"Mask" by Katie Quinnelly

"Do you need anything?" he asked. She guessed he was standing there in the doorway, propping the door open with his foot, but she didn't look. Her eyes had to stay closed.

"No, thank you," she said.

"Do you want music?" he asked. She said no. "Not even a new band I like?"

"Ok," she said. She heard the door close. Music started. Sad lyrics.

"Do you want a blanket over you?" he asked, and she remembered she was naked.

"Oh. Sure," she said. She imagined herself looking stupid lying on her back, exposed, with the sun on her face. It was afternoon, springtime. A lazy Sunday. He flicked the blanket into the air a few times before it landed over her gently.

"That's my favorite feeling," he said, "File that away for later, ok?"

"Ok," she said. He likes that. Got it.

"Do you know who does that the best? Estephania. She does such a good job of it."

"Who is that?" she asked. An old lover, he told her, a twice-a-year lover, before she got a cutie Irish longterm boyfriend and he couldn't go see her anymore. Works for the U.N. Lives in New York.

“But good news,” he said. “She wrote recently — a long email. She wants to see me again. I have to show you the email. It was so cute. She misses me."

"Oh," she said, "Cute."

She heard the door open again, and close behind him. She could already feel it drying on her face, but he told her to lie there for one hour. He heard this was best. Apply it to your face, and lie there for one hour. It makes you look younger. He learned the trick from a woman who told him it just had to work. How could it not? the woman had asked. I mean, come on, it's full of babies.

She tried to open one eye — the one with less glob on it. It burned. She shut it again, tightly. She thought about the sex. How she cried in the middle of it. How he washed her so tenderly in the shower with that scrubby glove. How he said he used the good shampoo. It smelled like mint. How she said "I love you," and he said, "What?" and she said, "I love you." How she hoped he'd come inside her, but he pulled out. How he scooped the semen off of her back and held it cupped in his hand.