A beautiful ruin – Three times knocking. Part 2


When she came into his room at night, he would not think anything bad of it. Not even when she flung back the sheets on his bed, lay beside him and snuggled up to his back. They had done that a million times as children, and even as teenagers. She was still a teenager, wasn’t she? Looking for comfort, for sure. They had forged the old bond of trust anew, and everything was as it was back then, wasn’t it?


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July, 1996

As Sam was banging away on the piano, Alice had locked herself up in her room, wallowing in self-pity and slowly despairing. There was no way out of this mess called adolescence. The options were limited.

She envied her brother for his new found maturity – he was almost grown now, at least physically. In the last few years he had undergone some impressive changes, rather bizarre in their scale – once a cute little boy he grew from an awkward nerdy looking teenager into a handsome young man with a face that everything was expressive about. Even Alice had to admit that he had developed into quite the stunner. Of course, she would tease him about it and call him “a righteous beauty” to which Sam would just roll his eyes and make some ridiculous gesture. But in fact, she was highly aware that he had a very distinct look about him that drew all kinds of people in so easily. In terms of behaviour, however, he hadn’t changed much. He was still the goofy, immature, at times surprisingly serious, and above all deeply passionate person he had always been. Not hiding any secrets, except for one maybe; but this one was well-known and just never addressed by anyone in their family. For good reasons, one might add.

Half-heartedly, Alice started strumming on her guitar for a bit, thinking she could never come up with anything remotely as original and beautiful as Sam. She lacked the stamina, the spirit, and the talent. That’s at least what she thought.

They had just celebrated Sam’s 19th birthday. Even their dad had come – which nobody had expected – and brought a present – “British classics – movies from the 40ies and 50ies”. It was the perfect gift for Sam; but if it had been his choice, he would have wanted another person to be the gift-giver. The relationship between father and son was still strained, and would become even more so in the future. However, as usual, nobody said anything about the palpable tension that afterwards would so often leave them in a state of unbearable helplessness and sad anger. All of them. The issues unaddressed in the immediate presence of the family were woven into those beautiful confessional songs, which they were so well known for in a certain circle.

I just want you to be like me.

Sam knew what it was all about. How could he not. John was horrified at the fact that he would not be able to relate to his son on that one level that played such an important role in his life. There were so many qualities in Sam that seemed like an exact copy of those his father more or less proudly exhibited, but when it came to this specific area, the son had strayed from the trodden path at some point and gone to some dark and dangerous place. Unknown territory. Willingly, John once thought, full of anger and spite. He was certain about it. Just in order to be special. That was everything that counted for Sam.  For that to be achieved he would even sacrifice a “good life” and instead take the rugged road reserved for the outcasts of society. What John so willingly overlooked was the fact that he had never actually led that “good life” himself; on the contrary. Five children with three different women spoke volumes.

One was still with him. One pretended to not be resentful. And one would die before her time.

Nevertheless he had always had this pointless ambition to achieve something that he eventually would be lauded for by a close-knit pseudo-elitist circle he secretly despised.

Yes, Sam certainly knew what it was all about. It didn’t make matters easier though. It made them harder.

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He hadn’t seen his sister in a while. Since he had been a student at Eton for the last few years, he came home mostly for the holidays, several times a year.

When they hugged, he knew right away that she wasn’t in a good place. She had grown quite a bit, and she looked older than her years. Grief, that Sam could not immediately pinpoint, marked her face. When she embraced him, there was nothing light about it. It felt as if she wanted to get rid of all her dark brooding thoughts and feelings by just rubbing them off on him. Little did she know about his own tumultuous state of mind that, while it made him fully capable to sense what she was going through, also seemed to make it almost impossible for him to let her agony in. Yet, it was too late, she was already there. And troubling forces were working inside of him, greasy cogs grinding against each other, producing dull, creaking sounds like something just about to die.

She shouldn’t have noticed.

It felt as if she would never let go. And in one instant as he felt her breast heaving up and down close to his, he thought that she would burst out crying. She didn’t. Instead she loosened her grip, stood away at some distance, beamed at him and exclaimed solemnly, “Happy birthday Sam!”

Where had they learned to be such great pretenders…..

They would need it in the time lying ahead…

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He was such a presence. Still, his appealing appearances could not belie the fact that on the inside Sam was a loose cannon, ready to explode at any given moment. It had been obvious to Alice who knew him better than anybody else. Even better than their mother who let her feelings all too easily get in the way of sound judgement. Martha, on the other hand, was highly aware that something very sinister was festering inside of her brother, when she held him in her arms. And she also thought that she could tell with some certainty where it was coming from although she did not really want to admit it since this was a place she was embarrassed to go to herself. And she didn’t want to admit that either.

Strands of his thick curly dark hair, which was so much like their mother’s , were hanging down across his face when he was sitting at the piano intonating some new piece to an unrequited love, while the rest of his mane was loosely held together with a plain rubber band. He frantically worked the instrument, repeating various melodies over and over again, lingering over the piano in deep concentration.

Alice had always been envious of her brother’s shiny almost black hair that looked amazing, no matter what he did. It would need some more washing, for sure; Sam certainly cared too little for mundane things like that. But it was not only indifference. He sometimes just forgot to do it, so immersed in his composing that the actual physical world around him grew dimmer and dimmer by the minute; even his own body seemed to vanish while his body of musical work took up all the room that was there, ablaze with ideas springing from a mind full of imaginative power fighting its way through the dull reality of everyday life. Of course, his physical presence would come back all the more forcefully, demanding its right, when the inspiration was gone, something that would always happen inevitably. And then he was left to his own devices, thrown back on the fickle and frail thing, that are human bodies.

Alice, on the other hand, was burdened with the mousy-brown not quite straight, not quite wavy hair that was common in her father’s family, and which was the last thing she had wanted to inherit from them. But what could you do…it was probably destiny, she thought sarcastically. And there were certainly worse things to worry about; for example the fact that she had no idea what the future would bring. Up until this point she had all just left it up for fate to decide. But now that she was growing older, she felt that there needed to be some serious changes, and she wished for them to happen.

Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. Is that what they say?

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Gently Sam knocked on his sister’s door, something he had never done before, as he instantaneously realized. Something was different now, but he did not quite know what.

“Come in Sam!” sounded Alice’s voice that bore such an eerie resemblance to his mother’s that Sam startled for a moment. But then he finally entered.

“Hey,” Alice was sitting on her bed, cross-legged, shortly looked up, smiled, and went on writing in a small leather-bound notebook that Sam immediately recognized as one of his presents he had given her last year for her 16th birthday.

“You are using my gift,” Sam noted, obviously pleased.

Alic looked up again, a surprised expression on her face. “Of course; why wouldn’t I?”

“Why wouldn’t you, yes, why wouldn’t you….,” Sam repeated absent-mindedly; then he intently looked at her again and said, “I’m just glad you like it. That’s all!” Sam gave his sister a slightly constrained smile, laying bare a row of teeth with a yellowish tinge from smoking too much. Sam’s smile had a very distinct quality; it was engaging, shy and threatening at the same time.

 He was still standing on the threshold, the door behind him open.

He closed it.

Alice suddenly stared at her brother, realizing that there was something seriously wrong with him. Firmly she said, “I told you I liked it! What’s up with you Sam? You’re acting strangely!”

Sam had always been in admiration of his sister’s ability to address issues straightforward, without any frills or ornaments. This was much more difficult for him.

Still, Alice was also much better at pretending than Sam was. And just now she was making a remarkable effort to keep up appearances. Sam knew. He had held her in his arms.

“How did you know it was me?” he asked her, seemingly ignoring her question. As he noticed that she obviously didn’t know what he meant, he added, “Knocking…..how did you know it was me knocking?”

Alice paused for a moment, still staring, still on her guard. “I didn’t know, I assumed it was you. Who else could it have been? Nobody has ever been knocking in this house! Especially not you, Sam!” Alice stated, throwing her brother an angry glance. “What the hell is going on with you? Why are you acting like a freak? What do you want?” She was sitting bolt upright now, her arms braced against the mattress underneath, poised to jump up and leave.

Back then, when they were both still young, he would have gotten upset, called her out on her rudeness, and maybe, if he was in a good mood, lunged at her starting one of his infamous tickling attacks. But that was not possible anymore. They were too old.

“Nothing,….really. I just wanted to talk to you,” Sam replied, and he knew this was the truth although he did not know exactly what it was he wanted to talk about. “We haven’t seen each other in such a long time, and it has been even longer that we talked,” he explained slowly.

Alice raised her eyebrows, still looking suspicious. “Well, alright, then let’s talk!” She moved a little and signalled Sam to sit next to her, which he did. Immediately the mattress sank a bit. Sam had put on some weight. It suited him well. Usually he was too thin.

Suddenly it hit her like a hammer, and she knew what made her so uneasy about the whole situation.

Her brother was holding back.

What exactly he was holding back, she couldn’t tell. But it became ever more obvious to her that it was the lack of instinctual behaviour in Sam that created this strong sense of awkwardness lingering about the room. To her it felt as if he was a stranger, very slowly getting familiar with her, afraid to do damage, afraid to break something. The man sitting next to her looked like her brother, he sounded like her brother, but something was off.

First Sam didn’t look at her at all whereas Alice’s eyes never left his face. When he realized that she was practically staring at him, he gave her a short sideway glance, meeting her eyes. And in an instant Alice felt the ice break. It was the look of unconditional love reflected in her brother’s eyes that made her heart lurch. No matter what the weird behaviour, those bright hazel eyes of his were unable to tell a lie. They were telling poems. Poems about love and loss.

She instantly reached over to him, and hugged him tightly, her hands gripping the slightly scratchy fabric of his cardigan.

Mother had made it. She had one herself, but it was ages since she had worn it the last time. It was old-fashioned and rather shapeless. It made Sam look like 10…or 60.

In a matter of seconds, Alice could feel her brother relax and firmly enclose her in his arms. And she felt very safe. Her chin was leaning on his right shoulder and she could feel him tenderly stroking her back while apparently smelling her hair which was a little odd, but Alice decided to ignore it. The feeling was too powerful.

Her brother knew how to love. And it was so easy to love him back.

“I missed you,” she said. And it was a testament. “I missed you too,” Sam mumbled against her neck, undoubtedly leaving traces of spittle there. She didn’t care at the moment. “You have no idea how much I missed you,” he said, as if a heavy burden had just been lifted off of him. It was like listening to a deep dark well whose walls would envelop one softly and securely. Although you couldn’t see anything, you knew you were safe.

Ultimately, they disengaged from the embrace, and Sam looked her straight into the eyes. There was a depth to his gaze that left her stunned.

 “Actually I only wanted to ask you if everything is alright.” Sam said, slowly leaving the twilight and warmth coming back to his voice. “It’s been a while.”

Alice sighed inwardly – the creepiness had vanished from his voice.

“I’m ok, I guess,” she shrugged, “I just don’t know what to do, to think or to say, that’s all, the usual teenage stuff! The boys hate me and I’ll probably die a virgin! How about you?” Alice grimaced, underlining her sarcastic words for full effect, then realizing what she had just said, but putting on a brave face and grinning awkwardly at her brother. He chuckled cautiously and grinned back at his sister. Whatever had made him feel so out of place before was gone; at least for the moment.

Seeing his sister using the best of weapons against world weariness ever devised, namely humour, made him lighten up, and he was not the least bit offended. It was that relentlessly self-deprecating attitude in the face of despair that he knew all too well himself and that had helped him immensely when times were dark. Moved by this final act of faith, proving how much she actually trusted him, he felt waves of empathy washing over him.

And eventually he smiled at her.

This time it was genuine.

“The boys hate me too,” he grinned, a warm sparkle in his eyes.

The old familiarity between the siblings was restored again.

At least for the moment.

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It had always freaked her out when he was getting serious. Even back then when they were still children. There was something about that seriousness that seemed otherworldly to her and that also reminded her that Sam’s engaging, good-humoured and goofy personality was only one side of his character. The part that was not broken.

As she was getting older, she became increasingly aware of the other part of the story. And it had visited her the other day, granting her a glimpse into the darkness of human nature. It was good to be reminded now and then. She tended to forget that it was there; especially with Sam who had such abrupt, schizophrenic shifts in his behaviour that she sometimes forgot that it was one and the same person.

They spent the next couple of days together, visiting mutual friends, swimming in the sea, singing. Especially the singing brought them back, the old memories of harmony; a harmony that had never existed in reality but was created by them through song so masterfully. When Alice once again realized what a perfect match their voices were, how effortlessly they mingled and how well hers blended in with his, she felt blessed. As much as she envied him his talents, first and foremost she was proud; proud in a way that owners are proud.  At that point, however, Alice did not know yet that this feeling and sense of ownership was highly mutual, and would contribute to the ruining of their relationship.

But what a beautiful ruin it was.

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He knew now what had made him feel so uneasy when he had talked to Alice the other day. It was the plain and simple fact that his sister did not just sound like his mother, but – with every day that passed – looked a little bit more like her. Even her movements started to become similar, which Alice – Sam was sure about this – must have been completely oblivious of. And even if she was aware, she would certainly not want anybody to draw attention to it. Her and her mother’s relationship was not without tension. And the relationship Sam was having with his mother was on a completely different plane of existence anyway.

Mother had cheekily called him her husband at some point. He must have been 16 at the time, and some mean voice inside of him had told him that his mother would have wanted to explore the whole realm there was to him being her husband if she could have had her way. And mean voices, as Sam knew all too well, often speak the truth.

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When she came into his room at night, he would not think anything bad of it. Not even when she flung back the sheets on his bed, lay beside him and snuggled up to his back. They had done that a million times as children, and even as teenagers. She was still a teenager, wasn’t she? Looking for comfort, for sure. They had forged the old bond of trust anew, and everything was as it was back then, wasn’t it?

Sam lay awake and thought that Alice had already fallen asleep, since he could hear her even breathing. His sister wrapped her arms around his chest and was digging her knees into his back, lying there in the embryonic position. Sam was sleeping naked, and as comfortable as he usually felt about it, as inappropriate it seemed to him in that very moment. But he could not just tell her to leave. That would be too cruel, especially now that she trusted him again.

Sam could not deny that there was another reason why he thought that this level of intimacy might be indecent. And it was a very practical one. Not having been intimate with anyone but himself for years, he was not used to that sort of close contact anymore, and even the slightest touch would sometimes result in a minor catastrophe, an inappropriate revelation.

“Do you masturbate a lot?” it suddenly sounded behind his back, and he couldn’t believe his ears.

“What did you just say?” he replied in a constrained voice, even more horrified when he realized that his penis reacted in accordance with the question.

“I was just wondering….I’m doing it a lot, you know…how about you?”

Now Sam noticed a faint alcoholic smell wafting over to him.

Red wine.

It couldn’t have been a lot, since Alice did not sound as if she was very drunk. Still she was obviously very relaxed.

“Why for fuck’s sake do you want to talk to me about this?!” Sam pressed out, his voice deep and hoarse.

His sister already slurred a bit while incoherently rambling on and on. “Who else should I talk to? Mum? Those “girlfriends” of mine that already think me a freak? You’re the only one that I trust, Sam, and you won’t make fun of me, right? Is it really that weird? And you’re…. you know…..  gay, so that makes matters different too, doesn’t it?”

“No it doesn’t!  And yes! I masturbate a lot. Are you happy now?” Sam burst out, slowly losing his composure, but still not able to throw her out. Now that his cock was growing ever harder and harder, she would have to leave on her own account. He wanted to spare her the embarrassment of witnessing her brother’s erection. And he knew she would be embarrassed when she was sober again the next morning. Just for asking that question.

He couldn’t imagine what it would be like if she actually saw his stiff penis. Eventually, they would make jokes about it, sure, but first it would just be awkward silence throughout. And he wanted to avoid that, no matter what it took.

Sam was surprised that Alice still had her arms around him although he must have sounded very angry before.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable. It’s just that I really need to talk to somebody about all that, you know. And I’m so fucking lonely.” She started sobbing; unfortunately it didn’t make Sam’s erection go away. Horrified he realized that he was getting ever more aroused when he felt her wet cheek pressed against his back.

That was the moment when he couldn’t take it any longer. Against all better knowledge, he turned round in his bed, flung the covers back and screamed at Alice, “Look! Have a good long look! What do you see?”

A pale moon was shining through the window.

Alice in fact took a good long look, before she raised her eyes to her brother again, an expression on her face more innocent than ever.

“What…why..I  mean….. that is…,” she stammered, but still not leaving.

“Take a good guess, little sister! I haven’t had sex in years although I’m a grown man. And masturbating isn’t always doing the trick either. So what do you think could be the result of this? Think, think hard! First you don’t even want to talk to me about anything, and then you want to know details about my masturbation patterns!! Honestly, SISTER, I’m out of ideas with you!” 

Sam almost seemed to choke on his own words, working himself up in a lather. His breaths came in sharp rapid growls, his body was tense, his chest was going up and down frantically, as he stared at his sister in desperate anger.

Alice was still there, lying on one side of the bed, watching her brother, slightly shocked. But there was another look on her face that bothered him much more. It was the look of curiosity. Sincere and genuine curiosity.

And it was that moment when he should have left, because she was obviously not going anywhere.

And he should have known. They were, after all, connected to each other through their genes. The same hot and relentless blood ran through their veins. She would want to know. And soon it would be too late.

“Can I touch it?” she simply asked.

And before he could do anything about it, she had reached over and started to stroke his cock. Sam was unable to move, and he couldn’t take his eyes off his sister’s hand discovering male genitalia. It should have made him go limp, but instead he felt the blood pumping through his veins and a not entirely new desire that was all of a sudden directed at this young inexperienced body of his sister that he could so easily identify with as she made him think back to the days when he was still as innocent, which was long ago. He shifted his watchful gaze from Alice hand to her face again – and she met his eyes.

“Am I ugly?” she asked, and it touched a raw nerve with Sam, a question that he had asked himself many times before. And again he was suddenly imbued with the deepest empathy he had ever felt for another human being.

“No, you’re not. Not in the least”, he said in a sad voice, leaned over to her and kissed her on the lips, surprisingly chaste considering the compromising situation they were in. Alice had stopped stroking his penis, and Sam could still feel it throbbing demandingly.

“Can you show me?” The last one of her three so simple questions.

What could he show her? He didn’t know that much himself. Not when it came to the more active part of the story. Especially not when it came to women. He couldn’t show her anything. That was what the part of his brain told him that was still on alert, blue sirens howling through the night, at breakneck speed – but no one was there to actually acknowledge it.

It would stay silent and darkness fell over the town.

“Yes, I’ll show you!” he said and he leaned over again, and started kissing her, not that chaste anymore, on her neck, then on her mouth. And he had to admit that it felt natural to him, even when he opened his lips and let her in. Even when she took off her shirt, and even when he slid down her shorts and her panties. It all felt natural.

When he started telling her what he would do next, so that she knew.

When he sucked at her nipples and when she rubbed her face against his unshaven one.

When he started fingering her to loosen her up for penetration.

When he told her that he would be careful and try not to hurt her.

When she was lying underneath him, wide-spread thighs eagerly awaiting him.

When he slowly penetrated her, eliciting noises that made him want to die.

When she held on to him, pressing her hands on his chest, as he let her accommodate to him.

When she gasped as soon as he was completely inside her, terrified and thrilled at the unfamiliar feeling, giving him a look that pierced marrow and bone.

When he started to fuck her more vigorously, and she would scream.

When he felt her stomach heaving heavily up and down against his in intervals.

When he ejaculated inside of her, and knew he had lost his mind.

When he would straighten up again and look at his sister, lying there underneath him, one hand grasping her stomach, one pair of eyes looking up to him in amazement,  her lips so dark from the wine that it immediately made him think of Snow White.

All that time it felt natural to him and he wouldn’t want it any other way. That’s what he still thought after years had passed. And he knew Alice did the same.

Even though it meant carrying a heavy burden for the rest of his life. What a bitter-sweet burden it was, though. And the guilt was not subsiding.