Soul or How the dragon lost his wings
Josef Baum stands in front of the mirrored closet door in his rented apartment fingering the fabric of his tailored jacket. He casts a critical eye over his appearance, noting the lines at the corners of his mouth and the fullness of his lips. Only his eyes could give him away. They remain the windows to his soul. Hazel, ringed with a hint of green, they stand out against his pale skin.
He opens the doors to the balcony and stands overlooking the park, his eyes drawn to the figure seated under the largest oak in the area. She appears in the same spot, each day at this time.
They'd walked the Nile, and bathed in the Tigris. The banks of the Euphrates had supported them as they'd joined and come asunder, as had the banks of the Seine. They'd watched a heartbroken ruler build a palace in honor of his love and a prince crucified by the jealous.
They'd watched the world collide with itself and break apart, boundaries change, weaken, appear overnight and people align themselves with created places, territories, nations.
They'd been called Tunisians, Italians, Spaniards, Greeks, Soviet Jews and Untouchables. They knew languages lost to man for thousands of years and gazed upon Mount Ararat, knowing that the rumors were true.
Now, flipping through his documents, he was American, apparently from German lineage given his name and fair appearance. The name was close enough to the names he'd held throughout the centuries: Yusef, Youssef, Joseph, Giacomo.
He'd tracked her down, followed her across seas after he'd broken her heart. A lifetime of loving one another shaken apart in a moment of time so small that it couldn't be tracked.
"Youssef" Her smile was brighter than the midday sun, the corners of her mouth turned upwards, teeth gleaming.
He reached his hand towards her, forgetting for a moment that they were in the middle of the village, in view of everyone. Forgetting that she was meant to be submissive in this patriarchal landscape.
"Not now" he whispered fervently, noting the men looking at him. It was always difficult when they took over the lives of people with family and friends. Whenever possible they tried to choose someone who had no one in their lives, assuaging their guilt by telling themselves that the body they were taking was better off this way than lingering until the finality of death.
He pushed her away, to the approving nods of the males. The other men in the room, all relatives of the woman seated in the corner, were judging him silently. Wondering if he was suitable to take this woman as his first wife. As though his suitability mattered. He possessed land and connections that would ensure that her family was rewarded for foisting this young woman upon him.
Certainly her life under his roof would be better than under the rule of most.
After the wedding ceremony had concluded and the relatives were still making merry in the celebration tent, the females in his family bundled the young bride into his bedroom, presenting her as though she were some expensive gift, as he supposed she was.
He had no intention of consummating their union; he was merely following what had already been set into motion for this Youssef.
Anat burst into his bedroom after the rest of the house had settled down for the night and stopped suddenly. Her eyes flew to his. His new bride was on her knees before him, running the tip of her tongue over his hardness, his eyes closed and head thrown back.
At the sharp hiss of breath, his head snapped forward and his eyes sought hers. His new bride smiled to herself. He pushed her away, now uncertain as to whether he'd made a suitable choice. She had not been pure when he'd wed her, but that was his choice. He'd not allowed anyone to inspect her, offering up a measure of safety for the pretense of a traditional wife.
He sat on the edge of the bed, watching her as she wiped her hand across her mouth. He hoped she fared well in his absence.
"Youssef...Anat is gone."
"What do you mean, gone?" He knew that she was likely still angry; she hadn't been at breakfast that morning.
The guard looked down at the floor, flinching inwardly. Everyone knew that Anat was Youssef's favorite and he didn't relish being the one to have to let him know.
"Her body was found in the river this morning. The old women are saying that she drowned herself because of heartbreak and misery."
Yusef became dizzy for a moment. They were no doubt correct, she'd died of heartbreak.
He walks up the cobbled path towards the lone woman, her scent calling to him as a beacon. Myrrh, sandalwood, preserved lemons. She'd held on to her rituals, even as perfumes were mass-produced and slathered over the populace so heavily that he often had to recoil. He'd once watched a woman spray herself in the grocery store, from a perfume bottle she kept in her purse.
He sits on the bench behind her, smiling. She was fond of dark skin for herself and had kept it this time as well.
"Anat". He watches her shoulders stiffen.
"What are you doing here, Yusef?"
"It's Joseph, now."
"It's also Ana, now."
"I've come for you. I left you alone as long as I could."
"Do you call following me to Scotland, leaving me alone?" He hears the slight hint of humor in her voice and scoots forward on his bench.
"I've come for you." He repeats.
He frowns, threading his fingers together. "It will begin soon, Anat. We must leave."
She nods, her voice and spirit sounding weary. "I know and I cannot leave."
"You would stay here and perish? For what? Come with me before The River dries up and it starts in earnest."
"Mama". A chubby toddler wearing a sundress and with her feet bare, runs to Anat, flinging herself into Anat's arms. She babbles contentedly.
Anat turns to him for the first time, her eyes settling on his and smiles sadly. "I cannot leave here."
Yusef stares uncomprehending and then it strikes him. "You have a child." It is an accusation, rife with the betrayal he feels. The one thing he'd never given her, his child. While he'd lain in bed with her, picturing her belly stretched taut with their child, she'd always demurred, her reasoning valid.
"Yes." She strokes the brown skin in the crook of the child's elbow before ushering the child back to the closely supervised play area.
The sun glints off the ring on her left hand and he stares. "You are married." Another accusation. His mind immediately churns through the possibilities. "You can leave her with your husband and come with me." He smiles, content with the plan.
She looks at him sadly. "This is my child, Yusef. I will not leave her. Not even for you."
"Is this because of the last time? I."
She cuts him off. "You betrayed me, Yusef. You let yourself get pulled into the affairs of common men, you succumbed to lust."
She takes a breath.
"And now I have done the same. I cannot leave Gia; she has no one but me."
He smiles in spite of himself. "You named her after me?"
"I named her after the foolishness of souls and men."
"You do realize that if you stay here until the end, that you have no say in where you will end up? We may never find one another again."
"Is that possible, truly?" She smiles.
She begins gathering her bags, calling for the child.
"It is time for her lunch and then a nap."
"You're just going to leave me here?"
"Yusef, you have made your way for thousands of years. Surely you can withstand time alone in this city."
"I've spent those thousands of years with you, Anat. There is a difference."
She shoulders her bag and motions for him to come with her. "I suppose we have much to talk about."
Yusef watches the child attempt to feed herself.
"Should she be doing that?"
Anat looks over at her child who is grabbing handfuls of mashed chickpeas and rubbing the concoction across her mouth and face.
"According to the professionals, it is how babies learn to feed themselves."
"But she's not getting much into her mouth."
"I've been promised that she won't starve."
Yusef reaches over to feed the child a spoonful, not certain that the experts know what they are talking about. She lets out a piercing scream that causes him to jerk back and call for Anat, who has moved into the kitchen.
"I think she's hurt."
Anat calmly comes back into the room. She smiles at him "No, she's just angry that you tried to feed her. She has an independent streak." She lifts the child from her high seat and takes her into the bathroom to wash her hands and face.
When she returns to the living room, the child is wearing pajamas and is dozing off against her mother's shoulder.
Anat puts the child down to sleep in her bed and returns, sitting on the sofa opposite Yusef.
"What do you plan to do now that you are here, Yusef?"
"I don't know. I thought hat you would come with me and that we would move to the front lines. Don't you want to see what happens when they realize that the different Gods they pray to are the same?"
She looks longingly out the window before turning back to him. "More than that, I want to watch her grow up, see her beauty take flight, help her temper her power. I want to leave something behind, even as the world ceases to exist."
"Why didn't we do that together?"
She hears the pain and longing in his voice and moves to sit next to him.
"It was not time. There were too many battles to witness, betrayals to inspire, false witnesses to bear and we were intent on proving that we were better off for having been cast out."
He nods sadly and she stands, holding out her hand. "Come, love me once again."
She lies on the bed, having been divested of her clothing in a matter of seconds and watches him.
He slips out of his jacket, the green shirt giving way to a body appearing to be carved out of marble. His stomach is impossibly flat, a light dusting of dark hair trailing into his pants. The pants hit the floor and her eyes linger on that part of him that had always made her body quicken.
"You chose well, Yusef."
He grins at her, placing his hands on his hips. "Yes, I did."
She holds out her hand to him, eager to join with him in this body.
"Patience, Anat." He walks over and looks down at her body. Her long dark limbs are outlined in stark relief against the white sheets. Her mound covered with wiry tendrils of hair, the lips swollen with need, her bud beginning to peek out from between them. Her breasts capped by dark peaks straining upwards. All signs of her desire and need.
He sits on the bed beside her, running his hands along her stomach, the softness of her skin drawing him to explore further. His hands tease the tops of her thighs before dragging through the hair at her mound, his thumb trailing behind, seeking the bud, pressing hard. She gasps and parts her legs, needing more. He continues pressing and massaging, stopping once to dip his hand into the cleft, his fingers returning glistening with her wetness and scent.
He returns the pressure to her bud, one then two fingers finding their way inside, preparing her for becoming his once again. She bucks against his hand, pressing against it, straining, her eyes open and locked onto his until she stiffens and her orgasm leaves her unable to do much besides whimper.
He pulls his hand away and stands, coating his cock with her juices, licking away the remaining drops with his tongue.
He settles between her legs, his member cradled between her thighs, pressed between their bodies and he leans forward and kisses her for the first time, last time. His tongue rakes against her teeth, and he bites her lips and laves her tongue.
"I hate that someone else has loved you, has taken you and been taken by you." He whispers as he licks an earlobe.
"It is madness to hate what you cannot change." She spreads her legs wider, angling her hips, pulling him into contact with her, rocking lightly.
He licks her chin, dipping his tongue into the hollow of her neck, swirling as he returns her thrusts.
One hand fondles a ripe breast, thumb sweeping over the nipple, now tightening and pinching, pulling, twisting until she whimpers in pleasure and pain.
Her command becomes his desire and he rakes her nipples with his sharp teeth, biting lightly and increasing the pressure until she bucks against him once again, her release filling the air with her scent. His mouth gentles and he suckles, kissing her breast, biting the undersides.
He moves back before thrusting inside, parting her as smoothly as only a possessor can. She is filled and fulfilled, molded instantly to his length and thickness. Her sides rub against him as he begins to thrust in earnest, holding her legs apart, looking down, watching as he retreats and surges forward, absorbed into her body. He throws his head back and groans. It is fitting that light and dark, good and evil, love and hate, play out in this small apartment in the East.
His sac hangs down, slapping against her as he thrusts wildly, now pressing forward, leaning heavily against her sensitive parts, sending her into convulsions once again.
As his release comes and he empties himself into her, the baby monitor crackles and the child begins wailing, her cries growing stronger as his release continues. He leans forward heavily, his sac finally empty and the child's cries turn to whimpers of despair.
They stare at each other in the sudden darkness that has overtaken the city. Thick clouds obliterate the sun.
"Never again will we be parted, Anat." He moves to her side.
Anat nods as she slides a pillow beneath her bottom, keeping his seed inside her, fulfilling her destiny.
Nine months later, on the darkest day seen by man, a child is born to Joseph and Ana Baum. His parents watch his face contorted in fury and nod to one another.
"It has begun."