13: The Close of the Day

+.+.+.++.+.+.+

Are you the new person drawn toward me?

To begin with take warning, I am surely far different from what you suppose;

Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal?

Do you think it so easy to have me become your lover?

Do you think the friendship of me would be unalloy’d satisfaction?

Do you think I am trusty and faithful?

Do you see no further than this facade, this smooth and tolerant

manner of me?

Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground toward a real heroic man?

Have you no thought O dreamer that it may be all maya, illusion?

Walt Whitman, “When I Heard at the Close of the Day”

+.+.+.++.+.+.+

Jacob Black is not a restrained or subtle lover, letting loose a string of voluble curses as I ride him to exhaustion on top of the filth and the creaks of a dirty motel mattress.

“Fuck me,” he cries. “Fucking hell… oh baby, fucking hell, fuck!”

I dig my nails into his chest, slam down on him harder.

“Shit! Your pussy is so tight… fuck… fuck… fuck… yeah—”

“Shut up,” I hiss. He’s big, and he’s mine and I’ll come, but his steady stream of adult film lines annoys and distracts me.

“Fuck,” he continues to groan. “Fuck, fuck, fuck—ow!”

His hand flies up to where I’ve slapped his mouth, his eyes wide.

“What did I tell you?” I grind out, pushing my palm to his lips. “Shut the fuck up.”

“Sorry, I’m sorry,” he mumbles against me, his voice shaky as I tighten around him.

While he is underneath me, he is no longer the idealistic congressman, the star of cable news channels, the bold new voice of the House of Representatives. I’ve stripped all of him away.

Instead, I fuck the opportunistic asshole that married for money and has sizeable campaign contributors in three well-known organized crime families. He’s the man who watched, enraptured, as I sucked his wedding ring off his finger before pulling his face between my thighs.

He’s the man who babbles like a bitch when I wind my fingers through his hair and force him to make promises we both know he won’t keep.

I’m leaving her, he gasps.

You’re the only one, he hisses.

“You… you’re the most important thing to me,” he wheezes now, his eyes rolling back as I slam down on him. “Fuck, baby!”

Miracle of miracles, I muse; the man beneath me manages to somehow be both ruthless and gutless.

I fight the urge to roll my eyes and focus on the feel of him.

When I come, I curse him.

He shudders into me violently, pussy-whipped puppy love.

“Don’t ever leave me,” he moans into my palm, oblivious to my smirk.

+.+.+.+

My mother loves her afternoon garden parties.

Away from the warning, curbing glances of my father and his staff, she is herself still on display, always on display, but unfettered by the politicking of The Kingmaker. She welcomes and hosts and entertains, navigating her social circles with the poise and power of a high-wire performer, beauty and grace and control personified as she stands, seemingly suspended, in the glittering cosmos of society.

There on our garden terrace, safe in the sepia tones of the sunlight, the severe angles of The Kingmaker’s haughty consort relax into something softer. Surrounded by women of her ilk and the lush verdure of sharply landscaped lawns, I can sometimes see Renee Higginbotham, of the Beacon Hill Higginbothams in Boston, who was able capture the attention of Charles Swan.

I see this woman only briefly during garden parties, for I am always left to my own devices with the other children, relegated to an area of a massive lawn that is far enough away to prevent our noise from disturbing their conversation.

Behave, the nannies would scold if we grew too loud. Behave. Children, after all, are such noisome lifestyle accessories.

We play tag, or hide and seek, or other games to pass the time until we are summoned in turn, for propriety’s sake, to showcase for the other mothers the many skills our illustrious educations provide us.

“Your mother wants you, Liebchen,” Ilse informs me during one such fête, and I obediently go to the terrace.

There, with her wealthy confrères, Renee Higginbotham of the Beacon Hill Higginbothams awaits.

“Isabella,” my mother says warmly when she sees me. “I was just telling everyone about how well your French lessons have been coming along now that you have Mademoiselle Jacqui.”

I nod.

Vous êtes une belle fille, Isabella,” Mrs. Masen says kindly. “Est-ce que tu me comprends?”

Oui, Madame,” I reply. “Mais je continue à apprendre.”

Mrs. Masen smiles at me. “Your accent is very good.”

“Please, Esme,” my mother huffs indignantly. “Her head’s big enough as it is.”

“Say something else!” one of the other women exclaims, her round face a mass of lipstick and botox.

Après moi, le déluge,” I recite quickly.

“Her accent is good,” one of the other women remarks. “What was her tutor’s name?”

But my mother ignores the question, bestowing upon me a hard look cushioned only by whatever’s in her glass and the fringe of her still-beautiful eyelashes.

“That’s a quote, darling,” she says evenly. “We would like to hear you say something original.”

“It’s a quote?”

“Yes,” mother replies, her eyes leaving mine only briefly before resuming their scrutiny of my face. “Isabella loves famous quotes. I’m afraid it’s a quirk she’s acquired from her father.

“What does the quote mean, Isabella?” someone else asks.

“‘After me, the deluge.'”

“Oh! Yes,” one of mother’s friends a tall pencil of a woman who insists that her friends call her ‘Bitsy interjects excitedly. “Louis XV said that.”

Murmurs of ‘Very good, Bitsy’ make the rounds.

My mother is about to dismiss me to return to the lawn, I can see it in the lines of her mouth.

“Some people think Madame Pompadour said it,” I announce.

Bitsy frowns. “Who?”

“Madame Pompadour,” I repeat. “The king’s mistress.”

There are nods and vacant smiles, and then a muttered remark and scattered titters, but my mother’s stony silence is louder than everything else.

“Go play now, dear,” she commands, and her voice is sweet enough to sting.

+.+.+.+

“Will you ever want more?” Edward asked me, appealing to my control, although his gaze was a mutiny.

Control, control, control.

I am not weak, and I do not weep or want for things I cannot have.

I am not her.

I repeat the words out loud, and they disappear as quickly as I utter them, dissipating into the night air with the vapor of my breath.

Step, step, step and another step and keep walking.

Leave him alone, Dr. Cope ordered. Leave him alone and your father won’t know.

I am Artemis, about to release my game back into the wild.

Men only want one thing,

and I want quite another.

But now I’ll give it up.

We don’t need him, hisses the whisper between my ears. It’s better this way. He’s just like the others.

Yes, I silently assent.

Step and then step again.

There is a tightness in my muscles that will not go away; it grows, goes down to my bones and calcifies around the space behind my lungs.

The frigid air caresses my face, rakes at my throat as I inhale; it’s also what is making me shiver, I think, and that lie is cold as well.

Several empty cabs pass me, but the cold is companion enough for now.

I keep walking.

+.+.+.+

There are few people with the ability to make him laugh, and so I am astonished when my father’s stern face breaks, again and again, into a grin that transforms his expression from something powerful to something pleasant.

Carlisle and Esme Masen have a childless marriage, my mother told Ilse, her horrified tone conveying the desolation of the Masens’ plight. But the Masens do not seem desolate as they entertain my parents, Carlisle with his quick wit and easy, absent smile; Esme with her warm voice and white teeth. Her smile is polite as she listens to my mother, wider when my father laughs at Carlisle’s stories.

I am not the only one who notices; my father’s eyes increasingly find her face.

Beside me, my mother tenses, and I look at her in time to see her eyes narrow with suspicion and annoyance. The stones in her wedding rings glitter and gleam in the room’s light, a warning beacon perched on tightly clasped and trembling hands.

+.+.+.+

Edward has ordered dinner, and there are lit candles scattered liberally throughout the dining room. Behind him, the fireplace crackles and hisses with heat, with light.

“I suppose I should tell you that I’ll no longer be seeing you after tonight,” I say calmly.

The moment I’ve walked toward is here and now and happening, as the words fall from my mouth, as Edward’s eyes widen in disbelief, and then narrow in suspicion.

Control, control, control.

Leave him.

Freedom.

“Is that right?” he asks flatly.

I nod.

“You’re not serious.”

“I’m quite serious. I’m no longer interested in this…” I gesture toward him vaguely. “In continuing this.”

His expression is a prism casting a dozen different emotions, each one fleeting until finally, finally his face is blank.

“Why?”

I shrug. “I’m bored, I suppose. It’s time for me to move on.”

“You’re bored?”

“Yes,” I reply, and I look him in the eye as I answer.

“Then why did you bother coming over? I’m sure you could have relayed this message to me some other way.”

“I was in the neighborhood.”

“Is that right?”

Again, I nod.

He comes closer to where I stand, close enough that the heat along my limbs has nothing to do with the fireplace.

His face is unreadable as he asks, “Are you leaving now?”

“It’s a possibility,” I reply, swallowing the breathy sound in my throat as he leans forward and down to press his lips against my jaw.

“What’s the other possibility?” he murmurs into my skin.

He’s still mine, I think. I’m still in charge.

He wants one more night, and I cannot see the harm in giving it to him.

And so my hands come up into his hair, his fingers dig into the slight swell of my hips, and I prepare to fuck him into the oblivion of a farewell.

+.+.+.+

There is a night when our house is alive with my mother’s muffled shouts, and my seven year old ears can hear and understand only a few repeated phrases.

I’m your wife, she says.

You have a daughter, she says.

Don’t leave, she says.

There is the occasional low rumble of my father’s voice, but I cannot understand his words.

And then there is silence.

Minutes pass before the night is pierced with one final cry:

“Charles!” my mother screams.

There is only anger in her voice, but still I follow it, run through the hall and down the stairs and out the door and there she is.

I rush down the stone steps of the front entrance in time to see my father’s car speeding down the tree-lined lane in front of our house as my mother, bent and weeping in her nightgown, collapses onto the gravel drive.

“What happened?” I ask, over and over, and my only attempt to touch her shoulder is met with a flinch.

She waves me away, choking on tears and mucous and the two words that fall out of her mouth with each breath.

“I’m ruined.”

+.+.+.+

His breath is hot through my fingers as he presses his lips to my palm, presses my back to the wall.

“You’re not really leaving,” he states. “How could you leave this?”

You’re nothing to me, I almost tell him, and he sees it in my eyes.

He smirks. “Keep telling yourself you’re in control, if it helps. But you’re in this as deep as I am.”

His manner is too familiar, too intimate and in control and my lips part, my nails dig into him as I wonder how I will punish him for his cockiness, his calm.

“I am in control,” I inform him coldly, raking my nails down the back of his neck. He hisses in pain.

“I could hurt you back.”

“I’m a woman half your size,” I retort. “Surely I’m too small, too weak to be considered a worthy opponent.”

We stare at each other, mingling breaths and gazes and the hum of energy that snaps between us like a charge, a live wire, a white-bright, frightening thing. His eyes are green glass, brittle and brash, dilated and fixed on my own.

“Like a mirror,” he breathes.

I open my mouth to demand an explanation, but his lips descend and the question is one more thing I will take care of after I’m done with him.

+.+.+.+

“Ilse, look at the sky.”

My father is gone and my mother is useless, but I am still given the run of the house under the supervision of Ilse.

Now, my nanny’s beleaguered visage obediently lifts itself from her book to look at the heavens, her ice-chip eyes squinting in the sunlight. “What am I looking for, Liebchen?”

“It’s a lamb. See?” I point.

“Oh, yes,” she says absently. “Very good.”

“What else do you see?”

“Nothing else,” she sighs, looking away from the clouds and affectionately patting my head. “Why would I look for lambs in heaven when I have one sitting on the ground in front of me?”

“I’m not a lamb,” I scowl.

“Oh?”

“No. Lambs are stupid. Like the ones we saw the other day. They just stand there while the dogs run around and bark at them.”

“There’s not much for them to do about it, child. The dogs are faster and have sharper teeth.”

“The dogs are smarter. I’d rather be a dog than a lamb.”

“Little girls do not aspire to be dogs,” she admonishes. “Dogs are filthy, stinky creatures.”

“I want to be something strong. Like a bear. Or a tiger.”

She hums thoughtfully. “A lion, I think,” she says with a sigh. “If you must be something, be a lion. The lion is the king of the beasts.”

“I don’t want to be a lion. I’d rather be a lioness,” I correct. “The queen of the beasts.”

“Every queen needs a king, Isabella.”

“I don’t. I’ll be a queen by myself, and I’ll eat lamb every night for dinner.”

At that, she laughs, squeezing my scrawny frame to her chest and declaring that I am already a queen and need to eat more, anyway.

+.+.+.+

I am back in this bedroom, standing restless with him before me, readying to fit him inside and my fingers travel the expanse of his back as I plan, plan, plan one step ahead. I must choose which of his little defiances to ignore, and which to punish, and the concentration this necessitates is tiring; his demands strain the tenuous control I exercise; so far, I have not broken him.

Down the rabbit hole, carefully, carefully…

Tonight, a placation: I’ll let him be on top.

Oblivious to the coil of my thoughts, Edward’s hands and lips are everywhere, tongue and teeth and tasting me and I cannot help the speed of my pulse as it thrums like a tribal drum, heats my flesh and roars in my ears.

I am ready for him, impatient.

“Take off your clothes,” I moan against his lips, wishing, willing him to be the man I first claimed weeks prior.

But he only breaks the contact of our kiss by shaking his head.

“No.”

“No?” I repeat in a low voice, stilling against him.

“Ladies first,” he counters.

There is the sudden crack of my palm on his flesh, the sting in my palm after striking, and his fingers fly up to massage his reddening cheek. He frowns, furrowing ire deeper into his skin.

“This slapping thing needs to stop,” he growls.

“I’ll stop when you fucking listen.”

Obey, I demand with a look. Submit.

He does not blink or look away, staring down into my face with an expression somewhere between fury, amusement and hunger.

I see the challenge in him, prepare to prevail, and then—

And then—

he laughs.

And laughing still, moves quickly, reaches down, grabs my wrists and presses himself flush against my body. Wraps his arms around me. Pins my hands behind me.

Incensed, indignant, I try to pull away.

“Let me go,” I warn.

But he only smirks. “Stop. Slapping. Me.”

“I’ll do worse than that if you don’t fucking let me go.”

“What’s going to happen if I let you go? Hm? Are you going to smack me around some more?”

My teeth snap at his neck, and he laughs again.

“You said you own me. You said I’d get used to the idea. You told me that you’re not just some bitch, you remember that?” he asks, grinning as I struggle to free my arms. “Remember, Isabella?”

“Yes,” I spit angrily.

“Right. Yeah, well I’ve got news for you: I’m more than just some asshole you can bitch smack whenever I get tired of playing your little control games.”

“You’ll play or you’ll lose,” I snarl. “So help me—”

“You wanted me to work for it, didn’t you?” he rasps, as the friction from our struggle brushes me against him. “You said you owned me.”

I do, I want to say, but he continues.

“It’s my turn. I’m in charge now.”

I snarl at him once more, but he only smiles, again covering my mouth with a kiss.

+.+.+.+

Your father’s daughter, my mother laments, scornful and sad, as I remember the faint white cloud of limestone hovering behind his car as he drove away.

Away from us, from my mother.

My mother, who wails, weeps and waits for a reprieve from the sentence dealt.

“He’ll take care of me, though, won’t he?” she cries into the phone when she thinks I cannot hear. “He can’t cut me off completely.”

There is sympathy carved in soft, sorry lines on the faces of the staff, and each one of them attends to my mother’s every wish with the tact and compassion of an undertaker.

She may still have money, but she will disappear without my father’s name and they know it.

And so I am my father’s daughter, I realize. My father, whose goodwill suspended the fates of so many, and whose whimsy can destroy my mother’s universe.

“Men only want one thing,” my mother sobs bitterly, vowing in the same breath that I will learn from her mistakes before I get married. Before I am like her: dour, depressed, dependent on the workings of a world that prides itself on propriety.

Pathetic, passionless prey.

I see what my future could be in the shadows of my mother’s grey eyes, and I am cold.

+.+.+.+

After a failed attempt to knee him, Edward is behind me, hot breath on my neck, forearm and fingers splayed across my breasts as his other hand presses on my torso, presses himself against me.

“Can you be good?” he asks in a low voice.

Yes, I think. I can be a good, good girl.

My fingers flex into claws at my side, press underneath his shirt and into the skin over his ribs, and I revel at his quick wince and low whimper.

“Don’t make me use the ‘kitty likes to scratch’ line,” he quips. “I hate clichés.”

“Then stop being one,” I hiss. “Does this feel good to you? The big strong man subdues a woman half his size?”

“You have no idea how good this feels,” he replies smugly, thrusting once into the small of my back. “Or maybe you do. How does it feel to have the shoe on the other foot?”

“I’m going to fucking kill you.”

He huffs a laugh into my hair and bites my neck, just enough to hurt.

“Is this the prim, pretty girl from the coffee shop? So violent,” he teases.

The fire is jumping high now, an inferno with no constraint as my brain throbs and thrums and burns in shades of red, yellow, smoky grey and black.

I buck against him as his fingers find me dripping, my pulse aflame with rage and defiance and something else, something dark.

Something dark.

Something dark.

Something dark.

“You want this,” he growls, and he sounds alive, brilliance and beauty and the brashness of a Mussorgsky tonal poem. His fingers pinch and prod, pain and pleasure and pleading, and I gasp

in agony

in exultation.

And the flames climb higher.

+.+.+.+

Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, was destined for greatness from birth, and she knew it, reveled in it.

And so, when her bathing was interrupted one day by a brash youth named Actaeon, she did not hesitate to strike him down.

It was no less than he deserved.

But I wonder, as I have wondered before—

Did she ever regret it?

+.+.+.+

We struggle, writhe, tumble onto the bed and my breath rushes out of my lungs as I land on my stomach, the bulk of him on top of me and I am weighed down, fixed and pinned as he brings my hands up, holds them on either side of my head.

“Are you going to be good?” he asks again, blunt, breathless, and I squirm at last, having gone down the rabbit hole to find the den of a cobra.

I bite at his forearm in front of me, barely nicking him, and then he moves quickly and there is the brush of fabric and the pulling of my panties…

And then he is there, he is pressing into me and there is grunting, groaning, gasping as he slides in, in , in and it’s too late before I realize the noise is not coming from him alone.

Control, control, control, I think.

But it is nowhere.

Muscles clenched, I clamp around him as he moves and moves and moves and I hate him, hate him for overpowering, overcoming, lying over me, but his thrusts go deeper and our voices grow louder and the cold, the cold, the cold is gone and all that is left is the searing, soaring heat of him.

“You’re just like me,” he rasps into my ear.

“Fuck off,” I snarl, shivering at the silk of his necktie along my naked back.

He ignores me, or doesn’t, his hips pounding, insistent and persistent as one of his hands slides, down my arm and over my shoulder and up my throat and into my mouth. Two of his fingers pull at the corner of my lips and I am hooked even as he guts me.

I can feel the flames flickering even closer as they lick up my spine, into my throat and down through my limbs as every part of me locks and shakes and waits and finally, finally flies.

When I come, I curse him.

He moans his release against my neck,

and my breath on his hand is a benediction.

+.+.+.++.+.+.+

About hollelujah
meh.

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