“Do you want to be pure, Nick?” He shuddered. “I used to.”
That’s all that Nick would tell you he remembered from that evening; thick, leaden, putrid smoke.
However, what he really remembered was smoke, skin, and Onyx; heavy on the skin and Onyx.
If you asked him if he had expected these events occur when he left the security of his bus and brothers and bodyguard, he would have adamantly disagreed, and this would have been the truth. He had never planned to end his stroll on a silk laden bed of the backstreet opium den, which lay cleverly nestled behind the dimly lit bookshop and family owned meat deli. But when a local beauty grabbed his wrist and told him that she knew where he could find what he was looking for, he could do nothing but follow. After all, the reason he had left for his walk in the first place was to see if the foreign Indian streets might hold a cure for the numbness that had been consuming him for weeks now. And the woman’s eyes were looking increasingly inviting in the quickly falling twilight.
As soon as he was pulled through the shadowed doorway, the smoke hit him with full force, as if to declare to him that he was no longer under the blanket of protection provided by his label’s reliable bank account. In this world, the world he had just unknowingly entered, all that he had on his side was himself.
Along with the impact of smoke came the immediate presence of bodies. It reminded him of being in a concert crowd for once, instead of on the spacious, airy stage. Hands attached themselves the fabric of his sleeved shirt, like wolves at fresh, new, unspoiled meat. At the moment he could easily discern faces, despite the hazy air. Those gripping him were women, and those who were not gripping him were focusing their attention on the few other men in the room. These men were sprawled across chairs and couches or the floor, distant, content expressions contorting their features. Clasped in each man’s hand was long stemmed pipe. Nick barely had time to guess that the contents of the pipes was what was making the men appear so happy, before one of these pipes was pressed to his own mouth.
Lips pressed against his ear and a voice instructed, “Breath in.”
Without thinking, he did. Oppressive, tingling smoke immediately invaded his head, clouding everything, clouding the numbness. He was pretty sure that his conscience was a bit clouded, as well. He beamed.
The bodies no longer felt intimidating, crushed against his. Instead they were enticing him, invoking him into their celebration of the night, with light fingers and forbidden substances; and he readily submitted.
Faint music began to drift in from somewhere, but Nick didn’t know where. To him, it seemed to flow from the ceiling, or the carpeted floor, or the girl dancing next to him. Before he could make any further inquiries into the music, or rather that girl, his hand was enveloped in someone else’s. With a swift motion that made his intoxicated mind tumble and twist, he was pulled across the room and pushed down into a chair, another mouthful of pipe pressed to his lips simultaneously.
The curtain that formed a wall at the far end of the room lifted with a flutter. In the part stood the girl; the girl who would have him reeling for weeks afterwards, the girl who, at that moment, had him forgetting his breath and choking on smoke.
Lips met his ear. “Breath out.”
He jerked his head away; they were not her lips. All thoughts he had of embracing the all of room’s inhabitants as one disappeared as quickly as his conscience had fled. The only one he would embrace tonight was her, he knew.
Suddenly, she was at his side. His face rose to hers, taking her in. She looked like dusk; dark, sensual, alluring, with a twinkle of some exotic enigma. He breathed her in; a breeze of violets and cocoa.
When she spoke, her voice came out sweeter than he had expected.
“Tyro?” she queried after staring at him closely.
An onlooker affirmed her guess with a nod.
Her hand reached out to meet his cheek; he blushed.
“You’re a young one.” Her eyes roamed to the many middle aged men laying around them, all of whom were gazing up at her in inert longing. He was sure he wasn’t all that younger than she was.
“What do they call you, love?”
After a slow, contemplative blink, he grasped that she was asking for his name.
“Nicholas…Nicky…um, I’m Nick.” His brain felt sluggish.
Pearly teeth flashed. Her smile was worse than the drug, he was sure.
“How do you like our medicine, Nicky?”
Medicine? But he wasn’t sick.
A pipe was passed between two girls on his right. Oh, the medicine.
Chuckling, she shook her head. “I bet.”
It was a wonderful sound, like summer. He wanted to make her laugh again. Before he had a chance to, she swung herself onto his lap, straddling him, and whispered, “I’m Onyx.”
Then she was grabbing his hands, beckoning him up. “Dance with me!”
Forever, he thought.
Their bodies were pulled together, hip to hip, chest to chest, flush. Fingers intertwined as they swayed to their own melody. Nick twirled her in his arms, feeling surprisingly light on his feet, considering the circumstances. Laughing, she pressed her hand against his chest to steady herself. She paused at the feel of his leaping heart under her palm. Their eyes sprang to each other’s.
“You’re not from around here, are you?”
He shook his head. “California.”
“How’d you end up here?”
“That’s what I keep asking myself.”
He earned another smile for that.
“Come with me, love.”
“Wonderland,” she grinned.
Smiling, he let himself be led again through the mass of smoke and pulsing, breathing bodies, into a private, back room, which was swathed in multitudes of silk and velvet of rich reds and blacks. The only light was cast from a single candle lit lantern, hanging from the ceiling. The room was centered around a low featherbed, covered in pillows and satiny sheets. Onyx gave him a light shove, sending him flying down onto the bed. The movement felt like slow motion, vaguely reminding him of a falling feather, like he was a feather. He giggled.
She was on his hips again, straddling, hands pushing his on shoulders, laying him down. The silky surface below him, mixed with the drug and the goddess above him, was more euphoria than he’d ever experienced in a single moment before. It was starting effect on his body, giving him unthinkable wishes…desires. So he took a liberty.
He reached up and let the back of his hand linger on Onyx’s cheek, brushing ever so softly; caressing. Her skin felt like the whisper of a dream, the kind that taunts you on the brink between consciousness and repose. After a moment, she rested her hand on top of his. Their fingers linked together. She bumped his ring and paused, looking down at it, fingering it. He nearly winced at the sight of it, reminders of the celibacy he had sworn on it flooding his mind. It terrified him that he was letting himself forget who he was before that night. Or perhaps it was what he let himself remember that daunted him.
“Married?” Her eyebrow rose.
She purred against his palm, a smirk playing on her lips. “Do you want to be pure, Nick?”
He shuddered. “I used to.”
“And tonight? Teeth teased his neck, grazing, nipping.
“I want-“ His voice caught on stale smoke and unsettling sensations.
“What do you wish for, love?”
“Onyx…” Her fingers tangled in his curls. He squirmed, gasping. “Take me.”
Then her lips were on his. He started to kiss her slowly, until she took his bottom lip between her teeth, tugging lightly, sending jolts of need down his body. Tongues slipped into foreign regions, testing boundaries, soon massaging in perfect rhythm. He lapped up the taste of strawberries and cinnamon and Onyx. For a long time they didn’t press any farther, rapt with basking in contrasting tastes, sucking in each other’s spirits.
Then her hips shifted; some part of him changing with her, darkening. He bucked.
She needed no more enticement. Nimble fingers stripped through his shirt buttons, the piece of clothing disappearing before he even realized it was slipping off his arms. His jeans followed in the same fashion.
The drug was starting to settle in him now, making his movements more fluid and thoughts less mystifying. With this newfound clarity came a realization of his choice and the moment, followed by an aching surge of passion. Meeting eyes with Onyx assured him; he was ready to sacrifice himself, discover her.
Their bodies moved as one against the duvet; grinding, grasping, enveloping; colliding. They came together, hard, bodies arching off the blankets, into each other. Slender fingers wrapped around his hand, pulling the ring off of him, discarding it amongst the blankets. Onyx’s teeth sunk into his neck, sending him over the edge once again.
The cadence of their movements slowed to a dull pulsing; a striking contrast from their heartbeats’ sharp pounding. A slow, contented smile formed on Nick’s face as he came down from his high. The question of whether that high was opium or Onyx induced hung in the air, unanswered. He didn’t particularly care as long as the feeling of Onyx tucked in his arms remained. She turned in his limbs, something metallic grazing her knee. Reaching between the sheets, she retrieved the object, holding it in front of Nick’s eyes. He stared down at the silver band, waiting for the stab of remorse to impose itself upon him. However, just a glance past the ring and back to her face assured him that no such emotion would come.
“Keep it,” he said.
“To remember. Besides, it’s yours now.”
She never voiced her consent, but the ring never left her grip either. Her lips felt like butterfly wings against his cheek. “Sleep, sundar saiyya.”
He later learned that those were the Hindi words for ‘beautiful lover’, but on that night he didn’t care. All that mattered was Onyx against his ear.
“Onyx…” he wanted to say something memorable in their moment. She deserved something. “I-”
Fingertips brushed back curls from his face as she watched him drift. Then she stood, leaving him with the silk, a story, and a ringless finger; fading in the smoke.