by David Cain
The phone rang, stirring Steven into consciousness.
“Hello,” he said, his voice thick with disuse.
“Hey, Dad.” Steven rolled out of bed and blinked as his eyes adapted to daylight.
“Did I wake you?”
“No, no. I was working.”
“We just wanted to see how you’re doing.”
“You know, Steven,” his father’s deep voice spoke slowly, slightly unsure, “it’s been a long time since . . . . We just think . . . . Son, don’t you think it’s about time you pick yourself up and try to start over again?”
“I know, Dad. I am. Don’t worry.”
“We love you, Steven. Remember that.”
“Thanks Dad. Thanks for calling.”
Steven hung up the phone and looked out the window. Thick grey clouds filled the winter sky. Steven sighed and looked at his desk, piled high with books. He cleared a space, pushing one stack toward the rear and picking up another to place them on the floor. Tentatively, he sat down. Steven stood up and went to take a shower.
Drying his black curls, he looked again at the empty space on his desk. He could remember a time when sitting down to write had been an indispensable part of his morning routine. Steven shivered. “Damn, it’s cold in here,” he said, tossing the towel into a pile of dirty clothes and reaching into his closet for a shirt.
Brushing through his hair, Steven looked at himself in the mirror. A self-conscious smile flickered past his face. “Dad’s right,” Steven said to himself. “I’ve just got to move on.” Picking up his boots, he sat down in his desk’s chair. Deliberately, Steven turned and tried to feel at home. He stared for a moment at a small photograph of a young woman locked in a silver frame. As if the floor had dropped out from under him, Steven felt his spirit sink. “I’ll just go out,” he said, standing abruptly.
Pulling on his long wool coat, Steven started the short walk down to the shopping mall. Cold wind bit into cheek as he turned down the hill. A long time had passed since Steven had dared to go out in public for no particular reason, telling himself he just preferred the quiet solemnity of his apartment. Trips to the store had been infrequent, quick and intensely pragmatic. Steven lowered his head and trudged forward, determined to take at least this simple step.
Pulling open the glass doors of the broad building, Steven was immediately assaulted with the bright lights and noise of the modern day town square. Possessed by a wave of discomfort, he slowed his pace, eyeing the color and motion anxiously. A crying child pulled at her mother’s coat while the young woman searched the depths of an embroidered purse. A man in a brown tie arranged a number of blue and gold books in a short pyramid. A whimsical song of decades gone past drifted down from above. Steven walked intently along the tiled wide hall, stepping past reflections of subdued white lights hung high above.
Warmth began to loosen his nervous tension as he approached a tall fountain spending water in circular streams. Steven found a bare bench and sat down, wearily. He wondered if coming out was really such a good idea. Steven bit at a finger nail. Maybe he just wasn’t ready.
Looking up, Steven stopped thinking. A sudden glimpse of beauty in the guise of a young woman caught his eye. Steven looked away nervously, but found himself glancing back again. She traced a motion, graceful and fluid, deliberate and smooth. The vision caught him, distracted him, attracted and held him.
Steven watched her as she placed a package down beside her feet and rummaged through the pockets of her long coat. She lifted her head, elegantly, beautifully and Steven held his breath. Her soft pale hair swung and stopped, caressing her draped shoulders. Delicate fingers fiddled with her coat’s collar, and she gently bit a coral lip. Reaching back into her pocket, she withdrew a small fold of white paper and in a flash of disinterested recognition, she pushed it back in.
Steven stood and approached her. Even as his feet moved forward, he gasped, wondering at what he was doing. He stopped a few feet away from the girl. She looked up, her deep blue eyes radiant and cool.
“Excuse me,” Steven said, “but could I buy you lunch?”
“I’m sorry,” she said, wrinkling her brow.
“No,” he said, blushing. “I’m just . . .” Steven turned to walk away.
“Wait,” the young woman said. “Please. I’d be delighted.” Steven listened as the sound of her voice echoed in his ears, a sweet melody of compassion and delight. He looked at her and felt his heart warm as she smiled.
Hours later, they stepped out into the cold day together, walked slowly away from the mall and the quiet repast of their long lunch. Steven shivered, as much from delight as from the biting harsh wind, feeling nervous and enflamed by the woman walking beside him. Snow fell in floating flakes, unhurried in their peaceful descent. The ground gleamed with a thickening shroud of crystalline white.
“I’m a writer,” he said after an extended pause.
“I thought so,” Kristen said. “You have a way with words. What are you writing?”
“Nothing,” he said, his heart sinking. “I can’t. I haven’t been able to work in a long time. Almost a year. Well, exactly.”
“Oh,” she said. “I guess I understand.”
“But you, you’re a dancer?” Steven asked, curious.
“Almost,” Kristen replied.
“I love dance,” he said. “I love the beauty of motion. I used to go to the ballet. The glide of the dancers as they almost trip over the stage, deliberate and yet fluid. It takes my breath. I think it is my favorite style of performance.”
“I like dance,” she replied with a teasing smile.
Steven took Kristen’s gloved hand in his own as the path turned down a short hill and wound around, approaching a small pond. A busy crowd filled the icy circle, slipping and sliding in delicate arcs, speeding runs and sudden falls. The snowy hills echoed their laughter until the whole winter afternoon seemed to ring with joy. Steven fought an urge to hurry down the hill, to take a familiar place against a snow-covered fence and watch the revelry.
“I used to come here and skate,” Steven told Kristen as he leaned against the boards. “I can’t tell you how many hours we spent here, laughing and playing.” Steven sighed. “So many memories.”
“Oh,” she said, quietly.
“Do you skate?” he asked.
“No.” Kristen turned and started to walk further down the winding path, heading toward the woods. Steven shrugged and caught up with her. The snow fell hard, silent in the thick cedars. Their footsteps crunched rhythmically along the freezing blanket of crisp virgin white. Long evergreen branches, heavy with the winter cold, stretched down across their path. Steven reached down to take a handful of snow and made a ball. Kristen gave him a warning glance and he threw it into the woods, sending a thick cascade of glittering crystals to the ground. They walked on in silence.
A small cottage sat in a white covered clearing. Kristen withdrew a key from her purse and unlocked the dark wood door. They went up a wooden staircase and into a dark cozy room.
“Would you light the fire?” Kristen asked. “I’ll fix us something to drink.”
Steven knelt on the brick hearth and struck the long match. The kindling sputtered slightly and then burst into a dim yellow flame which traveled along a spreading maze of thin fibers, licking at the black logs. Steven stood, brushed his hands and looked around at the cozy surroundings. Smiling to himself, he picked up a frame from the mantle.
The photo showed a girl in tight blue stretched out as she glided along the crystalline ice, a moment seized in elegant perfection. Steven smiled and replaced the picture to the pine shelf.
“I thought you said you didn’t skate,” he said. Kristen handed him a large mug of warmth. The spicy richness of the steaming drink tickled Steven’s cold nose.
“I did. I don’t.” Kristen frowned slightly. Steven lifted his mug to touch hers.
“I understand,” he said and took a sip of the hot cider.
“I know you do,” she said softly. He sat his mug down and kissed her. Kristen put her arms around Steven, drawing him hard against her. He looked into her deep eyes, felt the soft caress of her tears.
“But it’s so beautiful,” he said. “You are so beautiful. I would love to see you.”
“You will,” she said.
Steven lifted Kristen in a single, fluid motion, taking her in a kiss up the stairs to her bed and held her tight as they burrowed themselves warm under the covers. Their somber caresses grew playful as the touch of their desire drifted through hours and he fumbled with hers while she fumbled with his and in a sudden laughing explosion, their clothes flew from the bed. Steven lingered in an electric moment of contact as he pressed her bare breasts full against his naked chest, feeling the tightening of her nipples as they brushed his tender skin. Her lean legs wrapped around his, and their bodies melded together.
“I haven’t,” he said as he entered her.
“I haven’t,” she giggled, embracing his presence.
Steven raised himself up on his arms, hovering over Kristen and paused, his prick barely suckled by the soft lips of her cunt. He drank in the moment, the splay of blonde hair spread over her pillow, the hungry gleam of her lazuli eyes, her tantalized smile, the milky white rounded breasts and her darkened tight nipples.
“I want you,” he said, plunging in hard.
“Yes,” she moaned, lapping in the thrust. Steven rolled into Kristen with a deliberate rhythm, delighting in each succulent lick of her lips. She lifted her hips to meet each firm stroke. The union transformed and blossomed as they felt their hearts melt.
They loved until dawn while snowfall buried their world.
Steven trudged through the glittering crystals of cold, working his way slowly back to his home. His thoughts lingered with Kristen, and her warm, loving touch. Steven opened the door to his place with a sigh. He peeled off his coat and hung the damp wool on a hook. Shucking his pants, wet with melting snow, he dashed up to his room to find some dry sweats. Steven pulled on the soft leggings, leaning on the desk’s chair as he pulled down the cuff.
Pausing, he looked at the empty place on the desktop.
Steven sat down and reaching into the top drawer pulled out his notebook. He took his fountain pen from the case and refilled the tool with dark ink. Tempting a drip from the nub of the pen, he stretched out his arms and leaned forward.
“From out of the snowfall, a crystal white nymph. . . .”