The tilt of the mattress roused her a second time, the structures in William's shoulders hissing faintly as they rotated, allowing him to bend and press his lips to either of the half-moon dimples in the small of her back. He lay down on top of her, setting his head in the crook of her neck.
“Get off me or I'll wet the fucking bed.” she groaned, unwilling to relinquish her pellucid monopoly. “My arse feels like a mashed banana.”
He moved his hips against the afflicted region, enjoying its tempting, cushioned amplitude.
"Seems perfectly normal.” he smiled. Susan rolled over beneath him, though she kept her pillow to her face to exclude all possibility of daylight, complaining when he pushed it back over her forehead with his nose. Her dark eyes wore a smoky margin of fugitive mascara. She squeezed them shut, pressing her lips together to contain a smile while he licked her chin.
“You’re not allowed to look at me til half past ten.”
"It’s half past two.”
Glancing at him finally, she reached back for her pillow, sighing through it.
“Why don’t you look all seedy and hungover?”
“I thought that’s how I always looked.”
“You look like a virgin... baby... daisy.” she told him wearily, lifting handfuls of his hair over his head, daylight falling through it in glowing, rose-red fractions. “What are you going to do now there's no icecream on the horizon?” He replied with an indolent kiss, drawing on her tongue then sliding back onto his knees, his mouth dwelling on her breasts, either side of her ribcage and navel in a descent that concluded between her thighs, which lay in careless dissociation.
“I think it starts with C.”
"It should start with F for fatal, because I'm going to have a heart attack if you do that one more time..." She sucked in a breath, feet curling tightly on the sheets as she covered her face with her hands and then lapsed into inertia, his attentions possessing both the private comforts of her own hand and a stranger's unimagined expertise. It took a long while for a distant noise to distract her, intruding intermittently between her whispered exclamations until she opened her eyes. “William..." she murmured. "Something’s overflowing.”
He turned his face against her leg and listened, pondering her enigmatic statement before rising to his feet and hurrying back to the bathtub that had begun to disgorge water onto the white floor tiles.
“Stay in there.” she called, lifting her arms together and laying them back on the mattress as she listened to his immersion, the aqueous notes rippling along the ceiling like reflected sunlight and tipping the balance against her boneless sloth. Slowly she rolled to the edge of the bed, groaning all the way, a quick survey of the floor reminding her that she had left her best underwear in the Japanese garden.
The bathtub barely contained his louche entirety, its water threatening the lip of the enamel; Susan grimaced at her own reflection in the cabinet mirror, sitting down on the edge of the bath at his insistence and warning him sternly against temptation though the water flew up over the tiled wall and slopped onto the floor as the caution was disregarded.
"It's freezing!" she shrieked.
"I know." he laughed, winding his arms about her until she swore softly and grew still, forget-me-not blue bleeding from her hair into the water. Its cool acceptance of her weight began to ease the grainiest aspects of her hangover, and silence settled, her body warming a shallow gradient around her, the surface rising and falling slowly with her breathing. William touched his toe to the spout to prevent the drip intruding on the hollow, peaceful rhythm until she turned to lie with her face against his neck, closing her eyes. "Christabel..." he said quietly, after an interval. "How do you like strange?"
"It's alright." she murmured. Her fingers found and followed the figures on his back, the water an intimate liaison, allowing a new appreciation of the work that was so strange a marriage of art and living flesh. "It tastes nice." she added, contemplative. He felt a question move her before she had drawn the breath to ask it.
“My name is Sachiin.” he confided, smiling at the sound of it in her mouth as she lifted her head, her inability to correctly direct the sinuous vowels drawing her gaze to his and soliciting guidance. “Two syllables is perfectly alright.”
Susan spoke both of his names twice over.
"Which one should I call you?"
"Ça m'est égal. I'm used to both."
"I think you're still William to me." she confessed, growing still again. The pheasant peered through the doorway and strutted over the tiles to sip from the puddle at the foot of the tub, tipping back its head to swallow. "How do you like normal?"
"That wasn't really the word I was thinking of..." he smiled, sucking in a breath as she bit his neck. "It's magnificent..." he added swiftly, squeaking tautly when she reached between his legs.
Chuckling, Susan wrinkled her nose at the sight of the skin puckering the ends of her fingers and tapped her toes against his shins, signaling an impatience that eventually hauled her free of the tub. With a towel tucked around her waist she stood before the basin, pulling out its single drawer and rifling its contents, finding a bundle of strange, pale, withered roots, a bar of clove soap, a silver veterinary implement and a heavy-bladed knife, selecting the first item and holding it beneath her nose.
“Licorice roots.” His reply did nothing to mitigate their mystery. “For cleaning your teeth.” He mimed the action to clarify their mystery. “You chew them.”
William pulled a reluctant face, and she waited, examining the implement herself.
“Orthodontic pliers.” She shuddered and returned them to the drawer. He slid beneath the water briefly, looking back to her as he re-emerged with eyes swept by the action of their glassy haws.
“There's that thing... god, that’s well creepy...” she observed as she bent down at the side of the bath and scrutinized him with a conflicted fascination. His fingers emerged from the water and slid up over the edge to touch her chin in his peculiarly affecting way, a hundred words enfolded in the gesture. "You do look like a Sachiin." she sighed, letting the word slide through her teeth. “And you can start teaching me the rest of it. I hate not knowing when to butt in.”
“You don’t want to go round talking like a hillbilly snakeface Christabel, believe me. We don’t win popularity contests.”
“Really? A lot of people seem to want to do things to you.”
“It’s not the same thing.”
“Well...” she sighed again, looking around. “I can’t deal with the sight of myself for much longer so I think I’ll go back to my room and have a bloody lie in.”
“I’ll come up later and help you move your stuff.”
“Move my stuff where?”
“Here. I’m moving you down here, in there, with me." She set her hands on her hips, and William shrugged. “You just bought the cow, cloudcheeks. You fucked me, now you have to marry me. It’s in the bible... Colostomy ten, verse sixty nine.”
Susan laughed and leant against the door frame.
"I was sort of thinking that I might just want to um... use you for sex?” she suggested. “You only want me down here so I’ll clean up after you.”
“I’ll hire a maid. Know anyone hot?” He laughed at his own drollery. "Poupée... I can do monogamy. I've been practising."
"Monogamy reminds me of mahogany which reminds me of sideboards which reminds me of shrimp paste sandwiches and lollies stuck together in a bowl." she smiled. "And promising never to have sex with anything else ever again is the easiest thing in the world after fucking your brains out for twelve solid hours... my brains are as fucked as the rest of me, and yours probably are too, so it's not really the time to be talking about it."
"You're not... into exclusivity?"
She folded her arms in reply to his diffidence.
"William, you're a slapper. I don't actually mind that... it's sort of part of your charm, and I don't want to be the girl who bottles you in nightclubs because you've got your tongue stuck in something else."
"I think we should keep it biblical." he asserted, examining a thumbnail.
"How about don't ask, don't tell?"
"Biblical. For now. We'll review the policy going forward." She rolled around the doorframe into the bedroom. “You’re losing precious packing time.” he called after her. Susan marched to the bed and flung herself down, dragging the sheet over her head.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce