The new covenant

Wednesday, 23 June

Wow, this is difficult. I feel as though I am in a confessional booth but I know with absolute certainty that no-one will believe my confession. I will try my best to describe what happened yesterday afternoon, to preserve the memory for my own posterity if nothing else (incidentally, I realise that by saying this I have become the hoarder of memories that I despised so intensely only a few months ago, but please forgive me for my transgression because this is a memory that I do not wish to quickly forget).

I asked no questions as Luke set the pipe down on the table once again and then leapt out of his chair, took a firm grasp of my wrist and wrenched me out of my seat, partly because I was excited by the nervous anticipation that swirled around inside my stomach and partly because I had grown impatient that he was taking so long to act on the obvious chemistry between us. And he didn't waste any time. The pomegranate bounced off my lap and rolled across the floor and my heels clattered on the wooden floorboards as he dragged me out of the room, both of us giggling like children at our over-eagerness. The very second that we entered into the darkness of the hallway his face took on a stern expression and his eyes became incredibly dark, which prompted me to giggle nervously and twist my hand in an attempt to loosen his grip on my wrist. He gently pushed me backwards until my back hit the wall and I felt the soft huff of his breath against my face as he repeated "it’s ok, it’s ok" to calm and reassure me.

“Do you like riddles?” he whispered as he began to unbutton his shirt with his free hand.
I smiled. He was more like Leonard than he realised.
“Has Leonard ever asked you what unites the hunter and his prey?” he enquired.
“Yes, he has...”
“And do you know the answer?"
“No” I replied, shaking a little as his grip squeezed even tighter on my wrist.
“The answer is desire. The hunter has a desire to catch the prey and the prey has a desire to escape the hunter. Actually, if you ask me, I would say that the sentiment is stronger than ‘desire’ since both ‘desires’ are absolutely fundamental to their survival. I would prefer to call it a vital need. Besides, it’s astonishing what the human body is capable of when it needs something badly enough…”
He smiled mischievously as he said this, which reassured me a little and prompted a shy smile in response. I steeled my nerves and braced myself for the inevitable, but I had not prepared myself for the unthinkable that was to come.

I was transfixed by the mesmeric allure of Luke’s dark brown eyes, but I saw a flicker of nervousness in them that was entirely unexpected given his normally robust self-confidence and I knew that something was seriously amiss. He was doubting himself for some reason, or maybe he was just exposing his vulnerable side for once. We stood only inches away from each other but by chance I happened to glance down and a glint of white light caught my eye. At first I thought that Luke held one of Leonard’s blunt palette knives in his hand, but then I recognised the reflective blade of Leonard's sharp penknife. A weight fell in the pit of my stomach and a cold wave of sickening nausea swept over me. What did he intend to do with it? Panic flooded through my body but before I could struggle or scream he lifted the penknife up to his chest and pushed it into his own skin. I looked away, repulsed, and tried to step away from him, but his hand kept a firm grip of my wrist and the shock of the moment had frozen me to the spot.

My silent approval is what continues to haunt me the most; the way in which we both waited patiently in silence until it was done. When I looked back I saw that he had made a small incision below his left collar bone and there were no questions and nothing was spoken between us as he dropped the knife and released his grip on my wrist, then snaked his right hand around the back of my neck and pulled me slowly towards him. At first I rested my head against his shoulder in order to give myself time to gather my thoughts, but I knew what he wanted. In fact the whole process felt surprisingly natural and I moved instinctively as though I had been in the same situation thousands of times before. 

Resting my cheek against the warmth of his chest, I allowed my lower lip to graze across the small incision. It was not deep enough to weep profusely but tiny droplets were starting to blister from it and when I pressed my lips against the wound a coppery taste smeared across my tongue. A dull ache formed in the centre of my forehead and it quickly swelled into an unbearable pain and so I paused and waited for it to pass, but rather than abate the pain seemed to intensify and the sound of rushing blood began to pound through my ears. No matter how many times I rerun the scene in my mind - and I have replayed it every second of every hour that has passed ever since - I cannot describe the intensity of the uncontrollable and violent rage that possessed me at that moment. A surge of aggression and unnatural strength coursed through me and in a desperate attempt to increase the pressure of his body against my mouth I took hold of Luke’s arms and pushed hard against him until he fell backwards against the opposite wall. He protested a little, but I would have used every last ounce of my strength to hold him down if necessary. The complete loss of self-control was terrifying and never before had I felt such a capacity for cruel brutality - I just wanted to keep pushing, pushing, pushing until I had pushed him right through the wall.

Luke was entirely submissive to my violent assault and he tried his hardest to accommodate my wild attempts to find a comfortable position against him and then, once we had secured ourselves awkwardly in a corner, an intense feeling of relief washed over me like the consolation of running into the arms of a lover. It was a womb-like sense of envelopment, certainly not a sensation that I expected to experience with Luke, and I would do anything - anything at all - to recreate that feeling again. Every muscle in my body relaxed to the point of surrender, all sounds were reduced to a dull and distant vibration and my vision blurred to the extent that it was difficult to focus on my fingernails as they scratched against his chest. The air in the hallway became noticeably thin and I began to withdraw into myself as though drifting off into sleep (I can only imagine that the gradual loss of consciousness and feeling of ‘slipping away’ could be compared to the early stages of drowning, but without the accompanying sense of terror).

We held each other in that passionless embrace for what must have been only a matter of minutes but felt like hours. Luke’s breathing was shallow and laboured and stealing a glance up at his face I saw that his eyes were tightly closed, his brow was knitted in concentration and he was repeating “I’m sorry” over and over in a barely audible whisper. However I wasn’t listening. I was filled with a selfish and utter disregard for his thoughts, emotions and safety, but at the same time there was a warm dampness against my cheek and I knew that I was crying because I cared so incredibly deeply for him. 

We stayed that way until the wound had stopped weeping, the anger inside me had subsided and a heavy sense of dread was starting to permeate through me. It was a feeling of extreme physical vulnerability and I honestly felt as though my skin had been flayed away and my internal organs were exposed to every germ that was floating in the air around me. I found myself clinging to Luke no longer out of selfish desire but for the safety of his protection and, although this might sound strange, I was convinced that I had alerted someone or something terrifying to my presence and I had an overpowering urge to run away and hide until the sound of the alarm that I had triggered had died away. And, all the while, as I clung tightly to Luke’s body I was afraid that at any moment I would be consumed by the overwhelming surges of aggression that were still buzzing through my veins and I would lose control once again. I was afraid, but for once I was not afraid of Luke, I was afraid of myself.

As these fears passed and I gradually became aware of my surroundings once again, Luke peeled me away from his chest and held me shakily by the shoulders, peering deep into my eyes as though searching for something. I remember my extreme embarrassment and how I desperately tried to avoid his stare. “Do something for me, Helen,” he whispered in a trembling and breathless voice, “ask Leonard about the faith teaching. You are more than ready for it and it would be a shame to keep it from you.” I had no idea what he was talking about but I was in such a state of shock and confusion that I nodded in agreement without fully understanding what he was asking of me.

Leonard returned to the house only minutes later to find Luke and I sat at opposite ends of the workroom like exhausted and bloodied contenders in the aftermath of a fight. The situation felt very surreal and I would have questioned the reality of our intimate encounter myself had it not been for the taste of Luke’s aftershave, salt and old pennies in my mouth. I had expected congratulatory celebrations for my exam results that day, but instead the three of us worked for the remainder of the afternoon in a knowing silence like some kind of guilt-ridden trinity.