Excerpt

12

Then she shifts her legs back in parallel. She reallocates her skirt so that he has a clear view of her browned upper thigh. She spreads her legs more than slightly. The invitation is clear.

They talk aimlessly. She sits on the couch, enjoying the view, chatting about her hospital duties, her parents in Vienna, and why she doesn’t want to stay in New York. He becomes edgy. He wants her to leave.

“Do you like my polish?” she asks, sliding her body down and raising one foot, barely inches from his face. The temptation is there, but he abruptly stands before she makes contact.

“I think we should go,” he says.

She rises and follows him slowly to the top of the stairs. He feels her stare, but his eyes are fixated on her painted toes.

“Can I see you again?” she asks.

She smiles, doesn’t wait for an answer, and searches her large straw bag, until she withdraws a card printed with her name and a New York number. Then she offers her hand, a puny gesture, he thinks, but he takes it anyway.

“I’d like to see you again,” she repeats. “Whenever you want. Whatever you want to do.”

Whatever is the only way something could happen, he thinks, but while there is more than a flicker of interest, he isn’t crazy enough to start. He knows that a fuck in the room not twenty feet away from where they stand is where it would end. That’s what whatever means. She was right about guilt, though. He feels it squeezing him like a fog that has crept into the room, filling every available space and daring, even mocking him to try to touch her. He wants to release her hand, but she holds his with even more pressure.