Beneath The Skin
by Polly Esther
Notes: Beta-ed by Lumina. Titled by Lumina. Thanks so much. You're a real pal.
He comes to me at night. Long after the last cowhand has left the saloon. When the town is still and quiet. When the street fires have all burned out. When there is not a soul around. I feel all the old prejudices and the hatred flare up in me. The self-loathing I feel is bitter. Yet, I sit here waiting for him.
I think on the feel of his smooth white hands as they glide over my brown body. The contrasting colors that flicker in the pale lamplight. The dark shadows that play across his face. How my body arches up to meet his. The look of pleasure that lights up his bright green eyes. Eyes like a cat; mysterious, self-satisfied, and remote.
I feel the hunger burning in my belly. I am helpless against it. I am a slave to it. The image of being shackled to this man unleashes a seething rage in me that almost equals the pang of my craving. Almost.
I know that when he comes to me I will not turn him away. He will look at me with those green eyes, heavy lidded with desire, and my resolve will melt. Just as I melt from the heat of our passion, into his arms, into this bed, underneath these covers. The need to feel his naked flesh pressed up against mine is overwhelming. This scalding desire is stronger than anything I have ever felt.
I hear a soft padding up the stairs that lead to my room. As always, that same soft knock on the door in the middle of the night. He is here. Opening the door, I find myself looking into his cat's eyes. He looks at me expectantly. With desire. The same desire that I know he sees reflected in my own eyes.
He slips into my room quietly, like a cat. He moves into my arms, his body right up against mine. He slips his hands under my shirt, down my pants. I lean down and press my cheek against his. I drink in his earthy scent. I want him.
He blazes a trail of searing kisses down my neck, across my chest. I feel the heat of his body, the pulsing beat of his heart against mine when I hold him close. I push my hardness against him. A sigh escapes his lips. We tumble onto the bed, tearing away our clothes.
Tearing away all that is between us. The entire world falls away. My past, my future, my everything. Nothing else exists. Nothing else matters. The only thing important to me is this moment and the pleasure that it brings.
I run my fingers through his hair. So soft and fine. I lean into him. I bury my face in his chestnut locks. It feels like fine silk. There's a faint scent that clings to his hair. It smells vaguely of lilac water. I kiss his ear.
I pull back and gaze down on him. He is beautiful. He strokes me gently with those smooth, supple hands. Hands that have never seen a day's honest work. Not like my rough dark hands, the hands of a slave. He is stroking my back. His fingertips trace along the scars. He looks at me with that cat-like gaze. His thoughts remain a mystery to me.
I bend down to kiss him. We are moving against each other. My mouth on his mouth. My dark hands reach out for his pale body. He embraces me. Almost tenderly.
There are only a few things that I am aware of. The feel of our bodies moving together. The feel of my hands on him and his hands on me. The smell of our sweat. Our harsh breathing and our soft grunts of pleasure. I am lost in the sweet rhythm of being loved by this man. If only for a moment.
“Don't stop. Don't stop.” He pleads with me. I see the frantic look in his eyes as he seeks release. I feel myself slipping over the edge. I unthinkingly repeat, “Yes, yes, yes.” He calls out my name. His voice is throaty and hoarse. His hands are clenched, grasping at the white sheets beneath him.
Afterwards I feel his hand in mine as we lay together. Our passion has been spent. An unexpected silence follows. A silence that says more than any of those big fancy words he likes to use. A silence that seems to tell me that's all there is.
Finally he speaks, in those sweet southern cadences. The voice of the Master - slow and warm, like molasses dripping off a spoon. He kisses me on the cheek. His lips whisper softly against my skin. He gets up and dresses quickly. "We must keep up appearances," he says. He leaves me to face the morning alone.
All the old feelings return. Resentment, self-hatred, anger, fear. I ball my fist in my mouth so I won't cry. I feel empty and used. But I know that when he comes back to me, I will not turn him away.
I like to fool myself into believing that I am a gentleman. It's an attractive prevarication. An innocent white lie. It reminds me of the stack of lies that my entire life is based upon. Lies that I fastidiously protect and maintain. No doubt Mother would be pleased.
It's getting late now and my thoughts turn to him. He'll be waiting for me. This much I know. I just haven't figured out why he waits. I have always sought the comforts of other men. He never has before. So, why me? Why now?
Invariably, our relationship has been punctuated by high emotions. Anger and resentment, pain and passion. I suppose he can't forgive me for being a white southerner and I can't forgive him for being a former slave. A Negro. We are a constant unpleasant reminder to one another of our collective pasts. Our shared history. It doesn't matter how close our association has become, or how many times we may save one another's life in the line of duty; the old feelings and prejudices are always there.
Yet in spite of everything, we have found a semblance of solace and intimacy. What is beneath that surface of passion, I cannot tell. I only know that I have never felt such a disquieting pang before. Beset by wantonness and desire I return to his bed every night.
How long can we go on like this? This impasse we have reached is unacceptable. I must put an end to it or be slowly smothered in stagnancy and repression.
I surely will not return to him tonight. I can tell that he resents me, despises me even. It makes no difference. What final shred of self-respect that I ever had I have given away to him. Why he even lets me into his bed is a mystery. Perhaps he enjoys the complete power he has over me. The slave mastering the master.
How did I come to want this man so much? To need him. To crave him hungrily. Am I so weak? So desperate for human companionship, that I let myself be ruled by my baser instincts? Against my better judgment, I find myself making my way toward his room. Distastefully lascivious impulses utterly defeat me. A gentleman would be able to control himself better. I am no gentleman. I only lie to myself that I am.
Why do I always lie to myself? Force of habit I suppose. If I were indeed being truthful I would admit that I love him. I am aware of how ridiculous that makes me. Perhaps that is truly what I cannot forgive him for. He weakens me and makes me absurd in my desire for him. My need to be close to him. Where is my precious self-reliance?
From the street below I look up into his room. I see the pale lamplight glowing in his window. I know that he is waiting for me. As always. I climb the stairs with trepidation beating fitfully in my heart.
No sooner have I finished knocking on the door than he appears, allowing me entrance to his room. He is ready for me, aroused and eager. His dark face is beautiful in the wavering lamplight. His expressive brown eyes are filled with passion. Seeing him so fuels my ardor. I want to touch him, all at once. My hands burrow under his clothes seeking the heat of his flesh.
He embraces me and presses up against me with his powerful body. His tall upright frame and his strength are reassuring to me. I feel the comfort, the safety and even the permanence that I have yearned for all my life. It doesn't matter that it is only a fleeting illusion. I revel in it.
I want to kiss him all over. I start on his throat and work my way down to his chest. I kiss his nipples. They are dark and sweet, like ripe berries. The next thing I am aware of is being roughly thrown upon his bed. He falls on top of me, overpowering me. My clothes are rent from my body. The pleasure I feel is sublime.
He leans into me and kisses my ear. My body trembles in anticipation. I am captured under his weight, surrounded by his spicy masculine scent. I feel the strength and the power of him as his broad chest brushes against me. I move my hand along the surface of his hair. The tight black curls are surprisingly soft. They spring lightly under my touch.
I continue to explore his body with my hands. I trace the crisscross of scars along his back. Scars that have marked Massa’s displeasure with a strong spirited slave. He looks down at me quizzically. I want to tell him that I'm sorry. I want to kiss his pain away. But I know that I cannot.
He bends down to kiss me. It is a bruising kiss. His mouth brutally crushes mine. I vaguely wonder if it is an expression of anger or of passion. He is moving against me, his hips thrusting savagely, and I discover I don't care. My body responds in kind. I hug him tightly.
I take him in my hand and smugly note his sharp intake of breath, the deep groan that erupts from his chest and his stomach. Suddenly his hands are on me too. That familiar moment arrives when I am bereft of all reason.
I feel his grip, firm and sure, as our bodies move in unison. I feel strangely disconnected from everything except a deep burning pleasure that suffuses my entire body. I am so far gone that I am begging him not to stop. I don't want this moment to end.
Inevitably, of course, it does.
He slides down next to me, his breath coming in tattered gasps. I can feel the rapid thudding of my heart pounding through my chest. My hand seeks his. I like the way it feels. His hands are large and rough. Oddly reassuring. I let my hand rest there for a moment while my heart finds its natural rhythm.
A chasm of silence fills the room. I wish I knew his thoughts. I don't know how to ask him. I wish for nothing more than to stay here in his arms. I don't know how to tell him. I wish I could break the pain and the silence of this ritual that we perform every night. I don't know how to.
“I should go now,” I say. I press my lips against his cheek. I feel his eyes following my every movement as I rise from the bed. Cleaning myself up hurriedly, I fumble about the room gathering up my hastily discarded clothes. I try to avoid the coldness of his stare. The hardness of it.
“We must keep up appearances,” I tell him. He hates me as I say it. I hate myself. But how else can I cling to the pretense that I am a proud southern gentleman instead of an old fool in love with a former slave? I slip quietly out the door. I tell myself this is the last time. Another lie to add to the thousands more that I have saved up over a lifetime.
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