Face Value




Michael C. Keith




Through his own internal lightning blind

            -- Shelley




Erik was ten years older than Jenny, but they were both young when they began dating.  She was eighteen and he was twenty-eight, so it was not a May-December sort of thing, he reasoned, not like “robbing the cradle,” as a couple of his buddies joked.  Because she acted so much older than her young years, Erik felt they were pretty evenly matched.  Besides he didn’t look a decade older than Jenny, so no one really brought up the age difference--not even their families. 


About the only thing that betrayed the disparity in their ages was her adolescent acne, which was acute enough to prompt Erik to recommend she visit a dermatologist.  It was something that disturbed him and he felt compelled to broach the topic, but he was delicate with his suggestion for fear of offending her and making her even more self-conscious about her defiled countenance.  Fortunately, she readily agreed to seek counsel, and within weeks her skin showed some improvement. 


From Erik’s perspective, her numerous zits were her only physical deficit since her body was almost perfectly proportioned—almost, that is, because her breasts were somewhat oversized for her lithe torso.  However, no one, especially Erik, felt this distracted in the least bit from her appearance.  In fact, it clearly complemented it, because her voluptuous shape generally was the first thing people noticed, and it kept them from basing their initial impression on her blemished skin.


To Erik’s delight Jenny’s acne had appreciably cleared by the small ceremony marking their nuptials.  On their honeymoon in Bermuda, she dazzled fellow beach goers by wearing a tiny bikini that accentuated her stunning physique.  Erik could not keep his eyes or hands off her perfectly sculpted derriere, and he took full advantage of his new status as her husband to partake of its merits.  Indeed, it was something he did with exceptional frequency.  Erik had long made it clear to his buddies that he was a “butt” man, and while he admired Jenny’s bodacious chest, it was of secondary sexual interest to him.  The supple beauty of her buttocks intoxicated him.


In the early months of their marriage, Erik’s enthusiasm for what he regarded as her greatest attribute remained high as did his dissatisfaction with her cutaneous eruptions, which had taken a turn for the worse after their honeymoon.  Jenny was equally frustrated by her dermal inflammation and was becoming increasingly distraught by her husband’s obvious attempts to avoid looking at her face.  While Jenny was initially pleased that her spouse took great pleasure in mounting her from behind, it now became evident to her that he preferred gazing at her backside rather than her front. 


“Why don’t you like making love the regular way?” she frequently asked, to which Erik would invariably reply, “I just love doing it my way.”


“I think you just don’t like looking at me,” Jenny said dejectedly.


“Of course I do.  That’s ridiculous,” countered Erik.


“No you don’t.  I mean, really look at me, not just my rear end,” responded Jenny on the verge of tears.


                                                                   * * *


Things did not change over the next couple of years, especially Erik’s desire for his preferred manner of intercourse.  But Jenny had begun rejecting her husband’s advances and would reframe from disrobing in his presence to keep from exciting him.  If he can’t look me in the eyes, he can’t look at my thighs, became Jenny’s mantra, and repeating it would lighten her spirits and strengthen her resolve.  She was determined that he not treat her as merely an object of his formidable lust.  If he won’t tend me, he can’t bend me,” was another incantation she devised to mitigate her despair.


By the fourth year of their marriage, Jenny had given up on thinking that Erik actually loved her--and that is when she met Frank.  He had come to her advertising agency where she worked as a media buyer to pitch a commercial package on his radio station.   She was instantly smitten by his warm and engaging smile and large brown eyes, which focused on her face as if it was the loveliest object in the universe.  Soon they were seeing each other, but it was with reluctance that she first made love to him, because she feared he would also prefer her husband’s solitary position.  As they undressed, her mantra echoed through her head and quietly slipped from her lips. 


“If he can’t look me in the eyes, he can’t look at my thighs,” she uttered.


“What, honey?” asked Frank, running his hand through her hair.


“Nothing,” replied Jenny apprehensively as she anticipated his next move, which came slowly and gently as he slid atop her naked body.


The sensation of having a man over her rather than behind her felt strange, wonderful, and satisfyingly intimate, and for the first time in years she achieved an intense and prolonged orgasm.   Afterwards, they relaxed silently in one another’s arms and soon found themselves repeating the sublime act.  Again she reached new heights of sensation.


Jenny’s affair with Frank soon turned into a deeply loving relationship, and she asked her husband for a divorce.


“So that’s why you won’t let me near you any more,” he responded with a casualness that perplexed her but relieved her of any sense of guilt over their failed marriage.


Meanwhile, Erik had two distinct reactions to his wife’s declaration.  He was pleased that he would no longer have to look at her imperfect complexion but disturbed that henceforth she would not be available to satisfy his erotic cravings astride her flawless hindquarters.


                                                                     * * *


When they parted company, Erik took some solace in the thought that while she would be gone from his life, he would still possess the rousing mental images of his sexual encounters with Jenny.  His fiery moments with her would be his to re-experience forever, or so he thought.  However, try as he might, he could not retrieve them from his memory banks.   All he could conjure was Jenny’s face with its loathsome pockmarks, and it maddened and frustrated him. 


Eventually Erik remarried and the recollection of Jenny faded to where it became gossamer-like, and then it vanished completely . . . until one evening.  As Erik and his new spouse looked through a pile of his photographs as they settled into their new home they came across one of Jenny.


“Is that your ex?” she asked.


“Yeah, it is.  I thought I got rid of all these,” he answered while closely examining it as if it were an unearthed artifact.


“She was attractive,” commented his wife.


“Really?  You think so?” inquired Erik his eyes still fixed on the photo.


“Yes, ” she answered, “Didn’t you?”


“Hmm, I guess I never really saw that,” he replied after a long thoughtful pause, “but maybe she was.”


“Well, you must have found something attractive about her.  You guys got married.”


“Yeah, I suppose, but whatever it was, I still left her behind,” responded Erik.


His wife shrugged not realizing the full meaning of his remark.  Her husband didn’t either.


© Michael C. Keith.  He is the author of numerous books, articles, and stories.  He teaches communication at Boston College. http://www.michaelckeith.com/