SECRET AFFAIRS OF THE FLESH
We ascended the stairs, footsteps hushed by thick carpet. The door to Caroline’s room was closed. There was quiet. Did she know? Was she listening out for us? Would she be holding a glass to the wall? The patterned carpet on the curving staircase absorbed our feet. Above the first floor were the guest rooms.
In the old days there had been parties. I was only a child then. Caroline and I used to listen with a glass against the wall, taking turns. We would puzzle over the whisperings, the groanings, the creaking and bumping, spring sounds, the shuffling, the slither-slither of secrets, the lapping sounds of lust. And whose were those grunts and sighs that floated on the midnight air? Mother’s, Father’s, their friends? It was a mystery to us so we would make up our own exciting stories. We were never told and we never asked.
After a while Caroline would go to the bed and lie down under the covers. I’d watch the movements and patterns made by the hand, her knees tenting the covers, her soft sighs and apologies. I wanted her to show me.
In the morning we’d peep in the rooms when there was no one there. The beds would be unmade, the sheets rumpled and stained with cream and grey patches. There would be smells, staleness, residues of copulations. The odours would stir me. Sometimes I felt nauseous.
No one had ever seen me go to the attic with Father. It was our game, our secret, our purity.
We entered by the ladder and stood.
In the attic were old trunks and chests, occasional tables my mother had discarded or replaced, vases she disliked, faded flowers of silk. Pieces of unfinished tapestry lay over the backs of two chairs. Sunlight filtered through a murky window. Motes of dust swirled in the rays.
In the far corner near the dormer window stood the rocking horse, benign and handsome. It had first belonged to my grandmother and handed down. The yellow and gold and brown paint had faded, the varnish cracked and crazed. It brooded upon the long-gone days.
Dead bees lay on the sill. Father’s hand held mine and squeezed reassuringly. He led me forward. My knees touched the brocaded cloth of an armchair whose seat sagged sadly. A spring protruded underneath. Upon the seat lay a mirror and a brush, both backed with tortoiseshell. They were as I had left them from my last visit. I remembered.
Father turned his back to me and rubbed a clear patch on the window. He gazed out through the glass upon the tops of the elms. A trembling arose in me which I tried to still. A mouse scratched and scuttled. A spider twitched in its web, making itself small, invisible. Everywhere was cobwebs and dust. Memories floated among the rafters.
“Want to ride him, Pumpkin?” said my father. He was still facing away from me. He had not used the name Pumpkin since I was a little girl. My heart fluttered with history. I felt sad for times gone by, when I was a little girl and knew nothing nasty about the world.
“Yes,” I said.
“Take off your frock, Beatrice. “You will feel the freedom of the wind in your hair. And now your under-garments... remove them also Ride him bareback. He likes that. Don’t you remember?”
Nervously I removed my dress, my underskirt, and laid them on the chair. Beneath I wore but a white batiste chemise with white drawers whose pink ribbons adorned the pale of my thighs. My silk brown stockings glistened. I waited for him.
Father turned. He regarded me gravely and moved towards me. “You have grown. Even in the six months, you have grown, Beatrice. You are a beautiful young lady. Where shall the beautiful young lady ride to?”
I smiled a half smile. I trembled with electricity. My toes curled. “Banbury Cross, Daddy. I shall ride the cock horse.” I knew the rhyme but I did not know of Banbury Cross. Did it exist outside of its nursery rhyme?
My father picked up the hair brush and handed me the mirror. With long firm, slow strokes he glossed my hair. It came down to my waist when all the waves were straightened. I was proud of it. The hair shone gold in the mirror. The sun through the dormer window caught and lighted it. I could see.
“The weather is fine for the journey. Is the duchess ready to mount?”
He lifted me aboard. The painted saddle on his back was cold beneath by bottom. I felt my sex rudely separate as my legs widened over the flanks and searched for the stirrups. I had gotten taller since last riding. I was too big for it. I had to flex my knees to engage my feet with the stirrups.
Father gave my outstretched bare bottom a playful smack. It was so nice. He had never spanked me in earnest. I desired it. Did he know now after all this time?
“My beautiful pumpkin – your bottom is fuller now.”
It was cool in the attic, by afternoon it would be warm. The points of my breasts were hard points, pointing upwards. Father smiled, his white teeth white glints behind the beard. “Like old times, Pumpkin.” He touched me in the place that had always made me warm. He stood at my side, arranging the reins for me. His stiffness was stiff against my thigh. I felt it like a bar of gold. He put the reins in my hands and kissed the top of my head. His beard crackled static against my scalp. His hands pushed on my pumpkin bottom and the horse began to move, rocking to-and-fro. I felt excited. We went faster; the wind blew my hair and breathed cool air on my pert breasts. They trembled perkily. I was small-breasted. They were roundly pretty and saucily scooped. Daddy liked them. My heart shivered at his touching. He beat the beats on my bottom, synchronising the canter and canting of the horse. I dropped the reins and held the horse’s mane. I breathed hard. My sex pressed against the pommel every time the horse rocked back. Father had never spanked me with those smooth hands. I had dreamed of it only.
“Sing the words to me, Beatrice.”
I did - in my funny trilling voice:
Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
And she shall have music wherever she goes.
“You’ll win no prizes for singing, Pumpkin, but you are music to my ears.”
He lifted me off. The pommel was smeared with my mist. I wonder if Daddy had seen. He carried me over to the chest of drawers. His foot accidentally kicked a spinning top. It clattered over the floorboards and span to a stop. A rag doll watched us from her perch on the wicker chair. She winked. Did she know? Would she one day tell her secret?
Father lifted me in his arms and placed me on top of the chest of drawers, the one that held old photographs, pictures, erotic drawings and poems. He spread my legs and smiled at me. “It’s been so long, Pumpkin.” His hands slid down my calves and held my feet. He lifted them to his mouth and kissed them. He sucked on my toes as if they were baby cocks. My legs were apart. I was lewdly presented. My hands attempted to retain some modesty and dignity.
“Show me, Pumpkin,” he said. “Show me the oyster, your sweet pearl. Draw back the curtains so that I may see your finest treasures. Touch yourself. Suck your thumb and be little for me again.”
I did as I was told. I wanted to please him, wanted him to be happy. I would not see him for a long time. He lowered his head and kissed my thighs. Goose bumps rose. His beard tangled with my beard, coils and watch springs knitting together, tugging. There was rasping and ruffling, the stab of his little pointed tongue, shooting little flames into my belly. His hands were warm on the insides of my cool thighs. His beard tickled. My eyes closed. A fat tear squeezed and rolled. My tongue licked at the salt.
He stood back and observed. I could feel my face flushed. Little droplets of dew sparkled on his beard. He had opened his fly and rummaged inside. He had trouble. His struggled until his prick sprang out like a rubber cosh. It was curved like a sabre blade, flashing in the sunlight. He held it in his fist, its tiny mouth yawning open. He came forward. I waited for him.