By Lou Mindar
Gigi wanted to know if she could ask me a question.
We were lying in bed, naked, a sheet covering our lower halves. An autumn breeze blew in from the open window, the smell of charred oysters and Old Bay seasoning mingled on the cooling air.
Her full name was Geraldine Germand, but when she was a kid growing up in Mid City, she insisted people call her by her initials, G.G. Over the years, “G.G.” became “Gigi.”
“You don’t need permission to ask me a question,” I said.
Gigi smirked. She was facing me, her head resting on the hand of her bent arm. Her long, dark hair fell to one side. “Eric, am I your girlfriend?” she asked.
I met Gigi when a group of us got together for dinner at Jack Dempsey’s in Bywater where we decapitated boiled crayfish and guzzled cold beer. Gigi was a friend of a friend, and we hit it off. She was beautiful and funny and available. We went out for more drinks after dinner and ended the night at my place. We weren’t exactly dating, but since then, we had slept together a few times.
“Well, we are friends,” I said, then nodded at her. “And you certainly are a girl.”
“You know that’s not what I mean. Am I your girlfriend?” She emphasized the word this time to give it more import.
I gave her my best aw-shucks smile and ran my hand through my dark curls. I knew from previous experience that women found that disarming. “You mean, like, with dating and stuff?”
“Dating and stuff,” she mocked, rolling her eyes.
My aw-shucks smile hadn’t worked. Most women I’d dated were afraid to say or do anything for fear it would be the wrong thing. Gigi didn’t seem to care, and that made me want her even more.
“Do you want to be?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” she said without hesitating. I waited for her to say more but she left it there.
“You don’t?” I asked, feeling a little panicked. “Why?”
Gigi rolled over onto her back. I stared at her and she stared at the ceiling. “Because you’re a Romeo,” she said.
“Like a Shakespeare Romeo? That’s not bad, is it?” A distant piano riff from “Basin Street Blues” blew in on the breeze.
Gigi exhaled loudly, then rolled onto her side so she was facing me again. The sheet moved across our bodies as she turned, and it was cool against my skin. “No. That’s the good kind of Romeo,” she said. “You’re the other kind. The bad kind.”
“The bad kind? What’s that?”
“You know, the kind that sleeps around and doesn’t return phone calls. Who jumps from one bed to another, a new victim every night.”
The word “victim” made me cringe. “You mean, like a manwhore?”
“Yes, a manwhore. That’s it.”
I puffed out my lower lip and feigned pouting, but the truth was, her accusation had struck a nerve. “That’s not fair, Gigi. I was just getting used to being a Romeo.” I lowered my head for fear she’d see that she had injured me. “Besides, I don’t do all those things you said.”
“Don’t you?” Gigi tilted her head and her eyes widened. I could see my future in her big brown eyes.
“Usually not,” I said. The weakness of my half-truth chafed me, so I changed the subject. “How would you want things to be if you were my girlfriend?”
“For one, no more sleeping around.”
“Done. What else?”
“The kissing?” I asked.
“Yes, the kissing,” she said. “You’re afraid to kiss me.”
“What makes you think that?” I wasn’t afraid to kiss her, but kissing made me self-conscious. It was too intimate, even more than sex, and I didn’t like how vulnerable and exposed it made me feel.
“Every time we make love, you spend all of your time from the neck down.” She raised her hand to her chin, then to the top of her head. “You need to spend more time up here.”
“But I like what’s down here.” I raised my eyebrows and reached toward her under the sheets. She slapped my hand away, then pointed a finger in my face.
“If you want to be my boyfriend and a good lover, you’d better listen to what I’m saying.”
I almost responded with a joke, but I stopped myself. This alluring woman was telling me how to love her, so I listened. “The kissing?”
“Le baiser,” she said, conjuring a Cajun accent.
“I can do that,” I said, moving closer to her. I reached across the void between us toward her breasts, but she redirected my hand to her face. “The kissing,” she said.
With my hand on her cheek and my thumb under her chin, I kissed her. She closed her eyes, opened her mouth, and leaned into me, almost pushing me over. Her lips were full and soft. I immediately felt a connection to Gigi, deep and timeless, that I had never felt before with anyone else. We finished our kiss, and I traced the outline of her lips with my index finger. She took my finger into her mouth for a moment, then released it.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” she asked.
My green eyes had gone wide. “Not at all.” I rolled over onto my back. Gigi lay her head on my shoulder and put her hand on my chest. We lay like that in silence for several minutes.
“So, are you my girlfriend?” I asked.
Gigi hesitated, then moved so her face was close to mine. “I’m not sure,” she said. “Kiss me again.”