NB: Zombie posts all this week and part of next. I will be traveling and (with luck) seeing a Certain Actor tread the boards.
John Milton wrote a tragedy about Samson and Delilah, which reflected his belief in Woman’s ability to seduce and destroy Man. It is a mythic story to which Jonathan Sebelius has given much thought.
NB: Adult content.
22. To Lose Thee Were To Lose Myself
Jennet loved waking up next to Jonathan. As soon as her eyes opened and she saw him, she wanted to make love. Unexpectedly, he began to ask questions about her past. She took it as a hopeful sign. He was interested in her, Jennet, as a person. Talking about Tim upset her a little, and she suppressed the urge to cry, worried that Jonathan wouldn’t know what to do with a weepy woman. She didn’t miss Tim in the least, but it still filled her with maternal fear, and anger, that anyone could speak of Kyle that way.
Then, without warning, Jonathan was all over her, holding her down and kissing her in that intense way of his. It reminded her of the first kiss in the library. Except now he was naked, and on top of her, and… mmmm. He’s drawn his sword.
She pushed against him. At first he pressed her down even harder, but when she said, “Roll over,” he let her up and obediently lay back. She drew her fingers up the length of his penis, letting them play around his most sensitive areas.
“When I watched you fight, it turned me on,” she told him. “It was like watching a dancer, but more dangerous.”
“It can be very dangerous,” he said. There was an odd note in his voice.
“If I had a bout with you, I’d lose right away. Do you know why?”
“Because you have no idea how to handle a weapon?” He looked at her quizzically.
She gave him an admonitory squeeze. “Don’t be so sure about that.” Bending her head to kiss him, she marveled at how much she enjoyed attending to him with her lips and tongue. Unlike Tim, he didn’t place a hand on the back of her head, trying to push her mouth down over him. He kept both hands at his side, clenching and then relaxing them.
Finally she looked up and said, “I have my own set of rules for fencing bouts, courtesy of Lewis Carroll. Under your rules, whoever gets touched first loses. My rules are just the opposite.” She moved to straddle his supine form, bracing herself on her palms. “And under my rules, the quickest path to victory is to be… thoroughly… skewered.” As she spoke, she slid down onto him. Ahhh. She could never get enough of him. This way, for the first time, she was able to move, and to control the pace. She used her knees and thighs; the brace on her ankle didn’t matter.
Something else was different now. She could look into his eyes, and watch his reaction as she moved. Was this threatening for him? It was so intimate. She leaned backward, unwillingly tearing her eyes from his, and he began to caress her, continuing steadily until a tsunami of pleasure overtook her. Then he grabbed her hips and thrust hard. When he subsided, Jennet leaned forward, her fingers tracing the curly brown hairs on his chest. In spite of his claim that he couldn’t love her, she felt as close to him as she ever had to any man. She realized, without much surprise, that she loved him unconditionally, the way she loved Kyle, or her father. Her eyes focused on the gold chain he always wore, with its sizable, heavy links, and the bail from which was suspended a golden ring. She touched it.
“Jonathan, why do you wear this?”
His face suddenly took on that expressionless look he got when he was trying to hide his feelings. He was still inside her, and he lifted her up and off. She lay beside him, with her head under his arm, but kept her left hand on his collarbone, where the chain rested.
“I wear it to remind myself to stay away from women.” He laughed softly. “It worked for sixteen years. Until you came along.”
“Why do you have to stay away?”
For a long time he didn’t reply. Finally he said, “I loved a woman named Lorraine. We were together three years. She wanted an elaborate wedding, even though we were already married. That was my doing,” he added. “I agreed to everything she wanted for the wedding, even though her folks refused to pay for it. But I couldn’t wait, so I pressed her to marry me in secret. We tied the knot during a trip to Vegas to see Cirque du Soleil.”
Jennet understood that this woman was the cause of the terrible thing that had happened to Jonathan. She waited silently for him to continue, passing her hand slowly back and forth over his chest, the way she might soothe a testy feline by stroking it.
“I was twenty-five, and I was trying out for the Olympic fencing team. That was 1996. The Summer Olympics were in Atlanta,” he said. “One day I went to Lorraine’s apartment. To bring her some flowers as a surprise. It was our three-month wedding anniversary.” Jennet’s hand clenched around the chain. She knew where this was going.
“The door was unlocked and I went in. She was in bed with my best friend, Dan. There was… a scene. I called her a bitch, and she smiled. She said I should ask the rest of my fencing buddies whether they thought she was a bitch. Because she’d slept with every single one of them, but Dan was her favorite. And every single one satisfied her more than I did.”
Jennet was shocked. It passed all understanding, how anyone could behave that way.
Jonathan said, “I don’t suppose you’ve ever read Milton’s Samson Agonistes?”
“No, but I see the parallel. Samson and Delilah.” Delilah had tempted Samson to reveal the secret of his strength, his long, luxurious hair. And once she possessed the secret, she shaved his head and delivered him helpless to his enemies, the Philistines.
Jonathan said the lines from memory. “I yielded, and unlocked her all my heart, who with a grain of manhood well resolved, might easily have shook off all her snares. But foul effeminacy held me yoked, her bond-slave.”
Her bond slave. “What did you do, after that?”
“I called my attorney, to see about annulling the marriage. And then I challenged Dan to a duel.”
“You mean, like in the tournament?”
He laughed, but his voice was harsh. “No. I thought we would fence with our usual weapons, and without protective gear. That would be dangerous enough. Dan’s father had a set of seventeenth-century rapiers in very good condition. When I challenged him, he suggested we use them in the duel. Maybe he thought it would scare me off. Instead, I agreed. I wanted to kill him.”
Jennet reminded herself that Jonathan was twenty-five at the time, and half out of his mind with rage. Why did men go to such extremes? Especially young men. That must be how he got the scar on his face.
“We both had seconds. It was surprisingly difficult to find someone who hadn’t slept with my wife,” he said dryly. “The duel was fought in a field outside of New Haven. Dan kept going for my face, and touched me on the cheek right away. Then I slashed his sword-arm, and punctured his lung.”
“Did he survive?”
“Yes. Our seconds stopped the fight, and mine had a car phone, one of those old clunky ones. They called 911. The paramedics were shocked when they saw me covered with blood, but still on my feet. It was all from the wound in my face, but I was so pumped with adrenalin that I barely felt a thing until later. Dan was the one in real danger. He recovered after emergency surgery, and the police dismissed it as a foolish prank. But neither of us was bound for the Olympics. Dan couldn’t fight, and I went to the finals with my face still in bandages —and failed. Miserably.”
“Whose ring is this?”
“Hers. She came to the hospital… and gave it to my father.” His voice sounded broken and halting.
“Oh, Jonathan.” All these years, he had been wearing the symbol of his enslavement to this woman. It was such a waste. “What happened to her? Where is she now?” Do you still love her?
He didn’t answer, but suddenly got up and began to dress. She watched him, realizing that he had gone past his limits. Probably she wouldn’t see him for some time now. She would have to be patient. When he was dressed, he came to the bedside, bringing her crutches from the bath. He was wearing his poker face again. He took her hand, and then dropped it. “Jennet. I have to go.”
“Thanks for shoveling my drive,” she called as he stalked out of the room. I love you.
Copyright 2015 by Linnet Moss
Notes: Samson was blinded by the Philistines, a fact which must have drawn Milton’s attention to the story, since he himself was losing his sight. In writing this, I asked myself whether Lorraine’s behavior was unrealistically villainous, but I believe that such heartless people do exist, though they are rare. I imagine her as a relatively shallow and superficial woman whose beauty brought her a great deal of male attention. Not a good match for a man like Jonathan, but the heart knows what it knows…