Chapter 8. (See all chapters here.)
The child skipped a stone out into the aquamarine inlet. The stone hopped five times, one point to the next, until eventually submerging beneath the surface, never to be seen again. The kid thought nothing of it – the life he gave that inanimate object, beginning with its selection from the so many thousands of other stones on that beach; its launch, wrist bent just right; its first hop – a break from everything the stone had ever lived – the four others, a heroic striving to never stop flying; the tragedy that comes to all skipped stones, combatting gravity with only the measly powers of a skinny blonde boy.
“Hans,” his momma called from beneath a parasol. “What did I tell you about throwing rocks? You are bound to hit someone.”
Hans let drop the second stone he had picked up and ran off from the shore, kicking up sand onto all the lithe and brown women, and the red and hairy men, bathing under the Mallorcan sun along his path.
“The little monster,” muttered Jacques beneath his breath, speaking in French, brushing the sand off his woman’s back.
The woman lay face down on a towel. She was topless and her naked back was glistening with the oil that Jacques had been applying to it. He had started at the shoulders. He had hands like baseball gloves, large, red and leathery. He had kept on his wedding ring, because it didn’t matter to the girl. She knew.
With those two hands he had dug into the shoulder blades, pushing in the thumbs, one at a time, and he could feel the joy she felt, and it gave him joy. He kept giving, always giving, always feeling in his body the feeling she must have been feeling, and with that he felt like a god to her. He felt in control of her pleasure.
His thumbs now over to the other shoulder. Then the bottom of the neck where all that tension lived. She turned her head to the other side, raising her hand to shade her eyes from the noon-white sun. Down along her spine he moved, feeling the knots and stress like a twist of cables and bone. Her ribs, he felt as he went lower, cupping her back, her waist so slender he could hold her there like that, his thumbs touching and the fingers wrapping all the way around to the front. Those bars of bone that held her heart, that he love so much to strum like a harp, or to kiss and to feel along his cheek when they made love. And lower now to just above the waist. And more tension here than anywhere else. Pushing in, he could nearly feel it, as if he was pushing in on himself. As she moaned gently, he relented, but she said: no keep going, darling, that’s exactly what I want, and she spoke in English.
And so Jacques positioned himself so he was kneeling above the girl, straddling her without resting all his weight onto those legs that, to him, never seemed to end, never seemed to end in their gift, never seemed to stop to give him places to caress and to hold and to kiss, until, of course, they did end, up at the feet, and the toes that he would kiss. But for now, he was not onto the legs. They were not under his grip yet. He now kneaded into her ass. Her bikini bottom was white and that view was nearly too much for him, the white disappearing into that shadowed cavern between her, where all he could do was desire to dive, and to suffocate, to inhale, but not yet, he knew, wait for it, he thought, and continue to give. So he gave.
He shuffled down further now, leaving behind that zone that so pulled him in, and focusing again on what he could do to push into her the pleasure he knew he could deliver. Each leg received his wrap, all the way from the diagonal, the reverse diamond at the joint, the round and nearly plastic looking calves, whose shine was that of a doll’s and the soles of her little feet, those too like those of a doll. What a magic woman. It was painful in how much he loved her. She said “switch” and she rolled onto her back, leaving off the top of her bikini, so that the sun, the curious children and men, the whole world could see those perfect objects that would later fit so well into his giant grip, and into his mouth, as he would take her in the living room at the rented house on the shore.
She had removed her sunglasses, so she was forced to lay with her profile to Jacques, her gaze horizontal along the writhing desert of German, Belgian and French tourists in this shining Spanish island. Little Hans ran along the beach where she looked, now kicking a ball with his little sister. Those eyes, beneath two fans, her eyes – in them was a lost girl.
The man, Jacques, was much older. His chest hair had started to gray. Quite clearly he was French in the shape of his body, in the speedo swimsuit, in the over-sized watch, in the careful way he had folded his clothes that he wore down to the beach, in the square jaw and the sharp haircut. Quite clearly he had grown up, and lived in Paris all his life, where he could now not escape the glow the city gives its rich men. That uneasy way they are handsome, and well dressed, even when they are almost naked on a beach. If he had been with a woman his own age, or closer to it, it might not have been so unsettling to look at. Had those eyes of the girl not been so clouded with melancholy – or was it boredom? – he might have looked more appropriate. But his richness, the red colour of his skin and the giant watch, was disgusting, because she was just a little girl, naked at the top, and bored. He stooped over her, and that way he stayed, continuing the massage for hours.
* * *
“But when Jacques, when?” she yelled, unable to contain her voice. “You’ve been saying the same damn thing for ages. God.”
“Shh, I’d prefer for us not to make a scene.”
“When,” she said. “You tell me, because, honestly, I’m tired of asking.”
“I know, I know. We have to do it. But it’s going to kill her. It’s going to kill her I know it. Soon.”
“She’s a big girl, she’ll handle it. It’s not like you two even … It’s not like she’s even happy anymore. You said so yourself.”
“No, don’t. It’s always the same.”
“Angela, come one why can’t we just… just wait until the right time.”
She stopped speaking. She drank from her martini. She looked out over the ocean from the little restaurant patio where they ate. The waiter had just brought them desert. She hardly looked at the plate that was placed in front of her. Her lips were tight.
“I’m not happy, Jacques. You’re not making me happy anymore.”
“What are you saying?” he asked, switching to English. “Baby?”
He reached for her face but she abruptly pushed it aside. She waited for him to speak next. Her heart was racing as she bit her lip.
“I’m not saying I won’t do it. I will. You know I will. Regarde.”
He put his hand on her leg.
“Regarde. I will do it. When it’s the right time. That’s all.”
She huffed, exhaling through her nose.
“Now, look. Tomorrow I’ll take you out on the boat. We’ll have a nice time just you and me. Then we’ll head into Palma, do some shopping. That sound good or what?”
“You don’t love me. You don’t love me and you’re never going to love me like you do her.”
She threw down her serviette and left the table. She left the terrace of the restaurant and came to the boardwalk along the shore of the now black and unrelenting sea. It was nearly midnight and the moon shone down onto the water like millions of scales of silver, a fat, round snake the size of the world, girdling in the wake of the evening, swallowing up everything in that belly, cold, unfathomably cold and deep. Was she crying, as her shoulders shuddered? Jacques paid the bill with cash and found her with her back to him, looking out over the water.
He didn’t speak.
He stood next to her, looking the same way she did, looking at the ocean in that way where you see nothing but the pains and the fears inside you, the naked black mirror that all the poets and lovers, their hearts all broken, all of them, have seen and will continue to see until the water swallows us all. This woman beside him: how she made him break on the inside. How that first night they met, where was it, Montmartre probably, and how excited Meredith was to bring him into her life, into her family. How the two girls spoke all night without end, how they laughed, and how they seemed to know his city better than him, as they walked, as they pointed out funny, twisting streets, with the names of saints, beside cemeteries, beneath cathedrals. How that night it had all begun for Jacques, the hunger that would slowly peel him away from Meredith’s glow, and into her, the black-eyed girl’s grip.
That night in Paris, Angela never stopped looking at Jacques, never stopped smiling. She touched his arm three times. Three different little jokes, or secrets, or remarks. He couldn’t remember what was said. But he remembered three. Three times she touched him and smiled, never stopped smiling.
“You know this isn’t easy for me, either, darling. You know it kills me, too. I mean god. She’s my sister…
But we’ve got to let her know. She deserves that much. You do, too. We deserve to live the way we always wanted. Don’t we?”
“T’as raison ma belle. You are right. You are always right.”
She faced him.
“If we can’t be true to our love, then what else do we have, Jacky? What else do we have?”
“You know I hate it when you call me that.”
She turned her back to him again, but he pulled her in close just as soon. He exhaled deeply.
“I’ll do it when I get back, this week. You’re right. It’s time.”
She faced him again and wrapped her arms around him, placing her head into his chest.
“Oh, my big bear. This is going to be good for us. I just know it.”
Jacques looked beyond the girl’s little head, smelling her, looking out and over that girdling snake’s belly. Her tiny voice came out, and this time it was sweet, it was childlike. The anger had left her like a mist.
“Oh, don’t you just love it here, Jacky?”