Eye of the Beholder

Eye of the Beholder

His hand rests on the curve of my hip as we shuffle our way around the makeshift dance floor.  Couples cling to each other in the dim light, swaying to the swell of soft music. Muffled whispers of love flame passions and promises.  My companion’s face is inches from mine. However, I can tell he is detached from our connection. His eyes scan the room behind me looking for his next dancing partner.

I can’t blame him. I knew he didn’t fancy me when he asked me to dance.  I was conveniently standing by him when the music started, and I think he took pity on me.  I’m sure I look a fright. My wild nest of auburn curls doesn’t reflect the modern sleek style, and I’m sure my lipstick has faded.  A loose curl escapes from the pins, and I blow it out of my eyes. Our bodies move together, but he winces slightly as I step on his toe…again.  I’ve never been a graceful gazelle. I liken more to a giraffe really, but I do love to dance despite my awkwardness. The music ends, and my partner tips his hat and slips into the sea of olive drab.  

A crush of people head to the barkeep before the band strikes up the next song.  I fight for a beer and retreat to the edge of the bar. My time between the munitions factory and fire service duty leaves me few nights to dance and drink.  I watch the happy dancers for a moment and smile at the beginnings of possibilities. The beer feels good going down my throat, and my body relaxes as I toss back the rest.  

“Impressive.”

A rumbly voice makes me turn around, and a tiny flame briefly illuminates a handsome face.  The faint ember of his cigarette casts a welcoming glow.

“Hello, miss. Care to join me?”  

A man in an American uniform stands and pulls out a chair.  I notice he is just a touch taller than I am. A woman my height can be intimidating, but his sparkling blue eyes hint at admiration.  He has a disarmingly charming grin, and I decide to throw caution to the wind.

“Thank you, but only for a moment.”

“Doll, you ’ve just made me the happiest man in the room.  My name is John. Captain John Byrd… P-47 pilot in the 358th fighter group, at your service, Miss ah…?”

I chuckle at his waggling eyebrows, and he looks boyishly naughty as he tips his hat.

“A pleasure, Captain Byrd.  I’m Betty Jones. I haven’t seen you in the pub prior.  Are you passing through?”

“Lovely to meet you Miss Jones.  Thank you for keeping me company.  I’m stationed here until tomorrow and then I’m off to Southampton for maneuvers and after… well… the sky’s the limit.”

Over the next few hours, we talk about important things and of nonsense.  Our world shrinks to this tiny bar table, and I find myself falling for his charms save one peculiar habit.  He keeps a satchel at his feet and glances at it when I brush a stray curl off my forehead. I keep testing my theory, and the connection is intriguing.  

My attention isn’t on the bag for long. I feel his thigh press deliciously against mine under the table. Each time we shift, he moves closer.  The Captain’s thumb brushes the back of my hand when he reaches for another cigarette, and I bite my lip to suppress a sigh. He begins to tell me tales of his flying adventures, but the words in his story start to lose meaning as the shape of his mouth muddles my thoughts.  Those generous lips encourage dirty daydreams, and his close proximity makes me want to pop off every button on his uniform until my hands can caress his naked chest.

I glance at my watch and shake myself out of wanton reverie.  

“I hate to leave good company, but I must bid you good evening, Captain Byrd.”

As I slip on my gloves, John gathers his things in a hurry and slings the satchel over his shoulder.

“Call me John.  Say… let me walk you home?  Please, doll? I could use some fresh air and we were just getting to know each other.“

“Well, I suppose, John.  If you can behave yourself.”  I’m desperate to maintain the illusion of composure, but I don’t really care if there is talk about me leaving the pub with a Yank.  My heart leaps at his suggestion. I want more time with him.

The cool night air feels nice against my cheeks as we walk towards my place.  I scrape together enough to rent a little flat above the bakery. It’s not much but the heavenly scent of bread every morning makes it feel like home.  We can hear the faint sounds of a skirmish in the distance. John’s presence makes me feel safer.

“This war has me always scanning the horizon for trouble. To be ready for anything.  But you! Sweet Miss Betty. You make me remember life here in this moment. We are alive!  The night is beautiful! You are beautiful!” John grabs me by the waist and hugs me tightly.

I laugh at his boisterousness and give him a playful push. He tips to the side and his bloody bag bumps into my leg. I have a horrible thought. What if I’m inviting a spy or a strangler to my flat for the evening?

“John?  Pardon me asking, but what’s in the satchel?”

“This? It carries my pencils and sketchbook.  I like to play artist when I’m not being chased through the skies.  Say. Will you sit for me? My fingers have been itching to capture you in my sketchbook all night.  The light in the pub was rubbish otherwise my book would be full of your face.”

I blush and touch my hair.  My curls must look like a lion’s mane from the damp night air, but his words are lovely.  

“Please, allow me the privilege of drawing you, Miss Betty.”

“Me?”  I squeaked, “I hardly think… I don’t know.  I must be a bit squiffy. Alright, why the hell not? We

only have tonight. Mine is just there. Won’t you come up?”

“Sounds like a date, doll!”

We arrive at my flat, and I’m acutely aware of John’s eyes boring into my backside as I walk up the stairs in front of him.  I put a little extra swish into my step and suppress a smile for my brashness. I’ve only entertained gentleman callers at my place a few times and never anyone from the pub.  As I unlock the door, my mother’s warnings about not losing my head over a Yank rings in my ears. She would be mortified if I ended up like Ena Ryan. It’s a sorrowful shame, that Ena.  She was sent off to a home for wayward girls, and I may never see her again. I catch the scent of starch and spice as John leans over to open the door for me. His warmth surrounds me, and I could see how even a proper lady could forget her upbringing.

I take off my coat and tell him to make himself at home while I freshen up.  I hurry to my powder room and touch up my red lipstick and try to tame my wild hair.  There’s no hope for it. I sigh and rush back to John. When I return, he is sitting at my tiny kitchen table with his hat on his knee.  He’s bent over fiddling with some colored pencils from his bag but turns when he hears me enter.

“Hello, gorgeous.  Come a little closer; I promise I don’t bite.”  I laugh and wave him off while I busy myself preparing refreshments.

 “I’m putting the kettle on.  Would you prefer coffee? I think I might have coffee somewhere.”  I clang around the kitchen and stand on my tiptoes to look on my top pantry shelf.  

“Freeze, Betty.  Stay right like that.  Please. Don’t move. It’s perfect.”  

John’s voice startles me but I comply, acutely aware that my garters are peeking out from beneath my skirt.  My cheeks flush with embarrassment as I glance over my shoulder to see him with his sketchbook spread open on the table.  His eyes move hungrily over my body as his hand skitters across the page. The sound of graphite on paper cuts the silence in the room.  

He wets his lips and furrows his brow as he studies my body.  His gaze skates over the curve of my round bottom, and I blush.  He takes in my stockinged legs and a dreamy smile dances across his lips.  I hope my seams are straight. He crosses and uncrosses his legs as he concentrates. His pencil moves feverishly across the page.   Finally, our eyes meet. I become acutely aware of the damp heat radiating from my cunt as I feel his hunger.

My nose itches and I instinctively move to scratch it.  The alarm that flashes over my face makes him chuckle.

“You can move now, doll.  I’ve got you.”

I let out the breath that I didn’t know I was holding and nervously glance at him again before busying myself with the drinks.

“I’m out of coffee so you will just have to muddle through.”Absorbed in his drawing, he doesn’t answer.  The cups rattle as I place them on the table with trembling hands. I hurry to fetch the kettle, hoping he doesn’t notice his effect on me.

“John? Sugar or milk?”

“Hmm?  Oh yes.  Thank you, doll. Golly, you are a knockout.”

“May I see?”

He flips his sketch pad around with a flourish, and it’s me.  It’s very definitely me, but I look different. My lips seem fuller. My legs longer.  The drawing is alluring in a way that I would never associate with myself.

“I’m no Gainsborough, but I know beauty when I see it.  Miss Betty, I could draw you every day for the rest of my life.”

I am flummoxed. John puts his sketchbook down and slides his hand under my chin. Our lips meet in silent agreement. His kiss erases the world, and I no longer care about Ena Ryan or idle gossip.  This man, this moment, is what I need more than anything right now. He eases out of his coat and loosens his tie. I decide to be bold. My hands flutter to the buttons on my blouse and I stand in front of him, undoing them one by one.  His hands twitch toward his drawing supplies.

I know what he wants, and I hold still while he captures me again.  

He finishes and flips the page.  Afraid my bravery will leave me, I lean for a kiss and return to undressing.

“Are you sure?” John asks in a whisper.  “I’ve never drawn like this. I’ve never felt like this.  You are a dream come true. Be my girl, Betty? Please? I can’t imagine a world where I don’t have you under my arm.”

I let my blouse fall down from my shoulders and I ease out of my skirt. Pages fill and spill all over my floor as we give in to the magic of the muse.  Our kisses become longer between sketches and soon we are tangled up on the small mattress in the corner of my room. Scant clothing separates us as we push the boundaries of decency.

His hands move to my garters.  He looks to me for approval, and I lift my leg to assist his endeavor.  He unfastens each clasp and begins to roll down my stocking. His lips followed his hands down my thighs to my toes.  He lingers at my ankle and nibbles playfully. I wiggle my toes to tease at his scratchy chin, and he snags one in his mouth and sucks until we both start laughing.

Slowly and gently, he removes my underthings while his eyes search mine for anything amiss. He cradles my breasts in his hands and coaxes a moan from deep within me as his tongue traces each nipple.  My hips buck against him and he nudges a thigh between mine to give relief. He shifts and settles his weight on top of me. A gentle hand brushes my hair from my face as I smile. His eyes widen when he realizes my inexperience.  I erase his hesitation with an eager kiss and soon the pleasure of our union tips us both into ecstasy.

The sun peeks through my curtains, and the scent of baking fills my flat. I know the war will soon creep back into our lives, and John will leave.  But for this moment, I’m in my flyboy’s arms, and all is well.

……………………………………

“He’s been at for hours, Sir.  I’ve never seen a man so possessed.”

Sweat glistens on Captain Byrd’s brow as he puts the finishing touches on his masterpiece.  He saved her lips for last. Each kiss of his brush on the hull of the plane feels like a love letter to his sweetheart.  His heart swells with longing as he brings her to life with a final stroke of crimson. His Betty looks like an angel standing on tiptoe reaching towards his cockpit.  The moment he fell in love was now emblazoned on his plane for all to see. Her smile radiates protection and reminds him of the reason he needs to come home safely.

 

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