Literatti: Fiction By Deslea
Deslea R. Judd
Word Count: 1400
Summary: Marita does not have the knack of consistent self-delusion. Her own, peculiar brand of integrity will not allow that. But for the period in which she achieves it, its effect is total. Set some years after The Truth.
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She sits quietly on the lounge in the middle of the room. No television plays before her. No sounds surround her. There is no book in her hand. She simply sits, her legs primly drawn up together, hands folded in her lap. She could be waiting for a bus or a train - but this is her home.
She enjoys these moments. She enjoys the discipline and the accomplishment. She enjoys the meditative transformation, the stilling of her troubled mind. Marita does not have the knack of consistent self-delusion. Her own, peculiar brand of integrity will not allow that. But for the period in which she achieves it, its effect is total. For a few stolen moments in the night, pain is healed, loss is undone, betrayals are forgiven and forgotten as nothing. For a few stolen moments, she will touch infinite possibilities - and she will grab onto them and hold them with all her might.
There is a knock at the door.
She rises, straightening her clothes. She has chosen them carefully. They are ones he likes - soft pastel blouse, flowing silk skirt. He likes her softer than she likes herself. He likes the vulnerability and the warmth she fought so hard to subdue, and she allows him to see them like hoarded treasures before putting them carefully away once more. This is her own personal surrender to him, her sacrifice and gift laid before him. She will be who she was born to be - who she could have been in another lifetime. And so will he.
She approaches the door. She wants to run and pull it open, but she doesn't. She walks slowly, savouring the moment, preparing herself to meet him. She passes the sidetable and switches on the lamp. Reaching the end of the room, she flicks off the light, blinking a little in the darkened room, before opening the door.
He stands there on her doorstep, looking warily over his shoulder. Her porch light is deliberately turned off, and the oblique line of his face is outlined in the low light of the street. He doesn't face her fully until he's in the house and the door is closed behind him.
She hands him an envelope. He nods and puts it in his pocket, patting it a moment. He doesn't check it anymore. He knows that whatever she offers, she will give him. He won't look at it until he leaves. It is a small demonstration of trust.
He moves in on her, smoothing back her hair with his hand, and she sinks in to him. Alex, she thinks. She presses her face to his neck, feeling flesh against her cheek and soft cotton against the opening at the collar of her blouse. She breathes the leather scent of his jacket. His right arm cradles her, fingers burrowing into her hair. His left stays limply by his side. He kisses her hair, and waves of warmth and need wash over her.
He doesn't speak. Alex never was one for words. Instead, his arm tightens, pressing her closer, and he guides her backwards, through the lounge room, to the door to her bedroom. She gropes for the door with her hand and finds it, leaning back against it, baring her neck for him, and he dips his head to kiss it. She helps him, unfastening buttons, awaiting his hand on her flesh. When it comes, she sighs, eyelids fluttering, and fragments of memory awaken in her mind. Suddenly this is not one moment, but many overlaid. This is a deserted sand dune in Tunisia. This is a candlelit cabin in St Petersburg. This is a lazy, stolen dawn in a New York apartment. She loves him, and in every moment she has with him, all they've shared and all they've done melds together into one moment in time. This is why he has the power to hurt her so. This is why he has the power to make her whole.
She is only vaguely aware of his mouth on her breast. She lets him lift her skirt, and parts her thighs with docile obedience. She searches the planes of his back with only the vaguest attention. She is somewhere deep in the darkness of the moment, deep in his warmth. By now, he knows just what she likes, and his fingers are sure, drawing out her climax. Alex, she thinks again, and his name catches on her ragged breaths.
He guides her to her bed and eases her down, and from there it's just tangled images and sensation as she lets his undertow take her out to sea, pulling her back after each crest to make way for more. Her thoughts are disjointed and fragmentary as he overwhelms her. It's a relief.
He has a way of easing off and bringing her back to herself, a slow change of rhythm, until finally, she is still. Sated and slipping close to the edge of a blessed sleep. Close, but not quite.
He rises and dresses in the dark, his back to her. She watches him from beneath heavy eyelids, wondering where he will go next. For a split-second, her fantasy-world and the real world converge. She has no idea where he goes when he isn't with her. Either of them.
He turns and sees her watching him.
"Who was he?" he wonders.
Of course he knows there's a someone. At her request, he takes on another man's silence, another man's infirmity. But he's never asked before. She thinks it's because she slipped on the name. She's never done that before.
It isn't that she needs to hide Alex - everyone who might have cared died long ago. But she thinks vaguely that it would be disrespectful to call him by another man's name. Even if he does know perfectly well there is another man in her mind.
"Just a guy I used to know."
It's a pretty crappy epitaph, but she supposes a male escort hears a lot of euphemisms. My husband is busy. We've drifted apart. Or, I don't really have time for a relationship. I need to focus on my kids. There are all sorts of ways that women paper over the things they've lost.
"He got on the wrong side of the wrong person. He had to run."
There are all sorts of ways that women paper over the things they've lost.
He frowns, patting his pockets again, and meets her gaze. "Well, goodnight then," he says. "You don't need to let me out. I'll pull the door behind me."
She watches as he leaves, and it occurs to her that she really could just stay in bed. There's no one left to come after her anymore, and even if there was, a shitty door chain wouldn't keep them out. But old habits die hard, and so she gets up and goes and chains the door anyway. Like putting up a talisman to keep the nightmares out.
"He had to run," she says softly, leaning against the door.
Except Alex never ran - not like this. Never failed to send word. Never failed to show up, cocking his eyebrow and shooting a come-hither smirk at her like he'd never left. Never failed to show up in rumours in-between. The shadow world is small. They all know each other and something of one another's quirks. All rumours ended, all trails stopped in 2001, and they never started again. Not in the face of new wars and conspiracies, nor in the ruins of the old ones.
But that isn't how she knows he's dead. Not really. She knows it because the shadows in Walter Skinner's face are gone.
She allows herself this moment, this knowledge. Allows it because it is not in her to lie to herself. Not all the time.
Presently, she pushes away from the door. Goes to her kitchen. Touches a postcard there on her refrigerator door. Cozumel. Alex sent it to her, one of the times he ran. She's moved six times and replaced the refrigerator twice since he disappeared, and the postcard has come every time.
"He had to run," she says again. She can't believe it all the time, but she can believe it long enough to get through the night.
She switches on the coffee maker, and begins her wait anew.