Friday, May 23, 2014

Chapter 106: Lydia Sways Upon The Brink

Sun, December 13, 2074 2:00 pm: Goth Manor- Rawling Hills, Pleasantview

Lydia crossed her bedroom at an uneven hop with one white sock collared around her foot. It was two o’clock, and she was already late. Her landing at the dresser could not have come soon enough. She gripped the edge of it as though it were all that stood between her and a swift death. With only one hand left free to work on the sock, she postponed that particular struggle, placing both feet on the floor. If she could find those pearl studs, maybe her mother would not chide her for being dressed like a man in addition to being half an hour late. It hardly mattered that she was going to help the school staff with the cleaning. Lydia's mother would remind her that she could look like a lady even while doing chores. For her part, Lydia would pick her teeth with her nails. They'd had this exchange once or twice before. She uncovered one earring but not the other.

Lydia wiped a smudge on the mirror with the heel of her hand. Her reflection loomed in front of her, raccoon-eyed and sallow-skinned. She smoothed her fingertips over the bluish shadows beneath her eyes, imagining them away. She didn’t know what was worse—secretly caring about her appearance while espousing the philosophy that she should not have to care or adopting a nonchalant attitude about her tardiness (as she knew that she would) in order to cover up how frazzled she felt at this exact moment with one earring in hand, one and a half socks on foot, and still no pants.

The rededication of The Pleasantview Youth Boarding School was happening on Tuesday, and the Calientes had volunteered to help get the place ready. The school expected something in the environment of two hundred guests, all gathered around to witness the unveiling. Lydia only wished that Terry could be there to see it. She could almost hear him asking who came up with such a damn stupid name as The Mayor Terrance J. Torrence-Caliente Institute for Collaborative Education. There would never be another person in the world like him.

The bedroom door creaked open. It alarmed her initially, but the intruder was soon revealed to be only Horace.

His hair was freshly washed and misbehaving in a way that he never tolerated. The shirt that he wore was old and several sizes too large, but clean. Lydia supposed that he had chosen it for the ease of threading his dislocated shoulder and broken hand through the overly wide sleeve. He screwed up his face quizzically at her state of dress. She could not be certain that she was not giving him the same look. By his own standards he was a wreck, but Lydia supposed that she liked him better this way. He scratched the cast that he had earned by falling off of his horse the day before. The x-ray revealed three fractures in his left hand. Angela had been rather mystified by the whole thing. She claimed that he’d never had a riding accident of any kind, not even as a child. Lydia had been quick to counter that her grandfather was very skilled at sleeping but it didn’t mean he wouldn’t die in the middle of it someday. She meant to put Angela off with that remark but found that she had lashed herself in the process.

And maybe the notion was a non sequitur, but Lydia did still love to watch his polo matches. There was a focus and an intensity to him when he rode that could temporarily ignite whatever allure he’d once held for her. Then the match would end, he would dismount and resume his place on the ground among the other mortals. When you mixed him with solid earth, he became Horace again. Arrogant, insulting, duplicitous Horace.

“Dude, have you seen my earring? The one that pairs with this one?” Lydia held up the lone pearl stud. Horace glanced at it but said nothing. “Negatory, hunh? Figures.” Lydia lifted the top shelf of her jewelry box to make one last search before calling it quits. Meanwhile, Horace closed the door with a gentle but firm click. Lydia could see him out of the corner of her eye approaching the dresser at a pace that seemed hesitant if not outright bashful. It was strange enough to give her pause. “Um, can I help you?”

He was pressing against her back now, as if by response. The warmth of his body made her feel cold by contrast. He took a handful of her loosely pinned hair and melted into it as he did into his pillow at night. Lydia laughed uneasily, feeling as though she were party to a gesture that was meant to be kept private. Kissing her ear, he ran his knuckles lightly over her bare hip. It was well past two, and she didn’t have time for this.

“You’re barking up the wrong tree, buddy.” This sort of caution, she felt, gave him enough room to wiggle his way out of the situation, no harm no foul. He did not seize the opportunity. Instead, he let his touch wander up her side and over her threadbare t-shirt. His hand reposed for a time upon her belly, fingers spread, while he caught her stare in the mirror. There was that intensity, and he was every bit of him earthbound. Lydia’s breathing stopped short.

Horace shifted his body, positioning her torso closer to the surface of the dresser. Lydia’s gaze swept from the jewelry box to his face in the mirror to her own stomach weighing down upon the wood. All the while observing her, he placed two fingers in mouth. Lydia tried to maintain eye contact because it felt almost like a matter of pride that she should, but the task was becoming increasingly impossible. Her thoughts disbanded, leaving her only with the scent of his soap and an unfamiliar ache for the inevitable. Horace parted his lips and withdrew his fingers slowly, then glided his hand over her breasts. Each breath made her chest seem to expand and contract only to meet his palm. The earring, the sock, the boarding school—everything was forgotten. Horace drifted lower, bypassing her waistband to fit the underside of her panties.

Lydia gasped, holding on tight to his wrist while he explored her through the thin layer of satin that separated her skin from his. She closed her eyes and bit her lip to keep from crying out in a household full of people. Some obscure region of her mind was chastising her for being so easy, while the rest of her swayed on the brink of euphoria. Horace dropped his forehead to her shoulder but she could not allow him rest there, not yet. She let go of his wrist and began groping behind her back for his belt only to discover that he was not wearing one. He slipped his hand between hers and the button that she was attempting to undo. It came loose with limited effort. Clearly, he hadn't been able to close his pants properly that morning with one working hand. He wrapped her arms around her waist, asserting control without words. His lips brushed her shoulder, not quite a kiss but more maddening. Horace resumed teasing that most sensitive part of her through her underwear as if to demonstrate that her urgency could be delayed for as long as he liked.

“Horace!” He sighed at her then and pushed her panties to one side, opting not to remove them altogether. Lydia thrust her hips back to meet him, drawing out a sharp intake of breath from a man that had not made a single vocalization since he first entered the room.

It was never like this between them, and Lydia was not in a position to consider why she so suddenly needed him, why she was so close to something that she had never experienced when making love to him before. Horace was panting and swearing, trying with difficulty to stay upright. Lydia cleared her mind, wanting more than anything for the sensation to last. She did not want to think about this in passing later as the time that she could have had a successful orgasm but was too busy rationalizing her own behavior. She wanted to think about this as the first time that she had ever managed to achieve some modicum of intimacy with her husband. An hour ago, this moment would have seemed ambitious beyond all measure.

Horace all but collapsed on top of her, coming to a standstill. Lydia did not think that he had finished, but the seconds went by and he remained slumped over her back. The hush of their duel exhaustion blanketed the room. His heartbeat drummed against her shoulder blade, and the tight space between their bodies relaxed. He was losing his nerve.

“Horace?” He stood up straight and withdrew from her, trying in all futility to get dressed again. Lydia watched him for a time and then, beating back her unfulfilled yearning, decided to try to help him. Horace allowed his arms to flop limply at his sides as she did up his zipper. “What happened?” She tried to smooth his feathered hair, but he pushed her away. His eyes were pink and bloodshot. Whatever upset he was feeling was starting to come through in a confusion of unshed tears and menacing scowls.

“Don’t—Don’t touch me!” Ah. There was the man that she had married. Unlikely as it seemed, she found that she no longer disliked this man as he stood before her wounded and trembling. Rather, she felt sorry for him. In his heart, he was as defenseless as a child. “And don’t you ever, ever tell anyone about this.”

“Who would I tell?” Her voice wavered. It was as through his vulnerability had the power to make her vulnerable. His face was blossoming red from the pressure of holding back his sobs. She would not ask him what was wrong again. If he wanted her to know, he would have said it without prompt. Lydia hardly felt that she had the right to trespass upon his emotions. She would give him the space that he needed to work out his issues because it was the best that she could do for him right now. “I need to get ready,” she whispered. She began to brush past him to the closet when he caught her arm and dragged her back. He leaned his head against hers so that their noses made contact. He was crying openly now.

“I’m such a fuck-up, you have no idea.” Lydia trailed her fingers over his cheek, drying his tears.

“Whatever it is, we’ll get past it,” she reassured him. Horace shook his head, unconvinced. She gave him a quick peck on the lips. He stared at the carpet, not seeming to notice, and she was stung. That tentative disclosure of her affection left her exposed and in all probability, spurned. Just as she made up her mind to walk away, Horace lifted his head. His eyelashes fluttered, displacing trapped tears. He cupped her face in his hand and kissed her then, languishing there for a moment before he let her go.

“If I ever say to you that we need to pack our things and run then I need you to do it, no questions asked,” he said. Lydia scarcely knew where to begin with that demand. She gave him a queer look and when she opened her mouth to respond, that highly expressive stare of his turned to begging. “Promise me,” he said.


  1. I have close to a million things to say about this one, but I think I'll leave them on the shelf for now.

    Also, sorry if this needs a warning. I am of two minds on that subject where this chapter is concerned.

  2. Hmm. Also not sure about the warning, but not having experienced that sort of trauma, I wouldn't be able to say for sure what is or isn't needed. Lydia didn't want to and Horace didn't listen... but then she's reaching to take his pants off. "She changed her mind" is bullshit, but in this case, since we have her POV, that does seem to be what happened. There are rapey elements, but I guess I'll leave this one up to Lydia herself in regards to what happened here.

    As for Lydia and Horace themselves... hmm. I just sort of assumed they were one of those arranged marriage couples who tolerate each other because they don't even find each other interesting enough to dislike, but clearly that's not the case (though maybe they'd both thought it was on occasion). Horace in particular, I don't know why (maybe the lack of sexual chemistry with Oona, who seems like the sort of person who has sexual chemistry with everyone, even if it's not always a healthy chemistry), but I was working under the assumption that he's asexual or very close to it. Maybe this wasn't so much about sex for Horace as it was an attempt at connection, or a need to feel something. Lydia may just be the only friend he has.

    Strange to think that Lydia is Siren's daughter. She's so casual and uncensored, so the opposite of her mother. She doesn't seem much like JL either. What was DBL's version of Nina like? Jan? How about Remington before he went senile?

  3. In this scene, Horace was acting strangely from the second he walked through the door-- tip-toeing around in total silence, looking somewhat disheveled. It weirded Lydia out a little bit. Then he started coming on to her, which he almost never does. This too felt odd. Couple that with the fact that he was being something of a nuisance because she was late for the school clean-up, and you get what she was feeling when this began. She wasn't entirely averse to having sex with him, it was mainly that she knew something was off and that she was scrambling to get out of the house. So, yikes! No, nothing traumatic happened to her in this scene. (Though she is probably a bit worried about Horace's mental health right about now.) She thinks that he's a jerk, there's no doubt about that, but there was a time in the not-too-distant past when she found him to be a hopelessly sexy jerk. All of that came back to her when she saw the way that he was looking at her. And knowing Lydia, if she seriously did not want him to touch her, she would have had no qualms about defending herself with whatever she could have managed-- an elbow to the groin, a wooden jewelry box to the face, whatever.

    Then there's the fact that their relationship is hard to pin down. Certainly, people say about them that he married her for the money and that she married him for his name. If I remember correctly too, Alexander is under the impression that she outright hates Horace and that Horace pretends she doesn't even exist. But this is all from the outside looking in. Lydia couldn't care less about her social position, and Horace *has* money. I won't say that he didn't care about Lydia's money, but it wouldn't have been a sufficient reason to marry her to his mind. (cont.)

  4. Lydia married him because she was attracted to him, they were very very young and at the time, it seemed like the thing to do. As for Horace, I'm starting to suspect that he is love with her, and perhaps always has been. Although if anyone were to ask him (and this includes Lydia), he would certainly deny it. I imagine that he is pretty vocal in supporting the idea that he did indeed marry her for her family assets. It's probably quite shit being married to him because he can be just as awful to her as he is to the people that he dislikes the most. Lydia can let it roll off of her back somewhat because he is "just Horace". But for him, the way he treats her is a defense mechanism. He can't let anyone know where he's weak, and most especially not her. If he's in love with her then she's the most dangerous person in the world to him. And he knows full well the way that she feels about him. He's as attuned to people as Enoch is.

    That incident with Oona really shook him up. I don't know what he intended to do when he arrived in the bedroom, but for sure he just needed to feel close to someone if only briefly. Seeing Lydia there bent over the dresser in her underwear was probably enough to set him on that path, and once he got there, he found that he needed that human contact. In particular, he found that he needed her. (cont.)

    1. Interesting. It does make sense that Horace would be in love with Lydia (and terrified of those feelings). He's a Goth. His parents seem to have a polite-but-cold marriage of convenience, his mother was in love with another man, but she married his father anyway Because Appearances. His grandfather had them dragging the lake looking for his grandmother, even though the implication seems to be that Mortimer actually had full knowledge of where Bella really was, Because Appearances. Horace goes about with combed hair and suits and lets people think he married Lydia for her money Because Appearances. And then here's Lydia, who is so obviously not about Appearances. He probably finds her baffling and fascinating and just altogether unlike everything he thinks he knows about the world.

      I'm curious as to what their kids would be like, if they had them. But I can't imagine either of them really wants kids, at least not any time soon.

    2. I don't think children have even come up in the conversation for them, at least not in any meaningful way. Lydia has no desire to have children, and Horace is secretly conflicted. I think his most private fantasies may well involve having a family with Lydia. The prospect of it frightens him though because he knows that she does not love him, that their relationship is fraught with negative overtones and needy undertones, that he has a LOT of trouble expressing affection and that it maybe isn't the best idea to bring a child into that environment. Horace is a bit of a coward, and I don't think that he is ever going to be able to undo all of the lies and the ugliness that he has heaped onto this relationship. And you're dead on about appearances-- Horace doesn't want people to think of him as being the kind of man who would fall in love with Lydia Caliente. Likewise, he could never put all of his cards out there and have her know how he felt in case she rejected him. To his mind, he couldn't survive it if she spurned him after he told her how he felt. Better that she disliked him for treating her like crap. If the assumption is that she could never want him, then he doesn't risk anything in that scenario. But if this chapter is any indication, then the assumption is wrong. Horace is who he is, but I think Lydia is willing to work through his bullshit and his insecurities if that's what it takes to be close to the man that she promised to stick with for the rest of her life. Lydia is strong in ways that Horace will never be. I think that when he looks at her, he can see her straight through to the marrow and that he admires her capacity for forgiveness, for empathy, for compassion... But Horace can't be forgiven if he remains too much of a coward to atone.

  5. Lydia, I think, has traces of both parents. A lot of her personality is the result of rebellion against the way that she was raised though. Her parents (and Troy and Dina) stressed the importance of fitting in for as long as she can remember. It was too confining for her. Then, I think she found a lot of inspiration in Don. Don did whatever the hell he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted. Don was Lydia's hero. He adored her too.

    Jan was incredibly bright. She had a take-charge personality and was always the default leader wherever she went. She spoke her mind and wasn't afraid of anything or anyone. She could be pretty no-nonsense but she had a warm heart.

    Nina was a spit-fire, and a bit vapid. She was incredibly, incredibly self-centered. Her moral compass could have used a bit of a tune-up. (Siren wasn't kidding when she said that Nina and Troy slept together once.) She had a jealous streak. She felt like she was in competition with every woman she ever met-- including Siren. When Siren grew-up to be even prettier than Dina had ever been, it drove Nina ballistic. Overall, she was a pretty distasteful person. Lazy too. I still don't know what Terry saw in her. Neither did anyone else for that matter. He did care about Nina, but I also think that he never stopped loving Jan.

    Before Remmington went senile, he was the most deadpan fellow you could ever hope to meet. This drove Troy up a wall. It was sooo hard to get a read on Remmington. Most people thought of him as being kind of boring. He would take up a lot of obscure hobbies and fixate on them. He probably rated somewhere on the autism spectrum.