“Your ex-wife, what was she like?”
Paige was tracing her fingers over his arms now. Her touch was soft and flickering, heatless: that was how he realized he’d been talking out loud.
“She was- unhappy. Pills, you know,” he said.
“Yeah.” Max looked away, remembering snake-green eyes. “Military wives. It’s a fucking cliche, man.”
“That’s okay,” she said.
“She was fun though.” He lifted the waitress up in the air like she was weightless, a kid. “You’re fun too, you wanna get married?” Paige squealed and he kissed her on the nose. “Babe, you got any beers?”
Light of the refrigerator in the dark. She came over to him with two beers in one hand. He was sitting on the bed. He took the beers, grabbed her.
“Do something for me,” Paige said, bumping her hips into his face. She put the tips of her fingers in her mouth, smiling at him around them.
“Nm,” Max said, pulling her down.
“I want you to hurt me,” Paige said. Her voice scratchy and warm. “Hurt me.”
“What do you mean, baby?” he said. Rolling her over, bouncing a little. Playfully, he hoped. A pretending lightheartedness, but he knew that more and more of his dark was slipping out through his eyes. He kissed her deeply, her neck warm in his hands.
But Paige knew, she did, that it was there.
“Mm, a big guy like you, you could really… I mean…” Paige glittering at him. Her mouth was blurry, wet, chemical with the vodka. She rustled off her jeans. Her little cotton panties, her little kid thighs. “I can see it in you, that you like it, too. It’s at the edge of everything you do.” She lifted herself up on her spine and hissed it in his ear, urging him on.
“You got a sexy violence.” Hitting the x’s and c’s hard with her small pink tongue, her white-trash tongue, her legs locked around him, and Max felt his blood sinter to a ferric edge.
Suddenly she clawed him, hard, fast as a cat, trying to make him angry, to make him do the thing she wanted, that she knew he could give her. And there was a knife he always carried, enveloped secretly in a leather slot at the back of his belt- for unexpected handcuffs, certain situations- and now his awareness of it burned exquisitely against his spine; and her softness, her yielding. He was lightheaded with it.
“Do you think so?” His fingers rounded up on her small shoulders, her tiny shoulders. The fauna of desire, flooding in and out of the vast green world; these inclinations that live like beasts inside us. To dissolve within another, to possess them, to destroy.
Or were we ourselves tiny beasts within them, these inclinations?
They were gods, maybe, each separate type of desire. Separate gods, each with its own weathers, tides, intractable flowing- and so this wasn’t him, this wasn’t his fault, no, it was some vaster thing that he was swept up within.
Paige's warm, tiny fingers husking away his jeans. “I can make you hurt me,” she said, low. “I can make you give me what I want.” Quick as a snake, she bit his mouth.
He yelled, bleeding maybe, trying now to bat crazy Paige away, but his big arms, heavy as clubs, spring-loaded to judo speed, one of them flailing just brushed her jaw. And she was such a tiny thing that’s it was enough, she arced back beneath him, her little heart shape face sling-shot back hard into the pillow.
A bright arc of blood hung frozen in the air as it hit him, too, what he’d done, and then it came up jack-lit in the rusty dark of his mind. This memory of his mother; her dark eyes rolling cow-like towards the slow opening bedroom door, towards his child’s silhouette, as a cowboy without a face goes on hammering into the soft hills of her body. The dirty light sawed with dust, exhaustion.
And Paige the bloody jack’o lantern, now she’s leering up at him, a little demonically in the weird shuttery light in this, her streetside room.
She was making his cock sow into her, the rhythm she wants, lolling her hair back and forth her eyes shut thankfully now, thank god, and he took up big fistfuls of her hair capturing her flat against the screaming bed, the pillows. Their bodies like twisting snakes.
“I want to fuck you forever.”
The knife was in his hands, it was in Paige’s mouth, it clicked against her teeth. Her eyes went wild and hot; she turned still.
Max yanked her hair, bending her neck still farther. His thumb with the knife deep in her mouth, the edge of it was against her cheek. He could curve it upwards, pierce into the fruit of her brain. And oh she was so pliant, so humid.
“Kiss it, suck it. I want to see you suck it.”
The animals in the jungle floating in and out of the shadows.
She panted silently, eyes paralyzed on his. Wet, frothing wet.
“Come for me, baby,” he said, and she did, in hard, sudden stabs, never blinking. The fullness of her tongue still against the pressing blade.
They broke apart, maybe a little too quickly, panting, and the next time Max looked at her he saw a tiny red burst vessel beneath Paige’s left eye. A tiny red star.
It quickened him, the way she like a crushed plant, fragrant in his hands, he couldn’t keep himself away from her.
But with his touch he turned her to rain, and he could swear he smelled the sweetness of it, the damp minerals and softening earth. “I'm sorry,” Max said; only women aroused him impossibly when they cried. The rush of makeup, a heated face and neck.
Paige drifting in his hands, sighing against him. There was simply nowhere else for her to go, of course, but he sensed it anyway, that for maybe a secret part of her, this felt like home.
He thought of a broken statue he’d seen in field, crashed down on its side in the dusty street. Its broken hands, face blinded by a rock, a bullet, something. That mute resignation, an acceptingness, and at the time the thing had moved him in some half-articulate way. While he half wanted to finish smashing it, in the same harmless way you wanted to finish a girl’s warming beer.
“I don’t know,” he said, gathering Paige to him. Paige was limp, crying, as if released from some physical thing that had trapped her, made it hard to breathe. She clung to him wetly.
To him, the vampire, emissary darkness. And could you let it out only a little, he didn’t know. “I don’t know about you, girl,” he said. “This, I don’t know.”
“I do,” Paige said, “I do, please. Again, again.”
From All Babes Are Wolves.
Image by Mishe
Pauline West's first novel, EVENING’S LAND, is a Library Journal Self-e Selection, winner of the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Award and recipient of the Carol Marie Smith Memorial Scholarship for the NOEPE Center of Literary Arts.
Pauline West's books on Goodreads
Candlemoth: A Holy City Romance
ratings: 27 (avg rating 4.04)
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Candlemoth Volume 2: How To Spend It
ratings: 10 (avg rating 4.40)
Candlemoth Book 3: A Twist of Fate
ratings: 6 (avg rating 4.17)
Stalker: A Gothic Thriller
ratings: 4 (avg rating 4.25)