Here’s a true-story Advent Tale with a difference.
The sky was gradually darkening. She sat on the deep window sill in her bedroom, hawk-like in her vigilant perch. Sometimes it seemed to her that from this position she could view the entire world.
Clusters of young stars were popping into existence, their neon dust silently exploding from the tree-and-rooftop-peppered horizon. In the background loomed the ever-watchful forest, darkening in duet with the sky. Closer at hand colourful Christmas decorations winked from fir trees dotted down the ermine road; in the far distance lights rippled from a white desert of miniaturised communist blocks. Soon, she knew, the first tentative etchings of constellations would materialise out of the nebular mist.
She loved this time of day, when everything was in disguise. It felt late, yet it was only 4.00 pm. All the inhabitants of the night – the stars, the constellations, the darkness that discoloured everything and created magic out of ordinary shapes – made reality an illusion, giving substance to madness and dreams. It suited her perfectly.
Her children, darling Polar cubs that they were, had not long since come back from their long sledging expedition. They lay flat out on the sofa in the living room, rosy-cheeked and knackered, thawing out on their usual Disney dosage, too tired even to argue with each other or whine about hunger pangs.
She was looking forward to the remainder of the evening. She would give the guys another half hour. If they hadn’t turned up by then she would go downstairs, light as many candles as she could find, put on Christmas carols while she concocted something edible out of the dregs of the pantry, and then join her Polar cubs beneath their rug on the sofa in front of the TV for an hour or so before putting them to bed. It sounded like a very pleasant way of spending a first advent: just her and her cubs, the forest, the snow and the stars. Sex and betrayal were no longer a priority. She could just relax under the peace of silken stars rather than in the semen of sweaty sheets.
But arrive they did, all four of the guys – the American Animal and his three mates, with a loud banging at the door and a mock singing of carols. She smiled to herself despite a brief fleck of annoyance that her peace had been disrupted. Already submerged tinglings and palpitations were bubbling upwards within her, reminding her of what was yet to come, of how it all lay within her power. She could almost feel the weight of her long snowy cloak draped round her shoulders, trailing on the floor as she headed for the stairs, a starry crown illuminating her dark-eyed face, a crisp layer of ice crackling and crinkling round her transplanted heart. She was the newly-elected Winter’s Queen who acted as she pleased, and others obeyed as she willed. She would seduce who she liked when she liked, she would deep-freeze any emotions akin to love, she would smile in the face of difficult parents at her school, no matter what curses they railed upon her; and, in spite of any outrageous deeds she might or might not choose to perpetrate, she would remain at all times a good mother: fun-loving but cool, and never possessed. No one would possess her ever again.
She opened the front door to let in the vociferous mob, drawing her royal cloak closer about her at the onslaught of icy air they brought with them. One after the other stamped the snow off their feet as they piled in single file, laden with carrier bags of food and alcohol. The Animal was last, blue-lipped and red-nosed, but not too frozen to manage a wink at her as he shut the door behind him.
It was a good five minutes before they were all freed from their winter’s armour and settled in the kitchen, disemboweling shopping bags upon the table, opening bottles of wine and beer, selecting CDs of rock music, soul, reggae … The Animal was searching through her cupboards, extracting one rusty pan after another and swearing profusely.
‘How the fuck am I supposed to cook a meal with this rubbish?’ he ranted with prima donna hyperbole. ‘Don’t you realise that the success of a good cook is all about what he cooks with? I can barely boil an egg using this fucking shit!’
‘Oh, I can manage that all right,’ she laughed, her coquettish eyes catching one or two stars that spilled from her crown.
‘Wine or beer?’ one of the others asked, unperturbed by their chef’s hysterics. They were used to his ravings by now, having had several impressive meals cooked by him at varying homes scattered about Kraków, though barely escaping with their lives each time.
He eventually calmed down, selected his sub-standard pans, and started firing out orders to his obedient crew – chop the onions! peel the garlic! slice the mushrooms! wash the lettuce! – but his Ice-Queen he merely instructed to sit down, relax and enjoy her wine. Soon the entire band of them were thoroughly engrossed in cooking what turned out to be a very delicious meal indeed. Her Polar cubs consumed their own mini-version of it in the living room, wisely defying the crowds and fumes and deafening music of the kitchen, happily avoiding glimpses of the occasional lewd touch or high-voltage leer that took place between their mother and her crazy American friend during frequent ciggie breaks. And when it was time, the cubs tottered in relief up to the peace of their beds, happily failing to witness the lurid scenes that multiplied at an alarming rate during the course of the evening.
By midnight everyone was too stuffed, too drunk, and too droopy-eyed to cope with treacherous journeys back to their respective homes. So, as she had planned, she invited them all to stay the night. Makeshift beds were conjured out of sofas, armchairs and piles of cushions. After exchanging slurred good-nights she crept up the stairs to her own bedroom, careful not to wake her cubs.
She disentangled her sparkling crown from her hair, removed her snow-white cloak from her shoulders, wiped the stardust out of her eyes, took off the rest of her clothes, flinging them one by one onto a nearby chair. Soon she stood naked, unaware of her involuntary shivers, aware only of her conspiracy with the winter’s night, which had elected her as its very own Queen.
She climbed into the freezing bed and waited. Presently the sound of footsteps mounting the stairs greeted her tuned-in ears. The door creaked open.
‘Hi,’ she called to her sexy nocturnal visitor in an imperative whisper, leaving no doubts that her command was for him to enter her boudoir.
He tip-toed towards her bed, and for several moments stood in silence, looking down at her, hesitating.
At last she propped herself up on an elbow. ‘Well? Are you going to come and join me or not?’
He sat down with a heavy slump on the edge of the bed, and started unbuttoning his shirt. She stroked the hairs on his forearm as his hands worked their way down his chest towards his trouser belt. Already she looked forward to those hands touching her skin, turning it from ice to liquid snow.
When he had finished undressing he pulled back the quilt and climbed into the bed next to her. She lay back on the pillow again; now it was his turn to lean on an elbow, peering into her black, illegible eyes.
He kissed her on the lips, slowly, hotly, forcing her mouth wider open, then releasing it as his own mouth sought new territory.
She closed her eyes and allowed herself, just for the flakiest of moments, to imagine that it was her lover who was kissing her, nibbling her, moving his body lower down the bed as he licked her breasts, her belly … moving lower still, spreading her legs apart, licking harder, as hard as her breathing …
She caught a glimpse of starlight through the uncurtained window, and remembered just how glad she was that it wasn’t her lover. Her Monster. How marvellous that in the morning she could extract herself from this pair of arms – no matter how perfectly moulded and desirable they were – without experiencing the urge to weep or howl or slash at innocent flesh. How marvellous that she could get on with life the next day without crawling about like a wounded dog whimpering for its master to come home, or an orphaned child dreaming of impossible reunions. How marvellous not to experience any sensations of weakness or despair whatsoever. Only victory.
The above extract is from my novel, Thirteen States of Being