A companion piece to a vignette from 'A Study,' which is below.
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Disclaimer: Don't own. Don't sue?
business starts to get better and the shadows around both their eyes
get darker, she hums lullabies in her shrill voice when he sits in
his chair that's really hers and she smashes all the wayward insects
she can. The last thing he sees each night is the way her eyes glint
in the firelight, matching the glimmer of her butcher knife. He'd
notice that he sleeps more easily when she does this if it weren't
for the way he has eyes only for the shining blade he polishes dry
He'd notice that he sleeps more easily when she does this if it weren't for the way he has eyes only for the shining blade he polishes dry every night.
One of these nights, she notices the dark circles that have formed around his sunken eyes have grown darker and he's paler than he usually is. When he awakes, she's curled upon the footrest, sleeping uncomfortably.
He sits there for a moment, just staring at her. For the first time in weeks, his mind is blank and unfocused, his eyes only seeing the woman before him instead of imagining the judge, or Lucy, or how his Johanna has grown.
He suddenly thinks about how cold her hands always are, even with the scraps of net she covers them with. He thinks of how cold his own skin always is, and how the only warm thing he's ever felt is Lucy's touch, to which the Australian sun was no match. The sun burned, and Lucy was warmth. But he could have been imagining that.
Then he thinks of how warm the blade of his razor always is.
But he realizes that it's probably only warm because of the blood.
He wonders, suddenly, if human contact would make either of them warmer. Human contact alone, unmarred by death or blood or lingering emotion. And they're both so lonely.
Then, her eyes open drowsily, focusing on the footrest her head lays on until they flicker up to him.
Wordlessly, he pulls her up by her forearm onto the armchair to sit next to him. He studies her face, the dark eyes, the flyaway hair, the faded cochineal. She's frightened of him, he realizes. His eyes travel to her arms, which aren't as burly as he originally thought, and then upward to the not-so-discreet swell of her breasts beneath the patched-on black lace. Obtusely, he wonders if she's still in mourning.
Then, he reaches up his left arm and clumsily wipes the cochineal from her lips, making it smear like blood across her cheek and stain his shirtsleeve purple. He's always been the type of man to plan ahead, and he doesn't want her to taste bitter.
His left hand strays unconsciously to the botchy lace, and, reassured by the warmth of her skin, his right fingers find the bow at the bottom of her corset strings.
Her eyes widen. "Mr. T! I'm a lady!"
He realizes that she's nothing like his Lucy, nothing at all. And, for the first time, he's delighted about it, because he needs someone completely opposite. They're both lonely, anyway.
He grins, tugging loosely on the string until it comes undone, his other hand resting on the base of her warming neck. He feels a foreign emotion that he can only associate with Lucy well up inside of him, and, trying to force it down, replies the only way he knows how to:
"And I'm quite the gentleman."