Seeing the shadow of the mans razor flickering on the far wall, the girl shook her head. Again she tried to cry out, but the constriction of her throat reduced her plea to a whisper.
From behind her came a low voice: You want me to wait?
I cant. The victims wrists, crossed and suspended together over her head, were so slight, her fingers so graceful, her long legs so demure. I cant wait. The girl winced as the gentlest possible stroke was administered to one of her bare thighs. A stroke, that is, of the razor, which left a vivid scarlet wake as it traced her skin. She cried out, her back curved in exactly the same arch as the great windows, her raven hair flowing down her back. A second stroke, to the other thigh, and the girl cried out again, more sharply.
No, the voice admonished calmly. No screaming.
The girl could only shake her head, uncomprehending.
You must make a different sound.
The girl shook her head again. She wanted to speak but couldnt.
Yes. You must. I know you can. I told you how. Dont you remember? The razor was now replaced on the bed. On the far wall, in the wavering candlelight, the girl saw the shadow of the leather crop rising up instead. You want it. Sound as if you want it. You must make that kind of sound. Gently but implacably, the silk tie around the girls throat drew tighter. Make it.
She tried to do as she was bid, moaning softlya womans moan, a supplicating moan, which she had never made before.
Good. Like that.
Holding the end of the white tie in one hand and the leather crop in the other, the assailant brought the latter down upon the girls back. She made the sound again. Another lash, harder. The sting caused the girl to cry out, but she caught herself and made the other sound instead.
Better. The next blow landed not on her back but just below it. She opened her mouth, but at the same moment the tie was drawn still tighter, choking her. Her choking, in turn, made her moan seem more genuine, more broken, an effect her tormentor evidently liked. Another blow, and another and another, louder and faster, fell on all the softest parts of her body, rending her garments, leaving glowing marks on her white skin. With every lash, despite the searing pain, the girl moaned as she had been told to do, her cries coming louder and faster too.
The rain of blows stopped. She would have collapsed long before, but the rope from the ceiling, tied to her wrists, kept her upright. Her body was now scored with lacerations. Blood ran down in one or two places. For a moment all went dark for her; then the flickering light returned. A shiver passed through her.
Her eyes opened. Her lips moved. Tell me my name, she tried to whisper, but no one heard.
The assailant, studying the girls lovely neck, loosened the silk binding around it. For one instant she breathed freely, her head still flung back, the waves of black hair flowing to her waist. Then the tie around her throat went taut again.
The girl could no longer see distinctly. She felt a hand on her mouth, its fingers running lightly over her lips. Then those fingers drew the silk tie yet tighter, so that even her choking stopped. The candlelight went out for her again. This time it did not return.
Copyright © 2006 by Jed Rubenfeld
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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