There were things I decided not to tell Laurent that evening. Not just the sordid aspects of my relationship with Catherine, but also the intimate details. To preserve not so much the image of his mother, to whom I no longer owed loyalty, but mostly to preserve myself.
I could picture Catherine relentlessly pacing her apartment in Saint Petersburg that night, imagining my conversation with Laurent and fearing how much I would share with him, or how far my truthfulness would go. She doubted I would have the courage -- and in fact, the unconditional love I felt for Laurent made me doubt myself, too. If he could only put up with so much time and attention, and by the end of the night we had reached the turning points of our story, he would have enough to digest for the rest of his life. Love me more, love me less, hate me more, hate me less -- but he would not remain indifferent to me. I was aware of how much I was risking, and Catherine knew it too.
So, I just told him how his mother and I relaxed in each other's presence and company after the boat's departure. How I had felt happy when I realized she was not willing to leave the island, and I would have at least one more week to get closer to her, until another boat came around. And I felt hopeful, too, with the new and welcome warmth in our relationship. That, at least, I had to tell Laurent -- so that he could guess how from opponents, his mother and I had become lovers.
Catherine could also calm down, once she felt assured that I would not force her to leave the Île du Blanchomme. She then ceased to be afraid of me, as she would confess many years later, when we were living as a family in rural France.
"Do you have to start with your reading at once?" We had just had sex, and a moment after we were finished, Catherine turned to her bedside table in search of a book. "Can we talk, Catherine?" I was still panting.
"It's late, and you know I like to read before bed." Catherine complained, languorously, yawning.
"Yes, I know. It's your 'bridge into dreams', as you like to put it. But this is bed, already. And do you have to wake up early tomorrow for any reason?" I insisted.
"D'accord. What is the agenda?" Catherine asked, jokingly. She was suddenly in a good mood, which seemed to happen only when she was sexually appeased.
Our son Laurent and his upbringing, our relationship as a couple spanning almost ten years then, what we had and what we lacked -- we talked about almost everything that evening. It was one of the most important -- and rare -- conversations we'd have in years, though nothing would change between us because of a few heartfelt words.
I learned that Catherine, back then at the Île du Blanchomme, had found me not just rude at first -- she had found me threatening, and invasive.
For, when I thought I was being discreet in my insistent looks of lust that scanned her whole body, and that I had managed to hide my recurrent erections, I found out it had been the opposite. Nothing escaped her watchful eye, and she had been terrified with what she saw.
"I could not sleep..." Catherine admitted. "I'd wake up to any noise in the house, fearing you were coming after me... I did not see you enter my room that first night, but I heard and saw it when you turned around and left... You were naked... I spotted your hard-on and I thought... What kind of sex maniac is he? From then on, I slept with a knife hidden under the mattress."
I gasped. "Are you serious, Catherine?" I was offended. "How could you think such a thing of me?" I smiled with bitterness. "Perhaps because at the beginning you never deigned to look me in the eye..."
"Avoiding eye contact was part of my self-defense strategy." She laughed. "Just picture my situation in that weird house with no doors... If I had to run away from you, where could I lock myself up? And there was no one around to cry for help. I felt trapped, and deeply regretted having followed my mother's advice to go to the Indian Ocean... And all the time, you ate me with your eyes, while talking about either the septic tank or the 'Blaue Reiter' or anything else... You drooled. And all along, this bloody, big cock of yours inflating those worn, dirty shorts... day and night... It was disgusting!"
I found out that Catherine ceased fearing me when she had spied on me, masturbating in the bathtub. I almost choked at the revelation.
''At that point," she continued with her revelations, "I thought... If he really wanted to, he would have raped me already, instead of jerking off in the bathroom like some frenzied teenager. Then I started realizing how handsome you were, if clumsy, like a big boy, and how you were embarrassed in my presence. And I decided to try giving up being aggressive to protect myself and to keep you at a distance. Just to see how you would approach me."
"And when that heatstroke happened... I was very weak and completely at your mercy. I felt at your disposal, lying on that bed... A ripe and peeled fruit being offered on a tray... I still had the knife under the mattress, but I was too weak to reach for it in an emergency. But while you continued to stare at me in a fever of lust, and your cock was almost always hard, your boxers inflated and sickening stained, still, you never touched me with less than so much care, great respect and even modesty... I started wondering if you were not some kind of a weirdo hermit, on a self-imposed exile, and it got me fantasizing about taking your virginity... Yet, I still feared you'd ask me to leave on the next boat, unable to cope with my presence and your desire. But when I saw you trying to disguise your happiness upon hearing my request to stay... As that second boat departed, it felt like I was arriving again on the Île du Blanchomme, and my vacation there had finally started." Catherine confessed.
And then I knew Catherine's memories about that afternoon, after the boat's departure, were not so different from my own.
She had sent me to the office to seek for the books she had been reading, and requested me to read them to her. When I sat on the floor next to the bed, from where I had been watching upon her for so many days, she asked me to lie down on the bed with her. I had kept that bed forbidden territory for me, and even when I cleansed or massaged her, I had sat on a stool beside the bed.
While reading, I had to lie down on my stomach, to hide my erection. But every time Catherine moved on the creaking bed, the entire mattress moved too, and every time she turned slightly, tugging the sheets, my cock received the leaps and throbbed like crazy, drooling all the time. If she was teasing me, she had adopted a very subtle way, and I would never have overcome the small distance between us -- I would never have taken the initiative. Or had she been experimenting with her power over me?
I tried to concentrate on the reading -- and to this day I cannot remember if it was Lacan or Bachelard that I tried reading loud very carefully, almost without understanding the meaning of the sentences, but with the best pronunciation that I was capable of -- and trying not to look away from the letters, though the half-naked body I worshiped was within reach of a breath. Once in a while, Catherine's foot would brush my arm for a second, or it was her hand that slightly touched my leg or waist, then pull out again.
When I finally went to fetch fresh water for her in the kitchen, I also had to change my underwear, which was all sticky.
That night, when I started massaging Catherine, she asked me to sit on the bed with her, claiming that the stool left me in an awkward position. I more than quickly agreed. Nonetheless, depending on me all would have happened exactly the same way -- yet another innocent, well-mannered massage session -- if Catherine hadn't taken my hand and placed it between her thighs, directly on her opening... I was surprised, my heart and my erection pounding painfully, because she no longer needed my help to cleanse her, and we both knew it.
She moistened her lips and gulped, before requesting me, "Touch me there..." She panted to my first, very light touch. And as I did not know what to do with my fingers other than fumble with her soft and wet opening, Catherine led me on. She was experienced, and I was a virgin, but none of us was embarrassed. We both moved toward the realization of an urgent desire, and we did not exchange a single word of judgment about our relative positions in that making; the only words heard were Catherine's instructions to me.
Sex, for me, has always been sex with Catherine. And through the years I graduated and post-graduated on her body and her desires. I became a connoisseur of her curves, haven't I said that already? But that first night was... was my first night -- our first --, and every word would be cliché. I think it was Lacan whom I read to her, because I remember thinking about Courbet's painting 'L'Origine du Monde', while I had the blonde version of the picture in my hands, the original depiction being in Lacan's countryside home.
Catherine's moans increased when I started to explore her moist 'Origin of the World' with my tongue, as instructed by her. The more I licked and sucked, the wetter it got, giving me more to savor, a thick nectar with a taste that I never imagined could have existed.
Despite the intense pleasure I gave her that way, Catherine never paid me back a blow job. And it seemed it was for the same reason she didn't like kissing -- in sex we could do all, but her mouth was not part of it, an organ that she reserved for the intellect, for the brilliant or sarcastic words she sought to constantly utter -- and my tongue or penis were an invasion of that sacred realm that she could not tolerate.
Catherine always tried to be discreet in her attitudes and even look indifferent to most things in life, so that it was always very difficult to know when something was pleasing or displeasing her -- until she had one her outbursts of anger, of course. Her expression of boredom matched her idea of elegance -- neither of which she could maintain during sex. If she did not like it, she would cut me sharp -- "Stop it!" -- but never without trying to fix or improve it, "Harder!", "Deeper..." And her intense, high-pitched moans were the narrative to her pleasure.
When there was poetry, and a little love between us, she was the choreographer and I, her rhythm and the dancer she commanded.
But usually there was only passion and urge, and she acted like a director and I, the diligent subordinate.
"Nasty boy!" she said, a little angry and disgusted when I kissed her, my lips still wet and sticky from her own juice. She slapped me lightly on the mouth, pushing me away and down for further explorations.
Catherine had the most beautiful breasts, small and firm, that would fit in the palm of my hands, and I was never tired of caressing and kissing them. She did not like to be kissed on the mouth, but she never complained of my tongue on her perfectly round and pinkish nipples. Unlike my calloused hands, my tongue was soft and capable of pleasing her without causing any discomfort, and her nipples hardened under the tip of my tongue, my saliva making them shiny like precious pearls I aimed for.
In a corner of my mind, I thought of the legends about that Portal Island, an Island of Births, and how the spirits in it might all have been awakened by Catherine's moans and groans, and perhaps were now surrounding us, invisible presences roaming around the bed... a haunting idea.
Unlike her, I was almost silent and could only gasp, surprised, doing my best efforts -- and perhaps, I was fearful too? Or just respectful, sensing not only the tormented ghosts of the unborn, but also the apparition I had befriended -- the beautiful boy we were going to materialize with our carnal union?
"Are you sure about this?" I asked, when Catherine's fingers guided me to penetrate her. It sounded ridiculous, because after all it was not her first time, only mine. And she laughed at my kindness, not ironically, but with a kind of joy, as it were a childish joke.
Catherine was a little disgusted when she led my cock, all wet with precum, inside her.
"You need to fix this leak," she would say in another night, when I wasn't so nervous and she was in a good mood, "it is very inconvenient..." she complained.
But it was this leak -- my dick was smeared with precum and along with her moisture -- Catherine would get quite wet herself when truly excited, so that it was actually easy to realize when she was pretending, or tense, or unhappy --, which lubricated and helped to alleviate her suffering at the beginning of each penetration.
"Go easy!" she cried, when clumsily I almost tripped all the way inside her, "You're so big..." Too big and thick for her, it seemed, and only later, when we would have sex as revenge, motivated by a grudge or anger, was that she did not mind the pain I would inflict her with my organ, that was not comfortably fit for hers.
I failed to notice how Catherine's moans had changed to a new tone of annoyance, as I tentatively pounded her. Over the years, I would be able to distinguish her groans like different melodies -- when she was pleased, and when she was faking pleasure, when there was pain in her pleasure, or when there was pleasure in the pain. But that first night, I got so lost in my own satisfaction as I penetrated her. I closed my eyes, concentrating on the incredible new sensations I felt at each trust, and just subjugated and abandoned her, burdening her with my body.
Plunging into her, I was a boy and I was the peasant, awkward and rude, riding and hitting her hard, slamming my cock inside her in a shameful frenzy. I was a complete fiasco, but at least I was quick -- the way she strangled my organ did not allow me to last. She had been taking yoga classes, I was to find out, that she had abandoned for the mantras and prayers and all the talk about deities that were terribly boring for her. But at least she had profited from learning how to gain control over her pelvic muscles... And when, shortly after having flooded her, I again remembered her existence, almost surprised to find her presence under my body, as I sought her, she refused my kiss.
It wasn't her first time, but still I managed to hurt her, and I was scared when I saw her blood on me. I was desolated.
"It's okay, it's not serious..." She was kind and patient with me once she realized my sincere repentance and how, despite my size and age, I had been just like a boy in his first time. And Louis Malle's movie 'Le souffle au couer' crossed my mind, how the mother had said to her son 'I don't want you to be unhappy, or ashamed, or sorry...'
I had the next fourteen years to try to compensate for that first clumsy, selfish and rude night. Maybe that was a problem of conscience for me only, not Catherine's desire, for she never required atonement. She was nevertheless satisfied with my commitment to satisfying her in the subsequent occasions -- and years --, and also for having achieved that kind of dominance over me, that made her even more demanding.
"And now you can quit teasing my nipple, darling. It's over." She took my hand off her breasts. Turning on her side, Catherine fell asleep soon after that, relieved, for she finally had her potential rapist in her own bed, appeased, and she no longer had to fear me.
When the island regained its immense natural silence, I realized how much it could have been of supernatural nature. On the Island of Births, the only screams that had been heard throughout the times so far were that of mothers giving birth, and the cries of babies being born... And I wondered if I had broken a taboo by making love to Catherine on that island. Surely for the first time in its history, for Herr Weissmann was not married nor had a partner. Catherine's groans and my panting on the squeaking bed -- how would they have reached and affected the spirits imprisoned in the local ether, those waiting to be born on an island that would never again allow them to? What had the legend said about no couples being allowed to live on the island because whatever babies were conceived or born on the Île du Blanchomme would certainly bear one of those tormented souls? Did that thought actually cross my mind, and were I haunted by ghosts on the night I had lost my virginity?
For a moment, I was scared of my own frightful fantasies, but I held tighter onto Catherine, who had already surrendered to rest, and watching her beauty and letting it soothe me, I ended up falling asleep, too.