Vivian

I've been kissing you goodbye since the first time our lips met.

I love you.

Goodbye.

I hesitated - no, let's not say that; I sound like a total pussy - I lingered for a moment, fingers brushing the three lines of the note as if to swirl them into a more pleasing form. In my mind's eye, the ink struggled against the page, ready to bend to my will.

I hate you. I hate what I am when I'm with you. I'm not a whole person: you fill up all my empty spaces. Every place where I am weak, you are strong. Every place where I would falter, you fill me up with you. Every time I fall apart, you pick me up, build me up, make me feel whole. You make me feel whole.

But fuck you for making me believe it when it's a lie. Fuck you for believing in me when it's bullshit. Fuck you for loving this... shell. Fuck you fuck you fuck you.

You're better than that.

I blinked, and the page blurred... but only with tears. Even my imagination betrayed me. You see? I suck at this. There's only ever been one thing I've been good at. Sincerity ain't it. I swallowed hard, balled my hands into fists lest my fingers have their way with the note, and pounded them down onto the dressing table. Perfumes exotic trembled before me, and makeup in every shade of man's dark dreaming crept back at the impact. I snorted. It figured that the only things I could impress were designed to trick you into thinking that a woman was something she was not.

I hung my head for a moment, steadying my breathing. The tears in my eyes threatened to wash over my entire being, and in a few more seconds I'd be a sobbing mess. I gritted my teeth hard, drove my knuckles down into the lacquered cherry of the dressing table. The pain brought clarity.

Venice. We'd laughed and held hands and I'd pointed out the deep red trim of the gondola. You'd started going on about the style, influenced by someone whose name ended in "ini", and I'd called you an asshat and bit your lip while kissing you and said that I just thought it was pretty, was all. The next week, the whole penthouse back in New York was transformed into Venice, every swoop of a table leg suddenly this beautiful cherry... it was magic. You were magic.

The pain in my hand fought back against nostalgia, and I looked up. The woman looking back at me was... blank. There was no sign of turmoil in her yellow eyes. Her raven hair was straight and long, draping tantalizingly over her shoulders and breasts. Those were firm and full: give her a push-up bra and she'd put your eye out.

I straightened, the better to finish the inspection of that woman across from me. The skin was just lightly shaded, as if she'd gone past "sun-kissed" into "heavy petting". There were no tan lines, because she spent two hours standing spread-eagled every other week and more money than you wanted to think about on something that was not your mama's spray tan. Arms: toned but nothing bulge-y. Abs: playing peek-a-boo around a cute little innie belly-button topped with a diamond piercing that glittered dangerously. Hips: they don't lie, but could shake the moneymaker behind them like a million bucks. Legs: same as the arms, but not weird about it... yeah, her thighs touched at the tippy top, because they are fucking supposed to, and nobody likes boning Skeletor. Vag - yeah, "vag" - only bros call it a "pussy" and only gynecologists call it a "vagina" - waxed, because go big or go the fuck home. If you were going to do all the shit that got the rest of the goods this goddamn good, a little wax on your lady parts was a couple minutes of vacation time.

Bottom line: if you were seeing all this, you'd already gotten very, very lucky. What more were you asking for? No, seriously. It gets me hot when you say it out loud.

For a moment, I was all, "fuck yeah!" Then I saw the blank look on that woman's face - empty, expressionless, even before makeup and even when I was feeling like my perky tits were some kind of accomplishment - and then I heard the hissing noise of my balloon deflating. The woman in the mirror sagged. Back curved a little. Shoulders slumped. "Perky" became "pouty", and that was the wrong damn way to talk about C-cups.

I turned away from the mirror, going back to my previous occupation of trying not to cry. The dressing table had a whole dressing room to go with it - this was a home, mind you, not a strip club, yet this place had a dressing room - and it all stank of the part of him that I'd thought was me. The room was trimmed out in the same deep red wood as the table, with matching settee and a padded stool. They were probably crafted of wood from the same tree if I knew him at all. Those were the kind of details he thought were romantic.

The walls were edged in the pink and brown you'd find at Vicky's, but weren't overwhelmed by it: mostly they were a black-and-white whimsy of sweeping, not-quite-abstract lines that would show you a breast here, an ass there, if your mind was the right kind of twisted.

Mine was. I still saw myself in every curve.

There were rows of skirts and dresses that ranged from "well above the knee" to "you will definitely see my girly bits". He'd had me pick out five from a few magazines, and then this wardrobe had appeared the next day, filled with my every naughty dream. Let's not even talk about the drawers of lingerie built into the walls.

There were six different mannequins, each laser-mapped to my exact dimensions, because that was how he thought it worked, and I'd let him. If boys put on sexy underwear, they'd need a CAD program to map out both nuts before they could upload every possible combination of boxers and socks. They didn't realize that all you had to do was spend thirty seconds thinking about doing dirty shit and then start grabbing stuff that was all the same color.

Looking like a sex goddess wasn't about choices. It was all about desire: yours. If you desired to do the kind of stuff that left panties on the ceiling fan and had the neighbors first mad and then rooting for you, you had to be filled with it.

I'd love to tell you that I had sat down tonight and thought about what would turn him on, what outfit would make him throb for me. I'd love to tell you that I weighed all my options - schoolgirl? crotchless fishnets? corset and boy shorts? - and carefully selected the exact set of sex toys to drape myself in for maximum effect.

I hadn't. I'd thought about what I would do once his pants came off, and after a minute I'd needed a towel. Choosing what to wear had happened in ten breathless seconds, feeling every my heartbeat pound somewhere distinctly south of where you'd normally take a pulse. It had been instinct and need: the need to overcome any obstacle to having him have his way with me.

Nudity wouldn't do that. I couldn't see him as I was. I wasn't a strategist: I was a doer. I wanted to do him, and I wanted to get better than I gave. That meant a few scraps of fabric to make him work for it. It didn't matter what they were: all that mattered was that it made him wait just longer than he wanted to. I'd take it from there.

It wasn't an outfit: it was sex-fu.

It was lacy, more covered than you'd expect. The thigh-highs were the kind with the single seam up the back: hot, but not distracting. No garter belt necessary since they had that little rubbery lining that gripped my thighs. Garters were sexy, don't get me wrong, but taking off all those little clips was a pain in the ass and slowed things down. Until some French fashion-underpants genius came up with tear-away garters - yes to anything that involved tearing away clothing! - I'd stick to technology that let me skip the awkward bits.

The v-string panties had been a case of "reach in, grab first thing". It wasn't that panties didn't matter; quite the opposite. They'd been my first pick, because they set the mood for everything else. If I'd snagged boy shorts, I'd have passed on the thigh-highs, maybe in favor of boots. If they'd been bikini bottoms, you go either corset or pasties. Crotchless, and you may as well put a shirt on - one of his, I mean, with one button clasped over the ladies. Let him find the rest soon enough.

The v-string, though, that was pretty versatile. I didn't own any thongs, because why bother? It's not like you're wearing them because they're so terribly comfy. If you're going for "just push this aside and boom shaka-laka", strings and a little triangle to set the scene were all you needed. It went with damn near anything, because it sat there so quietly. In the world of sexy underoos, v-strings are the shy kids who want somebody else to get the attention. Babydoll, corset, bra - whatever else you went with, that was what was going to get him. The v-string was just a formality.

The front-clasp push-up had the same idea: super-easy to remove, and the back had all these neat extra straps that made me look one step more tied-up. I could straddle him and with a flick of his fingers I could be spilling out all over him. Plus, I loved that look of discovery after he'd been groping around back there for a minute and it dawned on him that the answer was riiiiight in front of him...

I'd thrown in lace gloves and an eye veil, because who does that shit? Me-ow.

They lounged there on the settee as I appraised them. Their flimsy appearance was deceiving: they were not black lace but obsidian, granite, iron. They steeled me. Naked as I was, I was vulnerable. Before me lay my armor. It whispered to me.

But first: my sword. Still unclad, I moved back to the mirror and settled down on the padded stool. With steady hand, I reached onto a rack full of weaponry and withdrew a lipstick case. I twisted up a blade of red. The red of Snow White's lips as they brushed the surface of an apple and made its skin tremble. Lips as red as blood.

I smiled. For the first time in many smiles, I felt it.

Deliberately, I smeared my lips with a swath of color. Placing hands on either side of the note I had written, the real one that ended in Goodbye, I bent down and crushed my mouth to it.

I lifted up. There. Signed. Signed in red. Signed in blood.

I worked my magic in paints and eyeliner. I donned my armor. I drew on my sword.

I went downstairs to say goodbye to you.