Every love story has its conflict, and weak lovers can see it. Their love is paralyzed, and eventually stillborn as they realize just how impossible it is to love this person at this time in this place. But true lovers don’t see the conflict. Love is blind, you see. The lovers are like two cats in a bag, struggling against this unsee-able confinement, but together for as long as it takes to make peace with the bag or get out. That’s why when I saw Anna for the first time, I fell in love instead of running away.
I walked into that bakery in Korea-town, looking for a little something sweet on a cold February day, and I saw her by the pain au chocolat. Black bob, perfect cat-eye liner capturing dark brown eyes, and she was elegant in something black and floofy around the hips with a red fur stole over her shoulders. I reached around to take the last piece of ganache cream cake, when she grabbed my wrist.
“I don’t think you want that, mister,” she said. “It’s mine.”
My first instinct was to back up, stuttering something like, “Of course, madam” and scurrying away but then she gave me the side-eye, and then I saw those red lips, and something funny happened in my chest, and I said, “Why don’t we share it?”
She smiled, and that funny thing in my chest turned into a raging, roaring fire. “My name is Anna,” she said.
“Ray Perez,” I said, and almost kissed her hand before remembering what century I was in.
So, that’s how we wound up sharing a little rectangle of chocolate cake while perched on tiny stools as the afternoon customers came in and out – some looking at us curiously, others with no eyes for anything but the delicious pastries on the shelves.
As the afternoon darkened, we moved over to the Korean barbecue next door, and I was fascinated as her tiny, white teeth made short work of the small chicken in rice gruel, and after that, we headed to karaoke, where she sang like a superstar. I didn’t know she was a superstar in Japan, but I knew we were both slumming it.
Apparently, it wasn’t unrequited. After the bell rang to let us know we had ten minutes left in the private singing booth, she stared into my eyes with those chocolate pools, bit that luscious red lower lip of hers and then she said, “My hotel is across the street. Would you like to come up?”
I knew I shouldn’t. Trifling with mortals always ended in heartbreak, either in a week or in a few decades. But she must have seen my hesitation, because she sat up straight, arched an eyebrow at me and said, “What are you? A man, or a mouse?”
I laughed nervously, but it was obvious. She was a woman who would take “no” badly. And she was so very, very beautiful, and smart, and funny. All thoughts of heartbreak fled from my mind.
When we got to the room, she threw her little stole on the desk, and before closing the bathroom door, looked back at me and said, “You must turn off the lights now, and whatever you do, you must never, never turn them on. If you do, you’ll have to go.” Then she closed the door and I heard the sound of running water.
I shrugged. So similar to what I myself would have requested. It will sound big-headed of me, but my tongue is very talented, and I can keep a woman from exploring my body and finding my long, thin tail, if the night is dark. I was so befuddled and bewitched by Anna that I thought she was one of those vain Asian beauties who looked completely different when her make-up was gone. To tell the truth, I didn’t think much. I gratefully closed the blinds and then the curtains, undressed and turned off the lights before slipping into her bed.
She was equally careful; the bathroom light went out before I heard the door swoosh open on the carpeting. A rectangle of darkness against the lighter darkness of the room, and the slight suggestion of perfect silhouette sliding to me in the darkness. I heard, rather than saw, her slip into bed with me, and oh! The pleasures we shared! My talented tongue had met a soulmate, as we teased and tasted and eventually plunged into the depths of love and lust. Her sounds – tiny yips and long panting – told me that she was as pleased as I was, and the pleasure was exhausting. We fell asleep, completely asleep, face to face in that warm soft bed.
And then, it could have been tragedy if we were not already so much in love, but the chambermaid burst into the room at ten in the morning, turning on the lights. “Oh! So sorry!” she gasped, and then she did a double take and ran down the hall without closing the door. Anna flew out of bed to shut the door, dragging the sheets off the bed and her long fox’s tail undulating with the rhythm of her lithe hips. Then she spun to turn off the lights and saw me, in all my morning glory, with my long gray tail in the air.
She burst out laughing. “And who are you, Ray Perez?”
“Raton Perez, in New York for a year of fetching teeth from the local population who believes. And you, Miss Anna Kitt? Or should I say, Kitsune?”
“Yes, yes. I lead a double life and have for decades. I’ll be 104 tomorrow.” I saw her happiness waver just slightly. “And you, Mr. Rat, do you like older women?”
“I do indeed, and it’s a good thing, too. I’ll be 104 the day after tomorrow, and I can bow to your wisdom and advanced age.” I smiled, because I could feel this would be no weak love that would bend to circumstances, but a strong love that would defeat all the obstacles. “And you will not eat me.”
“Oh, no, Mr. Rat,” Anna said as she stalked back to bed. “You are too delicious not to taste. But I will not devour you.” I lazily reached over and twitched the curtains open, so the northern winter light flooded the warm room, and this time, we made love without caution or prudence until early afternoon.