When Robert had the lights the way he wanted them, he brought me to the window and positioned me the way he wanted me. His fingers felt hot on my skin. He didn't speak. And then he handed me the lily. "It will make you feel less naked," he'd said.
He was right.
I held the lily so that the flower brushed against my skin, the point touching my breast. The stalk lay flat on my belly.
"Yeah, that's good. Lower your head; lift up your eyes. Look at me, Jordan. Do you feel how soft the flower is against your skin? Move it, just a little; let it tickle you."
Wings fluttered in the deepest part of my stomach. I stared at Robert's hands holding the camera, and listened to the clicks of the shutter. Playfully I moved the flower, positioning it so that now the white blossom was between my legs. And then without him asking me to, I took off the lace panties and put the flower back so that it covered me in a modest but provocative way.
He was murmuring encouragement now.
I rubbed the lily against my skin. "It's you, Robert, this flower is you..." I whispered.
When I offered the lily out to him, Robert took it and used the thick stem to tease my legs apart. For a long time, he alternated titillating me with the flower and bringing me just to the edge of an orgasm and then backing off to take another shot.
Finally he put the camera down so he could get naked too.
"You're hard," I whispered.
"I've been hard for the last half hour."
"Is it torture to do that, to be hard for that long and not do anything about it?"
"No, it's pure pleasure," he said as he buried his face where the flower had been.
"You smell like lilies. Oh, Jordan," he moaned.
Standing in front of Robert's camera after that, I was brave and brazen. A woman I have never been with another man before or since. I had allowed him to see right into my very soul and held nothing back.
But it's not always best to let a man see you that naked inside and out. To offer up everything including your privacy.
One of the photographs he took on that day was so provocative it set him apart from dozens of other aspiring photographers, landed him his first perfume account, and got him industry notice.
Not only was a career born that night, a child was conceived.
The sound of Lilly's running footsteps and her overnight bag banging against the banister startled me. But what was more jarring was realizing I'd been remembering Robert as my lover.
It had been years since I'd allowed those memories to surface.
"I'm ready, Mom," Lilly called out.
Fifteen minutes later Lilly and I were in my black Jeep driving up I-95 headed toward New Haven. The traffic was light and we were making good time. I almost wished for some delay, so that I could be with her a little longer. It was a thought I'd had too often since the night, two months ago, when she'd woken me up at twelve-thirty to tell me about the boy she'd just met.
"Oh, Mom, he's so wonderful," she had said.
I didn't need to turn on the bedside lamp to see her face. I knew she was smiling and her eyes were shining.
My daughter had crossed the line. On one side was her childhood and on the other was the beginning of her life as a woman. I could hear it in her rapid speech, in her breathlessness, in her need to tell me about her evening and make it real again.
"He's majoring in architecture at Yale and knows all about Japanese gardens and really wants to see my photographs and he's different than anyone else I've ever met."
"I'm so happy for you, Lilly."
"And he looks right too. Exactly how I always imagined he'd look. He's tall, like Daddy, but he has black hair, and he asked me for my phone number. He's invited me to the Cloisters tomorrow. It's like he knows exactly what I'm thinking without me having to say a word. We are so on the same plane..."
Copyright © 2000 by M.J. Rose. For permission to reproduce this excerpt please contact the author at http://www.mjrose.com
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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