You watch her talk to her new lover on the phone. Her nipple sitting on the water, her breast fatter than you'd noticed. A black feather breaks the surface between your bodies, slowly twisting where it was dropped. She giggles and simmers while her sweat melts into the oils of some flower and you.
She's worried because she'd grabbed this new scruff in the bloated aftermath of a meal wolfed too fast and followed him home and drunk so much she couldn't possibly drive and finally at two a.m. they'd got it over with and had the least intimate sex of her life but somehow it'd worked because he was so beautiful and cold with the only blue eyes she could remember wanting and maybe he was just too good-looking to have any passion and what could someone so beautiful see in her? She'd intimated at her situation while lighting the bath, her unexpected nuzzle of reunion still a gentle rapture when she'd blurted her news — two new jumps in less than a week. The first: much older with the possibility of a future. The latest: young and gorgeous. But she felt drastic and unsure and had tried to remove the former by sleeping with the latter. And now she thinks of the older man — he told such amazing stories — had a healing touch and so many admirers (which, being celibate, he never exploited) and she was the only one in years to snare his heart and desires, and why did he choose her, why? He'd be so hurt when he found out and she knows it shouldn't matter but she couldn't help thinking about twenty years time when he'd be sixty-shit… he was the most amazing person she'd ever met and now she'd done this. Honestly, she had tried to let him down gently but that just led to sex so she really had no choice but to sleep with someone else and the pretty boy had been keen, and she was flattered and curious, but they hadn't spoken since and she was getting worried.
The fire beneath the bath cracks, you see the candles in her eyes and the romance washes any reality from your gaze. She's glowing from the whiskey or oncoming cold (or both), gushing and sweating about her predicament — looking so good — there is no sign of the extra flesh she claims to be carrying. You're together in the tub because she wants to keep talking: it's months since the last visit, and because she's coming down with something she has to drink whiskey, and soak. Your shared connection is stronger than sex you wordlessly agree.
The last bath together was just before you were let loose. Her smile said everything as she lifted her foot out of the water to twist your nipple with her toes. This time there's no contact. But you are here, where are they?
Unsure, you start to raise the feather. She looks at it, wide and smiling, and starts to speak just as the new scrag calls. She is so relieved to talk to him her legs unlock and grab at you as she giggles on the phone, looking into the blue eyes watching her, while her feather is dropped into the silence of the stew.
You've carried the feather since the last deep kiss: at a party by accident, a reunion by mistake. She was wrapped in a shiny black boa, drunk, kissing boys, shedding a trail you followed through the night till she trapped you behind a door and didn't say a thing.
"Me and my boys, what a story." You're in bed, squirming side by side in the crisp-fresh sheets. She's worried about passing on her cold but you'll never share her roof without sharing her bed, and what could ever happen with her talking about her men? She sighs and snuggles closer. She's naked and her backside feels like silk, but you aren't aroused (not that you can admit). 'Me and my strays...' She looks into your eyes and says sorry with a laugh, then mumbles a kiss and turns her back and growls, her soft behind jiggling against you.
You lie there listening to her whiskey snore: she's crushing a nerve and you've lost all feeling. It isn't pain but it isn't comfort. You're curled around her warmth, breathing her body — she smells the same as you. At times you can't feel any edges and the sensation comes as a wave of pleasure causing you to flinch and her to moan a reassurance. Surely, the feeling is so pure she will know why you're here and want you more than any unwashed other.
She runs with stray dogs: it's her term, on her terms. She doesn't get on with most women, is happiest with certain men; the type who wander and offer no commitment, who play and howl and don't want babies — or control — or need to escape both. You were just passing through and now you're getting stuck. Tripped by a kiss and collared by her intimacy you question how you were carried by a feather, and what colour she sees when she looks at your eyes. You want to press against her thighs and feel her extra weight, to smooth across her belly to see why none of her pants will fit. But those movements belong to lovers and you are sleepily undefined. A moment squeezes you together. She moans her love in a whisper and your reply tickles her face. You wonder who she has in her bed and which stray dog inhabits your skin.