How They May Bebynomennescio©
Author's note: This story is fairly long and relatively light on 'action.' If that would trouble you, there are certainly more appealing choices out there.
I am a sinner. As are all men, of course, hounded eternally by our own darker natures. But my sin is the heavier, not because it is unforgivable but because I am too much a coward to ask forgiveness, too enamored of my own sickness to seek its cure. I tried as best as I might - fought the evil within me, and lost, and wallowed for a time in guilt. I have grown tired of that now. My sins are a part of me, as much as my heart, and as readily removed. I do not know what waits for me when life's final tally is called, but I pray that, at least among men, I may be understood before I am judged.
It began on an unremarkable Friday in the middle of autumn, when the daylight hours began to shorten and the heat outside declined into a gentle tepidity. Work at the office was light that week, and our progress rapid; in recognition of that fact, I decided to let my department go home early, to take advantage of the mild weather and still-empty streets. It was a concession to myself as much as to my subordinates, and I was one of the first out the door, taking the drive home in a comfortably contemplative mood. At seventy miles long, my commute was normally a source of frustration, but with Dylan warbling through the speakers and majestic cumulonimbus clouds puffing up in the distance before me, I covered the distance in good time and in contentment. My mind was occupied with nothing more serious than what that evening's meal would be - Fridays we often went out to a restaurant, but I reflected that today offered a good opportunity for me to practice my own kitchen skills.
The transponder on the dashboard opened the gate to my community with hardly a second's pause, and shortly I pulled up the peach brick driveway to my home. A comfortable two-story affair in a neo-Mediterranean style, it bristled with low roofs and arches, warm in construction and just imposing enough to satisfy a man's need to feel important. Too large, perhaps, for just two people, but I was happy with it all the same. Indeed, at that moment I do not think I would say I was unhappy with anything in my life; the troubles of the past were but a memory, the birthing pains of the beautiful Now.
Such contentment, of course, begged to be upended. The house was quiet as I stepped through the hand-carved wooden doorway, and on the edge of perception I could hear the ambiguous sound of human exertion, of ragged breath and urgent murmurs, a sound that whispered more than said. I did not have to go far to find the source. Passing around the corner into the sitting room, I found on the couch a young couple locked in a passionate embrace. Half of that couple I knew very well. My darling daughter Emily sat there, halfway to horizontal, her blouse and bra cast carelessly upon the floor while a still-dressed and shaggy-haired boy worked his mouth eagerly against hers, one free hand pawing and kneading at the pale flesh of her breasts. Her eyes were closed, her brief raven locks disheveled as she clasped her suitor, accepting the attentions he proffered upon her slim frame with soft, almost plaintive moans.
They were too distracted with their embrace to notice me, and I too surprised by it to respond, so for a handful of moments I just watched as the boy dropped his hand beneath the hem of Emily's skirt, and his head dipped to take her rigid, light pink nipple into his mouth, sucking at it as if it were a boiled sweet. She was midway through another low, evocative cry when her eyes suddenly shot open as though appraised of my presence, flinty grey orbs staring straight at me, speaking already of a horrified embarrassment. In that moment my own shock subsided, and the boy half-jumped as I roared out, "Just what the hell is going on here?!"
"Hey, whoa man," the lanky, half-shaven boy witlessly offered as he scrambled off my daughter and staggered to his feet, "That is, um, Mr. West. I'm - Emily invited me over, and I was just, we were, uh..."
He trailed off nervously as I glared at him with murder in my eyes. There are some fathers, perhaps, who can take the thought of their daughters' romantic encounters with equanimity, but I was far from one of them - finding this stumble-mouthed idiot in the middle of trying to have his way with her was enough to make me wish I had a shotgun to wave about, and perhaps a quantity of quicklime. I had to settle for the lesser gratification of seeing him flinch as I advanced on him.
"I can see what you were doing, dirtbag," I rumbled, and as he started to protest, hooked a hand around to the back of his neck, squeezed at the nerves until he squealed.
"Aaah! Jesus, man, leggo!" He twisted about, trying to get loose - a futile effort, as I easily had fifty pounds on him. Without pause I trucked him back to the front door and unceremoniously shoved him out onto the walk, where he collapsed in an undignified sprawl before slowly picking himself up, complaining all the while. "Goddammit, you can at least gimmie a fucking second to talk."
"If I catch you sniffing around my daughter again," I snarled, dangerous and low, "I'll break you in half and bury you in my backyard." I slammed the mahogany door in his face, entirely beyond any concern for what he might say. The situation explained itself. Anger still drove me as I walked back to the sitting room, where Emily, having quickly donned her blouse, now sat quietly with burning cheeks and downcast eyes, her delicate hands clasped in her lap. But even her clear contrition and my normal regard for her did not contain my ire. "Don't think I've forgotten about you, little lady." I groused at her. "What the hell were you thinking, bringing home a guy like that?"
"I can tell just by looking at him that he's no good," I cut her off curtly. "That guy's only after one thing, and you can be damned sure your happiness isn't it. I didn't think I raised you to be that naïve. I didn't think I had to worry about you bringing home drugged-up idiots to take advantage of you."
"He's not-" A tone of anguish undercut her voice, but I ignored it.
"I mean, for God's sake, Emily, has your brain stopped working? Don't you think? I hope you're embarrassed about this, because you damn well ought to be. What were you - damn it," I sputtered angrily. "You'll get a hell of a reputation acting like that, I can tell you. They'll be penning up your name on the bathroom stalls." She was silent now, and in my ranting fury her averted eyes were another irritant. "Look at me when I'm talking to you, for god's sake!"
Dutifully, she looked up, and I saw the beginning glimmerings of tears in her silver eyes. Instantly, the anger froze in my blood, turning to a cold, sorrowful regret. I could never bear to see Emily cry; her tears filled me with the guilt of my past failures, rent open my heart to the winter of her suffering, until I could do nothing but try to make her feel better.
"Oh, honey, I'm sorry," I collapsed to my knees before her, clutching for her hands in an instinctive plea of forgiveness. "I'm sorry. You shouldn't listen to a thing I say, you really shouldn't. I'm not even mad at you, honestly, I just..." With a sigh, I stroked comfortingly at the back of her hand with my thumb, struggling to put my reaction into words. "You're almost grown up now, sweetheart, but I still think of you as my little girl. Seeing you like that...it reminded me that I'll be losing you all too soon, and the thought just about drives me crazy." I gave her a rueful half-smile, and was heartened to see it returned. "But that doesn't excuse anything I said. Please tell me you forgive me?"
"Oh, daddy." Disentangling her hands from mine, Emily wiped dry her eyes and slipped off the couch to give me a warm and benevolent hug. "Of course I forgive you," she said simply, her head resting upon my shoulder. Nothing more needed to be said - her embrace radiated mercy, trust, as though my offenses were already forgotten. Her nearness was now, as always, a balm to my psyche, and I was soon smiling again, the hopeless, foolish smile of a man who feels despite logic that everything is all right.
"Besides," Emily rose first, prompting me to my feet as well. "You shouldn't think that. I promise, no matter what happens, no matter how old I get, I'm always going to be your little girl. Okay?" Her eyes looked firmly up at mine, thin eyebrows low and serious, with just the slightest quirk to her small mouth revealing her good humor.
"Okay, princess." I accepted the promise agreeably, only wishing it were true.
"You're probably right, anyway. I mean, I shouldn't've..." She gestured vaguely, only the context signifying her romantic rendezvous. "I kind of got caught up in the moment, you know, without thinking."
"Was that guy your boyfriend, then?" I asked cautiously. If she was willing, I did want to talk to her about this - now that I was calm enough to do so sensibly.
"Rob? N-not really, I don't think." She hesitated over the denial, uncertainly. "I mean, I know him and everything, and we've hung out a lot, but we aren't exactly...before now he's only, um, kissed me once. Twice."
"But you like him."
There was a pause, and when she answered, it was in a quieter voice, one which sparked a pang of pity within me. "He's okay. I know he likes me. I don't think...there's not really a whole bunch of guys that do, you know."
"Sweetheart," I began delicately, with the mildest possible tones of rebuke. "I don't know that. I don't believe that. You're a beautiful young woman with a wonderful personality - as far as I'm concerned, if there's a boy out there that isn't in love with you, he's either gay or crazy."
Emily let out a sardonic snort. "Really, daddy? 'A wonderful personality?' That's exactly what everyone always says ugly girls have."
"Well, nevertheless," I insisted doggedly, "It's still true. Maybe the boys you're dealing with now don't care much about it, but once you get out of high school, personality counts for a lot more. And I also said that you're a beautiful girl, if you'll recall."
"Yeah, but you're my dad. You have to say that, it's in the bylaws." She laughed, but there was a distant ache in her expression that told me she meant it, that she didn't really believe me. It was absurd, the endless insecurity of teenagers - looking at her, I was unable to fathom how she could doubt her beauty.
"Honey, listen to me." Putting an arm around Emily's shoulder, I sat down with her upon the couch before continuing. "I'm not just saying this because I'm your father - you really are a lovely girl. You have what they call classical features, the kind of face artists loved to paint back when artists actually painted anything recognizable. That's a Greek nose you've got," and I ran my finger down the line of her nose for emphasis, "Very straight and thin and strong. It gives definition to your face, makes you look alert, intelligent."
Emily's mouth quirked. "Yeah, I mean, all the guys clamor for a girl with a pretty nose." But she sounded pleased.
"It's part of an organic whole," I explained. "Your eyes - you have your mother's eyes, for which you're very lucky. Grey eyes are rare, and quite striking. They make you stand out from the crowd." I had fallen in love with her mother's eyes, deep and expressive, like wellsprings to the soul, and it never quite stopped being disconcerting to see them on Emily. Especially as she grew older, I sometimes had to stop and remind myself of exactly whom I was looking at.
"Now that your acne's cleared up, your skin - well, frankly, it's flawless." I stroked absently at her cheek. "Smooth and warm, elegantly pale. You could be an aristocrat, a little Queen." Emily gave no answer - the amusement in her expression had faded away, replaced by a faint apprehension that I failed to notice, caught up in my appraisal.
"And your lips, I should say, are sublime." I spoke quietly now, almost more to myself than to her, as my thumb slowly traced the contour of her mouth. "Well-defined and firm, with just that slight enticing plumpness. A perfect shade of pink."
"Daddy...?" Her lower lip slid away beneath my thumb as she intoned the word diffidently, and I was jolted from the reverie into which I had fallen, my hand dropping away from her face. Just what on earth had I been thinking? Emily's cheeks were flushed, her eyes wide - I shook my head, trying to clear my senses.
"Anyway, ah...seem to have lost track of the point there," I sputtered out with a short, troubled chuckle. "What I wanted to say was that...well, you shouldn't ever think that you have to settle for someone you don't really care for. And you absolutely shouldn't think that you owe a boy anything for paying attention to you."
Emily did not immediately respond, still looking at me oddly from the corner of her eyes, her mouth slightly parted. Eventually, though, she nodded, gave me a hesitant smile. "Okay."
"Good." I shot her back a warm grin. "Listen, sweetie - I'm not going to give you any commands. You're too old for that now. And I guess these days, it's maybe not too realistic to talk about saving yourself for marriage. But I do hope you'll promise that you won't, ah, get physical with anyone unless you can honestly say that you love him. Can you promise me that?"
She laughed suddenly, quietly, for no reason I could see, and stopped just as quickly. "I promise, daddy." Placing her hand around mine, she squeezed it softly, lending weight to her words.
"I'm glad." I squeezed her hand back, appreciatively. "This Rob fellow, then - I think I know what my problem with him is. He reminds me of myself, when I was his age, and I certainly don't mean that in a good way. If you said you're not that keen on him in the first place..."
"He'll probably be mad about getting thrown out like that, too." Emily's nose crinkled up in amusement. "I have to admit, it was kind of funny seeing you lead him around like, I don't know. Like some lumbering cow."
"So you're not going to see him again?"
She shook her head lightly. "No. He's... he can be a little pushy sometimes, you know. And..." A moment's hesitation. "Well, I trust you. If you think he's bad news, you're probably right."
"Oh, honey." Touched by her faith in me, moved by her graciousness, I put my arms around her and hugged her close. "I couldn't ask for a better daughter than you. I really couldn't." Always an affectionate girl, she responded warmly, holding herself tightly against me. I could feel the heart beating in her chest, the rise and fall of her trim breasts as she breathed, and in this moment that sensation evoked a fugitive emotion in the depths of my psyche, a yearning I could not, dared not identify. I wanted to hold her, maybe forever, stroking her back and breathing in the strawberry scent of her hair.
But that was not to be. The seconds passed in our embrace until Emily finally stirred, and I was reluctantly forced to release her, a distant, distracted look in her eye. "Ah, so," I sniffed, trying to shake off my consternation, "I was inclined towards Thai tonight, what do you think? We haven't been to Madame Chow's in a while."
"Mm," she shook her head after a moment. "I don't know. I actually felt kind of like Italian, if you don't mind. I found a place called Vittorio's when I was shopping the other day, and it looked pretty nice, I think. Upscale, you know?"
"Well, we could certainly give it a try," I nodded. "I can stand to get a glass or two of wine in me, anyway."
So we went, and ate, and drank - or at least, I drank - and the events of the day receded into memory. Our conversation remained on lighter matters, Emily's effusive manner managing to make even the petty politics and gossip of high school sound intriguing. I talked a little about work, but mostly just asked questions while quietly marveling at her appetite - the food was well-prepared, and she put away nearly as much of it as I did, despite weighing less than a buck ten. Still, she was certainly active enough for it, between the track team and gymnastics. The afternoon fairly sparkled, despite its inauspicious beginning, and our laughter and banter seemed as warm as it ever was.
It was not until that evening, after we had bid our goodnights and retired to our bedrooms, that my thoughts drifted back to Emily's tryst. Despite that the matter was settled - their relationship ended, a promise of something near to chastity extracted - the image of her paramour lavishing his attentions upon her trembling body remained with me, once more inciting the same dark, aching ire which had taken hold of me at the moment of discovery. Lying in bed, bereft of distractions, I found that I could not put it out of my mind; there was a cold sickness in the pit of my stomach as I replayed the few moments I had seen of their encounter again and again; the boy's filthy hands roaming across her bare, unsullied flesh, his detestable mouth wringing undeserved kisses from her lips, and a further sacrilege, stealing a taste of her gently upturned breast.
For all that those images tormented me, it was the memory of her cries which tore at me the most violently. Emily had a voice as sweet as a songbird's, and in that low, melodic soprano her pleasured moans and murmurs had a hypnotic quality, a power like siren song. I could almost hear her there, in the silence of my bedroom, sounding pleasured sighs so evocative, so bewitching, that they wrenched me to my very soul, twisted my insides into knots. And I bristled to know that it was that juvenile delinquent who was chosen to wrest such utterances from her, to play upon her body as though it were a musical instrument. I knew that I could - but the thought choked itself off, without conclusion. I had nothing intelligible, only an obsessive, tumultuous horror as I contemplated her ravishment.
In that vein, my thoughts were soon cast to what might have happened had I not arrived home early, had Emily been left to her suitor's contrivances. Would he have taken her there on the couch, I pondered darkly? Or in her room, amidst the stuffed animals which still populated her headboard? Or - and the breath caught in my throat at the thought - here on the very bed in which I now lay? In my mind's eye I could see them, young lovers collapsing in a tangle of slender limbs upon the mattress, their clothes falling away like leaves in autumn. He would not have known how to treat her, how to attend to her pleasure with tongue and finger, I thought with a cold, bilious certainty. No, he would crudely spear her yielding flesh, lay waste her innocence with no concern for anything but his own satisfaction. He would thrust with all the imbecilic, artless urgency of a rutting dog, and Emily - my Emily - would accept it with her gentle benevolence, knowing nothing of the raptures which could be afforded by a reverent hand, the ecstasies of a considerate lover. When the end neared - too quickly, as with all boys his age - he would pull back before the climactic moment and befoul Emily's perfect skin with his degenerate seed. She would lie there nude and heaving from her exertions, her breasts sticky with sweat and semen, her body abused and unsatisfied, while her teenaged beau scrambled off of her spouting some jackassed line. And I-
It was not until that moment that I recognized my arousal, came to understand in one terrible instant the truth that had been staring me in the face - that it was not protective wrath but jealousy which possessed me, an insane jealousy for an impossible desire. I hated that boy because I wanted to be him, to lay my hands upon those marvelous breasts, to hear those fervid moans and know that I had called them forth. And I shuddered to feel now how the image of her body now inflamed me, how my nerves thrilled and my blood coursed at the thought of a most grievous sin. I had not imagined, could scarcely believe that such a darkness lurked within me; its revelation was a cloying terror, a vileness that choked the very breath from my lungs.