Tereus is lying in the hayloft smoking and drinking. It’s the end of a cold day in late October, a day or two after he and Valeria last exchanged private words. He’s not drunk — not by his standard. Several genteel phrases exist to describe his condition: Half-disguised, well to live, foxed. He’s not drunk, and doesn’t intend to get drunk. Indeed, he doesn’t have enough liquor to do so.
He lies there, his mind spinning free, enjoying the chill, watching the sunset, savoring the sensation of mild and solitary intoxication. Really, the novelty never wears off.
Paradoxically, he uses this time to remember how Valeria came to him up here — how she offered herself up innocently and freely, and he took her joyfully. There were consequences, of course — terrible ones — but he treasures the memory. There’s something poetic about how she came to him, freed from the constraints of marriage and social position. Just two minds, two bodies, two spirits, briefly joined. The sense of free play and enjoyment, the sense that he could truly be himself, that he could unleash his passion and be greeted with eagerness and longing. The miracle that she contained that pent-up desire, that need for worship and mastery.
It didn’t last. It can’t, really. As the flood waters receded, he would have found the usual filth. Matters between them would have become stale, trivial, flat. She would have tried to turn him into Lucius — a eunuch, incompetent, tentative — or, more likely, he would have reverted to his habitual cruelty. He’s glad they were spared that.
He’s known for years that he prefers reminiscence to truth. If she were here now, he would almost certainly resent her presence as a constraint. Her willing ghost is a different matter. He lies there reliving their encounters, elaborating upon them. He sips from his bottle and smokes, and enjoys the ebb and flow of arousal and intoxication.
He remembers how she came up the ladder, stepped into the loft — her shining face and glorious crimson hair.
The first time he held her, he just savored the fact that he could have her, and the knowledge of the joys that lay ahead.
The further he progressed, the greater the impulse forward. The illusion became so close and real that it blotted out truth. He could not recall that he had a brother and she had a husband, that their actions couldn’t be hidden. The sweetest moment was when he paused on the verge, kneeled up between her thighs, the head of his cock nudging her slick lips. She swore that she loved him, and he believed it was true. He believed that by entering her, he would bind them together in some mystical fashion. When Caesar stood on the banks of the Rubicon with troops loyal to him, his fate was already sealed.
What followed was brief, exquisite and precious — food for months or years of the kind of half-stunned dreaming he’s doing now.
How could he ever have thought she was cold? Her unconstrained longing, the way she came at the lightest touch. He fucked her long and hard, like a dog, and he hadn’t come to the bottom of her desire.
Now that he’s seen her in that state — now that he knows the depth of her desire, and he’s observed the subtle, delicate motions of her intellect — he can extrapolate back through the years. It fascinates him that she was so passionate all along, though entirely inaccessible to him. It helps him to believe that there’s a tremendous amount of truth and beauty that is hidden from him. It’s almost a religious notion, like a belief in heaven.
And, God, her tits. They still inspire fierce lust in him. They always have. Lavinia’s are all very well — elegant, and admittedly ample compared to the rest of her — but Valeria’s always had a rack that makes him hot, that betrays her serious and outwardly prim nature. Every time they’ve quarreled — and there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of occasions — he’s been tempted to say something like, “My dear, I’m sure you’re right. I’m a thoroughly bad man and a reprobate. Now, would you mind terribly pulling your bodice down? I can’t live another moment without knowing the color and shape of your nipples.” She would have slapped him, and he would have deserved it, but, God, the pleasure of settling that question. When he finally did settle it, he earnestly felt he could die happy as a result.
And, yes — the fact that it was her. Her humor and shyness and candor.
As he lies there, Tereus wishes briefly that he could have had that as a young man. How different his wedding night would have been! It’s impossible to imagine the pleasure of gradually winning her trust and awakening her passion. As a young man, he had no idea what he wanted. Perhaps this is the idea behind arranged marriages.
It’s useless to speculate. His father, Agamemnon, was unlikely to have chosen better. And it’s unreasonable to think that having a different wife would have quieted the nameless impulses that have driven him all this time. He really is a thoroughly bad man and a reprobate; she might have pleased him, but he could not have made her happy.
He cannot ask her up here again. It pains her, and Lucius, and ultimately himself. Perhaps more importantly, she knows better now. She been reminded that domestic life and freedom are incompatible for both sexes. Her brief escape reminded her of the real value of security and comfort. He imagines that she’ll look back on their adventure and realize that he was no more than a trigger or catalyst. He brought out an unexpected quality in her. Now it’s hers, and she can do what she likes with it.
For all of his apparent sociability, Tereus is at heart a solitary creature. He feels little sympathy with others, and that bit is often fleeting. The deep, complex bond between Valeria and Lucius is alien to him. He idealizes it, imagines it to be closer, simpler and easier than it is. He imagines that happy couples commune in a free and unconstrained manner. He’s never seen this, but he can’t imagine what else would compel two rational adults to be confined to the same bed for decades or centuries.
In truth, Tereus wants exactly what he has now: The solitude to savor his own thoughts and pleasures.
For a linked table of contents, listing all of the Shelawn family adventures, click here.