20. In the Dust
I could not tell if I was truly crying. It felt more like my face was leaking – the way fear causes our eyes to water. I could not tell if I was crying because of all the loss and pain vibrating in this room. I was not able to move at first, just sit and stare at Louis, bare and dripping.
His blue eyes mapped the room, recording histories of pain. He knelt and picked up the old Yahtzee cup that once held my baby teeth. He offered it to me, “Yours. The Man stole from us.”
“Yes.” I was shaking.
His hands cradled my face. “Look at me.”
And I did. The odd blue light threw shadows over his bare skin. He was so pale. A beautiful man. A kind and gentle man. His wet hair was swept back and I could see all of his face. I had read somewhere long ago that every person has an evil side to their face and an angelic side. But there was no evil in him. Even in his glacial eye, stretched wide by scarring, there was only tenderness.
I followed the curve of his jaw, the hard, broad shoulders. I had seen beauty in art. I had seen bodies in books. I knew what men were supposed to look like, the ideal, the norm, the divine ratio and adherence to natural design. Vitruvian man and rolling images from Michelangelo’s sculptures. The perfection of David and a dissection of Hugo’s Quasimodo.
His hip bones, solid and defined, edged planes set high above muscled thigh. He was right in all things that prove beauty. The perfection of man, and perfection itself. At somewhere in my heart, I feared him. I truly knew nothing of him. And yet, there was no other choice but to love him.
I reached out, touching the red star burst scar on his chest, cool and white. As his heart quickened, my body folded into his arms. I sank.
“Out of here.” He whispered.
He carried me. I felt the floor go out from under me and the upswing of his forearm under my knees. My eyes closed and my head fell against his heart. We were gliding down the hallway toward blue sanctuary. Then, I was lying on Louis’s small bed.
My burnt angel was kneeling in the corner, watching me.
“No. Please don’t be far away. Please.”
He lay down, chest against my back, arms around mine. I took his damaged hand and kissed it. I pressed my lips against the knuckle where his index finger was missing.
“I am so sorry about your finger. How? How did the man take it?”
“No. Dolly.” He smoothed my hair back and kissed my temple.
“No answers, then.”
“Better not. No answers. Be still.” He smiled. “It’s our cloud.”
So, we lay together, pushing back the horror and dread. I felt gutted, tired and incredibly wakeful. My deus ex machina, the divine creature who carried me from the torture chamber, was right here. Naked, touching, unquestioning. And there were no answers, but connection.
When he breathed, little lightning shocks passed between our bodies. I sat up, away from him.
“My clothes smell like…that room.”
He nodded. I started pulling my shirt over my head, but he put his hand out. I thought he was stopping me. I thought somehow he could hear that screaming spark in the back of my head, that mad missing piece of logic and the damnation of “What if?”
But he was helping me. He slowly and methodically undressed me.
This time, I lay facing him. And let his eyes find any beauty in me that they could.
Now I was a living thing, and his hands moved softly over my back and hips. And he kissed me and I rolled up on him. And I left behind any idea of a name, either for him or for myself. Every time we moved together, it drove out fear. It destroyed pain.
We were one creature, in the rays of early dusk, affirming life.