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For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In compliment extern, ’tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.
She enters the room and the eyes are on her. They’re so heavy—she’s weighed down in quoits, she’s stumbling. Every glance heats her, she’s melting by microwaves. Warmth slides down the V of her dress, a fiery blush crawls up her face. As she walks, her leg flashes through the slit in the dress like some ghastly secret. The pump of her heart—too young, too innocent, in spite of it all—is irregular. The only defense is the same defense.
She forgets who she is.
Her chest, a secret, she thrusts up and out. Her strides grow slower, languorous—more womanly. She sets a slow tempo with the click of her heels on the dance floor. Her lips bend upwards, the smile becomes hungry, spiteful. She pauses to brush a long dark hair out of her eyes, back over an ear, just so it can escape again. When she resumes walking, she has become the pet; she was never anything else.
The blush recedes. She courts the stares, smiles at a face or two she vaguely remembers, and heads for the bar. The bartender must be a model. She wants to touch his chest with her fingernails, but she only orders.
“Oh! Be a darling, and mix me something strong and sweet.”
The pet thrives on alcohol. It fuels her, keeps her in charge of the body’s controls, lubricates all the joints and gears. She’s leaning over the bar now, making small talk with the bartender; her ass on display like a ripe piece of fruit in saran wrap. Her dress is cerulean. The men and women at the bar are stealing looks while they chat with one another. Eyebrows are raised—propositions are conveyed without words.
“Now, who’s going to be a gentleman and give a girl a seat?”
The man who gets up is balding, and too eager besides. She tells him she was joking. She picks another, older but handsome, and pulls him out to the dance floor.
The pet loves to dance. She sips her drink and holds it high, indifferent to the spilling. She smells the man’s aftershave and loves it. The music is new and disposable—no way this guy can even identify the singer. She wonders if she chose him because he looked respectful. (Most unpetlike behavior on her part. Is the pet losing control so early?) She gets closer, slithers along him, feels his cock. Their eyes meet; his drop to her tits.
“You’re energetic,” he yells.
“I love a party! Don’t you?”
“Actually, I’m here for my wife. She’s that woman staring at us over there.”
The pet says something nice about her, but mentally, she’s decided to move on after this dance. The pet is fickle. Two hours later some thirty year old is fucking her like a dog on a gigantic bed while his wife squeezes her pendent breasts—gently, as if experimenting.
The pet fakes an orgasm and goes home. During the cab ride, she watches passing headlights sail by like twin stars, and the pet goes to sleep, leaving Des alone, dressed—let’s not be kind—like a slut. She covers herself as best she can and cries. The cabby asks what’s wrong, but he could care less.
“No hablo ingles,” she says. “Lo siento.”
Four months earlier.
Des drops the books one by one, like an incompetent juggler, while she fiddles with the door lock. Sarah opens it from the inside.
“Need some help?”
“I need… alcohol. And time for this paper. And…” Des dumps her books on her bunk.
“Cock?” Sarah offers.
Des makes a pensive face. “Now that you mention it. Hey—speaking of!”
Sarah’s decked out, and more—her skirt’s an obscenity, the first amendment doesn’t cover it and it doesn’t cover her. Her lips gleam—red, but not red enough to draw attention to her pallor. And with two more degrees on her heels her feet would be completely vertical.
Des is no idiot. “You have a date! Who is it?”
“Not a date exactly,” her roommate says. She shows signs of internal struggle, and then continues, “You can’t tell anyone this.”
An old American literature professor expects a long paper on Whitman poetry by tomorrow. It’s extremely important, but it’s been banished from Des’s attention. She nods eagerly.
“I’m petting,” Sarah says, examining ataşehir escort her hair in a handheld mirror.
“Pet. Verb. Transitive. One does not pet. One pets something. For instance, a dog. Or a cat. Even an iguana, in a pinch.”
“Sarah… tell your roommate. Who is this guy you’re ‘petting?'”
Sarah nibbles on her lower lip. “It’s not a date, Des. Look… I’m just going to say this. Everyone has kinks, fetishes. Even married couples. Some married couples want to fuck younger girls… maybe the wife is bi and always wanted to experiment, maybe the husband wants some variety, maybe the old wedlocked sex life has grown stale and what can’t a threesome fix? Whatever. You’d be surprised how common this is. It’s common enough that there are even societies of couples with similar tastes who throw parties to find their coveted third wheel, a young girl. Or, as they say, a ‘pet.’ But they can’t just ask any girl—not every girl’s going to be interested. So they advertise, they find girls who ‘cater’ to this unique kink. And I, I cater. I pet.”
“You’re fucking with me.”
“Nope. Party tonight.”
“You have sex with married couples?”
“Well, any type of couple actually, but most are married.”
“So… you’re going to have a threesome tonight?”
“Maybe,” Sarah says. After the admission, she’s at ease, even acting more mature than she’s entitled to. “If I find a pair I like.”
Des’s on her bunk, her mouth wide enough to swallow an apple. “I don’t believe you. Was there something wrong with dating seniors?”
“Seniors don’t pay a thousand dollars a date.”
“You get paid?”
“I do, and I have to go.” She should be teetering on those heels, but she’s smooth as an icicle as she exits.
“I guess I won’t wait up,” Des says and, when the door closes, stares. Images of faceless flesh, tangles of limbs, skin with a patina of sweat, all flash uninvited.
“That lying bitch,” she says. But she wonders. It takes a month for Sarah to convince her to attend her first pet party.
“Jews,” Des thinks, looking around the limousine, “We’re like Jews on the train to Dachau. Some of us are ignorant. Some of us suspect the worst. Some of us are just repressing.” One tight clique gossips endlessly—they’ve become professional pets. They probably know who tips well (is there tipping?), who has the biggest house, who has the biggest—they’re laughing, decimating bottle after bottle of chilly vodka. A pretty blond is sitting quietly—another newbie? Her eyes are large in her head, nervous, and her body’s so tiny and frail looking. Des wants to ask her what drove her to this debauchery, wants to commiserate, scoff at the rest of them in mute disbelief, but she can’t make the words.
Sarah gives a motherly smile and pats Des’s leg. “You look gorgeous—sexy!” she says, as if this would be a consolation. Des can’t even smile back. She doesn’t even want to move, lest someone should notice her. And now Sarah seems to have confirmed that yes, she looks every bit the whore that the rest of these girls do.
“Word of advice, honey,” one of the clique says, close to 30, with straightened red hair. “If you want to get invited back, make sure you put out as fast as you can.”
Des bunches her nose. She’s trying so hard to look angry, but knows she only looks adorable.
“It’s not true,” Sarah whispers. “I didn’t put out until my fourth party. The organizers know this is a new experience.”
The venue is gorgeous, elevated, seaside. Trees clothe the grounds in mystical darkness. It’s out of Pelléas et Mélisande. The lights of the mansion peep out of the night like a firefly sealed between two hands. Limousines abound, trafficking in and out. Gentlemen in suits, women in gowns, a kaleidoscope of styles and colors, trickle by, glancing.
Like Auschwitz, the pets must be categorized and given their numbers. They’re led off into a corner room, where a mustached man scans a gigantic red binder. He’s using an ostentatious pen to do the job that properly belongs to a laptop computer.
The moment of no return, which Des expected, comes when she reaches the front of the line.
There are other ways of earning money. None so easy, avrupa yakası escort true, but decent at least. Then again, Des thought she saw a dance floor—maybe all’s not lost.
“Is there a bar?”
The man’s smile is slow and oily. “Of course. All pets drink free.”
“I guess you want us good and drunk,” Des says. It’s supposed to sound like an insult, but the man just looks bored.
“Are you going to give me your name or not?”
“Jimenez.” She says it with a Latin flourish she almost never employs. She has to spell it out.
“Ah, Desdemona Jimenez. We need more Hispanics.” He fastens a bracelet around her arm, tacky glass beads surrounding a small heart. “You’ve read the orientation papers?”
Des blushes. She nods angrily—adorably.
“Have fun,” he says.
The main hall is punctured by a grand staircase. People are milling about everywhere, passing, smiling, in duets, in trios, in huge crowds. Waiters balancing trays weave in and out like bees pollinating flowers. An ocean wind whips in from a balcony somewhere. Des’s knees have gone Jell-o.
“What do we do now?” she asks Sarah. Sarah claims her dress was a gift from a regular couple—if you can believe that. It’s hugging her like a second skin she’s getting ready to shed.
“We have fun, Des! For the love of God, cheer up!” she says and pulls Des towards the dance floor. At first, it’s fun, girly dancing. Other girls—some with bracelets (do only pets get bracelets? Do all pets get bracelets?)—join. Des’s moves turn exotic. She feels like she’s returned home. Eyes are on her, light and feathery.
Later, a song with tachycardia for a beat, and Sarah’s hands map her back, her upper thighs, the pronounced swell of her ass. It’s burlesque, a show for onlookers, even the glitter in Sarah’s eye and her famished smile. Des feels insignificant in her arms. Eventually their lips touch, and it’s the familiar sensation of another woman—softer, more complex. Sarah kisses her while she enjoys Des’s thigh with her fingertips.
“Having fun?” she yells into Des’s ear.
“I don’t know,” Des yells back. The kiss has opened her, ignited a vague sexuality.
Then a tan man, average height but practically bursting out of his tux, grabs Sarah by the hair and yanks her horizontal, kissing her.
“Danny! I thought you weren’t coming!” The voice of a teenager comes out of Sarah’s throat, not the seductress who had just been speaking. “Is Sue here?”
“Upstairs,” Danny says, with a dramatic wink. “Which is where I’m taking you.” He hoists her over a shoulder. Sarah squeals and her long legs pump like fingers playing a trill.
“Danny, stop it, you big jerk!” Sarah yells, “I want you to meet Des.”
Danny, Sarah’s rump against his neck, offers his hand. His smile just keeps growing. “Dan Newcastle, Des. Your first time here?”
Des nods, now entirely terrified that Sarah is going to leave her.
“You’re completely fuckable. I love those Hispanic bubble butts,” he says, with the confidence of every athlete she’s ever met. “Be seeing you. Say goodbye, Sarah,” he says, turning around and walking off, stealing Des’s roommate like he would a bag of grain. Mid-abduction, Sarah waves back and mouths incomprehensible things, while she giggles and slaps the Neanderthal carrying her.
Des watches them amble up the staircase and out of sight, and then, as if behind enemy lines, sneaks off the floor. After two gin and tonics, she returns, but the groping verges on criminal. A virgin walking through that dance floor would come out pregnant.
Aggression, indeed, is the flavor of the evening, maybe the party theme (are parties themed?); it’s like walking in Rome or Barcelona. Women and men. Des makes excuses, pretends to head for the bathroom a dozen times to extract herself from conversations, looks lamenting towards the staircase where her friend vanished and has refused to reappear.
All this retreating eventually corrals her outside. A mysterious beach slopes down to black waves. The clouds above are filmy in the scant moonlight. Overactive insects buzz and resemble the fast, insistent Spanish of her grandmother. As soon as Des props her arms on the balcony, just to feel the breeze in her wet hair, another man’s settled next to her.
“Are you going bağdat vaddesi escort to hit on me?” she says, not looking over. She’s too exhausted to reject another advance, and resigns herself to defeat.
“Hun,” the man says, joining her in staring at the beach, “You’re at a pet party. What did you expect?” He laughs, and runs his hand through her hair, which is just as dark as the night time. “But, as it so happens, I’m not here to hit on you. Believe it or not, I’m just worried because you look awfully sad.”
“You should really have a cowboy hat if you’re going to keep up that accent.”
Now he really laughs, loud enough to embarrass Des. “Hat’s upstairs in my bedroom, love. I’m tryin’ to act civilized.”
“It’s where I sleep when I’m in my house.”
Many boys have told her more elaborate lies, and with an equal poise. Still, she’s so tired, she decides to believe him. “You have a beautiful house.”
“I know. I do know that. That’s why we use it.”
“Where’s your wife?”
“What makes you think I’m married, girl?”
“You’re at a pet party. It’s what I expect.”
He laughs hard again, slides over—but it’s friendly, unthreatening. “Oh, she’s around, bein’ a good hostess, while I drink Scotch on the porch. I’m a terrible host. Now you tell me, why do you look like you’re about to cry?”
“Because I’m about to cry.”
“Right. And the cause behind that cryin’?”
“What do you think?”
“Well, you’re obviously a first time—mind if I smoke? I’m not allowed to inside—and I’m bettin’ you feel a bit like a whore, just because you’re beautiful and showin’ it off.”
Des bums a smoke. She’s 22, but she only feels like an adult when she’s holding a cigarette. “Something like that.”
“Well, sweetheart, you can leave. I won’t tell anyone. I’ll even show you the easiest way out.”
Des works on her cigarette for a while. “I need the money—no wait, I don’t need the money. I want the money. It’s easy money, and I have stupid, unnecessary things I want to buy, so here I am, advertising myself like una puta. I’m selling my body for shoes.” Tears threaten.
The man takes a deep breath and puts his arm around her. He groans thoughtfully. “Well, hun, you don’t have to sell yourself, you know. You gals only get paid to come here and have fun. No sex necessary.”
Des pushes his arm off and he doesn’t seem to mind. “I hear girls who play hard to get don’t get invited back.”
“More ‘n likely,” the man says. “I mean, no one keeps track of things like that. But club officers, you know, they’re runnin’ around, noticin’ which girls are actually entertainin’ people and which ones are just eatin’ the shrimp and drinkin’ the booz. And of course, members let us know which girls they’d like to see come back.” He seems genuinely ashamed. “I admit much of that has to do with which girls give it up. That’s the world we live in.”
They watch the scummy sky. Des notices movement on the beach and isn’t surprised when she realizes it’s three people, completely naked, whitened by the moon. It’s her first evidence that this whole night, this whole subculture, isn’t just a fantasy or practical joke, but a real perversion. She quickly turns around.
“I’ll tell you what, girl,” the man says, turning around with her and leaning against the rail. “I’ll put in a good word for you. I want you back, that’s what I’ll tell them.”
“You just want to fuck me,” Des says. She’s instantly sorry, but he laughs and laughs.
“I told you I’m not hittin’ on you. Now, to be completely honest, you are the prettiest thing I’ve seen at one of these parties since my wife dragged me to the first one. And no man would be immune to those charms you’re displayin’—forgive me for sayin’ it, but it’s true. Nevertheless, I shall be the chastest of gentlemen when in your presence.”
Des wants to see him now, realizes she hasn’t looked yet. His smile’s crooked and he’s forty at least. He towers over her, lanky and tightly muscled. He definitely needs that cowboy hat. Cheeks are high and handsome, but it’s too dark to see his eyes.
“I’m Des,” she says, and offers her hand. He stares for a while, the smile permanent, and finally kisses it.
“Short for Desdemona.”
“Ah. Well, Des, my name’s Othello McMurtry.”
“Your name is not Othello.”
“No, it’s not. I just wanted to show you I know my Shakespeare. Speaking of Shakespeare, I’m Bill.”
“Is this really your house, Bill?”
“It is. I can give you a tour right now.”
“I’d… That would be nice.”
He offers his arm and Des gingerly snags it. He leads her back inside.
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