Chapter 1 : Fall Into Shadow
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She sits with her face in shadow. Moonlight dances on her creamy skin. Her limbs rest lightly against each other, folded up like an exquisite China doll. She is flawless and magical, sensual and surreal in her moonlit bath. Outside the circle of light a young man sits motionless, his silver eyes capturing every essence of her beauty, painting a picture of her with his eyes. He watches the rise and fall of her chest as she breathes deeply, inhaling the aroma of the room around her, the pale light wavering on her skin, tracing the tantalizing curve of her breast. He likes to gaze at her, her body soft and supple, stronger than it appears when wrapped in layers of delicate fabric. The first time she threw him down and held him there, he was stunned. Her uncharacteristic display of aggression sent the blood roaring to his temples, flying through every cell in his body, arousing him, driving him over the edge with her raw feminine power.
That moment of tangled limbs and sweat soaked bodies felt like a lifetime ago.
In this world of half-light she sits, seeming frozen in time, a statue of living grandeur. A masterpiece of flesh. Long legs dangle side-by-side, feet barely scraping the soft-carpeted floor as she perches on the window seat. In the shadowed light he can see the small nubs of her spine, gently inter spaced and creeping down her back, the flesh spreading out into her strong hips, and the slim willowy waist that he has wrapped his hands around countless times, his fingers digging into the sweet tissue, causing her to moan in his ear.
With a smile playing on his lips he extends his hand, trailing his long fingers delicately through her chestnut hair. He cannot see it, but he feels her eyes reach him, as she draws her face away from the shadow world outside. She lifts a dainty hand and touches his cheek gently, almost absently, before dropping it back to her lap, resting it on her flat stomach. A chill waltzes up his spine, icy fingers tickling their way under his skin, and he shivers. She is not truly here with him tonight. He already knew it, the moment he took her in his arms, but he hoped, as he always did, that she would come back to their world.
With a sigh he stands, reaching around on the floor for his clothing. He finds a sock, and his pants, with her shirt tangled in the legs. He has no idea where the rest of his clothes are, and wonders if he can flee her foreboding presence with a bare chest and one sock. He glances at her. She is still staring at the darkness, and he feels a knife twist in the pit of his stomach. She has not looked at him at all that night. Her eyes, pools of chocolate flecked with amber, rest on his face, but they stare through him as if he were not standing in front of her, holding her, touching her, kissing her. She is naked and unashamed sitting there in her eclipsed bower, pale as a ghost of a distant memory.
A splatter falls against the glass. He listens to the soft descent of rain on the roof. She does not veer from the window, not even when lightening streaks across the sky, illuminating her perfect reflection. The light of the moon winks out, the delicate luminosity smothered by dark and cloud as thunder rumbles overhead. He reaches over to the bedside table and lights a candle with the click of his fingers, watching the orange glow leisurely creep through the room. Its diffused light warms the chill in his soul, a forgotten spark within him flickering into life again. Barefoot and naked, he steps close to her, his shadow diminishing her lean back. She turns and flashes him a brief smile, her eyes distant and misty, and he reaches over and rubs the back of her neck. In the glass he sees her dark eyes close, and her face relax. Her hair falls in gentle waves around her, cascading over her slim shoulders, brushing the tips of her breasts. He lifts his eyes, seeing his own pale face, his blonde hair falling across his forehead, brushing his cheekbones. His reflection stares back at him, annoyed, and he sighs, turning away from her and the truth of the glass.
Retrieving his clothes from the floor once again, he steps into his pants, zipping them, before reaching into the pocket for a lighter. His cigarettes are on the floor beside the bed, thrown there in his haste to have her close to him. He fumbles with the pack. She hates his smoking, and he pauses before he lights up, wondering whether she will care enough at this moment to be displeased. A sudden desire to piss her off rushes into his head, and he smirks and lights up, inhaling a loud gusty lungful of smoke. When he releases it, he blows it in her direction, watching with a strange and morbidly silent fascination as the blue wisps cloud her features, crowding her in poison.
“Do you have to do that?” she says, her voice a whisper, husky and dark in the aftermath of their love. “You know I don’t like the way you taste.”
Without waiting for a response she turns back to the window, pressing herself closer to the glass, melting against it. He scowls and blinks away a rush of tears. When had this become nothing for her? When had he become nothing? Her serenade of the darkness was consuming her. He takes a deep shuddering breath, pulling air into his lungs, cleansing them. He knew. Memories swirl through the air, encasing him in a cloak of black despair.
“He’s gone darling,” he says tenderly, gently, and he thought he saw her shake her head slightly, her long almond-shot locks shifting in the candlelight. It was a scene they played mercilessly, torturing no one but themselves. He shuts out the sound of her crying. His body sinks to the bed and he jams his hands over his ears, his cigarette dangling between two strong slender fingers. He can feel the heat of it against his fragile skin. A year he has gone through this. Two years he has loved her without complaint, without acknowledgment of her faults, of her scars, sinking appreciatively into her graceful paradise, wrapped in her soft arms where nothing could ever touch him again.
He shakes his head as he listens to her cry, the silent sobs penetrating his very soul. The past is like a dream now, a memory of something wonderful that once existed. Inside, he knows he is slowly dying in his grief. She is drowning in it, swimming in it, immersing herself in it, and he knows that he has no right to tell her to stop. He has no right to revive her to benefit his own needs. She has barely left the house since it happened, since the night he disappeared from their lives, leaving nothing behind but broken hearts encased in a permanent winter wonderland.
Entombed in her mourning, she trembles, her body racked with sobs. He gets up again, slowly, not wanting to frighten her out of her memory.
“Please,” he whispers to her, so faint he can barely hear it, “ I need to have you near me. I need to have you breathe with me.”
She turns to face him, her beautiful eyes flushed with tears, and she nods, a peaceful movement. He steps out of his pants and crosses to the window in two long strides, leaning down and scooping her into his arms, carrying her like a baby to their bed. With one hand he holds her close, and with the other he wrenches back the sheet, murmuring in her ear. He inhales sharply as she buries her head against his neck, the perfume of her hair rising and folding him in a delicious scent. Her scent. The one he has grown so used to waking up with. A shiver travels through his body as he holds her, imagining what it would be like to have her torn from his arms, to never be close to her again.
With her thin arms around his neck, he lowers the two of them down gently, taking pains not to crush her slight frame with his weight. As they lay beside one another, he is conscious of a distance between them, growing larger and more malevolent as time ticks over. He has no idea what actions to take to keep her from pulling further away. Her hand drifts down to stroke across her belly, and he winces with remembered pain. He watches the small slim fingers as they tremble slightly with her reminiscence. He curls a finger under her chin, and lifts her face to his, leaning down to catch her lips. She returns his kiss, though he knows her mind is floating somewhere far beyond them, in the ether of lost thoughts and twisted dreams.
“Do not fall my darling,” he says, his voice breaking. “Do not fall away from me.”
He lifts her up and she drapes herself across his body, her long legs falling either side of him, limp as a rag. She rests her head on his chest, his heartbeat in her ears.
“I won’t,” she whispers to his skin, and he feels goose bumps prickle on his arms, his flesh tightening in response to her warm lips. Her mouth finds its way to his neck, and he closes his eyes as she kisses a scorching trail towards his face. Her tiny hands rest on his cheeks, and she lifts her head a fraction, and kisses his tears away.
He opens his silver eyes. She is smiling, and he knows the darkness has passed her by for now, released her from its claws with the fall of tears. His hand strokes her back, and he watches as her smile widens before she kisses him again, her knees tightening by his sides. Her flesh is snug against his, the cream of her skin blending with his, their limbs curling together. He smiles as he feels her breathe his breath, close to her once again as she lets herself love him.
How delicate is her life. How delicate her repent.
The dawn breaks against the windowpane, the glass shot through with golden rays. It brushes on the eyelids of the couple deep in their dreams, bodies melded together in perfect symmetry. A smile plays on the thin lips of the woman, and as she rolls over, the crisp white linen sheet tangles in her legs. The man utters a small groan, as the fabric sweeps across his flesh in a tantalizingly light caress. A butterfly beats its wings outside the window; its shadow flickers over the woman’s face in a delicate ballet of light and dark.
She sighs, her eyelids flutter and open. Her hair splays in a disheveled chestnut tangle over the face of the pillow beneath her head. She stretches luxuriously, and all the nightmares fly from her mind as the sunlight creeps gently around the room. Her eyes focus, and she snaps out of the realm of dreams. A door leading off the bedroom is open a crack, and she gently lifts her body from the soft bed. The morning air is slightly chilled, and she shivers as it kisses her limbs with its unsullied breath.
Her eyes flicker back to the blonde man, her husband, her life, and for a moment she stares at his face, so calm and relaxed in sleep. A memory stirs in her mind, of how she let him love her when the world was black, when she wanted to curl up with her pain and let it break her. She smiles. Her savior. Her blessing. Always there to pull her out of the darkness before she is sucked away forever; an anchor held strong in the real world.
“Thank you,” she whispers to the beautiful clarity of the morning sun, and to him. On slender feet she treads gently towards the door, and pauses before she pushes it open, pauses as the pain resurfaces for an instant, before it sinks back down into the deepest parts of her. In the light she is not afraid to feel. Her demons cannot rise with the day. She steps inside, her breath held in her throat, a pale hand resting on her heart.
The room is bare. No sign that life ever existed there, and for that she is now thankful. When he first removed the furniture, took down the pictures from the walls, she resented him, accusing him of never loving, of never caring. In recent moments, she can see how she was wrong. The act of removal was an act of strength, a testament to his own grief, a way of coping with the pain. She stands and lets memory wash over her like light. Her hand drifts down to touch her stomach reverently, fluttering against her bare skin. Her chocolate eyes flicker into every corner of the room, into every corner of every memory, and she sighs, a lament of loss pouring sweetly and unheard from her lips, before she steps away and turns to her reality.
He is still sleeping. His blonde hair fans beneath his head, so pale it blends with the fabric of his pillow. She sits delicately beside him on the bed, and she watches him dream of happier times. Of innocence and peace, when all that mattered was loving. In those early days, they could not bear to be parted, drunk on the essence of each other. Time and pain sobered their passion, and now, she at least, is contented to be alone, to be one with her torment and her guilt. She knows that when the darkness claims her he contemplates fleeing, planning his escape at the same time he tries to help with hers, to draw her out and into his arms.
Her eyes return to his face. His skin is smooth and clean, and she runs her fingers gently across his cheek, soft stubble prickling against her skin. She studies him, this man who saves her, this man who cherishes her. So familiar yet such a stranger to her. She knows he mourns in his own way. Yet, it is not her way, and sometimes she is unsure that he is mourning still. He is quiet and reflective at times, and she has watched him in secret as he stood in the doorway of the empty little room, his strong arms wrapped around his body in a gesture of self-comfort.
She reaches out her hand, tangles her fingers in his hair, and loses herself in the magnificent softness of his tresses. Her eyes travel down his face, his silky lips, over his strong chin, his long pale throat, out to his broad shoulders, the sculpted plains of his chest, devoid of hair, along his taunt abdomen and sharp hips. He is perfect, an artwork and a vision in the morning sun, angelic in his slumber. With a smile she drags her nails across the hard muscle of his arm, and watches as his eyes fly open, brilliant, pale and aware. Her smile widens as the soft grey of his eyes transforms into a dark rolling thunderstorm. He smirks at her, and sits up to wrap her in his warmth again.
“Watch it,” he growls into her neck. His lips brush her skin and she cannot suppress the shiver that dances through her blood. His touch can always make her forget. A schoolgirl giggle escapes her mouth, and his arms tighten around her. He laughs with her, and she notices his mirth is forced, and she feels a stab of guilt. She wonders not for the first time what makes him stay. What makes him feel the need to constantly rescue her when the pain becomes too much to bear. She pulls out of his arms, sits back from him, and scans his face. His eerie eyes snap to hers, unblinking and alert. A smile catches the corner of his mouth, and he raises a long pale hand and brushes the hair from her neck, tucking it behind her ear in a practiced motion.
Another surge of guilt overtakes her, and he detects it as it passes across her face. Her eyes tell him she is sorry, and he nods.
“It doesn’t matter,” he murmurs, and kisses her sweetly, his fingers in her hair, just the way she likes it. Her breath stops, and she gives in to the heady deliciousness of him, her hands on his chest, her skin warm with his heat. The wall of ice falls down around her feet; shatters into space and time, and she wonders how she could of missed the sensation of being loved. The shadow world entices her, the fruit of dreams constantly beckon, and she finds it hard to escape the dark wilderness of the past. The silk harem of the imagination. Of remorse and regret. Here beneath her hands is reality, truth, and her life.
Something inside her breaks open, and she cries silently as she kisses him; cleansing tears, sugared tears. She knows when night comes knocking again she will stand to face the demons of loss and loneliness that rise with nature’s blackened cloak. She will taste the honeyed sweetness of the fallen dark and look on the shadow world with eyes anew.
She pulls back from him, and rests her head against his strong shoulder, feeling his arms slide around her waist and pull her close. His lips move; she can feel their softness and their strength through her hair as he whispers inaudible words that she hears anyway. She presses closer to him, wanting to melt into him, to fuse their bodies, their hearts and their souls. The fire inside her rekindles as the sun creeps higher into the sky, painting his skin golden. He rocks her in his arms, the gentle rhythm restores her, renews her, replenishes her, and she feels her smile split her open. Perhaps now she can move on.
In his embrace she floats in love. Peace washes over her like waves wash on the shore, his light infusing her. Deep inside she feels the burns on her soul begin to heal. In the calm shelter of his arms she is reborn, cleansed and made whole.
In the corner of her wild and tangled mind the darkness waits to rise, suppressed until it can break free of his chains…
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