A POKER GAME OF LOVE

It was well past midnight and she was long asleep when the sound of a text message woke her up. "I've got to start switching my cell phone off at night," she moaned, reaching for it on the night stand and knocking over a half empty glass of water she kept next to the lamp. This better be worth it, Sylvia thought, annoyed. The text was short, concise and emotionless, as all of his texts were.

"In the mood for fucking. Come over."
   His bluntness irritated her a bit at first, but at a second glance she could make out that unmistakable drive and determination that made him so attractive. And another thing – after all it was her he was texting in the middle of the night on a workday. Either a slow month or he just can't go a week without me. Sylvia smiled at the latter, sliding her hand down her neck. What some women found rude and thoughtless, labeling it as nothing more than a "booty call", she saw as a golden opportunity to satisfy her uncanny sexual urge. Plus, it is such an incredible ego booster, she thought, shaking her curls. Barely having woken up she was in the mood for sex; the message really hit the spot. The more basic and primal the man was in expressing his desire, the quicker it turned her on. In that sense, James was in a class of his own as he always knew exactly what to say and how to touch her.

"On my way," she texted back
   It was already half past three. Jumping out of bed, she grabbed the first pair of jeans she could find and a blouse, threw them on, and rushed out of the apartment. She pulled out her phone and ordered a cab while waiting for the elevator. By the time it got to the ground floor a car was already waiting outside. It was a twenty minute drive to his place, something they had agreed on in order to have the distance necessary to live their separate lives, all the while benefiting from an easy visiting range for a quick getaway when needed. As the car drove down Broadway and entered Hell's Kitchen she grinned at the thought of their turbulent history – a never-ending game of cat and mouse with the exception that one of the parties was deeply misguided about its role in the constant power struggle and she knew it wasn't her. It's good getting what you want out of life. Out of men. she thought contentedly. In and out, nice and clean, without them realizing it. Just letting them think they're in control. It's easier for everyone that way.

When she came out of the elevator James was waiting at the door of his apartment. She glanced at the whiskey bottle in his hand. He had already downed almost half of it and was nervously tapping with his fingers on the wall. The bulge in his pants was a clear indication he was still sober enough for what they had in mind, which prompted a sigh of relief from her. Pulling her inside, he started undressing her hastily

"How long does it take you to drag your ass here? When I say I want to fuck, I meannow."

"I came as fast as I could."

"Yeah, well, now I'll do exactly that and next time you'll hurry up if you want any foreplay. Spread your legs."

   She gladly obeyed, cheering the fact he was in such a lousy mood. His anger and aggressiveness turned him into an incredible lover. It took out all the unnecessary softness, which was unnatural to their relationship. She liked it rough and James was eager to dominate. So was she, by the way, but that was something her partners weren't meant to find out. Besides, it's a whole other level of domination, one they have no idea about. Give 'em the physical side of it if it makes them so happy. Toying with someone emotionally and intellectually – That's a whole other level of satisfaction. Like any smart girl she knew that submitting to men was the only way to dominate them. It was a poker game of love – for one of the parties to win, the other one had to lose. Those were the rules, simple and ruthless. And if you were a skillful player and learnt from your mistakes, it paid off. Oh, how it paid off!

   The sex was wild, quick and seemed more like a struggle. They had done it so many times, for so many years now that both executed to perfection each step of the routine for a fast sexual gratification. The benefit of such relationship dynamics was to have someone in their life who knew the other one well enough to make them feel better about themselves without the added drawbacks of having to put up with that person outside of the bedroom. A mere phone call or a text away – a lingering presence, a territory that had to occasionally be re-visited meant neither one of them ever had to let their guard down and get too comfortable. Things you have to constantly work for keep you motivated, she thought, rolling over to her side. They had barely finished when both reached for their phones and started going through calendars and tasks. There was no need for explanations, promises or tenderness; no one felt they owed the other more than what was just given.

"I've got to go. I've an early day tomorrow."

"I was going to say the same. Sorry you can't spend the night."

"It's fine."

"I'll call you."

"Don't get up. I'll let myself out."

   James watched her walk around the apartment, picking up the clothes he had thrown to the ground just minutes before. It was one of the things he liked about her – she didn't suffer from any unnecessary shyness or the typical female obsession with her physical flaws. Those few extra pounds were just right. He was sick of perfect girls who made him feel inadequate, standing next to their slim frame. Fortunately, that wasn't the case with her. James knew he was too good for her. Or so he liked to believe. What am I saying? He was quick to correct himself. Of course I am too good for her. I can overlook the muffin top and all, but she's all over the place. I can't have anyone who's that big of a liability in my life. The only thing she's good at is being fucked. And that's what we're doing. That's what this is. A friendly fuck, nothing more. He finished the bottle and pulled the cover over his eyes as she turned off the light and closed the door on her way out.

   'She walked outside the building and hailed a cab. Ordinarily, Sylvia enjoyed the time right after they had just been together, but neither had yet gone about their separate routine. No one was chasing anyone away, no one was jumping in a fit to take a shower and, above all, she could mellow out under the touch of his firm grip on her hips and ass. However, she had learnt not to force herself on him as it rendered the opposite of the result she was aiming for. She sensed this was one of those times when it was best to leave immediately afterwards. James was all over her – on her body, in her mind and life – and so was she in his. The only thing that drove them apart was his persistent denial of the obvious truth, but there was time to deal with that. One step at a time, she thought, and I can wait. I'm in no hurry.

   Behind her back a light went on in a small apartment window and a man's silhouette stood in the frame. There was a bottle in his hand. He lingered there for a while, then turned around, went to the desk and switched on the computer.