"Do you want to spend the night?" he asked, his head propped up on his hand as he lay on his side, the sweat still glistening on his body, "You can if you like, you know. Or will he ask too many questions?"
He tapped some ash from his cigarette into the ashtray that was lying on the cream-coloured covers.
"Exactly," she said, "I have to go. It's 4 in the morning. Again!"
"Yeah, we really should get started on this stuff sooner next time."
"It wouldn't work," she said, "We'd just go on for longer."
She got the feeling it would always be 4 in the morning; that moment when he stood up, ran his hand through his hair and flicked the curtains open, then lay back down to smoke. The sky outside would always have that dirty oatmeal colour, like a widower's fridge. You have now left the Dream Zone. Welcome to Reality. Please get off on the left-hand side. Should you discover any unattended luggage on the platform, please take it with you. It's yours.
"It feels a bit like coming out of the cinema after a matinée," he said, "It has no business being this light. It's just wrong! You sure you don't want to stay over? I don't mind..."
He began to hum and sing along to a Brazilian song that was coming from the laptop on the desk. She was sitting up in bed next to him, the covers pulled up to her waist, sipping on one of the glasses of wine they'd stolen from the cocktail bar when they'd made that rather urgent departure.
"No, I look like shit in the mornings. You don't need to see that."
He laughed, casting an admiring glance over her face and body,
"Now that's something I really can't imagine!"
She gave him one of those complicated smiles that adults like to bestow on euphoric children; the kind that signifies "I adore your innocence though it wounds me so".
"And I'd like you to hang onto that little illusion. But I don't have to go just yet. I want to listen to you singing some more. You know, you're a pretty crap singer for a musician. I think I like that... and I like you."
He lay back down on the bed again, stretched out on his back and then closed his eyes and groaned.
"What?" she asked.
"Aaaah, that was just so... fantastic! Fucking amazing. I still can't believe it."
He cracked his eyes open a little and turned towards her. "We didn't do such a lot of... penetration as the first time, did we? Was that alright for you?"
"Oh yes, I just love all the other stuff."
"Mmm, I could tell."
He looked down at the bed covers and shook his head almost shyly as he murmured,"Nobody has ever done some of those things to me before."
She studied his face for a couple of seconds in silence. Then he took a cheeky sidelong peek at her and laughed.
"Hey, only joking!"
She slapped him playfully.
But she was racking her brains, going through all the things she'd done for him. There had definitely been a very strong reaction to something, but what? She tried to match it with the right moment. She thought she had it. Yeah, he'd liked that. That had surprised him, driven him crazy. She couldn't help feeling secretly proud.
Downstairs, a few minutes later, the lobby was deserted. He rang on the bell a couple of times, but nobody came. The door to the hotel bar was still open and a dim light was on somewhere, so he walked in calling, "Hullo? Hullo? Anyone there? We need to order a taxi." The light he had seen was coming from the kitchen over on the other side of the bar. She watched from the doorway as he went through, still calling. A few seconds later he reappeared, his flipflops softly scuffing on the floor as he padded back, grinning naughtily and victoriously holding up two chocolate croissants.
"Hungry?" he asked.
"I'm fucking starving!" she said, grabbing one.
They stood at the hotel doorstep looking out into the deserted street, munching happily. Then he turned to her, looking rather sensible and serious with the chocolate from a stolen croissant smeared all over his face.
"How are we going to find you a taxi?" he asked. But she was laughing now. It was so endearing. She fought the urge to rub her face in his hair and say something incredibly stupid. Instead she just laughed tenderly and said,"You're completely covered in chocolate!"
"Oh, am I?"
As he wiped it off, she said, "I think I can walk home from here. I'm fairly sure I know where I am."
He walked with her to the end of the street then they stopped on the corner and kissed. He was gazing happily at her and she knew she probably looked just as dazed as he did.
"Thank you, Miss Carlisle, for another truly wonderful night," he said.
"It was a pleasure, Mr Ramazvazkrzschdurian," she solemnly replied and walked away down the dim street.
"Amazing," he called after her, "How that just rolls off your tongue!"
"It's one of the most agile parts of my body," she replied, walking backwards and waving.
As she made her way home, the birds were singing and the sky was blenching sluggishly into wakefulness. A road sweeper van was parked up ahead, its headlamps winking at the conniving morning light. Three road sweepers in fluorescent orange uniforms were brushing the pavement. As she strolled up to them, her handbag slung over her shoulder, she was suddenly aware of her glowing face and ruffled hair, her lack of underwear and the discomfitingly jaunty sound of her blushing peep-toe sandals as she walked. The road sweepers must have heard her coming because when she looked up they had all stopped sweeping and were standing to one side of the pavement, leaning on their brushes. They were standing very still in a line and, as she approached and walked by, they each looked deep into her eyes and smiled. Feeling self-consciously regal, she returned their smiles and put an extra little leisurely swing into her hips. How contented they looked, and how peaceful. It was as if they had just achieved something they were proud of and wanted to stand back for a moment and bask in the glory in it. She wondered if this was the greatest job satisfaction they got; catching sight of a happy girl or boy strolling home in the early hours, bathed in the afterglow of a wonderful fuck. They must live for those private glimpses in the night. That was how it felt to her at this moment, at least.
If this was a musical, she mused, we would all be breaking out into some kind of song and dance routine right now. She was tempted to fling her arms out and spring up into the air just to see if they joined in, kicking up their heels and pretending to woo their brushes as the sun came up. The idea was so compelling that she even did a couple of high kicks, twirls and sweeping arm flourishes when she reached the bottom of her street. There was noone about to see, and besides, who gave a shit anyway? She was happy, she was alive and it seemed she was a fantastic fuck!