Elizabeth awoke the next morning, the sun shining through the light blue curtains and illuminating the face of her sleeping daughter. She could almost imagine that the confrontation with Darcy and the follow-up bout with Hayworth had never taken place. It all seemed like a dream to her. Elizabeth smiled and pulled her daughter’s warm little body closer as she drifted back into slumber.
Dance music pulsated around her and she tapped her finger on the beer bottle in her hand to the beat. Even as she put one hand down on the table, she held tightly the bottle. Scanning the room, she picked out Charlotte dancing with what had to be the ugliest jock Elizabeth had ever seen. She could imagine him stepping from a poster of Neanderthal man—with beefy muscles almost grotesque in their definition, unibrow and tiny, leering eyes. At least, Elizabeth thought he was leering. Since she had forgotten to put in her contacts before giving into Charlotte’s demands to come to this stupid fraternity party, Elizabeth couldn’t quite tell. Or perhaps it was the alcohol she had consumed. The music was too loud for her to be certain.
She took another sip from her beer. In fairness to Charlotte, Elizabeth had said she had wanted to come to the party—although that was technically an untruth. Char had just been so happy at the thought, and Elizabeth couldn’t bear to disappoint her. The fraternity had the hottest, best-looking guys. Except, of course, for Charlotte’s dance partner—poor girl, why did she always seem to attract the sludge?
Charlotte always acted as if only the dregs of humanity would be interested in her—and she was so eager to get a dreg for her very own that she’d do almost anything to get one for a night or a date. Of course, Charlotte always accused Elizabeth of being too snooty and picky. Elizabeth had just never been interested in guys. She didn’t know why. I mean, yeah, she’d watch the latest Charles Bingley film with every other girl with her mouth half open (even though he did look a little too airbrushed and toned in that fake Hollywood way), but she just never felt anything for real boys. But perhaps that was it. They were just boys to her. She’d just have to wait until she grew up a bit so she could date men.
Elizabeth shifted uncomfortably and cursed the tight, ripped jeans she was wearing – which of course were Charlotte’s. She didn’t care how hot or fashionable she theoretically looked in them. They felt awful and she could barely breathe. How could Charlotte put herself through such torture?
She felt a presence near her and looked over a shoulder to a frat brother with hair lightened to an unnatural shade of blond, leaning against the wall. Was she imagining that he was staring at her? Elizabeth couldn’t help but wince. There was something off about him.
Turning back to the dance floor, she could not catch sight of Charlotte. Elizabeth thought her friend was most likely hooking up with Neanderthal Man. At least he didn’t have red hair, she thought. It could, in fact, be worse. Drink in hand, Elizabeth walked around the perimeter of the room and tried not to step on anyone’s prone form. There also seemed to be too many broken bottles for Elizabeth’s comfort. She seriously began to regret that she let Charlotte talk her into wearing strappy sandals to this gig.
The speakers pumped out Franz Ferdinand and Elizabeth stepped to the beat, liking the song. But it was too loud, too crowded –she had to get out of he dance area—even if was just to wander to an empty quiet, well, quieter, room. This was just too much. She would find Charlotte later, who, she knew, wouldn’t want to leave for several hours. The two girls planned to share the $50- cab ride back. That’s what they got for going to a college nine miles away from Boston.
She sighed as she walked down a darkened hall and tried to look the other way when she saw a couple making out in front of a door. “Yes,” the girl moaned as she gyrated her hips.
Elizabeth did a double take. Well, it seemed Charlotte was having a good time. And with someone other than the ugly jock.
Mabel shifted in her arms and Elizabeth awoke with a start. She kissed the top of her child’s head, brushing back a loose curl. “Shh, bearn,” she whispered until Mabel once again quieted. Elizabeth recalled the dream she had been having quite clearly and wondered why these memories were coming back to her now. She had not thought about most of this in years. Correction, she had not let herself think about this for years.
With her child’s breath blowing softly in her face and making a comfortable, rhythmic sound, Elizabeth found herself dozing off again.
She was once again standing in the terrifying club of her dream weeks before. She stood before Darcy, his face younger, less haunted, beautiful with piercing eyes. “Elizabeth,” he murmured as he grasped her waist, pulling her away from the large cat that was ripping at her legs with its unnatural claws.
“No,” he commanded the creature, pushing Elizabeth against a wall, his body shielding her from the lecherous glare of a ghoulish clown that was licking the inner thigh of a naked Jane, wanton in her pleasure.
“Who’s that?” she whispered into Darcy’s ear, indicating the clown.
“That’s Margarita, the queen of the ball that the Devil is throwing,” he answered, his voice dark and husky with lust.
She stared at Jane again and saw that she was not wearing her stage costume but was, in fact, completely nude, her bare shoulders shuddering in her ecstasy.
“Who’s with her?” she moaned, as she felt Darcy’s hand slip up under the purple skirts, finding the moistness of her core. She gasped as his fingers entered her, gently at first, until they thrust deeper and deeper into her.
“A fool, Elizabeth, a fool,” he grunted against her neck. “A fool who thinks she loves him.”
As he brought up his knee between her legs, she looked over his shoulder again and saw that the room had shifted in colors. She was no longer in his arms and Elizabeth found herself laughing happily as she managed to pry a flask of vodka from his hands. “How can you not trust me?” she asked as she smiled devastatingly at him.
“You just seem a bit young,” he said softly.
“I have good genes,” she laughed.
He paused. “Let me see your license.”
“Let me see yours,” she quipped. Finding two empty (and hopefully clean) shot glasses, she poured the clear liquid into it and she took her first shot of vodka. “Christ!” she screamed as the liquid burned her throat and then she proceeded to cough.
“Told you it could be rough,” teased a melodic baritone voice that belonged to a shadowy figure in her dream. She could not quite make him out except that he possessed the finest pair of eyes she ever seen. A girl could get lost in those deep pools of blue and never want to come up for air again.
With an effort, she looked away and shook her head. “You were right. But I will take your word for it that this is the good stuff. So why is this a beer bash instead of a vodka bash? This –” she stared at the bottle and made out the words “—Bud Light is revolting.”
“This is a frat party,” he explained. “Where bad beer and even worse sex go hand in hand. Trust me, the vodka is a much better choice.”
“Lovely.” Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Well, I would never have to worry about getting drunk on this because I can’t drink very much of it.” They were sitting on a bed in one of the rooms upstairs in the frat house.
Elizabeth continued, trying not to stare too intently into his eyes, “So, what brings you here if you’re just hiding away—and not looking for beer or sex? If it’s fine vodka that you wanted, you didn’t need to brave these sacred halls—you could have sat and drunk alone without bothering to come out on a Saturday night.” She blushed and pulled her hair over one shoulder.
“But then I wouldn’t have met you and gotten to introduce you to vodka,” he stalled. “Besides, drinking alone sounds a little sad—perhaps even for me.”
“So, here you at a party where you don’t want to be,” Elizabeth replied. “That’s sad—though not as sad as drinking alone.”
They had somehow started discussing, actually debating, existentialism, before she felt comfortable enough with him to follow him into an empty room to continue. Of course, she wasn’t fully thinking clearly. They had both been leaning up against the wall, she was trying to ignore the moans Charlotte was emitting, and he had been staring at her so intensely that she just had to see where this took her. Now, sitting on the bed, Elizabeth got lost in his eyes and suddenly began feeling rather hot. She remembered thinking that that perhaps drinking with a man she didn’t know in an unfamiliar house, was perhaps not the best idea. But with her usual confidence, she told herself she could handle it.
Elizabeth got lost in his eyes and suddenly began feeling rather hot. Glancing about the room, her eyes picked up on a book she saw nearly placed on top of an overnight bag. It seemed like this wasn’t his room and that he was just staying the weekend. Thank god, part of her thought. He’s too good for a dump like this. Then the nagging disappointment set in when she realized he might not be from Boston. “You’re reading Chaucer?” she inquired, trying to lighten the mood.
The eyes got confused. “Yes, I am.”
“I’m taking a class on it at the moment.”
“You’re a freshman, right?” he said, pouring another shot for both of them.
“I told you,” she responded, “I have good genes.” How could he read through her so easily?
“That’s not an answer,” he smiled knowingly and briefly tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear. A guilty expression crossed his face. “Please tell me you’re at least eighteen.”
She laughed. “Yes, I am.”
“Can I see your license to prove it?” he said with an almost straight face.
“You’re just going to have to take my word on it.”
She looked at him and tried to guess his age, but quite figure it out. He was at this party so he had to be in college. Senior? she wondered. No, he was a little too mature for that. Part of him seemed to be laughing at her but not really. He seemed so kind, so gentle. She blushed again and looked away. She leaned slightly against him and smiled when he didn’t pull away. “Now, the question is whether you’re reading Chaucer in the original or not.”
“The original,” he explained. “Are you learning Middle English?”
“Whan that Aprell with his shoures soote,” she quoted with a near-perfect accent, but she couldn’t continue because she found herself staring into his eyes again. He slowly leaned forward but a sound of two people falling in front of the door caused them to break apart. “Must be Charlotte,” she said awkwardly.
“Charlotte?” he asked.
“My friend. She’s theoretically not leaving my side but she met this guy on the dance floor. And then dumped him, thank god. Somehow she met some other guy before making it to the wall outside.”
“And so it begins,” he concluded as he brushed his hand over her bare upper arm. Elizabeth shivered despite herself.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Dreadful,” he groaned.
“How sad,” she teased, “I’d kill my parents if they named me ‘Dreadful.’”
The eyes couldn’t help but laugh. “I think I can safely say I’ve never met anyone like you.”
“Ah, that’s just the vodka talking,” she said, eyeing the shots. “You probably say that to all the girls you try to get drunk and take advantage of?”
“Oh, no,” he said, dipping his head with a rueful half smile. “I’m really more afraid of what you might do to me.”
“Do you think I might take advantage of you?”
Again, the smile, so broad, though it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I hope you wouldn’t take advantage of me. I mean, you seem like a nice girl—a very, very nice girl. . .”
Suddenly aware of some awkwardness, Elizabeth tried to cover it with a return to a lighter topic. “How about another drink?” she asked. He hesitated a moment before nodding. Clinking their glasses they stared into each other’s eyes, whispered “Sante,” and downed them, Elizabeth once again reduced to gagging.
She noticed that those eyes were looking at her with some concern. He capped the flask and stashed it away in his jacket. “Why don’t we just talk? What’s your name?” he asked her as soon as she could breathe properly again.
“Wonderful,” she responded, her eyes glinting, “Lovely, pretty, the best name ever.” She sighed dramatically. “Too bad you’ll never know.”
“I could always threaten to withhold vodka,” he said by way of encouragement.
Elizabeth smiled as she was conveniently sitting on the flask to prevent such a course of action. “If you could get to it. And I could always drink my beer.”
“I wouldn’t if I were you. You’re never sure who’s been around it.”
“I held onto it the entire time. Scout’s honor.” She smiled and started playing with her hair.
“You don’t seem the type to be a girl scout,” he noticed.
“You may just be correct.” She turned again and felt him pulling her back toward her.
“It’s Will,” he whispered in her ear.
“That’s not so ‘dreadful,’ Will.”
“It’s short for my name. No one uses it, though. Not really.”
“Hmmm … are you sure I can’t entice you to divulge your real name?” She asked as tilted her head and leaned in closer to him. He ran his hands over her arms, and nervously she took a large swig of her beer. He was a stranger and yet, his touch felt so right – she couldn’t explain it. Not even to herself. Well, tonight she wouldn’t have to.
“Are you sure that’s safe?” he said, reaching for it and taking it from her hands. “There are some shady characters here tonight.”
She liked that he was being protective of her.
Seeing the look in her eyes, he kissed her neck softly and she sighed. She knew this was out of character, she realized that this could go horribly wrong, he could be another drunken frat brother who would just use her.
“Perhaps if you should tell me your name I might be persuaded to give you mine,” he whispered against her skin.
“Elizabeth,” she responded.
“Hmm,” he smiled. “My mother was named Mabel Elizabeth.”
“Mabel,” she sounded the word out and found that she liked it.
“Yes, my sister was named for her and my father – Georgiana Mabel.”
“I think I like ‘Mabel Elizabeth’ better.”
He stilled, looking pensive.
“What’s wrong?” she asked as she turned toward him.
“Sorry,” he said as he shook himself back into the present. “I was just remembering my mother. She died when I was only twelve. Dad died a few years back.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered quietly, as she placed a hand against his face. “I’ll give you both of mine, if you are thus inclined.”
“However, I have four other sisters. One of them is bound to protest.” She thought for a moment. “Come to think of it, they’d probably call you a hero.”
He grimaced. “That bad?”
She immediately withdrew into painful memories and glanced away. “You have no idea.” Elizabeth found herself once again staring into his eyes and she couldn’t breathe. Nervously, her strangled voice asked, “Another shot?”
He smiled mischievously. “I don’t know if I need anything more to drink. Just looking at you makes me light-headed enough. What if I tell you my full name instead?”
Then there it was, a simple word in her ear, and the sleeping Elizabeth strained within her memory to find it again. She still couldn’t see his face. All she knew as his voice and his blue eyes that still haunted her.
Elizabeth turned over in her sleep and she snuggled more closely beneath the covers. The light was hurting her eyes and she was trying to remember something, her dream, she thought. It had been so pleasant, so real. If only she could remember. The rest of the dream seemed confused, as if she had misplaced something.
She remembered touching him, at first tentatively, then boldly, always looking into his eyes as she held his unwavering gaze. “What are you doing?” he whispered, but all she could do was kiss him passionately and pull him against her until she had made him fall on top of her small frame. His body covered hers, and she had never before—or since—felt so protected. Having him lie there, supporting much of his weight on his elbows as he gently pushed his tongue ever more deeply into her mouth—yes, it felt wonderful. She did not know where he began and she ended and she pulled him even closer. She felt him tremble ever so slightly as he took several ragged breaths.
She opened her eyes and something shifted within her. She couldn’t explain it. It was subtle. The room was still swaying slightly and the colors were dulled, but all she could feel and sense was the man on top of her. Suddenly, this was different from what she imagined. She knew she could not stop at just kissing him. She had to have more, had to have everything. Her blood began to boil within her and her need for him was sharp, urgent and not to be denied. She thought he could feel the shift as well because he responded in kind as he tried to match her urgency. In that moment she felt she would die without his touch, and he seemed ready to abandon his more gentle caresses and to give what she needed as she pressed herself against him.
She moaned his name, Wes? Wade? Will? He had another name, a longer funny name, and she might have said that, too, this name that she later forgot. He pulled away from her slightly and she looked up to see the same hunger in your eyes. “Elizabeth – we shouldn’t,” he tried to explain, but she could not listen. She sat up and pulled him into her arms before pushing him onto his back.
Quickly she kicked off her sandals and sat up to remove her jeans—even in the frenzied fog in which she suddenly found herself, she remembered thinking what a relief it was to get out of those pants. Unbuckling his own jeans, he quickly turned her over again and felt as if she couldn’t breathe. But she couldn’t stop kissing him, not now, not when she was so close to him. A few minutes after he covered her body with his again, she felt a pain between her legs that made her cry out. He stopped moving against her and tried to quiet her sobbing, but she could not help it. He held her for a long time, asking repeatedly, “Are you okay?”, gently kissing her lips as her body slowly relaxed against him.
She couldn’t speak, but she heard him telling her several times that he loved her. He was also saying something about hurting her, but the recollection of that momentary pain was already just a memory. She wanted to tell him it would be alright—maybe she did tell him it would be okay—before he lulled her into a gentle sleep in his warm embrace.
Elizabeth awoke crying silently into her pillow. She remembered the warmth, before it ended, before there was a knock on the door and she had left with Charlotte. He had said something to her but she couldn’t remember. She could just recall his eyes as she made her way back in the cab with her friend, and when she woke up the next morning, she was sore and confused. “I must have had a lot to drink,” she had remarked to her friend who had a hangover.
“Hmm,” was the only reply Charlotte could give.
The eighteen-year-old Elizabeth had searched her memory and only saw unconnected images in her head. There had been that guy against the wall, the bad taste of beer, dancing, — and a pair of eyes whom she discussed Kafka with. She wondered what his name was and hoped she had given him her number. Quietly, not wishing to disturb her friend, she had scooped up her clothes and put them in the laundry basket, before heading to the shower.
As Elizabeth wiped her face against her pillow, she felt her daughter quietly curled up against her back. The child sighed happily, perhaps in her dreams of damsels in distress and handsome princes who rescued them on their shining steeds.