This piece was written for and first heard at an Erotic Meet event at The Green Carnation in Soho on 3rd February 2012 with Filthy Mouths and Evil Tongues, my first live reading.
Mainstream bookstores irritated her. Shelves of Shakespeare, every play, every edition, ten times over, and yet not one volume of Pinter. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Shakespeare; it was his words that had dragged her onto the stage. But her collection was complete, studied, performed, and revived. Luckily she had friends to recommend better establishments.
Which is how she came to be standing in a small, dusty, overfilled bookshop in a grimy side road somewhere between Old Compton Street and Covent Garden, her eyes alight with pleasure as she gazed across volumes of Marlowe, Pirandello, Stoppard… Shakespeare was still present, of course, but modestly. There was just one thing about the shop that irritated her.
Perhaps she was imagining it, caught in her own self-importance, but the owner seemed to be looking her way more often than not. Being looked at was something she usually took as a compliment; but this man’s glances were more like leers. And then there was the unacknowledged truth that, despite all her liberal thoughts of equality, she didn’t deem him handsome enough to be looking at her. He was tall, his body lanky beneath his well-worn sweater, his hair flecked with grey, thin lines on his face, a pair of glasses perched low on his awkward nose, whilst she, at – she guessed – half his age was willowy, with pale skin, and tresses of dark curls.
As time went by and she gathered a few editions, she could feel his gaze on her. But still the wealth of literature held her in the shop. She became aware, not so much of him, but of every movement she made; a ragged scratch of her leg through thick grey tights, a flick of her hair as she scanned a table of contents, a lick of her dry lips. Every movement felt like an unintended invitation.
It didn’t help her situation that she was the only customer. She attempted to shake the thoughts out of her head and focus on Tennessee Williams. In that moment, she became aware of a presence beside her.
“Can I help you with anything?” He asked.
She smiled – and immediately regretted it – and replied that no, she was just browsing. He peered at the book in her hands.
“If you’re interested in Williams, I have a beautiful edition of The Glass Menagerie in the storeroom.”
She paused, weighing her discomfort against her lust for theatre. The pause was enough of an indication for him to assume consent.
He was already walking, and out of politeness she found her feet following. The storeroom was musty. Boxes of books stood beneath piles of books before shelves of books. He reached out and drew from the nearest case, a slim, hardback volume. He cradled it in his long, artistic hands, gentle and tender, as though it held particular value for him. Something stirred within her, deep in her stomach, and downwards. This love and care for the beauty of art, for something so deeply unrelated to sex caused her desire. It was a kind of lust she had felt before: a musician with golden hair had held his violin as though it were life itself, and his devotion to his art had made her wet with need. She took the volume in wanting hands, breathed noisily through her nose, and felt her body weaken as his hands touched hers.
Reality struck her and she opened the book with more purpose. She looked briefly and asked, “How much?”
The shop owner laughed, a hollow, grating laugh, “This one’s not for sale.”
It seemed an admission. He had wanted to show her something intimate and precious, had drawn her into the small, enclosed space of the storeroom, for what? She looked up at him and met his gaze, saw the slight flare of his nostrils, the dreamy intent in his eyes, and held it. A second. Two. She felt sure he could feel the pounding of her heart in the empty room.
She parted her lips. “Please?”
But she wasn’t asking for the book, wasn’t requesting permission, but giving it. His hand gripped her upper arm and his mouth pressed firm against hers, kissing hungrily. She broke the kiss to place the books carefully on the edge of the shelf as his mouth found the indent beneath her chin, and his body coiled around hers, his hands already beneath her dress, commanding her flesh. Gasps filled the air and their tongues met, their palms grasping for sex. She felt the pulsing strength of his desire as her hand moved down, and he grunted, forcing his between clothes and skin, feeling her slick wetness. And, pressing her back, tugging a space between her dress and her tights, he fucked her against the wall of the storeroom.