My WIP has been a troublesome, tricksy beast. Originally going by the title A Life Drawn Freehand, it started as a tale of a grieving 50-something mother comng to terms with her grief by pursuing the career she put on hold in her 20s. I have struggled and struggled with the voice but I finaly think I have it, in the context of a very different story, but one with the same heart, the relationship of mutual discovery between an older woman and younger man.
This is the new chapter one. The book is now called The Honesty of Bodies, from a line in the beautiful poem of Kirsty Logan's, Ways of Making Love.
It should probably come with a content warning - but you probably all know that by now :)
“It’s not like I’m not hungry,” she says. “I just can’t eat. It’s like eating is a memory my body knows it has but can’t ever reach.”
A distant memory, I think, looking at her. She has so little energy her head’s just lolling back in the pillow and she can’t even look at me. Not that it matters, I guess. I shift in front of the sun coming in the window and her eyes are unresponsive. She’s shutting down.
“And I don’t even know if I want to remember. You know?”
“No you don’t.”
“I guess not.”
“I keep trying to figure it out.” Her speech is slow now, and she’s not looking at me and she’s not looking at the ceiling and she’s not looking anywhere else, so I find it hard to place the words at all. “This thing. This whatever it is that made me forget how to eat. Where did it come from?”
“Who knows,” I say, but the question’s not for me.
“I just don’t know. Am I killing myself? Or is someone, some thing doing this to me? Or did I just get sick?”
Her breathing’s as loud as her words by now. I look at her chest to see the rise and fall but there’s nothing there.
Eventually she says, “Kiss me.”
I bend over and press my lips to hers, leave them there a second, and pull away, half expecting the room to be silent when I do.
“That was nice,” she says. “I always thought it would be.” She runs the tip of her tongue around her mouth and I think I see a movement in her throat.
“You thought about us kissing?”
But she’s already somewhere else.
Lifting her into the chair is so easy, even though I haven’t worked out in months. I fix the drip like I was shown, and wheel her down the ward.
“Just getting some air,” I say to a nurse, who smiles back at us.
I put her in the front of the car, leaving the drip and the chair, pop a couple of warfarin, and take her back to mine. She’s still alive when I place her in the bath, because it’s been an hour now and she feels as warm as the water I’ve run for her. I wash the smell of hospital from her skin, dry her down, and smooth oil on her and in her, leaving it slick on the surface of her sores.
The silk falls over her and she’s so slippery I make sure I have a good hold of her as I carry her downstairs, and back into the car.
We’re driving for half an hour and I haven’t heard anything from her since she left her bed. I don’t carry her far from the car. The trees are tight and the summer growth is thick.
The silk slides off her as easily as it slid on, and in the sun, Bella’s skin, her whole body, is almost transparent. And cool, even in the heat; my hands warm the oil and its scent merges with that of the leaves. The light tricks me and for a moment I think she’s becoming solid, like she’s drawing the sap into her.
I remove my clothes slowly, and lie on top of her, and even when I come the only sound is the grass underneath us.
I lie beside her, reach out, feel the cloth, and take out the blade. I slide it through the skin on each of her arms, leaving lines of red that seem to rise and then hover, the fluid as still as the summer day.
I draw the same lines on my own arms and watch as the warfarin pushes my blood.
I take Bella’s hand and lay my head on the forest floor, and I wonder if the scent of blood will draw foxes or badgers before the insects come, or maybe someone will follow their dog through the undergrowth, or maybe a gamekeeper tracking his gundog after a kill, or maybe Julie.