artwork for Kay Sexton's short story Desire

Kay Sexton

She lies very still. When her body is completely calm she can see the pulse in her breast. With her head turned to the left, in the mirror on the open wardrobe door, she sees the pulse like a trapped bird, lifting, falling lifting, falling, against the cage of her ribs.

She moves her fingers, the fingers of her right hand, to rest on the pulse. She should be able to feel it, but she can’t, because the thready beat of blood in her fingertips obscures it. She feels them da dum, da dum, the index finger first, then the middle finger half a beat behind. She thinks the pulses should all be synchronised but they aren’t, having been so only when he was there, probably never will be again. She looks in the mirror, at her body from neck to knee. She sees the blue veins of her breast, the soft cushion of her navel, the outfalling boneless sprawl of her bent legs. She watches her hand move down until it crawls into the dark space between her hips and then she closes her eyes.

When he was here, she would angle the wardrobe door to show where their bodies would join. She would hold herself over him, watching the rise and fall of his lungs and the way his eyes widened and darkened as she lowered herself. When the head of his penis felt the first touch of her body, the slick warmth of her labia, he would close his eyes and sigh a great juddering out-breath of satisfaction.

At first it hadn’t been about him; it had been about her. She’d wanted him, had used him to orchestrate her pleasure, a simple equation. Male + female = satisfaction. She had been proud of the way she controlled him. He’d never begged, not in words, but the way his eyes followed her, the mute prayer of his mouth on her skin, had been as good as seeing him crawl.

Somehow—in the gaps, in the silent aftershocks of pleasure, in the drowsy interstices that followed sex and preceded separation—he inserted the need.

She noticed it first in the winding down from pleasure. She observed with lazy contentment the way her body screamed, then thrummed, and finally purred; spiraling out from orgasm on tired muscles. She saw that her body harmonised to his, and that was acceptable—good even.

She became aware that his arousal triggered her own, and that lazy satiation could be transformed into desire just by allowing his quickened breathing to speed hers, his increasing rigidity to open and soften her, his tiny unconscious surges to power the gentle gripping movements of her body. It was useful, she thought—interesting even.

Then she found that her nature was no longer mirroring his, but following it.

She discovered that the journey began with him, his pulse, his racing heart, his lust triggered hers, his desire fueled her needs. And that was tolerable—but only just.

Then came the day her body was betrayed by his. The time she wrapped him in her demands, and he failed her. He was tired, he said, that was all, he wanted to please her—he could still please her. She knew she deserved pleasure, release, power. She knew her wants outweighed his. But her body waited for his pulse to quicken, his heart to shudder, his excitement to swell every vein in his body, not just the great blue Nile that ran from the head of his penis to the taut hammock of flesh that cradled his balls. All his veins; the dancing pulse in his neck she could nip with her teeth, the deltas on the back of his hands that stood azure and proud when he braced his body over her and thrust into her.

But his body folded itself into quiescence like a moth, and took her desire with it.

That was yesterday. He’d left the house while she slept. She woke to an empty bed, a heart beating against cold air.

And so she waits, looking in the mirror. She waits for the slam of the door, and the hush while he stands, listening to the silence of the house. She waits for him to kick off his shoes, unwrap the flowers he carries, unpack the fruit he purchased.

She waits to hear him padding upstairs with an armful of dizzying pink carnations smelling of cinnamon, and a punnet of musky raspberries to press into her mouth and secrete under the curve of her breasts, to pulp and taste and savour. He will come back, and she will be ready.

She waits.

Kay Sexton’s Comments

All desire is calculus—little of it reciprocal. Timing is everything, and the moment between one heartbeat and the next can be life-altering.

Table of Contents

Frigg: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 60 | Fall/Winter 2022