Composed in response to Sue Vincent’s #writephoto post.
The sky had turned a velvety indigo, speckled with starlight. The full moon’s white rays danced on the surface of the lake. Its beam like an arrow, pointed to where the woman stood. She had discarded her shoes and stood barefoot on the stony shore. Listening to the trance-like sound of the water as it touched the rocks, she edged slowly towards their icy grip. ‘You shouldn’t be here.’ She smiled coyly, turning towards the silhouetted shape of a man coming towards her. His footsteps crunched as he drew alongside her. She trembled excitedly as she felt his arms encircle her waist, the touch of his cold lips on hers. She pulled away shyly.
‘Neither should you.’ She heard him laugh. ‘Ed, what would your husband say, if he knew you were here with me?’ She chuckled. ‘With a straight woman too!’
‘What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.’ She started walking, gingerly at first deeper into the water. Sharp stones cut into her feet. The fabric of her long dress grew heavy.
‘Why did you come?’ She heard him sigh. ‘And don’t give me that ‘I’m confused’ line. You’re 50! You should know who you are by now!’ Ed looked shocked.
‘Lisa,’ he paused, thinking of the right words to say. ‘You know there’s always been something about you.’ Lisa stood knee deep in water. She could see Ed’s features blanched by the moonlight. He looked ethereal. She shivered. ‘It’s always been about you. 20 years ago, you were all I could see and now…’ he broke off.
‘I don’t know what’s happening between us?’
‘Me neither,’ Lisa sighed. ‘Though it feels different somehow.’
‘Yes, less possessive.’
‘Have you told Lee about me?’ Lisa noticed Ed’s stance, uncomfortable, with his hands in his pockets.
‘No, what could I say?’
‘The truth,’ she scoffed.
‘He knows there’s been women in the past.’
‘And he’s fine with that?’ Ed nodded.
‘I’ve just not told him that there was one that left her mark on me.’
‘Literally,’ Lisa thought, picturing the scar Ed bore on his chest, where she had sliced him with a kitchen knife after one of their many heated arguments.
‘What are you doing?’ Ed asked, exasperated, as Lisa walked waist high into the lake.
‘Standing in stone cold water,’ she shivered.
‘I’d rather be mad than dead inside.’ She turned to face Ed, her dress soaking up more of the insidious cold, dragging her downwards. ‘It’s like the moon has nothing to be sad about… her blacks crackle and drag,’ she quoted Sylvia Plath.
‘You’re more sloshing around, than crackling.’ Ed grinned.
‘Join me?’ Lisa laughed nervously, before her scream pierced the night sharply. She’d felt her feet stumble, slip on mossy stones, before her whole body succumbed to the water. She exhaled loudly, raising above the surface, giggling fitfully, thankfully to still be alive. Concentric waves rippled all around her. A man swore angrily as he stormed away from the promontory with a camera and tripod under his arm. Lisa managed to find her feet and stood dripping.
‘You ok?’ Ed called.
‘Yes,’ Lisa smiled. ‘Looks like I’ve ruined his photographs.’
‘Seems I have a knack for ruining things for people.’
‘Don’t believe that!’ Ed sensed Lisa’s jovial mood was turning.
‘Perhaps it would be better if I wasn’t here at all.’ Lisa looked towards the vast darkness of the lake. Peaks of night covered hills glowed orange with street lights from the nearby town.
‘Never think that!’ Ed gazed at Lisa’s white skin glowing in the moonlit. Her dark hair tumbling over her pale naked shoulders. ‘You look like a nereid.’
‘Come?’ Lisa beckoned, watching as Ed reluctantly peeled the shirt off his back, unbuckled the belt from his jeans.
‘I can’t believe I’m doing this?’
‘You can do it!’ Lisa felt herself slipping further into the icy water, until her whole body was submerged. Her rapid breathing was echoed by Ed’s, who’d waded bravely into the lake towards her.
‘Oh f**k, oh f**k!’ He cried as Lisa held her arms out. ‘Why do this?’
‘I just want to feel alive!’
‘There’s better ways to feel alive!’ Ed bounded through the water, droplets glittering like diamonds in the moonlight, flew all around. The fabric of Lisa’s dress wrapped itself around her legs, threatening to pull her down.
‘I’ve got you!’ Ed called, reaching for Lisa’s body, holding her firm. Face to face they breathed each others breath.
‘No one must know about us.’
‘Like I’m going to publicise it,’ Ed mocked.
‘I mean it.’ Lisa implored, her consciousness pricked. ‘Paul must never know. It would break him.’
‘We both have something to lose.’ Lisa closed her eyes and let Ed kiss her. It was an impassioned caress filled with years of want.
‘I still love Paul, but he will never understand what we feel for each other,’ she murmured. ‘I love you so much.’ Lisa ran her cold, wet fingers through Ed’s hair, shivered as he muzzled her neck.
‘I love you.’ She quivered in his arms.
‘How can we make this work? We both have very different lives?’
‘I don’t know.’ Ed looked towards the Great Bear and the north star, as a sailor would, looking for direction. ‘We can’t keep using unplanned conferences and meetings as an excuse or they’ll grow suspicious.’
‘Perhaps we should cut our losses, say our goodbyes.’
‘That’s not what I want, nor I believe do you.’
‘But someone’s bound to get hurt.’ Ed held Lisa close, afraid that if he let go, she would slip from his sight. As moonlight bathed their heads, a shooting star carved its way across the sparkling tapestry of the night sky.
© Christine Lucas 2016.
Lines taken from Sylvia Plath’s – Edge.
The woman is perfected.
Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity
Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.
Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little
Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded
Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden
Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.
The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.
She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.
Sylvia Plath, “Edge” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1960, 1965, 1971, 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath. Editorial matter copyright © 1981 by Ted Hughes.
Source: Collected Poems (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1992)