She had been squalling all day. A quiet irritation and restlessness had lent an edge to her demeanour. He had noticed it as he put the cup of tea down on the table that it would build and burn her out, then exhaust her. He could ignore it, but he saw how it hurt her and wanted to do something about it. She lived in the perpetual state of warring impulses, defended by rejection with the weapons made from her own fears, abandonment. Peace and resources, touch and thought. Meditation and prayer. He saw all this and loved her, anyway. She was not his, but it was his turn.
The responsibility stirred him. She picked up the pencil and continued to sketch. Another issue of their comic book, working from his script but her pencils and inks. Last month, they had gone to the movie premiere and laughed at how surreal it felt to see the late-night conversations come alive on the screen. He loved her work and had finished the script for the next issue, then sat at the kitchen table and watched her work as he rolled another cigarette.
She caught him looking at her.
‘What?’ she said.
Her voice was sharp.
He watched her face as he lit his cigarette and sat back in his chair.
‘You’ve been restless all morning.’ he said.
She rolled her eyes and shook her head.
‘I’m not looking to define it but just acknowledging it is there.’ he said.
She huffed and returned her attention to the page. He picked up his coffee and drank, then took a puff on his cigarette, which made his head swim with nicotine as he watched her. He could have gone home, which was a gordian knot approach to take, but he enjoyed her. She was a test as much as a celebration. Most of the time, he watched her like the weather and dressed his soul according to what the sky of her predicted.
It looked like rain this afternoon.
He put the cigarette out and went to the sink, washed his hands and dried them as he turned and looked at her.
‘I think you’re being a brat.’ he said.
There was a playfulness to his voice which made her look up and pout. Her eyes narrowed and she set the pencil down.
‘No, I’m not. I just get like this sometimes. It’s not you.’
He walked over to her and shook his head.
‘I know it’s not. But I know it needs addressing.’ he said.
She fought the slight smile which burst on her lips like a sunrise. He tamped down his own pleasure in seeing the unspoken assertion of her playing along. Her depths were something he enjoyed, and no matter what else was going on between them, they played well together.
‘Oh, does it now?’ she said.
‘Yes, it does. Now I have a responsibility to deal with it,’ he said.
She turned her head and pouted. He reached his right hand, palmed her jaw and splayed his fingers across her cheek. He felt her smile vibrate down into his hand as he turned her head towards him. There was no force in it, but there was power, easy and calm as she looked at him, pouting with a playful irritation.
She grunted and tried to turn her head but he held her firm, grimacing as he put his other hand at the back of her head and gripped her hair hard enough to make her draw breath.
‘Stand up.’ he said.
She pushed the chair back and he pulled her hair again, made her gasp before she pouted and tried to pull away.
‘I’ve been good, haven’t I?.’ she said.
He shook his head and squeezed her jaw between his fingers as he stared at her.
‘I decide that.’ he said.
She smiled, breaking character for a moment, and he grinned before returning to an expression of brooding imperiousness. The delicacy of the pleasure he took was in its control. His heart thumped in his chest as he let go of her and took her left arm by the wrist.
He walked her to the living room and let go.
‘I want you to stand in the corner and think about how you’ve behaved.’ he said.
She rewarded his attention with watching the delicious micro-conflict. The missed notes played often enough to become phrases in the symphony of her. She shuddered with delight as she lowered her head.
‘That’s not fair.’ she said.
He sighed and pointed towards the corner.
‘Do as you’re told.’ he said.
She snarled and turned away. He reached out and took her by the wrist and walked her to the corner, then put his hand on the small of her back, underneath her sweater and guided her into the corner.
‘How long for?’ she said.
He leaned over and whispered in her ear.
‘Every time you ask, it gets longer.’ he said.
She giggled and straightened up, put her hands by her side and pouted.
‘OK.’ she said.
He got his coffee and brought through an ashtray and his pouch of tobacco, sat on the couch and rolled a cigarette. The air sung with tension but he absorbed it, letting the incipient vibration gather strength in the pit of his stomach. Looking at her was a pleasure and she moved her hips from side to side, knowing the thrill it gave them both.
‘Don’t fidget.’ he said.
He lit the cigarette and made her wait for the time it took him to smoke it.
‘I’m not.’ she said.
He chuckled and watched her. The burn in his lungs from the cigarette mingled with the slow build of his arousal. She stood in the corner, trembling in silence, and when he crushed the cigarette out in the ashtray, he stood up and walked over to her.
She turned around, but he told her to stay still. His voice was thick, a growl from his belly. They spoke a language of playful restraint and tension, and for all its art, it was a primal state of grace between them.
He walked over to her and brought his arms around her from behind. His right hand rested on her stomach whilst his left hand came up and cupped her chin in his hand. She pressed back against him, found him hard and ready as she pushed her backside into his crotch, revelling in the hot squeeze of his arms around her. His breath was warm against her cheek.
‘Have I been good?’ she said.
He grunted and slipped his right hand under the waistband of her cotton pants and stroked the crotch of her panties. There was a warmth seeping through the cloth and he petted it with his fingertips. She sighed and pushed back again. He grunted and turned her head, brushed his lips against hers which made her give a small moan from the back of her throat.
He plucked her underwear to one side and opened her with his fingers. She sighed as he pressed his index finger into the liquid heat of her, testing the unspoken assertion of her mood with a small circle which made her groan.
Their lips danced and played with one another as he stroked her in small circles. She brought her arm around behind her, urged him closer as though she could push him into her. He bucked back and she softened. He came forward, keeping the rhythm of his fingers constant and focused as her arousal soaked his fingertips. Each stroke expressed delicious, deliberate friction, and they built upon one another. She pulled her mouth away from his, and her eyes were heavy-lidded with pleasure.
‘Can I come?’ she said.
He smiled and shook his head. His fingers found a spot which made her gasp and lean forward, palms to the wall as she squeezed out a plea for permission.
‘No.’ he said.
She shuddered and whimpered as she pulsed over his fingers. She pleaded with him and he denied her, knowing the anticipation was becoming unbearable and revelling in the power of being able to test her through his actions and their consequences.
After her third request, he put his mouth to her ear and made her ask him again. She babbled through it, shaking with the war she was fighting, on the tightrope of an ecstasy which he took as his due. His fingers were a silken magic trick between her thighs and it was all she could do to hold on.
He told her yes, and she cried out as she clutched for him. She pressed herself against him as she hollered through the pulsing spasms of propulsive delight, her skin alive with the crackling wonder of her orgasm. She felt, rather than thought, went into the place within where his hands and body, his words spun her into playful paroxysms of feeling. When the spasms subsided, they held one another in the corner. She kissed him all over his face, gasping and sighing as he enjoyed the febrile waves of heat coming off her. He petted her between her thighs, painting up her navel with her own juices as they kissed and murmured to one another.
‘I feel so much better now.’ she said.
He kissed her on the forehead.
‘Good.’ he said.
She glanced up at him and smiled as she stroked his face.
‘Thank you. I will get those pages finished. You can get the washing in.’ she said.
He grimaced and asked her why. She smiled and kissed him again.
‘It looks like rain.’ she said.