The door closed behind Moritz with a snap, and a sudden chill stopped him in his place as he took in Ilse's room.
It looked exactly as he remembered it, as if frozen in time, untouched from his childhood days in which this room was a place of secrets and bravery and whatever he and the others wanted it to be. The same bed, with the same white crochet comforter stood in the corner. The paneled floors, dustier and colder than ever before, held Ilse's once-magnificent dresser, where she and Wendla would confound the boys with their precocious knowledge of fashion and elegance. The old wooden chest sat in its place under the window, and Moritz wondered if the toys he and Melchior spent so much time discovering together remained in its shadowy depths.
The room was lit with a colorless pale blue by the moons glow, coming through the wide window, the mint lace-trimmed curtains pulled back to reveal the country beyond - the waving green fields beyond the rolling hills, interspersed with the magnificent trees he remembered huddling under when it rained or when the sun would beat down in a deadly glare.
Frau Neumann's plum tree was in plain view. The broken branches stood out like battle wounds, and from the highest stump hung a lone swing that he had forgotten about, but now remembered vividly. He remembered Melchior, abashed as he always was when admitting a wrong, finally apologizing to Ilse for breaking the plum tree. Ilse's smile was somewhat deceptive.
"It's fine, Melchi," she had said. "I have an idea to make it even better than before!"
And thus, she and Melchior fashioned a wobbly, slanted swing to hang from the high broken branch from which Melchior had fallen. Back then, she never held onto sadness. In a way, she was more of a leader than Melchior, in that she always had a plan for the next big adventure - and past failures were always left forgotten. Their childhood fun was held in her capable, controlled hands.
From the door, Moritz watched Ilse with an unfounded apprehension. She was not the same Ilse he remembered, leaning up against the window sill in nothing but that wrinkled white smock. Sure, she was in control, just as always - always the all-knowing one with all the secrets and her own plan. But something about her had become unsure. Slight. Frantic.
She turned to him and smiled. It looked nothing like the smile he remembered, and while hauntingly beautiful, it made the hairs on the back of Moritz's neck stand on end and his stomach seem to shrivel. What was wrong with him?
"It's been so long since I've been here," she said, and the tone of her voice was different than it was out in the woods or by the river. Softer, more calm. She laughed a sudden, out-of-place laugh that must have been forced. "Of course, for you it's been ages! I'm sure hardly remember it."
"Actually, I remember it well." Moritz's voice came feebly from his tensed throat, and he cleared it. Ilse simply watched him, face, it seemed to him, to be looking very far away. He felt like an outsider in her world. Something was wrong.
Ilse crossed over to her bed and sat down on the edge, her distant eyes remaining fixed on him, the ghost of her smile remaining.
"So, Moritz, we're alone again. I have endless time to spare... we could do anything." Her smile became coy.
At the mention of being alone, however, Frau Neumann flashed through Moritz's mind, sitting in solitude on the floor below, not speaking to her daughter or even acknowledging her presence. But Moritz tried not to think of that.
"Yes, I - I suppose we are alone..."
Ilse watched him as if waiting for something, and to Moritz, this was horribly uncomfortable, as he hadn't the faintest idea how to deliver this. He knew what was coming. The next logical step to being alone with the free, wild, beautiful Ilse. But Moritz could not stop seeing Frau Neumann's face, surprised and then indifferent but entirely cold. It was not how a mother looked.
The entire dark, cold house made Moritz want to retreat within himself. He didn't want to be here, but he could not think of any other place he wanted to be.
After a pause, Ilse got up and approached him. She got up close to him, as close as she had been when they had walked together, only this time Moritz felt much more crowded. He stood his ground, however, as her coquettish smile came close to his own face.
"I've missed you, Moritz," she said in little more than a whisper, her face a mere foot from his own. Moritz could see her eyes up close now, and though her eyelids drooped affectionately, her eyes seemed somehow unfocused, looking through him. "I'm so glad I found you tonight..."
Her face came even closer. Their noses were inches apart. Moritz felt that he should say something, but he was completely frozen from the inside out, his pounding heart the only sign of movement. This is what he wanted.
She was so beautiful in this light. Her skin seemed to glow in the moon's light, and her dark ringlets fell so softly and gently. This was right. This was what he wanted.
Suddenly, her lips met his, and her hands found his collar, roaming his neck and shoulders as she kissed him. Despite his unwarranted surprise, he began to kiss her back, returning the pressure and allowing her lips between his, her tongue to graze his lips. He let his hands touch her waist waist and they were so close now, her warm, soft body pressing against his stiff, frozen one.
Before he knew it she was pulling him to her bed, kissing him with a passion that felt so unreal, a fire that he felt he should return but could not muster within himself. He didn't know what he was doing and was becoming more and more aware of this fact as the kissing become more and more ferocious.
She was on top of him, and her hands began to pull at his jacket, toying with the buttons. Yes. it was finally happening. This was it.
Suddenly, somehow, through Moritz's mind flashed Ilse's face as he remembered it from the walk home - smiling brightly, honestly happy and carefree. He saw the Ilse from his boyhood, swinging from the plum tree with her wild laughter bouncing through the trees. The darkness of the house around them felt as if it was creeping into him, stiffening his arms and freezing his mouth.
Moritz's eyes blinked open and he saw hers, so close in the shadows, closed. His heart skipped a beat as he realized how lifeless she looked, despite her fiery embrace. That's when he realized.
He just couldn't do it.
He knew that tonight he could not have sex with Ilse, and the thought made his stomach seem to fall and the air leave his lungs. Normal boys would definitely be able to be with this willing, pretty, seductive girl, but Moritz realized that he was not a normal boy. Maybe he just wasn't meant to ever do this. Maybe he was meant to live with these maddening feelings forever. The endless wanting, the deprivation, the self-loathing, the confused, feeble reasoning. It was just a curse he would need to live with, however long this continued.
Ilse had succeeded in unfastening his jacket, and was trying to slip it over his shoulders when his hands grasped hers and lifted her gently off of him.
"Ilse," he said when their lips parted, but she came back, kissing him again until he pushed her harder. "Ilse, stop."
"Moritz," she moaned, trying to pull herself back to him.
"No, Ilse, stop. I-I can't..."
Taking all of his strength, he sat up and pushed her off of him, restraining her with his elbows locked. Her eyes widened with a sudden fear and she seemed so small in his arms.
"I can't do this, Ilse," Moritz whispered hoarsely. He felt lifeless inside, and he could see in the reflection of Ilse's wide glassy eyes that his face was white as chalk and looked scared.
Ilse seemed lost for words. Her shoulders began to tremble in Moritz's steadfast grip, and a flush bloomed across her cheeks. Her mouth opened the toniest bit as if she were about to say something before the glassiness of her eyes spilled over onto her cheeks as shining tears. If Moritz looked scared before, it was now apparent on his face that he was horrified.
A sharp breath that sounded like a sob escaped her lips and she struggled in his arms, pushing away from him roughly. She backed away from him slowly, her scared, dumbfounded expression melting into something else as her crying took over, her round eyes remaining fixed on him.
"I'm sorry," Moritz said quietly, but Ilse shook her head a tiny bit.
"Get out," she rasped in a low but forceful voice.
"I said, get out!" Her command was loud this time as she tore her eyes away from him and wrenched her closet door open, disappearing into it's shadows and slamming the door behind her with a crash that shook the floor.
Moritz remained sitting on the bed in a state of shock, feeling a strange numbness from the neck down. He could hear her quiet sobs, muffled from behind the door, and sat in mortified terror. After a few seconds, he got up and approached the door, wracking his brain for something, anything to say, and finding nothing.
"Please," came Ilse's voice from behind the door, a tiny whimper of a sound. "Please, just leave me alone."
A/N:I'm back! Boy, did this take a while haha. I hope there are still a bunch of die-hard Guilty Ones out there, because as I return to this story, I notice this fandom has become less and less active. I never forgot this story, though! I've been busy with a lot lately and I hadn't completely plotted out how this would play out, but now that everything is outlined and set, I'm ready to write this and finish it.
Please review! Every comment, whether positive or negative, is extremely valuable to me, and while this isn't meant to be a threat or anything (haha gosh no!) I do find it hard to find inspiration to write when I feel that no one's reading. I haven't really had to struggle with that with most of my stories, and I'm not staying I won't try to write, but I want to emphasize that it really, really helps me out when you guys tell me what you think, harsh or not. I'm publishing this for two reasons: to share my story with others and to improve as a writer. Thank you guys and please, please, please tell me what you think!