A Pause Between Acts

After they had finished for the third time, Her Son got up to pour the wine, heavy and wild even mixed with water, as familiar as the skies of home, so that his breath caught in his throat. Coming back he passed in front of the window and paused there for a second, marveling again at the lushness of the jungle, the brightness of the sun.

“What is it?” she asked, one long-fingered hand held out for the wine. “What do you see, o my guest?”

Her Son smiled and shook his head. “It’s all so different. Even the stars are changed here. Only the sun is the same.”

She laughed and nipped at his shoulder when he sat down. “Some things are the same.” Her eyes above the bowl of wine were playfully mocking and he felt the old anger stirring in him. Never to be taken seriously… He let it out with his breath. “Tell me why you have come to these foreign stars, then.”

Her Son leaned back against one golden hip and told her of his two mothers, of the powerlessness of his fathers, of the malice of his cousin. He told her of his madness, of finding his wife and sons dead beneath his fingers (her skin flinched away from him at that, though her face remained cool, aloof, and amused), of the Snake that had laid his penance on him. When he was finished there was something new in her face, but whether it was pity or fear he couldn’t say. “And so,” he finished. “It’s for a little slip of your clothes that I’ve come, o queen, a lacy bit of nothing that lies closest to your skin. Bragging rights for a world away that will never know the beauty of your face, the perfume of your hair, the savor of your skin.”

She thought about it, slowly drinking her wine. He sent his fingers along the curve of her thighs and across the hard perfection of her belly. The mice underneath bunched and raced at his touch, as ready to act as his own. At last she shrugged and looked away from him. “Fine,” she said, and pulled him down to her again. That mocking smile tugged at the corners of her mouth, but this time Her Son understood, and pitied her no less than himself.