Tuesday, July 31, 2012

CityMuse

I have published CityMuse (beneath is a small excerpt from the novel). The story is about a happily married man who finds himself attracted to another woman. At the same time his job contracting as a mercenary in different parts of the world starts to gnaw away at him once a good friend of his dies. The story takes a deep look into the mind of a man trying to be good, though he can't seem to manage it.




Jenny was gorgeous.
I first met her in a coffee shop in the village. I loved her thighs, glistening beneath her summer shorts, and small-melon breasts bulging out from her shirt. Her face was smooth, with a thick lower lip, and up-turned prep school nose.
We met up a few days later in the village. In a café that was blasting cold air, stifling all the usual smells that summer charmed from living beings. I talked to her about what she did: worked as a consultant in some financial firm. She didn't seem to mind it; in fact thought it was dandy, earning beaucoup money and what not. She was from Long Island, but spent most of her youth here in the City. Then went to Columbia. She was dressed in a summer dress and cleavage that was just enough to tantalize. The dress was short and her legs shone like they had the day before.
"Travel much?"
"Oh, here and there," she said and twirled her hair; I was getting to her.
"Where?"
"Paris, London..."
I stopped listening when she named cities instead of countries. The few times she mentioned a country, I inquired further only to get the name of some resort. Cancun isn't Mexico. She twirled her hair some more, bit her lip, and all was forgiven.
"You travel?"
"A lot. My job requires it."
"Oh and what do you work as?"
Ah the question I could not answer. I smiled at her and sipped my coffee.
"It's a consultant business. But mainly I do it for the government." I looked her over quickly then wondered if I should have added any sugar or cream to my coffee. It was barely drinkable, and here we were in a fancy New York City café. The girl behind the counter, with her excessive tattoos and piercings, looked like something the village had been spewing out for decades.
"Like what exactly?"
"Security type stuff." I sipped the coffee again, trying to get as little into my mouth as possible. There was a background flavor of burned beans, and I couldn't get around this taste.
She looked me over. "Coffee not good?"
"It's fine. Nothing like Paris though, right?"
"Oh, it's amazing in Paris."
"Well, I can't exactly talk about what I do. Not that I won't. It's just that it's sensitive and that once I've gotten to know you I can trust you with some of the information."
She looked at me incredulously, waiting for me to break out into a smile. I could tell.
"This isn't a joke is it?"
"No. I know it sounds ridiculous, and if you don't believe me, or think this is some trick then let me know. Because it won't work out then."
She moved uncomfortably in her seat then looked at me. Eye contact suddenly as fierce as a warrior tribesman's. I stayed calm and looked into her blue eyes. I noticed that they were especially reflective, shiny orbs.
"Okay," she murmured not acting quite certain with the whole situation.
"Thank you. If it helps I can't tell too many people about what I do. Not even my family."
That seemed to soften the blow for her, and we dived into the issue of my family: the distance, the happiness in leaving the small town for something so grand and shiny like the City.
I moved us out to Washington Square. She carelessly bumped her hand into mine. I grasped her finger, felt her cede way, and moved up to hold her hand. I looked at her and forced myself not to smile. She looked down again. Was she shy or cynical? I couldn't quite tell.
At the square we watched performers, mostly black, dance in somersaults for the mostly light-skinned loungers. Some were entertaining, pulling in the crowd then going for broke with scary flips. I tossed some money into their hats.
"So how did you get into your line of work?"
I paused, looking off to the distance. She was examining me again. Using those cynical City eyes to see if there was so much as a hint that I was making all this up. If I stumbled for a second she would be gone.
A deer in the woods.
My finger on the trigger.
This flesh was mine.
"I was in the military before. In special operations." I paused, still talking in drips. The word I used was a generic term if ever I heard one, but it was used because getting any more specific would lead to confusion. After all, she was a civilian. In this day and age in America, that meant that she didn't know fuck-all about the military.
"Wow, that is something."
"Do you know anything about it? About special operations?" If she did know I was still good. If she didn't I would just stay away from specifics.
"No, I think I've heard of it, though." She smiled and looked away before moving closer to me.
My heart jumped, and I stopped my mind from racing about and imagining her without her clothes on. She was gorgeous when she smiled. Should have done it more often. Perhaps it attracted too many men.
I took her all the way up to MOMA and asked her if she wanted to see some of Picasso's paintings.
We walked in and I explained a few paintings. Every time I told her to look at the facture of a painting she leaned in and I glanced at her thighs and ass as it pushed out from the dress. The beast within reared its head. I weighed my options. It was always good to leave while the going was good and try to set something up for later. Never overplay your hand. Yet I felt that it was all too good to cut off at that point. I could just push my luck and see how far she would let me go. After all, this city was full of women like her. It wouldn't be hard to find another.
But time. Oh time.
After we finished with the museum, we walked out and battled the crowds by going towards the village again.
"You know what I could go for?"
"What?" she asked.
"A really good cup of coffee."
"I know just the place."
"Here?"
"My place." She looked me over. "You don't mind do you?"
"No."
Her place was perfect. All right, I lie, it was a cute apartment, but it was perfectly situated. The floor plan isn't what enticed me. It was that feeling of walking in and smelling a clean, perfume encrusted apartment of a woman I didn't truly know. That sense of being allowed into a sensitive part of her life was strong, and I stopped my hands from grabbing her around the waist. I didn't make a move. Instead I waited for my coffee to come out of her expensive looking espresso machine, and sat down with her. Better to be cool and calm in situations like these.
"So Mr. Special Operations, you like?"
She, so shy only a few hours ago, was now bold. A predator. I didn't mind. Cool calm, like the wave. Crash when you want, just crest for now. I was looking at her paintings on the wall. She had good taste. All were original works with a contrast of colors that spoke to my inner madman.
"I love these. Where did you get them?"
"Art fairs around the world. Pretty cheap, actually."
"You got them all?"
"Of course. You don't think I have an artistic eye, Mr. Facture?" she spoke and flashed me a half smile.
I sipped the rest of my coffee. Her coffee was chocolaty with hints of a spice I couldn't put my finger on.
"I never said that." I glanced at her eyes to see how long she would hold the stare. She didn't look away. She was on the offensive. I liked this Jenny better. I reached over and brushed the hair from her cheek, placing it behind her ear. She maintained eye contact, though I could tell she held her breath. "It's just indicative of amazing taste."
"I know what I like when I see it," she said, still holding eye contact.
I sipped the last of the coffee and placed it down. My heart was slowly picking up its rate as I stepped to her and ran my finger down her cheek.
"Is that a fact?"
"Yes," she whispered.
"And do you like what you see now?"
"Very much."
Those words, that gate opening, flushed my brain. I used every ounce of self-restraint not to rip her clothes off.
Kiss.
Kiss.
Kiss.
Touch.
Kiss.
Kiss.
Kiss.
Stroke.
Kiss.
Kiss.
Kiss.
Touch.
Stroke.
As she moaned I reached down. She didn't stop me.
We fucked in her living room, her dress still on, her perfect ass on her dining table. I didn't last long, I'll admit. I fucked only to get rid of a tick in my mind. Then came with the force of a shotgun.
I didn't leave her apartment for two days. Neither did she. We fucked and only attended to the most basic of other needs in our life when we absolutely had to. Let me say one thing: she was amazing in bed. Not just because of her beauty and finely sculpted curves, which alone were enough to drive a man out of his mind, but because of the imagination and range of love or lust that she brought to the bedroom, hallway, walls, kitchens, floors. She was submissive, dominant and wanting. She told me she was certain that on our last session—when she had been cooking us a snack, and I accosted her in the kitchen—that she had been fucked like her mother did when she was conceived.
Yes, I liked her.
The next day I rushed out of her apartment after a shower. My wife had been calling me, and I had to go and see her, otherwise I would have to face her wrath. Not really any violence, but rather her quiet cold look, which, believe it or not, could strike my heart down. After all, I loved her dearly.
"Where were you?" the wife asked, scanning my face for some truth.
"No where honey, you know I have to get training done for the next job."
She took in a deep breath, hands crossed across her shoulders, staring at my eyes, like she always did when she felt a lie had been over the line.
I stepped forward to give her a hug, and she turned her head away. I hugged her anyways. What else could I say? I would die for any contact with her. Her coldness might not have been from me being away, but rather the fact that I was going on another contracting trip over to the Middle East. She hated that. Hated that I was going to face danger. I had told her about my past, spec ops and all those dirty little things, and she, like many other women, had been impressed by what she saw, but for her to remain impressed it had to—all that danger and killing and you know what—stay in the past. These contracting trips, no matter how little I told her to alleviate the pain, were always a stress on her. It was as if she somehow knew that I was in danger, and that I was lying to her about doing safe work in the Jordanian, or X country's, embassy. She knew me well. And why not? Hadn't we known each other for five years now?
"When are you leaving?"
"A few days now, so the training is going to pick up."
"And you can't tell me where you're going?" She pursed her beautiful red lips. I couldn't help but smile, she was sexy when her fury flew.
"You know I can't." I rubbed the backside of her arm. She looked off. Did she know about Jenny? No way, I was an expert and would know when I had been trailed and no silly private detective had been any where near me, but I could feel a distance grow between us. This part I could not live with. "It's going to be in Jordan, okay?"
She took in another deep breath. "You know I don't like that. You going to these places. I thought you were done."
"It's money we need baby." I forced a smile. This close to her, I could smell her tongue, it was as if she hadn't brushed her teeth all day. I thought of Jenny; her mouth always seemed like it was just brushed. I looked away for a second. This was bad practice, thinking of the other woman when I was with the wife.
"What are you thinking about?"
"Nothing, baby. Just the training, and the trip over there. I promise you once I'm done with this, I won't have to travel overseas again. All right?" It was more than a deflection of her suspicions; it was the truth. I had talked to the boss, and he said that the work back stateside was opening up. It would be different, but it would be in the same vein. "The trip should bring in almost a quarter million baby." I looked into her green eyes, which were getting wet.
"You know I don't care about that." She looked at me, her round face contorting with seriousness that seemed somewhat contrived.
She was, however, right. She didn't care, I knew that, always did, and never once did I doubt that. Reason I married her.
"I know honey, that's why I love you so much." I stroked her chin. Her face cracked out a smile, like sunrays on a rainy beach; it lit me up inside. I took her in my arms, kissed her a few times, and led her to our bedroom. I was exhausted, of course, from the weekend with Jenny, but I tried my hardest to keep a respectable grind going. In the end I had to fall back on my mouth. She came with the angst of a sunset on a cold winter's day.
She lay on top of me, her ear on my chest, looking at me like we were strangers. It shocked, me, made me wonder what was going on in her head. Our relationship required very little fine-tuning, we were usually on the same page, but when we were not, it hurt.
Bad.
Sunk my life into pits of despair.
I was glad to have at least pleased her. For all the exploration with the physically perfect Jenny, she could never match this feeling of pulling fibers within my heart, my brain, my balls, that my wife had.
I got up and walked up to our window. We lived in the Bronx, a small studio that did us well, but also kept the old lady pining for something better. "We'll be able to move after this trip baby." I turned to look at her body, intertwined in the sheets, her face peaking out. "I'll start looking as soon as I get back. All right?"
"What will you do for work?"
I hesitated for a second. I really didn't like telling her the specifics of what I did. "Same thing as now. But here in the states." I looked at the red brick buildings that populated our area here in the North Bronx. A subway slid before me. It was better at night, when I wrote like a madman, and the sparks off the third rail would bring me back with sudden explosions of the war—except these were silent.
Ahh, the City. The City. Always moving.
She moved behind me, her finger trailing on the small of my back. "You will be around here more?"
I thought for a second, better to not get her hopes up. "I will be here, but work will still be busy love." I could smell her skin: sweet, sour, sweaty, lovely.
She looked at me, sad, like I had yanked at her heart again. We were both very sensitive to the other. Like I said, finely tuned, only it was more like a shared heart, one we had to be careful of. I didn't like it; it was just the way things were.
"I will try to stay home more often," I whispered, knowing that I would try, but life would pull us apart once again. "I promise." I kissed her neck, on the vein she liked having touched.
We played a game of chess and I made dinner for her.
When we were done with that, each sitting in our separate parts of the room, reading out respective books, my phone vibrated.
Jenny, you'd better have more sense than to text me randomly, I thought. I tried to remember if I had told her my marital status yet. Possibly. I looked at the phone: Johnny. From Alaska.
What up, in town. Wanna grab some drinks?
Sure thing. Where you at? I texted back.
I looked at the old lady. It was getting near her bedtime. She had work at the school tomorrow early. She wouldn't be able to come out with us. That might have been for the better. I hadn't introduced her to Johnny just yet. And Johnny wasn't someone you introduced over drinks. Or all at once. It was better to introduce him in little bits, and with more stories up front.
"Who was that?"
"An old friend is in town. Might have to go out and meet him."
She didn't look up from her book. "It's late. Why don't you invite him over?"
Uh boy. Most likely that wouldn't be the wisest of choices. My contracting, done through the Department of Defense and the State Department, required a piss test. Johnny had a habit of making me unfit for those kinds of things. Especially if we were to hang out here. On the other hand, perhaps he would be tamer in front of the old lady.
Wash sq. You wanna get wasted?
That was not what I wanted.
Can you come over?
No reply. I looked at the old lady. Which would I prefer? Heading out, or enjoying a moment of the clash of classes within my room. My wife, ivy-educated, taught at Medical School in the City. She would not be one for the lower echelons of whitedom that Johnny hailed from. My phone started to ring.
"What's up Johnny? Been awhile, eh?" It had been a while. I hadn't seen him in a few years. And before that it was only a few sparse meets here and there. Always memorable, though, and always good to know there are people like him in the world. We had got to know each other when I was working up in Alaska, before my time in the military. Fellow slave laborer. He was a schemer. Said that we could corner the local weed market, no problem. So we got some muscle, and started to sell. Good thing about Alaska is that most everyone buys weed. Need it.
"Matt, you sonofabitch. What the hell have you been up to?"
"Nothing, what are you doing here?"
"You know, tying up some ends."
I paused. I thought I knew what that meant. Or at least what it could only have meant given his line of work. A small business owner, that's what he called himself. After a warrant had been issued for his arrest back in Alaska, he high-tailed it, barely missing the cops. Luckily it had been his face on all the posters. His little cabin they raided. No one suspected me. So I threw him in a hollowed out rear seat, and drove back to the continental States. Did I mention my smile was a million dollars? Got right through the checkpoint, and customs. We more or less parted ways after that; he further into the drug world, with assorted attempts at legal labor or education here and there, while I cleansed myself in the fires of the military. Army. Then spec ops. Funny how helpful having been a dealer was in that line of work.
"Well..." Was I really going to ask him to come over? I had more or less obeyed the law since I came over from the military, and since I met the wife I had been even better. Perhaps we could meet and let him stay for only a few drinks. "I'm up here in the Bronx. Come on over, you can meet the wife." She perked up when I said that, smiled at me. That would help things between us. Not a whipped man, but if it will make my life easier between me and the missus, I'll do it.
"Why the fuck not?"
"Good, you near the D-train?"
"Yep, that's the orange one, right?"
"Right. Take it to the northern end. I'll meet you there."
I read another chapter of For Whom The Bells Tolls before walking outside. It was a great book, real good refresher on the details of unconventional warfare.
I took in some air. It was another warm, humid night, the crickets chirped near the Williamsbridge oval. I heard a few kids ignoring the "closed at night" sign and skateboard off the ledges near the top of the park. Beautiful neighborhood we lived in. Well, for this part of the Bronx. A few muggings here and there, but nothing like it was in the 80s, or how it was purported to be in the South Bronx. A large man, hulking, bent at the back like he was lifting weights for too much of his life, in a hoodie walked towards me. I sidestepped the garbage and nodded at him. I had always wondered how easy it would be to mug someone. Just point a gun. Then what would they do? As long as you made sure to take their cell phone you would be able to get away. Wintertime, with more clothes would probably be better.
At the 205th stop I waited for Johnny. His hick accent would definitely stand out here.
"Matt?"
"Johnny." We embraced and I looked him over. The young man in his early twenties was gone. In his place an older more worn man stood. Johnny had been a man of average proportions, with a slight build that always reminded me more of a man who could lift things, but not run. He had a round and chubby face. He had gained weight since I last saw him, around his belly. Though his face, still white, still reddening, had lost most of its baby fat. There were more scars on his forehead, cheeks, and hands. His red shirt, and Hawaiian shorts, though, seemed to be the same ones I last saw him in.
"You look good, like you haven't changed a bit," he said, hand around my shoulder.
"Thanks." the compliment seemed to matter more to me than I had initially thought. "You don't look too shabby yourself."
He let out a laugh, his out loud chortle that definitely hadn't changed since the last time I saw him.
"Still the same Matt."
I slightly grinned, though I didn't know what he meant.
"Shitty neighborhood." He added as we walked back to my place. "Too many niggers."
I wasn't certain if he was asking or telling, especially since we hadn't seen anyone on the street, though I'm sure he could tell that once you get past 125th street, on any subway line, the cars get darker, browner and blacker. Fitted me, but I knew it didn't fit Johnny. I just hoped that he didn't use that word too loudly. Hard request to ask sometimes.
"I like it fine," I said, though it seemed to come out a little too tense.
"Ease up." He let out his chortle. "I'm just fucking with you. I actually have some business here in the Bronx. Good people."
Of course he would. His line of work. "Well keep that shit down in front of the old lady. She hears shit like that and it'll fuck things up between us. I don't need any more fights with her right now. She's already on edge about me leaving."
"Oh fuck, that's right. You going over again?"
I tilted my head slightly, trying to say it is what it is.
"You're one crazy bastard. You know that?"
We were in the elevator and I shrugged. I didn't have much else to say about the matter. I was patriotic. Not extremely, after all I got out, but enough to think that what I did still mattered to the overall safety of the country, of everyone in the country, of even the young woman in the elevator with us who had a surprisingly nice ass. "It's good money."
"So is what I do. Trust me on that. It's great money. You come work with me."
I shrugged again, as we walked out of the elevator and to my door. Johnny was smart, knew me pretty well, for as much as we had been apart, we were still very much alike. He was smart enough to use the word "with", and not "for", because my pride would rarely let me work for anyone, let alone a friend. Every job that I did, was done with gritted teeth.
"Hi honey." I opened the door to see her still on the same chair with the same book. "This is Johnny."
She got up from her chair and sauntered across the room. "Hi." She smiled a smile I hadn't seen since the first moments of our dating life. I missed that.
Johnny nodded. "Good to finally meet you. The woman who drove a nail through Matt's crazy years."
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