The Further Adventures of Louis and Elle
The New Woman in Green
In her days at State U., Justine had imagined hanging out with a rock star, but she’d never experienced what it must probably be like until she found herself having coffee at the Exchange Hotel Convention Center with Shahrzad Green during the academic conference. Shahrzad, a professor of women’s studies, was tall, graceful, and exotic. Her flawless olive skin, huge liquid eyes, and generous mouth caught a stranger’s eye, and held Justine’s even after they’d been talking for an hour. Shahrzad was also clearly brilliant and charismatic. She had turned heads—male and female—as they crossed the lobby; and, once she was seated at a table in the coffee shop, her presence seemed to act on the other conference goers the way a magnet acts on iron filings—drawing all of them and arranging them in circles around her.
Shahrzad got rid of the adoring academics quickly without being even slightly rude; each time she did she turned her attention back to Justine. She seemed, for some reason, to be fascinated by the story of Justine’s life—a story that Justine had never considered especially interesting. Secretly, she thought there wasn’t much “story” to tell: she’d grown up in the ’burbs a couple of hours from the Tri-County Area, she’d been head cheerleader and a member of the Honor Society at her high school, she’d entered State U. as a dance major.
Then she’d seen the hypnosis show at the Student Union—the hypnotist had spoken softly to the volunteers for only a few minutes, at the end of which they were relaxed and completely obedient—and seemingly having the time of their lives. (The girl next to her had gone under without realizing it, and ended up on stage doing a fabulous exotic dance.) The next week, Justine had switched to a dual Dance and Psychology major, gone on to take courses on hypnosis, and then moved to the Tri-County area after graduation to work at the museum. She’d met Louis and Elle at a party at Juliet’s, and she’d found herself serving in her spare time as the hypnodomme’s unpaid personal assistant.
Shahrzad listened as if this were the most interesting story she’d ever heard. She asked Justine to tell parts of it over and over. As she did, Justine had offered her own interpretations of events, she’d asked what Justine was thinking while things were going on, she’d coaxed her to tell details about the major and the minor characters—and as she took Justine back over each part, the younger woman began to see events of her own life in a different light. Indeed, she found herself retelling the stories in ways that were more interesting if perhaps—well, technically—less accurate; shading the tale to keep Shahrzad’s interest—and those eyes—focused on her.
She did notice that those eyes tended to light up when Justine described her time as queen of her sorority, the long pajama-and-Princess-Bride parties with the other girls in the sorority house. In retrospect, they did seem sexier than she’d remembered, and she began to add extra details: the girls enjoyed brushing each other’s hair, rubbing each other’s feet, playing “light as a feather stiff as a board” and lifting one lucky girl into the air as she lay half asleep . . . .
“Oh, my God,” Justine said as if she’d just remembered something. “Did I tell you about the night we watched The Woman in Green?”
At this point, yet another of Shahrzad’s academic colleagues interrupted their conversation to make a point about Foucault and literary theory as applied to gender construction in post-modern literature. Shahrzad answered the question (whether it was a good one or a dumb one Justine couldn’t tell) with regal grace and only the slightest touch of impatience, and as she did so, Justine found herself reflecting that Shahrzad moved and spoke like a queen from a story in A Thousand Nights and a Night. She found herself imagining those graceful hands touching her face, then moving down . . . .
She sat up straight in her chair, her cheeks flaming red. She had the uncanny feeling that everyone in the coffee bar could see what she had just been thinking—thoughts she herself hadn’t until that moment known she was capable of. Meanwhile, Shahrzad had finished with her admirer and turned back to Justine with a conspiratorial expression. “Listen, Justine,” she said. “Now that the session has ended I am afraid we are going to be mobbed by literary critics, which is a fate worse than death. Want to go up to my room and talk some more?”
Justine didn’t fully trust herself to speak. She nodded, then bobbed along in Shahrzad’s wake as the taller woman led her across the lobby to the elevator. They rode up in slightly awkward silence, each one eyeing the other and averting their eyes when they met.
The room was nice—most particularly including the inviting queen-sized bed in the center. When they got there, Shahrzad at once assumed the role of hostess, making sure Justine was comfortably seated in the armchair, then producing a small bottle of white wine from the minibar and pouring each of them a glass. Shahrzad sat on the bed and leaned forward, gazing raptly at Justine. Their eyes were only inches apart.
“So—“ she said. “You and your sorority sisters watched. . . The Woman in Green? Is that a movie or a TV show?”
Justine smiled. “It’s a cult movie—one of those old Sherlock Holmes movies from World War II,” she said. “It was just three of us—and one of the girls was, um, affected by it.”
“Affected? How? What do you mean.”
“Well, The Woman in Green is about a sinister hypnotist who leads a reign of terror in London. She hypnotizes rich men and convinces them they are murderers, then blackmails them. So at one point, Holmes and Watson visit this place called the Mesmer Club where they do demonstrations of hypnosis. Watson tells this one hypnotist that being a person of character he could never be hypnotized. So they guy gets him to watch a spiral, one of those hypno things going round and round, you can picture what that looked like, and the hypnotist says . . . wait, wait, I actually remember the lines, ‘We set a thing like this in motion. It’s wonderful. The attraction. On the feeble-minded, of course. The continuous motion. If they just let themselves follow it. Of course, you could stare at it ’til Doomsday. Dr. Watson, with no effect at all. Still, it might make you a little drowsy. Like the white ribbon of road at night when you’re driving. The rhythm is smooth. Unbroken. And the road goes on and on round and round. Always the same. Winding and winding. And you’re drowsy. You’re tired. Let the road come into you, as it were. The long road. The smooth road. The road to sleep. Sleep.’”
On the last word, Justine snapped her fingers. Shahrzad’s eyelids had been fluttering, and now they rolled back in her head as the lids sagged shut. Quite suddenly, the tall, elegant body fell, limp, back onto the bed.
“Sleep, Shahrzad,” Justine whispered softly as her unwitting subject settled onto the bed, seemingly dead to the world.
Oh, my God, Justine found herself thinking. What did I just do?
What do I do now?
And where did that story come from?
Because the WOMAN IN GREEN story had never happened. She had made it up out of whole cloth on the spot.
It had, however, done precisely the job Justine had intended for it. She hadn’t quite faced the fact that she’d deliberately flirted with and tantalized Shahrzad all afternoon and then sneakily lulled her into a trance. After the fact, she realized her covert suggestions and indirection had been—almost—worthy of Elle. She didn’t know why she’d felt the impulse to entrance Shahrzad—but she had to admit that their conversation had her feeling slightly curious about the long-buried feelings she’d had for her sorority sisters and also feeling almost dizzy with the rush she’d felt when Shahrzad crumpled back onto the bed in a happy insensate lump.
But now that she was aware of what she’d done, and of what she was feeling toward the beautiful woman in front of her, she was also experiencing a fit of conscience. Nothing she could imagine would be sexier, more exciting, than to fall on Shahrzad and tease her into ecstasy. (She was a little vague on the details of how she would tease another woman into ecstasy; her pornographic imaginings faded into a soft-focus montage of heavy breathing and tangled limbs.)
But Shahrzad wasn’t a fantasy, she was a fabulous woman. If Justine could imagine falling in love with a woman (and that imagination was becoming more possible with each passing minute), Shahrzad would be that woman. And in the back of her mind, Justine was speculating that Shahrzad’s knowledge of teasing and ecstasy was probably far greater than her own—and that Justine might actually enjoy having that knowledge used on her.
But what future would they have if Justine began a relationship—whatever that might mean—by tricking Shahrzad into a trance and then taking advantage of her? True, hypnosis wasn’t a drug she had smuggled into Shahrzad’s drink. Shahrzad had shown every sign of interest in pursuing Justine, and she’d sought Elle out because she was interested in hypnosis. And no one could really be hypnotized against her will, right? That was what they said anyway.
But still, much as it pained her to admit it, Justine could not justify to herself taking advantage of this magnificent woman. She saw no alternative but to wake her up and apologize for her hypnotic stunt and hope that they could take up where they’d left off without too much embarrassment.
But how to get there?
“Shahrzad?” Justine said in a quavering voice. “Can you hear me? Nod if you can hear me.”
On the bed, the tall beauty nodded, a relaxed, almost absurdly happy look on her face, her limbs still limp.
“Good,” Justine said. “Now listen carefully. I am going to count to three. As I do, you’re going to start to come up out of hypnosis. When I say ‘three,’ you will come wide awake, feeling wonderful, and all my suggestions will be removed, you will be completely back to normal, able to do exactly what you want, free of all suggestions, happy and ready to get on with your evening doing just what you want to do. Nod if you understand.”
Again, Shahrzad nodded.
“Good,” Justine said, and then, rather hastily, began to count. “Here we go . . . one . . . two . . . THREE! That’s it! Wide awake!”
Shahrzad’s huge eyes popped open and she stretched luxuriously, as if waking from a welcome nap. The stretch was long and delightful to watch, and so was the wide, catlike smile that slowly spread across her face. “Wow,” Shahrzad said. “Hypnotized twice in one day. Pretty amazing.”
Justine felt her cheeks flame with embarrassment. “I—well, I didn’t mean to—I’m so sorry. . .”
Shahrzad’s huge eyes rested on Justine, whose train of thought almost derailed as she watched the exotic older woman’s expression take on a predatory—no, the right word was ‘avid’—look as her eyes caressed Justine’s cheeks, then moved down to her breasts——
Shahrzad made a faint purring noise in the back of her throat and reached out toward Justine.
“Come here, little one,” she said.
When Justine recalled this night later, she concluded that somehow her consciousness, not Shahrzad’s, had been altered—she remembered literally floating out of her chair and falling into Shahrzad’s eyes, as the older woman fastened her mouth on Justine’s.
Justine’s sexual experiences at State U., such as they had been, had done nothing to prepare her for an experienced lover like Shahrzad. She’d had a few boyfriends, and from time to time they’d given her a few orgasms, more or less by accident—but Shahrzad’s first kiss was more almost more intense than any lovemaking she’d experienced at State. Her lips were gentle and soft, but so thorough—so calmly relentless—that Justine passed from feeling kissed to feeling nibbled to feeling . . . devoured, like Mowgli in THE JUNGLE BOOK, and she realized for the first time how ecstatic the boy must have been as he eased out of consciousness and into the welcoming oblivion of the python’s maw. She felt the world rushing away until there was only Shahrzad, and then only Shahrzad’s head between her legs, and then only Shahrzad’s tongue and—
“Shh, darling,” Shahrzad said gently. The older woman had managed to dexterously peel Justine out of most of her clothes. Now she stroked Justine’s face and shushed her, while, with her other hand, smoothly stripping off her own blouse and then shrugging off her bra, revealing small but exquisite breasts, the olive skin seeming almost pale next to the large, darker nipples.
Justine couldn’t look away. Those alluring nipples seemed to get larger and larger and then she was kissing one and then the other and Shahrzad was whispering softly to her as she sucked and licked—is this me? Justine wondered. What is happening? Then her face was sliding along Shahrzad’s belly and she found her mouth between Shahrzad’s legs and Shahrzad whispered, “That’s right, just kiss it . . . .”
She’d never done that before—but apparently she did something right. She was overwhelmed by the taste and the smell, she was carried out of herself—and from a far distance she heard Shahrzad calling out, “Oh, oh, oh . . . .” Then her hold on Justine’s head loosened and Shahrzad lay back.
Am I still Justine? She thought.
If I’m not Justine, then—
Can I keep not being Justine?
Shahrzad’s weight shifted, and the tall woman slid down and curled her long arms and legs around Justine. Justine felt her breath, then gentle kisses on her neck, and Shahrzad’s voice whispering in her ear. “Hush, sweetheart, I’ve got you,” the soothing voice was saying. “It’s all right, it’s . . . .”
That silky voice trailed off into rhythmic breathing. Justine realized that her . . . lover, was that the term? . . . had fallen asleep, with her head cradled against Justine’s shoulder. Now Justine’s eyes slid shut. She couldn’t fight the heavy sleepy feeling. As she teetered on the edge, she had a sudden vision of herself and Shahrzad walking side by side down a crowded sidewalk.
Between them stretched a braided leather leash. One of them held the handle, the other wore the collar. But she wasn’t sure which was which, and as she tried to figure it out, sleep took her and she knew no more.