Having set a writing challenge a few weeks ago, it would have been remiss of me not to respond to it myself, and when an idea for a story popped into my head on Monday, it seemed like a good fit for the only non-English word(s) on the list, ‘tout ce qu’on veut’. I did consider making the female character French, just to make the link clearer, but in the end decided that it was the sound and meaning of the words themselves that was important, not the language they were written in.
My story can be found below. Before reading that though, why not check out some of the other (brilliant) responses to Jade’s list of favourites. They’re so good, in fact, that I’m slightly relieved I decided not to make this an actual contest, as picking a winner would have been a thankless task. If I’ve missed your story, or if you’d like to link in at a later date, just get in touch and I’ll add you ASAP!
- Bite Me, by Charlie Powell
- Myopia, by The Other Livvy
- Tortellini, by Oleander Plume
- The Adventures of Gumdrop, by Charlie in the Pool
- Cerulean, by The Shingle Beach
Tout ce qu’on veut
I put the beard-trimmer down on the side of the wash basin and reached for my razor. As I turned on the tap, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. Already my face looked different, and I stared into my own eyes, wondering why the man who gazed back felt like a stranger.
“I don’t understand why you need to shave it all off,” Hayley said. “It’s only an interview, and it’s not like you even really want the job.”
I opened my mouth to reply, but the words wouldn’t come. How could they? She was right. I didn’t want the job; but nor did I want to wake up each morning and think about the sun rising over the Andes, or the way the clear, cool mountain air felt on my skin as I walked from my tent to the river to bathe. I didn’t want to remember the life I had out there for those few short months, because all it did was make London feel small and dirty; the sky oppressively low and the horizon blocked off by buildings, rather than stretched out in front of me.
No, taking this job was the only way to close off that chapter in my life
I scooped shaving cream onto one palm, and slowly rubbed it into a lather. Hayley crossed the room, her ponytail swinging behind her, and laid a hand on my forearm.
“Will you at least let me do this bit for you?”
I shook her off and pointed at the sink.
“That’s a cut-throat razor. You don’t exactly have much experience with this sort of thing.”
Hayley picked up the razor and turned it over in her hands.
“It looks pretty straightforward to me. And I have plenty of experience. Maybe not with faces…”
I looked again in the mirror, at my cheeks hollowed out and burnt brown by the weeks spent hiking in the sunshine. I rubbed my thumb over the hair that remained, and suddenly realised how naked I’d feel without it. Not a stranger so much as a lesser, smaller version of myself.
Hayley kissed the fuzz on my cheek and pressed her body against mine. I didn’t turn my head, but flicked my eyes away from my own reflection to study her properly. She wore my old Red Sox t-shirt, with a comfort that confirmed my suspicion that I was unlikely ever to regain ownership of it. It still smells of you, she’d written in her email, three months after we waved goodbye at the airport, and I’d loved her for the lie.
The t-shirt was faded and shapeless, but as Hayley shifted her feet I saw it cling to the swell of her breasts, her nipples forming a brief impression in the blue cotton before ghosting out of sight again. She wrapped an arm around my waist, and I closed my eyes as a tender bruise of emotion coloured my skin. Just the casual familiarity in her touch felt like coming home.
Hayley knelt behind me and hooked her thumbs under the waistband of my briefs. She eased them over my arse, and let them fall to the floor around my feet. I turned to face her, and watched as she ran her fingers through the dark curls above my cock.
“You can’t change who you are just by shaving off your beard or getting a new job. If you could, I wouldn’t love you as much as I do.”
I let her words hang between us, almost visible in their reassuring weight: they coalesced to form an oxygen mask, strapped round my head just as the air threatened to thin out and leave me gasping, beached and stranded on my own rocky peak.
I swallowed hard, my mouth dry and my voice suddenly high and strained. “So, um, what do you suggest?”
“Well I said I wanted to do this for you, and I’d like to follow through on that.” Hayley frowned, her nails dragging one final time through the coarse, wiry hair. “Scissors please. These have to go first, I think.”
I twisted round to find the scissors, but as I scanned the shelf above the sink I had a better idea.
“Here, use this instead. Should work just as well down there as up here.”
I passed Hayley my beard trimmer. She pushed the button and it whirred into life, hair instantly spraying out in a fine rain as she held it against my skin. She worked carefully upwards in neat lines, from the crease around the base of my cock to the top of the hairline, thinning it out one strip at a time. I felt myself being lulled into a deep, calm silence, transfixed by the look of concentration on her face.
“This is the smell I really missed,” she sighed, pushing her nose into my groin. “When you were gone, I mean. I missed the way it always smells of sweat and sex down here. Of you and me.”
I waited to feel her tongue on my cock, but she pulled away and stared up at me.
“Do you trust me, baby?”
I bent down to kiss the top of her head. My hand was still covered in shaving cream, and I dabbed it against her nose, leaving a fleck of white foam. I pressed my palm into hers till I felt the cream slide between us, catching on the grooves and lines, and covering her knuckle joints like a fresh snowfall. I took her wrist and guided it towards my remaining hair.
“Just be gentle, ok?”
Hayley nodded, her fingers already methodically smoothing the lather around my cock. She picked up the razor and flicked it open, then swished it across my skin with an experimental flourish. It picked up hair with brutal efficiency, and Hayley gasped.
“Try doing that at altitude, with just a bucket of cold water to grease the wheels,” I said. “Why do you think I came back looking this hairy?”
There was a jut to Hayley’s jaw as she took a second pass with the razor. I flexed my thighs, letting them absorb the full force of the tension I felt. The unprotected blade dragged all the way down to the base of my cock, and left only soft, smooth skin in its wake.
Slowly, Hayley stripped me bare. I held my breath, inwardly flinching each time the cold steel flashed in the neon bathroom light, and pressed against my body. In minutes I went from a full summer bloom through to the scorched earth of winter. Her final, satisfied sigh hit me like a spring breeze, even as I fought to focus on the steady rhythm of the dripping tap behind me. To count the splashes into the sink below.
I opened my eyes, ready to inspect Hayley’s work. Instead she frowned, and bounced up on her haunches.
“There are these wispy hairs on the underside of your cock. May I?”
Without waiting for an answer, she wrapped her fingers around me. I felt blood surge through the vein that snaked along the shaft; my cock twitched involuntarily, but Hayley held it tight and nicked each hair in turn with forensic skill.
Her hand remained steady – there was none of the tremble I’d felt each time I’d tried to use the razor. To me, it was like putting my foot to the floor on a busy highway, in a car I could barely control, but Hayley never faltered.
Perhaps that’s why it took me a few seconds to spot the blood. It bloomed a bright, shocking red against my pale skin. Hayley caught my eye and we watched it together, my eyebrows arching up in surprise as hers knotted together in a terse frown.
She set the razor to one side and moved in closer, her face dipping back down towards my cock.
“Do you trust me, baby?“ A whisper this time, cut off by my hand on the back of her head. She responded quickly and fiercely, and I buckled at the knees as her tongue swiped across the wound, lapping at the fresh blood.
I tasted salt, just as Hayley skimmed up to the tip of my cock and sucked the first pearl of pre-cum from the slit.
“Turns out neither of us are perfect,” she said. “I’m ok with that. Are you?”
Her fingers stroked over the head as she waited for my response. I tried to focus, but her silken touch blurred the world in front of me into a hazy, golden glow.
“I don’t know. I don’t know much right now. I guess there’s one thing I’m sure of though…you are everything I want.
“Oh. And I’m going to keep the beard.”