She would never, ever admit it but she did get jealous, sometimes. Especially when she noticed Ethel was coming around the garage and biting her lip and swaying left and right and laughing at every little thing he said. The feeling itself was silly, she reasoned, because only twelve year olds got jealous. She was above petty things like that. After all, he wasn’t a toy. Other women were allowed to look at him, and should it surprise her?
She knew she found him attractive. She had always known that. It was the shoulders, mainly: studying them from the back seat as her sisters gossiped about Miss So and So and Mama fussed about something or other. Then gradually she became brave enough to study his profile (solid features, Classical), then finally the eyes (so blue, it made her think of clear water). And she knew he was studying her too and found herself wondering what he saw.
But Sybil was a high minded girl and knew this was natural, knew deep down that despite what the conduct books hinted at women did feel desire. She had spotted it in the corners of the Greek myths, of her beloved Jane and Mr Rochester, of paintings with women with round beautiful fat stomachs lazing in meadows eating pomegranate seeds.
And she was sure he felt it too, and it felt dangerous, because she felt at any moment she might snap and end up wanting him too much. And how could they stop, really, once they had started?
He had such a frantic, all-encompassing energy that she was afraid he might swallow her whole, and then what might be left of her after? She wondered if he made love the same way, consuming everything.
Oh God, she was such a child, though he was so very strange and she couldn’t help but think of his past, of the ghosts of old lovers’ lips on his skin. And then sometimes their eyes met and oh God, it was an electric current shooting through them both and she had to look away. And she saw his shadowy profile against the pane of a hotel window and the moonlight on his skin.
Between the sheets maybe she could make a home for them.
Between the sheets maybe they’d call each other by their first names (“Tom” she’d say, her lips in a small ‘o’, and she’d repeat it like a prayer “Tom Tom Tom”).
Between the sheets they’d make up a future (a cottage somewhere, some babies, lots of books and summers spent eating strawberries).
Between the sheets she’d tell him she loved him (finally) and that, no matter what, the world outside of the sheets wouldn’t stop her (a hope or a lie, she could never be sure).
Stay between the sheets with me.