Softly Lie Sleeping

He was exhausted and she was full of energy. Perhaps it would often be this way for the couple when one was so much older than the other, but on that night of all nights it worried her.

"My dear, you look very tired. Would it not be best for me to find quarters in my own chamber tonight?" Marianne said this meekly, trying to mask her disappointment in a tone of wifely concern.

Brandon was not fooled by this for a moment. "Marianne, people wait their whole lives for this night, and I've had to wait much longer than you have. I wouldn't postpone it one moment," he said, laughing.

He smiled as he sat next to her at the edge of the bed and pulled off his boots. His shirt was already unbuttoned and Marianne reflected with pleasure that the hair on his chest showed not a sign of grey. It was strange indeed to be close enough to a man to notice such things, but she reminded herself that a wife should look on her husband in this way. She saw much to please her. He was certainly not young, but he wore his age with dignity and grace. In addition, she thought with a smile, she had begun to notice and appreciate that he still had his soldier's physique. She was relieved that he had not taken her up on her offer.

"I will be back in one moment," said Brandon, taking her hands and kissing them before walking into his wardrobe. Marianne went to the window, inspecting her reflection on the window panes. She worked her fingers through her curly hair, biting her lips to bring out the color. She was rather vain at moments, and now seemed like the perfect time to obsess over one's appearance—she wanted everything to be perfect.

"Marianne."

She was pulled out of her preening introspection and turned to see that Brandon was now fully dressed for bed and waiting for her.

"I was admiring the coastline. This window is perfectly situated to see the ocean and the mountains at once."

"Also admiring another great beauty, I presume." Brandon's dry tone was surprisingly tender to Marianne, and she blushed with pleasure that though he understood her failings, he loved them even as much as her better qualities.

"Do you mock me, sir?" Marianne said, laughing with nervous excitement.

"If I've learned anything from life it is that you must mock your wife now and again—and of course mock one's self." Brandon's voice was steady and deep, but there was a hint of trembling excitement in his tone that told Marianne that he, too, was thinking of what was about to pass between them.

"I have much to learn." She approached the bed, every limb trembling with the tension and pressure that had been building since dawn. Every woman, on the dawn of her wedding day, must be thinking on the wedding night with a certain sense of fear mingled with excitement. With Marianne, there was also the sense that what she was entering was the realm of unknown pleasure, a passion that even such a woman as she could never before understand. And she was ready. "And I believe you will find me an eager pupil, if you will teach me."

She was now standing directly in front of her new husband. He took her hands gently, squeezing them with some hesitation and looking up at her face for permission to do more.

"Marianne, I want you to know… I want you to understand that I am not as demonstrative as others would have me be… but never for a second think but that there is a fire in my heart, in my very soul, which burns with love of you."

"I know now that there is fire that burns quickly and brightly, and fire that endures… at least I hope I do." Marianne's head was swimming with verses and odes she had read about the union between a man and woman, and none seemed poetic enough to fit this feeling that was growing inside of her.

Brandon smiled, his eyes glistening slightly in the light of the candles. He put his hands around her slender waist, applying enough pressure to the small of her back to send chills up and down her spine. Pulling her closer to him, Brandon finally used his full strength to almost lift her off the ground and set her down on the bed.

In a moment Marianne was looking up at his face, lying on her back on the coverlet of the bed. "You work quickly," she said under her breath, surprised at how her brain, which was usually active with comparisons to great works of literature and art, had become blurred with thoughts of the immediate present, each feeling coming without analysis or consideration.

By now Brandon was kissing her, first on the lips (how strange it felt at first, and yet so lovely!) and gradually down to the nape of her neck. No one had ever touched her like this before, as if exploring her body for buried treasure. Marianne felt the heat rising from her pelvis to her face within moment of Brandon's lips touching hers, and began to understand why love was often compared to fever and fire.

Brandon had made his way to the pale, soft skin between Marianne's breasts which was left exposed by her gown, brushing his lips up against the skin with gentle and slow moments, like a gourmet savoring a rich meal. Marianne drew breath quickly, arching her back slightly to meet the warm touch of his tongue.

His hands, meanwhile, were keeping busy finding the hem of Marianne's nightgown. She reached down to help guide his hand under her gown, and then let his hand make its way to the small of her back. He shifted her gently to position her beneath him.

When his other hand brushed her pelvis bone, so close to the organ that was at this very moment sending waves of pleasure over Marianne's body, she let out a small moan, enough to let him know that he need not be hesitant. Indeed, she even moved her hips to encourage his attention to this area, but was slightly disappointed to feel his hand moving up her body instead of lingering.

She was not disappointed for long. Caressing her breast, he pulled at her nightgown in order to kiss her exposed nipple. Marianne's body suddenly became wracked with chills, rigid and trembling under her husband's weight. Her backbone once again curved reflexively, and Brandon used the hand he still had supporting her back to press her body against him, with the other hand gathering Marianne's nightgown around her waist.

"Marianne, don't be afraid… keep your body as relaxed as you can and this won't hurt you." Marianne looked for the first time into her lover's face as it hovered above her. It was transformed by desire, filled with a vibrancy and passion that Marianne had never seen on his usually serene countenance. She had barely heard his words, and had certainly not understood them, but as he positioned both his hands on the curves of her hips she knew what was coming next, and gave herself up, body and soul, to the new and somewhat painful experience. Closing her eyes, she let out a sharp cry that ended in a soft moan.

Once he was inside of her, Marianne's body became a battleground of pleasure and pain. She had always expected this moment to be a beautiful and terrible entrance into womanhood, but she underestimated how conflicted she would feel in the first moments.

"Relax, my love," Brandon said, gently bending her legs to give himself more room, and to relieve the rigidity in Marianne's limbs.

As Brandon spread her legs farther apart with his movements, Marianne's body began to release the stiffness that had been her first reaction to the pain, and pleasurable sensations dominated her being.

"I love you," she said in a half whisper, putting her hands around Brandon's neck and watching his face grow more and more transformed by anticipation and pleasure.

"Oh Marianne" was all Brandon could say as his face went from flushed to red. And then suddenly his movements became more frenzied, more forceful, climaxing in a moment of suspension that could only be described as breath-taking.

It rushed on Marianne like a tidal wave, carrying her reflections, fears and even her consciousness away in a surge of powerful and all encompassing pleasure. It was a transcendent experience as all the tension in her body released—she had never imagined that such an act could feel so sublime, so sacred.

She and Brandon had come together, in more ways than one, and their voices had mingled in cries of passion. The moment passed all too quickly, and Marianne's head was spinning with heat and dizziness as he fell beside her, gasping for air.

The sensations had not fully left Marianne's body when she pulled down her nightgown and drew the covers over her, but gradually a numbness settled in that was in itself pleasant and calming. She noticed with dismay that she had blood between her legs, and brought her fingers to her eyes with concern at the dark redness which stained them.

"That is normal," Brandon said, his voice a mixture of softness and exhaustion that made him sound very youthful and very old at the same time. "I am sorry if I hurt you."

"I think I will never have any reason to accuse you of hurting me, my love. You have given me something… You've shown me something so… so…". For once words escaped Marianne, and she struggled to come up with something romantic and profound to say.

"I know," Brandon said, smiling as his love tried ardently to grasp the full meaning of what was happening to her.

She looked up into his face with the sweetest and most loving smile he had ever seen. It was full of gratefulness, of understanding, and fellowship—they had truly become one, and Marianne seemed to understand how much they had both given each other that night.

"Everything has changed for me, you know. Utterly changed. I am yours now, body and soul." Brandon's voice was full of emotion as he said these words.

"And I am yours." Marianne buried her head in Brandon's chest, and he stroked her curled hair gently, breathing softly and normally at last.

She dozed slightly, and when she awoke she was in Brandon's arms, completely encircled in his strong embrace. He was awake, staring into the fireplace with a thoughtful look on his face.

"No more worrying, Christopher. It's time for us both to heal…and sleep!"

Hearing her voice, Brandon looked down at Marianne, cupping her cheek. She looked up at him, and for the first time in many months, she was filled with hope of a happier future.

"Goodnight, Colonel Brandon."

"Sleep softly, Mrs. Brandon."

THE END.