A lot has happened in the past month, sister! I cut my hair short. I got a new job with a very handsome boss I can’t stop thinking about, in ways that would make your hair stand on end. I go to parties where I smoke cigarettes and drink gin out of a bathtub. Also, did you know that if you tell your doctor you have something called “hysteria”, you can get a vibrating device that makes you scream if you place it in just the right spot?
How are the children?
Lily crumpled up the letter. She longed to tell her closest sibling about how every day in Chicago was new and exciting. How Clare was teaching her all sorts of things: how to trim her own hair and roll down her stockings, how to walk properly in heels without tripping, how to discreetly muffle her moans in a pillow when using the brand-new device she’d gotten from a doctor downtown. Lily didn’t know she could make such noise, like the opera records their upstairs neighbor played on Saturday afternoons.
Harder to describe was the inherent hunger Lily felt every waking minute, and increasingly more often, in her dreams. Not just for that magical feeling she got when she used her “hysteria cure,” although that certainly was pleasant. But she found herself looking at men, and occasionally women, wondering what they sounded like when they had that same sensation. She craved cigarettes, the unique kick of bathtub gin, fancy dresses, new shoes – once a simple farm girl who only wanted to marry a nice boy and have babies, now Lily wanted everything.
Speaking of wanting…
Lily trailed her hand up her leg, shivering when she touched the soft skin of her inner thigh. Fully clothed, she lay back on her bed and pushed her fingers underneath her panties. She’d never done this without the device, but it was all the way across the room, and she was curious.
Lily ran her fingers lightly between her legs, through her own wetness, arching her back at the quake that began to buzz through her. Intensifying her touch, she began to rub that special spot, the one she’d discovered at Abigail’s party when everyone listened outside.
Oh yes. She rubbed the hardening nub, bucking her hips, but she didn’t want to stop there. Taking a deep breath, she slid one finger, then two, inside.
Thinking of everything and nothing, she began moving her fingers in and out, slowly at first, then faster, feeling her inner walls pulse. She closed her eyes, seeing tiny starbursts, multiplying and exploding. Her body tensed, chasing that ecstasy she knew was just beyond her reach, and as Lily curled her fingers inside herself, she reached that beautiful state where nothing mattered but her own pleasure.
She slowly withdrew, exhausted and electrified, and caught a glimpse of the hall clock.
Horsefeathers, she was going to be late for work.
Lily looked up from her task list, wondering if she’d ever get used to the sight of her boss’ perfect face, his curly hair that even slicked down, stuck up just slightly in the sweetest way.
“Yes?” she squeaked. Breathe. “I mean, yes, Mr. Williams?”
“Can you explain this?”
Something soft and silky landed on her face, smelling of roses.
Lily swooned, her vision blurring with pure sensation. Her head lolled back, bumping the top of her chair. Oh my.
“Oh my!” Mr. Williams cried. “I’m so sorry, Miss Johnson!” He plucked the scarf off Lily’s face, his fingers gently brushing her cheek.
Next thing Lily knew, she was lying on the floor and Mr. Williams’ strong, square hands were on her breasts.
Well, not exactly. He was pressing upon her heart, grunting with the effort, but his fingers brushed her right breast and even though she was fully dressed, Lily felt the same stirrings as when she used her toy, and oh, this was about to get embarrassing…
“Sir?” she whispered, opening her eyes wide.
“Thank god,” he said, before he realized where his hands were and yanked them from her chest, holding them up. Lily had never seen a man blush like that.
The situation was so absurd, Lily giggled. She couldn’t help it. And just like in church when she was younger, she couldn’t stop.
Mr. Williams’ face went white.
Lily pealed with laughter, still lying on the floor, clutching her stomach. Oh, she was in for it now.
Then he smiled, those white teeth catching the light, and Lily felt that stirring all over again. She willed herself to stay conscious.
“I’ll help you up,” he said, placing his hands on her shoulders. Briefly, their eyes locked. Lily imagined all sorts of other scenarios, only with far less clothing for both of them…
And then she was sitting upright, back in reality, the sewing machines humming in the factory below.
“Can I get you some water, Miss Johnson?” Mr. Williams asked. “You took quite a tumble – I was worried you’d hit your head, and I just learned how to do chest compressions because then I could tell you’d fainted, and that’s why I was touching you so inappropriately, oh god…”
“It’s all right, sir!” Lily said, gingerly getting to her feet and perching back into her chair. “I don’t know what came over me!” Except I do. You were so close to me and that stocking was so soft and silky. I lost control of my body because I was imagining it with yours…
He shook his head. “I’m just glad you’re all right.” He cleared his throat, holding up the item in question. “Here’s what I wanted to show you. I’m not sure what Marta did with her machine, but…”
“Does that stocking have two feet?”
Mr. Williams examined it. “It appears so.”
The combination of nerves and closeness with her boss sent Lily in a fit of giggles all over again. Mr. Williams didn’t reprimand. Instead, he studied her, head tilted thoughtfully, like he couldn’t quite figure her out but very much wanted to try.
He cleared his throat. “Why don’t I get you that water. Oh, and Miss Johnson?” he asked, over his shoulder. “Call me Hal.”
Once he was gone, Lily rolled the name over in her mouth, tasting it like chocolate. “Hal.”
“I need you now.”
The aromas of tobacco, hooch, and perfume wafted around Lily when she stepped into the underground speakeasy. Clare had a date tonight, and Lily knew it was time to explore the wilds of Chicago nightlife on her own.
Upon leaving the apartment, however, she had realized she didn’t know where to go. Spotting a fashionable couple, she surreptitiously followed them, turning left and right, until they tiptoed down a small flight of concrete stairs to a black painted door. Luckily, the man was in his cups and Lily was able to overhear the secret password.
Now, a man needed her. He was about her age, not classically handsome like Mr. Williams – Hal – but he had a roguish charm, and looked strangely familiar…
“I know you!” Lily blurted out. He looked at her quizzically, and she raised her voice over the frenetic live jazz. “Abigail’s party.” Suddenly, she remembered his laughter outside the door when she reached new heights of being.
Luckily, he didn’t razz her. “She’s a fun gal, huh? But really,” the man said, his expression deadly serious. “I’m desperate.”
“For you,” he said. “Or any woman, really.”
Lily raised an eyebrow. “Don’t I feel special.”
“Aw, don’t be sore.” He grinned mischievously. A crowd of ladies rustled in the doorway behind her, and the gentleman gingerly took her arm and moved her aside. Lily tried to ignore the spark she felt when they touched. Really, her appetites were getting very inconvenient.
She crossed her arms over her new beaded dress. “What do you need?”
His forehead wrinkled. “Uh… I have a burlesque dancer performing tonight. You know, striptease?” Lily shook her head. “Anyway,” the man continued, “because, ah, her clothes come off, it looks strange if she picks them up herself at the end, and it looks stranger if a man does it. I had a doll lined up to clear the stage, but she didn’t show.”
“So you pounce on the next doll you see?” Lily shot back.
“You caught me.” He grinned again, green eyes glowing.
Why not? “I’ll do it.”
Next thing Lily knew, she was lifted off her feet, strong arms circling around her. She could feel his solid, muscular chest, smell the hint of spiciness from his neck. I’ll definitely use my device tonight…
As quickly as the man picked Lily up, he set her down and motioned for her to follow him into the belly of the speakeasy. “I’m Charles, by the way.”
“Lily,” she called, hurrying to catch up.
Half an hour later, Lily was mesmerized.
Fleur de Lee was stunning, with her razor-sharp black bob and curves for days, but it wasn’t just her looks. Her whole body was like poetry as she moved about the tiny stage, swaying and strutting to the live band. The way she removed her clothes, starting with a glove, ending with her beaded bra, to reveal glowing skin and a round, bare derrière. Every time she dropped or tossed an article of clothing, the crowd went wild, but there was a reverence to their screams, their gasps. She knew how to make each and every person in that noisy club stop in their tracks, hold their breath to see what she’d do next.
I want to be like her.
Fleur ended her act wearing almost nothing except strategically placed jewels, throwing her arms over her head to thunderous applause.
“You were…” Lily breathed, upon locating Fleur in the tiny backstage area. She wasn’t attracted to the performer, as much as she wanted to know what it felt like to command attention in such a sexual, yet playful, way. But how to ask?
How to be?
Fleur smiled kindly, accepting her bundle of clothing. One of her eyeteeth was slightly crooked, and that imperfection made her all the more intimidating. “Thanks, kid.” She winked one perfectly long-lashed eye. “See you soon?”
Lily didn’t know what else to say, so she hurried away, face on fire.
“Lily!” There was Charles, waiting with two long, thin glasses. He handed her one. “Your payment.”
“Who is she?”
He grinned. “She’s something. In demand all over the city, we’re lucky to have her.” He clinked his glass with hers. “You ever had champagne?”
She hadn’t, though she’d read somewhere it was like drinking stars. Once the bubbles popped on her tongue, the sweetness fizzing, Lily knew why. She felt light-headed, not faint like earlier today, but not slow and stupid like after too much bathtub gin. More like she could be anyone. Do anything.
What do I want?
“I want to be alone with you,” she heard herself say. Her cheeks felt cool – the darkness of the club made it easier for Lily to be so provocative, and not even blush.
Charles raised his eyebrows, this good-looking man who lifted her off the floor and brought her fizzy stars. “Too much giggle water?”
Lily shook her head, emboldened by the bubbles, the sight of Fleur, the warmth of her discarded lingerie. “Just enough.”
One corner of his mouth quirked up and her knees went weak. “Well, then…”
She couldn’t get enough of his neck. That spicy smell of clean shirt and pomade and something essentially Charles – Lily couldn’t stop kissing his neck, as he pressed her back up against the brick wall in the alley outside the club. She could hear the distant voices of people passing by, but since he couldn’t leave work, this was as close to “alone” as they were going to get.
He groaned, hands traveling lightly up her thighs, and she gasped when his fingers brushed the place where silk stocking met bare skin. His hands traveled underneath her drawers and cupped her bottom. Lily thought she would die of desire right then and there. But when their lips finally met, tongues tangling almost immediately, her deep, primal urge intensified.
“Take me now,” she said, husky and low.
It was so unlike her first time behind the barn. That was rushed, clumsy. Charles clearly knew what he was doing, and for that Lily was grateful.
He stroked her bottom with one hand while undoing his trousers with the other, as they kept kissing, each one another ragged promise for what was to come. Picking her up, he murmured “wrap your legs around me” into Lily’s ear. She breathlessly obeyed as he slid inside her with a surprising amount of grace, considering they were standing up in a dirty alley. Lily could hear the soft sounds of jazz through the wall and moaned her assent as Charles began to thrust, gently and expertly, and her body tightened and squeezed around him.
“Feel good?” he whispered. She barely squeaked out a “yes” before she completely lost her words and gave in to pure carnality, clenching her legs to pull him closer, deeper inside her. He was hard, thick, and confident, gently biting her earlobe as she sighed. His breathing shallowed – he was losing control and quickly. Marveling at the power she had over him, loving the way his teeth felt on her delicate skin, Lily leaned her head back against the wall and purred, “Ohhhh, daddy, yes.” Why she called him daddy she’d never know, but it sounded so perfect. She began to feel them: the stirrings again, that up until now she’d only experienced alone.
The pressure inside Lily barely had time to build, before she found herself barreling toward that ecstasy, no turning back. She realized Charles was only holding on to her with one hand, his thumb gently brushing that secret place she’d only ever touched herself. Right then and there, Lily was nearly blinded by a white-hot sensation that had her closing her eyes, seeing fireworks, riding his rod up and down and furiously as he stroked her again and again, and Lily cried out, guttural and deep, while Charles grunted his end.
Once their cries gave way to heavy breathing, he carefully set her down and her toes, then heels, hit the pavement. Pulling her dress back into place, Lily reached a hand to her face. It was warm. She could taste him on her lips.
Charles slid his arms around her waist, placed a soft kiss on her neck. She breathed in tobacco and clean skin. “Good?” he rumbled.
“Very,” she murmured as he broke away. She could still feel the imprint of his body on hers as she watched him fumble in his pockets, lazy and mesmerized, the brick wall holding her up.
Charles held up a cigarette. Lily nodded and held out her hand, but instead of giving it over, he softly placed it between her lips.
“Inhale,” he said, and his lighter flicked alive in the silence of the alley.