Taking Turns

by Jude

Anthy was rather enjoying her life these days.

Being the Rose Bride had meant an awful lot of time on her back, thinking of England, or Japan, or wherever she wasn't right then. It meant sweaty, fumbling, frequently baffled adolescent boys, and idly wondering whether they were enjoying themselves or having a seizure.

These days, she could pick up a pretty girl direct from basketball practice. The short drive home was always full of the rounded smell of sweat hovering somewhere near the back of Anthy's palate. Sometimes, Anthy would start talking in a low voice, describing the sort of things she wanted to do when they got home, and Utena would shift in her seat, blushing, telling her she was awfully bad. But there would be a change in the scent, a tang that settled teasingly forward onto the tip of Anthy's tongue.

Being the Rose Bride had meant a great deal of giving of access, an occasional exertion, and never receipt of anything except incidental pains. Overprivileged teenaged boys are rarely known for their creativity or generosity, and often experience moments of intense clumsiness. It meant constantly tolerating temper tantrums, inflated egos, and vast insecurities. Even those with a thin veneer of suaveness or supposed affection never showed more than a token interest in the Rose Bride as anything more than a possession, a warm, fleshy doll upon which they could build their masculine self-images.

These days, Anthy could stroll from car to apartment, and Utena would be right at her heels, still blushing from their conversation in the car. Utena was always glancing away shyly, always waiting for Anthy's first move, despite the years, despite the familiarity. And Utena still trembled and made the tiniest of noises when Anthy's hand slid up her back.

Being the Rose Bride had meant being available and easy-access. It meant being grabbed, pawed, groped, shoved, and more without so much as a "how d'ye do?" It meant consent by right of conquest.

These days, Anthy and Utena had a thousand thousand tiny signs that the other could read that meant consent or withdrawal, and they were exquisitely aware of each possible sign. This sometimes led to misunderstandings, derailings of intimacy, but even those consequences were more than tolerable. Usually, though, the signs were loud and clear, like their hurried trail of clothing from the front door to whatever comfortable surface they felt like using.

Being the Rose Bride had meant carefully following whatever script the boy had in his head. It meant saying all the right things at the right time, emitting appropriate sounds, adopting the correct facial expressions, and saying, "Of course," when the more educated and vaguely guilty ones asked the awkward question at the end.

These days, the sounds were spontaneous and guttural, rising from the depths and often muffled against skin. Words were incoherent, or funny, or full of emotion. Anthy loved the smell and taste of Utena's sweat, the little noises she made when teeth scraped over a tender spot, the ocean between her legs. The salt stung Anthy's lips and tongue so intensely that she sometimes had the urge to stop what she was doing, to take a drink of water, to catch her breath, but the allure behind the salt would seize her by the lizard brain and drag her on and in. She had to explore every millimeter of shoreline, every cove and delta, and she used her tongue and lips and teeth and hands to do it. She groaned and panted into Utena, and Utena lifted her hips and whimpered. Anthy's jaw would ache, her neck would start to cramp, and it was always right then that Utena's thighs would start to tremble. Anthy would have to redouble her efforts, diving back into the sea she'd been drifting upon, finding that desperately familiar spot. And when Utena's thighs clamped tight against her ears (drowning the sound of Utena's clenched-teeth-groans), half-shoving her away, Anthy would have to seize and hold where she was against the crashing tide, the sharp rising and falling of hips, all to continue the constant delving that would bring wave after wave into shore.

These days, Anthy could collapse against Utena's chest and listen to the pounding of both their hearts and the slow quieting of their breathing. And after a while, she would hear Utena say, "My turn now."