Moon Ghosts and Memory Boxes
This story contains sexually explicit scenes.
Renouncement By Alice Meynell
I MUST not think of thee; and, tired yet strong,
I shun the love that lurks in all delight—
The love of thee—and in the blue heaven’s height,
And in the dearest passage of a song.
Oh, just beyond the sweetest thoughts that throng
This breast, the thought of thee waits hidden yet bright;
But it must never, never come in sight;
I must stop short of thee the whole day long.
But when sleep comes to close each difficult day,
When night gives pause to the long watch I keep,
And all my bonds I needs must loose apart,
Must doff my will as raiment laid away,—
With the first dream that comes with the first sleep
I run, I run, I am gather’d to thy heart.
I did marvelously well the entire day. I sat alone on the bus until a man of moderate height and build took the seat beside me. When his T-shirt-clad shoulder brushed against my bare arm, my heart didn’t remind me how Edward’s shoulder used to brush against me, much the same way, at a bump in the road.
I stood in line at the deli and ordered turkey on sourdough, and I didn’t give a single thought to Edward’s pumpernickel.
On my way to the concert, I walked through the park and watched a couple holding hands and laughing, but their shared intimacy did not cause me to reminisce about holding hands or laughing with Edward.
I pushed my way through the crowd at the outdoor amphitheater, and as the crush of human bodies pushed along with me, I smelled the caused odors from a busy day—tobacco, grease, and sweat—mixed with the distinct fragrances of summer—barbecue, coconut oil, and rose—but I never once longed for the smell of Edward’s musk.
I sat quietly listening to the haunting sounds of a cello echo against the slope of amphitheater seats, but I never wondered if Edward would recognize the piece.
I watched the sun spread across the western sky and slip slowly beyond the horizon, and I wasn’t reminded that another day had come and gone and Edward wasn’t part of it.
I’d been alone before I’d met Edward. I could survive it again. When you grow up with a mother who insists you call her Esme—not mom or even Esmerelda—but Esme because it sounds much more like friends, and pretends to have gypsy blood but is really just a scam artist, you learn not to make attachments to people. You know you’ll be leaving soon.
Edward made being attached seem so normal. But I need to forget that.
Unfortunately, night has a way of jimmying the latch on the mind’s memory box.
I went to bed and snuggled under the cool sheets. I’d forgotten to close the window. Soft as you please and bright as the moon in a cloudless sky, memories of Edward, like implacable spirits, drifted inside and prickled my mind, my heart, and my soul.
“Excuse me, is this seat taken?” He had to know it wasn’t. I’d been riding this bus, as had he, for weeks. But I liked him for asking.
“No, help yourself,” I said.
He perched cautiously on the corner of the seat, angled towards the aisle, twisted into an awkward position. He was trying to avoid touching me while balancing his cello case between his knees. His wallet was black eel skin, moderately thick, but smooth and easy to pick from his back pocket.
“I’ve seen you before,” he said.
“Mmm, yes.” I didn’t look at him. I didn’t have to. I’d seen him many times—getting on the bus, eking down the aisle with his cumbersome case, or sitting in a seat in front of me. He was hard to miss—he and his cello.
And that first time, after he sat beside me, I sat staring in the window, making a game out of naming the intersections along the bus route—Third Street crosses Allison Ave., Church Street crosses Galloway—and I saw his reflection. He looked the same as he’d looked every day before—tousled, sandy hair and a tweed jacket. I liked the familiarity. He protected his cello case from passersby like most parents would guard a child. When everyone was seated, and the bus jostled into drive, he spoke.
“My name is Edward,” he said.
“Not Ed or Eddie?”
“No, just Edward.”
I looked at him then. “I like just Edward,” I said. The window reflection didn’t do justice to his smile or his blue eyes. “I’m Kate.”
“Not Katherine or Katie?”
“No, just Kate.”
“I like just Kate.” And he smiled again.
We rode the rest of the way without words. No “Where do you work, Kate?” or “How old are you, Kate?” No “Have you lived here all your life, Edward?” or “Do you like riding the bus as much as I do, Edward?” Not that first side-by-side ride.
I returned to staring out the window. Memorizing the street names tricked you into believing you knew them all your life. Edward sat facing forward, absently caressing his cello case. At every dip in the road or turn of the wheel, his bulky shoulder bounced against mine.
I looked forward to Detroit Street, where winter had been particularly harsh to the pavement.
I thought of switching on a lamp to read, but couldn’t. The summer air was heavy, pressing against my arms and draining them of strength. Esme’s quilt felt more like chains than threadbare cotton. Why had I let Edward leave so easily? Why hadn’t I gone to Europe with him?
A gauzy cloud coasted over the moon. I closed my eyes and tried not to let its shifting image kindle another memory. My stomach grumbled.
The sidewalk tables were packed with people itching to get their first taste of warm weather. Edward’s cello case came in handy as a seat saver, but you could never make a fast getaway with it. Well, maybe Edward could. He lugged it around like an extra limb. There were worn spots in the leather—on the grip, at the base of the neck—and his name was scrawled in fourth-grade penmanship just below the handle. I ran a finger over the block letters and thought about Edward as a small boy. I wondered what sort of things his mother made him do. Clean his room. Call her Mama. Practice the cello, certainly. I’d wager he never had to pretend to be lost, so a nice, well-tailored, well-groomed, ring-less-left-hand gentleman would help him find his mother or his ‘older sister,’ depending on the age of the gentleman. Cello practicing was better.
I spotted Edward as he emerged from the deli. When I waved, the bracelets lining my wrist jingled like sleigh bells. Edward shimmied through the crowd, balancing a tray with sandwiches and drinks. The sun glinted in the blond streaks of his hair like gold in a riverbed.
“How do you always manage to find a seat at the edge of the crowd?” he asked.
“Just lucky I guess,” was my easy answer.
“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” Edward lifted his face toward the sky and briefly closed his eyes, before taking his seat.
“Yeah, the pickpockets should be out in droves.”
“What an odd thing to say, Kate.”
“Sort of, yes.”
“I don’t know what made me think it. Maybe you should check your wallet.”
Edward patted his back left pocket. “Safe and sound as always,” he said.
“Shove it down further, just so the edge doesn’t show.”
“My hands are full, maybe you should do it for me.” Edward smirked as he grabbed his sandwich.
I reached around to his back pocket and slid my fingers along his rump, pretending to have difficulty finding the wallet.
“If you keep that up, I’ll give the damn wallet to anyone who asks, just so there’s more room for your hand.”
I laughed. “What a gentleman you are, Edward,” and then I shoved his wallet down as far as it would go.
He took a bite of his sandwich.
“Thank you, ma’am! Can I have a kiss now?” Edward didn’t usually talk with food in his mouth but now his words were muffled.
“But your mouth is full of sandwich!”
“I know.” His eyes sparked with mischief, and his lips were glossy from mayonnaise.
“I don’t like pumpernickel.” I said.
‘I’m out to change that.”
“As chivalrous as your pumpernickel crusade might be, I’ll stick to sourdough, thank you very much!” And I raised my sandwich in defiance.
He swallowed and licked his lips before asking again, only this time in a husky whisper, “Can I have a kiss now?”
My elbows dropped to the table, leaving space for Edward’s gentle attack. He took the advantage. His lips were soft and slippery as they met mine, and I smelled a hint of molasses. His mouth opened and his tongue, thick and heavy, delved between my lips, bringing the taste of caraway and rye.
Pumpernickel never tasted so good, before or since.
I twisted in my bed, praying for a comfortable position. I kicked and squirmed until my breath was short and my skin was moist. Esme’s quilt clung to me like a shroud, and I kicked it off. I don’t know why I still slept with it. It wasn’t as if it were an heirloom. She’d bought it at the Five and Dime. I was six, maybe seven. It was Topeka, maybe Dubuque. Christmas Eve. She’d paid cash for the quilt and a box of smokes.
“Something to help each of us through the night,” she’d said.
A couple of days later she gave me the empty cigar box.
“What do I put in it?” I’d asked.
“Whatever you want, it’s your Christmas present.”
Just like Edward’s cello case. Some things you kept.
A sudden burst of air blew through the open window, and with wraith-like fingers, chilled my perspiring body. I didn’t want to shiver. I didn’t want to remember those times when shivering felt so good.
“Edward, will it always be like this?”
“Will the sun always shine so brightly when you hold my hand?”
“What a kooky question, Kate.”
“But will it? I don’t mean in the sky. I mean in my heart. Will the sun always shine in my heart when you hold my hand?”
“Is it shining now?”
“Well, you’re holding my hand, and my heart is warm. So it must be the sun, don’t you think?”
He swung me to him, grabbing both my hands into his. “What a kooky Kate, you are,” he said, and he began to run backwards, pulling me with him. It was only a few yards before he stumbled to the grass and I tumbled with him, on him—chest to chest. My dark hair splayed about us like a weeping willow. His arms flew around me, drawing me tighter. He kissed my head. He nipped my neck. He loosened his hold and slid his hands along my waist, grazing the outer side of each breast. He lifted my arms around his neck and nuzzled his face in the vee of my shirt.
“You shivered, Kate.” His words thrummed against my breast. “Is the sun still shining?”
“Brighter than ever!” I said.
It was bittersweet torture—this heavy cloak of darkness—where nothing could be seen except the reels of memories I kept tucked away during the day. The night air continued to sieve through the room, shuttling in the perfume of fresh-mown grass and honeysuckle. The summer smells, heady and hot, made me tingle with want.
But Edward was gone.
His clothes weren’t crowding my closet. His cello wasn’t propped in the corner. He wasn’t practicing etudes in the other room. His toiletries weren’t spread over the bathroom sink. And his scent no longer lingered on the pillow beside mine. But oh, how I remembered.
“What are you doing, Kate?” Edward stood in front of the mirror with the bathroom door open. His towel was knotted low on his hips and shaving cream clung to his face like cotton candy.
“I’m smelling your pillow.” I said as I hugged his pillow and breathed in deep the scent of Edward.
“And—it smells like you.”
He thumped his razor against the sink. Tap tap. “You really,” tap tap, “are weird, sometimes, Kate!” Tap tap.
Edward was magic. He could make the tapping sounds of shaving sound like a concerto. I waited eagerly for the finale—he finished his routine as I’d hoped he would, whipping his towel from around his waist and using it to wipe the remaining cream from his face. When he tossed the towel over the shower stall and turned to face me, his soft penis dangled like a puppy’s ear. I thought it was cute, and I told him so.
“Kate, you never refer to a man’s penis as ‘cute’.”
“But it is cute—all soft and bouncy when you move.” I sat up Indian style in the middle of the bed. “I bet it’s warm from your shower, and so cuddly,” I crooned. “Like a pet.”
Edward stood motionless, grinning, before saying, “Sure, I’d like a pet.”
As he walked toward the bed, his penis began to stiffen. Gentle, little jiggles were replaced by heavier, thicker nods.
“You’re absolutely right, Edward.” He stopped at the side of the bed. I swung my legs over the edge and wrapped my hand around his shaft. “I could never call this cute.”
But it was warm—warm and hard and thick. I petted the length of it and kissed the tip, like I would a puppy’s nose. And then I engulfed it. My lips slid along the smooth surface until pubic hair tickled my nose, and I could smell his soap. I mouthed his entire penis, but only briefly. As it continued to thicken, it pushed its length inside, outgrowing the space my mouth had to offer.
“Oh, Kate. You’re so good to me.”
I responded by doubling my efforts. Hand and mouth worked in tandem—grasping and sucking, clenching and slurping until his seed came barreling out. I licked and swallowed and cosseted until his penis was ‘cute’ once more.
The bed closed around me like a coffin. I was suffocating. I struggled with the quilt again and finally got up, tossing it over a chair. I paced, my bare feet smacking against the hard wood floor. I didn’t care about the undraped window. Instead, I reveled in the freedom of pacing nude in my own house. My house. No more crushed velvet hotel rooms, or one-room hovels, or when times were really bad, back alleys. Esme was wrong—houses weren’t prisons for gypsies—especially make-believe gypsies. I’d been right to take all those odd jobs and hoard every paycheck.
I wanted to feel better. Happy. So like a child, I began skipping and chanting, “This is my house, my house, and I can skip naked if I want to, want to.” My heart pounded, my bracelets tinkled, and the moon smiled bright, as if we shared a secret.
I was odd. I was kooky. I was just ... me. At least, who I had become. Before Edward, I had never slept in the nude. Too many hurried exits in the middle of the night had trained me to dress warmly.
Tomorrow marked one month since Edward had left. And I was still sleeping in the nude.
“Come with me, Kate.”
“You wouldn’t have to worry about money, the ballet company pays all the expenses for the orchestra, including our regular salary.”
“I’m not worried about money.”
“Do you have some stashed in that cigar box you keep hidden under the bed?”
I glanced toward the bed, fighting the urge to check its contents. In the past, if someone had told me they knew about my cigar box, I would have dove to its hiding place, in a panic.
I’d made some progress, but not enough. “I can’t go with you, Edward.”
“Can’t we even discuss it?”
“There’s nothing to discuss,” I said and turned away. I nervously twisted the bracelets around my wrist. I couldn’t bear to look at his hurt expression.
He closed in behind me, scooped the hair off my shoulders, and whispered in my ear, “It’s just for a short while, Kate. It’s not a life time.”
Another promise from a long time ago echoed in my brain—‘We won’t be doing this much longer, Katie.’
“I won’t do it. I won’t go from town to town and city to city.”
His hands fell from my shoulders and I felt a sliver of what it would be like, in that time without him. I nearly faltered. But something deeper—a ghost from the past—clawed at my insides and opened a wound I hoped had healed.
I hardened myself. “I can’t do it,” I whispered.
“What do you mean, you can’t? What’s keeping you here? It’s not your job. You’ve said a million times you wanted to do something else. What is it, Kate?”
“I just can’t.”
“Damn, Kate! I don’t understand.” Edward’s voice cracked. “How can you not even think about it? I want you with me. I thought you wanted the same thing.”
“It’ll work out. We’ll be fine.”
“Don’t you know how hard it’ll be to go weeks without seeing one another. And for what?”
“I’ll call you. You’ll call me.”
“No, Kate, I’m not sure I will.”
I stopped skipping and stood breathless in front of the window. In the distance, I could see faint lights at the Dixon’s home, three houses down. The other two homes were dark, except for the gleam of moonlight shimmering off their roof tiles. Thanks to Edward’s friendliness, I knew who lived in each. The two-story belonged to the Martins—Jason, Nicole and baby Allison. And the Ewings—retirees with nothing but time on their hands—lived in the brick with the expansive garden. I had neighbors.
I wondered how they would react if they could see my naked body pressed against the window. My nipples brushed the cool wire of the screen, and the jolt was shocking. I rubbed them against it again. And again. Back and forth. Back and forth, matching the tempo of a night cricket’s chirp. The tips hardened and scraped along the tiny metal squares. The cricket must have been rubbing his wings harder, trying to attract his female. He chirped louder. Or maybe I imagined it.
Some males just knew how to play beautifully.
“Play another one, Edward.”
“Just one more, please?”
“Dvorak or Saint-Saens?”
“Play ‘Amapola,’ I said. “It suits my mood.”
Sinking, but not quite, like a buoyant ship gliding upon the water, Edward’s bow caressed the strings. Rich, sensual sound filled the room. I floated along with it. I rose to go to him, but he stopped me.
“Stay there, Kate,” he said. “Show me how you’re feeling.”
I closed my eyes and let the music swell around me. Edward drew out the sound in full, dulcet tones, and I could feel, feel more than hear, the resonance. It filled the room. It filled me. Like liquid. Dripping. Dripping until I was sleek from the inside out. It was rousing and provocative and it stirred me to nudity. I imagined a dance floor where it was easy—gliding and whirling, in slow motion. Piece by piece I removed my clothing—my blouse, my skirt, my bra, and finally, my panties until all that was left was the music.
I opened my eyes, wanting to see him seeing me. He stopped playing, but the final note lingered on in the air around us.
“God, Kate! You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Your olive skin, your ebony hair ... ” He set his cello aside. “ I can’t play anymore.”
But he remained positioned to do so, arms and legs wide open in invitation. I knelt down and placed my hands on his knees.
“Play me instead,” I whispered.
Edward lovingly dragged me up his length and turned me over, my back to his front. He scooted back in his chair and allowed me to share its edge. He caressed the sides of my hips, up to my armpits, and then further up my arms, before finally directing my hands to link behind his neck. I immediately felt vulnerable, but beautiful, like a Stradivarius.
“I would never play the cello resting against me. But with you, Kate, I insist on it.”
His arms came around me—first the left, then the right, his elbows high and his fingertips hovering without touching.
“I imagine about here is where the fingerboard would be,” he said, as his fingers lined up with my left breast—middle finger touching my nipple, index finger above and the other two fingers below.
“Oh!” I gasped.
“But it’s the right hand that’s important, Kate. Because it’s the bow that makes the cello sing.”
“Show me,” I murmured.
“We’ll have to improvise a little, but imagine the bow hair catching the string and pulling the vibration from it.”
He slid his index finger through the crop of my pubic hair and stopped at the Y of my sex. I nearly bucked from the chair. His knees pressed tighter to my hips, like they would the points of his cello.
“Anxious to sing, are we, Kate?”
“Yes ... Oh, yes!”
“We have to be careful,” he said, gliding his fingers like a feather down my slit.
“Ohh!” I squealed.
“Because if we press too lightly, the sound can be shallow.”
“Please, Edward, touch me deeper.”
He dug his fingers in the slippery fold and found the nub of my clitoris. He tapped against it once, twice, and with the third tap, he pressed hard, imbedding his finger, and grinding my clit against my pubic bone.
“G-god!” I inhaled, trying to catch my breath. “Edward!”
“And if we use too much force,” he growled. “The sound can be choked.”
He lightened his touch and rubbed evenly, gently, back and forth. His fingers rested on my left breast, wiggled—each one in turn—pressing against my nipple and vibrating in little circles without losing contact.
I tried to speak. Tried to beg. My arms pulled at his neck. My hips thrust to his touch. His knees only clenched tighter. The bulge of his penis tented his pants and poked against the flesh of my buttock, while his fingers played an allegretto movement against my nipple and cunt.
“Oh! Oh! Oh!”
“Do it Kate, sing for me! Let me hear you. Let me feel you!”
Like a maestro directing a symphony, he orchestrated my climax.
I heard the chattering of birds and realized the indigo sky was brightening into hues of orange. Another night was nearly over. I grabbed Esme’s quilt and wrapped it around me. Day would soon come sneaking in my window, offering me the key to lock away my memories once again. I sat down on the floor and pulled out the old cigar box. The cardboard edges were fraying and the picture had long ago faded. I lifted the lid. Inside the box were miscellaneous treasures I’d collected over the years, including a half-eaten candy necklace, a pair of clip-on paste earrings, and a key. A key fashioned out of the side of a cereal box, by the hands of a seven-year-old, little girl.
“So Katie, what’s in the box?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“I could just look.”
“Please, Esme, say you won’t. Ple-e-ease.”
“Well, I am the one who gave it to you. So technically ... ”
“It’s just a key.”
“A key? What on earth do you need a key for?”
“Because. Because some day I’m going to have a home.”
“What do you need a home for, Katie, when you can have the whole world?”
I closed the lid on the cigar box and stuffed it back under the bed. I stood and looked around. The wallpaper was original seventies, the furniture was second-hand from a consignment shop, there were no family portraits of special occasions scattered about, and the scuffs on the hardwood floors weren’t mine. Maybe Esme had been right. What did I need a home for?
Without Edward, this was just a house. Edward held the real key. My heart was with him. My home was with him—wherever he was. He was my whole world. I dropped the quilt and went running through the house.
I searched frantically for the ballet company’s schedule he had given me and found it— tucked in a travel guide I didn’t remember buying—as a bookmark.
Within minutes I was talking to an over-seas operator, and after struggling through a minor language barrier, I was ringing Edward’s room.
“Hello.” His voice sounded as rich as I remembered, and I nearly broke into tears.
“Yes, it’s me.” I paused, trying to gauge his reaction. His silence frightened me so I hurried on, “I want to meet you in Prague, next week.”
“You mean it, Kate?” His sudden enthusiasm gave me all the strength I needed.
“I really do! But first, Edward, I have to tell you something. I have to tell you about my mother.”
Copyright © 2002 by Desdmona.