Taste of Jessica

Remember how you used to draw hearts in your notebook at school when lessons got boring? I used to watch from my seat next to you in the classroom. “I love Philip,” you’d write and draw a halo of hearts around his name. “I love Paul,” and Jason and Craig.

After school in your room you would tell me how you’d let Paul touch your breasts, how you lost your virginity to Philip and how incredible it felt. “Like melting into the sunset, Amy,” you said.

We sat on your bed, painting our toenails together and you told me everything and then laughed when I cried, aghast; “He used his tongue?”

You called me naïve, changed the subject and we’d giggle again about how brave you had been to steal the nailpolish from your mother’s bedside table. “It’s not as if she’d miss it,” you said when I worried over us getting into trouble for our petty transgression. “She’s got stacks of the stuff and she forgets about something once she gets bored with it.”

Your mother was always doing that getting things and then tossing them aside once she grew tired of them. Even her boyfriends didn’t last long. When you had those dark, sad days you used to tell me how you thought she’d done the same thing to you. You wondered if she didn’t have any more children because she grew tired of motherhood.

So I became your sister, your friend.

I loved staying over at your house. You always had the nicest things ­ the makeup, the best clothes and even a television in your bedroom. We used to stay up late to watch horror movies while sipping our cold coffee. You used to huddle up close to me and I felt warm all over, loved and protected.

Those nights, after the movies and the half eaten bag of chips, long after the lights were out and you were asleep, I lay awake, imagining what it would be like to touch you, to cup your breasts in my hands and suck them the way Paul did. I wanted to feel the passion that you had allowed all of those young men. I loved you beyond words, even beyond physical expression. As you lay asleep in the bed across the room, I listened to you breathing and touched myself the way I imagined I would touch you. After the echoes of what you may have felt deep inside your body had died in mine, I would sleep and have dreams filled with you.

My mistake was in telling you what I wanted from you and our relationship. “I don’t do that, Amy,” you said, and we didn’t speak for three weeks until I came to you after telling my parents about my preference.

They didn’t take it very well and I was hurting. You were so apologetic for rejecting me. You told me that I would always be your ‘absolute best friend’ no matter what. Then you hugged me and that made me love you even more.

Our brief teenage years passed and you embarked on a string of affairs with men more varied and experienced than the schoolboys who had given you their amateur pleasures before. I looked for a reflection of you in the lovers that I found ­ dark brown eyes, long, straight black hair.

The darkest day was when you announced you were going to marry Steven. What was worse? That news or you asking me to be your bridesmaid. Although I had long ago given up the fantasy of having you, it still struck me and I was so afraid of losing you.

“Don’t be silly,” you said, “You’re my absolute best friend. I can’t live without you ­ nothing will change.”

But to me, everything had changed. You were no longer within my grasp, no longer mine alone. I didn’t mind your lovers, as I am sure you didn’t mind mine, but I would never have those private moments when we’d laugh and share secrets. Those were all going to be Steven’s from now on.

Remember that night at my place? You decided to stay over and we drank champagne while you paraded in your wedding dress and I tried on my pale green slip dress that I was going to wear the next day.

“How much champagne have we had?” I asked you, my head hadn’t quite begun to spin yet, but I knew it would soon.

“Not enough!” you roared and we collapsed into a heap on my bed, laughing until the tears came and you lay sobbing in my arms.

It was you who made the first move. It was you who nuzzled closer, whose lips brushed against my neck and then whispered softly, “Can I kiss you?”

What was I meant to say? I was so stunned, so torn between emotions. You were drunk, I was taking advantage. Yet this was the moment I had always dreamed about.

I must have gone rigid because you said, “Are you all right?”

You propped yourself on an elbow and looked down at me with your dark eyes. “I don’t want to do this if it’s just a game for you,” I said, “You know how I feel about you…”

You didn’t let me finish. Your lips came down on mine and I tasted the champagne on your tongue. You began to touch me; your hands were on my breasts, my legs, my arms ­ more electric than any lover’s hands before or since. In my fantasies, it had always been me touching you and you who were so concerned if we were doing the right thing.

After you’d pulled my dress up, I stopped you. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked and you nodded. That was when I pushed you down onto my bed and caressed you with my hands and my lips, slowly pulling you from your wedding dress, disrobing a giant butterfly and freeing her from the chrysalis that had imprisoned her.

I smiled at the fact that it was me who would be the one to take off your wedding dress and make love to you. The irony quickly disappeared, melting into ecstasy.

You spread your arms out across my bed, a crucified goddess, as I knelt before you and brought you the pleasure that no man would ever know. I found your secret places and you found mine and we rocked together on my bed for hours, touching and breathing each other. I held you close and faded into sleep, full, fulfilled and for the first time in my life, I felt whole.

I woke to the sound of you dressing. You had already sealed your wedding dress in its black bag and the sound of your belt buckle clinking against the buttons of your jeans stirred me.

“Where are you going, Jess?” I asked.

“It’s four in the morning,” you said, “I am getting married today. I’ve got to get home.”

I sat up, in my nakedness I felt vulnerable and frail. “What about what happened between us? Are you going to just walk away from that?”

“Amy, we were drunk,” you said, sitting down next to me, “It was fun, but it can’t happen again.”

The tears I held back slipped down my cheeks after you had gone and I pulled the covers up around me, hiding my bare form, ashamed for having assumed that one night with you would be all that it would take for you to realise that you loved me too.

How did you expect me to stay there after you had left? I couldn’t lie down on that bed again without thinking of you. I touched the damp spot on my pillow where I had wept my tears of joy as I came against your mouth, against your delicate tongue.

I walked through the shadows of my room and touched the things that reminded me of you the little brass dolphin you gave me when I turned sixteen, the glass you sipped your champagne from hours before. I touched it to my lips, trying to find the place your mouth had kissed it before you kissed me. I gathered up the slip dress that I was going to wear to your wedding, still heavy with your French perfume and hugged it to my chest, my tears leaving dark stains on it as I breathed in your scent.

How did you expect me to put it on and show up at the church like nothing had ever happened?

I sat there until the sun burst full and bright into the room, holding onto your glass and my dress. Why now, Jess? I asked your invisible shadow.

Then you phoned me at eight. “Wake up call!” you shouted gleefully.

I felt stung by your happiness and in that moment I wanted to crush you, break you, and make you cry. I hung up the phone and flung the champagne flute against the wall and I felt like I was there among the shattered shards on the floor beside my bed.

I got into the shower and, turning the water up as hot as I could bear, I tried to wash the memory of you off my body. Every cell in my being hummed as the heat from the shower brought back the heat of the night before. In my mind I saw you, your back arched, eyes half closed as I brushed my tongue over your nipples. I choked on your name, caught like a razor in my throat and quickly turned off the shower.

I looked at my face in the mirror and caught the ghost of you behind my eyes. I saw you as you looked when you told me about Steven, the excitement you felt when we went shopping for your dress ­ and then last night, the memory of peeling the dress off you and finally touching you and feeling your lips on me.

The tears came again, this time I was not prepared for the ache in my body, and the longing I felt. I flung myself down on my bed and lay there motionless, thinking, trying to decide what I would do next.

I looked over to my clock and I knew you were waiting for me at Theresa’s Salon. I knew you were the one who was phoning every half hour ­ wondering if I was even going to show up at the church if I hadn’t bothered to keep our hair and beauty appointment. I let the phone ring.

I don’t know when the insight came, but when it did, it moved me and I hurried to dress, inexpertly fastening my hair into a French knot and dabbing my make up on with a few brisk strokes. It was like a bolt of burning fire I couldn’t make you love me if you didn’t. You gave me what I had always wanted and I was ready to convince myself that that was enough.

I arrived at your mother’s house with half an hour to spare, my face flushed and my make up streaked. You should have seen the look on your face. You hugged me and I caught a whiff of your perfume and I felt the desire for you burning in me again. “I didn’t think you were going to come,” you whispered. “I thought you’d be mad at me because of last night.” I felt each word deliciously tickle on the back of my neck as your breath touched my skin.

You stood back, looking beautiful and embarrassed and I knew that I had done the right thing to be there. You even helped me fix my make up and smoothed my hair before climbing into your white cocoon and I couldn’t help but think of you in that dress on my bed ­ soft, warm and all mine.

As we walked up the isle of the church together I even imagined that you were my bride and we were to be wed that day. The fantasy held me so tightly in its grip that I didn’t recall the truth until you handed me your bouquet so that you and Steven could exchange rings.

I must have been such a miserable person to have at the reception. I got myself very tipsy and I even tried to kiss you in the bathroom when you asked me to help you straighten your garter. I was shaking as my hands touched your leg and I adjusted the wispy blue lace that rested half way up your thigh. I imagined myself kissing you there, pushing your dress up over your waist and pulling down your brand new white lace g-string and giving you head right there with Steven outside.

You looked down at me and I knew that you knew what I was thinking. I stood up and leaned in close to you and I was positive you felt that it too. You didn’t resist when I moved closer and touched your face, your neck and the rise of your breasts. I knew also that it was doing something for you too because you leaned back against the toilet stall door and closed your eyes. There I was, my hand cupping your satin covered breast, bent over your gorgeous mouth, when your cousin Emily came in.

“Oh,” was all she said, turned and left the bathroom.

I was quick to apologise. “Shit, Jess,” I said, “I’m so sorry.” You didn’t say anything, but quickly followed Emily out into the crowded hall. I sank down on the floor, grabbing my little drawstring bag and rooting around for my tissues. I felt like such a fool. I had no idea what had come over me ­ or you for that matter. I had never been so confused before and it shook me.

I kept thinking of you and me embracing ­ first in my room and then almost touching in the bathroom of the hotel where your reception was held. I left quietly and without catching Emily’s eye shortly after I managed to compose myself in the bathroom.

No matter what lie I chose to tell myself, I couldn’t make myself believe that one night was enough and that it didn’t matter that nothing happened afterwards. I wanted more than that. How could you give me a taste of you and then pull away as though nothing happened between us.

You didn’t send me a postcard from Jamaica. You didn’t even phone me until three weeks after you had come back from your honeymoon. In all that time I got to thinking. You were foremost in my thoughts and I missed you terribly. I dreamt about you and me, tangled up, spent and naked on my bed.

How I leapt for joy when you phoned! Yet, after our discussion about your holiday, I felt somehow empty inside. I walked around for days with this hollow feeling, not having a name for it. I was in a fog of confusion.

And then it came to me. How perfectly you planned it. Your last night of freedom, your knowledge about my feelings about you, your curiosity. You were the one who brought the champagne over, you were the one who kissed me.

I walked around in a daze as the evening came back to me and I recalled the haste with which you left my home and your callous disregard for my feelings. You used me.

The revelation didn’t bring anger, but shame. I sat on my bed staring down at my toes and remembered you and me taking the nail polish from your mother’s bedside table, how you told me how your mother discarded things after a while ­ including people. I couldn’t help thinking that you were no different and it was my turn to be tossed aside.

You didn’t even try to deny it when I confronted you. You said you knew that I would eventually realise that it was nothing more than a fling. For you.

It took me two years to walk away from you and that night before your wedding. There were days when I couldn’t imagine that it would ever stop hurting. You see, I still loved you. I think that was the most difficult thing to get through.

Now it’s much better. It’s been getting better still since I met Desiree. She looks nothing like you small, blonde and with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. It’ll take time to love her as much as I loved you, and I am ready to walk that road now.

I just have one question for you do you ever think of me and the way champagne tasted on my tongue?

© 1999 TD Fallon

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