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Far below me invisible surf smashed against invisible rocks, ebbing with a vast, sucking rush over the stones. The night wind was cold under frigid stars; the moon, breaking through clouds, cast a diffused glow across the sea. Deep in the base of my spine, something twinged and nagged and sent out a familiar, exploratory shaft of pain. I gripped the textured redwood of the rail with both hands and willed the cold to move in a straight line through me, up to my back and heart and mind, but the numbness reached only to my knees before it ebbed again. The pain blossomed.
Paul and Jenny, two stories below me, curled around each other in the large transparent bed and made love quietly so that I, presumably in the room just below them, would not hear. Considerate of them. I had heard them as I passed their room on my way to the roof balcony, the small gasps of pleasure, the sound of Paul in orgasm. Still the same, that sound, after all the years. Remembering, I clung to the rail until the pain lessened and I could breathe again. It was a mistake to invite them here, I told myself. Stupid to think that it wouldn't bother me, stupid to think that I was over it, over wanting at all. Idiocy, and I am well punished for it.
Eventually I stopped shaking and the pain became a small reminder, never gone but not, now, bigger than the world. I released the railing and slipped down the spiral stairs, past the murky glow of the sea-facing windows, past the landing by the guest room door. I closed and locked my door behind me and spoke to the lights. As they came up my reflection leaped at me from the large window and there I stood, Tia in the flesh, the drug-resisting meat.Tia the anomaly, the freak. Flat stomach crossed again and again by lines, breasts hanging low but never large enough to make much difference; ass wrinkled, thighs sinewy and shrunken, calves the same; skinny arms ending in big, square, capable hands. Face weathered around brown eyes, skin parched and lined as driftwood, hair streaked with grey and dry from constant exposure to the sun. Dry lady, driftwood hag. I must age but I would not disguise it, no creams, plastic surgeries, cosmetics. Let them be uncomfortable at the sight of Tia Hamley, growing ungracefully old in a world of the forever young.
But I would hide this unexpected torture at the memory of Paul's sounds of pleasure, at the thought of my former lover and his current lover coupling in my guest room. A secret, yes, held close between me and my window and the beast at the base of my spine. Hush.
Copyright © 1975 by Marta Randall