Paul’s tan has faded almost entirely. She mentions this to him, on the last Sunday in November, when they are drinking French press in a cafe, and sharing the newspaper.
He lifts his forearm and squints at it.
“We could go on vacation,” he says.
“It’s an idea.”
He reaches across the table and puts his hand atop hers.
“Find us somewhere, then,” he tells her, and goes back to the literary supplement.
They go skiing in Aspen right after the holidays; it’s a blessed relief to get out of the city. Paul is happy to be outside during the day, cheeks gone red with sun and windburn, eyes creased in the bright light. Holly is not stupid, and she cares about sun damage. She wears large black goggles and high-factor sunscreen.
There are romantic dinners at candle-lit restaurants, quiet nooks aplenty, and Paul eats wood-fired meats and drinks barrel-aged scotch and he’s happy enough, and so, perhaps, is she, with her weak white wine and a duck breast swimming in cream sauce. She eats all of her asparagus and has three bites of roll, two of her duck. Then she spends the rest of the time running the tines of her fork through the sauce, placing the tips of the tines in her mouth and letting herself enjoy, hardly and barely, the taste of it.
Holly does not draw attention to this habit, and Paul never really notices. She sips her wine and tears her roll up into smaller and smaller pieces until she deems one of them small enough to eat. Holly knows that you can train yourself out of hunger; it is not so hard to do, if you have willpower. If you are born pretty and want to stay that way, you learn how to discipline yourself.
Their chalet is spectacular, and she’s had wine enough (three full glasses, and brandy in her after-dinner coffee, unsweetened), but it’s not enough to get her there, when they try, in front of the fireplace.
Paul is focused, and she wants to appreciate that, but she does not like for him to touch her. His hands are kind but intrusive all the same. She was never as wild as she pretended to be in her Kappa days, because it seemed pointless. A blip, a ride on the way to what you’re meant to do, to have what she and Paul have: a marriage, and money, and pretty things.
She resigns herself to the inevitable.
He tries to kiss her on the mouth, but she presents her neck to him instead.
She stares at the ceiling. It will be over soon enough.
“Go on,” she says, when she feels him getting tense.
“You sure?” he breathes hot against her ear.
“Do it, it’s fine,” she tells him.
They take separate showers, afterwards, and he puts his arms around her when they get into the bed, raised higher off the ground than their one at home. Once he has drifted off, however, she worms her way away from him and lies on her side.
She is damp, leaking down between her legs.
It is curiosity more than lust that moves her hand down there to touch through her underwear, moving her hand back and forth, idly.
Holly knows that Paul is not faithful to her; nor would she do him the disservice of expecting him to be. She does not desire him the same way he does her. The sight of his cock growing stiff does not arouse her in the slightest, and though she feels a warm pleasant drop in her lower stomach when he kisses her neck or puts a hand on her lower back, she does not like for him to penetrate her, to come inside of her and make her wet and sore, sticky, swollen and unfulfilled and agitated.
Paul snores and she clamps a pillow between her legs and shuts her eyes tightly.
Her fantasies, if one can call them that, never feature her, even though she is perfectly pretty, beautiful, even. They are dark, and nonsensical, the things that allow her to forget her body and herself enough to buck her hips into the fabric between her legs and feel hot pleasure seep over her.
The room is quite dark: in her mind, though, it is maybe even darker.