Authors: M.J. Rose
Lying in Bed
Also By M.J. Rose Fiction
The Halo Effect
The Delilah Complex
The Venus Fix
The Book of Lost Fragrances
Buzz Your Book
(with Douglas Clegg)
What To Do Before Your Book Launch
(with Randy Susan Meyers)
Lying In Bed
Written by M. J. Rose
Copyright © 2013 by Melisse Shapiro
All rights reserved. No part of this book shall be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without prior written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law. For information, address Writers House LLC at 21 West 26th Street, New York, NY 10010.
All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
“Well, so many words, because I can’t touch you. If I could sleep with my arms round you, the ink could stay in the bottle.”
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
August 28th, 2003
“Tell me the
story…” he said.
We were lying in bed, making love. I pretended that I hadn’t heard him and instead breathed in the sweet smell of his hair mixed with the rougher smell of his skin slicked with sweat. I licked the part of his salty neck that was pressed closest to my mouth. The tendons were hard ropes against my tongue.
I hoped this would distract him but it didn’t and he asked again: “Tell me. Who is he?”
The words came from his mouth but I heard them first between my legs where they halted the faint and far away sensations that I had been hoping would, like a tight bud, open and flower.
Until five words ago, it had been only sensations that had my attention. (You know how it feels, not like a pain that you can pinpoint but a breeze of stinging electric blue pleasure surging through you.) Now it was his question that I felt. So intrusive it repeated itself. If not actually, then in my mind. Drawing my thoughts where I did not want them to go.
I needed to focus, to keep my mind in the present, to stay and not slip backwards. Focus, I told myself. On being here. Now.
I took in the half-life of the room smothered in the dark. Listened to his short breaths. Panting. Like a dog overheated. To the silence of the 2 a.m. street below. Felt the smooth sheets, pillows crushed beneath me, warm skin sticking to mine, my own insides, holding him in, clenching around him as if this would keep me tethered and prevent me from sliding into the past.
This was what I craved: sensation to overwhelm me and keep me in the moment which made the present all that mattered and by doing so, made us all that mattered. But it never came.
Until then, Joshua had never questioned me about my past.
What had changed?
Five minutes before the call, we’d been sitting on the bed, not yet making love but given the wine and the conversation and how many days that had been since we’d seen each other, it was clearly where we were headed. When I heard the phone ring, I’d glanced over and seen the old and familiar number on the caller ID. Leaving, I picked up in the living room.
At that time of night, with Joshua there, I normally would have let the machine answer, but I didn’t want to guess at what the message might be. I didn’t want Joshua to overhear it, no matter what it was.
We’d only talked for a minute or two at the most. On my end it was hushed, on his, it was loud. But surely Joshua couldn’t have heard that. He must have thought it was odd, though, that I’d gotten up just then – which it was– and so he must have tried to listen and probably he had heard snatches of what I’d said.
I pushed my body closer to Joshua to entice him to resume our mutual seduction. So the past wouldn’t matter. So the present would be all that did.
He didn’t respond with his body. The interruption had done damage.
Don’t you wish men didn’t worry about who you were before you met them?
But they do.
Not at first.
Sometimes not for a long time. Sometimes not for so long that you get fooled into thinking that this new man will not care, will not ask, has the strength somewhere inside him to accept what came before him and leave it be.
But eventually every one of them does ask.
Except for the first one. Ah. Lucky him. He knew you were clean and empty. No other sperm stains. No flesh touched by other hands or hips that ground too hard into hips. No bruised heart.
But there can be only one who comes first and then there all the others who come after and lust to wipe you clean. If you are lucky they want to do it with love. Unlucky, then with force.
The worst thing is if you care about it too. If you also wish you could be cleaned.
Beware the wish. It makes you long. And longing makes you weak. It’s an emotion I have managed to avoid for the last eight years.
“Guess what?” I said, my voice more sarcastic than was smart. “I can’t get rid of what happened. Can’t change it. No matter how much I wish I could. Or you wish I could. So why don’t we just forget about it.”
“I won’t judge you. I promise. Just tell me.”
That, I knew, even if Joshua didn’t, was a lie.
The room was redolent with a sandalwood candle and the burnt bitter wick that sputtered out some time ago. I pushed my face closer to his chest, I didn’t want to smell incense, I wanted to smell my lover’s scent.
How many times could he ask?
“Yes, now.” He stroked my back, as if his touch could coax out the words. “Trust me, Marlowe. Tell me.”
Joshua wanted more from me than I could give. He always had. But until now he had been patient. Why couldn’t he be satisfied with the way my legs had opened to clear a path for him? Why wasn’t it enough that we were together? Even if he didn’t get as much as he wanted yet. I was getting there.
Now I was supposed to believe that he would be accepting. That what I would tell him would not affect him. But he was lying in my bed. How could I take the chance? What if I did tell him and it was more than he wanted to know? What if it damaged us?
It had, after all, already damaged me.
We were both motionless. A frozen snapshot of our tame but real passion interrupted. I was lying in my bed, on my side. He faced me, arms around me. His rust colored hair was silky on my cheek. I pushed my lips into his, trying to make everything about us.
“Tell me,” he said after what turned out to be a lackluster kiss. I had been trying too hard and he had been preoccupied.
“Or?” I tried to make my voice light and teasing.
He frowned. “Don’t do that. It doesn’t work. You making something serious into something frivolous never does. And you do it too often. You are afraid of conflict, Marlowe. You know that? It’s not good for you.”
“Whoa. Where did all that come from? When did this get so serious?”
He didn’t answer, just looked at me, disappointed and hurt by what I’d said.
“When wasn’t this serious?” he asked. Little boy pout playing on his lips.
I always forget that women are tougher this way. If our positions were reversed, I would not have been upset by my comment, but men can be more sentimental, they just often hide it better. This wasn’t one of those times, though, and I knew I’d made a mistake. Not the last of the evening.
“There is no glory in honesty if it is destructive. And no shame in dishonesty if its goal is to offer grace,” I said trying, still to convince him that my answering would not be in our best interest.
“Tell me,” this last time a whisper against my cheek. Intimated in his tone was the promise of what would come after my confession and what would be withdrawn if I chose to withhold it.
We had been lying in bed for long enough that I had almost been ready. He knew that. Knew how long it could take me and that when it finally started to build, I would do anything not to lose it. Even though I almost always did.
My orgasms are extremely infrequent and hard fought. Like battles I have to win. My present against the intrusion of my past. In the last six months I’d only won once or twice.
Additionally, our lovemaking was not as frequent as was probably typical of two people our age. For one thing Joshua traveled so often. For another we were simply not as connected that way as we were other ways. And lastly, it was because the erotic was the last holdout of the lands I didn’t want to travel to. Too rife with memories and embarrassments I hadn’t been able to erase from a memory bank overflowing with episodes I wished I could erase.
When I thought about our lusterless sex life, I went back and forth thinking it was his make-up, or mine. Obsessing about the fact that we, at 27 and 29 could go months without making love. And then convincing myself it wasn’t a problem. We were not experimental. We were kind to each other. That mattered more.
The thing was, I loved him. Because he listened so well. Because he cared about my work as much as his own. Because he was smart and gentle and patient and seemed so satisfied with us, the way we were, and that made me grateful. And because he never dug into my psyche. Did not wonder if there were other selves I hid from him. I was safe with him.
Or at least that was the way it had been until that night.
Focus. Focus. Stay on the sensation of his hands on my back, his breath on my neck, on the feel of his arms under my fingers. The muscles beneath the flesh, solid and defined.
It had been bothering me less and less that our passion was so pale. And lately I had been able to get pleasure from touching alone, accept that pleasure didn’t always have to bring release, and see that one day I might find the path to more satisfying trysts.
Outside in the street a woman laughed. Like crystal shattering. High. Thin. Clear.
I was losing – everything was distracting me now.
He felt my efforts and knew my semi-conscious dream state had been broken. He needed to work harder if he was going to get either of the two things he wanted.
His hand moved between my legs and stroked my thighs, lightly, tantalizing, retreating and advancing, going just a little higher each time his hand returned.
The humming started up again in my head.
“Tell me,” he said again and it all broke apart.
“Damn it, Joshua.”
He’d had me and he knew it. I’d wanted what he had and I was close. This time I knew it had been within my reach.
And because of that ephemeral goal, in short staccato sentences I told him, expecting that as soon as I finished explaining, Joshua would begin the lovemaking again, that I would let go, that we would disappear into sensation for a time.
But that didn’t happen.
The problem was that, as he listened, he guessed that I was lying. He told me that as he pulled back. Our skin, glued by sweat, made a sucking sound as we separated. My legs struggled to hold him to me but he was stronger and I lost.
No part of his body any longer touched any part of mine. He moved away, got up, stood, turned his back on me and walked out of the bedroom.
I felt the prick of depression, of being let down too fast.
I had always known that if one day a man would ask. But still it had come as a surprise and I was not prepared. Not for Joshua’s question. Not for his reaction to my response.
And not for what came next.
August 30th, 2003
Venice is a
city for lovers and you are not here. But you are with me in your way. No matter where I go, I see through my eyes but thrill to it through yours. Everywhere I go, I find gifts for you.
This journal is something I found today in a small shop off St. Mark’s Square. You walk down three worn stone steps and into a single overcrowded room that smells of leather and oil paint, turpentine and candle wax. Smells together that take you back to some other time.
Paulo’s father owned the store before him and his father before him, back to the mid 1600s. And in an even more crowded workroom, this family of Venetians have been making leather journals like this one and dipping marbleized papers the same way for almost half a century.
I’m sending this journal to you along with the glass fountain pen I’m writing this entry with. It was blown in Murano. Like everything else in Venice, it is old and to use it you have to dip it in ink. This process changes how you write… you will see when you try… the procedure gives you time to think between the words – something the computers we love so much do not allow.