That Which We Call a Rose ***A story for adults***

*Author's Note: A Flash-Forward (but a stand-alone) story in the Beyond the Stained Glass Arc

This story follows the events underway in the still unfinished novel Iron Behind the Velvet, however, you do not need to have read that story or any others on this site. This one stands on its own, simply the account of an evening in for Vincent and Catherine.

It is, perhaps, not safe for work, although there are no steamy illustrations (yet). :-)

My thanks to e e cummings for his literary example of the use of parentheses, and to Pablo Neruda for the paraphrase of the subtitle. If you haven't, you should read his Ode. It's wonderful.

That Which We Call a Rose1
~ An Ode to A(nother) Naked Beauty2

She would soon be home.

As if he stood in the doorway of her new office one hed never visited, might never visit he saw sensed shared the closing of her work day. With her, he sighed out the sad necessity of her concentrated efforts; as she, turned his face to the wide arched, stone trimmed window shed delighted in describing, in having Saw, as she must, the late afternoon light through beveled panes skitter rainbows across casework still open on her desk. Joined, even at his distance, the ritual shed so immediately, so innately devised the slow folding shut of the last file, her hands resting reverent on it, one atop the other, a moment of regret that her training was so required, a following of gratitude for the privilege that she was there and able. Appreciation for her colleagues advice the day ends the evening away, a restorative night, more than wishful thinking. The switching of her telephone to answer, the decisive off-pull of her desk lamps chain an allowance of joy, of anticipation the gathering of her things

Nearly an hour yet until he would gather her close, in his arms, to his heart.

Only an hour

He was three levels down at work at the very perimeter of their lands. Half the tools the community owned, it seemed, were arrayed on ledges and outcrops of the passageway or stowed in lantern-lit niches; he was sure hed used each one more than once since his late and short-taken lunchtime. He commenced his own concluding ritual the consolidation of hammers with mauls with wedges, wrenches with pliers, picks with rakes with shovels, ropes and chains with come-alongs and hoists. A relief crew would soon arrive to labor through the evening, would likely strew the tools as dramatically as had he given the complexity of their task. Best efficient and considerate to leave the area neat. As the second shift would for the third, as the midnight-to-daybreak team he regularly encountered on his return to the job site would for him.

There. He draped his laden, new leather tool belt over a jag of rock one configured for the left-handed, a gift from Catherine. (Who would have ever thought? But, oh, yes, it did make a difference.)  He would have no need of it overnight, surely, or the next day his classroom day: Intermediate Latin (which hed not taught in enough years to require more than a little homework), first, then second level Shakespeare (which he would simply wing). Besides, Damien, on evening shift, was left-handed, as were two on the midnight crew, hed discovered. Theyd appreciate the design, the configuration of the pouches and loops, his stone mauls with the special grips.

And without it, he could travel fractionally faster.

Without consult of a watch, he knew if he set off now, he would meet his replacements in the second level grand roundabout, and if he hurried, he could make his turn on to the encircling stone staircase and be halfway up and along when they passed below him. Too far apart to stop for talk. Thered been no surprises or setbacks at the site; his progress there would be self-evident. A thumbs-up and a wave from him would do.

No doubt one or two in the group would recognize his focused haste, would grin at the thought of the friendly ribbing question theyd not be given the opportunity to ask.

There was somewhere hed rather be.

His luck almost held.

The corridors of the communitys center were always trafficked; he would encounter unavoidable conversation if he took the most direct route home. But he knew another throughway, more a meandering detour than a short cut, narrow and steep another heck of a climb if youre carrying something or not, Jamie often groused and so less popular, less populated. Generally.

Vincent!  the twins called out, having spied him upon rounding a corner. Their already noisy tromping speeded up, stirring up quite a bit of dust. You gotta see this!

This was the contents of their pockets, a days worth of explorations. Luckily, Vincent thought, a school day, the otherwise-occupied time allowing fewer free hours and thus fewer finds to exclaim over or comment on. Indeed, the albino cricket in a pierced box was unusual; the dull, pitted knife forged from an iron half-horseshoe definitely keepable if not serviceable. The absolutely huge peel of bronzed mica theyd harvested, big enough for a mirror, for a magic mirror, was back in their chamber and needed his seeing to believe. Later, he pinky-swore, his promise enough to send the boys on their curious, earnest, indefatigable way and him leaping the next staircase up two steps at a time.

The laundry was but two corridor turns ahead. And just beyond the laundry, one of their common washrooms no bathing pool, but quick-running shallows beneath a waterfall sluicing within a rounded drape of flowstone. Dubbed The Car Wash by the tunnel children, it was a forceful shower. Step in even filthy with grit, dust, and the particular sweat resulting from arduous labor performed at 56 degrees, step out doused, scoured, and rinsed.

Early on, hed arrived home with still-damp hair. Catherine had walked gladly into his open arms but he sensed something behind her smile and sweet greeting kiss, almost a (and oh, it wounded him to name it, even now when he knew better ) disappointment. A suffered small loss at least, though of what he was unsure.

Until he asked.

Use your words, hed implored.

And after an astonished moment, after a slow-breaking smile had overtaken her (in retrospect, a rather triumphant smile), she had.

Even with their bond, words were necessary.

Even with their bond, words could be breathtaking.

Could you shed ventured from where she sat on the edge of their bed. Her voice was hesitant at first, tender with consideration, but never un-strong, never unsure. Would you shower here instead? I love how you come home from work the way you smell of earth and mineral, the streaks of dirt on your face marking the hours of your effort. I want to unlace your boots and your vest, take the hem of your sweater in my hands and free you your hair your skin

Shed risen and advanced on him, demonstrated, divesting him (literally, she would later chuckle against his shoulder), inching the knitted wool up and over his head, then his undershirts, all of them one after another. Each layer gone sent a ripple of thrill through him. His hair she brushed back from his face, back over his shoulders, her palms stroking down over his deltoids, his biceps, his forearms, skimming then along the waist band of his jeans to their straining button fly, her thumb deftly loosing the uppermost stud. (An embodied presence warned him Unmanly to faint.) Stroking, stroking up from his belly, over the planes of his abdomen to the hollow of his sternum, her fingers threading into the water-whorled fur on his chest.

Shed looked up at him

Oh, Vincent, every moment were apart, I want to know I want to take your whole day inside me. The tunnels dark places, the flicker of torchlight. Your trials large and small, your wins

He remembered smiling at that last hed wanted to know the same but then she stopped talking and instead

She drew near, nearer His paired step quickened.

Now, unless he was caked in mud as had been the very uncomfortable case the day before he passed up the preparative ablutions to bathe at home, with her more often than not. Still, he thought, he should stop in at the laundry. It was their day; in the stone bin labeled with their names hed find a stack of fresh clothes.

Those on chore duty had finished for the day; he was alone in the chamber. The scent of lavender and cedar oils lingered in the air breezing from the dryer chutes. The natural sinks swooshed and gurgled. Water streamed hot here, trickled lukewarm there, welled cool or icy-cold in the different basins. Catherine contended everything laundered here smelled like diamonds and opals. Belows perfume, she declared, buying office-wear blouses that could be hand-washed instead of dry-cleaned. Three of the softest hung in one of the steam hollows now, billowing and luminous, blossom pink, bisque, fawn brown

Into a purposed duffel, he layered his flannel shirts, his corduroys, his tucked-together socks, finding next Catherines favorite tunnel robe. He shook it out, held it up for inspection it had been spectacularly stained the night before.

His breath hitched to a sharp stop; his vision blurred at the memory.

The night before


At his arrival in the doorway, shed turned from the rosewood library table they used both for study and for dining, for blissful, favored, too-rare suppers-in, just the two of them, a stoneware flask in one hand full of red wine, he would subsequently note two finely-turned wooden long-stemmed goblets clutched in the other. Her smile had been unshadowed, assuredly glad, but then

She righted the glasses, set the bottle on the table. On planted hands, she leaned back on the broad, polished top. (He would later, much later, recall the scent of lemons.) Youve cleaned up, she pointed out.

Her dismay had been playful, even flirtatious an almost corporeal, amorous chord resonated from her but he was compelled to explain, to apologize. A pipe separated, he told her, full of oozy sediment. Surprised, hed been caught in the glopping, was then mired in the silt on the tunnel floor, lost a boot endeavoring to slog out of the muck, executed a full-body, slow-motion slide into the molasses-colored puddle.

Of course, she first ascertained his well-being (and refrained from laughing, which was more than his coworkers had managed), but the corner of her mouth quirked quirked in that way her way at once easing his worries that he would always be acceptable in her sight and suggesting he might try just a little harder. Hed promised, after all.

The mud was too much to wear home, Catherine.

She nodded and sighed sighed again.

The neckline of her robe a -V- deepening with each beguiling breath, he saw an ivory radiance, a rose-dark divide, wanting nothing nothing more than to dwell there in that light, in that shadow.

He closed the distance between them in swift strides. His hand landing low on the small of her back, he drew her up and close; his mouth ignited roses on the cream canvas of her throat. Trailing two fingers down the valley of her breasts, he hooked a claw in the lapped fabric, opened the plum velvet robe to its satin sash. The lapels binding caught on her pearled nipple and he thumbed it away, the soft, heavy, warmth of her breast filling his cupped hand, his cupped hand cupping more the way hed learned she liked.

They drew apart just. Her chin lifting, her lips parting. Her breath a sweet-hot mix with his. In her gaze, his reflection ravenous, fervid and yes, self-vigilant. In her gaze a call, thirst and hunger and permission.

All permission

With but a single condition.

Use your words.

(Had she been hoping, planning, waiting to reissue his plea, his admission? A teaching moment, perhaps? It seemed to have brought her a delight deeper than hed initially intuited. My delight and thy delight, he ruminated. He had much to learn, but was he not an enthusiastic student? A setter-forth of goals? An achiever?)

Vincent! Words! I want to hear.

Her voice was graveled, rucked up with need and the lusty jest shed (somehow, simply) known saved him from confounding, stymieing circumspection.

(My desire and thy desire. The poem rushed in in full. Twining to a tongue of fire, leaping live and laughing higher.)3

His spellbound stillness broken, he pushed the robe from her shoulders and in the act overturned the unstoppered stoneware bottle. One embroidered patchwork sleeve sponged up the garnet cabernet that puddled out. The two wooden goblets toppled and rolled to the far edge of the table. He sank to his knees before her on the thick rag rug of their kitchen chamber to breathe her in, to touch his tongue to lave and taste and encircle, to suckle, to rasp gently to insist more gently still to lead and follow, lead and follow, lead and follow to the crest, the crest

Beyond deep-rumbling, pleasured growls, hed uttered not a single word. But then all sigh and song and intimate guidance neither had she, save the husky challenge murmured into his bare shoulder as he carried her to their private bathing chamber.

You owe me now, Vincent.

These debts he would gladly amass; these debts he relished repaying, should it if only it would take a lifetime.


Though it had thoroughly soaked in, cuff to collar, the wine stain, he noted, examining the sleeve in the light of a blazing torch, was undetectable. Perhaps these mineral waters were magical. Or, more likely, someone on laundry duty knew just the treatment to employ. Either way, Catherine would be glad to have it back. Nothing was as soft against her skin, shed declared, except your kisses, except your touch, except your breath, except the fur of your belly, the sweep of your hair. With a tamped-down groan, he refolded the robe to a neat package, fit it in the duffel, drew tight the bags strings, situated the strap over his shoulder, fairly galloped out.

She was home.

Ahh. A good sign, a very good sign. Her purse hung from the finial of the old oak sideboard that flanked their entry. Her briefcase leaned against its hazy, beveled mirror The book she was currently reading on her commute, during lunch lay on one of the cabinets display shelves. She was learning, she said, to truly leave work, to be comfortable not pouring over files well into the night. Learning (as was he) to let go. But so much was new, the change shed accepted so sudden (a circumstance with which he empathized), the responsibilities so different, the effect of her actions more immediately consequential sometimes she did need to study.

(The pages of his slow-crafted Latin syllabus fluttered in a quickened breeze of should before lifting off, taking flight to a far, far corner of his mind.) 

But not this evening. The legal casebook was closed on a bookmark a receipt, he couldnt help but notice, from Annie Artusos, his new favorite among those bakery establishments near her work. The tres leche cake with strawberries and french vanilla filling had been

(Orgasmic? Catherine had teased after his third blissful bite. Unable to take the joke, hed protested, Not even close!)

Had she

Hed just opened the book to the serrated slip of paper to read the (hopefully) confirming print when, in the mirror, he caught movement. He raised his gaze to meet hers reflected. Silly of him, he knew, to blush, but she did bear an expression of un-surprise.

For later, was all she said. However, her summoning smile her disappearance into the corridor leading to their bathing chamber the cast-off silk and lace he bent to retrieve from the floor as he hurried after her spoke more delicious volumes.

And of now

He was only steps behind her, one of the thirsty Egyptian cotton towels shed brought below wrapped around his waist, but already she had thrown hers off. Exquisitely naked on their bed, she was on her knees sitting back on her heels. Candlelight caressed her, illuminated all the places he intended to, her alabaster skin rosy from their heated soak.

(The bathing pool, the waters being warm, had less of an effect on him than did the cold swimming under the falls, but recovery did take some time a phenomenon hed felt necessary to explain early on. Shed nodded sympathetically through his sober narration, afterward taking his hand, pressing it to her cheek in all seriousness he presupposed, her only response, Shrinkage. Yes, Ive heard of that. Theyd both hooted with laughter (a first for him, their physicality a sacred experience) (and, in truth, shed had to start it.)

She reached out for him now and he stepped closer.

(Recovery, immediate and unabbreviated Full-dress, shed once remarked.)

Tell me again, she murmured, stroking his flanks. What do you call this?

Ecstasy, elysium. Rapture.  But that wasnt what she meant.

Your this,she prompted, her hands playing over the ledge of muscle ranging from his hips to his groin.

Her touch speeded his heart rate, unsteadying him. He found it necessary to brace himself with a deep mental inhalation, and the ridge popped more prominently out.

Did she truly expect him to speak? Her arched brows, the bold glint in her eyes, her smile half-charming, half-commanding (and entirely undeniable) suggested so.

He owed her, after all.

Pay up. What could be sweeter? Perhaps he might find out.

Its often referred to as the lowermost abdominal muscle, he began, having summoned up a (jittery) mental diagram of anatomy (and his game).The pedantic tone he assumed was unnervingly familiar, and not just to his ears, either, judging by Catherines unsuppressed grin, but his only hope if he were to play through. (He would prove ummm up to the task.) But its more than that, he went on. A set of developed core muscles, direct and indirect, tied closely with low body fat …” (Here he allowed a tinge of pride to color his narrative. She told him he was beautiful, and there were moments he believed.) “… each layer of muscle contracting in its own direction, each pushing against the layer above it so that its raised. 

I suppose posture plays into it, she murmured, all innocence. And the act of flexing. Too slowly she untucked his tented towel. Her smile widened. Are you flexed now, Vincent?

Im trying to stay erect, he almost said. He laughed inwardly at his unuttered Freudianism, blushed overtly, he was sure, judging from her soft chortle and the heat that shot up from the core he did indeed have flexed to hopefully remain standing. He shifted his feet farther apart. Now the corrugation of his thighs amplified. If she touched him he might well

So this muscle group …” she nudged, her roaming hands staying north of no more talking.

His gaze directed over her bare shoulder into the halo of a flickering pillar candle, he obliged her. Innermost, the Tranversus Abdomimis. A large, thin sheath that wraps around the belly between the rib cage and the hip.

Here? she asked, exploring.

He snagged his top lip between his incisors.  Yes, he managed. The middle layer the Obliquus Internus Abdominis is a thicker version of the transverse abdominals that pulls in a different direction.

Ummmm, she murmured, and he fleetingly believed talk was done. Go on, she encouraged. No insisted.

The topmost layer, the Obliquus Externus Abdominis, is the more visible muscle. Father would be proud of his memory, his fortitude, his endurance. (Another Freudianism? an underlying presence crowed.) Then


Her hands

Sweet angel of mercy, her hands

So those are the direct muscles, she acknowledged. What about the indirect ones. Affirming shed been listening, affirming a self-discipline he would soon be no match for. Tell me.

We will endure. We will

Beloved mantra, save me a few minutes longer. Surely, only a few

The Rectus Abdominis here.  He captured one of her hands, held it flat to his belly. The more developed they are, the more they push out toward, even over, the obliques. He guided her hand down down. The Quadriceps Femoris, the upper front muscles of the legs tie to the top of the pelvis at the Crest of Ilium.

Is that it?

(He expected her to laugh.)

The Extensor Spinæ, the erectors, he got out before she did indeed chuckle, low in her throat and not behind her hand or with a look away, but with her gaze locked with his, the ribbon of their bond drawing taut and combustible. Later, hed explain the erectors were those muscles that lined ones lower spine.



Spent. Flat on his back, the pronounced muscles shed had him describe had relaxed; the laddery ridges were smoothed out. She rested a quieting palm on his heart.

Do you know what I used to call that muscle group? she asked.

He shook his head, having not quite gathered enough breath for conversation.

My college girlfriends and I dubbed it the hip dip. Now I know it by another name.

And that is ?

The -V- muscle. Yours is spectacular. Singular. Like you.

Singular. She made him glad for it.

She turned to him, rose to him from her nestle in the crook of his arm. The brush of her hair, the graze of her breasts, her kisses along of his sternum stirred a reserve.

And this …” Her hand drifted over the rise of his ribs to the flat plain of his abdomen where she toyed with the vortexing hair leading from his navel, the dense, arrowing line of coiled curls. What I call this

His breath was rasping up again. He had no name for it could he have spoken.

My happy trail, she told him, following it on to glory land.


Your robe came clean, he reported. I stopped in at the laundry. Its in the duffel if you want it if you need to get up. With lips fitted to the curve of her shoulder, he whispered each phrase purred higher higher along the column of her throat, the last at the lobe of her ear which he took between his teeth.

She shivered beneath him (though with unmistakable pleasure) and drew up one knee. Not yet, said the press of her thigh to his flank. Above her head on the mounded pillows, her hand lazed open. He laced his fingers with hers, settled deeper.

Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words, she murmured.

Plautus. The Asinaria 835. Hoc agitemus convivium vino ut sermone suavi. Tomorrows Latin lecture. She must have read the notes hed left on the kitchen table, the very table shed had to clear the night before, before they, ummm, spilled the aforementioned wine.

Surely she didnt mean for him to

The kitchen is too far away.He would not leave their bed. Not with her pulse quickening against his mouth, not with the dewey heat both reminiscent and blooming at their loins. As if in bonded accord, she drew her toes up along the length of the back of his leg, her bent knee, the possession of her thigh locking him close.

He knew he smiled, felt his being smile. She hadnt meant

A languid shift, an artful arch of her spine and his locus was drawn down, his gaze

(Naked, the poem came to mind, as simple as a hand, smooth, earthy, small transparent, round)4  to the contour of her waist, the broadening of her hipbones, (moon lines and apple paths) (subtle and curved) in the champagne-colored light. To the display of her breasts, their full swell courting his fondle, the petal-soft nipples stiffening before his eyes. He imagined the tensed peak fitted again within the cleft of his lip, his tongue insistent against the pearl the dense fragrance of sunbeam and flower answer flaring from her body.5

His hunger great, growing greater.

Her breath trembled in, rushed out. The respiration shuddered the delicious length of her.

She wanted. And he would make it so. He had and would give her more.

His fingers were still threaded with hers.

If only she would turn him loose.

More, Vincent.

What? Had she Could she read his thoughts?

More words. You owe me. Remember?

For a moment he was dumbfounded.

And for yet another. Hadnt he already uttered (a remarkable) several? Transversus. Obliquus. And then the report of the well-laundered robe?

She brought their still-clasped hands down, disengaged her fingers, urged his open palm to her breast, fastened it close with hers. Lush sweet promise filled his senses, the strong beat of her heart.

The shimmer of laughter.

Courage easily finds its own eloquence, she quoted.

Plautus again. Plautus had once said so, though he doubted the Roman dramatist had delivered it with the same (tender but, well, cheeky) expression on his face as did Catherine.

All right then. Catherine, you are …” Beautiful. Beyond dreams. Unpredictable. “… feeling your oats, as Father would

She cut him off, pressing hard two fingers to his parted lips (and from the cup of her breast his caress moved not reluctantly, for there was no part of her he did not delight in, but somewhat modestly somewhat anticipative to the slope of her hip). (Brace yourself, his shadowy, prescient, internal entity coached.)  

Father has nothing to add to this conversation, she grumbled cheerily. Between their abutting bodies, her hand roamed lower And thats not what Im feeling.

Once more, evermore, he was dumbfounded.  And gladdened.

Noticeably so. 

Catherine, when you touch me–”

Yes. No question in her tone, her answer was a bold and hungry challenge tinged with blithesome dare.

Ahh. Ahhhh.

A certain light at last slanted in.6

He urged her to lie back. That certain light bathed her body.

He adored her.

Before hed been all words (both too many and too few). His hearts truth had dwelt in the silence beneath them, when what had seemed unsayable between them went as deep as the abyss.

Now he would adore her.

In deed

and in word.

He would never tell Father, certainly none of his students, but poems committed years ago to memory served him well on this impassioned occasion. Granted, some if not most of the remembered stanzas came from poetry collections kept in Fathers reserve, those volumes shelved highest, lodged behind a tattered row of pure dullness, in theoretic protection of the too-young and impressionable until such a time which for tunnel girls and boys making midnight forays to the darkened library was about thirteen years old. That late? Father had exclaimed when theyd finally discussed the special collection (and the more modern additions to it he felt necessary.)

Game though it was, a lovers game, he performed rather more than adequately, he judged, given Catherines blaze and staggered breathing. They were learning to make fire after all.7

He began at her ear, at the pale shell of her ear, his words soft-spoken there, all yearning wish and answered dream. All taste and scent and pulse.

You are the one I am lit for, he told her. I am the bush, I am burning, I am not consumed.8

License my roving hands, and let them go before, behind, between, above, and below.9

At the ridge of her scar: And all her face was honey to my mouth, and all her body pasture to mine eyes.10

At the corner of her lips: We aligned mouths, we entwined. The interlock of tongues, the charms of arms. I shook at the touch …” 11

At the advance of her bosom (no longer in just his imagination)12: How soft your breasts, Catherine how glorious the weight in my hands. And when I lay my lips between those glories, 13 I glory at the live, insatiate dance of your nipples in my mouth 14

And so he progressed, lightly, from the hollow of her throat to the creases of her wrists. Slowly, over the ridges and valleys of her ribs to the cap of her knee. Every landmark noted by tongue and by touch the delicacy of the inside of her elbows, the shallow well of her navel, the plateau of her belly, the concavity at her hip bones. (Only you, she would whisper later (for at the time she was inarticulate) (paradised, she would call it), only you can make pelvic girdle sound like something Im glad to have.) 

the gate of her thighs.

Her acceptance of him, her affirmation time after time, even now her welcome. He wasnt confident his own words were enough. How might he phrase the rapture of ravishment, of ravishing? The intoxication of her desire, the velvet heat, the harmony, the heights, the transport of her taking of him?

Thy thighs are white horses yoked to a chariot of kings between them is always a pleasant song. Thy legs are the trees of dreaming whose fruit is the very outage of forgetfulness.15

Beautiful, wide-spread, fire upon leaf, what meadow yields so fragrant a leaf as your bright leaf?16

I like kissing this and that of you.17

At the heart of the bloom, the flutter of petals. The slow, slow discovery of secret echoes.

Yes. Oh, yes. He did love kissing her.

Of this loving hed long dreamed too lightly; before her, untouched, he could never have imagined the cleave of the clasping and the sweet-fleshd days.18 And after Now the divine luminescence of her beauty, her courage, her unguardedness so absolute, so compelling

A flood of sweet fire swept over him.19 They were something that had never been, but were and would be. This he cherished. This he believed.

And he found the words his own.

With a replete sigh, she rolled to her belly.

Alongside her, conformed to the curve of her, he rose on the brace of his arm. He tugged out an edge of the cream cotton sheet, the hem of the waffle-weave blanket, drew the linens over her, snugging and smoothing. Without audible protest but with knee and foot, she shoved them off again. Mirth-lines rayed at the corner of her eye.

She was not sleepy. Or yet repaid.

Silken-honey strands fanned her shoulders. He took a lock in his hand, skimmed along its liquid length with a fist, let it flow free from his fingers. Brushed her hair aside, exposed the nape of her neck. Leaned in close.

The hum of her dream, a rhapsody deep inside him.

You are the risen sun, Catherine, the dawn of my life. You have loved me awake.

He passed a flatted hand out and back over the breadth of her shoulders … “So vulnerable,he whispered, the weight of the world in their bearing. And so strong, so squared with mission, so willing. The ridge of your clavicle, the promontory of your scapula …”

and drew the tips of his fingers slowly down

“… the inward pull of the trapezius, the latissimus dorsi , the erector spinae that form this long low land. I like to feel the spine of your body,he murmured,and its bones and the trembling firm-smoothness and which I will again and again and again kiss.20

With his palm, he warmed the small of her back, with a thumb traced the sidelining indentations. Sweet topography of the sacroiliac, the fossae lumbales laterales. Dimples of Venus, a goddess-gift these hollows.

He shifted his weights balance, rising over her, bending to her, touching his lips to either shadowed depression. His hair swept her skin, skin that quivered with the contact the vision wondrously overwhelming. Body of a woman …” it came to him. White hills, white thighs dark river-beds where the eternal thirst flows

Body of my woman 21

White hills?

Startled, he pulled back, tipped his head. Had Catherine spoken? Her head was turned on the pillow, her cheek flushed, her eyes (well, the one he could see) closed, her breathing deep but amorously elevated. (Enchanted, she would later describe her state, most definitely not asleep.) Her lips were slightly parted but not curved in even the smallest smile. Everything signaled encouragement, contentedness. He returned (not to his task or to his efforts, but) to their pleasures.   

With both hands he cupped her

Your–” he began at the same time.

He would not say buttocks. The word was homely. Unlovely. And hers were neither, nor.

Her what, then? He might easily describe the velvety heat in the bend of her knee, the powerhouse of her calf, but her

My what, Vincent?

Now there was no doubt shed voiced his faltered thoughts, though the sudden cessation of his sensual soliloquy (Pride goeth before ? Father (who should certainly know) had regularly so admonished) and the freeze of his tactile journeying would be evidence enough to prompt her question, she a trained litigator after all. (Exhibit A, Exhibit B. Was Exhibit C far behind? Oh, Erato, muse of lyric, love, erotic poetry, fail me not! Not now!)

He chanced a look up. Her eyes were still closed, but her grin, half hidden in the pillow though it was, was the very definition of sportive (spirited, frisky, naughty either, or, and all).

She waited.

Waited longer.

He didnt need a mirror to see his expression (thankfully, hed not made good on her offhand (and tantalizing) suggestion a week or so ago that it might be fun to position one just so) the rise and arch of his brows, the sure drop of his jaw the dismay, the blankness the reaches of his mind so white-clouded and gauzy he could only feel his way

At that last (Freudian again? His Relief theory of humor? Or Kants or Schopenhauers theories of Incongruity? If he remembered this moment, hed research it later)  a bubble of laughter rose, damping his gathering roar of (modest) frustration, granting him respite, a reflective moment.  Perhaps he should stop while he was, if not exactly ahead, then

But the near-pulling-back of his caressing hands met with her throaty unh-unh and a bewitching twitch of her gluteal muscles (another term he found poetically lacking given the comeliness of Catherines the alluring definition, the proportion, the symmetry of her).   

My backside? she volunteered. My posterior? My rear-end?

No, no, and no.

My rump? My caboose?

He shook his head, hoping something lovelier would jar loose. Where were cummings D. H. Lawrence Sappho when he needed them?

My booty? Oh, wait, wait. My tail-feather as in shake it? (Which she did.)


Now she shifted, rolling to her side, hitching up on one elbow, releasing him to realign himself the same. Face to face now, thigh to thigh, her light-heart to his lightening one.

Your turn, she challenged, brushing his hair back over his shoulder. Something literary. I know youre searching.

He sighed. Really, white hills seemed the best he could dredge up, but there was no chance she'd allow a repeat.

Come on, Vincent.

Arse was Shakespearian. Bum, Chaucerian. Neither would do.

(Moreover, Father   to children about to receive an injection. Just a little jab in the bum.) No, times ten.


(Unacceptable. Devin would say that at least once a day. Up off your can, little brother.)

Duff. Keister. Hind-quarters. Seat.

Over the years, hed heard these mild synonyms from one elder tunnel dweller or another but for Catherines just, no.

Fundament, he ventured.

Blah, Catherine responded. Is that the best you can do?

Well, yes. Possibly so. Maybe.

She twisted her lips in disappointment, and oh, he couldnt bear that. Concentrate! he ordered himself.

Fanny? she suggested.

Fanny in America, meant well, fanny. And, the name deriving from the Greek god Fannes, the creator of the world, might, therefore, mean bright, and thus might serve. But fanny in England and Australia meant (so hed been told  Devin, again, years before he ever traveled there) something else altogether. He explained his reticence.

Show off.

He inclined his head in acceptance. Dipped in for a kiss.

Tokus? she trialed against his lips. Or is it tookis?

He drew back. You mean tokhes. Yiddish for From the Hebrew tákat, meaning–”

She coughed into her fist to disguise her very obvious amusement. Then how about tush? Tushie?

That sounds like a pillow.

She performed another beguiling twitch. Well?

I cant say that. Not to you. Not about your

About my what?

Full circle! The eternal return.  Theyd come back round and he was no further along. (Though to paraphrase Shakespeares Duke Orsino, if play be the food of love, play on )22


No, these …” He brushed the backs of his fingers to the contour of her face. “… are your very beautiful, very rosy cheeks.

She was not distracted. Buns, then. I think of yours (Often? he wanted to ask but didnt), all hard ridges and hollows. Hmmmm,  she purred and demonstrated, and indeed his maximus, medius, and minimus clinched in response.  Buns of steel.

Their kiss was long and sweet and slow and deep. And in the requiescence of the moment, something suitable materialized.

A good thing, too.

One more try, she murmured, so close in his arms. You still owe me.

Charming, treasured exactor. She chuckled at his naming, entirely satisfied, he thought, or she would be, if his one settled-upon word sufficed. Hopeful, he chanced it. Derrière.

Her smile was encouraging, her sigh like applause. (Bravo, but encore, he perceived.)

Yours is beautiful, he went on, round and firm and soft.

Isnt that a contradiction?

No. You are all things, Catherine. Everything. Everything that is right and perfect in my life.

Ah my love, ah my own,she whispered and nestled deeper. My love feeds on your love, beloved, and as long as you live, it will be in your arms.23


She sat up in bed, hitched back against the pillows mounded at the headboard, stretched both arms out and up, folded them behind her head. Where are you going?

Hed pulled on the gray sweat pants shed gifted him, had just tied the white drawstring tight. To work.Next on, a knitted henley, the blue sweater she liked best.

Back to the job site?she asked when his head cleared the second neckline. Tonight?

No, no,he said, digging clean woolen socks from the laundry duffel after hanging her robe on the hall tree standing bedside. He sank to the edge of the mattress to tug them on. To the kitchen.

Ill come with you. Im hungry.

Catherine I have to completely rework my Latin lesson plan for tomorrow.

I meant that literally, Vincent.

She laughed and he felt himself color, but it was a pleasurable sensation.

Whats wrong with your plan?she asked, gliding out of bed and into her robe and chamber slippers. Plautus, right? I saw your notes.

There is no way I canI wont be able to keep a straight face, not after you quoted him. Celebrate with wine and sweet words. Courage finds its own eloquence.He waved his arm in the direction of their very rumpled bed and the color hed felt rise in his face burned hotter. Not, uh, not after ummm,” he stammered

Not after our rose by any other name game?She shuffled to the bureau and took up her hairbrush.

In the mirror he saw her grin and it was hardly innocent. Ahhhh! he cried. Ahhhhhh!

Dont tell me. Your first level Shakespeare class You were reading Romeo and Juliet tomorrow?

(She knew. She knew he knew she knew, too.) (Well, Macbeth then, or A Midsummer Nights Dream.)

They must change venues and subjects and quickly before she quoted anything suggestive from either.

Is there cake?he asked her, having moved up behind her, having slipped his arms around her waist, having pressed his cheek to her hair. She leaned back in his embrace.

I brought the tres leche you liked. You want desert first? I can make sandwiches.

Second desert,he murmured as bawdily as he dared.

I’ll follow thee,” she began, but he stopped her with a kiss beneath her ear (not that the rest of that particular quote applied at all, to anything), then gave her room at the dresser.24

He waited at their bed chamber’s entry for her, one shoulder lodged against the stone.
“Vincent, just so you know …” She looked up at him (eyes big love-crumbs).25 “We’re even.”

He took her hand, brought it to his lips. Blessed. He was so perfectly blessed. “For now, Catherine. For now.”


1 William Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet. Act II, scene 2.
2 Pablo Neruda. Ode to a Naked Beauty.
3 Robert Bridges. My Delight and Thy Delight.
4 Pablo Neruda. Naked.
5 Pablo Neruda. Love Sonnet XI (paraphrased).
6 Emily Dickinson. There's a Certain Slant of Light (paraphrased).
7 Margaret Atwood. Habitation.
8 Lucille Clifton. To a Dark Moses.
9 John Donne. To His Mistress Going to Bed.
10 Algernon Charles Swinburne. Love and Sleep.
11 W. H. Auden. The Platonic Blow.
12 Leonard Cohen. I perceived the outline of your breasts from The Energy of Slaves.
13 Robert Herrick. Upon Julias Breasts.
14 Adrienne Rich. Twenty-one Love Poems.
15 e. e. cummings. my love.
16 H.D. Sea Poppies.
17 e. e. cummings. i like my body when it is with your body.
18 Walt Whitman. I Sing the Body Electric.
19 D. H.  Lawrence. Love on the Farm.
20 ibid.
21 Pablo Neruda. Body of a Woman.
22 William Shakespeare. Twelfth Night. Act 1, scene 1
23 Pablo Neruda. If You Forget Me.
24 William Shakespeare. A Midsummer Nights Dream. Act 2, scene 1.
25 e. e. cummings. i like my body when it is with your body.


Anonymous said...

Oh Carole! This was lovely and so much FUN!! Bravo Vincent for finally finding the perfect word!

Anxious for more of ANYTHING!

Regards, Lindariel

Carole W said...

Thank you so much, Lindariel! Thanks for reading and saying nice things, and really thanks for still visiting after such a long nothing-to-see-here time. :-)


Anonymous said...

Honestly, "Use your words," a phrase normally associated with parents trying to help young children talk their way through conflict rather than resort to violence, takes on a COMPLETELY different meaning here!

I also like the implication that there is a point along the arousal spectrum at which Vincent becomes incapable of speech -- that point where the control of civility gives way to his more primal self. And that Catherine wants to make it easier and easier for Vincent to trust himself with her beyond that point.

Really nicely done!

Regards again, Lindariel

Vicky said...

Ah heck, so much for an intention... I am weak and couldn't wait! Oh myyyyyyy... How deliciously fun! Carole, I had missed you so! Oh but the duditory image of some of those words... what they do to each other, and what you do to us! Once again, thank you! And special thanks to our dear friend Pablo...

Carole W said...

Lindariel, that's it exactly! Thank you again. I wanted to write something light, but deeper too, a character-delve even through humor. Your thoughts on the story make me happy.

Carole W said...

Vicky, yay! I'm glad you enjoyed this one.

I know I/V is taking far too long to finish, but it matters that you've remembered it.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Meant to add OMG to that, because OMG! :D Thanks AGAIN!

Carole W said...

Anon ... Thank you!. You really perked up a gloomy day. Thanks so much for reading. :-)

Brit said...

Started this Saturday, read some on Sunday, finished today! Like Vincent, I don't know if I will be able to say "use your words" without an image of any part of this popping up as a video on replay. ^_^ well done! But of course, you should already know that you never disappoint.
Many hugs

Carole W said...

Brit, thank you! I'm really glad to hear you enjoyed the story. It's always nerve-wracking to publish something and it means a lot to me that you left a message.

Hugs back!

Anonymous said...

Dear Carole,

I am so happy you posted this story! It completely captures the intensity and fun of that "honeymoon" period of a relationship, with all its loving explorations and games.

When I read your writing, I feel less like I am reading a description of an event, or place, or time, and more like I am experiencing it, so that time. (Hubba, hubba. :) )

Just a few of my favorite lines:

"And without it, he could travel fractionally faster." - You subtly upped the tension, restraining the need (as he would) until it didn't have to be...restrained. You sold that Vincent couldn't wait for Catherine to return, but it wasn't over-the-top, over-dramatic. You sold it, but it was a soft-sell. That's perfect, and now I am totally jelly. How do you do that?!? :)

"I want to take your whole day inside me." - Exactly what Catherine, someone totally in love, would wish to do. Brava.

"'So this muscle group...' she nudged, her roaming hands staying...north of no more talking." - As others have said, I love the idea that there is that place in loving of "no more talking" For them to be able to play on that edge shows how far they have come. It is simply wonderful.

"...words soft-spoken there, all yearning wish and answered dream." - Ok, that's just too beautiful! (Hitting my head against the computer, wishing to be able to say something that good!)

This story truly captures Vincent's intelligence and reserve, Catherine's playful spirit and happiness, and both their ardor. It is just lovely. Thank you again for writing it.

Much respect and love,

Karen :)

Carole W said...

Karen, you encourage me so! I'm so grateful for the pulling-out, the highlighting of enjoyed lines. I am smiling ear to ear.

Thank you for reading (and for understanding how sweet it is to hear from the reader.) I just want to work harder now (if only faster!!)



NYC Utopia said...

You did it :)

Carole W said...

I did, Claire! I finished something finally!!

Thanks for reading. :-)