Tears trickled from the corners of her eyes, over her temples and into her sweat-soaked hair. Her chest hurt from the broad wooden strap pressing into her sternum, and her breath shuddered, her body raising slightly over the hump of the domed lid with each small sob. Her fingers ached as they curled around the cold iron handles on either side of the old box. She smelled dust and something dark and herby, flower petals wrung out and dried, crushed seed pods from places she had never been and would never go.

Her spine felt long and exposed, stretched that way over the trunk and though her knees were firmly on the ground, she had a strange sensation, a teetering precarious second where she felt she might fall, that the wood and metal beneath her would dissolve into splinters and she would fall through the floor, through the house below, and continue falling into nothingness. The thin lines of fire he had laid carefully across the backs of her thighs and buttocks flickered, rippling with tiny surges of heat as minute curls of air slid over her skin. His hand on her lower back was sudden and heavy, but warm and gently placed. He held it there.

She waited, a tremor of fear shivering down deep, she prayed that he would not begin again, that he had not changed his mind. But nothing came. No pinches or slaps or stinging drops of wax, no prodding tip between her buttocks, no slicing cane against her feet or tender places. Just the weight of his hand and stillness. Her breathing slowed, and seams of tension she had not known were there slowly unraveled, leaving her limp, like a damp shawl thrown over this old traveling trunk.

A tiny slithering itch, a curl of hot fluid seeped from someplace deep inside and crawled slowly down the back of her thigh. As though a scab had been torn from her senses she was suddenly aware of the dull tarnished sunlight and the swimming motes of dust falling around her head, of the smell of sex and flowers which seemed to blossom in the small space, of the lotion he had used as a lubricant, of the texture of the wood and silky dust beneath her knees.

Something small settled inside, a tiny soul-click, unheard, but not unnoticed as she fully reclaimed the flesh she had abandoned to his ministrations. How rare, she thought, how pure and clean to experience a moment like this, a sliver of time where there is no need, no desire, no wandering thought or heart. Only stillness, only peace, only home.

fiction non-fiction poetry art sounds