With Madam Ahjunta’s blessings, Samar and Anna helped Inness pack her things and move into Karmen’s room temporarily.
“Karmen? Can I come in?” Inness asked, knocking on the door slightly.
“The door is unlocked.”
Inness pushed open the door, carrying a bag full of clothes with her. She was followed into the room by Samar, who was carrying a big box full of her other possessions. Glancing at Karmen who was lounging on the bed, she raised her brows questioningly at her.
“Oh, just leave it on the dresser for now. I’ll show her where to put them later on.”
Reading the situation perfectly, Samar shrugged and dumped the box onto the table before proceeding to leave without saying anything to either of them.
Bemused with her actions, Inness watched her retreating back as she went to close the door.
“She’s certainly unreadable, isn’t she? She’s just like Madam; I’ve no idea what to think about either of them.”
“They’re both kind-hearted. You can trust them without doubts,” Karmen replied.
Her remark stung Inness all of a sudden; unconsciously, she began rubbing her chest.
“So you’d trust them more than me?” Inness asked, testing the waters.
“Why not? At least they’ve been kind to me all this while, especially Samar. She didn’t have to but she did – and all because I asked for her assistance. I’m sure she’d help me no matter what and…” Smirking sarcastically at Inness, she continued, “I’m sure she wouldn’t just disappear on me just like that.”
Feeling unsteady, Inness approached Karmen, slumping onto the empty space beside her.
“Karmen… I’m sorry.”
“It’s going to take more than that for everything to be alright between us.”
“I’m really sorry.”
“Seriously? You think adding ‘really’ into that sentence is gonna make me…” Her words were muffled by Inness’ lips.
She should have known; she was mentally kicking herself for not realising or anticipating it. She should have known that Inness would use the first chance she got to reaffirm each other’s feelings. She has always been like that since she was a child – how could she have forgotten it?
The kiss, despite the timing of it, was soft yet persistent on her lips. Karmen was not only taken by surprise with the suddenness of it, but also by the intensity of it. It felt as if Inness was slowly pulling out her soul through her mouth – the kiss was too intense for her; she could feel her sister’s longings and desperate love punching through, seeping through the gaps of her parted lips, slowly oozing into her, onto her heart.
She couldn’t help but respond to that kiss; she wanted it just as much. The years that had passed in between flashed by; it was as if that empty gap that separated the last time they were together and the present had melted away. When Inness’ tongue traced her lips, Karmen opened up easily, allowing her to come in and tangle with her. Jolting visibly with shock and pleasure, a loud moan of pleasure escaped her but she just couldn’t care anymore. No regrets; her mind kept whispering to her those words again and again. Her tongue began exploring too, licking Inness’ lips and coming across her torn skin.
Tasting copper, she pulled away, breaking the kiss as she studied Inness’ face.
“What actually happened to you?” she asked, cupping Inness’ face as her hands ran across the sides of her head, checking for other injuries.
“I…don’t really know. All I remember was Samar helping me up and taking me back to the house. She cleaned the cuts and well, applied first aid on me but that’s all I remember.” Looking sheepishly at Karmen, she added, “Samar said it’s possible that I was jonesing for a fix when I was … with a client last night and so he dumped me there. I’m not sure but I guess it’s possible.”
“Aren’t you craving for some now? You’re already beginning to sweat, and your hands are ice cold.”
“I have been craving ever since Samar splashed that damn iodine all over my wounds.”
“So what do we do?” Karmen asked, concerned as she had seen previously what happened when Inness was off from her fix – of course, Inness had no idea she was watching from afar back then.
“I’d rather not take it, at least not yet. I have my own stash, of course, but I don’t want to take them when I’m with you. I know it’s impossible to go cold turkey all of a sudden but I’d like to see how long I can last without it, especially now that I’m with you.”
Stunned, touched, Karmen brushed Inness’ torn lips softly with her fingertips.
“Doesn’t it hurt?” she asked. “What can I do – do you want me to get the first aid kit for it?”
“Karmen…” Inness slowly took her hand into hers, lifting it up before kissing it softly. “You know exactly what to do, what I need at this moment.”
She didn’t know why but she was feeling shy all of a sudden. She knew that Inness had more experience than her in this kind of things despite whatever skills she had acquired along the way. The fact that her kid sister towered above her was another thing that threw her off. She felt ‘less’ in so many ways in comparison with Inness.
As if understanding the thoughts in her head, Inness shortened the distance between their bodies. Hovering just inches above her, she waited still for Karmen to say something, to push her away – yet, Karmen met her halfway instead, mating their lips together. The kiss was sweet; she was aching with the love that overflowed between them. She had missed this; she had missed them so much. She had missed being a unit with Inness.
Softly applying pressure, she pushed at Karmen, causing her to gently fall back onto the bed – and still she held her lips captive. Their brushing bodies were vibrating heat; Inness felt the clothes between them were melting onto them, sticking onto their bodies. Impatient, she broke the kiss and hurriedly stripped her t-shirt away as she straddled Karmen, exposing her tanned skin beneath.
Her breath caught in her throat, Karmen could simply stare at what she felt was a marvel in front of her.
“You’ve…certainly grown during our times apart.”
Inness laughed out loud, her rich laughter pouring over Inness like rain after a prolonged drought.
“Oh, how I’ve missed hearing that laughter,” Karmen remarked, tears shining on her eyes.
The laughter was still caught in her eyes, even though her features had softened at Karmen’s remark. Lowering her head, she brushed her lips softly over her sister’s, her unspoken apology rocking them both.
“How did you become so tanned?” Karmen asked, breaking the silence and sadness that hung over them.
“Well, I was exposed to the weather out there for a long time; I’m more than glad that I didn’t get burned instead!”
She moved to remove Karmen’s top as she spoke but Karmen stopped her all of a sudden.
“Inness, we have to talk about something first.”
“I’m sure it can wait – I can’t.”
“You have to know something first before we go any further.”
The distress in her voice finally got through Inness. Stopping, she sat on her heels, careful as to not crush Karmen beneath her.
“What is it?”
“Well … my work here isn’t … as straightforward as you think it is. I mean, I offer a kind of … special treatment?” Karmen’s uncertainty was causing both her voice and her body to shake as she spoke.
“Samar explained to me everything – how you came here looking for me and ended up working for them to help me pay off my debts. When I wasn’t high, I’d sometimes wonder how I managed to pay off everything I owed in such a small period of time. I guess that explains it.”
Noticing the furious look on her sister’s face, Inness gently stroked her hair. “Don’t be mad at her,” she said, referring to Samar. “She only said it because the other one kept pressing her to tell me the truth.”
Sighing, Karmen allowed herself to lean into Inness’ stroking hand. “Anna’s crazy over her; Samar just can’t accept her. Things aren’t as easy for her as it is for the rest of us.”
Shifting her attention to Inness, she continued, “Well, since you know what I actually do here then I guess you should also somewhat know the after effects of my ‘services’.”
At first, she was confused as to what Karmen was actually referring to yet it finally dawned on her. Locking her eyes on Karmen’s, Inness slowly lifted her top, tracing Karmen’s exposed skin with her eyes, darting at every scar, every hint of fresh bruising.
“It’s not as bad as it looks like,” Karmen hurriedly explained. “I had a client yesterday and so it’s a bit raw still. It doesn’t hurt at all; it’s just sore.”
Completely ignoring everything that Karmen had just said, Inness lowered her lips, kissing every scar, every bruise that she came across – healed or unhealed. Tracing them with her tongue, she licked at them as she went; hoping to help her heal, help them heal. Her actions made Karmen’s heart swell; she didn’t think she could love Inness more than she already had yet that was what she felt at the moment. Her heart was simply bursting with love for Inness; it seemed uncontainable in something as small as her heart.
“Why did you choose to do this?” Inness asked.
Completely understanding the question, Karmen answered softly. “It was my kind of atonement, for what I did to you – for my abandoning of you. I took it as a deserving punishment.”
Before Inness could rebuke her, she added, “That’s how I saw things – that’s how I still do. We can’t change the past, Inness but we can change our present and our future. Let’s not talk about it anymore.”
Nodding, Inness reached for her hands, lifting them up softly and kissing them once again.
“Despite it all, you’re still as beautiful as how I remembered you. In fact, I feel like it’s more – you seem so sensual, so sexy lying here bare–skinned, your hair tussled in such a way. Knowing that I’m the only one allowed to see you this way – skin flushed with lust, eyes deep with love – the knowledge of that does wonders within me. To hell with your special clients; no one would come close to having this with you. I’m certain of that.”
As Karmen nodded her head softly, eyes damp with tears that threatened to spill once again, Inness continued. “I want to ravish you, love. I want to swallow you whole. I’ve been starving for a taste of you and now that I finally have you all to myself, I’m not letting you off that easily.”
She took her time with Karmen, not wanting to rush into things; intending very much to savour the moment this time around. She wanted to discover more; she wanted to taste and touch more. More – that one word kept flashing in her mind like a neon sign.
She wanted more.
“Inness…” Karmen pleaded.
“I’m not rushing into things this time, my love. Let me have my way with you. Let me show you how much I still love you.”
Patrick was seated in front of Madam Ahjunta, blowing heavy smoke into the air, clogging the room with his Marlboros.
“I dug up everything that I could find about Anna as you had requested.”
Nodding, Madam held his gaze. “How serious is it?”
“Well,” he began, scratching his chin. “It’s not that serious as you thought it would be. It’s quite complicated – yet the complication lies with what you intend to do with what I told you. If the girl returns home, then there isn’t anything to worry about.”
“So you’re saying we can avoid complications if she leaves?”
Drumming her fingers on the armrests, she thought long and hard about it. She knows that the decision, just as in Karmen’s case, isn’t in her hands to decide upon. Lifting the handle of the house telephone, she dialed up the main number.
“It’s not my life for me to decide on by myself,” she said softly, more to herself than to Patrick.