**If you haven’t read SING, this story will be a huge spoiler**
I’d taken just about everything in my life for granted. Money, intelligence, women, family, but mostly, my health. I protected it easily, worked through bumps in the road and exercised when I felt like it. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. I saw a doctor in whatever country I was travelling in, or not at all.
Mostly, not at all.
“You have a heart biopsy today.” My wife mumbled, her face buried in her pillow. I brushed her hair behind her ear. I was sitting up in bed, and had been for a few hours. I didn’t inherit my heart from a sleeper, apparently, and still stayed up half the night, which I was used to. What I wasn’t used to was being so weak I couldn’t be out of bed more than a few hours at a time.
I hated spicy food I’d loved before. I had a strange urge to run, as if the road called. I couldn’t drink enough juice. All this was supposedly normal, as a rouge group of cells were peeling off the heart and sticking to my organs, but I felt way past the age when I should be discovering things about myself.
“I’m not going,” I said.
“I feel fine. I’m only supposed to get the biopsies if they think I’m rejecting.”
She got up on her elbows. “Jonathan, let’s not do this again.” I could see the tops of her breasts as they fell into her white tank. We hadn’t made love since I’d gotten out of the hospital. We were afraid, both of us. I didn’t even know who we were sometimes.
“Let’s not, then.”
She rolled over onto her back. The February chill always managed to get through the old windows, the result was hard nipples pushing through her tank. She was still, as always, magnificent, and I felt a forgotten stirring.
“I’ll go with you,” she said, “then we can get something to eat, and you’ll be back for a nap.”
“You’re in the studio today.”
“I’ll cut out. Eddie can reschedule.”
My hand, as if it had a mind of its own, reached for her, brushing her nipple with the back of my fingers. It bent under them four times, then the thumb stayed, rolling it. Her eyes closed, and her mouth opened. She was the same, sensitive as a raw nerve ending, but she wouldn’t let me touch her until recently. I’d satisfied her twice since then, but we couldn’t do more together because of the nagging, overwhelming fear.
“You are not to reschedule again or ever,” I said, pinching the nipple.
“You have to go for the biopsy.” She groaned it. I was hard. Very hard.
“No, I don’t.” I yanked at her panties. “Take these off.”
She looked at me for a second, brown eyes big as coffee cups. She grabbed at the sides of her underwear and wiggled out of them. She’d started gaining her weight back, and though the sickly gauntness was gone, her hip bones still jutted too far under her skin, and the space between her thighs was too apparent. Getting something to eat probably wasn’t a bad idea, except I wasn’t getting another fucking biopsy.
She was still on her back, all hard nipples and hidden cunt. I didn’t know if I could. I mean, physically, I was cleared for fucking, but I still didn’t feel right. “Legs spread, knees up. Come on. Let me see.”
She did as she was told, as always, and I slid my hand down her belly, past her triangle, to her waiting lips. She gasped.
“You’re fucking soaked. I never met a woman who needed to fuck so bad.”
“Get the biopsy. God, please.” Her head was thrown back. “I’ll suck your cock right now.”
“You’re not using sex to bribe me are you?”
“I am, I am.”
Good, great God she needed a spanking. I knew six months ago I would have welted her for doing what she was doing, but I didn’t think I could take any kind of intensity. I knew my heart wouldn’t pound since the vagus nerve was cut, but having her clit under my fingers without feeling a racing heart as accompaniment to my desire was disconcerting. I felt dead at the same time as I felt on the precipice of life.
I took my fingers from her and placed them on her lips, glossing them with her juice. She opened her mouth and sucked on them. I was about to spontaneously combust, but I couldn’t. Not yet. I was still not myself, still afraid, like a child. I was ashamed of my fear, but not ashamed enough to conquer it.
I put my hand between her legs again, sliding inside her, up to her clit and back. Her hand stroked between my thighs.
I squeezed her clit, and she arched her back, then I touched the tip of it.
“Let me suck you,” she gasped. “Please. I’ll go slow.”
I flattened my fingers against her, pushed two into her cunt, moving her clit with my palm, then out again, and back.
“Look at me,” I said. She opened her eyes, and I leaned down to kiss her. Her mouth tasted like cunt and her tongue tasted like morning. “Say my name.”
I put three fingers in her, and drew them out. She squeaked.
I moved faster, harder.
“Jonathan. Oh. Jonathan.”
She arched her back, pushing her arms over her, crying out my name. Music, but with half an orchestra.
The technician breezed in wearing scrubs and a full suit of medical detachment. She was young and attractive, with no makeup and straight brown hair pulled back in an efficient ponytail. I had the best team in the world, and they treated me like just any other patient. I guess that was what I was paying them for.
“We’re going in through the arm today,” she said through her mask.
“That’s what the doctor said.”
“Are we doing the gas?”
Jesus fucking Christ, save me from the habitual pluralization of experience.
“It’s going to be uncomfortable.” Her tag said Fran. A bland name. It suited her.
“We’ll manage.” God, I was cranky.
Fran got her tray of sharp things in front of her and I laid my arm out. My first biopsy had been through the jugular vein. I suspected this would feel less invasive. More like a walk in the park while a tube snaked through my body.
The swab was cold on my skin, and I went into meat mode, where I went someplace else in my mind while I was treated like a side of beef.
“So,” she said, beginning the small talk that preceded painful invasions. “We’re married, I see.” She pointed to my ring. “What are we doing for Valentine’s Day?”
I didn’t answer.
“Mister Drazen? Are you okay?”
I think the word “you” as opposed to “we” woke me faster than the real concern in her voice.
“It’s the fourteenth?”
“Yup,” she said, dicking with her plastic and metal tinkertoys.
“We’re going to the Getty Center. They have this romantic dinner prix fix on the patio. They put candles on the fountain and they have a really nice string quartet.”
“Shit,” I repeated. “I forgot.”
“Oh. Well. Maybe we can still get it together in time? Going in now, we’ll just feel a little pinch.”
She got the stent in with barely a nip. Pluralization or no, she was good. She snapped the gloves off. “All done. Doctors will be back in a minute. Do you want the info for the Getty? I don’t think there will be space, but maybe someone cancelled?”
“Thanks, Fran. I’m good.”
Doctor Solis knew better than to kill me with “we” and “our” or small talk. He wanted me in and out of there as much as I wanted to go, and the two other doctors in the room seemed equally sensitive to Solis’s dominance in that room.
“Any changes?” he asked, eyes on the monitor, fingers on keys as Doctor Nu slipped the thin tube through the stent. “Still off spicy food?”
“Too bad. How’s the wind been on your allergies?”
“I don’t have allergies.” I felt the tube in me, slipping across my shoulder through a vein. It was truly uncomfortable. Not painful, but I had to think hard to not try and claw through my skin to get the invading thing out.
“Chart says different.” He checked Dr. Nu’s work and looked at me. “You need to pay attention. Denial is your enemy. Your silly new allergies can turn into an infection you won’t be able to fight. With the drought, and the wind, my wife is eating Claritin like candy, even in the middle of February.”
“Valentine’s Day,” I said more to myself than him.
“Any plans?” Dr. Solis asked, one hand on the tube, eyes on the tube, then the screen, then back.
“We’re in,” Dr. Nu called, and I felt it.
“Indeed,” Solis said. “Breathe, Mister Drazen. Breathe.”
How fast could I pull something together? Something huge. Something the size of my love, my respect, my devotion. It was our first Valentine’s together, and Christmas had been such a disaster, that I felt as if I needed to make it up to Monica tenfold. But when I got home from the biopsy, Lil had to help me to the door.
“Where’s the Missus today?” she asked. “Do you need me to get her?”
“Leave her alone. She’s in the studio.” She put me on the couch, and my body wanted to stay there forever.
“Mister Drazen, I don’t want to pressure you, but I hope you didn’t forget—“
“I can pick up a dozen roses.”
“Sure, Lil. Sure. Great idea.”
She left to do the impossible, find a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day for a man so enervated he couldn’t do it himself.
“Fuck you,” I whispered to heaven, my first sentiment of ingratitude in two months. “I’m getting over this.”
My recovery was on track. I had no reason to be so angry, except that I was cheating Monica out of her entitlements, and her number one entitlement was me. From that couch to the stars above, I owed her myself.
I picked up the phone and called my friend Paul. We spoke briefly, and then I closed my eyes for a few hours.
I woke with a buildup behind my face, and a sneeze.
They say your heart skips a beat when you sneeze, so when I sneezed four more times, I panicked unreasonably. Then I panicked again when I realized the sun was setting and I was still on the couch.
Next to me, a dozen red roses, beautifully arranged, and an empty card and a pen on the table. Thank God for Lil. I needed to give her more money.
I picked up my phone. Sneezed again. Multiple texts from Monica.
—Will be late—
—How did the biopsy go?—
—Great session. Do you want dinner with me for Valentine’s? Or are we skipping?—
—Where are you?—
—Please just tell me you’re ok or I’m leaving the studio right now—
The last one had been minutes before and had probably gotten me to wake up. I tapped a fast response so she wouldn’t panic. She panicked when I didn’t respond, or when I breathed too hard, or slept too much or too little.
—Just got up—
—thank you thank you thank you—
—Let me stretch and we’ll talk about tonight—
—No pressure but I hope it involves your cock in my mouth—
—But if not then ok I love you—
I sneezed when I smiled. It was the fucking roses. Snot built up behind my face. My sinuses felt like they were going to explode. According to my doctors, if the buildup settled in my sinuses or lungs, my suppressed immune system would allow an infection. And like everything else in the goddamn universe, it could kill me. So I threw the roses out.
I’d sent Lil to pick up Monica an hour before. It was Friday, so traffic from the west side would be brutal. From my vantage point at the Griffith Park Observatory, I could see the city in all its jam-packed glory. Streetlights held their grid, and the car lights along Wilshire crawled. She was there, somewhere, on her way to me.
I hoped I’d pulled this off as if I’d planned better. Paul, the director of the Observatory, had taken me to a stone veranda inaccessible to the public, letting caterers in to set up a dinner for two overlooking Los Angeles. I had candles, heat lamps, chafing dishes, everything I could manage for her. Below me, clusters of tourists shifted on well-worn paths, their laughter and voices drifting up to me without meaning. They’d be gone in an hour when the museum closed and we’d be here, on our perch above the city.
I’d texted and called, letting her know Lil would pick her up, but I hadn’t heard back. Once I told her I was fine, she probably shut the phone off to work. I considered the possibility that she was still in the studio, and would be until the wee hours of the morning, in which case I’d pack up dinner and go home, grateful she’d forgotten the holiday as well.
My phone rang.
“Hi, Lil. Where are you?”
“She’s gone, sir. Sorry, I’ve been looking, but it turns out she left.”
“Thanks. Head home. She probably went there.”
I called my wife, confident I wasn’t disturbing studio time.
“Where are you?”
“I’m at a surprise location. Lil is—“
“You have to come home,” she said, her voice raspy from a day abusing it.
“No, you have to come here.”
“I spent a week on this.”
I argued a little more after that, but she’d spent time on whatever it was, whereas I’d thrown something together because a medical technician reminded me of the date eight hours before. I had the staff pack everything up.
Lil had gotten to me quickly. She pulled up to the front, but didn’t go past the gate.
“Can you make it in from here?” she called back. “I’m not supposed to go past the gate.”
“Well, no. I just got a call. She thought you’d be napping this time, but then this whole thing happened instead. Sorry. At least you have the roses I picked up.”
“Thank you, by the way.”
I got out. The gate had a door-sized entry and I went in that way. All the front lights were out, but Monica had put little paper lights along the drive, and I followed them to the house.
“They were going to go down the stairs,” she said. “But they’re fine outside too.”
She was naked, on my porch.
“I love what you’re wearing,” I said.
“My mom got it for me.” She put her hands behind her back. Did I think she was too thin? She was perfect, her skin lit by candles and the moon, her hair falling over her shoulders like a scarf.
I got on the step below and touched her belly.
“You poor woman,” I said, kissing the space between her breasts. Peaches and honey. Her scent. I rubbed her skin, releasing it, putting my tongue on her nipple and sucking. My hands went down her back, until I reached her clasped fingers. I took hers in mine.
“I need you, Jonathan. I had a whole speech prepared. But I forgot it.”
“I’m sorry you had to wait.”
“Can you take me? Please.”
She reached for my crotch, and I let her.
“Oh, you’re hard.”
She pulled me to a chair and sat me down. She got on her knees. Nothing could have pleased me more than her, naked, on my porch, kneeling before me. I put my hands in her hair as she took my dick out. I didn’t like her controlling the situation, but maybe it was the new heart that didn’t find it that offensive. Maybe I’d changed in more ways than one.
Her mouth was eager, her throat, open for an aria. Her hands stayed behind her back. I knew what I would have done before the surgery. I would have jammed her head onto me. I would have gone fast, just because it made it more difficult for her to manage. I would have been hard and cruel and derived satisfaction from her discomfort. But not that day.
She looked up at me, letting my dick pop out of her mouth.
“Is it ok?”
“Get up here,” I said. “Straddle me. Let’s give this a go.”
“Don’t make me say it twice.”
She was up in a flash, thighs around me, eager hands around my base.
“Fuck, Jonathan. You’re so hard.”
I put my hands on either side of her face and brought it to mine. “I own you,” I whispered.
“I love you, too.” She hitched herself up, until the head of my dick was at her opening and her hands were on the back of the chair. “Are you ready?”
“Yes.” I put downward pressure on my hands, and gingerly and slowly, she lowered herself onto me. She was wet and tight, and when she pulled out, the sensation of being pleasurably sucked overwhelmed me. I groaned. She slid down, then up again. We kissed, then breathed on each other’s faces, kissed again.
I put my thumb on her clit, stroking up and down as she moved against me. In my life, I came when I wanted to, and not a minute before. I listened for any number of physical signs so I knew when to hold back. One of them was my heart rate. So when the buildup in my groin happened without a feeling in my chest, I missed the opportunity to catch myself.
“I’m sorry,” I moaned. “I’m coming.”
“Come for me.”
She moved faster. I wasn’t in control. My body was betraying me. I had to give it up, again.
I came so hard I called her name to heaven.
Then, I sneezed.
“How many more you got?”
I shrugged behind my hand. Sneeze.
She got off me. “Let me get you a tissue.” She was up and through the front door before I could tell her I had a hankie and then I knew what caused the sneezing. I got up and stood in the doorway.
The living room was bedecked in roses.
She trotted down the stairs, still naked, carrying a box of tissues. “You were supposed to see this first. But I wasn’t about to say no on the porch.”
She handed me the box.
“Monica, I’m—“ Sneeze. I waved my hand at a cluster of yellow roses. “Why the yellow?”
“There’s a red rose for every day I’ve known you. A yellow for every day you were in the hospital. And one white.” She swallowed hard and her mouth screwed up to one side. “For the day I thought you died.” Her eyes went wet.
I successfully held back a sneeze.
“I know what you think,” she said. “I know you’re worried about the recovery. And our sex life. You think you’re hiding it and being all strong, but I can see it. I wanted to let you know, well, before I seduced you, that it didn’t matter. It takes what it takes. I’ll wait forever for you. Every day, I’m glad you’re alive.”
“My goddess. I’m so sorry.” I kissed her before she could protest, then sneezed again. “We have to get rid of the roses, but first, I’m taking you upstairs. I’m fucking you as much as you deserve.”
“You’re dressed up.” She stepped back and looked me up and down. It was as if she saw me for the first time. “Where were you when you called?”
“Not telling. It’s the idea for your birthday dinner now.”
“I ruined your Valentine’s dinner.”
“I’m throwing your roses out.”
“We suck at this.”
I sneezed, and took her upstairs to fuck her as much as she deserved. And she deserved a lot.
This will probably be slipped into Coda when, and if ever, I finally write that.
Spin, book one in Songs of Corruption is due to be released on 3/13, two days early. I expect a preorder button will go up around 3/10 or so. You can use any of the below links to get an announcement.
Songs of Perdition, Fiona Drazen’s serial, will begin May 5th, as part of the Erotica Consortium’s boxed set. The novella will be called Kick. Fiona’s story is very dark and uncomfortable. Consider yourselves warned.
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