Light streamed into the room as a door shut, shaking the curtains open. Todd rolled over, reaching for Sylvie as he had so many mornings before. An indentation remained in her place, the pillow still damp and fragrant. But Sylvie was gone.
Todd’s head pounded as he rolled back to the nightstand for his glasses. A pink robe lay bundled in front of the closet, a pile of clothes beside the open door, shoes left fallen sideways–the unchosen. As he sat up, Todd’s throat seized; the room was wobbly if now in focus, and he lay back, spinning, feverish, cursing the light so early, so–well, it was nearly noon now. Of course she had left for work hours ago.
Todd strained to sit up, then lay back in bed, took his glasses back off. Not yet, not yet. If his eyes could be forced to see the day clearly, his mind remembered the night before in short segments. Sylvie had wandered off into the night sometime around the third or fourth drink, all with his best wishes, his complete incapacity to reconcile that he himself had pushed her away; he himself had pushed her fantasy into the realm of reality. And yet it was she whom he punished that night. It was glass six or seven before Todd had managed to dull his senses enough to bear it: to bear the thought of her with another man, to bear his own brutality where before the spankings had all been in good fun.
He thought of it for some time now, his own life seeming to dissolve while Sylvie refused to despise him. A business failed, and she remained, she even supported him, urged him to talk to her, climbed enthusiastically into his bed each night. No. He could never bear her softness, her desire.
And then, somewhere in the night, Todd knew that Sylvie had returned. It seemed a miracle then, her glowing body lying across the bed as she ran a bath. He first could only stop and watch her, there, so apparently satisfied by another man. Todd felt she was like a beloved cat, returned from adventures he could never understand or know. Sylvie always seemed so eager to share her life with him, even this. But something in himself kept him from wanting to ask her, or even to listen as she told him. He wanted only to reclaim her now, and the feeling overwhelmed him as much as she fascinated him just at that moment, despite his stupor.
Todd reached beneath her dress, her murmuring as he pulled off her soaked panties, as he kissed her gently, fucked her gently at first, then roughly as she laughed in her sleepiness, whispering in French, words he could not know, words for another. Roughly, he fucked her like a slut, his love. Todd pulled out before he came in her, let his come soak his own hand as he sat beside Sylvie, who was now fast asleep. He staggered to the bath and took a cloth to wash this all away, this shame, this night.
Sylvie had rolled onto her side. Todd pulled her dress gently off and covered her, then climbed in beside her, close behind her for sometime before she faded, before the room faded away.
Todd had his regular dream that night. He had built a large cage where Sylvie could have everything. Inside it he put all of the things she loved most. Then, he led her past the bars, showed it all to her. She was ecstatic and hugged him, exploring for days with him before he went on the other side and shut the door. He stayed close, talking to her through the bars, and it seemed perfect to him then: she was happy, and he could always be with her, know that she was always safe. But then, one day he went to visit her, and she did not come near. Somehow, she was gone, though it was impossible. And then, in the dream, it somehow was reversed–which made no sense to him as he rethought the whole thing. He was on the outside, looking in. And yet, he was the prisoner, panicked because nothing made sense, and the real world had become hers and not his, and he could not escape where he was now.
Todd lay on the bed for some time before sitting up, walking to the bath to drink several glasses of water, then shower, then.. yes, shave! Now it was time to get back to business, to accomplish something. He dressed, in clothes neater than the ones he had worn for the past several weeks. He combed his hair.
Todd suddenly thought to share his new vision with Sylvie, and dialed her cell.
“Sylvie?..” She had answered, but did not speak immediately.
“Yes? This is Sylvie,” she seemed to pant hurriedly.
“Are you running? At lunch? Perhaps I could…” Todd suggested, not seeming to believe his own words, “perhaps I could meet you.”
But Sylvie did not answer, least not in words. Todd heard her, though, muffled desire heating the airwaves in tones he had not prompted from her in so long.
It was the soundtrack that broke his heart, the relentless satisfaction he had forgotten, Sylvie’s pleading, her oh, her sigh, her long silence. And then, his.
Todd closed the phone, and put it in his pocket as he ran down the stairs. Todd grabbed his car keys from the cabinet by the door, and went out into the day–the first time in perhaps a week. The sunshine shocked him, the colors so clear and vivid that they seemed surreal to him now. The car sat in the drive, undriven for over a month, he realized as he climbed in, adjusted the seat, the mirrors. It started, to his surprise, and he put the car in reverse, then turned out the driveway, and down the road.