“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” ~ St Augustine
“Pride breakfasted with plenty, dined with poverty, and supped with infamy.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Pride comes before a fall. She rolled the words between her lips in silent repetition, listening to the memory of her lover’s voice as he had poured them into her open, orgasmic ears. All day, in the cold light, these words had seemed cynical, without cause. She hated the way he had held her, powerless, at the apex of her wantonness and called out her darkest sin.
It was expected of her; pride. She was born to it. Inherited it. Learnt it. It’s fiery fingers kept her warm at night. She embodied it, embraced it. A life without pride was unimaginable. And never, not once in her thirty eight short years, had it been called into question, nor given negative connotations. Pride was prided.
And now he, a labourer, a no one, someone so far beneath her, had caught her in a moment of vulnerability, and, holding her tight, reminded her of pride’s place.
All day she had searched, in vain, for the perfect answer, the simplest and smartest reply. With those five words he had raised himself above her. The words themselves had caused her fall. She wanted so much, with every fibre of her being, to be able to reinstate herself as his superior and continue to clasp his sweating body against hers, night after night. If she couldn’t mark her high class, she would have to banish him from between her sheets, and, in so doing, raise herself once again as untouchable.
She stood at the window, tall with dark eyes, shoulders sharp and pale above her scarlet dress, blood-red fingernail poised and extended as she held her wineglass. Even her posing wasn’t an act. She had learnt this way of living, this image of perfection. No matter the turmoil behind this exterior she would be a vision of calm collectedness.
Even her lover could never be allowed to see the true, ardent passion of her being. The word ‘lover’ was more appropriate than she would ever dare suggest. To him, or indeed anyone. To be unhappy and appear content was perfectly acceptable. To make a scene was not even considered. Unthinkable.
She saw him on the road. On the driveway, winding his way towards the imposing house. Her body ached for him, longed for him, yearned for him. But if he reached the house before she had a reply, before she knew the perfect answer, she would have to turn him away, denying every screaming inch of her wanting soul.
Even her desperately searching mind stumbled upon nothing but the blissfully stored memories, visions, tastes, smells and sensations of their fervent coupling. She wanted words and was given only the indefinable scent of him. She knew the feel of him, the roughness of his coarse fingers and the deep, aching pulse of him between her thighs. She saw the beauty of his hardness, the visible throbbing of his desire, the colours, the textures, felt the grasp of her eager fingers around his erection. Her body yearned, pained, for the lingering caress of his fingers across her lips – first one pair and then the other, both moist with arousal.
His carnal urges showed through with eager and adoring touches. He held her hips firmly against him, but his fingers dented her skin gently. Everything was forceful, but softly executed. She trembled at the thought of him, grew wet between her legs, and still, through all her wanting and adoring, she was blinded by her pride.
In a perfect World, she considered, He would be my equal and we would forge a life together.
Never in her dreams did it occur to her that it was the illicitness, the truth of his ragged breathing and rough cheek that drove her to distraction. The thought wasn’t worth entertaining. Either she had the upper hand, either it was a secret, sordid and dark, or it did not exist. She would rather erase her pleasure than risk her status.
He drew ever closer and she could make out the long fingers, intermittently bringing to his lips a cigarette, rolled rough. His hands were broad, able to hold her, possess her, his tapered digits adept at finding her tingling contours, and reducing her imposing frame to a limp, heated body, laid and spent across his arms, even before he made love to her.
Looking up at her darkened silhouette he shivered. He loathed the haughty looks that drove him wild with desire. There was no in between. Because of her class she could never believe in his intelligence, never know how he had whispered words into her ear, fully aware of their effect on her. He had intentionally planted, in her conflicted mind, an ultimatum. Unlike her, he did not covet their privacy. His soul was leading him deeper into an affair he could not control and he had taken the only option open to him. He was strong, moral, reliable, but in this one thing, this issue so close to his heart, he had no choice but to play her game. She barely let him speak, stealing the words from his lips with sweet, eager kisses. In his arms she was fragile and saccharine, and he hated how he adored her face when she looked up at him with her trembling want.
Even at this distance, her scorching eyes seared his flesh and he wondered, hoped against hope, that her desire would outrun her pride, that no matter what she believed, she would want him more.
Her hand grew tighter around the wineglass and she finished it. Her perception tainted, her desires aching, her pride still burned too bright. Every step he took, every inch he closed between them, it became more likely, inevitable that she would turn him away at the door.
There was nothing else for it. He disappeared under the awning, and she held her breath, waiting for the shrill ringing. No sooner had the thought slipped through her hazy mind when the bell pierced her uncomfortable reverie and she jumped, heart beating light and quick, body trembling. Maintaining her composure, she set the glass down on the table – the clatter impossibly loud – and made her way, solemnly to the door, turning the handle carefully and conjuring the perfect image of her lover.
He smiled warmly, lips curling – lips that had kissed her, caressed her skin; the tongue that played over her trembling flesh and made her come, and come, and come; teeth that had bitten her rosy curves, dipped into her deep contours – reaching his arms out – so long and with such strength. Hands, rough fingers, broad palms, capable of enveloping her, pinning her, holding her, guiding her – all the while looking at her with a steady, searching gaze – eyes so pure they shook her soul; no amount of coarse upbringing could remove the innocence in his piercing stare.
And against every yearning, screaming, overwhelming desire, her expression cold, her eyes empty, she stepped back, and turned him away.
Hearts broke. Two birds; one stone.
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