Title: Scenes from a Garden
Summary: Silence is the blood whose flesh is singing.
Disclaimer: Seriously, not mine. And before you ask about the structure or the lavender tinted prose or the complete lack of sense-making -- aw fuck it, I don't know either. Sometimes my writing gets like this, okay? Tagline is an e.e. cummings quote.
Scenes from a Garden
—or it is her youth, perhaps, which brings the appeal. Even in ageless nonbeing, she retains it, lets it exude from her downward curving cherry mouth like the lust of summer skin fouled by mosquitoes, blossoming in pink mounds and cruel red stripes as the itch returns with renewed fervor despite scrabbling nails. Youth is ephemeral, burns like Indian summer, like Marluxia's tongue on her skin and sliding up her legs. Rapturous and feverish. Naminé is fourteen, young and unsportive, twisting and twining like a finger of lilacs. A bruised scent. Very nervous and fragrant. Her white torso opens up with the faintest of breastbuds, limbs still thin and fey, downed with a substanceless floss, child-smooth beneath his palms.
Marluxia was young, once, he recalls, in another life or perhaps just a different capacity. Youth is somehow only sublime in retrospect; there is little grace in the passions of pimply brutes, directing gawkish, syrupy gazes at the hems of girls' dresses. No, better to shut away those thoughts, close the books and join the army. Destruction of worlds—and later, he had that, for a very steep price. Now, only her. His petit récompense . He smiles to think of the havoc she will wreak.
She's come out here on her own, which, if he chooses to think on it at length, he will find is rather admirable. Endearing, almost, but not altogether wise. A garden, no matter how tame, is no place for birdlike girls with pretensions to artistry and marginally more legitimate claims to witchcraft. There are deadly plants abound, flowers that drip poisonous nectar; their sapling spite covets the arch of her trim ankles noisily as she walks between the seething rows, awkward and uncertain as the children of Darzee the tailor-bird just fallen from their nest. In the way of the serpents. With a flick of his fingers, he can summon her to him in an instant, but his pride gave a strange sudden surge anyway when he saw her floating into the greenhouse, slim and strange. Blue eyes enormous, swallowing up her white face. Defiant of orchards and orchids alike.
He smiles. And seats her on a tall white stool a little way apart, a space left aside for observers. The divan beneath the rose arch would be more comfortable, but there is a startling geometry in the way she perches atop of gangly things, limbs crossed and faintly shaking in an effort to find balance. It pleases his innate sense of symmetry.
"A corpse flower?"
"Indeed, pet. A very rare species. You wouldn't think that from just looking at it, would you?"
"It does seem… a little homely."
He lays a finger to his lips. "Better not let the flower hear you say that. This brown titaness grows to twice your present height, and delivers a nasty bite. You wouldn't want me to come in here some morning and find bloody bits of your little fingers all over my gravel path, now would you?" And waggles the selfsame finger in her direction. Relishes her discreet full-body shudder.
"But you're not even wearing gloves."
Yes, makes him smile, that she does. "Your little touch of concern is quaint, if awfully contrived." He holds up his right hand to the light, examines the fingers. In the sun-flecked brilliance of the afternoon garden, their details cannot be wholly dismissed—the thatched pattern, specks of dirt beneath the trimmed nails. He flexes them experimentally, and shadows of little bones flutter on the bumps of his knuckles. Every fingertip is coated in a translucent, honey-like film, giving off an indelicate, wallowing scent.
"Corpsedew. This pretty green sap will burn your skin right off," he explains in a patient voice, patting the loose soil at the foot of the corpse flower. "Like the beast-daughter in the story who tore off the good girl's skin and wore it like a precious gown to marry the prince, remember? Usually, I have nothing to fear—they know me, you see, and this old girl knows me especially well. I had her moved from her old home. You think she doesn't look like much now, but when she blooms, it'll be a sight to see. But only once a year, and only in the afternoon."
Sitting on the high stool, a band of sunlight crossing her pale forearm, Naminé seems diminished somehow, an illusion of powdery skin flaking away to reveal pockets of air in place of bones. Nevertheless, her ivory legs and lily neck form for an instant a memorable antiphony to the drab coarseness of the difficult plant he has been poring over for the last hour. She has her head down, and is not looking at him, one thin wrist dancing nervously over the sketchbook in her lap.
"So now you understand, this putrefying pixie is used to getting my full, undivided attention, and is thus a very jealous, temperamental thing," he says deliberately. "Having you here today, for example, increases my chance of getting burnt considerably."
He hedges his gambits, even the littlest of them, and they always pay off. With this one coup, he earns a startled shardglass glance. One flash of raised irises, a glossy, restless movement within the lovely wide sockets, and they're gone again, as Naminé loses her countenance completely, flushes and tries to rebuff his gaze by turning her thin mobile shoulder blades to him—nearly falling off the narrow stool in the process.
"And how is the exercise coming along?"
She mumbles something incoherent, and does not look up. He has put her to task copying out onto cream-laid paper one of his more amusing flowers, an insect-imitating orchid of Oriental origins. This has the stated purpose of improving her form and modeling, but it's all so much artifice. Marluxia knows Naminé artistic prowess will never rise above the horizon of the rudimentary—it is not those qualities that he particularly values in her drawings.
Nevertheless, the practice session affords him with other opportunities.
"Keep working on it."
From the back, her light, flimsy dress is low cut enough to gouge out a view down the sleek contour of her concaved back. Down in her lap, he can see the mirror-of-Venus clumsily taking shape. The tip of her crayon laboriously paints out an eyespot—and there, it is apparent: a flower simulating a bright moth—but the rest of her is wax-still. An awe-inspiring lack of motion. He leans over her, peering across the silky top of her head, and very lightly lets his lips travel down her warm hair and hot nape. An imprecise fragrance, mossy and warm (false autumn too sultry for adolescents). Beauty in nature lies in symmetry. The small of her back is, without a doubt, the most perfect thing he has ever seen. He allows his right hand to rest on it, palming the thin fabric, underneath which he knows she possesses an earth-brown, almost womanish mole.
Her crayon-hand falters, dangling awkwardly over the lip of a flamboyantly violet wing. The only sign she has felt the increased pressure of his lips. With his mouth still on the little knob at the back of her gracefully inclined neck—and what witches should have such thin swan necks, all the easier to snap, like a frost-bitten camellia—he reaches up to brush her bright hair, so it slides down one bare shoulder. His fingers find her skin. There's a sharp intake of breath; Naminé shudders beneath his touch—but the corpse flower's dew has long dried to benignancy.
"You're loitering, rosedarling. Pick up the pace."
Her fingers grip the crayon on command. Her hand is shaking and white-knuckled, the pressure exerted so great he thinks she might snap the instrument in half. But there is a greater disturbance in the set of her knees and the strength of her other hand: the sketchbook slips from the top of her thighs and lands soundlessly at the foot of the stool. Immediately, she stoops to pick it up. He closes his fingers around the angular bones of her shoulder in warning.
"No. Let me."
He knows she hates this part. It is his favorite.
Now he is on his knees in the dust, kneeling before her. Her head is slightly at an angle, so that her face is turned from him, and she has perfected the art of slouching in her seat and letting her stress-limp hair fall down to obscure her features entirely. No matter. He does not need to see her face for this. With detached casualness, he lifts his hands—but instead of picking up the fallen sketchbook, he takes the sandals off her feet, one by one. Allows his fingers to graze the length of her calves, already clammy with sweat, linger at the hollow of the knees, her bare insteps. Downy and damp.
"Is the room too close for you?".
"No," she says, barely loud enough to be heard, and shakes her head miserably. Dampened bangs swing to and fro. Oh, how she makes him smile, trembling as though taken by a violent fever. Eyes shut tight. Her hands are clutching the edge of the stool, the fingernails practically biting into the ivoried wood. He has kissed each and every one of them in the past, just as he has kissed her smooth pubic mound through the silk of her underpants. Where the mossy fragrance is thickest. An undertone of fertility, as if to say, plant something inside me and it will grow.
"But that will never do," he refutes, thinking aloud, and without warning, tilts the chair to make her slide toward him. In the same motion that he might slide into her, easy, easy. With an undignified squeak, she nearly ends up a heap in his lap, but for a final moment's struggle that saves her balance. Their faces now breaths apart.
Something heavy settles in his chest, impatience or anticipation; there isn't enough air and Naminé is sucking it all in with her red, ragged mouth. The garden is sun-suffused, humid and suddenly too hot. The long slanting sunbeam has shifted, and her forehead is glazed in light, shiny with sweat. But her eyes have opened to him, fully disarmed, wide and swimming in their grave sockets, and there, there it is. Silence is the blood whose flesh is singing, and as every nerve in his body soars to the triumphant finish, that slanting remoteness often found in impish children is momentarily gone from her white face, leaving the rough beauty of her youth to shine through, crude and gem-like, full of odor and ardor. Flaming the senses.
He might kiss it out of her, slip his tongue in between the slightly parted lips and dash it across the saliva-slick surface of her big front teeth. Tease the stolen air right back out. He might.
But he directs his lips to her hot cheekbone instead, and slips his fingers beneath the hem of her skirt, seeking out the rosy labial lips…
"Marluxia, thought I might find you here. I wanted to talk…"
The garden is white with stillness, despite the new dark voice that dangles like a string trailing over the edge of silence. Nature is constant growth, in perpetual motion; a human instant caught between those grinding gears soon tapers to a throbbing point and vanishes.
"Axel," Marluxia says with perfect equanimity. "I'll be with you in a minute." And dismisses his garden-pet with a half-hearted pat to the shoulder that has no heart behind it at all. "You may go. We'll continue this session at another time."
As she totters away from him, reeling like a crippled fawn, sketchbook and sandals and pencil box in tow, he glimpses, out of the corner of his eye, Axel stepping aside from the doorway to make way for her. At a glance, it seems so simple, an unconscious act of gallantry (laughable). Yet the way the other Nobody's eyes, more black than green, crinkle and crease as Naminé dashes past him and out into the corridor suggests—curiosity? Revulsion? Or perhaps. Something else entirely.
"I forget, was there something that you wanted in particular?"
Axel seems not to hear him. "My, my. Your taste just gets nastier every day, doesn't it?" The smirk audible around the words.
Marluxia angles him a quick glance—but he is merely admiring the corpse flower.
Another afternoon. Rain. What has he been doing, prior to that elfin moment? The details seem insignificant in the larger context of things.
"Who let you in here?" The sternness in his own voice unnerves him. With shock, he realizes he cannot seem to produce an ordered sequence of events. Nevertheless, he tries.
Context: The garden in a rainstorm. The lighting dim and milky. His flower, the bride of one day in a year and then only in the afternoon—a ravaged corpse, torn and bleeding on the gravel path, stank as rotting flesh. No snake tracks in the dust. The baby bird…
Fact: Naminé, on the ground, knees bruised from kneeling. Her ten fingers already blistering from the pale green corpsedew. They will take at least a week to heal.
Questions: How long has she been in here? Who knows how long until she can pick up a pencil again? And how much of his plan has been set back because of it?
"Why?" he snarls, grabbing her wrist. But the moment his gloved hand makes contact—toxic, it is toxic to the touch—Naminé's entire body seems to wilt against him, and she lets out a muffled sob, pummeling him feebly with her little fists. You can grow something, and tend to it, and dote on it, tease and protect, use and abuse, tenderly, maliciously—but you must remember always that it will never be yours. Nature is growth, and strength, and rebirth. As he gazes down at her grimy face, streaked with tears and dirt, red nostrils flaring, the heaviness within his chest returns tenfold, and his sunflecked arcadia is shot through with visions of fierce-eyed treachery—
The reason the structure is so strange is because I wrote this to resemble a page from a book, taken out of context. Imagine perhaps that it's page 237 of Marluxia's life story, for example. It's easy to miss, but this is actually one of my rather more erotic pieces. Cloying, like the garden heat.