Authors: Florence Dugas
Tags: #Masquerade Books
I untie her and let her fall to the floor like an exhausted waterfall.
I stay there, watching her lying at my feet, a white and red stain a black mask, on the brown of the tiles.
I feel a displacement of air at my back.
J. P. comes to me and takes me gently by the shoulders.
I am frozen in place.
He kisses me tenderly on the temple.
"Well!" he says.
There is admiration in his voice.
He leans toward Nathalie and, with rapid and precise gestures undoes the hood, which he takes off by turning it inside out as if he were skinning an animal.
Her eyes are closed, her nostrils pinched. Her makeup has run everywhere, collecting in gray splotches between the hood and her skin.
He grabs the bottle of champagne and pours a long stream on her face. The bubbles sparkle on her skin like hydrogen per- oxide on an abrasion.
It takes her some time to come back to herself—as if she were coming from very far away.
"Are you okay?" I ask stupidly.
She has been chained like a medieval martyr, beaten and whipped nearly to death, fucked in front and from behind. She is covered with gashes where the blood is slowly coagulating, and I have just asked her if she is okay...
Without saying anything, she drags herself to the wall and leans there.
As paradoxical as this might seem, there is something immensely happy in her face. And also something disappointed.
J. P. returns to me, takes me by the arm, throws me on the
bed. I bury my face in the red comforter. I need something—but I don't know what.
I feel his weight on me, and I open up as never before, voluntarily.
He fucks my cunt as if he were carving a piece of meat. Meat. To be only meat.
He pulls out of my sex, lies down on the bed, pulls me to
him, and penetrates me again. His lips seek my mouth; I kiss him with the ferocity I have
just put into fucking Nathalie. I press myself against him, rub against him. I wipe his
chest with the blood covering me.
I suddenly sense a presence behind me. I turn my head without impeding my impalement on the cock piercing my cunt.
Nathalie has returned to us. In her hand she is holding the dick I had thrown to the ground. Hallucinatory. I hardly recognize her under her tragic mask, a watercolor of blood and mascara.
She puts the dildo to her labia, rubs it against her sex, then buries it between my buttocks clumsily, as if she were screwing it in. It hurts so much that my whole body moves in an effort to escape the impossible double penetration.
J. P. pulls me tightly against him, his mouth on mine, his arm encircling me. He glues me to him and keeps me jammed down on his cock, and Nathalie is able to get the oversized rod all the way up my ass. I want to scream, but he drinks my cries from my lips. I want to escape this monstrous rape. I want them both to be longer and bigger. I don't know what I want. I want to come, because it seems to me they will stop hurting me if they see me come. I don't want to come, because I could open myself even more, and I want them to fuck me for an eternity.
The blunt rod of the dildo rams the wall of my asshole, presses against, the other rod of flesh burning in my cunt.
I feel him ejaculate inside me—or was it her? I see the jets of sperm rush into me, cover my dilated mucous membranes, look for a way out of the impasse...
She lets go of the dildo, leaving it stuck inside me. Then she slides her hand to my pussy, seizes my clitoris, and twists it gently between her fingers.
It is my turn to come as if possessed.
It is after midnight.
Nathalie dozes in a warm bath full of creamy soap.
I am lying on my back, my millionth glass of champagne
in my hand. I have the impression my cunt has been torn open. My soul too, besides.
J. P. meticulously puts away the photographic materials. On the wall where Nathalie leaned are long streaks of blood.
1. Did Florence consciously copy a scene from Truffaut's
The Man Who Loved Women?
Her story is full of these reminiscences, whether voluntary or not.
2. On the photos I took at that moment, Florence looks insane. I think she was.
After that crazy night, our relationship cooled. It was as if we had said what was essential. It took a long time for Nathalie's scars to fade, and I followed the phases of their effacement with a curious detachment. The swellings caused by the whip and crop turned purple, then yellow. The gashes scarred over, leaving only faint lines, whiter still than her skin.
Through instinct she came to see me less often. One after- noon, returning home, I found her stretched out on the bed, completely dressed, shaking with sobs. I could never get her to say what was wrong.
Even the fact I had to ask proved my indifference, and she sensed that.
I decided to give up the Sophocles play and write an original production on Tiresias and the myth of the androgyne, with a hermaphroditic character at its center. I looked in vain for a young actor to play the role, then a young actress.
By silent mutual agreement, J. P. and I no longer made love. We continued to work together, our efficiency increasing tenfold. He no longer called me "my love" and kept himself from touching me.
My spirit was drained and my soul depleted, with no desire to be filled.
I made love to Nathalie twice, and each time I was distracted.
Once at least I was sure she faked an orgasm. Her piercings began to appear vaguely ridiculous. In this way, January passed.
I had never been to Nathalie's house—I had gone there to pick her up but had never been inside. I had extracted her address with difficulty that December by promising to write her. And I had written her, besides. To tell her I loved her. That I needed her.
Put into writing, it sounded false. When you love someone, it always sounds false. The letters J. P. occasionally sent me were more credibly eloquent—since he did not love me, I thought.
I returned to her mother's, to that sordid project in Creteil. I arrived at around six o'clock at night. All the streetlights were out this time. The slums.
I was going to give up when I heard the noise of a footfall. "Who's there?"
A terrible voice. Blow for blow, question for question.
"Is Nathalie there?" I asked.
A beat. The door opened. Behind it, Nathalie, thirty years
later. Her mother, obviously. She reeked of alcohol. Was dressed in that housedress of
faded flowers that becomes the second skin of the drunks you see in the movies.
"Nathalie is not here," she said.
A cavernous voice, dark and broken.
A little girl dressed like a two-dollar whore paraded into
the frame. "Hello," she said. "I'm Clara, Nathalie's sister. Come in."
The mother didn't budge, and her daughter pushed her with her elbow to let me get by.
I entered as if committing a crime, as if breaking into a mausoleum. A sanctuary.
The walls were covered with photos in frames of varied but particularly mediocre taste, of a man in his thirties. Slightly bearded. A fighter.
An odor reigned of recently extinguished votive candles and incense.
I must have looked completely stupid. "Would you like something to drink?" "No, no, thank you." I had answered mechanically.
"Doesn't know what's good," said the voice from beyond the grave.
She poured herself a large glass of rotgut white wine. Its smell mingled with the odors of the crypt, and I felt slightly nauseated and really wanted to get out of there.
The girl (she might have been fifteen) enjoyed my surprise. "Takes your breath away, huh?" she said.
She gestured about the room.
"My father," she said, as if she were continuing the
introductions. "I never knew him," she added. "At least, I don't remember him."
The terrible voice sounded: "She wasn't two years old when he left." "Left?"
"Mama means when he
Clara said, shrugging her shoulders. "Not for anything in this world will she say the word. I'm not afraid to, though."
Then suddenly: "Would you like to see Nathalie's room?"
I acquiesced. Several steps took us from the main cavern. The mourning continued in the other rooms. There were
niches surrounded by small lit candles, as one sees on Italian
street corners, illuminated pots of round red votive candles, like in churches.
Her room...my God, she was as crazy as her mother! The same yellowed, enlarged, exceedingly grainy photos. A little bed, like a bunk on a ship.
"The photos," Clara explained, "are there because Mama says that way, he's always here. He watches over us."
She shrugged her shoulders. "It's only lies."
She took me into her room. It was a typical adolescent's room. On the walls were the usual posters of imbecilic singers.
"Explain to me—" she began.
She did not continue, then was evasive.
"You're the girl that...well, that my sister—"
She hesitated. "You know, she's not such a great catch.
She's nuts. Just like my mother, but with her it's not alcohol. I have nothing against her, though. She's taken good care of me. God, she really chewed me out when I flunked out of school!"
She lit a cigarette. She ought to have capitalized on her youth, and yet suddenly she looked like what she was: a teenager burdened with big tits, in a family of crazies, who did what she could to survive. By taking snapshots—isolating scenes.
"My father died before I was three years old. I remember what people told me. Nathalie was with him in the car."
"He died in an accident?"
"Immediately, they tell me. Nathalie was in the back. Not a scratch on her."
The monstrous voice rang out from the door:
"My daughter was covered with blood! Do you know what happened? She used to horse around all the time in the car. He probably reached back to calm her, restrain her, I don't know. And look what happened!"
Then: "Do you want to see her dress? Her little dress? Do you want to see it?"
She darted into the neighboring room and came back bran- dishing a chiffon dress covered with little flowers and spotted all over with rust.
"Here's her dress!" She threw it in my face.
Clara jumped in front of her, pushed her back, and closed
the door. "God, I can't stand this screwy family!" I picked up the little dress at my feet. It was indeed
splotched with rust-colored blood. "You didn't notice, of course, but the dress is tacked up
above Nathalie's bed. Did you see her bed? It's been the same for twelve years. She's bigger than you are, but she sleeps in a child's bed. You've seen her sleep, haven't you? Doubled over."
It was true she slept curled in two—worse than a fetus, folded over upon a secret I was only beginning to understand. But I had never really paid attention. I would spoon against her buttocks...
"Don't trust her," Clara continued. "She's lost her marbles, and long ago, at that."
"I love her very much," I said.
"You sleep with her, right? Look, I don't give a damn if
you do; I prefer guys. The young ones are good for having fun, and the old ones for the money. I dress myself up like Lolita, and there you go. That puts a little money in the bank. Do I shock you? Nathalie did it before me. But in my case, it's only for the money. I'm the best cock sucker at my school. I don't shock you, do I? I know what you two do together. She has the right to get off as she likes, doesn't she? After all, it's not the happy times that have hurt her, these past ten years."
The sentences came out like bursts of gunfire, and during the pauses my imagination would get stuck, as if in a corner. The idea that Nathalie had "happy times" with me made me smile.
"Tell me one thing," I said.
"If I can."
"How do the three of you survive?" "Oh, that. Mama has a small pension from my father's death, which she drinks up. I get by—enough to pay for school. Not
through vice, don't think that. I take care of the retired people in the neighborhood. They want to be visited. Touched. I do a little something nice for them. Two hundred francs, quickly earned. As for Nathalie—" "Yes?"
"I don't know exactly. Really! She peddles her tail, a little. But not like I do. She does it with disgusting guys. Bruisers. Real assholes. She carries the bag for some very nasty guys—heroin, I think. She looks nice, she doesn't use, doesn't drink, so she gets across the border with a smile. Once she had in her purse more money than I've ever seen. I think that's what she's into now. Money laundering. She knows some dangerous guys."
It was completely reassuring. That explained the luxurious clothes and perfume—and the trips, no doubt.
"Don't hurt her," Clara said suddenly. "She's a good girl, deep down. Crazy, but nice."
"Why do you want—"
"She's not doing well right now, I think. But I wouldn't know how to say—"
The door opened on Nathalie's mother.
"You really don't want a drink?"
She had the moist forehead and unmistakable odor of a
professional drunk. She blocked the entrance to the room. Clara went to her mother, took her by the arm, and gently opened the passage.
"She didn't come back this morning. I don't know where she is," Clara said, as I was edging toward the door.
The ghost on the walls watched me try to escape without commentary.
Night was falling like soot.
Why did girls have to die of the deaths of their fathers? And why did I have to kill him, too?