Reversal:Curio Vignettes 03(4)By: Cara McKenna
But quests and prizes are for knights. I’m no knight. Just some self-exiled wretch barricaded in his lonely tower.
I look to the woman so hell-bent on rescuing me.
“Yes?” she asks.
“I’m calming,” I say, though my voice is melancholy.
“What would you like to do tonight?”
She shrugs. “Play cards for a bit?” She’s gotten quite addicted to piquet. And quite cutthroat.
I’d happily adjourn us to the bedroom and shed my worries alongside my clothes, turn my mind over to the delightful task of exploring her body. But I can survive a few hands. We stow the leftovers, refill our glasses and wander to the living room.
I put a record on—viola, but nothing too sad. As Caroly shuffles, I think again how nice it might be if this place were ours, hers and mine. Her things in the medicine cabinet and around the bedroom, not secreted in cupboards and drawers lest my other visitors see. In that alternate universe where I’d managed the day’s mission, maybe I’d have asked her to come live with me. She wants to move this autumn, out of her current flat. If we split the rent, I could afford to stop selling my body, find another job.
All these years I thought this must be my calling, but lately…
Arranging my cards, I wonder, what else could I do? Go back to being an artists’ model, perhaps. Tutor people at French or English or Portuguese. Anything but continue being a kept man—kept and shared by a dozen or more women, but kept all the same. I’ve long fancied myself lucky to have succeeded in my vocation, but what used to strike me as decadent has begun to feel cloying. I’m anyone’s pretty pet for the right price. I could be Caroly’s alone, not a pet but a partner.
But that universe is so very far away. I realize that now.
“Making any progress with the locks?” she asks. Earlier this month she gifted me a bag of antique padlocks, along with a set of tiny tools and a book on how to pick them.
“Yes, I’ve fiddled two open so far. It’s harder than I expected.”
She grins, clearly pleased to hear her puzzle is proving difficult. “Good.”
“It’s rather satisfying, that sound when you’ve succeeded and the shackle snaps free. Though it comes after quite a bit of blind frustration.” My clocks are kinder. Like a jigsaw puzzle, you can see your progress. The padlocks do nothing but taunt, and until I get better, picking them is more a battle of wits than an art.
“When your birthday comes around, I’ll be sure to put your present in a box with at least four locks.”
I shake my head, smiling. “Cruel creature.” I imagine it though—Caroly still a part of my life when January and my birthday arrive. Snow falling outside. Picturesque, the two of us here in this room, sharing a hot meal, perhaps playing this very game. So bleak and lonely should she move on before then. Me still here. Always here.
“Did you have any interesting clients this week?” she asks, discarding a queen. I warm to the change of topic. As always, there’s no jealousy in her tone. She likes to hear the sorts of requests my visitors make of me.
“I’ve had two since the last time you were here.”
“You know I can’t tell you anything so specific. So recent.” A woman’s desires are as intimate and vulnerable as her sex, entrusted to the man she exposes herself to.
“Of course not.”
“But I can tell you that neither visit was peculiar in any way.” My Wednesday evening guest was a typical one in that she prefers to simply treat our appointments as dates, dressing up to be catered to first with food and wine, then with my mouth and hands and cock. Thursday was much the same, if a bit more…vigorous. The only difference was which man I was expected to be.
“I got to play very different lovers,” I tell her.
Her cards immediately lose their interest. She sips her wine, eyes wide. “What sorts of lovers?”
Ones very unlike the coward I truly am. “First the perfect seducer. Warm and clever and shameless.” I can feel his skin slipping over my shoulders like a cloak.
“Forceful?” she asks, meaning a different sort entirely.