Valerie leaves lipstick prints on everything that comes in contact with her mouth. Coffee cups, the filters of her cigarettes, the cheeks of her friends — even the white Bic pens she chews on while she’s deep in thought. They all wear shiny, red badges of Maybelline’s Ruby Spell.
Simon, who works with Valerie at Ad Inc, has never received the marking on his cheek, but he thinks about her lips and fantasizes about having the prints all over his body. He even took one of her lip-printed Bics home with him and keeps it in a drawer by his bed.
He finally asks Valerie out on a blustery Tuesday in May when the wind is rattling the windows of their office and tossing empty plastic bags up to the 17th floor.
Surprisingly, she says yes. They go to PJ Clarke’s on 6th Avenue and talk mostly about work. Valerie laughs at Simon’s impersonations of Hypochondriac Marshall and his Monday morning meetings that always start with a run-down of all his aches and maladies. She leaves her lip prints on several Martini glasses.
Shortly after midnight, she suggests going to her place. “For a nightcap,” she says, applying a fresh coat of Ruby Spell. “Something,” she says and purses her lips together with a slight smack.
Simon’s heart pounds during the cab-ride uptown. Images of his neck, chest and thighs peppered with her creamy prints careen through his head. He pictures going to work the next morning un-showered, the prints hidden under his khakis and buttoned-down shirt.
Valerie makes a round of Martinis in her kitchen, sits Simon down on her black leather sofa and excuses herself to the bathroom.
Simon fidgets on the sofa, taking small sips of his Martini. He stares at Valerie’s glass on the coffee table — beaded with condensation; a half-moon of lipstick on the rim.
Somewhere in the apartment, a cat meows and he hears the toilet flush in the bathroom, then the running of water in the sink. The water runs for quite a while. Long enough for Simon to finish his drink and then Valerie emerges wearing a terry cloth robe, her hair pulled back in a pony tail, her face freshly scrubbed, her lips as bare as they were the day she was born. No trace of Ruby Spell.
Heather Holland Wheaton is the author of three short story collections: You Are Here, Eight Million Stories in a New York Minute and Wet Paint. Besides Every Day Fiction, her work has appeared in P.I.M., The Morning News, Common Ground and Slipstream. She lives in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC and pays rent by working as a tour guide. Some day, she wants to get a puppy.