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The Shaving Lesson

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To meet the husband of your lover is a strange thing. To realize he was flirting with you was quite another. Henry poked at his eggs and smiled nervously as Adam and Kay whispered to each other, both pairs of their pretty eyes sparkling at him as they conspired.

Henry squirmed under their eyes and attention. The whole thing wasn’t going the way he had planned at all. He had expected brunch to be something formal, like meeting your girlfriend’s parents, but he should have known any man who would have the balls to marry Kay would have to be an interesting character himself.

When they asked him back to their apartment, Henry choked on his cold brew. Still, it was put so innocently, he had to say yes.

In the cab, Kay, who Henry felt like he had just started to understand, bickered with her husband relentlessly. There was a familiarity and an aggression in their conversation that seemed alien to him. It was like having your parents fight in front of you or, more accurately, being over a friend’s house and being privy to their parents’ argument.

The acute foreignness of other people’s fights.

Still, there was an intense love between Kay and Adam that showed even brighter in their argument than their silences. Henry smiled quietly at them as their little spat, about which he still wasn’t clear, faded, and the two of them studied him, communicated things to each other with glances that Henry couldn’t translate.

At their big apartment, Henry marveled as they showed him around. Lots of art on the walls, lots of thought in the design. So far from his rather spartan studio in Brooklyn.

As he was given a tour, Kay noted that Henry had spilled coffee on his jeans and led him to a beautiful bathroom to clean up.

Henry found a cloth and dabbed at the stain. As he pressed the terry cloth into the denim, he looked around at the bathroom in awe.

A huge clawfoot bathtub, fed by lithe snakes of copper pipes and fat vintage faucets. Decadently thick towels piled on wrought iron towel warmers.

The wide porcelain his and hers sinks in front of him were rimmed with the affectations of their owners. Kay’s fancy skin creams, perfumes, makeup, and implements of curling, primping, and pampering. Adam’s side holding combs, pomades, beautiful scissors, clippers, an ornate straight razor with a matching nickel handled shaving cream brush.

Henry picked up the razor and measured the surprising weight of it in the palm of his hand.

“Have you used one?” Kay’s smooth voice asked from the door.

Henry jumped, as he turned to see her standing with her arms folded under her breasts, watching him with a smile that was both warm and wolfish.

She wore a light white gauzy sort of summer dress, which set off the dark brown of her skin and the vivid black of her hair. She had a wide hungry smile.

“Oh, no. I’ve thought about going for a shave at one of those old fashioned barbers, but I never seem to have time.”

She watched him for a beat, then turned with her eyes still on him and called “Adam!”

“Adam can show you. He’s very good. His father did it for a living, you know. A fancy place down on Wall Street,” she said, and his eyes again locked on the fullness of her lips.

“I even have him do my legs sometimes,” she said in a conspiratorial whisper.

Adam appeared next to her, smiling his cool, confident smile. He was tall and charmingly handsome. His beard was thick, but his neck looked freshly shaven.

“A shaving lesson?” He asked her.

He walked over to Henry and took the razor out of his hand. It fit in his fingers in a particularly natural way.

“Kay was saying this morning that she likes how you are usually smooth-shaven. She likes my beard, but it’s nice to have some contrast,” he said, turning on the faucet.

“You should give him a shave. He’s never had a real one,” she directed.

Adam pressed down the stopper in the sink and then opening the mirrored cabinet to take out a glass jar of rich-looking cream as well as a chipped coffee cup.

“Would you like that, champ?” Adam asked with a cocky smile, amused at his nickname.

“Sure,” Henry said into his reflection, his brown eyes sparkling.

Henry wasn’t sure he could say no to anything either of them requested. When alone with Kay, he felt like the aggressor, but when she and Adam were together, the two of them had a predatory grace that left Henry feeling wonderfully overpowered.

Adam dipped the brush into the jar and then lathered the soapy cream in the coffee cup.

“Wash your face first,” he said, pointing at a bar of soap.

Kay rolled her eyes.

“If you’re going to do it, it has to be full service,” she said, brushing Henry aside and lathering her hands.

She washed her hands and then soaked a washcloth in steaming water. She rinsed Henry’s face, then slathered it with a spicy smelling soap, rinsed it again, then laid a hot towel over his nose and jaw.

In his periphery, Henry saw Adam dragging the razor over a leather strop, methodically.

Adam was taller than Henry, by perhaps five or six inches. His hair was a perfectly combed part to one side. Thick and black and glossy with some grease or pomade.

Adam wore an a-line shirt and jeans dappled with white paint and oil. He looked like a hipster version of Tom of Finland.

“Thanks,” Adam said to Kay, who moved over to him and kissed him on the lips.

The intimacy of their touch that made Henry wince. There was a way Kay’s body seemed to melt into Adam’s. She had to stand on the tips of her toes to kiss him. When they parted, they both looked at Henry with matching grins.

“Let’s lather you up, champ,” Adam said, swirling the brush in the mug, which was now overflowing with soapy foam.

The cream was warmer than Henry expected, and it only took a second before the whole bottom half of his face was covered.

Looking into the mirror, Henry marveled at how the razor gleamed in Adam’s hand. Looking up, he saw the handsome bearded man smile as he moved the blade up to Henry’s neck.

The metal was cool, especially because Henry realized he was sweating. Adam put his other hand on the back of Henry’s neck, positioning his head with strong fingers.

“This is usually not a place you want to be after you fuck someone’s wife,” the tall man said with a laugh.

A chill spread over Henry’s body, his hands feeling suddenly numb.

The blade moved a little on Henry’s neck. He could feel a little bite as it removed a small rectangle of stubble. His breathing stopped as Adam worked and spoke.

“I can’t blame you. Who wouldn’t want to fuck her? Still, I’m not immune to jealousy,” Adam continued into Henry’s ear.

Henry’s body was tight, his chin up, neck exposed. Fear and confusion swirling in his head and in his belly. Kay moved closer, her eyes glossy, her body hungry.

“He’s kidding,” she cooed into Henry’s other ear.

The three of them were a sight in the mirror. The black of Adam’s beard, the blue of his eyes, the white of his shirt, and the firmness of his muscular arms. Kay’s dark, flawless skin. As she faced Henry and kissed the freshly shaven patch, Henry looked at the blunt cut of her bob in the mirror. Her dress was loose. An expanse of her shoulders and breasts were visible as she bent forward and kissed Henry’s neck again.

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