Authors: Oscar Wilde
Well, it would only be eight days a month. And at least he hadn't hit or strangled her. Life had much improved since that morning when she'd worried she'd be alone forever. She looked at her hand where Dorian's mother's ring would soon rest in promise. She thought of her own mother. The woman had not loved her father, but she had loved someone elseâso much so that she had left a family behind. Rosemary hated her for that, but she also understood her. As she looked on at the sleeping Dorian Gray, still quietly snoring (an endearingly humanlike god), she wondered what she would abandon for him. She was so much luckier than her mother. To say
didn't mean much.
orian had asked to see her again in the days following his initial visit, but she had declined his company, insisting she was too fatigued. Her erotic craving for him was too intense to bear another unrequited act, however right a thing it was to do.
By the eighth morning of her menstruation, all bleeding had ceased. The long bed rest had made her feel weak and atrophied. She forced herself to eat a hearty breakfast, the first full meal she'd had in a week. Parker set the day's mail before her. On the top lay a hand-delivered note from Dorian, announcing that he was sending a hansom for her at eleven o'clock, and that he would expect her unclothed and in his bed by noon. She slurped up the remainders of her breakfast and hurried to bathe and dress.
As she sat in the carriage, she contemplated a worrisome thought that had begun to fester and grow in the last few days. Granted, she had been half insane with feminine bloodshed and so in no place of logic or judgment, but she felt unable to shake it off. The night before, tired from sleeping all day but unable to sleep any longer, she had consulted a book Helen had given her some time ago called
The Passions of Alphonse Gris
. It was Helen's favorite work of literature, an obscure, wretched novel that Rosemary hardly had the stomach to skim through, let alone bury herself in as Helen had. But she recalled the protagonist, the young Alphonse, had been fond of feasting upon women in a most lurid fashion. One after the other he scarfed them down and left them for near-dead. In one passage so vivid Rosemary had to squint to see straight after, the young Alphonse had taken a woman by way of her bottomâan unthinkable actâand strangled her while he mounted her, ripping tendrils of her hair out with his occasionally free hand. When Alphonse was done with her, she was grappling for life. That was only in the second chapter.
Was Dorian Gray an Alphonse Gris of sorts?
No, he was beautifulâinside and out. He'd been so elegant and innocent when she painted him. Yet since then, there was much to conflict with her original impressions of him. She recalled how when he'd made love to her, his hands had dug into her neck, like a bear's claw. Her bottom had been bruised from the blows he'd dealt. And then there was the letter begging for forgiveness, claiming madness and vowing to never cross such boundaries again. The words had sprinted from one end of the page to the other as if they were running away from him, as if he could not hold onto them.
She would have to talk this through with him. The carriage deposited her on the stone path to his house, and she walked it with a delighted sense of her own bravery and nodded to the golden poppies as if to assure them of their beauty and her own.
Victor opened the door for her and bowed simply, then plodded back down the hall into one of the many expansive, dark rooms. The house got so little sunlight, Rosemary noted. She would have to do something about that if she were expected to live there. Ah, to live with Dorian Gray! It was all such a fairy tale come true!
Before heading up the stairs she peered into the main dining hall to see if he'd hung her painting up as promised. He had notâbut he had put it somewhere as it was no longer against the mantle. Where might he have placed it?
As she entered his bedroom and saw the heavy curtains blocking the windows, and the enormous bed in the center of the room, looking so pristine and tidy in its tightly tucked brocade coverlet, she felt sickened by the memory of what had taken place there last time. Surely, there had been pleasureâunbelievable pleasureâbut then there had been brutality, too. She had cried out for him to stop, but he had just gone on practically murdering her. It was difficult to swallow when she thought of how he'd held her neck. Had he wanted her dead, for even a split second? No, of course not. She'd seen his soul, and it was bereft of homicidal intentions. Why, it was as beautiful as his face! What had occurred was just as he'd said; he'd gotten carried away, and as the sexually experienced probably all knew, such violence was part of the advanced lovemaking process. Perhaps, in time, she would learn to enjoy it all.
She undressed in the corner of the room, by the mirror but out of its view, and crept into the bed, taking up but one-fourth of it and sealing herself in like a candy in a wrapper. Victor was likely informing Dorian of her arrival. She could expect him to come in at any moment. Would he knock or just walk in? Was she already his, or still something to be asked for? She felt she needed to prepare herself for something, yet she couldn't think of what. His instructions had been simple. All she had to do was lie there and wait, and soon he would be on top of and inside her. Yet she felt uncomfortable, her thoughts itching and distracting her.
He knocked, but he did not wait for her to answer, and when he saw her in bed, there was no question in his eyes. He was dressed simply in a shirt and pants, with no tie, no belt, and no shoes. He looked as if he'd been lounging about all morning. This was backstage Dorian Gray. This is what she would come to know and love until death took her away from everything. God willing that death was not at his hands.
She murmured hello, her voice squeaky. Why was she so nervous? He sat beside her on the bed, his gray eyes steely on hers. As he took her hands in his, she felt chills of anticipation down her neck and a tingling heat between her thighs. He went to uncover her, and was on the brink of kissing her, when she started to talk. She talked in a high and fretful voice. The words from her mind were unmoored by her mouth.
“I will try and do something, Dorian, if it would please you. IâI don't think I'm cut out for the type of things you indulge in,” she said.
Dorian did not back his face away, his mouth still hovering inches away from hers, but he squinted as if he was not comprehending her. She went on.
“It's not that I disapproveânot at all do I disapprove!” she said, lifting her right hand and pressing it to her heart. “But for me, it is frightening, and I wish you would tell me some other things I could do to please you. If you are truly the kind of person who needs to inflict pain in order to . . .” Rosemary cringed at the direction the sentence was going. Then she cringed at herself for cringing. Would she ever be rid of this priggish provincialism? She thought of the insidious Alphonse from the yellow book Helen had sent her. Who were these people? And Dorian's friendship with Helen . . . what had come of that? What had they been involved in together? Why was there no way to stop thinking? She should at least be able to stop talking, seeing Dorian's confused expression, but, no, she kept going.
“Well, perhaps I may never satisfy you,” she said, her cheeks hot with shame. “Yet, deep downâthe Dorian I paintedâI don't feel he, umm,
are such a man.”
“Shh,” he said, leaning in to kiss her softly. Her lips were hungry for his and as his tongue probed for hers, her mind's chatter stilled and there was a mental silence like a cooling breeze. She crossed her legs as another fire started up between them.
But once his mouth was away from hers again, she felt it necessary to solve the matter at hand. But, oh, how to talk about these things? Who knew that sex was so complicated? And did she even know what she was talking about? She didn't think so. Other than the passage in that horrible book, she really had no clue. In one or another of the sordid monologues she made Rosemary sit through, Helen had laughed about all the boys who were too timid to spank her bottom. She'd shrugged off her husband, disparaging him for possessing only the nerve to ram his cock down the mouths of whores, but not his wife's. She said quite horrific things about Lord Wotton's penis, indeedâthat it was small (she had held up her pinky finger) and curved like screw. Whenever Helen talked about sex, Rosemary did all she could to drown her out. Usually she was stooped at her easel, painting some innocuous landscape. Now she wished she'd taken notes.
Dorian pressed his finger to her mouth again.
“Rosemary, I've expressed my utmost love for you,” he said. “I do not wish to hurt you. I am controlling those urges.”
“Yes, I know!” cried Rosemary, as she leaped up and into his arms. She caressed his cheeks and lips, marveling at his stoic beauty. How unbelievable that he was hers! But could she give him what he wanted? Would he settle for a life of traditional lovemaking? And Helenâthough she had to believe that Dorian was no longer under her spell, she knew that Helen would always be lurking in the shadows, scowling at their happiness. She would be looking for weakness in their bond, anything to separate them. But to obsess over Helen would only trouble Rosemary further, she thought. She needed to focus on her relationship with Dorian and nothing else. Yet there was something changed in Dorian that still she could not identify. Just then, she had an idea.
“My darling!” she cried. “If I could just understand you the way I understood you while I painted you. I feel certain that if I painted you againâas my lover and not just my friendâI could understand you once more, only deeper. Before, I was too shy to look at you in that light.”
As she spoke, she felt warm and united with her love. It was a brilliant idea! But Dorian became cold and solitary.
“I can never sit for you again, Rosemary,” he said.
He got up from the bed and went before the mirror, where he stared at himself, brooding. Rosemary rolled into a fetal position under the covers. He was being so strange! She felt she would surely die if he continued to act in this unloving way. She wasn't asking for much, was she? Really, he should be willing to do anything for her since she was here in his bed despite all that had transpired. She sniffled when she thought of how he had hurt her in the past and how he had made her suck his enormous member and then how he made her feel as if she'd done an insufficient job. After they had first made love, it had been impossible for her to sit in proper posture for three days. And here he wouldn't even sit for her at all.
“It is impossible!” he cried.
“I don't understand why you are so adamantly opposed,” said Rosemary. She was well aware that she was starting to nag at him, which was something she had never done before. She took a moment to revel in the honor: The first man she'd nagged was the gorgeous Dorian Gray! If only she had a friend to brag to about it. Oh, dear, that was another thing to be upset about: She had no friends. The one friend she'd had she'd lost because of Dorian. She would have to nag him about that later.
“Rosemary, I have my reasons. Please respect them,” said Dorian.
Watching him watch himself reminded Rosemary that he was the perfect man. For a moment, she wanted only to lie down with him and have him take her again. But, no, she scolded herselfâshe had to hold her ground. If there was to be any future between them, she had to know why he acted as he did.
“We must talk about this,” she persisted.
“I don't care to discuss it,” said Dorian. “Let us change the subject or not talk at all.”
They made eye contact in the mirror, and Rosemary softened. She remembered how much of a struggle it had been for him to sit still for his portrait the first time. And now she wanted to put him through a second sitting? Maybe this was all a matter of him not wanting to put up with the posture and the long hours. The first painting had been all about seduction anyway, hadn't it? Yes, and now they had each other. Why put this sacred god of a man through more suffering?
“All right, I'll let it go,” said Rosemary, and then, to keep her nagging power, added, “For now.”
“Thank you,” said Dorian. His eyes resumed focus on themselves in the mirror. Oh, he was so beautiful! Rosemary felt giddy. She clapped her hands like a little girl.
“On another subject,” she began with a childlike grin, “Well, sort of another subject, it's still somewhat the same subjectâbut, anyway,” she batted away her annoying Rosemary-esquenes. “I have good news about the portrait!”
Dorian whipped his head around.
“What news?” he asked.
“I am going to exhibit it in Paris in the autumn!” she cried, clapping again.
Dorian's eyes narrowed. He looked as if he could strangle her. This made her shamefully wet between the legs.
“Are you proud of me?” she said, flinging the bed covers off. She lay stretched on her side like a model she'd seen in a dirty daguerreotype and put her finger in her mouth suggestively.
“Georges Petit is giving me my own show,” she said in a kittenish voice. “I'm the only woman to be featured. He's going to collect all my best pictures for a special exhibition in the Rue de SÃ¨ze this coming autumn.”
She crawled to the edge of the bed and held her hand out to Dorian, reaching for his pant leg. He was but a foot away, yet refused to come any closer. All tenderness had deserted his face. Oh, but wasn't he mysterious?
She sat up, feeling acutely self-conscious, and wrapped herself back in the creamy satin sheets.
“I promised him the portrait,” she said, speaking plainly. “And since it will only be away a month, I should think you could easily spare it for that time.”
“To exhibit it?” asked Dorian, stunned. “You want to exhibit it?”
“Yes,” Rosemary said. What a perplexing man he was! “Which means I shall probably need to give it another coat of varnish, which I can take care of at once. I can do it today, even!”