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Hands Caress, by Estelle Sharrock Churchill
"Hands Caress "
by Estelle Sharrock Churchill


by Zdravka Evtimova

It was Thursday again and that meant that at nine o'clock PM her husband would visit her. He had emailed her, had called on her mobile, and had sent a fax message warning her to be in her bedroom exactly at that hour but Beth hoped she would get away with that at least today, for he had some expert meeting in Vienna and odds we in her favor: Already he was ten minutes late. She often dreamt of going to Vienna herself, she loved the cold, humid air; the intimate fog over squares and statues, the sluggish dark river, but above all she enjoyed the closed faces of people. Their cool unobtrusive presence put her at ease. They passed by without noticing her as if she were wind or dust on the sidewalk and the feeling of solitude was sweet. She felt the stares of men on her skin; their parasite eyes trying hard to sink deep into her flesh and suck out something delicious from it.

Her husband's business partners were civilized enough but Beth guessed that at the end of negotiations they had one of the expensive girls in their hotels. She imagined the services the men wanted from them and felt appalled. Thinking about men in general was an appalling thing for it made her remember Theo, her husband, and all Thursday nights he spent with her.

Beth hated Thursdays.

Bakalov, one of the business partners of Beth's husband, had so far behaved in a very friendly manner; he sent her discreet basket full of flowers in the morning after each official dinner. At the last working lunch - the seventeenth in a long, tedious series - Beth mentioned something about the film "Titanic," just for the sake of participating in the conversation, for Theo had warned her not to shut up like a statue although she looked beautiful. Out of pure politeness Beth had to take part in the discussions. As she did, dropping a question in the sphere of culture she had prepared beforehand - politics and finance were a mined zone and Theo had cautioned her not to poke her nose in it, pointing out how narrow-minded her way of looking at things was; in general, he did his best to stress her overall inability to cope with anything outside cosmetics. Thus, Beth asked Bakalov her well prepared question, "Have you seen the film "Titanic?" Perhaps the question was really stupid, but pronounced by her beautiful lips it acquired weight; and the businessmen, feeling her ennobling female presence, started commenting on "Titanic". Unlike all the rest of them who kissed her hand and bowed silently, the bolder ones among them discreetly descending their eyes down the neckline of her dress, Bakalov on the following day sent Beth a videocassette with the film.

Then he sent her a novel by Barbara Delinsky, an author Beth abhorred, so she paid her son's nurse, a woman called Arma, to read the novel and retell it in a summarized form to her, for Beth had made up her mind to indulge in a small adventure with Mr. Bakalov. She needed neither sex nor the sugary porridge of love; Bakalov attracted her with the fact that he had not lowered his eyes to the neckline of her dress nor had he attempted to swim till he dropped dead in the stream of the topic of how beautiful Beth was. He simply established a dear little tradition to send her modest bouquets of snowdrops on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, which Beth appreciated all the more because on these very days the strange swarthy girl came to her house and massaged her body with such intense concentration as if it were the most favorite occupation in the world.

As Bakalov brought Beth to his villa in the country and she saw him naked, whitish and flat like those undulating shapes of tapeworms she had seen as a schoolgirl in her biology classes, the iceberg of repugnance hit sorely her throat. Beth did not want Bakalov; she imagined his hands, scraggy, overgrown with transparent hairs, touching her, then she saw his thin colorless lips closing down on her mouth and for a moment she thought she would throw up. Bakalov started caressing her and Beth was scared by his dry palms moving rapidly all over her, his unnatural quick fingers planting warts in her skin as they touched her. The experience was all the more unpleasant because of the question that Bakalov kept constantly asking her, "Does it feel good?"

Finally Beth answered it felt good hoping that he would calm down but he sank into her all the more intensively leaving dry pain in his wake. There were thin grooves of saliva running in the corners of his mouth and Beth looked at them all the time. Yet there was something favorable in the situation; Bakalov's blue, almost transparent eyes swam in fog, his eyelids slid downwards, his mouth kissed her persistently as his body swayed on her like a buoy tied up at the bottom of the sea. She could examine him closely and had the chance to experiment with him, so she scratched his back, rather to avenge herself on his body for the humiliation and the splitting ache he gave her. Then she hit him.

Last Thursday night, as her husband Theo made love to her she scratched him as well; and he hit her. That was the only time he had ever done that to Beth and in the end, as he went out, the money he had left on the bed for the week was three times more than usual. From that time on Beth suspected he nurtured the sadistic vein in his disposition and since she was not a woman of ungrounded suspicions she told him plainly, "Next time you hit me simply tell me you want a divorce"

"You won't divorce", Theo answered, pushing his gray eyes into hers. "You need my money."

Beth did not object and did not explain anything.

"Try me", she said.


Beth scratched Bakalov's back again and instead of leaving her alone he blurted out "You are great, you are great", sounding as if he really believed what he said. His saliva dropped on her breasts and she hated that but the feeling she was a researcher experimenting with a species unknown to science was exhilarating. She could push and scratch and beat and bite him. She could do anything with him and for a moment Beth was sorry her imagination was so poor she could not invent anything unnatural.

"Stop!" Beth ordered him. He ceased moving and sat up, whitish and undulating, as if he were in a jar full of acid in which tapeworms were preserved in her biology lab at school.

"I love you", Bakalov said but Beth saw his shiny saliva and the whitish hairs piercing his colorless skin. "I love you. Marry me! Leave Theo!'

She hit him once again, this time on the mouth and instead of shouting he tried to kiss her. At that moment Beth saw in her mind the swarthy hands of the girl who massaged her and could hardly breathe.

Beth drove on the way back home and Bakalov slept, the grooves of his saliva dripping down the seat of his expensive car. She suddenly wanted to make him feel pain; her desire was so irresistible that she drove her fingernails deep into his wrist. Bakalov woke up and looked around as if he were expecting somebody was about to shoot him dead. Beth stopped the car. It was so cold and dank that for a moment she wanted to throw Bakalov out in the street and go on without him. She kissed him instead and bit his lip, bit it savagely, feeling the taste of his blood in her mouth. He shouted with pain and as Beth let him go he whispered, "I love you so."

Beth thought about the hands of the girl who massaged her and thought that the following day was Thursday again. That meant that Theo would be home at nine PM. His gray eyes - if the lewd gloss between his eyelids could be called eyes - would direct her towards a place on the floor, then he would say "There". Sometimes he did not speak at all but it made no difference to Beth. She accepted his visits on Thursdays with the same reserve as her appointments with the dentist: the sooner they were over the better.

Theo did not allow her to be a researcher who scratched and hit and examined him closely. Very rarely, perhaps one Thursday a year, her husband would snort "You are pretty, damn it."

"I am cold" Bakalov muttered from the seat of his expensive car. "I am cold and I love you."

She had totally forgotten about him. "I will not leave Theo," Beth said, and thought again of the girl who massaged her every Thursday before her husband made love to her.

She wished the girl stayed after he left for his office in the city.

Zdravka Evtimova lives in Bulgaria and has published 3 collections of short stories and one novel. Her short stories have been published in Germany, the UK, USA, Poland, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Macedonia and Yugoslavia.

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