Chapter 1 : Dust
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This was not as hard to write as I thought it would be. I set myself the challenge of writing present tense, second person narrative. I hope it’s not confusing for people as I switch the POV regularly but never the narrative style. You will just have to make sure you read very closely. Second person can either distance the reader or really draw them in with the use of the ‘you’ voice. I was aiming for the latter, and I hope I succeeded.
The song lyrics are from the wonderful Mazzy Star, and the song is called ‘Into Dust’. I have not used the song lyrics in their entirety - just the pieces that suited me.
The storm rolls overhead. Thunder rumbles through the sky as the rain falls in an endless assault on the earth. Raindrops splash furiously against the windowpane. The wind howls, becomes fists, strips the branches bare of leaves and scatters its stolen cargo carelessly over the well-kept lawn. You sigh and stare moodily outside at the sky.
“Here you go, my darling.”
A woman’s voice, sweet and pleasant, touches your ears and you turn, capturing her beauty with your eyes. She smiles at you, her face lightening the melancholy mood that has suddenly overtaken you, the dimple in her cheek diminishing the darkness trapped inside your head. She presses a steaming cup of coffee into your hands, reaching up to kiss your cheek at the same time, and you breathe deeply, inhaling the rich aroma of both coffee and her sweet perfume.
“What would I ever do without you?” you tease, although your voice is heavy and does not sound right for teasing. She does not notice, and you enjoy the way she fusses over you every morning before work. She tosses her long dark hair over her shoulder, pouting, her face expectant. Not leaving her waiting, you swoop down to kiss her lips in the customary fashion. She laughs against your mouth, batting at your chest with her tiny hands. You catch one between your fingers, lifting it to your cheek so you can feel the warmth of her skin. She has had a manicure recently; her nails are smooth as silk against your flesh.
Rain soaks through your shirt as you step outside. As the gate closes behind you, you turn and glance back towards the house, towering white and gleaming beacon-like against the storm that dances in the background and around your ears. Your eyes pass over the well-kept lawn and the arch of roses trailing over the path. Their perfume lingers on the air. She is waving to you from the window and you automatically lift your hand and wave back.
The world slowly turns as you close your eyes; the familiar jerk and wrench of your senses rips you away, and you know you left common sense on the wet, shiny path outside your front gate.
You want the world to stop while you catch your breath. You want the world to wait while you haul yourself out of bed and into the harsh and violently truthful light of the morning. You want the world to let you cry your tears of self-pity as you stumble to the shower and feel part of you drowning, sliding from your body like the grime of your own disgust. You stand and watch it as it disappears down the drain in a whirlpool of indulgence.
Yesterday was another of those days you wish you could forget. You refuse to acknowledge the dirt beneath your own fingernails as a sign of your sin. As a remembrance of the stain. But more than that is the knowledge that you will do it all again, taking part in this communion of self-satisfying urges.
Breathless and on again
She shuts the door almost violently. The clock on the desk tells you it is not even eight-thirty and already you have soiled the air with your malcontent. You take a moment to study her. She is attractive; she has to be, else you would not be doing what you constantly do. Her hair is dark, darker than your wife’s and for a moment you can still feel the heat from the cup she so tenderly pressed into your hands not fifteen minutes earlier.
You swallow your guilt, turning your attention to the eyes. Deep blue and alluring. Stormy, windswept and enticing. You accused her once of bewitching you with those eyes, and she had laughed and stripped off her clothes, bewitching you again, her eyes forgotten. You do not know what she sees in you, why she chose you to help be the bearer of her burden. A finger slides between her lips, which are ruby red and glistening. You take a shaky breath and turn away.
Some part of you always wants to resist. Some part of her likes it when you resist.
“I have work to do,” you say curtly, not looking at her and not turning around. You close your eyes as you hear her robes hit the floor. “It’s too early,” you mutter lamely.
She laughs, a sound like bells rushing over your ears, sinking into your skull and branding you. “Not get your beauty sleep?” she queries, her voice mocking. Her hands slide inside your shirt. She’s behind you without your knowledge, swift and determined. Her fingers brush across the space where your heart should be and you shudder.
“Your hands are cold,” you complain in a whisper. It’s not really a complaint. You actually enjoy it; you always have. She responds by nipping the skin on your back through your clothing until you growl and take her in your arms.
When she is gone, you have a moment to feel sorry for yourself. You know you need to let her go, to stop living the lie that has become your life. You cannot remember a time when you felt light in spirit, when you were simply happy being who you were. Since she arrived and drove a train through your insides you cannot let go. Shame coils deeper and deeper, and so much time has passed you dance to the tune it sings without contemplation.
Misery is no longer a visitor at your door, its boots lying littered on the front step. Misery is no longer a house guest, sleeping in the spare room and sharing the table at breakfast. Misery lives with you. It shares your bed. It slides its odorous body between you and your wife every night and laughs. It stares you down, looks you in the eye and mocks you. It dares you to be rid of it. It knows you won’t let it go.
It knows you enjoy the thrill. You’re a martyr, but like the chill in her hands, you enjoy that too.
Beside me today
Dust rises in a bloom of decay. His body crashes down, his arms forming a cage to protect you. You squeal anyway, and then giggle and wonder aloud why he wants to be with you here, in a dirty, misused motel room. You try not to think of the people and the lives that have passed through this space before yours.
“I like the view,” he says, gesturing to the window but not taking his eyes from your face. You make a face that has him kissing you until you are breathless.
“Why not the usual spot?” you ask, tracing his cheek with the tip of your finger, the long, perfectly manicured nail trailing across his skin. His eyes close at your touch and he rolls to the side, his arm sliding beneath you and pulling you over until you are lying across him.
He takes a deep breath and his eyes open to stare into yours. You love the colour of his eyes. It makes him even more mysterious. “It got boring,” he answers, meaning the usual spot. You frown. You liked it. It was cleaner and the bed was softer. You could hear the birds outside the window and in the spring, when the shutters were open, a light breeze would wander in and dance languidly across your skin.
You open your mouth to demand he take you back to the usual spot with its birds and breezes, but his lips are on yours and his hands are in your hair and all thoughts of innocent simplicity and comfort flow away like his fingers over the zipper of your dress. There is no space in what you are doing for innocence anyway. Perhaps dirt and dust and other people’s lives sing a truer melody than the chorus of birds.
Around broken in two
“How long do we have?” you ask, your voice soft with a pleading note. You can hear it and you know he can too. His brow folds slightly before he shakes his head and pulls a hand through his hair.
“Not long. The usual.”
“Just once,” you begin, sitting up and clutching your shirt to your chest. You look at him as he begins to dress. “Just once I’d like to be able to actually ...”
“You know we can’t.” He cuts you off sternly and you bite your lip with regret. You do not like angering him. Angering him could mean he won’t see you anymore and in your life of routine you like the thrill he brings you. You do not see him every day. A couple of times a week is enough, sometimes only once depending on how difficult it is to see him. You do not want him to become a part of your routine.
You hang your head and sigh. “I know.” Other people’s misused emotions swirl around your skull, settling into that space behind your eyes and sinking into you. You feel regret stronger than ever this time, and have to bite your lip to stop the tears from falling as you glance anywhere but at him.
You have no idea how he feels.
till your eyes shed
After he leaves, you allow yourself the indulgence of tears. It’s pointless, crying. You know that. You have no one to blame for your situation but yourself. For a while, you attempted to blame the man who shares your bed at night. The one who carries the title of Husband. You wanted to blame the distance he had created between you with his silence and his unexplained preoccupation. Yet you don’t. You go through the motions every morning, stirring the one and half teaspoons of sugar into his coffee, waiting for him to drink it and then waiting for him to kiss you goodbye. You wave from the window, a smile on your lips, willing him to hurry so you can start the real part of your day.
Your time with him is a dream, another reality that you don’t wish to belong to anymore. Yet how can you leave? You are doing what was expected, you and him. After school, after the war, after so many years and after so much indecision you were the one to finally take the chance and kiss him. It was the first time you had ever kissed a boy so you had nothing to compare it too. But now, his kisses are chaste and delicate, nothing like the kisses he first rained on your lips in those early years of being together. You long to admit the truth to yourself, but you cannot.
So you go through the motions. Like the coffee and the morning routine, you go through the motions of loving him and loving your relationship with him. If he had ears to hear he’d cower under the screams erupting from your insides. You play your role in the kitchen, in the bedroom, where you make love to him and pretend you are somewhere else. There is as much distance in you as there is in him and yet, for some reason, he does not notice. He still smiles and laughs and tells you he loves you.
Perhaps he is going through the motions also. You don’t know and you will not ask. How would you explain it to your friends?
She is in the kitchen when you return home with another woman’s scent on your clothes. You blow her a kiss before you dash up the stairs and shed your clothing in the corner of the bathroom. The standard black jacket stares at you from its rumpled state on the floor. It has eyes, you know it. It saw everything you did today. It saw the way you held her against you and put your lips on her throat. It saw the way she melted into you, the way her fingers made putty out of your insides and shaped them to what she wanted to see. It saw your weakness and now you must put out its eyes.
With a flick of your wrist the jacket is nothing but a shredded scrap littering the tiles. You dispose of the evidence and step into the shower, hearing her voice float up the stairs that dinner is almost ready. Under the steady stream of water you scrub at your skin until you are certain you are down to the last layer. You hope that the more you scrub the more your mistakes will dissolve, leaving you as the boy you once were, who was able to love her and be innocent and nothing more.
Your adult self, the one who cheats on your wife and enjoys a drink at the pub, knows that that past is now no more than an illusion you can never get back.
You have no idea when or how it all started to go wrong.
Like two strangers
There is colour in her cheeks. More colour than usual and you watch her covertly as you eat your meal. She is a terrible cook but you never say a word about it. You wonder what has made her so happy as to have roses painted on her skin but you do not ask her. You want to ponder the mystery a while. There is nothing you do not know about her, this woman you have shared over half your life with. In the beginning you were almost uneasy friends. She was too smart and too obnoxious for her own good and you always felt like you did not deserve her. For years you wanted her to be more than a friend who looked at you like her brother. You wanted to be able to hold her and kiss her and tell her you loved her. For so long you put the dream on the shelf.
When you finally got what you wanted it was bliss. Everything you imagined it to be. You were inseparable, wound together as tightly as the strands of a skein of wool. You breathed with her. You smiled and laughed and cried with her. She gave you peace and brilliant moments of passion so intense you thought you had died. You fumbled your way to ecstasy with her, both of you inexperienced and giggling and exploring with fingers and mouths.
Turning into dust
You don’t know when it became nothing more than a motion, a familiar thing you did with your body. Your lips still knew her touch and taste but your mouth was hungry for something new. You watch as the light from the candles set in the middle of the table catch in her hair, painting her golden and brown, the curls falling over her shoulders. You blink, surprised. She never wore her hair loose any more, not unless it was to bed. You study her over the rim of your wine glass. Her eyes are bright, hectic even and a blush stains the skin above her v-neck blouse. Her lips are glossy and red and her eyes rimmed with black. She is still beautiful.
Your eyes move down her body to the small hands that rest on the table, one curled around the stem of her glass the other lying flat beside her empty plate. She is not wearing her wedding ring.
“Where is your ring?” you ask, swallowing a lump of something that tasted like fear but could have been indifference.
She looks at you and smiles. “I’m having it cleaned.”
“Oh.” You knew it would be something like that. You’ve known this woman forever.
till my hand shook with the way I fear
You never expected him to notice the absence of your ring. You gave him a typical, practical excuse. You do not know what he would say if you told him you could not remember where it was. For a moment you consider telling him it could be under the bed in a cheap motel room where you and your lover spent the afternoon. It would be nice to shock him, to rattle him until that well-composed expression slithered from his face and you saw something akin to emotion there.
He leaves the room after he finishes his wine, and moments later you hear the television switch on and some loud, bawdy sports program begin. You know he’s not paying attention to it at all. Muggle sports don’t interest him, but he chooses to sit in front of the television instead of being in the same room as you where there is a possibility you will want to ‘talk’. Annoyed, you slink away up the stairs and change your clothes. You reapply your gloss and touch up your eyes, swapping the sensible flat shoes for heels.
“Clean the kitchen tonight, please,” you say as you pause in the lounge room door. Habit predisposes you to maintain the politeness in your tone, but you really feel like tearing his eyes out. Anger is hot and bitter and makes you blink, certain he will be able to sense it. You know he would never ask if you are alright and momentarily, you despise him.
He looks up, and his mouth drops, his eyes registering surprise. “Where are you going?” he says.
“Out,” you snap, grabbing your jacket off the wall peg in the hall. He is off the lounge now, and his tall body in the hall with you causes a moment of claustrophobia. He catches your chin in his hand.
You shake yourself free gently, and touch his cheek. “I just want to go out and catch up with some friends. I’m sure you can manage by yourself for one evening.”
“Oh. Okay,” he says, kissing your cheek quickly before turning back to the lounge. “Have fun.”
You scowl at his retreating back and fling open the front door. Your mobile phone is already in your hand and you are dialling his number before you’re even at the gate.
I could possibly be fading
His skin is like fire, his arms like cables that wrap around you, his weight welcoming and his lips a tiny slice of heaven. You never knew it could be this way. Until you met him, loving with your husband was safe. This man was dangerous. He was sex and fire and brilliance and he burnt you the first moment he touched you. He kindled you, brought you roaring into life, the flame that threatened to consume you doused the moment you walked through the front door of your safe existence.
“Do you see me?” you ask him as he kisses his way down your body. He raises his head, catching you in the beauty of his eyes.
“No,” you insist, “I mean, do you really see who I am?”
He stops what he is doing and moves up your body, sliding himself to one side and propping his head on his hand. He rests one leg over yours and his spare hand draws little circles on your tummy. “I do,” he says softly, tenderly. “I see. And, I can hear.”
“You screaming,” he replies, bending his head to nuzzle your collarbone. Your breathing becomes erratic and you struggle to speak.
“You can hear that?” you whimper, suddenly very afraid although you don’t know why. His lips find yours and he kisses you deeply before answering.
“Yes. I’ve heard it in my own ears enough times. Yours is getting louder.” There was slight worry in his tone, and you have never heard that before. You twist your head so you can look at him.
“I’m afraid I’m going to scream until I disappear,” you admit. He smiles and shakes his head, gathering you to him.
“I will never let you.”
Or have something more to gain
“The next time we’re together,” you tell him as he helps you slide your shirt over your head. He takes the opportunity to plant kisses on your belly. “I want it to be in my bed.”
He stops and stares at you and you know you have never made such a bold statement to him before. You can feel the blush spreading across your cheeks but you lift your chin to show him how serious you are.
“Why?” he asks, helping you find your shoes. You reach out and brush a lock of blonde hair from his face, feeling the smoothness of the skin on his jaw. He is always clean shaven and like silk under your hands. You kiss him.
“It’s not a good idea,” he warns, kissing you back. “What if...”
“I want to get caught,” you whisper against his mouth, feeling him stiffen instantly. “I don’t want to pretend anymore. You said you can hear the screaming? I’m almost deaf from it. The only way I will ever have the courage to walk out of my life and into a new one is if I have something to walk away from and something to walk too.”
He is silent for a long time and you wonder if you have blown everything. “That does not make much sense,” he says eventually, lightly, as if trying to brighten your mood.
“It makes all the sense in the world,” you tell him, stroking his cheek with the back of your knuckles, “if you are the thing I have to walk towards.” You hold your breath while he contemplates your words. You have never discussed something so final with him before. It is always fast and quick, moments stolen from reality, and you still do not know how he really feels about you. In a year you have never asked. You have always just yearned.
He kisses you again, so deep and hard it’s almost a violent action. Panting, his lips touch your ear and for a moment the screaming stops while you strain to hear his whisper.
I could feel myself growing colder
You make manacles around her wrists and pin her to the wall. Her answering smirk makes your stomach turn. There is nothing that you can do that will dissuade this woman. You let her go and walk away.
“What is wrong with you?” she asks, all venom and spite. She does not even care for you, you realise suddenly and wonder how you could have missed it before. You shake your head. Ice creeps along your veins and settles over the place where your heart lies. You feel it beat once, and then it is silent.
“I don’t need you anymore,” you tell her and watch as her face screws up in indignation. “I have my wife.”
“Correction,” she says, sauntering towards you on dangerously pointy heels. “You had your wife. You don’t have her anymore. You have me and I am all you need. I am all you will ever need.”
She runs a fingernail down your cheek. She has been ice longer than you. She has had more practice. “Would you like me to leave marks for her to see? Do I need to brand you as mine?”
Her mouth closes over yours and you react as you usually do. You are weak. You always suspected you were a coward and now you know for sure. You let her peel the shirt from your chest and dig her claws in deeper.
You’d been branded long ago. You only ask that she lets you home in time for dinner.
I could feel myself under your fate
There is nothing but a sense of pure pleasure as you draw him down beside you in the bed you share with your Husband. You have taken to thinking of the word as deserving of a capital letter. It has become a proper noun. The word has been nothing but a title kept on the mantel, wedding pictures like trophies to show your friends and family. You are certain he is as miserable as you and you want it to end.
Naked you are languid and soft under his hands. You have dressed the bed in the best sheets – it will be the star performer in this morbid show. You only hope he, Husband, is smart enough to understand it. You do not want tears or tantrums. You do not want wands drawn, blood spilt or fists flying.
His lips are on your body, his hands in your hair and you close your eyes and let it ride. Let fate take the reins and show you what She wills. You’ve been waiting long enough. You can feel your truth underneath your skin, itching and begging to be released. You sigh and claw at his back, your ears rewarded with a groan that tells you this moment is as monumental to him as it is to you.
The screaming has stopped. You are no longer fading. He has helped paint you into existence.
Under your fate
A trail of clothing like breadcrumbs leads you up the stairs to the bed you share with her. As you walk your feet kick up dust from the carpet in the upstairs hall. The bedroom door is open. You can hear before you can see and you know already what lies in wait for you.
The deepest shock is not seeing her naked back or his hands on her hips. It is seeing his face. It hits you like a punch, knocking the air from you so that you gasp and alert them to your presence. You feel dirty, like you have been witnessing something you should not have seen, because the woman in the bed with the man you swore to hate even after his retribution is definitely not your wife.
You have not seen such passion or fire in her movement for a long time. This woman is a stranger.
She is not embarrassed and you realise suddenly that this was a show for your benefit. She is too smart to allow herself to be carelessly caught. You can hear her telling him to wait for her. Anger spurts hot and violent desires in you. If you weren’t afraid of the consequence you’d kill them both and bury their bodies in the backyard. Instead, atrophy has taken control of your limbs, your senses and your ability to speak.
What right do you have to feel anyway? There is no right. There is no wrong. There is only silence and ice.
It was you breathless and tall
You stand in the doorway and watch as he pulls on his shirt. He does not bother to button it fully. He leaves a glimpse of chest exposed for you to compare too; for you to store in your memory and pull up later when you are standing angry in front of the mirror and bemoaning your faults. His skin is pale and looks like silk. Hair falls gracefully over one eye, so light and soft it does not look real. You resist the urge to touch your own hair, to feel the texture under your fingers. To compare.
She lies with her face buried on the bed, her hair fanned out against the pillows. You can smell her perfume in the air and you close your eyes on the scent. He pushes past you without a word and you know you should draw your wand or lift your fist and smash it into his face like a jealous partner would, but you cannot be bothered.
You are over.
I could feel my eyes turning into dust
He stands numb in the doorway. You can see it from where you lie. You can see his face through your curtain of hair as you roll over, taking pains to keep the sheet wrapped around your body. You do not wish for him to see you naked, as strange as it seems. He has seen you naked before, but this time is different.
The word sorry dances around the tip of your tongue but you cannot let it out. He says it for you.
“What?” you ask, stunned as he wanders into the room and sits at the foot of the bed. He does not look at your face.
“I drove you to this,” he says simply. You begin to shake your head, wanting to reassure him even though you are going to leave him. Your hand reaches out towards him but he shifts away, as if he can sense it. “You need to know.”
“Know what?” You are confused. You reach around on the floor for your silken robe, the one he gave you last Christmas. His back is to you still but you can see his face in the reflection from the mirror on the dresser. You can see yourself too; hair wild and loose and tumbling down your body. Your eyes are wide and rimmed in sadness, your cheeks still flushed from the ecstasy you had been riding before he came home and crashed your party.
He turns to look at you then, and a tiny smile plays around the edge of his mouth.
And two strangers turning into dust
Before you can tell her, you notice a bag lying at the foot of the bed. A suitcase. You recognise it. It is the one she carried her things in when you moved in together for the first time. It brought her into your life and now, poetically, it will take her out.
You laugh and she scrambles off the bed, anger in her eyes and suddenly you are angry. You just found her with her lover, with a man you despise more than anything else in the world. With a man whose eyes you would like to remove so he can never witness anything beautiful again. So he can never look on her again. Your fists clench.
“It’s too late to be possessive,” she says quietly, tying the silk robe tightly around her body. She slips her feet into a pair of heels. “You let me go a long time ago.”
You relax. You nod. “I did.”
You watch through the mist and the dust of regret that floats through the room as she places one hand on the suitcase, her fingers curling as she pulls it upright and to her side. She sweeps the hair from her face with her spare hand, and looks at you.
“Why did you let me go? What happened to us?” Her voice is sorrowful and for a second you want to throw yourself on the ground at her feet and beg her to forgive you. There is a look in her eyes that tells you she knows everything. She is so smart you wonder why you thought you could hide it from her in the first place.
“I’m sorry,” you whisper, spreading your hands in a gesture of defeat. There is nothing more that can be done. “You’re going to be with him?”
“He makes me happy,” she replies, moving towards you with the case in one hand. She smiles slightly and reaches up and touches your cheek as she does every morning. You close your eyes and can smell her perfume. Outside, the night is lashed with rain. Lightning streaks across the sky. You know he is outside waiting for her and you sigh and nod, opening your eyes and twisting away from her hand. Her smile fades and then she shrugs, turning and walking through the door and out of your life. There is no energy in you to fight for her and you know you have no right to her anyway.
You cross to the window and look down into the yard. A sleek black car waits by the curb. You see her rushing across the grass, her case in one hand, her hair flowing behind her. The rain has stopped. The door to the car opens and he climbs out, his skin brilliant in the darkness, the blonde of his hair gleaming. You cannot close your eyes and you force yourself to watch as he folds her in his arms, his hand catching her chin and tipping her head so he can kiss her.
Before she climbs into the car, she turns and looks up at the window where you are watching. You see her hand flutter, lift and then drop. Her face screws up in consternation. Her mouth opens and you can read her lips even from the distance.
Turning into dust