Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from
evil. --The Lord's Prayer
The wind howls and bites at me while the moon shines on the
ice at an angle that gives the ground an eerie pink sheen. His hair was that
color once. I'm reminded of blood-soaked rain curling down dark sewers. The
color is delicious. His hair is dark now, blue-black like a bruise, almost
clashing with those vivid hazel eyes. But he still carries himself the same
way, like a cat that's been hungry too long. A feline familiar with enchanting
eyes and a voracious soul. Irresistible.
I stand apart on the stairwell, secreted carefully against
the old plaster walls that crumble like ancient bone in my grasping hands. I
see him. He bends over his computer in the old library tower, scanning ancient
books scented with centuries' worth of mildew. He looks bored, but still, he
seems satisfied enough. His demeanor cries for attention even while his eyes
stay perpetually downcast. I used to ignore him in the stairwell
until it became impossible not to meet the lurking wait in his face.
An accidental introduction one day and suddenly, I see a man. A child playing
pirate. A cat dancing around a cornered vole. A smoldering boy's outrageous
desire. So now I say hello each day. I let him in.
Bone-thin and dressed in a long black man-skirt, his pink
cowlick sweeps across an angry smirk, making him seem awkward, shy, and
magnetic all at once. I was struck. His masks glared in a painful and
transparent way, revealing a hurt boy who spent his childhood as easy bait for
bullies and pretty girls. I eventually learned that, despite his childlike glee
in animals and attention, he still liked the usual things men find amusing-sex,
power, and control. Months would pass before I fully understood the dark and
sensuous power I had let inside.
He claimed the rings caught his fancy, made him want to know
me better. Show me your rings he said that afternoon as my garnets glistened in
dusty motes from the Tower windows. I held out my hands shyly, curious about
this man. You wear an inordinate amount of jewelry. That makes you stand out in
this boring place, he said, drilling me with dark green and brown-flecked eyes,
making me blush and laugh. Indeed, I did wear a lot of rings. I loved them. The
silver and stones weighted me down and gave me the grounding I craved. And he
was pointing at one, the diamond.
From your significant person? He said, frowning, impossibly
long, inky black lashes fluttering up to meet my gaze.
Yes, from my partner.
He nodded, mistaken. Ah. So you like girls, right?
No, I date a man.
Really? You don't date women? I just assumed
Well, not anymore. It's been years since I last...I have a
male partner now.
Oh. Yes, well, my girlfriend likes garnets as well.
I remember the feeling, like a weight had been dropped into
my throat, strangling my breath. He lived with a woman. Any possibility of
romance died in the air between us. I tasted ash. He was taken, I was involved,
we were safe. Safe. His long stare stopped my sputter of relief. Hungry souls
need more than flowers and poetry, expensive weeds and drivel. Neither of us
wanted romance. Safe? No.
Each morning he appeared at my office door, slim fingers
wrapping like tendrils around the glass and wood before his head would appear,
a hungry smile on those thin, delicious lips. Always sensing, knowing. Some
days he brought small gifts-a feather, some chocolate, two matching plastic
rings. Other days, he brought himself-dry, languid, angry at something he kept
hidden behind his eyes.
The day I walked up to him boldly, challenging him to look
away, he laughed
a dainty, misplaced laugh that didn't match his dark
smolder and came from someplace deep within. I resisted the urge to strike him
and startle the smirk from his face. Feel the pain, bastard, I thought. I
loathed having a hunger I couldn't satisfy. Instead of hurting him, of making
his grin disappear into the same ache I carried, I instead leaned forward and
pressed myself into a different destiny.
I fell into his eyes that morning for the first time. I
swore never to go back. I saw graves there. Deadly visions. Trickster masks.
Dogs ripping foxes to shreds.
And then I saw myself.
We met everyday, usually just to hold each other. The fire
that passed between us, between our fingers, left us both hot and steaming in
the cold and damp Tower stairwell. Work suffered as I chased glimpses of him in
the hall. Anything to see his black-clad back walking through the Tower or down
a flight of stairs. For a time I believed he didn't know what he was, didn't
understand what he had done to me.
I felt inflamed, powerless, crazy. He often poured himself
into my line of vision like liquid and then disappeared into the archives for
hours, befriending dusty books that could hold his pain. As the soft slap of
his shoes on the stone steps would gradually fade I would grip my chipped
wooden desk, making my nails bite into the old, soft wood until the blood came.
I told myself I could stop the deadly game, that I could walk away. My lies
tasted like bile.
We made pacts and promises. All well-intentioned. All
utterly useless. No kissing. No sex. No love. No commitment. I would step back
into life at any time. When I felt scared or restless, I flung my power about,
believing I knew who I was. Instead, his folly became my destiny.
I ran my hands down his sharp ribs each day, feeling each
bone beneath my cold fingers, counting, wondering how any man could be so very
thin, and still stand. Because he rarely touched me back, I devoured him
cautiously, gently caressing his hands, arms, face, chest, back, jutting hip
bones. Each piece of him gave me a secret breath. Every bone under my hands
pulsed with a life-fire I couldn't recognize as my own.
I ran my hands across his flat stomach and imagined my head
lying there, hearing his soul speak. I traced the cross made by whorls of
pitch-dark chest hair between his shallow ribs and thought of my own
crucifixion. His marrow ran deeply through him, pulsing. Three years passed,
but the calendar told me it had been only five months. All of my control had
ebbed away. I was left with foolish thoughts
ideas that I might tame his
fire and embrace the inevitable burn. I forgot that fire feeds upon itself.
His apartment felt frigid that night, almost as cold as our
forbidden stairwell, but the immense pull of his flame flared more strongly.
Sitting on the floor, barely touching, the energy of lifetimes welded us
together, my trembling hands touching his face. I traced his mustache, his
chin, his goatee, over and over again. He closed his eyes, tilted his head,
breathed in deeply. At that moment, I knew.
I am all knowing. I am time itself.
When he bent to me, I gasped at the heat of his breath.
First his lips and then his teeth dragged delicately on my neck. I went rigid,
breathless. His teeth moved more strongly, more deeply, creating heat between
us, drawing tiny, sweet beads of blood from me. I felt him smiling on my neck,
believing in the gift of craving he was bestowing.
His beautiful hazel eyes rolled up to the heavens as he bit
once more, making me squirm and gasp before he licked the wound gently with his
tongue, caressing the dip of my shoulder with his mouth. I choked on a sob
while his slim fingers held my arms, refusing to let me fly apart.
I went home that evening proud, delicious
Glassy ice shards crackle underfoot as we step forward
together, the Rhine river valley by St. Goar rushing mightily below us. My
cranberry silk gown, dampened by the snow and wind, bleeds small pink wounds
that follow us like footprints along the icy mound. Lorelei rock provides no
shelter from the stinging winter blast, but we feel no pain. We trust the
legend and believe. Breathing in huge gulpfuls of the frigid air, we look up to
stars. The siren's beautiful death song howls, vying for our attention over the
wind and sleet.
He stands besides me, arrow-straight, cold but protected
under his cape. I touch him hungrily, feeling for his ribs under the heavy
velvet. I count them and know who I am as my fingers run down them like so many
solved mysteries. The old priest is impatient, displeased at the cold that
bites at his rheumy eyes, his hefty payment already forgotten as he remembers
the unholy task expected of him. The tavern had been comfortable and his mulled
wine warm. The old man wavers for a moment, spitting a twist of phlegm into the
wind, uncertain if he can still remember all the words. Then he begins.
And who takes this woman?
I do, says Dax, I take her. She is mine.