By Julia Vettraino © 2005
The streets were still damp from the sprinkling rain, but he was finally able to close his umbrella and hang it on the belt of his long coat. Glancing around, he sighed quietly to himself. This was the way Paris should be seen - glistening cobblestone streets, the full moon shining brightly through the thin wisps of clouds. The lights of the city could be seen in the distance, reflecting the energy of the partying crowds contained within.
He was nearing the Montmartre district, home of "Les Folies Bergere." Countless numbers of inebriated Parisians would be crowded inside, reveling in the dance, acrobatics and variety numbers the show boasted. However, admittedly or not, the patrons were there primarily to enjoy the nude showgirls - a tradition that began in 1918, adding a scintillating new chapter to the already compelling revue.
He wasn't in the mood to fight the crowds or take part in such jubilation, however. He wanted to relax with a drink and allow his thoughts to slip away for a few hours. After walking a couple of blocks, he came across what looked like a small tavern. Dingy in appearance yet still somehow welcoming, only a small, unassuming sign that read simply “La Boudoir” labeled it. He paid the small cover charge to the doorman, who in this district looked out place and overdressed in his tuxedo.
The room was larger than expected, and surprisingly full. The seating appeared to be mostly rich, mahogany-toned booths, with a few rows of small tables near the elevated stage. Despite the number of people in the room, the crowd was relatively quiet. Most talking in whispers, the soft background music could be heard quite clearly.
Sinking into the soft leather of the nearest booth, he placed his order with the barmaid who appeared before he could even remove his coat. She returned with a snifter of warm brandy, perfect to fight off the chill of the evening air. Swirling the amber liquid, he took in the warm ambience of the room, feeling more like he was sitting in the comfort of his study at home than in some bar in the middle of Paris.
He was on his third drink when the lights finally dimmed, only the glow of the table candles were left to illuminate the room. An operatic song began playing, a tragic, soulful sound which echoed throughout the darkness. He felt as though he was wrapped in its blanket, comforted by its presence, and soothed by its soul. His mind, lightly numbed from the brandy, was able to let go of all the thoughts that had encompassed him earlier, and slipped into a peaceful state of relaxation that hadn't visited him in years.
The stage softly came into view. A semi-transparent screen covered the entire area and was lit from behind, revealing only the silhouette of the room within. He could make out a bed, a desk, and a wardrobe in the main area, and off to the side sat an old fashioned bathtub, elegantly standing on curled legs, bubbles rising just above the surface.
The music was still playing softly as a young woman appeared, though again only in silhouette. She was wearing a long dress, reminiscent of the nineteenth century, and though the details were not revealed through the screen, he could imagine that it was covered in a soft, delicate lace. Her hair was artfully coifed and properly gathered upon her head, not a strand out of place or left dangling. She was carrying a parasol, which she placed within the wardrobe, along with the cloak that was draped over her arm.
Another woman appeared, whose stiff, utilitarian clothing marked her clearly as the chambermaid. She stood behind the young lady, assisting in unfastening the countless buttons that held her dress together at the back. The young woman stood patiently, stoically, having been through this ordeal too many times to bother complaining about it once more. When the buttons were undone and the dress slowly removed, the maid untied the corset that encompassed her upper body. Satisfied that she could manage on her own now, the woman nodded to her maid that she may leave.
She sat on the bench by the desk and lifted each leg in turn, slowly rolling her stockings from her thighs down to her ankles. When she was completely undressed she stood up, revealing her profile through the illumination. He could see her full breasts and taut stomach, the gentle curves of her hips and the seductive shape of her bottom. She stood in front of an unseen mirror and turned slowly, admiring her own reflection. Her hands slowly ran up and down her body, softly stroking the outline of her form. It was the most erotic sight he had ever witnessed, a delicious sense of intrigue overcame him as he played voyeur to her most private, intimate moments. Finally, she stepped into the bath, bubbles overflowing; her head stretched back and her arms relaxed at her sides.
She lived in a time of oppression, a time when women were not allowed to reveal even the skin on their ankles without being labeled a whore. A woman's sexuality was an unknown entity, her passions and desires were neither to be discussed nor acknowledged. It was as though the bath was a metaphor, rinsing away her inhibitions, allowing her to transform back into the sensual woman she was, rather than the slave to rules and fashion that society demanded she be. Her hands began removing the pins holding up her hair, one by one dropping them to the floor. Each one seemed to signify something different to him; every tendril of hair that escaped revealed a new sense of her being. She continued to unravel long strands, the mass cascading behind her until a lush, full mane emerged. Satisfied she had removed all her constraints, she stood up to exit the bath, her body still only in silhouette though he was sure he could see lingering bubbles glistening on her skin. She dried off slowly, caressing each part of her body with gentle tenderness. Her head arched back, he could see that her lips were parted slightly, signifying the pleasure that she was receiving from her own touch.
She sat at the desk, still nude, and began brushing her hair. It reached down almost to her waist and covered her upper body like a silky veil. Though it was impossible to tell through the screen, he imagined that it was a light shade of blonde and her skin was as soft and delicate as her movements. He had an uncontrollable urge to wrap his arms around her and protect her, to allow her to live in a world without consequence or judgment. To let her be free to express herself as she was and release her from the confines of what society deemed appropriate behavior.
She moved slowly towards the bed, lowering her graceful body to the surface. Rolling onto her back, she lay still for a few moments, her long, deep breaths causing her chest to rise and fall in a soothing rhythm. Her hands began exploring her body again, gently kneading her breasts, fingers trailing along her sides down to her thighs. Her hips rose slightly in the air, her back arched, and as the lights dimmed and the tempo of the music increased, her hands reached between her legs, bound to release the exquisite, sinful pleasure that she wasn't supposed to know.
Julia Vettraino is from Calgary, Canada.