** WARNING–CONTAINS SPOILERS**
When he was gone, Keisha showered. She scrubbed between her legs though she was swollen there and it hurt. Then she opened her mouth under the stream of the shower, thoroughly washing out her mouth, using soap though it tasted bitter and made her gag, and want to throw up. Then she sat on the shower floor, under the water, allowing it to beat against her back. It felt like she was being flogged with a whip.
Keisha sat there until the water began to grow cool and then she got up, dried herself and dressed. Horace had left her with instructions to have his car service take her home whenever she was ready, being overly solicitous, almost sickeningly so.
After he came in her mouth, he seemed ashamed of himself and had kissed her on the forehead and stroked her hair. He called her “my lovely girl” and told her that he had never before been unfaithful to his wife.
But I seem to take leave of my senses when I’m around you, he added, almost convincingly.
And then he asked if he might see her again, and said he would call. There was that, at least. He would be easy, Keisha decided as she stepped back into her black lace panties.
It ached when she raised her leg, and she could feel an unpleasant throbbing sensation deep inside her, like she’d injured something, and a dull ache, like menstrual cramps in her lower abdomen. For a moment, she almost wanted to cry. But she didn’t do that. Crying was a waste of time and energy and changed absolutely nothing. From the time she was thirteen, she’d trained herself not to, and she never had, not since then. Not even once, except when she pretended to in front of a grand jury.
Her cell phone rang and she picked it up, looking at the face.
“Hey, Avery,” she said, her voice dull.
“Hey! So what happened? It’s past midnight, and you’re answering your phone but I’m guessing dinner went well?”
“It went okay,” Keisha said, not wanting to recount anything for anyone. Not wanting to recount it for herself. “I think he likes me.”
Avery laughed. “Oh honey,” she said. “Likes you? I’d say Horace M. Smythe is smitten. Did you check him out? Is he solvent?”
“Very,” Keisha said. “Look, Avery I’m at the Four Seasons . . .”
On the other end of the line Avery gasped.
“Oh my goodness, I didn’t consider that you might still be with him. Call me tomorrow and we’ll dish! Welcome back, kiddo.”
Keisha ended the call and looked at the phone.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, she considered staying the night. After all, the room was paid for. But she couldn’t imagine sleeping here, at the scene of the crime so to speak. What the hell was getting into her? She never used to care much about the sex. Whatever the act, she could perform it; she just made herself disappear when it was happening, going someplace far, far away, just as surely as though she’d literally absented her mind and soul from her body. And afterwards, she would wash it all away as though it hadn’t happened. This time though, she still felt soiled.
Maybe it was because Charlie had just so recently died. And she couldn’t get out of her mind the look that would have been on his face if he knew she had sex with Horace Smythe. Of course, if he hadn’t fucking died on her, she wouldn’t have had sex with Horace Smythe.
Or maybe she felt like shit because she had so ruthlessly and cold-bloodedly pursued Horace Smythe, with the sole intention of getting him hooked on her, and making him feel compelled to keep her for himself. But she’d done that before as well.
So why did this feel different?
Out of nowhere, she remembered a few afternoons ago; Jayson, just below the deck in the backyard. He was wearing his mechanic’s overalls, but had unbuttoned them to the waist and was sweating, his skin glistening in the late afternoon sun. He and Rey were working under the hood of a car, a boom box nearby was playing All About the Benjamins, that old Puff Daddy song from when he wanted to be called Puff Daddy. Suddenly, Rey moved away from the car and began doing a little dance.
Aw c’mon now, Rey, Jayson laughed. What you know ‘bout all that, ol’ man?
Jayson’s laugh was like nothing else she’d ever heard out of him before, deep, resonant, and joyful. And at just that moment, he’d looked up and spotted Keisha watching him laugh. He stopped laughing then, and instead he smiled, a smile that looked like it was meant to be only hers.
Keisha stood there for what seemed like forever, unable to move, like he’d hypnotized her. The idea that he had been in prison didn’t make sense when he looked like this. In unguarded moments like this, he didn’t have that ex-con vibe; and all the hardness, bitterness and jaded patina slipped away.
Hey, baby girl! Rey had called up to her. Throw us down a couple beers, would you?
And so the spell—or whatever the hell that was—had been broken.
Watching Jayson laugh like that, Keisha had felt a million years older than him. She felt that way now.