Old Truths

10944

1.

She woke up belly down, the pillow wet with her drool. Her husband was gone, as he usually was, five-thirty, without a word or a kiss. She opened her eyes, stared at the blurry branches through the half open window. The night had been cool. She’d pulled the down over her.

“Are you gonna’ do it?” asked Madeleine.

“What?” she answered groggily, without turning. “Maddy? What are you doing here?”

“You’re still not sure?” Madeleine half bounced in the lazy chair across from the bed. “You’ve spent months thinking about this. You’ve made plans, haven’t you? You’ve made a fake name, a fake address, a fake excuse. Why should he  suspect you? What interest does he take in your life anyway? You might as well just use your real name and put out an advertisement.”

Lydia rolled over, rubbed her eyes with her knuckles and turned to Madeleine. The younger woman was sitting on Lydia’s clothes. She looked like she always had—blue hair, short purple mini-skirt with silver stars, pierced lip and belly button shirt. Those skinny and beautiful legs that had always attracted men like bees.  She was sitting cross-legged, elbows on her knees, chin in her hands. “You snore when you sleep,” she smiled.

“What are doing here?”

“And God but you sleep a long time.”

“There’s nothing else to do.” She sat up.

“Oh, there are a million things to do.”

“Can you do something useful? Besides sitting on your ass and snarking. Maybe fix me some coffee and eggs?”

“You’re going to do it, aren’t you!”

Lydia threw off the covers, stretched, sat up, stood, rubbed her eyes again.   “Blech. My mouth tastes terrible.”

“Maybe you should rethink coffee and eggs.”

“Right,” said Lydia. “Water. Toothpaste. Yoghurt. Banana.”

Madeleine stood with that maddening flick of her purple-skirted hips, bouncing out of the chair. She did a little twirl. Lydia shuffled off to the closet. She  pushed aside an armful of clothes and picked the outfit half-hidden behind them all.

“Seriously?” asked Madeleine.

“What if he’s seen them?”

“When’s the last time he commented on your fashion sense?”

“It would be just like him.”

“Try it on.”

“Mouth first.” said Lydia. She lay the new skirt on the bed, then scurried to the bathroom. Madeleine stood behind her as Lydia lifted her T-Shirt, studying her boobs as she brushed her teeth. “Not bad.”

Lydia glared at Madeleine, unable to speak.

“I always wanted boobs like yours,” said Madeleine.

“Like hell you did!”

“Oh God, are you still so self-pitying? Even at your age? It was insufferable when you were a teenager, but now? What have you been doing all these years? Don’t tell me. You blog. You have a blog don’t you. I wish I could blog. Tell me you don’t piss and moan about your sexless marriage. Are you? Nothing as addictive as martyrdom. What’s a girl not to love? Unnassailable righteousness. Am I helping yet?”

“Don’t be an ass!”

“Tell me I’m right.”

“Shut it.”

Madeleine taunted, sing-song. “Tell me I’m right.”

“Fine. You’re right.”

“Shocked. Just shocked. Now tell me something I don’t know.”

“Oh for God’s sake, Maddy!”

“You’re making the right decision,” Madeleine studied her fingernail and smiled.

“Easy for you to say.”

“Wait till he sees your boobs. Nothing wrong with those. So what if they’re not as perky. Neither is he. You know what they say about a man’s dick, right? A little soldier when he’s twenty, out of breath at thirty, and than by forty he can’t stand up anymore, and by fifty he gets medals and a parade on veterans day. If he can make it to the end of the parade he gets a twenty-one gun salute.”

“He’d damned well better make it to the end of the street.” Lydia turned sideways, looked at her figure, lifted the little bit of extra curviness at her hips.

“You still got it,” said Madeleine.

Lydia exhaled and returned to the bedroom. She pulled the tube skirt over her head and shimmied until she pulled the hem over her hips with a wiggle to the left and right. She tentatively walked to the mirror, turning sideways, hands lightly on her hips. “I’m puting on tights.”

“Tights?” asked Madeleine.

“I’ve got a dayjob, Maddy, Remember? Gotta’ work first. Can’t give all those sweaty, beer-gutted middle managers a heart attack. I can always take off the tights later.”

“Give ‘em heart attacks, Liddy.”

“Why are you here?”

“With nothing on underneath.”

“Maddy!”

“Baby steps, Lydia. Baby steps.”

“Maddy! Go away!”

Lydia put on the tights, and bra, and scarf and a necklace. She had so little time.

2.  

“Father!” Lydia paused.

Father McCory was sitting at the kitchen table. His skin was pale, hair gray, and he was smoking a cigarette. “Over twenty years is it? And just like that? You’re gonna’ throw it all away just like that? What happened to those vows? Till death do us part. What did y’think that all meant, Lydia. Why d’ya suppose they call them vows? D’ya know what a vow is?”

Lydia didn’t answer. She walked past the kitchen table, steps small and purposeful, fingers fidgeting at her side.

“Got nothin’ to say?”

“Don’t smoke.”

“Why should it bother you. Does it bother you?” He tapped the cigarette over the floor. “Polluting your house, isn’t it? No different. Your body’s your husband’s house. God made you, made that house, for your husband and you, a woman, ought to know that best and keep it clean. You know that, right? A woman’s not like a man. Let just any bastard son of a mother into your house, there’s no goin’ back. What’s a cigarette compared to that? Compared to a man who’s got no business being there? You’re married, Lydia. You married. You committed your body, life and soul to one man, for better or worse.”

“My body’s like a house, is it?”

“It is.”

“And who the hell says it belongs to anyone but me?”

“You did!” Barked the elderly priest, hand shaking with age as he sucked at the cigarette. Then he pointed at her with two fingers and the cigarette crossed between them. “You vowed your body and soul to one man, before that man, before that man’s family and yours, and before God and in the house of God.”

“And what about him?” Lydia spun round.

Father McCory leaned back, sucking his lips against his teeth. “How’s he done for ya’? How? Shall we take an inventory?” He motioned casually to the kitchen and the rest of house. “Not bad. There’s a world of women who’d trade their place with yours. Look at it! Look how you live! The wonder of it! You oughtta’ go back  to Ireland, I’m tellin’ ya’, just to see how bad it can get. I’ll show you there some women who’ve gone down all the wrong roads. See how they live. See what’s become of’em. You won’t be any better than one of them if you follow through with this.”

“There’s more to being married than a house and car!” answered Lydia. “But I don’t suppose you’d know that. What do you know about being married? How’s what I’m going to do any different than what he’s done to me?”

“He’s done nothing to deserve this.”

“That’s exactly it, isn’t it?” She angrily leaned on the table. “He does nothing. How long has it been? A year? Two years? You don’t call that a betrayal? How dare you! I didn’t marry his wallet. I married a man! And where is he? What about those vows. Is it a  ‘faithful husband’ won’t touch his wife. Is it a ‘faithful husband’ doesn’t so much as face his wife when he gets into bed. How in the hell does that make him ‘faithful’. Faithful to what? To you? To your precious dogma? Well then let him go crawl into bed with you, and good riddance! If that’s what you think makes a faithful marriage, then he’s better off with you. Let the two of you lie there, side by side, and stare at the ceiling for all I care, but oh what a beautiful marriage it will be. God and faith be praised! Joy be with you. Good enough for two old men but not for me.”

“For better or worse!” snapped McCory. “Did you think it was always for better?”

“In a proper marriage it’s both who benefit or both who suffer,” Lydia spoke cooly. “But whatever it is, for better or worse, you do it together. It’s not better for one at the expense of the other. That’s not a proper marriage. That’s not a proper relationship. That’s not even a proper friendship.”

McCory inhaled the cigarette, his gaze never leaving Lydia’s. “Two wrongs don’t make a right, do they? They never have. They never will.”

“But being wronged,” Lydia answered, “gives you lots of rights.”

3.

Lydia took the bus to work. She didn’t trust the car. If a satellite could track the GPS, then why not anyone else? But you never know who you’re going to meet on a bus. Lydia’s kindergarten teacher, as luck would have it, took the seat in front of her. Lydia didn’t recognize her at first, or only slowly. Miss Henthorne was wearing the knee-length navy blue dress and top, the height of sixties fashion. Her hair was drawn up and she balanced a little yellow purse on her knees. She turned and smiled, that ingratiating smile that was half welcome and half expectation.

“Is that you?” she said. “Lydia! Oh my! It’s you!”

Lydia glanced nervously at the other passengers, but no one paid attention.

“You too?” asked Lydia.

“Well of course,” Miss Henthorne smiled. “Of course! You were always such a good girl.”

Lydia sighed. “Make your point.”

“Honey,” Miss Henthorne turned in her seat, hooking her white gloved fingers over the back. “Don’t be like that. I’m only here to help. Whether you’re a seven year old girl or forty-something girl, you’re never too old for a little guidance.”

“Do we have to?” But despite it all, Lydia shrank and tucked her hands between her knees.

“The funny thing about you is that you were always wandering about. Nothing ever kept your attention. Not at first. You would flit like a butterfly from one distraction to another. I remember binging in a vase of beautiful flowers and asking the class to draw it, you were the girl staring out the window drawing butterflies. Now butterflies are lovely, I admit, but that’s not what I asked you to do. If I told the class it was time to copy what was on the board, it wasn’t a minute before you were off in your own world, scribbling whatever popped into your head. Now I have nothing against a child making up stories, but that wasn’t your assignment. You had an assignment. There was a perfectly good story I had written on the board. Your job was to copy it. That’s how a child learns to write. And every day we had a ten minute recess. That was time for all of you to play and socialize. But you wouldn’t play with the girls. There you were, off in the corner, making a mess of the papers and crayons. Now I expected this kind of behavior from the boys, but not a little girl. And you learned. ou only needed a little guidance, encouragement, prodding, and how wonderfully you learned to behave—always with a smile—and you’ve always had such a pretty smile—always considerate, attentive, agreeable and happy to do as you were told. I knew someday a great man would marry you. Behind every great man is a great—”

Behind every man?” Lydia couldn’t bite her lip any longer. “How could you!”

“Dear, let me—”

“No!” Lydia looked around her, then with a harsh whisper. “How could you do that to me? What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with little girls wanting to daydream? So what if I wanted to draw butterflies instead of your stupid flowers! So what if I didn’t want to play with dolls!”

“Why, you could draw whatever you wanted!” objected Miss Henthorne, “but not in the classroom. Kindergarten, you know— kindergarten is where children are introduced to the world! There is a time for self-indulgence but kindergarten isn’t it, Lydia. The other girls all wanted to play with you. But I see no reason why a woman shouldn’t enjoy any hobby she likes, as long it’s on her own time!”

“I wanted to be an artist!”

“Well of course,” said Miss Henthorne, “art is a wonderful hobby.”

“No,” Lydia leaned forward. “No! Art! Not a hobby! How could you do that to a little girl? What kind of a pinched life would make you do that to children?”

“Lydia H. Goodman!” Miss Henthorne bridled. “How dare you! That is your married name isn’t it?”

“Yes, but—”

“It’s not a coincidence that we met,” she continued. “Don’t think that I don’t know what you plan tonight; and don’t use that tone with me. It’s not becoming of a woman. Everything I did was to make you a young lady and a respectable woman—”

“And do as she was told.”

“Yes! ‘Obey until death do us part!’ Isn’t that what you promised? Men and women have been marrying since time immemorial and there are timeless rules men and women accept when they marry. Rules.”

“Rules, rules, rules—”

“Yes, rules. We’re no better than animals without them. Animals: brutish, bestial, impulsive—”

“And what are we without love?”

“Faithful.”

“Faithful,” Lydia laughed. “To what?”

“Where are you going?”

“This is my stop,” Lydia stood, answering without turning.

“You can’t just leave! I’m talking to you! I’m not done.”

“I am.”

“Lydia!”

“What?” she spun round, exasperated.

“God knows, if I could have taught you how to love yourself, I would have.”

4.

The bus stop was a short walk from the several story building where Lydia worked. She had only just thrown her messenger bag over her shoulder.

“Hey!”

Lydia stopped, glanced.

“It’s me!” said Madeleine.

“Hi Maddy.” She sounded annoyed.

“Isn’t this city great?” Madeleine skipped beside her, still in her little purple mini-skirt. How the men would always stare at her! “Look at all these people—and you! I totally knew you’d make it. You work in the coolest building. You get to be around amazing people! You’re a graphic artist. Is that cool or what?”

“It’s not what I wanted, Maddy.”

“I know but, I mean, you remember that game we made up?”

“Oh—oh yes.” Lydia smiled.

Madeleine skipped again, half-sideways so she could keep talking. “And you remember your Dad’s reefers.”

Lydia laughed almost reluctantly.

“The first time was a dud but the fourth time?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh my God,” said Madeleine, “that was beyond philosophical. You remember the game? One of us would say something philosophical and the other would flip it around. I would say: The future makes you. ”

Pedestrians rushed by Lydia as she stood in thought. “And I would say: No, you make the future.”

“I would say: Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Lydia answered, “But rights go to the wronged.”

“Hey Liddy, you want to go for a walk?”

“I can’t.”

“Please?” Madeleine reached for Lydia’s hands.

“Maddy,” Lydia sighed with exasperation. “You’re like a child.”

“Please.”

“No.”

“Just today, please? I’ll tell you a secret.”

“No!” Lydia brushed past Madeleine. “Can today just be normal?”  

“Liddy,” said Madeleine, “your opportunities decide our choices”

“No,” Lydia spun round. “No. I’m not playing that game anymore. What do you want me to say? Your choices decide your opportunities?”

Madelein nodded hopefully, ready to smile, but afraid to.

“Okay,” Lydia walked back to her. “Here’s another way to turn that around. Every you choice you made robbed me of an opportunity.”

“Lydia!” Madeleine shook her head. “Please. No.”

“Why? Why did Peter pick you instead of me? Was it because you made a choice? You chose to fall in love with him? To let him fall in love with you? Maddy, I loved him. How could you not know? Always—always just taking. When did you ever think of anyone but yourself?” Lydia cried openly. “You were like a child, Maddy! If you wanted something you took it. Just take it! Who cares about anybody else! It doesn’t matter who you hurt. Let’s go for a walk! Right now! Who cares about Lydia’s job! Who cares about Lydia’s broken heart. It’s—It always works out for Maddy. Jesus. Haven’t you done enough? Can you just leave me alone?”

“Yes.”

“I want a new start, Maddy.”

“I know, Liddy.”

“Then leave me alone,” she begged.  

“Please don’t.”

“I’m sorry,” Lydia wiped her eyes. “Go. Away.”

5.

Sometime after lunch, Lydia wanted away from everyone. She climbed the stairs to the firm’s second floor where there was a newly remodeled corner office. Though there was no furniture, the open secret was that any employee could take a chair and sit alone. The windows overlooked the river and other office buildings. Lydia took the chair left by the last visiter. She sat, unfolded her lunch in her lap, and closed her eyes.

“You never write.”

The surprise of a voice  jolted Lydia. Her lunch slipped out of her lap before she could awkwardly save it.

“You were my most talented pupil,” he continued.

Lydia collected herself. “Professor Stefan?”

The slender old man smiled, still with his white goatee, thick black glasses and shock of white hair. “In the flesh.”

“Ha!” Lydia guffawed.

“Well,” the old man smiled, “I do my best?.

“What are you doing here?”

“Oh, you know,” he set one hand under the elbow of his other arm, and fingered his goatee, “rumors.”

“You’re not here to talk me out of it, are you?”

“Oh, no!” Mr. Stephan quickly answered as if shocked by the accusation. “No, no—no, not that at all! Besides, it’s up to you what skeletons to hang in your closet. Who doesn’t have skeletons? You should look into my closet someday. I should have written a memoir. That’s why memoirists write memoirs, you know. At some point it gets too crowded even for skeletons. So why not let them out? Better that than to have them all come crashing into the living room when you least expect it.”

“Okay?” said Lydia tentatively.

“It’s just that,” the old man gestured and smiled. “Here you are. Is it what you dreamed and hoped it would be?”

“Is it ever?”

“Yes,” the old man looked over his glasses, “sometimes it is.”

“I look forward to that.”

“Why?” he asked, stepping to the window. “Why should it be something to ‘look forward to’? Life’s not like that. Life is now. Life makes artists of us all. With every breath we create ourselves. That’s the opportunity we’re given by coming into this world—to make ourselves.”

“Those truisms have impressed a naïve freshman, Professor.”

“No, but really,” protested the old man, “your life is your art, and there are limitations, as in any life. Perhaps you don’t have the media. You must improvise. Paint with your fingers! Make do. That is the true test of your creative genius. You are here to create yourself in novel and inexplicable ways. And no one is granted the perfect pallet. Life thrives in the muddy soil of the imperfect.”

“Why did you do it?” Lydia asked.

“Oh,” the old man smiled almost coyly, “that.”

“That?”

“Terry,” he said as if lost in a momentary revery. “I expect you would ask about her.”

”I trusted you.”

“Trusted me to what?”

“Be a decent human being.”

“I didn’t ask for that and didn’t owe it.”

“God damn it, you owed it to that young woman!”

“And you presume to know what I owed Terry, how?”

“There are rules!”

“Are there?”

“Yes, there are rules—”

“Rules, rules, rules,” echoed the Professor. “Isn’t that so?”

“Oh my God.”

“I suspect you’ve heard that before.”

“Oh my God,” Lydia said to herself. “I sound just like her.”

“Funny how long those little influences can last, isn’t it.”

“It’s not funny at all.”

“So what did you want to know?”

“I wanted—” Lydia collected herself. “Why did you do it?”

“A revered professor? An admired artist? A respected man at the height of his reputation?” he asked. “Why would such a man seduce a student knowing what he was throwing away? Is that it?”

“Yes.”

“Well,” he said with a long drawal, “who seduced who?”

“No, don’t do that.”

“What?”

“Pretend to be the victim.”

“Oh, I’m not. I enjoyed every moment of it.”

“You had nothing to do with it?”

“Sometimes,” he smiled wryly. “Sometimes I was merely her plaything. She’d lick me like a lollipop. All a lollipop has to do is give a girl something to hold in her hand and lick. Sometimes.”

“Your little girl?” Lydia said darkly.

“Yes,” he countered, “I encouraged it from beginning to end.”

“Why?”

“I’ll tell you why, and you’ll despise me. Every reason. Because she was young. Because her tits were the tits of youth. Because her ass was the ass of youth. Because her cunt—oh my—her cunt was the cunt of youth. Indescribable cunt of youth—beautiful fountain, spring, watering hole effortlessly replenishing the seeker. Oh, beautiful enthusiasm!—when fucking is still a starved pursuit, when the body’s greed for pleasure is inexhaustible: her cries of youth, her spasms of youth, the unquenchable thirst of her womb for the man’s tribute.  Her skin. Her smell. Her lovely languor after a thorough fucking, flush, leaking, a man’s moisture newly and warmly inside her . Why shouldn’t I? And oh, at first, it was only sex. It was lust. But I fell in love with her the way an old man falls in love with youth—with regret and sorrow.”

“Poor you.”

“Oh no, not poor me. To the contrary. She gave me more than all those bloody accolades, ceremonies and farewell dinners. If you live long enough, are famous enough, you’ll find out for yourself. Love of the throne, not love of the king brings the sycophant to the table. No. None of that shit. But to be in a young woman’s mouth and embraced by her cunt is the timeless paradise of an hour.”

“All about you, right?”

“And by that you mean: What did she get out of it?”

“Did you think about that?”

“Why, straight A’s of course!”

“Oh God, stop talking.”

“And the most attentive and grateful lover she’ll ever have.”

“You were doing her a favor, weren’t you,” she muttered sarcastically.

“An orgasm should be more than a sloppy, incidental accident. I devoted whole afternoons to cajoling, remonstrating, tempting, teasing. She’d cling with exhaustion—each breath a precipice, thighs slippery to the knees, nipples engorged, abdomen straining, legs open and supplicant. Then just a single, firm, and thorough thrust, better than thousand, to impale her orgasm. Such exaltation! Such a cry! How grateful the spasms of her cunt.”

“You could have found a woman your own age.”

“Really?”

“God almighty, yes!”

“Jaded. All flirtation gone out of them.  Contemptuous of sex. Contemptuous of men while they fatuously strut like men in their pant suits—”

“It’s not true,” Lydia interrupted wearily.

The old man smiled as if to himself. “No, none of it is.”

“What?”

“What made you assume that Terry was a woman?”

“I don’t— Because— What?”

The old man turned to Lydia with an expression that was both amusement and mischief. “Do you really think I was dismissed because I seduced some naïve girl? Lydia! In that day and age young women were a dime a dozen. It was almost deemed a dereliction of duty if one or two weren’t plucked from the vine. And the women! Don’t think they were blameless.  No, not for me. I wanted just once, before I died, the young, insatiable, love that I was denied when I myself was young—”

“He was a boy!” she said aloud.

“Yes,” he answered with obviousness. “Terry was a boy.”

“I’m sorry—”

“Ho! Now you’re sorry! No pity? No more outrage for the poor naïve student? Because he was a young man?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “It’s different. I don’t know why it should be.”

“Well, sometimes, in the pursuit of love, we do terrible things,” he said, “and sometimes, because we pursue love, terrible things are done to us.”

Lydia smiled. “I know that game.”

6.

The day’s business ended. Lydia carefully arranged her drafting table, put down her pen and tucked tomorrow’s ideas into her satchel. Back on the main floor, she made her way to the lobby’s tall, brass and mahogany restroom. She couldn’t go the street corner. Not yet.  She couldn’t hail the taxi. Her stomach was a knot of anxiety. She thought she would cry, but didn’t. Instead she stood before the long row of brass fixtured sinks and the long mirror and berated the woman in the reflection. “For God’s sake, get over yourself.”

As deeply as she inhaled, she exhaled.

She lightly ordered her hair. She turned to the side, studied her figure, then her hips. Her fingertips fell to her tights. Yes, it was time. She pinched them between thumb and forefinger, bent over and slid them to her ankles and off. She was wearing nothing underneath. The knot of anxiety began to slip—excitement?—anticipation? She bunched the tights in her satchel and nearly cried out with surprise.

McCrory was standing in the doorway, blocking it, the smoking cigarette in his mouth.

“What—what the hell are you doing here?”

“What do you think?”

“This is the women’s bathroom for Christ’s sake!”

“Saving your soul.”

“How long have you been standing there?”

McCrory ignored her. The scuff of his leather shows echoed on the marble floor as he casually walked toward her, cigarette taken from his mouth. “The decent thing to do would be to put some knickers on, get yourself in a bus and get yourself back to your husband. This sneaking around is beneath you. There’s a reason God made of Lucifer a serpent. He slithers underfoot. He slithers and dark crevices. He goes unseen, allergic to the light. He deceives. He’s a breaker of vows. He’s the great tempter.”

Lydia backed away until she had backed into the further wall.

“Go to your husband,” he loomed over her, skin white, red vessels under his eyes. “confess, beg him to forgive you, and if you can’t bring yourself to confess, then get yourself to the confession box and confess to the bloody church. Beg God to forgive the disfigurement that’s gripped you, body and soul.”

“I won’t—”

“You will!”

“God damn you,” Lydia stiffened, “if anybody should be begging for forgiveness it’s him. What about his vows? He’s ignored me for years. Where is the faithfulness in that? Or devotion? Or tenderest care? Tell him to go the bloody church and beg for forgiveness. My being married to him doesn’t make me his prisoner!”

“Your marriage was before God,” McCrory answered just as fiercely, “and they were his vows, God’s vows, not just yours to him but yours to God!”

“And his?” Lydia slid out from between the wall and McCrory.

“Does he sleep with other women, does he make a whore of himself?—a slut?—a common slattern.”

“How dare you!”

“Mend thyself, woman!”

“Does it offend you that much that a woman wants cock?”

McCrory’s expression twisted, as if struck by the filthiness of the word.

“Does it? Is that what you can’t stomach? Women’s sex drive? Well, let me tell you, you loathsome toad. Oh, let me tell you—”  She clenched her fists. “Let me tell you about a little girl who—oh she was curious. It didn’t take her long. She wasn’t all that old, but how curious she was! Oh, and she noticed men, alright. She noticed their hips, their odor of crotch and armpits, their swagger—she did; and that their swagger was for her. And she wondered about those men with their knots of flesh. Don’t sneer. Does that offend you? Was I a little slut?—a little whore? I masturbated. Get the fuck over it. And oh, I knew damned well where those cocks were supposed to go. Imagining hose cocks made me wet, made my nipples swell, made my legs open just a little.”

“Vile creature!”

McCrory almost stood over her again when she slapped him. The force of it turned him and sent the cigarette spinning into the tiled corner of floor and wall. And then Lydia saw what should have been obvious. The cigarette wasn’t lit. She snapped back to stare at McCrory. He stood with his face still turned, smoke writhing from his mouth and nostrils.

“Oh, you knew didn’t you,” she said cooly. “You knew all about little girls.”

McCrory straightened, felt his chin, backed against the wall and slid to the floor.

“How could you?”

“All of you,” he glared at nothing, “every last one of you.”

“How many children?”

“Daughters of Eve,” he met Lydia’s gaze defiantly, “a stain on man and God alike.”

“Who else knew?”

He fumbled for the cigarette at his side. “There’s no savin’ any of you. Every last one of you— whores, sluts, filthy bitches.”

“Who else knew?”

“Oh,” he answered, “who didn’t?”

“God have mercy.”

McCrory smiled, laughed, coughed, licked his lips. “Go on. Get out. Go rut. It’s all you’re good for. Rutting. Foul rutters.”

“We’re done,” said Lydia. “We’re done. For good. Forever. We’re done.”

The pale man laughed again, gazing at nothing. “Love,” he smiled wistfully at nothing, “that’s all I wanted.”

“What you took wasn’t love.”

7.

The taxi took Lydia to the Hilton. She knew the room number. There was no reason to go past the front desk. She thought of walking up the stairs, but didn’t want to arrive at the room breathless and flushed. She took the elevator one extra flight, hid herself in the small alcove by the ice machine, collected herself, then walked down the stairs, the ache of anticipation and want returning to her stomach. She counted off the rooms. 668. As agreed, she saw the corner of the keycard under the door. She knelt, took the key, and opened the door.

When she entered the room he was already standing.

He had been sitting at the table by the window. The curtains were drawn. He was dressed in a coat and tie. He was just as she remembered him. They had met a week before, and had exchanged emails and photos before that. He was literate, funny, considerate, and married. Neither wanted a long term relationship. The lines at his eyes were kind and inviting, and his smile was gentle. He struck her like the friendly uncle at the golf course. He met her as the door closed behind her. He looked a little older, but was also more vigorous than in his photos.

“Can I take your coat?” he asked in his rich, tenor voice.

She turned. He lingered at her shoulders before removing the coat, then hung it from the closet pole behind the entry door.  He gestured toward the table with one hand, the other at the small of her back. “Shall we? I wasn’t sure if you liked red or white?”

The hotel room had one bed. One. A king size bed. The cover was burgundy. The walls of the room were a light blue. A large flat screen was to the left. The bathroom was already behind her. The curtains over the window were a cream linen and rug was a dark blue with white chevrils.

The touch of his hand at the small of her back lighted an erotic jolt that slipped down her tailbone. How long since she had been touched like hat? She bit her lip as she lit him guide her to the table, as his palm moved lower, feeling the muscles of her buttocks as she walked, lower until a finger pressed at the fabric of the dress. She stopped at the table, palms on the table. They kissed, her head turned, he leaning over her shoulder. He slid his hand away.

“Red wine,” she said as he moved to the bottle and wine glasses.. “I could really use a glass.”

“Me too.”

He poured. She sat, knees together. She was acutely aware of the nothing under the skirt. Each breath floated out of her faster than she could take the next. He filled his own glass and sat. He wasn’t the man she would have picked from a room full of men. Maybe that was a good thing. He lifted his glass. “To Lydia.”

She lifted hers. “To Jeffrey.”

They drank.

“Is the flower for me?” she asked.

“Yes,” he smiled almost bashfully. “Just one. A rose. I hope you don’t mind.”

“It’s sweet.”   

“You’re beautiful.”

Lydia smiled, enjoying a compliment she hadn’t heard in years.

“Was that—” he faltered and blushed. “You really are. Sorry. I’ve never, in my life, done anything like this before.”

“Neither have I.” She sat straighter, as if she didn’t notice his appraising her breasts. “I’m glad I’m here.”

“Me too.”

Lydia drank more of the wine, half the glass, then closed her eyes. She knew he studied her body. When she opened her eyes his gaze was glued to hers. “You know,” she said, “doing this—I had no idea. God. The ghosts of the past! Everyone one of them tormented me today.”

“Me too.”

“What did you do?”

He smiled, shaking his head, “They never say anything new.”

“Yeah.”

“That’s why they’re ghosts.”

“Hey,” she let him wait for a moment, “you’re not bad yourself.”

“I’ll take that.”

“But you kind of look like you belong on a golf course.”

He offered a short, sharp laugh. “I’m a terrible golfer.”

“So you do play golf!”

“I only do it for the money.”

“For the money?” she guffawed.

“Oh yes. Of course. The richer the client, the poorer  my game.”

“Oh God,” she laughed. “My heart won’t stop racing.”

“You’re shaking.”

“I’m not cold.”

“I know.”

“I feel like we should talk about something,” she laughed nervously, “and not.”

“We are.” He smiled, sipping at his own wine. Now he looked openly at her breasts, hips, legs. She lifted a finger to her throat, slid between her breasts, over her belly, and outward to one bare knees.

“I like the way you’re looking at me,” she said.

“You know what I want.”

“Oh God yes,” she breathed, as though the secret were revealed.

“And more.”

“A little of this?” She licked her lips, opened her legs, spread them, leaned back in the chair. He looked, offered a surprised and conspiratorial expression when he saw, just under the shadows of the skirt’s hem, that she was shaved.

“Shall we discuss arts, politics, mathematics?” he asked with a wry smile.

“Not if you respect me.”

“Oh, I do,” he leaned forward. He lowered his voice. His palm settled on her thigh. “Look at me,” he said. The finger and thumb of his other hand  found her nipple through the dress. She gave a soft cry as he tugged her by her nipple into a kiss. His other hand slid inward, between her thighs, under her skirt. When the tip of his finger touched the dimpled syrup of her womb. Her legs widened. They  didn’t break their kiss. His hand withdrew, sliding up her abdomen, neck, chin, then, breaking their kiss, into her mouth, moving slowly in and out until she tongued and sucked. “Does this remind you of something?” he asked.

Now she shook uncontrollably. Her pinched  nipple poked the fabric of her dress—revealed. She bit her lip, slipped from the chair to her knees. She leaned forward, elbows on his knees, met his gaze, unzipped him, found him, held him in her hand, then sucked him the way she’d sucked his finger.

“Oh God, yes,” he moaned, tangling his hands in her hair. “Suck it.”

When he began to shake, she released him from her mouth, a web of saliva connecting her lip and cock. She stroked him slowly and smiled at him.

“Well?”he asked.

“I love cock.” she answered softly. “I love your cock.”

“Do you like being told what to do?”

“No,” she shook her head slowly. “I hate it.”

“Oh,” he leaned over and kissed her, “but do you like to dance?”

“I love dancing.”

“Then I’ll lead,” he licked her ear, “and you follow.” She shivered. He nibbled at her other ear. “Stand up and bend over the table.”

A trickle of moisture slipped down her thigh. How long had it been? How long since her body had been penetrated? She stood and the next moment she was being held upright, in his arms, her hip lodged against the table’s edge. “What happened?”

“I think you fainted.”

“It was a head rush,” she laughed weakly. “I stood up too quickly.”

“Should we stop?”

“I just—”  She exhaled. “Wine. I haven’t eaten. I should have eaten first.”

“Well let’s get you something to eat?”

“What? Now? No!”

“I have a granola bar,” he said, “at the very least.”

She pressed into him, wrapping her fingers around his cock, already waning, “Food’s not what I need inside me.”

He growled but gently turned her toward the open closet at hotel room door. “Come along,” he said. He nudged her once again by the small of her back. Her spine tingled. She took a kiss over her shoulder as he guided her.His hand moved over her lip, then over her ass. She stopped again. Now he stood behind her. The same hand that had been on her ass, slid over her stomach, down to the V of her legs, pressing her pussy back toward his cock. His other hand weighed her breast. The he laughed. “Are you sure?”

She looked over her shoulder,  half smiled, then walked head, still looking over her shoulder. She stopped at the hotel room door. She pulled down the top of her skirt, over her breasts, without turning. She put a hand on the doorknob, the other flat against the middle of the door as though bracing herself. She widened her legs. “Maybe we shouldn’t do this,” she said. “Maybe I should have a bite to eat first.”

When he walked to her, he tugged her head back by the hair, he bit her neck and cheek. “I’m going to fuck you.”

She said nothing. She closed her eyes. He roughly lifted the back of her skirt and sharply bent her over. She still held onto the doorknob with one hand, the other braced against the door, when he entered her from behind. She gruned, her fingers spread, then moaned loudly as if to announce to the world that she had been mounted. Just like that he held her, one hand in her hair, the other on her hip. He thrusts were firm and steady; and she came.

He stood her up as she writhed, cock still piercing her from behind, kissing him.

He turned her and pushed her backward, kissing her lips, neck and breasts, and pushed her backwards onto the bed. He opened her legs, yanked her to the bed’s edge by her ankles, and entered her again. Now he took his time. Now he watched her squirm and writhe on his thrusts. But she wasn’t satisfied.

She wanted more. She drew him onto the bed, turned him onto his back and mounted him. Now she was in control. Now she ground on his pelvis, feeling his cock, a mans’ cock, bending her cunt and nudging her womb. She rose and fell, hands on his chest, then ground again, head thrown back,  hips swiveling over his. Then she rose and fell again, and then he began to stiffen.

“I’m going to come!”

“No! In me! I need it inside.”

His muscles flexed. She watched every shred of his surrender. She slid up, then down and ground, urging him, requiring, cajoling, demanding. His back rose from the bed. He held her hips with an almost painful grip, thrusting upwards and hard. She cried out, acknowledging the the spurting warmth that spread inside her.        

She was laughing and crying when she finally rolled off of him. They lay side by side, staring idly at the ceiling. “Now see?” he said. “You should have eaten that granola bar.”

“I came,” she said.

“Is that all?”

“I just,” she smiled giddily. “I’ve just never come like that or so quickly.”

“It’s been awhile, has it?”

Lydia considered that. There was an unspoken agreement between them. They wouldn’t talk about their spouses. And so she didn’t. “Is it okay to say that I haven’t had sex in about two years?”

“Two years!”

She nodded, and that almost set off more crying. “Infertility.”

“I see,” he answered, leaving the rest unstated: the blame, the shame, the husband’s gradual disinterest. Of course he wanted to make suggestions: Was she sure it wasn’t him? There were other ways. They should keep trying. He rolled onto his side instead and gently stroked her cheek.

“Thank you,” she said.

“For what?”

“For making me feel—desirable.”

“Oh you are.”

“And sexy,” she smiled.

“Oh, you are more than sexy.”

“And beautiful.”

“You are all woman.”

“Am I?” she turned.

“Yes.”

Then she lay on her side with her head on his chest and they both fell asleep.

8.

She woke to smell of food. She must not have been sleeping for long. Her lover was wearing a robe, open now, and a cart with a tray of food was at the table by the window. She drew the cover over her breasts.

“I didn’t invite him, you know.”

She let the cover slip off, and enjoyed that he enjoyed her tits.

“I turned up the heat,” he added as he took off his robe. “Shall we dine?”

She threw off the covers and almost coyly walked to the table. He watched her every step, then lifted the tray at her seat. “Veggie marsala,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if you ate meat.”

“I don’t,” she bit her lip with anticipation and growled delightly. “I am so hungry.”

“Purely selfish,” he answered.

“Is it?”

“Of course it is. I want you healthy and well-fed. You’ll need it. I’ll be fucking you all night.”

“Mmmm!” she smiled gratefully.

He ate too. And after eating, while they talked, sitting naked across from each other, his cock gradually hardened. That falling, empty feeling circled in her uterus until she straddled his lap and could feel his cock’s crown finally nudging the mouth of her womb. She cradled his face in her hands as she rose and fell. He sucked her tits. He pinched them. He urged her to quicken until they were both sweating, until she suddenly climbed off, knelt between his legs, and took him spurting in her mouth, swallowing, pumping until nothing more to come out.

9.

She woke in the middle of the night having to pee. Her lover’s orgasm still dribbled out of her. Her thighs were caked and sticky. Her tits raw. In the pitch dark she lowered her finger to her clit and began to masturbate. She smiled to herself and moaned so that he would know. She felt free.

She heard Jeffrey stir.

The lights of the city faintly slipped between the curtains and she could see him rise on an elbow—a darkness against the darker wall.  He touched her belly with the tip of a finger. “What are you doing?”

“Masturbating.”

He made a low, gravelly, appreciative sound. She kept nothing in. She moaned again, followed by a pitched intake of breath when her pussy spasmed.

“Did you come?”

“No.”

“A woman masturbating is the most beautiful vision on earth.”

Her eyes fluttered and she draw up her legs, opening them wide, knees to either side. She hid nothing from him. Her finger moved more quickly. He rose to his knees, and below her, until his cock stretched above her pussy. Now, in the faint light, she could see his eyes. That’s as much as she wanted—his gaze while she masturbated.

“Why are you masturbating?”

“For you,” she answered.

He began to stroke his own cock, lightly touching her inner thighs with his other hand, nearing her pussy, then moving back to her knees. “I want nothing more than to fuck you like this,” he growled. “Do you have any idea what you do to me?”

“Your semen is in my cunt,” she breathed. “I want to come on your semen.”

“Lydia,” he groaned. “You are dangerously erotic.”

“Look at me,” she whispered. “Look at me! Do I make you hard?”

“Yes.”

“Does it make you want to fuck me?”

“Yes.”

“Oh fuck. Do you want to fill me with your come?

“Yes.”

“Does it— Oh fuck, I’m coming!”

“Do it, girl.”

Her spine lifted from the mattress and she came. And before the orgasm ebbed his cock smoothly and deeply entered her. He hold her knees up and apart, his weight on her knees, splitting her. She grunted loudly with every thrust, and suddenly giggled between the thrusts. “Oh fuck, I have to pee!”

“No. Not yet. Not yet you won’t.”

“No!” she cried and laughed. She pushed at his chest, twisted, but his thrusts and her grunts only deepened.

“Oh fuck, you’re gonna’ make me come again!”

Then she pushed him off with a sudden squealing shove. She sat up and cupped her pussy. She rolled over onto her knees, forehead down, back spasming as an uncontrollable squirt spurted through her fingers and down her thighs. When she felt her lover’s weight on the mattress behind her she laughed and jumped off the bed. “No!”

Another squirt streamed down her thighs as she ran to the bathroom. She sat on the toilet and groaned with relief. She saw just his shadow in the doorway, heard his bare footsteps on the bathroom tile.

“I’m peeing!” she laughed again.

He laughed too. His hands found her hair. His cock moved in and out of her mouth. The last of the pee dribbled out of her. She pushed him away. She kissed his stomach. Then his chest. Then stood on her tiptoes. Kissed him. “Wait!” she giggled. “Just wait.”

But there was no waiting. He heard his little snarl. He tried to turn her around, but she wiggled past him. He caught her again. Stopping her in the bathroom’s doorway. He stood behind her. one hand pressed against the V of her legs, lifting and tilting her pussy. The other palmed her cheek as she turned to kiss him over her shoulder. She groaned into his kiss and rose to her toes as he entered her from behind. The darkness, his voice, his smell, his presence, his insistence, his unrelenting cock—she closed her eyes, head falling back on his shoulder, arms up and fingers in his hair.

But that wasn’t enough.

He snarled and turned her around. They kissed. He marched her backwards, back into the faint light of the room. She knelt on the floor. She sucked his cock. He walked behind her, pushed her head down to the floor, spread her knees with his own, and sank into her. She stretched her arms in front of her. She arched for him. She loudly answered his thrusts. He took a fistful of her hair and her orgasm finally spilled from her cunt, down her ribs, and dripped from her nipples. He roared and held himself hard inside, filling her upturned womb from behind. This was when it happened. Then they stayed like that until the hum of the air conditioner was the loudest noise in the room. She felt a final weak spurt in her uterus., and then he let her go.

10.

Sunlight was just breaking between the curtains. Lydia’s thighs were sticky. The warmth of fucking still radiated from her belly. She was on her belly, head up, elbows under her, watching her lover. He finally turned and returned her gaze.

“”I gotta’ go,” she said.

For the first time since the night before she saw something like sorrow in his expression. “I know.”

She pushed herself to the bottom of the bed and stood.

“No,” he said, when she reached for the robe. “Not yet.”

“Okay,” she answered, hands moving to the dimples at her back as she stretched, “not yet.”

She went to the bathroom, started the shower, and climbed in. Less the minute later the shower door opened and he stepped inside. Saying nothing, he picked up the soap and began to clean her. She closed her eyes.

“Lift your arms,” he said.

She did. His hands passed over her breasts. His fingers cleaned the soft skin between her thighs and pussy. He stood behind her. He tugged her head back, kissed her neck. His cock slowly opened her. Her eyes rolled. His thrusts were slow, languid, deep. He continued to slide his soapy hands over her breasts, neck, shoulders, stomach, hips. And when all the soap had been rinsed off, two fingers entered her mouth. Two fingers squeezed a nipple. She knelt, hands sudsy with soap, and spilled his orgasm on her breasts. Then once more they cleaned each other off.

11.

The room was a mess. The room had been made love in.

They were both dressed. Lydia stood at the door, ready to leave. Jeffrey held the doorknob. “Thank you,” she said.

He smiled, “what did I do? I was the lucky one.”

“What did you do?” she wiped at her eye with the back of her hand. “You made me feel beautiful. That’s all.”

“Oh,” he smiled. “You don’t need me to do that.”

“I hope—”

“I know,” he interrupted. “Me too. All kinds of hope for lovers like us.”

“Okay,” she said.

“You always have my email.”

“Yes.”

12.

That day at work was longer than any other day she’d ever worked. It began and ended like it did every other day, but every minute crept. She felt sick. Her breasts, that had rubbed her clothes with the pleasant soreness of lovemaking, ached and felt bruised, and her stomach turned. She threw up around mid-afternoon.

“Maybe you should go home,” said her office mate.

“It’s just nerves,” she answered. But she put straightened her drafting, logged out of her account, and left early. Once out of the building, she began to feel better. Once on the bus, she began to feel worse. She didn’t like the odor of the other passengers, the bus’s exhaust, the stale air and the smell of rubber, plastic, and metal. She got out several blocks or so early, and walked the rest of the way home. She took the back streets where there was less noise and exhaust. She liked the smell of the ash trees shivering above the sidewalks.

By the time she was home she felt lighthearted and loving.

Her husband, Clark, was in his makeshift office, a book open to his left, the monitor above him. “You’re home early,” he said.

“I wasn’t feeling well,” she said, throwing off her satchel and coat.

“Are you feeling well now?” he asked without turning.

“Maybe I just missed you.” She went to him and leaned over his shoulder. She suddenly wanted to make love to her husband. She licked him beneath the ear. He didn’t react but looked from his book to the monitor.

“We’re out of coffee.”

“I’ll get some later,” she said. She reached for his crotch but he pushed her hand away.

“Are you okay?” he asked, leaning to one side and turning.

“Yes.”

He straightened and returned to his book and monitor.

She kissed his other ear. She licked. She nibbled the soft skin. She moved her hand back down to his crotch. “I’m wet,” she whispered.

“Do we have to do this now?”

She began to unzip him. “Why not?”

“Lydia,” his fingers closed around hers. She began to part his fly with the tips of his fingers. “Lydia!”

“Just a little—”

“Lydia! Stop!”  He pulled her hand away from his crotch and his elbow struck her forcefully in the eye. She saw a flash of light and stumbled backwards, tripped over the sudden gather in the rug and fell onto the corner of the table behind her.

“Oh shit, Lydia,” her husband spun in the chair and stood. “Jesus Christ. I just got that table.”

Lydia covered her eye with the palm of her hand, saw blood and tears and was suddenly wracked by a powerful jolt. “My eye,” she screamed at him and began to sob. “My eye!”

“Let me see it,” he knelt, peeled away her hand and studied it as she blinked. “It’s okay. It’ll just be a black eye.”

“It’s okay?” She violently  pushed him away with her hands, then kicked at him with her feet. She unsteadily put a hand on the table and stood. When he reached for her she pushed him away. “Don’t touch me!”

“Lydia!”

She stumbled into the doorway. “Don’t touch me. Don’t ever touch me again. I’m filing— I can’t— Don’t ever touch me again. I’m divorcing you, Clark. I don’t want this anymore. I can’t be here anymore.”

“Anymore? What the hell happened?” he called angrily after her as she ran to the bathroom. “What the hell did you do last night?”

She spun round, hand still over her eye. “I spent the night without you, Clark. And it was beautiful. It was a night I’ll never forget. I want more nights like that. The rest is none of your goddamn business.”

13.

There were friends she could have called, friends who would have met her, listened, even held her while she cried. But the skin below her eye was an angry splotch of red and purple. She was embarrassed. She didn’t want to explain what had happened. Not yet.

She lifted a final sip of coffee with a shaking hand. She put on her coat. She left the café and walked into the soft darkness of early autumn. She pushed her hands into the pockets of her coat and wandered until she walked alongside the spiked iron fence of the 2nd Street graveyard. Her steps sifting through the early leaf fall. Midway along the fence was the main gate—iron and twice her height. The robed figure of death faced the graveyard, its scythe in its left hand, bowed visage concealed in the iron shadow of cowling, as if awaiting the dead to arise. Lydia walked beneath the figure and threaded the several dozen rows until she Madeleine’s slab. She stopped abruptly.

“Hi Liddy,” Madeleine smiled sadly. She was sitting on the slab, knees draw him, chin between her knees, arms around her legs. Her face was rotted, an eye was gone and her beautiful hair was clotted and lifeless. Her belly button shirt and purple skirt were stained black with blood, flimsy with rot and the liquid decay of the corpse.   

“Oh God, Maddy!”

“Yeah,” said Madeleine, “I guess I don’t look so good.”

“Maddy!”

“It’s okay,” Madeleine tried to smile, a smile of teeth, roots and jawbone. “This is what’s supposed to happen.”

“I’m so sorry.”

Madeleine moved slowly and stiffly. She lifted the hem of her miniskirt. The silver stars were gone—under the crust of fluid and blood. “This was my favorite skirt,” she said. “Not much to look at is it anymore?” She lowered it as if trying to smooth it out, as if trying to restore something long since lost and that she was already forgetting.

“Maddy, baby,” Lydia sobbed. “I’m so sorry!”

“It’s okay, Liddy,” Madeleine began to cry, “But you want to know what’s really hard? It’s knowing that it’s over. That you’re done. That’s what’s really hard, Liddy” Her voice rose into a sob. “It’s over. Peter. Susie. All the things I wanted to say to Susie but can’t. All the wonderful things about life, love, the world. That’s what’s hardest of all, Liddy.”

Lydia fell to her knees, gripping the leaves beneath her. “I’m going to divorce Clark.”

“I know, Lydia.”

“I married him—you know why I married him?”

“Yes.”

“Because I wanted to prove I could be happy without Peter. When you died—God, Maddy. Why? What was I supposed to do. You always got what you wanted. Always. And now what was I supposed to do?”

Madeleine slowly shifted her knees to her side. Her belly button shirt opened from the neck to her belly like a rotten vest. Where her left breast had been was a gaping black hole of rotted and shriveled flesh and ribs. She looked down at the gaping rot. “Not everything,” she said. “Not breast cancer. Nobody ever gets everything they want, Liddy. Ever. Life is a mystery. The minute you think you know the truth, the truth slips through your fingers. But you still have so much time for so much happiness, Lydia.”

“Oh Maddy, I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay, Lydia.” Madeleine was disappearing before her eyes—the ties of flesh and bone finally dissolving. “It’s time for me to go.”

“Do you want—” Lydia reached for her between the tears. “Will you go for a walk with me?”

Madeleine slowly looked down at the slab, then slowly reached for Lydia, her finger’s tip half gone. “I would like that.”  Lidy crawled, walked to the slab and gently took Madeleine’s hand. She helped her to stand. Madeleine’s motion was slow, unsteady, unsure. Her first step was like a baby’s. Then another.

“I wanted to tell you—” said Madeleine.

“What?”

“I’m not supposed to—”

“Maddy, what?”

But Madeleine too quickly dissolved, disappearing, turning to a dust that only left behind two whispered words: ‘A secret—’ Her skirt, fingers, flesh and bone—even those brief memories— were lifted by the wind into a momentary spume of ash and were gone.

“Madeleine!” Lydia fell to her knees. She felt through the leaves. “Madeleine!”

There was a darkness behind Lydia that she didn’t notice at first, a shadow that was its own shadow. When she did, she screamed and scrambled backwards on hands and knees. Death, the robed figure of death that had been standing atop the gate, descended as if in a great current of air that lifted the dark angel’s robes in a watery silence. The great black wings were open and the figure seemed to horizontally float above the earth, it’s bony finger’s tip reaching for the earth where Madeleine had stood.

The tip descended as if the solidity of the earth were a dark sea. Stirred. And a translucent, sleeping figure, rose out of the ground. Madeleine. She was beautiful. She was whole and her favorite skirt was whole. She looked as if she were sleeping, on her side, her hands pressed flat between her cheek and the earth. The dark angel touched Madeleine’s forehead, opening Madeleine’s eyes, and Madeleine saw the dark angel and nothing else—saw the visage beneath the cowling, that was like a hidden but brilliant  light, and smiled as if with a joyful recognition. The dark angel descended and lifted Madeline into its arms, cradling her like a child, and then in a wisp of leaves, wind, and shadow, was gone.

Lydia stood.

She backed away, half stumbling as she did. She hurried from the graveyard, pausing only long enough to see that the figure of death that had been seated above the gates of the graveyard was gone.

14.

Lydia rolled onto her back and rubbed her eyes.

Susie was already crawling into bed. “Abigail is crying again,” she said sleepily. “Can you make her stop?”

“It’s my turn,” said Peter.

“I’ll do it.” Lydia propped herself on an elbow, leaned over Susie, and kissed Peter, the memory of the night before still wetly between her thighs. She stretched again and stood. She shuffled to the further room and lifted the crying baby into her arms. “Oh look at that,” she said. “You threw up, didn’t you. No wonder.”

She lay Abigail to the top of the dresser and called back to Peter. “She threw up again. Can you get some new sheets?” Then she wiped the baby’s chin, cheeks and neck, and birthmark just above the babies left nipple. “Poor thing. Pretty little thing. Is that the face you’re going to make? Oh, don’t be so sour. Why such a colicky little girl? Daddy’s stopping by today. He’s going to take you golfing.”

“We’re all out of sheets,” Peter called from the bathroom.

“If I didn’t know better,” Lydia rocked her daughter, “I’d say you don’t like your sheets very much.”

“She can have one of my blankets,” Susie offered, standing in the doorway.

Lydia smiled. “I think your blankets are all still a little big for her.”

Susie disappeared in a blond huff of disappointment, but returned a few minutes later with a towel. “Then give her this.”

Lydia thought for a moment, “Okay.”

She lay Abigail in the crib and unfolded the towel, a soft purple bath towel with tiny silver stars; and the moment she laid it on top of Abigail, the tiny little girl finally stopped crying.

William Crimson | September 29 2018

 

Latest Comments

  1. darkfriday1408 says:

    Very, very nice!

    The story was amazing!

    It was really interesting to see Lydia going through that journey and being visited by the ghosts of her past and her talking with them about her decision to cheat on her husband. It was very nice to see her having her internal monologue being exteriorised and her talking with various people that marked her life.

    It was also really nice to see her talking with Maddie at the graveyard and to see that Maddie ended up having breast cancer, dying and leaving Peter and their daughter Susie. It was also really nice and interesting to see that Maddie had not truly left the world of the leaving until she could have a heart to hear with Lydia and that they will be able to gain some comfort. And then to see Death appear and take Maddie’s soul to the after life.

    Also, the ending was really nice, considering that Lydia divorced Clark and then married Peter and that she seems happy with him and is helping to raise Susie. Also, is Abigail Lydia’s natural daughter with Peter or is she adopted? Because earlier in the story, she states that she is infertile. Was that true or just a lie? And it seems that Abigail also has a connection to the color purple and silver stars. Also, i take it that when Lydia cheated on Clark, she had sex with Peter, right?

    Good luck and happy writing.

    • willcrimson says:

      Thank you. :)

      And well, the ending is even more wonderful than that. There are all kinds of hints in the story. Hints that answer all your questions. Don’t forget that Madeleine was really excited, bouncing with excitement, with the hope that Lydia was going to spend the night with Jeffrey. She had a secret that she wanted to tell Lydia but couldn’t. And yes, Abigail is Lydia’s daughter. The hint as to the father comes when Lydia tells Abigail what the father will be doing with her. There are also hints as to who Abigail really is. :)

      Lydia thought she was infertile. She assumed that she was. Clark probably blamed her and she believed it.

    • darkfriday1408 says:

      Hey there,

      Thank you for answering.

      Yeah, i figured that there is more to Abigail when she calmed down once Lydia placed the purple towel with the silver stars on her. I imagine that she is Maddie reincarnated as a baby or something like that, right?

      And is Jeffrey really Peter who decided to also assume a fake name, considering that Lydia contacted him using a fake name and account? Or was he a different guy?

      And is there any chance of what was the secret that Maddie wanted to tell Lydia? Was it the fact that Lydia was actually infertile, but that Clark was the one who was infertile and he decided to lie to Lydia and blame her for them not having children?

      Good luck and happy writing.

    • willcrimson says:

      I don’t want to be needlessly coy, but I also don’t want to give too much away lest some readers read the comments first.

      Don’t forget the birthmark above Abigail’s left nipple. :)

      And knowing that about Abigail, what do you think Maddie would have been so excited about? Why was she so excited that Lydia might sleep with Jeffrey? What secret did she know? And Jeffrey wasn’t Peter. Remember that Lydia tells Abigail that Daddy “is stopping by”. So that wouldn’t be Peter. Although your suggestion would have made a delightful twist. The only problem with that would be asking why Peter would pretend to be someone else. He was a widower, not in a relationship or married (though I don’t discuss that).

    • darkfriday1408 says:

      Fair enough.

      Well, maybe Maddie was excited that Lydia will sleep with Jeffrey because that way, she might come back to life, provided everything we know about Abigail, that seems to have happened. The only question left is if Jeffrey was a random choice that Lydia picked or if someone or something influenced the act/decision of Lydia and Jeffrey having sex and Lydia ending pregnant with his child.

      And that also means that Lydia told Jeffrey that she ended up being pregnant with his child and that she wants to keep the child.

      And it was nice to see that she ended up with Peter, who seems to have been/and is her true love, and that he is with her and probably married, even though she ended up pregnant with another man’s child.

    • willcrimson says:

      I suspect Lydia was as surprised as anyone to be pregnant. Tenderness and throwing up the day after was her first hint. And I like to think that Lydia has always been in love with Peter, but that Jeffrey was and became a dear friend (of both of them) as they shared the raising of Abigail. Life can take interesting and unexpected turns and still end wonderfully. That’s part of my philosophy.

      Every so often I think that a serious story should end in complication or tragedy, but stories about desire, sex and love so often end that way that they feel more like cliché than anything novel. Sex can make life even more wonderful. That, to me, is a novel story — and much more subversive.

  2. Cille says:

    Gorgeous story Will. Love how Lydia takes control of her life. And that she has a happy ending.

    • willcrimson says:

      Thanks so much Cille. I created a new category for the story — “Erotic Fiction”, rather than just “Erotica”. Want to write more short stories, fiction, with unembarrassed writing about sex. Sex can be such an interplay of personalities.

      Bruce Springsteen, you know, cracked me up once. He said that before his 40’s or 50’s (I can’t remember) he wrote all his songs from the waist down, and afterward from the waist up. :)

    • Cille says:

      That fits perfectly. Erotic fiction. I like stories that make me think. It’s lovely to watch your writing evolve. 💜

  3. Princesse Crowned says:

    Well, well!! Fantabulous writing. Golly gee gumdrops, how I have missed the things that tumble out of your magnificent head, dear Will.

    Funny how I have had thoughts on the supernatural and sex in back of my head. You did it much much better than I could have done, on this bright afternoon.

    I like how you represented curiosity, growth, repression, repudiation, ownership, rights, enlightenment. And a thin thread of pain that seems to float thru the human condition, just below the surface. In addition, time and desires we often don’t voice.

    That was gloriously visceral, heavy, rich, rooted and profound.

    Thank you for a meaty and delicious read. Was it hard to get out of you and do you feel lighter, upon the completion?

    (Please do it again, soon. *heart eyes of pleading*)

    • willcrimson says:

      Oh… When I get comments like yours I would do just about anything. Like I wrote in my previous comment, I do want to write richer stories like these. I feel like I’ve just about written the gamut as far as straight erotica goes.

      It wasn’t hard to get out. My fingers couldn’t keep up with my imagination. But, in the spirit of complete openness, I worked out much of the story while working at the job site. I work by myself and I’ve been working full weeks and OT since July. While I was doing man’s work, if you know what I mean, I was imagining Maddy’s final scene in the graveyard and tears were streaming down my cheeks. I was crying like a baby. I just kept plowing through with power tools, saws, nails, hammer. If anyone had seen me they would have wondered what in the hell was going on…

      I have the softest heart, and always have….

    • Princesse Crowned says:

      I think your literary activities are only limited by the time you have to sit and write, Will.

      I am rushed for time and distracted but I wish I had given better compliment to such a rich and poignant piece.

      I’m glad it was a story that flowed out, as there have been times I gritted my teeth to get something out the right way.

      Anyone seeing you crying would have thought you were injured or over weeping our a lost love, as you made her coffin or urn.

      You are a softie, which is good.

    • Princesse Crowned says:

      Monsieur Coeur Tendre: something you might enjoy. I like how he slowed the phrasing just a tinge. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbWJO8RMg1A

    • willcrimson says:

      I remember him in the 80’s. What a singer. :)

  4. Aster says:

    Wow this is really not what I expected would jaappen. It was really beautiful and compelling.

Share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.