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Keeping Time: Part One

*Keeping Time is intended for an adult audience: 18+. Due to some explicit content, it may not be to everyone’s taste.

Prologue

Still as Statues

 

Dust, which only decades should produce, covered windows, walls and floors.  Dust that suggests an absence of all movement, a stillness of even air, covered the bodies of 10 children. Five girls and five boys who themselves were as still as the stones that composed the room in which they lay.

Eyelids fluttered.  One by one heads raised as sleep, induced by something which did not feel natural, slowly loosened its grip on their tiny bodies. Foggy minds left details clouded as they first took in their surroundings.  Dizziness struck some of them as they sharply jerked their heads in attempt to make slowed eyes consume the room in which they had awoken.

The pristine polish of the white stone floors was lost beneath the layer of dust that covered it. The dust itself was pearly white, like gentle snow had fallen in the room, every surface drily covered and uniformly coated.  The children now began to rise from the positons in which they had been laid; side by side and evenly spaced.

The first child to stand was a boy with chestnut hair, grown to his shoulders yet brushed and neatly kept.  He was dressed in finer clothes than the other children which he brushed off as he stood. He needed to kneel, however, the moment he had righted himself as sudden dizziness overtook him. All the children felt as if they had just disembarked from a journey across an ocean of raging waters. A ceaseless angry storm had passed and now their legs struggled to adjust to the feeling of dry land. Of course, none of these children had ever seen an ocean, nor a vessel to transit it. They had heard stories of such things, but it would be many years before any one of them they would relate the two sensations.

To the right of the first boy was a girl as pale as the dust in which she sat.  Her frame was so slim it was almost wiry, her hair was dove white, matted and tangled. Her clothing was in utter contrast to the chestnut haired boy now standing next to her; used and worn, it did not compare in quality nor cost to any of the other children’s. She did not try to stand when she woke, nor did she bother to try and take in the room in which she sat. Instead this girl was absorbed by the dust itself.  She brushed the substance from her legs, straight out afore her, and watched as it moved only briefly before rearranging and settling in the same place as before.

High above the children a vaulted ceiling arched with the illusion of weightlessness, exemplified by the floor to ceiling windows which covered each wall.  The windows were ordained with stained glass; these panels were not a collection of beautiful colours however, they depicted no image, they were merely frosted in greys and whites. The countless pieces of glass that composed each window filled the room with light, the silver that stitched the pieces together cast only gentle shadows on the floor.

Absorbed by the windows and the height of the walls it took the children some time to realize that their room had no door.  Abstracted by their surroundings, and still combating the remaining effects of what had caused their sleep, it took the five boys and five girls sometime to notice the 11th child standing in the centre room.

The skin of the 11th child was dirty, his hair was greasy and thick, his feet bare and scabbed. There were bruises on his exposed forearms that disappeared beneath loose sleeves to suggest his ragged shirt hid many more.

Apart from his appearance, which was similar only to the pale girl who remained sitting, the 11th boy was much like the rest of the children in the room. This boy, however, was perfectly still.

The room, according to one of the boys, resembled a ‘church’ hall. When he suggested this though, none of the other children would recognize that word, just as they did not understand the word ‘alter’, when he asked what was above it. It was only when he pointed that the others looked, and they beheld it for a long time.  The image was not foreign to any of them, yet it was understood by only a few.

A clock face, some six feet in diameter, was carved into the farthest wall of the room.  The clock ticked silently, telling them that it was 11 minutes past 12.  A second clock face, of much smaller size, was carved into the wall on the lower left of the greater time piece.  The hands of this face did not move, they held perfectly still, hour, minute and second, over 12’oclock.

Their fascination with the clock was soon redirected back to the 11th child. As the second and minute hands continued ticking the children inspected the still boy.  They walked back and forth in front of him, yet his eyes would only stare through their presence, looking forward stone still and unblinking. Gently they would push and prod him, their intent not malicious, just seeking a response.

The biggest of the girls proved most daring as she eventually reached up, and grazed her fingers across his cheek.  The children had not realized before, most likely due to the boy’s dirty appearance, that the same dust which they had left behind in their places of wake, coated this boys skin.  When the girl’s fingers dragged across his cheek, the dust was pulled away, yet like metal filings atop a magnet the substance fought against her fingertips, trying to stay in place.

The children would grow bored quickly, as children do, other things would attract their attention: the lack of door, the strength of the glass windows, the stillness of the smaller clock.  They did not gravitate to one another, their chosen separation could be viewed as premonition by the superstitious, however it could just as easily be attributed to their pasts. None of the children had seen each other before, many had never seen another child. None of the children were familiar with social construct; they had not acquired a desire to seek human companionship. Some would come to learn these things; others would choose not to. Some others still, would never have the chance to choose either.

The clock made its first sound on the mark of one hour. It did not chime, there was no great bell. There was only the sound of the hour hand making one long motion, a gentle grinding and then a click as a locking mechanism unseen fell into place. The smaller clock face at its bottom corner remained unchanged.

All 10 children turned to look at the clock when this happened, there was an unspoken agreement of discomfort at the confirmation that an hour had passed.

The girl with the pale skin had continued sitting looking at the static 11th child. Despite his unalterable empty stare, she found comfort in his presence, she found him more familiar than the others in the room. The boy’s clothing matched her own, she was accustomed to his dirty appearance and the heavily worked look of his feet and hands.

She finally decided to get up, and she made her way over to the 11th child, standing close to his still presence and watching the actions of the other children through her violet eyes.  Some kicked at windows and walls, some spoke to one another, some sat on the floor, pushing the dust with their hands only to have it refuse to adhere to their actions, as if somehow drawn back to its original position. She watched the others for a long time, until the chestnut haired boy caught her observing.

“He is a statue.”  The boy declared, in reference to the 11th child.

“He is just still.” The pale girl replied, she did not meet his eyes.  She had limited experience with people her age, but the attire of this boy was not foreign to her, she had seen men and women dressed in those silks, clothing trimmed with golds and silvers.

“Statues are still.”  The boy replied, and smiled at her.  He liked the way that she looked. Her clothing was cheap and dirty, he found it revolting, but her pure white skin was interesting to him.

“But, he is not a statue. He is a child, like us.”  The girl immediately looked down, fearing the repercussions of her direct disagreement.

The boy paced across the room towards her. He waved his hand in front of the 11th child’s eyes. Eyes which did not move, pupils which did not dilate. Then he shoved the boys shoulder.  The 11th child did not move as much as the boy had anticipated, as if stillness gave him some kind of greater weight.  The boy did not like the lack of effect his action had, he frowned briefly, drew back his arm, and forcefully punched the 11th child in the stomach.  The statuesque child bent only slightly, not in human reaction, but as if in minor structural compromise.  The stillness remained, the form was slightly altered, but there was no motion or reaction.

He smiled at the girl, as if having proven his point.

The girl wore a mortified expression at his actions.  She reached out to the 11th child and touched his cheek very lightly, sympathy filled her and she felt tears catalyzed by anger swell inside her.

“There is warmth to his skin.”  She said. “The walls are cold, they are stone. He is warm, he is alive.”

“Nobody could stay that still.” The boy said with certainty, as if implying an implicit power behind his fist.

She stepped in closer to the 11th child, not leaving enough space between them for any harm to be caused.  The finely dressed boy looked the pair up and down for a moment before seeming to grow disinterested and walking away.  The pale girl stayed, staring into the unaffected gaze of the 11th child and made an effort not to cry. She apologized to his still form quietly under her breath, she refused to believe he was a statue, and she resolved to treat him kindly even if he was.

Another hour found its way past the children, the clocks shortest hand fell into place with the same grind and click as before.  All of the children looked up and at one another when this happened.  All of them except for the finely dressed, chestnut haired boy. He sat completely still with his legs beneath him, next to the boy who had first said the word ‘church’.

The church boy looked back to the others without saying anything, concern was clear on his face.  The 8 mobile children made their way to where the two boys sat.  The church boy stood up as they congregated, they all looked down on the unmoving form of the chestnut haired child. The expression on his face, and the emptiness of his stare, now matched that of the 11th boy whom he had not long ago abused.

The pale skinned girl took a step backwards.

A girl with dark skin, that made her stand out against the white of the stone walls, stepped forward and took a seat next to the motionless chestnut haired boy.  She leaned in and analyzed his face. She ran her fingers gently over his shoulder and rubbed them together as she pulled them away, feeling the remnants of dust that clung to them, dust that now coated the boy’s body. The dark skinned girl sat back onto her own legs, she matched the boy’s position, looking up at the great clock in just the way he was blankly staring, and then she closed her eyes.

It was with a silent acceptance that the other children watched this unfold.  They somehow knew the ending to this story, even if they did not know how it was reached.

The pale girl took another step backwards, she slowly moved herself further away, she backed as far from the others as she could.  She watched as they begin to disperse. One by one they separated, some avoiding the static children, others joining them. Some found their own space in which to sit or stand in forced paralysis.

The pale girl felt her heart beat increase. Her violet eyes began scanning back and forth across the children with increasing speed.  The dark skinned girl no longer appeared to be breathing, she shared the same ominous lack of motion as the boy next to her and the 11th child.

In the far corner another boy was eerily still now, staring emptily towards her, from that distance she could not tell if this boy was breathing, but the stare was unnatural in its consistency. Stillness seemed to have found him as well.

Her violet eyes tore through the room now as fear filled the pale, poorly dressed girl. The stillness was expanding, it was growing, it was consuming them all.  The girl’s breathing was becoming faster and faster, she could no longer keep herself from gasping, no longer keep her eyes still. She felt herself becoming light headed.

She closed her eyes. Trying to shut out the world around her, trying to hold at bay the fear of what was coming.  She held her eyes tightly closed until her breathing came back to normal, until her heartbeat began to slow.

There was no motion when she opened her eyes; everything and everyone was still. Each child had become a statue. More dust seemed to be freshly formed, recoating the room and all its occupants. Even the second hand of the great clock face had stopped its rotation.

The pale skinned girl slowly stood up and gazed out across the children, each one of them frozen. Some children were sitting or standing calmly, accepting it, while others were mid stride, mouths open with words on their tongues. She walked back and forth through the room, in between the other children, looking at their unalterable expressions.

She was alone in a room without a door, or any means of escape. Alone with 10 children, none of which she believed were dead, yet none of which showed any signs of life.  She sat down gently, careful to not unnecessarily disturb the dust. She sat in the middle of a room full of statues, and she cried.  She cried, not knowing what she should be wishing for.

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 A road not paved, nor found, with good intention

 

The blank page is menacing, terrifying in fact. But, as I write these words my ink stains the paper, the perfection is broken, and my thoughts may flow free.

I was letting the sidewalk guide me. Indifferent to where it took me, searching only to escape the faces of others.

I took a deep breath and felt the cold air come burning into my lungs. This was no longer just the chill of evening, even in the city’s heart the smell of autumn was clear. Summer had found an end, although this year it had survived longer than others, it was ending now with the same cruel inevitability of every year that had come to pass. I noticed the cold as I saw my own breath, subconsciously expelled, curling up from my lips in the form of a thin mist barely differentiable from the smoke that curled from the cigarette in my fingers. I pulled my ragged jacket in tighter around me and flexed my fingers to feel stiffness developing in symbiosis with the growing night.

I glanced up from the pavement, looking first ahead of me and then across the still busy street. I did not seek solitude, no, I rarely desire solitude. It was instead indifference which I sought. I wanted not to be alone, but to be unnoticed. I wanted not to be surrounded by no-one, but to be no one. I wanted patrons that did not know who I was, and did not care who I could be; for there was too much to know, and too little to care about.

I wanted a drink. But, wanting a drink had long since become a perpetual state of my existence.

I pulled my eyes up from the pavement’s repeating stone surface only when passing one location or another that could curb my addiction, taking fleeting glances into busy pubs as I passed them by without any real consideration. Doors would open and torrents of sound rushed outwards; the loud voices of intoxicated patrons flooded the street long before they stumbled out themselves. I could not bring myself to participate in that scene. Alcohol was not worth the price I would need to pay when walking into that room. Football displayed brightly on obscenely large screens, music that surely should have been tossed away a decade ago when it was first produced. The sound of forced laughter from those pretending to be old friends, or those trying to appease new ones. Voices were elevated and ever rising as pints act as dials.

I am no Hemingway, despite how many years I spent convincing myself I could someday be, it was not a clean well-lighted place I sought after; No, that was not what I desired, for it was not what I deserved. My criteria was a dark room and an unpolished bar, a barman unwilling to engage in conversation.

I do not know if I truly understood why I was in pursuit of such a place at the time. I understood the way that I felt, but not the way that I somehow desired for that feeling to continue. Although I thought the sensation was entirely warranted, I did not realize that I purposely dwelled on it, worsened it. I was seeking salvation by sifting through the depths of a self-created hell, perhaps believing that at the very bottom there may be a forgotten passage to the top. My mind clung to the things that hurt me, and in moments when those thoughts were not present, I felt guilty for feeling anything else. So I followed yet another sidewalk onwards, seeking a place for my self-destruction. I wanted a bar stool in a grim pub and a bottle of cheap whiskey to drown out the voices in my own head.

I used the pavement as my silk thread through the labyrinth, letting it guide me out of the suffocating sounds of too many humans trying to exist in too small a place. I did not wonder where the string would take me, and I had no concern for how long I had been walking it. I knew that this simple path would not pull me out of the city entirely; countless modes and means had already failed to let me leave this place.

I fleetingly thought that my flat was in the general direction which I traveled, but even that I was not willing to concern myself with. I would find it, but it was inane to try and do so before I wanted to be there; a copious amount of self-medication was to take place between that sidewalk and closing of eyes.

I sucked in deeply on a thinly rolled cigarette, almost extinguished from the cold night air.  The warmth of cheap tobacco burned my lungs in comparison to the night that filled them prior. The street slowly became less crowded, the buildings less inviting, the town itself grew uglier. The postcard slowly slipped away and was replaced by the back of a studio, the set partially deconstructed to reveal the flat grey walls and exposed wires of the warehouse they were built within; the only real room involved in the entire process.  The warehouse came with a familiarity that is usually only found at home.

My cigarette was too hot in my fingers as I inhaled this time, the tobacco giving up the last of its ground to the amber, threatening to burn my lips and finger tips if I were to continue smoking it any longer.  I did not alter my pace as I dropped it, reaching into my pocket to find the emptying pouch of tobacco. As my hand slipped inside my worn jacket my fingers brushed by the notebook which was kept there. I felt my body tighten, I felt myself cringe at the feeling of it. I withdrew my hand quickly, tobacco in grasp, and tried to press the thoughts of that book out of my head.

I treated the small leather book as if a terrible curse was written in its pages, or a secret that I wished I had not discovered. In actuality it was only half filled with words that were not worth writing, and the other half, though empty, was filled with the promise that I would continue to add ink to paper: for writing is what I did, no matter how much I hated myself for it.

I rolled the cigarette without taking my eyes off the broken sidewalk, lighting it before my fingers had a chance to cool from the one I had last finished.

I embraced passive self-destruction as I let the smoke slowly curl out my nose and tumble down over my face, as if I was the least menacing of all the dragons still futilely attempting intimidation. The smoke washed over my cheeks, passing behind me as I moved forward, mingling and quickly becoming indeterminable in the cold night air. Was my self-destruction passive for I lacked the bravery to destroy with any conclusiveness, was I simply not strong enough to find a quick end so instead I drowned my thoughts in alcohol and flooded my lungs with smoke when I came up for air? Was it being empty of courage or was it instead that I felt a quick end to be too kind? A slow undoing, a constant torture, felt like embracing the person I had proven myself to be.

I glanced up from the sidewalk again, assuring a pub was not silently passing me by, but the street revealed nothing of interest to me. No place for a drink at all short of a restaurant, near empty, that would likely turn away a customer looking as I did on principle, even if they needed the business. My eyes moved away from the restaurant and fell then on the shadowy figures of three men loitering on the sidewalk ahead of me. They were gathered without apparent cause; unless one considered an alleyway, that slipped off of the sidewalk and was untouched by the illumination of the main road’s street lights, a cause to be there.

They stood facing one another but with clear awareness of their surroundings as they stepped back and forth with constant glances over each other’s shoulders. Automatically I considered that a smarter man would give them berth, altering his own course to assure that he did not interrupt the space which these men occupied. These were not the type of characters one wants to conflict with.

Just as I considered that they were potentially threatening, I felt a self loathing arise all anew. I had no right to judge these men based on their appearance, nor even on their current actions, for surely I did not wish to be judged on either of mine. Although based on their appearance they were cliché examples of those whom one should watch their wallet near, I surely appeared to be a cliché example of a different sample of the cities under-life; drunk, broke and unemployed. Perhaps it was true that I was all of those things, but this did not affect that I held no desire to be perceived as any of them.

Whether these men were a threat or not, I was not someone worth targeting. The coat I wore was probably worth more than anything else I owned and even the coat was a colour of black that had forgotten its depth, faded to resemble the London night sky, never truly finding its way to dark. The warmth the coat once offered was compromised from use and patchwork, and that was compromised by the places I had not yet come to patch. I wore leather shoes that once matched a different character, but now matched the one I was perceived as. They had evolved, or descended, along with me somehow. They were scuffed and worn, the soles having grown so thin that I could feel the crack between uneven sidewalk tiles each time I broke my mother’s back. My pockets were near enough to empty: a key, of little value for it unlocked a flat of little value as well; a pen with meaning for no one but me. Tucked into the waistband of my wrinkled trousers were a tightly folded couple scores that would eventually be used to empty a bottle of a small bar’s cheapest whiskey. Kept in my waistband to avoid being separated from me without at least some effort being applied.

A smarter man, or perhaps just a man with more concern for self, would have taken advantage of the sidewalk’s width to casually avoid the three men further along it. Yet, the first I had long since doubted in myself, and the latter I had long since buried. I kept my eyes down as I passed them and I felt my shoulder nudge against the back of one of the men. I wondered for a brief moment if I desired the conflict. To have the audacity to walk into any man, threatening or otherwise, was surely as stupid in this situation as it was arrogant. I wondered if they would be the type to beat me and not just rob me. The thought was accompanied not by fear, but by a disdainful acceptance. I did not fear the physical abuse, it felt like a debt owed to me. I felt I deserved it so strongly that I almost craved it, as if perhaps physical pain could act as penance for pain of every other sort I had caused.

I felt the man I nudged throw his shoulder back stiffly, raising his arm in an arc, hoping perhaps to have pushed me away had I not already stepped past.  I then heard a voice, without bothering pay attention to the words, as one member of the group or another shouted what I assumed to be insults or threats towards me. I continued walking. They were not yet pursuing, I presumed that they would need greater cause to bring harm to me, but I was not even willing to apply the effort to be rude, even if it would result in the beating I somehow wanted. I walked on in silence, wondering if maybe my lack of response would be gauged as rude in itself.

For a moment I heard their footsteps behind me as they continued to yell. I thought briefly that perhaps they would rob me of the few possessions I have after all.

 If they went so far as taking even the clothes off my back, would they let me keep my notebook? Surely its easily perceivable as worthless to them?

I clenched my teeth, briefly closed my eyes: that thought was the last which I ever desired to pass through my mind, yet it was inexorable. Instantaneously I loathed myself for that cognition and silently I began to beg that the strangers would approach from behind me and take that foolishly precious notebook, even if nothing else.

The footsteps did not pursue. I was not lucky enough as to be forced into violence when I so clearly desired it. I felt the weight of the notebook in my pocket entirely renewed, I hated myself for even still having it there. How could something that was the symbol of my descent to this current state still be a possession I prized, still be a possession at all.

Words were my true self destruction, they were the true nature of my demise long before any alcohol, action, or lack there of. It was words that began my slow undoing. But, I could not escape them, I could not keep myself from composing them nor the life based around their composition. I pulled the notebook out of my pocket and held it in my hands, testing its actual weight and not just the weight I usually believed it possessed. How simple it would be to let it slip from my fingers, to drop it onto a street and continue walking, letting the city consume it, never to find me again. Though, I knew how pointless it would be, no time would pass, days perhaps a week if I were lucky, and I would succumb to my nature and find another notebook, another place to write my thoughts with the same self-righteous false sense of creative intelligence that I have spent most of the last decade of my life writing with.

How different would my life be if the love that my words consumed could be given to others, how much love would I have had to offer, enough to hold on to her? If not, then surely enough to keep me from breaking off from family, from watering down the blood-ties with distance, alcohol, and eventually my own shameful poverty. Surely the countless actions I am now ashamed of could at least have beeen more limited. Perhaps without the clouding of this passion I would have been able to hold stronger to my own morality, instead of being left as a person with more apologies that need be written than any notebook would ever hold space for.

Perhaps, a book of apologies is a novel worth pursuing.

And behold, even in the heart of my self-reprimanding I find some foolish link to my words and in turn an excuse to continue writing them.

In truth, if I could have translated my regrets to words, describe my guilt and compose both the setting and plot of my suffering I may for the first time in my life have written something worth reading.  The issue of course, more painful than any other, is that I lack the talent to compose such a thing, and despite what grade school teachers would have demanded I believe, passion does not make up for lack of actual ability.

I walked on with old thoughts now re-establishing their prominence in my mind, flooding over my perception and clouding my vision. Self-frustration grew as the self-loathing deepened. Emotion quickly gave way to anxiety as I felt everything around me quicken, my own mind seeming to not move fast enough to keep up. I suddenly felt like I was walking exponentially faster than previous and that I would surely trip over my own feet at any moment. My heartbeat grew more and more prominent in my chest as I took deeper and quicker breaths to try and satisfy my bodies overwhelming screams for oxygen.

I stopped in my place. I needed a drink. I could not contend with the thoughts I was having at that moment, I was in too bad a state already to deal with that undoing once more. I looked ahead and saw the telltale hanging sign of a public house. I began walking towards it, begging beyond anything else that it would provide the silent emptiness I so craved. It grew quickly closer, yet not near quick enough as the pavement guided me along the roads gentle bend. It was only across the street now, but I could see it was not so different than most of the pubs I had previously passed; the windows spilled bright light onto the sidewalk and happy patrons were visible through the glass.

By beginning to walk again I felt fractionally better. I could make it a bit further, I thought, there must be something better soon. However, even as I moved away from the place I felt myself regretting the decision I was still in the process of making. It would be best to turn back and not drag out this particular stage of torture any longer, my heart would surely stop if I allowed it to continue beating at this pace. I slowed, reaching the finality of my decision to turn back.  Then, perhaps just because of my slowed pace, or maybe because my eyes left the sidewalk as I prepared to turn, I saw just a flicker of movement ahead of me.  A door swinging closed at the bottom of a short stairwell. It would not have caught my attention so firmly, but the sign above the doorway drew me in for a reason that even now is unclear: a black circle with a small clock located in the bottom right corner of it. I was curious over the symbol. It was something unique I had not seen before. Tentatively I took a short step forward, below the symbol read four simple words that brought deep relief to me: “Time’s Bar: Public House”.

I quickly thought back to the closing of the door a couple moments past: there had been no roar of sound. No music, no sports, no laughter, no loud voices. The entrance itself was almost out of sight, surely that would discourage popularity in itself, surely that made it resemble more of what I wanted all on its own.  I needed no further reasoning to try.

I inhaled deeply on the cigarette, half-forgotten in my fingers, the distinct odour of an extinguished fag filled my nose as I sucked nothing but cool air through it. I did not bother relighting the roll-up, I dropped it and moved forward in pursuit of a drink. The half a dozen steps to the entrance proved not to be the real depth of the bar, as I opened the door it revealed only a dimly lit further set of stairs. I hesitated for a moment with the door held open, but low voices and more light came from a room at the base of the stairs; I proceeded downwards.

 

 

 

Chapter 2

The depths of the downed can be shallow

 

As I walked into the small pub the voices that were already hushed immediately stopped. Every person in the room turned to me and as I glanced around I saw barely disguised hostility on multiple faces. I pretended not to notice, almost satisfied to find a place where I did not belong so that I could be happily undisturbed.  The bar itself was high, oak topped and aged, it was not filthy, but by no means was it polished. The bar stools stood high as well, their wooden legs seemed to have once been elegantly crafted, but were now scraped and tarnished. The upholstery on their tops was old, tethered and lightly stained, but it did not seem dirty; if it is possible for the prior adjectives to exist without the later.

Most stalls near the bottom of the stairs were empty, I took the second one from the wall, uninterested in being closer to the other patrons while also avoiding cornering myself in an environment that appeared unfriendly. As I sat down and looked towards the barman I saw that most of the hostile looks had faded, quiet conversations had resumed. Some glances were still shot in my direction from the corner of eyes, but they were looks of trepidation, not aggression.

The barman finished pulling a pint from a tarnished brass tap and then moved towards me. “We’re closed.” He said, before I had even had chance to open my mouth. The words were spoken with a certain directness, definitive, but clearly only in so far as I was concerned.

The man was not small, broad shouldered and middle-aged, the stubble on his face fit so naturally that it seemed as if a-day-gone’s shadow was something he was born with. His muscles flexed noticeably yet unobtrusively beneath a loose jumper.

I hesitated a moment, holding eye contact and then looking beyond him to the meek shelf of liquors. I reached back and pulled a score from its hiding place in my waistband, in the process of the movement the sleeve of my jacket was pulled back along with my jumper, revealing my wrist watch, but I did not bother checking the time. I assured the money was held visibly in my hand to sojourn any concerns he may have about my ability to pay. I maintained eye contact, trying to hold-up against any test of wills he may be putting me through in defense of a regulars-only bar. “Whiskey, bottom shelf.” I said it with frankness, a statement not a question, I had nothing to lose in this place.

I saw him watch my lips closely as I spoke and then glance back to my eyes, which were still watching his.  He peered at my wrist watch briefly and then stalked away. He took a bottle off the top shelf and picked up two shot glasses, he walked back to where I sat and then laid only one shot glass on the bar. I thought quickly to try and decipher the meaning of this gesture, that was intentionally less than obvious, and then I nodded towards him. He laid the second glass down on the bar then, and filled them both. He drank his in one swift motion, never taking his eyes off mine. I followed his actions identically and felt the unnamed liquid burn deeply the entire way down my throat until it dropped, splashing explosively, into an empty stomach, urging fire to surge back up my throat. I fought back the itch to cough, not allowing myself even a grimace.

He took away both shot glasses and put a tumbler in front of me; he poured generously, without any measure. As he poured this time, I noticed the watch he wore on his wrist, the face of it seemed to perfectly match the symbol above the bar’s door. A completely black face with two small circles in one corner, it was only one of these small circles that appeared to tell any time at all. The barman walked away, corking the bottle once more.

I lifted the glass as he walked away and sipped it. There was a fire to it unlike anything I had tasted before. It was precisely the cruel drink I desired. I glanced down the bar to see that I was being watched with unhidden curiosity as I had undergone the encounter. I did not bother finding their eyes, I had no desire to tempt confrontation. I looked back down at my glass, I slowly tipped the tumbler around in my hand, letting the whisky reach towards the lip of the glass for rotation after rotation. I sipped it again, more deeply now as my taste buds adjusted to drinking napalm.

I decided, rather quickly, that I liked this bar. The worn look was a surface appearance, as I glanced around I could tell that it was otherwise quite up kept; even the floors lacked the look that came with years of heavy use. There was music playing the background, only just audible.  It was not the 90’s pop music that infected many pubs, instead it was a classical piano piece I could not quite place.

I finished the fiery whisky before me and lay the glass back down, tucking money underneath it.  the barman refilled it without comment, taking the money and returning the change. I glanced briefly at it to estimate how many I had left, but did not bother making an exact count.  I drank much deeper from the glass this time, leaning back and closing my eyes briefly, relishing in the warmth of alcohol pressing the night’s cold out.

I wrapped my fingers briefly on the bar before me, and then picked the glass up again, not drinking it, just turning it round in my hand. I adjusted myself in my seat.

It was coming, as it always did. I knew it was, I did not know why I even bothered fighting it.

I took a long hard drink, almost finishing the whisky, and then exhaled long and slow through pursed lips, reaching into my coat pocket and taking out the notebook. I lay it on the bar before me, closed and waiting. I left it like that for a long while, continually staring at it. I finished my second whisky.  After the third was poured, I finally opened the notebook, not yet going for my pen, instead reading over the last broken thoughts I had scribbled down.

What to write was never what restrained me, I did not hesitate in search for words. There was always a story waiting to take form, a line that needed scribing, or just thoughts that I would scribble. Thoughts that I would not dare speak aloud, and like most of the words which came to fill my notebooks, the thoughts I was about to write would probably one day follow my notebook into a fire, when it was over-filled and anything useful had been withdrawn from it.

I reached for my pen and I began: words just flowed, as they always had, from hidden places in the back of my mind and freely out the fine tip of the pen. I became continually more engrossed in what I was writing and the pen moved all the faster to accommodate.

I had no concept of how much time had passed, no concept of even how much I had drank, but I was suddenly pulled back into reality by a voice just next to me. It was melodic, a wind chime in a constant breeze. I looked up to see a young woman standing beside me. She must have just arrived, but her appearance came with no fore warning, not a single sound, not even a footstep had been heard as she descended the stairs. It was as if she had begun existing just there, a few feet from me.  She was side on, leaning heavily over the bar with her arms crossed. Even without looking directly at her I could tell she was striking, long hair fell to the middle of her back, dove white in colour, with pale skin to match it. She wore a deep black halter top that seemed to highlight the lack of colour on her skin.  What had she even said? I had heard the voice in the back of my mind, but could not place the words, the barman approached a moment later and I assumed she had called him over.

“Have you still got that chardonnay about, Tim?”

“I have chardonnay”

“Ahh, don’t do that to me, babe. You’ve still got a bottle of that Montrachet.

“It’s done, been sold.”

“Bollucks, I only brought you the case two weeks ago.”

“Two weeks? Eve, it was about two weeks ago this time last year”

She tilted her head at the barman and leaned forward a little further, even from the side I could see the most brilliant smile spread across her face, teeth strikingly white amplified by the deep red lipstick she wore. “I must have lost track of time.”

The barman shook his head and walked away, disappearing through a door I had not noticed, assumedly into a cellar. He was back only a moment later and lay the bottle on the oak, taking a wine glass down from where it hung above the bar. “It’s a bloody shame that you’re drinking that already, it’d be tremendous if you waited it out a couple years.” He took an opener from his belt and began working out the cork carefully.

“Oh, but then I wouldn’t be nearly as lovely while I’m drinking it. My young tongue appreciates the young grape.” She flicked her tongue out then, curling it back in a swift motion almost touching the tip of her nose and then smiling somehow even grander than before.

The barman, Tim, just shook his head, obviously well accustom to her blatant teasing.

She turned around, putting both elbows on the bar and pressing her hips out, rising one foot behind her, with heel pressed against the bar’s front. Tight black trousers, the material resembling worn leather, were painted onto her body. The curve of well-shaped legs made way to a flat stomach. The halter top she wore displayed just enough of a prominent chest, surely having given the barman an enjoyable view when she had been ordering her drink. The line of her neck was smooth without blemish, she was turned away from me, looking towards the other patrons, exposing a high soft jaw line bordering her face.

I realized my observing her was rather obvious and I turned away, back to my notebook. I had no actual interest. I do not know why I looked so intently, why my eyes had that tendency to gauge. I did not want anything from this girl, not conversation nor flirtation. She appeared attractive, but that did not stimulate desire in me. The thought of another disconnected intimate encounter made me feel almost sick. I hated the idea of having another person that I barely knew become another fleeting memory. Another memory that should be pleasurable but instead brings only guilt and the question as to how it had all broken down, or why it had never been built in the first place. Even if a girl, long lost, did not consume my mind, the idea of being with another human being caused an inexplicable guilt in me for merely thinking it.

I shook my head and returned my gaze to my notebook, hating myself, my own body, for somehow still driving me to turn and look at this girl, still find this girl attractive, even intriguing, despite wanting nothing to do with her. I caught from the corner of my eye a movement of her hand, it was not a stroking of her hair, or a bored a picking of split ends, instead she gathered the hair from one shoulder and held it tightly for a moment in her hand. I glanced back to her then, just as she turned back towards the barman, catching an unmistakeable frown passing across her face.

Tim just finished filling her glass, leaving the bottle on the bar, as she turned back.  “Can you put it on my…”

“You know, the concept of a tab, is that eventually it will be paid.” He cut her off.

“Eventually being the key word?” She spoke with a tone that neared upon pleading.

It was a sudden contrast to hear the girl now admitting to needing the assistance of this man, I thought she had been teasing him, as if he were someone she held in her hand. I had misgauged the pair, it had been the interaction of old friends, her teasing was a playful way of admitting that she needed his help again.

I glanced at the bottle on the table and then did a double take. She had asked for Montrachet, but I had hardly taken note, now knowledge of a past life slipped into my mind as I recognised the Puligny-Montrachet Premiers Cru bottle, the vintage cued some old memory of notability.

I spoke then as if it was automatic, my words were neither intended nor blurted, it was instead as if they just tumbled out of my mouth as the barman walked away. Like something someone else had intended to say just sliding off of my tongue instead of theirs, “There’s a bottle of Montrachet behind the same bar that served me this?” I asked the question with some legitimate surprise. I did not look at her, I did not want her to look at me, I hoped that she had not heard the statement for I had not even intended to make it.  I shook my head, mostly at myself and my tendency to do things without valid explanation, but perceivably at the fact that I was drinking such a whisky. I lifted the glass finishing the rough liquid.  I realized I was smiling, was it in a tortured amusement at myself, or was it that part of me I wished did not exist adding a flirtation to my words.

She turned to me suddenly, as if shocked that I was even there, I had naturally turned to her slightly, but I still pretended to be (or attempted to actually be) distracted with my notebook, catching her actions from the corner of my eye. The surprise on her face suggested that she truly had no idea I was even sitting there. The surprise turned to a narrow smile as she eyed me over quickly, gauging me blatantly, the same way I looked at her but with less concern as to whether or not I noticed.

“He has you on the fire whisky does he?” She said after her brief evaluation of my appearance.

I said nothing, not pretending that I hadn’t heard her, but suggesting that the question was rhetorical. I glanced up, she was looking directly at me for the first time. She was pretty, gorgeous even, I could see the striking colour of her eyes now. It wasn’t a blazing lilac, but it was blue that had long since turned to violet, even from a distance the flecks of deeper purple and blue were clear, they had a brightness to them that was bracing.  Her eyes found my notebook then, she looked at it for a couple moments, head slightly tilted as if trying to read the scribbled words but surely too far away to do so. Her eyes found my watch then, she eyed this even more closely than the notebook. She began speaking before she had looked away from my wrist, “Baho, ris-kitwith-awor-dasanok?”

The tongue was strikingly quick and completely foreign to me. It was only through the inflection that I knew a question was involved.  Her voice held no foreign accent when she had spoken to the barman, it had been only a London syntax that I did not know well enough to place. But this other language came out with such elegance that it sounded perfectly natural, perhaps it even suited her.

“Nodi- Eve, Esemarmelss, hise-autgivine-mash” the barman’s return was equally quick and natural. There was something strange about what they spoke, I could not place the language, but it somehow didn’t sound unfamiliar.

“Anture, Ering-happous-analassease-baho,” she was looking at me as she spoke now, “another glass, please.” She then added in English, smiling at my confusion. She shifted herself and the bottle closer to me, unbothered by the lack of invitation.

She sat on the stall next to mine, eyeing me closely as if fascinated by some strange creature.

“I’m alright with the whisky.” I said tentatively. Unsure of how I felt about the development; knowing I did not want the company, nor the attraction, but, also knowing that something in my nature could not resist it, could not help but give in, even if only fractionally, to that attraction.

The barman laid an empty wine glass in front of me and shrugged towards Eve. He walked away without intention of refilling my whisky.

“I’m sure you’ll enjoy the wine more,” she said passively, and filled my glass. As she poured the wine I noticed that she wore a watch distinctly similar to the barman’s: a completely black face, unmarked, on the side hers appeared to have more circles than the barman’s, but still only one of these smaller circles appeared to actually have a clock face and be keeping any sort of time. She picked up the wine glass and handed it to me then, holding her own in her other hand. She clinked our glasses together as I took mine from her.

I said nothing at first and sipped from my glass, as she did from hers. Both of us watching the other, I opened my mouth to begin to speak and she opened hers at the exact same time. She smiled radiantly and tipped her head to the side, obviously without intention of talking until I had.

“I take it you’re the wine supplier?” I said it as passively as I could, the casual conversation seemed almost silly.

She looked at me for a moment as if she hadn’t realized that I was next to her when she asked the barman about the wine she had brought in. “Ah,” She began as she comprehended what I meant, “hardly the supplier. I’m more of a delivery girl.” She answered politely, but then immediately asked another question, obviously uninterested in elaborating. “What exactly are you writing? And why, may I ask, are you writing it here?”

“Because they serve cheap whisky.” I could tell my answer wasn’t going to suffice from the raised eyebrows she responded with, “And it is quieter than most other pubs around.”

She looked at the book once more and then back to me with a neutral expression, intending for me to answer her other question.

“I’m not writing anything.” I closed the book, dispassionate in speaking about it.

“That notebook is far too well used for someone to not be writing anything.”

“Nothing worth talking about, then.”

“And who are you to decide what I think is worth talking about?”

“I’m the one that would need to do the talking about it.”

She smiled briefly, seemingly pleased with my quick response. “Is writing what you do?”

“Writing is something I do.” I answered as vaguely as possible. “And you, what do you do?”

“I already told you, I’m a delivery girl.”

“And what do you deliver, just fine vintages of wine?”

“Oh, I deliver whatever someone is willing to pay to receive.”

I looked her up and down again, she was simply playing back at me what I had offered her. I wanted to be frustrated with her vagueness, as perhaps she wanted to be with mine, but had no justification in feeling so.

“You don’t like writing very much, for someone who thinks of himself as a writer.”

“And why would you say that?”

“Would you say any different?”

I sipped my wine and said nothing.

“A writer who hates writing.” She continued, teasingly.

“No.” I said, just a little too quickly. “A writer who hates how much he loves writing.” Why did I say that? Why did I give in to her prying and respond with something so personal?

She smiled, as if unfazed by how peculiar, how personal, my answer was. “Ah, the curse of the passionate. You continue doing it because you cannot bring yourself to do anything else”

“You speak of the sensation as if it’s familiar to you.”

She said nothing this time, instead just sipping her wine.

“Is that why you…deliver, things?” I hesitated before the word, still doubting her truthfulness.

“Perhaps, or maybe some of us are just meant to do something, whether they want to or not.”

“So, you’re a good delivery girl?”

She smiled at this, “Oh, I’m the best.” She sipped her wine again, “But perhaps not quite as good at it, as you are at writing.”

“Then sadly, I think you need to work on your ability, darling.” Why did I add ‘darling’? Why was I continually increasing this interaction, deepening the flirtation? Already I could feel my hot blooded interest in her, my attraction to her building. I did not want this, I did not want to feel this nor to do anything to encourage it, yet, I was still doing so.

She raised her eyebrows, “The white page is menacing, terrifying in fact. But, as my pen stains the paper, the perfection is broken, and my thoughts may flow free.”

It was at the top of my notebook. On almost every page, but I had not thought she was near close enough to decipher my scribbles.

“Anyone that has respect for the empty page, and is so tied into their passion that self loathing has not broken it, is undoubtedly good at what they do.”

I had never mentioned self-loathing, did I wear it that plainly on my face these days? I eyed her carefully for a moment, “Or perhaps they are just daft.”

“Ah, now-now, we both know better than that. Those self-degrading thoughts you dwell on, keep them to yourself. I am not interested in entertaining the terrible things that you think about yourself.”

“And why are you so convinced that I think of myself so terribly.”

She smiled and then drank deeply from her wine, “Babe, you wouldn’t be in this bar if you felt anything else.”

“And yet you’re sitting here next to me.”

She looked away, breaking directness for the first time. When she turned back her smile had a certain dip in its corners, as if there was an emotion far from happiness being masked by the smile she wore on her face. “You keep your negative thoughts, and I’ll keep mine.”

“And I’ll return the favour of not believing in whatever those thoughts are you have.”

A relaxed nature returned to her face as I said this, her smile instantly became more natural. I felt myself grow content at having caused this, happiness at having been able to pull her away from whatever haunted her, even if it was only for a moment.

I looked at her carefully. I then reached over and refilled her wine, but not my own. I reached with my left arm, needing to barely lean in my seat to reach her glass.  Just as I finished topping her glass up, she grabbed my wrist.  Tightly at first to get me to stay there, and then gentle, tracing her fingers over my skin, making shapes around my wrist watch.

“I like your watch.” She said casually.

I shrugged, “It keeps time.” I glanced once more to her wrist and the watch that matched the barman’s.

“Interesting choice of words.”

Was it? I did not understand why, but I did my best to shield the confusion from reaching my face.

“You have no idea, do you?”

I looked at her quizzically. Wanting her to explain, but not expecting her to. “There is much I do not know, little I do.”

“But, do you even want to find out?”

“Do you want me to?”

She smiled again, but it was a smile that held sadness once again. “Even if I did, it makes no difference.”

“Surely, that is what makes a difference, if anything does.”

“You of all people should know that what we want does not often match what we can have.”

I hesitated. The underlying meaning of this conversation was not clear to me, but the concept was heavy, I backed off slightly, trying to push away some of that sad smile once more. “I can’t imagine there being much which you cannot have.”

“Oh darling, you can’t imagine what I want.”

“Imagination is something I’m good at.”

“I believe it. I also believe you’re good at quite a few other things.” She leaned forward now, and filled up my wine glass in return.

I could not keep my eyes from wandering as she leaned forward. Quickly I traced from her cheek down the smooth line of her neck, following it to the curve of her breasts as a shirt which was already low cut fell forward to expose even more. I felt that my glance had taken a second too long. I looked back to her face to see those beautiful violet eyes watching my gaze, the most mischievous smile on her face. She was maintaining the lean forward despite my wine glass already being full.

Just as she sat back, her hand still on the bottle, someone grabbed her wrist from behind. I looked behind her to see a man staring me down. He pulled her fingers free from the bottle and picked it up, “Eve, darling why don’t you come join us.” He wore a tailored black suit with pin striping so fine that the extortionate price tag may as well have been printed along the sleeves.  Dark eyes matched dark hair, almost chestnut brown.

I watched as the girl exhaled, obviously unimpressed by the sudden interruption.  “I’m quite alright here actually, Val.” She was looking down, almost as if embarrassed.

His eyes did not leave mine as he spoke. “Your friend, he appears as if he’s about to leave, though.”

I returned his stare. I almost wanted to laugh, his blatant aggression, perhaps even jealousy, was not something that inspired any intimidation in me. I had no reason to give in. I had nothing to lose and she was certainly not encouraging me to go.  “Actually, I think it’s my round.” I motioned to Tim, but he was already watching the interaction.

I nodded to the bottle on the table. Tim eyed me, a half smile on his face, and then looked away, turning to go into the cellar as he shook his head.

I looked back at this new character, he was staring at me with fury brimming in his eyes. Surely he was about to begin foaming at the mouth. He stepped around Eve then and turned his back to me.  As he did so I noticed his hand still on the bottle. He wore a watch almost identical to both Eve’s and the Barman’s.

“Hydy-isintohave-isay? Whi-thiug?” Whatever the character was saying to her was lost on me, but he spoke in a loud voice, I assumed that he wanted me to hear, perhaps hoping I’d decipher one or another of the insults he was surely speaking. The tongue seemed to be the same as I had already heard in this bar, but it did not seem to come out with the same elegance as the other two had spoken with.

“I behave how I choose to behave, and it is business of neither yours nor anybody else’s.  Just go and sit down, Val.” Eve responded.

I wondered briefly if her English was for my benefit, and then, as Val turned to look at me, it was clear he was wondering the same.

He eyed me up and down then, his glare containing more curiosity than before. As he looked over my worn shoes and weathered jacket I saw disgust growing on his face. Then, his eyes reached my watch. He eyed it for a moment longer than anything else.  He suddenly reached out then. He moved far faster than I would have anticipated, he went from standing perfectly still to holding my wrist in a violent grip almost instantaneously. As he twisted my arm towards him to carefully examine the time piece on my wrist I wrenched my arm away as calmly, but firmly as I possibly could.

I watched him as he now looked at me once more, he turned away then, looking towards the rest of the bar, some of whom were now watching, and then to Eve. “Hets-venaody-Imkaypay, she? What is he, a half-speed? Nomatter how much we train you, you still gravitate towards your own kind, don’t you?”

I knew now that English was being spoken for my benefit, but it made no difference as the meaning of their words was still lost on me. I noticed that many eyes through that bar were not just looking towards this interaction, but were focused on me.

Eve responded with intensity to the man’s words, straightening stiffly in her chair. “I’m not a fucking pet, you don’t train me. We both know I could run you down any day.”

This was the conversations turning point. It had been high strung, the tension had been thick, but it had still been a conversation. As soon as Eve said those last words however, everything changed. Val’s arm swept towards her with remarkable speed. Somehow though, she moved even faster, the back of his hand passed across where her face had moments ago been, but she now stood just behind the chair, not attacking, offering no retaliation, just moving out of the way.

I, foolishly, was less willing to accept his attempted attack. I jumped from my seat already turning sideways, drawing back a fist before leaning into my swing. I launched hard and fast towards his still exposed ribs, his arm still held out from his attempt to strike Eve. Just as I should have been making contact however, he slipped out of the way. As my arm still swung he moved around me, knocking his forearm up against my moving fist as he turned, and then landing three jabs into my abdomen at a speed I could hardly perceive.  I was not unfamiliar with fighting, I could hold my own, and then some; but this was speed I had not known possible.

He was no longer in front of me, I felt a hard pain across the back of my legs, despite not seeing the movement I knew the feeling of the bar stall’s narrow leg crashing against my calves.

I should have stopped then. I should have accepted that this was not a fight I could win, but acceptance of defeat was not in my nature. I made a half step forward as quickly as I could to stop my own tumbling, with my back foot I lifted up against the bar stool that had not yet fallen, as oppose to moving away from it. I lifted my right arm and twisted my hips. I bent at the elbow and began straightening as I swung blindly towards my back where I knew he must be. I did it as quickly as I possibly could, but I knew I would not be fast enough. I anticipated his action instead; he would take advantage of my exposed ribs with my arm lifted, just as I had tried unsuccessfully to do to him. I kept my left arm tight to my abdomen, decreasing the distance it would need to travel, and then, just as I had my ribs turned completely open to him, I reached to the most exposed and susceptible area of my own side with my left arm and then closed my hand. It was a blind action, there is no way to time a grab on something moving more quickly than you can see, but I got lucky. My hand closed around his wrist just as his fist made contact with me. The arm I had been swinging back, suggesting that it was my attack, now stopped in the air and I brought my elbow straight down. My hand on his wrist held him there for just the fraction of a second I needed to make a connection between my elbow and the top of his head.

I felt it there, I knew I hit him, but before I had a chance to make another move I felt sudden sharp pain on my cheek and my face was whipped to the side, a sickeningly strong force had struck me. Before my head even finished rotating under the momentum of the strike, I felt the same thing on the other cheek. Forcing my head in the other direction, before either side of my face had chance to start feeling their strikes the wrenching pain of whiplash exploded in the back of my neck.

But, there were no more blows. It stopped, everything stopped, it suddenly felt like the whole world was slowing down, revealing to me how fast everything had just happened. I turned and watched as the bar stool, as if in some coincidence of physics, seemed to fall in slow motion, only striking the ground as I watched it, despite having kicked it half way through the encounter.

I turned my head the other way, towards the wall, to see the barman’s forearm across Val’s neck, pinning him to the wall and holding him some six inches off the ground. The massive size of the barman was only then realizable. His voice was distinct in the now silent bar, “Slow…Down.” he growled at Val.

Val’s eyes moved over me and the other patrons at an incredible speed. I briefly pondered over what drug he was on, this was unlike any cocaine I had seen, the symptoms matched, but their intensity seemed far too great.

I felt light headed, perhaps that whisky was merely hitting me harder than I realized, I was more slowed by drink than I had been willing to admit. My knees felt suddenly very weak, as if the true effects of the bar stall to the back of my legs was only now being felt.

I felt myself begin to falter, but then there was an arm around my waist, slender and gentle, but still taking my weight and guiding me onto a neighbouring stall. I felt tender fingers on the back of my neck, as if knowing the injury that had taken place there. Firmly yet carefully rubbing, somehow relieving pain I had not yet come to fully feel. I saw Eve beside me, her arm moving from around my waist, but her hand staying on my back.

“You know that is not allowed in this place. You’re a bloody fool Valal. It’s a slow bar, that isn’t something we take lightly.” The barman was grinding his teeth as he spoke, there was more disappointment in his voice than aggression.  He finally moved his forearm away and let the man drop to the ground. “Get out of here, now. Don’t show your face here for at least a couple decades.”

“Tim, come on, over this? 2 decades?” his voice was raspy, the arm that had been against his throat surely still felt.

“Your own damn fault Valal, you know the rules. Out, now.” The barman turned his back and walked away, obviously without feeling threatened by the man.

I did not look directly at him, instead I adjusted, and began turning back towards the bar, away from Eve, embarrassment setting in over how brutally I had been beaten in such a short period of time. Before I had turned completely away I saw Val stand and adjust his jacket, nodding towards the table he had been sitting at and walking up the stairs, out of the bar.

I finished my slow turn to the bar and leaned on it heavily. Just as I did so, the barman laid a shot glass in front of me, he filled it from an unlabeled brown bottle. The liquid itself matched the bottle’s colour, burnt umber and murky, I could see flecks of something unknown swirling in it.

“It’ll help.” He said simply, a sympathetic smile on his face. Sternness swept over him then, “Don’t ever swing at one of my patrons again.”

I opened my mouth to protest, although Val’s swing had not been at me surely Tim could see that I was correct in having defended Eve.

But, he spoke before I could say anything, “Kid, it’s for your own sake.” He walked away then, corking the bottle and putting it in some closed cupboard out of sight.

I looked finally to Eve, she wore a look of concerned compassion on her face. Her hand was still on my back, but she no longer rubbed my neck. “Do it all in one, don’t drag it out.” She said, nodding to the shot.

I took the 2-ounce glass in my hand, but before drinking it I sarcastically raised my eyebrows, “Your boyfriend seems nice.”

She opened her mouth and clicked her tongue, glaring at me. Somehow I knew better than to think they were together, and somehow she knew that I did not actually think that. She just nodded at the shot glass.

I drank it in one, but almost vomited as I did so. It went down my throat like sludge, not burning, instead just sliding its way into my stomach as if it had some unnatural weight.  I coughed, and then the fire erupted through my throat. I have consumed a lot of things, but surely that was the vilest I had ever swallowed, a consistency somewhere between oysters and crude oil, a taste less pleasant than even that cocktail would have been.

I looked at Eve once more; she was smiling now, as if the shot was a deserved punishment for my previous statement. “The people in here don’t tend to take kindly to newcomers.”

“I’ve gathered.” My mouth was watering as if I was about to be sick. I could feel my stomach turning, encouraging me to expel whatever I had ingested.

Tim was suddenly at the bar again, “That, friend, is the kind of shot you go home after.”

I already felt a swirling sensation in my head, my stomach was not settling. I nodded at him and reached across the bar for my notebook as my eyes tried and retried to focus.

 

 

 

Chapter 3

Penance paid in pleasure

 Something woke me up. I wasn’t sure what had stirred my sleep as consciousness found me, but the moment my eyes opened the pounding headache suggested the answer. I was not sick from drink, not just drink at least.  There was a sensation like motion sickness in me.

I had loose memories of my walk home, a stumble up the stairs, and then a wandering walk back to my flat. I had been alone, Eve left in the bar. I imagine she would have walked me back, but I had not asked, partially for knowledge of how suggestive it would sound, but more over because I had been aware of the copious amount of sick that would need happen on the walk back.

I did not know how I had found my way back, but I had somehow managed, I glanced around my small bedroom, feeling soberer than I had anticipated. I glanced to the clock, 03:21. The street light outside cast a continuous light through my small room, keeping even the smallest morning hours from finding complete darkness. I glanced to the window and considered, briefly, whether or not it was worth getting up to close the curtains. I knew though that sleep would not find me again.

I took my eyes from the window and closed them once more, but immediately they opened again, subconsciously I had registered that something was amiss. I glanced over the room once more, and then I saw her.

So still, so quiet, she had somehow almost fit into the room in which she did not belong, my eyes had not found her at first. I looked at her now, standing as far from me as she could within the small room. She still wore the tight fitting black attire from earlier in the night.

How did she get in? How did she even find my flat? More over, why did she bother to do so, why was she here at all?

I opened my mouth to speak, but then realized I did not know what I was going to say. “Eve?” I finally asked. It was not a question of whether or not it was her, even in the dim light that was unmistakeable.  It was just a general question of how and why she stood there.

She said nothing though, there was no comment, no answer, there was no word at all. Instead, she brought her hands up to the bottom of the halter top she wore, crossing her arms. In one smooth motion, she pulled the shirt up and over her head, revealing the pale white skin beneath it.  Hr body could now be seen without hindrance; a flat stomach, smooth but for the faintest ripple of the muscle beneath it, was exposed until it reached the low cut black leather trousers she wore at the bottom, and broken by the black lace bra that clung to her chest.

She was beautiful, she had been beautiful long before the shirt had been dropped to the floor beside her, but my breath caught in my throat now as more and more of her was revealed.

She reached for the top button of the trousers she wore, a slight clicking sound, and then a zip, as they were opened. She then hooked her thumbs in the waistband on either side, and slowly, painfully slowly, she pulled the tight fitting material down her legs. She titled her hips to one side and then the other as she straightened and bent her knees in succession, slowly encouraging the material to slide down her legs. She bent elegantly as she reached the bottom of her legs, stepping out of the trousers.

Creamy white skin in perfect contrast with the deep black undergarments, the bra cut low with the lace edge curving up and down in a subtle pattern along the tops of her breasts. The black lace was repeated in the thick waistband of the thong she wore, the waistband itself ornate, a complex pattern that gave way to a small triangle of material disappearing between her legs.

I watched as if in a dream, the surreal presence of her before me and then the wordless stripping as she slowly exposed herself to me. Now, as she was dressed only in the slightest of undergarments, I looked to her face. She wore that smile, that same smile she so mischievously cast to me in the bar earlier; a look of teasing but with something else behind that smile now. Was she nervous? She seemed almost unsure of her actions as she looked at me.  She bit just the corner of one full lip, deep red lipstick captured briefly between white teeth.  It was a look of desire, a look of want, but it was simultaneously a look of uncertainty, as if she was deciding whether or not to continue.

She stepped forward, seeming to have lost her indecision, she elegantly took the two short steps to bring her to the foot of my bed.  The violet colour of her eyes was clear even in the dim light, as if something illuminated them, as if her spirit itself glowed through them. She locked those eyes with mine as she moved forward, not breaking the contact as she reached a hand down onto the bed and slowly brought her knee up onto the duvet. Her hands placed perfectly to either side of my body as she moved forward on hands and knees, slowly positioning herself over me, still holding my eyes.

I could feel her weight as she moved forward, not yet touching me, but simply shifting the bed I lay on. Somehow that changed the moment, it brought in the reality. I was no longer watching something that seemed as if it wasn’t even happening. Feeling her physical effect on my environment somehow brought it back to reality.

What was happening? Why was it happening? Did I want it to be happening? 

Of course I lusted for her, the lock of her eyes alone was enough to increase my heart beat. The creamy white skin moving above me, breasts barely hidden by thin material now swayed slightly as she crawled her way to me, I could feel the heat of her skin as she placed her hands finally to either side of shoulders. Her presence, her closeness enthralled me. The desire for contact, the desire to hold her and touch her was undeniable. But, why? Why was she even here?

I knew I was sober when I found myself questioning what this meant; found myself already beginning to be battle with the guilt I would feel for sharing my bed with this stranger. A girl I knew nothing about, a girl that meant nothing to me other than the curiosity she had seeded in my mind.

In my world, logic rarely wins over lust. I am a slave to human nature, something I once believed we all were, and had long ago realized was not true. The difference being that others had will power, had some innate moral compass that allowed them to fight it, while I only had the physical sickness the guilt caused the following morning, and I could depend only on the memory of that sensation and the loose morals I have to fight against a force so much stronger than both.

She leaned down towards me slightly, lowering her body onto mine.  I stopped her though. I reached up, pulling my hands from beneath the duvet and gripping both her wrists in one smooth motion. I gripped tightly, bending at the waist and lifting upwards in effort of bringing us both to sitting. She just smiled, as if enjoying my firm grasp around her wrists. She let her arms fall slowly further apart, my own arms needing to extend out to either side to keep a hold of her wrists. As both of our arms went out our bodies were brought closer together, my own upwards lift, an effort intended to bring us both to sitting, instead just pulled us closer together. Her eyes were still locked with mine as she came ever closer, until her gaze quickly flickered from my eyes to my lips. I found my own eyes instantly doing the same course in return, glancing down to full lips, slightly moist with her mouth just fractionally open and back to illuminated violet eyes.

I wanted the kiss, I wanted the kiss so badly in that moment. But, I could not fight the question of why I wanted it, why I was now desiring something I had already told myself I did not, or at least would not, want?  I was torn as she moved closer, torn between body and mind as conflict erupted through me, mind fighting against the increasing beat of my heart and heating of my skin as I craved those lips.

She was just inches from my face, I could feel her breath, warm and gentle against my face as it came out shallow and quick, assuring me that the same desire that afflicted me filled her.  I could almost feel the presence of her lips just above mine, not touching, but so close I could almost taste their presence.

“Why?” She suddenly spoke, for the first time since I had seen her in my room. She spoke in a quiet whisper. I could feel the movement of her lips as she had formed the single syllable, the sensation of her speaking almost kept me from hearing her words. “Why do you hesitate so, why are you fighting against yourself? Why do you think this kiss would be so wrong?” she continued so softly, wooden wind chimes in a breeze almost still. A sound so soft it somehow eluded breaking the silence of the moment.

Could she hear my thoughts, was my uncertainty so clear that she could read it even in my silence? What was the answer to her question? Why did I want so badly not to feel this temptation?

“Because I don’t know why I’d be kissing you…” I finally answered, as honestly as I could muster.

I felt her exhale against my mouth, the slightest breath, she did not sigh at my response, but instead she let the air escape her lungs where it had been held in anticipation of me saying exactly that. “Because you need it. You need it, just as I need it.”

“What does that make me, make us, to need the contact of someone we barely know?”

“It makes you human.”

“But, a synonym for weak. And I am all too human.”

She closed her eyes and shifted slightly up, letting her nose rub against mine, tracing along the side of my nose and then down my cheek, pressing hers too mine and holding the contact of our skin until she moved back and her lips were almost against mine once more. “But, that is why you need it, not because your body craves me, but because you need to feel something other than weakness, you need to feel something other than those guilts which haunt you.” I said nothing as her eyes opened and penetrated mine once more.

“You do not need to be satisfied, you do not need my body. You need my love. You need to be shown what lies beneath your humanity”

The feeling of her soft cheek against mine filled me, burned in me, the softest sweetest sensation of her skin against mine. Neither her body nor her words could quite silence my mind though, “You cannot offer your love to someone you do not know. And you would not offer it to me if you knew me.” What lies beneath my humanity?  I thought, considering that she must mean there is something past my weakness.

“But, I am.” She closed beautiful violet eyes once more, and moved somehow even closer to my lips, hers grazing against mine now as she spoke. A contact so gentle it was nearly painful in the way it caused me to crave so much more. With each passing moment I wanted all the more to press my lips to hers and feel that kiss. “That is why I am offering it, because you do not believe you deserve it. You are not a poison. You are not a scorpion that will inevitably sting. You are not as terrible as you so believe, and you are worth so much more than what they may have told you. You are less human than they have convinced you. Do not let the past haunt you so. Do not let yourself now become undone because of time passed, time unchangeable, when the time ahead of you has so much to offer, if you let it.”

How could she address so perfectly emotions I had never said out-loud, never spoken to anyone? The gentle rhythm of her soothing words let me close my eyes, seeing her through them just as easily.

Who was this girl above me now? Who was this person who chose to hold her skin against mine and suggest that I need her? Was she right? Was it just the warmth of her body I felt in that moment, with her lips so close to mine, was it just her warm breath that was now filling my lungs, or was it something else entirely? It felt like I was breathing her in, her very essence was present in the room, opened up to me, asking, begging for me to accept it, embrace it.

“How?” I finally asked the question that burned in me even deeper than my desire, “How can you know this feeling that I hold onto, how can you know the self-loathing I feel? Why do you want so badly to help me, why are you bothering to change something about someone you do not know?”

“Because I do know you. I know you through what it is you feel. I know that pain, I have lived so long feeling it. Longer than you could possibly imagine I have been suffocated in the same turmoil I see in you. A grudge against oneself is the hardest to let go of. I have never known how. But, when I saw you soaked in that same pain only then, only now, do I realize it is okay; everything, is okay.  For if someone as beautiful as you, for if someone who has as much to offer as you do, can feel as I have, then surely there is some falsity in this feeling.”

She paused for a moment, and I could hear the shallowness in her breathing, different from the laboured breathing of attraction, more akin to the struggled breath of emotion. I felt her move her entire body against mine before continuing, “Maybe, just maybe, it can be wiped clean. Maybe, if two people who feel no love for themselves, can offer some kind of love to one and other, then wounds unseen, and pain undefinable, can be wiped away.”

I opened my eyes and watched her as she leaned forward once more, bringing her lips back to that same place that pressed them so gently against mine, not a kiss, but a gentle graze as she spoke. I could just make out the dampness that clouded those glowing eyes in the dim light of the room, I could just see the smallest tear drop escape before she tightly shut her eyes. The tear left creeping down her cheek. She pressed her forehead against mine as she spoke, “I am not just offering you my love, I am asking for yours. Because in this moment, in this single moment, I feel, for the first time in more decades than I care to remember, that it is possible to wash away this hate.” Her voice came out low and raspy, an exasperated plea weighted with so much emotion and lust. “I need you. I want your body, but I need your heart. Even if just for a moment, even if just for a night, if we can give each other what love we have left, then maybe we can remind each other of how much that love is worth.”

My eyes were closed as our foreheads were pressed tightly together. I felt the warm sensation then as a tear dropped from her cheek onto mine, and for a moment, despite having watched it form, I was not sure whose tear it was.

I realized then that it did not matter who had cried, for it was a drop of warm water that presented a depth of emotion which we both needed to feel. That tear was neither hers, nor was it mine; it belonged to the moment, as even the moment needed its cheeks to be dried.

I exhaled slowly, feeling the air refracted back at me as I breathed out against her lips. I felt her words and I already knew that I understood. I knew that she was right, I knew that this was not the disconnected intimacy I so desperately hoped not succumb to.

“I have no more love to offer, it has been spread too far, too thin, I do not have enough to give those who I have long promised it. What I have left, is not worth having.” I admitted, I felt myself wince under the weight of the words as I spoke them, wishing desperately that they were less true.

She did not turn away though, she did not move off of me, nor did she even move her lips away from the proximity we held. Instead, she said so simply, “Try.”

She kissed me. It was no longer the gentle grazing of uncommitted mouths, no longer the teasing close contact of slowly spoken words, no, this was a kiss. Her lips pressed into mine, and I responded instantly. I kissed her back, I kissed her as if I had been spending my life waiting for the opportunity to do so.

My grip on her wrists had long since relaxed, and I let go now, turning my hands and sliding further out, my fingertips crossing over her palms until I could slip them between her fingers. I felt her curl her fingers around mine, our hands intertwining, grip tightening.

We held so tightly to one and other, as if simply holding hands could keep the other from slipping away; as if we could keep ourselves from slipping away.

I turned my head gently to the side, I did not need to shift up to her body for she was already moving down against me. I could feel her muscles relaxing as she no longer tried to hold herself above me. She gave in, relaxing, letting her body lay upon mine. Her head turned gently to match my own, she pressed down into me, deepening the kiss. The moisture of her mouth mixed with the salty tears that had rolled down her face. I could still just taste the flavour of the softest peaches lingering from the wine she had long ago been drinking. The tears held on the edges of both our lips, somehow making the kiss more passionate, letting our lips move easier over one and other as the distinct salt of emotion laced our kisses; as if reminding us of their importance, reminding us of our desperate need for the lips of the other.

I parted my mouth and I felt her do the same, the slightest whimper escaping her as my tongue traced gently against her lips. Passion began filling our actions as we pressed harder against each other, our lips held tighter and tighter as our tongues gingerly brushed the other’s. I relaxed my tight hold of her hand, sliding my fingers out from between hers. I kept pressure in my touch as I traced my way up her arms. I needed to press my fingers tight to her skin, as if to assure myself that she was real above me. My hands made their way up across her back, one arm wrapping around her shoulders, as the other moved slowly down and around her waist, pulling her into me. I pulled her into me with all the strength that I had, as If by holding her tight I was keeping her from evaporating, keeping her from disappearing back into the night that had brought her to me. I held her as close to me as reality would allow and still she was not close enough. The tightest embrace somehow not satisfying my need for her against me. Our bodies moulding against each other as bare skin relished in the sensation of bare skin. Our lips moved more and more frantically against one and other. I held her to me, squeezed her against me, savouring the warmth of her skin against mine as I kissed the softest lips and held a body I could perceive as nothing short of perfect.

As the kiss grew and our tongues intertwined I finally shifted, arching my hips upwards while still the duvet kept our lower halves from touching. Just as I pressed upwards I felt her match the motion, pushing down into me. I shifted the arm across her shoulder, just enough, and in one motion I pulled her over and down onto the bed without breaking the contact of neither our lips nor our bodies. Now lying on her back I let my weight fall over her, pinning her beneath me. Immediately her arms wrapped around my shoulders, squeezing me closer just as I had done to her. She wanted to hold me as tight as possible, yet it still left her unsatisfied.  A sensation, although completely illogical, we both shared, wanting nothing but the entirety of one and other pressed together, wanting to press away every final atom that kept us from being anything other than one.

I kicked back the duvet as I kissed her, we did not need its protection from the cold, for the growing warmth of our own bodies could have fended off the cold fingers of any night the Earth could offer. London warmed as we kissed.

Finally, free from the covers I felt the warm silk of her bare legs against mine. Our legs rubbed back and forth against one another for a moment, until I brought up my knee, parting her legs just enough to let me between her thighs and her legs wrapped around me. I brought my left hand up from its tight grip on her shoulder and gently held her face, fingers on her cheek with my thumb beneath her chin as I kissed her.  My other hand slid out from under her, with open palm I traced up along her side, relishing in the feeling of such soft skin beneath my palm, I followed the curve of her body downwards until my thumb rested on her hip and my fingers lay against the lace waist band of her panties.

I felt a slight catching of her breath, held for just a fraction of a second as I pushed my thumb into her hip. She shifted then, pushing not just her hips upward but grinding her pelvis up into mine. sensation like an electric current suddenly ran up through my body. I stopped her , using my thumb to press her hips back down into the mattress. I pulled my lips away from hers, laying a gentle kiss on the corner of her mouth, then another on her cheek. One by one I connected each kiss, tracing my way down her neck, always moving just fractionally away from the last place I kissed. As my lips were against her collarbone I felt her hand suddenly against the back of my head, fingers through my hair, pulling me tighter to her soft skin. I responded slowly, progressively opening my mouth, kissing her neck for longer each time and gently sinking my teeth into her skin. I continued covering her in my kisses, assuring every inch of her felt my lips as I made my way down her body. I felt cold shivers ignited across her, the tiniest bumps rippling across her skin as my actions prompted her every hair to stand on end.

My intention was not sheerly to excite her, whether or not my lips against her skin aroused her was almost secondary, something else fueled my actions; not stimulation, but instead: salvation.

It was something I could barely understand as it was happening, it was a feeling that existed undeniably, yet at the time it was undefinable, irrational. Each time my lips touched her skin, I felt as if my kiss was changing something, as if the moisture on my lips was washing something away. With kiss after kiss I was healing an unseen wound, I was slowly reassuring her that the pieces she was made of fit together, stitching her whole with nothing but lips and tongue.

Her response to my actions slowly changed, the excitement remained, yet the restlessness stopped, it was instead a relaxation I felt beneath my lips each time, as if something  had held her rigid, a stiffness that was not perceivable until after it had been released.

I could feel it in her, I could feel it in me, the weight of my actions was felt with every movement no matter how subtle. I was not covering her in bandages of ecstasy to let her temporarily forget her pain, instead my kisses were a scalpel; with each placement of my lips I could feel that I was cutting into her, lips cut deep through skin and flesh, blood and bone, every somatic instance of her was surpassed as my kissing was no longer a physical action. Kiss by kiss I pulled away the cancerous emotions that had grown in her, I began to break down the pessimism, the self-loathing, the dejection she had held beneath her skin year after year.

Without consideration or concern for the amount of time that had passed since I began kissing my way across her body I came to the shoulder strap of her bra. One kiss at a time I traced the lacy edge downwards, across her chest, over the swell of her breasts. My hand slid up from her hip then, I moved with precarious lightness, barely touching her as I slowly slid upwards.

I held this careful touch all the way up her side, taking my time, for it felt like time held no consequence, it felt as if the moment would last for as long as I chose to let it. No time would pass while I was touching her.

My gentle touch then reached the bottom of her bra, while my lips still traced the upper edge. I grazed my hand across the lacy material, feeling the slight roughness of the lace compared to the silk of her skin. I moved my hand over every inch of her still covered chest. Finally, I followed the material away from her chest and over her side, she responded instantly, arching her back and allowing my hand to slip beneath her and find the latch of her bra. With one hand I carefully undid the hooks, always moving slowly, slower than either of us wanted to move, but still not slow enough to encourage each moment to last as long as I so desired.

Her hand left my head just briefly, as she reached out both arms and allowed me to slide the bra off of her, exposing even more of her creamy white skin to me. I stopped kissing for only as long as was needed to allow the lace to pass between her skin and my lips. Skin freshly exposed only revealed more scars, as it does for us all. I dared not end that night having missed a single one.

Scars themselves are not painful, just the physical blemish of memories that have formed as we fought against them being created. A reminder of what has come to pass. As I consumed every part of her with every sense I then knew: I found that creamy white skin unblemished, but I found that she was scarred even deeper than I. Scars that ached in both heat and cold, scars that no longer had a story behind them, but somehow still changed the stories she tried to create. Scars on her memories, on her perceptions, on her faith. Her hope was torn and her self-acceptance loosely pieced back together.

And so I kissed down her body, somehow understanding that each time my lips touched her skin there was some part of her that was remembering how it felt to not be riddled with guilt.  My lips were slowly teaching her that neither ghosts of moment nor pain, can harm her the way that her fear of them could.

I kissed my way down over tops of her breasts, covering them entirely as I moved towards the center, my lips making slow circles until my mouth opened wider to gently suck. One hand cupped and held the breast I kissed and teased with tip of my tongue, while my thumb made soft circles along the other. Her breathing changed once more, growing heavier and more rapid, I felt her hips arch upwards beneath me as stimulation took a place above relaxation. Sucking, then nibbling grew progressively stronger until a moan escaped her lips, at first barely audible, but then progressively louder as she gripped the back of my head and pulled my mouth harder and harder into her chest.

I stayed there relishing in her response to my mouth, savouring her gentle moaning and the deepening shivers, until the rocking of her hips demanded I continue down.  But I did not give in to her so easily, I would not let her excitement distract me from my methodical kissing. In a straight line I kissed downwards, each kiss long and dragging its way into the next. I kissed down across her belly button and then finally I reached the edge of her black thong. I let my tongue dip just below the fabric for one kiss after another, sliding across the smooth skin, teasing the boundary, playing on her excitement and desire for me to continue downwards.  I lay one gentle kiss just on the lacy material, below where my tongue had reached, but higher than she desired my lips to be placed, and then I moved to her legs.

I kissed my way down each leg, covering it entirely, as I did so, I slid my hands down from her breasts, open hands covering as much of her skin as I could until I passed over each hip. I slid them slowly back up then, hooking my thumbs beneath the waistband of her last remaining undergarment, and then I began pulling them downwards, matching the pace of my kisses down her legs. She arched her hips upwards, letting me slide them off her, as she did so, her own hands moved up her body, replacing my hands on her own breasts, giving herself some of the stimulation that she had lost as my kisses now covered her calves.

I slipped the thong off her feet as she bent her legs and pointed her toes to ease my task, and then I placed my lips back on the inside of her foot, and began kissing my way up the inside of her legs, slowing even more than before as I reached her thigh, her legs parting more and more, one hand leaving her own chest and her fingers gripping the back of my head again in anticipation. Just as I could feel the warmth of her excitement, as I heard her breathing increase in time with my proximity, I stopped my kisses. I let out a long hard breath across her wet excitement, but then I moved to the other leg, and began my way upwards from her calf once more. She let out a frustrated groan as I did this, but she did not try to stop me, she did not try to make me move any faster.

Her legs were not exempt to my actions which superseded sexual gratification. I kissed them just as delicately, just as extensively, as I had kissed when I started. Her legs were spread even further apart as I reached the top again, she gripped my head with an intensity that assured me she would not allow me to abandon her cravings this time. Her breathing was laboured as my lips left her thigh, I shifted one leg even further out, and let my tongue find the place between her aching excitement and the top of her leg, licking long and hard up the soft skin. She shivered as I licked along the outer edge of each lip and then finally moved my face over her wet lips. I breathed long and hard, moving my head up and down as I expelled hot air across growing dampness, and the pursing my lips, I made the same motion, this time blowing cool air across her.  I moved my hands onto each hip, pinning her down hard against the bed as I extended my tongue and slowly, from bottom to top, licked with great pressure up between her lips. Her taste filled my mouth as I pressed my face into her. Her taste satisfied a hunger I did not realize I had, with a sharp sweetness that surpassed the ripest white fruit. Her moaning turned to whimpering as I moved my tongue back and forth along her, tasting her, teasing her and then sucking her.

All the pressure in my hands could not keep her from moving beneath my mouth, could not keep her from pressing herself upwards against me as whimpering turned to moaning and grinding turned to shaking.

She stopped me then.

Just as she seemed to be on the cusp of release, just as her shaking grew stronger and I felt a shiver ignited on her skin, she stopped me, her fingers in my hair pulling me away, instead of against her. I looked up across the pale plane of her softly rippled stomach to her flushed face, with a gleam of sweat on her brow.  She moved her hand out of my hair and onto my cheek as she pulled me up her body while she leaned forward to meet me and find my lips. She kissed deep and hard as she still tried to catch her breath.  Despite my mouth having hardly left her body I still felt like I needed that kiss, as if I had spent too long away from her lips. Her tongue found its way along the edge of my mouth, licking her own taste off of my face, she kissed me again before moving her hands to my shoulders and pushing me with surprising force over and onto my back.

She straddled me and sat back for a moment, rocking her hips and grinding herself against me, not yet returning to this kiss.  She looked down at me, a mischievous smile on her face, as she continued her slow rocking motion. She gathered her hair over her shoulder, it was silver like moonlight in the dim room as she ran her fingers through while pressing her pelvis down harder into mine, biting her lower lip. She bent at the hips, continuing a slow tilting back and forth against me as she brought her body back down onto mine. We kissed with urgency as the passion of morning’s small hours filled us. Suddenly, freshly assertive she pushed me away.

She kept her body just above mine, her lips just out of reach as she looked down into my eyes. She leaned in, giving a quick gentle kiss, and then another, and then another; each time leaving my lips puckered and reaching out towards her, craving more.

She ceased the teasing partial kisses, and she moved her lips instead to my neck. She kissed lightly at first, but then moved to sucking and biting into me, I knew she’d leave bruises across my skin, but I had no desire to stop her, no reason to care whatsoever about the marks that may coat my neck in the morning. Her kisses layered my body more urgently than mine had covered hers. She was less willing to drag it out with painful tediousness, and I had no desire for her to do so. Still, as she kissed her way down across my body, I felt my muscles contracting and then loosening. With each kiss, with each contraction, the relaxation that followed thereafter was deeper than I knew possible. Each time I felt that I was as at ease as I possibly could be, but then after each kiss I felt myself release ever more.

Nothing else mattered, nothing else crossed my mind or concerned me, there was not another thought to be had in all the world. I was not blinded by ecstasy nor merely distracted by her body, I was freed by her; not forgetting myself, but instead, accepting it. She would smile between her kisses, happy with what she was creating in me, happy with the excitement that was building, but happier with how relaxed I was beneath her body, how open I was to every movement she made. Through violet eyes she looked up at me and I saw nothing of my past reflected in those eyes. I saw nothing of the world I lived in, nor anything of the lives I had lived. She looked at me and I did not see judgement, nor question, there was no hesitation or reservation. No, there was only a pure enjoyment of her actions and the moment on hand.

The lust her kisses created did not cloud my mind, but cleared it. What else could there possibly be that is worthy of my concern? What else can matter, when this sensation can be found at the cost of only a kiss. What haunted me did not exist and never had; a ghost, by definition, is already dead, every moment before that moment, was dead. Anything that had been, had passed. For the first time since childhood had escaped me the past slid from mind, the future was too far away to worry about, there was nothing outside of that single moment. The power in those kisses was enough to undo any mortal man, yet instead she used her lips to put me back together.  Salvation lingered on my skin, left there from her every kiss.

Her kisses had found their way to the waistband of my shorts. Without moving to pull them down, she instead kissed her way over the thin material, long lasting kisses letting me feel the warmth of her mouth. She finally moved her lips to where I strained against the flimsy cotton, first she kissed so gently that her lips were barely felt, but then hot air penetrated the material and the pressure of her lips, perfectly placed, increased continually. She turned to the side, laying her cheek against the material and slid slowly upwards along my length.

She pulled her head back as her thumbs hooked into the waistband of my pants, she shifted her way down the bed to pull them off of my legs and then looked up at me as she crawled back into position. There was a hunger in her eyes that matched precisely what I was feeling. Her full lips curled slightly in a playful smile, watching my expression with satisfaction as she lowered her head and brought her hand up along my leg and then across my hips.  Open hand rubbed delicately across me until finally fingers curled around and she gave long, slow pulls up and down. Her eyes flickered away from mine and down to what she held in her hand as she extended her tongue. Watching me as my breath caught in my throat. She kissed with wet lips, before finally taking me into her mouth. I shuddered the moment I felt her lips wrap around me and her tongue swirl.  I refrained in futility from bucking my hips as she took more of me into her mouth.  She matched my actions perfectly as I thrust upwards, hungrily sucking long and hard. I was growing just fractionally adjusted to the incredible sensation when her hand held me still and she began moving her head up and down on me.  She found my hand tightly griping the sheet and pulled it away, pressing it against the back of her head as she nodded up and down. I embraced the cue and pushed my fingers through her long hair to grip her and guide the speed of her movement up and down on me.

The sensation of her mouth on me grew more and more intense, I gripped her hair hard and pulled her up off of me. As if in protest she sucked harder as I pulled her upwards creating an audible sound as I came free of her mouth. She looked at me then with a brilliant smile on her face. I suddenly realized how heavily I was breathing and how much she was enjoying creating that sensation in me.

Placing hands to either side of me she crawled back up the bed and returned to her positon above me. We locked eyes then for a long moment, we both wore a smile upon flushed faces, our breathing seemed to be in sync as we both sucked at the night air to cool our burning bodies. Her smile widened for just a moment then before she brought her lips down to me, once again giving me a quick teasing kiss. I returned my hand to the back of her head though, unwilling to be left longing those lips on mine. I pulled her into me and kissed with open mouth, letting our tongues immediately find one and other. My other hand traced from her shoulder blades down to the small of her back, holding her down to. Our kissing constantly grew, as if the kiss itself was a beast insatiable as our hunger for each other’s lips continually grew.  I felt her hips begin to move. Her legs separated just a little more and suddenly I felt her wet lips against my hardness. Slowly she let herself press harder into me, she began grinding back and forth. Simultaneously we both lost our breath for a moment, the sudden sensation of mutual stimulation proving a distraction to even the hunger of our kiss.  My hand moved from the small of her back down to her bottom, I gripped hard as I held her down onto me, aiding in the slow rocking motion she was already making.

She slowed her motions then, lifting herself just off me. She shifted slightly forward and broke the kiss. I brought my hand to her face, and held her cheek in my palm. Our eyes locked long and hard, for the first time since she had first crawled onto my bed, I saw reservation behind her eyes. Just the slightest hesitation, as if there was great magnitude to embracing one more step.

I kissed her as gently as I possibly could. I wanted to tell her that she could stop, I wanted to open my mouth and explain that there was no need to continue if she was hesitant. But, as she returned my delicate kiss, I knew that the words need not be spoken. She knew everything I would have said, she did not hesitate due to reservation, she wanted to hold onto that last moment. She wanted to embrace the meaning that our actions held, she was not hesitant over the weight of our actions but she wanted to remind us both of exactly how heavy they were.

She stayed our gentle kisses then, keeping her lips against mine but no longer moving them. We just held there, both our mouths partially open with lips held together.  She shifted her weight to one arm, leaving her other hand free from supporting her above me and she reached back behind us, arching her back. There was intense warmth as I was pressed against her.  She gripped the base of me firmly as she slowly shifted herself backwards.  The moment I felt myself begin to enter her my breathing stopped, the unfathomable heat jolting me. Then slowly, painfully slowly, she lowered herself.  Centimeter by centimeter I slowly filled her, the wet warmth labouring my breathing, but only as much as hers was also laboured. She heisted for just a moment, breathing deeply, I felt that she was trying to relax, I could feel her trying to ease her way onto me. With my hand still on her cheek, I pulled her face tighter to mine, pressing our lips firmer together, I kissed her then, while she was still adjusting to the feeling of me inside of her we kissed the softest of kisses.  As our tongues eventually found one and others, she lowered herself the last couple inches, taking all of me into her. She gasped just as the last of me entered her. I tried to keep my breathing steady as the incredible sensation sent shivers through my body.

We stayed like that for a long time, kissing deeply while I was deep inside her. Slowly she began to rock her hips, not yet moving up and down, but just back and forth. The motion started gently, my arm still wrapped around her shoulders now pulled her body down onto me, my hand left her face as I used both arms to embrace her, hold her to me as I began moving my hips up and down in match to her motion.  Breathing that had become broken and laboured now grew louder. As she exhaled, moans began escaping her lips. Still we rocked so slowly, but as the sounds of her excitement increased in volume so did the speed of our actions. Hips rocked back and forth in perfect sync as I found myself grunting at the increased stimulation.

She sat back suddenly and placed both her hands on my chest, she grinded her hips into me at an ever increasing pace. She looked at me for a moment, mouth open as sound escaped her before her eyes closed and her head fell back. Movement reaching a feverish pace and her moaning growing ever louder. My hands moved across her body as she rode me, running over her skin and cupping her breasts. A whimper escaped her, I felt a cold shiver ignited and then spread through her body. She pressed her hips hard into me, the feverish pace lost and instead replaced with slow firm motions. I felt her skin shivering beneath me and I watched as the muscles in her legs suddenly flex and loosen again and again.  She abandoned her position above me and moved both hands, falling back onto me. Immediately I wrapped both my arms around her as I thrust my hips upwards, staying as deep in her as was possible as she shook on top of me. Her face pressed hard into my neck as a long strained gasp was slowly expelled.

Finally, the pressure of her hips decreased and she stopped rocking. Instead she just stayed above me, keeping me inside her before shifting to look me in the eyes once more. Her beautifully pale skin was scorched with the passion that flowed through us, bright red cheeks that contrasted so distinctly against the cream colour of the rest of her body. She took a deep breath and swallowed, half a giggle escaping her as I smiled back at her before kissing soft lips.

The calm did not last long, this time it was my hips that began moving, craving more of her, craving more stimulation. As I increased my pace I bent at the waist before bringing my legs in and shifting to a kneeling position, her legs automatically wrapped around my waist. One arm wrapped around her body to hold her to me, while the other slid down her back to hold her bottom and guide the motion we were both now finding, using my thighs to push my hips up and down, as I rocked her back and forth.

Her arms were wrapped around my neck and she pulled me into her and my lips immediately began kissing my way across her neck.  I heard her whimpering and then moaning again as increasing excitement began to rebuild. Both of us began moving faster and faster. I could feel the sensation growing in me then, I could feel the desperation in my movements as my body craved the release, yet my mind did not want any of this to end.

We continued like that for what seemed like the entire night, never growing bored of it, never needing anything more. We were as close as we could possibly be while the end of each stroke left me as deep in her as either our bodies would allow. I couldn’t increase my pace anymore, I knew that I would not be able to hold out any longer if I did, but this did not stop her increasing hers. Her breathing was now gasping, and mine had long since reached that point. She pulled my head from her neck and immediately she kissed me with open mouth as we both struggled to breath between each other’s lips and tongue.

“Please,” she said in a voice so laden with desperation my actions could have been confused for torture. “I’m almost there, I want you there with me.”

I exhaled long and hard, a feeling akin to relief washing over me, no longer needing to hold back I increased my pace, finally giving in to what my body so craved. I felt a shiver ripple over her skin and I moved my hand up from her bottom to wrap both arms around her, squeezing her in against me.

“I want you to finish.” She gasped the words as I felt her entire body tighten. “I want you to finish with me.”

The feeling of her entire body tightening around me while I was so deep inside of her made her request rhetorical as it was a choice I no longer had. She let out a loud scream as she took me past the point of no return, shaking on me as I felt myself meeting her in a place I had not previously known to exist.

The entire world seemed to melt then. Everything simply gave way. Everything that the night had built in me was finally released as everything my life had come to make form in me was finally taken away, it seemed that the very air around us had turned to liquid, holding us together in a summer ocean’s warm embrace. We both fell back onto the bed together, but it felt as if the mattress was not beneath us, I fell through it into open space, falling, perfectly peacefully through the molten remnants of the waking world. We were held so tightly that we fell as one, I felt her sink into me as the rest of the world ceased to exist.

Just as my eyes were closing and we both were succumbing to the exhaustion that suddenly filled us, my head fell to the side, and as my eyes closed, without truly noticing it, I saw the time on the clock beside my bed: 03:22

 

 

Chapter 4

Willfully Entangled

The light of morning found its way through my uncovered window with unmistakable contrast to the glow of the street light that had previously breached it. The sun’s early angles crept across my face and I let my eyes open. I was not tired, I did not wake with the exhaustion I had grown so accustom to, waking only for I knew I would not sleep again, instead I woke because I had slept, because I was rested.

The memory of the night came rushing back to me as my eyelids fluttered. I felt a smile creep its way across my face, I turned over carefully, making as little movement as possible, not wanting to wake the beautiful girl next to me.

But, there was no one next to me.

When I looked to the place I expected her to be lying a kind of strange acceptance flooded over me.  It could not have been real. It was the most surreal of circumstance, the most illogical of happenings.  Nothing I had ever experienced, in dream nor living light of day, had felt so real. But, that feeling did nothing to fight against the logical impossibility of it all.

Sadness struck me with unprecedented and inexplicable force. A combination of disappointment for it all having been a dream, and self loathing for ever having believed it had actually happened. Immediately after the sadness came I found frustration in myself, frustration over being sad that a dream was only a dream, frustration that I had ever expected it to be anything more.

I closed my eyes tight for a moment, running a hand harshly through my unkempt hair, remembering the time on the clock before the dream had ended, only a minute had passed since I had first seen her in my room, and yet being with her had felt like hours. It was as if even my dream was trying to tell me that it was not real. A fantasy which attempted to save me from getting my hopes up.

Somehow, despite the flood of emotions now washing over me in my early morning disdain, an earlier sensation remained true:  I was not tired, I was not exhausted as I was most mornings, physically nor mentally. My duvet did not hold its regular weight, encouraging me to lay there so uselessly. This sensation spanned beyond my wakefulness, something somewhere within me was not quite the same. Whether the night had been fantasy or not I could not deny that there was something incredibly foreign, neigh, forgotten, at work within me.  Despite my disappoint in the falsity of it all, I was, somewhere inside, exquisitely, unapologetically and unremorsefully, happy.

I wondered over the sensation, staring at the empty space where, only a few fleeting moments ago, I had anticipated someone else to be.  There is something to be said for a dream of such intensity that it’s emotions can carry over into the proceeding day.  This wasn’t waking up to the lingering chills of nightmares, no, this was a sensation far deeper than that. Far more important.  Even if it was all an illusion, it was a beautiful delusion.

I pressed my face into the pillow and briefly willed time to tick backwards, not to relive the dream, but simply to slow down the morning, relive that moment before I had rolled over and bask in the Schrödinger-esc moment prior to confirming the falsity of it all.

I took a deep breath with my face buried in the pillow and as I did so, there was an anomaly. There was a smell to the pillow, a faint hint of something that did not belong.

I could smell her.

I leaned back for a moment, assuring myself that the tendrils of the dream were not confusing me, but then breathed in deep again. I could smell her, exactly as she had filled my nose the night before. I stood up then, almost jumping out of my bed. Dreams do not leave behind odours, dreams fade as we wake, yet last night was not slipping from my memory.

I looked back to the clock then, it had only just passed 7 am, yet I felt like I had slept through two days. I looked about the room, craving some kind of proof that she had been there. The questions that seemed unimportant the night before came rushing through my mind. How had she gotten in? How had she even found where I lived? I stepped out of the room down the short hallway to the small kitchen and living room. Part of me wanted to run through my tiny apartment to confirm her presence, or lack there of, but cats in boxes held in my mind.  So I stepped slowly, gingerly, with eyes downcast, trying to take my time absorbing the details of the familiar place, not so much looking carefully for anomaly as avoiding completing the search for any too quickly. I could not yet bring myself to kill any cats.

The apartment was too small for this game to persist, however, and soon enough my eyes had inspected every surface. There was nothing, no sign of her ever having been there. I thought back to the smell on my pillow and wondered if my own breath was tainted enough from consuming irregular drinks that it could have left such a smell. I glanced to the door, and I saw the deadbolt locked; it’s notoriously difficult last few inches pounded into place, a feat only achievable with some force. Some fleeting memory came to me of hammering it in place with closed fist the night before, I briefly imagined my closed fist driving home the final nail of my fantasy’s coffin.

I brought my hand up through my hair and then rubbed the back of my neck, a slow exhale through tight lips seeming to blow away what tendrils of hope remained. I moved my way to the bathroom and turned on the shower, I turned it to the coldest possible temperature with intention of washing away early morning’s hangover.  But, as I watched icy water pelt the stained tub, I realized that I had no after effects of the previous night’s consumption.  I turned the temperature up and stepped to the mirror, waiting for the water to warm. I looked with some surprise at the blackness around both eyes and the swelling through my left cheek, the fight had somehow slipped from my memory.  I shook my head and gingerly touched the swollen skin.  As I assessed my wounds, I noticed something which did not quite fit.  Along my neck there were bruises, a series of them running down to my collar bone, small and sharp: hickeys. My fingers held over them for a long moment, considering what it meant.

Dreams do not leave bruises.

I walked back out of the bathroom in a daze, trying yet again to make sense of the night before, trying to separate dream from reality, the line further blurred by alcohol and what had surely been a mild concussion. I found myself standing in the kitchen, eyes not looking, mind lost in thought.  I considered going back to the bedroom, smelling the pillow again to try and gain further clue.  When on the counter just a foot from my fingertips, I saw a piece of folded paper.

I could feel the thumping of my heart in my chest.  My pulse echoing in my ears.   I glanced around the room: the door was still locked, no one had been here, no one was here, yet that note had not been there just minutes before.

I picked it up. The feeling of course paper, thick and subtle, seemed oddly heavy in my fingertips.  I unfolded its perfectly centred single crease, and revealed the words, written in the most elegant hand: “T’wust Aram – It was just a dream.”

End of Part One

One thought on “Keeping Time: Part One”

  1. Emerald Lee says:

    Nicely done! Can’t wait to read Part Two.

    Vineyards.

    – E.

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