**This story contains themes that could be triggering for some readers**
It was easy to want her, to picture himself pinning her with the weight of his body, feeling her struggle beneath him, spreading her unwilling thighs, forcing his cock into her, trespassing where she no longer wanted him and not caring that she didn’t. That part was easy.
All it took was imagining her betrayal; the casual, quotidian emotional butchery people did to each other all the time. No matter how open he’d made himself to her, or how much she’d shown herself to him, or how he’d forced himself to trust her, to risk letting her all the way in, all it took was a change of her heart. Someone she cared for more than she cared for him. She could do it.
It was just as easy to imagine ways to hurt her. Words and acts that would wound her, frighten her, make her feel like she was nothing. Make her regret even contemplating the act of destroying him.
She’d cry and try to reason with him, but he could shut his ears to all that. After all, wasn’t this the same woman, the same voice that promised to love him always? The one who swore she’d always belong to him?
As the clock ticked down to the zero hour, he fed the cynic, the bitter, misused monster he kept in the closet.
The hard part was having any confidence that he could translate fantasy into fact. In his fantasy, she was a shell. She looked the same, sounded the same, felt the same, but somehow all attenuated. It would be different, he knew in the flesh.
Harder still was convincing himself that she would ever forgive him, no matter how many assurances she gave him. How could she know herself that well? How could anyone? If he was to be honest with himself and step into her shoes, he could not say with certainly that he could do the same.
The hardest part of all was believing that he would deserve to be forgiven.
* * * * *
“What percentage of men fantasize about raping a woman?” I had asked.
“Men who rape, or just fantasize about it? There’s a big difference.”
“Men who just fantasize about it.”
He was silent as he thought. “I don’t have a clue. More than anyone’s comfortable admitting, I’d guess.”
He looked up from his desk and shrugged. “I really don’t know.”
“Do you fantasize about it?”
“That’s not a fair question.”
I pulled out the chair in front of his desk and sat down. “Why? Because someone raped me?”
“Well, yes. That, and you’re asking in the specific. Do you really want to know the answer?” He moved a neat pile of papers from one side of his desk to the other, uselessly, to do something. “Don’t set a trap for me.”
I pulled up my knees, wrapped my arms around them, and rested my chin. “It’s not a trap. I swear.”
“Really want an answer? Think. Please, think fucking carefully.”
I did think—a long time. Then I came around his desk, slid into his lap and leaned my head on his shoulder. “I do want to know. Although your reluctance is pretty damn eloquent.”
“Then you’ve got your answer.”
I had my answer. And I felt him loosen his arms, as if waiting for me to get up and leave, but I didn’t.
“It’s what I keep the tightest leash on. I’d never do it. But I’ve fantasized about it,” he offered.
“Not often, but when I do, it’s hot.”
“Why’s it so hot?”
He jostled me as he shrugged again. “Because it’s so wrong.”
“Is she some abstract woman or someone you know?”
“Either. Both. Depends on my mood.”
I turned in his lap and eyed him. “Me?” He met my gaze but said nothing. “Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear.”
He gave me a pained, irritated look and pulled me back against him, but it was gentle, tentative. “Why are you asking this?”
I thought about trying to explain and knew it would make no sense to him. It hardly made sense to me. “Please, just tell me.”
He stroked my hair off my forehead. Something I’d only ever seen parents do to children. “Yes.”
“Is it violent?”
“A little. Sometimes. Sometimes it’s not.”
“Do you kill me?”
“What the fuck?” He stiffened, pulled back and stared at me. “Jesus, no.”
“Sorry. I just…” I grinned, embarrassed. “I fantasize about all sorts of awful stuff. I assumed everyone does.”
Brows furrowed, he looked at me as if I were a disappointingly slow child. “You wouldn’t be nearly as much fun dead.”
It was an attempt to turn the conversation, to get me to say something silly back. I considered a quip about zombie sex, but resolved to stick my course. “Do I fight?”
He did his best to keep a straight face, but the smile won. “Oh yeah. You fight. You fight hard.”
* * * * *
People describe memory as one long, detailed film, but it’s nothing like that. Sometimes it’s a fairy tale you tell yourself just to knock the past into some kind of shape that will fit in a box so you can store it away. Sometimes, it’s as if you’re telling the story of someone else: an earlier version of you, almost unrecognizable now; a stranger with your face and your name, but alien and broken. Mostly, it’s just a series of tiny moving clips, with sound and colour and smell and feeling. With chunks missing in between, as if someone forgot to hit the record button.
We were sitting at the bottom of the garden at my house, on a very dry afternoon in early summer, just before school let out. I had bruises on my shins from field hockey and was ashamed of them. The faded purples and blues marked the skin of my shins, and I was worried that he’d see them too and think them ugly.
He was so handsome, I kept telling myself to look ahead, look ahead over the terrace wall to the burned bristle of the slopes beyond, so he wouldn’t catch me staring. I felt so lucky. Lucky that he’d noticed me. Lucky that he’d talked to me. Lucky that he’d held my hand and kissed me in the hallway at school. Lucky that he’d offered me a ride home on his bike.
We sat on the stone garden wall, looking down the hillside, drinking iced tea I’d made myself because my parents were out and I wanted to impress him, until he finished his and reached for my hand. None of the boys I’d known had been confident the way he was. On the way home, with the hot, dry, salty air streaming through my hair, he’d reached back and pulled my arm around his waist. And this gesture was just like that one. As if all the limbs in the world belonged to him.
Then we were kissing beside the pool on a pile of faded blue lounger cushions covered in dry eucalyptus leaves, breaking up and prickling under my shoulders and my thighs. He was on top of me, his hips pressing into mine, kneeing my legs apart and it hurt. Like his fingers digging into the nothing swell of my non-existent breast. That’s when he kept on kissing me, after I’d stopped. I could smell his spit on my mouth, and his ragged breaths.
He was hurting me, pressing the air out of me, bruising my bony hips with his, yanking the hem of my dress up my body. I didn’t feel lucky anymore. And he had ceased to be handsome.
“No. Stop that. It hurts.”
“Don’t be stupid. You’ll like it.”
I was crying and trying to push him off, or squirm out from under him. Both at the same time. He was laughing and pushing my legs open with his hand, his fingers in my crotch, nails scratching me as he tried to pull my panties out of the way. The cotton stretched and burned my skin.
I remember sobbing, saying, “I thought you liked me,” and knowing then how pathetically immature it sounded, and that he had never liked me. He’d just pretended so he could hurt me, like this.
That—the dreadful sense of my own stupidity, the recognition of my inane hopefulness—that’s what broke me. That’s when I stopped fighting.
I don’t remember how he got his cock inside me. As if some all-powerful deity edited that bit out. All I remember is that I turned my head and looked at the long leaves, like curved, silvery daggers, floating on the surface of the pool’s blue water, and thinking this hurts. It shouldn’t hurt like this. I remember my fisted hands aching. I remember he finished and pulled out of me and tugged my dress down over my hips.
Now all I want to know is that I could not be broken with such appalling ease. I want to know that I would find myself of greater worth. I want to know I’d fight.
* * * * *
Two weeks later, she brought it up at dinner. “Remember what we talked about a while ago? About rape?”
Christ, not this again. What was going on with her? He swallowed and put his fork down carefully. “Fantasy. Rape fantasy.”
He leaned his elbows on the table, interlaced his fingers, and propped his chin on them. In the years they’d been together, they’d had all sorts of conversations and all sorts of sex. She wasn’t inhibited or unadventurous. There were times when she wanted it rough and he’d been happy to oblige. Then she went through phases of almost unworldly tenderness. He’d always been fairly open about what turned him on, but he knew about her past. And, with that in mind, he’d stayed well away from anything that even hinted at non-consent. He had no idea how to handle her fixation on this particular subject, and it felt like a set up. Like she was looking for something to be upset about. “And you’ve decided I’m a psychopath?”
“You’re not a psychopath,” she said dismissively.
“How do you know?”
“Psychopaths don’t have ethics or empathy.”
“They’re pretty good at faking it, though.”
“So are a lot of politicians. Are they all psychopaths?”
“Possibly,” he said, but he smiled and felt his shoulders unlock. “Look, the fantasies are fantasies. I’m not particularly proud of them, but you asked and I answered truthfully. And you… well, you’ve got some personal history there, so I get that it’s a minefield for you. But everyone has fantasies they’d never act on and…” He stopped, tasting his own defensiveness. “Wait a minute. Why are you bringing this up again?”
She prodded the fish on her plate with her fork, took a sip of wine and swallowed. “I need to know that I’d fight if I got raped again.”
“Are you expecting that to happen anytime soon?” An irrational anger tightened his chest.
“No. But it could. I just want to know. That’s all.”
“You would fight. Take my word for it.”
“I wish I could. But I can’t. I didn’t. You know? I didn’t and, well, it’s bothered me for a long time. He could have done anything. He could have killed me and I would have just let it happen.”
He fought down the hair-trigger rage that flamed up whenever he was forced to confront the fact that some prick had done this to her. He forced himself to speak calmly. “You were young. And frightened. And traumatized.”
She shook her head. “No. You don’t understand. Maybe you can’t. Maybe men just can’t.”
“Don’t…” he almost lost it. This ‘men don’t understand shit’ made him livid. Women didn’t understand either. She had no idea how badly he wanted, if it were remotely possible, to track the cocksucking asswipe down and beat him to death with a blunt object. He took another deep breath, reached for the bottle of wine and refilled her glass. “Look, I’m certainly not going to understand if you don’t explain it.”
“Oh, and this is lubricant?” she said, taking another swig.
He inclined his head and shrugged. “It can’t hurt.”
“No, wait.” Standing up, he grabbed the wine, and held out his hand. “Come sit with me.”
Nestled up next to him on the sofa, he wrapped an arm around her small shoulders, and resolved to listen without losing his temper. “Now, explain it.”
“It’s not the rape. It’s not really about what he did to me anymore. It hasn’t been for a long, long time.”
“It’s about what I didn’t do. That’s what eats away at me. It does. You have no idea how it does. Every time I think I’m strong, that I won’t take shit, that I take the measure of myself, it comes back to haunt me. It’s robbing me of something important.”
“So, what can I do?”
“I want to know that I’m not that person now,” she muttered.
“Wait a minute.” He moved and cupped her chin in his hand, forcing her to face him. “What are you asking me?”
He noticed then that she hadn’t been sleeping. There were faintly bruised half moons beneath her eyes. Maybe she was about to cry. She didn’t do it often, but when she did, it distracted him. Part of him felt her pain and the other part licked his lips. She thought this was all about her, but it wasn’t. And, if he were honest, he knew what she wanted. It just scared the fuck out of him.
“Ah, you can’t say it can you?” he asked.
“Because if you say it, then that changes everything, doesn’t it? Then…” he pursed his lips and nodded. “If you ask me to, then it’s not rape.”
Her mistake, although he wasn’t going to tell her, was sophistry. Consent was more and less than words. She was trying to find logic to fit her needs. This was a game of words, and she’d realize it soon enough. But it was a selfish game.
“Assuming what you are not asking was even possible, has it occurred to you that this might affect me?”
She had the grace to look like the floor had dropped out from under her. She pulled her chin from his grasp and leaned her forehead his shoulder. “Oh.”
“Yeah, I thought so.” He gave her a while to think that one through.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“Accepted. But just to be crystal clear: what happens if I do? If I agree to go down this road with you, if I do what you won’t ask me to do, what will that make me? How real is real? Where’s the safe word? Where are your limits? Where the fuck are mine?” He could feel the anger, the unfairness of the situation gnaw at his innards. Breathing deep, he went on: “Because, honestly, I have no idea. What if I can’t stand what I find out about myself while you’re busy finding how empowered you are?”
She groaned against his shirt. “Jesus, okay. Forget it.”
What he couldn’t find a way to tell her was that she’d unwittingly stuck her finger into a huge, festering wound. Part of him did indeed want to know just how cruel he had the capacity to be, where he would draw the line and whether what he fantasized about would exile him, irredeemably, from his own sense of humanity. But he’d lived with that puzzle for years. He’d settled into a bearable truce with his uglier urges. There were things you just didn’t bring into the light. And answers you could forgo. For all his darkness, one doubt burned. Not as containable as any of others.
“Here’s what worries me most: after you’ve found out what a courageous, fighting, spitting, biting little firebrand you are, after you put up a brave but ultimately useless defense, because—make no mistake—no matter how hard you fight me I will have you, how are we going to find our way back from that?”
For a long time, she didn’t answer him. Finally, she pulled herself apart from him and sat forward, nodding as if she’d settled on something in her own mind. “ And those things, they’re all things you’d rather not know.”
“I didn’t say that.”
* * * * *
Torn between fear and determination, her glances are furtive, hyper-vigilant. Her control slips. Her smile fails as the muscles draw it out in uneven little jerks. It’s a stuttered petition of a smile. A slightly manic, are-we-really-going-to-jump-off-this-cliff smile.
It’s so easy to see her mind’s gears churning, gripping, catching, and slipping. Her pulse is a moth trapped beneath the skin under her jaw, caged in taut tendon. But she’s here, despite her misgivings. And jumping off this particular cliff was more her idea as his.
“It’s today, right?” she asks.
“Has it started yet?”
“Not yet.” He lies, watching the tension leave her posture.
In a way, it started the moment she began to talk about it. The moment he understood exactly what she was asking. He’s been chewing on time for days.
She wants it neat and clean. The uncertainty disorients her, refuses her a sense of order, a notion of what to expect and how to plan for it. This is a part of her she rarely shows: her equilibrium askew, her capacity to analyze and rationalize—so much a part of how she makes sense of the world—temporarily disabled.
They have agreed to suspend disbelief and enter into a fiction. They’ve given each other formal assurances of unconditional forgiveness. But he can’t, for all her promises, truly trust her. In a way, that’s part of the thrill—the not being sure. The risk of everything they have. If it blows up, it will blow up big.
“Then I’m going to sit down outside and do a bit of editing.”
“You do that. I’ve got some things to finish up here.”
With the tips of her fingers, she combs through the hair at his temple and kisses his forehead. Her skin gives off the scent of the soap she uses. He allows the gesture—that familiar act of affection—to curdle into patronizing condescension. He takes umbrage and it tastes sharp and sweet.
Still, he forces himself to respond as he always does, with a playful slap on her ass. Perhaps not quite as gentle as usual but, if she feels the sting of it, she doesn’t let on.
He swivels his study chair to watch her pace back down the shadowed hallway on bare feet. Her shoulder blades tenting the white ribbed tank top, her dark grey jogging pants loose on her hips, her hair plaited into a careless braid. It sways, a counterpoint.
“Whore.” He forms the word without speaking it.
He’s not going to give her the comfort of choosing the time or the place. Nor the dignity of what state she’s in when he takes her. He’s going to rob her of all of that and more.
* * * * *
The day promises to be hot, but the air still holds the cool tang of earlier, verdant shadows. As hard as I try to concentrate on the manuscript in front of me, the words squirm and slip like flatworms in silt. I make inane notations, cross them out, rewrite, recross them, and glance up at the house for the fifth time.
There are questions I haven’t had the courage to ask him for dread of the answers. For fear he will read me too well and give me the answers he believes I want. There is a continuum of cruelty, from the petty to the murderous. I don’t know his limits. Or my own.
Everyone has ghosts. He has many. I only a few, but they are debilitating things. They gnaw at the stuff I think I’m made of. They despoil all the triumph of my dreams and poison my victories.
Fear fascinates me. Once terror locked me, turned me into an absence, like Lot’s Wife, into a pillar of salt. And for years, each time I have glanced over the shoulder of memory, it did the same. Where had the animal inside me gone? The instinct to protect myself evaporated in a moment. My ability to think with clarity, to understand what was unfolding, to strategize, all gone. Even the most basic impulse to push, to bite, to kick, to fight, to curse deserted me. I’d been a victim and, ever since, I’ve lived with the specter that I could be one again, in the blink of an eye.
I’ve spent my life seeking out fear before it found me and rode it like a horse on a tight rein. Down dark alleys, in the bad parts of town, in cholera camps and street riots and the close, sweat-scented bedrooms of strangers. In the harness of a parachute and at the end of a bungee cord. Whatever it was, if it scared me, set my jaw and walked straight towards it. Sometimes stupidly, sometimes with calculated appraisal of the risks, I gauged the risks, set out the parameters, and walked into the arms of lovers who would press the edge of a blade to my cheek, who would tie me down and show me what scary looked like.
Perhaps because of all that, I never again ran into a man who breached the boundaries I laid down. Never met anyone who did not screech to a dead halt at the utterance of the word no.
I glance up at the house again; the windows of his study are open. There’s music coming from them. Something I don’t recognize.
Although he has never crossed my lines, he pushed at them in as many ways as there were opportunities. He’s cajoled, persuaded and manipulated me right to the edge of them. Maybe on him I smelled the capacity to hear the word and not to heed it. Maybe that’s why I chose him, and why I have stayed.
* * * * *
The sharp tug on my braid snaps my neck back. My hands, soapy from the water in the sink, grasp, scrabble and slip at the edge of the counter. The floor is damp in places and my bare feet slide on the tiles.
The forearm that bars my neck seems thicker than his. It cuts off my cry midstream and pulls me back against his body. The force of it almost lifts me off the ground. I try to prise his arm away but only end up scratching at the skin of my own neck. Had I been firmly on my feet, I could connect my heel to his shin, but I’ve got no balance, no leverage, and I hit nothing. It feels just like before, even if it’s entirely different. I’m a doll. I’m dumb, helpless meat.
“Come on,” he says, moving his arm off my windpipe, until the air I don’t even realize I’ve been trying to gulp down enters my lungs. “Say it.”
Say what? The words don’t register. What is it he wants me to say? But I know. Of course, I know. Fingers dig into the hollows at my cheeks, squeezing until the pain brings tears to my eyes. “Say it and let’s get to it.”
“No.” The word’s just a whisper but it doesn’t matter. There, I’ve said it.
“No!” I say louder, trying to shake my head loose of the awful pressure.
“Once more, just for the record.”
He releases my jaw, only to plant a stinging slap on the side of my cheek. “That’s my girl.”
The slap isn’t hard, but it staggers me. I want to turn around and tell him that it wasn’t like this at all, that I need to explain how it was so he’ll understand. But he’s lowers me back onto my feet and, before I have a chance, he’s got my hair again, right by the roots, and he’s dragging me through the kitchen and down the hall. I have to stumble-run to keep up, to stop him from pulling it out.
Pure fear. Bright, white, blinding, muscle priming fear. This is a familiar feeling. I know how to ride this.
Bracing for the pull and the pain, feet wide apart, hands flat to the wall, I stop. Even so, it takes him a pace or two to notice. He rears on me, and I can hardly recognize him. The anger I’m expecting to see isn’t there. Instead, it’s disdain—cold and hard and something else—perhaps contempt.
“You want it here?” he says, planting a palm on my chest and slamming me to the wall with a single hard shove. I crane my neck to look at him. He smirks. “Think I’m going to let you dictate anything to me? Think you can just turn me on and off with a switch? Who the fuck do you think I am?”
With careful deliberation, I edge my hands between our chests and shove hard with all my might, but the angle’s not good. I can’t put any muscle into it. He doesn’t budge an inch.
“Jesus Christ. That’s pathetic. That’s so fucking pathetic it’s almost endearing.”
“Fuck you,” I say, bringing up my knee between his legs. But he twists and it doesn’t connect with his balls. He just grunts as I hit his thigh.
“That… is not endearing. And now you’ve pissed me off.” His hand closes around my upper arm so tight I hiss. “Either you’re going to move or I’m going to move you. That much is up to you. The rest is not.”
But I’m not really listening now. I swing at his face with my one free hand. And miss.
“Fuck it,” he mutters, slapping my fist away. He stoops, grabs me around the waist with one arm, and hefts me onto his shoulder.
“Motherfucker.” It comes out as a wheeze, because I’m upside down and can’t breathe properly with his shoulder in my gut. I feel the blood draining into my face, the jolt of every step he takes. And, inanely, notice a worn patch on the back pocket of his jeans.
“Please, put me down,” I croak.
“Please put me down,” he echoes back in a falsetto.
Even as I try to kick my legs I know how cartoonish it looks. He’s got one arm around my thighs and the kicks do nothing.
“Really, I mean it. I can’t breathe. Put me the fuck down.”
“Really, I mean it. I really, really mean it!” He uses a ridiculous, high-pitched whine as sarcasm.
The fear has ebbed and anger has replaced it. I can tell he’s got no destination in mind; he’s carrying me around like this because he knows I’ll hate it. Balling my fist, I take careful aim, and slam it down as hard as my position will allow, on his left kidney. There is no immediate reaction. Then he gasps and for a moment, I think he’s going to drop me.
“You fucking cunt.”
* * * * *
As the pain lanced through him, he thought he might drop her. But he breathed into the pain and felt it ebb. Fuck this shit. He needed to get her off his back and onto hers. Just as he felt her move on his shoulder to take another swing at him, he flipped her off him, and slammed her down on their bed.
He hadn’t intended to use the bedroom. Something in the back of his mind warned him to do it elsewhere, to leave that particular room untainted by this. Fuck it. She wanted to play? He’d play. He’d play just as hard and mean as she wanted. Harder, meaner. And then she’d know what it meant to see everything crash and burn.
The adrenalin streamed through his veins, cut through his muscles like blades, hum in his chest. He straddled her thighs and caught her flailing arms by the wrists. First one, then the other, and pulled them to her chest. She had little bones, little wrists. They fit so perfectly in one hand as he held them down between her breasts.
Her face had been red, but the colour was draining from it now. She was talking to him, swearing at him, bucking her hips beneath him, but all of that was just so much noise. He was looking at the tears at the corners of her eyes, just threatening to spill, the tight tendons on her slender neck, the swell and jiggle of her breasts as she took another breath to fire more invective at him. He was looking at one perfect, rounded curve of her shoulder. Then down at where her shirt had worked its way up one side of her torso. The exposed skin unmarked and bare, soft there, in the shallow valley between her hipbone and the swell of her belly. Through all the noise, the screeching and jostling and kicking and crying, that’s all he wanted. That place. To sink his teeth into it and never unlock his jaw again.
His skin. His, no matter what she said, no matter how she felt. His skin and he would push inside it and own it. He would teach her that it belonged to him; that her mouth and her eyes and her tears and her voice and her hands and her cunt and every fucking breath she took was his.
His cock throbbed. His balls tightened. As if all he had to do to own the whole fucking world was to push through the maddening, crooked, ugly veil of it, groin first. And there would be rest for his soul on the other side. But first, he had to get there.
“I hate it when you wear pants. Skirts are so much easier. You wear this shit just to piss me off.”
* * * * *
It would be so easy to give in, to go limp and pliant and get it over with. I look up at him, and wonder why I’m doing this? I love him. How could I ever have imagined he could be a stranger to me? What is all this pretending going to prove? That he can wear a mask? That I can convince myself, for five minutes, that I don’t want to have sex with him?
When he hooks the fingers of his free hand into the waistband of my track pants, and starts tugging them down, I have to stop myself from raising my hips. Looking down his body to his crotch, I can see he’s hard. I can’t help myself, I smile.
He stops trying to work my pants down and backhands me so hard that, for a moment, my vision goes dark. Then the phosphenes invade it and sparkles interrupt the lines of everything I can see. It’s not the pain I feel first, it’s the taste of metal in my mouth. Blood from where my teeth have cut into my cheek.
“Fuck.” It’s all I can get out, because my throat has closed up and I have to work to take a breath.
“Don’t you fucking look at me that way. Don’t you fucking dare.” His face is inches from mine and his hand’s around my throat. “Don’t you eye my junk and laugh, bitch.”
He’s let go of my wrists, but they’re trapped between us, and the hand that’s jerking my pants down my thighs is fighting the elastic, doggedly, taking my underwear with it.
“You’re just like every other loser whore who thinks there’s not a man on earth who can’t be led around by his dick,” he growls, “Don’t you? Don’t you?” The hand around my throat shakes it, slamming my head back into the mattress.
“Shut the fuck up, you lying piece of shit. You manipulative little cunt.” His grip tightens until I feel the blood thudding against my eardrums. “That’s what you think and I know it. I’ve always known it.”
“No,” I rasp, worming my hands free, clutching at his arm. “That’s not true. Stop it.”
“Don’t even bother, bitch.” He spits the word and his saliva showers my face. “You know what I think?”
Full, flaming panic hits me. I can’t get a proper breath and I can’t think of how to get one. I just claw at his arm, at his wrist, trying to get some air. And I can feel his other hand between us, working the buttons of his jeans.
“I think the simplest way to get some is just to wait until you black out. Then I don’t have to put up with any more of your poisonous bullshit. What do you think?”
My lungs are burning, my chest heaving and heaving to take in nothing, and just as my vision starts to darken at the edges and I’m positive I’m going to die, he lets go.
“Jesus Christ,” I splutter, wheezing and sobbing. “Jesus fucking Christ, stop it.”
“Aw, come on baby,” he says, tapping my face, then trapping my jaw. “Aren’t you going to show me any love at all? Kiss me like you mean it.”
He presses his mouth against mine. Wet against my closed lips. He’s gotten his jeans off his hips and down his thighs because his skin is burning hot against mine, legs between mine, spreading them as far as the rucked down track pants will allow.
I can’t let him do this. I squirm sideways, trying to roll, but he’s got almost one hundred pounds on me. And all I can think is, I can’t let him fuck me like this. I’m not that person he thinks he’s going to fuck. I can’t let him into me with that vision of me in his head.
Parting my lips, as if I’m going to kiss him back, I catch his bottom lip between my teeth, and I bite down, hard. He jerks back his head, and I feel his lip tear before it slips free.
“Fuck. You bitch.”
His hand is between us, trying to guide his cock into me. He misses and jabs himself into the crook of my leg. But now I hardly care. I’m screaming in his face and tearing at his hair, clawing at his shoulder. I can taste his blood in my mouth and I just want more.
I’m fighting and yelling and it doesn’t stop until I feel him finally angle his hips and try to thrust into me.
It’s as if all my memory’s edits are gone. In that moment, I remember exactly what it felt like all those years ago. Those first two or three sharp, impossible thrusts when I was sure he was going to rip my cunt to shreds and then, as if my body decides to save me from my own best intentions, it floods itself, opens and he penetrates me.
It hurts, just like it did then, and, just like then, I turn my head to the side and stare at the chest of drawers below the window, then up, out at the sky beyond. The cartoon puffy clouds comic against the bluest of skies. And I cry.
* * * * *
He felt it, when she gave in. It was like a blind being drawn down. It leached the adrenalin from his body, and shattered every insane bit of triumph he’d felt the second before. She’d turned her face aside. She was staring into nothing.
He cupped her face and pulled it towards him. “You fought.”
Face slick with tears, she stared at him. He moved inside her and pressed his lips to her cheek, feeling the salt sting the cut on his lip. It left a bloody smear on her skin. “You fought damn hard.”
“Did I?” she said vacantly.
“Yeah. Yeah, you did.”
Part of him wanted to stop. To pull out of her and wrap her in his arms because she’d found out what she needed to know, and it was over. But part of him couldn’t bear the thought of not being inside her. All the bitterness and contempt was gone, but not the raw imperative to feel her wrapped around his cock.
“Did you mean it?”
“What?” he panted, sliding his arms under her; one across her back and the other at the base of her spine, feeling her hips shift as he hilted himself.
“That I’m manipulative and a whore, all those things. As if you didn’t even know who I was.”
He wasn’t fucking her hard, but it didn’t seem to matter. He was so close to coming he could hardly think in words. “I know who you are, love.”
“Promise?” She slid her arms around his waist, over his lower back, palms flattened over the top of his ass cheeks.
He felt her arch her hips in that way that made it just so much sweeter, so much easier to fill her, and felt her inner muscles close around him. Lowering his head, burying it in the crook of her neck, he promised. And came.
* * * * *
After, he pulls the covers up over us, and lies on his side with me pulled tight against him. I sob and he lets me. Silent the whole time, as if he thinks it’s something I need to purge, and perhaps he’s right.
“Want me to leave you alone for a while?” he offers.
“No. Please. No,” I say, twining my arms through his and anchoring them around me. He expels a breath so long and deep I think he’s been holding it forever.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I think I am.”
“Will you look at me?”
“Yes, of course,” I say, and roll in his arms to face him. The truth is I’m scared to see any hint of the contempt and disgust I saw in his face earlier, but I meet his eyes, because I’m me, and I have to know. “Are you okay?”
He blinks and then frowns. “I’m not sure.”
“Do you forgive me?”
“Yes.” But perhaps I say it too fast, because he’s still searching my face, still trying to find something—I’m not sure what—in my eyes. And it’s that searching that makes me think that, at least most of the time, he doesn’t really think those awful things he accused me of. “I forgive you. Do you forgive me?”
“For all this. And for your lip. It looks nasty.”
He runs the tip of his tongue across in and chuckles. “I’ve had worse. Kiss me.”
“Ow, are you sure?”
So I do. Despite all the crying, and the screaming and the fear, it’s that kiss that tells me that everything is going to be okay.
Different, perhaps, but okay.