the basic eight. flannery/natasha. r. ~1000 words.
this week, natasha is reading bovary and flannery is reading karenina.
Dancing with a ball and chain
Through it all we still remain
Butterflies around the flame
Till ashes, ashes, we fade away
(THE CIVIL WARS)
This week, Natasha is reading Bovary and Flan is reading Karenina and they are holding their soiree of infidelity in that dirty cafe where Natasha drinks Earl Grey and pretends (perhaps) to splash vodka into it. It is almost the summer and Flan's hair sticks down against the skin of her neck and she thinks as she wipes it away, that she'd rather be in snowy Russia with a lover than here even if it does end rather badly.
"I've had enough of this," Natasha declares, slapping her copy down on the table, the pages still flung open, corners soaking up the dregs of coffee left behind.
"You're only on page twenty," she drawls.
"Well, I've seen enough," she spits, lighting a cigarette with some venom, "I'll watch the movie."
"There's no Marlene," Flan warns.
"Why do they always have to be so -- so plagued with regret?" Natasha chokes out bitterly between puffs, "All of these fallen women, crying into their mufflers -- "
"You are aware these are books written by men."
This careful reminder is waved aside with a quick hand gesture and Natasha is saying, "I just want a proper love affair on our reading list, is that so wrong? Something with lots of murders and illicit sex."
Flan snorts, a loud graceless noise that seems at such odds with Natasha's lovely, lilting voice that she almost wants to bite her own tongue off.
She nudges her bare knee against Flan's covered one, the gesture warm and intimate and worn like a secret, Natasha's wide toothy smirk playing into view; "You should write me one," she suggests.
As the chairs shift and their skins collide, Flan feels something tight unfurl in her chest as if the whole world is a sea tide and Natasha is keeping her at bay.
"I couldn't write a book," she tries to say but Natasha is smiling and the sun seems to dry up the words.
"Don't be a bore," Natasha scolds when Flan would rather stay in bed after their last final than come to a party and she holds out a glittering strip of black that slides over the contours of her body when she leaps out of the bed and into its folds; it feels like the sort of dress Flan wears in the dreams inside her head, a flapper dress, all clean lines and sophistication.
Natasha shoves her in front of a mirror, hands on her shoulders and swirls a massive cape on top despite the heat.
The last touch, a cigarette holder in ivory and black is brandished like a wand before being passed from hand to hand.
"Don't want you to be unprepared," she winks at their twin reflections, face drawn together in the foggy mirror.
Flan doesn't think to ask what she needs to be prepared for, as she is flung out of the room and into the bright red car outside, teetering in Natasha's shoes.
By twelve o' clock, she is already blinded with drink and follows the smell of her perfume back home, the gorgeous French scent that clings to her friend's person at all times and she reaches forward to tug on her dress (for a moment there is the sick sensation of her fingers closing around empty air and she feels she has followed a ghost into the forest behind Kate's house) and then Natasha turns, her darkly stained mouth held up at the corners like a mask in a horror film.
They lead each other back to the house, sneaking bare foot into Flannery's bedroom, their shoes dangling from their fingers and when Flan shuts the door, she feels Natasha's mouth close over hers, her fingers making bracelets around her wrists.
"Aren't you glad you came?" she says against her lips and Flan, in a moment of surprising quickness, archly responds: "Well, I haven't come yet."
The smug satisfaction of the comeback is lost quickly when Natasha hums approval, the sound vibrating through both their bodies like a purr and she is trembling with urgency, the urgency that slows her fingers as they seek to unfasten her dress and find the pale naked expanse beneath, the moonlit geography of her body. They take no moments for shock or hesitation (after all, they have always been close and this is only one boundary disappearing as so many others have done before). Flan feels only a sudden and unexpected thrill when Natasha's body arches beneath her hands, when her mouth gasps and curses and she tastes a kind of wonder on her skin, a brand new feeling like champagne swallowed too quickly, bubbling in golden bursts behind her eyes.
In the morning, Natasha is gone without a trace (naturellement) and when Flannery goes downstairs for breakfast, rubs sleepy eyes at the table, the tickets to Italy are presented to her.
Her heart thumps a little loudly in her chest. It feels like a window of opportunity (and of other chances missed).
By the time she returns, Natasha will be entangled elsewhere, a business man from the city or perhaps a travelling actor and this brief moment will have boarded a train and gone forever.
She swallows hard and stares into the white paper.
Natasha comes to see her off at the airport, parks badly next to the taxi that has brought them and leaves her with a lusty wink and a kiss blown from red lips.
"Next summer, Paris!" she shouts, as she backs out back into the road, "Just the two of us, Flan!"
(The words will ring in her head as the plane takes off, will wake her from restless sleep as she dreams about Natasha laid out like a corpse on a Shakespearean stage with flowers in her hair and that wicked, wicked grin or holding bloody hands up to the light.
She will dream of a body wrapped in secrets, layered in myth and pressed, hot and gasping against her own.
She will remember, in between the dreaming that Natasha drove away with the top down and her hair streaming behind like a victory flag, black and imposing.
And the sky had looked like rain.)