The Valentine

     I see you. You in the dim glow of the lamp. You tied to a chair. You imprisoned in a dark tower while the knave who tied you up is off exploring the countryside. He romps over fields of grain, shows off his sword to the peasant girls, bellows out bawdy songs beneath the sky, plucks his neighbor's grapes on the valley slope, and plunges yet further on into unmapped forests, newly seduced, enchanted by the glitter of every undiscovered lake that sparkles in a clearing among the trees. Meanwhile...

     You sit there, arms bound behind the back of the chair, like a marble bust, some triumph of the Italian Renaissance, eyes nearly closed, head drooped forward. Lush, woodsy-brown tresses hang limp around your bosom, above your lap, caressing your cheeks, enshrouding the contours of a seraph’s face.

     Yet, quite unlike marble, your breasts are moving---rising and falling in the glow of the lamp like the long, rolling swells of a slumberous sea, a sea that rolled before Caesar breathed, before the pharaohs reigned, before Man ever took chisel to stone or Adam apple from Eve. I’m relieved. Respiration means you’re safe, at least for the moment, subject to awakening, and capable of speech---if only the gag were removed.

       I look more closely.

     You’re in the same outfit you wore a week ago, the day of your disappearance--the last time we talked. I recognize the navy-blue business skirt that descends to your knees. With your feet tied back beneath the seat, your calves appear at a slant, sheathed in the same skin-toned nylons. You must like them. You wear them often. The stilettos catch my eye again too; lacquered in the lamplight, they gleam like a pair of black beetles bearing spikes.

     I notice something else as well, something I've not seen before. A brooch, glittering like a heart-shaped cluster of dewdrops, hangs on your collar, just below the ropes hugging you around the shoulders, above the bust, across the cleavage. My eyes wander upward, to the miracle of your face.

     What are you thinking? In dreams, you might be thousands of miles away, in another world. Am I there too?

     Unable to restrain myself, I take a used-up ink marker from my pocket and fling it across the room, into a dark, shadowy hollow beneath the rafters. It vanishes, an unmanned rocket tumbling into the void, and then touches down, tapping and rolling across the floorboards, and lo! You lift your face, startled awake.

     You look around, eyes large above the gag, as if alarmed to be caught daydreaming or, worse yet, have someone pry into your daydreams. Laden with anxiety but brimming with hope, you turn toward the dark cavity from which the sound emanated and peer into it. What will it disgorge?

     Your savior come to set you free?

     Or your captor clutching the ransom, returned in triumph with his booty? Would he come back just to cackle in your face?

     Or tweak your nose before making his getaway?

     But nothing follows. Except for the beating of my heart, which only I can hear, the room is quiet again. Quiet as the tomb.

     Heart pounding, I watch.

     You twist in the chair and shift your feet slightly. Tied together, they strain at the tether that holds them back, but the tether remains taut. You try sliding your legs back and forth but, bound as they are, they slide hardly at all; ropes hold them together above and below the knees. You press forward, against the ropes, but now the chair itself objects, creaking beneath you.

     It is a dainty chair, as befits a lady. With no arms or embellishments, it has the dapper elegance of a troubadour's tune and the grace of a butterfly. Normally, you could toss it across the room with one hand but, tied as you are—trussed up from shoulders to ankles—you can hardly move. Despite its lean, spare design, the chair anchors you to the spot and holds you fast.

     Oh, Angela!

     How I yearn to hold you like that! To spring forth into the halo that surrounds you, remove the gag, undo the knots, replace the bonds around you with kisses numberless. Kisses sweet. Kisses warm. Kisses covering your legs, your face, your feet, like a mantle of glimmering, blood-red roses pulsating in the night.

     Oh, how I want this!

     But most of all, I want you to see me. Me! Not the guy you think I am—that quiet, polite, circumspect fellow concentrating on his duties in the corner cubicle in the basement at Contemporary Global Telemarketing Solutions—but the real me, the guy inside, the man who’s lacked only one thing till now: a chance to reveal himself. To reveal himself…

     To you.
    
     You sitting there. In the dim glow of the lamp. Anchored to that spot. Tied to that chair. 

     But what if…

     What if your captor returns?

     What if he discovers me here, eyeing you this way? Eyeing the brooch he's pinned to your breast?

     Yes, I know it now: That jeweled ornament is from him. It's a valentine. It brands you, proclaiming you his property, his fee simple, to be used and enjoyed in perpetuity with no strings attached---except for the ones that keep you bound, imprisoned in his tower. 

     The fiend!

     And what more might he do, what deeds of even darker hue, if he learned that I was here the whole time, spying on you, spying on him, spying on him and you, and that I witnessed the atrocity---his luring you into his trap, his sequestering you from the others, his spinning his threads around you, his sealing your lips up tight, and then leaving you like that, enveloped in his coils?

     Oh, Angela, I feel so confused!

     I’d love to talk with someone. I’d love some advice. I’d love someone to tell me what to do. I’d love someone to force me to do something.

     But whom could I approach? John? Kathy? Charlene?

     You know how word travels. Within a week, it would be all over the office. You'd know I'd been talking. Then how could we get along at all: your captor, knowing I'd seen him overpower you; and you, knowing I'd seen you surrender, enchanted by a fraud, enthralled by a liar, bound hand and foot by a lascivious cad?

     No, my darling, I would not embarrass you that way. I'll not risk a scandal. Concealment will be my policy. And with time--who knows?--your bonds may loosen.

     I'll have chances galore to check up on you. In the elevator. The hall. The break room. I'll pass by your cubicle on the way to the restroom. You’ll pass mine around lunchtime. You always do.

     And when you do, I’ll get another glimpse of your legs in nylons. I’ll hear the click of those high heels. I'll catch the music of your laughter as you call to the homely, middle-aged woman who sits in the cubicle next to mine. Maybe I’ll catch a whiff of lilac too.

     And, perhaps, our eyes will meet, as occasionally they do, and you’ll flash me a brief, amicable smile. Nothing dangerous. Nothing untoward. Nothing anyone might interpret the wrong way.

     But now…

     Now it’s time to scram.

     Must hurry! Be swift! Skitter into my corner, quick as a cockroach across the floor. Was that the crunch of the villain's boots on the gravel in the courtyard? Or just my heart...

     Crumbling into ashes?


   



Seiler Seiler
56-60, M
2 Responses Dec 7, 2012

Love this! Please let me add you to my circle - I am such a fan!!!

You can add me to your circle, if you like, but why? Don't you find writing to strangers or reading their thoughts tiresome after a while and that you have more rewarding ways to spend precious time? One realization I came to at this site is how important acquaintances are in real life and how important character is in storytelling. If you have no feeling or belief in a character, you drop the story, and if you don't know much about whom you're talking with, you don't go much beyond superficial civilities, such as "Good morning" or "Have a good day." The Experience Project at first seemed a brilliant way to connect with people, but I grew tired of it. If, however, you have questions about any topic of which I've written, I'd be glad to respond---assuming, of course, that I have the time to do so.

Wow!