Riding the Outlaw
S. Bonvissuto


     "Fuck the rules," Barb said without any noticeable segue.
     "What rules?" asked Joyce, who came to nearly all of Mary's parties and therefore should have known better.
     Barb waved an errant hand. "You know -  you know. The rules of attraction and engagement; the laws of love."
     "Oh," Joyce nodded, and quickly ducked out of the kitchen.
     "Who's been feeding the Barb beer?" someone else called out, only half-joking.
     She leveled flinty eyes at her captive audience. "I am not drunk...yet. You all know what I'm talking about. The rules, the regs, the goddamn by-laws and sub-paragraphs of the heart. I mean, you know! The edict that says all you put into a relationship will come back to you; the maxim that dictates monogamy equates trust; the dictum that reads commitments will always blossom into love. All bullshit!"
     "Wow, look at the time!" someone without a watch declared, and ran for the door.
     "Seriously," Barb continued, fortifying herself with another slug from her bottle, "what the fuck is Love? Who was the sadistic son-of-a-bitch who thought that cruel hoax up, anyway? St. Valentine? Ex-communicate the fucking bastard! Hallmark? Burn down their headquarters!"
     "How long have she and Pat been broken up?" Phyllis whispered into Diane's ear.
     "Two weeks, I think. It only feels like two years."
     "You wanna know what love is?" Barb asked in a slushy voice. "It's nothing but a, a, a bedtime story the patriarchy lulls us to sleep with every night, a fucking fairy tale that leaves you high and dry come morning. Trust me here, girls. Reality is the ugliest lover you'll ever wake up to, it's, it's..."
     She blinked, looked around. When had the kitchen emptied out? She took a deep drag off her cigarette, trying to remember why she had come in here to begin with. Oh yeah, another beer. Draining her bottle, she found a fresh one in the fridge and headed out into the living room.
     Bad mistake. The New Year's Eve party had reached that late-night phase where the political debaters and recipe swappers had conceded the floor to the slow-dancers and heavy petters. Barb glanced at the grinding couples and the pairs kissing off in the corners, hating them all on sight. Fools! Didn't they realize they were blindly buying into the urban tale of love?
     Jesus, she had to get out of here - it was like watching a dozen train wrecks in slow motion. She threaded an uneven path out to the balcony. A cool midnight breeze kissed her as soon as she stepped outside: Where you been, girlfriend? She eyed the railing. Were six stories high enough to jump from? What if she didn't stop hurting after hitting the ground? What if the only organ left working was her wracked heart?
     She hurriedly chased the sobering thought away with a long pull and turned to go. That's when she noticed for the first time, off to the right, the lone tall figure in the corner of the balcony, her back to Barb, quietly taking in L.A.'s neon squalor below.
     She took in the faded jeans and dusty cowboy boots. "Who the hell you supposed to be?"
     Startled, the figure turned around. She wore bandannas off a belt-loop and her denim shirt opened just enough for a passerby to fall into. No jewelry or necklace or make-up. Stray blond strands framed her long face. In her hand was clenched a dented black Stetson, worn around the brim.
     Feeling brave, Barb strolled forward. "And we are...?"
     "Nobody," the Cowgirl said. "A friend of a friend of a friend."
     "Yeah, well, aren't we all. Been out here all night?"
     "Most of it," the Cowgirl confessed. "Seemed like the safest place to be." Then she smiled: "'Course, I still heard you."
     "Oh. So, like, you probably think I'm just another loud crazy fucked-up bitch then?"
     "Nah. I figure you're just hurting like everyone else."
     "Whoa there, Tex. Trust me on this one, nobody hurts like me tonight."
     The Cowgirl raised an eyebrow and checked her outright with the palest blue eyes Barb had ever seen. "Well, see now, I'm probably the wrong person to get into a pissing game with..."
     "Lemme guess, lemme guess!" Barb interrupted. "You've seen tons of shit, watched all your dreams go down in flames, been around the block twice and a half, nothing surprises your cynical heart."
     The Cowgirl laughed into the night wind. "I don't know, I'm surprised all the time. Fucking life, ya know? As for my cynical heart, well, I keep it ajar most times, just in case."
     "You don't, don't, don't wanna do that," Barb warned. It was hard to sound sagacious fueled on a six-pack. "You open your heart, people come in with their muddy shoes and leave tracks you can never get out, know what I mean? Stains on the rug, cigarette burns on the coffee table, dip on the couch. You know what a bitch it is to get dip out?"
     "Um, can't say I do."
     Barb got within inches now. This close she could clearly make out the sharpness of her jaw, the freckles dotting her cheeks and nose. Her breath smelled faintly of cinnamon, which was pretty incredible given the time of night.
     "You don't smoke," Barb noted. "You smell, nice."
     "What, you want to kiss me?"
     "No...I mean, yes...I mean..."
     "I know what you mean," the Cowgirl said and, still smiling, took Barb's face in her hands and kissed her hard on the mouth.
     Lips parted like biblical seas, tongues flowing out to play. Distantly Barb thought she should pull back, not give the appearance of just another just-add-beer party-slut. Say something, say anything! But that would mean breaking off and she was too busy basking in that luxurious kiss, knowing now how otters felt floating in warm waters, birds adrift on a summer's breeze.
     And when the Cowgirl touched her right breast, a shy caress that made her nipple stand up and take notice.
     Barb shivered. God-damn, who'd she think she was?
She abruptly backed off, thinking she should have some witty remark to fling out. Only problem was, she didn't, all the words glued together in a useless lump, thoughts tripping over each other like drunken bastards.
     So she turned away to the adjacent railing. Christ, what had she been thinking? Did she really want a ride on that rollercoaster again? Did she really want...
     Long lithe fingers touched her shoulder, her hair. "I'm sorry. Did I scare you off?"
     Barb forced a laugh out but didn't trust herself to say anything else.
     That hand slipped down the groove of her spine.  "I won't hurt you."
"I don't know that..."
"Fair enough."
The hand slid off her back, running the curve of her ass. Barb thought she should stop this right here and now, only she couldn't think of one good goddamn reason why.
The Cowgirl's breath touched her hair; lips brushed by her ear. The hand slipped beneath her skirt, fingers feather-light on the back of her thigh. After a moment or two they headed north.
Barb quaked softly as they glided over her panties. No, wait, I can't...! She looked back over her shoulder but her protest was suddenly snatched away by a fierce kiss.
Holding her fast, the Cowgirl began to slide her panties down. The second they dropped down her calves Barb kicked them aside. She felt the Cowgirl's hand return to her ass, making soft circles, cupping here, kneading there. A stray digit lazily ran along her crack.
Longing bloomed in her belly and she broke off. "Wait, hold on a sec..."
     "For what?" the Cowgirl asked, nuzzling deep.
     "I, I don't know..."
     "Neither do I." Her mouth turned up in a smile. "Do you trust me?" she asked.
     "How...the fuck...would I know...?"
     "Fair enough."
     Without asking permission the Cowgirl suddenly lifted Barb off her surprised feet and gently swung her around to the lounge chair there. They landed amongst a heap of half-forgotten blankets and oversized pillows. Barb started to sit up but the Cowgirl wasn't having it, shoving her back down with insistent kisses.
     Fingers worked the buttons of her blouse until it finally fell open. Cool night air marbled her skin. A knowing hand began rubbing Barb's belly, sending warm waves across her being. Then the Cowgirl tentatively touched her breast. A hot coo escaped Barb's lips before she could grab it back. Hadn't she sworn off those?
The Cowgirl peeled back cotton and bent over. First she sucked the nipple, then blew on it. Barb held on as though she was a passing life preserver in a cold sea. The Cowgirl moved to her other breast, tongue flashing, flickering. She nibble, bit, suddenly pulling it out to the point of sincere pain, only to let it go and kiss it soft once again.
     Fuck fuck fuck!
     She wriggled off the skirt, shed like an old skin. Taking her cue the Cowgirl broke trail down her quivering tummy. Those lips didn't even pretend to hesitate at the edge of her bush. The Cowgirl slipped inside her thighs as snug as fingers inside a leather glove. The woman needed no directions; she knew the lay of the land as well as any rough rider. She drew Barb's clit out with slow sucking kisses and long loving licks.  
     And if that wasn't bad enough she began tracing the wet outline of Barb's swollen lips with a finger, stroking the butterfly folds, slipping inside. A second one followed; then a third, slipping under her wire and around her defenses. Barb felt herself arch sharply in response, rusty hips rolling forward. She grabbed onto the armrests, chugging spastically like a train starting out.    
     From a million miles away the patio door slide open. Suddenly spooked, she tried to put the brakes on, or at least find a goddamn blanket to throw over them, but the Cowgirl, who surely must have heard the noise too, softly slapping her hands down.
     "Euw, look!" one girl - Donna? Deborah? - said. "Public sex!"
     "You oughta try it sometime," was the Cowgirl's breathless response from between Barb's legs.
     The patio door promptly shut. Oh, we'll never get invited back now! Barb found that at that very moment she didn't give a fuck. It was all she could do to hold on. "...Oh jesus motherfucking Christ, oh fuck yeah, yeah baby yeah!" It wasn't her best poetry but it would have to do.
     She was bucking now, run through with two-twenty volts. But there no throwing the Cowgirl. Her tongue flashed like flint against stone, sparks flying. Her free hand reached around to cup Barb's ass, a finger running down her dark divide.
     Barb had no idea what to do, which way to go. She tried to speak but could only gasp for breath; tried to think but her thoughts fled in terror. All she could do was give everything over to this beautiful stranger. So she did - and the moment she surrendered something wet and wild came rising up, bursting the dam, water surging over the top, spilling out, washing away all pretensions and leaving her flailing. Barb thrashed and gasped and came, then came again.
     The Cowgirl raised her head, looked around. She took one of the fallen blankets and, slipping onto the chair and covered them both. She held Barb for a few electric seconds, kissing her face gently rocking her. "Hey, you okay?"    
     "You kidding? Of course I'm not okay." Then: "Don't go."
     That seemed to catch the Cowgirl by surprise. "Why not?"
     "Because that would officially make you a one-night stand," Barb breathlessly whispered, "and I don't want to think of you as just that. Everyone knows one-nighters never come back."
     The Cowgirl smiled. "Oh, really?" She kissed her ear, then the corner of her mouth. "Okay, then, I won't."
     Barb made to say something - it certainly seemed like her cue - but her cynical every-ready voice had apparently felt out of place and left the scene. So instead she simply settled down beside the Cowgirl's right breast, closing her eyes only for a moment, mind you, just a sec, and promptly fell asleep.
     Six hours later she awoke to a jackhammer headache, a mouth lined with dirty cotton, eyes stuffed with sand. And, of course, an empty lounge chair.
     With a groan Barb dove under the blankets, vowing never to come out, ever again.
* * *
     But of course she did. It took six months to convince herself that New Year's Eve was a fluke, an anomaly, a blip on her heart's radar. Of this she was certain - at least until the first warm night of the year when, just around seven, someone knocked on her apartment door.
     She had been heading for the bathtub with some candles and oils and magazines when she stopped, turned around. For no good reason a thousand butterflies suddenly took flight in her gut. She went straight to the door, not bothering with the spyhole. She knew who was there, still breaking all the goddamn rules.
     Barb opened the door. "Hi, you."
     And stepped back to let her in.



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