I Deserve You Nikita Mirzani 2

On an inspiration, she lifted her blouse up over her face. Sex with Zack: In the beginning she would lock herself into her bathroom and emerge wearing a hooded white terry cloth bathrobe, as if she were a prizefighter, her hair stuffed into the hood. She would take the robe off only under the covers.

“Is this my flasher from the Whitney? Is this my orange bird of paradise?”

“I am actually a very shy person.” She held the bedclothes tight around her, although she felt silly, as if she were a child.

Zack was sitting up in bed wearing his eyeglasses, indifferent to his own naked body, his chest a motley thinning jungle of black and gray and white, the muscles of his arms and legs stringy. “Are you putting your diaphragm in down there?”

“Don’t worry,” she called up through the yellow-checked cover, her voice muffled.

“I’m not worried. I just thought maybe you wanted some help. I’m a dexterous type.”

She shook her head. “I can handle it.”

“I’d like to handle it.” When she didn’t answer, he said, “At least let me watch you handle it.”

“The light’s no good down here.”

“Why don’t you take the pill?” he asked, amused at her fidgeting.

“It’s too new. I don’t like messing with my body.”

“Good for you!” He thrust his skinny arms forward in two triumphant fists.

Later he told her that he’d wondered if, beneath the covers, she was trying to signal him to keep his middle-aged haunches under wraps. But in her bathrobe, she would often undress him, teasing him by throwing his clothes to the not-so-far corners of her studio apartment.

It was a slovenly place, art posters torn and taped askew on the walls, here and there dirty dishes and half-empty glasses with cigarette butts floating in them. Zack had an impulse to hold his nose.

But the apartment had good light, and on the desk and hanging in the bathroom there were a few original paintings that showed talent—by her? She wouldn’t tell him.

After two weeks, when she still had not shown herself, he roared, “Why do you deny a man who lives by his eyes?”

Arms and legs wrapped tight around him, she held him prisoner with her under the dark bedclothes. Tears tumbled out of her, and she dried them with the sheets. “I’ve only slept with boys … mostly in the backs of cars … I’m sure you’ve had models and mistresses …” She was wailing. “Mature women …”

“Oh my dear, my dear,” he said in that old-fashioned, stilted way he had when he was moved. “I am less experienced than you think. Anyway, you are altogether lovely in my eyes. You need fear comparison with no one—”

“Not with the Maja? Not with the Primavera?” She couldn’t stop wailing.

“But those are works of the imagination! Flesh made luminous by inspiration!”

“What about your daughters?” He had two grown daughters and a son. “What about your wife?” Finally, hot and sweaty but holding him fast, she belted out between sobs, “Your wife when she was young?!”

“Why bring my family into bed with us? Why torture us both?” He tried to lick away her tears, but she pulled her head back. “Who’s been worrying you?” He wanted urgently to know.

“Art News. They said your nudes ‘dizzied’ the viewer, ‘blinded’ him, that they were ‘salvos, starbursts’! I’ll bet it was your wife when you first knew her.” Nikita Mirzani groaned. “I’ve got fat pads over my thighs!”

“You exaggerate! You have what you’re supposed to have. Your thighs are womanly.”

“You haven’t seen them!”

“I’ve felt them!” He grabbed the outsides of her thighs, kneaded them, pinched them affectionately. “Those—and these”—he gave her full breasts two smackeroos of kisses—“are the gracious cushions for my bony self!”

Even when the air conditioner gave out toward the end of that first summer, she would do it only under the covers.

“I’ll cover you with my body,” he told her. But she clung to him and shook her head.

“My God! Who would have thought!” he exclaimed, when he realized she was still deeply uneasy not only about her shapely body, but about her whole young self. “I’ll imagine you. I have a good imagination.” He winked, then kissed her forehead and her eyelids, and said seriously, “And I’m patient.”