She knows he is there. She can sense him, like an itch that begins under the skin and rises until it must be scratched before madness ensues. It is that numb feeling she gets when she looks up and sees him, glaring at her with such heat, her blood turns to dust in her veins and her spit dries to ash in her mouth.
He is outside her door. She knew he would come. He told her he would, if she did not come to him. How could she? How could she crawl to him, knowing the obscene triumph he would not bother to mask as she stood before him? How could she, knowing that to walk into his presence means to walk away from pride, from virtue, from herself?
So there he is. She can picture him in her mind. He is like a devil, with snarling jaws and ragged talons, tearing away every ounce of resolve she has to maintain her distance. She can see him in her mind’s eye: boring a hole with his iron will into the oaken door that stands between them – a six-inch thick barrier as insubstantial as paper. If he really wants to come in.
No door denies him.
She leans against it, trying to pool her might into strengthening this flimsy door. She pictures him, one hand pressed against it, long, slender fingers testing it, coaxing it to open for him. He is hot and groggy, his lawn shirt damp and molded to his body like an obliging skin. He is pale and flushed and sullen and hard; hard and straining against his coarse breeches like the desire that strains against her will.
There is a devil standing outside her door, seducing her with his intent, filling her head with carnal desires that make her weep with shame and wet with wanting. He is clever, this devil; he knows things. He says things. Things that make her tremble, and moan, and howl – and surrender.
No! She will not let him in. She knows, oh, she knows! For if she listens and heeds the devil outside her door, the moment the door opens she will be the beast, tearing open his convent-made shirt, drinking the sweat from his pale flesh, dropping to her knees to stuff him in her mouth like the host, and all the while he will smile down at her, a mocking smile, drugged with victory and power.
She will hate herself. She will call herself names and curse her weakness and pray for the sweet oblivion of hell so she can forget the greedy, sucking noises she makes, even as she yanks her skirts from beneath her knees to dig her own fingers between her thighs.
No! She will not give herself to him. She will spit his leavings onto the floor to show him her devotion! She will bite the tongue that plunges between her lips to prove her esteem! She will cut the flawless skin from his back in streamers with her nails to illustrate her affection! She will do all these things, she tells herself, before she behaves like the harlot she becomes for him. For she knows that the devil outside her door will do the most unspeakable things if she allows it – and she will revel in them if he does.
She can almost hear his rasping breath, and she presses her ear to the door, as if to listen for him. Somewhere within her heart, she knows the truth, but she keeps it well hidden from him. She keeps it locked in an even darker, deeper vault from herself. It is the knowledge that it isn’t what he does to her that breaks her. It isn’t what he makes her do to him, either.
It is the fierce, aching surrender in his face, the blissful, sweet whimper of pleasure in his stern voice. It is the blinding, liberating ecstasy that she feels in his trembling body when she gives in completely, submitting body and soul to the profane. It is the knowledge that he surrenders to her utterly, if she will but let the devil drive.
For it is in that dark moment of crisis, that he becomes a babe, an angel, rearing over her like a being of pure light and breath, and in that moment she is the vessel of something greater than either or both of them, and for that moment, she glimpses the perfection of heaven, for she sees it mirrored in the rapturous, beautiful planes of his face.
The moment, sadly, is fleeting. Pleasure always is, and the contentment in his face fades, and hardens, and soon he is hungry again. Like the old Adam, once he tasted her forbidden fruit, he has never since been satisfied. It is never enough.
The latch moves slightly and she jumps, even though the door is bolted and locked. She wants to run like a child into a corner and cover her eyes until he goes away. The latch is still.
There is a devil waiting outside her door. He is voracious and sweat-slicked and stinking of horses and mud and sex. His breath is hard as iron and his hair is damp and dusty, and she tells herself she doesn’t want it. She tells herself he will go away. She tells herself she isn’t wet for him.
She tells herself this. She says it over and over again until her tongue can no longer form the words. I won’t let you in.
There is a devil waiting outside her door. She calls herself a vulgar name. She lifts the latch, and closes her eyes as the door swings open.