Such violent passion could not be sustained. It was over in minutes, and it left me with no desire to prolong it. I rolled off and sat up, reaching for my clothing. Then I thought, “Why bother.” The other sunbathers were studiously not looking in our direction. Will was out among the breakers, looking seaward. Gulls were cutting circles against the high, faint clouds.
My passion had spent itself, but the anger and resentment remained. Raven looked up from where she sprawled, half dazed, and said, “What’s wrong.”
“That is the second time you have manipulated me. I don’t like it!”
“It seemed to me that you did.”
I looked hard at her. I said, “I won’t be used by anyone.”
“Men use women all the time. Why shouldn’t I have the same privilege?”
“I am not men! I am not a category; I am not generic; I am singular, unique, myself only. I don’t give a damn what men do. I don’t use; I don’t manipulate. Not men, not women, and particularly not friends. And I won’t tolerate being used! Not by anyone!”
I was shouting at the last. Raven backed away from me. I took my rage in both hands and forced it back into the little room at the bottom of my soul where it hides, never asleep and never forgotten.
“I was only trying to arouse you,” she said.
Her face froze in anger, then slowly relaxed. Tears formed and trickled down her cheeks.
“Bullshit,” I repeated softly. “It was touch and go. You might just as easily have ended up under Will. Or both of us.”
“Would that have been so bad?”
“That’s not the point. Life is complicated. It isn’t just a fuck on the beach. Every act has consequences. What you did today jeopardized my friendship with Will, and Will may be the only real friend I have.”
“I didn’t mean it that way.”
I pulled on my bathing suit and reached for my jeans. Will was coming back up the beach. I turned to Raven and said, “Twice you’ve manipulated me. But never again!”
And I waited. If she had said anything, a cutting remark or an offhand attempt to make the situation seem smaller than it was, I would have used my last dollar to put her on a plane back to California.
Four people, now dead, would still be alive if I had.
# # #
The ride back to Marseille was silent and strained. Will did not ask what had happened between Raven and me, and I did not volunteer any information. He dropped us off at the quai and said that he would see us in the morning.
The sun had set already. The boulevard was alive with cars and the sidewalks were alive with people. I said, “What do you want to do now? Walk around or go to bed?”
Raven shrugged. She looked very unhappy.
“Do you want to be alone?”
“Yes. For a while.”
“Marseille isn’t safe at night. If I left you on the Wahini, you could bolt the hatch. I would like to walk around for an hour or so, anyway.”
“We have to talk about this some more, you know. Unless you are just going to get on a plane and fly out of my life. If we stay together, we can’t let this lie.”
“I know. But not now. Please.” more tomorrow