She said I could:

We were at Fitz’s place, waiting out the rain. Sterling showed off with some headstands. She brought her legs up easily, with two neat kicks. Fitz and I watched as her shirt became untucked. I had the same passing curiosity as when she got into her bikini at South Hampton and Puerto Rico. I stared at the muscles running up and down her small body, my gaze flitting from this to that until it ended up at the site of her missing fingers. I noticed how that hand was turned to the side, the remaining three fingers spread far apart in order to compensate, balance-wise.

Nice bra, Fitz said, referring to her torn and twisted sports thingy.

She came down immediately.

“Thanks”, she said as she stuffed her shirt back into her jeans. Her face was red from being upside down.

“Sterling, what the fuck. Why don’t you put your picture on the goddamn site?” I said.

“What?” Sterling asked. She was back on all fours with her head on the floor and her ass in the air, ready to kick up.

“I mean, you’re so fucking good looking.”

“It’s absolutely true,” Fitz chimed in. “You’re very pretty, darling.”

“Give me a break,” she said, dismissively. She never accepted compliments, especially if they were about her appearance. We watched as she kicked up again.

“They're dying to see what you look like,” I said, pulling at a frayed bit of upholstery on the armrest of my easy chair.

"Especially the ladies."

“Yes. They’d like to have an image to refer to when they use their vibrators,” Fitz said, crossing his leg and snapping his lighter in front of his cigar.

Sterling laughed and came out of the headstand. She sat on her heels and pushed her bleached bangs out of her face.

“They know what I look like. I took that picture of the Homie to show them.”

“C’mon, you don’t really think you look like some 25 cent toy figurine?”

“Of course I do--you even said it yourself. I got it out of the machine on Grahm and you said, Oh, shit, it’s a mini Sterling even before I took it out of the plastic bubble.”

“Yes, but I didn’t really mean that it looked like you.”

“I think what Sterling is saying is that she showed the people a picture of her plastic homie soul,”Fitz explained.

“Yeah,” Sterling said, emphatically. “And my hand was in it, too.”

I rolled my eyes.

“It’s your other hand that the people want to see, Sterling.”

“Oh, what the hell?” she said, standing up. She walked across the room and stood before me with her arms folded.

“Give me another cigarette.”

“Not until you let me take a picture of you.”

“C’mon, give me a cigarette first.” She leaned over and pinched my upper thigh, trying to feel for the pack.

I grabbed her by the wrist and held her off.

“Please? Why can’t I take a picture of you?” I said, in my best “good girl” voice.

“No!” she said, trying the same thing on the other side with her other hand, which I also grabbed and successfully held back.

“I’m still stronger than you,” I said.

That pissed her off. She grunted and heaved herself forward with her legs. After struggling for several minutes, she exhaled loudly and fell against me.

“Ha!” I said, pushing her off.

“OK,” she said, staring at me wickedly.

“You win.”

Fitz grabbed the camera from the bookshelf.

“I think right now would be great,” he said, fiddling with the buttons on the side of the camera. “With your face flushed and your hair tousled.”

“No,” Sterling said, staring deeply into my eyes.

“Not the face.”

“Why not, darling?” Fitz whined.

“I’m not ready. None of us are.”

“What are you talking about?” I said. “My picture’s there everyday!”

“Well, it’s not going to be my face instead,” Fitz said.

“Oh, don’t worry,” Sterling said, her eyes still pointed fixedly at mine, as though she were trying to hypnotize me.

“The picture will still be of me.”

She smiled and reached down and pulled off her shirt. I jumped and moved back in my seat.

(only a true friend knows how to turn the tables so quickly...)

She leaned over me--smiling, her eyes shining.

“It just won’t be of my face.”

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