The Quarrel

As the door slammed shut behind them, he pushed her against the wall. His eyes were red with tears that would not come, and he was breathing in short, angry gasps. She stood facing him, fear and defiance in her slightly upturned face and her wide eyes. She braced herself for the worst, but was also curious to see what he would do. She felt herself in his power; she knew he felt it too.

Earlier that night, he had gate-crashed into her friend’s party and dragged her out. She was embarrassed initially, but it was a relief to know that he felt this passion for her. It was always flattering to see any man in the throes of passion directed towards one’s own self. And when the man was as desirable as he was, the victory was sweeter.

He stood before her for a few moments. He had not turned the lights on, but the darkness was not complete. Some light from the street outside penetrated through the curtained windows. They could see each other’s silhouettes; they looked like two shadows facing each other. She could almost see his eyes glow as he looked at her. She was afraid he would hurt her, but her mind worked with remarkable clarity. He was taking her in, drinking in her presence, her outline, her body. His thoughts seemed to ooze out of him with every breath that heaved his chest. Was he thinking of how he would possess her, punish her, make her pay for what she was doing to him? She was the prey, and he, an unforgiving predator who had her in his grasp. At the same time, she was also the prize, and he the unbelieving winner, who had not yet come to terms with the fact that he had won her. He was still poring on his victory, afraid to touch her yet, just in case this was a dream that would end if he moved.

It didn’t take him long to recuperate. She felt his ego kick in, and as his breathing started to calm, he blinked once, and moved towards her. The gracefulness of his movements aroused her immediately. Every step that he took was more arrogant than the last. She had always been attracted to him physically, but in his anger and passion, he looked like a young god, about to accept a sacrifice that was being offered to him. She knew he thought no less of himself.

In a few deliberate, unhurried steps, he was in front of her, his eyes boring into her, his jaw and fists clenched. Now she began to feel fear again. He had all his confidence back again, while she had none, and this made him seem deadly. She knew he could smell the fear on her. She could smell it herself. It was mixed with the smell of her arousal, and she didn’t know if she was more aroused or more afraid. She did the only thing she could think of---she lowered her eyes. This gave her away completely. He grasped her chin roughly between his forefinger and thumb and jerked her face upwards. She did not resist, but kept her eyes shut. She could not analyze her feelings any longer. She would let him do whatever he wanted.

He did not let go of her chin, but in a voice that sounded like a deep growl, he said:

‘Open your eyes and look at me.’

She did not open her eyes; she could not. She was too afraid now. His grip tightened on her chin. It began to hurt. He spoke again:

‘Open your eyes and look at me!’

He pronounced every syllable clearly, and his voice sounded like a clap of thunder before a storm. She did not open her eyes, secretly willing him to go on, secretly leading him on to the next step. She knew what it would be.

A resounding slap on her right cheek threw her off balance for a moment, before she felt him grab her arm roughly to keep her steady. He pulled her back to make her stand against the wall again. She tasted blood on her tongue and winced in pain. Tears welled up in her eyes. She had anticipated his violence but not its strength. As a tear rolled down her cheek, he brushed it with the tip of his finger and touched her lips to it. Her lips quivered and parted to his touch, and to her surprise she realized she was feeling aroused again. He felt her respond, stepped back from her, and commanded grimly:

‘Take your clothes off. Now.’

She looked at him for a moment, searching his face with her eyes. The look on his face and his clenched jaws told her that she would do best to obey him. Slowly, she took her jeans off, then her shirt, and then her bra. She stood naked before him except for her panties. He stood there letting his eyes roam on her body.

‘Why did you not want to meet me today? Why did you go to that party when you knew he was going to be there?’ He asked abruptly.

‘I- I don’t know’ she stammered. ‘I didn’t go there to meet him. I went because I didn’t like the way you were trying to tell me what I should do and what I shouldn’t. You made me feel like you own me and I wasn’t comfortable feeling that way.’ Her words came out in a rush, all at once. She expected he would slap her again, for daring to talk back to him.

But he didn’t. The sight of her naked body seemed to have calmed him. Instead of approaching her again and touching her, he turned away from her and sat on the bed, with his face buried in his palms. He suddenly looked drained. Then he spoke again, his voice barely a whisper now.

‘You can go now, if you like. I am sorry I hurt you. I guess I wanted to show you how angry I was, but you’ve defeated me. I can’t fight you anymore. I won’t bother you again. If you don’t want me, you don’t want me. There’s nothing I can do about it. Go, go away now and leave me alone.’

She heard the note of dejection in his voice. It surprised her. She had never seen him like this before. She had not thought that it was in her power to make him feel this way. She knew that she had the power to make him angry, but she did not know her influence over him was actually strong enough to make him sad. How could she go away now, now that he had bared himself to her, much more than all those times when they had loveless nights of animal passion before? She was sure that he was only interested in her body and was jealous of other men only because he suspected that she was giving herself to them. But was it possible that somewhere in his heart he had started caring for her, like a lover? Whatever it was, now she found him irresistible and felt more attracted to him than ever.

He looked up and saw her standing in the same spot, her eyes on him. He didn’t say anything, even when she stepped towards him and stood directly in front of him. He was still sitting on the bed, and his head came up to her breasts. She bent down slightly and took his face in her hands. He stiffened for a moment, but did not turn his face away. She held his face against her chest, letting it nestle gently between her soft breasts and kissed the top of his head. His hair smelled faintly of the shampoo she had smelled so many times on him before, but never did it seem so familiar. She touched her cheek to his hair and then to his forehead and looked into his eyes again. His hands came up around her waist and traveled up her spine. He stood up, held the back of her head with one hand, while the other gently curled around her left breast. She turned her face up to him and he kissed her full on the mouth, pressing her body against his own. Her arms went around his neck and she kissed him back, grateful for the little show of weakness earlier.

As they fell heavily on the bed, engrossed in each other, she hid a small smile from him. She could not tell if it was an expression of relief, or of sadness. Their lovemaking ritual was just beginning, like it had so many times before. From experience, she could tell that this would be one of the memorable times. She would think back on this night, and sigh with pleasure. When he would be away, she would think of the way he smelled now, the way he was touching her, his easy familiarity with her body, his confidence of touching her just like she wanted, where she wanted…

Yet, something had changed tonight. She could not push this thought from her mind. Something that was a game before, an exciting interchange of roles between hunter and hunted, had, on this night, started to seem like an elaborate hoax. It was as if she was looking at him and herself from the outside, and they seemed very tired to her own eyes. All their feelings seemed like flimsy curtains drawn over the fact that neither could bear to face – the fact that they were two young bodies come together in an ancient ritual of bodily lust – a ritual that had been repeated countless times before, and would continue to be repeated another countless times. There was nothing special in what they were doing, what they were feeling. All the intensity, all the anticipation felt like a deliberate, desperate effort to shut their eyes to the surge of hormones that now seemed the real reason behind them being together.

So, in his arms, body writhing in pleasure, these thoughts passed through her mind. She oscillated between pleasure and disillusionment, and in the end decided to give in to pleasure. That was the only reality, after all. What she could feel and touch and see. Wasn’t that all that mattered? Who knows, maybe this is all there was to know as ‘love’. Thinking this way actually calmed her down a little, and she began to acknowledge that sometimes she did ‘feel’ for him, in the true emotional sense. Maybe this fluctuation was normal.

They made love. Satiated, he lay back, and she snuggled close to him, as was her habit. She touched him with her long fingers, gliding them along his skin like feathers. She could not tell what he was thinking. He didn’t talk much after lovemaking anyway. He preferred to rest, relax in silence. Sometimes, she felt snubbed when he did this, but tonight, it didn’t matter. She had gained some insight into their characters, and this knowledge, like all knowing, brought peace in its wake. There would be other days, other nights, other heartbreaks and other disillusionments, she decided.

She stretched.

‘Let’s sleep for a while, darling’ she mumbled into his ear. Then, for the first time, she turned over, and without waiting for him, fell asleep.

The End

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