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Valerie knew Walter wasn't impotent. Not by a long shot. So, she figured it must be something about herself, something that she'd perhaps neglected, or maybe she wasn't trying hard enough.
During her married years, her stomach had softened and she'd grown vague love handles. Her body was no longer that of a firm collegiate cheerleader from UCLA. That figure she believed would live forever had gradually changed. Now she was at her heaviest, up to almost one-thirty-five, twenty aggravating pounds more than she carried in college. But still, not bad for being five-seven. Besides, like her mother, her top stayed slim and she carried most of her new weight in her hips and thighs.
And even though he was still his manly, handsome self and still wore his broad-shouldered, football-thick build, Walter had gradually gained almost forty unflattering pounds himself. Now at six feet, he weighed almost two-forty. Since he'd stopped working out, Walter had gotten lethargic and grown a noticeable gut. After college, despite his popularity, he didn't make the football draft and didn't make it as a walk-on. Over the last few years, he hadn't gotten much aerobic activity selling exotic cars.
After Valerie showered and powdered, she dropped her hooded housecoat and looked at herself in the full-length mirror, touching her skin and breasts almost as if she was getting to know herself, making sure she was as perfect as she could be. Other than her butt not being as ethnically shaped as she wishedsometimes she'd joke with hermother that her backside was a result of being the product of an interracial marriageshe was a far, far cry from a woman with an undesirable figure. Occasional comments from youthful studs who thought she was as young as they reassured her. She used to love the way men of most races avidly flattered her. Now she hungered for her husband's attention.
Her thick calves and small waist, her "happy tits," the things Walter used to rave about, never seemed to interest him anymore. The dry heat of September had come, reminding her that months had passed without him looking into her light green eyes. Now he looked away on the rare occasions he spoke to her and assumed she heard. He no longer pawed at her. The most affection she'd get would be when they bumped each other in the hall. Even then, she'd have to do it on purpose just so she could feel him and know he wasn't an apparition. At times she was afraid to touch him because he'd twitch and look at her like she'd committed a heinous wrong.
Before he came home from work, Valerie prepared. She put a Vanessa Williams CD in the player that her mother had given her and cleaned the house from top to bottom. Even though it was still fresh, she changed the linen in both of the other upstairs bedrooms. In the master bedroom, she made sure the chest of drawers was dust-free, that no spots or stains marred the vanity mirrors, that everything in the walk-in closet was organized. After she took all the dirty clothes to the laundry room, she wiped down the burgundy leather furniture in the den, then fluffed the plush pillows on the pure white living room sofa and love seat. Next, she took Windex and Soft Scrub to both the upstairs and the downstairs bathrooms, then the kitchen counters. By noon, everything sparkled with devotion.
She nervously smiled at the fresh new sheets on her king-size bed. Valerie had covered the love nest with a new soft paisley comforter that would glow amour under the dimmed lights. As sandalwood incense burned, she opened her cookbook and threw together Walter's favorite mealCajun-style chicken, red beans and rice, and a three-layer pineapple cake.
After her labor of love, she napped to make sure she would be rested. Then she thoroughly bathed, douched the cobwebs from her overly neglected womanhood, and put on a very sweet, lusty, rosy fragranced toilet water that she paid too much for. She'd bought the best, the most potent, negligee she could findone with a beautiful, crotchless entry to add to her burning naughtiness. She bought red because of the way it complemented her fair skin.
She sat in the den and fidgeted, kept fixing herself up, then double-, triple-, quadruple-checked on all the already-perfect preparations. Still, after six years of marriage, she was as nervous as on the night she'd given him her virginity. He'd been her one and only.
But time had done something to their union. Either he'd become a stranger, or she'd become a strangerwhich one she didn't know. But she wanted her old love back.
She did something else, something bold that she'd never done before. She put on a baseball cap, stuck on dark glasses, and drove from their middle-class tract located up in the safe Chino Hills down to the Pomona Indian Hill Swap Meet, waited until she thought no one was looking, at least no African-Americans, then slid into a video booth and bought two African-American XXX-rated moviesBoomer-wang and Baby Got Backfor educational reasons. She wanted to see what the sisters were doing, how they did it, what the brothers expected, and maybe find out if there was something she didn't do right or needed to learn how to dosort of size up the competition. All she managed to get was horny because she got caught up in watching explicit things that hadn't happened to her in too long.
Maybe she needed to change her look. Try something fresh, Valerie thought.
When he was on the phone, she'd overheard Walter raving to his brothers about how good actress Halle Berry looked with her contemporary, short hair style. He said when Halle was Miss Ohio, her hair was much longer, and now she looked even better, "like a woman."
So to please, to add to the spicing, to mold herself into something acceptable and attractive, she went to the beauty shop carrying a picture of Halle she'd cut off the cover of Ebony and had her back-length auburn hair mimicked down close and lightened.
Hair that she'd lived with all of her twenty-nine years, the one thing she swore she'd never let go of, was gone in a flash. With each opening and closing of the scissors, her heart bled. With her hands balled tightly in her lap, she cringed and fought back a few tears with every strand that was abandoned. When the ecstatic hairdresser turned Valerie around to see the result, she only looked down at the floor and stared in disbelief at her pride, which had recklessly fallen to the ground. Fallen for him. Even when the other ladies in the shop told her that the "fresh cut" and new color seriously complemented her youthful, round face, she found no room in her heart to smile under her mourning. Sixty dollars and two hours of self-destruction.
Walter came home an hour later than usual and noticed nothing. At least he said nothing about what he noticed before he showered, fumbled with the alarm clock, crawled under the covers, and made his camp on the far side of the bed. This Friday night she didn't want to give up that easy.
In the middle of the night, she woke up and watched him sleep. Too much on her mind, too many wanting sensations running crazed in her body. Her urges needed to be baptized. As he slept, she slowly and gently began masturbating him. When it stood at a groggy attention, she eased the covers back and stared at it, eyes to eye.
"Hello, stranger. Nice to see you."
He hardly shifted when she began kissing and licking his manhood. When she put him inside her mouth, he lengthened, he moaned, he wiggled. She felt herself getting excited when his hips started to gyrate. She knew she was going to have her way.
But then he suddenly woke up, looked down at her, and asked a disgusted, "W-W-What are you doing?"
She continued savoring as she smiled up at him. He gently put his hands down on the side of her face. She thought he was going to help in the overdue therapy, to re-consummate the marriage, but he pushed her head back, pulled himself out of her mouth, and yanked the covers back on top of himself.
"Can I get on top? Walter, let me get on top. Baby, I know you've had a long day. I'll do all the work. It won't take me but a minute to please both of us, then we can cuddle up and go back to sleep. Walter? I need you, baby."
He said a curt, "Shhh, Valerie. Tired."
"Will you just touch me then? Let me put my head on your, should"
She bit her lip, held her tongue, lay back wide-eyed, stared at the ceiling and made herself not cry. Fighting the tears made her head ache. A few minutes later, he pushed the covers back and stormed into the bathroom. She habitually moved closer to his side so he'd have to touch her when he got back into the bed. He closed the door and it was quiet, too quiet. No sounds of fluids breaking fluids. No water running. Silent. A minute later, she heard him let out a rude, muffled groan. The bathroom door unlocked and opened. When Walter walked back out, he didn't flush the toilet or wash his hands. When he crawled back under the covers, she waited to feel him bump her before scooting back to her side. His body temperature was up. His penis, a self-satisfied limp. She moved to the far side of the bed. All of her urges to touch him or be touched by him had died. Two minutes later, he was sound asleep.
She mumbled, "I should've bit that fucker off."