Beauty Queens


“Shirt?” Duff whispered between kisses. His fingers waited on the threshold of her hem.

“Shirt,” Adina said.

He peeled it off and stopped to admire her bareness. Adina felt suddenly shy and sexy at the same time. Her body and mind were at war. It was almost reaching tilt status. If this was what surrender felt like, she kind of liked it.

Duff’s thumbs played at the waistband of her underpants. “Pants?”

“Pants,” Adina echoed and kissed his neck.

Duff started the process and Adina finished it by kicking them off with her feet. He slipped a hand between her legs, eliciting a gasp.

She’d never been so nervous, so unhinged with excitement. He moved his hand against her again, and she buried her face against his neck. She could feel the hardness of him against her leg. They pushed against each other in small, rhythmic gyrations that were driving her wild.

“God, Adina.” He gripped her shoulders. He rested his forehead on hers. His eyes were closed in some sort of agony-ecstasy. “I really want you. Can I?”

Goose bumps of yes danced down her arms. Adina hesitated. “Condom?”

Duff went still. “Damn.” He flopped onto his back to catch his breath. Then he turned to her again, tracing a pattern down her sternum with his finger. “I promise I’ll pull out in time.”

He’d felt so good pressed against her that she hadn’t wanted to stop. Maybe it would be okay. Maybe just this once? No. She’d volunteered at Planned Parenthood one summer. She knew about birth control. She knew it only took once. God, what was happening to her brain?

“Sorry,” she said, pressing her palms against his chest. “Safety first. No glove, no love.”

He flopped onto his back again and went quiet. Adina felt a pang of worry that she should’ve said yes. She’d always been in control with guys. But Duff was no Matt Jacobs who hung on her every word. That’s the kind of guy you can lose if you’re not careful, her mother had said once about somebody else’s boyfriend, and Adina had growled in disgust and left the table. Yet that thought worked its way into her brain now. She could close a curtain on it, but the thought remained on the other side.

“Duff?” she asked. Her heartbeat thrummed in her ears. “Could you please talk to me?”

“Sorry,” he said, breathing deeply. He managed a small smile. “I think my balls are a shade of blue they could never put in a Crayola box. It would frighten the children with its hue of pain.”

Adina’s laugh was filled with relief. “Sure, I know that color. It’s in the box right next to Positive Pregnancy Test Pink.”

He stroked her hair and looked into her eyes. She felt her resolve weakening.

“You are killing me. You know that? I promise, extra promise, I’ll be careful,” he whispered.

“Uncool,” Adina said, and she felt tears burning at the corners of her eyes.

“Yeah. It was. I’m sorry,” he said. “Forgive me?”

“It’s just not cool to pressure somebody”.

“I know. You are one hundred percent right. I’m sorry.”

Adina wiped at her eyes. “I mean, it would be different if we had a condom.”

He kissed the top of her head. “What if I could locate a condom?”

She liked the way he said locate, all twee, like a schoolmaster. “We’re in business, mate,” Adina said.

Duff pulled on his pants and gestured at the front of them. “It’s like a compass finding true north.” Adina laughed out loud. Duff grinned. “Right. Off on a mission of grave condom importance.”

He started toward the cabin door, then doubled back for another kiss, then jogged backward, keeping her in his sights. “Do you know how hard it is to move quickly when your balls are approximately the size of cantaloupes?”

“Would you stop it?” Adina chided, giggling, and she wondered when she’d become so … girly. She’d never said ‘Would you stop it?’ like that, ever. It was such an ingenue thing to say, and Adina had never played that role. What was happening to her?

He was back. The condom package dangled from his fingers like a gift bag prize.

“Sinjin’s cabin.”

“Might’ve known,” Adina said.

Duff dropped trou and pulled the condom on, then positioned himself above Adina. “Now. Where were we?”

He looked into her eyes and Adina felt lost in them, and she had to admit that in this moment, she wanted to lose herself. Nothing else seemed to matter. She imagined the two of them living out their days in a tree house on the island or setting sail through the Caribbean. At night, she would sing ballads she’d written about him. He would read to her from books of poetry. And afterward, in the small cabin, they’d do this, this tangle of bodies, this blurring of the edges that kept people distant and lonely. Her love would heal his bruised heart. He’d want her only, would think of no other girl but her. They would make each other special. The idea was like a drug. This was what girls chased, this feeling. This was what was so hard to admit amidst all the theorizing — that the truth was murkier and deeper and had nothing to do with theory. Desire played by its own rules. She wanted him to want her. Madly. Truly. Completely. His wanting her supplied a missing piece she couldn’t supply for herself; no matter what the self-help books said, desirability was something reflected back to you. And right now, she needed that.