"What does it feel like to be the most hated man in the world?" Si-wan asked me one day as she ran a long, ink-stained finger down my chest, playing with the tie knotted around my neck.
"I mean, do you ever have regrets about—"
"Never," I interrupt. Her face blanks, and she runs a hand through her hair, sighing.
"Never," I repeat, plucking a strawberry from the gold-plated china service beside her and deflowering the leaves from its top, curling my tongue around its pointed end and biting down on it hard as the unwanted petals scatter around us. Watching this, she shakes her head, the long black vines dangling from her scalp twisting violently in her emotional tempest. Then, she reaches forward and takes a long sip from the diamonded crystal champagne flute beside her snacks.
"I find that hard to believe," she says after a brief silence in which I swallow the remainder of the strawberry, sticky crimson fluid dripping from the corners of my lips and running down pallid cheeks to stain the white collar of my Armani shirt—not that it matters.
"You would, wouldn't you?" I chuckle, loosening the tie and casting it aside before slowly unbuttoning the ruined shirt, letting that fall to the floor as well. A servant skitters forward from the side of the room to collect the articles, but she grabs the tie before it can be taken, holding the patch of silk up to the artificial spotlight for further examination. She carefully knots the fabric around her fingers, forming a cat's cradle, and I permit her amusement with the silk, though I cannot comprehend her fascination any more than she can comprehend my hunger.
"Here we go round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush. Here we go round the mulberry bush on a cold and frosty morning," she sings softly as she weaves the cradle, her dark eyes vacant as she focuses on the rhythm of the children's rhyme. There's something about repetition that is meditative, that takes away from the meaning of things, but I digress.
It's not as if such things hold any importance to me, as they do to her.
"Enough of that," I drawl, tilting up my chin and pulling her roughly against my side to bury my teeth into her strawberry-flavored hair. With my left hand, I grab her bound wrists, her fingers immediately stilling under my touch, and with my right hand, I stroke her abdomen, first gently and then not so gently at all, carefully manicured nails digging through the strawberry silk I chose for her.
Her nostrils flare slightly, but her glossed lips stay firmly pressed together, and she does not look up from my red silken string restraining her so deliciously before me.
"You know," she begins, her voice firm but far away, her eyes travelling distant places. "When I was little, oehalmeo-nim always used to say that cats were omens of misfortune." I raise an eyebrow but do not deem the meaningless nostalgia worth my commentary. "They used to be thought of as vermin at worst and folk medicine at best, for healing the redness of movement. Maybe they could be used to assassinate other vermin, like those fat little rats...vectors of other kinds of red."
"I never was a fan of animals. Pets are...burdensome," I reply, nibbling her pointed ears. She starts, resting her hands on her abdomen and closing her eyes for a moment.
"I always did like cats." Her voice is cool, as always, but from the tone of it, I can't help but feel as if I'd missed something. She raises her eyes giving me a pointed look before lowering her gaze and continuing to fiddle with the tie. Then, she picks up the song again. "This is the way we wash our face, wash our face, wash our face. This is the way we wash our face on a cold and frosty morning…"
The strings pull taught, forming an x-shape from the tie. It reminds me of the Scottish flag, and I tell her this. She smiles up at me, almost patronizingly. "You would think so, wouldn't you?" Before I can reply, she turns her focus back to the strings before continuing, "Men like you always think of the world in terms of borders, but what would you know of containment?"
"Containment?" I ask, not following.
"Containment," she replies, the slightest of frowns on her strawberry lips as she stares at the crisscrossing strings strangling her fingers with red. Neither of us breathe. She holds up the tangled tie for my examination. "They call it the soldier's bed but I suppose it could be a door."
"Yes, a door, and it's locked," she says, nodding firmly.
I smile. I will never understand her eccentricities, but her nonsensical, Lovegoodian behavior amuses me all the same. Again, she returns to fiddling with my tie. "This is the way we comb our hair, comb our hair, comb our hair. This is the way we comb our hair on a cold and frosty morning…"
"Ah, I know this one," I say, lowering my lips to nibble at her exposed nape as I recall the neighbor's daughter. She used to fiddle with strings, much like Si-wan. I fucked her once, and she demonstrated this formation to me with a gold chain necklace while we were tangled in red silk. "Candles, right?"
She purses her lips and sighs before replying, "No, it's chopsticks, though I understand that some places call it that, or mirror. Hey, don't you think mirrors are kind of like doors?"
"Not at all."
"I think so. And so are candles and chopsticks, if you really think about it."
"If you say so," I say, rolling my eyes.
"This is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth. This is the way we brush our teeth on a cold and—" Her face tightens, and she scowls, staring at the manger binding her fingers.
"Don't you feel dirty?"
"Always," I reply, wiggling my eyebrows and licking her neck, suckling at her shoulder. Her eyes flash with something unfamiliar, and she snaps, knocking my face away with a swift jab of her shoulder.
"Not like that. I mean, how are you not feeling guilty about—"
"Ah, you want to know if I feel like a sinner," I interrupt, laughing, and she huffs, grinding her teeth together and ducking her head as I chuckle.
"Sin has nothing to do with it. You're carving borders into the much larger issue of—"
"Faith," I begin, smiling to reveal red-stained teeth. "That is something I've never had much interest in. I was raised Catholic, you know? They try to make you feel guilty for everything, even pleasure.."
"That's not what I'm trying to ask—"
"Sing for me."
"Keep singing, would you?" I pick up a new strawberry and repeat the same process as before: deflowering, biting, devouring. "Your voice is delectable, after all."
"..." She does not immediately reply. Instead, she rips herself free from the tie's grasp and wraps it around my bare neck, tightening it to the point of discomfort before sucking in a deep breath and reluctantly releasing her hold on it. "This is the way we put on our clothes, put on our clothes, put on our clothes. This is the way we put on our clothes on a cold and frosty morning."
Then, she snakes her way out of my grasp, despite the tightness of my hands around her body. "You'll hang by that tie someday," she says, and I laugh. Coal eyes blazing red, she introduces her palm to my red-stained cheek, claws digging into my flesh and drawing blood. She stalks to the door.
"My exotic tigress, so fierce…" I drawl, still laughing as she reaches for her red and blue and yellow pinstripes, the silken fabrics hanging in the servant's hands as it is brought to her.
"Am I a joke to you?" She asks. I am about to reply when she dares to interrupt: "Don't answer that. I already know. You couldn't take me seriously if your life depended on it, you cocky bastard."
She sighs and shakes her head. "You're such a rooster sometimes."
"And you, dearest, are positively lunar," I drawl, smirking.
She clucks her tongue, but I am hardly worried. We can repair this, tie ourselves back together. We always do. And by "we," I mean "I," naturally. I laugh as she turns her back on me, pausing to scowl at the latest landscape I had commissioned for the diamond-wallpapered walls. It hangs by the door.
"Ah, I see you've noticed my newest acquisition. It's called A Portrait of October. The artist was...ah, Munsin, I do believe? Do you like it?" I ask as she stares at the dawn cresting over the Yellow Sea.
"Have you ever eaten beondegi?" She asks me, slowly turning her head back to reveal those empty, coal eyes of hers, alway so far away. "No, I don't suppose you would have…"
"You could've made a diamond," I say, and she stiffens, but I continue, "Instead of a bed, you could've made a diamond. You could've been a diamond." I rise to my feet and slither closer to her side again. "You still could be a diamond." All you'd have to do is kneel. This goes unsaid, but we're both thinking it. I can tell from the look in those coaldark eyes of yours.
Do you remember the last time that you knelt for me? That you surrendered to me? That I let you play with all sorts of red strings, not just my silken ties? I remember.
I don't have to speak.
You already know what I'm thinking.
Silently, she turns back around to face the door, stumbling over her red shoelaces and tumbling to the marble floor. I offer her my hand, and she refuses it, kneeling before the door momentarily before dragging herself to her feet and walking out the door with shaky, red knees and shaky red, ankles without so much as a goodbye. I wonder if a cat would help her now.
Ten days later, I return from work at dawn after falling asleep at my desk, and there, on my doorstep, is a scrap of paper scrawled on in strawberry ink and familiar strawberry script:
Here we go round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush. Here we go round the mulberry bush on a cold and frosty morning.
Beneath the text was an image of a beheaded rooster, also in that same red ink, and I smiled, all doubt in my mind erased. Soon. She'll be back very, very soon.