by Kristina Wright
Caroline could hear the wetness of her sex even as she felt its arousal slippery on her fingers. She had been so embarrassed by that sound. It had only seemed to make him hotter, to make him drive into her deeper, fuck her harder. Later he would apologize, saying he hadn't meant to be so rough, but secretly she had thrilled to those moments when he lost himself inside her.
She peered into the darkness through the streaked windshield. She should have waited until morning, but it seemed important to do it at night. The spring rains had made the dirt road soft, so she kept the tires in the well-worn ruts, driving past row upon row of corn, silent sentries in unwavering straight lines. These fields had been in her family for four generations and she knew them like the back of her hand, even in the dark.
She coasted the truck to a stop as she came to the end of the dirt road, where cornfield gave way to empty prairie. In the dark, beneath a blue moon, all she had to remind her of the flowers was their scent -- wildflowers, their brilliant hues blanketing the grasslands like the Suerat painting "Forest in Barbizon" she had seen years ago at a traveling exhibit in Iowa City.
She killed the engine and the old diesel engine wheezed to a halt. She reached for the cardboard box in the passenger seat and cradled it in her lap.
"If I don't do this now, I'm not going to do it," she said aloud.
She climbed from the vehicle, holding the box carefully, and slammed the truck door. The sound reverberated across the vast openness, startling a pair of whip-poor-wills. Their flight reminded her of bats and she shuddered. She was thankful for the rows of corn at her back, as if they could protect her from whatever danger lurked in the darkness.
Careful of loose rocks and rabbit holes -- the last thing she needed was a broken hip way out here where no one would find her for a day or two -- she picked her way across the gently sloping ground, knee-deep in flowers. She remembered other walks like this. Only she hadn't been alone.
"Guess I'm not alone tonight, either." Talking to herself was a sign of dementia, wasn't it? She didn't much care. A light breeze sent tendrils of her long silver hair across her face.
She set the box down on the ground and brushed her hair back, looking around. Now she could pick out individual trees in the distance, the big rock she'd climbed as a child, the stubborn underbrush that wouldn't die back until after the frost.
"We had some good times here, didn't we, Ed?"
Ed, of course, didn't answer. Ed, what was left of him, was in the cardboard box at her feet. Dead now for over a month, he wasn't going to agree with her about their good times or argue with her about who should have driven out here in the first place. She was on her own.
She'd waited a month to bring his ashes here. It had been important to wait that month, to wait for the right day, the right time. To come to the field as summer began.
"You're laughing your ass off, aren't you?" she said, staring up into the night sky.
The stars were dimmed because of the full moon, but she could still sort out the constellations just like Ed had taught her when they were in high school. Ursa Minor, Centaurus and the Corona Borealis winked and twinkled and she could, for a moment, imagine Ed with her. He would point out some new star or other, weaving a story to make her laugh until she was dizzy from looking up and had to lie down in the prairie grass.
She took a step forward, forgetting the box at her feet, and nearly tumbled over it. "Serve me right to break a hip out here. Romeo and Juliet all over again."
Caroline had taught high school English for thirty-four years. Being here, alone in a field with her husband's remains, felt like the kind of tragedy Shakespeare would have written.
Ed was a farmer. He had no use for Shakespeare or Coleridge. He'd liked Poe, though. She'd read 'The Tell-Tale Heart' and 'The Fall of the House of Usher' and 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue' to him after the cancer had begun eating away at his liver. He'd liked Poe. He'd even liked the poetry, though he grumped it was "sissified." She had read 'The Raven' and 'Annabel Lee' to him so many times she knew them by heart.
"That man knows a thing or two about what scares people," he had mumbled as he drifted off to sleep after one of her Poe readings.
A tear slid down Caroline's wrinkled cheek. Ed had never been afraid of anything except dying. He hadn't even been much afraid of that. It was the pain that scared him, the helplessness.
He had said, "Don't bury me, Caro. Don't put me in the ground like a potato."
She'd started to laugh, but had gone utterly still at the look in his eyes. "I promise, Eddie."
The wind kicked up, making her faded housedress flutter at her knees. Caroline shook her hair back once more, hair that she'd kept long for Ed. Kept long for him still.
Stifling a groan from the ache in her knees, she knelt and carefully opened the four-pound box. Inside was another, smaller box. This one was sturdier, with a lid. She couldn't see much in the moonlight, just grayish stuff in a dark box. It looked like sand, dirty sand. This was all that was left of Ed.
She hadn't thought about the logistics of it. Ed was always getting on her about not planning things out. "You jump feet first and measure the depth once you hit bottom," he used to say. It was true. She'd had a month to think about this -- longer really, if she were being honest with herself -- but hadn't worked out the details. Did she just dump the box out on the ground? That seemed disrespectful. And burying it defeated the purpose.
She sighed and struggled back to her feet. She cursed the damn doctor who had changed her arthritis medicine. The new one didn't work for shit, but the doctor had seemed so pleased with himself, he hadn't asked her what she thought.
"Damn men," she said to the box.
Ed had been the only man she'd ever loved, but he'd been a pain in the ass, too. He'd rejected alternative therapies as 'voodoo,' turned down suggestions of experimental drugs. "I'm sixty-four and I hurt like a sumbitch," he'd said when she'd begged him to consider something, anything, everything that might extend his life. "I've worked the farm since your dad hired me when I was sixteen. I've raised my kids, I've enjoyed my life. What else is there to live for?"
The words stung as much now as they had then, nearly a year ago.
"Me, you bastard," she screamed, not caring if her voice carried across the prairie. "You had me to live for."
She spun, windmilling her arms, flinging Ed's remains everywhere. The wind kicked up just then, as if in response to her anger, blowing the ashes back at her. Rough particles bit at her cheeks, stinging her, blinding her. She fell to her knees, sobbing. Ed's ashes -- though they weren't really like ashes at all -- clung to her hair, her tear-stained face, her housedress.
"You had to have the last word, didn't you?"
She started to laugh then, great sobbing bellows of laughter that were neither 'respectful' nor 'ladylike,' two words her mother had beaten into her during her proper Baptist upbringing. She laughed until the tears, and Ed's remains, dried on her cheeks.
"Damn you, Ed Brindle," she whispered, but the words held no fire.
She remembered kneeling in this grass years ago and taking Ed in her mouth for the first time. They'd been married a month, but they'd been sneaking out here for three or four years. They hadn't needed to sneak anymore, but they did. Every couple of months, Ed would give her that grin and lead her out to his truck, giving her a little goose as she climbed in. Even after the children came, they'd go out to the prairie in the warm months and fuck like rabbits.
Ed would tease her the whole way about what he was going to do to her once he got her there and she'd tell him primly he'd do no such thing. She was lying, of course. She let him do anything he wanted. Now, kneeling in the dirt, she remembered that first night after they got married, the night Ed asked her to suck him.
He'd kissed her senseless that night, his hand groping up under her dress, finding her wet through her cotton panties. She'd moaned into his mouth, humping his hand like a wild thing.
He'd pulled back and she'd seen the desire in his expression. When he was like that, she almost didn't recognize him. "You want me, don't you, little one?"
She nodded, afraid to speak, afraid he'd stop touching her.
"Want to make me happy?"
Again, she nodded.
His voice had dropped to a whisper. "I need you, Caro. I need you."
"You can have me," she'd said.
"I need your mouth. Can you do that for me?"
If he'd mentioned it when they were sitting at the dinner table or climbing between her mother's antique bed linens, she would have refused him. That was something a woman just didn't do. Not a good woman, anyway. But there, in the field, she hadn't the will or desire to refuse him anything. And so she had fallen to her knees -- her much younger, much more nimble knees -- and worked his zipper down with trembling fingers. A long time later, he'd filled her mouth with warm, thick seed. She'd tried not to gag as he'd stroked her head gently, his panting, raspy breath in her ears.
That had been nearly forty years ago, but Caroline could remember it so vividly. The feel of the hard ground beneath her knees, the smell of Coneflowers, the taste of Ed. The taste of him. She'd grown to love that taste. So much so, that she would, eventually, take him between her lips without coaxing, even on her mother's Irish linens.
The prairie had been their place, their secret. Now, kneeling, covered in Ed's ashes, Caroline felt something she hadn't thought she would ever feel again. Desire. The memory of Ed's cock, in her mouth, between her breasts, in her sex, even in her behind when she'd had a few too many glasses of the cheap wine her sister-in-law was always bringing over for Sunday dinner. As the gritty remains of her husband clung to her, him dead a whole month now, she wanted him.
"Damn you, Ed," she said, working the buttons of her housedress loose the way she'd worked his zipper all those years ago.
She slipped each button through its hole, until the dress hung open, a whisper of a breeze caressing her skin. She pushed the soft, worn fabric off her shoulders, letting it fall to the ground. She unfastened her bra, her pulse quickening as she remembered the way Ed had done it so many times. Instead of his warm breath and wet mouth, she felt the wind on her nipples, tightening them into hard peaks on her sagging breasts. She sat on the ground, her housedress beneath her, and dragged her underwear down her hips and over her butt. It tangled on her sandals. She laughed, remembering how, in all the times they'd fucked on this prairie, they had never taken their shoes off.
Now, naked except for her sandals, Caroline stretched out on the ground, her housedress wadded beneath her. She still felt Ed's ashes clinging to her skin. It should have been morbid, but it wasn't. He was there, with her, beneath the moonlight.
There in the empty prairie, beneath a summer sky so clear it looked like the stained glass in one of those fancy Catholic churches...Caroline touched herself. Tentatively at first, while the respectable part of her whispered how nasty she was. Then the memories claimed her. Memories of Ed taking her from behind as she leaned over the big rock, of riding him in a driving spring rain, of begging him to kiss her between the legs and make her come while she lay just like this on his field jacket.
She could hear the wetness of her sex even as she felt her arousal slippery on her fingers. She had been so embarrassed by that sound, so afraid of what Ed must think. It had only seemed to make him hotter, to make him drive into her deeper, fuck her harder. Later he would apologize, saying he hadn't meant to be so rough, but secretly she thrilled to those moments when he lost control, lost himself inside her.
Now it was her fingers buried inside her, driving into her as hard as Ed ever had. She pinched her nipples with her left hand, feeling the grit on her skin, knowing it was Ed and moaning his name as if he were there, flesh and blood instead of sand and bone. She stroked herself with hungry fingers, rubbing her juices up and over the hard button of her sex, imagining it was Ed's callused hand stroking her instead. She fucked herself as if Ed were watching her, spreading her thighs and raising her hips, ignoring the twinges of arthritic pain. Ed had loved to watch her release herself; it made him hard as earth in a long drought to see her pleasure, to taste her right after.
"Like honeysuckle off the vine," he'd say. She knew the taste was saltier, because she'd tasted herself on him so many times. But she'd liked the poetry of it and hadn't contradicted him.
She imagined Ed's head between her legs. She could even feel his thick hair tickling her thighs, his tongue stroking her. Licking her, over and over, until she couldn't stand it, until she begged him to stop. And of course, he wouldn't, not until she came, not until she filled his mouth with her honeysuckle sweet.
The memory became so real she whimpered as she stroked her button and finger-fucked herself and came. Came for herself alone. Came for Ed.
Her orgasm subsided. She slowed her strokes. Sometimes Ed hadn't known when to quit. He would keep touching her or licking her long after her body had reached its limit. But here under this solitary sky she knew what she needed, what she could take, and she eased her fingers out, smelling the scent of her arousal, her orgasm.
She lay there, her pulse slowly returning to normal, her skin damp, gritty still with Ed's remains. She stared up into the brilliant black sky and smiled. Ed was watching. Ed and Poe. She just knew it.
She knew she should get up and shake out her housedress. If she lay there much longer, she'd go stiff and be hurting tomorrow. She didn't care. She'd hurt tomorrow no matter what she did tonight. And she'd be alone until her own body was burned down and fitted into a little box just like the one at her side. Tonight she didn't want to think about pain or sickness or death. She just wanted to remember.
She raised come-wet fingers to her mouth and sucked her taste from them. "Sweet as honeysuckle, Ed." She whispered it.
"Sweet as honeysuckle off the vine."