Maria’s Feather Wings

When Professor Darius Poirier gazed upon his wife, he was still enchantingly bedazzled by her, as intensely as the first day he had laid eyes on her. She roused a myriad of desires in him; an authoritative compulsion to protect her like a father, a vulnerable tenderness of adoration, and a fathomless passion which circled like a halo around her body and vanished into the paleness of her breast. 

He vividly remembered the first day he had noticed her; sitting by herself in the shade on the most isolated table at a restaurant. It does not happen every day that a man observes a woman drinking out of a champagne bottle- and with what dexterity and agility! The light breeze blew on her hair so that she would often delicately brush shiny locks away from her eyes and behind her ear. He would often see her there, sitting on the same table reading a different novel every time; entirely oblivious to the outside world and to the hearts she would capture in her isolation. The shade seemed to fall on the same corners of her nose and neck and the faint sunlight illuminated the tiny pearl studs in her ears, adding a luminescent glow to her skin. She appeared as celestial as a princess captured in a painting, enfolded by a mystical and elusive air of charm and mystery; the shade of her iridescent skin mingling decorously with the background colours of an auroral city. The only indication of her mortality was the tenderness in her eyes shielded by her trembling eyelashes; the expression that varied depending on  the emotions evoked by her novels. He had even caught the glimpse of a diamond tear falling delicately down her cheek, and at that moment he had known as clearly as he knew he was going to die one day, that he would have to meet this woman. 

She turned out to be as passionate as he had imagined a compulsive reader to be; the heroine in each novel he had so fervently read. He was overwhelmed by the variousness of her moods, her impulsivity and contradictory dreams; she appeared to want everything from life, express enthusiasm over every insignificant thing and seek happiness in her illusive faith and imagination. Her temperament appeared almost bi-polar; a nature more dramatic than aesthetic, and she rejected anything that didn’t satisfy her heart’s desire with painstaking immediacy. She loved the sky for it’s tempests, and suffered at the slightest lack of fulfilment or action. All her vices only strengthened his admiration and adoration, and he saw her as a work of art; he had never been more proud of anything than announcing she would become his wife. 

Maria Kicinski Poirier had seen it as a work of faith when one day a gallant gentleman approached her table and asked to join her for a meal. They had bonded over a passion for literature and reading. She had been fascinated and beguiled by his degree in Law and goals to enter the world of Academia. He appeared like a prince trotting towards her on a white horse, ready to rescue her and lead her towards her aspired fairy-tale ending. They would often sit side by side in silence as both of them devoured the same novel, and would later share their often contradictory opinions. He was deemed to be knowledgable, and she admired the kindness in his face. She surprised herself at the thrill of rapture she experienced when he declared his love for her and asked for her hand in marriage. He was an experienced and passionate lover, contradictory to the calmness of his demeanor outside the bedroom; a stability almost unnaturally tranquil. 

Their life slowly reached a serene stability when they moved in together and he took a job as University professor. The routine of their new life aroused a comfortable intimacy which progressively brought them closer to one another, evoking a peculiar detachment in her. She was incredibly calm and serene; an apathetic lack of emotion which appeared to merely expose the acquired stability of married life. Darius observed and admired this new equanimity in her spirit, interpreting it as a sign of maturity fuelled by adoration and reverie. 

Sometimes Maria was surprised in noticing her husband’s ponderous tranquility; he seemed to desire nothing, or possess no inciting passions. What she had previously observed as ambition, now appeared to have been a misconception; her husband had reached the peek of his happiness in settling for a mediocre job and carrying out the same routine, as long as he could spend eternity in her presence. 

She sometimes felt like her life was an endless process of anticipation; as though she were patiently subconsciously waiting for something she could not pinpoint. In this process she did not suffer or question any aspect of her life; this unsettling serenity was interpreted by her as joy. She felt pangs of hypocrisy as she read her novels of passion and devotion, but could not decipher this bitterness in her soul.

One auspicious evening as Maria sat on the couch expecting her husband’s arrival, she was startled by mumbled voices emanating from the entrance. She could distinguish her husband’s voice and a more hushed one she did not recognize. The angelic caress of dusk was hesitantly filtering through the windows and the faint smell of chicken roast radiated from the kitchen; nothing foreshadowed a change in routine. She heard her husband whisper to the ominous stranger and watched him approach her. “My dear, I hope you don’t mind me bringing home one of my most excellent students. I promised I would give him tutoring since he has an important exam to prepare for. Do you mind if we use the dining room?” Maria shrugged, smiling approvingly and rushing to prepare some tea. Her lips were unnaturally dry and her hands cold; she felt she could benefit from a warm drink herself. As soon as the kettle boiled, she hesitantly carried the tray to the dining room, opening the door with the point of her right toe. She glanced over at the unfamiliar person sitting at the table, somehow taken aback by this unknown presence.

Under the lambency of opalescent lights his face emanated a prismatic whiteness the colour of porcelain, almost unnatural. Maria observed in acquiescent reticence, unable to detach her eyes from that sacrosanct paleness. She hesitantly approached the table, fighting against the incipient inertia enfolding her limbs. The porcelain tea cups trembled to the tremor of her hands as she placed the tray on the table opposite him; boiling streams of thick liquid poured out of the cup and onto the black tray. He did not look up from the book he was reading. 

“Ah, Thank you my darling,” uttered Darius, oblivious to the pallor that now plagued her features. “Richard this is Maria, my wife. You like tea, do you Richard?” He finally lifted his head and met her forlorn gaze, his sky blue eyes breaking into a polite grin. He was now entirely revealed to her yearning eyes; prominent cheekbones framed his emaciated face; a body so slim for his tall frame that he appeared as breakable as glass. Maria quivered, her groin aflame. “ I- I am so sorry I spilled the tea. This is so usual of me to always make a mess. It has to happen at least once every meal, you know. Look what a mess!” She let out a trembling laugh that was released like a gush of wind. He eyed her playfully and as slow and graceful as the blooming of a white rose, his thin pursed lips blossomed into a smile so splendid it made her legs weaken. “It is good then that we got the spilling over with for today!” he said; a coquettish glimmer in his eyes. His veiny and robust hands as red as fire looked so misplaced against the pallor of his angelic features. She noticed the wrinkles under his eyes as he smiled, and the blinding whiteness of his unnaturally straight teeth. What was this undecipherable accent of his; his voice as lyrical as the sweet chant of a nightingale. She smiled; her cheeks now adorned with a rosy complexion, the kiss of desire and awe. 

“Where are you from? Your accent does not seem familiar.” She longed for him to keep speaking, to utter nonsense, to erupt in a frenzied stream of consciousness she could ardently cling to. 

“I am from Luxembourg!” he exclaimed, charismatically, curling his fingers around the cup. “My accent really does not make much sense. It must be a mixture of German, Luxembourgish, and God-knows what else.” He spoke with voluptuous dexterity and charisma; his declamatory eloquence tinged with the wiseness of a senior, as if he had the power of speech in his blood; as if he had been born uttering verses of poetry. 

“Richard is a very hard-working Law student.” Darius interrupted, his presence so misplaced and foreign. Richard rolled his eyes. “I must be the only student who actually enjoys Business Law!” he grinned through diamond teeth. Maria was so beguiled and ravished by the fluency of that divine voice, the pallor of that skin as lustre as satin, that she could have stood there for days; as stiff as stone and quivering like a leaf. She was bewitched by those penetrating eyes that concealed infinite and glorious blue skies, and there she floated, unable to move an inch. She observed the angelic twirl of his golden curls as they wrapped around the navy collar of his polo shirt; they beamed like gold under the sun. With as much composure as she could manage, she bowed her head in salute; her eyes lingering on him as she tiptoed away as light as a feather. 

An unfamiliar transfixing thrill surged through her as she entered her bedroom and locked the door. She observed herself in the mirror and was stunned by her own face; never had she looked so beautiful; her eyes as black as coal like a deer’s, and as furtive as a fox’s. They appeared mesmerizing with their mystical glow, sparkling like diamonds with a daunting intensity that conceals the euphoria and insanity of enlightenment. Waves of lust and insurgency stirred inside her; she felt as pure as a virgin, and as agile as a newborn mockingbird. She savoured these enticing new sentiments, absorbing this fever of happiness she had desperately craved. Like a flower she felt herself blossoming to life as if a second puberty and birth had come upon her. She slipped off her clothes which fell to the floor like petals and lay on the white covers of her matrimonial bed observing her naked body. She had never before cherished so much the silkiness of her skin and the crimson blush of the areolas encircling the protruding timid eyes of her nipples. She untied the loose silk ribbon in her hair, letting the lustrous locks fall delicately upon her pale breasts as they trembled in the twilight breeze. The moon rose between the branches of pear trees beyond the billowing curtains of her window. Under the immaculate luminosity of the moon reflected on the sky of her iridescent skin, she looked as immortal as a porcelain doll; the light defined her soft curves adding a shimmering, immortal glow to her olive-skin. The divine splendour of sentiment glittered under her eyelids; the glimmer that emanates from triumph, passion and reverie. Her cheeks were stained with a rosy blush as the flames in her groin billowed and groaned among the sumptuous fervency of her fertility. 

Her existence till this very moment appeared vague in her reminiscence; memories like shadows, as misty as illusions. It felt as though her soul had been trapped in the confinements of a plastic doll; she had been living in lethargy, oblivious of the realm of possibilities, voluptuous pleasures and relishes that lay beyond. Now that she savoured the taste of freedom and euphoria she was powerless to comprehend how she had lived in a prison for all these years. It was as though she had been locked in the abyss of a well;  she had learned to seek consolation in the sombre darkness, equanimity in the soothing drops of waters, and thrills in the undecipherable daunting sounds in the mist of the distance. Her consciousness had surrendered to a state of apathy she had naively mistook for stability, relinquishing the myriad of emotions she had so ardently read and fantasized about in her novels. The rays of light had finally filtered through the tunnel and the sun was hers. The taste of rapture enfolded her blood and loins and she lay in peaceful bliss savouring her rebirth like an angel. Out of a sensuous stoicism it almost gave her a perverted thrill to savour the acidity and torpor that had been her past, so as to indulge more intensely in the anticipated zest of her imminent bliss. 

The arrival of Richard had added colour to her existence and a motive to glide sanguinely towards the auspicious future ahead. It was with a smile that she greeted the morning sunshine filtering through her curtains at dawn, and the prospect of an awakening new day had never brought her so much rapture. She was up and about even before her husband had taken his morning shower; she chanted and swirled like a ballerina in her apron while preparing the morning coffee and adorned her ears with cherries. It was for him that she engraved her nails each morning, sprinkled her skin with creams and perfumes, and brushed her hair till it was as silky as velvet. All the vases in the house now cherished the splendour of a dozen white roses which sparkled in anticipation of Richard’s possible arrival, like a mistress awaiting a prince.  

Darius approvingly admired her as she sat across from him at breakfast; her elbows on both sides of her plate holding her face with such delicacy and femininity. Her vaporous eyes twinkled with an eerie tranquility and delight, engrossed in her fantasies and daydreams. “You are very beautiful these days,” he told her with an appreciative nod of his head. If he had suspected in any way of her transformation he had not so much as blinked an eye to expose it, or perhaps had subconsciously attributed it towards himself. He walked out of the house with his suitcase and shiny cravat; tall and robust glided the narcissistic fool, carrying with him the smell of roses. 

She lived in expectant and impatient delirium; shuddering at even the faintest sound of footsteps and savouring even the most astringent of aches. 

One windy afternoon as Maria listened to the billowing trees and the brisk breeze that trembled the windows, she was startled by a knock at the door. She could make out the faint sound of Darius in the shower upstairs; thick drops of water that fell like rain. She opened the door to be faced with the piercing eyes of Richard. He must have perceived the look of bewilderment in her features, for he narrowed his eyes and raised an eyebrow in an inquisitive expression. “I hope I did not mistaken the day? I was convinced Mr. Poirier was expecting me today?” He looked down at his watch; his robust hands hanging like a delicious fruit on a tree. “I am sure he was, do come in! He must have forgotten. He should be down shortly. Come this way, sit down on the couch. May I get you anything to drink? Tea? Water?” She led him into the living room, erratically waving her hands as she spoke, suppressing tension. Richard smiled; his eyes expressing warm affection.

“No thank you. I always concentrate better on an empty stomach.” Maria sat across from him, unable to meet his eyes and at the same time entirely powerless to avert her stare from his magnificent features. 

“Darius tells me you are a very passionate student. He does not give tutoring often,” she stammered.

“I try! I have always pushed myself to work hard and expand my horizons..”

“Inspiring, really. You are so young, so driven. It is evident in your expression you have a story”

“Well, I had an unconventional childhood, to say the least. Grew up with a single mother, on a duck farm.” He sat on the velvet couch, slowly resting his arms on his lap.

“A duck farm?” she asked, surprised. “That sounds interesting. How was that like?”

“It was a unique experience. My mom worked tirelessly to provide for me, juggling the farm work and raising me. It was not always easy.”

She smiled gently, “She must be an incredible woman.”

“Oh, she is,” he said with a nod. “She taught me so much about life, hard work, and perseverance.”

“But it must have been tough, being raised by a single mother and living on a farm.”

He paused, considering her question. “There were times when I wished for a more ‘normal’ upbringing, but looking back, I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. They shaped me into the person I am today. Besides, there was so much beauty in that simple life.”

“What was your favourite memory from those days?” she asked, intrigued.

He smiled, recalling his childhood. “It’s hard to choose just one, but I remember spending hours by the pond, watching the ducks swim and interact. I remember always wanting to be like them. These fascinating creatures, equipped with the gift of wings, appeared to me a testament to the beauty of nature and the concept of freedom. Wings, a marvel of nature’s engineering; the way they enable ducks to navigate the skies, transcending the boundaries of land and water. They are a symbol of limitless possibilities, representing the power to explore and seek new horizons. They were my inspiration to fly, to make a new life for myself.”

Maria stared in awe, not daring to say a word. Her pupils urged him to continue.

“Freedom is not only evident in the ducks’ ability to traverse diverse environments but also in their social behaviour. They form communities, where they work together to protect and support one another. This sense of unity and interdependence reflects a freedom born from cooperation and trust, transcending mere individualism. Their social bonds provide a support system that fosters a sense of security. Ducks epitomise the delicate balance between self-reliance and interconnectedness, demonstrating that true freedom lies in the harmony of both.

As I sat as a child observing these elegant creatures gliding effortlessly across the water or soaring through the sky, I couldn’t help but feel inspired. Ducks taught me the importance of resilience, adaptability, and the power of community. They taught me that with determination and the right mindset, I too could spread my wings and embrace the freedom that awaits. And that is exactly what I did”.

Maria’s glare intensified as a tear made its way down her cold cheek. “I think I understand what incited you to Law. I wonder about your future plans, your dreams and hopes.”

“I have decided to move to the U.S. entirely spontaneously; hopefully will manage to go to New York. That is as far as my interests take me for the time being. The truth is I am not even quite sure what I want to do. I have various interests in my field but still not a solid idea on my future goal. I woke up one morning and realized that I am still curious about many other things apart from Law. I guess I am not ready to settle for the limited knowledge that I acquired till now.” She watched him speak, concentrating on the movements of his mouth and tremor of his lips with every syllable uttered; never had a man seemed so beautiful to her. There was an ethereal candour in his demeanor. She was captured by an indomitable urge to press her lips upon his.

“You will certainly find your way soon enough; that takes time. I am surprised though; I would not be able to perceive your uncertainty. You appear so ambitious and confident, as though you already had your whole life planned out…” Her tone as tender as her frail heart; her eyes solemn and vulnerable in veneration.

“I concluded that I am an avid knowledge seeker; passionate about fathomless knowledge, facts and wisdom; almost compulsively. I think it is fuelled by an innate driving curiosity. Perhaps now that I have graduated and learned all there is to know I remain somehow unsatisfied, and feel I need to get acquainted with something else, which is why I am literally moving location, to find what it is I am looking for I guess.”Each exclamation emanated floods of enthralling charisma.

“I so admire your plans of escaping to the U.S.; such freedom and possibility there. I have always loved America.”

“Yeah, I think it is a good place to escape to with an unknown goal in sight, because there you know you will find many opportunities. Who knows where the future will lead. It is terrifying yet enticing.” She noticed how his hands mapped his facial expression; they lay folded together when his expression was grave and strict, wrapped around an invisible sphere in front of him when pensive, or waved passionately about to expose his enthusiasm. What an enigmatic charmer he was!

“That is the best part of it. You must be very courageous too. I do not know if I would have the courage for that. Are you not going to miss your home?”

“Maybe my fellow flying friends” His glacial eyes darkened and his hands lay neatly on his upper leg.

Maria laughed wholeheartedly. She was overwhelmed; she felt her cheeks blush with merriment. She could have laughed blissfully for eternity. “I did not even know ducks had wings to fly..” she murmured between fits of giggles.

“Of course they have wings. Would they have such freedom otherwise?”

Maria hesitated, her giggles subsiding.

“And what about you?” he asked, narrowing his eyes. His eyes pierced into hers.

“Me? Well, I have too many dreams but not enough courage for action. Maybe I am too sensitive, too fearful of the unknown, of rejection; caught somewhere in my own world. I love ducks too; I wish I had feather wings! As far as career goes, I was as clueless as you, albeit not so rational. I still am, actually. I got carried away with my passion for literature and foolish dreams of writing a novel. I have now possibly read each and every novel in the world, but remain a vulnerable housewife in the bounds of this house,”

“Ah but reading is good! Why give up? You should continue writing; it’s never-”

Darius burst into the room like a volcano, erupting callously on the grounds of a prospering soil. His brutal encroachment was so invasive and unexpected that all the colour drained from Maria’s flourishing cheeks; she fought to suppress impending sobs. She stared awestruck at the shameless intruder as though she were glaring into the eyes of a serpent inexorably annihilating her flower bed. 

“Hello Richard! Forgive me for being so late, I had a dreadfully long day and was in need of a shower. All your books ready so we can jump straight in?”

“Right here, ready when you are!” he exclaimed gallantly. How could he be so selfless and nonchalant and yet appear so superior to her husband? Like a King he stood by Darius eyeing him with a gaze of idolatry and veneration and yet belittling him in both height and elegance. With his books in his arms and his head bent downwards he followed Darius into the dining room without so much as a glance or nod in her direction. She heard the sound of his books as they were placed on the wooden table.

She sat paralysed on the couch stirred by a plethora of indistinct, undecipherable emotions. His words resonated in her mind like an echo as she struggled to link the puzzle pieces and seek validity and reason in the turmoil that consumed her existence. She wondered how a being could emanate such comforting stability and at the same time shield a tantalizing insecurity. What a fascinating melancholy she had perceived in his bearing! There was a fragile tenderness about him that seemed to be encircled by an impervious coldness; like a barrier of ice it only released flickers and fragments of warmth. He appeared so beguiling and appealing, and yet so detached from the outside world; impenetrable. The dichotomy between confidence and confusion that seemed to afflict his being intoxicated her with an ambiguity and concupiscence that weakened her legs and mesmerized her soul. 

Maria found it more difficult with each passing day to succumb to the exasperating treadmill that was her role as Darius’s wife. She lost weight, her face became thinner, her eyes lugubrious and her cheeks lost it’s rosy complexion to be replaced with a yellowish paleness. She now resembled a young girl of twelve or thirteen; so fragile, sad and tender, adorned with an incipient shyness. With each hesitant and silent step, she appeared more and more invisible, as though her presence were only touching the surface of life, not penetrating it. Her frailty almost emanated a mystifying charm; the fascinating charisma of suffering. She was consumed by an unbearable inertia in undertaking her expected daily chores;  even an act as simple as preparing Darius’s dinner arose rage and hostility towards her husband. His presence brought a thick dread in the pit of her stomach every time he so much as passed her by or affectionately rested his hand on her shoulder. Darius gradually took the role of the foe in her mind; she subconsciously attributed the fault to him, cursing him for being an encumbrance and impeding her felicity. She would add too much salt to his meals or sweep the dust under the carpet to release the vengeance that consumed her. These acts stirred a perverse thrill inside of her which she would cherish triumphantly as she sipped a glass of wine by the mantelpiece. 

The more her heart and soul yearned for Richard, the more she loathed Darius; never had her husband seemed so unpleasant to her. Like a snake she watched him with disgust, aware of the perspiration of his skin and the pores that adorned his nose. What had previously drawn her to this man, now repelled her; his protruding eyes, the mole on the left side of his neck, the nauseating scent of his perfume, and the soothing steadiness and tranquility of his voice. Instead of averting her thoughts from the sorrow, she enthralled herself all the more in this consuming animosity; igniting and encouraging her hatred. She would be devoured by acrimony at the slightest disturbance, such as a door half closed or a drop of liquid on the table. The house appeared too cramped and her exasperation often left her panting and struggling to breathe. Her fury grew all the more in scrutinising Darius’s expression to find he had not a single notion of her torment. His serenity and tranquility reflected in his imbecile eyes; his conviction that he was still the source of her happiness enraged her. What an impudent fool he was! The more gentleness he emanated, the more bitterness she felt. She would have preferred a beating from him, a raised voice or any signs of ingratitude-  anything that would allow her to despise him so, with some justice, so that she could lusftfully endeavor in her astringency and righteously seek her revenge. She had to carry on smiling, trying desperately to look happy, almost hearing herself say she was happy as if the mere utterance of it would somehow give it validity. Let him think she was happy! How strange it was that it should give her so much perverted pleasure to despise him and be able to admit it fully; how liberating it felt to encourage such an atrocious passion. She looked down on him, savouring her superiority in knowing what he remained naively oblivious to.  

As they sat on the couch one evening side by side she was struck at how utterly mundane he was. She watched as he devoured a piece of bread, releasing crumbs onto the book he was reading. She was disgusted by his tranquility, his flawless predictability and his certainty. It was repulsive how bare and human he looked succumbing to urges like a beast; his face hideous and his eyes empty. He appeared so serene and confident, not plagued by the tantalizing caress of melancholia, youth and confusion. 

“I cannot believe you are only just reading ‘The Catcher in the Rye’.” she blurted out, pompously. 

“I haven’t come round to it till now, lovely. You know how busy I am all day.” His eyes remained glued to the book as he spoke with amiable tenderness, which infuriated her all the more.

“Yet you boast about being an intellectual, having read all the Classics and knowing more about Literature than I do.” Maria spoke with the capricious insistence of a child; she felt she could have uttered anything to cause a stir, to provoke him.

“You forget I teach Law, not Literature.” His tone did not alter. 

“Although when we met that was what bonded us. Now I see you are more limited than I thought. You might love Literature but you have none of the sensitivity and creativity a reader should possess.”

At this point Darius folded the book and met her fierce gaze. “Maria what is the matter with you? I apologize for not having made time to read this book! May I remind you I work all day, have to correct essays, plan my lectures and still make time for tutoring. Are you on your monthly cycle? Is that the problem? I have never seen you so irritated before.”

Maria cherished the shock and confusion in his eyes. She would have wanted to continue her frenzy till he no longer looked human, till she could spot insanity in his eyes. She felt impelled to praise corruption and immorality; condemn honesty and chastity just to watch him gape at her open-mouthed. Instead, she remained silent and passively released a sigh of helplessness. 

“Yes, I am on my cycle. That is the problem, forgive me. I would not want you to relinquish any of your duties.”

“You should get some sleep, dear. I promise I will do my best to finish this book as soon as possible so as to share my opinion with you. You know it warms my soul to be reading a book that you enjoyed.” The tenderness in his features had returned just as swiftly as it had vanished. He gave her hand an affectionate squeeze before returning to his book in silence. 

The following morning Maria was awoken by the vigorous awakening of a thunderstorm; the brazen drops of rain pounded like gunshots against the feeble glass of her window. Daring gushes of water poured into her room from the creek of the window and audaciously stained the floor. Maria forcefully rushed to close the window; her cream nightdress billowing fervently behind her. On this particular morning the comforting sound of the rain emanated a soothing affectivity and she had an intractable urge to glide outside and let herself be drenched and cleansed by Heaven. 

She watched as Darius slept, undisturbed by the resonant cry of the rain; his chest heaving with every heavy breath. She tiptoed out of her bedroom, into the cold marble entrance and eased herself outside where the air was humid and warm and the rain greeted her ardently. It was like stepping outside of a church; the shivering frost of the marble replaced by the liberating moist of freedom. She sat down on the steps of the porch and let the warm  stream purify her of her lascivious longings. The rain caressed her loose curls and the paleness of her skin was adorned with a pearly shine. Droplets of rain accumulated on her eyelashes like diamonds; one by one they fell onto every eyelash and down her cheeks to be replaced by new droplets as pure and delicate as tears. She sat as immobile and immaculate as a statue; a sight almost like a phantasmagoria of the mind if it weren’t for the silk nightdress which clung to her hardened nipples and waved in the wind. 

Her feet lay as bear as stones under the prismatic shimmer of dawn.

Unbeknownst to her, Darius stood in silence watching her. She had not heard him open the door and step outside; the black umbrella casting an ominous shadow over his fading blonde hair and inquisitive expression. For a moment he watched her in reticence, unable to decipher the cause of surprise and dread in his chest. He wondered for a second whether she had cried or whether she was merely immensely beautiful and bare under the glistening rain; she appeared as foreign and divine as a Goddess or Virgin Mary herself, laying exposed on the lithic steps of a church. The feeling of apprehension and consternation swiftly vanished, and the usual affirmative expression returned to his eyes as he took a few steps towards her. “Maria there you are! In need of a natural shower this morning?” She turned towards him and observed as his lips curled into a sympathetic smile. She pitied him almost, watching him shield himself so ardently from the rain and from his vulnerable denial. 

“Yes, I suppose I was. The rain is so soothing; so relieving.” Her voice was almost a whisper.

“Just be sure not to catch a cold, my dear. I would abhor the image of you in pain. Have a lovely day and remember I will not be coming home for dinner tonight as I have a meeting till late.”

Suddenly Maria was devoured by a strong urge to embrace Darius, to hold his hands and kiss his fingers in remorse. Fragments of love she had once felt for him surged through her for an instant and she beamed with gratitude, reverie and pity all at once, shamed for not being able to love him. She wondered if she were to spring on him and passionately press her lips onto his, pretend to love and desire him just as she desired Richard- if she were to act out all those despicable performances, would his happiness cancel out the guilt in her heart and the sin in her mental adultery? Would she be free of her remorse and the Gods forgiving of her voluptuous transgressions? 

She smiled to him vulnerably, her white teeth gleaming in the iridescent light as the rain slowly subsided and welcomed a timid sun. He walked away from her into the mist, blending with the air and the fog. “If you have a moment of time don’t forget to finish the book!” she called after him helplessly.

She rushed inside, unable to control the hysteria in her groins. Her skin was pale from too many days of starvation, her hands rough and withered, yet her eyes now shone with the voracity of a lion. She was unable to decide precisely where to run, what to do or where to start, but she had the conviction that something was to be done. She was unable to survive one more day in turmoil and longing. This would perhaps be the last opportunity she would ever possess and the only man she would ever desire. The realization of this arose in her a feeling of dread which only bolstered her delirium. She inspected herself in the bedroom mirror, powerless to succumb to the myriad of urges inflaming her bearing. Her slim figure resembled that of a child; she observed the hopelessness in her eyes and the infantile love of an adolescent which was spread adoringly across her features. She suddenly had the urge to reincarnate into a white swan as pure as snow and with lifted wings fly away into the wilderness, suspending the intoxicating splendour of expectation and hope. Perhaps it was the subconscious poignant fear, or the culmination of too many intertwining sensations that led Maria to collapse onto the white quilts of her bed and faint into a serene, unconscious sleep. 

She was awoken by a faint knocking at the door which blended with the soothing murmur of the rain. Maria wondered how long she had slept; caliginous shadows adumbrated an imminent dusk. In hazy disorientation she struggled to get on her feet and glided towards the entrance where the hesitant knocking had ceased. Her bare feet stuck to the cold ground with every gentle step towards the door. The golden door handle had never been as cold as now, as if having persevered a thousand rancorous storms. 

The hefty door slid open like a theatre curtain to reveal the most satisfying sight Maria could have imagined. Not with all the imagination and creativity of the mind could she have conceived and envisioned the sight of him standing opposite her now. The cold wind had turned his face paler than she remembered it; the delicate faintness of light filtering from the living room was the sole source of illumination which, against the atramentous gloom surrounding him, cast an empyral glow to his features. Between the loose collar of his shirt gleamed the whiteness of his neck with all its fragility; his earlobe glimpsed beneath a ringlet of golden hair, darkened by the moist air of twilight. His eyes exposed a gentle weariness under the breeze, and tonight shimmered with a peculiar cognizant consciousness; they had never been more blue.With their celestial intensity they could have shamed the skies. Even as she scrutinised his features with voluptuous yearning and bliss she was devoured by an irritable depravity. Why was even the most meticulous scrutiny of his features not enough to quench her desire and satisfy her being? Would she only then be assuaged by reincarnating into him, by assimilating each and every molecule of his flesh? 

He gaped at her with expectant reticence; his expression imbued with a hint of vulnerability. She led him into the living room as he followed closely behind her; the light daintily spreading across his features and transforming the shade of his complexion. 

“Darius is not here,” she said, avoiding his gaze as she fumbled with the wood in the fireplace. Showing her back to him she watched as the flames devoured the oblivious bricks of wood, adding an immortal shimmer to the opaque room. The flames illuminated every fraction of her body; a strident radiance that penetrated the pores on her pale skin, the rim of her dress, the curl of her bosom and the shimmering locks of flowery hair. Her eyelashes shivered beneath the rapaciousness of her expression as her eyes averted his stare. 

“I am so sorry to arrive unannounced. I was hoping to ask for some advice before my exam tomorrow but as I see Mr. Poirier is not home-” His voice was hesitant yet his tone confident; she could hear the dryness of his mouth.

“You are welcome to stay and use any books from the shelf if you like. As you see it is quiet here so I think you will be able to work without distractions.” Why was her voice trembling and her lips quivering? As she stood there shielding herself from him and at the same time entirely bare and exposed, she appeared as fragile and bare as a virgin. The whiteness of her skin was now adorned with a yellowish glimmer emanating from the flames, making her shine with femininity. The paleness of her cheeks and melancholia in her expression from too many nights of depravation and suffering now cast a charismatic charm to her features. His unannounced appearance had aroused a glimmer of hope in her shimmering eyes.

Maria was powerless to shield herself away any longer at the sound of his voice. With a dramatic swing almost resembling a dance, she turned to face him; her eyes burning into his. The drops of perspiration on her décolleté shone in his pupils. All inhibitions gone, Maria stared onto that face of porcelain, astounded by it’s beauty and powerless to refrain from tracing her hands upon the surface of that skin of glass. The moment extended like a carpet between them; suspended in the air separating them lay the tension of possibility. Maria was enveloped by a peculiar resonant force; one of those temporary powerful emotions that is forgotten as swiftly as it arrives; one that one cannot understand or remember as soon as the moment has passed. 

Suddenly there she was floating towards him with open arms; taking his face in her hands and planting delicate kisses on his cheekbones, his chin, his eyelashes. She wanted to kiss his smile, his teeth; inhale every inch of him ravenously. She craved to devour every single word he had ever uttered to her, every image his words evoked in her head, every turn of the eye, and nod of the head.  Each kiss was not sufficient to quench her desire; she craved to suspend the moment infinitely to savour this bliss. She voraciously inhaled every inch of his skin, losing all her femininity in her dominant edacity. How was it possible that he so vulnerably surrendered his fragile body to her love? He was loving her back, offering every inch of himself to her tenacity and yet just like in conversation he was not truly present. He was with her and at the same time entirely elsewhere in his mind, lacking the carnal desire of a male. How could he plant such tender kisses, allow himself to be enveloped with caresses of her tongue and still feel so distant? They fell on the moquette pavement, their bodies intertwining like thorns. 

His naked body appeared particularly infantile, embellished with the soft curve of muscle on his upper arm, which emanated a sublime masculinity. She traced his features with her eyes raised to heaven with idolatry. How divine was the whiteness of his skin, his slim waste, fragile bones and delicate chest. There was something entirely defenceless and unripe in his nudity; his delicate flesh resembled that of a child. He appeared to be almost breakable; made of crystal. He had the beauty and purity of an immortal; as though his bearing was only there to be admired, and even the delicacy of a caress would have the capacity of bruising and contaminating his divinity. 

He aroused in Maria a maternal compassion and longing which in turn fuelled a savage desire for him. He was a tender lover even as their bodies became one; he shivered uncontrollably, somehow struggling vulnerably, and yet detached; conscious of everything beyond their love making. Her wet lips caressed his right ear, revealing her love in soft whispers which he only replied to with trembles. He did not satisfy her physical thirst but somehow left her rapturously quenched and at the same time ferociously longing. 

When they had finished he lay his head on her bosom, and remained as still as a statue in his own desolation. With quivering fingers she caressed his hair; a rougher texture than she had imagined. The silence enveloping them extended infinitely until Maria could not longer bear it, for it incited an irrational fear and dread. She desperately wished to start anew, to make love to this person indefinitely- over and over again until life was no longer a chronological process in a world without barriers, but a repetition of one moment in the confinements of her passion. No input from the outside world, just the bliss and pleasure in adoring another so fiercely. 

At last he rose and picked up his clothes from the ground, dressing himself with his back to her in silence. She fumbled to find her dress, trying to suppress the imminent tears dimming her shiny eyes. He sat on the couch facing her with a reassuring grin she forcefully clung to. 

“Are you okay?” he asked with the tenderness one would address a child. She ardently wished it was love in his eyes. She nodded her head in submissive acquiescence; humid locks of hair clinging to her forehead. Silence followed, as he maintained what appeared to be a smile of tenderness, pity and compassion. “I think I should probably go now. Will need to have a look at some notes to prepare for my exam tomorrow. I do not feel half as prepared as I should be.”     

She rose before him, dreading the moment she would watch him depart. She struggled to find something to say; anything to extend the moment and inhale each feature on his face, observe the mole on his chest, the perspiration on his forehead and the veins on his hands. She yearned to conglomerate each particle of his being, so as to be able to recreate him with immaculate literal accuracy. Why could she not remember each instant of their love making? Why did it seem so distant and phantasmagoric? 

He rose and followed her to the door, walking with a keen swiftness. She opened the door for him, almost blocking his passage. “I suppose it is going to rain again,” she sighed.

“I have a coat,” he smiled.

“I wish you the best of luck for your exam. Please let me know how it goes, I will think about you.”

“I will do,” he said. Was there a hint of impatience among that gentleness?

“I really wish you all the best in New York- if I do not see you anymore. It is so beautiful there. I think I will move there sometime myself. New York New York; the city of dreams…”

His eyes gazed into hers with an unsettling intensity that weakened her legs. “Well, if you do then we will probably be together then.” His words resonated in her ears as he walked out, and a shivering bliss devoured her being. 

She collapsed onto the couch erupting in frantic tears of relief, gratitude and elation. The burden of suffering had been lifted from her expression and she shone like a myriad splendid blue skies after the clouds are brushed away. The joys and sorrows and memories and dreams now intertwined together and melted in the reverie of this bliss.

At that precise moment Darius walked in, almost stumbling upon his steps. He observed her as she sat composed on the couch; her moon eyes lifted towards the ceiling as a tear caught in her velvety eyelashes. Her expression appeared so serene that he did not dare utter a word.

The days passed in a shadowy blur as thick as fog, which dimmed Maria’s vaporous eyes. What had  previously been a heart consumed by curiosity and expectation, now became a heart in turmoil which like a mirror reflected in her expression. Her feelings ranged from frenzied delirium to desperation to feverish longing. Her soul withered like a flower each day that passed without any sign of Richard; she slowly stagnated, shrivelling like dry fruit. 

Some mornings she became so agitated that she would have to rush to the bathroom and vomit to release her unquenchable void. Her love almost took the form of a sickness; her emotions constantly oscillated, fluctuating between extremes such as  experiencing nights of unbearable insomnia and others in which she slept as much as twenty hours.

Her mind was devoured by images of Richard; particles of his features that came back to her like flashes, such as a wrinkle on his forehead or the curve of his back. These visions sent a pang of misery to her groin and she was surmounted by a weakness that cautiously drained her life away, just as an injured victim loses force through bleeding wounds.

All this desperation was not isolated from a temporary faithful hope that like a shiny apple hung authoritatively on a sumptuous tree. Sometimes on auspicious evenings of pink sunsets she would marvel at the skies where she aspired to be, struggling to recapture the sensation of him; the rapture lingering inside of her, albeit gradually less intense. 

One evening upon Darius’ arrival home, Maria noticed an unsettling warmth in her husband towards her. She had not so much as saluted him in the past days, only ever reacting whenever he spoke of work, in desperate hope he would mention Richard. 

Darius sat on the couch facing her as he pulled out a mass of pale peach roses. “For my lovely wife,” he said, kissing her on the forehead; the flames from the fireplace intensifying the roses’ shimmer. Maria placed the flowers on the side table, uncomfortably shying away from her husband’s affectionate grasp.

“What are we celebrating?” she asked, accusingly.

“I am pleased to inform you that your husband has officially finished ‘The Catcher in the Rye’! I have to say I quite enjoyed it. Interesting protagonist, no? Well, what do you say?”

“Did you?” Her voice unenthusiastic but polite. “I am glad to hear that, I guess. Holden is a very interesting person, I think so too. I think that is what I like about the book. He is so unsure about his future, about what to make of his life, yet he is so perspicacious in observing the world. I think confusion is so poetic. Aren’t the most unsure and lost souls the big dreamers of this world?”

An airy tenderness now plagued Darius’ features; a look of compliant admiration yet tinged with a piteous compassion. His voice was as soothing as a father’s voice. “I confess I was a little upset this morning. You remember Richard, do you?”

Maria shuddered at the utterance of his name; her face blank and pale, she nodded.

“Well, he has left for America. So soon, no? He came by my office today on his way to the airport. He got all the grades he was hoping for. You should have seen his face! I have never seen him so overjoyed, and with such enthusiasm. Starting a new life, I am glad for him. Ambitious guy, and courageous too. America is so very far away.” 

Maria’s expression remained passive; her eyes hollow in lassitude and her features frozen in consternation, powerless to express the agony in her wound. Darius’ voice was casual, yet revealed a peculiar soothing tone, as if he somehow knew; as if it pained him to hurt her. Did he sense it? She was overtaken by a strong empathy towards her husband now; she could no longer despise him. She saw herself reflected in his eyes, and she realized she pitied him and herself; she pitied both of them as a couple. She murmured something under her breath, feigning insouciance.

“Anyway, enough of that! Today a loose page from your book fell out. It was an old edition so it tore off. Now I realize I have it in my pocket; how about reading me an extract? You know I love the sound of your voice when you read.”

Maria held the piece of creased paper Darius handed to her and struggled to find her breath. The words blurred in her mind as she scrutinized the useless letters. Darius rose from his seat and she heard him boiling the kettle in the kitchen. She started reading; her voice a whisper like a gush of wind, as a tear stained the ink of undecipherable words. “’I live in New York, and I was thinking about the lagoon in Central Park, down near Central Park South. I was wondering if it would be frozen over when I got home, and if it was, where did the ducks go? I was wondering where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over. I wondered if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something. Or if they just flew away.’” The words delicately sunk into her soul as Maria delicately threw the paper into the roaring flames and watched it burn. The ink fused together, transforming into a myriad of blueberries; the petals of paper withered away with her tears, floating in the fireplace like butterflies, and leaving her among the illusions of her hope to savour the desolate solitude which embalms the enamoured heart.