He is the man I would have noticed first, had he been in the room when I arrived. He is the kind of creature that draws all eyes to himself, without doing much to deserve it.
As it was, he arrived, “fashionably late”, as we’d say now. Men and women alike stole glances as he strode through the room; we were too polite a society to stare. Though this was not his home, he was the king of the castle. In my distracted state, I was still able to soak in his energy. I felt him before I saw him and like a magnet pulling me towards him my body turned. Had I been anyone else my jaw may have hung open or I may have walked toward him to embarrass myself with a bumbled, unasked for introduction. Instead, as his eyes met mine, I quickly glanced away and blushed. Later, he would tell me, it was the blood rushing to my cheeks that drew him to me.
I busied myself about the room, doing my best to avoid him, to avoid everyone, in fact. This evening was special and exciting to many, but not me. To me this evening would seal my humiliation and at this time in my life there wasn’t much I could do about it.
My husband, Faolan (Phelan), was roaming about the spacious ballroom, always with half an eye turned in my direction.I did my best to always remain on his good side, as I was a respectful wife, but tonight, it was ever more important. This night was a marriage of sorts for him.The country’s current favourite artist, unveiling his newest work, with me as the subject.
“May I pour you a drink?” It was a soft whisper, meant only for me to hear, but it achieved so much more than that. With my will caught off guard, I turned only to be sucked into his gaze. My breath stopped and the world around me faded away. I resisted the urge to reach out and touch his face and instead cocked my head and summoned the wits I was born with, to speak. “I don’t drink alcohol.” He smiled. “A true lady stands before me.” For a moment I thought he might have been mocking me, but there was a glint in his eye that swayed the vote. He was flirting with me.
I opened my mouth to make an excuse to leave his company, but he spoke before I could find the words that would take me away. “Surely the star of the evening deserves a little something to calm her nerves.” This was certainly something I had been thinking since my husband and I had arrived. But I had never touched a drop; I wasn’t going to let this unveiling beat me.
“I simply posed for the painting. It is the artist who deserves the attention this evening.” He nodded. “A modest woman. If I can’t offer you a drink,” He gracefully brought his body closer to mine, seemingly without moving a muscle, “perhaps I could offer you something else? It would seem that you’re not entirely comfortable with this evening’s agenda.”
It wasn’t very well known, among certain people, that I was the subject of this unveiling. I had been too embarrassed to admit it to the ladies in my circle, though my husband, I’m sure, was happy to brag to his friends. I guessed that this gentleman was, somehow, friendly with Faolan. “I should see to my husband.” I made a bold move to remove myself from his company, but he was too close to politely slip away.
“Before you go, ask me my name.” It hadn’t occurred to me that I didn’t know his name. We already felt intimately close. For the second time my breath stopped. I opened my mouth to ask, and blood rushed to my face again. “I seem to have an affect on you.” A mischievous smile spread across his lips. I had to think quickly to avoid the affect he was having on me.
“Your name and then we will part ways.” I bargained. “For now.” He countered. He took my speechlessness as consent. “Caleb” and there it was. His name. Handed to me with no ceremony, just laid by my feet for me to choose to do with it as I pleased. I whispered my name, without thought, as an instinctive offering of politeness and as a reward my torturer, Caleb, allowed me to move away from him. I left feeling pleasantly bruised, though my discomfort for the evening was now magnified.
I began searching the room for my husband, worried that he’d seen my interaction with Caleb. Worried that he would be angry with me for being alone with a strange man, in a room full of watchful people.
“Niamh.” (Neeve) He commanded pulling me to his side. He meant his gesture to be hidden, but his possession of me was clumsy and my name said louder than it should have been, though the guests milling about pretended not to notice.
We crossed the room, arm in arm, for show. He would wait to scold me. There were too many eyes and ears, but I knew he had seen and he would be ashamed of my behavior. Though this confused me.
As the night went on I was not trusted to leave Faolon’s side. I took my punishment with good humour, but wasn’t distracted from the purpose of the gathering. In the centre of the room was a covered canvass, larger than me, on a very sturdy easel. I knew what was under the cloth. In fact, Peiter, the artist, and I were the only ones who had seen what was about to be unveiled, in more than one manner.
As the pendulum of the clock swung heavily back and forth my need for distraction grew. I did my best to hold a conversation, but made no attempt to strike one up. The men, I felt, were leering at me, the women, unsuspecting. I knew my place in society was about to change and my husband didn’t seem to care.
And finally, at the stroke of eleven, Peiter called the room’s attention to the easel. My heart began to race and for the first time I gripped my husband closer to me. He took this show and ran with it, whispering in my ear, a little too loudly, that what ever Peiter had painted would be beautiful. Of course I knew what his true intentions were, to put on a show for the audience nearest us.
As the cloth was dramatically yanked away from the painting, my first instinct was to be thankful that my parents were dead; my second was to swallow the bile that rose up into my mouth.
If this painting had been of anyone else, its beauty would have amazed me. I looked soft, angelic and pure. But it was me, all of me, in fact.
I didn’t have the courage to look about the room to gauge people’s reactions. I knew Faolon was beaming behind me. His wife immortalized by a great painter, a position usually held by whores and prostitutes. I could only watch Peiter applauding wildly and avoid staring at my painted image.
I didn’t say much after that. It was awkward. There was no polite way to acknowledge either my husband or I and the crowds made their way to congratulate the artist. I was thankful to avoid any interaction with these fully dressed people while I felt so naked, but my husband seemed torn. He knew that Peiter deserved all the congratulations, it was his work, but he expected some attention to come his way for supplying the model for this masterpiece.
Faolon soon forgot my earlier discretion and moved away from me to congratulate the true star of the show and hopefully collect some attention for himself. I took the opportunity to do the opposite and moved to the farthest corner of the room.
As I stood, looking at the floor, gathering a plan to proceed with the night, I once again began to think how nice it would be to have the cloudy effects of alcohol to make all of this more bearable. Caleb stood companionably beside me, his hands crossed below the waist. He did not speak. Immediately I was calmed, though my heart was racing. I forgot the mass of onlookers in the room and was only aware of his nearness.
When my husband approached it was as if he didn’t notice Caleb at my side. I dared to take one last look at him before Faolon pulled me away, but he was already gone. Nowhere to be seen. I wondered if he had been there at all?
Faolon was giddy and I assumed he had received the attention he craved from this evening. Amongst the men, he had a wife to be desired. A wife that would be thought of in the most intimate moments of marriage. In his own way, he felt that this gave him a sort of power I didn’t understand.
I foolishly hoped that he was taking me home. I was sure we were going to get our coats and then summon our coach to take us away, but while I was dreaming of the delightful darkness of my private chambers, I failed to notice that we had sailed out of the ballroom, out of the house, and into the fresh night air.
“Where are we going?” I asked, my anxiety returning. I wondered if in his excitement Faolon had just forgotten about our coats, but when he steered me around the corner, to the dark side of the house I knew what he had in mind. My body went tense and I prepared myself for what was to come.
He was breathing shallow breaths before he even pushed me against the wall. The look of his eye was meant to be alluring, but it disgusted me. I dared not push him away. I dared not make a scene. I dared not add more humiliation to this evening.
“That was magnificent,” He panted into my ear and he fumbled into his tuxedo jacket looking for his tool with his right hand, while his left held me in place. He slipped the silver instrument over his thumb. It hugged the top of his thumb like a ring, but on the tip was a small little hook he used to pierce my skin.
He used his hands to investigate my shoulders, my waist, my hips. He took each of my arms and ran his mouth along their length. Next my neck, my breast and my face. This was not a way to loosen me up for his advances, he was searching, he was organizing, he was looking for the “sweet spot”.
He traced his silver thumb across my bosom, prolonging my anticipation, watching the discomfort in my eyes. In our eight years of marriage he had never used my breast to get his pleasure. I waited for the quick pain as the hook was pushed into my skin. As his lips sealed themselves around the bloodied opening I turned my head, knowing he would be lost in his endeavors, unable to watch as he drank my essence.
We were in the shadows. Amongst hedges and other greenery. In the distance, standing underneath the light of a lantern was Caleb. He shouldn’t have been able to see us, but through the leaves that did so well to hide us, I could see him. I could feel him. I was shocked when I became more aware of Faolon’s lips clasped around my bosom. I could usually block out these sorts of things. But more shocking than my awareness, was that as long as I was staring at Caleb, I was enjoying Faolon’s pursuits.
Faolon took this as a sign of his prowess and his excitement for the moment grew. He became sloppy and started hurting me. My mouth opened and my fingers began to dig into the brick behind me. I had lost Caleb and with it the enjoyment for the moment was gone. At the finish, Faolon licked the last drop of blood from my skin and looked me in the eye, “Cover yourself up.” He commanded with a husky voice. And, as was expected of me in such a public spot, I turned my back on Faolon, to shield him as he finished himself off. At his climax he released his seed into the hedges and collapsed against the wall where I had been.
“You better get back inside.” I did as I was told without hesitation. The sooner I could be away from him, the better.
As I stepped out of the hedges I expected to find Caleb waiting for me in the pool of light I had left him, but was disappointed to find myself alone. There was a chill in the air and I didn’t have my coat, so I began a brisk pace to get myself back inside.
This is a fictional story written by Amber that she will continue writing in future posts. Subscribe to the Empress Tea newsletter and be the first to read the next part of her creation.