Savitri ©Michael Parkes The Answer

  The night sighed listlessly in the stale air of a summer evening. The weather had fluctuated between downpours and scorching heat for days. It felt like years. The air conditioner rattled from the corner as it struggled to breathe chilled air into the small room. On the bed, a man shifted, flipped a pillow over to lay back on its cooler side, though both were damp with sweat. Gray-blue light played strangely on his face from the television. His expression was blank, yet the passing colors and shadows cast varying simulations of emotion across it like a blanket masking an ennui that went deeper than the surface levels of his mind. He was bored right down to his soul. He sighed and tried to ignore the sweat that dried on his temples.

  From the doorway, a woman watched him with restless hazel green eyes. She wiped the light prickly film of sweat off her upper lip with her fingers and shoved her hands into her pockets. She removed them again after a moment. For once, her hands weren't cold, and she ran damp palms over her hips to dry them. She smiled at the man when his eyes flicked over to her at the motion, but it did not hold his attention. She turned away to continue her aimless pacing around the small hot apartment. Stopping at a window, she looked out, pressing a high cheekbone against the glass. It felt cool and she stayed there until her flesh steamed the window, obstructing her view of the empty street and its lone streetlamp. She considered going for a walk. A low chuckle from the other room distracted her from the thought and she turned away from the view of the street. Another thought crossed her mind. She shrugged and smiled. 'What the hell,' she thought. 'Nothing better to do.'

  The light switch clicked as she flipped it on. The new light revealed a gray tiled counter, low budget white vinyl flooring with faded little blue flowers on it and basic white porcelain and chrome. The mirror doubled the mediocrity if not the size of the small bathroom. She took a hard look at her face. It was a fine-boned face with big eyes and full lips. She saw fair skin, slightly lined, and fine light hair that hung straight, shading her eyes. It needed a trim, she thought, as she ran a hand through it and picked up a comb. It shone like old gold when she combed it, and was soft like a baby's, falling in gentle waves onto her shoulders. It always looked like that when she combed it, but tangled again quickly unless she used hairspray. He hated hairspray, and so did she. She watched herself strip in the mirror. Even though she was over thirty she was still fairly slender. She eyed her smallish breasts critically and her flat stomach less harshly. She left the bathroom hoping it was good enough. It was the best she could do.

  Her bare feet told her the carpet needed vacuuming as she padded back toward the bedroom. She hoped he would smile. She looked forward to his smiles. They seemed as hard to catch as his attention during one of his tv shows. She wondered how he could stand so much of it. Television usually bored her out of her mind. She paused briefly at the door then strode in, walking tall on long legs.

  He sensed motion at the corner of his eyes. 'Probably her again, checking on me. Wonder why she doesn't just sit down. Too hot to wander around...' he thought before turning his head to look. His eyes flicked toward her habitually, then stopped as her nudity registered in his brain. He sat up a little and saw her grin. He knew that look: mischief, mixed with something that made him uncomfortable. He gave her a little smile and she walked toward him. He saw her take one step, then a shout on the TV snared his attention. A couple were fighting, but he'd missed what it was about.

  A trickle of cool air washed over her as she stood there grinning, then passed when the oscillating fan moved beyond her. Her nipples tightened with the welcome chill, and her heart raced as she waited to see if he would smile. A flush of delight mingled quickly with disappointment as she caught and held his attention only to lose it again to the tv. She shifted her path from the bed to the tv. She turned the angry couple off abruptly. When she faced him again, she smiled and stretched languorously, like a cat after a long nap. The motion pulled her stomach flat and accentuated her legs. While not fully aware of this, she suspected it and held the position longer than her body really needed the exercise. She smiled again, but not from her eyes. The fan crossed her once more and she sat on the edge of the bed, staring at him with the same question she always stared. She never waited long for an answer. Time had taught her that he did not know how to hear the question. In the back of her mind, she knew that maybe it was because she would not ask it in a way he could hear, because she was afraid of the answer. She crawled towards him slowly on her hands and knees, the soft bed threatening to unbalance her at every move.

  He wondered why she looked at him like that. Familiar frustration nagged at him from within, but he ignored it since she was coming toward him, pale flesh filling his eyes, wisps of blonde hair waving around her face. If he didn't pay attention, she'd bite him. Hard. She'd done it before. It had hurt. And there was all that bare skin...As she came up alongside him, he welcomed her with an outstretched arm. She was soft, but he knew the stubborn will hidden within that body. He both admired and hated it.

  She cuddled close, beginning to perspire immediately at the contact. Even the old cotton of his tank top seemed coarse against her skin. She nuzzled his shoulder with her lips, then turned her face toward his. As he leaned down to kiss her, she slipped her hands around him, grasping the edges of the shirt. When their lips parted, she tugged at it. His weight still pinned it against the pillows and he had to sit up to let her pull it over his head. When the fan passed next, she felt him cool, almost clammy afterwards. She held him tightly, until he felt warm again against her skin. When his hand trailed up her side, she relaxed, her trust renewed. Though his palm was coarse with callouses, the touch was gentle. She knew it could be otherwise. The hard won muscles against her body reminded her of the force he commanded and she did not.

  He turned, his motion guiding her onto her back. His actions remained gentle, yet firm. She let him move her, smiling up at him with welcome. All her physical defenses were released and she felt the oppression of the day slipping away little by little. He moved cautiously under her hands, less as if he might hurt her than as if he was trying to entice a shy animal to eat from his hand. She was not shy, but he could still see the thing he did not understand in her eyes. Sometimes, when he was very careful, it went away. He wanted to make it go away.

  He closed his eyes and kissed her, until he could not see it. After a time, when he opened them again, he looked for it. Her eyes were closed, but she held him with restless hands. 'Just like that pacing' he thought briefly, until the tingling of his skin drowned out the thought. He ran his hands simultaneously up from her belly over her breasts and up to each side of her throat. Slowly, ever so carefully, he moved, until she lay relaxed and smiling, her eyes simply waiting when once more they opened to his. He smiled back, a full smile with even white teeth, no longer shadowed by the cloud she cast on him with that look. As he felt her tension melt under his hands, he began to close them.

  He worked hard with his hands. They were very strong. He put up with pathetic co-workers and stupid bosses all day long. He stood in the heat and the cold working outside so he could have a home to relax in and forget them. He gave her things because he loved her. He tried everything he could to keep that look from creeping into her eyes like accusations. Like she didn't trust him.

  Just then, her eyes opened, silent questions the color of a fall forest staring up at him. His heart jumped, and he tightened his fingers and buried his face in her chest to shut them out. 'WHAT?!' he wondered in a silent scream. God, he was so sick of it; sick of this boring life, his boring shitty job, and her beautiful sad eyes challenging him every fucking day.

  Shock was followed by pain, but not terror as his hands tightened around her throat. She gagged, then choked, and tried to look up at him. His face was blank, his mind elsewhere. Her fingers clawed at his arms until they were both sticky with blood and her thoughts began to fade. She was glad it was finally over. The question died out of her eyes. 'At least', she thought, 'he finally answered. '

  

  ©2001 Sonja Torres

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