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Authors: Robert Ward

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BOOK: The Sandman
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“You know,” he said, “it wasn’t really bad. I mean they tried hard to capture the whole ambience. You were right, I did enjoy the sets and the costumes. They had things right. And that scene where he was buried, that was well done. It was fun for me.”

“See,” she said, “life isn’t all chemicals and gases and dying patients.”

Peter went on as if he hadn’t heard her.

“But they missed the point with Poe, you know. I’ve never seen a production that really got the point at all.”

“What is the point?” she said. “I thought it was simply to scare the hell out of you.”

“Do you really think so?” Peter said.

Debby was aware of him staring at her. There was such intensity in his eyes, and a glittering intelligence. But more than that she saw something else—a hunger which ran so deep that it frightened her, and turned her on. She knew he wanted her, but at the same time he seemed to be pulling away by challenging her.

“Maybe there is more there,” she said, running her hand through her hair and smiling at him.

He smiled back.

Now he seemed positively carnivorous, and she realized that to Peter her intelligence was a measure of her sensuality. He could never go for a dumb broad just for the sex. And she found herself wanting to be as smart as he wanted her to be.

“There is a kind of sensuality to everything Poe writes,” she said, sipping her wine and smiling at him. “I know that was mixed up with it … the tremendous excitement I felt as a child reading his stories. It was an excitement that seemed to come from deep inside of me.”

“Yes,” Peter said. “Yes … that’s exactly how I saw it.”

He was excited now … he couldn’t help himself. Here was a girl—no, a woman with brains—and the sensitivity to understand his feelings toward Poe. She had the same feelings herself … God, he wanted to blurt things out to her as she sat across from him looking so fresh and perfect. The way the candlelight danced over her skin. Such soft skin … he wanted to put his hand across the table and touch her face, but he had to control himself. Still, she was smiling now … and his eyes dropped to her full breasts, which were made all the more appealing by her tight sweater. But it wasn’t merely physical—no, it was that she understood, she really did … he could teach her the rest … maybe he would risk it …

“You have experienced him,” Peter said. “You’ve really felt what’s there … the way I used to feel it when I read the stories to my mother …”

He stopped. He had never told anyone about that. He knew he shouldn’t go on. But perhaps she could understand, and he stared at her breasts again … until he became embarrassed by the length of his silence.

“Tell me about your mother,” she said.

“Well … we lived in this row house in Baltimore. My father had a sign company … he wanted to be an artist … and my mother acted for a while … she was quite beautiful, actually … I mean she was a beautiful person … not merely physically beautiful … she read and wrote poetry … but they had very little money … and then she got sick … cancer. She was only in her early forties, but she looked much younger. She seemed as young … and as fresh … as you. I mean that’s how I remember her …”

She smiled and drank her wine. Her face reflected in the crystal, and then he was talking, talking compulsively … she had such luminous blue eyes … he thought that Poe himself would have loved to see such eyes … and it had been so long since he talked to anyone about anything that mattered.

And when he was finished, Debby was smiling at him so warmly that he found himself basking in her friendliness, her loveliness, and he placed his hand on hers.

“Peter,” she said softly. “I feel very close to you … very close … Oh, I shouldn’t say that.”

“No,” he said. “It’s all right. I understand. I feel … the same way.”

“It’s just that I’ve been so lonely,” she said. “I’ve met so many people like … like that imbecile Harry Gardner … I know what you mean. It is almost as if they have had something cut out of them. All they can respond to are bright colors … football games … comic books … they seem all lively on the outside, but underneath you can see them.”

“The dead soul beneath the living skin,” Peter said.

“Yes,” Debby said. “But you’re not like that. You’re an extraordinary person.”

He found himself drawn to her so overwhelmingly that he wanted to hug her right across the table. Then he felt fear, but he told himself that it was all right … she was exquisite … perhaps since he had finished with Lorraine Bell he was more in tune with others who could share his own unique way of life. But he would have to take her along slowly—very slowly. Still, God, she was there, smiling at him, almost begging him.

“You live nearby?”

“Yes, Peter.”

“I wish … the night didn’t have to end,” he said.

“It doesn’t,” Debby said, taking his hand as they got up from the table.

“No,” he smiled, helping her on with her coat. “Why should it be over. There’s no reason for that at all.”

As they walked through the lobby of Debby’s building, Cross felt a terrible tightening in his stomach, a strange seizure of panic and near hysteria. What was he doing? Perhaps she had hypnotized
in some way—not with her mind—no, he was certain he was smarter than she, but with her body, her eyes, her breasts, and her legs. He saw her legs as she walked a couple of steps in front of him. Perfect, so damned perfect. He wanted her. He wanted her badly, but there was something happening inside of him, a voice telling him to stop right now. Beware. He tried looking away from her at the tiled walls. There was a mosaic of a man and a woman walking through a field of grass. God, it was tacky, tacky and cheap. He followed her dutifully, like a small child, to the elevator, and again he was overcome with the sensation that he wanted to bolt, but she looked at him and smiled, and he found himself smiling back. He felt the warmth spread through him.

She held his hand. The elevator arrived. Two men with blow-dried hair, tight red-and-blue body shirts, and huge gold link necklaces got off and brushed by him. He felt the sickness return. Why would she live here if she wasn’t one of those kind of people herself? Wasn’t it obvious? She was just another one of—what was it Harry called them? Hitter Chicks. Yeah, the Hitter Chicks, exactly like the ones who hung out in the café across the street. Only she was better at it, had put on a face filled with upstate shyness and innocence, and he had fallen for it, told her all the stuff about Poe, about his mother. Things he hadn’t ever meant to tell anyone. Now he was trapped in her apartment.

He began to feel sweat pouring from his neck and a grime-and-gut-wrenching slime in his groin. She had taken advantage of his loneliness. He wouldn’t forgive her.

The elevator stopped and they stepped into a narrow hallway painted with bright yellow flowers. Tacky. Horrible. Why hadn’t he bolted? But he kept walking with her, a step behind. He kept his eyes on her ass and her neck. God, she had a beautiful neck. Even now, raging with fear and resentment, he knew that he was going to go with her. He had to.

“Here we are,” Debby said, slipping her key into the lock.

She pushed open the door, walked assuredly through the dark room, and switched on the light.

“This is it,” she said, smiling and opening her arms as if to offer him the room.

Cross looked around. There was a feeling of warmth in the apartment unlike his own black-and-white-and-chrome. Debby had fixed the place up with a warm blue couch, an old-fashioned bookcase, two very comfortable-looking overstuffed chairs with deep blue corduroy covers. Hanging from the walls were plants, and in the fireplace were real logs. On the floor was a very tasteful Indian rug. It had a design on it—a cherry tree harboring two peacocks. So she did have taste—eclectic taste, but taste, sensibility. Perhaps he wasn’t wrong to confide in her. He had to calm himself, not dwell on things.

“Would you like a drink?” she said.

“Yes. I’ll have a Scotch.”

“Johnny Walker Red?”


“I think I’ll have a Campari and soda.”

She walked around to the kitchen, and again he found himself following her. But he stopped at the bookcase. There were a couple of novels, mostly Book-of-the- Month Club stuff, but there was also The
Collected Illustrated Stories
of Edgar
Allan Poe
. He took out the book and looked through it. The pages looked fresh, unmarked.

“Did you just buy this?” he asked.

“Yes, Peter,” she said. “I just did. And if you want to know if I just bought it because I met you, the answer is partly yes and partly no.”

She smiled seductively, warmly, and handed him a drink. Then she went and sat down on the couch. He followed her there. He felt foolish. He wondered if she knew that he felt as though he were following her around like a puppy. God, if she did, he couldn’t stand the embarrassment of it.

“I mean I do like you, Peter. I sensed it that day we had lunch. And tonight I’ve had such a wonderful time. I have to admit that liking you was what prompted me to buy Poe. But it wasn’t only that. It was what you said the first day about the experience. I had repressed that whole part of my childhood, the terror of being young and insecure, of feeling so out of it all the time. The Poe thing had something to do with that too. So after I talked to you, I got the book because it reminded me of things I had forgotten.”

Though he didn’t show it, Peter felt astonished. She was just about the best-looking woman he’d ever seen, and here she was, talking about her horrible childhood, of being “out of it.” He didn’t trust her. It was scarcely possible. Yet she seemed honest.

“I would have thought,” he said, holding his drink rather stiffly, “that anyone who looks like you do would have had an entirely satisfactory childhood.”

“Oh?” she said. “Thank you for the compliment, but it was murder. You see, I came from a working class section of Syracuse. I don’t know if you’ve ever been upstate, but you might as well be in Alabama or some place like that. There is tremendous ignorance there, a provinciality. People don’t like little girls to be smart. And I didn’t look like a girl at all, or at least I didn’t look like what the ads tell us teen-aged girls are supposed to look like. I had buck teeth, fixed by braces. I had bad skin, which fortunately didn’t scar. And I had big breasts on a small body. The boys used to grab at me and then laugh because I screamed. I was good at science, I was good at math, but in those days it was considered ridiculous to even think about medical school. Besides, my parents couldn’t begin to afford it, and I didn’t do that well in my other subjects. I didn’t do well because I was upset a lot of the time. I couldn’t concentrate. I don’t know why I’m telling you this …”

“No, I want you to tell me,” he said. “I want you to, because I like you. I knew it from the first moment we met. I really did.”

They moved toward each other on the couch and he took her in his arms. When they kissed, he felt as though he were in a cheap movie. It was that thrilling, all the more so because it seemed so innocent, so touching. Underneath that woman’s body she was a little girl really. He would teach her. He held her to him, his heart beating wildly, and he kissed her again. This time she opened her mouth, tentatively, and he felt shocked, surprised. Now she was suddenly a woman and he wanted her, wanted her terribly, but even as he thrust his tongue into her mouth, he felt the fear coming over him. But now she was moaning softly, and he felt his hand rubbing her large, firm breasts, felt the nipples sticking straight out, and she started calling to him, again and again, “Peter … Oh, Peter …” and he was terribly excited, but afraid. What if she was an experienced woman? What if he disappointed her? God, he hated his long stringy body. He hated it. When he shut his eyes, he tried to imagine that he was someone else, someone with a body like a movie star, strong, with good muscle definition. He had gone soft. He should have worked out more often. She’d be turned off when he took off his clothes.

He rubbed her and felt his cock harden, and then his hand went under her and he felt her thighs, and she was gasping and heaving and saying his name over and over again. He felt like he was going to burst, but he also felt afraid, terribly afraid. He shouldn’t have let it go this far. No, God, no, he shouldn’t have let it. He didn’t even know her. She could destroy him. And so, suddenly, he was unable to control himself. He pulled away.

“My God, Peter, honey, let’s go into the bedroom,” she said, still panting, her jeans pulled half down. He saw her hard, bronzed thighs, and he began to tremble. He felt as if he were going to cry.

“What’s wrong?” she said. “Is there anything wrong?”

“No,” he said too loudly. He sounded as if he were angry with her.

“Then come on to the bedroom with me. Please, Peter.”

She was leaning over on him now, and pulling up his shirt, licking his stomach. He began to feel like he was going to be sick.

“I just don’t feel well,” he said. He hated the sound of his voice. Why couldn’t he take her? God, she was beautiful, and she did like him.

“Relax,” she said, lifting her head and staring at him. “You know you’re a very sexy man. You just need to relax. I think you’ve worked so hard that you’ve forgotten how to relax.”

“Maybe,” he said, but he felt miserable. He had lost his erection and had almost convinced himself he was sick to his stomach.

But she was holding out her hand and he took it, and, as if in a dream, they were walking into the bedroom. She sat him down on the end of the bed, knelt below him, took off his shoes and socks, then rubbed his feet. She began unbuttoning his pants, all the while repeating his name, “Peter, Peter.” He felt his ass lift and he lay back on the bed, staring into the darkness. She told him to relax, to just think of anything, and he felt her mouth close on his cock and he felt himself harden, and her head was going back and forth, and he gripped the sides of the bed. She was making murmuring noises of joy.

He lay there, feeling the sensation coming from his groin into his stomach. Oh, God, it felt good, so very good. Then he pulled her up to him and she straddled him. Now her jeans and panties were off. She came down on top of him, and as he went into her, she screamed out his name. Together, they began to rock to and fro. She was crying and holding him, and once again he was struck by how warm and giving she was, by how much this meant to her, not merely the physical sensation, but how much she wanted and needed him. Though the voice inside him whispered, “It’s cheap. She’s just hungry for it, anyone would have done,” he knew it wasn’t so. She could have been here with anyone—a girl with breasts like hers and that flat, tanned stomach and the golden pubic hairs and her pussy riding him, sending shuddery wave after wave of pleasure through him—she could have been here with cocksman Harry, who undoubtedly was far superior to Peter, who knew all the little tricks, but she wasn’t. She was here with him, Peter Cross. So in spite of the voices inside him hissing away, he was enjoying it and giving it to her as she gave it to him, until neither one of them was thinking about anything any more. They both burst forth with a scream of elation and joy.

BOOK: The Sandman
7.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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