Friday, April 2, 2010
The envelope read, “For your eyes only,” in a bold red font and was sealed with a kiss. He squinted as he turned it over in his hands. "What's this?” His brow crinkled as he carefully opened the envelope. A soft pink paper caught his attention; he snatched it, immediately discarding the envelope.
"I'm in the bathroom," was written in flowery script. Chaucer could smell the faint hint of perfume. He sniffed the paper more closely. Fragments of a memory surfaced, but he pushed them away.
Who? He wondered. What madness is this? He looked toward the hallway that led to his bathroom, angry at this unprecedented invasion of his privacy. He crushed the pink paper in his fist, determined to sort this out. He opened the door expecting to see the intruder there—but the bathroom was empty.
As he turned to leave a twinkling bit of metal drew his attention; he reached for it, realizing that it was an earring. He turned it over in his palm; the blue gemstone seemed to taunt him. Chaucer Stall was a predictable man. He had neither female companions, nor a need for one. He absently dropped it into his pocket.
The earring felt like lead weighting him down. He scratched his head as he walked into his kitchen to pour a much-needed drink. A pair of lacy panties hanging from a kitchen chair stopped him cold. He snatched them up and tossed them in the trash bin. Clearly that wasn't sanitary. He sat at the table completely baffled. What on Earth was going on here? He took the earring out of his pocket and looked at it once more. It seemed vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t place it.
Just then the bathwater turned on. Chaucer jumped from the chair and ran down the hall. He'd catch them this time! He pushed the door open roughly and turned his face away as steam rushed at him. He squinted and peered into the damp room. What he saw unnerved him.
She stood there; naked and wet, hot steam billowing all around her. She smiled at him and offered a warm greeting. Her dark hair curled with moisture and she casually ran her hands over her breasts—soap slipping between them, circling over her nipples, then following the same path again. She turned her back to him and winked over her shoulder.
It was Ella. He swallowed hard and took a step backward.
She pouted at him and lifted a foot to rest on the tub’s ledge. She ran the bar of soap between her thighs—openly enticing him. Ella bit her lip and sharply inhaled as her soapy fingers slid over sensitive skin. “What’s wrong Chaucer? You used to love it when I did this.” She licked her lips and reached a sudsy hand out to him. “Come join me, Love.” Her voice softly lured him. He felt his groin thicken in anticipation—in remembrance.
It had been so long ago—when they were young. She still bore the sweet flush of youth. He watched in stunned silence as she washed herself, soap overwhelming her natural scent. He’d kissed her before. He’d murmured against her wet flesh and vowed to love her forever. Her laughter broke his reverie. “Baby, look at you! Twas a time when you’d have rushed me in the shower, and now you just stand there looking as if you’ve seen a ghost. You’ve changed, Love.”
He cleared his throat, tired of her game. “And you haven’t.” He tossed a towel at her, seeing her crushed expression for the manipulation it was. “Get dressed.” Gone was the lover who’d sought only to please her, a bitter man stood in his place. He went straight for the bar and poured a double shot of Whiskey. Chaucer tossed it back then poured another.
He was working on a third shot when he felt her hands stroke his chest. Her wet breasts pressed against his back and she rubbed a leg over his. Her hands teased and petted their way down to his zipper. He closed his eyes and pushed her hands away. She knew how to turn him on. It took all of his restraint, but he wasn’t falling prey to her administrations. “What do you want?”
She laughed and sat down, crossing her legs. “Redemption?”
He narrowed his gaze, “Excuse me?”
She shrugged, “If not redemption then…to collect a promise.”
His back stiffened and he shook his head. “Impossible.”
Ella walked over to him. She pushed him back into the chair and climbed up in his lap. She opened her mouth and kissed him deeply. She whispered against his mouth, “So good. It’s been so long, Honey, too long.” She pulled his hand between her thighs and rubbed against him crudely, “You belong here. It’s cruel for you to keep us apart.”
He pushed her back and drew in a steadying breath. “It’s impossible. You’re dead.” She smiled sweetly and he cringed at the blackened hue around her lips. It was subtle, but there. She traced his shoulders with her fingernails. “Together forever, that’s what you said. Don’t you remember?”
Chaucer leaned away from her, being intentionally cruel. “I remember that forever became too long. I remember wanting out and I remember finding you dead in the bath.” She tilted her head and stroked his cheek. “Hmm…I remember making love with the early morning sun warming our skin. I remember you saying you loved me—that you needed me. I remember loving you in every way a girl can love a man. And I remember your promise as we lay in the tub that day.”
He felt caught in her web—tangled up in their past. He pushed her off of him, shaking with fear and anger. “It’s impossible!” He shouted at her, needing her to be a figment of his imagination. “You’re dead!” She smiled sadly at him, compassion brimming in her lovely eyes. She leaned up to kiss him with cold lips. She was too real to be imaginary. The taste of earth and decay on her lips was too real to explain away. “But, Love," she said to him gently, “so are you.”
He stumbled backward, tripping over his feet. “No!” He shook his head and struggled to get away from her as she laughed and walked slowly toward him. “I wasn’t alone in that bath, Baby. Don’t you remember? I didn’t give myself these lovely bracelets any more than you gave yourself yours.” She held up her wrists and Chaucer paled. He could see her tender veins disrupted by dark slash marks.
He remembered finding her in the bath. He remembered pulling her out of the red water and crying into her hair. He remembered standing at her grave when they lowered her coffin. She was lying, tricking him again. “I’m not dead! I’m alive, Ella. I don’t know what your game is!” She reached him then, tugged on his sleeve and revealed the angry gashes on his skin.
Without hesitation she pulled his wrist to her lips and licked the scars that marred his cool flesh. “Together forever, Honey. That’s what you said when you kissed me and pulled the blade across my skin. That’s what you whispered as I cried while we bled. I’ve waited all these years for you, but you forgot me, Sweetie. It’s time for you to keep your promise.”