In dreams. It was in dreams that I heard the command to awaken. It must have been, since when my eyes did open, I was alone.
In the dark of my bedchamber I rose and felt immediately assaulted by the chill of the winter night. The fire had grown low and only a small red glow of embers lit one corner of my room.
I knew from the fire’s waning and the pitch black outside the window it was still the small hours, not yet near dawn but well past the witching hour.
I heard a buzzing, low but constant, and I knew that far below me, in the great hall of my family home, the feast continued.
The gaiety had gone on all day, as is the want of my parents and their cohorts. Yet it was the final day of carnival and all celebrations should have ended at midnight if not earlier, when Shrove Tuesday came to an end and Ash Wednesday began. I sat in bed considering that. No matter how boisterous and wild my family could be, surely even they would not sin in such a way.
I went to the door of my bedroom. I snuck into the hall, which was empty and silent, save the din from below.
I made my way to the stairs, feeling less of a chill, even though I wore only my nightgown. The halls were warm from the great fires downstairs and the mass of people.
I crept down one flight of stairs and followed the great hum of voices. Music became audible, a piano and an accordion and a few merry singers. On the floor above the dining hall I could already smell the wine and perfume and warm bodies. I felt like a spy. I felt daring. Yet the fact that their revealing had past into the hours of sin made me worried for their souls.
I went to the last flight of stairs between me and the celebration.
Amber light flickered at the end of the stairs. Laugher peeled and shouts and song. It all sounded so wonderful and frightening. I crept slowly, carefully, knowing I would be skinned if caught. I jumped as I saw someone at the end of the staircase, someone small and immobile.
Getting near the spot, I realized it was not a person at all, but a bundle of clothes. A long green cloak, beautiful shimmery emerald with gold embroidered leaves and vines on the sleeves. I picked it up and saw a mask under it, a white featureless face with two holes for eyes and the ears of a rabbit on top.
Looking around, seeing that no one had noticed me, I slipped the mask on and slipped into the cloak.
A new wave of sound exploded as some new song began and a beautiful soprano voice rang out so gloriously I had to hold on to the wall to steady myself.
Was it my cousin Charlotte? Perhaps my father’s youngest sister, my sweet Aunt Adélaïde?
I walked further, hoping my new disguise would keep me safe. Round the hall of the ground floor, past the kitchen, to where the noise and light and smells emanated.
Shadows of dancing couples spun and passed the half open door. The singer reached the crescendo and just at her highest note, broke into a laugh and a shout.
“Whose greedy hands! Ha ha! Naughty Nanette!”
It was Charlotte! The greedy hands of her best friend, Nanette from across the river?
I came to the precipes, the door that led to sin, to the satisfaction of my curiosity, to the feast that had become forbidden.
I slipped in the door without hesitation. It seemed the only way to look like I belonged. I charged into the dining hall and stood back, against the wall, where there were great vases of flowers nearly as tall as I was.
The room was full. The revelers wore green cloaks like mine or togas of gold or purple, though perhaps half of the people in the room wore almost nothing at all.
Sweet fair Adélaïde, red faced and plump bottomed, had only a thin gold shift draped over her as she lay on a table, surrounded my great bowls of grapes and candied plums. Her pale legs open wide, her knees ruddy as if they were rouged. The head of some older man, I couldn’t tell who, but dark skinned like our family from the south, was between her legs!
She moaned and writhed and smiled brightly. Her eyes were heavy, looking drugged, as she closed her fists in the hair of the man between her legs.
Around the table she laid on, there were others, some clothed, some not, some in masks and others bare faced. All watched my pretty aunt, laughing and ogling the spectacle. A couple, Phillipe and Victoire, family friends for years, sat up and suckled Adélaïde’s breasts. Other hands reached up to fondle her.
What madness was this party? I knew the hours before Lent were thought of as times for the last few decadences, but an orgy?
At another table, a man was on all fours with another man behind him. Both wore masks and tricorn hats. People watched and clapped as one man was buggered. I saw my father there! There was Papa, larger than life, in a purple and white toga with a golden laurel on his thinning curly black hair. His cheeks were rouged, his eyes lined in gold, his belly shaking with laughter.
He slapped the bottom of the man who was doing the riding and sang his old school fight song as if it were a merry game. I recognized his costume. He was Bacchus, the god of wine.
Every table had its own little performance going on. There was nowhere to look where there wasn’t sin. The room was gold and wine and flesh, so much flesh. I felt faint. I leaned against the wall, trying to hide behind the great mass of flowers.
I watched for some time. Transfixed. I saw my mother, in flowing purple robes, with her breasts exposed, pour wine for all. Sometimes she would pour the purple liquid down her chest and people would put their mouths to her nipples and sip at the rivlets of nectar.
Perhaps being in a room with so much wine was making me drunk or perhaps I was going a bit mad from what I was witnessing, but dizziness overcame me. I almost didn’t notice the two figures in togas approaching me.
My distant cousins, René and Marie, the pretty eyed twins with soft brown hair cut in similar paige styles. René was very thin and feminine for a boy and his sister was long limbed and rough. They both had large sensual mouths, which were that evening painted in the same dark red.
“Oh what flowers are hidden among the roses,” René said with a hunter keen eye.
His sister closed in on me.
“The pale hare is fair game,” Marie said with a cruelty in her voice.
I didn’t understand what she meant. It sounded like a little poem.
René moved forward and I backed up until I was against the wall. The three of us were hidden behind the great mass of flowers. Fear gripped me and the smell of wine and roses was overwhelming.
The two of them descended on me. René slipped behind me and Marie in front. My hands were pulled behind my back and the cloak I wore was opened.
“A white slip? That will not do. Rules, little rabbit, rules!” Marie said with an edge of disgust in her voice.
She pulled at my old sleeping clothes, I hear little ripping sounds. She brought it down, the neckline stretching and tearing and she pulled it down over my shoulders and finally off to pool at my feet.
René was very strong, he helped remove my gown but never let me escape his grip, though I was so confused I hardly faught. Who would I ask for help if I did escape? Papa seemed liked the leader of the orgy!
Marie’s hands seemed to be everywhere at once! With my gown gone, only the satiny green cloak hide my body and Marie pulled it open again and touched my breasts and my stomach before I could even protest.
What if I did protest? I would expose that I was out of my bed, down at a party I wasn’t invited to. Who would help me in a room full of sinners who didn’t even respect the start of Lent?
Marie’s hands, the same hands that had tickled me years ago as we played in the garden, snaked down, disregarding my whimpers, disregarding my attempts to close my bare legs, and found that sinful spot between my thighs.
“Who knew we would find such a tight little bud amongst the roses,” she whispered to her brother.
He laughed bawdily and tightened his grip on me. Marie’s fingers were very strong, very dexterous, very sinful. I didn’t know what she was doing, but it was like I was slowly slipping, like she was expertly pulling at some strings I didn’t know I had and I was made a puppet for her.
“Her body fought for only a second and now it opens like the petals of a night blossom. A she is instantly wet with dew. I must taste,” Marie said, before kneeling.
René, who was always a sweet boy, kissed my neck and whispered pretty things into my ear. If only he knew I was his little cousin!
Marie, wicked Marie! Had she always been so naughty or had the sinful party possessed her? She knelt and kissed my thighs so tenderly. She kissed them and kissed them and her hair tickled my tender skin. She kissed me all over and I grew dizzier and then, oh my lord, her hot tongue found my secrets.
Time stood still. The sounds of the party died in my ears and everything faded except for Marie’s burning tongue. Waves overtook me. A tide came and seemed to sweep my very soul out of my body. The world became her mouth between my legs.
René let go of me. I hardly noticed until his hands were on my breasts. I rode the swelling pleasure between my legs and in his hand. It rose and fell and rose and rose until it felt like I was flying.
Marie sat on the floor in front of me. Her eyes wide. I felt a long whine of sorrow come out of my mouth as I mourned the loss of pleasure.
“What’s the matter?” he said to his beautiful sister.
“It’s-” she started, but the words faltered.
“She tastes so good, it’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted,” Marie said, touching her own lips with a look of awe on her face.
René laughed again, but as he saw the look on his sister’s face his laughter died.
His hand wrapped around me, thrust between my legs, rough fingers inside of me for a moment.
It was a good moment. I wanted more.
His fingers went to his mouth. I sound of his suckling. Then his arm loosened around me.
“My god,” he whispered.
What did they mean? Why were they looking at me like that?
Marie sat up and looked up at me the way I sometimes saw people look up at the cross at church. She reached up for me very tenderly. I held her hands. She pulled me down to the ground. We were on a rich red and gold rug over the wooden floor of the great hall.
René sat on the floor with us. They were kissing me again, not between my legs but on my breasts, on my shoulders and neck, on my belly and hips. So many little kisses.
They pulled my cloak off completely, but I was so intoxicated by their attention I hardly noticed. They laid me down on the floor and the two of them moved down my body.
I distinctly heard another song begin behind us. It was an old song, I remember my nursemaid sing, but the words were different. Everyone in the hall joined it and there was a great cheer. Everyone must have been singing except me and pretty René and handsome Marie. They were both bent over, their faces close together, right between my legs. They spread them wide and the two of them kissed me so sweetly right there, right in that place.
They became ravenous. They pulled my legs apart wider and licked at me together, slurping and sucking, trying to find a position were both of them could get their mouths on me at the same time.
That sea feeling came over me again. The tides, the waves, the great swell. It wasn’t stopping though. Their mouths found every part of me. They pulled and bent me until I was on my side. One mouth locked at the top of my little lips, where that most sensitive part was, the other lower, shamefully lower, to that secret spot that had become soaking wet. A tongue entered me while the other sucked and swirled and it felt like the world was swirling and then as everyone sang I let go and sang with them!
I moaned and sang and cried out and it was heaven, heaven in sin.
And when I finally came back to earth the song was done. I sat up, realizing my mask had fallen away. I came back to see dozens of faces looking at me. Smiles and laughter and eyes opening wide with recognition.
René and Marie stood and picked me up. They didn’t help me stand, but picked me right up off the ground and carried me.
The partygoers murmured and shifted, making a path for us. I was carried to the largest table and gently put down atop it.
René went to a group of boys and he whispered to them. Marie went to her older sister and told her something. Everyone seemed to be talking at once into someone else’s ear.
I sat alone of the huge table, next to spilled wine and grapes and flowers. My legs were still shaking.
Marie returned holding a goblet.
“We welcome Colette! The honeyed maiden. The most perfect rose, fresh to the bloom. The most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted,” she said, raising her goblet high.
And such a roar rang out in the old dining hall that the walls shook. Everyone raised their glasses and toasted me. Everyone cheered. Then they took the flowers from the tables and the vases and threw them to my table. So many flowers it made a pile at my feet and around me! The table covered in flowers. The world filled with the sweet smell of them.
When the cheering was over and the flowers stopped falling, the sinners, the party goers all smiles and laughter, queued up in front of the table, each ready to take their turn and taste the sweetest thing at the feast.