[author’s note: This story will eventually be woven into an episode expansion of Arabesque but until that’s ready to publish, I wanted to make it available for readers as a kind of “trailer” for the finished work.
This piece follows on from two previous stories; please read Mother Tongue (Lisa 1962) first, about Lisa’s arrival in the tunnels as a little girl, and then Exile part 1 (Lisa 1971), about the night Father sent Lisa away because he considered her a threat to Vincent’s happiness, before reading this story; otherwise some things won’t make sense.
Also: this section, part 2, is not entirely finished, but close enough that it will make sense following on from part 1. I will be continuing to work on it as well as moving forward, posting more installments of it on my way to assembling it all for an episode expansion of Arabesque. It’s important to me to write these “Lisa stories,” from her POV, because they’re an extremely useful way of illuminating Vincent’s childhood.]
Exile, part 2: Love and Fate (Lisa 1971)
If all else perished and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained and he was annihilated, the universe would turn into a mighty stranger; I should not seem a part of it. ~Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth. ~Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
Her heart knows its way in the dark.
So do her feet.
Silent and purposeful she comes to him. Without Vincent a part of her must die now to survive.
What happens tonight must last her the rest of her life.
Where she has been dry-eyed, frozen, tightly coiled into herself with rage, he has been sobbing. His pillow is soaked, his thickening mane stuck in giant moist swirls to his forehead, his throat, the sides of his face. Abandoned and desolate, when his eyes find her at the threshold to his chamber there is no shame in him to be seen this way by her. In his face there is only love and grief.
First Devin, now me, she realizes. Father, there is no one left to chase away.
He looks more alone than she has ever seen him. Devin’s things are just as he left them, as if Vincent hopes the rebel is simply on a peace march or a sit-in and will return before dawn, sunburned and swaggering, reeking of reefer and coeds and patchouli and beer, full of stories and defiance. Angry, restless, yearning, Devin took up all available oxygen and space wherever he landed, and Vincent, incapable of jealousy, was happy simply to be included in his idol’s orbit.
But now Devin has fled.
She doesn’t have much time. If Father isn’t already fully aware she is Below, and why, he will be soon. When he discovers that she is with Vincent, every last door will be shut against her; this is something Father will not forgive. She knows now that she cannot save herself but she can leave herself, the truest part of herself, here, tonight, with Vincent, preserved, safe forever, for he is everything tender, everything good. Everything she’s always known was meant for others, not for her, and tonight must last her for the rest of her life.
He is sitting up, reaching out his arms for her, his heart and soul as they always are, wide open and defenseless like a child.
She allows herself one last, wild cry for him deep inside, and then with a leap she is in the bed. With a strangled sob he twists toward her and they collide, clutching through the bedclothes, weeping and kissing frantically, awkwardly, learning as they go, his trembling body curling instinctively into hers, the heavy quilts in the way, tangled in young limbs. He falls back bringing her on top of him, keeping her face to his, roughly taking her mouth in starved gasps. Without thinking she tilts her head at a right angle to accommodate his canines, their sharp points now curving harmlessly back and away from her lips, which open instinctively, inviting his tongue. Vincent flails, alternately hesitant and ravenous, trying to unwrap them both from the bedding, trying not to disturb her bandages, trying not to cut her anew in the process; and now he pulls back a little, trying to speak. She feels him mouthing something against her lips and cheek and she knows what he is trying to say:
Father will kill us.
But now his sweet tongue is at last in her mouth, seeking hers, finding it, gaining confidence, and she prays that he won’t stop and he doesn’t. He has not closed his eyes; in the half-light she cannot see their shimmering blue but she knows his own, keener vision sees her, even in darkness, more clearly than she will ever see herself.
She cannot kiss him everywhere at once, so she takes his beautiful face in her hands, braille-ing him, trying to memorize with her fingers what her lips cannot reach, his delicate lids and translucent lashes, the bony bridge of his nose, his newly stubbled cheek and jaw, trying to smother his words before they can take life in the air; but they both know the truth.
Not us, Lisa thinks. Me. Father will kill me.
Vincent tries again to speak; to quiet him she nips him, just there, along the generous curve of his lower lip, and laps at it gently, so gently, as if he were cream; and suddenly the boyish sweetness of his face is colored by something darker and raw, as if some restraint in him has snapped, some license granted, and instinct guides her again; she lets herself go limp, pliant, speaking the animal language of permission and surrender in terms he cannot possibly misunderstand.
And understand he does, lifting her waist with one hand and stripping away the bedding with the other. He has kicked loose of his pajama bottoms, and hungrily pulls her into the harbor of his now-bare belly and thighs. The shock of his naked skin between her legs causes them to start shaking and she gasps as his strong fingers cup her warmly there for one heartstopping moment before she feels the thin cotton of her panties give way, the fragile elastic yielding easily to the razored edge of his thumbnail, but then he stops, waiting. He needs to hear it from her and this time there is no fear to hold her back.
I am yours, she whispers. I have always been. You know it will only ever be you, for as long as I live.
He does know it, and he cries, a protest against impending loss the magnitude of which he knows will reveal itself only with time, like a slow-release poison that will eat away at him for decades before it exacts its final price.
Lisa tightens her knees along his rib cage to steady herself and this slightest of motions triggers Vincent’s release and using the warm silken rush to glide her movements she straightens her legs down and along the length of his, sliding luxuriously now, free of the sheets. He lifts his head to watch her move over his body, and raises his hips to her, seeking her rhythmically, the satiny iron length of him just barely brushing her there, just there, ready, not entering, not withdrawing, and he waits for her response, not shy now, not afraid anymore, just love, just hunger and she closes her eyes and kisses him again, hard enough and deeply enough to stop the questions he wants to ask, the ones she does not want to hear right now, but he pushes back, framing her face in his hand, holding her just beyond kissing distance, whispering
Look at me,
and he waits, nestled just inside her, holding his place there. Lisa returns his gaze, drugged now by the heat and the scent of him; his palm feels feverish under her hip, his fingers splayed across the hollow of her groin, supporting her, his nails barely grazing her there. She is far beyond words but words are what Vincent needs from her now.
What if it hurts, he asks; what if it hurts you to take me inside?—
and the heart she thought could not break any more, does, in new places, because there is nowhere in her Vincent cannot reach.
It will hurt so much more if we don’t, she tells him,
and he knows this is true and soundlessly he comes again, slippery-sweet, his young body shuddering uncontrollably, never taking his eyes from her face. She knows he needs this, he will not attempt to penetrate her without it, it’s the way he is wired, all his senses engaged to a degree that would be overwhelming, even frightening to one unaccustomed to his intensity, this total-immersion that is Vincent’s way of being in the world, but this is exactly the reason she trusts him and only him, this connection beyond the body, beyond the mind; Vincent cannot live without it.
She cannot either; yet after tonight they must.
He has matched his heartbeat to hers, picking up minute electrical signals from her body that she herself cannot feel or hear but with which she knows he is as intimately familiar as the sounds and rhythms of his own. In the half-light Lisa knows he is watching her eyes for guidance to enter her, watching her pupils swell and contract and swell again while he feels her body yielding to him now, bit by bit opening to him everywhere, safe at last, home at last. Sure now, Vincent wraps his arms warmly around her waist, pulling her hips down deeply into himself as he rises, driving the breath out of her in a velvet whimper against his ear; a groan escapes him this time as he comes with a heat and urgency that carry him into new territory past gentleness into abandon. He rubs his face against her lips now, marking her, breathing her in; and still he keeps coming, keeps moving in her, watching her face as he takes her, cradling her, rocking her, the sweet drenching warmth of him easing and gentling his way insistently to her center.
When she thinks back to this moment later she will remember that it didn’t hurt as much as they had feared it might. Somewhere along the way from feral child to scruffy tomboy to ballerina, the cruel injuries with which she had arrived in the tunnels had finally healed, the scar tissue stretched out and softened; and what pain she did feel seemed inconsequential, an inconceivably small price to pay, because Vincent was home to her, the only home she will ever have, and one to which Father has made sure, after tonight, she will hold out no hope of return.
Everything that happens now must last her the rest of her life.
Should is a futile word.
It’s about what didn’t happen.
It belongs in a parallel universe.
It belongs in another dimension of space.
~Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
end part 2
[author’s note: I’m working as fast as I can to finish part 3 of this story, since it covers Lisa’s final exchange with Father and the events that followed before this night was over, events that left Vincent with the mistaken belief he was the reason for Lisa’s flight]