The next day at Marlena’s place was an eye-opener in more ways than one.
“I know you understood what happened yesterday,” she said in the afternoon when I had finished lunch.
“It’s okay, Marlena,” I said.
“It’s not okay with me,” she said. “I cannot keep this within me anymore. I want someone to hear me without judging me. Will you be that set of ears?”
In that moment, Marlena looked haggard. She looked like she had aged a hundred years. I realized that she hadn’t bothered to put on much makeup even.
“When you are my age,” she began, “you will find that you have a past. Everyone has a past. Most people continue living that past till it becomes their present and then it doesn’t matter to them anyway. But I chose to leave that past behind. I didn’t want to hang on to it. And that’s precisely the reason why it has the power to haunt me.”
I kept looking at her without speaking, realizing what she had meant by wanting a set of ears.
“This is the past I don’t want to speak about,” she continued. “I want to keep it buried till it can haunt me no more. But there are some common bridges between then and now which don’t let me forget. Alex is part of them.”
“I know I must push him away,” she said, “maybe for his own good. But I can’t seem to stop him. He has been with me in ways that I cannot mention, but then he does these hurtful things, and I get confused. Being with him is difficult, but being without him is more difficult.”
That night, as I lay on my own bed back at home, waiting for the sleep that had become very elusive in those days, I mulled over what Marlena had said. I thought of Alex, the arch-villain in her life, and who had a right to her body, which I didn’t have. I felt I had grown taller in that month; then why would she not be with me? In a twisted way, I imagined that I was Alex, and I could force her to do things to me, and slowly that lulled me into a fitful sleep punctuated with broken dreams.
A day after that, I came closest to achieving my desires with Marlena.
It was the third Sunday that I was at her house. After she had opened out to me, we were no longer a babysitter and a ward—I guess we never had that kind of relation right from the outset. I, at least, now began to feel that she had begun looking at me with more respect. Probably it was because of the fact that I had heard out her ordeal with Alex patiently and because I hadn’t told it to anyone. She recognized the fact that I could keep an important secret. No mere boy can do that; only true men can keep secrets buried within their bellies till they don’t matter anymore.
We had watched a movie together. It was Casablanca, and I would never have watched it by myself, but she sort of forced me into it. It turned out to be one of those classics that had an intriguing story as well, and I was hooked to it till the very end. By the time Rick spoke the line, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” my heart was beating with emotion. The movie had definitely affected Marlena too, who though she was not watching it for the first time, had moist eyes. Then I understood that the moistness could not have been because of the movie but because of some raw nerve that the movie had touched.
But then she did something that I would never forget. In fact, the reason I am writing this tale is because of this particular incident.
For the entire length of the movie, she had sat on a chair and I was on the couch, but when the movie got over, she came and sat right next to me. She sat so close that our thighs brushed against each other. I debated the appropriateness of this, when I felt the now-familiar hardness between my legs. In my fantasies, I had always wanted this to happen with Marlena, but now when it was really happening, all I could feel was utter shame.
However, Marlena’s eyes were fixed upon my face. She looked at me with those moist reddened eyes, her makeup back to an extent, and held my jaw.
The kiss was smooth. Her lips were exactly as I had imagined them to be. They felt like the marshmallows I enjoyed so much, and tasted like some exotic fruit.
I was naïve, untutored in these things, but I knew that I had to do something.
As I felt the tenderness of her lips, I pursed my own. Tepidly, I bit her lower lip, and then the upper one. We caressed each other for a long time, probably for a few minutes, our hands firmly placed on each other’s backs.
Then my eagerness got the better of me. I parted my lips slightly, and brought my tongue out, using it to feel her lips. I knew she liked it, for she let out a slight moan, and that accelerated me all the more. I shoved my tongue into her mouth. She didn’t part her lips willingly for that, but by now I was so heated up that nothing could have stopped me. I used my tongue to part her lips further, and further, till I could feel her tongue.
And it was at this exact electric moment that she pushed me away from her.
It was not just a push; it was a violent shove. It felt as though I was some kind of animal creeping on her body and she wanted to get me off her. I fell backward on the couch and my head hit the sidearm of the couch. It later turned to a small bump, but as it was well-hidden by my hair, I never did have to face any questions about it.
When Marlena saw that I had been hurt, she was filled with remorse. She held me close, and cried.
“I am so sorry, so sorry… I didn’t mean this to happen, just got carried away. Will you ever forgive me?”
I didn’t know what to say. I said nothing. She had come to me, she had initiated the kiss and then she had decided to fling me away; and yet, I wasn’t angry with her. And I continued sitting in silence on my end of the couch, and she retracted to hers.
We sat for a long time in that silence, till night began to fall outside. Finally, the silence was disrupted by yet another doorbell.
Doorbells at Marlena’s house were quite rare, and I was secretly thankful for that, because they never brought any good news.
This time, my mother was at the door, and her eyes were red too.
“Jeff… I have come to take you… You have to come with me. Your Grandma… she is no more.”
Continue to the concluding Part 5.