Liz Watkins sits knitting furiously behind the wheel of her parked rental sedan while a tedious patter of autumn rain pummels the slick gray streets of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. Intermittently she looks up from the flashing aluminum needles to glance toward the dripping Foshay Tower, a building once the tallest for miles where her current lover is employed.
Lover. a sweet tingle spreads through her chest, making her vaguely sick with its intensity. Mitchell.
Liz’s fingers tremble at the thought of him, and she has to put her knitting down before she botches the intricate cable pattern of the sweater she is making for her sister’s child, Wendy. Liz is childless, and knows that a niece is as close as she will ever come to maternity. She adores children and tries her best not to be jealous and bitter: truly, she does try.
Liz turns her thoughts back to her lover, her beautiful Mitchell, and wonders what kind of child they might have produced together. A son, she imagines. A tall, rugged boy with wavy dark hair and a strong jaw line, like his father. Blue velvet, quick smile. Mitchell’s features, not hers. Never hers.
Liz would not want a child like herself, no. not a child who would be teased and ridiculed, shunned by other children. No, no, no. she knows what that is like. In her bones, she knows what that’s like.
She squints through the lenses of her thick trifocal glasses at the large black numerals of her Timex wristwatch. Almost noon. Almost time for her tryst, her assignation, her affaire. Within minutes Mitchell will emerge from the revolving doors across the street and she be with him. In just a little while, she will become his entire world.
Liz picks up her knitting and sets the needles chattering again, letting the pale beige wool skein out across her nimble fingers, wondering why it is that doomed romances are the most sublime. Here relationship with Mitchell has been like a piecrust from the beginning, made to be broken. Mitchell has a wife and three small children. Married. Liz lets the word surge and ebb through her mind and wonders at the complexities besetting a secretly passionate nature such as her own. To date, all of Liz’s romances have involved married men exclusively.
She sighs, working a complicated turn of stitches that will form a cabled buttonhole when the next row is finished. Why married men? Is there some malfunction of her spirit, some wicked anomaly in her make-up that draws her toward forbidden delights?
Her colorless cheeks twitch with sudden mirth. Wouldn’t the rest of the faculty at Emerson Elementary School gasp with shock and disbelief if they knew how dowdy little Liz Watson spends her lunch hours? Dizzy Lizzy. That’s what they call her behind her back. That’s what everyone has always called her for as long as she can remember. Dizzy Lizzy. Poor Dizzy Lizzy, can’t get a man, poor old spinster Dizzy Lizzy, ha, ha. Wouldn’t bed her, wouldn’t wed her, plain old Dizzy Lizzy.
How Liz burns to tell them, all those symmetrical faces painted up like common whores, high-heeled sluts who think their wedding bands give them license to feel superior, to pity poor little Liz Watkins. Click-clack, click-clack, strolling the school hallways, their conversations muting to whispers as they pass Liz’s classroom. Flitting glances inside and quickly looking away, never inviting Liz to join them in the teacher’s lounge, never offering to include her in their impromptu faculty planning meetings.
If only they could imagine what passions stir in Liz’s soul, what elaborate hungers beset her, drive her. If only they could know what illicit acts she is capable of performing to experience those blissful five seconds she craves so much.
One, two, three, four, five.
Liz’s heart hammers against the delicate bulwark of her breastbone just thinking about it. It’s been too long, too long, and now her desire has become a raging hunger that demands satisfaction. Now.
The slender shafts of Liz’s knitting needles become a blur of motion and her breasts rise and fall, her breath quickening with the increased tempo of her heartbeats. Again, she twists her head toward the Foshay Tower. Men and women dressed in suits and coats have begun to stream out through the twin revolving doors and into the ebbing rainfall, popping open umbrellas or sheltering under newspapers as they take to the wet sidewalks.
Where is Mitchell? Liz squints through the misty window glass, blinking. He’s usually one of the first to exit, dark head bobbing as he strides along, chest forward, chin aloft.
Liz’s thighs tremble as memories of their first meeting drift past her mind’s eye. It was just three weeks ago, that Mitchell Revell came to Liz’s classroom for a routine parent-teacher confrence about his son, Ward. The moment Mitchell entered the room and sat down in the chair opposite her desk, Liz knew they were going to be lovers, that Mitchell would be the next married man to slake her forbidden thirsts. Her entire being had vibrated like a high-tension wire during their initial meeting. She hardly remembers what was discussed. By the time their conference ended, Liz was already in love with Mitchell. She’d seen it in his velvet eyes. Soon, very soon, she would become his entire world.
It always happens like that. A word, a look, and she knows.
And now Mitchell is her lover. How many others have there been? Thirty? Forty? The numbers blur with time, their faces growing indistinct once the trysts have been consummated and the affairs are over.
Liz giggles. How mischievous I’ve been, she thinks, both frightened and amused by her wholesale promiscuity. What would Daddy have thought?
The word stabs into her consciousness, hurting, making her flinch. The voice that says the word is not her own. The voice adds: The ones that like it are whores.
Liz’s knitting needles click in precision machine-gun bursts. I am not a whore, Daddy! I’m not. I’m not!
The ones that like it are whores.
I don’t like it! Stop, Daddy, please stop! You’re hurting me!
Liz tries to push out the images crowding into her mind, but her efforts are useless, always useless when Daddy decides to batter his way into her head the way he used to batter his way into her body.
Liz drops her knitting into her lap. “Stop!” she shouts, ripping a handful of hair from hjer scalp. “Go away, don’t touch me!”
But Daddy won’t go away. Daddy won’t ever go away completely. He always comes back. Even from his grave, he is still able to violate her mind whenever he pleases.
Liz begins to cry. “No, no, no,” she burbles wetly.
Liz knows it is useless to beg. It never stops him. The scenes unwind, unstoppable.
Liz is fourteen years old, asleep in her bed. She is awakened by the weight of a hot, heavy body crushing hers down into the mattress. It’s daddy. He’s been drinking again. He always comes to her when he’s been drinking. He fumbles with her nightgown, pulling it up over her face. He kisses her mouth through the thin shroud of cotton fabric.
“You’re my whole world now,” he mumbles drunkenly, sobbing. “Now that your mama’s run off, you’re my entire world.”
“No, Daddy, please,” Liz begs, knowing it’s useless to plead. “It hurts, Daddy. I don’t like it.”
“The ones that like it are whores,” he grunts.
Liz clamps her eyes shut and bites down on her tongue, trying to bear the pain. She swore she wouldn’t let it happen again. She made herself a promise to make it stop. But now she is afraid to act.
Liz forces the fear back, making her hand slide beneath the mattress where she’s hidden a long, slender Phillips screwdriver. Her fingers close around its cool plastic handle.
She hesitates, terrified by what she’s about to do.
“You’re my whole world, my entire world, my whole world,” Daddy grunts, hurting her, hurting her.
A black tower of rage rises up in Liz, taking control of her, directing her actions. Her hand rises, dreamlike, a silvery gleam of moonlight on the screwdriver’s metal shaft, gauzy through the fabric of her nightgown. And then– .
Liz’s head falls forward against the dashboard as the vision releases her. It always ends at the same moment. She has never been able to recall the rest of it, although the therapists forced her to say she remembered before they allowed her to leave the hospital and go live with her aunt Elaine. All she has ever been able to recall is the anger and the shame. And counting.
One, two, three, four, five.
Liz rests against the dash for several moments, gasping for breath, trembling.
Suddenly she remembers where she is and why: Mitchell.
She jerks her back straight and sits up in the passenger seat, rubbing a clear circle into the misty glass with her quaking fingers. It has stopped raining and the sidewalk outside the Foshay Tower throngs with lunchtime office workers.
A rattling moan rasps in Liz’s parched throat. What if she’s missed him? What if he’s already gone?
“No,” she groans, gathering up her knitting and stuffing it into her handbag. She can’t bear the idea of missing this meeting with Mitchell. Liz needs him too much. She needs to be Mitchell’s whole world, if only for a few stolen moments.
Shaking with mingled desire and terror, Liz steps out of her car, her sensible lace-up shoes touching wet pavement just as she catches sight of Mitchell pushing through the revolving door.
Liz’s breath snags in her throat at the sight of him, so tall and strong and handsome. Quickly she works her way through halted traffic jamming the street, never letting her lover out of her sight. Breathless and shivery as a schoolgirl, Liz watches Mitchell’s figure as it moves through the crowd. She angles recklessly between the streams of cars and trucks to place herself on the sidewalk just ahead of him as he heads down Marquette. He will be surprised to see her. She is going to be his whole world.
She centers herself on the sidewalk, waiting, just able to see the crown of Mitchell’s dark head bobbing up and down as he heads in her direction. Soon, soon.
Liz stands still, letting oncoming pedestrians stream around her, knowing they won’t notice the mousy little woman in their midst. Nobody will notice her but Mitchell, and that is just as she wishes it.
The moment has arrived. As Mitchell surges toward her, Liz shifts to her left and positions herself directly in his path.
He stops, looking down at her with blue velvet eyes.
“Hello,” Liz says breathlessly, smiling.
“Hi, there,” Mitchell returns, studying her with a quizzical smile as if straining to remember something. His smile deepens, a flicker of recognition. “You’re Ward’s teacher, aren’t you?”
“I’m your whole world,” Liz whispers.
He leans toward Liz. “I beg your par–”
Liz does not even give Mitchell time to finish the thought. With a quicksilver movement, she plunges a glistening needle into the tender tissue of Mitchell’s brain with one deft thrust into his right nostril. Just as quickly, she replaces the instrument in her handbag.
Mitchell sways slightly on the pavement before her, still standing, a thin trickle of blood coursing down his chin, blue velvet eyes wide in a silent shriek that consumes Liz entirely, body and soul.
Liz has become Mitchell’s entire world.
Mitchell staggers forward a step, placing a hand on Liz’s shoulder to steady his failing legs. And then he falls, crumpling down onto the sidewalk, his eyes never leaving hers.
As she watches Mitchell’s final spasms, a volcanic orgasm wracks her body, coming in a shock wave that roots her to the pavement, paralyzing her for the full count.
One, two, three, four, five.
And then it’s over.
Liz turns way from her lover’s lifeless body and passes through the gathering crowd of spectators like a ghost, transparent and unnoticed. As she wends her way across the street toward her rented car, she hears the first shouts of comprehension. A shrill scream. Someone is calling for an ambulance.
Liz eases the car out into traffic and drives away. She glances at her watch and smiles, realizing she’ll have time to stop at the bakery for cupcakes on her way back to school.
Won’t the children be surprised?