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Chapter Eight

Once when she was about five she had been separated from her mother in a department store. Someone had eventually taken her through the bustling, towering giant world of the shop to where her mother waited. The impression lingered that her mother had not come to find her, and that her mother had not been pleased to have her returned, for Rachaela was instantly slapped.

How did you know, she said, Id come here?

You like old buildings. Sanctuary.

How long have you been searching for me?

Not long.

And in the daylight too, she said archly.

He wore a black leather coat, too young for him if he had looked his age. But he did not. He wore no sunglasses. They would be in his pocket, ready for the day. Glad of the overcast? But the sun had come out now.

I dont like the light, he said. I can cope with it.

And it was imperative that you found me.

You were lost.

His words fitted so exactly her own approximation of her state.

No I wasnt lost, she said. I meant to get to London.

Thats rather complicated from here, I seem to recall.

One train a week and they told me the wrong day. Or Id have been gone.

Then I should have had to wait until you came back.

I would never have come near you.

You think not.

I know not. You cant make me go back with you. If you touch me Ill start to scream.

That would be noisy.

I mean it, Adamus.

How medieval that sounds in your mouth. Interesting. Anna only makes it sound Victorian.

I wont play any more games. Im going to a hotel. Ill catch the train onwhen it comes.

All right, he said. If you want.

So youve chased after me for nothing.

Except the pleasure of seeing you again.

He sat down beside her in the pew. His blackness shut off the blue window, the blessing hands of the Virgin. It would.

She should edge along to the pews other end and get out, but she was excruciatingly tired. She had nowhere to go. He would follow her. Walk up and down at her side, perhaps politely take her arm. How much grey sunlight could he really stand? She could only rely on that, his wearying before she did. And she suspected he would not weary.

You must let me go, she said.

Why?

Youve no right to try to stop me. Ill go to the police if I have to. She thought of the helpful policeman who had told her the wrong day for the train.

Im not going to drag you away, he said, kicking and screaming, by the hair. If I hurt you, it would be in other ways.

The inside of her body pulsed and moved, leaving the outside a thin cold integument, stranded.

Shut up, she said. Dont talk to me.

He sat in silence, calm, every aspect larger, towering, almost as in the uncontrolled moments in the upper room. Not quite.

She said, I really am going to leave. Do you hear me.

Im allowed to speak?

I cant stop you.

No, you cant really. If you leave, you leave. Where are you staying?

As if Id tell you.

Youve checked out of one hotel and have yet to find another.

Youwere following me?

No, Rachaela. Its obvious, isnt it? You checked out, or even ran away without paying your bill for all I know, in order to take the train. But the train didnt materialize. And here you are sitting in the church with two bags.

If you come after me Ill do something to prevent you.

That might be entertaining. Its all right. I wont come after you. Ill sit here and let you get away. Ill stay an hour, you look as if you can only move at a crawl.

Another game. Hide your eyes, and then try to find me. You wont.

I wont try. After all, I need only find out the day of the proper train and waylay you again on the platform.

Do it. See what happens.

Nothing would happen. Id kiss your cheek and youd wave me goodbye through the window. Brief Encounter.

Rachaela tried to slow her breathing. She was desperately excited. She wanted to strike at him.

Youre saying then that when I walk out of the church Im on my own.

Completely.

Free of the Scarabae.

No, youll never be free of the Scarabae. Youre one of us. That goes with you. And that will bring you back.

Live in that hope.

I know from my own self. I got away. I came back. Youre already tainted. Its too late.

So you think Id prefer to be walled up in that mausoleumthat grave of a house.

What is so preferable to it?

Before she could circumnavigate, the whole of her future jolted before her. The trains, the city, her search for some grubbing, nasty ill-paid job, a room somewhere, the noise of neighbours, the teeming streets, the overt viciousness of the capital. She saw too the length of days, the black-bullet chambers of the nights. She saw her aloneness, now loneliness, and she saw the vista of age, which she had never contemplated before. She was shiftless, had made no provision. She had lived as if awaiting rescue, her mothers money, the arrival of the Scarabae.

It will be my life.

Its yours, wherever you are.

This was fundamentally a fact.

She would have to get up and leave the church. The longer she stayed here the more power he had over her. It wove like a web.

But she was so tired and her heart beat so quickly. She did not want to go. She was glad he was here, his strength beside her on the bench, keeping her safe with his darkness from the blue sanctity of the Virgin.

The red window was a dark rose. The sun had gone in again.

How did you come to the town? she asked, to prevaricate.

I hired a car. How else? Do you think Id walk all the way, like poor Carlo?

How did you call the car?

That was Carlo. Or Cheta. Someone in the village I imagine gave them use of a phone.

The car didnt come to the house.

As you know, the road doesnt go so far.

Why did you come and not the others?

Im the young one, remember. And Im the nearest to you in blood.

In blood, she said. The blood of the tribe.

Your blood and mine are different.

How? she said again.

There was a long interval. She felt him gather himself like a beast on the powerful springs of its limbs. He said at last, Come back and see.

She said, You want to sleep with me. Thats what it is. You say Im your daughter, you believe it, but you want to fuck me.

From the corner of her eye she saw his face turning towards her. As if moved by a key, her own head turned until she confronted him. His face was like a blow. She could hardly breathe.

Yes, I want to fuck you. Come back and be fucked by me.

Now youre speaking the truth, you bastard.

Now Im speaking the truth. Whats the problem? The family will be thrilled. Theyll revel in it. Its happened over and over, mother with son, father with daughter. Brother and sister. Two thirds of them are inbreedings of one kind or another, several twice over. A charming little intimate orgy has been going on for centuries. Secret pleasures of the house. And what other values hold you back? The criterion of the church, of morality and the world? Its nothing to you. Come to me and let me give you what you want.

I dont want that.

He put out one hand, long-fingered, bone-pale, feathered lightly with dark hair. The hand moved in slow motion. So slow there was all the time on earth to avoid it, and she was not quick enough, and the hand caught her, behind her neck, the fingers in her hair. A liquid electricity ran down her spine. Her stomach turned to ice and her skull to fire. She could do nothing. Let, she said, let me

The shadow flung forward and fell upon her with a slow, deep violence.

The eyes had become a jet-black bar that flamed. She tasted his skin, his mouth, cool and unknown. Her eyes shut. She was blind, whirled down and under, turning. Only the pressure of his hand behind her head anchored her in the rushing of the storm.

She had rarely been kissed. Never kissed on the mouth. Never invaded and possessed.

His mouth moved in hers. Her head sank backwards. She let him drown her in the deep water, too weak even to raise her hands to cling to him. Falling and falling through measureless ocean.

When he lifted his mouth, he held her still with his hand.

At first she could not open her eyes.

When she did so the church was a blur of colours and streakings of light. The white faces of saints had grown insane and bloated, their purity profaned.

His face was calm still, only the mouth gave evidence of change, the lips parted.

She turned towards him on the pew and put her hands up and caught his collar. Kiss me again.

Again? And he laughed at her like a boy.

He was laughing as he possessed her once more, and the laugh died on the point of a knife.

Her whole body now flowed and spun. She gripped his clothing to hold her up, and plunged fathoms deep, mindless, soaring. She pressed herself to him, dissolving into his flesh, the hardness of him, lost, she was lost. Dont stop.

Not here, he said.

Where then?

Where do you think Rachaela.

I dont care, she said. Ill go with you.

The car was waiting in a side street.

They went to it and got in.

The driver, oblivious to them, started the engine.

Adamus had not put on sunglasses. He sat with his arm about her. The arm, its pressure, dislodged her reason. She wanted the car to stop. She wanted, as the strands of trees drew out, to be beneath him in the bare and leafless brown of a wood. She had never felt such things, only the vaguest intimations. Daydreams.

She longed to laugh at the stupidity of the driver, not knowing. Excluded.

It did not matter that they were going back to the house of the Scarabae. What could it matter? Nothing was important but to give in again to the onrush of his mouth.

The landscape ribboned past.

The journey was so long.

But they reached the house, or rather the road below, and when Adamus had paid the driverno account was mentionedthey walked up the crumbling slope in the shadowed midday light, and came out among the wet green oaks, and the house appeared. And Rachaela sobered.

There were the roofs, the ranks of windows, the cone of the tower.

Im here again, she said.

You agreed to it, he said. He did not attempt now to touch her.

Yes, I agreed.

Her body was forgetting his. The warmth, the freezing and the vertigo of sudden want had drawn away. She observed them, anxious.

They reached the porch and the double door. Adamus used a key, something so ordinary.

They went into the chequered hall. It was silent and deserted. She seemed to see it too from far away.

Dont go, she said.

You must be patient, he said, and so must I. The one rule. Night-time.

There are no rules. You told me.

Yes.

Ridiculous as a bride on her clich'ed honeymoon, she must wait until the accepted hour. She did not credit this. This was some cruelty or other test of his.

I may change my mind.

He stood looking at her, and she was drawn towards him, pulled by chains. She kept still by an effort.

Dont, he said.

I find this silly and insulting.

Im sorry.

I hate this house, she said.

No. Go up to the bolt hole of your pretty green-and-blue room. Go up and wait for me.

Youre a tease, she said acidly.

He grinned at her. A boys grin, like the laughter. Did an elderly man grin and laugh like that still? Perhaps normally it was only hidden and distorted by the combered flesh, the yellowed eyes and teeth.

You want me so much now, he said. Im glad.

It will pass, she said.

I hope not. Trust me. Tonight.

She turned and walked away up the stairs, bemused. Here she was, back again.

Her room was just the same. The bed made, the surfaces dusted. In her wardrobe were her clothes, on the dressing-table her radio. She looked at them with pacific surprise. She was dazed. What had happened to her in the churchand in a churchand with him.

Camillo had told her she would run away, and come back. But she should have got as far as London. This was absurd.

She sat down in a chair by the hearth. The fire at least had not been lit. They had not been positive.

She lay back in the chair and he went out of her like alcohol. It was like the brief tipsiness from the glass of vinegary wine. It had lasted longer, but then she had still been touching him.

She had truly made a fool of herself. She had been seduced back into the house, and now everything was to do again.

Again... Kiss me again. She had said that.

A burning blush poured up from the pit of her loins into her breast, throat and face.

She was abashed at herself, her triteness.

But also so tired. She had slept so badly in the small hotel.

She got up and switched on her radio. An easement of music rose into the room. How she had missed it. She lay on the bed and pulled the coverlet up over herself and the golden Satan shone behind her closed eyes. She was comfortable, and warm. She fell asleep.

That evening she bathed, put on her skirt and the new jumper, and went down to the dining room.

She did not know what she expected, but only Anna and Stephan were there.

Welcome, said Anna. Were so glad to see you are here again.

You missed me, said Rachaela.

Yes, of course. Everyone missed you.

Apart from Sylvian.

Ah yes. Apart from him.

I ran away, said Rachaela. To buy this jumper.

You should have told us you were so eager to go to the town.

I was eager to go to London.

Such a long way. Cant your business be done by postCheta will take a letter to the village.

It was an escape, said Rachaela. As you realize.

Perhaps.

I ran off like Adamus, and Adamus brought me back. Persuaded me with a fatherly kiss.

Anna smiled and lowered her eyes.

Stephan hummed a little tune and stirred his soup.

It was sure: they knew.

I dont, said Rachaela, understand you all.

So long as youre becoming comfortable among us.

The town had been horrible. Its throng of people, the misdirections and falsehoods. Like a nightmare. The house was safe. It made its own crazy sense.

No. The house was a madness. Only the outside world was real.

After the soup there was a vegetable casserole with toasted cheese. A gooseberry cream to follow.

Rachaela ate hungrily. The food was tasty and good. She was indoctrinated.

She sat by the drawing-room fire with them.

Alice and Unice came in and gave her little nods, and sat down and knitted.

Eric wandered through, he of the seagull, with a book.

Jack and Dorian appeared and disappeared.

There were other slight to-ings and fro-ings, flutters on the edge of the eye that were doubtless Miriam and Sasha, Anita, Teresa, Miranda and Livia, George, Peter.

Carlo came in once with logs.

Maria, Cheta and Michael had served the meal.

Oh, Michael, a fire must be laid in Miss Rachaelas room.

Its already seen to, Miss Anna.

A fire. The luxury, the cosiness.

She did not want him now. She wanted to be a little girl in the safe balmy house, with the dear old grannies and grandfathers, and the big pussy-cat, and the dolls house beds and all the lovely windows.

Keep away, she thought.

Nothing must smash this cloud-cuckoo world. Nothing so absolute as sex.

It was strange, she thought, as Unice knitted and Anna sewed and Alice consulted her pattern, and the good old granddaddy Stephan watched the fire, strange she had never properly felt sex before. It was as if she had been cordoned off from it. It had not been for her.

She would not think of kissing and being kissed before the white eyes of the Virgin.

Michael, she said, Id like another glass of wine.

All the old grandparents in the room beamed on her. A favourite child.

She was to uphold the family tradition. She was to lie with her own father.

She stripped her body naked and got under the covers. It was almost one by the tower clock, about ten-thirty. Early to bed.

The coy bride on the bridal night.

She had locked the door. It was a token. A needful token. He had, after all, a key to all the doors.

Perhaps he would make her wait until midnight.

She tried not to think what would happen. She guessed at it, alternately disconcerted, aroused, angry. Even amused.

She had seen his face when he made love to the piano.

The radio had a play. She had switched it off. Other dramas could not engage her.

An hour passed. The single lamp burned on the mantel.

She heard the breathing of the sea. No one had gone by in the corridor. The house muttered and shifted its joists, the windows crisped in their leading.

Of course. He would not arrive at the door. The night would come and go without him.

Rachaela made a sound, her throat, her body, a protest that her mind had not ordered or allowed. And the handle of the door turned. The door opened. Outside was darkness, and as usual the dark came in with him on hair and clothes. He shut the door, locked it again. He stood looking at her.

There was nothing in his face that she could interpret as affection or even as desire. It was the face of a high priest at the moment of offering. And sheshe must be the altar, for he came towards her spontaneously.

Rachaela, he said, do you want the light, or not?

I want the light.

He had come in barefoot. Now he lifted the pullover off over his head, unbuttoned the shirt and dropped it, the trousers and underpants sloughed gracefully and quickly, as if he were very practised in this. His body in the lamp and hearth light was tawny as an icon, the white changed to gold, long and thin and leanly muscled, the belly nearly concave, the ribs evident as carving. The legs were long and strong, like those of a runner, the shoulders wider than they had seemed when concealed.

The hair at his groin was blue-black, and there the serpent lay, which she knew of only from literature, a rape, and the daft little things of little boys in childhood. Like amber, the snake, soft still and quiescent; the thought of her, then, the sight of her under the covers, had not yet woken it.

Only when he was naked did he take the edge of the covers and draw them gently off her body.

She believed she lay before him as golden-white as he, the amber budded on her breasts, the fleece of her groin indigo-black, closed and secretive as his was not.

He looked at her, and she saw him come erect, the magical mechanism of the male penis, lifting and filling out to a great rod the colour of a dull sunset.

She slithered to one side of the bed, and he moved through the gilded air, angling his body down to hers. He lay beside her and she knew a primal terror, old as hillsolder far than the Scarabae.

Im afraid.

Yes.

Supporting himself on one elbow he leaned over her. His face was grave, composed. A dual creature, the rod of appetite and the priests face. He touched her lips with one finger, then bent his head and put his mouth against hers. With the other hand as he kissed her this chaste cool kiss, he reached back and shook free something from behind his neck. A shower of black rain. His hair, coming unbound, washed over her, over her breasts, like a deluge of rough silk.

Your hair, she said, your hair, and reached up and took sliding handfuls of it, and the kiss changed, became the kiss of before.

The terror flared up and engulfed her. It was not terror.

His mouth left hers. She turned after it and a line of his hair, flavoured with night, ran across her lips. She bit at it as his mouth strayed down across her throat and found her breasts.

His tongue tattooed them with circles of heat. He took their centres in his mouth and sweet tremors ran through her body. A harp string plucked in her loins, chains of stars running in highways of feathers and lights from the points of her breasts into her centre, her groin, the soles of her feet, her brain.

He moved down her, the hard smooth flesh of his body, the velvet rasp of the hard penis as it rubbed against her belly, her thigh...

His hands were on her breasts where his mouth had been. The music was fiercer, glissandi of fires.

He kneeled in prayer between her thighs, his face cruel as an angels. His head was lowered.

A rhythm began like breathing. The core of her body was in a moment melted. Long waves of pure ecstasy washed through and through her.

She groaned and threshed on the bed in an anguish of pleasure, redness behind her eyes, her ears singing, sea in a shell.

His tongue described valleys and hillsides, the coil of rivers. Waves poured in like the ocean.

She was carried up and flung outward. She heard herself cry aloud, as if she had left her body, expelled by the spasm which shook it.

He lay beside her again, looking at her, quietly stroking her ribs and stomach.

She watched him, not wanting to speak.

The movement of his hand was soothing now. She calmed under it. It was as if she had let go of a great burden.

She heard the sea under the cliff, low and ceaseless.

He took her hand, drew it across his body to the hardness of his sex.

She touched this totem carefully, gaining confidence as it quivered and tautened. She played with him as he had played with, played her. He lay back and she stretched her body over his, leaning to his mouth and parting his lips with her tongue. Where their flesh touched she became one thing with him. She gave herself to his body and her own, and to her instinct.

His hair was spread behind him like a black raiment. She slipped her hands through the strands of it, and along his sides.

He gripped her and swung her over, reversing himself along her body. The black cloak of hair streamed now over her hips and legs.

She felt again the dagger dart of his tongue, like a flame lapping at her core.

She kissed and mouthed his belly, the firm cavity of the navel. Her own tongue moved on him in sympathetic sorcery. She found the burning rod and tasted its length, the swarthy tower-head, like a smooth-skinned fruit swollen with juice.

She was lost in him, the textures, tastes of his flesh, the exquisite torture of what he did to her with mouth and fingers.

Everything else forgotten.

She was solely feeling when he turned again and leaned above her. His golden shadow fell on her from the lamp. He spread her thighs with a tender ruthlessness.

She was no longer afraid, but opened herself for his invasion.

Nevertheless she was rammed, split. She had only known one man, a moronic battle in neon light. That had torn her, now she was torn afresh. She did not care. She forced her body wide and pressed up the length of him. Red pain lanced through the sweetness, and a deeper pain like thunder.

She moaned and lay beneath him, quite taken, filled to her brim, impaled.

He kissed her mouth and breasts. Shallows of the sweetness flooded her.

When he moved again the pain flared into a glorious friction.

Again she pressed herself to meet it, was wounded, rose again.

She grasped his body, his hair, clinging to him on the brink of chaos.

His face above hers was also shadow, but she saw the savagery of it, to match her own.

Then he lay down on her, his weight sinking her in the bed as if in sand.

She worked and leapt to meet his onslaught.

The pain was gone in an agony of ascent.

His mouth was on hers, at the line of her jaw, blazing on her neck.

In the tumult, rushing, she felt the second invasion, the sharp bite of two merciless teeth, and tried to cry out his name, but she was choked and vanquished.

She experienced the pull of her blood into his mouth like threads of silk drawn up from her vein.

He ravished her like a lion, thrusting into her, his lips drawing out her life.

She felt herself unravel from her flesh.

To the first pleasure this was a cataclysm.

Rachaela screamed. She was flung up into madness, as she rode the whirlwind. Panes of light and darkness shattered before her. She was crucified, obliterated. And as she fell she sensed him plunge to meet her like a meteor on fire, heard the sound he made against her sundered throat.

The lamps dying, she said. Cheta didnt put in enough oil.

Lie still, he said.

He was touching her even now, smoothing out her body, caressing her breasts, brushing back her hair.

A tiny flower of blood, like the one Anna had embroidered, lay on the pillow.

Like virginity, she said. The first time, I bled for a week.

You cant compare that to this.

He didnt drink my blood.

Adamus lifted himself. He put his lips softly to her neck and mouthed the little wound. Delicious, the sensation, another melting.

Do you need it?

He raised his head. No.

But it pleases you.

Very much.

How long...?

Your mother was the last.

Something else she never told me.

He drew again on her vein. The stars lit through her body, following the pressure of his mouth. She tensed and shivered and his hand slipped between her thighs, the fingers daintily probing after the sparks of delight. She climaxed instantly, startlingly.

Do it for me, he said. He licked at her throat hungrily, closing his eyes.

She snared the tower of him, once more erect and satin-hard, rubbing, tickling, feeling the tremors of its second almost separate life.

She felt his urgency as he moved against her and his breathing caught against her neck. The flaming juices of him burst into her hand.

He kissed her. She tasted salt, the spice of her own blood.

What will happen? she whispered.

Nothing. A love bite.

A faint noise, beyond the dark world of the room, in the corridor.

Is it the cat, looking for you?

The cat never looks for me. He comes and goes.

Would they be voyeurs?

The family? No, theyve seen it all. Done most of it.

Rachaela eased herself up from the bed of sheets and pillows, skin and hair.

Dont, he said.

I want to see.

She lit a candle from a bedside match, went to the door and unlocked it.

Outside, something lay.

One of Camillos gifts, she said.

She bent down.

It was a peculiar, twisted heart, made of driftwood.

Camillo was the wicked one.

She reached to take the heart and it crumbled, fell to bits.

Oh.

She came back into the room and shut and locked the door.

What had he left you? A cat turd in foil? Hes been known to do that.

A broken heart.

I see. Not just a comment on our morals.

She set the candle down. Its wavering light lit his long body, ice-white now on the lake of hair. He looked like a prince from an uncensored story, a Beardsley illustration of male perfection. Even to the sleeping phallus, which doubtless Beardsley would have fashioned upright.

Why a heart which breaks? she said.

Hes a romantic. Did he tell you about his flight by night from a besieged city?

No, she said. Hes like an old baby. Mischievous and clever. He cares about nothing.

Maybe he cares about you.

Its my heart, then. The breakage.

Come here, he said.

She went to him slowly.

He drew her down and again she lay the length of him, over him.

She was accustomed to it now, the torrent of feeling.

Tomorrow, she said, I will be ashamed.

Tomorrow it will be too late.

Yes.

He circled her with his arms.

She rested her head in the curve of his neck. She mouthed him, as he had done to her before the bite of his lust.

Youve made love to me five times, she said.

Youre counting.

We havent slept.

Sleep tomorrow, he said, when youre ashamed.

He rolled their bodies over and pinned her beneath him.

I cant any more, she said.

Once more, for old times sake.

Beyond his shadow, she saw the dim shapes of the window of the temptation.

Its getting light.

That happens.

She did not want the day, the day of shame and confusion.

He pierced her without prologue. Used to him now, her open body received him easily. He moved in her slowly to the rhythm of the distant sea.

The deep melodious ache began in her. She could not ignore it.

They rose and fell on the beach of silence.

Behind him the window merged through silver into a dusk of green and chrysanthemum. The red blood drops of the apples appeared.

I want to see you, he said.

He drew out of her and she groaned at her deprivation of him. He stood back, blew out the candle, watched her as the body of Lucifer was spread out over her own.

The apple lies on your groin. Appropriate.

They will have placed the bed so that it would. Come back to me, she said, quickly, quickly.

He lay down on her and penetrated her again so that she gave a cry of relief.

She danced beneath him, writhing on a spindle of galvanic motion.

Go faster.

Not yet.

He held her in waiting between earth and heaven as the window bloomed into its insanity of dyes. The surf pounded in her head. His mouth came gently to her neck and she gave herself again to the lion.

She could not even scream now. The window boiled. She had forgotten everything, past, future. And outside, tiny creatures ran from the driftwood heart.


Chapter Seven | Dark Dance | Chapter Nine