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La Petite Mort
© 2000 by Isabelle Carruthers

Waking slowly, Elisabeth is first aware of the noise of the television and the lights she had left on when she fell asleep on the couch. A moment later, she is fully conscious of the heat of his mouth and his fingers, sliding inside the cotton crotch of her panties. Ben does not speak, and it is not necessary for him to tell her. She knows, from the way he touches her, that someone has died.

He has witnessed death so many times, sometimes horrific and bloody in the emergency room, at others almost unnoticed at the bedside of a child. It is not death, but the confrontation with mortality, that disturbs him so. When he comes home at the end of his shift, he takes her where he finds her -- on the couch, in the bed, on the dining room table. At these times, there is a desperate intensity to his lovemaking, and he does not stop until she comes, or pretends to. Sometimes he doesn't reach climax himself, but just collapses against her, too exhausted and worn down by the stress of caring for the sick and dying, sapped by their fear. He is unable to give anything more of himself, but feeds on her love like a parasite, leaving her drained, devoid even of the will to breathe.

Tonight there is no seduction, no whispered kiss against her cheek, only his need for her skin, white and soft, ageless. He is demanding in his knowledge of her body, pushing his fingers into her with persistent rhythm, as if searching for the source of her pulse, for immortality inside her womb. His mouth stops her heart and then resuscitates her, again and again, until she gasps for air, her heartbeat frantic under his palm.

Having accomplished his mission, Ben pulls away and kneels on the floor between her open thighs with a puzzled look on his face.

"You've got a white pubic hair," he observes, leaning closer for a better look. His brow furrows as if he is inspecting an unusual injury.

Still recovering her senses, and in a most vulnerable position, Elisabeth struggles to think of a witty response. Drawing her knees together now will be too suspicious.

"Can't be... maybe it's just blonde," she murmurs. She wishes she had remembered to switch off the lights before falling asleep.

"No... no, it's white. And not just one. There's more." Ben moves closer and his hands clasp her inner thighs, pushing her legs farther apart. His breath is warm against her skin, but his touch has become clinical and inquisitive.

Elisabeth stares at the ceiling as his fingertips comb gently over the soft fur between her legs, in the way that archeologists sift through bones in a prehistoric grave. She can hear him counting under his breath as her immortality slips away.

Copyright © 1999 Isabelle Carruthers. All rights reserved.

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