to reject me, fire me or … His face colored and he didn’t speak for so long that I started to have second thoughts. The jukebox was playing some sappy-romantic Gerry and the Pacemakers oldie.
    “Excuse me?” he spluttered.
    “You heard me.”
    “Sofi. This is beyond inappropriate.”
    “Inappropriate? I don’t understand.”
    “Yes you do.”
    “Maybe your generation and mine live by different rules.”
    “No. We don’t. Some things don’t change. You draw attention. You have to know the effect you have. It’s not all bad, but you need something …” his hand fluttering helplessly in the space between them, his face going crimson, “Less revealing. Less provocative.”
    “Okay! I get it!”

    He completely dodged the real issue.

    Pissed, I pulled a cigarette from my backpack. I think he was surprised. He’d never seen me smoke. I tapped the filtered end against the bar like I’d seen Carole Lombard do in Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The bartender came up to us. Her Bronx accent was as thick as the intimidating Rosie the Riveter arms knotted across her massive chest.
    “This is New York honey and nobody smokes in my bar; not even the honky-tonk angels.”
    She scared and annoyed me, because now that I knew what his issue was, all I wanted to focus on
    was what was unsettled between us.
    “God,” I laughed in exasperation, “I like how I look in my clothes. What’s wrong with that?”
    “Nothing, if all you want to do is draw attention to yourself.”

    “Whose attention do you think I’ve been trying to get, idiot?”

    I just blurted it out. Another direct hit. It had to be the alcohol talking. He's totally on the spot and I'm flirting with losing the best job I'm ever likely to have. So I fiddled nervously with the cigarette. Riccardo’s neck and ears are like starting to steam, but he wouldn’t take the bait.

    “We have a good working relationship.” A good WORKING relationship?
    I nodded and played along. “And that’s it?”
    “Absolutely.”
    “I don’t believe you. When I’m at work, I feel so... alive.” I shifted my weight so that my calf just touches his. He doesn't move. I take this as the first of many hopeful signs to follow.
    “I don’t follow.”
    “Sure you do. I know what drives you. We’re the same that way.”
    “I’m 45, married, with kids and a business …”
    The cat was out of the bag and it was total truth time. So I just let him have it.
    “And when you leave at the end of the day, you deflate. Like some big sad balloon. Pssssssss! You’re a lonely person, Riccardo Berra.”
    “How can you presume? …”
    “It takes one to know one.”
    “I’m younger than your father. ” Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. I knew what was coming next and I didn’t want to hear it.
    “Don’t. Don’t say it.”
    “You could be my daughter.” Again, I just lost it and snapped at him.
    “That’s an idiotic thing to say.”
    “You know, that’s the second time you’ve said that. I don’t like it. I am older than you and I am your employer.” He's really pissed now, but I keep pressing him. Something tells me I know exactly what I'm talking about, even if he isn’t ready to admit it.
    “But I know you.” I tell him.

    “Stop it!” His raised voice was drawing unfriendly attention from the bartender and others.

    He looked around, his voice lowered to an insistent hiss. “Stop thinking you can read me. Stop being so damned precocious. Don’t sit so close. And don’t … be … so …”
    “Be so what?” Here I revert to playing the oh so innocent young thing.
    “Fuckin hell. Gimme one,” he ordered, pointing at the cigarette between my fingers. There we sit, fuming, tapping cigarettes agitatedly on the bar.

    “Interrupting anything? …” Melchiore’s wicked Banderas grin popped between us, “Of course not,” he chirped. “Then off, off to bed. Early edit. Don’t stay out too late, lovelies.”
    “Leaving alone?” I asked as if I didn't know exactly what he was up to.
    Mel waved the question away and made a swift grab for Riccardo’s cigarette. Riccardo snatched his hand back irritably.
    “Ah. So sad. Why start again?” Melchiore scolded, maternal reproach in his soft, dark Arab eyes. He turned to me. “Both of you. It puts wrinkles on the face, precious.” Bye Mel. I couldn’t wait for him to leave.

    He kissed me on my cheek and sailed out the door. The bossman and I had the same idea at the same time.
    Necks craned our in unison, we observed a rail thin leather clad figure step from the shadows into the glare of the streetlight. Mel took his hand. A cab appeared and they were gone.
    “Aren’t we a couple of flamingos?” Riccardo quipped. That did it. He was either going to leave this bar with me or leave me twisting, but one way or another, I'd know what's what before the night was out. I couldn’t sit there one second longer.
    “I’m going to smoke this. Join me?” I asked. He went for his wallet, but I beat him to it, slapping two twenties on the bar. After all, it was my treat. “Keep the change,” I ordered the dyke bartender.

    “Later, heartbreaker,” the bartender growled.

    Though the sun had been down a full hour, the city rolled like a hound in the sweet rot of roasting garbage. The bank marquee across the street flickered indecisively between 92 and 93. Even the lamp posts seemed wilted like daisies. I groaned. Walking a little ahead of him, so he could look his fill, I cut quickly past the alleys, afraid to breathe or even look down them. Heat and the myriad smells of heat assaulted us in waves. I lit my smoke, took a sharp drag and turning in midstride, handed it off to him. Little sparks passed between us as our hands touched twice in exchanging the lit cigarette. Entering Gramercy Park, I was feeling more and more lightheaded from the unaccustomed intake of nicotine. But it was more than that. I was losing my nerve. Neither of us dared to speak. Thank God for the cigarettes
    for as long as they held out, we could stay quiet and smoke.

    I leaned on the fountain’s lip; its concrete stubble animal warm against my bare thighs. I took the smoke deep into my lungs, still a few puffs away from saying what needed to be said. I stared absentmindedly at the glowing tip, trying to gather up the courage I'd felt in the bar. Riccardo broke the silence.

    “I thought I’d have to fight that bartender.” He was still trying to be so cool and nonchalant, but we both knew what was about to happen.

    “You don’t ever have to worry,” I replied quietly and I meant it. I straightened, dropped the butt and decisively ground it under my heel. I locked eyes with him. I touched his face with shaking, tentative fingers, caressing the coarse stubble of his beard. “You can fire me tomorrow, but I am going to do this.”

    Desperation breeds courage they say and I was desperate enough to explode at that moment. If he’d pulled away, I knew I’d be lost, but he just sighed, giving in, sweet and helpless like a little boy. So I moved close, closer. I worried about my breath--peppermint, beer and tobacco. I gave him the softest, sexiest kiss I knew how to give. Lips barely touching, barely moving against each other, barely anything.

    We separated and my eyes, closed in rapture, reopened. W
    hen they did the world seemed a different, happier place .

    Though our first kiss was over before it began and the ungodly swelter rushed back in to the tiny vacuum between us, he hadn’t rejected me. He had a sad, sweet, wise smile on his face and he dropped his cigarette and took my hand, the gesture intimate, familiar, not amorous yet, but not just friends anymore. I knew it. I knew it. I knew he felt it too. My hand slipped right into his, pulsing, and our laced fingers intertwined for the first time. This simple gesture was like an erotic watershed. I’d have let him have me out in public, right there, it felt so right! So what happened next totally shocked me.

    “Nothing happens tonight,” he said, as I drew closer. “I need to think.”
    I panicked, so afraid that he was already havinge second thoughts. I couldn’t stop touching him, his hand, his chest, his face.

    I replied, “It ‘s possible, you know, to overthink a good thing. To think it right out of existence.”

    “That won’t happen.”

    Then I knew! I knew we’d be lovers. Sure it would have to be on his terms but now that I knew I'd never wanted anything so badly in all my life.

    So I took his other hand and slipped it to the small of my back. He pulled me closer and we kissed again, a long sweet one, moving to unheard music, a slow sultry number, hotter than the murk of the city that pressed in all around us, hotter than a lit cigarette. He was getting hard and knowing I was the one doing that to him just slayed me. I hooked his front pockets with my fingers, jerking his hips into mine. I wanted him to know how it would feel -- our bodies slamming together that way. There was this hollow wet ache in my cunt and I ground it against him, desperate for him to fill it.

    “Take me back to the studio,” I begged. “And fuck me on your desk. Wouldn’t that be sweet?”

    Now I’m no slut and I’ve never talked that way to a boy or a man in my life, but I was on fire and he needed to know exactly what was in my head. To make my point even clearer, I grabbed his cock through his jeans and held on for dear life. It had the desired effect.

    Riccardo kissed me so hard, with no pretense of detachment. He crushed my lips to his; pawing me and mashing my breasts to his hairy chest. I moaned softly and clung to him, shaking in anticipation. I was so sure that he’d changed his mind and that within moments that we'd be back at FalconFilm, tearing each others clothes off and I’d be spread wide open for him on his office desk with him pumping inside me. You know, like when you see something in your mind's eye so clearly that it has moved from desire to premonition. I wrapped my leg around him. The only place my legs wanted to be were wrapped around his thighs. Then, he gently extricated himself from me and whistled a passing cab into existence. Not, not, not what I expected. How could he send me home now after what we’d shared? I knew he wanted, no he needed me, as much as I needed him. Why was he doing this?

    Mouth agape in astonishment, I fumed as he held the door until I climbed in. I tried one last time to pull him in, but he stood firm like the fucking Rock of Gibraltar. Only when I was situated, did he lean in and kiss my flushed forehead like I was some little girl.

    “Tomorrow.”

    He whispered it in my ear. In desperation, I grabbed his collar. He gave the cabby a twenty.
    “West Village. Christopher and Hudson. Keep the change.”

    How can I describe what I felt? To be so close to having my dreams fulfilled, then being stuffed in a taxi, left totally aroused by his “Tomorrow” and totally furious at him for leaving me this way. My pussy was so wet, I’m sure I left a damp spot in the cab. The next rider would smell my desire and wonder just what sort of perverted things the previous fare had done in the back seat. What did I care? I clenched my arms and legs in a full-body pout, knowing that this would be his last image of me.

    There was no sleeping that night. It was so bloody hot in Dad's apartment and the last thing I wanted was to spend another sweaty night alone in the bed I grew up in, fingering myself into unconsciousness. I turned around and saw him watch the cab pull away. No doubt trying to convince himself that he’d done the right thing for all the right reasons.

    Riccardo, my love, nothing about that sounded convincing to me—not for a searing hot New York second.

    ... This post continues!

    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    A Man's View of a Man's World


    This is a man's world
    But it wouldn't be nothing,
    nothing without a woman or a girl

    He's lost in the wilderness
    He's lost in bitterness

    James Brown

    It's hard for this man, knowing and loving two beautiful women like Violetta and Sofi to respond. Two such women, two different ages and circumstance, both suffering this harrowing experience at the hands of men, shows how sadly common it is. In the "battle of the sexes," we have millenia of often bad history between us. But it is no longer just a "a man's world." It's the 21st Century and well past time to put this dystopia behind us.

    As Vi says, here on Inside-Apostrophe, we've founded a forum for both celebration and serious dialog between men and women.

    In so doing, we've blurred many lines: Between fantasy and reality, between monogamy and polyamory, between light and dark desires. I am torn between my own arousal at shameful fantasies and shame for the real crimes of my gender. Yet from Homer to Giambologna to the fabulous Remittance Girl, artists have elevated and eroticized the line between force and consent for as long as art has existed. That's what art is for--even pornographic art. To illuminate the dark places so that we can fantasize and imagine rather than live them. In my own life, I have made many stupid mistakes in my pursuit of love and the sensual attentions of the women I've desired.

    But there is one line that nobody should ever blur or cross in real life:

    In the real world, a person's body is their own to give, or not at any point.

    We all know that the art and language of love is filled with violent imagery. We use words like thrust, heave, penetrate, explode, shatter, quake, stab, plunge, pound, throb, glisten, groan, cry, moan, tremble, shriek, howl ... words, words that as easily describe the actions of weapons and emotional response to war as to the actions and acts of love. Yet we use these words and mean them. We do this. Why?

    Most adult genitals, when properly prepared, fit together and slide apart rather easily.

    Human males don't have barbed penises like cats and human females don't eat their lovers like fishing spiders. I think it's not what the cocks, cunts, rectums, breasts, mouths and hands are doing that's so violent, it's what's happening in our minds that sets the rockets off.

    Yet no matter how inflamed a man is by fantasies, by a woman's beauty or his lust for her, whether in pursuit, in seduction, in the beginning, middle or even at the end of the sex act, when that consent is withheld or withdrawn, he must stop and withdraw. It's that simple and unambiguous. However powerful his lust or frustration, he must never use subterfuge, force, or status to take what is not freely given.

    That means, to answer Vi's question, when consent:

    * Is not given
    * Or even given, then withdrawn,

    Then the man must do likewise. Zip it and take a cold shower. Sex is powerful, but it a voluntary act. It may start in the body but it ends in the mind where free will and choice also abide. Some thoughts come to us unbidden. Imagine, fantasize, conceive of any act you want. But turn a shameful thought into shameful action is to exercise your free will.

    Any person who says their thoughts forced them to commit a violent non-consensual sex act is either lying or criminally insane.

    Perhaps we all have something to learn from the BDSM community who use "safe words" to ensure that only what is wanted is what is done. If you freely consent to be gagged, bound, whipped and stuffed full of unspeakable objects, who am I to judge you? Assuming you play your games and rituals with somebody you trust and your word -- "stop" or "capital" or "whatever"-- your word is your bond.

    Perhaps we in the vanilla world need a new word. If "no" is no longer that word, then it should be something else, but as I write this, I realize finally that it's not the word but the principle behind it.

    Vi writes sensually and eloquently about the times that I steal to her bed and become inflamed by the sight, smell, taste and feel of her gorgeous naked body. I confess, yes, I become so aroused that I must take from her sleep what she gives me so freely when awake. No, I do not have her explicit permission to do this, yet the consent is implicit in our relationship. She knows that I respect her enough that all she'd ever need do is say "no" or "stop" and I would and I will. Thus far, she has never uttered either of those words when she feels me close or slipping inside her. She either wakes and participates sleepily but enthusiastically in our lovemaking, or remains passive, allowing me to have my way.

    Certainly in my fantasies and in hers, there is a powerful element of nonconsent, one of the many spices in our erotic relationship. And Vi knows that Sofi and I share the same dynamic, though Sofi, being young and daring, is as often the "aggressor" as the "victim" in our "sleep-creep" play.

    Vi also knows that on at least one notable occasion, she turned the table on me and I loved it as much as I suspect she does. There is something so primal, so powerful for a man to come upon his naked sleeping lover and know that her holes, perhaps already lubricated and accessible from previous encounters are his for the retaking. I make no apology for that, and I don't think Vi expects it.

    I am far more concerned that Vi still carries guilt, after all these years, for what was done to her. I cannot wave a wand and banish that guilt, though God knows I would try and try again if it would make a difference.

    Vi, darling, you must forgive yourself. You are the only one who can do it.


    In neither case did you invite the violence against your person. The men were monsters and if I had a time machine Sofia mia, I would go back and make sure each man or boy who attacked my beloveds paid disproportionately with their own pain.

    And Vi, cara mia, having already been victimized and traumatized, there is no court of justice on heaven or earth that would blame you for not speaking out. Your silence, as terrible as it was to you, was and is your right--not your fault. A theoretical sin against a theoretical potential victim is nothing. Perhaps if a prosecutor or state agency had come to you for help in convicting one of these bastards and you still refused, you'd have some reason to castigate yourself. But even in that unlikelihood, it is clear that a rape or near rape changes women in ways we men can never understand, unless it is done to us. And believe me, any understanding I gain, I want it to be through my love and support of you.

    If I have helped you to this point, through my adoration of you, body, mind and spirit, you must promise me that you'll both use this man's love and faith in you to take the next steps.

    * To forgive yourself for those transgressions done to you.
    * To channel your anger into creative outlets.

    It is easy for me to say that you hold no guilt, when it is all too clear that you do. You must use whatever gifts of courage and creativity our relationship has given you to absolve and seal your past. Seal it with the unbreakable bond of our special love.

    Vi, mio triste e bello, Sof and I miss you so.
    ... This post continues!

    Wednesday, August 12, 2009

    Rape: Reality v. Fantasy--Vi's Experiences

    Taking my cue from the two brave young women who've revealed their experiences, I will now recount my own experiences. I never told anybody this but I was raped twice, once at 16, the second time at a much older age, 39!

    When I was thirteen, my aunt Maria took me to live with her on her large estate near Tuscany. It was an unhappy time. My aunt's husband had died and she was a wildly promiscuous woman with many gentleman visitors. It was not a healthy environment for a young, impressionable girl. One night shortly after I'd turned sixteen, I was relaxing in my evening bath when my door opened. Standing there was the very handsome young English earl who’d accompanied his father on his visit to my aunt’s estate. The young man was without a stitch of clothing and his large erect member quivered with anticipation as I covered my nakedness in shame. He begged me not to be alarmed. He charmed his way into my bath with sweet, insincere words of flattery.

    "I will not hurt you," he promised, "I only want to bathe with you. Will you allow me? You are so very beautiful."

    Yes, yes, in my stupid, vain naivety I allowed this. Once in the water with me, he became very insistent. Touching and kissing. Pushing his fingers into me. When I tried to leave, he grabbed and twisted my hips and pressed my face and hands against the tile wall. Once he had me in that position, his clumsy, brutal thrusts stole my innocence in a way I hadn’t yet known was done between men and women. Riccardo knows that it was many years later, only with him in fact, that I'd allow another man to take me that way. For the longest time, I debated whether this incident was rape or not, since I'd permitted him access to my bath, but not to my body. Whether it was, in the eyes of God or man, I do not know. I only know that it felt like rape.

    Twenty-three years later, I was far from home in Santa Marta, Colombia and the man was an acquaintance of a Colombian girlfriend of mine! I was childless, very much estranged from Marco and very, very lonely.

    He was intellectual and charming, but in a coarse sort of way. We talked freely of many subjects. I felt guilty because I enjoyed the attention at first but in truth, did not fancy him at all. He was very skinny and hairless with long muscled limbs, long, wavy dark brown hair, an aquiline nose and pitch black eyes. Some might have thought him a real catch, but I always preferred larger men with hairy bodies!

    We were in my cousin's beautiful colonial house. I'd excused myself to use the bathroom, then had slipped to the guest room where I was staying to freshen my face. As I made ready to leave, he appeared at the doorway and pushed me back into the room. He pinned me against the wall with his hand covering my mouth. He was surprisingly strong. I had no bra on and my panties were mere thongs under a flimsy cotton dress. I felt so vulnerable. Thrusting his sex hard against my pubes, he proceeded to rub himself roughly up and down, all the while keeping his hand firmly on my mouth. Perhaps he mistook the screams from my covered mouth as moans of desire, for he mauled my breasts, then pulled up my dress and pushed his erect member straight into me so violently that I almost passed out. As my poor passage did not have time to lubricate, I bled like a virgin after he spent himself with a few savage thrusts, then withdrew!

    In both instances, it was so awful. I thought that writing about my own experiences would help exorcise my own horrid memories. I am so not sure it does. I was like many rape victims, too ashamed to tell anyone as they could have argued in each instance that I had encouraged him! I only know what I wanted and did not want. What I consented to and did not consent to. My rational mind says that I did nothing wrong, that it was these monsters, masquerading as men who should feel unremitting disgrace for what they have done. Despite this logic, my shame remains, buried deep in the dark past of my soul, where it has taken firm root.

    There is the shame of "sending the wrong signal," perhaps encouraging these men to take my body without my overt consent. This shame, bad as it is, is easier to rationalize into temporary silence. I can tell myself that I was naive in both circumstances and with age and experience, I now know better:
    • Fifty-three year old Vi would tell sixteen year old Vi that when you are naked and invite a naked young man to your bath, to expect the obvious.
    • Fifty-three year old Vi would tell thirty-nine year old Vi a more subtle message. Especially when traveling alone, to be very cautious about your appearance and speech, particularly when conveying any aspects of your estranged marriage to a strange man. That in many cultures, men regard unattached, free-talking women as free for the taking.
    Whatever mixed signals I may or may not have sent, I only know what I wanted and did not want. Whatever they thought, I did not consent to or want their attentions.

    As hard and shameful as these life lessons are, like many rape victims I carry a deeper outrage, the shame of the aftermath, that when I could have and should have sought justice for the crimes done to my person and spirit; again, I did the wrong thing. I remained silent. My terror, so hard to put aside, resides in the haunting question:

    Did I, through my inaction, give tacit consent to these men and emboldened them to rape other women the way they raped me?

    Decades later, I bear this second deeper shame and with it the guilt that I may be responsible for the pain of other women. I find this guilt nearly impossible to silence. If I dwell too long on it, I become so filled with self-loathing that I cannot bear myself. No amount of blogging or confession, I think, will ever change this.

    How perverse am I then, after surviving these dark events, to still fantasize about a more sensual and gentle rape with you, Riccardo, if that is possible and not too much of an oxymoron? I know there are times that you want me when I am asleep, naked in the humid heat, which always makes me feel sexy and has made me toss off my bed sheet. Sometimes I go to bed so much earlier than you, exhausted and would prefer to resume our loveplay in the morning, but insatiable as you are, you see my naked sleeping body and it arouses you so much that you must steal inside me just one more time before you can sleep!

    Sofi, can you agree that this rape fancy of mine with Riccardo is of an appealing nature? I know you have experienced the same insistence from Riccardo, when sound asleep, you awake to feel him entering you, unsure if you want to refuse him and push him off or submit to the physical pleasure his intrusion brings! Perhaps this is really subconscious 'consensual rape'? Is this where the contradiction lies?

    What is this slippery thing called consent?
    • What is it when the woman offers neither consent or refusal, but the man "steals" the advantage of your sleeping body?
    • Is it consent when a woman says no, but in fact means yes?
    • Or when one says no, but through arousal changes her mind during or after the act?
    • What if the woman says no, means no, but the man reads consent, when there is none?
    In what circumstances is a man an ardent, passionate lover or a despicable rapist? These are not easy questions to answer or even ponder.

    From this one woman's perspective, I say that true rape is something like your strange American legal description of pornography. It may be hard to define or have complicating circumstances, but you know it when it is done to you. And yes, the real thing is hard to erase from our minds. Perhaps Riccardo's love has healed and strengthened me and enabled me to distance myself from the horror I felt on those two occasions and thus write so freely that I worry I sound almost facile. This is certainly NOT my intention! This is not a subject that should ever be taken lightly. There is more to say, but for now I let the topic rest.

    JG, you are a brave, sweet girl to have written so frankly about the darkest moment in your life and we thank you for joining our discussion. I can only speak for myself, but I have every optimism that you will find what we have shared and that it will heal you. Sofi, Riccardo and I dearly intend "Inside Apostrophe" to be, not just for those interested in the novel Apostrophe and the physical and emotional joy of the erotic, but also a safe place for women and men to create honest dialogue and understanding about all the most complex aspects of love, sex, intimacy, erotica and porn, the positive and the negative, and all the permutations and interpretations thereof! I hope it has empowered you, JG, as it seems it may have. ... This post continues!

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    Sofi's "Firsts"-What the Mirror Conceals

    Ten years ago, when I was lucky thirteen, my mother gave me the full-length mirror that had always stood at her bedside. She, so icy ravishing then that I sometimes suspected the mirror was her way of telling me I’d never be as beautiful as her. The mirror had been her grandmother’s. My daily ritual was to get out of bed and look at my body in it. Two days before my thirteenth birthday, I got my period and I was having a bit of a "hate myself" thing.

    Thirteen is late for girls these days, but it seems absurd to label myself a late bloomer. So I read all the books and tried to talk to my mother, but she always seemed distracted. Daddy, heck, by the time I was twelve; he wouldn’t even look directly at me, unless I was fully dressed. His favorite line to me, was “Are you decent?” Am I? By fourteen, my body had launched into this explosive overdrive and any worry I had about developing was gone.

    The mirror. Time was I couldn’t stand my own reflection unless “I was decent.” Then I read some feminist something or other about women not being empowered until they could face their own bodies. That sunk in. So gradually I forced myself to strip, stand and stare. Eventually, I could describe every inch of what I saw in my journal with complete objectivity. If I’m going create film and video images without fear, I figured my own body was as good a place to start as any. Despite some teen squeamishness, I was finally pleased with what I saw in the mirror.

    Tall frame. Once gawky, but not anymore. Eyes—piercing blue. Hair – honey blonde. Features, East Slavic which is why I am pale, so pale, especially in winter. Breasts really came in that year. At thirteen, the girls were sad puffy little bumps. In one year they just wow, came into their own. I totally get why boys obsess over them. I confess I just have to touch them whenever I see them. My nipples are perfect pink cones that stand at attention when I do. Between my legs the little velvet patch got thick and coarse, hiding all the secrets underneath. I can’t keep my hands off it either. I hope I don’t go blind. At twenty-three, my breasts are bigger, fuller, there are some nice muscles in the arms and legs and down yonder is as thick as a forest. But really, little else has changed in this reflection since I was fourteen. Well, maybe the face. Faces are like maps. They show the distance you've traveled.

    The stereotype of girls like me – blonde, stacked, stupid sluts, etc., so God help you if you have half a brain. We’re supposed to always the popular ones, right? Which is so fucked. Nearly all my life, 90% of the girls I’ve known have treated me terribly which drove me to prefer the company of boys which made the girls even more jealous. In one way, it’s easier to have boys for friends. All you have to worry about is keeping their hands and other body parts off you. With girls, especially pretty and popular ones, it’s war on all fronts. Boys and girls alike, they check out your hair, your clothes, stare at your chest like they’ve never seen tits before and you can just see the moment of shock and disappointment in their eyes when you open your mouth and say something the least bit intelligent. The boys just clam up and get flustered. Girls get fucking medieval on you.

    Exhibit 1, I’m fourteen, with these friends Tish and Jenna—never were there two chicks more obsessed with appearance—their own and everybody else’s. Every other day they pressure me to “make a portfolio” and begin modeling. Jenna even flashes some nudes she’d made with this eighteen year old guy and I’m like, "Chick, are you crazy, you know those titty shots are going to end up on the Internet." But they were like oh you’re such a natural beauty, it’s a crime to let it go to waste and they meant it. Literally. Like not flashing tits for cash for some drooly perv was somehow backwards on my part.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m the child of two academics and money was always an issue. But so is exploiting your body for it. There’s a word for it. I’m not totally non-materialistic, but if I’m going to cash in, it’s not going to be (just) because my hair is blonde or my face, tits and ass are cute.

    When I confided this to my mother, (in more diplomatic terms mind you) Daddy overheard and I thought he’d choke on his tea. He never said anything, but afterwards, the way he smiled at me, it made me feel good, like, “way to go kid.” Other teenagers put their parents through hell. Mine had enough of their own problems. They didn’t need mine.

    The fucking irony is of course that at 23, when I’m stopped on the street, “Anybody ever tell you, you look like Jessica, or Scarlett or Sharon, you could be her sister or are you that Karolina? I swear, you look just like her.” Don’t even get me started on the pickup lines.

    Okay, so it doesn’t happen every day, but often enough that I feel for these famous chicks. Sure, they are beautiful and so well paid, but can they step out on a street or be alone with their thoughts or go on a quiet date? Can they sneak a kiss with a boy or even go to the deli for a coffee and bagel without makeup? I’m just anonymous and annoyed while they’re sold goods that everybody feels they own a piece of. What’s left for them?

    'Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.'

    What a stupid line! I’d bitchslap any girl myself who said that. Don’t love me because I‘m beautiful. That’s what I say. No amount of money or fame is worth what a woman has to put up with if she’s flying on looks alone.

    At fifteen I made another decision that would, as they say, have repercussions. It started innocently enough. It’s not like I totally flamed them, I just gradually stopped hanging with Tish and Jenna. They got boring a long time ago. I was subtle about it, so I thought, but not subtle enough. Two days before junior prom, they showed what truly standup chicks they were by lying their whore asses off to my first steady, Jake Ulitski, telling him that I sucked off George Mackenzie then let him assfuck me.

    How I find this out is after Jake practically rapes me in his car. He would’ve if he could’ve. After accusing me of this vile shit, he whips his dick out and demands a blow job. I say fuck no, then he tears two buttons off my best blouse grabbing for my tits. Then he slaps me when I resist, slams me against the door and tries to rip my panties off. Huge mistake. Fuck him! Not. Stupid asshole. Forty eight hours later I was totally planning to give him everything he wanted. After the prom. In a hotel. On his parents’ bed. In the family pool. Whatever. Wherever. So fuck him for believing those scags and their poisonous gossip. Then double fuck him for trying to rape me, even if the story had been true. Which, I reiterate, is not! Except for some kissing and heavy petting, nobody ever got more than a finger down there. A fifteen year old virgin, in this day and age, just imagine Jake, that maybe I’m sorry I broke your nose on your steering wheel, or maybe I’m not.

    Mom said weightlifting is unladylike and dangerous for a young girl but all those Nautilus workouts and self-defense classes came in real handy that night. Jake I hope you always remember me, if ever you are inclined to manhandle a woman again. And Jake, I’m especially not sorry I actually did George Mackenzie a few weeks after you and I broke up. Wasn’t all that great. So fast and frantic, it made me wonder what the fuss is all about. I didn't even come. We didn’t even date afterwards, but first is first. Jake baby, you could’ve had the whole package if you’d just been a gentleman. I was so looking forward to it. I promise I would have made it wonderful. But you deserve nothing but contempt from any woman. Warning has been tendered.
    So, darling Vi, my sweet Riccardo, my first true true love, if I learned anything, if I could go back in a time machine and change anything, I guess I'd make my first time sweet and romantic, something to remember. Your first time shouldn't be a vengeance fuck. It should be all exquisite touches, soft lighting and sensual music, but it wasn't. Ricc, you already know there were a handful of others before you, but none of them were special either.

    That had to wait for you my love. What I've given you is my heart, something no man before you ever had.
    ... This post continues!

    Monday, August 10, 2009

    Vi's first time

    His first arrival at my school had cause an incredible stir among my house mates. The dashing young conte, all of fourteen, a musical prodigy it was rumored, was not at Gstaad to ski, but to see me. Sneaking off to his chalet was an easy affair. With conspiratorial roommates and an alcoholic Hausfrau who was perennially short of cash, I was soon in his arms, drinking champagne and smoking Hawaiian pot. When I asked his purpose for being there, he’d responded boldly that he’d come to claim my virginity, believe you my love, a virtue of little value in 1966, one I was eager to dispense with. When is lovemaking between fourteen year olds not clumsy? I was so afraid, but in the end, I fairly certain that the deed had not been done that night, for although we'd been naked, our bodies rubbed together like kindling wood and I recall what seemed to be la petite morte, it seems little penetration had actually taken place. There’d been no pain nor blood and he had sprayed all over my stomach.

    Le mie amiche were divided on this issue. A year later, during the American Summer of Love, Marco visited me again in London. We’d gotten very high on opiated hash and he’d had instructed me precisely as to how to lash him to my bed with lengths of hemp he’d carried in a leather valise. Bound just so and tightly blindfolded, he immediately became firm. This time I didn’t hesitate. I straddled him passionately and for the first time, planting myself down forcefully against the tip of his glans, I pushed again and immediately felt intense pressure as I impaled myself, the delicate tearing inside, a sharp pain, then the raw shivers of pleasure as his penis, rubbed and rasped my poor clenched, trembling cavity. A half dozen quick thrusts later and he’d exploded inside me and God I felt every twitch and spasm of it, the sensations sending me into a frenzy of animal victory. I was an Amazon, a no longer a pathetic, dreamy little girl, but a warrior queen, a woman of action, a woman, at last.

    Though raw inside, I pulled myself off him, ignoring the pain and drip of warm liquid running down my legs. I removed his blindfold so he could see the red sheen of my sacrificed virginity coating his glistening member. Scrambling between his legs, I took him entirely into my mouth, in gratitude, aroused again, I freely admit by the perversity, the sharp, metallic taste of my own blood coating his rapidly softening member. But my oral attentions failed to re-arouse him and he quickly grew bored and demanded release. I blamed myself for being clumsy and awkward but in retrospect I recall the incident in detail and my sucking was greedy and firm ! I circled my lips around the head of his penis and swore I heard him initially groan with pleasure but his mind refused to allow himself to enjoy my oral attentions.I didn't care. Nothing, nothing could ever spoil the incontrovertible joy with which I had finally joined the ranks of womanhood like so many of my schoolmates.
    It's funny my loves, it would be another five years before we’d be intimate again. Certainly I'd had other experiences, lovers my own age and older, once with a French teacher, hurried, fumbling, unmemorable affairs, save for one. And when I use the word "memorable" you have to understand that I don't always use it in the positive way you Americans do.

    I never asked Marco how he’d come to his proclivities or learned their intricate practices, but clearly he’d had expert guidance. On my 20th birthday, I was by then his fiancé, he presented me with a black leather dress of exquisite workmanship. He demanded that I undress and put it on in front of him. As I zipped and buckled the numerous stays and belts built into the garment, he watched me with what I assumed to be interest. That night began his systematic introduction to me to his secret network of clubs and special houses in the drab, lower middle class neighborhoods of cities like London, Berlin, Paris and Rome. In each of the cities we visited, he became more inspired by what he saw at the dungeons, acquiring increasingly bolder and more extreme equipment of mastery, sparing no expense. In his own mind, I'm sure he believed he showed the greatest restraint and delicacy, introducing his new implements and demands with gentle, but firm patience, so as to not to scare me. For a while, for a very short while, I had to admit to myself that I did find it exciting. Soon I suppose, I came to my senses and understood that the churning in my bowels and the trembling in my limbs was not arousal after all, but a sense of repulsion that built like nausea with each instance where the humor and animation left his face as he instructed me as to how he should be trussed up and dominated. Each incident, I see now, had been stored up in black boxes in the back of my mind. One day they all collapsed and the contents spilled out and overcame me. I told him, no, I showed him in no uncertain terms that I would never wish to participate in this side of his life anymore.

    It is only through the sweetness and passion that I have have discovered with you, my loves, so unexpected, awakened here in the middle of my life, that I am strong enough to revisit these events and feelings of decades ago. It puzzles me so. What is it about me? What hidden perversion or defect within my soul could have ever derived pleasure in such places, with such people, with such things being done to my and my man's body. I further confess that there is a coda, another act to this story, but I find I simply cannot reveal it in print, so you must wait. Sofi, my love, forgive me, for I have already told far more than I intended, but less than is true. Whatever more I can say, when I can say it, will be only for Riccardo's ear at first. I am not sure why this is so, perhaps I feel the need to protect you, to shield you, so young, from the depraved things I have done in the name of love. I only know that it is right that I withhold my most painful secret and perhaps in the fullness of time, I will be able to share all there is to share, holding nothing back. For now, please respect my wishes and do not press me for more. Rather, accept my apology and my story, for though incomplete, it is entirely true and what it says or doesn't say about me is a source of continuing shame and pain. How different and loving was your first time. Your first 'dance', caro Ricc, compared to this, mine! Yes, the truth hurts.

    Yours, Vi ... This post continues!

    Sunday, August 2, 2009

    Riccardo's "First Dance"

    An excerpt from Chapter 1 of Apostrophe--Tales of Longing and Possession
    by Riccardo Berra

    There were six inches of crusted snow outside. Icicles clogged the gutter and several dropped and shattered as the heavy carriage door rolled aside with a rusty protest. Two teenagers wriggled through the narrow opening. Their breath hung in the cavernous, unheated space. The boy wrestled the door shut behind them. He stopped, cocked his head, in an attitude of frozen listening.
    "What's wrong?" she asked.
    "Nothing."
    "Then why’re ya all frozen like that? Ya cold?
    "Quiet Jen, you think I want my sisters barging in on us? Or my Mum?"
    "Uh. Okay. That Christmas present I told you about. Uh ..." She snapped her gum and gave him a cute little sideways look.
    His face brightened. "It's cold in here. You cold?"
    "Nuh. I'm used to it."

    She’s a big girl, big for 15, tall, with a sweet, long face, long, blonde hair, broad shoulders and oversized hips, big-boned, but not so much in the bust department. He'd seen smaller girls with bigger tits, but she had on a fuzzy white sweater under a shapeless navy peacoat and a fuzzy powder blue beret, an attempt at sophistication that betrayed her for the homemade cookies and milk country girl she’d been until the summer her father lost his Ohio farm. Yep, lost it to foreclosure and was forced to move his family to New York, to a tiny apartment over a hardware store on nearby Elder Street.

    Jenny Silas was dreadfully unhappy at school. She told Riccardo that the girls at BTH had dubbed her Elly Mae. And her so naïve that she didn’t even catch the barb in the joke until her daddy brought home a TV from the shop, the first in the Silas family. When she saw “The Beverly Hillbillies” she cried for a week.

    But to Riccardo, who the Tech girls had always considered a major nerd, she was cute. He had spied her out on the first day of school and he liked her fresh, naïve look. He liked the fact she didn't use makeup like the city girls, all sharp angles and lurid colors like baboons in heat. He liked that she didn't talk all brassy and pushy, but soft and uninflected. He really liked her little girl face and big girl body. He saw wheat fields in her hair and obsessively imagined how fresh she'd smell when he'd finally get to kiss her.

    The BTH jocks and studs dismissed her as simple and ignored her, but Riccardo struck up a conversation. They were neighbors. He walked her home. They made a date. Dating the new girl is full of advantages. For one, she had no way of knowing that all his previous dates had begun or ended disastrously. He was like 0 for 4. Fiasco city. And she, angel, was 'just jumpin' out her skin happy' to be taken out, the first since her move to the city. Taken out by a senior yet and to a "serious date movie," the new Jack Nicholson film, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." She told her mother it was a musical.

    During the previews, she excused herself, went to the bathroom and slipped her bra out from under her sweater. When he snuggled up, she guided his hand so he’d know. He didn't try to go any further. She hated when boys tried to tunnel their hands down your jeans when you’re sitting. Really! What do they expect? Odd at first, that her mother, so old fashioned, who made her wear long skirts everywhere, had insisted on jeans for dates. No skirts. Tight Levis. Now she understands why. Yet this boy seemed content stroking the soft denim contours of her leg and the outer swell of her soft, silky breasts through her sweater. She liked what he was doing to her breasts, especially during the sad and the sexy parts of the movie. She clamped her thighs together painfully during the love scenes. He grazed her nipples with his thumb. She sobbed as the credits rolled. The eerie haunting music like a ghost crying. The barren early morning landscape. It was all so sad.

    Pressed together in his father's studio, he inhaled her woman's perfume, not the good stuff, but like Avon, way too flowery and a bit stale, far too old a scent for her. His suspicion, that she'd probably palmed it from her mother's dresser, was confirmed when she pulled a small 50's style vial from her purse, dabbed the amber liquid on her sternum, to her wrists, rubbing them together with a circular motion. She held her hands out with a saucy ...
    "You like?"
    He didn't but he said he did and slipped through her outstretched arms for an enthusiastic clumsy kiss which began at her juicy fruit lips and slid precipitously down her chin to the spot at the base of her neck that she’d just anointed with the dimestore scent.
    She gasped as forcefully as if he'd punched her and immediately molded the front of her body against his. Shaking, he slid his hand to her right breast. Just softly, around the outer curve of her little bud, then bolder, rougher touches than at the theater. She didn't push the roving hand away but gasped again and returned his kiss with bone crunching force. The trapped hand tried but couldn't quite effect a clumsy circle under the coat, but his index finger did find the hard protrusion of her nipple and rejoiced, having heard from others that this was the surest route to third base.

    Finally she came up for air and spoke.
    “Not so rough silly. I'm a girl, not a cow.”
    “A beautiful girl.” He gently fondled her shoulders under the coat.
    No I'm not.“ Pulling away.
    “Yes you are.” Drawing close.
    “You're saying it 'cause …” Twisting her head.
    'Cause it's true. I told you the first day …" Pulling her to him with both hands under her coat.
    "You said I was pretty, not beautiful.”
    “Well, I meant it. I mean what I say.”
    “What you were doing, is like okay." She takes his hand from her hip and puts it back up her sweater. "Just go gentle. I just had my … Oh, never mind." She blushes fiercely.
    He laughs. A short nervous bark.
    "It’s not funny. I'm, I need to leave."
    “No, no, It’s funny, but only 'cause I got three sisters. And a mother. There's nothing about women’s stuff, I don't know.”
    “Nothing? You say your father made statues of naked girls. And he let you watch. I don't believe it.”
    “Sculptures. He was world famous. Sort of. It's all true.”
    Her fingers sort of accidentally grazed his zipper. His 17-year old cock jumped like a caught fish in his pants. "It didn't make you, y'know? …"
    "Jen, I was 10. But yeah, I guess it did something."
    "Show me what he did. He took their clothes off?"
    "Nah, they undressed themselves. In the back bathroom. They wore robes."
    "But they were naked?"
    She dropped her coat on the small modeling dais where he stood. She pulled the fuzzy white sweater over her head and dropped it on the coat. "Show me what he did. Did he touch 'em?" Her small pale breasts were dominated by lush, prominent aureoles. Her long nipples pointed sweetly right at him in the cold.

    He takes her hand and she steps up onto the dais. Standing behind her, his prick screaming rebellion, straining against his jeans, her jeans, drawn magnetically to her pliant bottom, he slides his hand from her firm extended nipples, down her belly to the front of her jeans. She shivers as his caress passes under her soft, warm tummy bulge, its promise a finger’s width beyond reach. He struggled in vain to work the button through the first eyelet.
    Fucking button fly jeans. Humiliating. Exasperating.
    “My hand is cold.”
    “Silly, let me.” She unbuttons her jeans. Pop. Pop. And pop, the last, the fly of her jeans flared plantlike about her big girl hips and the vee of white cotton panties. Impatient, he wrestles both jeans and panties down about her ankles. He'd been right. Her thighs smell like hay and Ivory soap.

    "They stood like this," his voice quavered humiliatingly while his hands caress and position her hips. She steps free of her jeans, a naked farm girl, naked as the moon, his farm girl, her big woman body bathed in the spill of streetlights and what Pop had called la luna pallida. There was no getting his clothes off fast enough. In the corner, on a box, there was a dusty horse blanket he’d placed nearby for just this purpose. While she shifted about in what she imagined “model’s poses,” he turned away to cover the shame of fumbling with the condom. It was more difficult than he’d ever imagined it would be.
    “Did, they lie down?” Answering her own question, she reclined on the dais.
    “Sometimes.” Shivering and as delicately as he could, he eased his body on top of hers, drawing the musty blanket over them.
    “Hmm.”

    She pressed his hips to hers and the steamy warmth of their contact against the chill was like the click of a shutter. Beneath her florid perfume, now, the true female smell emerges, familiar from a life with four women, but not like this, not understood until now. Though she’d spread her legs wide, his throbbing cock thrashed helplessly in the rough neighborhood of where he knew it was supposed to go, but he didn’t quite know what to do next. The unfamiliar grit of his pubic hair against hers as he moved against her made them both gasp. Friction, fragrance and wetness, like sweat, like honey, like pee, like not.

    “Did he do what you’re doing? Doing to me?” She whispered in his ear, inserting her tongue after the words.
    “My dad wasn’t like that.” He flinched, a bit insulted and in response her body stiffened.
    “I don’t think. I think, Ricci, we should stop.”
    “What do you mean?” That word no longer in his vocabulary.
    “I’ll never forgive myself, if I you, y’know, and you turn mean like all the other kids.”
    “Jen, those kids are assholes. I would never be mean to you, I swear it.”
    “You swear?”
    He did. Again.
    “Awright then,” she sighed, “Here’s your Christmas present.”

    Her body relaxed but her hands clamped around his buttocks and pulled him in, inside her big farm girl hips before his brain could even register what happened. He’d barely had time to move, her three enthusiastic pumps to his tentative one. He came in thirty seconds, surprised frankly, that he’d held out that long. The urge to explode the second he entered her, the juicy smacking report of it and the slick gliding, soaring pleasure were over, overwhelming, building beyond enduring, more delicious than the most delicious wet kiss, but too much for so short an interval, the musical cascade of moans and sighs and the bursting gush of fluids, over—over far too soon, far faster than it had begun. Faster than a heartbeat. His own seemed to be just restarting as he lay panting on top of her, listening to and feeling the racy flutter in her chest. He kissed the glow on her neck and ears gratefully. She massaged his shoulders, such big warm hands, so soft, their heat imprinted on the dimpled shivering skin on his back.

    “This isn’t the first time for me, you know.”
    “I know.”
    “You could tell?”
    “Of course I could. I am a senior. But I don’t care.”
    “The guy back in Ohio. My ex really … we …”

    As good as this feels, this slip-sliding against each other in the pool between their thighs, something is different. Not quite … He reaches down and confirms with absolute horror that his penis, still inside her, yes, but rapidly coming home, is now most certainly unsheathed with nothing but her syrupy wetness bathing it which means, no, Jesus Fucking Christ, no, the rubber, no, is still … which meant he’d not put it on right after all, no, which meant no, no, no!

    She’s so incredibly soupy down there, he easily reenters her with clawing, panicked fingers which she enjoys actually his desperate fumbling panicked movement, white hot, no oh no. Finally he reaches the lost object awash like a jellyfish floating on a tide, shocked that she doesn’t notice.
    She’s just kissing his ear, rubbing his hair, talking something, saying, what, he can’t hear for the red roar in his head.

    “… Then he says he wants to come and visit me. I like I tell him no, but he says like he won’t leave it that way and I just don’t know what to do.” His heart hammers away at his chest as if it means to escape his chest wall. Dear merciful God, no and she yammers away like some twelve year old on a playground. He summons both breath and his deepest voice.

    “Tell him he can’t. Tell him you’re my girlfriend now.” They’re eye to eye, nose to nose, sharing the same air, lips almost touching, so they do and he kisses her decisively.
    “Really?”
    “Really.”
    “Okay.”
    “You’ll do it?”
    “Yup.” She kisses him and presses his head solicitously between her sweet little breasts.
    “You’re different."
    "Really?"
    "Really. Different from every boy I ever met.” His dick clicks to life again. The tidal lull of her heartbeat in his head torn away from her breast by the insistent creak and rattle of the carriage house door, its protest definitely not caused by the wind. They barely had time for terrified glances before Carol, the youngest of his older sisters, stepped quickly inside, flashlight in hand. “Who’s there fuckwads?” she barked as the light swung to and fro in the darkness. “I have a gun and I’ve called the cops.”

    As the two teens scrambled to their clothes, Carol skipped around the corner with her dancer's moves. The beam of her light caught Jenny’s sweater going over her head and the curve of Riccardo’s back as he fumbled with his zipper. When Carol flipped on the studio’s overhead light, stark blue white fluorescence obliterated the darkness and all other paler illumination.

    “Hi Jenny, Ricci’s gonna walk you home in a second, hon. But I need to talk to him. Over here. Now!”
    Carol’s knuckled fists were pressed against her hips.
    “Okay,” Jenny's tremulous response barely audible.

    Riccardo sauntered up to his sister, hands thrust in his pockets, trying to affect a swagger he did not feel. His heart rate soared even higher as he crammed the unspeakable rubber into his back pocket, praying Carol hadn’t seen him do it, praying so hard for so many things at that particular moment. She jerked him in by the scruff of his unbuttoned shirt, so that her lips practically touched his ear.

    “Nice girl you have there.” Carol jerked her chin over at the girl whose cornflower eyes were as wide as saucers.
    “I know.”
    “A nice young girl, Ricci Dicky. How old is she? What if mom or the police? …”
    “Just try it Carol, I’ll kill you. I’ll tell her you smoke.”
    “That I smoke? So funny. Oh the trouble you’re in little brother.”
    “I swear, Carol.”
    A frown creased her pretty face.
    “Please.”
    His eyes searched hers.
    “Next time, I tell mom, then everybody knows everything. We’re worried 'bout you.”
    The walk back to Elder Street was so bitter, as if all the ample heat reserves they’d generated had been drained from their bodies by terror. They shivered, walking arm in arm. They kissed sadly, soulfully, chastely at the bottom of her landing. He waited outside, staring at the unlit Silas Hardware sign until he heard her apartment door unlock and admit her.

    ***************
    Jenny didn’t return to school after the New Year’s break.

    When she didn’t return after President’s Day. Riccardo began to sink into the dark pool of his worst fears. For seniors, this was supposed to be a time of looking forward, to graduation, to college, to a boundless life beyond, but Riccardo, in private moments, found himself circling back time and time again to the dark of the carriage house and the reckless heat of that cold January night.

    Winter gave way to Spring. Forsythia bloomed out on the Promenade and flowers sprouted from window boxes. Senior Trip. Senior Pride. Seniors with senioritis extended Spring Break well into May. His report card came the Friday before graduation rehearsals. Straight A’s but what did it matter? Carol found him in his room, toying with a small cactus like statuette Pop had given him shortly before his death. Dressed in a tight miniskirt, a wild yellow, blue and red pop-art print number with flared sleeves and a hem that cut across midthigh, Carol was made up to disco. She regarded the crumpled report card on his desk with a snort of derision, but something in his eyes stopped and melted her. She sat on the bed next to him and crossed her long legs. He spoke without looking up.

    “You look nice. Going out?”
    “Yeah. You’re the one who should be celebrating.”
    “Don’t feel like it.”
    “Don't feel like it? Maybe you will. I have news.”
    “What?”
    “I ran into Mrs. Silas at the market.”
    “God. Oh God.”
    Riccardo hung his head. He felt physically sick. Everything rushed up to this moment.
    “Jenny ran off.”
    “Ran off?”
    “Yep. Back to Holmes County wherever. She has a boyfriend there.”
    “I know.”
    “You know she’s pregnant?”
    A long, terrible silence, then his strangled "Yes."

    Riccardo's fingers had turned to wax and the precious little porcelain slipped from his grasp, but Carol with her dancer’s sweet reflexes, snatched it in midair. She reached across him, the most heavenly thing he’d ever smelled and set the irreplaceable memento of his father's love back on his bed table. Her voice barely registered over the blackness building inside him.

    “Yup, pregnant, eloped, married.”
    “Married? What are you saying?”
    “That’s she’s due in January.”
    “God. Oh God.” His vision tunneled. He wasn't going to vomit. He was going to black out.
    “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, that’s what’s been eating you?”
    “What the helldaya think? Who else knows?”
    “Nobody.”
    “What’ll I do?”
    “Nothing. Cause you're not an elephant.”
    "What?”
    “You’re not an elephant? Are you?”
    “Fine. Make fun. You’re so cold.”
    “You’re … not … an … elephant. Get it?”
    “Nooooooooo!”
    “Oh. Jezus H, Ricc. Do the math. Count the months.”
    “Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh my God. Oh my God. Then I can’t. It’s not ...”
    “That's right!”
    “Oh my God!” Riccardo collapsed on his bed. His breath, just seconds ago strangled in his throat, now came in long, intoxicating waves. Carol gave him a sincere little hug.
    “Poor baby brother. All twisted up. Fuckin’ forget about her.”
    “Carol, I can’t.”
    “Sure you can. She’s another cute, dumb little hick. Knocked up by another hick with a hick baby bun in the oven. And it’s not yours.”
    “I know. But that’s not fair. She was different.”
    “Fair? Different? Different like you working the hardware counter with three mouths to feed and no future? Instead of going to UC Fucking LA. You are so lucky.”
    “I know.”
    “Well I know too. So be cool little brother. Go out. Get crazy. Be a stupid kid while you still can.”
    “Yeah, right. Carol? He sat up and took his sister’s hand.
    “What?”
    “Thanks.”
    “On the house. You don’t gotta lotta time. Make the best of it.”
    “Right. So you?” He waved his hands at her disco outfit.
    “Me? What about me?”
    “Umm. Way you’re dressed you need a bodyguard.”
    “That you? Ricci Berra, protector of maiden’s honor. That's funny.” Like gum, the tease snapped right back into her voice and he was stung.
    “Fine. Then who looks out for you?”
    “Me. I look out for myself, pally, always have. And because you need me, I look out for you sometimes.” She stands now, tall and imposing. Gorgeous. The heroine of her own play. His eyes don’t rise above her hemline.
    A car horn sounds urgently in the street below.
    “Gotta go. I didn’t put the food away. I told mom you’d do it.”
    “I’ll do it.”
    She kisses the top of his head. She skips out of his room.

    From the livingroom, his mother’s old turntable scratches out a show tune he doesn't recognize. She’s singing along.
    She stops and calls to him.
    “Riccardo, bambino, vieni qui.”
    "I’m coming mamma."
    ... This post continues!