She lies on her stomach with her head resting on a pillow scrunched up in her arms, a smile painted on her lips. I can see the thin layer of sweat glistening on her skin from her head to her toes. Her ragged breathing begins to slow. I settle down along side her, propping myself up on an elbow. My eyes trail down her body and stop at her lower back. I had never seen it before until tonight. In our haste to undress each other, I hadn't stopped to look closely at it, to study it, to ask her about it.
I reach out my hand and my fingers lightly dance over it, tracing the outer edges. I slowly slide down so I can get a better look. The lines are distinct and the grey shading perfect. I can see that the feathers and the face are drawn in great detail. The wings are spread in a noble pose, the tail feathers long and curved around to enclose and frame itself.
"How long have you had it?"
"A long time. Years."
"Did it hurt?"
"I thought you were a tough cop."
"I am. Bullets bounce off me."
"But this hurt?"
"I never said the bullets didn't hurt."
"Why did you do it?"
"For lots of reasons."
"So you would have something to enjoy."
"I enjoy you, period."
She simply looks at me and smiles.
"So why a phoenix?"
"Do you always ask so many questions after you've slept with someone?"
"Only when they have something this beautiful on their body."
"Do you know the myth of the phoenix?"
"It never eats," I joke. "Are you saying you don't eat?"
"Only you." Her smirk is at once annoying and adorable.
"The myth is that it never dies. As it nears the end of its life, it builds a nest, and sets it on fire and is consumed by the fire. Three days later, it rises out of the ashes anew."
"Are you searching for immortality?" My finger traces the circular form of the image.
"I got this after I graduated from the Academy. You know my life wasn't exactly the Cleaver household. When I left it behind, it was to find a better one. The graduation was the start to my new life. With time, I've learned to slowly let go of the past. As the days go by, the art has become more and more meaningful to me."
"I like how the tail forms a circle around the phoenix itself."
"There was a time when I studied Buddhism. It's my homage to how all things in life come full circle."
"I like it. So what was it like, getting it done?"
"It's a one of a kind experience. He started with the outline. He did it with short strokes, so just when you think you can't bear the pain any longer, he stops to wipe up the ink."
"What did it feel like?"
"Like someone cutting you. And just when I thought I was about ready to jump out of the chair, he started to do the shading which was much more bearable. The ultimate feeling of relief was when he finished and was wiping it down. It's almost euphoric," she replies, her eyes looking at me, but out of focus, as she relives the memory.
"Was the pain worth it?"
"For this moment right here, right now, yes, every second was worth it."
"I've fantasized about this moment since I first had the idea to get it. Before, the fantasy didn't have a face or a name. Just an anonymous figure."
"The day I met you, the fantasy took on a form. The form had blonde hair, blue eyes, incredible lips and a body to die for." Her eyes were focused now; focused on me. The corners of her mouth tugging into a smile.
"I thought you liked me for my mind," I jokingly pout.
"Oh, I definitely like your mind. I get to enjoy your mind everyday. For the past three years, I've only been able to enjoy the rest of you in my fantasies."
"So how did I do?" I say, my fingers still tracing the lines on her back.
"Not bad," she answers, her smile teasing.
"That wasn't exactly what you said when you screamed out my name a few minutes ago." I push myself closer to her, close enough to feel the afterglow heat radiating off her. It draws me in and I lean down to kiss her slightly tanned back. Instantly, her skin warms my lips, which only draws me in further. My body shifts so that half of my length is resting on her.
"I can't be held accountable for the things I say when in a state of ecstasy."
"Maybe you just need to get accustomed to the feeling." My tongue replaces my finger and follows the lines of the wings on the mythical bird and I can feel her body tense at first contact, but instantaneously she relaxes. "Do I do this in your fantasies?"
"And this?" My tongue continues its journey along the tail to encircle the creature as my hand caresses the soft skin on her back. I plant a kiss on her tattoo, my tongue drawing a lazy circle on it, tasting the sweat on the small of her back.
"And this?" I kiss her spine above the tattoo beginning my ascent up her back.
I make my way up her back, placing random kisses in my wake. I pull myself up on my knees, straddling her right thigh, my left thigh pressing against her center. My hands flutter along her sides and she reaches down and takes my right hand in hers. She brings it up to her lips and plants a kiss in my palm. I can feel the gentle grazing of her teeth replaced by slight suction on my flesh. She's marking me; marking her territory. The feeling of her lips against my hand is permanently etched into my mind, like the phoenix that is etched into her skin.
I want to be marked by her. The thought instantly excites me. I settle part of my weight onto the back of her thigh and I know she can feel my arousal against her leg. I feel her subtly shifting her leg against me as she presses herself against my thigh and I can feel her wetness against my skin. I kiss her upper back, feeling the muscles from years of rock climbing. It amazes me how her body can be so toned and so feminine at the same time. How many nights had I imagined what it would feel like to touch her this way?
I kiss her shoulders and neck. I feel compelled to leave my mark on her as well. My lips close down on the curve between her neck and her collar bone. I hear her intake of breath as I apply light suction on her flesh. She's still holding my hand against her mouth and entwines our fingers. I release my hold on her shoulder and she opens her eyes to meet mine. I can see the lust in them and possibly something else.
"This is definitely better than any fantasy I've had," she says, her voice breathless, her body responding to my touches. I lie my body flush down on top of her, my breasts pressed against her back.
"Fantasies come and go. And as long as you want me to be, I'll be here."
"Stuck to you, like that tattoo." I grin.
"And like the phoenix, my life has started over again. A new life…" she says and hesitates, afraid of getting ahead of herself.
"A new life with you," I finish for her and I swear I can feel the mythical creature on her back etch itself into my flesh. Her lips meet mine, our mouths sealing the deal, our tongues confirming the promise.