I close my eyes and think of a brave mountain climber, tucking her feet into crevices and reaching for the next ledge. The act of envisioning someone being brave bolsters me, filling my lungs with air. Brave. I’m brave, too. I center myself with a breath and press the button to the left of the wrought-iron gate. The camera inside of it moves and I can feel it focusing on me, scanning me with metallic zings and whirs. Then the gate swings open, inviting me to walk down the stone driveway that runs the entire massive length of the mansion.
Ahead, the double doors open and a woman appears in the frame, her hip cocked, eyes thoughtful as she watches me approach. She’s around the age of my mother, but much more…strict. Everything is so strict. Her clothes, her hairstyle. Her smile, her energy. She’s beautiful in different way than I’ve ever encountered. It’s borne of power, experience and care.
“Hello,” I say softly, ascending the steps. “I’m Astrid.”
“Astrid.” She taps her painted mouth while looking me over. “Aren’t you a pleasant surprise?”
Her mouth twitches. “I’m Mrs. Black. Follow me.”
With that, she turns on a black high heel and disappears into the house. The air conditioning beckons and I walk inside, letting it wrap around me. My mouth drops open at the extravagance of the interior. A chandelier the size of a station wagon hangs three stories above, stopping overhead in the center of the room. Staircases twist on either end of the huge foyer. Polished marble floors gleam so brightly, I worry I’ll scuff them as I follow the woman into a sitting room.
Two other women sit beside one another on an antique couch, and I smile in greeting, taking a seat across from them. The first woman has deep brown skin and a crown of gray braids gathered on the top of her head. She wears a purple silk tunic adorned with gold flowers and holds a quiet dignity. The second woman is blonde and petite with nervous fingers. That jittery energy crawls toward me and I gulp, breathing through the sudden inundation of apprehension. Remember the mountain climber.
“Now then,” says Mrs. Black where she stands in front of a large picture window. “Ladies, may I introduce Astrid.”
They murmur hello.
Mrs. Black clicks toward the couch, laying a hand on the shoulder of the woman wearing purple silk. “Astrid, this is Mrs. Blue.” She indicates the blonde woman. “And this is Mrs. Red.” All three women trade a covert glance and I chew my lip, once again worried that I’m not what they were hoping for. “I think we can all agree we didn’t expect someone, well, so…strikingly beautiful. My dear, where on earth did you come from?”
“A magical place,” I whisper, relieved. “And thank you.”
Mrs. Black smiles. “We have a rather delicate proposition for you.”
“The advertisement said you wanted a unique, loving community,” I say. “I want that, too. It’s…all I know.”
“Yes, we were vague on purpose, Astrid,” says Mrs. Blue, sitting forward. “You see, what we want from you is very unorthodox.”
“We want you to please our husbands,” blurts Mrs. Red.
Briefly, Mrs. Black closes her eyes. When she opens them again, her gaze is sharper. “You see, Astrid, we realized over a bottle of rosé recently that we share a similar plight, although…for different reasons. Let me explain.”
I’m still reeling from Mrs. Red’s pronouncement, but all I can do is sit and listen. My other option is to get up and run from the house. That would be unkind, and these women have been nothing but nice to me so far. Please their husbands? In the way my mother pleases my father sometime in the dark? I barely know what such a thing entails. Once Mrs. Black finishes her explanation, I’ll tell them I’m an inexperienced virgin, we’ll all laugh at the miscommunication and I’ll look for another calling.
“I’m an interior designer, Astrid. A very successful—and busy—one. My husband is much younger than me and I no longer have the energy or time to keep up with his sex drive. We’re devoted to each other, but he needs…an occasional playmate, so to speak. He’ll deny it, but I know the truth. And I’m more than happy to fulfill his need. With you, Astrid, if you agree.”
Mrs. Black nods at Mrs. Blue, who nods and takes over. “My situation is somewhat different. I…” She breaks off, rolling her lips together and chuckling to herself. “I have something of a fantasy, you see. Of catching my husband with another woman. Since my fiftieth birthday is coming up, I’ve decided to embrace this part of my sexuality and…well, I’d like to watch him…take you, Astrid. Very much.”
Something is happening to me. It’s not subtle, either. I’m growing flush from head to toe and moisture is gathering between my thighs. This has never happened before. I long to throw myself into an ice bath, but at the same time, the low tug in my belly is…thrilling. The buds of my breasts tighten and I shift in my seat, trying to get comfortable and failing. What is happening to me? It’s the energy of the women, I know. The act of speaking about their desires—about intercourse—is giving them this hot, lustful feeling and thus, I’m experiencing it, too.