Home > The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky

The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky
Author: Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky

 

“Do you mean to tell me that you have not actually fornicated yet?”

“Dear God, Felicity.” I didn’t realize how much space was between us until I lunge across the beach in an attempt to clap a hand over her mouth and miss entirely. I shall blame it upon the sand, which makes every movement far more difficult than it should be, as well as the heavy copy of Don Quixote she dug up from a bookstore in Oia sitting on my chest weighing me down.

It tumbles onto the sand with a dull flump. Felicity, unimpressed by my unsuccessful pounce, doesn’t even flinch. Instead, she retrieves my book, shakes the sand out from between its pages, then returns it to me with a disapproving scowl, like I am the one behaving inappropriately by dropping a book, when it’s she who is shouting about my sex life.

“Oh please. They’re far too far out to hear.” Her eyes flit across the bay, where two dark heads are poking from the surf—Ebrahim and Percy, treading water while they wait for Georgie to finish his scramble up the side of the cliff, then leap off and join them. She leans back against a piece of driftwood, letting her copy of Paradise Lost fall closed on her finger. “You’re certainly taking your time.”

“It’s only been a month.”

“Only? I expected that once you and Percy were in agreement about living in sin, you were really going to lean into it.”

Over the waves, I hear a loud whoop of delight, and Felicity and I both look up as Georgie leaps with his knees pulled up to his chest. Before I can see his splash, the water throws the sun’s reflection into my eyes, and I hold Don Quixote up as a shield. In spite of said month in Santorini, I have not yet grown accustomed to so much sun. As a lad raised beneath the ever-1

 

gray skies of Cheshire, I was not prepared for just how hot the weather can be, or how fast that bastard sun burns me. I’m also still adjusting to the way sand is perpetually in my shoes and collecting in the hems of my trousers, and the murderous havoc these rough, hilly streets have wreaked on my calves—there’s not yet been a day I haven’t risen from my bed stiff as an old man. Though I could live happily forever on this diet of Cyclades beaches and domed roofs even bluer than the sky and grapefruits picked from our courtyard for breakfast, halved and salted and spraying sticky juice that stays on your fingers all day.

But a single addition to this lifestyle could vastly improve it.

“Well, I was certainly ready to do the thing immediately,” I say, falling backward onto the beach again and letting the book rest open over my eyes. “But Percy’s a bit of a proper young lady, turns out.”

“What do you mean by that?” Felicity asks. “If that’s meant to be an insult, it’s in poor taste.”

I laugh. “To who? You’re hardly a proper young lady.”

“There are many ways to be proper, you know. And don’t do that.” She snatches the book off my eyes, and I flinch with a caw. “You’ll break the spine. You’re supposed to be reading it, not using it as a visor.”

“It keeps the sun from my eyes.”

“If the sun is in your eyes, move into the shade.”

I squint at her. “But I like the sun.”

“Fine.” She sets Don Quixote carefully upon the log behind her, then brushes her hands off on her skirt. “See if Percy loves you when you’re red as a cherry.”

2

 

“Percy would love me if I was green and purple.” I resist the urge to reach up and scratch the space where my right ear used to be. As the burns have healed into scars, I’ve experimented with a variety of increasingly creative ways to hide this new disfigurement, though short of adopting some sort of masked vigilante persona, it’s beginning to feel futile to do anything other than simply learn to live with the way I now look. I’m still shy around mirrors—even very polished cutlery can be disarming. Still catch myself wondering why noise in a crowd is so hard to pick apart. Still run my fingers over the side of my face and get a sick lurch over the way it feels like dried wax dripped down a candle.

Dear God, in spite of the grapefruits, this deaf, sexless month has been an eternity.

“So what’s Percy done that’s got your breeches twisted?” she asks, Paradise Lost once again open as though to prove just how little she cares about this conversation, but it’s her dragging it out, not me.

“Nothing—that’s the problem.” I flip over onto my stomach, elbows buried in the sand.

“He’s never done anything. With anyone. And he’s more tentative about it now than he was when he was tipsy in Venice. Should have seized that opportunity when I had the chance.”

A soft wind snakes off the water, and Felicity claps a hand to the back of her floppy hat to keep it from blowing away. “Now, that makes you sound like a pig.”

“He wasn’t that tipsy—just enough to feel brave getting a hand down my breeches and around—”

“Stop.” She bats a handful of sand at me. “I don’t need details.”

“And I’m fairly certain he’s ready now, but I don’t know how to bring it up anymore. How do you bring up sex like it doesn’t matter?”

“Does it?”

3

 

“With him, yes. But I don’t want him to think I’m trying to rush him into it before he’s ready.

And there’s never a good moment! We’ve got that flat stuffed full of pirates, and you’re always lurking—”

“I resent that phrasing.”

“And it’s not exactly the most romantic place—I stepped on a cockroach this morning when I got out of bed; did I tell you that?”

“I know, I heard you scream.”

“And this whole island is only about eight foot square.” I roll over again, my head falling backward in an unmistakable gesture of the most champagne-colored despair. “I hate this.”

Felicity licks her finger to turn a page. “Hate what? Chastity?”

“Emphatically yes. I have a reputation.”

“For what, getting trousers off on the first try? Not sure that’s one worth defending in order to prove your fidelity to Percy.”

“I mean I’ve got a reputation for running around a lot, and Percy thinks I know what I’m doing.”

“Well, you do. Don’t you?” She actually looks up at me for the first time, overtop of her spectacles. “Dear Lord, you haven’t been a virgin all this while, have you?”

“No, but I’m a bit concerned my virginity is starting to grow back.”

She goes back to staring at her book, but I can tell she isn’t reading. Her eyes are fixed upon a point at the top of the page, teeth working her bottom lip. I close my eyes, partly because the goddamn sun is still pointing straight into them and partly because I’m overdue for a nap, but then Felicity asks, “What if I helped you?”

I open one eye. “With what?”

4

 

“With your lack of sexual relations,” she replies frankly.

I’m not sure if I want to laugh or throw up on her. “No. Don’t take that the wrong way but . .

. absolutely, definitely no. Let me say it once more, just to be certain you heard: No. I don’t need you getting Percy warmed up for me.”

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