Includes adult themes of a sexual nature. Suitable for readers aged eighteen or over
She holds my hand in the back of the taxi and whispers in my ear, tells me I’m beautiful. Her words break my heart, make me happy, sad and beautiful.
Her proximity thrills me, the knowing I will be with her tonight, the thought of how she will taste, respond, give. I rest my cheeks on her shoulder and inhale her sweetness, the strangest of scents that infuse her hair, its olfactory rarity mingling with her feminine animalness to work magic on my senses.
I have to kiss her again. And then her lips are sticky sweet, her mouth copper and tart, tongue lush and pliant.
When the cab arrives at her home, we separate. It is a small death. I get out my purse to pay the driver, but she insists. And even though I see no money change hands, she tells the driver to keep the change.
I know this part of town. It’s rough, to say the least, even for a student district. The once-grand rooms of late Victorian and Edwardian villas are now partitioned, their splendour erased, tenanted at best by students, more often society’s toxic spillage.
“Well, this is it, ” she says. My expression of concern elicits her reassurances: “Oh, don’t worry, it’s nice inside. I have a room on the top floor. My garret.”
I look up at the façade of the house: large, neglected, completely uninviting. Ivy and Mile a Minute are in the last stages of consuming the entire facade. I wonder if I have been stupid to come here with this strange girl. Ahead of us, a path flanked by riotous foliage leads to an enormous double door that looks reclaimed from some abandoned fortress.
But neither of us moves, her parcels remaining at her feet as I turn to reassure myself, search her eyes for certainty. We kiss again, long and deep.
Then bawdy voices carried by the stillness of the night echo through the deserted street. Harsh, laddish jeering. I pull away from Chloe and look around.
Across the road from where we stand, a group of youths in hoods are walking towards us. As they approach, they kick an old Coke can ahead, back and forth to each other, one lad breaking from the pack and into a sprint when it travels too far, berating one another with gutter expletives for lack of skill. The hollow clanking of the makeshift ball grows louder every second. Under the wan side-street lamps, the group become a graphic art parody of a street gang.
One of the youths calls to us; something indecent, obscene. Stupidly I turn fully to face him. And then I see it: that we are a gift, the prey they have roamed the streets to find.
“You two of lesbos up for a bit of fun, then?” the foremost of the three sneers.
Chloe puts down her bags and turns to face them, steps forward to meet the big one head-on, the agitator who has contaminated the others with his “issues”. I step forward to take Chloe’s hand, try to make her step back. But she shakes my hand free, stands her ground.
“Chloe. Please! Let’s go into the house,” I plead with her.
“‘Please, Chloe. Let’s go into the house,’” A voice mocking me, “Do what mummy says, Chloe. Little girls like you should be all tucked up in bed by now.”
Their braying laughter. The funniest thing ever. A hand reaches out for Chloe’s breast. But before it makes contact, she grips his wrist and deftly twists. The youth screams, legs buckling, quickly brought to his knees by pain. I hear the crack of splintering bone.
For a moment, the others stare open-mouthed.
Then they go for her.
She is too fast, a blur among them. Shrieks of pain. Hers or theirs?
I fear for her, call to her, “Oh God! Chloe!”
Three are down, only one standing. The runt of the pack, he backs away, the fear in his eyes absolute, an utter dread that wracks his features. But there is more than fear; there is abhorrence, a recoiling from something that should never be. Seeing that look in the youth’s eyes as Chloe goes for him, I become afraid too. A palpable panic takes hold of my body, a dread that courses through me like iced water entering my veins. How can terror be contagious? But there is no reason. All I know is that someone else’s fear has become my own.
The other youths pick themselves up from the ground, readying themselves to come at her as one. But when she turns to them, it is as if they see who she is. And then their fear blossoms until one and then the next, with no regard for each other, run from her. Every man for himself, fleeing this way and that.
I look at Chloe, and she looks at me. Not a hair out of place as she smiles sheepishly. “I knew all that training would pay off one day,” she says. Eighth-dan, don’t you know.”
But even I understand that I have just witnessed something beyond martial arts. I start to protest. “But —” The words fail me. I am unable to rationalise what I have just seen because there is no explanation.
She comes to me, kisses me sweetly on the cheek, “There is a spiritual dimension to our discipline,” she says. “It helps that I’ve been training since — before you could imagine.”
She picks up her things, opens the gate and looks at me. “Don’t just stand there gawping. Are you coming in, or what?”
I follow her down the path that leads to the front door. It is so dark back here. Wayward branches brush my hair, my face. I have to duck and step quickly aside to avoid them.
At the door, she says:
“We’ll see if Pandora is home. She’s bound to have something you can borrow.” She looks me over in the light that spills from the panes above the door. “You’re about the same height, but she’s a bit skinnier. You might just squeeze into something of hers.”
“She lives on the ground floor — an artist. You’ll love her. So bohemian.” Her face betrays some private pleasure at the thought of her friend.
“Won’t she think it a bit cheeky?”
“A stranger like me — asking to borrow her clothes.”
“You’ve not met Pandora.”
Chloe unlocks the front door. There is a vestibule and an inner door that is stiff and needs pushing hard to free it from the frame. When I step over the threshold, my head begins to hum, then vibrate, and I feel an utter blackness descending as the world starts to spin. I panic, think I’m going to pass out. Chloe drops her bags and takes my arm. Just in time.
“I think so. Low blood sugar. I’ve not eaten since breakfast — and I drank too much last night.”
She waits for me to regain my composure. When I look ahead to take in my surroundings, I’m amazed. I’d expected peeling paint, the smell of damp and rotting skirting boards, bicycles on the stairs—the usual student-digs clichés. But this is the lobby of some five-star hotel: immaculate black and white tiled floor, polished woodwork, stout internal doors with big brass knobs and shiny plates, plasterwork of sharp cornices and Mouldings. Many large elaborately framed paintings line the walls between each door. At the far end of the hall is a wide staircase leading upwards. I look again and wonder if that staircase can be so far away and be so grand.
Chloe looks at me. “Told you it was okay, didn’t I? My room’s not so swanky, though.”
“This is student accommodation?”
“Everyone is special here.”
She smiles, amused by my confusion. Something passes between us, and I understand in an instant that this house is full of secrets — secrets she will soon share with me. Her smile is knowing promising complicity.
She leads me past the stout and polished doors that flank us like a guard of honour, stopping at one halfway along the hallway.
“Ta-da! Pandora’s room,” Chloe says, dropping her bags and extending her arms as if introducing the next turn at some comedy club. She knocks once and calls, “Pandora! Are you home, darling?”
A muffled voice responds, “Chloe? Just a moment, sweetheart.”
The door opens, then Pandora is greeting Chloe. Her voice is heavy with an accent I cannot place.
“Sweetheart! Was Chester a success?” Pandora enthuses. “Did you find that special something you needed so much that it hurt poor Chloe?” She kisses Chloe on both cheeks then turns her attention to me: “And a friend I have not seen before. How marvellous,” then turns back to Chloe, “Why does Chloe hide her beautiful friends from Pandora?”
Chloe tells me, “Ignore her, Arabella. She likes to lay it on thick. She’s really from Leeds.”
“Chloe is so unkind to poor Pandora,” Pandora says.
Pandora scrutinises me. Then all-of-a-sudden, she reaches out and slides her index finger along my jawline. “Exquisite! Such features are the bones.”
Instinctively, I recoil. But at the last second, I force myself to endure her touch, allow her fingers to map my jaw, chin, cheeks while fearing she may part my lips and examine my teeth. This outrage of intimacy sends a shiver of excitement down to my toes. I can’t believe I’m letting her appraise me like this. And yet, part of me is pleased to have met her approval.
“Pandora! You’re shameless. Behave yourself. Leave poor Arabella alone. What must she think of us!” Then turning to me, “Arabella, now you’ve met Pandora.”
Pandora’s hair is a night of volcanic terror, a torrent of flowing magma. Her eyes, acutely feline, are inscrutable. A fog of some exotic perfume enfolds her. It fills me with unanticipated desire. I offer my hand, but she ignores it. Instead, she embraces me like I am her long lost sister, kisses each of my cheeks in turn, the tip of her tongue covertly tasting me. She inhales deeply to capture my scent, assessing my worth as she sniffs my skin. But despite her outrageous theatrics, her proximity thrills me.
“Come in, both of you, please.” She’s standing aside now, holding the door open. As I enter her room, her deep-set eyes, heavy with mascara, burn bright with secret amusement.
She tells us to sit on a sofa covered in an enormous autumnal coloured damask throw. Side by side, Chloe and I watch Pandora moving here and there about her room. She is tall, graceful in her movements, not gangly at all. She flows more than moves. A master class in serenity, as if time is of no consequence. Her beauty is outré, otherworldly. She is fascinating to observe, holds my attention as if viewing some rare crimson Betta Fish in its tank.
My fingers agitated, stroking the throw beneath us. I look down and watch my fingers run over its needlework, appraise the quality of the stitching — quickly withdrawing my hand when I see the horror of the scene depicted, a web of medieval folk-art woodcuts of impaling and flowing blood.
I try to distract my racing mind, taking in the art that crowds the walls, the unframed pen and inks that lie scattered on the other sofa, the other works that lie unsorted on the table. I stand up and wander around the room as Pandora tells Chloe about her day. I examine oils and acrylics while Chloe explains to Pandora that I need to borrow a dress.
Landscapes abound, but the portraits gathered together at the far end of the room are what draw me, call to me. I weave my way among the furniture, heading for a closer look. I’m no art critic, but I am awed by what I see. She has captured some otherworldly essence in her subjects — or if not already present, imparted it. The paintings radiate an outré, eerie otherness.
One painting, in particular, mesmerises me. A young girl, sixteen or seventeen. A life-size work, the subject wrapped in some diaphanous fabric. She crouches on her haunches with her arms and hands clasped around her knees, pulling them tight against her chest. Her hair is long and the colour of daisy petals. A garland of tiny blood-red blooms crowns her beauty.
The background is an ocean upon which an incarnadine, full moon sheds its light. The girl is smiling, smiling an inscrutable smile. For the artist? I oh-so want to know why she smiles that smile. It entrances me. I watch the picture and feel a need and urgency begin to well up from the deepest part of me. I want to be with that one girl in that only place that matters where the moon shines so mercilessly. I stare and stare, and the world in the painting takes on new depth, its eerie uncanniness becoming somehow familiar, somewhere I know so well. Then it is alive with subtle movement, no longer just a painting. It is like looking through a window – no, a door. I step towards the canvas, compelled by the intensity of the oil-rendered moon-bathed reality depicted on canvas. I want to journey to that world. I want it more than I have wanted anything in all of my life —
“— Arabella, sweetheart! You must keep up! What about this one?” Pandora’s insistent voice calls me to return her world.
I turn from the painting and look for the source of the distant voice that knows me. I have stepped off a fairground ride, find it impossible to adjust to the room. Returning to everyday reality is to be plunged into darkness, my eyes incapable of adapting to normal levels of light. But as my eyes regain their function, I see Pandora standing in the corner beside a rack of clothes. She is holding up a knee-length, magenta dress. It has a low neck and long sleeves. The fabric seems to shimmer and shift in the subdued lamplight of the room. I wonder for how long the painting has held me captive.
I try to concentrate, pay attention to the garment she wants me to consider. But I can still hear waves gently lapping at a tideline, and I think of moonlight on surf and of the girl in the picture, the smile she wore that offered me eternity in that moon-bathed world. I hold my head in my hands, open and close my eyes, blinking wildly. I force myself to walk over to Pandora and examine the dress. Gradually my mind returns, and I’m back in the room.
When I take the dress from Pandora’s outstretched arms, its dense weight takes me by surprise. Is it natural silk? No, it’s something heavier. It has a weight that is no weight at all. What is it that gives it the illusion of substance? Why is it so sensuous to touch? And I think of Dark Matter and how it is and isn’t anything at all.
“I can’t wear this,” I say. “It’s too gorgeous. I would be so afraid I might spill something on it, tear it by accident,”
As I handle the garment, it seems to speak to me, whispers my name. The only thing that matters now is to put it on.
“You will honour the dress,” Pandora says. “You try now — for size?”
She comes to me, stands directly before me, her hand reaching for the top button of my blouse, deftly undoing it, moving on quickly to the next. She is too close, the tropic of her breath on my cheek, the zest of exhalation is like star anise and liquorice, flooding my mind.
Chloe is behind me now, her fingers at my skirt’s waistline manipulating its hook and bar. Their voices in some secret chorus assure me as they undress me, lulling words that need no meaning to achieve their conclusion.
“Undies must go,” Pandora urges, brushing aside the hair from my ear, the hiss of her command sensual, unappeasable. Her lips find my neck discharging quantum packet after quantum packet of bliss, an outrage of ecstasy that shoots through my body, recuring in wave after wave. Each surge electrifies my sex, deregulates my heart.
Chole unfastens my bra, stoops and tugs, denudes my hips of panties. She stands upright, her arms around me, palms as nests for my breasts, pressing her breasts against the small of my back, her cheek resting flat beneath my shoulder blades. I wonder if she can hear the drum roll of my heart.
Pandora takes the dress from my limp hands, holds it up before, her eyes insisting I put it on. Chole stands back from me as I step into its caressing material. It has no zip or buttons, and I have to jiggle and twist as it travels higher over my flesh while wondering how it will ever accommodate my fleshy curves. Up to my hips now, but it is too tight. I tug hard, and it is as if the fabric is rejecting me. All at once, I am accepted, the dress acquiescing. I pull it over my torso, feeling the material adhere to my hips and belly and breasts. When I slip my arms inside the sleeves, the garment has become part of me.
How tight the material feels against my perspiring flesh. The texture is exquisite, smooth and cold against my skin, an ethereal presence that embraces and cocoons me. And when I walk across the room towards the free-standing mirror, its silken caress feathers my thighs, the fabric clinging ever more intimately with each step.
The two women watch me in silence. Chloe is smiling. I can tell by the way she regards me that she likes what she sees. I stand and appraise myself in the full-length mirror. The fabric is still acclimatising, settling about me, liquid, viscous. At first it felt too tight, but now it fits me perfectly. Pandora comes and stands behind me as I admire myself, adjust the fall of the living fabric cascading from my hips. She places both her hands on my shoulders and peers over them at my reflection in the mirror. I gaze ahead, but there is no sign of Pandora — neither of the room or Chloe, only that of me and the dress.
“You like?” Her voice from so far away is that of a lover who has presented her beloved with the most fabulous gift, one they hope will thrill.
“I thought it was going to be too tight,” I tell her.
It is as if the fabric is familiarising itself with my shape. The way it settles about me, I’m reminded of my dear cat Claudia, how she would adjust herself on my lap before falling asleep. It feels like nothing I have ever touched before, soft elfin hands caressing my entire body, inducing shivers of pleasure. But all I can say is, “It feels fine now.”
But it feels far more than fine. My solar plexus thrums, and I sense something beginning to stir inside me, evoked by the vision in glass. It is a feeling of strength, of power, intimations of the unknowable. Suddenly I am afraid of what I sense, this otherness that commissions me to its purpose. The fabric fills with static, exciting my nerves, making me gasp for breath. And then I am no longer afraid. Because I know that while I wear this dress, I am capable of wonders things.
Pandora passes her hands lightly over my sides as if frisking me for something illicit, then more sensually my stomach, pressing her palm against my breasts, making my nipples tingle.
“You are right, Arabella,” Pandora says. “Good fit. And dress tells me she likes you because you are beautiful female and full of many sexy needs. You will be happy together, learn much about each other. But later, just as now, no bras and panties — dress will please you more without.”
But my mind is far away, riding a wave of strange bliss induced by the living, pleasing fibres.
“Yes. Such a nice fitting, Pandor repeats. “But one thing is needed before you become hers.”
Chloe has joined us at the mirror, strokes the fabric of my left arm, savouring its texture. Her voice becomes dreamy as she tells Pandora, “She is complete.”
But I do not try to comprehend the implication of her words; tonight is already too strange. When I take hold of the hem to raise it, ready to lift the dress over my head and remove it, the fabric grips me like a fretful child. I twist my body and tug hard, but the material clings like to me everywhere as if some improbable limpet.
Pandora and Chloe take a hand each and lead me into a high-ceilinged bedroom where an enormous four-poster bed awaits my arrival. I imagine its construction commissioned just for this moment, watch the scene that unfolds as if out of body.
They lay me down on a mattress that is compliant and yielding, softer than any bed I have ever known. The room has a sweet freshness, the air like parched land after a long-awaited storm. A gentle breeze enters through an open window through which I hear the sound of waves intermittently breaking on rocks below.
And now the scales are removed from my eyes, see for the first time the dresses Pandora and Chloe wear, scintillating and beautifully rare, how they shimmer and hum in the half-light, and have an oceanic phosphorus luminosity that holds my mind in its thrall. Chloe slides onto the bed next to me, her sweet voice telling me, “You must become Lamdos, Arabella. You must become completed.”
Chloe’s sweet mouth covers my mouth, lips against lips, tacky and rich. Her tongue emerges, works slowly to worm between my teeth, jaw forced wide to an impossible degree. The meat and volume of her tongue become an impossibility that I cannot comprehend. But the absurd texture and dimensions of it please me in a way such an intrusion never should happen.
Lower down the bed, Pandora has folded the dress back to reveal my sex, taken my legs and arched them at the knees, parted them like a midwife preparing me to give birth. Her lips and cheeks between my legs. The feathering of her hair as she slides her tongue up my inner thighs.
Chloe kisses me with such profound intent. It is as if she is gifting me new life saved from drowning. Between my legs, Pandora’s tongue flickers and curls; its inordinate length is somehow prehensile. My mind and body are bound and stretched on the rack of their pleasuring me. They work in unison, each sensing and reacting to the subtlest of my reactions. Their lovemaking is orchestrated, synchronised like the swooping of starlings at sunset.
Another presence joins us on the bed, fed by the pleasure that the two women elicit in me and that they receive in the giving. Something only partially sentient is awakening. New energy is generated, filling in the fibres of the dress. The fabric around me begins pulsating, the stitch of the stitchless garment tightening around my limbs and torso, sending electric pulses to the points of my nipples. I no longer know where I end or where the two women and this entity that is now the dress begins.
When’s Pandora’s tongue finally penetrates me, grown monstrous, engorged, I implode in orgasm, my mind thrown off-kilter by the extremity of the bliss. My body bucks and twists, locked into this inordinate joy for what feels might be an eternity.
Then Chloe’s mouth on my neck and there is nothing but exquisite pain. My mind is carried upwards on a mushrooming vortex of bliss.
And then canines as needles sink into my flesh.
Like a small fighting dog, she does not relinquish her hold. But it’s not a bite; it’s the most beautiful token of her love. Where her mouth works my throat, there is a new fusion that generates pleasure. So much pleasure that I fear it will consume me, obliterate me from this world and all others. A rush of energy spreads from my neck, enveloping my body. I start to shiver, then twist. Every synapse becomes overloaded, the sizzle and fizz of nerves refashioned. I feel my legs twitch and shake, my torso rise and fall, my arms flailing. Then I become still.
They lie either side of me for – I don’t know how long. Time is banished. I know they are both feeding on me, selfishly taking. But I give to both of them freely — even though somewhere within the shell that was once Arabella Ray, a remnant wails in protest. I should kick and scream, but some deeper knowing assures me that I’m on my way home.
I will not resist. My head is flush with heavy water, the seven seas tidal in my skull: ganglia meltdown, cortical fusion — the existential void of a starless universe.
To more parts to follow.