Shirley was already under the covers beginning her work, and Helen’s tongue was on her neck, in her ear. Grace kept her mouth closed. In her sixty-eight years she’d never kissed a woman, and though there was something nice about it, something gentle, she wasn’t going to start now. Helen was whispering things in her ear. So she was a dirty talker. Grace had heard about women who did this, but in their forty year friendship she never would have pegged Helen as one of them.
“Does that turn you on, baby?” Helen was saying. Was she supposed to answer? Did people respond? She moaned.
Under the covers Shirley had slipped Grace’s silk pajama bottoms down. She was licking the inside of her thigh. Prior to that she’d licked the bottom of her stomach as lovingly as a puppy dog. This was the difference between men and women. When Henry, God rest his soul, would go under the covers, it was all business. The way he did it, she hated to admit it now, always irritated her more than anything. But how she missed him. The months since he’d been gone had been wicked. She’d known grief before — her mother, her sister — but this was a surprise. This felt like terror. Often when she thought of him her heart would pound and she’d become breathless. She couldn’t eat. She’d lost weight. Had stopped coloring her hair. It was almost all white now. Oh, what she wouldn’t give for all those old things she’d spent her life complaining about. Lying awake in bed listening to him grind his teeth. Finishing dinner alone because he’d scarf down every meal too quickly. The musty smell of his t-shirts in the hamper. Having him play too rough with the kids — then later, the grandkids — before bedtime. Him there. There.
“Is there anything you like about me,” he’d asked her once, not too long ago. He had fixed the lock on the bathroom door and it broke the next day.
“No,” she’d said, meaning it.
Now though, she understood — that had been all wrong.
Shirley had found just the right spot, and in her ear Helen said, “That’s a girl, come on. Come for us,” she said. “We want you to come.” Grace let her mind go to Henry when he was still young, on top of her, the way he’d lose control like a wild animal at the end, how his face would turn red and the muscles in his arms would contract. How wild and strong and powerful he’d seem to her in those moments. She let herself slip away, fade away, so that she wasn’t a person anymore, just a feeling. She was longing. She was fullness. She was stillness, satisfaction. She was more. She wanted more. Please. More.