There are things you remember and wish they had never happened. Like being stood up by a girl. Or being clever with a bigger guy and having your ass whipped in front of friends.
Things like that.
There are also things you'd cough up all your money for to make them un-happen.
I am Walter Braun, 39, copywriter, famous in the tiny confines of my profession. But what happened had nothing to do with that. I could have been a milkman or an accountant. Might even have been better that way.
I was supervising the recording of a bunch of radio commercials. They involved two grown men talking like five year old morons. Yes, they were very funny too.
I had to pee and excused myself. When I found the toilets, I thought I'd skip the urinals and sit for a while in one of the stalls, just to be alone. I sometimes do that, don't ask me why.
I don't know who the men were who entered the restroom as I sat there. They obviously used the urinals. I heard the sounds of zippers, the usual groan before the splatter of piss inside the ceramic bowls.
"She sure is something", one of the guys said. His voice sounded familiar, but I wasn't sure.
"You can say that again", a second voice answered, not ringing a bell as to who he might be.
"Never had a throat take me down that easy". The first guy.
"Goddamn, her ass is tight, man," the second one said. "And she loves it all up her hole, she even begged for it."
By that time there were only telltale last drops tingling. I heard them close their zippers again and to my surprise they even went to wash their hands.
Over the noise of the running faucets I thought hearing one of them say "... belle... he knows?... poor bastard." The other one laughed loudly. Right before they shut the door he chuckled and said: "His fault. Never marry what you can't handle."
The door closed and I was alone again.
Now you must know that my wife of seven years bears the lovely name of Isabelle, Belle for intimates. You also have to know that one of the voices belonged to an ex-colleague of mine. An almost-friend who dines at our table with his loving wife at least four times a year. And we return the favour about as many times.
I wasn't prepared to put my hand into a fire where the voice was concerned. I also could not be sure of the name they mentioned through the noise of the water.
But my stomach did not seem to need extra information. It clenched like a fist inside my belly, sending nauseating waves of bile up my throat.
Belle is a wild thing, always has been. I'd like to say we met at college, but that might confuse you into thinking that we had something going there. No one had anything going with Belle in those days. She loved diversity. And when she dated, she didn't waste time.
Belle was incredibly popular with every male student (and teacher). She was also hated by most of the girls.
Funny thing is that Belle was not at all the cliché hot looking college girl. She was and is not tall, blonde or even slim. She is a petite brunette with a lot of curves, wide hips, generous boobs. She oozes sex, though, very much in the way film stars did when they were called Betty Boop or Marilyn Monroe.
Let's say she was a sex goddess from before the Great Famine.
Belle and I fucked a few times, back then. Twice at the back of my car, two more times in the tiny secret room under the roof of the old library. Belle had a mattress there.
All those times were near the end of college. I had deep feelings for Belle by then. But I knew they were ridiculous. Telling her about it would have been utterly un-cool. So I nursed my pain and after graduation we lost all contact, as far as there had been any to begin with.
A few years later I had found my way up in the labyrinth of Manhattan's advertising world. One Friday night I was between dates and for potluck went to a club in Chelsea. It was one of those short-lived places where the in set had to gather. The place was insanely packed, that night, so it wasn't totally unexpected that an arm would hit mine and spill the two beers I carried all over the scantily clad girl in front of me.
She screamed and turned. It was Belle.
Her eyes looked furious. She was gasping with indignity. A darkish nipple shone through her soaked little top.
After she lashed out and hit me in the face, she saw who I was and apologized. I offered her a tissue, but she grabbed my hand and dragged me from the crowd to the toilets and then on to a small closet-like room in the back. She pulled me down to her face and started kissing me hard, all wet and tonguey.
Before long her tits were bare and her hand was inside my pants, stroking a rapidly rising cock. Not a minute later my throbbing meat slid over the curl of her tongue, finding the entrance of her throat.
All memories flooded back. Even my cock seemed to have a memory of its own as it happily nudged the long forgotten niches. Belle is the best ever cocksucker and soon she pulled me over the top, not spilling a drop.
She looked up, smiling radiantly into my panting face.
"Hi, Walter", she said. "Long time no see."
I fucked her against the closed door after she had sucked me back to rigidity. And yes, it felt like entering heaven. She moaned and begged me to do it harder, deeper. We maybe stood there five minutes. Belle got louder, my cock almost scorched her wet, weak flesh.
Then the door opened and both of us fell forward into the arms of a guard. It was right then that I came and Belle orgasmed. We had no time to feel embarrassed. We just lay on the floor, shaking and twisting.
It took me fifty dollars and a lot of excuses, but in the end we stood outside in the drizzling Manhattan rain. Belle never stopped giggling and grinning.
We went into a Starbucks, marvelling at the inverse route the renewal of our acquaintance had taken. Fuck first, hello later. Belle told me how she had come to the Big Apple two months before, having been transferred by the Midwestern company she worked for.
I told her my story and remarked on the fact that she hadn't changed a bit. Which she took with a deep throaty laugh.
"I love you, Walter. I really do, always have", she said, suddenly.
I choked on my cappuccino.
"I loved you madly in college, you know", she went on.
I grinned, uneasily.
"You sure had a way to hide it, honey", I said.
But she did not smile.
"Yes", she said, dead sober. "I was a fool. I am a slut, you know. I love fucking guys all the time. As many and as often as I can. My heart said that I loved you. My body protested. My body won. I am a junkie for sex, you see."
To my amazement I saw tears in her eyes. I took her hands over the table. They trembled.
"Sit with me", I said, pulling her over to my bench. I put my arm around her. Her face rested on my shoulder.
"You were my third fuck tonight", she said, choking on the words. "And that would just have been for starters." Then her voice rose, making half the people look up. "Damn!! How I hate this body!!!"
We went to my place and fucked for two hours straight. And whenever we had to catch our breath, she told me about her predicament.
"Other girls envy me, you know. And guys don't see what the problem is."
"I can see why they wouldn't", I said. But she didn't smile.
"When we met, tonight", she went on, "it all came back. The confusion, the pain. The urge to have you. Not just for the sex, but for myself, my heart and soul. I only felt that once, back with you at college. Those last months were hell. I kept following you, watching you, dreaming of you, but you never saw it."
No, I never did. Who would have?
She rose on her elbow, looking down on me, sweat shining on her face.
"I love you, Walter. What am I going to do?"
Well, yes. Call me stupid. Call me blind. A year later we were married. Bella had been into therapy right after the night of our reunion. I went with her and even after we decided to marry, things were hard for her. She loved me madly, I loved her madly. But the urge was there. It would never leave her, as the good doctor assured us. But it could be managed.
I don't know if she was faithful, that first year. I don't want to know. But I believed she would fight for it. I believed Bella. A year later Julie was born, two years later Lizzie. I never went looking if they were mine.
Having the children did her a world of good. I never would have believed Wild Bella could be such a perfect mother.
Our sex life changed too. We often made love, even at stolen moments and peculiar places. But the wild, irrational sex was a thing of the past. Sometimes I thought we had closed it behind bars, securely putting it away not to tempt us ever again. To be precise: not to tempt her ever again.
Fourteen years had passed. Had there been changes? The damn cliché changes they always talk about? Change in habits? Change in attention? Staying away late?
Of course there was the big change of Belle getting back to work, four years ago. And yes, that caused her to be away more often, after work too. But hadn't that been the entire point of going back to work to begin with? To see adults, be with people, save her from getting crazy?
She had found a job at another big advertising agency. Yes, the agency where my ex-colleague works.
Judge me. Was I rushing things when I added all this up? And was I unfair when I drew a conclusion that made me feel the saddest man on the island?
Maybe I was. But, you know, why should women have the sole right to intuition?
I rose from the toilet. I must have been sitting there for ages. It was a bit embarrassing to return to the sound studio, where they had been waiting for me to proceed. But I hardly noticed. Other things occupied my mind.
I don't know if the commercials added up to something at all. I left after another hour and took a cab home, which was by now a roomy and appallingly expensive apartment on the Upper Eastside.
That night I tried to be myself at the table, but after I had taken the girls to bed, Belle stopped me.
"What is going on, Walter?", she asked. And her eyes told me she wouldn't take bullshit. But I could not tell her.
"Nothing", I said. " Just the damn Kellogg's account. Bloody assholes."
Belle didn't buy it, I knew. But it was what she was going to get. I wasn't ready for more.
Sex was a disaster too, that night. I came after ten seconds and then resisted all her wonderful trials to get me up again. I apologized, we slept. Well, she did, I suppose.
The following days I played ostrich, my head burrowed deep into the earth. I proved a rather clumsy ostrich, though. After asking three times what the matter was (and getting just more bullshit in return) Belle retired into an awkward silence.
Lucky thing was that we had the children, but when they were in bed I had no way to avoid her graciously. So I did it ungraciously.
The third night we sat propped up in bed, reading. That is, I stared at a page and I guess Belle did the same. Then she started sobbing. A very small sound, but the sadness of it cut through my soul, or whatever it is where sadness cuts.
I looked up and got caught by her hazel eyes. They swam with unshed tears.
"Why can't you trust me with your problems?", she asked.
Outside a police siren wailed.
I was stunned by her words. I had been so pre-occupied with her possible faithlessness and my pain that I had never considered how it must feel for her. Suddenly I had made her share the house with a zombie. Suddenly the laughter had gone, the easy touching.
I stared at her. Then I reached for her face to wipe away a tear.
"I...", I said.
"I don't know how to begin."
She curled into my arms. My first reaction was to recoil. My second was to wrap myself around her. There was about a nano second between the two, but I know she noticed.
"Must be something", she purred.
I was at a loss. My body reacted as it had always done with her. But my mind was in turmoil.
"I heard horrible things about you", I whispered.
She stiffened in my arms. Then she looked up, wide-eyed.
"What things?", she gasped.
I stared at her. She shrugged free and sat straight.
"Let me guess", she said. Her voice was cold. "People saw me fucking around. You know, the whore is at it again. Seen Walter's wife? Ah yes, the easy slut, what a piece of ass!"
Her voice was ice, but tears ran down her cheeks.
I felt awful. All I feared that might happen, happened.
I grabbed her hands, held them against my face. She stared me down, I had to flee her gaze.
"And you...", she said, trembling. "You believe it, don't you?"
She took back her hands, punched my shoulder hard and turned away, sobbing into her pillow.
Haltingly I started my story. The bragging. The resembling voice. The half heard name. The laughter about the poor husband. And the more I told her, the more improbable the story sounded to me. At last it petered out. There was only silence and her sobbing.
I half-heartedly caressed her shoulder, but she shook my hand off. Then she slid out of bed, grabbed her pillow and started for the door.
"Belle, don't...", I cried. "I'm sorry."
At that she whirled around, her eyes ablaze.
"Sorry??", she shouted. "Sorry??"
She took two steps towards me and threw the pillow into my face.
"Sorry?? Who is sorry here? Oh yes, you are one sorry bastard! I fought for us. I fight for you, for me, for the children."
She crinched, hugging her own body.
"For years I fought for my dignity and this is what I get for it? Sometimes my body turned inside out with desire, with need. But I fought for you, damn Walter! Not a day passes and I fight. I fight, damn you..."
She sank to her knees, tears flooding her face.
"Thank you, Walter", she now whispered. "Thank you for being there with me, for believing me."
She grabbed the pillow, stood and walked out of the bedroom. The door slammed shut like the most definite sound I ever heard.
A stunned minute later I followed her to the spare bedroom. The door was locked. I knocked. I begged. She did not answer.
It was the third night in a row that I did not sleep.
The next morning she wasn't up to wake the children while I made breakfast. The bedroom was still locked. So I prepared some breakfast and got the children started.
After they had gone, I waited with a cup of coffee, but she never came out. I got my things to leave for work. I knocked on her door, calling her name. Nothing. I left a note, only a few lines adding up telling I was very sorry for not believing her. And telling her I really did, always would.
I sighed and left for work.
Around 10 a.m. I phoned home. It rang until the voice-mail came up. Then I tried her cell phone. It was disconnected. I phoned her at work. They said she had called in sick.
Before lunch I tried again. No answer. At lunch I could not eat. Around 3 p.m. I called once more with the same result. I decided to leave and go home. My hands trembled. I worried. I worried a lot.
The house was empty. Somehow it felt more than just empty, it even sounded hollow. With heavy feet I went to the bedroom and bathroom, but all her things were there. It gave me a short relief that lasted for about half an hour.
The children came home and left again for sports and friends. The silence returned. For the first time ever I heard we had a clock.
I thought about calling the police, just to know that I did something. The silence and the waiting killed me. But I knew they would tell me to wait another day.
I called her cell phone again. It was as dead as before. In sheer frustration I threw my phone through the room.
I tried to call two of her girl friends, but could not find their numbers. I once more phoned her agency to hear if she had maybe called again. The secretary of her department was surprised, as she had already told me Belle had called in sick.
I felt sick with guilt. I had driven her away with my lack of confidence. I should have known better. I should have known how fragile she was. How easy to hurt right at the heart of her weakness.
I poured a tall whisky and sat down.
Had I pushed her back to the edge, maybe even pushed her over it? Well done, Walter! Yes, my clumsy, heartless accusation had done exactly that. I had turned it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Oh God, I saw what I'd done. Damn stupid idiot.
I groaned, swallowed the whisky and started to cry.
We went to a Friday's, the children and I. They asked where mom was and I told them about working late and things. Julie asked me if I had cried and I sniffed to conjure up a cold.
When they were asleep, I was alone again with the clock, the whisky and a dead phone. I went to bed and tried to read. I got up again and walked the floor.
It was 4.15 a.m. when the phone rang. The sound slammed a hole in the night. It made my heart jump. I grabbed the cell and pushed the button.
The phone flushed my head with loud noises, like a big hall, a disco maybe. A guy's deep voice asked me for my name.
"There is a woman here", he said. "She doesn't feel too well, it seems. As a matter of fact, she passed out. We found your number at the top of her cell phone list. You her husband?"
My heart was in my throat. I had to clear it twice to get words out. I said I was her husband. Where was she? She was in a big club in Tribeca. I said I'd come and get her at once.
She was a mess. There were bruises and hickeys all over her throat and chest. I also saw them on her bare thigh, where the dress was torn. She wore no bra and I supposed no panties either. Her hair seemed plastered to her face and white powder caked at her nostrils. Her skin was flaking with dried come.
I gathered her into a huge blanket one of the bouncers gave me and carried her to the waiting cab.
On the way home she slowly woke up. Her eyes were bloodshot and out of focus. She groaned. I hugged her and caressed her pale face, wiping wet strands of hair from her eyes. When she tried to talk I lay a finger on her swollen lips and told her shhhhhh.
At home she could barely walk. I now saw she had only one high heeled shoe left. I kicked it in the gutter and carried her inside and to the elevator. I tried not to make a sound that might wake up the children. Then I ran a hot bath and started to undress her.
Her body was a labyrinth of bruises and bites. Her nipples were an angry red. The flesh around them had black and blue traces from aggressive mauling and cruel teeth.
But the real battlefield was between her legs. Her pussy lips were almost purple and they were incredibly loose. A constant dribble of sickly white semen ran out of the hole between them to mingle with the come that oozed from her ass hole. There were pinkish streaks of blood in it.
I carefully helped her sink down in the hot water, holding up her lolling head. She sighed. A long, trembling sigh that ended in a sob.
I took a wet cloth and started cleaning her face. She winced when I touched her lips. They were caked with blood and must have been abused endlessly.
Then I lowered my hand under water and started to clean the inside of her thighs. When I reached for her mound and pussy, she gave of a high-pitched wail of pain, so I stopped. I leant in to kiss her eyes.
Her voice came in a hoarse whisper.
"S-s-sorry... so sorry..."
I once again said "Sssssshhhh", and started to shampoo her hair. Only after a while I realized that I was humming. It was the same song I used to hum when I bathed our girls when they were babies.
Morning was only an hour away when I at last tucked her in. I watched until she slept and sneaked to the kitchen to make me a cup of coffee.
I was exhausted, but strangely elated.
I knew what she had done and it had stabbed my heart. I also knew why she had done it and that made me feel deeply guilty. But mostly I felt relieved and immensely happy that I had found her and that she would be save.
After coffee I took a shower and woke up the children. I told them mommy was home, but sick. She slept and could not be disturbed. After school she would be better, no doubt. And she would be very happy to see them again.
I called in sick. It didn't sit well with my boss, as we were in the middle of a new business pitch. But I did not care. I stretched out on the sofa and slept a few hours.
Close to noon I went to see Belle. She was awake. I smiled at her. She tried to smile back.
"Tea?", I asked. She nodded.
I brought two cups and a plate of biscuits. I helped her sit up and sat on the bed next to her.
She avoided my eyes. I cupped her chin with a hand and forced her to look at me.
"Don't feel guilty", I said. "It was my fault. I should have known what my stupid remarks would do to you. Please forgive me."
Tears ran down her cheeks. She shook her head vigorously.