by Lucy Debussy
Part 1—The Secret of the Roux
His sauce had people swooning before they even tasted it. Diners crammed by the dozen under the restaurant’s domes, watched hundreds of bevelled glass, gilt-edged reflections of themselves chewing with their eyes half-closed, inhaling, trying to possess this sauce and its strange combination of flavours.
The critic Henri le Boeuf had pinned down seven ‘notes’ as he called them: ox tongue, rosemary, mollusc, claret, fig, gunmetal and caramel. ‘The rest,’ he wrote in his weekly column, ‘is a mystery of man and nature.’
Outside they queued in droves, harrying the maître d’. Peasants would sometimes press their noses to the steamed up glass and be hurried on by a kick from a waiter who had himself been kicked to hurry them on.
Inside, they drizzled it over everything. Suckling pig, Chantilly ice, grouse with pistachios. They scraped their plates and licked their spoons.
In the kitchen, the chef in his tall white hat left the pot on the boil and went through a tiny door thought to lead to the cellar. Instead it led up a cold staircase to an attic, buffeted by the Seine’s breeze through a crack in the window pane. There she lay, captive, trussed like a starfish with kidskin at each of her four corners, a satin pillow under her hips he had placed there for comfort. She was, after all, his most valuable asset. She barely opened her eyes as he wet the tip of his finger. A pewter cup to hand, he pressed the spot, savouring the noise she made, and he began to harvest.
Part 2—The Ingredient’s Revenge
She had awoken one day bound. One minute the slow fever of complicity; plotting, cooking, mastery over the tastebuds of Paris. Lazy river-scented sunrises, conversations about the menu du jour over some bed-snack of cured meats and chocolate pastries. The next, imprisonment. Her ankles and wrists had been pulled sometime in the night to a place that lay just beyond the comfort of their natural stretch.
She bent a long finger, touched the kidskin restraints and cried out high and quiet. They were as soft as the skin on his sex, but gone was the hard flesh that lay beneath and drove her to liquid. And in its place, a duplicitous knot.
When he emerged through the attic door, crouching in his tall white hat, she had tried to reason with him. ‘But Henri le Boeuf...?’
His jealous response? ‘Drink up, my love, drink up.’ He passed her a cup.
From that day on she remembered little. Only the cool drafts of the Seine, the howl of the hungry crowds below, the hysterical moans and grunts and laughter that lifted on the fog outside the restaurant’s steamed windows. Where was his careful touch now? Where were his cool unwrapping hands? He only ever caressed her in the one swollen spot, only with the same finger and only with that damned pewter collecting cup to hand.
Was this what it had come to? Was she now no more than an ingredient under his chef’s quick eye, his butcher’s thumbs, his filleting wrists (that had the strength to whip up a meringue with a wooden spoon)? Had there ever been more? During her somnambulant days, drugged by tincture and herbs, she picked slowly back through the fishbones of the past; was it there the first moment she had clapped eyes on his whites? That day in the Chef Academie, the first time she had noted the well-fed shape of him through thick twill. Had he too been probing his eyes beneath the chicken-skin folds of her own twill, looking, sniffing for something that could sharpen his edge among the competition? And when they walked blindfolded through La Quartier Latin so that only their noses could guide them through cigars, macaroons, mussels, steak frites and wine, had he been sizing up the volume of her blood, the weight of her bones, the quantity of ecstasy she was capable of creating when she was with him?
She’d had enough. One day he was careless. Bending over to administer her daily broth he dropped a butter knife on the bed. Her blood had by now acclimatised to the drugs he gave her and they no longer had the same effect. She writhed on top of the knife and the cold metal felt like liberation on her skin.
Later she would slice the leather, arch her back. Her wolfish tooth would shine in the Seine’s reflected milksilver.
The next time he opened the door, she made her usual half-eyed face. He pressed the spot, savouring the noise she made. She pressed the cold knife to the nape of his neck where it joined with his spine, the part she had long ago learned so carefully to crack on a lobster before throwing it into the pot.
‘But Henri le Boeuf...?’ He tried to reason with her. ‘He’s counting on our dish. Our dish.’
He hadn’t banked, as he reached a sly wrist behind her hips, that the herbacious drugs would have made her quite so strong.
Trussed, kidskinned, caught.
She took her time about the new menus. Her tastebuds, kept virgin for over a year, had grown sharp. She made dishes out of goat, pike, whipped rump steak. Sometimes she’d harvest herself with a licked finger. The customers moaned even louder.
‘Where,’ wrote Henri le Boeuf, ‘in the world is Chef? But more importantly, who’s the new genius in town?’ She was called a wunderkind, a maestra, a Messiah.
After work each day, she’d carry his pewter cup filled with the best wine up to that attic. There he lay, kidskin at each of his four corners, a hard-on the size of a beef rib protruding ripe and rosy from his handsome bush of curls.
The wine to relax him, her hands would do the rest. Hands that had once tangled in his as they kneaded bread together and breathed in yeast; hands that had picked cool vegetables from the grocer’s basket for them both to sniff. She had cut her nails short again for cookery which made it easier when she rubbed and pressed and probed among his pillowed skin, his fleecy folds. He loved a finger hard between his ass and his soft boiled eggs. Then she’d dance for him, made mad with cruelty. Her naked body, fleshed out now, shoulders muscled from the breadwork and butchery, she’d slap a thigh down either side of his neck, pull apart her folds close to his face, let him smell the delicious liquid he once loved to taste.
Some punishment? That wasn’t all. Or rather still, it was.
Him, engorged to her desire, solid as gristle and burning, she’d leave him there, his knuckles clenching the kidskin, his toes strangling a dance with the bedpost, screaming louder than his customers, suspended, purgatorial, revenged.
Issue #2 Contents
The Heart of the Labyrinth
Where I Choose to Wake
They Don’t Move Like They Used To
The Dubious Apotheosis of Baskin Gough, Part Two
Patrick S. McGinnity
Lazarus Walks, Part Two
Lucy Debussy is based in Edinburgh. She is the winner of the Scottish Book Trust New Writer’s award and has been published in Best Women’s Erotica, several UK-based journals including Valve, Dactyl, Erotic Review and Vintage Script, and have had her work performed at Liars League and Velvet Tongue in London.