Maybe it was because all her friends were engaged or married, or maybe it was because she’d had three extra-large steins of “dragon blood”—a syrupy mixture of vodka, Malibu, and red slushie. Or maybe it was because their floor seats were loud and she was sweating through her polyester adult princess costume, and the dust from the arena was swirling around her sticking to her face, making her feel like she was out in the desert.
Whatever the reason, Marissa knew what she wanted. And that night, she wanted to sleep with the Red Knight.
He was the knight with his dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. His white horse had a golden mask over its face, making it look more robot than animal. The Red Knight would wink at Marissa and her friends as he rode boy, smoothing his hair away from his face dramatically.
Her girlfriends were red-tongued and sugar drunk, laughing too loud so the other patrons would notice how much fun they were having. It was Amanda’s bachelorette party, after all, and they had to have some wild stories to bring back home to their boyfriends. Amanda was wearing a tall, cone-shaped princess hat with a piece of silk streaming off the point of it. The rest of them were her maidens.
By the first dinner course, the night was turning from giddy to sloppy. They spilled bisque down their princess dresses, wiping chicken grease from their hands onto their purple and pink skirts.
Amanda waved to their knight, pulling the bodice of her dress down and licking her lips. The maidens went wild, jeering and hooting in response. She was so bawdy! So gutsy!
Melissa would have hated them if she wasn’t one of them.
The Red Knight caught Melissa’s eye as his horse sauntered past, and he smiled at her. He raised his carnation and tossed it right into her lap, drawing squeals and screams from the rest of her friends. It was thrilling. The Red Knight has just defeated the Yellow Knight in hand-to-hand combat, and he’d chosen to honor her above everyone else.
Long after her friends had taken taxis back to their hotel, Melissa found herself on the Red Knight’s couch clutching a can of Heineken. She hated the taste of it, but the can was cold and her hands were so hot.
His name was Bryce, he’d told her, but she couldn’t think of him as anything other than the Red Knight. He’d changed into a t-shirt and jeans, and his long hair was slicked back and dirty. She wanted to run her hands through it.
“Does it hurt?” she asked him as he sat down next to her, making her heart jump. “The jousting, I mean.”
“Not really. Only when they don’t hit the shield right and it knocks you off balance a little.” He shifted and took a sip of his beer.
“Oh,” she said. Then, a few beats later, “You ride really well.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed the show.” He put his arm around her and started to tell her about the training, the choreography, the horsemanship. Up close she could see a line of acne under his jaw. Melissa wondered if it was from his armor. His face wasn’t even that handsome up close, and he was much shorter without the horse.
He had to have done this before: brought a girl back after the show, kept his hair in a ponytail, talked about jousting like it was no big deal. He didn’t seem committed to what he was saying. It was like he was giving a half-assed audition with a script he’d overly memorized.
The TV flickered blue on the ceiling and her dress was itchy against her skin. She felt dirty and needy. She wanted to be with him and alone all at once.
“Can we watch TV?” she asked when he stopped talking.
He slumped a little, but his face relaxed. “Sure.”
Bryce gave her the remote and she snuggled back under his arm. He smelled like dust and horses and sweat, and she hoped some of it rubbed off on her. They watched a show about flipping houses until she fell asleep on the couch. He put a blanket on her and slept in his single bed in the next room.
She slipped out in the morning, texting her friends that she was on the way to meet them at brunch. They responded with lewd texts, asking for full details over mimosas. She knew she couldn’t tell them what really happened, so she was already crafting a new version of her night in her head. She’d keep the story of her night with the knight to herself, a gift to open on a future lonely night.
Madeline Anthes is an ex-Clevelander living in Bucks County, PA with her husband and two funny-looking dachshunds. She is the acquisitions editor for Hypertrophic Literary, and you can find her work in journals like WhiskeyPaper, Third Point Press, and Maudlin House. Find more of her work at madelineanthes.com, or follow her on Twitter.