Leslie stood in front of me damn near-nude, wearing a pair of sheer black panties and her bloody heart. I assumed Leslie was speaking metaphorically when she said she wanted no barriers between us. Yet, here she was in my bedroom baring her soul in more ways than one. Her eyes caught up with mine as she reached for me. No way was I getting undressed in front of this flawless woman. Not one scar or an ounce of fat or a stretch mark to mention. Leslie stood there with her textbook titties and athletic body staring and waiting. No fucking way! I sat there startled at her audacity. Why had she assumed that I would be comfortable enough to join her? This woman was insane!

Our first night hanging out since meeting, and she pulls a wildcard on me. Yes, we had exchanged many emails and spoke on the phone repeatedly. That didn’t make it okay for her to catch me off guard like this. I had shared a lot with Leslie the week leading up to our plan to meet. I told her more than I had ever told anyone else about myself. With all that I had offered up, I wasn’t about to undress in front of her. All I had that night was shame to bare beneath my favourite floral tube dress that enhanced my breasts but flowed from the waist, hiding what I didn’t want to be seen.

Leslie was forty-five years young and her skin had been kissed beneath a Panamanian sun. She was a well-maintained petite woman, with honey-tipped dreadlocks hugging her waist. Her features were bold and sharp. Everything about Leslie commanded attention. I wanted to stare, but I knew she could read me, just as I could read her. It was obvious that she wanted something, but what could she possibly want from me? She had a white-collar career and a lifestyle to match it.

Her hand was extended with her eyes begging me to join her. My heart started racing. My sweaty palms refused to reach back. Her Island drawl caught my attention as she proceeded to remove the only thing that kept me from seeing all of her. This woman had seen the world already. I was still attempting to grasp it. She had discovered herself and purpose a long time ago. Leslie flexing her badge of courage wasn’t fair.

The day I met Leslie, I had arrived at my therapist’s office early. I was on my fourth week of therapy and finally healing – attempting to reclaim myself. At thirty-eight, I was rebuilding everything I tore down and ran from. My heart was beautiful, but my soul was wrecked. It was hard for the two to coexist in the same body. I was ashamed of the weight I had gained while suffering from depression. My farfetched desires were killing me both mentally and physically.

“Empress,” she called out several times. I turned around as far as I could on the wood bench that sat out in front of the medical complex to see what was going on. Not for a moment did I think anyone was calling me.

“I’m talking to you,” she winked, as I looked in her direction.

There, holding on to the door of the acupuncturist’s office, stood this bronze woman. Her accent was brilliant and desired. Her twang drawing me in as I slowly drifted from what she was asking of me.

“Are you okay Empress?”

After a few seconds of silence, that felt like an eternity, I was able to concentrate on her words and reply, “I’m well, how are you?”

“I’d be awesome if you could tell me where you got that necklace from,” she smiled with straight and white teeth.

I half smiled, running my fingertip along the length of the gold feather that adorned my neck.

“I’m unsure of where it came from, it was a gift,” looking away from her searching eyes which made me feel vulnerable. I hate eye contact!

She eventually let go of the door and headed over to me. As odd and as lovely as she seemed, the last thing I wanted to do was talk to this strange woman. It was hard enough talking to my therapist. I wasn’t a people person – at least not at that point in my life. People had let me down. I had let me down.

“It’s slightly chilly out here … reason I asked if you were okay. Did you need a ride someplace?” I guess sitting on a bench to get some evening air was a crime. I didn’t need a ride I had my own damn car. What I needed was to be left alone.

“Oh no! I’m just early for an appointment in the next building.”

“That’s such a stunning piece. First thing I noticed when you turned around!” staring directly at me while speaking in her mesmerising tone. The woman was the epitome of perfection. I wanted her and her piercing honey-coloured eyes to leave me alone.

I fidgeted, looking away from her to ease my discomfort. Stop fucking staring at me!

“I could ask my friend where she got it from,” I stammered on my words not knowing what else to say.

This strange, but gleeful woman smiled at me, “Great! Let me jot down my email for you. Thank you so much,” responding as she searched her messenger bag for paper and pen.

“Here you go,” beaming as she handed me the piece of paper.

“Oh yeah … I’m Leslie,” she continued smiling.

I searched her for flaws and couldn’t find a thing. I was intrigued and lessened at the same time.

Email? Okay!

“I’m Owyn,” taking the paper from her hand attempting to keep mine from shaking.

I stuffed it in my purse as I scrambled up and headed toward my therapist’s office, pausing to look back at the mysterious woman that was still standing gawking at me.

“Such an unusual and satisfying name,” she yelled out to me.

I was beginning to sweat and needed to get away from her before she noticed how anxious her presence was making me. I waved slightly before disappearing behind the door.

A few weeks later, curiosity and boredom got the best of me. I searched my purse for Leslie’s email address. I sent her a link to purchase the necklace. She responded immediately. Expecting a simple “thank you,” I was not prepared for all that I read. I sat in amazement staring at the screen of my phone, reading Leslie’s response – her audacity to assume my truth. Feeling provoked by the message – tears escaped the corner of my eyes, a sign of how upset it had made me.  

She did thank me for the link to the necklace. Then went on to discuss the tattoo on my left shoulder. I hadn’t assumed she noticed it. I had several tattoos, but most of my body art was hidden. I didn’t like to be noticed, but I enjoyed knowing that Leslie took notice of that.

Leslie suggested that my body art was an advertisement of my lifestyle – assuming the two bodies intertwined into a butterfly were both women. At this point, she offered, that she too, was a lesbian. My exhilaration turned back to frustration. Of course, the tattoo was a declaration, but it was for me to declare. I am in charge of me and making those decisions. It wasn’t for Leslie to decide who I was or was not.

She doesn’t fucking know me! How dare she!

I threw my phone down. As it hit the floor, I prayed that it wasn’t broken again. I paced the floor attempting to self-soothe. I couldn’t wait to respond, but first I had to finish reading Leslie’s long-winded email. I picked the phone up from the floor still heated and ready to let Leslie know just how displeased I was with her.

She was new to the area and looking for friends to hang out with. “Was I interested in a new friend?” I looked at the flaming butterfly with the two bodies entwined on my shoulder and decided that it wasn’t enough for Leslie to assume anything about me. Just as I was about to respond to Leslie’s accusations, I noticed the poem, ‘See Me’ by LB, at the bottom of her email. It stopped me. She wanted to finally be seen from the inside. How could someone who seemed so perfect ever feel like she was being neglected in any type of way? I read the poem a few times before replying.

“A new friend would be nice.” Short and to the point, I hit send.

This exchange led to many emails between us before those conversations turned into text messages and eventually phone conversations. Leslie felt easy against my inhibition, allowing me to open and share myself. All the sharing was fine if we kept it at a distance. With time, she convinced me to join her for a face-to-face conversation.

Now here we were in my bedroom, in a house I shared with two others, with nothing between us but air, Leslie’s naked body and all my insecurities.

“I told you I wanted to bare all,” she beamed. “I want you to know all of me Owyn.”

I sat back on my full-sized bed staring at this goddess standing with confidence in front of my opened window. As the sun bowed out and the streetlights appeared, all I saw was Leslie’s seamless silhouette.

“This is my only tattoo,” Leslie mumbled while pointing to a small panther crawling down her crotch. She positioned her pelvic right in front of my face to give me a better look at both kittens. I was both amused and flushed. I didn’t know if I should run and hide in the bathroom or stroke her tattoo.

Leslie had grown tired of our heavy phone sessions and wanted a physical exchange. I had turned down two invites to her place and stood her up even more times. When Leslie invited herself over to my house for the fifth time – right before she gave up on me – I finally caved in and told her she could come over.

She was well put together on the surface, but her insides were in shambles. She had been heartbroken beyond repair. Her pain seeped through her voice when speaking of her past. She cried a lot, free of pride. I had too much arrogance to cry to anyone. I may have shared many things with Leslie, but she half knew me while offering up her whole self. Leslie’s smile and charm soon faded into darkness. Her eyes were sad as she bared her hurt. There were no words between us for a moment. The moon had faded behind the neighbour’s house. The only light present was from Leslie’s watery eyes and the neighbour’s room light. Could they see us? Were they jealous of all that towered over me?

Leslie was a gorgeous mess of a woman. Seemingly annoyed with my reluctance she came to me and pulled the top of my tube dress down, fondling my breast. Her advances were exhilarating but startled me all the same. I wasn’t ready to share myself just yet. I allowed her to see my breast for only a moment. They were good breasts, a hand full each with ready nipples that begged at her palms. I let her have that second. After the instant had passed, I moved away pulling my dress up to cover myself. I wanted out of her adventure to get to know me. I didn’t want to be exposed as she was, with all her dignity gone and nothing remaining but a glorious body full of weeping. No way would she leave with my pride and shame. This wasn’t supposed to be about sex, we were meant to talk the night away and even dream a little. Maybe end the night with a kiss. Even her knowing the temperature of my lips was only a possibility. Leslie had taken this shit too far!

Eventually, I scrambled up as much courage as I could as I stood to face her darkness. I wiped her tears away with my tongue before parting her full and lax lips. We fell into a lip dance. Her kisses were wet and deep and salty and tragic. I wanted to pull away, but she needed me. I wanted to be needed more than I desired to be wanted.

We kissed deeper; it was more than I wanted to feel. In between exchanging energies, she shared what was aching her. Being jealous of her lifestyle and body took a turn. I was grateful for my insignificant issues and the shelter I had built for myself.

The neighbours light was still on as I attempted to bathe her pain away. We found our way to my bed as I got lost between her golden thighs. A place where I didn’t have to share myself or respond back to her agony. I could give her momentary pleasure to soothe the sting. She made me realise that my physical flaws could be modified, and my shame could be tucked away beneath a nice wardrobe.

I loved on every part of her shattered spirit that night. I loved on her until I loved myself enough to want better for myself. Whatever ailed me prior to that night, I left buried in that broken woman.

Leslie wanted to wait until the morning to leave, but there was no way I could face her in the daylight. She would see how I had healed over her darkness and awakened my light. How all I had for her was pity. I couldn’t fix her. She was beyond repair, and days away from dying. Why should I have to mourn someone I just met? She didn’t belong to me, and neither did her pain. It was time for us both to be on our way.


MISSY MILLS

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