Ashes and Dusts

When Ellen woke up for the third inopportune time that starless night, moon hidden behind wisps of metallic sheen, the smell of sweat, sex and the distinctive maleness of Keats pervaded her senses.

Her first time was with a man twelve years her senior when she newly turned eighteen, an innocuous rebellion to her childhood days and to the haunted quality of a past she could scarcely map out and that which dictated her teenage years, sullen, lonely and invincible, the iniquity of her inhospitable will to let go and forget. The sun shone that day like an onslaught, spiteful, towards the Western moors of the land, the boiling tarmac surface of the road, green-timber fields of unripe corn, moss-gray slabs of unimposing masonry wildly scattered across the marsh and green-gold grass. The face and name of the man was unimportant, someone she could barely even recall now to her rumination, however his callous fingers and dry gasps of moans lingered like a spectre in the smoky remnants of her mind.

The act itself was unpleasant, messy and uncomfortable above the rock-strewn vestige of the dry terrain, brown-ocher soil along with the sharp edges of gray stones, cups, rings and grooves cut into them, her childish daydreams of perfection and smouldering desire instantly wiped out to face the reality of man himself. An endless array of pale flesh, bones and fat, blue veins bulging inside thighs, light blonde hair scratching her freckled skin, the smell of ale and tobacco from his panting mouth. After the deed was done she laid there, the view of the high-strewn grasses obscuring the sight of the plum green peats, glistening like sweat from the heat of the sun. For a moment there while two bodies were haphazardly and lazily interconnected, she worried if the searing heat of the sun could ignite the peats to combust and fire to break out, carbon dispersing unto the bleak earth. A thousand meters of coal-bearing rocks, foliaged trees and plants completely removed, smoothing, leaving only faint traces of scorched barks and ash. She blinked, gently pushed the man off her, fixed her disarrayed dress and hair, noticed the time, bid a demure goodbye dimly noticing the look of bewilderment that flitted the man's face and thought how very simple all that was, unpleasant, yes, yet how utterly liberating it was to lose something you were willing to give away in the first place.

She rode the bus home, its painfully heaving weight against dusts and dry winds leaving hazy discomfort to its passengers, with faint traces of insipid guilt and a hint of smile on her young face.

The sinuous breathing from her side caught her attention. His tanned and muscled back a stark contrast to pale skin and bulging fat. She touched his skin, lightly, distinctly aware of his irritable nature, and recalled the warm hand that wrapped around her breast, rough and impatient, and the unguarded expression on his face, euphoria and her name uttered from his lips.

Physically weak as she was, a consideration she has unwittingly come to accept, it pleased and terrified her to know she held power over someone, a void filled with an intangible awareness of raw need.

Keats shifted from his side, face towards Ellen, making the thin sheet of mud-brown blanket slip from her shoulders.

"Why are you not asleep?" asked Keats tiredly, eyes adapting to the dark and the absence of spectacles.

"I couldn't sleep," whispered Ellen.

"Well, do try. It's not very creepy, you see, finding someone staring you down in your sleep."

She laughed softly. "I was just remembering something."

"Did you have a dream?"

"Hmm. Something like that I suppose. I forget which."

"Not a nightmare?"

"No," said Ellen blandly, averting her eyes, focusing unaware on a rubenesque painting, the pale folds of abdomen flesh partly hidden underneath obscure silhouettes of inky darkness.

"I do hope you won't require another therapy session. At the very least, I would appreciate it if it can wait until the sun comes up."

"I assure you it's nothing of the sort. Besides I think I've lost half my life just listening to you go on and on psychoanalyzing me."

"Thank you very much," drawled Keats, lips curling, "that's very kind of you."

"You're welcome," said Ellen, tone soft and frail. She felt a warm arm wrapped loosely above her heaving chest, sudden and heavy. A voice to her side growled, "Go to sleep. Do."

She looked up to the ceiling, and frowned, the action marring her smooth forehead in an awkward display of mystification and apathy, webs of shadowed lines and chipped paint marking her vision and felt Keats alert breathing turn sluggish. She fell asleep ten minutes later, the arm on her chest as heavy as the knowledge it wrought upon her.