"How Delicious Was the Glow..." (Part Three)
That night, at last I had the dream that I had willed myself to dream, all these months since last Sue had slept in my bed. Now that I have read Sue's account of all that came before, I know that this dream was the same one that had come to her in the madhouse — though she had feared it, when I would have welcomed it.
When the thin light woke me early in the morning, I rolled over sleepily and groped toward Sue; but I reached into air, and felt nothing. At first I began to doubt my sanity, to wonder if all of the previous day had been a dream; but then I felt a depression in the pillow next to me, and saw the covers thrown back on that side of the bed. My mouth dried. What a fool, I thought, to think that she could love you, still; what folly to think that she might stay, now that her fortune was secure. The panic was spiralling, dizzying, and I hardly knew what I was doing, when I sprang up and called out, "Sue! Sue!" In the ensuing silence, my heart stopped — but only for a moment.
Then I heard a rustling in Sue's old room, where I had been keeping my chamber-pot, in her absence; and finally Sue herself cocked her head round the door, to see what was wrong. Her eyes crossed as a tendril of hair fell down her nose, and she puffed at it comically: her hands seemed to be occupied elsewhere. In spite of myself, I burst into tearful laughter. She laughed as well and said, "Oh, love, I'm just here, washing up a bit. I didn't mean to wake you! Just a mo — " …before leaning away again.
I fell back against my pillow, my hand against my breast, to try to still my heart. My dear Sue! I knew I must forgive myself in order to trust her, and so resolved at that moment to do away with my self-loathing, with Sue's help. After another few minutes of splashing, Sue padded back into the room, holding only a towel in front of her. I rolled onto my side and held up the sheet for her to climb in, — and she squealed, as she slid under; for she had been out too long, and had started to shiver. She burrowed next to me, and I wrapped myself around her.
"Here I am," she whispered, "No worries ...!"
The now-familiar knot was beginning to form in my stomach, but I also sensed that I should do my own washing-up before undertaking anything else; and so I clambered over Sue, who cried out, "Wotcheer? 'Ere I am, cold as a witch's tit, and off you go, leavin' me to freeze!"
I laughed, and wriggled about on her till she groaned — but then I slipped out from under the sheet and landed on the floor. She reached out after me, and I managed to jump away just before she could grab me in a most indelicate way.
"It's my turn," I said, as I ran to the next room, "— but I'll be back soon enough to finish warming you up!"
The previous night, we had only touched one another as she had once touched me; and though it was heavenly, I had other surprises in mind, culled from my encyclopaedic readings. I would never care to do many of the things I had seen in books, but there were a few that I had taken particular note of, — and these had served me well on those lonely nights before Sue had come to me. I very much doubted that Sue had had much experience apart from me, despite her earlier willingness to assume the role of tutor; and so I took the lead when I returned to bed, by tunneling down under the covers. I got such a rise out of Sue, that I myself tipped over with her — and, as I inched my way back up afterward, my cheeks burned at the thought that one of the Inkers might have heard her whooping! But then I saw the heaving of Sue's chest, the glistening of her open lips, and the fire of reciprocity in her eyes; and my excitement eclipsed all coherent thought — for the next few hours, at least.