by Donna Storey
"Please open it," Kimura said. He was smiling.
Anna fingered the knot of the old-fashioned wrapping cloth and smiled back. After a year in Japan, she knew it wasn't proper to open a gift in the presence of the giver. But some nights Kimura wanted her all-American side, impulsive and refreshingly innocent of the fine points of etiquette.
"Please." In his eagerness, he almost brushed her arm with his fingertips.
It was a book -- she'd guessed as much from the shape and heft. The crimson cover was blank. Inside, the first page had characters she could read -- "spring" and "picture" -- but the next pages were all Japanese text, winding down the page in tendrils, incomprehensible without a dictionary. Still she enjoyed the softness of the fine paper, the intoxicating fragrance of expensive book. She fought the urge to bury her nose in the crease of the binding. That would not be proper at all.
Then came the pictures.
At first, in the carefully crafted twilight of the hostess club, she saw only shapes: swirls of kimono silk, tangled limbs, caterpillar crescents of pubic hair against pale flesh, towering cocks, and conch-shell vulvas. Kimura had given her a book
of shunga. Antique dirty pictures. Of course, some people would call such things art. Anna thought of herself as that sort of person and yet she was blushing.
She began to turn the pages quickly. She crossed her legs. She uncrossed them again. Had she been alone, she would have stopped for a closer look, but she was all too aware of the silvery glint in Kimura's eyes that seemed to cut through clothes and flesh to the warm ache of arousal growing inside her.
Only when the wanton figures were safely hidden away between the crimson covers did she have the courage to look at him. By then he was himself again: The kind, but slightly bewildered widower who patronized the club every Friday evening. A yogurt wholesaler of all things.
"I hope this will prove useful in your study of old Japan."
She'd told him that she was hostessing to save money for graduate study in history. Unlike most of the things she said to men in this room, it was true.
Anna nodded, accepting the gift, although it meant she must give something in return. Kimura was a gentleman. It was probably enough, letting him watch her that way.
It came to be a ritual. Anna would get home from the club at one in the morning, strip off her tasteful working dress and lie naked on her futon to lose herself in Kimura's book. It was no longer foreign to her, this world of ochre and ivory, black and terre verte. She glided easily through paper doors and behind painted screens to spy on couples engaged in intimate embrace, men and women frozen in ecstasy for two hundred and fifty years. She even grew accustomed to the mammoth sex organs, for that was what her body became as she lay on her stomach rocking her hips into the soft mattress -- one huge cunt with grasping, ravenous lips.
When she could bear it no longer, she chose a pose: Lying on her back with one knee to her chest, toes curled in. On all fours, ass tilted up in invitation. Sitting with her legs open wide to be studied by a samurai lover or passing serving wench or Tom Thumb Maneemon watching it all from under a kimono sleeve, or all three at the same time. It was for them that she stroked the fleshy folds the shunga makers so lovingly tinted rose or salmon, for them that she rubbed her nipples with a spit-slick palm. But it was for Kimura that she came, legs trembling with the strain of contortion, neck arched back from the weight of her elaborate coiffure. His eyes seemed to float before her still, affirming her hunger, feeding it.
At the club he was as courteous as ever, content to chat on about censorship and sumptuary laws in the Tokugawa period, while she stole peeks at his trousers, half hoping to see his exposed member, thick as a tree trunk and brocaded with veins, arching up from the open fly.
Some weeks later, he casually mentioned he would like to guide her around the old post towns of
the Nakasendo, where the daimyo stopped on the long journey from their fiefdoms to the capital. The trip would require an overnight stay, but it was far more appealing than the usual drunken proposition to meet after work at a rent-by-the-hour hotel. Still, Anna knew a clever hostess was expected to toy with a prospective lover first, and certainly lighten his wallet of more than the price of a book.
She pulled out her cell phone to set the date. She had a favor to return.
By dinner, she was convinced Kimura was toying with her. Why else would he bring her to a centuries-old inn deep in the mountains to share an eight-course meal in their bathrobes, then spend the whole time flirting with their maid?
It didn't help that the woman was handsome. She was older -- Anna guessed late forties --
but still elegant in a dove gray kimono and obi of midnight blue. It was her tongue Anna envied most, the way it swirled around those thorny honorifics, the way its music eased the lines of tension in Kimura's forehead. He was tired from showing Anna around the local sights all afternoon. No doubt he was tired of English, too.
When dinner was over, the maid laid out the bedding side by side, quilt edges touching, then bid them good night. It was a promising sign. If they were a couple in that woman's practiced eye, Anna knew there was hope. All she had to do was nudge the shy Kimura in the right direction. She got the book of spring pictures from her overnight bag and sat down beside him at the table.
"I want to show you the ones I like," she said.
His eyes twinkled. "I would very much like to see them."
This time she turned the pages slowly. The amorous couples were good friends. She paused at her current favorite, a scene of a courtesan kneeling before a mirror to fix her hair, her kimono in artful disarray, while her lover reached from behind to fondle her exposed pussy.
"I see you prefer Harunobu, the most elegant of the shunga artists. He discovered much in his exploration of the multi-colored print."
Anna tilted her head in the saucy way she used at the club. "He certainly discovered what a clitoris is for."
"Yes, that is important knowledge." She'd made him blush.
"But it's more than that, don't you think? I don't know how he does it, but his figures seem alive in there. That woman in the picture knows she's being watched." Her voice trailed off.
They sat in silence.
"Kimura-san, I want to thank you for the book. I didn't do it properly before." She stumbled over the words, as if she were baring something more intimate than flesh.
He bowed. "I am glad it has given you pleasure."
She was sure she saw it in his eyes then: the tiny image of herself, masturbating furiously as she gazed down at the book.
Kimura stood up. "Excuse me a moment. I have something to attend to." Before she could speak, he left the room.
She rested her forehead on the table, shamed and confused. He probably just had to use the toilet at the end of the hall. It was like him to be discreet. But surely it was the height of decorum for a man to make amorous advances to a woman he'd invited to a secluded inn? Everyone knew couples came to places like this to screw themselves silly. Kimura would have to be blind not to see that she was more than willing to continue this venerable tradition.
Anna frowned. What if she were the blind one? What if the book was his subtle way of telling her he was "unable," that images and ideas were the only form of intercourse they could share?
He was back. Anna sat up and fixed her face with a smile. He walked over to the futons and pulled the closest across the room. He could not have made his intentions clearer.
"I think I'll go down to the bath now," she said briskly. It wouldn't do to let him see her cry.
He shook his head. "Come here, Anna-chan. Bring that book with you."
Her body took on a strange languor as she knelt before the old-fashioned mirror stand -- for
that is where Kimura placed the futon -- and set the book down. He knelt behind her and eased the robe over her shoulders, arranging it at her waist.
"Now fix your hair. Like the girl in the picture."
Anna raised her arms and grabbed two thick ponytails of honey brown hair in each hand. The pose stretched and lifted her breasts, as if she were offering them -- not to him, exactly, but to someone waiting in a mirror world beyond.
"Now, how was the man touching her?" Kimura pulled one side of the robe open like a curtain and began to tease her curls.
"I smell you, Anna," he whispered. "I could smell you when you were showing me the book. A most joyous perfume. I worried you thought I was nothing but an old fool. My English is too poor to say the things in my heart. My dream, Anna-chan, is to meet in a place where we don't need words." His finger inched closer to her clit. "Senzuri they called it in the old days. A thousand rubs. Do you think it will take a thousand tonight?"
She moaned and swayed back against him. Kimura wasn't impotent. The evidence was pressing into the cleft of her ass. If only he would touch her breasts, too. The starched cotton robe the inn provided had been chafing her sensitive nipples all evening. They needed soothing with hands and lips. But that wasn't in the picture.
And neither was the maid, now standing in the doorway with a tray in her hands.
With a yelp of surprise, Anna crumpled forward, scrambling to cover herself with her robe.
"You asked for more tea, sir?" The maid's voice was as cool as a mountain stream.
"Yes, thank you." Kimura seemed unfazed by her entrance.
The maid nodded and busied herself measuring tealeaves into the pot.
Gently Kimura pulled Anna up and positioned her body before the mirror again. He tugged the robe down to her hips and guided her hands back to her head.
"Shall I wait and pour for you, sir? The young lady appears otherwise engaged."
"Yes, please. In the meantime do help yourself to a cigarette. You must be tired taking care of all of these troublesome guests." As he spoke, Kimura's hand wandered back between Anna's thighs.
"Thank you, sir, I think I will." The maid tapped a cigarette from the pack on the table. In the darkness, she seemed larger than before. Coarser. She must have put on makeup, too, because her lips were fuller, a dark glistening red. Her eyes swept boldly over Anna's body, lingering first at the breasts, then the exposed slit. A fine sweat rose on Anna's skin, as if she'd been rubbed with wet silk.
"I'm very impressed the young American lady enjoyed our dinner. Even the raw carp." The maid spoke in slow, careful Japanese. Anna was meant to understand. "She seems to have a taste for traditional Japanese things.
Like shunga, I see."
Kimura laughed assent. His breath was warm on Anna's neck.
The maid puffed her cigarette. "Does she like mirrors, too?"
Kimura met Anna's eyes in the mirror. "Yes, I would have to say she does."
"I wonder if she'd like this one?" Smiling, the woman leaned over and took something from the mirror stand drawer. It was a hand mirror, round with a flat lacquer handle. "I've seen some interesting sights in my work, not that I mean to spy, you understand, sir, but once I saw a guest -- a fine old-fashioned Japanese
lady -- kneeling right here fixing her hair and the gentleman guest came and took this mirror from her and began to caress her naked bosom with it. In little circles, round and round over the tips. Oh my, the sounds she made! I knew without asking they'd want their breakfast brought later."
Kimura hesitated. He bent closer to Anna and whispered, "This action sounds very interesting, but strictly speaking, it is not in the picture you chose."
"Forget the fucking picture. Do it," Anna snapped in Japanese, her breath coming fast. She'd picked up street slang from some of her less refined customers.
The maid chuckled her approval and passed the mirror to Kimura.
Anna watched as he brought it to her breast, watched her nipple stiffen and reach toward the shiny surface as if to kiss its reflection in the glass.
To her surprise, the mirror was smooth and dry, sending twinges of dark pleasure to her belly. And like the old-fashioned lady the maid spoke of, Anna was making sounds, soft, animal-like whimpers of need. Down below, at her other mouth, the flesh made wet, clicking sounds under his finger.
Kimura switched the mirror to the other breast. The sensation -- hot twined with cold -- made Anna cry out.
"I told you she'd like it," the maid crooned. "Look at her arching her back like a little pussycat."
"Indeed, I owe you many thanks for your help, but I mustn't keep you from your duties any longer. The young ones usually take a good while to reach satisfaction."
"Nonsense. She's going to finish soon, aren't you? Be a good girl now and climax for the nice gentleman who's working so hard on your behalf."
Good girls don't come while strangers watch, Anna knew that, but like an incantation, the woman's words transformed her, gave her image in that mirror a new tint of wantonness. Now she had permission to do it. In fact, it was her duty. Like a courtesan in a brothel of long ago.
"Yes, madam, I will." Anna choked out the words in proper humble form. And then it was happening. Her cunt expanded, opening in swirls of hot, thick satin as wide as the universe, then clenching tight, as if squeezed by a huge hand. She dropped her head back against Kimura's shoulder, her jaw locked open in a silent scream as the orgasm seared through her. He rocked with her, cradling her in his arms. Gasping and shaking, Anna sank down onto the futon. He followed, covering her with his body.
"You may go now," he said into the air. The door slid open, then closed with a faint rattle.
In the cool silence, Anna lay floating, back from the dream of an artist two hundred
When she opened her eyes, she was on the futon with Kimura beside her. He was smiling. She smiled back. Anna owed him more than ever now, but she knew just what to do. Her eyes traveled to the book lying open beside him. In the dim light, the lustrous paper thickened and swelled and she saw, as if through a veil bedecked with fresh flowers, Primavera rise up from the pages and hold out her hand.