by the oread
That midwinter morning, he dreamt of Brona, not of Bran.
Brandon is an afterthought; a half-remembered addendum of fauve coruscations and syrupy peril.
He is obscure, numinous, and proud, his lips glazed with brandy and the fiery imprint of lipstick. A dark thunderbolt, a holographic knight, and a gradation of sky and light. And Keaton, in the depths of his delirium, scrambled for dear life, for dear sanity; for he knew, he knew-
I would have loved him once; had he been a little shorter and his hair a little longer-I could have, I would have, I-God damn. Goddamnit it all.
He downed the last of his starlit drink in anguish, and passed out in a decaffeinated tangle of bitterness and limbs; dreaming of his nimble-footed Brona with her civet-coloured eyes and meretricious smile. Not this solid man of phantasmagorical stone, of furrowed brows, of crenelated lips and leaden orbs. That midwinter morning, he dreamt of Brona, not of Bran.
(Their very first encounter had been at an underground bar, of all places.
How lovely she had seemed under the chatoyant flame of halogen lights, sashaying sleazily, lips bloodied like a tomatina festival; how cheap, how achingly attainable.
Keaton had been entranced, like a lodestone to the North, like a landlubber to the sea. He distinctly remembered lumbering over to her maladroitly, gazing at her charmingly androgynous face (caked in thespian paints), and clasping her startled hands. She had smiled at him, indulgent and flashily, extricating her too-thick tapered fingers from his too-jealous grasp, (Brona. It’s my name, silly. Brona Levitt), and he had been lost-so very, very lost.)
(“Aren’t you a little…tall to be wearing heels?” Keaton had blurted, once, on a cheerless, blustery Sunday (And seeing the infinitesimal shift in her smile, he had regretted it instantly), “Not that I mind. It unnerved me once. Not anymore. No-no, it’s not like that. It wasn’t unnerving, per se, I…”
“Keaton, it’s fine.” She had halted his nonsensical ramblings with her exquisitely masculine hands. Her chipped nails of grapefruit hue. The miniature incisions they had made on his rickety desk. Her agonising calm.
Brona had glanced at him slantwise, and smiled at him depreciatingly, provocatively: “You’re not the only one to have said that, you know.”
“I know.” I don’t. I really, really don’t. “I’m sorry.” I truly, truly am. For me and for you.
“No need to apologise, sweetie.” There was the endearment he both loathed and loved, extracting the most delectable of shudders from his spine. A fleeting frisson of panicked awe.
“Don’t call me that.” He had loved her then, loved the glaring falsity that had been inscribed in her half-lidded eyes, and in the world-weariness that suffused her coquettish smile (and the ianthine penumbra above her cupid’s bow. I saw it, you know).
“And why not?” She had drawled, reaching for another noxious cigarette.
Keaton had seized her hands, held it in a death grip. “Stop. You don’t really smoke. Just stop this, this-”
“Stop what?” She had gazed at him, unblinkingly. Those eyes. How they had vexed him, inexorably and unfailingly.
“Just stop pretending!”
“Pretending? Pretending?” Brona had straightened herself to her full, formidable height. “Do you even know what it is I am faking? Can you tell the difference between me and my guise? What is genuine? Me, without my makeup and high-heels? Me, with an unshaved face, without a smile, or me, in a shirt and tie?” The cigarette had been cast aside like a forgotten prop. She had regarded him frigidly, “Do you really want me to be myself? Have you even thought about it?”
If this is really you, I do not want it, and I do. “I’m sorry.” His mouth had flapped futilely, like the wings of a falling peregrine. Wings that know nothing but apologies and goodbyes.
An ugly laugh. “Quit saying you’re sorry. Quit being sorry.”
“I can’t.” (She had removed her hands from his clammy ones, again).
“Believe me, I know.”)