I’d say I proved you wrong, Father. I’d say your expectations of me came up short. You said I could never survive without a man to define me, said I could never exist without his protection, his touch, the submission he would demand. But that was before the law brought me to task for my youthful indiscretions. Dragged from my husband by the conscription squad for service in the Public Regiments, I was condemned to distant frontiers until my debt was repaid. As I left our secluded community, perhaps for the last time, I wondered if you were right.
Those grim-faced news broadcasts we watch on TV do not adequately do justice to life on the eastern approaches. The Crown tells us that only a defeated army would send female soldiers to such desperate conditions. So, I guess we are defeated. I learned the truth quickly, my puppy fat curves and innocent belief that I would repay my debt by stacking shelves and peeling potatoes, gone before I reached the headlands. Naivety long evaporated before I saw the jagged sea ice and the coursing ghosts of cutters and troop ships descending from beyond. Before I fired my sidearm into the chest rig of an infiltrator deep within our camp perimeter my eyes were already hard.
During initial selection I began my evolution into the lithe, poised thing I now see when I look in the mirror. They had no use for support personnel, only soldiers. The route marches, the navigation proving that saw others depleted, left where they fell on the frozen mountain trails galvanised me. Atop a heather-covered peak, looking down into the pine forest beyond, blinking back the shards of ice borne on the freezing wind I resolved that I would not wither and die. I would survive to come home.
“Redhead, Arianna, 393?” The Adjutant’s voice shatters my reminiscence, echoing off the corrugated tin walls of the hut, bringing me back to the present.
“Sir?” I brace up, looking expectantly at the drawn, weary man sitting behind his desk. He has seen too many. Wide eyed, quaking people come in and silent, staring spectres go out.
I take the envelope he holds out, bring my heels together and offer a sharp salute, my last ever. He returns a grim smile that props up one side of his thin, dry lips and briefly brings the tips of his fingers to his cap badge in return. Beyond the walls of the makeshift office the wind whines a mournful refrain.
“In this envelope is your severance pay and completed contract, returning you to your civilian status,” he says, “I note your service record is outstanding. The special duties you volunteered for are not for everyone and The Crown offers thanks for your obedient servitude.”
“I am free to go?” The moment seems unreal, devoid of the pomp and ceremony we had been promised, but magnified by the passing of time, no less intoxicating.
He nods, “you’re a free woman, Redhead. Off back to your life. You have someone waiting for you?”
“Yes Sir. I have a husband in the lowlands, a farmer. He is waiting for me,” just thinking about his proximity quickens my pulse, warms the extremities of my body.
The adjutant clenches his jaw and nods, “then go to him and live well. Always remember, many just expect to inherit freedom. You earned yours,” the statement trails into silence and I understand that I am dismissed.
I leave the demob centre in a spluttering ancient transport of welded steel and olive green, driving deep into the night, disgorging our human cargo as we go. We rumble and clank through the slumbering shires and fringes of towns whose lights pick out distant spectres of vast docking plinths and colossal hulls, silhouetted against the starry sky. Mostly, we travel in silence. Excitement, trepidation and uncertainty jostle and ferment within each man and woman. The raucous singing, crude distilled liquor and brazen, communal orgasms of the demob centre long gone as we contemplate what shards of our old lives will remain. For me there is nothing besides excitement. After three long, arduous years, I am coming home to my Felix. I return to his embrace, his stocky build and hard hands, his creamy jade eyes and shock of blonde hair falling about his shoulders. I return to our little house nestled in the foothills, beneath the village. I return to the bosom of our families, to overseeing crop cycles and managing their sale to co-operatives across the Old Border. I return to being pinned to the white linen of our marital bed, my legs splayed as I am impaled on his cock, our bodies colliding as I am fucked into oblivion.
“You look a million miles away, pretty lady.”
The voice startles me, its baritone resonating confidence as he materialises from the darkness and places himself on the bench next to mine. He is athletically poised, coiled and leanly muscled, his eyes sharp, head shaven clean, jawline firm and jutting.
“Can I help you?” I answer tersely, shifting on my bench, resenting being drawn from the reminiscence that has left the gusset of my knickers chafing damply against me.
“Couldn’t help noticing that beautiful black waterfall,” he indicates to my newly washed tresses, flowing loose for the first time in months, “that petulant, regal profile,” he smiles winningly, “not to mention those fucking amazing thighs,” the true nature of his feelings becoming apparent as his gaze settles pointedly on my primly crossed legs.
I smile tolerantly, “so you demobbed without having your balls drained and you somehow think that I might be interested in a quick, dirty ride before I go home?”
“I was a Pathfinder,” he says as though this fact should guarantee my compliance, “I am very fit and have destroyed a great many of theirs.”
“Even so,” I say, “I’m spoken for. I’ve got a husband to go home to.”
He laughs openly at this, bowing and touching his forelock mockingly, “but of course Ma’am! I hope this husband of yours is very patient?”
“Patient enough,” I smile good-humouredly, secure in my convictions.
“I’m glad you are so sure, because three years is a long time in this world. People have a nasty habit of moving on,” he retreats theatrically into recesses of the transport, leaving me alone with my torrid thoughts once more.
An eternity passes. But finally, the time is at hand. Out of the little window I see the outline of familiar mountains, the moonlit tips of familiar forests. Then, the time is now. I am jettisoned wordlessly onto the side of the road, facing track leading into the foothills that shelters my community. I begin to walk the pitted trail, eyes searching for a familiar beacon in the darkness. There it is: a soft, orange light spilling from the first cottage nestled in the trees. I approach, beginning to pick out details. The willow trees we planted in the clearing have already grown strong and tall and Felix has built an awning and some outbuildings along the west wall. The sight of home makes my heart flutter and the hairs on the back of my neck rise as I unlock the door and push into the velvet gloom beyond. Immediately, I am swamped by the familiar smell of apples stored in the cellar, of the stockpot in the kitchen, spices in the larder and the oak we used to carve the staircase.
Upstairs, above me, someone stirs. I hear his footfalls, roused by the noise, descending in the scented dark. Then his voice, glorious and rich like whiskey and fine resin grown in the southern valleys, “Arianna? Is that you? I was dreaming you came home.”
Nothing has changed.
“It’s me,” I say, surprising myself with how girlish and vulnerable my voice sounds, the mask I have worn for three years, discarded in an instant as I see his silhouette on the stairs, “I’m home… I did it.”
“It’s really you,” he says disbelievingly as he surges towards me, “Christ, what have they done to you?”
My eyes thirst for the details of his handsome face, drinking in the outline of his body as he reaches out to gather me up, “do I look okay?” I ask nervily.
“Okay?” The moment I have longed for happens. His fingers, demanding and hungry, clinch my waist, run over my hard, flat abdomen, “look at this,” he kneels before me, his breath, hot on my exposed midriff, yearning upwards, kneading my breasts together,” you look like a Goddess.”
Suddenly I am looking into his eyes, my fingers toying with his thick, mint-scented hair. He has grown a beard: salt and pepper flecked and coarse. It suits him. “I have lived for this moment,” I purr, “it’s all that’s kept me going, all that’s kept me alive these years.”
He handles me with awed reverence as though he cannot believe the creature that has been returned to him, “Army food has made your tits grow bigger!”
I giggle and squirm euphorically in his embrace, “or my waistline smaller?” I deflect the comment, running my fingers down the sides of his face, tracing the countenance that I am used to seeing only in my mind’s eye.
Then, he is on me, feeling for the nape of my neck, pulling me towards him, our lips pressed together, “I am such a fool! So many things I want to tell you,” he gasps, breathing shallow as he pops the button on my jeans, drawing them down over my hips, “but it’s been so long. Now you’re here, this is all I can do…”
“I know,” I am hustled backwards, feeling the cool, smooth wood of the stairs against the bare flesh as I am peeled from my clothes. Sitting in the transport for five hours in a state of some arousal has taken its toll leaving me wet and willing. As I slip my knickers to one side and spread myself for him, I can smell my sex, heavy and musky in the air.
“Talking can wait,” I breathe, “I’ve dreamed of this moment for three years. Please, just lick my pussy out.”
All that time. Pent up, corralled, exposed to the hardship of life and death, day after day, month after month. I am aflame. There is a fury in me that wants only to be immediately and violently sated. All at once it boils over and there is little I can do but grip a fistful of his soft, long hair and tug him against me, jerking him home, time and again, tongue made to fuck at me. I shove myself against his face, rendering him glistening wet, slathered in my juices, unapologetic and selfish as I bring myself to climax. It erupts in a ball of piercing light, convulsing my body, announcing its arrival to the tune of a warm, fragrant geyser that finds his open mouth. Before me he kneels, reduced to the level of an animal, lapping, trying to consume as much of my ejaculation as he can.
“We have to go to bed, now,” I say as he licks the errant droplets of my essence off the floor. He nods, stunned and obedient as though taken aback by my directness, the hard edge to my voice.
I steel myself against the prickly tears that well up when I see our bedroom. With its ivory drapes and crisp cotton it looks painfully like the day I left it. I slink catlike onto the bed and arrange myself like a lioness about to be serviced by a subordinate male. Peeled from my soaking knickers and the little clingy vest that does its best to contain my tits, he rises over me. Knots of muscle in his shoulders undulate beneath bronzed, weathered skin, his cock hard and eager, drawn tight in his fist.
“I thought I’d never see you again,” he whispers, “I can hardly believe I’m looking at you, let alone, how good you look. I can bear the thought of nothing other than to be inside you.”
At the mention of the act, I display my concurrence by cocking my leg slowly, showing myself off, “in here?” I ask. There is no humility as I finger myself open, no ceremony as I wantonly offer up my greedy fuck hole for his attentions.
“Yeah, in there,” his eyes bore into me, body flexed and rigid as we come together.
In a heartbeat, I let myself go soft and weak as I am pinned to the cool sheets. The penetration is seamless and instantaneous, deeper than the ocean. By contrast, the sex that follows is angry, emotional and I thrill as his frustrations are taken out on me, fingernails digging at my skin, tugging at my hair, slamming home, not simply to fuck me, but to possess me, to leave a soul-deep mark which I am eager to bare. When satisfied that I have climaxed a second time he attends to his own need, withdrawing in roaring catharsis, spraying my tits with his cum, clambering astride, coaxing aftershock after beautiful aftershock of the thick, starchy stuff into my open mouth. As the whirling room begins to slow, I suckle him, feasting on his cream until no evidence of it remains.
“I love you so much,” I say, my face resting atop his rising, falling chest.
“I love you too.”
All colour recedes. The room fades to grey as I fall towards the blissful arms of post-coital sleep. Felix disengages himself from me and climbs out of bed, “got to visit the bathroom,” he whispers, “please, don’t go anywhere.”
“Never again,” I say sleepily, rolling over to admire the view as he crosses the room.
Before I drift off I remember something. My eyes fall on the dresser at the foot of the bed. I roll to my feet and cross over to it, pulling open the bottom drawer. I smile inwardly as my fingers locate the pile of disks within, leafing through the cryptic titles of the various sex films we have made together. I settle on the night of my birthday, shortly before I was called up. I had been at the apex of my mania: young, drunk and wild, hanging on the arm of my handsome new husband. Eager to provoke controversy I had dressed that night in a black latex miniskirt barely long enough to cover my bum, stockings that made no pretence of reaching my hemline and corsetry that pinched in places, accentuated in others, exaggerating my natural curves. We had prowled the summer night, ghosting through the alcohol-fuelled parties, jealous, disapproving and lust-filled eyes all over me. Back home, I had stared haughtily into the lens of Felix’s camcorder, posed for him, lowering the tone as I teased, masturbated for his pleasure. As we fucked, the camera never left his hand, documenting the performance of his young Wife’s mouth, her pussy and her ass hole.
Aroused at the memory, I slide the disk into the player, eager for us to relive the moment right now on TV. The screen comes to life and I see the grainy image of Felix stripped to the waist filming himself in the mirror, eyes glinting like the ocean. He turns slowly, panning round our bedroom. A queasy wave of uncertainty crests within me. This is not the way I remember the film beginning. The camera viewfinder locates me on our bed, its autofocus lagging behind, showing nothing more than a blurry outline of a tall, pale skinned girl with a huge waterfall of thick black hair. The image swims into focus.
But the girl is not me.
As I look at her, my heart freezes, stops beating entirely. Everything before me hardens, turning to ice, reality slowing down. Behind me I am vaguely aware of the bathroom door creaking open. Onscreen, the girl stares back at me with her cold, superior countenance. She sits with her legs folded beneath her, wearing exquisite undergarments of black lace, perfectly tailored to her curves, cut from fabrics difficult to obtain. Though she is a few years younger than me, we look strikingly similar. I know her very well. She is my sister.
I feel Felix’s horror as he stands behind me, rooted to the spot. On screen he and my sister touch, the camera lens pointing downward into her snake-like eyes as she begins to suck him off. I watch him taunt her open mouth with his cock, push himself between her pert little tits, smear himself across her belly before pushing languidly between her thighs, bearing down. As he fucks her, the camcorder lingers on her face, her long eyelashes sensually closed and a gloating smile on her lips.
When I turn to face him, I can see by his body language that he is afraid I am going to come at him. I am a big, tall girl, but he is bigger and far stronger. However Felix’s only experience of fighting is occasional altercations with unscrupulous brokers, thieving transients and drunken neighbours. Me, I am fast, agile, honed. Necessity has taught me that to strike must be to kill, to leave an opponent in no condition to counter. Though it is against my nature, I know what it is to extinguish the flame of life from a human being.
“Why?” I ask as the world finally grinds back into life, amazed at how calm I sound. Inside there is no grief, only mute, uncomprehending shock.
He twists on the spot, wrings his hands, in a childish fashion, “three years,” he pleads, “three years apart from you.”
I smile sadly, trying to compose my thoughts. “I know,” I tell him softly, “it has been an eternity, hasn’t it? And I can see now that I have been naïve to hang my everything on our marriage, on returning to you.” He gingerly takes a step towards me, encouraged by the softness in my voice. I allow him to come, waiting until he is almost touching me before I look up, “but Felix, I have been at the ends of the earth with no guarantee I would ever see you again. I was enslaved, unable to do any one thing but fight my way home, home to my love, to his arms, his bed. You would not believe how many, just like me, I have seen die.”
He just stares back, “Talena means nothing to me. I was just so lonely without you.”
“I was lonely too,” I say, “but the difference is that while you were fucking my sister, I was having to fight to keep my vows to you, sleeping with one eye open, living in fear of having my fidelity torn from me.”
There is shame in those jade eyes now. He freezes, fingertips close to my skin, so close to touching me and making me forgive him. But it’s too late. He has left his mark on me for the last time.
“I’ll do anything,” he says. Tell me what do you want me to do?” He sounds like a child, asking for guidance. Control relinquished, he prepares to accept my judgement.
“Just go,” my mind was already made up the moment I saw her callous, cruel beauty staring up at me from the screen. “Go and find her. Let her fuck your pain away.”
He backs away like a hunter retreating from a wounded, crazed animal that he has stumbled upon, “you just need some time by yourself. Before you do anything, just sleep and we’ll talk in the morning.”
I sit on the edge of the bed and watch him diminish, “yeah right, we’ll talk in the morning.” His footsteps creep down the stairs and I hear the click as the front door closes. Less than a minute later a vehicle peels out of the barn behind the house.
I guess you were right, Father. All this time I needed a man to define me. Even though we were apart, I was able to survive knowing that I was his possession. But that was then. Perhaps Felix’s role in my life was to get me through, to allow me survive the eastern approaches. For that, I will always be grateful to him. But I made it, I’m home. Now, I don’t need him anymore.
In the bathroom, just off our beautiful bedroom, so unchanged from the day I left it, there is peroxide and hair dye among my dusty possessions. Silently, impassively, I bleach my hair from root to tip, shocking my jet black tresses until I barely recognise the ashen blonde staring back at me from the mirror. When I am satisfied, I carelessly work the neat red dye in, watching bloody runnels fall from my scalp, dropping in heavy arterial pools, splattering the floor, the sink, the mirror, tainting my flesh. I leave it to sink in for a long time, too long. Finally, I rinse, drying it just enough to leave my newly scarlet locks vast and unkempt.
There is a trunk under our bed that contains some of my favourite clothes, garments that I just had to have, no matter what they cost. Its carved, oiled surface is thick with grime as I flip the catches. I pull the contents out and dress myself in a snug fitting pair of black breeches, a matching bodice with lace sleeves and the same latex miniskirt that I had worn that birthday. Finally, I pull on my polished hide boots, their three inch chrome heels acid etched with images of screaming skulls. I descend the stairs for the last time, catching sight of the scarlet-haired, black-clad huntress in the hall mirror. The respite is over and once more my eyes are hard, just as they were on all those recce patrols and the blood flecked, carbon scorched aftermath of the inevitable ambushes.
Outside, beneath the starry sky I listen to the sounds of the night. They say the world is going to burn. If they are right then perhaps living out my life cossetted in these hills is nothing more than slow self-immolation. I crunch down the trail leading back towards the highway. There is vehicle noise on the distant highways that cut through the black hills like dried up arteries in the carcase of some decomposing beast. Beyond them is the North Eastern Sprawl. That is where I am heading.
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