She lets the phone ring three times before she picks it up. As slowly as possible she raises the receiver to her ear, an epoch of silence waiting to be broken by the first word uttered. She wonders if hers will be spoken before his. She takes a breath, can hear him breathing on the other end of the line. She knows it is him, can tell from the irregular exhalation she hears clearly now, the receiver pressed ever so gently against her pinna.
"Faith," he whispers, her brain resonating with the hush of her name spoken in such a way. She fears she will lose it, not her name, but her emotional heart.
"Iím here," she says. Her voice is louder than his, now. She wants to soften it, but her throat is operating without her.
"Now?" he asks her. "Is now a good time?"
"No," she says. She wants to say "yes," but she cannot do it. Something prevents her from encouraging his presence in her house. Something keeps him distant and she doesnít know what that is.
"When, then?" he continues, his voice still breathy and calm. Perhaps it is the lack of energy, the deference of urgency to politeness that gives her pause. She creates a response that has no meaning because she wants him here, at her feet, on his knees, now.
"Call me in half an hour," she says. "That will be nice." She hangs up the phone. Looking at it, still and unmoving in its cradle, she wonders if she went too far this time, if perhaps he wonít call again, if sheís silenced the urgency in him.
Why did she have to say that last part, she asks herself as she moves up the stairs and into the third floor room that she has arranged into a private sanctum sanctorum. This is special place, hers alone, hers to worship in and in which to be worshipped. The light here is filtered through fine gold-gauze curtains that let in light but reveal nothing else. The low bed, formerly her motherís bed, is covered in silks and satins, pillows, and throws, gaudy mirror-patched pillows, and brightly colored silk and satin lap rugs. There are no pictures here, no photographs, there are no tables or chairs. The room is designed for sensual pleasures and nothing else. This room is hers alone.
She removes her robe and slippers and stands in her nightgown for a moment. The air up here is warm, as in all houses where the forced hot air rises to the highest place. Still there is a slight chill in the early morning atmosphere and she shivers once as she pulls off the gown. She tosses it away, kicking her robe and slippers in the same indistinct direction. Then she reaches down for the single garment on the bed, a loose-fitting shift made of metallic fibers that glow in the refracted light. It covers her completely, from her neck to her feet, yet when she moves in it, she knows, it clings to parts of her body, her hips, her thighs, her breasts, her tummy. The gown outlines her finest features, creating an exotic appeal. She twirls to the left, abruptly halting the motion and reversing it slightly as the gown swings on its own around her, a maelstrom of light, beauty and pleasure. It snaps at her ankles. It collides with itself and seems to momentarily shatter before coming to a rest, returning to its placid state of beauty.
Holding the gown delicately above the knee she returns to her bedroom below and seats herself at the dressing table. She begins to comb her hair, then brush her hair, then comb it again. When she is satisfied she begins to apply her cosmetics and to look at her small collection of perfumes on the table before her. She will make that decision when she is ready for it. A glance at the clock shows her that the time is now 7:15. Twenty minutes of her half hour have gone and she must hurry to complete the preparations.
It was almost eleven when they roused themselves from the sleep that follows such complete sexual delight. Though they awoke simultaneously he moved first. He also spoke first.
"That was something," he said.
She stared at him, not responding to his blatantly insipid comment. She waited instead for him to continue. Her wait was rewarded.
"I never dreamed sex could be like that," he said. "Did you?"
The question begged the answer. She responded.
"That wasnít sex," she told him. "That was love."
"I donít believe in love."
"You will from now on," she responded. "You will for as long as you live."
"What does that mean?" he asked her.
"Youíll find out." She laughed, the first time he had ever heard her laughter. He found it all too guttural, too harsh under the circumstances.
"Youíre a scary lady, Faith," he said finally when her laughter had subsided.
"You have no idea," she said.
Once again, the telephone rings. 7:25. Right on time. On this occasion she picks it up quickly and says his name. Only for a moment does she worry that it might not be him. Only for a second does she pause, then take a breath and sigh. It is him. She is safe.
"Now?" his voice asks her.
"Now," she says and she hangs up the contraption that she considers to be the equvalent of a spiderís web. She has him trapped in it, glued to its convoluted wires, hers alone to play with as she sees fit.
She moves downstairs to the back door, unlatches it and leaves a note saying "lock behind you and come upstairs," a note she has written days before. Then she returns to her third floor room, bathed in its pale golden light reflected in so many tiny surfaces, and she waits for him.
From her place on the bed, the center of the bed, she hears the door opening downstairs, hears him call her name, then hears him locking the door. He has found the note. She knows that he finds the mystery of this appealing. She has spoken to him often enough to know what will turn him on.
She sees him on the staircase below, his footfalls painting the picture in her mind. She has left another note, more instructions for him. She notices the absence of his footsteps now; he has found the note and is doing as instructed. His shoes are off now, and his coat, his shirt and tie, his pants. A sound distracts her momentarily, but she realizes that he is wearing the belt with the large Coca-Cola buckle and that is what she has heard hit the floor.
Then she hears the creak of the second step on the staircase leading here, to her private patchwork prison, a place to hold and embrace, to keep to, keep within, to accomplish what can not be done in other rooms. Here there is only one source of light, the golden window of early daylight. He will see her in her gown, illuminated by the brightened sunlight. He will see her as she wishes to be seen.
She looks up and finds him, naked as she ordered, standing in the doorway, backlit by the bulb below in the second floor hallway. She reaches out toward him, moves her fingers seductively and watches as he slowly approaches her bed of spidery substances. It is her finest moment of the day. So far.