It was close to eleven when Bill finally entered the studio. Without so much as a glance at me, he stopped to talk to several of the students, mostly girls, about their paintings. Ignoring the tension I was beginning to feel, I tried to focus on my painting. I was over him, wasn’t I?
Suddenly he was behind me. “We have unfinished business,” he said in a soft voice. Surprised, I turned to him. “We do?” I whispered.
“Meet me outside on the parapet in five minutes.”
“But it’s not time for the break yet.”
He nodded. “Five minutes.” It wasn’t a question.
I watched him cross the studio to talk with Barbara. As he looked back at me, I again felt the spark. What now? I asked myself. Did I really think he wouldn’t come back to me after last night? Is this considered seduction? He’s not exactly asking me out for dinner and a movie, and I don’t think a quiet lunch is quite what he has in mind. Unless I’m lunch. I think we should get know each other first. But that’s not going to happen, is it?
Finishing his conversation, he glanced quickly at me and left the studio.
Kate saw his glance and looked at me questioningly. Taking off the shirt I used as a smock, I whispered, “I’m leaving. At least I think I am. I’ll see you later.”
Incredulous, she whispered back, “I thought we talked about this. After last night, you’re going somewhere with him? What do you think you are doing?”
“I honestly don’t know, but whatever it is, I have to do it.”
“I don’t think you should go anywhere near him.”
“You’re right, I know it. But there’s something that draws me to him.”
Kate shook her head. “You’re making a big mistake,” she said a bit louder. Several students nearby glanced at us.
I nodded, but turned and walked quickly to the girl’s bathroom. I ran a comb through my hair and put on some lipstick. Looking in the mirror, I asked myself again, What am I doing?
Ignoring my question, I went downstairs to the parapet. It was turning into another hot day and the sun refracted off the whitewashed walls of the fortress. Below, the roofs of the Old City glowed in the late morning light. Bill was standing, his back to the view, staring at me with a small smile as I walked toward him. He looked well, not hung over and confident as usual. There was no hint of last night’s fiasco.
“Come with me,” he said in a soft voice. Once again, it wasn’t quite a question.
I paused, unsure of what to do.
“Yes?” he asked, taking my hand.
I was sure this was a mistake especially after last night. But if I went with him, I could never allow myself to regret it, no matter what happened. Somehow I recalled a line from Oscar Wilde, “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”
“All right,” I whispered.
He turned, looking down the mountain. “I don’t want to take the cable car. We’ll walk down the path. We shouldn’t be seen.”
We’re going to walk down this mountain? I thought, looking nervously over the wall at a steep, rocky drop. On what, a goat path?
• • •
I followed him to a narrow but traceable path that snaked down the mountain. Never considering I’d be going for a hike, I was wearing sandals, and it was difficult navigating around the plants and rocks. Turning, I saw the fortress looming above us. I was certain this wasn’t the first time he had taken this path but put the thought out of my mind.
Finally reaching the bottom, he took my hand, helping me over some loose stones. We had come out on a narrow cobblestone street not far from the cable station. Still holding my hand, he led me quickly through the back streets of the Altstadt, crossing the river at the Mozartsteg. Once on Steingasse I wasn’t sure which building was his; it had been very late last night. Saying little to each other, we climbed the stairs to his flat and entered the darkened sitting room. Following him to the dimly lit hallway, I saw the door to Kraks’ room on the left and just ahead the small kitchen, where I now knew the vodka was stored. A white tiled bathroom with ancient fixtures was to the right and Bill’s bedroom just beyond.
The night before, I had noticed very little. In the daylight I saw that the bed took up most of the stark, white-painted room, leaving a narrow space of only about three feet all around it. A small lamp sat on a walnut night table to the left of the bed and matched a distressed looking headboard that appeared to be attached to the wall. Opposite, a narrow window looked over the tiled roof of the building next door. In the corner, there was a white spindle-back chair with one of his shirts and a knitted tie draped neatly over it. The dark wood floors were scuffed and bare except for a small woven rug between the bed and the door. But on the far side of the bed, the casements of the window with the spectacular view were wide open, letting in a fresh breeze and flooding the room with bright summer light. Except for the soft, white comforter and a small, framed drawing of a reclining nude above the bed, the room had a simple, almost monastic sparseness—a sharp contrast to the man who occupied it.
• • •
He started to pull down the shades. “Do you have to do that?” I asked tentatively. “It’s so beautiful here and we’re well above the street.”
He looked out the window, then back at me. “You know, you’re right,” he said, as though he had never thought of it before. “You won’t mind the light?”
I won’t mind the light? Have I lost my mind? What the hell am I doing here? “No,” I whispered.
He went to a phonograph sitting on the floor in the corner and put on a record, The Songs of the Auvergne, I found out later. The music was mesmerizing; the very air seemed to shimmer with the exquisite peasant songs sung in a clear soprano voice. I began to relax a little, at the same time well aware that I wasn’t the first girl to experience the magic of those songs. But my natural curiosity had taken over and though I still thought this might turn out to be a mistake, there was something about him that held me there. I looked at him, realizing we had hardly said a word to each other.
“Marcia,” he said. “Come here. I want you to kiss me.”
Surprised, I moved close to him and kissed him lightly on the lips. He shook his head and backing away from me, he took off his coat and laid it carefully on the chair. Speaking softly, he said, “That wasn’t a kiss. I will teach you how to kiss.”
I wasn’t sure I understood what he was saying. I was twenty and I had kissed a fair number of guys without anyone ever complaining. Taking my face in his hands, he said, “Puff out your lips, like a pout. I want to feel the softness of your lips, the inside of your bottom lip. Make them soft, open them, relax them.”
Putting my hands on his shoulders, I kissed him. He told me to try again, and again and again, each time telling me in a gentle voice what I was doing, right or wrong. I wondered if my eyes should be open or closed, but after a minute or so it didn’t matter any more. Our kisses were becoming more intense and the room seemed to be becoming warmer. Finally satisfied after a deep kiss that left me trembling, he stepped back and took off his shirt, putting it carefully on the chair along with his jacket. Turning back to me, he said seriously, “It’s too hot for clothes.”
Excerpted from 31 Days: A Memoir of Seduction by Marcia Gloster. Copyright ©2014 Marcia Gloster. Excerpted with permission of The Story Plant. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.