Welcome To The Harem
Somebody's Fool by Plausible Deniability
Summary: CSM, young and in love, learns that April is the cruelest month. Sequel to "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," but if you haven't read that story, you should still be able to follow this one. Pre-XF, young CSM/Mrs. Mulder - R (mature language, mild sexual situations)
Title: "Somebody's Fool" (1/1)
Author: Plausible Deniability
Rating: R (mature language, mild sexual situations)
Spoilers: Concerns events hinted at in Talitha Cumi (3.24)
Keywords: Pre-XF, young CSM/Mrs. Mulder
Disclaimer: The characters and situations of the television program "The X Files" are the creations and property of Chris Carter, Fox Broadcasting, and Ten-Thirteen Productions, and have been used without permission. Also, "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" was written by Howie Greenfield and Jack Keller and recorded by Connie Francis. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: CSM, young and in love, learns that April is the cruelest month.
This is a sequel to "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," but if you haven't read that story, you should still be able to follow this one. Just keep in mind that it's the early 60s, CSM is still a young man, and he is involved in a clandestine affair with Teena Mulder, the wife of his closest friend.
THANKS to my beta readers, Becky and Hindy. And a special thanks to the poet W. H. Auden.
Lay Your Sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm:
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful...
-- W. H. Auden, "Lullaby"
The night is chill and moonless. I slam the car door shut and turn toward the house, my suitcase bumping against my leg.
I am no more than halfway up the drive when the front door of the big white Cape Cod swings open. "Well, there you are," Bill calls genially, light streaming out from all around him. "We were starting to get worried about you." He turns and shouts over his shoulder, "Teena, he's here."
Despite my carefully neutral expression, excitement wells up inside of me, momentarily squeezing off my breath. Teena. It has been almost three months since the last time that I saw her.
And then she is there, standing at Bill's shoulder, her willowy figure in stirring contrast to Bill's square, solid build. "Well, hello," she calls easily. Her husky voice sends a thrill through the length of me.
"I got a little lost." I climb the steps and shake Bill's hand, not trusting myself yet to look directly at Teena. "It was already dark by the time the ferry dropped me off, and I'd forgotten how pitch black it gets out here. For a while there, I was afraid I was going to drive right off into the Sound."
"We're just glad you got here in one piece. Teena saved you some dinner. Come on in."
The house is warm and well-lit, a welcome refuge after an hour of driving aimlessly in the windswept darkness. The furnishings have a cozy, old money New England feel: wing chairs, bookcases, gently-worn rugs, paintings of ships and the occasional solemn forebear. My footsteps echo on the polished hardwood floor.
"I'll put this in the guest room for you," Bill says, relieving me of my suitcase. "Business can wait until after you've had something to eat. You know where the kitchen is."
Teena has already disappeared in that direction. I push open the swinging butler's door to find her removing my dinner from the oven where she has kept it warming. Before taking a seat at the kitchen table, I stop to drink in the way her slender body moves. When we are apart, I always tell myself that I can remember her accurately: youth, beauty, sophistication, a cloud of dark hair and eyes wider than pools. But each time I see her again, I am struck anew by the injustice that my memories have done her.
As she sets the laden plate down in front of me, I seize her by the wrist. "I've missed you," I whisper fiercely.
"Don't -- Bill might hear." She tugs her hand free from my grasp, but her eyes linger on mine. After a moment's hesitation, she leans closer and says rapidly, "Listen, there's something I have to tell you --"
The sound of footsteps on the other side of the door causes her to break off and retreat to the middle of the kitchen. I make sure that I am busy with my dinner when Bill comes strolling in. He pulls out the ladder-backed chair at the head of the table, and sits down beside me. "You look like you haven't eaten in a week," he says, chuckling.
I look up from my plate of baked scrod, green beans, and potatoes. "This is good. I'm not used to coming in and sitting right down to a hot meal."
Bill leans back and lights a cigarette. "What you need is a wife. Isn't that right, Teena?"
From behind Bill, her gaze meets mine. "I think you're right, Bill. Something tells me he needs a wife in the *worst* way..."
I did not know it was possible to feel both dismay and raging desire at the same time. "I, uh -- I'm not in any hurry to settle down," I mumble.
Bill laughs. "That's the spirit." He takes a deep drag on his cigarette. "You hear that, Teena? I'm not the only man in the world who worries about giving up his freedom."
He twists in his chair and winks at her. She drops her eyes, and a faint blush colors her cheeks.
"Am I missing something?" I ask, looking from one of them to the other. "You're already married, Bill."
He grins, and stubs out his half-finished cigarette in the ashtray on the table. "Should we tell him, Teena?"
She doesn't answer.
"I really think we should," Bill says. "Everyone is going to know soon enough anyway."
"Don't," she whispers, head down.
But Bill is clearly pleased with his news, whatever it may be. He refuses to be dissuaded by something so inconsequential as Teena's obvious reluctance. "You know that he's going to find out sooner or later."
"Maybe you shouldn't -- " I begin, glancing with uncertainty at Teena's tense posture. Her face is averted, so that I can see little more than one flushed cheek, and the way that her hands have curled into fists.
"She's just a little self-conscious," Bill says dismissively. "Now congratulate me. It seems I'm going to be a father."
Behind him, Teena turns toward me, a mute apology in her gaze.
"Oh. Well, then -- congratulations." My voice sounds high and unnatural even to my own ears. "When is the baby due?"
"The fall," Teena answers. "October. I'm three months pregnant."
My scattered wits scramble to make the calculation. Three months. That means...January.
The last time we were together.
It is quiet in the woodshed, and I am warm and tired. Making love to Teena always leaves me tired. She is lying with her head on my shoulder, one arm across my chest, her palm resting over my heart.
I am not sure what pretext she used to get Bill out of the way. I am never sure of these things. Teena always handles the details. Beautiful Teena -- more subtle than Eden's serpent.
"That was good," she sighs contentedly, sliding one long, silky leg slowly over mine. "Well worth the wait."
I smile. It is so peaceful here, lying drowsily with Teena pressed against me. I am sure our time is limited and that even now Bill is probably turning his thoughts toward home, but for just a short while, I want to lie here and feel her light breath on my chest.
"I was going crazy, thinking about this the whole time we were apart," she says. "I thought it would at least be bearable once you got here last night, but that only made the waiting worse. I've never wanted anything so badly in my life."
I notice she says "anything" instead of "anyone," but I am not inclined to look a gift horse in the mouth.
"You have to promise you'll come to the summer place in June," she urges, lifting her head to smile at me. "And in July and August and September too. Promise."
I grin into the half-dark. "I'd wear out my welcome with Bill if I did that. I'd wear out something else, too, I have a feeling."
"No." She shakes her head in impassioned insistence. "You have to promise. I'd go completely out of my mind if you didn't. Even if I am as a big as a house then, you have to come. Promise me."
As big as a house... I had almost forgotten, or chosen to forget, that Teena and are not alone here. There is another life, a new life, here in the darkness with us -- a life that perhaps accounts for the heightened allure she seems to have today, the allure of fuller breasts and flushed skin and shameless, eager appetite. "I promise," I whisper, and retreat back into silence.
It is so warm here...so peaceful. Teena feels so good. I am tired in that replete, floating way I have not experienced for some three months. I could sleep here, and never want to wake up.
And yet I hear myself ask, "Is it mine or Bill's?"
It; mine or his. I have been turning the question over in my mind since yesterday night. Still, I never meant to blurt it out in quite so stark a fashion.
She sighs, and raises herself up on her elbow. "I was going to tell you myself. I've been meaning to, since the first day I suspected."
My heart leaps under her hand. "It's mine, then?"
"No," she answers quickly, almost wildly. "No, I didn't say that."
Not mine, then; Bill's. I did not realize how much I had been hoping for a different answer until dull disappointment knifes through me. Strange; less than twenty-four hours ago, it had never even crossed my mind that I might be on my way to fatherhood, and now I am mourning merely because Teena has confirmed that I am not.
"And how is Bill taking the news? He seemed happy enough about it last night." I am heartened by the way the words come out -- cool, detached, accepting.
"Bill!" she exclaims scornfully. "He didn't want this baby in the first place, and now he behaves as if the whole thing was his idea. He treats me as if I'm made of glass. He hasn't even touched me in almost two months."
I tell myself I don't want to know what happens between her and Bill in bed. I tell myself that, even though it isn't true. King Solomon was reputed to be a wise man. "Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm," he is supposed to have written, "for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame." I am growing accustomed to coals and flame.
"Not that it makes much difference," Teena continues. "He might as well not have touched me even before that, for all the good it did me. I felt like Queen Victoria sometimes, lying there and trying to think of England."
"Why do you hate him so much?" It is something I have often wondered.
A pause, and then she lifts her hand from my chest to gesture wearily at the rough wooden walls. "Look around you. This is Chilmark, Massachusetts. The end of the earth, it seems to me sometimes. We could live in Boston or New York or Philadelphia or Washington, DC; places full of clever, interesting people -- but no, we live in Chilmark, Massachusetts. And he is gone three weeks out of every five."
Is that all? Such commonplace concerns, really. Isolation. Loneliness. Such commonplace concerns to engender such a bitter hatred.
"I was a magna at Wellesley," she says, as if reading my thoughts. "I could have been a summa, with just the smallest bit of effort. I used to turn heads -- "
"You still turn heads."
"-- I used to turn heads," she continues doggedly. "There was a time I think I could have had any man I wanted. I had money, and a family who spoiled me, and girlfriends who envied every move I made. And I gave it all up for Bill. For this." She gestures again at the woodshed, at the greying unfinished walls and the faded blanket we have spread over the dirt floor.
Such private, commonplace concerns. Would Bill's neglect still seem so unforgivable if she knew the importance of the project that consumes him? Would Chilmark seem such a prison if she knew that, to Bill, this place represents his last hope of safety -- an island refuge, a hiding place for his family when the fateful date of colonization finally arrives? Bill cares for her -- though, God knows, she will never hear that from me.
"You could leave him," I say. "Even if it is his baby, you could still leave him."
"Leave Bill? And do what?" She laughs hollowly. "Marry you?"
I lie quietly for a moment, waiting for the pain to ebb. "Is there something funny about that? I'm every bit the man that Bill is."
She rolls over onto her back and stares up blankly at the shed roof. "You're ten times the man that Bill is. Unfortunately, my darling, you can't fuck your way into the Harvard Club."
I turn my face to the wall. "Don't talk like that."
"Why not?" she asks listlessly. "Because it's vulgar...or because it's true?"
Bill looks both ways before pulling the car out onto the empty road. "Thanks so much for bringing those papers out to me. I know it's a long way to come," he says. We are on our way to Vineyard Haven, he and I, to buy a gallon of ice cream for tonight's dinner.
"Don't mention it."
"No, I really appreciate it. You're about the only friend I have who's still willing to make the trek all the way out here." He fidgets with the rear view mirror. "Ronald used to visit now and then, but then one day last year he just announced out of the blue that he wasn't going to be able to do it any more. I guess the solitude got to him, with no one here to keep him company except me and Teena."
I look out the car window at the low roofs of the weathered houses. "I really don't mind."
"Well, it means a lot to me. It saved me from having to run down to D.C. myself."
The evening shadows are beginning to fall across the wooded landscape. "I suppose you don't want to leave your wife on her own," I say, "especially in light of her recent announcement."
"Yes." He chuckles ruefully. "I'm pretty tickled about it -- which surprises me, really, because initially I didn't think we ought to have kids. I wasn't sure it was fair to bring a baby into this world, knowing all I do. In fact the whole pregnancy came as something of a shock. I was always...careful, if you know what I mean."
"Mmm-hmm." Shut up, Bill, I think with cold hatred. Shut up about your wife and your surprises and your care. I don't need to hear about the great life you have.
"Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your coming out here. The ice cream is definitely on me."
"If you say so." I'm fucking your wife, I think vindictively. I feel a little better, saying the words to myself. She may be having your baby, Bill, but she's fucking me.
"So what kind do you like? Vanilla?"
"Doesn't matter," I answer evenly. "What kind does Teena like?"
He looks over at me, an expression of ludicrous gratitude on his face. "That's very nice of you. She likes chocolate."
"Chocolate it is, then." I reach over and switch on the radio. By some strange coincidence 'Everybody's Somebody's Fool' is playing. It reminds me in a rush of the first day I spent alone with Teena. I can still see her in her thin summer dress, eyes half closed, singing along softly with the song.
Connie Francis's alto floods the car:
"I told myself it's best that I forget you,
Though I'm a fool, at least I know the score
If darlin', I did twice as good without you
It hurts, but I'd come running back for more..."
"See if you can get another station," Bill says abruptly.
"Yes," I answer, my hand already reaching for the dial. "I was just about to do that."