Maria’s body is asking but does her intellectual husband know how to listen?
Erotic Romance/Historical. 1 chili pepper. M/F.
Maria Beringer loved words, especially those that led her to fantasies such as those her imagination conjured in the night. Once more, she’d awakened with her fingers gently pressing that most sensitive of places through her silk gown. Her eyes opened to her empty bed and chilly chamber. She glanced to the racy copy of the now-banned, The Rainbow, by D.H. Lawrence. One of many she’d hidden away over the years. Words. Desire. For a moment, her fingers still lingering there, she felt it: the wet heat. Maria shut her eyes in frustration, and felt the tears erupt. Why couldn’t he see, feel, hear her?
This was the day, she concluded. “It’s over — or did it ever begin?” She threw the covers back and sat up, pushing her long, dark hair back with her hands. She paused to catch a glimpse of herself in the mirror, imagined her gown slipping off with his hands on her bare body — then shook her head. “He’s never really known you at all.”
For so long in his life, Dr. Edward Beringer considered talking overrated. Examine, diagnose, treat. Repeat. The scores of patients now arriving from the front in France gave the good doctor ample reason to continue — efficiently — in his work. Until this morning.
Maria perused the latest newspaper, her eyes flying over the columns of news, economic, and social updates.
Tea. Egg. Toast.
The latest medical news articles that caught her attention: Freud, a talking cure, the potential to heal suffering patients with words.
“Talk to them.” She said it aloud. Shocked at the ease of the supposed cure to the debilitating condition so many men now endured.
“Yes? What was that?”
Maria smiled at him. “How often do you just talk to them?” She took a sip of tea, gazing expectantly at her studious, shy-if-somewhat-rigid husband. “Not just to ask questions, but how often do you hear them out and let them tell you their stories exactly — ”
“I always listen,” he interrupted.
“Like you listen to me,” Maria whispered.
Edward worried his lower lip, a nervous habit from childhood when he’d been caught with the jam jar in the cook’s kitchen when he was four; he didn’t hear her, but continued: “Talking is too difficult for some of them to manage; besides, it is action that brings about treatment and cures.”
“You never hear me; I imagine it’s the same in your office.” She stared at him, envisioning three nights prior when she’d wanted so much for him to hear her pleas for more, for the touch just where she needed him before he left her there, unladylike in her wanton whimpers, while he finished with a stifled groan.
“Darling? Are you all right?”
“No,” she said. I’m starving, still… Maria felt the familiar ache and lowered her eyes to her dress, her lap… before she swept her teacup and saucer off the table with one motion and left him there to finish his breakfast alone.
* * *
Edward reasoned his strong-minded wife simply needed to make her point, as she had always done and would soon forget it. But she never returned, not even to see him off with a kiss before his day in his London office officially began with seeing his patients.
In the late morning, in between appointments, Edward ruminated on his wife’s words and disposition. Talk to his patients — listen to them. Could they really be helped by merely letting their demons loose in the safe confines of his quiet office? Could Edward himself bear it? He’d worked diligently in a hospital in France during the war years, writing home faithfully to Maria about the conditions and the beauty of France — a romantic interlude before their wedding immediately after he returned home. Now, just a short year into their marriage, she refused to leave well enough alone and insisted he change his ways. Was this what marriage should be? He’d never considered the possibility. His parents, a baronet and his wife, talked kindly to one another, kept their social commitments to society within their county and class, and slept separately. That was love. That was surely marriage as it should be. Maria kept a room for herself, but she frequently slept in his bed, honing in on his rooms and time, refusing to be set aside as a mere social trophy, which was truth: she was the daughter of a well-respected viscount. Edward smiled at the notion: he’d certainly married above rank. Frustration, then, consumed him as he frowned, looking out the window to the London street — didn’t her childhood rearing inform her better of her place?
A knock. A hot drop from his teacup sparked his hand. “Aach — come in.” He quickly took his handkerchief and wiped the spot dry, nervously pressing the cloth to the place as his patient came in and seated himself across from Edward’s rather-imposing cherry desk. “Ah, Captain Parks. How are you?”
The clean-shaven man in his late-30’s didn’t reply. His eyes, hollow, lifeless, stared blankly at Edward. A few seconds passed and the officer finally nodded. This fourth visit with the officer showed no improvement in symptoms, he noted in his file on the desk. He looked again at the man sitting across from him, the soul seeking absolution and peace. As Beringer reached for the morphine pill bottle — again, a refill — he paused and glanced once more at Parks.
Typical: Medicine. Injection. Departure. Next. An assembly-line approach to people. The good doctor suddenly saw Captain Parks, a stream of sun rays alighting his prematurely-graying hair, differently.
“Sir, would you mind — ” The doctor hesitated, the inquiring look to the patient met by an equally questioning expression. “It says here, old chap, that you fought and survived the Somme.”
Edward’s wife’s words echoed again. He shifted in his chair, noting the time on the clock’s face across his desk. Uncertain as to how to begin, Edward leaned forward and tilted his head, his ear inviting the story. “It must’ve been noisy and, I imagine, very hard fighting — will you tell me… ”
* * *
“Maria! Darling, where are you?”
He hung his hat, forgetting to leave his coat, too, in an effort to find his wife immediately.
A small, sad humming sound reached him: her bedroom. He rushed to her door from the top of the stairs and took a breath, gently knocking.
“Maria? I need to talk to you. Today was —”
The door opened slowly to reveal his wife: eyes sad and darkened by tear stains.
“What? What is it, darling?”
Maria let the door open wider and he saw the suitcases packed.
“What’s all this?”
“I want something that you can’t give me. I saw it again this morning: the condescension and gently pushing me aside—”
“Yes, you’re absolutely right — it was wretched of me to treat you in such a manner.”
Maria glared at him. Was this the condescension continuing or mere appeasement in the moment to entreat her to stay?
He paused, aware of the distance he needed to cover in this short amount of time to recover. “I need to tell you what happened today. Will you please sit down?”
Maria allowed him to guide her to a chair, whilst he sat near her on the bed.
Edward smiled, a humble and grateful look on his face that she couldn’t quite fathom. “I did it. Today, your suggestion about talking to them: I did it. I saw him differently — I didn’t just hand over the pills and give him the usual treatment and send him on his way. I… asked him questions about his time in the war, about his men. It — ” His eyes welled and he glanced away, ashamed at such emotion and weakness in front of his wife.
Then, he felt her hands on his face, turning him back to her. “It helped him?”
“And me,” he managed. “I think it changed me, too.” He took her hands in his. “I’m so sorry for setting you aside, hurting you. I would never intend to hurt you; I was caught up in what we’ve always done, rather than interested in what is truly best! I was wrong. In so many things, I’ve been wrong.”
His eyes stared at her for a long moment, then looked to her bags already packed. “Am I too late in… reaching you, too?”
Maria, whose own eyes betrayed the pain of neglect, slowly shook her head. “Just in time, I think?”
He heard the question, the doubt. “What can I do?” He spoke urgently, caressing her hands. “I love you. I’ll do anything.”
“You never really… talk to me. Only polite exchanges. No real talking about what matters to me.” She looked down at their hands, gently enveloping each other, before looking directly at him again. “You never really… touch me.” The words suspended. The medical cure. The marriage cure. “You’re starting something new there, in your office, and I hope we can start to truly know each other here. I don’t want distance.” Her fingertips touched his lips, traced the line of his mouth. “Aren’t we married? Aren’t we supposed to be — ” She sensed the titillation and nervousness in him, his eyes larger, the intensity of his gaze unmistakable. “One?”
When he pushed forward to try and kiss her, she backed away.
“But I want — I thought you — ”
“Talk to me. Listen to me.”
Maria loosened his tie, her fingers nimbly untying and unbuttoning the top of his collar. “I want us to show each other, tell each other, everything.”
He finally grinned, a wrinkle of nervous laughter erupting. “Have you been reading those books the society banned again?”
The visage of seriousness didn’t alter. “I’ve been using my own imagination and knowledge. It doesn’t take much when there’s so much we’ve left unexplored.”
Aroused already by his wife’s openness, Edward reached for the lift of her skirt, but again, his wife stopped him. “Don’t you want me to —”
Maria observed the flush of embarrassment in her husband’s cheeks. “Yes?”
“Make love?” He stammered.
“Yes, but I wish to be fully seen.”
Propriety whispered to him then, louder than before. “You don’t mean — it’s not proper, Maria, you know it’s simply not done.”
“How do I know? I’m not in other people’s rooms.” She touched his chin gracefully, her fingers urging him closer until her lips touched his softly. “Don’t you want to be with me? Just as others’ rooms are not in our plain view, our life doesn’t have to be. We belong to one another; let us truly give to one another… everything of ourselves. The sanctity of marriage, Edward, isn’t it? Fully giving. Fully receiving. All of me. All —”
She couldn’t finish. Her husband’s lips took hers, kissing her fully, while trying to finish for her with his own promises.
The kiss endured, her hands unbuttoning, unfastening, revealing all of him simultaneously. He took a breath to step back, look at her eyes in want of him. She then took a moment to instruct, to assist him in the undressing of her own body. Each feminine secret of chastity done away with, impressing upon him the knowledge necessary to engage her at any point in the future — all the locks between them disintegrating, revealing the distance and mysteries so long-held between them. They stood in front of one another, mesmerized, aroused, until Maria found the remaining courage to speak.
His eyes followed her hand as it took his. “Tell me what you want,” she said.
His mouth dry, he tried to lick his lips, to swallow even.
Edward’s lips pursed and curved slightly. “I want… to make you feel pleasure.”
“Ah,” she said, “then first, I want you to touch me, for that is the beginning.” She guided his hand to her, shifted her legs to allow his fingers to touch, to caress, to revel in the wetness.
“Dear God,” he said, his eyes watching her, his body bracing as she swayed towards him, her own eyes closing at the sensations. He turned them together, laying her down across the bed, pushing her legs up slightly, in awe of her body’s sensitivity to his presence.
In the short span of their marriage, he’d never undressed her fully. The night of their wedding, so intoxicated by the notion of claiming her, remained clothed save the necessities, and he’d merely indulged himself and contented her with closeness. But, now, his brain hit upon those flashes and knew he’d not contented her at all, that nothing done before between them matched this revelatory intimacy. She’d never really made a sound before other than the expected utterances afterward of loving him, of pleasure at gratifying his needs. Or had she? Fool! He’d ignored her in this realm, too. He discovered in looking at her now, gently stroking her, that his own pleasure greatly increased with each evoked — was it louder now? — moan of her own pleasure, her own ecstasy. My God, he thought, what have I been missing? The answer crystallized immediately: everything.
He knelt on the bed, the movement opening her eyes and she looked across her body to see him bending towards her. “Are you —” She swallowed, her body so caught up in the feelings, she found it difficult to articulate coherently.
“Yes, darling? You wanted to talk this out? I’m waiting.” He teased.
Determined, a fiery look from her, she gritted her teeth in concentration: “Are you going to taste me?”
Hearing the words, seeing them leave her lips lit him. “Yes,” he answered. “Yes, I’m going to touch you with my lips and tongue and taste the silk of your sex.”
Maria’s head fell back to the bed, her body aching, moving towards him as he lifted her hips, delved further with his fingers and felt the very wetness he’d described so perfectly. The deeper and longer he stroked, the come-hither gesture driving her further away only to pull her closer to him yet again continued, until he felt the rush of her climax, the whole of his hand bearing the evidence of her want — he lowered his lips to her wet center, his tongue moving on her sex, the nub swelling under the focus of his attentions, each swirl invoking unsatisfied sensations. She reached for his hair with one hand, intent on pushing him further, closer, deeper in his connection to her, the other hand forcefully clutching the bedclothes as she climbed.
“Edward,” she said, a strained whisper.
“Yes,” he answered, an equally tight murmur, both balancing at the precipice.
“I — I —”
Edward smiled down at her, his lips wet, his eyes darkened and focused. “You have to tell me, love. I need you to talk to me, tell me everything.”
“Come to me,” she said, her eyes barely open. “Inside of me.” She lifted her head, saw him hard, his tip wet, and he looked at himself, rubbed against her thigh to show her, to prove his own passion and need of her. “I want you inside. Please,” she begged.
Never having known this, never having heard her confess such need of him, he felt the power of it in her words. She only needed him; she only wanted him. Edward angled her hips and entered her slowly, rubbing against her pelvic bone higher than before when propriety held them in check beneath him: now, freed by their newly purchased inhibition, she moved with him, her cries and his murmurs resonating, thrilling each as the finally-spoken affirmations reverberated and urged them, back and forth with him inside of her until she found the rhythm for them both and didn’t stop until the waves rocked and pleasured them both…
“Don’t ever shy away from me, Maria. Don’t keep yourself from me, and I swear I will never allow it again,” he said, kissing her fingers with the same mouth that now knew her intimately beyond measure.
“There’s no going back to how it was before.”
Edward smiled, nearly laughing.
“What? What’s so funny?”
“No, not funny. Just… different. How our lives will be now.”
“What do you mean?”
Edward curled closer to her. “Well, now, when we are at a dinner together or out with friends, it will be very different. I’ll look at you across the room and see my wife, but I’ll also be able to imagine us like this — hear you and see you only as you’ve been with me.”
Maria rolled over to face him, to stroke his lips and cheek again. “I like that. I think that’s what they mean by becoming one when couples marry. It’s doing everything together, but it’s also this. No one else knows us like we know each other. No one else can see us —”
“Or hear us —” he added, kissing her again on the mouth, the passion of her sounds earlier and their coupling driving him again to arousal.
“Or understand. I love you, Edward, like this — love me like this.”
“Tell me again, how to start,” he said, kissing the soft skin of her shoulder.
Maria, playing along, fervent in this newfound intimacy, pulled him closer. “This time, you tell me? Teach me… how to touch you, Edward…”