They broke the kiss with a blush, and May turned away with a smile, hefting her suitcase. The taste of her lingered on his lips as he waved at the taxi as it pulled away. He waited until the bumper disappeared rounding the great oak tree, and quietly closed the door.
Dawnlight spilled into the breakfast nook as he spread out the paper and poured the tea. The steam rose and filled the air with the scent of ginger and citrus. Almost absentmindedly, he had set out two places, and smiled at the second cup as it cooled. Before him, the tiny black runes on the dead gray paper seemed determined not to give up their secrets. So he sat back and drank his tea, watching the steam rise from the second cup. The warp and weft reminded him of her, how she would hold the mug with both hands, eyes closed, and just bathe her face in it, as if trying to absorb all the essence of the tea at once through her skin.
Morning found him in the library; all interest in the now forgotten as he delved into the past. Some of the books were his, others from his father's and grandfather's collections, and two full bookshelves built into the walls had come preloaded with dusty, cracked leather-bound tomes from one of the previous occupants. The dust motes floated in the still sunlight as he rummaged among the shelf, tiny clouds of particles seeming to hang for a moment in outlines of a familiar shape before falling back again.
Night stole into the bedroom, where without a thought he had pulled down the covers on her side of the bed, and puffed out the candle flame. Through the window, the city light spilled in and gave strange shape to to the darkness and the thin curl of smoke. His lay awake, eyes settling into the darkness, colors muting into shades of black and blue-grey. Something about the sway of the trees and the smoke gave the illusion of ringlets of hair falling around an unseen head, tresses which did little to hide the shape of the breasts they spilled over. Sleep, when it came, found him wondering at the shape and heaviness of those unfamiliar teats.
She was there again the kitchen, as he instinctively poured the second cup. He could see her more clearly now, through the steam. Long straight hair, eyes that curled up at the corners, the ghost of a ghost of a smile on the shadow lips. He read the news aloud to her, eyes flicking through the articles at random, picking out words that became an impromptu poem. Again, by instinct, he became aware of the words, began to shape the narrative. There was a theme there, though he could not name it, and when he turned the last page the tea in both cups was cool.
The shade in the library was different, this morning; the light warmer, the dust settled as he came in. Yet there were three books he had taken down from the shelf and laid out the other day - and the shape, the curve of the spines as they lay there, was evocative of another, more familiar shape. Shaking his head, he fell into the researching, pen and pad at the ready to catalog, stopping every now and then when the subject matter was particularly interesting, or by an author he knew. Almost without being aware of it he felt her then, as the dust rose up around him in the golden sunlight. She seemed to be ignoring him, lazing idly in the bright patch on the floor like a cat. Not the same, he could see. The hair was curly, not straight, the hips too wide, the mouth too generous... With a dull thud, he clapped the book shut and set it back into its spot on the shelf.
He drank, before bed, and lounged long in his chair. The afternoon had been long hours of dread, and he avoided the bedroom, the library, the breakfast nook. The merits of an alcoholic slumber here, in the den, had its appeal...and yet, and yet. The brandy swirled in the glass. What if they found him here?
Midnight found him slipping between the sheets, but his heart beat too fast. The moon hid its face tonight, and the darkness had grown to cover most of the room. He waited, a slight feverish flush coming to his head and cheeks. Minutes slipped into hours, and still he lay awake, mind going back again and again to those shapes, those shades, those echoes of women, none of whom were May...
When the clock struck softly, and the wind was still, he saw her then. A thing of shadow, she walked towards him on long legs, the light giving just enough definition to her form - bony, taut, but the thinness that spoke of losing too much weight too quickly, the breasts unnatural mounds on a figure where you could count the ribs. A hand reached out to him, and the skin was not smooth or young, but webbed with the arches of veins and small, powerful muscles. He couldn't move, he realized, as she drew back the cover. At her mercy, the finger touched his shoulder - a caress like burning ice, there and then gone as she pulled it away. No pressure, no lasting pain, just the sensation. She touched him again, and his body tensed automatically, still not under his control, and withdrew. Again and again, fingers exploring him, the shape of him, the touches lasting longer each time, and each time he tensed less as he got used to the sensation. Before he knew it he shivered with a different kind of anticipation, he recognized the beat she was using, the direction her hands were traveling. Burning ice slipped down his pants and gripped his scrotum, and as he lay there panting, her smile was a wicked slash of midnight, a blackness darker than the night.
The dawnshade he called Miko. She waited for him, every day, to make her tea, and listened with wrapt attention as he read the paper to her, sometimes reading the news out loud, sometimes once more playing one of his little poetic games. Her smile chased back the shadows of the night, the odd aches and scratches that should not have been there, the cold ache between his legs. Sometimes, as he turned the pages, he felt the brush of a hand or arm against his own, a bright warmth like contact with a cat. He could see her much more clearly now, as the steam rose from the cup; he could make out the little bruises on her throat, where the chain had been wrapped. When the tea was cool, and the paper done, he would excuse himself and head to the library.
The bookwife sprawled outside her shelf, the stacks of old leather tremendously suggestive of her curves. He read to her too, while the light lasted, lying down to spoon around her while the sunlight lasted. Sometimes they slept that way, in the afternoons, and he woke to find his arm stiff and half asleep, and strands of hair too long to be his laying here or there. Once, they had spelled out in perfect cursive, the word "Ginger." So that is what he called her, during those daily trysts.
With night came the hag. She never rode him, never spoke nor cuddled. Somehow he felt she was always there, watching, as he prepared for bed, laying down the covers, lighting the candle and pinching it out, so the smoke trailed up to the ceiling. Waiting for the moment. She liked to let him wait, as much as he liked waiting. He had learned to like it.
One morning the door cracked, the hinges squeaked. Outside, a car engine was running. "Honey!" He could hear the smile. "I'm home!"
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