tagBDSMDescend to Heaven

Descend to Heaven

bydr_mabeuse©

Chapter One of a new novel. (Wish me luck...)

*****

It happens when you least expect it.

It must be a law of nature that things happen when you least expect it. Or a law of human nature, anyhow, that when you're looking for someone and needing someone, you never find them. You're too positive that you know what you want, and what you want is your own ridiculous dream.

But when you stop looking, when you put out of mind your ideas of just who you're looking for and what they'll be like, you open yourself to possibilities, and that's the only way it happens. After all, you really don't want what you already know. You have to make room for someone else, a different person, with a different mind, who feels things differently than you. When you stop looking, you open yourself for love and attraction to find new ways into your heart and change you. And sometimes they change you to make you more of who you really are.

Sometimes, in the darkest night, the dimmest, most unsuspected glow becomes a blaze, and before you even know what's happening, you're consumed in an overwhelming light.

That's how it was for me on that gloomy November day when I stopped by my bank to see about removing my ex from our joint account. It was five months since she'd left, and it had taken me that long to accept that it was over and that there'd be no reconciliation, no mending of fences, no compromise. We were incompatible, she'd told me, and I remember how our counselor had simply sat there and looked at me after Dana had made that remark, waiting to see if I had anything left to say. But what can you say to that? I suppose that was the end, right there, and we all knew it. Dana just didn't want to be with me anymore. Whatever I'd had to offer her wasn't enough, or wasn't right, or God knows what.

I don't want to recount the anguish that followed, the months of devastation, loneliness, despair, depression. Let's just say that by the time I walked into the bank on that dismal wintry day, I'd graduated to the ranks of the walking wounded, the emotionally crippled and the spiritually destitute. Grief had become second nature to me, something I took for granted, but it looked like I would live.

The clerk who sent me to speak to a bank officer was solicitous, the officer who directed me to Ms. Zamora was glad to get rid of me. I sat in Ms. Zamora' cubicle and waited for her as the subdued sounds of the bank murmured around me, a million miles away.

Ms. Zamora was young, young enough to be a daughter, and that didn't help my mood. She was neatly dressed in a brown skirt suit and very femmy blue blouse with a ribbon at the throat; wavy black hair that fell past her shoulders, and a pair of glasses I knew were supposed to make her look more businesslike, but only seemed to accent her coy femininity to me. She had the face of an angel on the body of a woman, and while most of me still mourned, some part of me noticed.

But despite all that, she projected an air of expertise and efficiency, from her sensible business heels to the ends of her perfectly manicured but colorless nails. She was a young woman who had had learned how to play this man's game: cool, professional, organized.

"Hello, Mr. Townes." She smiled as she walked in and gave me a firm handshake. "I'm Anamaria Zamora. How may I help you?"

As yet I wasn't really aware of anything special about her. I registered that she was beautiful just as I registered that she was young and female, but all that was of no real interest to me in the condition I was in. Beauty was something like sunshine or laughter, something for other people to appreciate. To me, she was just another bureaucratic functionary I had to deal with in this prolonged and difficult sweeping up of my ruined life.

"I have a joint account with someone I'm no longer with," I said lamely. "I'd like to get her name removed from my account."

The briefest cloud passed over her face. "Do you have your account number?"

I gave her my checkbook and she flipped it open and typed in the numbers.

"You shared this account for some time," she remarked.

"Yes," I said. "We did."

She typed in a few more numbers and said, "I'm sorry."

I thought it an odd comment for a bank officer to make, and I watched her as she scrolled around the screen for a bit, a look of concern on her face; a look of more concern than my simple request would seem to warrant. She seemed genuinely upset.

"The easiest thing," she said. "Would be for her to come in and remove her name herself."

She slid her eyes over me. "Would that be possible?"

"I don't know," I said. "We're not exactly speaking."

She nodded grimly and bit her lip. "Then the next best thing would probably be for you to open a new account in your name only, and transfer your funds. Does she have any money in the present account?"

"No. Well, it's hard to say. You know how it is with couples. Everything gets tossed into the common pool. There's some complications though. Some auto-pay things I need to change, and the matter of savings."

I spelled out for her what needed to be done, and as I spoke I realized how involved it all was. I didn't want to screw Dana over, but I didn't want to be paying her bills anymore either. Our finances were surprisingly complicated for a couple who had as little money as we did, and at a certain point Ms. Zamora took out a pad and paper and started taking notes.

And at another certain point, I realized she was going far and beyond the call of duty. For some reason, she seemed to be getting personally involved in my story and reacting with a lot more sympathy than I'd expected. She was honestly trying to help me.

That made me glace at her desk, looking for clues to her personality. It was very neat and organized, with just one framed picture of an older couple on a cruise ship, smiling, their arms around each other. Her parents, no doubt. No picture of a husband, no kids. It seemed unusually forlorn.

I tried to catch a glimpse of her left hand as she typed. No ring. But was that a pale band where a ring had been? She was naturally dark, so it was hard to say.

In the end I couldn't help myself. "You're not married?" I asked boldly

I was still wounded enough that I didn't think the question especially inappropriate.

A tight smile, just this side of grim.

"Separated," she said. "Two months today."

Now I did feel stupid. "Oh," I said. "I'm sorry."

And I was, because after working with me for fifteen minutes to arrange my own financial split, I really had no business asking. And because it suddenly reminded me that mine wasn't the only broken heart in the world.

She stopped typing and took off her glasses and put the heel of her hand to her eye.

"I'm sorry." She reached for a tissue. "It's silly. Forgive me. We just have to-"

"No," I said. And without thinking I reached over and took her wrist. "No, that's okay. I understand, believe me. And after all you've done for me. This must be so painful for you."

"No, it's stupid. It's silly. But it just happens to be my birthday today too, and—"

She laughed at herself, or tried to, then waved me off and stood up.

"I'm sorry, you'll have to excuse me for a second. I'll be right back. I just need a moment. Please, help yourself to some coffee, I— Oh God, this is so embarrassing!"

She hurried out of the cube and I watched her go, for the first time seeing her as a person and trying to imagine the kind of man who could let something like that go. She was indeed beautiful, very well put together and youthful, and obviously sensitive and intelligent.

God knows what kind of weird things go on between two people in an intimate relationship,but it was hard for me to imagine what kind of flaw she might have that would lead to a break-up. Was she a clinger? A babbler? Too pushy? A nag? Bad in bed or non-sexual?

The spirits of banking propriety might strike me dead, but I knew that last one was false. There was an aura of sensuality about her, even in her grief.

I knew it with a small sense of shock, that Anamaria Zamora was a hellion in bed, or would be if treated properly. That innocent beauty, that tight leash of control she kept herself under, her emotionalism, that overripe body...

And just as shocking was my own reaction, the first response I'd had towards a woman since Dana. I could hardly believe it.

There are women you see who are gorgeous, or sexy, but you know there's nothing inside and they're not for you. Their beauty or demeanor speaks a different language than you do, and you know any attraction is all superficial and shallow. They're basically all packaging with no prize inside.

And then there are women who seem to speak in some secret tongue, who crackle with some electric tension or energy on your special frequency: sexual tigresses in lamb's clothing. They're not for all men to see; nature's worked it that way. There's a special matching that goes on, a fitting together. It takes a certain man to see inside and see that spark and sizzle, where another man just sees a young bank officer or female employee.

Not that I had any plans on Ms. Zamora at that time. I was totally out of meeting-someone mode, let alone even considering a date. Besides, we were about as unlike as it's possible to be: me an older, cynical and disillusioned chemist barely holding onto his dead-end job, and she a young, up-and-comer in the buttoned-down world of banking and finance. She was sweet, she was helpful and sympathetic, she was gorgeous, and she was in pain, and that's all I knew.

But that was enough for me to get my coffee and wait there in the little room where the coffee pot was, right outside the woman's bathroom.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Townes. I'm so embarrassed," she said when she came out. "If you like, I can have someone else help you."

I poured another cup. "How do you take it?"

She smiled. "I really shouldn't. They don't like us drinking at our desks. And please, you won't say anything?"

"About what? That some bankers have feelings? And you can stay here and drink it with me. In the interest of customer relations."

She smiled. "Then two creams, please. I don't know why I got so upset. For two months I've managed to function without letting it get to me."

"Maybe I just look as miserable as you feel?"

Another smile. "No, no. But there's something about you. like I feel like I know you. And I don't do I? I mean, I haven't seen you in here before?"

"No. I would have remembered," I said. "And by the way, happy birthday."

"Thank you. Maybe that has something to do with it. I hope you know I'm not normally like this, honestly."

My turn to smile. "No? And what are you usually like?"

I won't go into the rest of that coffee-room conversation, nor into what we said sotto voce in between finishing my official banking business back at her cubicle. Anamaria pulled strings and threw levers and got my business done. We drained the joint account of all but twenty dollars, effectively solving the problem, and in between doing that, we talked.

It was a strange talk, a dual confession of the pain and suffering we'd endured at the hands of our ex's, and it seemed to flow out of both of us as if at last we'd found someone who could truly understand our trauma and grief. We talked like long-lost siblings who fit one another perfectly, even in our rhythms and speech patterns and body language, and we seemed to know each other's each and every thought and feeling before they were even expressed.

I can't explain what made me ask her out as if it were the most natural thing in the world. It was like I knew she could read my mind and so I'd might as well put my thoughts into words. She demurred at first as I knew she would, but strangely for me in my wounded condition I wouldn't be put off. I begged and cajoled and teased and pleaded till my persistence had its way and she agreed.

No, she wouldn't give me a weekend night, but a weekday would do. She'd let me take her to a film on a Thursday, but only if I met her in the lobby of the theater. She didn't have to say that she didn't want to have to explain this old man with his salt-and-pepper beard to her parents, which was where she was living since her break-up. And it was understood that we were going out together only for therapeutic reasons, to soothe each other's grief and commiserate over our losses.

Or at least, that's what I pretended it was. And she did too. But on a first date like this, who can be sure of what motivates us?

I was nervous waiting for her, but once she showed up, striding a little near-sightedly into the lobby, we seemed to take up just where we'd left off at the bank: the same easy familiarity and lack of self consciousness. It was obvious that we weren't suitable for each other, with me being so much older than her and my life seemingly running down as hers was just beginning, and maybe that's what made being together so easy. There was no pretension, no need to impress and no façade to maintain; no sense of sexual threat. Or promise, for that matter.

Away from the bank she was surprisingly girly in jeans and boots and a bulky sweater. It was a sweater to cuddle in and be soft and protected, whose cowl neck served as a not so subtle barrier between us. And yet her jeans were maybe a bit more snug than was seemly in a casual date, and her sweater did little to conceal the ripe thrust of her breasts, and even exaggerated them somewhat.

I noticed too that her nails were painted, something she'd have to undo before she went to work tomorrow. Was that just for me? Or something any girl would do when going out?

The movie was The Boarders, a bizarre Eastern European art thing about a mother and daughter living in a surrealistic apartment building where they were alternately terrified and seduced by the bizarre inhabitants. I suppose it was some allegory about the communist past or something, but I didn't know that when I chose it.

At first Ana and I couldn't stop whispering and even giggling like two adolescents. She needed popcorn, unbuttered, and a diet Coke, and I teased her about that until a patron turned and asked us to please be quiet. Then we settled down and sat rapt: Ana's eyes glued to the screen, and mine scarcely able to leave her. She watched the film with wide eyes, her painted nails dipping into the popcorn every so often and lifting automatically to her mouth. She gave herself over totally to this confusing movie that concerned events she was too young to understand, pulling my sleeve and whispering a question when something needed to be explained.

We entered into that dual trancelike state that movie theaters so often engender, both of us absorbed into someone else's story. It's strange to admit, but I was attracted to her and strongly, but not sexually. There was something about her I wanted more than just sexually. Something about her femininity and softness and beauty, her curiosity and openness and the way she whispered those questions to me, the feeling of her trust and reliance. I wanted to protect and shelter her and heal her pain.

At one point in the film, a male tenant of the apartment house sadistically rejects the daughter and Ana instinctively pressed against me as if cowering, her breast pushed against my arm. I glanced at her and saw tears in her eyes, but all I could do was offer her a clean napkin free of popcorn salt

But when I turned back to the screen, I felt tears gathering in my own eyes too, and my throat get constricted and tight. That's not like me. I didn't understand this turmoil inside, this angry sadness.

The scene turned into a near rape, the tenant pushing the daughter down, manhandling her and ripping off her clothes in a way that made me cringe for shame at my gender. But at this Ana's tears seemed to stop and she sat silent and wide-eyed in horrified fascination at what was almost certainly going to be some very non-consensual sex. It was only when the scene faded to black that we both realized how tightly she'd been gripping me.

She dragged herself back to reality and made an awkward joke to excuse herself, but I'd seen that fascination in her eyes, both excited and repelled, paralyzed in a state somewhere in between.

It was just a movie moment. I wouldn't realize its significance till later. But I noticed it.

After the movie I suggested a drink, but she deferred. "Orrin, I can't. I have work tomorrow."

She seemed honestly sorry, and that was some consolation, so I gave her my arm and we started walking back to where she was parked.

The theater was in a little urban mini-mall, strings of stores standing cheek to cheek and all the windows made up for Christmas. We didn't walk so much as stroll or amble, in no particular hurry to reach her car. Ana wore a long red scarf and matching stocking cap that only further broke my heart. It made her look so young.

We stood by her car in a metered lot, and the harsh vapor lights made her look even more fragile and delicate, like some frail and injured bird. It was starting to snow, stingy little pellets of frozen sleet, nothing like the soft snowflakes of Christmas cards.

"Thank you for the movie," she said. "It was fun. And you were right: it's good to get out of the house."

"Then we'll do it again," I said. "I enjoyed it too. I like being with you."

She laughed a little and played coy. "You're just saying that. Trying to get some free samples from the bank."

"No, I mean it. There's something about you. Being with you is so easy, so effortless. You're different from anyone I know."

She smiled. "I like being with you, too. You make me feel safe and looked after. Like you could be my big brother or uncle—

"Oh!" she caught herself. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it that way."

"No, that's okay," I said. "I'll be for you whatever you need: brother, uncle, daddy. Second cousin twice removed..."

Ana smiled, and we fell silent. The gusty wind shook the plastic evergreen garlands that had been strung between the street lamps, tossing the styrofoam snowmen and candy canes that hung from it and making them dance. Between us was thick web of unspoken emotion that had sprung up with almost alarming speed and ease, tangling us up together before we even had any idea of what to make of it.

And though my affection for her hadn't yet turned into full-blown physical desire, I had no trepidation about saying what I said next:

"You know, the worst part is the physical loneliness. The empty rooms, the empty bed, the empty nights."

She turned to me with her key in her hand and I felt her own confused need coming off her as if in waves. I felt it almost as a physical force, as if our bodies were seized by some magnetic energy that was trying to pull us together, and we had to fight to resist it.

Ana put her mittened hand on the back of my neck and leaned her forehead against mine in a gesture both innocent yet intimate, and filled with aching sadness.

"Orrin, you don't want me for that. I'm not a good lover, and especially not now so soon after..."

She let her voice trail away but kept her head pressed against mine.

"But you feel it too, then?" I asked. "You feel the attraction?"

"Yes." She nodded against me. "I like you, Orrin. I like you very much. But I'm not the one you want. Trust me."

She turned reluctantly away and unlocked her car door, then turned back and faced me again.

"But if you could— If you could just hold me for a second?"

I stepped up to her and took her in my arms and she embraced me; clung to me is maybe a better word. And despite our layers of clothes and thick winter coats and our gloves and her scarf, I felt our bodies meld together as if they'd been designed for it. Her breasts met my chest and yielded, and her thighs pressed close against mine.

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