When we first got married, I asked my husband who he would sleep with if I died. “What would she look like?”
“This is wrong,” he said.
I listed things I am not. “Blond and tan? Asian? Curvy with big tits?”
He looked up at the ceiling of our bedroom, hand on his cock. “I don’t know.”
“But I’m already gone. There’s nothing for you to feel guilty about.”
“Well then,” he said. “She’s shorter.” (I am model-like, stretched tall and thin, and when we’re both standing, my pale knees graze his thighs.)
I writhed my body closer and wrapped a long limb over him. “Is that so you can dominate her?”
“No,” he said, putting two fingers in my panties. “It’s so she’d have to stand on her tippy-toes to kiss you.”
His response stirred my insides like hope. “So I’m still alive?”
He laughed and stroked me the way I touch myself. “Of course, baby,” he said. “Don’t you want to be?”
I got even wetter, and we rolled around all night.
Two years later, I gave birth, and the three of us crowded our one-bedroom apartment, dining room table traded out for a crib. We stood over her, holding hands, and I felt both love and intimate resentment.
“Look at her,” my husband said. “Can you believe it?”
The little one stirred, and I silently begged her not to cry. Wasn’t I the one who had lost something?
I squeezed his palm and feigned unadulterated joy. “No. No, I can’t.”
Although still young, my body betrayed me in survivable yet catastrophic ways: an extra pocket of skin on my belly, a limpness to the undersides of my breasts, and a sensation of widening when I urinated, or when my husband entered me. I wanted him to ravage me, like before, but he was tender, careful, the inevitable transference of a new father’s love for his daughter.
In the locker room of my expensive gym, where I went to fight the changes, I examined other women. Some stood there fully nude, blowdrying their hair, and others kept their towel around their waist, only baring their breasts. A few would orchestrate a complex switch, trying to time the towel release with the drop of their hem, inadvertently exposing just a sliver of intimate flesh. Once, a petite, bronzed woman caught me staring, but I didn’t look away, forcing her to evaluate me back. Do you find me attractive? I asked silently. Would you be with me?
We looked forward to our first real date since the baby, but we’d both grown out of practice, so we stayed mostly silent, listening for cries. My stomach strained against my control-top underwear, and I ordered small plates—tuna tartare, cherry tomato bites, micro lettuce salad—to avoid an ill-sort of fullness.
“I think we should have a threesome,” I said, as the server approached with dessert menus.
“What?” my husband said, with a kick under the table. “Just the check, please.”
I scowled at him. “Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it.”
He placed his hand on my forearm, more parental than sensual. “Sorry, yes. But actually doing it?.”
I pulled back my elbow and his fingers slipped off my skin. “You’re right. I’m not sure what’s gotten into me.”
“Let’s go home,” he said.
We fell asleep early, my cheek on his chest and the crib beside him. Neither of us mentioned it again for a while, but I pictured it often: him between my legs, while a woman licked my chest, both hungry for me. I imagined him looking up at me, beaming, proud. “You did it,” he’d say. “You got what you needed.”
On our tenth wedding anniversary, we dropped our children off at their first sleepover. As we turned to leave, our girl ran inside to play, but our boy clung to my leg. Back at home, on the couch, I felt lonely. “I miss them already.”
“Do you want to revisit the conversation?” he said, his fist flexed around the remote.
I already knew what he meant. “How will this work?”
“You choose,” he said. “You deserve to choose.”
True to his word, he gave me a few weeks to look, and I spent hours perusing sites created just for this scenario. I was overwhelmed by questions. Did I want her to be more or less beautiful? Young enough to be foolishly excited or old enough to stay calm? Was this for him or about me?
I contacted a few, and one responded. She had recently been divorced, and she and her ex-husband had brought many women into the bedroom. Now, she said, she was ready to be a third for another couple. Her first message was definitive: “I think you’re really beautiful! I’d love to make you the focus.”
When she arrived after the children’s bedtime, we sat on the couch with glasses of red wine. She seemed at ease, and when her sweater slipped off her shoulders, she removed it to reveal a little black bra and a sculpted torso. “You’re even better in person,” she said to me with a focused gaze. I looked up at my husband, and he, too, was staring at me.
“Why don’t you give my wife a massage?” he asked her. She smiled and straddled me in reverse, her muscular calves holding me firm. Her skin was smooth against my thighs, and as her round breasts pressed against my shoulder blades, my groin tingled. I had been afraid of her similarities, and now, I was enchanted by her differences.
“Take off her dress,” she said to him. “It’s in the way.”
Her firm touch on my tense muscles warmed me, and I gave into waves of long-neglected desire. I turned to face her, used my fingers to pull back her bra, then leaned down to taste her hardening nipples. She moaned and stretched out her hands to fondle me back.
Behind me, my husband kissed my neck, then entered me slowly. I closed my eyes, centered between them, and focused on my own pleasure.
After she left, I woke up feverish and clawed the sheets off my skin.
“Wake up,” I said. “I want to do it again.”
My husband and I observe our school-aged children race each other down the sidewalk. “Do you think we did the right thing by moving out here?” I say.
“Not sure we had a choice,” he says, with a matter-of-fact tone he has adopted since we left the city, since we stopped sleeping with other women.
I am direct now, too, or maybe just confined. When he brings up a flirtatious mom in our son’s playgroup while we’re having sex, I say, “No way. She’s practically my sister.”
Later that week, we see a young woman, maybe a babysitter, leaving our neighbors’ house, her curves swelling through a sweater, and compact thighs, untarnished by age, peering out from under a skirt. I take her all in. Yes, I think, we could whisper about her tonight. As she passes by, she turns around, eyes narrowed, accusing me.
My husband turns toward me and raises his eyebrows, a telegraphic but now-tired gesture.
“I’m not attracted to her,” I say. “She’s not my type.”
“Okay,” he says with a sad laugh. “We should probably act our age.”
But as she disappears, a dot in the distance, he gazes toward her vague form. As I watch him, I feel neither desire nor defeat. When she turns the corner, I stay still, fixated on the scene, wondering if all of them will outlive me.
Christine Olivas is an emerging writer who recently completed her certificate in fiction from the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program, as well as advanced fiction workshops from Catapult and Sackett Street. She is a top contributor to Career Contessa, a career advice site for millennial women, and her short fiction can be found in Pure Slush, New York Dreaming, and Breakwater Review. She also recently placed fourth in Alternating Current’s 2017 Luminaire Award for Best Prose.