Mrs P’s Lullaby
A Christmas Tale
Songs I Like Series
Text copyright © 2017 Mia Soto
All Rights Reserved
Chapter 4: 4 Calling Birds
December; Italy, Present Day
Lost in thought, she came home from her run to an empty house. The dishes from breakfast and lunch were piled high. The same dishes Serge promised to clean up with the kids. Piles of laundry on the couch formed her landscape and she tripped on one of the many toys strewn across the floor like land mines.
Deep in her thoughts, she gazed out the large window that framed the open lawn where the pear tree sat. It was a big, ugly window and in the summer it let in too much heat making the house too warm. What was she doing? She was well past the seven year itch as a married woman. What was going on her mind?
Was it ennui driving her to Bob? She smiled at the stupid fake name. Bob was exciting in ways Serge never had been. And he was interesting, continental, as they say. He reckless and so damn hot. So damn sexy. He was fun and silly, carefree in ways she was not, in ways she was not allowed to be anymore. So many possibilities for why he was like a magnet for her, for why she could not wait for her daily run, for why she thought about him all the time, did Google searches on him, for why, for why.
Isa suddenly toddled by unattended and Natalie’s eyes narrowed in anger. Yes, but maybe the greatest reason frustration, most definitely frustration. Natalie started out the front door to catch the toddler before the child made it all the way to the street to wander into the road. Serge! Incapable of doing more than one thing at a time.
“I’m coming to get you!” Natalie sang from the doorway and a surprised Isa screeched in delight, tiny blue eyes the mirror of her mother’s twinkled. Her fat little legs were no match for Mommy’s long, lean gait and Natalie swept her up into a twirl and bear hug. As she did she heard Jonah shouting for her from the back of the house.
“Mom! Mom!” His voice was so grown up, no more child in him.
“I’m here,” she called as she carried Isa around the house to the back.
“Dad’s hanging in the barn.”
“We were trying to fix that shutter so the snow wouldn’t get in.”
“I told him I’d help him with that later.” Why now? He had put it off for nearly a year anyway. Why the sudden urgency?
“Yeah, he didn’t want to wait.” Jonah was a heartthrob, tall and handsome, dark haired with dark hazel eyes.
As they made the turn into the far garden, she saw Serge hanging like a marionette high up in the doorway of the barn. His face was beet red and he started kicking his legs when he saw her.
“No! I said don’t get her!” His cry was angry and his accent thicker as it always was in anger. Why was he so angry?
“Come on, Dad, I can’t do it alone.” Jonah reasoned. “So, Mom, I’m thinking you go up and cut the rope and I’ll try to break his fall a little.”
She nodded and started toward the ladder but stopped upon hearing Serge’s poisonous shout rain down on her. “No! I’d rather hang here than have her help me.”
“What is wrong with you?” She hissed with her own fling of arsenic.
“You, you’re wrong with me,” he growled.
Johan sighed, a sigh too old for his sixteen years. “Knock it off you two.” He pointed at Isa and Lou watching with wide eyes.
“I’m helping you. Deal with it.” Natalie started up the ladder and Serge fumed in his ropes. “Ok, ready, baby?”
Jonah nodded and she started sawing away at the rope. It broke and Serge dropped like a rag doll into Jonah’s arms and the mound of hay he had piled up to ease the fall. The girls jumped up and down cheering.
“Here,” Natalie held out a hand to help them up. Jonah took the offer but Serge kept struggling. “Give me your hand, Serge.”
“LEAVE ME ALONE!”
His booming voice stunned everyone. Serge never raised his voice. Isa started crying and even Jonah looked bemused. Natalie felt her body stiffen into the cool marble stone of a Michelangelo statue.
“Jonah, baby, take the girls and go inside.” The vitriol of sixteen long years raced between the husband and wife in angry glares as Jonah did what he was asked. When they were alone she started. “What is wrong with you?”
“I told you, you!” He was trying to disengage from the rope that was wrapped around him.
“What? What now?” Blue eyes glittered ready for battle. They had gotten good at these fights, duking it out but never really finishing the round.
“Nothing. Everything! I want to quit with you. Nothing is ever going to be good enough. Nothing.” He was turning in a frustrated circle tangling himself even more in the rope.
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about you. You’re never happy. Ever. Why? Why?”
“I’m happy,” she said before adding, “today.”
His eyes clouded over in that unexplained rage again. “Oh yes, I’m sure of it. Today you are happy.”
She was taken back by his tone. So to ease the nature of their words she decided to add some rancid to their poison. “If you’re so miserable and I’m not worth it why don’t you go? Why stay and make us both miserable?”
“I don’t know. You’re right I should.” He had the rope in his hands finally free of it and she wondered if he wanted to hang her with it. He certainly looked like he did.
“I’ve been asking myself why I stay in this shit. You know why?” He asked the rhetorical question that she answered with a shake of the head. “Because I swore to God and every Goddamn person we know that I would spend a Goddamn lifetime trying to figure out what goes on in that Goddamn head of yours!”
His words were booming by the end and they were laced in so much angry humor it touched them both. Their quiet outburst of chuckles eased the tension for a moment before his eyes clouded over in angst and his smile grew bittersweet.
“Because I love you,” He spat out the endearment with a world weary sigh and threw down the ropes down by her feet. “even still.”
Then he left her to the howl of the wind through the barn and the bleats of their sheep and the clucks of their chickens and the idea that she might not be the only one confused by the passage of time.
December; Italy, 1814
Paolo lifted the heavy water buckets and as he did he noticed a flash of white from out of the corner of his eye. He was tending his mounts, a groom’s chore that he enjoyed for its monotony and the way the tasks calmed his thoughts. It flashed again and he knew at once what it was, moreover, who it was. His sweaty shirt had long ago been discarded despite the chill of winter. He hurried to drop the buckets and fetch his shirt.
He had once caught her with Mario in the stables. Mario had the distinction of being his father’s secretary. Coming in from a brisk ride, Paolo thundered straightaway into the stables instead of stopping at the front. It became clear he had intruded on a lover’s rendezvous. He reprimanded them and shamed them and struggled to understand the visceral reaction his body had to seeing her leaning against wood planks looking up with those innocent eyes at Mario.
Blinding jealousy was all Paolo could find to explain his behavior. After placing the fear of God in Mario, Paolo assured her he had no choice but to see her home, a convenient chivalrous pretense. He nestled her in front of him and enjoyed their time so much he was disappointed when they arrived at her home. By the time he lifted her down from the mount, he was not sure why he was not taking her to his bed and spending the rest of his life there with her.
He threw his fork down and peeked out the door. She was wearing her scandalous outfit of a man’s trousers, shirt and jacket. Her hair was tucked under a large man’s hat. Only a fool would be fooled into thinking this was a man.
To his surprise, she rested the hat on a rock and tossed her hair. He could almost feel those soft strands tangled in his fingers. She opened her jacket and shirt and shimmied enough to reveal the swell of perfect breast.
His lips quirked into an amused grin. Little nymph. You’ve come to play games. Then we shall and see who the better is. He chuckled to himself.
He took off his shirt and threw it aside again. This game he could play. It was time to take the upper hand with her. She had him chasing her like a dog in heat. Let her chase him tonight. He continued about his work, waiting for her entrance.
“Why not leave such things to your stable hands?” The voice was music to his ears.
He straightened his back and leaned on his fork throwing a glance over his shoulders to catch the image of her illuminated by the soft lamp that hung by the frame she leaned against. Blood surged to every body part. He turned away and took a cleansing breath. Control Paolo! The game hasn’t even begun.
“It clears my mind.” He assured her.
“What does your mind need clearing from, signore?”
“Beautiful girls. You all will be the death of me.”
She huffed. “Whatever your grievances with the fairer sex – place them at your other lovers’ feet and not mine.”
He gave her another half glance. The pants were tight to a distracting fault hugging every curve. The vest must have belonged to a young boy. If not for leaving the first button undone she would have burst out. The tightness swelled her breast upward in a scandalous display with not a fichu in sight for modesty.
He could not let his eyes linger long if he wanted to maintain any control. His quick disregard brought her immediate frown. He tossed some hay with a smirk.
“What lovers do you speak of? There is only one bringing my constant torment.” He heard her shuffle into the room and sit on a high stool in the corner. “What are you doing here at night? Dressed – to invite trouble.”
“And? I’ve come to see you. That should please you.” She sounded annoyed. He ventured another glance and she looked perplexed. He smothered his laugh. Yes, I’m not your pawn tonight here to lose at your whim. Yet.
He turned and walked straight toward her. A self satisfied smirk touched those delicious ruby lips and her almond eyes rounded in anticipation. So when he reached behind her brushing her arm with his while he grabbed for a shovel, her fallen face was pure amusement for him.
He could barely contain the light in his eyes as he turned back to his work. He answered her question to help occupy his mind from what it wanted to do more than play this fool’s game. “Please me it does. But at night, dressed in such a manner? No, that does not please me at all.”
“Shall I go then?” She brushed at her trousers and began to leave.
He panicked and called out. “Why did you come after all?”
To his great relief she stopped and leaned against a wall. “Are you sure you want to know? Or would you rather discipline me on some other measure like my father and not my…”
His ears perked up and he jumped on the opportunity. “Like your what?”
She shook her head. “Matters not.”
He gave up the game. He liked to win but if winning meant her displeasure and ire he was wise enough in the arts of passion to know that was no win at all. He put aside his rake and walked up to her enjoying how she tilted her head back to hold his gaze. He took her hand and led her back to the stool where she sat without argument.
“Now tell me.” His fingers lingered through her hair and traced the lines of her jaw and temple. Their eyes locked in a wishful fog. She swallowed hard and he smiled knowing she was as caught up in this as he.
“I began my book.”
“Yes. It is wonderful.” Her face animated like it always did when she spoke of books. “I love it and already I don’t ever want it to end.”
“Indeed?” His eyes were intent on studying her face.
“Yes, I always feel that way about the stories I love the most. I want them to last and last.”
“I’ll command her to write a dozen more.” However absurd the promise he was sure he would move mountains to do just that if she asked.
She laughed and took his hand to hold it to her cheek. “You are right. It is appropriate.”
“Yes, isn’t it?” There was a change in the already charged air. Her eyes were somewhere between wishful and worried. Even so her fingers intertwined with his when he took her hand.
“I should go.”
She sounded about as convincing as a caught thief with her breathless voice and her long lashes fluttering down eyeing his mouth with obvious desire. He pulled her up to him and pressed his body into hers enjoying the slight cry that fell from her parted lips. Her hands were flat against the wall as if afraid to touch him.
He was not so shy. He let his hands smooth along her body until they rested on the plains of her chest. She felt good against him soft, moldable. Her deep breaths filled his hands with every rise and fall of her torso. His mouth dance over hers, breaths mingling in puffs of cold air.
“You have no taste for the game,” he whispered into her mouth.
“Are you playing with me?” Her breathy reply tasted like honey in his mouth the air tickling his tongue.
“Yes, I am.”
Their eyes were locked inches apart and his hand made the slow slide up to clasp her neck. His other fingers worked the buttons of her vest until it fell open. She shivered.
“Are you cold?” His hand ran under the loose shirt over her cold skin to form around a breast. It was chilled and tight and he smiled at her ragged cry when his fingers tugged hard bringing an instant arch to her back.
“Yes.” She bit her lip against the attack of his hand on her breasts. His other hand worked the full bottom lip out of her teeth.
“Shall I warm you?” His head was low over hers. His lips played against hers as he spoke. He could feel her weight resting on him and if he moved away she would crumble to the ground.
“Shall, I kiss your neck?”
He asked in all seriousness and she answered with an equally serious nod. Fire and ice, his lips, her skin following a wayward path along the long soft column of her neck to the swell of her breasts. With reverence, he cupped them pushing them up higher so that he could kiss the arched peak of each.
She strained against the stable wall huffing an erratic breath. He kissed his way back to hover close to her face, his eyes piercing hers. When his hand wandered away from her breast, her groan of disappointment was followed closely by a cry of surprise when it slipped into the tight pants, his palm falling flat against the soft of her sex.
She was lost to the sensation, her legs buckling. He held her to his chest so that he could kiss her with suffocating demand. Lips mashed and clung. She arched and moaned in answer to his hand caressing a wild fever. It was obvious she had never been so attacked and, in truth, her innocence pleased him.
“Please,” She tore her mouth away. “Please, let me breathe.”
She gasped when his fingers massaged their way to the opening where her desire was burning out of control. When he found her ready, wet, he smiled. Not a moment later two long fingers plunged in without preamble.
“Ohh,” She cried pressing against the deep rhythmic dig of his fingers sliding in and out of her. “Ohh what torture.”
With a chuckle, he lifted her and lay her on the mounds of fresh hay. Her temple rested against his. Her eyes closed in dreamy ecstasy. She opened her eyes. He hovered over her watching her with liquid hazel eyes.
“Is this what everyone goes on about?”
“This is only the beginning.” He assured her. Something about her careless happiness and flushed beauty was painting on the walls of his life an image that would never wear away or be replaced.
“Truly?” She looked away biting her thumb drenched in naïveté and wonder. His hand went back to the spot that he knew still had the slightest ache for what they had not done. It was warm and wet.
“Yes. Truly.” In the deepest kiss, pulsing further and further into the depths of those soft lips and sweet tongue he smiled when she answered every demand stopping to gasp in response to the attack on her sex.
“Perhaps I should not have judged Eloisa so harshly. I might enjoy learning more about her game.” A wickedness gleamed in her eyes knowing she sparked his jealousy with such sentiments.
“Lesson one, my beauty.”
He flipped her like a rag doll yanking her pants down and tossing aside her oversized shoes. She looked wonderfully cheap half dressed, legs bent ignorant to how much he wanted her. He knelt before her smoothing his hands along the velvety skin of her thighs to the warmth of her desire. She bit her lip.
“Don’t bite your lip.” His lips followed his hand’s path and his fingers caressed her. She bit harder and he nipped at her leg. She yelped in surprise.
“Don’t bit your lip.” He commanded with his mouth hovering over her where he could feel the heat of her body. She was desperate for the touch she had never known before. Her hips tried to rise instinctually to him but he held them away. “Or I will stop.”
She released her lip and in reward he lifted her hips, his fingers biting into the soft flesh of her bottom. She gasped at the unexpected position. Those gasps turned to cries when his mouth clasped her hard. His tongue swirled and thrusted enjoying the soft wet pleasure. She thrashed and begged for mercy and he could see she was not sure if she wanted it to end or to never end. Her cries came in abandonment indifferent to privacy or shame. Soon he felt her tense and shutter before her hips collapsed in his hands. Her throaty chuckled followed soon after.
“My word. I have been judgmental.” She said in awe to the ceiling. Her eyes floated down to his in wonder. “Again?”
He laughed. “No. It’s time to take you home.”
Her eyes flashed digesting this turn of events. “Are you certain, signore?”
“Very, amore. Taking you in this hay is not how I imagined our first moments together. It will be in my bed, for many long hours.”
She dressed in a huff. “Perhaps your wife might have something to say about this arrangement you speak of?”
He stood angry. He was tired of her quips and digs. “Come.” He held out his hand “Let’s go.”
She looked contrite watching him saddled his horse. “I don’t know why I pick at you.”
“It matters not. I like it. And you know it.” Her eyes smiled at his answer.
“Does Mr. Darcy choose her?”
He stopped fastening his girth to look over the saddle at her. “You’ll have to read on.”
“I hope he does,” she whispered.
He walked to her embracing her in a deep soul searching kiss. He promised, “I will find a way for us, Maria. Trust in that.”
“I love you, signore. I have no choice but to trust you.” She smiled at his shocked face. Her declaration of love had not been expected. “Ahh, you are without words.”
“For once,” he said quietly.
Then she grew serious. “You must be gentle with my heart.”
A gut wrenching pain stung his belly. He wrapped her into him holding her against the cold night air. “My Maria.”