The Bastard Ch. 05byH. Jekyll©
Chapter Five: "Elizabeth"
I was wrong. Something else happened.
It happened that Elizabeth came to see me late. Very late. I must have fallen asleep, because I woke to pounding on the door. I don't know how she got into the building. I thought I heard her voice calling in a dream, but she pulled me out of the dream and through the dark hall and the living room. The only light was the yellow gleam from the street lamp in the alley, streaming up through the windows to project drops of melted snow onto the walls and ceiling.
She was standing almost inside the door frame, and there was snow on her shoulders, on her coat, in her hair, on her shoes. There was at least a sprinkling on everything that was hers, and she was shaking.
Even in the dim light of the hall she was paler than usual.
"You bastard!" Shaking with rage. There was nothing I could say to her about it. It didn't matter anyway.
Don't say anything to make her feel bad afterwards. Just take it and let her go.
"You could have waited until morning to tell me that," I said, thinking shut the fuck up, Ed. "No reason to go out late in the cold."
"You bastard! You're all the same!"
Something different in that. What's going on, Elizabeth? There's something else going on. And your face. It's too pale. Your lips. It's shadowy here, but I think they're tinted blue. Jesus! She wasn't shaking with rage but with cold.
"Where are your hat and gloves?"
"Where are they? You're freezing!"
"You…I don't know. I left them."
"Oh, shit! Come in and warm up."
"You're freezing! At least get warm."
"Come on in. Let the bastard do something right for a change!"
Elizabeth didn't pull her hand away when I took it and led her across the room. She shook terribly, like someone in a fever. Her hand was dry ice. I thought it might be frostbit. She was quivering, shuddering. She must have been outside a long time. She hunched over the radiator and held her hands to it.
"I'll get you something hot."
She didn't answer, so I went out into the kitchen and made hot chocolate. Hurry, damn you! When I returned the only difference was that her coat was lying on the floor. Her hands and face were almost touching the radiator.
"Here." But she couldn't. Not at first. Her hands shook so much she spilled some chocolate.
"Let me help." I held the mug to her lips. She didn't try to stop me. She sipped a little then after a minute took it back from me and held it herself, even though she would shake every few seconds. She stood over the heat, sipping and looking out the window, never at me.
There wasn't much to see out there. The snow wasn't deep enough, not yet, to cover the tar paper or roofing cement of the buildings along the alley, so it was a gritty, cold scene. The lamp made everything yellowish. Steam came from some pipes, whipped around in the wind, and disappeared.
Outside you could hear the wind. Inside there was just a tiny whistle in some spot that needed caulking. The snow was now mixed with sleet that ticked off the base of the window. Elizabeth stood and sipped, and I just looked at her standing against the window and thought, and the only regular sound was the occasional ticking of sleet on glass.
"You're a bastard. All of you."
I began to have an idea what had happened.
"What did he do?"
Elizabeth turned toward me and put the mug down.
"He's just like you."
"What did he do?"
"What didn't he do? What you all do. His own version."
"Did he hurt you?"
"Hurt me?" Elizabeth laughed. It was an awful laugh. "You hurt me! He disgusts me. He wants me to do a girl." She closed her eyes. "He wants a threesome. What doesn't he want? Is there anything you don't want?"
She leaned forward and wrapped her arms around her stomach as though it hurt. I knew that look. She waited—it was obvious—for me to answer, and finally looked back up. There was nothing to say. There was nothing for her here. She shouldn't have come.
"You're sorry? What are you sorry for? Because you're not getting any of it?"
It was here that she began crying. Don't do that. Please don't. Not again.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry you were hurt again. I'm sorry I hurt you. I'm sorry for everything. I'm sorry I'm such a bastard."
She was still crying. Quietly, like everything else. I could hear more ticking of sleet against the window than I could hear Elizabeth cry in little sighs. I reached out to touch her shoulder.
"Don't!" She swung away from me, to the window again. After a minute I took the mug to the kitchen because I couldn't stand it.
When I came back she wasn't crying. She began talking almost right away, in flat, tough-sounding tones, without looking at me.
"Tell me something."
"Did you ever care for me at all?"
I didn't answer. I wouldn't. I don't think she really wanted an answer. Let her talk, then go.
"Did you? Or was it all a plan to get what you wanted? Was it just your way of getting into my pants, of getting into my ass?"
I didn't answer. I couldn't.
"You're really good at it, you know. You can make a girl feel all excited. Get her all warm and shivery. You're good. Do you have lots of practice? You know how to make her think you're the one, the real one. I bet you get to screw any number of women that way."
I stayed mute. Don't be drawn into it, Ed. Let her talk herself out.
There was nothing to say. Nothing that would help.
"Was I just the rectum du jour?" After a minute. "I bet you thought I was awfully easy. But you see, I never fell for anyone before."
When she said that she dropped the tough-girl act and started crying again, in the middle of the last sentence. A tear meandered down her face, through the drops projected onto her from the window.
"You were the first one."
Oh Jesus. Have you ever really hurt anyone? I did her good. I'd known, but it's different knowing it and seeing her keep hurting in front of you. It was as bad as when she caught us. No time had passed. Something, a song lyric, some words swirling around in here about the one you always hurt. You son of a bitch!
She began wiping at her face.
"Well, I'm sorry to ruin your perfect night. I'm sure I've completely embarrassed myself. I'll be going now." She picked up her coat and started for the door.
"No!" Don't say it!
"Don't go!" Shut the fuck up, Ed!
"Don't go." Run!
"Why not? I'll be fine, once I'm away from you."
Give a reason! Think! "You'll never get a cab, not here, at 2:30, in this weather..."
"You bastard!" she yelled.
She ran at me and tried to pound me with her fists. Her coat fell to our feet. When I grabbed her wrists she struggled and kicked and tried to yank a hand free to hit me. "You bastard, you bastard, you bastard!" And then she collapsed against me and was crying on my chest, and my face was down next to hers, and I was talking to her again.
"Don't leave. Stay. Please, stay. Please."
I was crying too, and kissing her hair, and holding her up.
We stood like that for several minutes. I don't know how long. She never struggled, never tried to get away. Her face was against my chest, her arms at my waist, my arms around her, my cheek on her hair, and we were swaying together. Our shadow against the wall in the yellow light was swaying along with us, looking warm and affectionate. Spots and trails of melted snow projected onto the wall and ceiling.
And I was sick at heart.
I was sick at heart because I was so weak. I had given her hope. I had to crush that hope. I had to hurt her all over again. At least maybe I could spare her the big hurt.
Finally we separated, pulled back half a step from each other, our hands finding each other and holding on. Elizabeth was looking up at me. I think she expected us to kiss, but I had to resist or I couldn't go through with it, and that would mean stringing her along. I had to cut the string. The light was on my face now. She could see my face was wet and, thinking of these things like I do, I decided I could use it to help get through. I pulled her toward the couch.
"Sit down, Elizabeth. Please. I have to say something."
I sat on the coffee table and wiped my fingers over my eyes. How to start? Get it out fast.
"I'm a monster. I'm a bastard. What you said about me, it's the truth. You're better off leaving."
She didn't look startled.
"If you'd asked around, you would have found I have a reputation." She started to say something, but I waved a hand and went on. "In your circle there are people who know. I've done things with some of them. I'm surprised no one warned you. So yes, when I started taking you out, it was for the sex. Not just. But, yes, mainly for the sex. No! It was all for the sex! It was calculated. I'm attracted to talented women. The more talent, the more the attraction."
"Why are you telling me this?" She was backlit by the street lamp.
"Because you have to know. I almost never lie." What never? Hardly ever. And I'm hardly ever sick at sea. Stop it! Go on. "But I don't tell the truth, either. I let people draw conclusions. I need you to know. If I don't tell you now, I won't ever be able to. I'm a monster. I'm sure I'd enjoy doing all the things that other guy wanted to do."
Her voice never got hard. "So. So is this where you tell me I was right and you never cared for me?" What do you say? There was my opening. Miss Straight-Line was setting it up. "Did you? Did you ever care for me?"
"No. I never cared for you."
Please believe me. Don't. Please do. The sun is filled with ice and gives no warmth at all. That much is true. But Elizabeth didn't believe or disbelieve. She shuffled, kicked her coat. She bent to get it, but stood back up instead.
"Then why did you ask me to stay?"
"I thought we might sex." And it don't snow in Boston, Mass., in the wintertime.
"Then why are you telling me to go? Edward, tell me the truth! At least give me that!"
She knew. She must, something, somehow.
"I always wanted sex with you. I wanted your ass. I wanted it the very first time I saw you, before we ever talked." I stopped for a breath. Let me try some truth, the whole McGillicuddy. Maybe. "Then it became different. It wasn't one-sided. You weren't a fool. I wanted to be with you when we weren't having sex. I thought about you during the day. I even had little daydreams about our being together, having kids, the whole nine yards. Me." I shook my head. I'd said "me" ruefully enough to make it believable.
We sat for a few minutes not looking directly at one another. I was waiting for her to ask the obvious question, and finally she got around to it.
"If you cared for me so much, why did you do that with Justine?"
"Because I'm a monster."
"What do you mean?"
What do I mean? I don't know how to tell you. The words come out all knotted. I can't say them straight. It used to be easy with you.
"It means I'm bad news. It means I wanted to, and I could, so I did it. I loved you, and I still did it. You wouldn't do what I wanted, and Justine would. She seemed to like it. But I probably would have done it with her even if you did like it. I like variety, too, and she was someone new. I always do that. Always! There were others while we were together, too. That's what I mean."
After a moment: "What am I? I don't understand. Am I your mother confessor? Do you want my forgiveness?"
"No. I don't expect you to forgive me. Why would you? You're better off without me."
"Why are you saying this? What do you want? I can't tell what you want!"
"Elizabeth. What I want, is I want you to be happy. That's what I want. And that means forgetting about me."
We sat facing each other in another silence. The sleet had stopped and the snow was heavier, almost obscuring the building across the alley. From the stairwell there was the sound of a door slamming, some steps, the screech of the elevator door, a click, and then the whine of the motor.
"This is one of those 'It's not you, it's me' speeches, isn't it?"
"Yes. But it's the truth."
"I don't believe you."
After a moment: "I guess it doesn't matter."
"You never cared for me! You couldn't and talk like this."
"It doesn't matter. There's no reason for you to believe what I say."
"So then tell me the truth."
"I haven't been lying. It's…complicated."
"Okay." I shook my head. "Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. I cared for you. I still do." You dumb idiot, Ed! "I hate it that I hurt you. I miss you."
Elizabeth didn't respond. She turned away. I held my breath, but she turned back. "Then why didn't you try to get me back? I would have come back, after a while. You had to know that."
I walked over to the window to watch the snow. How do you answer, say the thing that is dead solid perfectly true but absolutely wrong? It would make me too sympathetic. I couldn't make her see me from the inside. There's no way.
"I had to let you go. I had to. It would happen again. And again. And again. I know myself, Elizabeth. I'm not an idiot. I thought you would get over it and find a nice guy. I thought he might be the one. Hell, I was sure wrong about that. But there are nice guys out there."
She had turned around on the couch to look at me. I couldn't get a take on her.
"Why couldn't you tell me this before?"
"Shit! I couldn't stand to have you even see me! And what if? What if you wanted to get back together? I'd just hurt you again." I'll hurt you when the wolfsbane blooms, and the moon is full and bright.
It was quiet once more. We'd be through with this in a minute. She'd finally understand, and leave. She'd get on with her life. I could do what I needed to do. I waited for her to tell me to fuck myself, and to gather her things. I was expecting almost any sign of outrage. What I wasn't expecting was no sign at all, and I never expected what she actually, finally said.
"Wouldn't that be my choice?"
"Did you have to abandon me?"
This was never going to work. "Shit! Damn it Elizabeth, I know myself! New fantasies are always there, always floating around. Always! Whatever the fantasy is, I want it! I want it with you, or this woman, or that one, or some other one! It doesn't matter. Shit! I want it! It grabs me. Even here, right now, they're here, even when we're talking. Right this minute!"
She didn't do anything. Maybe I was getting through. But no.
"What fantasy are you having right now?"
"Don't go there."
"You brought it up, so you have an obligation. Spell it out. You want to be so honest." She twisted the word 'honest.' "Well, tell me!"
"Okay. Okay. I noticed the frost on the window…No! I won't! Just go."
"Get out of here!"
"Tell me! You owe me that!"
"All right. You want to know. I wondered what it would be like to sex you, with you naked, up against the glass. In the fantasy I hold you against it so you can't get away, and you have the shock of the cold all the way up your back."
"You're having that right now?"
"It comes and goes. Little snippets of it. Parts of the scene." I saw the whole scene in Technicolor. Lush, beautiful, sensual. Fucking my girl against the window. Making her take it. Making her love it. God, it was good!
"And you want it?"
"I already told you." After you leave, I may jack off to it.
"You'd force me to do it? I don't believe you!"
"Don't be so sure. If the fantasy was good enough."
"You'd rape me?"
"No you wouldn't!"
"You don't know that."
"You wouldn't! You're trying to scare me, to make me hate you!"
"I'm trying to warn you! God! Damn! It!"
"You're trying to scare me away!" Elizabeth came toward me.
"I'm warning you!"
She walked all the way up to me. She pushed herself against me. That body. Take it away! Don't let me touch you. She was looking me right in the eyes.
"Then do it! Rape me! Do me against the glass! I couldn't stop you!"
"Do it, if you're man enough!"
"God damn you!" I grabbed her arms and whipped her around so she banged against the window. There was a cracking sound. I pushed her arms up beside her head. Fuck it all. I'll teach you! Let's end it all, get it over with. First you, then me.
I put my hands around her neck and squeezed. Her eyes flew wide. She brought her hands up to mine, tried to pull them away, but she was right. She couldn't stop me. Her mouth came open and the tip of her tongue protruded. She made little rasping sounds. I squeezed harder, to stop the sounds.
I leaned my face down to hers, and stared in her eyes while she struggled to peel my hands away. It was useless. Finally I whispered, "You don't know what you're asking!" I dropped my hands, and stepped backwards, away from the window, and found myself sitting on the couch, where I stared at her shadow on the wall. My God. Yah, mine. Fucking asshole of a God.
If I blinked my eyes enough, or wiped them enough, I could see Elizabeth's shadow sprawling back against the window and holding its hands to its throat. Its head was half bent over. I watched the shadow massage its neck. I could even see fine lines where wisps of her hair etched their own shadows on the wall. I wanted to cover my eyes, but if I did I couldn't see even her shadow. That time would come soon enough.
Elizabeth huffed a little while she rubbed her throat, but she didn't cry. She cleared her throat three times. She rubbed for a while. There were moments when I could make out the shadows of her hands, of some fingers. She turned sideways and there was the outline of that flawed nose on the wall. Her shadow began to dissolve. There were steps that came right up to me.
Maybe she had found something heavy and hard to smash on my skull. Nothing happened. Then there were her real, flesh-and-bone hands on my shoulders.
"You're crying." She was hoarse.
"I'm sorry." I couldn't stop it.
"Shouldn't I be the one who's crying? I was the one who was choked." She cleared her throat again.
"You really did scare me for a minute."
Go away. Get a life. Don't feed the monster.
"Did you enjoy it?"
One of her hands left my shoulder and played with my hair. She cleared her throat again. She did it every few seconds.
"I'm glad. Are you going to try to scare me again?"
I wiped my face again, shook my head, took a breath.
Both her hands went to my head. I could feel her lean over the back of the couch and place her lips to my hair. She stood like that a moment. I could feel her breath. Finally she lifted off and walked around to the front of the couch and sat down beside me. She took my hand and leaned her head on my shoulder. Her other hand touched my arm, just below my shoulder.
"I'm so tired, Edward."
"I'm sorry for everything, Elizabeth." I could control myself if I took deep breaths. "So…so…so…you take the bed. I'll help you get home in the morning."
She looked up, her eyelashes opening like butterfly wings.
"You do love me."
For a minute I couldn't respond.
"It can't work."
"But you do. Your friend Anne told me, but I didn't believe her. I didn't know what to believe."
"It doesn't matter. I love you, but you don't understand. I don't think I can be good for you."
"But you'll try?"
"Aren't you even listening?"
Please don't ask that. "You don't know what it's like and I can't explain it."