She gasped, fighting for air, head bowed, arms outstretched, desperately clawing to get out out out. Pressed and squeezing between pumping bodies, skin covered by sticking, sweaty cotton, fingers snatched at her clothes, dilated eyes stared at her, unseeing, but wanting – oh so wanting. Voices echoing in her ears.
“Where are you going baby?”
“Need something? I’ve got what you need.”
“Come on sexy.”
And their groins were ground against her, but she alluded them, struggling her way out. All she could do was fight, still gasping. The cacophony of sound was pressed into her skull, forcing into the small holes of her ears, threatening to crush her thoughts. “Get out! Get out! Get out!” was all she could think, all she could perceive. There was nothing but the desire, the need to escape. Blinking eyes upwards for one moment she could see the door, and the relief swept over her as, like a drowning man swimming to the surface, she burst out, catching the sharp, icy air.
She stumbled, grabbing at the wall and fell against it, sobbing, her fingers scraping against the ragged brickwork as her body trembled dramatically.
The doorman cast a weary look at her and asked, out of a feeling of obligation, if she was okay. For a split second she was tugged out of her self-pity and reminded of her smallness in the World.
Pulling herself up she turned bleary eyes to him and sniffed. “I’ll be fine.” She answered, shaking her head as she walked away. Aware of herself, the cold night air nipped at her bare skin and she pulled her fashionably delicate cardigan around her bony frame. Shoulders hunched, arms crossed she walked, knees barely bending, her legs straight and her shoulders too broad atop her tall, skinny frame. She was the epitome of awkward. Feeling all too still in this desperately rigid form she thrust her right hand into her tiny purse, retrieving a battered packet of cigarettes and a disposable lighter – stolen from in amongst the empty bottles and spilled crisps on a table at a house party. Hands still shaking she plucked a cigarette from it’s casing and held it between her lips as the packet was returned to it’s space in her bag. Cupping her hands she flicked the lighter once. Twice. Three times. The flame was all too brief and no matter how she sucked on the cigarette, it would not light. Her pace had been slowing as she went through the motions, until she found herself at a standstill, beneath a harsh fluorescent streetlamp, numb fingertips desperately clicking the unforgiving wheel of the lighter. Nothing.
Her brow showed the furrows of her frustration and her hands began to relax, giving up as exasperation took over. “Fuck.” She muttered under her breath.
Suddenly a hand was extended before her, into the light. All she saw was the flame of the zippo hovering above the tapered fingers, and she clasped it desperately, sucking deeply as her lungs filled with the delicious smoke. The moment could have been plucked directly from film noir, so perfect was the lighting on this moment of dark romanticism. Only after the plumes were emitted from her pouting lips did she give any attention to her generous benefactor.
He stood only one or two inches taller than her, and in the half light she could make out his thin lips as they curled into a smirk. He regarded her with a lazy yet piercing gaze, his stance both comfortable and commanding. She nodded her head. “Thanks,” She muttered, in much the same defensive tone she had said ‘Fuck’ just moments before.
“My pleasure.” The words spilled from his mouth, but from the corner of her eye she barely saw his lips move. His voice was deep, impossibly warm and inviting. It was as though he had spoken to her in the cosy corner of a jazz club. It was a voice out of place in the chilled night air. She shuffled her feet nervously, and nodding one more time, made to leave, once again assuming her uncomfortable, rigid pace.
“Excuse me.” The words flew through the air and she could almost feel them hit the back of her neck. She whipped her head around, looking back. He held his hand out and in it she saw the unmistakable glint of her necklace. A necklace that, in latent adolescent posing, hadn’t been removed from her neck for two years. It was silver – although not real silver – and the clasp was practically welded shut. She could barely believe it. Her stomach turned but she couldn’t say whether it was from the horror of seeing such a precious ornament in the hand of a stranger, or due to the breaking of this two year pattern.
Mesmerised by the shining silver she returned to his side, standing once again beneath the streetlamp while he remained, for the most part, in the shadows. She reached out her numb fingers to retrieve her prized possession. As she did her touch traced the skin of his palm and she felt a bolt of static energy course through her fingertips. Flinching she looked up at his face. His cheekbones were high, his eyes deep-set. He would have looked gaunt were it not for the warm hue of his cheeks, the shining brilliance of his eyes. His brow was slightly knitted; curiosity, not worry. She snatched, small, her necklace from his hand, but his eyes held her gaze and while her awkward body shifted, her face remained motionless.
“Who are you?” He asked suddenly, leering his head towards her, into the light.
She held her ground and met his inquisitive eyes. “What? I’m…” She trailed off, frowning. “I’m no one.”
He rocked back on his feet and she observed his face turn from a slight smirk to full blown bemusement. He was enjoying watching her, which only served to heighten her discomfort. Five years previously, in the full flush of puberty, she had been scouted by a model agency. Her awkward body, her heart shaped face, her endless legs, all the parts of herself that she wanted to change had been pointed out and admired. She hated every second, wanting nothing more than to retreat into her head, into the cosy comfort of her own mind. Now this stranger, this helpful thief, had her under a microscope, a feeling that was only amplified by her position beneath the streetlamp.
He reached out his hand and with one long, slender, index finger he traced the stream of black mascara down her cheek. Her gaze was locked with his and while every inch of her body screamed for her to turn and run, her feet would not move. She could feel her face assume a delicate, glazed expression as he touched her porcelain skin. Sighing deeply he dropped his hand and she remembered herself. She felt calmer and raised the cigarette to her lips, taking a drag. The smoke misted her view of him for a second and as it cleared she felt he had moved a little closer. But she couldn’t be sure.
As the word escaped his lips she felt the icy air skim across her bare flesh. She had forgotten it, but as he mentioned the temperature, it threatened to overwhelm her, and her teeth began to chatter uncontrollably.
“You could die in this.” He said, his expression serious. He curled his hand around her waist protectively and despite her considerable height, she felt tiny, waifish under his touch. She was barely aware of her skin, but she felt her body give under his touch, growing limp and pliable. His other hand reached around her and before she had time to think, she was folded into his warm embrace, her head resting deeply on his shoulder. As though he knew her inner torment, the pain of her night, the desperation of her struggle to escape the thousand sinful clutches of a London night club. As though he knew, he held her, firm and warm and still. And she breathed for the first time in hours.
Her fingers stopped trembling and she smoked, enjoying the languid activity as he held her in his arms. Safety and gentle enjoyment in perfect harmony.
He breathed in the scent of her. First and foremost was the poisonous scent of her shampoo, her perfume, her body lotion. They stung his nostrils, the acidity burning. But beyond that, beneath the chosen superficialities was the deep scent of her body. The saltiness of skin he wanted to taste, the mustiness of her underarms and the backs of her knees, he could even smell the teasing warmth of her lips and tongue. And then that scent, hidden under layers of clothes, trapped tightly between her thighs, musky and sweet, so very sweet. But even that was not what drove him forward. For all it’s sweetness, for all the reality of sweat and dirt and the delicious humanity of her tongue, his nose led him beyond those veils of scent to something quite other. Something men’s noses passed over, unable detect.
As he held her in his arms he could feel her heart beat against his chest. Her cheek on his shoulder was bony and hard, as was the rest of her body. Hip bones jutted out beneath his hands at difficult angles, sharp knees pressed into his, and her fingers were lengthy, skeletal. But none of this discomfort compared to the pure joy of feeling her strong steady pulse. When she had erupted from the doors of that dingy club, seemingly spat out onto the pavement, she had looked weak and distressed. Easy prey. But holding her close he realised how strong she was. He doubted if she knew how commanding, how courageous, how powerful she could be. The trembling of her hand as she reached for the necklace had told him how uncertain she was of her body. And now he was inches from his satisfaction. But her beauty, the ethereal glow of her being made him pause, hesitate. This one he would take his time over.
In any case it wasn’t a matter of sustenance. He had already stalked and taken what he wanted. He was satisfied, prepared to go home, to hide from the dawn. But her sudden appearance and her complete solitude had caught his attention. Why shouldn’t he take what he wanted.. twice?
Compared to the nervous quivering girl he had seduced into his arms she was now calm, the smoke from her cigarette curling between her lips and up up towards the buzzing bulb. With the very tip and nail of his middle finger he combed a strand of matted hair away from her face. She was tired and sweaty and dirty and it was hard to tell what colour her hair had been when the night began; blonde? Auburn? Brunette? Now it was dull and filthy and he suspected she was craving the cleansing warmth of her shower.
He leant down and planted a gentle kiss on her forehead. She didn’t move and he kissed her again. This close he could feel her reactions, sense how she was feeling, even know how his lips felt against her skin; the firm, even press of them, how as they moved they felt sculpted, perfect. She went limp in his arms, already surrendering her body. This dance was becoming all too simple for him. The ease with which he seduced and drew them in, cradling them, stealing their security before they fell prey to him. Like a junkie, needing more and more, he looked down at the second body he had held in his arms and wondered if this was the start of an unsustainable habit. But it didn’t matter. Her wide glassy eyes gazed at him from his shoulder and he took her mouth, biting into the red fullness of her lips with his.
His broad hands spread fingers over her back. It started so small, her waist miniscule, and grew broader, skin taut across prominent ribs and a spine curved from hunching to hide her height, to the shoulders that would be so striking if she wore them with more poise. As their lips met, interlocking, exploratory, he found that the glassy innocence of her eyes masked the truth of experience. She was not the shrinking adolescent she appeared to be. In fact he would have been surprised were she younger than nineteen. Their kiss became deeper and he could smell her desire, feel her intense longing, her need for more. Little thoughts buzzed in her mind about soul mates, the one, commitment. He had taken enough girls to know that whatever the clichés said, they didn’t all think like this. The slender woman in his arms was both atypical and the accepted stereotype.
Raising his face from hers he looked down at her with slow eyes, drinking in every moment of her living, breathing self. Her skin was far paler than his – but then he had just fed – and under the cruelty of the fluorescent light it was almost translucent. But to him she appeared only more beautiful, more desirable. Her body was so slender, her skin so pale that almost every vein and artery seemed to pulse visibly, testing his willpower.
“Come with me..” He leaned in gently and purred the words into her ear. His grip on her waist tightened and she was swept across the street to the opposite pavement and into the darkness of an alleyway. Thoughts of murder and rape streamed briefly through her mind, but even as she was pulled into the shadows her body had gone willingly, eager to bend to the will of this intoxicating man. His kisses left a sour taste in her mouth, but after the cigarettes and the events in the club even his sourness was better. An improvement. She found comfort in his unfamiliar touch, and for the second time that night was pressed against coarse red London brickwork.
Thin arms slipped around his neck as he leant in, her lips meeting his mouth once more, her kisses eager and fervent, her jutting hips pressed against him. His arousal began to grow. But it wasn’t for these earthly pleasures, this physical desire. It was baser than that. More primal. More instinctive. What he wanted, what drove him, what aroused him had nothing to do with the physical manifestations of desire. It was pure, unadulterated bloodlust. And all he knew as he sucked and tasted her lips was his desire for more, the want to taste that warmth beneath her skin. He needed it.
Her hand moved between then, unzipping and reaching for his erection, whilst all his awareness was on the curve of her neck as she looked down. Feeling her tapered fingers curl around his hard cock, he was reminded of the role he must play, and starting at her neck he trailed his fingers down, across her chest, feeling one nipple come alive beneath his touch, and then down down cupping between her thighs, feeling her wetness through thin tights and innocent white panties, under her micro skirt. She was so warm; warmer than their eagerly connected mouths, warmer than his own pulsing hard-on, warmer than the curved body he had already disposed of.
As his fingers pressed up into her heat, she pulled him closer, her skinny arms wrapped around his neck. Feeling the pressure around his throat he leant into her body and, in the darkness, smiled at the irony.