This story can only be found bundled with the Erotic Novella “Anger Management”
Her horse was ground tied. He stood with his head low, eyes closed, flap-lipped whiskery muzzle twitching in equine dreams. A pack was thrown carelessly onto the sagebrush, a Navajo blanket spilling out, a water bottle, and the military-surplus rucksack she used for collecting.
Calamity sat with her back resting against a pinyon pine. The ground around her was covered with cones, nuts and husks, gnawed by squirrels and small things that creep. I sat and watched her for a moment from the back of my horse, an elderly and arthritic animal, the only one that the ranch would consider lending to an untried, middle-aged city woman to roam the high desert alone. I dismounted stiffly, my inner thighs aching in protest, and let the reins fall. The stock horse understood and drooped his head to dream with his companion.
She was watching me, her dark unfathomable eyes intent on my face, cataloging my awkward gait. “I knew you would come,” she said.
In truth, I had wondered at my foolishness. A woman my age was supposed to be established in her career, successful in her marriage, grown children maybe. She was not supposed to leave them all behind to pursue some nebulous dream of the west. Utah was a long way from New Jersey. A fractured mirror universe of possibilities and paths to be trodden.
The small Utah town had one motel and one bar. Calamity worked the bar; stalking the sagging timber floor with intent, flirting with the few customers, seducing them into leaving larger tips. She was a child of mixed-race, whose heritage had given her not the smooth olive skin and curling hair that is so beautiful, but a patchwork of skin tones, a tapestry of birthmarks and pigmentation. Calamity. A name her mother had given her in anger and despair. The hurtful name she had made her own.
Of course, I was lonely, the sad aura of a woman alone, whose dreams of escape were crumbling into reality. I did not know what I was doing here; I would not find myself in Utah, whose white respectability was safer and more straight-laced than my three thousand square subdivision in suburbia. So I sat at the bar, nursing my gin and tonic and watched her. And then she touched me and flirted with me as indiscriminately as any of the jowl-faced ranchers mumbling into their beer. And the evening promised heady excitement, far from home.
“I harvest pinyon nuts,” she said. “I beat the sage for the Bureau of Land Management. Cut firewood. Come with me tomorrow.”
Her eyes spoke of more than gathering seeds. So here I was, sitting awkwardly on the ground, my hair streaked with dust; leather and horse sweat ingrained in my jeans. Calamity licked her lips, a fey gesture of momentary doubt, then leaned forward to kiss me on the lips with the bravado of an orphan.
It was why I was here, of course, to take some comfort from this strange child, she of the sad little name and piebald skin. At first it was experimental. I had never kissed a woman before, the confines of marriage and respectability had kept me from indulging. I cataloged the sensation. Yielding lips, sweet with honey and bitter with coffee. Small lips coaxing mine apart, rimming mine, softer, less assured than a man. Icy from the air temperature, cold little nubbins of flesh. Satisfied with my response, Calamity rose to spread the blanket, a splash of color on the hard ground.
I watched her, the slight frame blending into the harsh landscape, her body golden in the weak wintry sun. Puffs of dust from her feet, as she moved around, shedding her clothes almost as an afterthought. Angles of elbow and shoulder, dried yellow sagebrush tangled in her coarse black hair. The air was sharp, but she seemed impervious to the temperature. I saw the jut of her ribs as she pulled the flannel shirt over her head, nipples pebbled with the cold.
I mimicked her movements, pulling off my fleece and layers of cotton, fumbling with the clasp of my bra, underwires and ribbing, designed for support, not seduction. Her eyes were on my breasts. I knew what she was seeing; blue veins on white, breasts for nurturing, no longer exciting. She crouched and small fingers touched me, tracing the weave of veins and fine lines, circling a nipple. She cupped one, testing its turgid weight with the flick of a callused finger.
I suppressed a small gasp as she bent and put her mouth to my breast. Warm wetness, cool lips, swirling tongue. Gently she pushed me back on the blanket. I felt sharp stones digging into my back, saw the crisscross of branches against the washed sky, smelt pungent sage and something else. Arousal, the sharp scent of excitement: mine and hers, strong in this place.
She used her mouth as others might use their fingers. Crawling over skin, learning textures, imperfections and taste. Her lips mumbled over freckles and moles, She suckled me, moving to the waistband of my jeans, tickling her way over the creases of my belly, scars and lines of childbirth. I closed my eyes and let her work, seeing the kaleidoscope of sunlight behind my closed eyelids. She tugged at my jeans and I raised my hips and let her remove them, leaving me naked and ridiculous on the geometrically patterned blanket.
I sucked in my belly, trying to flatten the folds, so that the fast-food curves were minimized. She traced her lips over my C-section scar, still keloid and livid after more than twenty years.
“You don’t have to do that,” she said, and poked me so that my exhalation was rapid and my belly expanded. “You have an honorable body.”
The appreciation in her eyes gave the truth to her words. Is this what it is always like with a woman? I wondered. This unconditional acceptance?
She shifted to lie next to me, and my hands moved to her body, tentatively fingering the small ribs, tracing the mottled skin tones, the patches of pigment, shades of chestnut like the horse who dreamed nearby. I stroked one nipple. It was dark, a hard little coffee bean, fine hairs around the nipple. It hardened, sharp little cone-breast, rigid peak. The other nipple was pink, dusky ashes of roses. She closed her eyes and moaned, a breathy little sigh. I continued to tease, gentle circles with my fingertips, watching the shadows of the branches make further patterns on her skin. Sun shadow shapes.