THERE WAS A SINGLE LONG LADDER which rose from the apex of her inner anklebone in an uneven ribbon of bared skin up the swell of her calf, past the hinge of her knee and inward into the darkness under her skirts. It was stifling beneath the table, hidden from sight by the thick white tablecloths, and quiet. I had found her dropped phone almost immediately, but there was something magical about her disembodied legs and the dim almost underwater light.
I reached out and lightly touched the first oasis of skin, slightly domed against her parted tights. A tiny patch of her ankle, gleaming there in the half-light. She jumped, made a stifled squeak and I heard voices.
Abruptly, the tablecloth that had hung from table to floor in a circuit unbroken except by her pretty knees, was punctuated by the arriving outthrust legs and knife-creases of men, the neater folded stockinged limbs of the women. Surprisingly noisy, too. The parquet floor and the formal shoes and the chairlegs all filled the space beneath the table with noise. This and the half-light, the hint of brightness shimmering beyond the white drapes reminded me of hanging in the water just beyond the end of the pier, the foam breaking overhead and the sea roaring in among the pilings and over the shingle below, hanging there, breathing easy through the mask, spear waiting for the perfect bass.
I sat back, head grazing the base of the table and surveyed the situation. There was now no way of appearing from under it without there being some commentary on the subject. It was a wedding for Christ’s sake. I rolled her phone in my hand, reflectively. Idly toyed with the volume. Turned it down to vibrate. Above the surface, you had become agitated and began moving your feet in wide ovals, seeking me out. Her legs now spread, I could see beneath the crooked seam of her tights, the veil of rose lace that obscured but did not conceal. Behind this last obstacle were the arcs of tight-curled hair, and behind that were those grooves and folds and depths with which I was slowly becoming delightfully familiar. I fiddled some more. Disabled the answerphone.
The ladder, I saw, travelled all the way in, halting only at that so envied wrinkled seam. It was just like a ladder, I mused. Could one climb it? Climb up to the sacred place and remove the enchantments that obscured it? I imagined myself, a little six-inch Indiana Jones, slicing away at the edges of the ladder, widening it, feeling her heat on my face. Below my belt buckle, something stirred. There’s a place just this side of hard, a warming. A thickening. That.
And then I saw her hand descend. It was lowered into her lap, obscuring my happy view, and gave a number of impatient jerks, beckoning me to her from my hiding place. I needed no second invitation, although judging by the slaps I would later receive, I may have misconstrued her meaning.
I began at her ankle, again. I kissed and tickled my way up. At first I had to hold her leg quite strongly, and fend her other off from its attempts to dislodge me. A struggle conducted in bitter silence beneath the surface. By the time I reached her knee, we were both a little bruised, but she grew still, and as I travelled further in, she shuffled forward on the chair to meet me and I felt her hand on my hair, and in it. Soon I reached the wrinkled seam, could see the sweet hair, the hint of folded lip beneath the lace. With a careful slow finger I widened the ladder, picked at it and as it loosened brought my thumb into play.
About five long minutes it took to silently tear away that veil and leave her gleaming rosy lace exposed before me. I could see her heartbeat shiver in her trembling skin and the deep breaths she was taking, could see how with each passing minute and my gentle fingers, could see how she filled, unfolded. Her gusset grew dark and the air beneath her skirts grew rich. My face grew hot and my breathing shallow.
My nose was no more than an inch from her now, my ears clamped between her thighs, slick with a slippery mixture of our sweats. She smelled irresistible and I slid further in, pressed my eager mouth against her, slicking up her knickers with saliva and seeking, seeking with my tongue. The hem felt rough against tongue and tooth but slid aside with liquid ease and then my lips found hers, the prickled hair, the bright sweet flash of heat and salt, the underwater taste of her spilling, spilling across the broad paddle of my tongue.
Her fingernails dug hard into my scalp and as I licked and bit and sucked her peach-pink clenched flesh so did I feel my own skin part. Hot trickles among my hair echoed those beneath my mouth.
Finally, ears roaring and my head full of blood and heat and roiling light, I took her phone and slid it along the now soaking chair. Slid it between her slick and shining thighs, hid it among the folds and tresses and closed it up behind the lace.
Droning speech gave me some cover and I slid out from underneath her chair, reappearing behind her while people were turned away. She bore two high spots of colour on her cheeks and her lips were bright, bright red. Her irises dilated and dark. She bit her lip. I dialled. And dialled. And dialled again.
She came during the dessert course, betrayed only by the bruises torn into my thigh, and a tiny clumsiness with her meringue.