Authors: Jules Moulin
JAKE LIFTED ALLY IN
one swift motion, as if she weighed nothing. He propped her up on the kitchen counter.
The palms of his hands found her knees, and he spread them apart and moved between them. He cupped her face and found her mouth in a third kiss.
Move, Ally thought. She wanted to lie down, to feel the weight of his body on hers. She wanted him for hours in a bed, between sheets, not for minutes on the counter, even as spotless as Muriel had made it.
“Let's go upstairs,” she whispered frantically as Jake brushed her neck with his lips. He returned to her mouth, and she nudged him forward and slid off the counter.
Out from under him, she left the kitchen, moved to the hall, and headed upstairs. Jake followed. On the staircase, he pushed past Ally as if they were racing.
In her bedroom, he flipped on the light, reached the bed first, and climbed up on all fours. He turned and rose to his knees to collect her.
She stopped in the doorway. “Jake, I have to tell youÂ .Â .Â . something,” Ally said softly, her voice filled with worry.
“What?” he said.
Ally paused. She hated to admit it. “I haven't done this in aÂ .Â .Â . long time.”
Jake blinked. “Okay.”
“I don't mean months. I mean years.”
“It's okay, Ally,” he said reassuringly. It was the first time he used her first name. It almost took her breath away.
Ally looked down and studied the floor. “I mean, I've done it a few timesâactual sexâsince I got pregnant.”
“I've fooled around. But the actual act? The actual thing?”
“Your daughter is ten?”
“So you've had sex a
times in the last
“Eleven,” said Ally. “Twice in eleven. Kind of.”
Jake thought about it. He looked at the floor. He looked at Ally and smiled. “That is a shame,” he finally said. “That is tragic. For all men. Everywhere.” Then he studied her. “Ally?”
“Don't do anything for me tonight.”
“Let's let tonight be all about you.”
Ally smiled and took a deep breath.
He was still there. Despite her admission, he knelt on the bed, ready to take her. “Get over here.”
She moved to the bed, unsure. He met her at the edge, leaned in, and kissed her. He twisted her body into a cradle, dipped her, and placed her down on her back.
Long and flush, he lowered his body on top of hers. They kissed and kissed, and kissed and kissed.
She had forgotten how wonderful it was.
A man with large, calloused hands; long, heavy limbs and rough hair; large muscle groups, so foreign; weight and strength. Jake's smell was musky and sweet. Staggering.
He started to unfasten her blouse from the bottom, button by button. “Tell me to stop.”
Ally said nothing. Don't stop, she thought.
He made his way up, button by button, as if he had done so a thousand times, and never moved his lips from hers.
When he finished, he rose to an elbow, parted her blouse, tugged her bra down, and lifted her breasts up and out. He ducked to devour them.
Ally's head fell back onto the pillow.
He's an expert, she thought, running her fingers through his hair, full and brown and thick. Thank goodness he needed a haircut, and how could this kid, at twenty-one, be so adept, so skilled, so smooth? How could he be so lovely? she wondered.
Jake sat back, pulled off his T-shirt, and placed it beside him on the bed.
Ally's lips parted. Her eyes grew wide.
His body was sculpted, smooth, and unreal, as if he'd stepped from a magazine cover. His chest and abs, his broad shoulders and lean, athletic arms, looked as if a sculptor had chiseled them.
“You're so pretty,” Jake whispered, breaking her reverie, seeming to be caught in his own.
Ally snapped to. “What? Please! Look at you!” She rolled her eyes.
Ally didn't feel pretty. Sure, she knew she'd been pretty once. All young women are somewhat attractive.
“You are,” Jake said, gazing at her lips. “That smile. That
She did have an infectious smile. But she had kept her baby weight, had stopped jogging, and hadn't had a haircut in years. Years.
“Everyone thinks so. Everyone says so.”
“What? Who?” Ally wondered how that could be. She never wore makeup, never dressed up. She only shopped for Lizzie. She'd pick up a pair of jeans here, a sweater there, in Newport's nicer Goodwill shops, but mostly she lived in sneakers and sweats and jeans she'd bought in DC to make room for her freshman fifteen.
“What is this? I think you have aÂ .Â .Â .” Jake smiled and reached forward, over her head.
“What? What is it?”
“You have a stickyâ”
“A sticky note stuck to yourâ”
“Me?” she said, embarrassed. She turned her head to see what it was as he plucked the pink sticky note out of her hair and showed it to her. A Russian phrase was scrawled across it in red crayon. Lizzie's writing.
“Oh, that's sexy. They're all over. My daughterâshe's teaching herself Russian. I think this says, âI hate you, Mom.'”
?” Jake laughed.
“She's a little on theâgiftedâside. Hebrew and French too. It's insane.”
He plucked the note from Ally's hand and sailed it off the side of the bed.
“I'm sure there areâmore,” she said, peering under the top sheet. “Sometimes I find them stuck to my butt as I walk out the door.” She lifted to her elbows and looked around for more. There were a few, seven or eight, which was odd, Ally thought. Hadn't Muriel changed the sheets? She must've forgot.
Jake rolled off her and helped to collect them. “You were in college when you had your kid?”
Ally paused. She looked at him. “Yes. I was your age,” she said. “Exactly.”
“That must be a pretty good story.”
“Can I hear it?”
“Why not?” Jake said and lay down next to her on his side, propping his head up on his hand.
So Ally explainedÂ .Â .Â .
“It started in Economics,” she said. “Junior year. I was twenty. Just like you.”
“I'm twenty-one,” Jake corrected her.
Pierre Ben-Shahar had flashed her his beguiling smile. They had started to date that September, and after a party on Magis Row, they had sex.
He'd entered her once without a condom, Ally's first time, on a mid-September night, but only for a second. “Maybe four. Four seconds. Maybe ten. But no more than that,” Ally had explained to her mother.
Claire was furious.
Ally discovered she was pregnant on Halloween night when Pierre insisted she dress as a brick and he as a bricklayer.
“He was inside me for two seconds. Twelve, maybe fifteen seconds. Twenty seconds, tops. He didn't even come,” she explained to Jake.
Pierre had the Alexander Popov of sperm, she decided after the birth. That was the only explanation.
Two years before, Popov the swimmer won two golds in the Summer Olympics, and Popov the sperm had clearly dived into Pierre's pre-ejaculate, swam, survived, and swam and survived, hiding himself inside of Ally for at least two weeks before he made Lizzie.
He was a survivor, that little sperm.
That was her theory.
And Ally was too.
Despite being twenty and pregnant in college, at Georgetown, no less, a Catholic school, Ally thought motherhood was absolute bliss.
She was born to be Lizzie's mother.
Lizzie was simply meant to be.
So senior year, she powered through, nursing and sleepless, and knocked out a notable senior thesis that brought her to Brown.
“What?” Jake asked. “What was it on?”
“Really?” she said and buried her face in her hands.
She paused. “It wasâit was aâgender analysis of Barbara Kennelly's Pension Reform Act; 1993; pension benefits, cost of living, you know, post separation and divorce; who voted, why, how it died, blah-blah.”
“I also wrote a
on the economic ramifications of paternal abandonment in southeast DC.”
“Wow!” Jake said.
Ally smiled. “Talk about
I was so mad. Both got published. Big journals. Peer-reviewed.”
The papers took Ally to Brown, she explained, with grants and a TA appointment as she worked toward her PhD.
It was not her plan. Feminist economics.
“Sometimes you lead your life,” she said, “and sometimes your life leads you.”
The work put a roof over her head, and Brown had safe, loving day care.
“And I had a beautiful baby girl.”
Jake lay there listening.
She didn't need the courtship, she said, the engagement, the parties. The gifts, the showers, the white dress, the day. She didn't need the marriage or the man.
Especially not Pierre Ben-Shahar, who had threatened to kill himself
tout de suite
unless she aborted
tout de suite.
He escaped that summer across the Atlantic, hopped back and forth from Paris to Haifa and back and back, one month with mom, another with dad, and never returned to the States again.
And never returned Ally's calls.
“His loss,” Jake said. He reached out and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear.
She had made peace with her life alone. Alone with Lizzie. But peace or not, she hadn't seen a penis in many years. The lack of sex, of intimacy, the lack of a man, was, at times, excruciating.
And other times, not.
She focused on Lizzie, designing her lectures, joining committees, writing on the side under pseudonyms, and all the sweet and relentless courting of one nasty chair who stole her from the Economics Department.
She had to stay in and stick it out, Claire reminded her. Tenure, tenure! She needed tenure! Providence for life! If she worked hard and played by the rules.
Ally knew she'd never get it. Her mother had no idea what it took or how it worked. She wasn't even sure she wanted it.
That was it. That was the story. She gazed at Jake.
Jake, her student! Jake, like some hero from a daytime soap! Jake in her bedroom! The boy in the back, half naked!
He leaned in and kissed her on the lips, then rolled back on top of her, kissing her harder, even more deeply.
Suddenly Ally was tugging at his belt.
She couldn't resist. She couldn't wait. She wanted him now. She had suffered long enough.
She sat up and pulled his belt apart, then fumbled with the button at the top of his zipper.
Jake grew still, looking pleased and surprised.
Ally wanted him. She wanted to release him. She'd felt him building against her belly, pressing against her inner thighs.
She pulled down his zipper, and Jake rose back to his knees to help. He pulled down his jeans and kicked them off. Then did the same with his gray cotton briefs.
Oh no! she thought when she saw him in the shadows, huge and ready and poised for her. Her jaw dropped and her mouth opened wide. She couldn't help it. “Oh my goodness.”
It wasâ He was absolutely perfect.
Wider in girth, straighter, firmer, longer and wider, wider and longer, stronger somehow, than any she'd ever seen before. He wasâ It was magnificent. “Oh my goodness,” she said again. She couldn't help but stare as she slid off her jeans and panties, too.
And then the phone rang.
The cordless phone at the foot of the bed.
“Shoot!” she said in anguish. “Sorry!”
Jake smiled and slid to her side.
“Oh my goodness. Hold that thought.” She knew it was Lizzie and Claire calling. They were calling, of course, to say good night. It was after ten. “I'm so sorry. I have to get this.”
“I think.” She reached around him to pick up the phone.
WEATHER SAYS YOUR FEMINISM
1960s, Mom.” Lizzie handed the pasta to Jake. “She says you're a product of the time you were born.”
“I wasn't born in the sixties, honey.”
“No!” Ally laughed.
“You don't know when your mother was born?” Jake leaned across the table. He spooned the pasta onto Ally's plate.
“Teddy, could you wait?” Lizzie scolded, glaring at him.
“Sorry. I'm hungry,” Teddy said, looking up from his meal, chewing.
“I thought you were
” Lizzie sniped.
He put down his fork.
” Ally said as she laid out the chicken. “Thank you, Jake.”
Jake sat down and served himself.
“Weather says you're a postfeminist.”
“How is she wrong? What are you, then?”
“Do we want to do this?” Ally said. “Now?”
Lizzie continued. “She said you are. But we're not. We're
feminists. Modern consumers. Not afraid of beauty or sex. Not afraid to define ourselves, market ourselves, sell ourselves. Wait, is this cheese?” She looked at her plate.
“Buffalo mozzarella, honey.”
“Oh, thanks.” She turned to Jake. “I can't touch dairy. Weather says dairy and gluten are poison.”
“True, if you're
” Ally said.
“Or you're celiac,” Jake added.
“Weather weighs almost two hundred pounds,” Ally continued kindly, fairly, taking a seat. “Should she be giving diet advice?”
Really she wanted to kill Weather: Stephanie Rachel Weather Weiner, Lizzie's best friend from theater camp from when they were ten. Weather, with her fourteen piercings and forearms covered in kitten tattoos.
“All that genetically modified gluten. Italy, France.
banned it,” said Lizzie.
“Isn't cheese dairy?” Ted asked, digging in again now that Ally was seated.
“Not all cheese,” Lizzie explained. “Dairy is
“Weather has too many cats,” Ally quipped, trying to lighten the tension at the table. “Nine. Is that legal?” She picked up her fork.
“Cats or not, fat or not, she is rocking Lady Bracknell. In our class. Acting class. Oscar Wilde. She dyed her hair
“I think when you mess with your face,” Jake said, “you're moving away from something authentic. It's easy to see what's fake up there. It's a big screen.”
“That's a good point,” Ally agreed, looking at Lizzie hopefully. “Jake should know.” She turned to him. “Lizzie said you've had some success?”
success?” Ted bellowed, looking at Ally. “He's huge, Ally! Huge! Huge, huge!”
“Okay!” she said. She knew exactly how huge he was.
“What big screen?” Lizzie continued. “Theaters will be obsolete in ten years. Spielberg said that on NPR. Spielberg and that
guy. We'll be watching TV on our phones.”
Jake took his napkin and wiped his mouth. “The point is, who do you want to be? Helen Mirren or Jennifer Grey?”
“Neither,” said Lizzie. “I want to be me.”
“Jennifer Grey?” Ally asked.
” Jake explained. “The girl who played Baby. She chopped off her nose and it killed her career.”
“No!” Ally cooed. “She was so cute!”
Lizzie rolled her eyes and grabbed the wine. She poured herself another glass. “My mother is obsessed with old movies, and Noah is obsessed with old women: Helen Mirren, Judi Denchâ”
“You've had enough wine,” Ally said.
“I've had a glass.”
“Two, I believe.”
“So cheers! So great! So let's get drunk!”
“Good,” said Teddy. “This is Lokoya from Napa. Did I say that? Three hundred bucks a bottle, ladies. Drink all you
Lizzie turned to Jake. “You can be fat and homely and old, and no one cares. For women, it's different.” She looked at Ally. “It's okay for some football player to jack himself up for the NFLâtwenty-three-inch bicepsâ
jobâthe size of my
âbut it's not okay for an actress to change her body for hers?” She was upset.
“Lizzie,” said Ally as gently as she could. “That's a good point. We're not ganging upâ”
“You are! You and Noah! You're like a
Jake and Ally glanced at each other.
“And Ted, with nothing to add.”
Ted looked up. “Nothing to add? I brought twelve hundred bucks' worth of wine.”
“I know you agree with me,” Lizzie said.
” Teddy replied. “In
yes. But I, for one, would miss your face.”
“I would too,” Ally said.
“Me three,” said Jake.
“Let's forget it,” Lizzie muttered. “I'm the youngestÂ .Â .Â . at this table. There might be something I know about this worldâthis age I live inâthat you guys don't. So you can think your judgmental thoughts and feel superior with all your
âand I will do what I want with my nose.” She drained her glass in one fell swoop.
Ally studied her.
No one spoke for a long moment. Lizzie put down her glass. Ally pushed pasta around on her plate. Jake dropped his napkin, then picked it up and broke the silence. “So, Ted, do you travel? A lot? For work?”
Teddy looked up and eyed Jake. “Only to Silicon Valley. Why?”