[I wrote this a long, long time ago. I mean, before I was married I think.]
(c) 2016 Tara Moeller
[Somewhere out West, circa 1850.]
Clementyne hated Sundays in August. The heat swirled around her skirts on the walk to church, sticking hot, dry, scratchy fingers underneath to irritate her skin. No amount of talcum helped when she got home, it would just make her skin sting where it had chaffed.
Father Michael’s services always rang long, too, his voice bouncing from eardrum to eardrum, causing headaches aplenty. Since Clementyne played the organ for the service, she sat right up next to the priest, her ears in direct line of his firing speeches. She had no wish for a headache today. Her head had ached the last three days trying to teach the Gulliver twins how to play Bach. Today she wanted to just lie in bed beneath her cool white sheets, being lazy and loving it, forgetting all about the piano and organ and music.
So she did. She buried her head beneath the pillow to muffle the church bells ringing. She ignored the clatter of horses hooves beneath her window as the “gentry” rode to the church situated just outside of town. It was like a parade of sorts, the women in the fine fancy bonnets and the men in their funeral blacks. It was like every Sunday was Easter and time to show off the new finery.
Clementyne pretended to be sick. She moaned a little but ruined it with a giggle that she smothered beneath the sheet. The heat slowly seeped through the warped glass of her street-side window, and she decided to shed her nightgown. Still wanting to uphold the modesty her mother and father had all but beaten into her, she slipped it off under her covers, and slid it off the side of her bed. The sheets felt sinful against her naked flesh; the faint roughness passed over her breasts and her nipples hardened.
Carefully dragged the sheet over them once again, Clementyne enjoying the strange tightness. It was like a cold wind had blown up under her winter shift and cape. She sighed, throwing her arms over her head, allowing the tops of her breasts to show above the sheet. She stretched, languid, her muscles melting in the heat and soaking into the mattress beneath her.
Sinning was fun.
Clementyne thought of the rest of the town sitting on the hard wooden pews. Young Sheriff Jones, taut muscles stretching the cotton of his shirt with that badge shiny on his best vest, sitting in his sweat, listening to the drone of the Sunday Sermon. Old Mrs. O’Hoolihan filling in and playing the organ with her short arthritic fingers, deaf to whatever was being said; she loved to play but few loved to listen when she did. Then there was Paul Whitaker, whose father owned the General Store; he usually stared at Clementyne the whole service, licking his lips and shifting in his seat. Whenever she was in the General Store, his gaze rested on her chest and rose no farther.
It was mass Sunday, and everyone would have to confess his or her sins. Clementyne realized a small amount of pleasure in creating a sin to confess at the next mass.
She was dozing slightly, a mosquito buzzing lazily around her head, when she heard the door slam downstairs. She sat up in bed, forgetting her lack of nightgown for a moment, until she felt the heated breeze against her bare skin. She pulled the sheet up and huddled beneath it and the quilt just as Father Michael and Mrs. Winters burst into the room.
Clementyne sunk farther under the bedcovers, her eyes wide round balls of blue in a translucent white face.
“My child,” said the priest, leaning over her, “Are you ill?”
Clementyne pushed the sheet and quilt into her neck, feeling the heat rush to it and her face as the priest’s face got close to her – and to her naked body beneath the covers. Heat also flooded her loins at the thought of being discovered, a thrill coursing up her spine.
Mrs. Winters moved to stand next to the pastor, reaching out to place the back of her hand against Clementyne’s forehead.
“Mah Goodniss.” The woman exclaimed in her foreign southern drawl. “The chile is burnin’ up!”
The priest drew back suddenly, averting his face a little to the side.
Clementyne forced a cough, the bedclothes sliding just a little in the effort. She tried to draw them back up, but Mrs. Winters grabbed them and tried to pull them further down. Desperate to stay covered, Clementyne inched down in the bed.
“Chile, y’all ought to get some ayer on that there hot skin of yourn. It will help in gittin’ that fever down.” Mrs. Winters tugged even harder at the sheets.
Clementyne stared at the minister, who stared back at her chest, steadily being revealed by Mrs. Winters’ ceaseless tugging. She thought she would die of shame any minute. The priest didn’t move but continued to stare.
“Oh, oh p-p-please Mrs. W-Winters,” Clementyne stammered out her whispered plea. She drew in a long breath. “I’ve already tried to do that, beyond even the sheets.” She implored the older woman to understand, but Mrs. Winters kept up the tugging.
Father Michael’s eyes kept getting larger and larger, his Adam’s apple bobbing in his neck, synchronized with every tug from Mrs. Winters. The big black Bible in his hands, clasped to his chest when he entered, shifted lower, until it hovered just below his belt buckle.
Clementyne licked her lips and Father Michael’s apple bobbed hard. Clementyne swallowed and focused on Mrs. Winters, batting her eyes in what she knew was a “Southern” way; Sally Winters, Miss not the Mrs., had explained it all to her after last year’s Labor Day picnic. “Mrs. Winters,” she made her voice soft. “I’m really fine, you don’t have to worry about me. How did the choir do this morning?”
She wasn’t sure where the question had come from, other than the Good Lord himself put it into her head, but it was a miracle. Mrs. Winters stopped tugging. The choir was something about which Mrs. Winters loved to talk. It was a welcome distraction and Clementyne used the opportunity to pull the covers up.
“The choiah tried theih best to accompany Mrs. O’Hoolihan, but her playin’ is just not up to yourn. She forgot ta bring her eyeglass and was squintin’ ovah the music the whole service.” Mrs. Winters sat on the edge of the bed and arranged her skirts around herself. She looked like she was settling in to stay a spell.
Clementyne nodded. She wanted Mrs. Winters to talk all day as long as the priest was in her room, even if it meant listening to a lecture about the choir.
Father Michael leaned forward again, his eyes resting on the scalloped edge of the quilt. Clementyne could feel his eyes but refused to look at them. Somehow, she didn’t think purgatory could be as bad as this.
Mrs. Winters was off in full steam. Every off-note and wrong chord was regaled, accompanied by emphatic little jumps of her body. Clementyne realized that the older women was completely distracted and once again felt the pull in her groin, the thrill of sin that had first prompted her to stay in bed this morning. Twitching her lips slightly, she let the quilt and sheet fall slightly and leaned toward Mrs. Winters. Her cleavage, made buxom by the fold of quilt underneath, was an impressive display, and she noticed that Father Michael’s mouth fell ajar.
Power swelled in her breasts with every inhale. They seemed to puff higher and higher above the quilt. Father Michael’s neck grew longer and longer and he shuffled on his feet. Clementyne wondered if anything on him tightened the way her nipples had this morning. Just the thought had them doing it again.
Clementyne sighed, shifting beneath the blankets. She felt the heat once more between her legs.
Mrs. Winters sighed long and loud. “Ah do hope that y’all will be feelin’ bettah next Sunday, so’s the choiah will have a propah tuen to sing ta.” The older woman stood up, smoothing down imaginary wrinkles in her skirts.
“Uh.” Father Michael cleared his throat. “Yes. I also hope you will be feeling better next Sunday. We’ll let the rest of the congregation know you have a fever but are on the mend.”
He hastily backed out the door, Bible held at the juncture of his thighs, followed by the jovial Mrs. Winters calling out advice all the way down the stairs.
Clementyne rested back on her pillows, shifting her legs to relieve the pressure and the moisture gathering there.
Maybe she’d be ill next Sunday, too.