As she came apart above me, I guided her down my body until she finally sat on my cock. The void in me shuddered. It was enough, I told myself. Everything Livvie and I had was enough. I paid no attention to the void when it sang: For now.
Livvie and I kissed. We fucked.
The void was silent.
Paris is a lovely city, even in the winter. It’s a delightful mix of the old and new. It’s one of the only places you can see a five-hundred-year-old building with a Starbucks inside. However, as the world’s most popular city to visit, the congestion of tourists does detract some from the experience. At least, it did for me. I don’t like people as a general rule, and I like them even less when they’re pressed against me in a crowded space.
It was our second day in Paris and Livvie had insisted that we visit the Louvre Museum. Thanks to some generous tipping, we managed to circumvent the line to see the Mona Lisa but not the throngs of people already inside.
“I wish we could see it better. All that glass makes it hard to see the details. Still pretty cool, though. What do you think?” Livvie looked up and craned her neck back to see me.
I scowled (it’s something I do a lot apparently).
“I think this asshole behind me should take his blurry photo and stop bumping into me before I decide to do some performance art with his face.”
Livvie’s smile turned into a judgmental pout.
“It’s crowded, Sexy. Guy can’t help it. At least we’re up front. Last time I was here, I was sort of in the middle and I couldn’t see over the people. I kept getting pushed from every side. I finally just turned around and left.” She leaned against the small barricade to get a closer look.
“Well, that idea has promise.” I glared at the man behind me while Livvie wasn’t looking. He held up his hand and dipped his head as he apologized. He was so nice about it I actually felt bad for being angry. This was the effect of being with Livvie. The old me would have said, Yes, you’re sorry. Now fuck off.
There was a swat to my chest and I turned back toward Livvie, who had apparently caught me.
“Be. Nice. I don’t want to be carted off to Les Mis jail in my fancy clothes. The lesbians will eat me alive.” She grinned.
“Two puns in one joke,” I said with a blasé tone. “Bit of an overreach. Also, it’s pronounced lay, not les.”
“Whatever, it was funny.” Livvie blushed and cuddled into my chest. I finally had to chuckle. It took me a long time to realize how adept Livvie is at managing my moods. She’d made me forget I was angry and she’d done it without my knowing.
I took her hand and navigated our way through the crowd so that we might visit other, less inhabited, exhibits. Like most people, I don’t know art, but I know what I like. For my part, I appreciated some of the “less superior” pieces more than the Mona Lisa. I didn’t find her smile that mysterious, to be honest. I enjoyed Guiseppe Arcimboldo’s Autumn much more. The artist incorporated fruits and vegetables to create a portrait of a man. It made me think about life and death. All things ripen and die. I thought about being twenty-seven. Knowing one’s age had consequences.
After the Louvre, we ate lunch at a small café within walking distance of the museum. The hotel provided a courtesy chauffeur, but Livvie insisted it was cheating to utilize such services. Walking was certainly more Parisian and therefore necessary to our tourist experience. I was no stranger to walking, but I shared no such thoughts on the subject.
By the time we reached the Eiffel Tower by way of the Arc de Triomphe, I was ready to throw Livvie into a taxi. But of course, we had to reach the top of the tower. Livvie—being the beautiful, young, and spry girl she is—was still full of energy and smiles. It was just her luck (and my misfortune) that her joy seemed to be infectious and kept me from voicing my growing disdain for tourist traps.
“Awesome! The elevator is working this time,” Livvie said.
I pulled her away from the ticket window before the line turned on her.
“Sorry, Kitten, but I’m not getting in that thing. What if it breaks down? Do you really want to be jammed into a tiny box with dozens of strangers? The idea doesn’t appeal to me.” I don’t like cramped spaces of the non tight, wet, and warm variety.
“Aww, are you claustrophobic?” Livvie made a mockingly sad face.
“Watch yourself, Kitten. I’d hate to have to spank your ass in front of all these people.” I tugged her close and delivered a firm slap to her behind. Someone giggled as they walked past. Livvie laughed.
“I can’t believe you just did that.”
“I plan on doing a lot more later,” I whispered in her ear and bit it for good measure. She squealed and pulled away. “I just hope I have the energy after I climb all these damn stairs.”
“Really? The stairs?” At last it was Livvie who was whining about doing things the hard way.
“Yes. The stairs. And it serves you right for having me walk all over Paris. I hope your thighs get nice and sore on the way up. It’ll make things that much more interesting when I make you squat over me later.” She scrunched up her nose and I laughed.
“You’re mean,” she said.
“Would you have me any other way?” I received little more than a suspicious glare. “Do you have anything in your coat pocket?”
She inspected her coat.
“No. All I brought was my passport, but you took it.”
“Good. I’d hate for you to get pick-pocketed again.” I kissed her forehead and directed our steps toward the stairs.
“What if you get pick-pocketed?”
“That’s cute, Pet.” I half hoped someone would try. I’d been growing increasingly desperate for confrontation. It had been months since I’d had some sort of altercation. I was surprised to discover how much I missed it. I pushed the thought aside for perhaps the hundredth time.
As others crammed themselves into the lift, Livvie and I started up the stairs. I regretted my decision to wear slacks and dress shoes almost immediately. There was a thin layer of frost on the stairs, and as we rose they only became more slippery.
“Try doing it in velvet Mary Janes. I swear, if I die, I’m going to be so mad at you.” Livvie huffed up another set of stairs.
“As if I would let anything happen to you. Would be a bloody waste of redemption, wouldn’t you say?” I was sure I was suffering far more. In addition to climbing, I was also pushing Livvie along to help her up the stairs.
“Bloody? I’ve never heard you say that before.” She laughed. “And while I appreciate the chivalry, I’m pretty sure the redemption is for you.”
“It’s a common expression. Also—” I reached out to steady Livvie after she slipped on one of the stairs. “You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m okay. But seriously, James, can we please take the elevator once we get to the first platform? It’s over a thousand stairs to the very top.” She wrapped her arms around my neck as she caught her breath. Her forehead was a little sweaty and her cheeks were red from the cold. “Please?” She placed soft kisses on my cold cheek. “I’m begging.” I laughed as I took in the sight of her mischievous smile and raised eyebrow.
“I suppose,” I mumbled. I really did not want to get into that damn lift. I ride them very seldom and only while alone.
The first time I rode a lift was a few years after coming to live with Rafiq. He had business in Karachi and took me along. I must have been about sixteen or so. Rafiq didn’t warn me the damnable contraption would move, and when I got out of the moving box of death I vomited in the lobby. Not only did I not get to accompany him into his meeting, but he made me ride the lift up and down the entire time he was gone. It took me about seven or eight trips and a threat of bodily harm from a security guard before I stopped yelling as the lift traveled between floors.
“You’re the best boyfriend ever. You let me ride in elevators and everything.” Livvie laughed somewhat maniacally.
“Laugh it up, Pet. It’ll be hilarious when we get stuck and the smell of unclean tourist is invading your nostrils.” Livvie only laughed harder as we continued our trek up the stairs.
“Don’t worry, Sexy. I’ll protect you.” She turned and gave me a wink. Livvie was slowly picking up on some of my mannerisms and though I wouldn’t admit it, it always made me feel… content.
“Good. I’ll be the one trying to pry the doors open with my bare hands.”
“God! I think tomorrow I’m going to wear slippers all day. My feet are killing me.” Livvie hobbled toward the desk chair in our room and immediately reached for the strap holding her shoe in place.
“It was your idea to walk everywhere.” I laughed as I poked fun at her. “Now you’ll have blisters to commemorate our trip to Paris. You can tell Claudia all about the Parisian band-aids I purchased for you in the lobby.” I mockingly switched to her vernacular. “She’ll be so jealous.” I winced as I kicked off my shoes. Livvie glared.
“I just hope she’ll be able to hear me over the sound of her own laughter when I tell her how you yelled at that teenager and his girlfriend on the elevator.”
“They were jumping up and down! Shaking the whole thing. They’re lucky all I did was yell.” I pulled up a chair in front of Livvie and reached for one of her feet. I was tempted to tip her over to stop her belly laughing.
Her laughter turned into a long keening moan as I rubbed her foot with both hands.
“Oh! I will love you forever if you don’t stop.”
A strange pang rippled through my chest. I ignored it. If Livvie loved me, she wasn’t in any rush to let me know and I hadn’t brought up my feelings for her since Thanksgiving. We were taking things slow and getting to know each other. We’d discussed it at length. Regardless, the words stirred me. The void yawned as if waking from a nap.
“This isn’t chivalry,” I countered. “I fully expect you to return the favor when I’m done. Also, I think a good back massage is in order. My muscles are tense after having been locked up tight during our gradual and torturous ascension.”
Livvie smiled with her eyes closed.
“I love the way you say things.”
She was thoroughly lost to my ministrations. Her lack of tactful word choice didn’t even occur to her, and I suppose it made it that much easier to forgive. I knew that though she might not love me, she cared for me a great deal and would never hurt me on purpose.
Livvie continued, “I get a foot massage and the chance to rub you down? I really am the luckiest girl in Paris. Do you even notice how women look at you, Caleb? James. Whatever. You’re just… you’re fucking beautiful is what you are.”
“Handsome. I’m handsome. And no, I don’t notice. I’m too busy looking at you. Or using my carefully cultivated death-stare to threaten any man stupid enough to set eyes on you.” I smiled at the contented sigh this elicited from Livvie.
“Yes, you definitely have a way with words. You should be a writer; you’re certainly screwed up enough for the job.”
“Aren’t you the writer?”
Livvie opened her eyes and sat up. There was a brief moment when I perceived she was nervous, but it quickly faded. She was all flirty smiles when she spoke.
“Not really. It’s not like anyone reads my stuff. It’s all just on my laptop.”
“Not true. Claudia has apparently read your work. I don’t know if you know this, but I read. I could take a look if you’d like. Claudia seems to think it isn’t to be missed.”
Livvie slowly removed her foot from my lap and straddled me in my seat.
“What? You can read? I’m shocked!” She kissed me on the lips briefly.
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