I leaned against the wall by the hotel entrance, hands on my knees, feeling fully nauseous.
I’d eaten more food than ever tonight and I’d gone on drinking through the poker game. And my first (and last) cigarette had done nothing to help. It had made my head swim, my limbs feel heavy, my stomach churn. It had left a bad taste in my mouth. That was one thing I wasn’t going to repeat, eager though I was to ingratiate myself in with the other cleaners.
Maxine and the others had thought my reaction was priceless, laughing at me as I spluttered for clean air. Or laughed with me at least. They were accepting me into their group now; becoming my friends; and though I still caught some little smirks and shared looks between them, I didn’t mind that. I was sure they had my best interest at heart.
The poker game had been fun but I hadn’t turned out to be a virtuoso. I’d lost every hand so far. More my own ineptitude and bad luck than the killer instinct from the other girls. They were very helpful, advising me when to bet. It wasn’t their fault it kept going against me.
I was happy they had let me play. It had been lonely days so far here in Greece, living another woman’s life with no friends or family.
I thought about my brother.
Then I pushed that away.
I don’t have a brother, I said to myself. I’m Melissa now. I was an only child. I grew up in Leeds and moved to Barton when I was fifteen. I didn’t make many friends there because everyone had already formed their little cliques by then. I couldn’t break into it. My parents moved away just after I got married to Robert. Robert is a kind and loving man. He loves me dearly.
Parroting the words that Melissa had recorded for me.
I pressed my eyes closed, the heavy drunk I was on making me giddy.
When I opened them I realised I was no longer alone. The cook was a few feet away, leaning against the opposite wall, smiling at me as though he thought it funny that I was smashed.
“Bad… uh… night?” he asked.
“Yeah.” I nodded.
“You are very drunk; yes?”
I nodded again, pinching the bridge of my nose.
When I opened my eyes again he had crossed the distance between us and stood close. I was alarmed but I didn’t pull away. He was still smiling. I got the impression that he meant it to be affable and reassuring but there was something in his gaunt sleazy features that made it unsavoury and suggestive. I blinked and blinked again. He just smiled and smiled, coming even closer, close enough for me to raise my hand and ward him off if I chose to.
I thought about Melissa and how I had let her down so far.
I didn’t ward him off.
She’d told me to flirt with him; let him have his fun with me; kiss him; maybe even sleep with him.
Just a holiday romance with a co-worker; that was all.
She’d reminded me that I was just an ordinary woman now: a bit fat; not very good looking. She’d told me that someone like that was probably the best I could hope for.
I hadn’t been with a man for so long and everything had changed since then. I wasn’t a beautiful, desirable model anymore; far from it. Everything was different now.
I was so drunk. I couldn’t believe I was thinking about this.
But he had been flashing his eyes at me for weeks now and this was him finally making his move. He didn’t speak. His English wasn’t that great. He leaned against the wall next to me, his hand by my head, his face close to mine. Still smiling. Still leering.
Melissa had told me to sleep with him and I wanted to do as she told me. I didn’t know why but the idea of letting her dictate who I slept with numbed my limbs and electrified my nerves.
The cook was skinny. He had a thin, moist-looking moustache. His eyebrows were bushy and too close together. His hands were out of proportion with his body. His Adam’s apple bulged, shifting up and down as he gazed at me.
I parted my lips, just slightly.
The cook bent his two first fingers and ran them down the length of my arm, watching their progress; then he turned his gaze back up to my eyes, via my chest.
How could he fancy me looking like this: so chubby and plain with this thick glasses? But maybe he didn’t care about that. He wasn’t handsome by any means. Maybe he just wanted a crevice to plant his dick in. Maybe who I was didn’t matter; only that I was as desperate as he was.
But was I that desperate? Did I need this?
I wanted so much not to disappoint Melissa and she asked me if I’d slept with him yet every time I saw her, gently grinding away with her encouragement.
And I was lonely. So lonely sometimes, especially at night.
And my self-image was so twisted now. The confidence I had once possessed had long been washed away. I was fat and ugly, but this man still wanted me. I was still desirable to him.
He gave a little querying grunt that meant, Are you up for this? Will you let me have you? Can I kiss you now?
I nodded, eyes open and fearful, head still floating, thoughts addled.
I did want him. I thought I did. My loins sizzled suddenly. He wetness and heat startled me.
Then the cook took hold of both my arms below the shoulder, a little too tightly, and pulled me forward out of balance. He pressed his face against mine, starting with a wet closed-mouth kiss and then pressing my lips apart, angling his head as he pushed his probing tongue inside me.
He smelled of grease and spices. He skin was oily. His moustache tickled my nose and upper lip. My glasses clouded. But I fell into the kiss. I wanted him so badly. My hips gave a single sway toward him of subconscious intent.
He squeezed my arms tighter, pulling me even closer, hurting me.
I moaned, letting him push my head back; liking the roughness; the physical dominion; wanting to submit completely now that he had come into me.
He broke the kiss then came in again: rougher; more urgent. It almost hurt but I didn’t try to get away from him. I made myself relax; let him do this to me.
Then he broke again and he flashed his eyebrows up and down, grinning. He gave another little querying grunt.
“Yes.” I said, nodding my head. “Yes please. I want it. Take me to your room.”
He kissed me again.
“Fuck me if that’s what you want,” I said, giving in to him completely.