Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Chapter Three: In Which Antonie Has Me Shave His Ghastly Face

April 13, 1883 This time when I arrive at Antonie's, he is sitting up. His face has that ghastly purple hue, but it is one I am getting used to. He reaches out a bony hand. "I beg you, sweet cousin, to shave me."

I recoil. I have never in all my life shaved a man and certainly not Antonie!

"I see no reason why I should do that," I say, moving out of the way of his grasp.

"Oh but my dear cousin, you know that Father Ruby would approve." He leers at me. "And so would my physician. If you shave my face, I am told by the good doctor, it will hurry my cure." He closes his eyes but manages a sleepy smile.

"Surely you don't expect me to believe that," I say. "Your doctor is an intelligent man, and to my knowledge, he is well grounded in science. And I am an equally intelligent woman. Shaving your face will have no influence whatsoever on your syphilis..." I feel my cousin's forehead. Damp, and feverish again.

This much I know: when Antonie's temperature rises, his mind begins to spin the most perverse fantasies about me.

Still, I agree to shave him. Together with señora, I heat the shaving cream in the metal bowl and we scrape his face clean. And because it is so late when we finish, señora prepares the guest room for me, and I sleep at the hacienda. The next morning, before breakfast, I go to his room to check his temperature. His eyes open when I place my hand on his forehead. He asks me to change his sheet, so I do.

This is when I find it. I lift the mattress and I discover the pile of pale white pages, all in Antonie's slanted handwriting. There, at the top of the pile is another story he wrote about me, the one called "Roseblade."

Once again he's made me into the seductress he wants me to be. When I threaten to burn the pages, he musters all his strength and rises out of the bed and into a rage. His eyes are demonic as he demands that I hand over the pages.

Dear God, help me to know what to do!

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