His hand strokes from my shoulder to my elbow. “I’d like to see some of your work some time, if you’d let me.”
“I can come to wherever you keep it.”
I look at him. “You mean not here?”
He smiles that little smile that I love. “Yeah. As much as I like what we have going on here at the club, and I do, I don’t only want to see you here.”
“Unless that’s only what you want?” His smile falters.
My heart is suddenly pounding. If he sees me when I’m not in this environment, it won’t be the same. He won’t like me the same way. He’ll see my small, boring life. He’ll see how utterly average I am. He’ll see everything that makes my family want me to come home and exist in their bubble. I like—no, I love—what we have too much to let him see that part of me. Because I don’t want it to end, and if he sees me for what I really am, then it will. I’m not ready for that.
Sensing that something is wrong, Hudson pulls me closer and presses a kiss to my hair. “I like you, Christine. A lot. I don’t want this to be limited to just sex in my club. I want to take you on dates. I want to take you to the movies. I want you to take me with you when you photograph something.” He pulls back and looks at me. “I want to know more about you than your body.”
He hugs me close again, and I let him. I don’t know what to say. I’m trapped between an intense desire to know him too, to want all of those things he just said, and the reality that those things can’t ever happen. I’m not good enough, not glamorous enough for them. So instead I kiss him, and I let him kiss me back. He can interpret that kiss however he wants, but I’ll know the truth.
I close my eyes as he rolls over me and starts to move down my body. If this is the last time I can have with him, I might as well enjoy it. But how can I when every kiss he presses against my skin feels like a kiss goodbye?
I don’t usually fall asleep at the club, but I let myself this time. It felt too good to let him go. Especially since I know that I can’t come back. It’s better this way. We’ll both be happier remembering the time we spent here together, instead of being unhappy with the clash our real lives will bring.
Hudson is fast asleep beside me, and I have to move slowly, carefully, so I don’t wake him. I gather my clothes, skimpy as they are, and put them on. Looking at the clock, it’s close to four A.M. The club is still open, but barely. I’ll be able to get my coat and keys. Though I suppose if the club was closed I could just get them myself.
There’s a strip of moonlight falling across Hudson’s chest, and the way it contrasts with his skin is stark. Even though I just told him that I do landscapes, my fingers are itching for my camera. This is one portrait that I would want to take. So I try to memorize it as best I can: The dark stubble on his face and the way his hair is messy from sleep and sex. The way the moon is shining across his skin, creating shadows I’d love to trace with my fingers. The way he’s still stretched out, reaching for me even though I’m no longer there.
I tear my eyes away from him because I can’t risk him waking up and asking where I’m going. I can’t. Because I don’t know what I’d say. So I’ll say nothing. He knows my name, and that I work in a photography studio. He might be able to find me if he really wanted to, but he won’t. Because this will hurt. I know it will because the pain is already seeping into my chest. It gets bigger with every step I take. I collect my things from the coat check and head out to my car.
It feels like there’s a weight on my chest as I drive home, and it’s practically crushing me by the time I climb into my own bed, not bothering to change my clothes. This time was amazing. I got to be somebody that doesn’t exist. I’ll always remember it that way. But it’s not real. None of it was real. Better something preserved than broken forever.
I curl up around myself, pressing my hands to my chest to ease the growing pressure there. It’s better this way.
I don’t go back to the club the next night. Or the night after that. Or a third.