I get all kinds.
I get the single men who have nothing but their hand to keep them company, and who are looking for something more stimulating. There are the barely legal guys who move in packs to the hardcore shelves, trying to hide their inexperience with brutish chuckles and raw comments. Then, there are the to-the-point business women who head straight for the vibrator aisle and pay unapologetically with their platinum credit cards because they don’t have time for a lover, nor embarrassment.
Yeah… all kinds. Except this kind.
She came in from the sunny afternoon, daylight caressing the outline of her small body as something worth coveting. Her hair, pulled in a bun at her neck, and blue eyes, too large for her face, gave her a tense expression.
She was timid, yes, but the daylight hadn’t been wrong to cling to her. Her jacket was buttoned snugly, keeping prisoner what seemed to be full breasts, and there was a slight sway in her hip that wasn’t learned, but naturally hers. Something was yearning to break free in her — something sensual and glorious.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
Her eyes darted around the store as if they were too embarrassed to land on any of the merchandise. I expected her to say no, and disappear between the aisles, but her gaze eventually landed on me and she nodded.
“I need… I don’t know,” she said.
“A vibrator? A movie? Handcuffs? Some sort of outfit?” Those were the usual suspects.
“No, I really don’t know.” She looked around the store again, her gaze more courageous now. “I’ve never been in a place like this before.”
“Are you looking for something for yourself, a gift for someone, or something to enjoy with a partner?”
She grinned. There was a flash of a goddess in that smile, struggling to burst out of her shell. “All three, I hope.”
I took her around the store, pointing out items that were not too bold, but not for beginners, either. She accepted most of the recommendations I made.
When I rang her up, I couldn’t help but ask. “Got a big date?”
“I don’t know what I would call it, really.” She thought for a moment, and that cheeky goddess glimpsed in the twinkle of her eyes again. “A rendezvous, maybe? In any case, I had better hurry up and pay for this before I lose my nerve.”
I raised an eyebrow. I threw a few condom packets in the bag along with her receipt. “On the house,” I said. “Be careful. There are lots of freaks out there, and not all of them in the good way.”
“Thanks. But this one… He’s a good guy. I think I’ll be all right.”
She left. When she crossed the parking lot, the sun painted her skin golden — as if it wanted her to shine like Venus, too.
She returned that same weekend. When she walked in, again the sunlight followed her, frothing around her body. There was a confidence in her step and her hair was down, floating around her face in a tousled, but attractive, mess.
A man was with her. I saw what she had meant by calling him a good guy: he was a good-natured sort of plain, with kind eyes, as unaccustomed to the surroundings as she.
I didn’t approach them, but rather, listened to their low voices as they drifted up between the aisles. When they came to check out, their shopping basket was full. Lingerie, mostly — sweet lace and crotchless deviance in a glorious promise of erotic bliss–and she smiled as she handed me her credit card.
“See,” she said. “He’s a good kind of freak.”
Her companion blushed. He leaned closer to her, brushing against her bare shoulder with his cheek.
“I’m glad your gamble paid off,” I said, winking at her, as I rang her up.
“Me too.” She leaned against him. His hand caressed the small of her back. It was an affectionate gesture, not a sexual one, but on his finger sat a thick band of gold, and that was when I realized the real gamble she had taken.
“I hope you enjoy the Venus corset,” I said. “It’s our newest, most popular garment. Most people can’t wait to try it out.”
“Oh, I think I’m saving that one for last,” she replied. “The grande finale, if you will.”
When they left, the sunlight again took her into its embrace eagerly.
But his wedding band sparkled strongly, too.
Venus came back two weeks later.
She didn’t shine anymore. Her hair was pulled back again, tighter than the first time, and the tilt in her walk was gone.
“I need to return this,” she said, her voice as flat as a calm sea.
I accepted the bag that she handed me across the counter. The red lace of the corset peeked through the plastic. “You didn’t like it?” I asked, hoping that she’d say yes.
But she nodded. “I liked it,” she said. “But I didn’t get to try it on. Not seeing him anymore.”
A fist of sadness lodged itself in my throat. I remembered the wedding band. “Persephone making demands, eh?” I mumbled, unsure if she’d even understand the parallel.
She did. “She didn’t have to. He went back on his own.”
I refunded her for the return, trying to think of something else to say — something to discourage her from allowing Venus to wither away. But I couldn’t think of anything. “I’m sorry.”
“Not your fault. I guess I wasn’t Venus enough for him.”
She was resigned. She had given up on the goddess — fought her off with that tight bun, punished her back into her shell with a turtleneck sweater and loosely fitting jeans.
As she walked out the door, the sun drifted behind a thick blanket of clouds.
Sylvia Hiven lives and writes in Atlanta, Georgia. Her fiction has appeared in over a dozen publications including Pseudopod, AlienSkin Magazine, Flash Me Magazine, and more.