I lost my head at Thanksgiving. Reason unraveled, kinked and snarly like the yarn my mother unwound from sweaters grown too small. Mama would soak it in cool water and hang it up to dry in coils. After a day or two, she would wrap the smooth coils into a gentle figure eight to store them until she had a new use for the fiber.
I thought I could soak my own snarls out in the fathomless darkness of the Green Mountains, coil myself up by the stone fireplace and emerge smooth and functional, like a skein of fine merino.
After nearly half a year of stilted text exchanges and awkwardly dodging one another in our small, shared urban patch, Jeremy and I had begun to rediscover our friendship. The angry welts of grief I wore on my back began to fade; Hugo’s betrayal ceased to haunt his brother’s heart. I had a handful of regular, not unpleasant companions feathering my nest. I was falling, as slowly as I could manage, in love. Autumn arrived in the city, breathing away the summer haze.
I awoke to the buzz of a text. Blue slept deeply beside me, his dark hair teasing his cheeks, his lashes sooty on his lower lids. I took my phone, slipped on a nearby pair of his jeans and my discarded sweater, and went to his kitchen. I’d arrived late, both of us busy with our separate lives until the late evening. We’d made love on and off until the dawn flirted with the skyline.
I was hungry.
The text was from Jeremy. Yes? I replied. He sent me a link, which I clicked with no reason to suspect it would turn my life upside down. It was a story running on the local news site: Author, Scion of Local Family to Release Novel on Tuesday. “I wrote it all in a rush. My heroine simply appeared one evening and spoke to me. A muse for the ages,” says PEN/Faulkner Award winning author….
Blue’s face, serious and literary behind his glasses, his unruly hair lending him a kind of mussed, academic caché, stared up at me from the screen. His book’s cover accompanied the studied head shot. The title swam in my vision: White Harlot. The woman on the cover… long legs, white silk rippling up over a man’s hand, a hint of black lace high on her hip, her striking resemblance to me, save for her deep indigo eyes.
I skimmed the article until I found the jacket blurb. A well-paid whore, a penniless artist, a fawning, yuppie client, a Russian diplomatic crisis… my whole life since we’d met, spun around in a drum and tossed onto pages full of his celebrated words. The book reviewer was particularly fond of the “beautifully graphic” sexual nature of the protagonist’s affair with the whore at the center of the storm.
Another text from Jeremy. You okay?
No. Come get me.