Sam is on his way back from the conference hall when he sees her standing by the window. He thinks she might be crying, but she’s not. She’s just staring out across the moonlit gardens, a glass of wine dangling from her hand. She looks up as he approaches. Smiles wanly. The noise of the still-ongoing launch party echoes down the corridor – drunken shouts and pounding music and the occasional crash of a breaking glass.
“Are you okay, Madam?” he says. A canned question. The standard bell boy greeting. This is the final day of the weekend-long launch, and he’s seen her on the periphery of every gathering. She is the inventor’s wife, although he wouldn’t know that if he hadn’t been told. Most of the time she waits outside meeting rooms, lingers on the edge of press conferences, immaculately dressed, an accessory that the inventor doesn’t seem to need.
And now here she is. Separate, again, from all the proceedings. She should be there, not here. Not alone with a glass of wine staring out of a window. She has a face which is difficult to read. Eyes that are both knowing and quiet. Sad too, perhaps. Sam isn’t sure. Sam is nineteen. Sam knows so little about older women that he doesn’t dare to speculate.
“Fine, thankyou,” she says lightly. And that is that. He carries on his way, barely breaking stride. Leaving her there by the window, watching the gardens like she watches her husband. He pauses. Turns. Not a huge distance between them. She is wearing a neat black dress, thick bands of silver around her wrists and neck. Her hair is pinned at the back of her head. Standing there alone she looks incredibly composed.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” he says again. She turns this time and looks at him longer. It isn’t quite sadness. She’s too complex for sadness. But there’s something tinged with regret or loneliness there, he’s sure of it. Then she crosses the distance between them and puts a hand on the back of his neck. Leaves it there just long enough that he could brush it away. Then she kisses him full on the mouth.
This is Sam’s second job. He has had only one girlfriend before. He has fucked few enough times that he can count them, still. Always furtively, at parties, in the darkened corners of parks. Once or twice in the car he borrows from his parents. He has never been kissed like this – by a woman twice his age, by a woman who is calm, controlled, so vastly more experienced than him.
She pulls back. Sets her wine glass down on the windowsill and takes his hand, pulling him along behind her. He knows her room number already – the only suite on this floor. As they walk he is juggling the possibilities in his head. No cameras in this wing of the hotel. He is due back at the front desk, but he could claim that a guest waylaid him. Asked for help fixing their set. Does she really want what he thinks she wants? It seems impossible that she is about to fuck him. Fucking doesn’t come so easily, so suddenly, so without frustration. Not in Sam’s experience anyway.
They reach the room. She scans the keycard and then shuts the door behind them. The bedside lamps flicker on a moment later. The room is like any of the hundred others in the building, but decorated with the intimate disarray of the woman and the inventor. A wallet sits on the bedside table. Suitcases line up against the wall. A razor rests on the side of the sink, still wet. Sam is stepping into someone else’s life – into the place of an older, other man.
“We’ll have to be quick,” she says. And those are the last words she speaks before it happens. Sam feels, alongside the swell tide of arousal, surprise. That this is happening at all. That it is happening to him. That it is a thing, uniquely, that is happening. Not something that he is doing, but instead something that is taking place, an event as beyond his control as an earthquake, an act of god. He has never been powerless before. He has never before been out of his depth.
She shrugs off the dress with surprising ease. Keeps the jewellery. Her body is smooth and slender, toned. She sits on the edge of the bed and crawls backwards up it, and beckons to him. He has never had a woman beckon him before, to bid him come and fuck her. The bands around her wrists are cold. Her necklace hard against his sternum. She spreads her legs. They are touching there, the two of them, intimately, closely.
The inventor’s wife reaches down, wraps a hand around him and pulls him easily into her. Sam shudders. Has to stay there and breathe for a moment to keep himself from coming immediately. The swell recedes. Her hands are on him, fingernails on skin, pulling him into her, tilting her hips. She is under him, but she is fucking him. Sam feels almost dizzy with it. Her mouth on his mouth. Her tongue pushing into him. One hand on the back of his head, cradling, pulling him down…
He doesn’t last long. Long enough, he hopes. How many men has she had in her life? Does she still sleep with the inventor? These questions are there, on the edge of things while he’s in her, but they disappear as he brinks, shudders again, comes in a series of long, sweet spurts. As he does she pulls him into her body, as far as he can go, and wraps her legs around him.
In the aftermath she is softer. Almost giggly. She puts her hand on his chest as it rises and falls. Neither of them speak. Sam feels as though he’s fallen through into some other world. This room. The quiet of it. The little fireworks of pleasure still running through the muscles around his groin. She kisses him again, softer now, less needful. He wonders if she’s still sad. No way to tell. No way of knowing anything about her – she’s so unreadable to him that she might as well be looking at him through a microscope. But she rests a hand on his softening cock and smiles. Something about her is less heavy with grief, he thinks. He will wonder about the events of tonight for years to come.
As he pulls his uniform back on his cock is still wet from her. Tingling. He can feel where she touched him. The room has taken on the soft scent of sweat and sex, muted and private. And in a moment he will step from it back into the solid, rigidly-defined world of the hotel. He pins his name badge back into place. Straightens his hair. He doesn’t know what to say to her before he leaves, and so they kiss, and he slips from the room life a thief fleeing the scene. The door shuts behind him.
When he gets back to the front desk the manager is waiting for him. Sam makes his apologies. “Sorry,” he says, “sorry, sorry. I had to stop and help a guest.”