Her for Them
A Writing Challenge Contest submission
The words appear to hit her like a ton of bricks and you can't help the sudden drop in your gut you swear is your conscience trying to tell you something. You push through the foreign feeling as she waits for you to speak again and mask your discomfort with, "There's nothing more I can tell you. This is just how it is."
Her eyes darken at your words and you struggle not to reach forward and run your thumb over the softness of her cheek one last time. She's about to cry, you can tell. The corners of her eyes are creasing and the edges are sparkling like the stars you both gazed at for hours last month in Montauk. She's trying to hold back the tears, though, and you're grateful for her determined composure.
She crosses her arms over her chest and you realize she's trying to be strong when she's really on the verge of breaking. You were trained for this so it doesn't affect you. Besides, you don't have time—they're waiting and if you're late they'll have your head.
"There was nothing between us, really." You offer a half-hearted shrug as you pick up your briefcase from beside the leather chaise-lounge and run your hand over the left lapel of your suit. They bought you this suit. And briefcase. Your leather shoes that squeak when you walk, your plaid socks, your Calvin Klein boxer-briefs, your Louis Vuitton purple striped tie. They did this all for you. They shaped you into the person you are today. You can't abandon them now; you can't go back on your word. That's simply not like you.
"You don't really mean that." When she finally speaks—the waver in her voice noticeable—the words hang heavy in the air and you shift your weight to your left foot, ready to leave. She's fighting with herself. She's not sure whether she wants to fool herself or not. You know this because they taught you how to identify conflicting emotions such as these. There's an inner war going on in there and you struggle with yourself not to be her emotional mediator.
She taps her foot against the black marble floor and fixes you with a severe stare. She places her hands on her hips and, in an attempt to steel herself, squeezes them. In a moment, though, you know she'll crack and try to reach out and touch you. Her hands are aching to caress your face and her mouth is begging to be on yours.
"You can't leave now. I simply won't have it."
"You don't have any choice in the matter, really."
She scoffs. It's like a bullet to the chest; you weren't expecting that reaction.
"I always have a say in things."
"Not this time, Margot."
She shuffles her feet, which tips you off to her next movement. She's about to reach forward and rub your arm.
"Listen to me..." She drops her left hand from her hip and you feel the tip of her forefinger graze your elbow as you instinctively lean away from her.
"No, Margot. Not this time."
Before you can anticipate her next move, the room reverberates with the sharp sound of flesh striking flesh. It takes you a moment to realize she just slapped you, and with the realization comes the pain of a stinging cheek.
You certainly weren't expecting that.
You roll your shoulders and fix her with a blank stare. You thought this would be easy. She's not letting you go, though; she won't roll over like the others. Her attachment confuses you because you hadn't realized her affections were in earnest. Yours certainly weren't.
"Listen, Margot." Your hand tightens around the handle of your briefcase. "They're waiting for me. I have to go." Your head is a little light and that damn feeling in your gut still hasn't gone away. You don't know what these feelings are—you weren't made to understand these things.
"You can't be serious!" She's on the verge of hysteria now and the waterworks have begun. You find the sight of her emotions overwhelming her unattractive and you're about to leave when...
"With tender arms wrapped around me,
I bask in the night under twinkling marquee,"
She's reciting the poem you wrote for her several months back, and it stirs up memories long forgotten. Your forehead tightens as you clench you jaw. You're not sure if you're feeling embarrassed, but either way you want her to stop.
"With thrice too many an eau de vie
to cloud my dizzy heart.
With stars taunting our ghostly forms,
She sniffs and dabs her eyes with the corner of the cream coloured scarf that's draped across her shoulders. It appears she won't continue reciting the second verse. For this, you're thankful.
"Was that painful for you?"
"That was a long time ago. I don't feel the—"
"I was talking about you saying 'please'. I don't think that word has every touched your lips before. I'm surprised you didn't choke on it before it reached your tongue. Did it burn your throat, at least?"
She looks at you expectantly while you fish for the right words to end this ugly scene. You don't think you'll find them, and anyway, you have to go. You still have twenty minutes before you're due to meet them, but you want to bolt. Something you've never felt before.
When you haven't answered she sighs and closes the gap between you. For some reason you're rooted to the spot and don't resist her this time. She presses her lips against yours as one of her hands becomes tangled in your hair. Forcing her body against yours, she gently lowers your head so she won't have to strain her neck. Your face becomes moist from the dampness of her tear-streaked cheek. Your grip on the handle of your briefcase loosens and it takes you only a few seconds to realize you want to kiss her back. Badly.
The briefcase is dangling in your hand and in just a moment it will fall from your grasp and you'll press your palm into the flat of her back. You decide one last indulgence won't hurt and give in to her kiss. She sighs softly against your lips and it takes all your willpower not to give in completely.
Your head becomes heavy and you tell yourself you have to leave. Somehow, the grand facade turned into something tangible. You don't know when or how it happened, but your feet feel glued to the floor. You can't leave and yet you can't stay.
When she's no longer dancing on tippy-toe to kiss you, she clings to the side of your jacket and deepens the kiss. Her perfume overpowers you, the scent of Chanel N°5 making your head swim with the combined euphoria of her familiar smell and touch. Your thoughts dance between past pleasure and present practicality. You can't stay. Really, you can't. They're waiting for you. They've done so much for you already and you can't disappoint them now. This was all just a game. It didn't mean anything—there wasn't anything between you and her. This euphoria isn't real.
Just when you feel the heat rise up within you and the briefcase is about to fall, there's a knock at the front door. You recognize the rap-a-tap-tap and know it's really time to go. No more games. The moment is over and she knows it. She's finally given up on you. She knows you're going to leave no matter what she says or does, so she pulls back and turns away.
It takes you a moment to compose yourself and readjust your hold on your briefcase. The waxed wood of the handle slides in your grip as you stare at her—eyes drifting from the face you rarely looked at to the gentle curve of her breasts beneath her gold-speckled red dress. It hangs limply on her full-figured body and yet the thinness of the fabric adds a sensual quality you only just now noticed.
Another rap-a-tap-tap and you're roused from your momentary daze. Clearing your throat, you smooth down the front of your suit and straighten your tie. Mind made weary by the night's events, you afford her one last glance as you collect your thoughts and tuck this final moment deep within your mind.
Once it's settled in nicely, you turn towards the front door. Equipping yourself with a confident swagger and a detached expression acquired only after years of training, you make it all the way to the door—hand on handle, before she brushes your wrist with her fingertips.
And it's all you can do to shake yourself away from her caress, open the door, and leave her for them.