Asian Writer Short Story Prize
A Done Deal
That night we spent in your hotel room in Milan, you peeled off my red suit dress, my black Vanity Fair lace, removed the silver necklace that went down to my belly – a gift from my flatmate Ayesha – and left me naked but for those patent black stilettos, which I finally let drop to the floor as you hoisted me onto the bed. I ran my hands through your floppy hair, flaxen apart from the grey at the sides, undid your shirt buttons, cast your clothes to the chair by the dresser. Your hand left my body a moment and the lights went off: the two at either side of the bed, the one at the dresser and the main one that glared down at us from the ceiling exposing the truth of the scene.
Perhaps you preferred darkness as you were conscious of yourself, but there was no need. Your body wasn’t withered in the way I’d imagined: your belly was somewhat round and your chest hair grey, but you were otherwise barely timeworn, or perhaps I chose not to notice. In the dark, your touch was heightened. So was the light of the TV you’d left on mute when we’d entered the room: for ambience, you’d said, as you poured a whiskey from the mini bar. I felt your alcohol-scented breath, your wet kiss on my lips and neck, and at the same time your whisper telling me I tasted of strawberry milkshake, or perhaps the pink champagne we’d shared earlier. You ran your hands up my arms first, then every other inch of my skin, with the authority of a feline caress.
A phone vibrated against the hard glass of the bedside table on my side. I thought it was mine at first – Ayesha calling to talk about her date with Kamran. Kamran, the dentist she’d been introduced to by her parents and had been emailing. It wasn’t my phone though; it was yours. You scrambled for it over my body in the dark; said you had better respond in case it was the client we’d had dinner with. As you held it to your ear, I listened carefully in case it was a woman’s voice. How was your journey, darling? I imagined it would say, crimson lining the withered lips by the receiver. Instead I heard the monotones of our colleague, Ron, asking what time we should convene for breakfast. You cleared your throat and lied; told him you had an early morning meeting so we should meet straight at Linate, at the All ‘Italia desk. I studied his every cadence, in case it gave away that he suspected something to be awry. I pictured him smoking a cigarette alone downstairs where the creak of rickety trams echoed though the piazza like a bad dream. As you hung up, we both rolled around in laughter at the thought of what we’d hidden from him.