As the daylight danced away over the hill and deep purple night descended, something stirred and woke in the pit of her stomach. Arielle had been a skillful repressor in her time and the mechanism still moved. The trapdoor no longer sprang shut on the cellars of her self at the first movement of monsters, these days it would creak and strain and the muscles clenched around her heart only slowly, giving time for her to notice and looking her in the eye as they locked down her somatic experience.
Legs weary from a long, lumbering ascent of the land with Hagrid, and with one eye on the tiny smoke rings puffing from the lid of the log burner, she rose stiffly and began pacing around the rug. Inviting the living grief to rise up inside her, to animate her limbs and stretch itself out through her shoulders, she hit play and let the music tell her stories. The first ripples began to rise from her belly, undulating up her back and pouring out of her throat, her heart and her solar plexus. Like a cat choking down grass she had swallowed enough blades to draw out the old poisons that lurked in her gut from lifetimes of learning to love.
As the waves broke she whirled like a puppet hung out on a porch in the wind, arms flying loose and the coiled spring in her spine whipping her head around her neck like a whirlwind. The storm rages wilder and she let go into its flailing ferocity, aware outside of her own walls of a rising drum chorus of rain, driving her on. She whirled and wept and the storm rocked her fragile vessel til her anchor broke its moorings and she overturned onto the sofa bed in a strung out heap of humanity.
Convulsing deeply as the darkness drew in around her, Arielle’s world became an invisible point of light that she could feel but could not see through the storm clouds. Still knowing it was there, she could let the tunnel take her. Let this living story die in her, let herself be reborn with the force of its labouring.
Finally her breath deepened and slowed and her body fell open. Released from the strictures that bound, Arielle felt the soft, warm silence return. She could feel again the solidity of the sofa, the stone floor, the standing structures of the farmhouse, the bedrock of the valley and the unconditionally present curves of her mother the Earth.
The agony of solitude and tearing need to be held subsided in the sweet peace of stillness. Another storm weathered, another cavern cleared out of its subterranean sludge, ready and open for her soul to venture in and reveal the treasures to her in time. She sighed deep and felt his hand arrive softly on the side of her face, stroking a finger down from her tear-stained temple to the soft curve of her jaw. She raised her head a little to look for his sparkling eyes and felt again the firm and loving pressure of his palm on the side of her head. Relax, let go, lie still. Yes. Chema. His unrelenting warm presence and the touch that melted through her resistance like a laser beam of love.
That first night with Chema was the first time she could recall that she wasn’t left aching and raw. The first time that sex did not feel like a battle. The first time her body truly softened and her belly made way to be met. No bracing, no pushing back, off, away. No fighting to take control. She could feel a deep reverence and the intention to give pleasure, rather than simply to take it, in his every approach. He waited for her without a whisper of impatience, held her face and kissed it kindly when tears came. She felt deeply safe, only then, for perhaps the second time in her life, in the arms of a man.
She let go into black velvet slumber, lulled by the warm weight of his body at her back and the soft sway of his breath against hers. As she slept he took her hand and led her through rooms filled with unknown faces. Bewildered and shrinking from the mass of humanity she trailed behind, leaning her weight against his steady grasp. Now and again a reflexive jerk tried to yank her hand from his but he held it firm and squeezed love and reassurance from his palm to hers.
They came finally to a table of people that she knew. There were two places laid for them. She moved to sit and he turned and looked back at her, eyes asking a question she could not read and offering an apology she did not want to receive. She stood still. He let go, fingers trailing goodbye across her palm. His eyes promised his return, but she sensed the wave that carried him, the presence of something he could not yet see but felt propelled by. She sat down. A smiling someone took his place and began to animate soundlessly at her as she watched his beautiful, strong back disappear into the crowd that awaited him.
Chema had a spectacular life to live, and a whole universe inside to give. He carried a pure fire, a warrior for the earth and all who loved her. Every child was his, every parent. Every breeze carried him, every wave welcomed him. Chema belonged to the world and not to anyone and she loved him for it.
As the dawn broke, Hagrid’s rising, throaty rumbles penetrated the cosy bliss of a morning snuggle in the arms that held her soul safe, bringing Arielle tumbling into another day. The arms around her melted in the morning sun, a dream that could not survive the light. She stretched out like a starfish in the too-big bed and let him go again with a deep sigh.
“Another day in the hall of mirrors. What will I see?” she murmured sleepily as she stumbled down the stairs. The fire had gone out, Hagrid had not, and in this way the valley called her back to tend the wild heart of it.