Lovers’ Tangle | Jacqueline Trott

 


Lovers’ Tangle

Jacqueline Trott

2018 Major Contest: The Hate and Coat Award


 

He waits for me. I promised that I would have arrived months ago, but as the crippled creeks trickled dry, the weeks had peeled into seasons. He tilts his head now, eyes closed to the sky, inhaling that scent. The last time we touched, he wore it on his skin for days and no one ever knew how long we were together. Nights had turned into sunless days and back into night again, tangled in each other, slick in the humidity. The walls had thrummed and the roof rhythmed, pulsing with our electricity. But that was a long time ago.

Each morning he has been lingering at the paddock gate searching for signs of me, looking for my tracks, but I have been far away in places that he has never seen. Today is different somehow- he senses that I am close- and something aches in his bones from those nights when I imprinted myself into him. Memories that cannot be forgotten. He doesn’t know that I am watching him from the mountain top.

They say that I am famous in this town. As I descend from the hills, I follow the sound of handclaps, whistles and car horns guiding me over the bridge and past the church. The clamour continues behind me with scores of dusty boots dancing and following the procession, caked in mud. I do not linger to celebrate, my time here is short. I cross over the valley to the fields. His fields.

I have always been his rescuer, his replanter, and I loved to caress his face, tracing the scars of years of toil and heartbreak. At one time, he’d had dreams of us growing his farm together, raising the newborn lambs and calves as our children. He didn’t know that his deadlines for me were impossible- that I could never stay in this place. He had caught me stealing away in the early-budding hours of the sunrise one morning. My long white dress caught on thistle and thorn as I ran through the fields. A gauzy veil of muslin and lace trailed behind me as he watched me disappear, his eyes hating me as they silent-mapped my ghost shape, retreating into the distance.

Today I run back to him with my arms open wide. I hold his sad shoulders and he releases his body into mine, burying his face into my cloudy hair. I feel his pain soften, melting into the ground and I brush the back of his head with my fingertips, cupping his square of stubbled jaw. My murmurs to him are soon replaced by something else now, raw and urgent. I need to seduce him, to remember him, I want to revive his living corpse. My whispered kisses across his face become a tugging at buttons and a pulling of hair. I quickly undress him, engorging his thirst as I soak him to the skin.

~

She has finally come to me, it has been too long. I am blinded by her taste and my hunger to drink from her mouth. I have always craved her unusual wild-eyed beauty. I want to have all of her, keep her for myself and suckle at her skin like a child. I know then that the waves of loneliness that have followed me for years will have to leave for good. Those tides had sucked me under before, working alone on the land year in and year out, so tonight, I cling to her like a drowning man. When we tire, I slip into a slumber lust-drunk, cradled to the sound of her breathing in my ear.

~

I carefully unbraid my limbs from his and slide into my night dress. A glow from the east calls me from between a gap in the mountains. His love cannot make me stay. I do not belong on this country, nor in this town, where the brownest of flat plains exhaust themselves to the west, and on the other side sandstone giants rise to block me from the ocean. Every day I am called by the winds to where the salt water crashes against my skin, where gulls nest in my hair and briny gems tattoo my face. I look at him sleeping in his wrinkled-tan. He was made from these soils and dry winds, a man carried on a sea of drought. My heart beat lies where the horizons are blue, shifting with the tides. Here, I can only be an imposter.

He feels me moving, snapping his eyes open in the quiet cool. Reaching out, he sinks his fingernails into my forearms, pleading, begging. Demanding.

“You cannot leave, it’s too soon… wait until daybreak?” I sigh and ease the binds of his grasp, wrapping myself in my grey coat and hood. I slip out from the homestead into the paddock mist, blindly feeling my way along the path that would take me back to the mountains. I do not pause and I do not look behind me.

~

It was if I had imagined her. The morning brought clear skies and the early drone of cicadas. Didn’t the skies crackle with her presence only the night before?

Didn’t I swim in her body as she pulled me from my clothes?

I looked at my hands, helpless, with callous-stubbed fingers that could not hold her, like a bird wriggling through the orchard nets. But she had been. The currawongs with the red eyes watch me now shaking droplets from their feathers and crowding onto the fenced hems of the fields. Those conspiring witnesses- they knew she was here last night. Over there near the gate, she left a love note stained with green grass. It told me that she would be back. Now, there was nothing to do but watch the skies and wait for when she would return to me from the mountains. Waiting for when the rain would come again.

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