“Black Hole-Bookshop Boy”
by Ellis Sandry
It’s been a tough day, but I’m becoming a good counselor. I try to hang on to that optimism as I weave between the High Street shoppers: a kid who crackles with crimson anger; a businessman who’s bearing a radiant golden grudge.
I pause to peer through the window of my favourite bookshop. Inside, a young man is unboxing hardbacks, graceful and precise. The satin back of his waistcoat is straining. He’s tweedy, floppy-fringed, tempting. My beautiful black-hole bookshop boy.
My breath mists the window glass as I sigh. Despite all my skills, some people are still opaque to me. I don’t know if this lad likes me. I can usually see when someone fancies me (especially if it’s inconvenient). But surrounding bookshop boy is a space as dark as a pool at midnight, empty and aching. He’s so hungry, and I have no idea what for.
Oh God, he’s spotted me. He hops over to open the door: very cheerful, always at odds with his aura. “Hello! We’re sort of closed, but if you want something…”
I quickly grab a book, some historical fiction, to cover my embarrassment.
“Yes, I hear this is excellent,” he says.
I focus on the cover and realize the book is Regency erotica. Bugger.
As I pay, my hand grazes the colour that surrounds him. It’s different every time we’ve met: empty icy grey, green beyond pine needles. Tonight, a deep full plum, like a velvet blindfold.
He walks with me to the door. “I need an early night – I’m opening up tomorrow.”
You’re not opening up to me, I silently whinge. “I get the bus here.”
“So do I! I mean, I won’t keep you from your book.”
“I don’t think I’ll read this one in public.”
The bus is packed, with a purple fog of frustration rising from the commuters. The boy and I are forced to squeeze into a double seat. He’s trying to be a gent but our knees touch. I’m on the edge of his inky cloud, but still can’t get a read on it. I luxuriate in his darkness. It doesn’t shift when we touch, so it isn’t lust, or not lust for me.
“How’s work?” I ask.
“Good, good! Always busy.” No ripples in his radiation. It’s not a better job that he wants.
My book slips from my grip and he catches it neatly. I thank him, and unexpectedly feel the dark around him shoot through with silky grey.
“We have an order for you, coming in next week,” he says.
“Yeah, some Sci-Fi. Thanks.” More ripples, all around his broad shoulders. He’s pleased about something.
“Doing anything this evening?” he asks.
I wave the book at him. I’m flirting.
“Anything more, um, interactive?”
Now he’s flirting. I gaze at him – his mouth, his Adam’s apple – until he blushes. The bus brakes.
“This is my stop,” I say. “Want some tea?”
I assume he’ll pounce on me, pulling me into that black hole of need. Crush me against the wall. But he doesn’t pounce. I see my familiar flat through the distortion that surrounds him, a localized dusk. He looks at my bookshelves, of course.
I touch his back. He turns to slip his hand around the back of my neck.
“Do you want…” He asks, and I nod, and he leans in to kiss me.
He isn’t hungry. He’s following my lead. I run my tongue across his lower lip and get his delicious tongue in return. He’s not indifferent. He breathes faster while his movements stay slow. When I move his hands to my waist, he grips me gratefully.
I’m right inside the plum-coloured bruise that encircles him. Now it’s chilly but rich, like a silk wrapping. It’s responding to me, but it’s not aimed at me. He kisses my throat, licking the dip between my collarbones so skillfully that I call out: “Fuck, yes!” A bit too loud, but as I speak, the darkness changes, waves building inside it.
I have to ask him outright. In case his whole personal storm-cloud originates in one forbidden fetish. “Is there anything you… really want?”
“Not really. What do you want?” He starts to kiss my throat again, to coax it out of me.
“…I like that.” So he does that. And other things, too: fingertips shifting under my T-shirt, and every time I sigh he doubles down on whatever caused it. When I’m woozy with lust, my legs parting, his thigh presses up between them. When I gasp, his darkness glitters.
“You’re bloody brilliant,” I manage to say.
“I just– like to be useful.”
It’s a confession, and a hint, and it all clicks into place. He wants to be useful. There might be some deeper, darker twists to that need. But here and now, he wants someone to boss him around.
I tell him: “You’re so useful.” He shudders. “Stay there.”
I sprawl on the sofa. He rocks on his feet, the clouds around him pulsing. He’s waiting for instructions. Good boy.
“What do I want?” I wonder aloud. I can’t quite believe my nerve.
“Oh, gosh. Anything. Honestly.”
I drag my T-shirt up. “Here.” And my skirt, showing my thighs. “Here.”
He’s kneeling in front of me instantly, holding my hips, burrowing his face into my belly to lick and nip me. The waves of my response meet the violent shimmering of the shade around him. I’m in a thunderstorm. And when I show him how much I like his glorious, quick mouth, the lights flicker and flare.
“Go on,” I say. “Make yourself useful.”
Why did I call him a black hole? He’s not cold. He draws me in but he’s a pit of molasses, his tongue slow and hot and rich. I’m drowning. Until he’s a hurricane, scouring me, lifting me up. Wonderful, useful boy.
And when I’m utterly spent, and he’s lying by me and smiling, the haze that encloses us both is a mother-of-pearl cloud, a swirl of silver sparks.
Ellis Sandry lives in London, and likes the queer bits best. Ellis was previously published in the Circlet Press collection Like a Spell: Fire.