by David Cain
Karen grabbed the white plastic handle of the curling iron and carefully twisted a stretch of her auburn bangs around the hot metal cylinder. Waiting patiently for the curl to set, Karen leaned forward and smiled expectantly at her reflection. Standing in the narrow bathroom alone, Karen took especial joy in looking at herself in the mirror. Drawing close to the glass, she studied the golden flecks in her pale green eyes. In ways she could not articulate, the precious glimmers made Karen feel special.
Looking at her watch, Karen withdrew the iron and teased the bounce of pale red. “Perfect,” she said, lifting her hair deliberately away from her ears. Karen turned and looked at her profile, the sharp slope of her nose, the round blushing bulbs of her cheeks, the tight purse of her lips, the gentle cascade of her unnaturally curled reddish hair. She smiled broadly, pushing a few loose strands behind her naked ear. “I can’t wait,” she said, bubbling. Karen shook her head with a provocative, saucy grin and flicked off the light.
“I should put those away,” she said, grabbing the empty shopping bags off the bed. “I don’t want him thinking about money.” Crushing the thick paper against her chest, Karen shoved the mass into a wastepaper basket. A receipt fell slowly to the floor and Karen picked it up. “What a deal,” she said, laughing and shoving the yellow paper into the stuffed can.
Pulling a pair of black pumps from the closet, Karen sat down on the bed and holding them by the heels, she pulled the shoes onto her stockinged feet. Karen stood, an inch taller and leaning slightly forward, and looked at herself in the full mirror. “I am so happy with this blouse,” she said, smoothing the silky fabric over her breasts, reminding herself at the touch of the stiff lace teddy underneath. Karen’s nipples responded with a warm tingle. She turned and tugged at the black skirt. “I feel so sexy,” she cooed.
“I hope Ellen was right about the sapphires,” Karen said, pushing a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “They would just go perfect with this blouse.” Karen shivered, anticipating, and turned out the light.
Clicking with each step over the linoleum, Karen walked across the kitchen floor and opened the oven door to check on the veal. The aroma of spiced meat rolled gently through the room. Karen took a deep breath and smiled. “He’s in for quite a treat,” she said.
The telephone rang. Karen tossed her long hair to one side and placed the receiver to her ear.
“Hello,” she said, her voice almost singing the greeting.
“Did you get them?” Ellen asked.
“Brian’s not even home yet,” said Karen.
“You’ve got to let me know the minute he gives them to you,” Ellen said.
“Honey,” said Karen, “I’ll probably be a little busy when that happens.” She giggled, more nervous than excited.
“I know, I know,” said Ellen. “But don’t you dare wait. Did you put on the teddy?”
“Uh-huh,” said Karen, smiling and twirling the curled phone cord around her right hand.
“Well, he doesn’t stand a chance then?”
“He won’t even know what hit him.”
“Call me,” said Ellen, emphatically.
“I promise,” said Karen. “Now let me go. I want to make things perfect.”
Karen hung up the phone and went to the refrigerator to fetch the bottle of wine. Ellen worried her, showing so much interest in something that was just basically private. Karen turned the corkscrew in slowly. “Why did she have to be there?” asked Karen, twisting through the final turns.
“Look,” Ellen had said as they turned past the Clinique display. “Isn’t that Brian?” Karen looked up and focused her eyes on the young man leaning over the jewelry counter. The slump of her husband’s tall, lean figure over the glass case had been unmistakable and Karen immediately started to go to him. “Wait,” called Ellen.
“What?” asked Karen, freeing her sleeve from her friend’s anxious grasp.
“What if he’s buying a present?” Ellen hissed. Karen stopped. She watched as Brian smiled at the older man behind the counter.
“What’s he looking at?” Karen asked, whispering instinctively.
“Fine jewelry,” said Ellen. “Precious stones.” Karen’s faced bunched in a confused stare.
“Why . . . ?” she asked herself, trying to think. Their anniversary, the closest calendar gift holiday, was still six weeks away. Karen felt with the assurance of four years marriage that Brian would not be buying a present this far in advance. “Maybe he got a promotion,” she said, trying to imagine some reason.
“Maybe he’s just feeling frisky and wants to bribe you into bed,” said Ellen.
“He doesn’t have to bribe me,” said Karen, smiling at the thought.
“Yeah, but I wish Frank would bribe me anyway. Besides, why else do men buy us presents?”
Karen’s heart had sank at those words. A few weeks before, Brian had hired a new assistant at the office. He had mentioned her name, Debbie or Deedee or something, but he hadn’t said much else. Karen felt the onslaught of panic. Brian had never described the girl, never said she was old or fat or stupid. Brian had just mentioned her and forgot about it. Karen felt her face burn, flush with anxiety and fear.
“Wait here,” said Ellen. “I’m going to try and get closer to see what he’s buying.” Karen thought to stop her friend but couldn’t move, frozen in nervous wonder. Brian reached for his wallet and handed the clerk several bills. Karen bit her lip. It wasn’t like Brian to buy gifts for her. He had bought her flowers and things when they’d first met, but it had been ages since Brian spontaneously gave her something. Even then, it had never been jewelry. Karen felt a wave of despair. Except for her ring, he had never bought her jewelry.
“I think,” said Ellen in an excited, hushed tone, “I think he bought sapphire earrings. Not too big, but just beautiful. There may be diamonds in them, too, because I think I caught a sparkle but he was looking at the sapphires.”
Karen nodded uncommunicatively. Ellen took hold of Karen’s arm.
“You know what you should do,” said Ellen, “is buy yourself a really cute outfit that goes with the earrings, and then treat him really nice when he comes home, all dressed up and fancy. He thinks he’s giving you a surprise, but you start thanking him before he even gives it to you. It can’t lose. Let’s go upstairs and look for something blue.”
Karen poured herself a glass of wine. Even if he didn’t give her the earrings, she planned to make him wish that he had.
Touching the corner of her eye with a napkin, Karen turned around as Brian walked in.
“Wow,” he said, putting down his black briefcase.
“Hi, honey,” she said.
“Dinner smells delicious,” Brian said walking over to put his arms around his wife, ” and you look delicious.”
“Mmm,” Karen said, looking into his dark blue eyes, “I hope you’re hungry.” She pushed a lock of hair behind her ear as he smiled at her.
“Starved,” he said, reaching down to peek into the oven. “So what have you been up to?” he asked, getting himself a glass.
“I went shopping with Ellen,” Karen said.
“Looks as though you found some nice things,” Brian said.
“I’m glad you like,” Karen said, flirting with her eyes. “I like making you happy,” she said.
They sat down to eat. Karen smiled as Brian devoured the veal.
“I can’t believe this meal,” he said. “Thank you,” he said, his gratitude coursing through his voice.
“I wanted to do something for you, something special. You work so hard.”
“Not this hard,” he said, laughing. “You are just incredible.”
“How is work?” Karen asked nervously, pushing a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
“It’s all right,” Brian said seriously, putting his napkin up on the table and leaning back. “Nothing much will change until we get the Sincoe contract out of the way.”
“What about your new assistant? Is she working out?”
“I guess. She’s doing her part. More than Jack’s been doing, anyway.” Brian laughed.
“Are you finished?” Karen asked.
“Yeah. That was just wonderful,” Brian said, rising.
“Go into the family room, then,” said Karen. “I’ll bring in some dessert.”
“Karen, you’re the greatest,” Brian said, rubbing his stomach and walking out the door.
Placing the blueberry tarts on a tray, Karen reached down and unzipped her black skirt. With a push, the linen slipped gently down her lean silk cased legs. Kicking the skirt up into her hand Karen laid it over the back of a chair. She unbuttoned the royal blue shirt and pulling it off her shoulders, she placed the new blouse over the folded skirt. Karen smiled wickedly as she pulled at the bottom of the deep blue teddy, and ran her fingers over her lace belly. She reached into the top and pulled her breasts upward, allowing the stiff blue crosswork to lift her creamy bosom high, delectably into view.
Lifting the tray above her shoulder, perched on her right hand, Karen sashayed into the family room, where Brian sat lazily.
“Tart?” she asked, placing the tray under his nose. Brian’s eyes opened wide, drinking deep gulps of the erotic vision she offered him.
“Wow,” said Brian, finally taking a pastry. Karen walked away, knowing his eyes were fixated on the creamy jiggle of her almost exposed behind. She took her tart and turned, watching him intently as she pushed her tongue out to lick the flaky crust.
“Mmm,” Karen said, taking a sensuous bite. “So good,” she said. Brian’s eyes flickered as they furiously gazed up and down his wife’s body. Karen licked her lips and put down the dessert.
“Wow,” said Brian.
“But you know what it needs,” Karen said, walking seductively over to her still prone husband, “is some cream.” Pushing her long hair behind an ear, Karen knelt between Brian’s thin legs. He smiled as she began to pull the zipper of his dark suit pants down the track. “This tart needs some cream on top,” she purred.
“Help yourself,” Brian said as he watched Karen pull his hardened prick out from the deep cloth chasm. Karen licked the damp tip of the staff she brought forth, and then with a smile pushed the thickness between her rosy lips. Brian groaned slightly as she let his cock descend into her moist mouth.
With the familiar licks of a dedicated lover, Karen teased Brian into a ready excitement, toyed with him as his eagerness mounted and wiggled her tongue knowingly as the first shudders of his release began to unleash. Brian poured his warm cream into her mouth, happily, joyfully, delightedly.
“Mmm,” said Karen, sitting back on the stiff carpet to smile and lick her tinted wet lips. “Thanks for dessert.”
“I can’t believe this,” Brian said, throwing himself back onto the chair in resignation. “You are so incredible. And I thought this would be just another dull evening.”
“Really?” asked Karen, a harsh bite in her tone. Brian looked up at the sound and saw her lower lip tremble. Karen pushed a lock of hair behind her ear and frowned sadly.
“Wait,” Brian said and went back into the kitchen, zipping his fly as he walked. “I bought you something,” he said. Karen smiled at once.
“I didn’t have time to wrap it or anything,” he said, pulling the small jewelry box from the red paper bag.
“That’s all right,” said Karen, jumping up from the floor. Brian handed her the box and she lifted the stiff hinged top. Two sapphire and diamond earrings sparkled against the satin background.
“Oh, honey,” she said, throwing her arms around him. “They’re beautiful.”
“I just thought,” he said. Karen’s hands shook as she tried to work the earrings free and then fumbled as she pushed them through the faint holes in each ear lobe. Karen dashed over to the mirror.
“Beautiful,” she said, teasing her hair and turning her head. Brian looked at her reflection and smiled. “I love you,” she said suddenly turning and kissing him.
“I love you, too.”
The couple cuddled on the sofa for an hour before the phone rang. Karen walked with light feet to pick up the receiver.
“Well?” asked Ellen.
“They’re gorgeous,” said Karen.
“Call me tomorrow,” said Ellen.
“Hm-hm,” said Karen, hanging up the phone.
Lying in bed, fingering the gems in her ears while Brian lightly snored beside her, Karen stared into the dark.
“Don’t be so stupid,” she said softly. “He gave them to me.” Karen turned over on her side. “He would have anyway.”