French Women Are So . . .
“French women are so . . . so . . . so frustrating!” Jim Berger yelled this up the grand staircase of the ancient, palatial manor he couldn’t believe he was supposed to call home.
A Brooklyn native, baseball fan, and lover of pizza-by-the-slice, until a few months ago, he had considered taking a cab instead of the subway to be the height of luxury. Then one day he stopped to help a lost tourist, a mysterious lady named Camille. He gave her directions, and one thing led to another. Now, here they were at her family’s ancient Parisian manor and she was upstairs, in a room in which Napoleon was rumored to have slept, doing the final preparations for her wedding night. She was nothing like any woman he had ever dated before, and when she said she’d actually marry him, he nearly choked on his Coney Island hot dog. She didn’t pee with the door open, curse like a sailor, empty his bank account, or sleep around. He didn’t know what God had made this angel, but when he found out, he planned to convert to some religion or other right away.
“Okay, you can come up now!”
Her musical voice, with its sexy French lilt, drifted down the plushly carpeted stairs, and the eager new husband didn’t need to be asked twice. He took them, two at a time, while removing the top hat he had worn for the ceremony.
“Wear it for real class,” she had said.
“Babe, I’ll wear it, but I’ll wear it for irony,” he had countered.
Jim pushed open their bedroom’s heavy mahogany door, and gasped at the sight of candles everywhere. Arranged in tall, ancient, iron candelabrum, they stood sentinel around the room’s four walls. There must have been hundreds of them, and they flickered just slightly as he entered, seeming to acknowledge his presence. The gentle light the candles cast fell upon an enormous, curtained, canopied four-poster bed, set in the middle of the room. On one wall, a huge mirror in an elaborate gilt frame reflected the field of flames and made it seem to go on forever. Upon the bed, the candles’ soft glow caressed the curves of his voluptuous new wife, Camille. Sweet Camille. Not too skinny, not too fat. Like a good French woman, she enjoyed mealtime with both gusto and good manners. He liked that about her. She was that elusive combination of a woman who was beautiful but also lots of fun.
Camille, wearing a satin sheath and transparent lace dressing gown, lounged casually against the bed’s many silken pillows. She picked up a glass of wine from the end table, where grapes and mangoes overflowed a bowl, where a selection of meats and cheeses were arranged neatly, and where a loaf of bread sat ready for breaking. Popping a grape into her mouth, Camille drawled, “I thought you’d never get here, you punk,” in a Brooklyn accent she had been practicing hard for the occasion.
“Gorgeous, I knew you had a flair for the dramatic, but Jeez, you’ll burn the house down!” said Jim, throwing his hat on a chair.
“Don’t worry,” she purred. “The Huns once tried to burn it down, so did the crusaders. If they couldn’t do it, a night of love certainly won’t.”
“Don’t be so sure,” he answered slyly, approaching the foot of the bed.
“We were so busy dancing, we completely missed dinner,” she said, picking up a mango and breathing in its rich, earthy aroma.
“That’s okay. Pheasant under glass ain’t really my style,” Jim murmured, eyeing the pile of deli meats as she reached for it.
“Come then. I have something for you,” whispered sweet Camille, almost inaudibly, and picked up a thin slice of ham.
He felt his stomach rumble, and suddenly forgot all about the sex he had been anticipating. By God, he was hungry! Jim crawled across the bed covers and nibbled the food from her long, tapered fingers. As she reached for more, he relaxed on the firm mattress, removed his belt, unbuttoned his pants, untucked his tuxedo shirt, and started feeling a little more like himself. She tore off a piece of the bread, smeared it with butter, then fed it to him like a baby.
“You like?” she crooned.
Chewing too fast to speak, Jim just nodded eagerly at his new wife.
Bite-by-bite, Camille stuffed him with his favorite deli meats and cheeses. The loaf of Jewish rye was a nice touch. She had had it specially mail-ordered from New York. Then she moved on to the fruit. He closed his eyes as she fed him grapes, apple slices, and melon balls, one after another. Then there was a pause. He groaned for more, and opened his eyes to see Camille seated beside him, holding a knife. He screamed and sat up in a panic.
“Darling! Relax! I’m not into that sort of thing,” she admonished, pushing him back down on the bed. With the paring knife, she peeled a mango, then sliced off a sliver of its meaty, sticky, slippery flesh. His lover held it above Jim’s eager lips, and slowly lowered it in, wiggling it like a worm. He let her play it against his tongue and lips before snatching it in with his teeth and devouring the succulent fruit. She sheared off another slice, and held it over his mouth, letting him lick it just enough.
“I want it!” he insisted.
“I know,” she replied, holding it away from his teeth.
Jim snapped at the morsel, but she kept it just out of reach.
“No more games,” he growled, reaching up to grab her wrists, to force her to feed him. But she was sticky. The mango juice had dripped all over her hands and down her forearms. As he gently licked the drops off her sweet and salty flesh, the limp slice of mango fell to the floor, forgotten. His tongue ran between her fingers, sucking away the juice, until her hands were pink as roses. Holding her hands to his face, he noticed their softness. Jim had long admired the smoothness of her skin, the suppleness of it, and the healthy blush to her cheeks, but as he held her hand against his face, he became suddenly aware of the roughness of his own skin. Despite having shaved that morning, Jim was already getting stubble on his suntanned face, and he could feel it scratching her hand as he sunk his lips into the soft meat of her palm.
His hands went to Camille’s waist and caressed her soft flesh, suddenly feeling as though his own flesh was gritty as a burlap bag, suddenly feeling how, by comparison to hers, his hair was rough as straw.
“I’m so coarse,” he said. “I’m sorry. It must be awful for you.”
“Awful? Quite the contrary darling, I love it,” she responded, running her fingers through the wiry hair on his muscular chest. She grabbed his calloused hands and ran them over the softest parts of her flesh, humming with pleasure as soft shadows played over the bed, its carved erect columns, and the parted curtains that framed their love nest. Soon the husband and wife were up on their knees, arms around each other, needy mouths groping. His impatient hands yanked away her dressing gown. Hers tugged off his shirt.
Over her shoulder, he spied a movement and paused in his caresses. What was that? he wondered, not saying anything aloud. Unawares, she continued to stroke his flesh, feeling his body stiffen, thinking it was from excitement. As his alert eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness, Jim realized that the movement was nothing but himself and Camille, reflected in the ancient mirror. It must have hung on that wall for generations, but had it ever reflected a scene like this one? He thought not, and conceived a desire to show these old walls something new. To love a woman and to live a life that would turn this traditional old house on its ear. Biting into Camille’s neck, feeling her gasp and cry out, he embraced her with all his strength, and thought, Yes, yes, I think I could get used to this. I think I’m home.