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SALTER, James

All That Is

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As they left the table, Christine said in a low voice,

"Semean?"

"It must be the French pronunciation," Bowman said.

"Seminé," she suggested.

"It's the title of a song."

"Um. I'll try some," she remarked as if they were talking about an odd menu item. She added, "Do you happen to have any?"

Was she still kidding? She was not looking at him.

"Yes," he said. "Lots."

"I thought you might say that."

For a few moments in the cab they rode quietly, as if they were going to the theater. Then he kissed her, fully, on the mouth. The taste was fresh. He smelled her perfume. He held her hand as they rode up in the elevator.

"Would you like something to drink?" he asked. "Not really."

"I'm going to have a little something."

He poured some bourbon. He felt she was watching him. He drank it rather quickly. He began to kiss her again, holding her by the arms.

In the bedroom, he removed her shoes. Then, in only the light from the other room, they undressed on opposite sides of the bed.

"Lots, you said."

"Yes."

She went into the bathroom. She came out and he said,

"No, stand there for a moment."

He tried to look slowly at her but couldn't. It was the first time, it was always blinding.

"Come here," he said.


She lay beside him for a few minutes, the first minutes, as a swimmer lies in the sun. He could see her nakedness, almost all of it, in the near dark. They made love simply, straightforwardly — she saw the ceiling, he the sheets, like schoolchildren. There was no sound but the float of traffic distant and below. There was not even that. The silence was everywhere and he came like a drinking horse. He lay for a long time on top of her, dreaming, exhausted. She had not made love for more than a year, and she lay dreaming, too, and then asleep.

They woke to the fresh light of the world. She was exactly as she had been the night before though her mouth was pale now and her eyes plain. They made love again, he was like a boy of eighteen, invincibly hard. The apartment was beautiful in a way it had never been, the light in it, her presence. They had not been too hasty in going to bed together, nor had they waited too long. These were merely the days of initiation, he knew. So much was still to come.

They drank orange juice and made coffee. He had to go to work.

"Can we have dinner this evening?"

"No, I'm sorry, I can't this evening ... darling — it's too early to call you darling, isn't it?" she said.

"I don't think so."

"Well, this once."

"Go ahead."

"Darling," she said.

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