by Hiwaru Kibi (火悪 木美)
“Jesus,” said Meg. “Hop in before you catch your death out there.”
Despite being absolutely soaked with rain, the young woman hesitated. Meg supposed she couldn’t blame her — there were a lot of weirdos out tonight, and weirdos in cars especially. But Meg wasn’t a weirdo. She was a divorced mother of three with a station wagon. She had carseats in the back, for heaven’s sake.
The a crack of lightning ripped across the sky over them, and the young woman jumped. She scurried into the open door and shut it behind her, breathing heavily.
“Hey there,” Meg said. She reached behind her seat and pulled out … were they burp cloths? Christ, when had she last stashed those back there? Gavin was nearly three now, and it had been a merciful while since he’d spit up on any part of her. Well, even if they had a bit of sour milk on parts of them, it’d had literal years to dry. “It’s not much, but maybe you can get your glasses clean.”
“Thanks,” said the young woman, doing just that. She was wearing a low-cut cheerleader’s uniform, though it looked generic enough that Meg figured it was her Halloween costume, not something she wore just because. At any rate, Meg had grown up around here, and no high school she knew of outfitted its cheerleaders in yellow and black. “And thanks. For stopping.”
“Glad to help out.” Meg pulled back from the shoulder into the lane, signalling even though there was no one out, not with the weather like this. “You out trick-or-treating?”
The young woman nodded, then shook her head. “Sort of. On my way to a Halloween party with my boyfriend. But we got into a fight and he kicked me out by the side of the road. Said I could walk home.”
Meg made a disgusted sound in the back of her throat. “Men ain’t shit, honey. They ain’t shit at all. Just ask my ex. Or don’t ask my ex, because he’ll tell you he’s God’s gift to whatever. But ain’t shit, just like the rest of them. Name’s Meg, by the way.”
“Ronnie,” said the young woman. She had long black hair, almost down to her waist, though as it began to dry, Meg could see little curls start to spring up from its sodden mass. She would’ve killed for hair like that. Hers was straw-like and straight, with no real body. Her mom had put it in cold rollers for her every night in high school, and every morning, it had held the curl for maybe twenty seconds before sagging right out. After signing the divorce papers, she’d gone to the salon and had them chop it short like Diana’s, and she’d never looked back.
“Ronnie, huh?” echoed Meg. “Like Veronica, in the Archie comics?”
The young woman smiled. “Yeah, just like that.”
“Well, where can I take you, Ronnie?” Meg asked.
Ronnie bit her lower lip. “I’m not sure. I was going to stay at my boyfriend’s tonight, but … well, that’s kind of a bust.”
Meg made another disapproving snort to let Ronnie know she understood. Men! They’d make you depend on them and then they’d leave you high and dry. Or low and wet, she supposed, depending on the circumstances.
“Where are you heading?”
“Me?” Meg blinked into the rainstorm, momentarily unsure of her bearings. It was so hard to see when it came down like this, enough that even the windshield wipers didn’t help. “Home. Just home. For the night.”
“Well, if it’s not too much of an imposition,” Ronnie began, fumbling with the hem of her skirt, “do you think I could use your phone? I’ve got some friends I could try, who could come get me, but they’re probably not home yet, and I don’t want to just make you drive me all around town until we find somewhere to be.”
Meg flipped the blinker to signal her turn onto the road that would lead to her place. “Sure, no problem. I’ve even got some real towels there, get you dried off a bit more. How’s that sound?”
“That sounds great,” Ronnie said with a smile. “Thank you so much.”
Despite the weather, Meg knew the way home, and in just a few minutes she was pulling into her driveway, then her garage. The house was a bit small, but it had been all she’d been able to afford on her own. And it wasn’t so bad, even when space was tight. Gavin and Brent had to share a room, and Tiffany’s little nook was barely big enough to tuck a twin bed into, but the kids never complained. They were good kids, and they’d been through so much.
When Meg turned around, she saw Ronnie looking at the drawings tacked up to the fridge. “You have children?” Ronnie asked.
“Yeah,” Meg said. “Three.”
Ronnie reached for one of the pages, tracing the edge of the construction paper with her fingertips. “Where are they tonight?”
“Oh, they’re with their dad.” Meg put down her purse on the table. “He and I trade custody back and forth. Split holidays. He’s a really good dad. Don’t get me wrong, a shitty husband, but a damn good father. If I had to pick one of those, at least I picked the right one.”
“I think so too.” Ronnie tugged at the sodden hem of her cheerleading top. “Sorry to impose, but could you show me where the bathroom is? I’d like to dry off a little before I drip all over your floor.”
“Of course!” Honestly, what had Meg been thinking? This poor thing was here shivering in wet clothes, and Meg was going on about her own troubles like a ninny. “Here, I’ll show you where it is, and when you’re done, the phone’s in the kitchen.”
She led Ronnie down the hall to the house’s one bathroom, a sort of jack-and-jill affair where one door led to the hallway and the other opened onto the master bedroom. She grabbed a few extra towels out of the closet, which Ronnie took gratefully. “Thank you,” she said, taking the bundle from Meg.
“You’re welcome,” Meg said, looking Ronnie up and down. “What are you, about a size eight? Maybe a little smaller? Let me get you some sweats of mine, something to warm you up. They may be a little big on you, but better big than small, and you can’t spend all night in those. Even if you don’t get sick, you’ll be miserable.”
“Thanks so much,” Ronnie said, closing the door behind her.
With that, Meg went into her bedroom and started rummaging around in her drawers. She’d been a slip of a thing when she’d been younger, but gained weight with the kids that had never come off. That was how Meg felt it was supposed to be, and that was another point on which she and her now-ex-husband had disagreed. Well, she had lost two hundred pounds in that arrangement, or so she liked to say, and now she got to wear sweatpants whenever she wanted.
Well, that was strange. She’d felt sure she’d put them right here, in this drawer. Perhaps they were in the wash. That made sense; after all, she wore them all the time, and being a mom was a pretty messy job. Maybe she could find Ronnie something a little nicer than sweats — jeans, maybe, or a comfortable dress. Anything at all had to be better than a rain-soaked Halloween costume. Just looking at it made Meg’s skin crawl.
She was so lost in the search for her clothes that she didn’t notice the bathroom door open. Once she did, though, it was hard to notice anything else.
Ronnie was there in the doorway, her long black hair cascading down around her light brown skin, which Meg could now see in great detail, as Ronnie was completely naked. Her breasts were firm and curvy, just like the rest of her, and her dark nipples stuck out in sharp, erect relief.
“I didn’t tell you the full truth earlier,” Ronnie said, looking up bashfully through her thick eyelashes. “It wasn’t my boyfriend that dumped me by the side of the road after we had a fight. It was my girlfriend.”
“Oh,” Meg said. While the sky outside poured down rain, the inside of her mouth felt completely dry.
Ronnie took a step forward, then another. “She thought the cheerleader costume was too sexy. That I was showing too much skin.” Ronnie cupped one of her breasts with her hand, rubbing her nipple with the pad of her thumb. “Do you think I’m showing too much skin?”
Meg felt light-headed, almost faint. She reached for the edge of the dresser to steady herself. Her heart was throbbing so loudly in her ears that she could barely even hear the roar of the storm anymore.
With a smile, Ronnie reached up and wrapped her arms around Meg’s neck, then pressed their lips together for a kiss. Ronnie’s skin was still so chilly, as though she’d just walked in from the rain. As she opened her mouth to meet Meg’s, though, Meg could feel the warmth there, burning inside her. It felt so sweet, so unfamiliar, that Meg found herself leaning into the embrace.
How long had it been since she’d done something like this? So long, in fact, that it seemed like a memory from another life entirely. That had been college, the days of sweet embraces with other girls, long warm nights spent exploring each other’s bodies with almost lazy delight. “Oh!” Meg gasped into the kiss as Ronnie pulled herself closer, pushing her breasts against Meg’s.
“Are you cold?” asked Ronnie, kissing her way along Meg’s jawline to her ear.
Strangely, Meg was, so much so that she wondered if one of the kids had left open a window, or turned the thermostat to the wrong setting. But Ronnie was warm, despite her naked and damp state, so Meg leaned into her embrace. Tentatively, she placed her hands on Ronnie’s back, feeling the way her smooth skin curved out to her plump bottom. She was beautiful, Meg thought, the kind of perfect that seemed impossible by human achievement alone. Meg heard herself gasp as Ronnie took the curve of Meg’s earlobe between her teeth and bit lightly, teasing the flesh between with the tip of her tongue.
Ronnie laughed and reached for the hem of Meg’s blouse. “I think you’re wearing too much clothing,” Ronnie said, and Meg found she agreed completely. She lifted her arms to the sky and let Ronnie ease it off her, in much the same way Meg undressed her younger children. This was hardly the same, though — it was the same gentle, nurturing gesture, but the context was altogether different.
Off came Meg’s jeans after, and then her undergarments, until she was naked and sprawled back on her bed. She hadn’t known anything like this was going to happen — she hadn’t shaved her legs in weeks, for heaven’s sake, not since the weather had turned for the season — but Ronnie just smiled as she eased her way between Meg’s thighs.
The first sensation of Ronnie’s tongue on her clit almost made Meg come right then and there, if only for novelty’s sake. Her married sex life hadn’t been all bad, but there had certainly been things her ex hadn’t felt were worthy of his time or effort, and this had been one of them. Ronnie, however, just smirked and dove right in, pressing her nose all the way in to the light brown thatch of Meg’s pubic hair. She teased the insides of Ronnie’s thighs with her fingernails as she did, sending almost-electric jolts through Meg’s body.
Some part of her was unable to escape the ghost of shame at this: she, someone’s mother, a middle-aged woman, letting a stranger eat her out? It was disgraceful at best and downright grounds for fully losing custody of her children at worst. But that fear and resistance began to ebb with every stroke of Ronnie’s tongue against her swollen clit. Whatever else it might have been, it felt good, and so she was willing to give that the greater part of herself.
Meg whimpered as Ronnie pressed fingers into her, first one, then a second, and a third. Meg had always liked penetration, which was why she supposed she’d been content enough satisfying her ex-husband’s carnal needs. Having it done like this, however, was intense in a completely different direction. When Ronnie’s fingers pressed inside her, they did not invade — instead, they entered as smoothly as though they were invited guests. One of Ronnie’s fingers curled up inside Meg, hitting a spot that made her whole body shake.
“Oh!” Meg cried out, grabbing for what she could. One hand took a fistful of the bedsheet; the other found a mass of Ronnie’s hair, still damp and tangled. Meg pulled hard on accident, then worried that she had upset Ronnie with the careless gesture. Ronnie, on the other hand, only made a pleased noise and thrust her tongue forward with greater intensity. She took the bud of Meg’s clit between her teeth, applying just enough pressure to make Meg lose her mind.
When Meg came, it was with an amount of noise and shaking that she hadn’t even known she was capable of making. The muscles of her pussy clenched around Ronnie’s fingers in rhythm as the orgasm washed through her. She felt as though every inch of her body had been drawn up in tension, and then released, until she was nothing but a puddle of her former self against the bed.
Ronnie laughed as she slipped her fingers out of Meg, then crawled up next to her on the bed, using her slick fingers to trace wet circles around Meg’s nipple. Meg’s whole body was still so sensitive, and the touch made her jerk and cry out again, which just made Ronnie laugh. “You taste sweet,” she said, kissing at Meg’s earlobe.
Meg swallowed and licked her lips. “God!” she exhaled, blinking up at the ceiling. “That was … it was…”
“Heavenly?” Ronnie offered with a giggle.
Meg laughed in kind. “Yeah,” she agreed. “It was … but what about you?”
Ronnie made a pleased little humming sound. “What about me?”
“What do … I mean, I’m assuming you want to…”
“You assume right!” With one more quick nip at Meg’s earlobe, Ronnie rolled on her back. She took one of Meg’s hands and put it between her thighs, which were already a sticky mess where they joined. “Whatever you want to do, I’m good. You want to touch me? I want to be touched. I want to feel good.”
She wanted to feel good. Meg could make her feel good. She had forgotten a lot of things since her college years, but she didn’t think she’d forgotten that. She pressed her hand in, feeling the soft, warm folds of Ronnie’s lower lips part with the pressure. Ronnie practically purred as Meg’s hand slipped forward, rubbing across the sensitive, swollen skin of her pussy. No wonder they called it that, Meg thought with a grin as she leaned forward to take one of Meg’s dark nipples between her lips.
For a while, she’d thought that breastfeeding her kids would have turned her off of things like this entirely. But just as it had been with removing her shirt, context was all. Ronnie’s nipple was almost a rock against her tongue, a bundle of nerves that sent sensations out every time Meg sucked it between her lips or grazed it with her teeth.
Ronnie smiled and murmured encouragement: “That’s good. You feel so sweet like that, as sweet as you taste. I love the way you touch me.”
Meg hardly needed any more goading than that. She let her fingers explore freely, sliding in deeper, finding her way around by touch. No, she hadn’t lost the hang of it — but every woman’s geography was different, or so her experience had taught her. Every one of their bodies was a new map to be learned, a new road to treasure waiting for her to discover it. Why had she ever believed anyone that the price of living would be to give up on this? What would it have been like to believe in a future for herself that had this too?
She let herself settle into the rhythm she set for Ronnie’s body, feeling it in her own as well. If she concentrated, it was almost as though the line between her and Ronnie shifted and blurred, until the difference between the two of them could not have been charted by normal understanding. Meg pressed her body up against Ronnie’s and let herself feel every movement of Ronnie’s body, every gasp and moan, every jerk and whimper. As Ronnie’s pleasure built, Meg could feel it too; every time Ronnie held her breath, Meg found that she too was waiting for the exhale.
When Ronnie finally came, coaxed to orgasm with the soft, rhythmic touches against her clit and nipple alike, Meg was surprised to find that she had a climax of her own — a much smaller one, of course, but satisfying nonetheless. It felt good to be like this, to love and to be loved, to need and to be needed. She felt as though she were becoming less solid herself, letting go of the worries and terrors that seemed so often to define her.
Once Ronnie had caught her breath again, she turned and positioned herself once more between Meg’s thighs, not stopping until she’d brought Meg off to at least three more definite orgasms, and a few little maybe-climaxes in-between them. Meg felt all but boneless, as though she were a tightly wound toy that, once released, fell happily to pieces.
When at last she cried for mercy, Ronnie threw back her head and let out a delicious laugh. “Do you feel good?” she asked.
“Yes!” answered Meg, barely able to summon enough air to speak. “I feel … I feel so good. I haven’t felt that way for a long time.”
“I know,” Ronnie said, bending down to kiss Meg’s belly. “It’s okay. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we’re worried about, what we’re afraid of, that we forget what it can feel like when we just … let go.”
Meg laughed, wiping her forehead free of the hair sweat had stuck to it. “Yeah,” she agreed. “Yeah, I guess that’s just sort of life, isn’t it?”
“It is.” Ronnie kissed her way all up Meg’s body, stopping to greet each of her nipples with a playful nuzzle that made Meg giggle and squirm. “Life is a lot of forgetting that we know what we know. Of course, death can sometimes be like that too.”
Meg frowned. Was Ronnie a goth? She had read about goths in Newsweek a few months back. They were always talking about death and wearing black, the article had said. But apart from her hair, which seemed natural enough, Ronnie hadn’t come across like that at all. “Are you okay?” asked Meg.
Ronnie nodded. “I am,” she said. “I’m really happy. Probably happier than I’ve ever been, to tell you the truth.”
“That’s good,” Meg said. She wrapped her arm around Ronnie and started stroking Ronnie’s back.
Ronnie nodded and rolled over on her stomach, propping her head up on her cupped hands. “And you can be too.”
Meg frowned. She didn’t trust where this conversation was turning. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, you don’t have to stay here,” Ronnie said.
Meg’s eyes narrowed as she looked around the room. No, she didn’t suppose she had to; in fact, she’d thought about moving across the country, just leaving it all behind and starting up a new life. But that would have made the custody arrangement so difficult on the children, and if she could make things easier on them, then that was worth a smaller house in the same city as her ex, wasn’t it?
Ronnie took a deep breath. “Meg,” she said, her voice suddenly so gentle and didactic that it reminded Meg of one of her kids’ teachers’, “where were you going tonight?”
“I–” Meg felt her stomach begin to shake. “No, no, I–“
“Shh.” Ronnie leaned forward and kissed her tenderly, taking the fear from her in the way a cloth might pick up a stain, like a mother might pick up after her child. Why had she even bothered letting it hold her in the first place? It had done her no good while it was there, and she would not miss it now that it was gone. “It’s okay. You know the answer.”
And in that moment, Meg did.
The car that pulled up to the front of the house wasn’t a station wagon; it was a Prius, and four of its five seats were already filled. Ronnie took one last look at the vacant ground floor of the house, its kitchen empty not only of children’s artwork, but the appliances that might have sported them. Then she locked the door behind her and set off down the front walk, noting the realtor’s sign in the yard. Maybe the next purchasers would have better luck than the previous ten or so occupants had.
She opened the back door and got in, squeezing her butt in with the others. She regretted not having packed better, but at least hanging up all night had mostly dried out her costume. She’d burn the damn thing later, and good riddance.
“All right, all right,” Serala said as Ali passed back a tall pumpkin spice latte, which Ronnie took gratefully. “We’ve got: crashed a seance, taunted a demon, scared two separate groups of kids playing Bloody Mary, and made all the unsold pumpkins at the supermarket explode.”
Ronnie laughed mid-drink, almost getting coffee up her nose. “Fuck, who did the pumpkin thing?”
Kayla raised a hand from the other side of the back seat. Ronnie could see bits of pumpkin guts clinging to the hem of her polyester angel robe, almost as evidence in case anyone had doubted her. “But Tamsin’s in the lead with her Bloody Mary impression, we figure, so here’s your chance: How did you spend your Halloween, and was it better than that?”
Ronnie shrugged and took a casual drink of her latte. “Fucked a ghost.”
The car was silent for a moment, as the others processed just what it was they’d been told. “Do what?” asked Serala, who had straight-up put the car into park.
“And helped send her willingly on her way to the other side,” Ronnie continued, biting the inside of her cheek to keep from bursting into the smuggest grin imaginable. No, she had to play it cool.
“Fuck,” Ali swore. “Ronnie wins Halloween.”
“Ronnie wins Halloween,” Serala agreed. “Three years running.”
“Goddamn it,” said Tamsin, punching Ronnie playfully in her shoulder. “I was so close! I even made one of those kids piss their pants!”
Ronnie smiled and leaned back in her seat, closing her eyes. She was exhausted, but she was triumphant, and she was among the best friends she’d ever had. She’d done a good deed and set a restless spirit free, and even more so, she’d gotten hella laid in the process. Life was good. “Better luck next year, witches.”