Abraham got up from his chair, kissed Giselle on the top of her head, went over to the sofa, stretched himself out, shoved the same pillow behind his head again and closed his eyes. Giselle wanted to go over and tickle the cocky motherfucker, to blow in his ear, to mess up his hair, to piss him off, to get him to chase her so she could shriek and run but knew he really wouldn't like it if she did, so she didn't.
While she was clearing the dirty dishes from the dining room table, Giselle found herself remembering how she used to resent every plate she picked up, every food encrusted forkthe glass with her mother's lipstick gobbed onto the inside and the outside of the rimwhen it had been her job to clear the table and wash the dishes when she was growing up. Gosh. She'd been such a droll, gangly kid, such a tomboy, so not a girlie girl at all, not ever, not even when she was three years old. Not even when she was two. That she'd had to do all the girlie girl things had made her feel like throwing up. She would gladly have mowed the lawn a million times, washed the car nonstop, taken out the garbage, trimmed the hedges, anything, but that it was her job to do the dishes she knew was a punishment, one of the ways her mother showed her that she didn't like her.
Another way her mother showed Giselle she didn't like her was by always picking the petite, blond, blue-eyed contestants in the Miss America Pageant as her favorites, as the ones she hoped would win. Giselle wasn't blond. Her eyes were brown, big, brown, puppy dog eyes, and she was taller than any of the other girls her agewell on her way to growing up to be five-feet, ten-inches tall in her stocking feet. Five-ten ain't petite, Giselle thought. Why her mother wanted the blond pipsqueaks to win, was, of course, that her mother hated Giselle. It wasn't any big secret, really. Nobody made any bones about it. Giselle had blanked it out, sublimated it, ignored it, changed the subject, gotten used to it...the way she'd gotten used to having headaches.
She barely talked to her dad anymore. He had to be on her mother's side in all things. What other choice did he have? When she said to her mother, "I love you," her mother said, "Thank you." Not "I love you too, Giselle." Not even, "Aw," or, "That's nice, dear." Not even a smile, but, "Thank you." And kind of a cold, lifeless, fish-eyed "Thank you," at that, like she hardly even meant "Thank you," at all, like what she really wanted to say was, "You do? Yeah, well, I hate you."
"I love you, Mom."
Okay, okay, how about this, Giselle thought.
"I love you, Mom."
"I hate you, Giselle."
Her mother had been twenty when Giselle had been born. Twenty! How many years ago was that? Seventeen, yeah. She did the math, but it seemed more like about a million. If she'd gotten knocked up when she and Father Gregory had been in love, Giselle would have had a kid when she was twenty. She remembered how touchy she'd been. The slightest slight, the least hint of an unkind word, a thoughtless comment, the merest misunderstanding of one of Father Gregory's moods had sent her into paroxysms of inconsolable anguish. She had despised him. She had despised herself. She had wanted to die of shame and self-loathing. For what? Telling her she should wear a bra? That she should maybe run a brush through her hair before she went outside? She was still a kid at twenty. What she would have done with a kid when she'd been twenty, Giselle did not know.
Her father had been barely twenty-two when Giselle was born. The kids in her classes weren't far from twenty-two, themselves. Her father reminded her of Darrell, in fact, the big guy, the one who kept complaining about being pestered by Ray Blovits. Giselle smiled. Her parents had both been such neophytes, such bunglers, barely beyond pawing each other in the back seat of the old Studebaker her father and his brother had gone in on together.
Neither of them had been very adept in the mechanics of how to have a kid, let alone how to raise a kid. Who knew how to raise a kid? Who could know? Maybe some other kid would have been okay. Some blond kid. Some pretty blue-eyed little slip of a thing who would go on to be Miss Illinois at the very least. It was probably simple, something basic and immediate that had made her mother hate her. Having been pregnant for nine months and finally the ordeal of giving birth, per se, had no doubt had something to do with it. Her mother had been in labor a long time. Giselle had been big. Her mother was small. Maybe that was the reason, right there. Her mother had wanted a little girl who would be just like hera blond, blue-eyed little Chatty Cathy dollsomeone she could play dress-up with, someone with a string she could pull, someone who'd say whatever the fuck her mother wanted her to say. Ha! Giselle wasn't like her mother at all.
"Thank fucking God," she said aloud.
Giving birth had caused her mother a lot of pain for a long timemore than a whole day. Mame knew all about it. What her grandmother didn't tell her flat-out, Giselle was able to extrapolate. She'd been black and blue when she was born. She'd been bruised, bloody. Wet gobs of her dark hair stuck up in outrageous, other worldly spikes and was matted with afterbirth to her skull. She wasn't just black and blue, she was red, too, and yellow, and greenwrinkled, covered with mucous and slime, almost deformed lookingnot the prettiest of newborn babies when she'd finally seen the sterile light of day in the delivery room. Her mother had pushed her away. One of the nurses had lain Giselle's gory, near lifeless body, all nine pounds, seven ounces of her, across her mother's chest and her mother had recoiled.
"Take it away," her mother had said.
And that was only the beginning. Giving birth had no doubt caused her mother's perky little teenage tits to sag. It had made her envious, jealous, insecure. It had ruined her life forever. Giselle couldn't blame her, really. It couldn't be easy having a kid, especially not when her mother had been such a selfish little snot to begin with. Maybe had she'd walked in on Giselle's dad changing her diapers, blowing into her belly, tossing her into the air, getting her to gurgle with shrieks of laughter and drool, getting her beside herself with happiness...and had been taken aback by the affection they had for each other. Fathers and daughters were supposed to have affection for each other. Weren't they?
"What the fuck?" Giselle asked.
Maybe that night her dad hadn't messed with her mother, hadn't kissed her and fondled her the way he used to kiss her and fondle her in the back seat of the Studebaker. Maybe she'd gotten her feelings so deeply hurt she couldn't ever talk about it to anyone and had blamed it unconsciously on Giselle. How plausible was that? As plausible as any other reason she could come up with as a reason for a mother to hate her own god damn kid, for Christ's sake.
Mame knew. Mame tried to make up for it. She lavished Giselle with attention and affection. Maybe she felt guilty that her daughter was such a snitty, shitty little spoiled snot of a mother. Maybe she'd been a shitty mother to Giselle's mother. Who could know any of this stuff? Giselle became a bone of contention between the two of them. They fought over her. Giselle's mother didn't like her, yeah, that much was clear, but she didn't want anyone else liking her either, not even Giselle's dad, not even her own mother, Giselle's grandmother, for God's sake.
"Fuck," Giselle said.
Giselle's mother used to punish her and her grandmother both by not letting Giselle stay at her grandmother's house. Her mother went to whatever lengths she had to go to cut off her nose to spite her face. She didn't want Giselle around, no, she wanted her over at Mimi Crenshaw's, she wanted her at Girl Scouts, she wanted her at the movies, in school, anywhere but home, but she didn't want her mother to have Giselle around either. Her mother was a mean, evil, selfish, spiteful, vicious bitch.
How the hell old was she by then, anyway? She had to be almost sixty. Fifty-seven. Thirty-seven plus twenty equals fifty-seven, yes. Giselle marveled at her math skills. Fifty-seven was old. Wouldn't a time come when she could just god damn let bygones be bygones? Wouldn't she someday forget that having a kid had hurt? That having a kid had fucked up her tits? Had cramped her style? Had driven a wedge between her and her husband? Between her and her own mother? Wouldn't she realize at some point that she didn't have many years left to live? Wouldn't she want to make it up to Giselle somehow? To atone? Did she want to leave an unloved daughter watching her casket being lowered into a god damn hole in the ground? Wouldn't she want someone to at least visit her at the cemetery? Apparently not. Her mother didn't visit her own god damn mother's grave, why would she want her daughter to visit her god damn grave. She wouldn't. Obviously.
"Fuck her," Giselle said.
She flipped off the dirty tablecloth before she removed it from the table and flipped it off again when she threw it into the laundry room.
Giselle had the dishes piled in the right sink and had decided to wash them by hand, without using the dishwasher, the way she used to wash dishes when she'd been a kid and it had been her job to wash the dishes. She let the water get hot and started filling the left sink. She was about to submerge the aluminum tin Ted's frozen pie crust had come in, then said, "Fuck it," and dropped the dirty pie tin into the Rubbermaid trash receptacle under the sink. She squirted lemon-scented Joy into the accumulating water and began piling dishes and plopping silverware into the soapsuds bubbling up. The water was hot. She rolled up the sleeves of her pajamas, grabbed a sponge and plunged her hands into dishwater up to her elbows.
She pulled open the door of the dishwasher and began stacking the washed and rinsed dishes into its soft, rubbery draining racks. Her poor mother, she thought. How hard must it have been? How could she not like her only kid all these years? How could she not like her own mother all these years. And now her own mother was dead. How bitter must her mother be, really? How alone? How isolated down at the bottom of a deep, dark well of loneliness and spite? How unloved herself? It had to have hurt her. Christ. Giselle was suddenly overcome with sadness...and empathy...and understanding...and forgiveness.
Her mother hadn't wanted to dislike her. Who wants to not like their own god damn kid? Nobody, that's who. How can you want to not like your own kid? She couldn't help herself any more than anyone else can help himself or herself or themselves from doing the loathsome things they do their whole god damn miserable lives. People got buffeted. They were in pain. They suffered. Cuts and scabs and scars came along and covered them up, over and over again. Their hearts got broken a billion times, broken and mended and broken again so often there was barely any blood left in them anymore, barely any life left in them but a life full of the fear of having their god damn hearts broken again and again and again.
Her poor father. The poor kids in her classes, their poor parents, the poor people all over the world. Bombay. Belize. Burkina Faso. People in places nobody ever heard ofBangladesh, Botswanadying, starving, being mistreated, beaten, abused, tortured, left alone in prisons and hospitals, alone in nursing homes, alone on smelly streets, alone, alone, alone, everywhere, all the time, abandoned, bereft, defenseless, left to fend for themselves, to die slow deaths, to lose hope, dignity, harmony, humanity. Her poor self. Her poor heart. Her poor head. It's nobody's fault. It's never anybody's fault.
By then she was crying. Cry if you want to, Abraham had said. Ha! She did. She wanted to. She had no choice. She couldn't have not cried if she'd tried. She did try, but it was a lame-ass effort at best, and finally she just gave up and let herself cry salty puddles of silent tears that overflowed her eyes and dripped down her cheeks. A few made it all the way to the fluffy mound of bursting soap bubbles in the sink and disappeared without a whisper.
"Hey," she heard Abraham say, and jumped.
"Hey, what?" She sobbed and smiled at the same time.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm peachy," she said without turning around. Her eyes, she knew, got all puffy and stained with goofy-looking eyeliner like a god damn raccoon when she cried. She felt his hands come to rest in the middle of her back, between her shoulder blades. His thumbs pressed against the base of her neck. She sobbed a big sob she hadn't meant to sob.
"It's all right," she heard him say.
His hands felt good through the soft flannel. Her back relaxed. She bent her head over and felt his fingers on the bare skin at the sides of her neck, felt his thumbs applying pressure at either side of her cervical spine, climbing her vertebrae, making their way up into her thick hair. Hot, prickly chills surged through the flesh of her ears and made her blush. The inside of her mouth dried up, made it hard to swallow, made it hard to talk right away. She cleared her throat.
"My hair's a mess. I didn't do anything with it," she said.
"I know," Abraham said. "It's all kinky...and warm...and sweet smelling, like a briar patch." Giselle felt his breath as he spoke. His words entered her, all dripping with affection and attention and consideration, through the circuitous canals of her left ear, down her dry throat and into what felt like her heart, her lungs, her liver, she couldn't tell for sureall the organs inside her seemed to swell.
When he said the words, "briar patch," her clit got all hot and tingly. She felt her pussy come alive between her thighs. Unconsciously, she arched her back and moved her ass imperceptibly closer to him standing behind her. She felt the fabric of her pajama bottoms brush against the Levi's he was wearing. Her Levi's. She couldn't believe how well they fit hima little tighter on him than they were on her, but a nice fit, all the same.
"It's getting sort of hard to do the dishes," she said.
"Concentrate," Abraham whispered absent-mindedly, while he ran his hands down the length of her pajama top, stopped just above the spot in the small of her back where her ass began to be defined, slipped his hands under the fabric, and ran his hands lightly up the bare skin across her ribs. "Your skin's like some kind of magical satin stretched across your bony little bones. You feel like such a girl, all soft and silky and warm, like a woman."
"I do?" Giselle asked.
"Yeah." His hands touched the sides of her breasts. Her lungs almost stopped breathing. She swallowed a little gulp of air into her stomach and bent over more, felt the cheeks of her ass push against the front of his pants, felt his cock against her. Then, suddenly, like electricity, she felt his knuckles touch her nipples, the knuckles of both his hands barely nudged up against the tips of both nipples of her breasts at the same time, and she had to lean her elbows onto the edge of the sink.
She let go of the plate in her left hand and let go of the sponge in her right hand and took her hands out of the dishwater and steadied herself with her forearms on either side of the sink as she felt him kiss the back of her neck while he squeezed her tits in his big hands and rolled the hard, pink, erect little nipples between his thumbs and index fingers. She felt his teeth bite into her neck, as if he was holding her with his teeth so she couldn't get away, like he was an animal, like she was an animal. She didn't want to get away, but squirmed a little, moved her neck away from his mouth, felt him follow her with his teeth.
Giselle didn't say anything else for a long time.
Neither did Abraham.
She felt him pull her pajama bottoms down with one hand while his other hand was still kneading her left nipple. He stuck his foot between her bare thighs and stepped on her pajama bottoms until they were on the floor. Then he moved his hands down to the small of her back and steadied her while she removed her right foot, then her left foot, from her pajama bottoms. Anything he wanted, he could have. Whatever he wanted to do, he could do. She felt his hands all over her, exploring between her legs. She felt the hair on his wrist brush accidentally against the hair between her legs, then felt his thumb touch high up the inside of her thigh on purpose.
She arched her back and spread her legs and stuck out her ass and felt his whole hand cover her from behind, felt his whole hand squeeze her pussy, felt the heel of his palm cup the underside her pubic bone. Then he let go and touched the tip of her clit. Giselle heard herself groan, but couldn't be sure whether he'd heard her or not. Then she felt him wet his index finger with her juice. He traced a line with his finger all along the lips of her gushing cunt, then slipped his middle finger slowly inside her, creeping deeper and deeper. She backed her ass down onto his finger and felt his finger fuck her and felt his finger slip out of her and onto the tip of her clit and felt him touch her clit with the tip of his finger while she heard him fiddling with the button and unzipping the zipper of his Levi's.
She fucked her clit against his finger and made a moaning sound she knew he couldn't help but hear and fucked her clit against his finger some more until she felt his hard cock pressing against her ass. Nothing was voluntary by then. Her body was no longer affected by consent or desire, but was moving automatically, like her lungs, like her heart, and, oh my gosh, was her heart ever beating in her chest. Her legs opened wider. Her back arched and she felt his hands pulling her ass apart, pushing his cock into her a little at a time, a little at a time, and she heard herself moan and moan and moan again until he was as deep inside her as he could get.
Then he stayed there. Still. Not moving. Just stuck inside her, like he was waiting, letting her get used to him, solidifying himself inside her. Giselle pushed herself further onto him. Still, he didn't move. She fucked him, back and forth, slowly, slowly. Abraham didn't fuck her, but just stayed there. She fucked him and fucked him, faster and slower and faster again, lifting one leg off the floor and turning slightly to her right, then lifting the other leg and turning slightly to her left, then fucked him with both feet on the floor and still he didn't fuck her, but just stayed inside her for her to do with what the fuck ever she wanted to do.
Finally, Abraham held onto her hips, pulled himself out from inside her, hugged his arms around her arms, put his hands on her tits, gave her nipples a friendly, casual, confident couple of lingering little caresses and said, "Come up to bed when you're done, my love."
"Okay," Giselle said.
What the hell kind of guy was he? Who would just fuck her for awhile and not care if he came or not? Not care if she came or not? She could have come all over him a hundred times, but hadn't. Why not? Maybe she wanted them in bed together, maybe that was why not.
"Come up to bed when you're done, my love," he'd said.
"My love," he'd said.
She could hardly wait. Hunger's the best sauce, her dad used to say. Ha! Her dad was an idiot. He'd married her mother. Who but an idiot would marry her mother? Giselle did not know.