Kevin Finnerty received his MFA from Columbia College Chicago. His fiction has appeared in Parting Gifts, Milk Sugar, Mobius and other publications. He lives in Minneapolis.
Rachelle Hates Wearing Clothes
Rachelle hates wearing clothes. She’s not what you would call a nudist. She doesn’t parade around naked in public. And, as far as I know, she’s never attended one of those camps where everyone sheds their clothes and lives in harmony for a week or longer. Rachelle simply removes her clothes most days as soon as she returns to our apartment.
Rachelle’s my friend and roommate, not my girlfriend. That’s her choice. I’d like us to be a couple. We’ve made out on a number of occasions. I’ve even touched her entire body from head to toe, though only on the outside. She’s never let me put anything inside of her. We’ve never even French kissed. But I should stay focused; this is Rachelle’s story.
I always know when Rachelle’s had a tough day. She’ll rid herself of her clothes immediately upon entering our apartment without even waiting to go to her bedroom. Sometimes she starts undressing in the hallway while simultaneously inserting her key into our lock.
Rachelle works as a hostess at one of the fancier restaurants in our city. She’s exceptionally pretty but not intimidatingly beautiful. Rachelle stands 5’7” with shoulder-length brown hair with red highlights. At work, she tends to wear skirts cut an inch or two above the knee and black hose. She leaves the top two buttons of her blouses undone. Restaurant patrons would never guess that she hates wearing the clothes that seem so right on her.
The restaurant’s owners pay Rachelle well to smile a lot while being helpful and pleasant. They recognize it’s not as easy as it might seem to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable.
Rachelle started working at the restaurant two years ago, right after she graduated from college and we moved in together. We met four years earlier when she was a freshman and I was a senior and the T.A. for her spring introductory history class. We chatted a few times before I learned of her hatred of wearing clothes mid-semester.
She told me she couldn’t live in the dorms for another year. I suppose she expected I would have known why. It’s a little surprising that I didn’t. Hers wasn’t the sort of story not to spread, even in a large university like ours, where obscurity is still possible.
Maybe I was too focused on my studies then. Or too into what I was into in those days to the exclusion of everything else. I’m not that way anymore, but this isn’t my story.
It was hard for a while not to picture Rachelle naked after she told me. Most people, we know as only clothed, even though they all spend a considerable amount of time naked. They just don’t bring it to our attention.
Back then, Rachelle’s hair reached the top of her behind, and she rarely wore makeup. But what I remember most was she had the habit of opening her eyes and mouth wide—without ever saying anything—whenever anyone did something she couldn’t believe, such as propositioning her upon meeting her or telling her of their random, drunken sex experiences.
Rachelle was more innocent than good at the time, which is to say she was both, but her goodness appeared to be the product of her innocence. It never occurred to her to be bad, or to believe that others might want to do what she considered sinful, until she lived with and around those who thought nothing of fulfilling their needs and desires by exploiting others. Now she’s simply a good person.
Rachelle fought to conform during her year in the dorm. Aside from always sleeping naked, she only removed her clothes a few times a month, and only when she believed she had her room to herself. But college dormitories are no place for secrets. Too much activity 24/7. Someone eventually learned Rachelle’s habit, exposed her, and nothing was ever the same.
I’m quite sure Rachelle was still a virgin (in the sense of never allowing penetration) when she arrived on campus, but her dorm-mates soon labeled her a skank, a whore, puta. Just because she hated wearing clothes.
I felt sorry for Rachelle before I understood her. She wanted her own place so she wouldn’t have to live her life in a manner inconsistent with who she was, so I helped her move into my apartment at the end of May when I moved out. I hadn’t expected to need it any longer as I’d always intended to enroll in graduate school in another state in the fall, but life doesn’t always proceed according to plan. I ended up remaining in the area.
But this is Rachelle’s story, not mine.
I ran into her about six months later. Actually, Rachelle ran into me.
I had just left a meeting with the chair of the history department in which we’d discussed the possibility of my enrolling in graduate school the following fall when Rachelle zipped around a corner and plowed into me.
I didn’t recognize her at first. She wore a big down jacket, wool hat, scarf and ear muffs. She looked nothing like a person who hates wearing clothes, though she appeared to be in a hurry to get somewhere.
“Sorry,” she said.
“What’s the rush?”
“Got to get home. Didn’t know you were still here.”
“It’s me underneath all this.”
She was practically bouncing. I presumed she was cold.
“What’s waiting for you at home?”
She looked at me through the small slit between her scarf and hat as if she expected me to remember. It took me a few seconds but I eventually did.
“Can I walk you there?”
“You can jog along if you want.”
We practically ran through the ice and snow until we reached her place, which had once been mine. The back of my throat burned from the cold air hitting it. I tried to think of how I could ask Rachelle if I could come inside without it sounding creepy.
Eventually, she grew impatient and kissed me on the cheek. “I got to go. Let’s get together some time.”
Over the course of many months, Rachelle and I met for coffee, then at campus events, then for drinks, and finally dinner. Well, pizza.
Our get-togethers always ended with our hugging and her giving me a peck on the cheek until the night when we shared pizza. As we stood outside the restaurant, she maintained a greater distance between the two of us than normal.
“If I asked you something would you not take it the wrong way?”
“What do you mean?”
“If I asked you to come over to my place?”
“Yeah, I know we’re friends.”
“And you know me.”
“So you’d be okay even if I ….”
Sometimes, a lot of times actually, when we were apart, I thought of Rachelle naked and took care of things. But by this point in time, when we were together, I didn’t. I saw her as her. Not naked Rachelle, nor clothed Rachelle. Just Rachelle. So her words took a few seconds to register.
“Oh no, no problem.”
“Yeah, you want me to…?”
“Keep your clothes on.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
I always kept my clothes on. For the next two years anyway. When Rachelle and I were really good friends but not roommates. Just as well anyway. In those days if I spent time with Rachelle at her place or mine and she was naked, it was impossible for me not to become excited. She probably could tell anyway, but it wasn’t as nearly as obvious as it would have been had I not been wearing pants.
We didn’t fool around back then. Rachelle seemed to be in a hurry to find a partner for life, so she dated a lot, though few of her coeds became boyfriends.
Many of the guys failed to recognize that her habit was not a sexual invitation. Some managed to control themselves when they first saw her naked but could not help but brag to their bros about the free-spirited girl they were dating. Others lasted longer but ended the relationship once they realized Rachelle’s nakedness was not the average woman’s nakedness: it was not only for them.
When Rachelle and I weren’t living together, the guy didn’t see it right away. But there always came the day when he’d come over to her place wearing a smile on his face until he saw Rachelle and I sitting together on the couch, me fully clothed and she buck naked. She’d get up and run over to him to give him a kiss but he’d stare directly at me like I should be ashamed of myself.
Rachelle told me she wanted us to live together after she graduated because her parents would no longer pay for her room and board. She claimed she needed a roommate and no one else would accept her. That may or may not have ben true, but Rachelle had to realize the effect her decision would have on her chance for other relationships.
The only guy she’s been close to since we’ve lived together ended it the first morning he emerged from the bathroom and saw Rachelle and I—me in boxers and she in the buff—at the kitchen table sipping coffee. He rubbed his eyes hard, certain they had to be deceiving him, but once he realized they were not, he gathered his clothes and left, never speaking another word to Rachelle.
I’m sure all of Rachelle’s guys imagined the worst happened when they weren’t around, when she and I were alone. But Rachelle’s never cheated on anyone. That’s not her. The times we’ve been physical we’ve both been single. And lonely, I suppose.
Maybe I should take Rachelle at her word and presume it was a pure economic decision to become roommates. Of course, I’d told Rachelle my story long before we moved in together. I had to. I told her shortly after she exposed herself completely to me in her apartment that first time. It only seemed appropriate to reciprocate.
I told her what had happened, why I hadn’t moved away after senior year as planned. Rachelle appeared stunned, and we went a little longer that usual without seeing one another afterwards. But once we did, she never mentioned it again, and I’m not going to now. Remember, this is Rachelle’s story.
Our two years together have gone by fast. Things happen when people live together. You see so much of one another, you can’t help but show your true self. No one can be false all the time. You either accept and deal, or you don’t and move on.
After we shared our place for about two months, Rachelle asked if I ever considered being naked at home.
“I don’t hate wearing clothes,” I told her.
I did and what I expected occurred. She pretended not to notice, and eventually things changed so I wasn’t aroused all the time.
Once that was the case, Rachelle suggested we kiss, touch and caress each other on occasion. For the most part, whenever she suggested it, we were very loving. When I did, the whole thing seemed more sexual. I’m not sure why except that I lack Rachelle’s purity. Sometimes I felt she took care of me out of pity. But maybe it was really just due to her goodness.
Last night was good. Great, actually. Rachelle came into my room when I was asleep and got into bed with me. When I awoke, I asked if something was wrong but through the darkness she put her finger on my lips.
We kissed and petted not unlike we had done in the past, and even though there still wasn’t any insertion or penetration, our acts seemed to be filled with greater passion. We grabbed each other and pulled one another closer, tighter. Then, for the first time, she slid down my chest and kissed, licked and flicked until I came.
I wanted to go down on her not just to reciprocate but to make her feel as fantastic as I felt, but she pulled me up and placed my hand on her sex instead. She guided it to show I was only to rub the outside. I did as instructed with as much love and affection as I was capable.
I’d heard Rachelle cum before. Behind closed doors. Both when alone and with someone. But it was different hearing her do so beside me, because of me.
We spent the night in each other’s arms.
She was already awake by the time I opened my eyes. We smiled at one another. Hers appeared a little forced. Or maybe she simply wasn’t beaming as I was.
I kissed her softly on the lips. She accepted it, waited a few seconds, then kissed me on the lips before getting out of bed.
I sat up, confused, and went to her room. She had put on sweat pants and was in the process of throwing an old tee shirt over her head.
I stood before her naked.
“Do we need to talk about last night?”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“But I’m not ready for more. Not with you. Not yet. I’m sorry, I thought I was.”
I imagined it was because I wasn’t as tall or as built as her Ex-es. I feared it had to do with the size of my equipment. But I knew she only dated nice guys. Well-groomed, well-manned, decent young men.
Rachelle opened her eyes and mouth in the way I hadn’t seen in years. She softly placed her hand on my cheek. “You know why.”
“I feel bad.”
“Because you’ve always accepted me the way I am. Nobody else has. Not my parents, my sister, my friends, my Ex-es. Only you.”
I pulled her into an embrace and attempted to lift her shirt. She resisted for a second then allowed me to remove it. She got rid of the sweats herself.
I cupped one of her breasts with one hand and placed the other on her behind. She rolled her head into my chest. I felt tears sliding onto me.
She took me in her hand. More in a loving way than a sexual one. I began to grow.
“I want to be more like you. You’re better than me. I wish I could take in all of you the way you do me.”
I knew then. I’d known all along. I just hadn’t wanted to admit it.
I’d scared her with my story more than I’d realized. I don’t know if I can ever fully recover in her eyes. If I do, that will be my story. This one’s hers.
My friend Rachelle hates wearing clothes.