She still doesn’t know.


Chantelle sits cross-legged on my futon, leaning back
against the blue cushions. She hugs my stuffed lion close. Its golden
fur glows in the dim light of my single working lamp, blending into
her honey-brown skin. Her skin is a legacy of her despised mother,
the fashion model. She isn’t quite as gorgeous as her mother had
been, and she isn’t looking her best at the moment, with tears running
down her face and dressed in rumpled clothing she’s slept in for two days
straight, but she’s still quite beautiful. Not that I’m objective.

I’m trying to listen to her telling me again just how much she had
loved Jeff, but even the gallon of chocolate ice cream we’re inhaling is
starting to lose its interest as I listen to this story for the
hundredth time, in yet another variation. It isn’t just Jeff. She’s
done this before. Fallen in love, had great sex, realized she had
picked a jerk, dumped him or been dumped. Over and over, always with
the wrong guy. It was only a month or so ago that I’d started to
wonder if maybe she were really a lesbian.

We’d discussed it before, since I’d come out to her years ago,
but she’d always denied the possibility and quickly changed the topic.
She’d started avoiding my touch then too, giving brief hugs on
greeting and parting and sitting much farther away than she had
before. And right now I’m regretting having a full-size futon, large
enough that she can easily sit out of reach. I’d have to lean way
over before I could run my fingers over those impossibly long brown
legs, curving down her calf to cup her foot in my small hands, gently
rubbing her toes. She starts sniffling again, and I hand her
another tissue.

My heart is beating much too fast, and I can’t stop
looking at her, hoping she won’t notice my wanting, possessive gaze.
Time is running achingingly slow as I avoid looking at my watch. Not
because she’d think I wanted her to go, oh no. If it were up to me, I
would have her stay safe in my bed, warm in my embrace forever.


The doorbell rings. She looks up at me helplessly.

“Don’t worry, Chantelle. I’ll get rid of whoever it is
quickly. Just hang on a sec, okay?”

She nods in silence broken only by a sniffle quickly smothered
in tissues. I walk over to the buzzer.

“Who is it?”

“Giordano’s delivery.”

“We didn’t order any pizza.”

“Hey, I’ve got your pizza right here.”

His voice is muffled through the intercom, and I shrug my
shoulders as I open the door.

“I’d better go down and explain to him.” I tell her as I head

“Okay” she quavers, and for a moment I don’t want to walk
through that door, trapped in the spell of her lush contralto. She is
so much a child, huddled there in her huge green flannel shirt,
incongruously blond hair falling free across her face. But then I
shake free of the spell. I walk down the half flight of stairs to
where the man in the crisp white shirt stands holding a pizza, already
having come through our broken security doors. As I near him, he
holds out the pizza box towards me. I reach out…and he drops the
box and is suddenly somehow shoving me up against the crumbling
plaster wall of the stairwell, and I am almost falling onto him. I
tense to struggle, but suddenly feel the prick of a knife through my
thin black t-shirt, uncomfortably cold against my rib.

“Christ!” explodes almost unbidden from my throat, my voice
rising dangerously. “What the hell do you think…”

“Shut up, bitch.” he says, deceptively calm, in a voice
pitched to carry. I can tell he is nervous. The knife trembles
against me as he urges me up the stairs, and I am suddenly terrified
of what is happening here in this now unfriendly building. We enter
my apartment, and he swings the door closed behind us with
his foot, not bothering to lock the door.

Chantelle has risen from the futon and stands framed in a halo
of flickering light. That lamp has never been reliable, and now in
this uncertain moment it seems to sound its death-knell, flicking in
and out as we walk slowly into the room.

“Not a sound, bitch.” he warns, cutting off the scream that
is only now rising in her throat. “If the neighbors hear anything
unpleasant, that’s it for your girlfriend.”

Chantelle sinks down onto my rumpled blue blankets, a muted
moan caught in her butterfly mouth and frightened eyes locked on the
glint of bright steel against black silk. I feel a sharp pain where
the knife point lies poised against me, but it is impossible to tell
if I am actually bleeding against the black.

“Strip.” he orders her, an unnerving thread of excitement
clear in the tremor of his low voice.

She shakes her head mutely in protest, wrapping her arms tight
around her golden body. She must not know how that motion pulls the
fabric of the shirt taut against her full breasts, and pulls the
fabric sliding up her legs, baring even more tawny thigh. I catch my
breath in shameful pleasure at the sight, and am brought back to
reality only by the lifting of the knifepoint from my ribs.

Just as I start to shift out of his grasp he slides a
tightly-muscled arm across my throat, pulling me back against him. He
has lifted the knife only to bring it to my throat, and I freeze. He
slowly, so slowly, slides the frighteningly sharp knife down the front
of my silk top, slicing it cleaning in half, and leaving the fabric to
flap aimlessly in the wind of the creaking fan. I wear no bra
at three a.m. Small pale breasts have fallen free, pink nipples
hard with fear, and the cold breeze, and excitement. I am wearing
only black silk shorts now, and I cannot help but think how beautiful
he and I must look, black silk against his white shirt and pants,
brown curls so oddly similar. He looks like my brother, I suddenly
think, and then must struggle down dangerous laughter. My nerves are
being stretched far too taut. I fear I will break.

He lifts the blade up to a breast and I am truly frozen now as
he holds the knifepoint a fraction of an inch away from tender skin.
He looks back at Chantelle.

“Strip.” If before his voice was nervous with excitement, it
is now implacable. It would take someone far braver than my poor fawn
Chantelle to resist, and she slowly begins to unbutton the oversized shirt.
He is not content with the flannel slowly slipping from her shoulders,

“Stand and strip.” he says, and she obeys almost silently,
muffling the whimpers deep in the back of her throat. Endless moments
later she has unbuttoned the last button and the shirt falls unheeded
to the floor. My gaze slips back and forth between her radiance
(never before has she seemed so beautiful) and the possessive wanting
in his eyes. “Come here.” he says, and at that I stiffen even more,
wanting to slap that look from his face, that purr from his voice.

Her hands flutter up and down her body as she walks toward us,
futilely attempting to preserve some shred of modesty, of dignity. It
is useless. She is too fragile a flower to stand up against this kind
of torment, and the tears welling in her eyes have provoked a growing
rage within me. She stops inches away from me, shivering in the
direct wind from the ceiling fan.

His knife hand suddenly drops away from my breast, although
his left arm is still locked around my throat. He is fumbling with
the zipper on his pants, finally dropping them to lie puddled on the
floor around his feet. His legs are startlingly pale, almost blending
into the white cloth. He wears no underwear either, and his erection
pokes out from his shirttails, rising hungrily.

“On your knees, bitch.” he says to her, the hunger clear in
the hoarseness of his voice. “Suck me off.”

And suddenly I can’t take anymore. This has gone as far as I
can stand. I jerk sideways, pulling free momentarily of his arm. His
knife hand comes up quickly though, and his other hand swings in a
wide grab from Chantelle….only to be blocked as I step calmly in
front of it.

“No.” I say, the words sticking in my throat as I strive to
make my voice as soft and seductive as possible. “Please” as I slide
to my knees in front of him, “let me.” My eyes are locked on his, and
I fervently hope that he can see in them that he has pushed me far
enough, farther than is safe for any of us. I am all too aware of
Chantelle’s gasping breaths behind me, the only sound she has let
herself make, and of her skin scant inches away from mine. I wait for
his reponse, unable to read past the desire in deep brown eyes.

He stares in silence for long seconds, knife poised in his
right hand. He looks me over slowly, insolently, and I will myself
not to stiffen against his intrusive gaze. Finally he nods, silently.
I lean forward and run my tongue down his stiff erection. I trace
small, lazy circles around the shaft. I tease the head with flicking
tongue until the growing fever in the eyes I have not dared glance
away from warns me that teasing will not be permitted for long. And I
suddenly realize that I find this man beautiful after all, and if he
hadn’t had a knife to my throat I might have wanted this as much as he
did. It is then that I first begin to tremble.

It is quickly over, and I swallow carefully, not wanting to
rouse his dangerous unpredictability. I wait, kneeling in front of
him, holding his eyes with mine once more, willing him not to look
away, to glance at Chantelle. He seems to read my desire. His next
words are addressed solely to me, “Strip and lie down.” He seems to
disregard Chantelle, though his body is still tight, still alert. I
do not think I can get the knife away. I rise obediently, and quickly
step out of the black silk shorts, not wanting them to be torn as
well. Some part of my mind must still believe that we will survive

I lie down on the futon, pushing aside blue blankets to create
a clear space in the center, baring the dark green sheets. I stretch
lazily, offering my body up for him to drink deep. A brown cat curled
in the blankets. My eyes are focused on his face, on the raw desire
battling with some indefinable thought. I doubt I could look away if
I wanted to. Some tiny detached part of me wants desperately to
photograph his face. Portrait of a rapist. I am shattering into a
hundred different elements, held together only by the need to protect.

His free hand is suddenly on Chantelle’s shoulder, twisting
her cruelly around, off-balance. Then the hilt of the knife is shoved
into the small of her back, and she falls onto me. I voice a wordless
protest, but she falls silent, curving so as not to hit too hard.
Even in this she is graceful. Then he begins to speak.

“Go on, bitch. Fuck her. I want to watch you two sluts
fucking each other on your nice, clean sheets. Eat her, you dirty
slut!” His voice rises higher and higher, and I wonder if perhaps the
neighbors will hear. Doubtful – the walls are not that thin.
Chantelle is shaking her head at the stream of invective, terror
blossoming, a flower in her face. And suddenly I reach up and hold
her face still in my hands, my eyes promising her that it will be all
right. An outright lie; I have no idea what is happening now. She
reaches a hand up to clasp one of mine, then buries her head in my
shoulder. For this moment, this man is giving me a perversion of my
deepest desires. It would be unfair to ask me to refrain.

I draw her down next to me on the green sheets, promising
myself that I will be ever so gentle with her, that she will somehow
find joy in this. Chantelle has gone very very still. Her eyes are
now closed, and she looks frighteningly defenseless. I bend to drop
butterfly kisses on her cheek, her neck, her shoulder. Carefully I
avoid her lips, though I ache to kiss. Somehow I think that would be
too much. For her, and for me. Her nipples are soft pools of darkness in
the golden expanse of her torso. I lick my way down to them, nipping
gently until they stand erect against my tongue. She has begun to move
a little, confused by her body’s reactions, bewildered by this night.
But she doesn’t utter a word of protest. My frail love has no way of
understanding this night, her only hope to trust in me to keep her

His breathing is loud in the room, and as I kiss lower and
lower on her sweet body, the first moan comes from him. It is a sound
of pure frustration, and I am surprised for a moment that he would
restrain himself. Then I am lost in the scent of her rising up
beneath me, the brush of my breasts along her long legs, the caress of
her curling hair against my cheek. And the greatest joy is that she is
responding to my touch, my tongue, my kiss. She is arching underneath
me, tangling her long fingers in waves, running nails across the
tender places of my neck. The lamp flickers wildly in the room; as
she comes moaning in my mouth we arch together suddenly still. The
eye in the center of a blue-green storm.

Chantelle relaxes beneath me, her still-heavy breaths
sounding. I cannot hear him, I realize. I half-raise, and twist my
body up into the wind from the fan. There is enough light to see
clearly that he is not there. The knife lies, discarded, well within
arm’s reach. He has closed the door behind him. And suddenly I am
battling the impulse to reach out and take the knife and hold it to
her sweet flesh, gaining a night of unbearable pleasure as she
fulfills my every desire.

And also gaining a lifetime of hate. I shake my head,
dismissing the last shreds of foolish thought. This will have to be
enough. Her trust, her faith. Her slick body molded to my own. The
memory of her arching against me. And the chance that this night has
changed her mind about what she wants…although it will take time to
know for certain. I lay back down against her, realizing that she is
somehow, impossibly, asleep. I am suddenly eager to join her.


The phone rings. I get up to answer, knowing who it will be.

“Forgive me.” he says. “I didn’t mean things to go so far.
The knife was too much. You were both too beautiful. I got…carried
away.” He pauses, embarassed. “I’ll buy you a new shirt.”

“Forgiven.” I say, and hang up.

How can I condemn him? I asked him to come, after all. I go
back to the bed and gather her into my arms. She murmurs in her sleep
and cuddles closer. I hold her tight in a protective embrace, so that
nobody will ever hurt her.

M.A. Mohanraj
October 20, 1993

Narrative Tricks in “Chantelle” – A┬áReader’s Response