This originally appeared in BCN issue 90.

A short story by Jacqueline Applebee

This is me dancing. You’ll notice that once my heels are gone, I’m a short stub of a woman. My ivory bra that I dangle before you, and then drop to the floor, reveals that I am flat-chested, but the rest of me is big and round, with curves and fleshy parts that follow the flow of my movements, a split second after I make them. It’s okay to look at me now. I feel better about things.

Darren, my partner of three years, first gave me this idea. He said dancing would be a good way to get more in touch with my body, and the power it held. I remember laughing at him, at first … and then I remember getting scared. The thought of my body, as being anything but full of hurt, was terrifying. Somehow, over the course of time, I’ve become brave.

Ah, I see you are following my fingers, as I flutter them lightly over my body. I’ve slowed my movements, and I undulate leisurely, still in time to the music. I know you’ve seen them now; by the way your eyes widen slightly, and then shift away. You’ve seen my scars haven’t you?  No, it’s okay to look at them. They are a part of me. I have blue eyes, short brown hair, and I have scars. Did you know that Darren was the first person to ever see me naked – apart from the surgeons of course? Darren licked his tongue along the length of one of my scars, on the first morning we spent together. The previous night, he and I had humped and ground, and swore out loud, smashing together in a whirlwind of pumping limbs. We had sweated, and grunted in the dark. I always felt safe in the dark.

When the sun had risen, that very first morning, I had awoken to find him examining me. He had knelt across me – the white sheets forming a tent, as it lay over his head. The stark cotton was such a contrast to his dark, dark skin. I could say nothing, as he scrutinised my flesh. I was bare before him. I could not hide, and I had never felt so exposed.

But then he lowered himself down, and he brushed his plaited afro across my thigh – nudging my legs apart with the soft, insistent gesture. I was still too afraid to even think about what he might possibly do, and then my thoughts were interrupted as he licked me. I shuddered as his tongue travelled from the top of my longest scar, right down to my groin, in one never-ending lick. He looked up
at me, from between my open legs, and he just grinned, before he did it all over again.

As I dance before you now, I know you can see the same spot where Darren first anointed me with his mouth. It was his idea that I dance naked for you. I wasn’t so keen on that, but we came to this compromise, that I hope you like. There’s something about a striptease that is so very sleazy and so much fun too. This is nothing like lap dancing, or pole dancing. Stripping is something else. This is me, presenting my body to you as a gift. I give myself to you – the woman who made me jittery with longing. You are the woman I was too shy to talk to at first. And now here I am, taking my clothes off, for you, to the soothing rhythm of a waltz.

I told you to sit still, whilst I performed for you, but you don’t seem to understand.

“How can I keep my hands to myself, when you’re doing this to me?” Your Edinburgh accent is full of fun. “Come here love, let me at ya!”

I spin out of your clever grasp and dance away once more, sashaying across your bedroom. You’ve seen my scars, and you haven’t rejected me. You don’t hate me. I lift my arms up above my head, close my eyes, and I drink in the realisation, whilst I sway in place. Darren said it would be fine, but I hadn’t fully trusted his judgement. And then he said I was beautiful – that you would think so too, and his words had finally convinced me.

My final piece of fabric falls from around my neck, and I am as naked as the day I was born. My movements halt, and I am aware of what you can see. You can see my scars. I’m done hiding them.

I find my hands suddenly trapped. You grin cruelly, as
you secure them with one of the lengths of cloth that has
fallen to the floor.

“Now I know why they call it a strip-tease. You are one tempting lady, you know that?” Your kiss makes my head spin … no, wait, that’s you. You twirl me around like a spinning top. Our giggles are girlish, though we are both grown women. I topple to your bed, and you are right behind me – now silent as you pull your clothes off, and throw them into a corner.

Did I tell you I used to be scared? Did you know I only made love in the dark, before I met Darren? The lights are on now, and you can see everything I have.

“I’ve wanted you for so long, Amelia.”
Why is your voice shaking?
“I thought you only like men,” you pause for a moment.
“Men like Darren.”

I understand your meaning now. Darren is a big man – he looks like a stereotype of a big black brotha, but appearances are only part of it. You don’t know about the guy. You don’t know that he calls himself “Desiree” sometimes, or he likes to dress up in women’s clothes. You don’t know the trouble we have, trying to find nice dresses and sexy shoes that will fit him. And don’t get me started on the make-up!