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A Frugal Kiss
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Marian could tell the affair was waning by the way Ted kissed her. Well, who couldn’t tell such a thing? That was the question, wasn’t it? Who was the other who? There must have been another person. Marian preferred thinking “person” and not “woman” because “woman” conjured thick hair and a thin waist and “mistress” was just silly.
Was she Ted’s mistress? He wasn’t supporting her, the qualification. Albert was supporting her, or at least partially, considering that she contributed so much to their income as well. Both Marian and Ted were married to others; that was common knowledge; in fact, it was the qualification when they met through the online service Amorex. Albert had his paramours as well. That was the word, right? Paramour. And Ted wasn’t Marian’s first foray. There had been Bucky—short lived as that was!—and there was another problem: was it “lived” to rhyme with “dived” or “lived” to rhyme with “miffed?” She thought it was the former, but if she said it that way, people looked at her strangely, like she got it wrong.
“Who gives a fuck?” Bob had said, when she asked. His kisses didn’t even start out. They just went straight to bed and he said she was tiresome with her names and words, just to be quiet. So that one was short-livid or life-d, too. Those partners just stopped getting in touch or said Let’s forget it, okay? But now here was Ted and he meant something to Marian. Meant something. She was hedging again. She was in love with him, she thought; he was the best of the lovers for reasons she couldn’t really explain. Before, she could go to bed easily with Albert after an afternoon with Bucky or Bob or Ted or — Good God, wasn’t that the name of a movie? Bob and Ted and somebody and Alice. Ha ha. She wasn’t going to cheat on Albert with anyone named “Alice.”
She adored Ted. She almost shrank to her side of the bed when Albert made advances after a tryst with Ted. Ted’s kisses alone. No effort, no performance, just sheer desire for her. That was so nice. She’d lined up another possibility as she was temporarily committing to Ted, a man named Stanislav who suggested a Baltic passion, didn’t he, just by his name. Stanislav kept texting her, but sh’d’ ignored him because of Ted.
Now Ted’s interest was waning. He canceled a date and she insisted he keep this one, so he did. He made love to her and she inhaled him, so to speak, but his kisses were frugal and that was the most bitter of signs.
And what were Albert’s kisses? Weren’t their lackluster-ness what got her started?
She wanted to be grasped, desired, that’s what she wanted. Okay. As tough as this would be, letting Ted and his goddam frugal kisses go, she would move on. There was another possibility, too, wasn’t there? Kevin. Kevin sounded Black, so many Black men named Kevin. Wasn’t that an Irish name? Worth a try.
But Stanislav first.
In the meantime she kissed Ted back. Frugally.

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