The Beauty of Grey

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Chapter 36

Zacharias, so caught up in the moment, had no idea why I was suddenly brushing him off the way I was. My brows were furrowed as I looked at him, recognizing the waft of foreign maleness that remained suspended in the air. He went to say something, but I placed a finger over his mouth and unwrapped my legs from him.

Confused, he set me on the ground, still looking down at me. I removed my finger from his mouth and continued sniffing the air, doing so with drama, trying to initiate Zacharias to catch on. He inhaled deeply and I watched as his eyes turned to glossy stone. He finally caught on to my apprehensiveness. He could smell another man, too. The issue, however, was different.

I knew who the scent belonged to. Zacharias did not. However, it didn’t make the smell any less of a burden. I thought I had left him back in that small town I left five years ago. Somehow, he was back. He had found me. I thought James had been lying to Zacharias, trying to give him a believable reason to see me.

Detective Roth had found me. And he had left only very, very recently.

I pursed my lips, eager to say something but feeling as though the situation didn’t permit it. Roth had been in my home, either snooping or tampering. Perhaps both, even. I couldn’t see him making his way inside just to prepare himself a coffee then leave. I also couldn’t see him just observing everything like a photographer with no camera. He had to have done more.

I began walking into the kitchen and Zacharias was hot on my trail; so close I expected him to step on my ankles. Feeling my emotions heightened by the unknown, I clenched my jaw and resisted the urge to turn around and swat him away. I understood that this was nerve-wracking for the both of us. I knew, however, this wasn’t just a common intruder looking for jewels. It was a detective with a motive.

I ripped off a piece of paper towel and snatched a felt marker from the magnetic pencil cup-holder on my fridge. I was treating my home like it had been wired. For all I knew, it could have been. I wished I could say I had nothing to hide, but I did. Zacharias. Zacharias who was a whole other person, liable to blow cover at any time. I shouldn’t have cared about protecting his identity, but I did. I hated myself for it.

Don’t speak. Look around for anything suspicious. I’ll check upstairs. I wrote.

I put the marker back and once Zacharias nodded I crumpled the paper towel and tossed it into the trash underneath the sink. I left the kitchen and galloped upstairs, finding Roths pheromones increasing in pungency. He had spent his sweet time walking upstairs; much longer than he had spent by the front door. His smell was nearly nonexistent in the kitchen.

The only rooms upstairs were my room, the guest room, the office and a bathroom. As I reached the top I stepped forward slowly, craning my head from side to side. My bedroom was farthest right, the guest bedroom farthest left. I wondered if Roth had known which room was mine. Both rooms were garnished, in my opinion, winsomely. In my bias, however, my room was more personal.

I decided to walk left, my footsteps light as though there was a possibility Roth hadn’t left yet. All the doors were left open, inconspicuously, which in turn made me feel conspicuously suspicious. As I walked into the room, I could hardly smell Roth. I was tempted to still do a run-through, but figured there was no need. He hadn’t been in the guest room.

I stepped into the bathroom, next, finding that he hadn’t been in it either. I inhaled harshly, trying to see if the smell of my cheap perfumes were masking his scent but configured they were not. I determined, at this point, he had already known which room was mine and had tunnel-vision for it only.

Still, however, I stepped into the office and couldn’t find any traces of him in the room. It smelt simply of paper and ink. I rolled my eyes as I stepped into my room and turned the light on, blasted by a wave of air that smelt like Roth. He had been in my room and my room only.

I felt my hands ball into fists, feeling invaded of my privacy. It seemed more candid this way. I doubted Roth knew I could sense his presence and absence as strongly as I could, but I took both as a message regardless. He wasn’t trying to dig and find some dirt on me. He couldn’t have cared less about what was in the rest of my house.

I turned on the light, trying to see if anything had been rummaged through or stolen. I found my breathing picking up at the thought of my sanctuary being ransacked through like a cardboard box. I looked in my closet, sweeping and shaking all of my clothes to see if anything had been wired. Nothing had been.

I ducked down and looked under my bed, once again trying to find a wire but not finding one. I looked through my dresser drawers, felt the inside of my lamp shades, peeked behind my window curtains. I couldn’t find anything stolen or hidden. I looked everywhere.

When I looked at my bed, however, I found something that I had missed upon first inspection.

It was a slip of paper that blended in with my floral bedding and pillowcases. Finding myself feeling a little lost, I crawled onto my bed and grabbed the slip of paper. It had been folded in half, and when I opened it there was a number scribbled on the inside. Below the number was a dash and the name Roth.

He had, in fact, wanted me to know he had been here. He must’ve used the spare key I kept under my rug outside. I was so caught up in Zacharias I hadn’t smelt the warning signs. I found this action incredibly obnoxious and unbelievably bold. It was illegal, without a warrant at least. It was break-in and entry.

It had been five years and Roth was still very much invested in my case.

I wondered why he cared so much. Good people lied to the police all the time to protect bad people, and many of the times the police didn’t give a shit—even to the ones who had been battered and neglected far worse than I had been. I came back physically intact. It was more than what could be said for others.

It was a little unsettling, however, that Roth was open about being in my home while I was gone. He wanted me to know he hadn’t given up on getting the truth from me. He would be a constant problem, I realized, until I gave him what he wanted. What he wanted, however, was something unattainable to him.

Zacharias would never turn himself in unless he was dead. And I, an accessory in all of this, would never turn Zacharias in either. I tried telling myself it was because I hated Roth more than I hated him, but I knew it was false. It was the bond we shared. It prevented me from getting my vengeance on him through other people—other men.

I crumpled the paper in my hand, walking out of my room and shutting off the light before stepping into my bathroom. I turned on the light and stood over the toilet, my clenched fist hovering over the bowl of water. My jaw was clenched as I looked down into the still liquid, ready to flush the paper like waste.

But my fist would not open.

I tried willing it open, but my fist seemed to be controlled by a head that was not my own. It remained clenched so tightly that even as I tried to pull it open with my other hand it shook with exertion to remain shut. I had a death grip on this silly, illegal piece of paper that had no symbolic nor significant meaning to me. It was a piece of shit that deserved to be flushed.

I let out a sound of anger as I gave up and stepped away from the toilet. I knew there was not a chance I would allow myself to flush this meaningless piece of paper, even subconsciously. I was too frustrated to take it as a sign. I stomped out of the bathroom and turned off the light like a child throwing a tantrum before stepping back into my room. The sky was just beginning to grow dark.

I walked over to the wooden side-stool next to my bed and tucked the crumpled piece of paper underneath my alarm clock. I took a step back, eyed the time with hostility for a moment, before leaving the room. I closed the door behind me, leaning against it before stepping away.

I made my way back down the stairs, finding Zacharias sitting on my couch as though it was in his own home and belonged to him. He stood up, however, once he saw me. It looked like he wanted to speak, but wouldn’t. He was waiting for me to speak first, perhaps thinking the same way I had. That there was a listening device somewhere.

I rubbed my arms as I stood on the bottom step. “Nothing,” I whispered. “You?”

“Nothing.” He whispered back, playfully. Feeling tense and assailed, I let out a nervous laugh and began to chew my lip. I felt small as I looked up at him.

“Coffee?” I asked in a normal voice.

“Do you really want to make coffee, Edie?”

I cringed. It felt weird hearing him say my name in my home. It triggered flashbacks; him pursuing me in the pitch-blackness, calling me by my name while I never knew his. It seemed a weird juxtaposition, now, to not be under threat while being in the same room as him. I knew that I would forever pick him apart, comparing him to the way he was before—the way things were before.

Another nervous laugh. “It doesn’t matter. I could go—”

He was advancing on me, and before I could finish my sentence my cheeks were in his hands and he was kissing me. He tasted just as he had the first time he kissed me during the violent attack in the hallway. There was no sweetness nor sultriness. Struck by a blinding moment of post-trauma, I pulled away.

Zacharias looked at me as I took a step back. Still, he was taller than me. I sighed gently, running a hand through my hair as I looked down at my feet. I had thought I’d be over this. I had taken five years to lick and heal my wounds. But the moment Zacharias was in front of me, my wounds felt fresh and began to bleed again. He was a thorn in my side.

“I would never treat you the way I did all those years ago,” he said, trying to make what happened between us seem farther back than it actually was. It felt as though he was trying to diminish it, like it wasn’t traumatic enough to put a number on. “I don’t want you to look at me and see who I used to be to you.”

I smiled, laughed air through my nose and sat down. I pressed my knees together, running my hand through my hair once again. It was beginning to curl at the ends, never resistant to the humidity for long. “It’s not that easy.”

“I’m not asking you to love me, Edie, I would never ask that of you,” he sat down beside me, thighs crushed against mine. He was so broad he almost didn’t fit. In that moment I was ungrateful for my wide stairs. “But I would like to ask who was here while you were gone. Clearly you know them. You’re not afraid.”

I faced the Sherwood green walls in front of me, refusing to look at Zacharias as his emerald eyes burned a hole in my temple. I considered lying, briefly, but decided against it. It didn’t matter. “It was the detective,” I admitted. “He’s not a threat. He’s just nosy.”

“You remember how I told you he’s stalking you?” Zacharias asked me, as though I had forgotten. “You don’t find it...I don’t know...alarming that he broke into your house?”

I tittered to myself, shaking my head. “No. Truly, I don’t.”

“I swear to fuck if I see that redheaded snake anywhere near you I’ll beat him to a bloody pulp. That fucker will not lay a finger on you.”

I swallowed down a laugh. “You haven’t the slightest clue what he looks like.”

“Well any redhead, then. Survival of the fittest, Edie.”

I burst into hard laughter at how serious he sounded—how serious he was. He was being ridiculous. I could understand the concern if I was concerned, but I wasn’t concerned. At all. Zacharias, I realized, was jealous. He perceived Roth as a threat despite not knowing him. My humour towards the situation infuriated him further.

“What’s so fucking funny about that, Edie? Why are you laughing?” He sounded offended, which only caused me to laugh harder. High-pitched, wheezing laughter. “Who is he to you, really?”

I was laughing so hard I couldn’t muster the energy to feel offended at what he was insinuating. “M-my detective,” tears leaked from my eyes as I laid backwards. “H-he means well. He just wants the truth.”

“You’re not fucking him, are you?” The steeliness to his voice seemed to increase as my laughter increased. I was becoming hysterical. I truly realized, in that moment, that I wasn’t ready to see Zacharias. “Are you?”

I shook my head as I felt my sanity splinter. Zacharias made me feel as broken as I had while I was still in his cabin. I wasn’t laughing because I thought what he was saying was funny. I was nervous, and I was scared, and being around him made me feel weak and susceptible. Like one wrong move could force me back into his clutches, this time with no way out. He made me feel powerless. I was laughing as means of defending myself because weeping was no longer an option.

It took me at least two minutes to stop my hysteria. My eyes burned with tears from my laughter, and as I wiped them away I sat up again. I looked to Zacharias who was angrily awaiting an answer. Humour still lingered in my eyes. “If I was willingly fucking him,” I said, smiling aloofly. “Why would he have to break in to my house?”

The anger left his face, and my smile became more and more hostile the longer I looked at him. He looked at me with mild remorse, crows-feet by his eyes relaxing as he cleared any expression from his face. I stood up, looking down at him for once. It was a strange parallel, but one I found I liked. It made me feel like I was bigger than he—more influential.

I stood in front of him, placing my hands on his knees as I spread them open. I kneeled down, wrapping my arms around his neck as I slotted my hips through the gap between his legs. I didn’t even know what I was doing. Apparently, however, it seemed I knew what I wanted. I supposed, psychoanalytically, this was an act of reaction formation. I was acting the opposite of how I felt in order to cope.

I pressed my lips to his ear then whispered, “take me upstairs.”

I didn’t have to tell him twice. He stood up faster than I could, his hands immediately around my waist as my legs encircled his abdomen. We immediately continued from where we left off, his lips on mine as he began to walk me upstairs. One hand remained around my waist as the other entangled my hair. My hands clasped his jaw. I felt like I was becoming unhinged.

As we reached top step I breathed, “left.” I didn’t want what we were about to do to happen in my bedroom. I knew it would taint my room, make it feel like it was no longer mine. I had no attachment to my guest room. I could wash the sheets and it would feel good as new. If we did this in my bed, it would forever feel stained by him.

He listened to me, and we stumbled left into the guest bedroom. I released myself from him as he dropped me onto the bed and kneeled between my legs. We were kissing again, his hands finding the plum skirt of my dress as he pulled it up. We ceased our kissing for a second as he lifted it over my head and tossed it onto the floor. Then, we were kissing again.

Heat travelled through my body and pooled between my legs as we kissed heavily and fervently. My hands were knotted in his midnight-black strands, tugging with need. I could feel Zacharias shuddering on top of me as his hands wrested with his belt. He was so desperate to remove it that his lips became sloppy.

I placed the side of my leg against his hip before rolling us over, leaving him beneath me. He was stunned by my aggression, so much so that he pulled his lips away from mine. Straddling his thighs I undid his belt, pulling them from the loops of his dress-pants. I couldn’t look at him as I undressed him, trying to push back memories of the first time I had given into him.

I undid his pants, settling in between his legs, pulling them down as he undid the buttons of his dress shirt. He wore no underwear, as though he had been anticipating this is how his night would end all along.

I crawled onto his stomach and straddled him as he threw his shirt away onto the ground. He sat up, kissing me as he removed the rest of his pants from his legs, before laying back down. I stripped myself of my underwear as his fingers played with the clasps of my bra before unhooking it. All of our clothing was on the ground, and then we were both bare.

My breathing became rapid as I tucked my hair behind my ears, shuffling myself backwards as I rested my most intimate area on his erect manhood. I had forgotten how large he was, and let out a small gasp as I lowered myself onto him. I hadn’t been carnal in five years. I almost forgot how liberating it was.

Even with the wrong person.

Out of my element, completely ahead of myself, I started going terribly slow. I had never been on top before, and I realized I didn’t know how to take the lead. Innocently, embarrassingly, I looked down at Zacharias for some guidance.

He took my breasts in his hands and began thrusting himself slowly against me, pushing himself further and further inside of me. The heat began to burn as I moved my hips against his, placing my hands on his shoulders as I hovered over him. It was strange, being this intimate. I hated myself for missing his touch.

Our eyes never broke contact and I felt it would be strange if one of us looked away suddenly. Zacharias gave no indication, even as we began to pick up speed, that he had the desire to look away from me. It was invigorating. I felt alive, carefree.

His eyes burned obsidian as I took the lead, pressing my body closer to his as I thrusted faster and faster. His hands massaged my breasts, causing my breathing to pick up as moans passed by my lips before I could stop them. My hair untucked itself from my ears, falling in his face. He reached out and garnered it over one of my shoulders.

Our moans seemed to become synchronized as we thrusted into one another as fast as we could, hearts racing and chests burning as we worked all of our anger and resentment and hatred into one another. This encounter wasn’t one of lust or love or desire, it was one of unsaid goodbyes and unresolved conflict.

My nails dug into the skin of his shoulders and his hands clasped my breasts so painfully that they began to hurt. I was exerting so much energy that Zacharias rolled us around and took over. I didn’t have the time to catch my breath or relax my hips, however. I still needed to get out my anger and betrayal.

Zacharias pressed the front of his body against mine, burying his face in my neck as he kissed the area of flesh he had marked. My body spasmed as he did so, nerve impulses increasing in intensity as I placed my hands on his shoulder blades. I was wincing with both pleasure and pain as he ravaged me from the top, moans turning into cries as I dragged my nails down his back. I could feel the sweat that glistened on his skin.

I left my nail marks down his back, ensuring that even after this was over there would still be traces of me. I threw my neck back, grabbing onto the pillow with one hand as I lifted my body from the bed, feeling myself climb higher and higher...

I rolled us back over, ensuring I was on the top as I continued to climb. I straightened my spine, keeping my neck thrown back as I rested the tips of my fingers on his v-lines. I opened my eyes, my vision blurry as I prepared my release, anticipating the height of the climax. I bit my lip as Zacharias reached the top first.

And then I did too, my hips resting and a wave of pure ecstasy flooding in my blood. All of my energy left all at once, draining from my most intimate area. I was breathing heavily as I fell forward, palms splaying out to the sides as I caught myself. Sweat drenched my hair and skin, leaving me feeling sticky and exhausted.

Zacharias was breathing heavily from below me, and I could feel his stomach concaving and swelling as he gasped for air. I opened my eyes as his hand rested on the nape of my neck, directing my face down to his. Gently, ever so gently, he pressed his lips to mine, giving me a spark of energy. I pulled myself up, allowing him to slide out of me as I laid myself on top of him.

I rested my cheek against his shoulder as I wrapped my arms around him. He kept one hand on my nape as the other stroked my lower back. I closed my eyes as his nose scraped against my temple, pressing a chaste kiss to my earlobe. “I love you.” He whispered.

It was in that exact moment I made my decision.

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