I sat in my kitchen as the late autumn sunlight bathed the room in a dusty glow, my hands lost in the deep, cool richness of the clay I was sculpting; giving life to an image that had been haunting me in a recurring dream. The raven stared back at me with wild commanding eyes, perched next to a heart that lay in fragments. Most of my work was dark and brooding, the physical manifestations of my soul grappling with itself. The clay had a way of pulling out my demons and laying them bare before me. It was healing and stilled the persistent racing of my battered heart.
The various pieces I had created over the years sat on the shelves above me. I had been told by many that my work was beautiful, that it invoked emotion, but I couldn’t bring myself to show my art to the public. The idea of exposing the raw flesh of myself filled me with discomfort. It was as if, by showing my sculptures, all my carefully constructed masks would crumble, leaving nothing behind but brittle bone.
I ran my fingers through the clay, sculpting the feathers on the bird which seemed to beckon to me with a visceral hunger, and a clandestine thrill rushed through me as I took in the possibilities August’s letter implied. All week long I had been pondering August’s seductive message, longing pulling at me. His note had suddenly shifted the dynamics between us, and a collision of excitement and hesitancy formed within as I considered the implications of returning.
What was it that he wanted? Was this some sort of test? Is that what his comment, we shall see, had meant? These questions loomed over me, sharp and encompassing. This man was an entrancing enigma I could not decipher, and his invitation was cloaked with obscurity as if he were taunting me to open a door to the unknown.
There was an otherworldly quality to him I was intrinsically drawn to, undefined but extremely alluring, and the thought of his hands on my body consumed me with a desire I had not felt with such intensity before. It was out of character and foreign, filling me with a discomforting confusion that I no longer wanted to sit with.
I stood up from the table and grabbed my phone, my fingers trailing down the list of my employees I had taped to the refrigerator door.
Sydney picked up on the first ring. “Hey there, Jezebel. What’s going on?”
My feet paced the length of the kitchen. “I’m sorry to be calling you like this on a weekend, but I need a favor.”
“No problem, what is it?” She chirped optimistically.
I took a deep breath. “We have a new client, and he needs an evening clean tomorrow. But something has come up, and I won’t be able to go out there. Can you cover for me?”
I clenched my jaw, waiting in anticipation for her answer.
“Sure thing, I’ll be there tomorrow.”
I let out a sigh of relief. “Thanks so much, Sydney. I really appreciate it.”
After hanging up the phone, the tight feeling of indecision that had plagued me lifted slightly, only to be replaced by a voice inside, trying to claw its way to the surface.
Had I become so used to pushing away possibilities, that I didn’t even know what they looked like anymore?
My shoes hit the wet sand, pounding out my thoughts as morning fog hovered low upon the water. Everything was gray and cold, and the perspiration that clung to my skin felt like ice. I didn’t see him at first; an outcropping of tall rocks that hugged the shoreline obscured him.
The sound of my name brought me to a jerking halt. I whipped around to find August standing behind me. My heart flipped, and hot prickles rushed over me as my hand flew up to my chest.
“Jesus, you startled me.”
“My apologies.” With his hands thrust in the pockets of his coat, he regarded me with curiosity, lifting one eyebrow up in mild amusement. “Fancy meeting you here.”
“Yes.” My words tumbled out breathlessly, and despite my reservations, I could not help the smile that crept across my face. His mere presence inciting a giddiness within me.
“I must admit, I was a bit disappointed not to see you the other day.”
I fiddled with my hair, pulling the elastic tighter around my bun. “I know, I’m sorry. Something came up, I should have called.”
August stepped closer, his eyes piercing through me like vibrant sparks of energy. “You do not have to apologize for any discomfort my note may have caused you. I understand that it was a bold statement.”
My face flushed with warmth. “Are you always this straight-forward with people?”
He nodded with a faint smile. “Yes, Jezebel, I am.”
I kicked my shoes around in the sand, watching the waves as they curled around us.
“I’m not exactly sure what you want from me?”
I looked up to find the strength of his gaze pulling me into his depths, leaving me exposed.
“I want to provide you an opportunity to let your walls down, to experience a part of yourself that you have been repressing.”
I stared at him. The explicit force of his words felt like a challenge, and it caught me off guard. Grappling with a response, my silence filled the space between us as I struggled with emotions that left me unmoored and disorientated.
“It is clear to me though, that I have made you uncomfortable, and I apologize for overstepping. I will let you get back to your run, but I do hope you will reconsider continuing our work arrangement.”
August’s eyes met mine, a flicker of heat passing between us before he turned with a somber nod and strolled down the beach, his form gently slipping into the morning fog, leaving me standing there speechless and filled with intrigue.
The following Monday, as the shadows of late afternoon cast wavering light upon the walls, I found myself pacing around my apartment. August’s words on the beach had clawed at me for days, slowly chipping away at my resolve. The mirror in the bathroom caught my reflection as I released my hair from its restrictive coiled hold. My dark curls fell against the dress I had brazenly slipped on, one I had not had an occasion to wear until now. It was silky, black, and easily shed, and it spoke of intentions intrepid and completely unrelated to cleaning.
The idea of offering myself to this man felt erotic and enticing. I had never done this before; I was not accustomed to acting spontaneously. In the past, all my intimate encounters had been orchestrated by a series of carefully thought-out steps. Impulsivity was not in my nature. I was stepping out of my comfort zone, and it was a rush that left me feeling strangely empowered. My fingers ran along the edges of August’s note, which still lay on my kitchen counter, beckoning me. Should I really do this? Should I go to him? Filled with a sudden burst of confidence, I grabbed my coat and headed out the door, into the growing chill of dusk.
As I drove up to his house, I mused over my past. It had been many years since I had felt the touch of another. Most of my experiences with men had left me empty. My litany of lovers like faded paper, their memories dull and lifeless, leaving no lasting impression upon my mind. After moving to this tiny town nestled against the sea, I had thrown myself into my business with ferocity, consumed with responsibility, and reluctant to dive into yet another disappointment. I appreciated the peace that my solitude brought and the predictability of my days, but I wondered at times; was I broken in a way that could not be repaired? Had the trauma of my past grown thorns, enclosing me in a thicket of self-preservation? Nevertheless, here I was, driving to a man I didn’t know, as if some force beyond my control was pushing me recklessly toward him, with my own indiscretion sitting in the front seat, daring me forward.
Pulling up the driveway, I took in the large house. The lights that glowed from inside shone like a beacon, luring me closer. My heart fluttered like a nervous bird within the walls of my chest. What am I doing? The question pressed itself around me, but my practical mind was nowhere to be found.
The gravel crunched beneath my feet as I walked to the house on unsteady legs. I knocked, but only silence echoed back. I stood there, staring at the closed door as if it were a sign that I should get in my car and drive home, back to the safe expectations of my life. But before I could turn to leave, I felt August behind me like a force that wrapped itself around my skin.
“Jezebel?” A look of surprise flickered across his face as I turned to him, his eyes seeking me out in the hovering darkness. “I was not expecting to see you here again.”
“I wasn’t either,” I replied, my words wavering with hesitation.
“So, what made you come back…If you do not mind me asking?”
August’s voice was soft and seductive as he hovered in the doorway, studying me with a look that sent my heart racing. Now that I was here, captive under the enigmatic spell of his presence, I was unsure of what to say. I fumbled nervously with the thin fabric of my coat, aware that my cleaning supplies still sat inside my car. We both knew I was not here to clean. I was here to offer myself to him, though the boundaries of what that entailed were blurred and undefined.
As this reality coursed through me, I began to tremble, not in fear, but excitement. It was as if I were about to plunge into something deep with this man, and once I did, there would be no ladder with which to climb back up.
“I’m not entirely sure. I guess I found your boldness compelling after all.” My words came out halting and breathless.
A soft gentleness swam in the depths of his gaze as he looked at me. “Please, come inside. You’re shivering, Jezebel.”
His eyes grazed across my body and then fell to where my dress peeked beneath my coat. “Are you sure? If you are at all uncomfortable being here right now, just tell me.”
I nodded my head, my words like sticky honey in my mouth. “Yes, I am sure.”
August opened the door for me, shutting it quietly behind us. The sound of the ocean retreated, and my thoughts stilled as a tense, but supple silence filled the room.
“I’ve never done this, you know.”
He turned to me, and tenderly brushed a wisp of hair away from my shoulder. “And what would you like this to be for you?”
I stared at him, unable to formulate an answer, realizing no man had ever asked me that before.
“I don’t know.”
“I think you do.” August’s hands softly fell to my arms as he slid them slowly up my shoulders, removing my coat from around me and hanging it on a hook by the door.
“Beneath the layers of your mind, there is a language that only your body speaks. What is it saying right now?”
I closed my eyes for a moment, breathing in the richness of his question. “I want you to make me feel beautiful.”
When I opened my eyes again, a rush of dizziness engulfed me under the deep burn of August’s gaze. “Do you believe that you are not beautiful, Jezebel?”
He reached up to cup my face. His large, calloused fingers left a surprisingly featherlight caress across my temples. Using the back of his hand, he traced along my cheekbone before slipping down to my neck. His palm cupped the tender place where my pulse lay, and my racing heart thrummed against his touch.
August leaned close to me. “Because I can assure you that you are.” His lips fell upon my neck in a soft kiss that caused me to suck in my breath. “Very… Beautiful.” Each drawn-out word became a burst of pleasure upon my skin as his hand slipped down past my neck and to the swell of my breasts. A moan escaped my lips as his thumb brushed over the fabric of my dress, sending a ripple of longing to course through me. His eyes grew heavy, devouring me with an intensity that left me woozy as if I were drunk.
“Is this all right with you?” He asked in a low, husky whisper. “Do you want me to stop?”
“No. Don’t stop.” My voice quivered as I reached out to pull him closer, desire springing from me with sudden urgency as my hands ran down the firm slope of his back. His mouth was deliciously close to mine when he suddenly released me, his eyes filled with a simmering heat.
“Would you like to join me upstairs?”
I nodded, my legs growing weak, trembling with an ache that emanated from deep within my core. He smiled, took my hand, and guided me up the stairs to the dark, lush contours of his bed.