A Knives & Flowers Short by Lucy V. Morgan
Spoiler alert: this "alternative ending" short begins right after the end of Breaking Joseph. It will contain spoilers for both novels. This short is told from Matt's perspective.
“God. I’d forgotten how gorgeous your bed is.”
Leila gazed up at the carved four-poster that dominated my beamed room, her eyes like petrol puddles reverberating with traffic. Her hands sat on her hips as she paced around.
“I’m sure you’ll make it even more gorgeous.” I gestured to the bin liners full of expensive linen that we’d piled up beside her boxes. Sequins winked at me in the sunlight pouring through the window; a girl lives here now, they said.
“I seem to remember making a mess of it, last time,” she murmured, throwing me a coy, knowing little smile.
Oh, fucking hell. I wish she wouldn’t do that to me.
Only when I let myself look at her--really look at her--did I realize she was crying.
“Hey.” I strode over, wrapping her against my chest. She leaned in willingly, all warm and smelling like marzipan and flowers. “Why’re you crying?”
She shrugged as she sobbed on to my rugby shirt, her tears soaking into the creases.
She knew why, really. So did I. But we were off on the yellow brick road to our shiny new jobs; maybe even a shiny new us. It didn’t feel right to belittle that. I stroked her back with flat palms, trying to ignore the way her breasts melted against my ribs.
Then I bit my lip hard and edged away before she could feel my hard-on.
“Just…just stuff,” she managed eventually. “It’s all still sinking in, you know?”
“I know, babe.”
Leila wasn’t supposed to be here. She should still be in London, getting ready for her posh-arsed City career and buying overpriced sandwiches from Pret. She should be exhausted in Joseph Merchant’s bed.
Until recently, she should also be fucking men for money.
She didn’t realize that none of that would make her happy. I knew--we'd trained together for the past two years. London‘s cool and everything, don’t get me wrong (Shepherd’s Bush Empire is the best gig venue ever) but when you strip away all the things that money brings…it’s empty. Hollow. A bit like how Leila was going to turn out if she kept up with that horrible night job. As System of a Down once said: somewhere between the sacred silence and sleep…disorder, disorder. If you stay there too long, London will fuck you over.
Just like it fucked the pair of us.
“Shall we unpack some stuff, make you feel at home a bit?” I suggested.
She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “Actually…would you mind if I went to bed?”
“No, course not.” I smoothed the curls from her face; it felt natural to do it. Made me ache that she let me.
“I haven’t been sleeping very well lately,” she admitted. “Weird dreams.”
“You’ve had a shitty time of it. But it’s all sorted now, okay? Onwards and upwards and all that crap.”
“Happy ending, huh?” She gave me a tear-stained smile.
Lyrics echoed in my head; let’s pretend, happy end…
“Yeah.” I nodded, my forehead just brushing hers. “Let’s put you to bed then.”
I tucked her beneath the throw my mum had stitched when I was in primary school; quilted squares in the colors of my favorite football team (back when I thought football was cool). She seemed to belong there, in my bed.
“I’ll knock later, okay?” I said.
She wriggled beneath the covers and made a sleepy little sigh.
Downstairs, her father was having tea with Dad and Amy in the kitchen.
“You didn’t tell me that Leon makes wine,” Dad said, beckoning me.
“Never thought to. Sorry.“ I nodded at Amy as she pushed a mug into my hand and spooned in three sugars. I watched muddy liquid coil as I stirred.
“Is Leila unpacking?” said Leon.
“She’s having a nap. Said I’d wake her up for dinner.”
“Poor mite. She’s knackered.” He laughed. “You’ll give her a hand later, Matt, won’t you?”
I had to lower my eyes--he was her dad, and if he saw the look in them, he’d know exactly what I wanted to give her.
“Right. I’m going to give Leon a tour, show him the orchard,” Dad announced, clapping a heavy hand on my back. “He’s going to give us a hand with the raspberries. See you out there in a bit?”
“In a bit.” I gulped lukewarm tea as they strode out of the stable doors, silently ticking off another box on my morbid game of bingo. Our parents get on. I bet they wouldn’t get on with Joseph’s--they’d be flashy, pretentious cunts. As for her clients’ parents…yeah, there was a place I never wanted to go. Like Primark.
“Penny for them.” Amy, nudged my shoulder. She slid a plate of biscuits in front of me, and I reached for one, shaking away the crumbs.
“Just thinking about…starting the job.”
“Ah, right. Of course.” She leaned back on the counter with her arms folded. She read me like a book—gah, so annoying.
“It’s going to be nice, being somewhere small and…” Not soulless?
“It’s nice to have you home.” She smiled. “I’ve got a pie on for dinner. Will that be alright for your Leila?”
She wasn’t mine.
“Yeah, she loves stuff like that.” I dunked half a biscuit into my tea. “Cheers.”
I walked out through the garden as I chewed, wondering whether to phone Charlie and let him know that everything was going well. He was my stepfather. He was also Leila’s old lover. Between the two of us, we'd rescued her career and sorted everything out (also, I may have punched him when I learned about the lover part. I tried to pretend I felt guilty but seriously--it was the best rush of my life. Take that, adulterous porkshit! Funny how landing a swift upper cut can lend you a sense of inner peace for a good…ten minutes).
I felt like a prize cunt when two girls from our office stole Leila’s escorting photos from my laptop. They used them to bribe her out of a boyfriend and a job. For a while, it looked like her life was beyond fixing.
Seemed to me, though, that Leila and I could solve eachother’s problems. She needed a job. I needed…her. With a bit of help, I convinced the partners at my new firm to take her on, and now she'd moved into my room until she could sort a place of her own.
I didn’t intend for her to move out, but it wasn’t the right time to say that. Not yet.
I joined Dad and Leon in the orchards, rolling up my sleeves and hauling buckets of fruit as they picked. It was the beginning of the berry harvest, this time of year --I used to love it. I remembered Mom making reams of jams and pies, decorating the jars with checkered fabric and ribbons. She always asked me to write the labels because my handwriting was the neatest.
Amy's probably a better cook than Mom, but it can't be the same.
The afternoon squelched by in red-stained hands and tart berries on my tongue. Dinner time loomed, and I excused myself for a hot shower, scraping the last of London away. When I peeked in on Leila, she was still asleep.
“Hey.” I shook her gently. “You’ll never sleep tonight, at this rate.”
She yawned, her back arched in a stretch that pushed her nipples right through her t-shirt. “That time already? Crap.”
“Dinner’s in ten, okay?” I lingered by the door. “I’ll see you down there.”
She nodded, her smile lazy and framed with disheveled ringlets.
Leila’s dad joined us at the table, and it turned into something of an event, dragged out with coffees and Amy’s home-made petit fours. I swapped glances with Leila across the table. We weren’t really part of the conversation, but we had our own going on regardless, made of cocked heads, knowing grins and nudging knees.
At the end, I gave her space to say goodbye to her dad in the hall, and then followed her upstairs.
She tugged the clip from her hair, and it fell down her back in a sweep of flashing russet. “Would it be okay if I had a bath?”
“Yeah, course.” I glanced at my old chest of drawers, now heaving with girlie potions and jars. “I’ll sort it for you. What shall I put in…?”
She passed me a little vial of oil. “Thanks.”
The old farmhouse plumbing made the bath water chug out in lumps. I drizzled in the oil, and the scent of spiced apricots rose with the steam, blurring the mirror. As it got warmer, I tugged my collar loose.
“Oh wow. Smells like autumn in here, doesn’t it?” Leila slid in from behind the door, dropping towels and bottles on the padded old chair. Her features had mellowed; she seemed relaxed, and the tension in my limbs eased at the sight.
“Autumn smells like mud and rain to me,” I said wistfully.
“And sweaty rugby changing rooms?”
She bent to test the water, dashing the foam lightly with her fingertips. Then she twisted the old tap off and looked up at me expectantly.
I stayed perched on the side of the bath.
“Are you watching…?”
She asked me that once, when we were dating. She was getting changed in my bedroom and I drank in her little body as she peeled away her clothes.
I hadn’t expected her to ask me tonight, not when she mourned the loss of another relationship. Maybe not as much as I thought…?
“I can do better than that.” I stood over her, reaching for the hem of her t-shirt. “Arms up, babe.”
While I undressed her, she gazed up at me with glassy, stoned eyes. Leila’s response to me was one of the best--and worst--things about her: she wanted me. Our bodies played the same tunes, and like the Pied Piper, I teased her with them for weeks as if it excused the uncomfortable origin of us (I paid, she obeyed). In the end, though, just wanting me wasn't enough for her. I wasn’t enough and that was hard to understand; we were good friends, doomed to desire each other. What is love, if it isn’t that? Can you tell me?
As she stood there in the steam, I wondered who took advantage of who. In the end, I didn’t care--if she'd have me tonight then it was pointless trying to resist it. I'd do the having, would fucking own her.
“Are you coming in?” She cocked her head towards the water.
I drew a fingertip down between her breasts. “If there was room, I would,” I said, my voice full of longing. There really wasn’t space for the bulk of me. “Don’t be long, okay?”
“Okay.” She bit her lip as she sank into the bubbles. They swarmed around her shoulders and began to feast at the line of her collarbone.
Then I closed the door and fell against it, dragging my breath from the air.
I could've spent hours analyzing this. I was ever the scientist, in love; it was how I’d known with Niamey, my ex, and how I knew with Leila. Only last weekend, she had admitted how much she missed Joseph. She told me that we’d never get back together, but had she changed her mind now we were alone?
Or did she just want a good, brisk fuck?
I had to pull myself together. I could stand there and brood like a glittery, homo vampire or I could be a good boy scout and get prepared. (I was a brilliant Scout, by the way. Probably why I tie myself in so many knots).
I marched into Toby’s room, currently mine. I ransacked the underwear drawer and then my hand hovered over the strip of condoms. I fantasized briefly about taking Leila back to London for a visit, watching Joseph’s eyes bulge as he noticed her swollen belly: mine, mine, MINE!
I wasn’t that brand of dickhead though. Was I?
I took the condoms. It’d be dark in the bedroom and if she didn’t ask me, didn’t notice…I could always say I forgot. Feeling her like that, nothing between my cock and the sticky mess of her--it’d be another thing all those clients never had.
No, no. I really wasn’t that bloke. They lived on chat shows and I lived in…well. Salisbury.
I put the condoms under one of the pillows in Leila’s room. The whole place smelt like her now, and her spicy bath oil wafted down the corridor. It was still strange, thinking that we lived together, but in an exciting, dizzy way.
I stripped off, kicked my clothes under the bed and slid beneath her velvet comforter. My pulse was a half-cut drummer and I hoped desperately that I’d judged right--that this was where she wanted me.
I flicked on the lamp as I heard her pad down the hall.
A thick, plum-colored towel clung to her breasts and hips as she grasped it. Damp waves fell over her shoulders and stuck to soaked skin. Her mouth was pretty as ever, slightly pursed in a cute little pout. Her lips parted when she noticed me.
“Matt?” she whispered.
I sat up on my hands. “Thought you might want a bit of company, first night and all.”
“In case I get scared?” Her voice was soft with amusement.
“Something like that.” I picked up the lotion bottle she’d left on her side of the bed. “Want some help with this?”
She paused, smiling faintly. “Suppose I should be gracious to my host, hmm?”
“Too right.” I found myself grinning as she sat beside me. She let me tease the towel away, and I poured lotion into the palms of my hands. “I owe you a massage, anyway.”
“Oh?” She twisted her hair into a rope as she pulled it out of the way.
“New York, remember?” I injured my leg on a business trip, and after much cajoling from our friend, Aidan, Leila had eased the cramps with her warm fingers. Now I did the same for her, kneading the cream into her skin.
“Ah. Are you planning on behaving yourself, like you did then?” She was teasing me now.
I swallowed. “No. Are you?”
“Matt, I...” She inched away from my slick hands. “Why do you still want me?”
Well. I wasn’t expecting that.
“Of course I want you.” I leaned forward, scooping her back against my chest and my straining cock. It prodded her arse with a blunt thump. “I was thinking the same thing about you, actually.”
She peered up at me in the lamp light. “I said we’d never do this again, didn’t I?”
“Yep. There was a nicely inappropriate backing track of bad guitar.”
“Trust you to remember that bit.” She laughed.
“So…you changed your mind?” My fingers walked around to cup her breasts, and she sighed as I weighed them, my grip firm.
“I don’t know. Is that okay?”
I pinched her nipples. Another glorious little sigh. “It’s fine, babe,” I lied, drawing a neat line of kisses along her shoulder, “but I think you should let me help you decide.”
“I can cope with that,” she breathed.
I turned off the lamp.
Now, I talked to Leila in her own language.
She half-fell against the pillows; I half-pushed her. I found her mouth and she tasted like toothpaste and honey, her tongue warm as it coiled against mine. Already, she moaned weakly in my ear. Her thighs were beginning to part and I ran my palm along her damp skin, deliberately steering towards her hip bone instead of the soft mound between her legs. I knew she got wet for me, there. I wanted her soaked before I even went near her pussy.
She gripped my cock, and I shuddered as she stroked along the length with her knuckles, followed by her full hand. My balls pulled tight towards her and she tugged on them, milking slowly up and down, giggling as I groaned. She knew where my buttons were and just how to press them.
I’d discovered hers when she wasn’t even looking. That’s how a scientist works, see…we have to be sly.
“I forgot just how big you are,” she murmured.
“Enough for you?” I said gruffly.
“Enough to spoil me, I think--” She broke off with a little cry as I took a nipple between my teeth.
If she wanted to be spoiled then oh, yeah. I could manage that. “What about him?”
“I never needed him like this. Mmm. Please…?”
“I won’t let you down, you know.” I squeezed her arse. “He’s a twat, Leila.”
“Yeah.” She pressed her face into my neck. “I’m sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry for…now shh.”
I'd leaked all over her belly, and my hand skidded through on the way to her clit. I pinched around the hood just lightly, rolling the flesh between my finger and thumb. She was a mess of contractions as I held her like that and she rocked against me in her own little snare. She wanted to be stuffed with fingers, wanted to bounce her way to the end and make a drenched wreck of my bed, just as she did the last time she was in it. I already knew I could do that to her, and it wasn’t really where my power lay…but Jesus, it was good to watch her get into that state, and I needed a closer look.
I kissed her hard, my tongue dragging down towards her mound. She pushed herself up and I lapped at her open slit, still teasing with my fingers. I let them rest at the gape of her pussy while I sucked her plump clit. Now, she shoved at the back of my head.
“Will you…? Oh, please.”
I inched a finger inside her. “Like that?” I was talking into her clit.
“Yeah, but…more, I think…”
She rode my face. Tried to guide my fingers in. Slowly, I gave her more and more, until she was stretched over my two thickest digits and her spot throbbed above them as if it had its own heart and a beat to match. Knowing Leila…it probably did. I rubbed her there in ebbing circles, working her to a frenzy and then edging away. Her clit practically bulged into my mouth, begging for tongue kisses and all the other things a boy can do that make a girl hoarse.
“Matt.” She panted. “Stop being such a mean tease, and fill me already.”
I peered up from her mound; she was flushed and writhing, a thin sheen of sweat dusting her breasts and forehead. That image coupled with the gin-like sweetness of her pussy on my lips--I felt drunk. I’d never seen her quite so ready.
“What did you say again?” I smiled and slid up to kiss her.
“I want…” She trailed off, moaning in complaint as I bumped against her clit. “That.”
“You want me inside?”
“Oh, please.” Her teeth grazed my shoulder and her nails chased, the pain fizzed. “Please, Matt.”
I sucked her bottom lip. “I love the sound of you begging.“ What I loved even more was that like this, she fucking meant it.
I splayed her thighs up as I entered her. I went slowly, counting the inches and watching the smile bloom across her rapt face. When I was done, she was spread so that my shaft rubbed right into her spot on each stroke and I crushed her clit when I bottomed out. Weird equations flashed in my head, as if her orgasm could be quantified and played out like algebra: formulae…form you lay…shit. Lasting more than a few minutes like this was going to be excruciating…
…and I had a very long time to last.
I barely moved inside her, just rocked my hips. She was desperate to come and already so frustrated, but here, my game really began. This would be my revenge for the days and weeks I had missed her, the nights spent agonizing over what she took from me.
I did love her. I had lessons to teach, we had demons to purge…if you know a better way, do tell me. Answers on a postcard and all that shite.
When I could bear it, I worked myself harder, thrusting all the way in. I knew when to stop because she gripped me like a honeyed fist, her muscles twitching along with her pulse. She grew loud now--begs turned to pleas--and I pressed my hand over her mouth so she could bite down. Dad and Amy were just downstairs; it was like being a teenager again but I knew what I was about, on top of Leila in this bed. I felt powerful in ways I hadn’t before.
She grew aggressive, the more I denied her. She squeezed her thighs about my hips to hold me in place.
“Matt, please.” She whimpered.
“Not until I say.” I gave her a few moments of rough, deep fucking before relenting to torturous slowness again. Now she balled her hands, and they fell on my back (bless her--she hit me like such a girl). I ducked to kiss her, and she arched up, her pussy trying to swallow me whole; I licked along the hollows of her neck instead, tasting clean skin and hot sweat.
I don’t know how many times I pushed her off the edge only to catch her a few breaths down, but it took longer to get her there and she soon, she wasn’t as frustrated as she was just confused and distressed.
“Why are you punishing me?” she whispered.
You think this is punishment? I will fucking show you punishment.
“Shh.” I stroked curls from her hot face and braced myself to pound again. My balls were bruised from the effort, the constant back-and-forth of the tease.
As she hit me, her little grunts melted to sobs and then finally, the tears came, fresh and fat on her pink cheeks. I kissed each one as I thrust harder and winced as I held myself off--it bordered on painful. Just when I thought I couldn’t go any longer, she broke. Properly broke. The sobs grew louder and she screamed through my hand. She scratched and clawed and bit in a cock-gorged tantrum, all the pain of the past few weeks gushing forth.
I wanted her to take it out on me. Wanted her fresh and new. If this was what she needed, if I had to hurt her like this--so be it--but God, it was brilliant and terrifying.
I let loose, driving until she yelped and went rigid. Then I fell down and we rode out the last waves of our orgasms together, her jutting hips carrying us both. When I looked between her legs, she was sore and engorged, leaking already. My fucked little sundae. I couldn’t bring myself to pull out--she felt so warm and wet still--so I rocked again, waiting for her eyes to roll open.
“Babe,” I whispered, “are you all right?”
“I think so.” Her eyelashes trembled with glassy tears. She looked so vulnerable, gazing up from beneath them. “Matt…w-why…?”
I kissed her--a slow sampling, as if she might taste new. “You know why.”
She cupped my cheeks with damp hands. “No, I don’t.”
I squeezed my eyes shut, and spoke dark things to a dark place. “I love you.”
Pure silence: no breaths, no rustle of sheets, no annoying little riff in my brain. Nothing. I blinked.
Then her brows sank together, and she glared. “Don’t ruin the mood, you tosser. You and your bloody feelings. Put them away and finish your pint.”
“I said, put your phone away and finish that pint,” Jude demanded. “You’ve been nursing it all sodding night. If she’s going to ring then you’ll hear it.”
Then the real world flooded into focus: quiet pub, the dregs of Saturday night already gone on to clubs. A group of students played cards in the corner. In one hand, my knuckles were white around my phone, and a beer mat sat shredded beneath the other.
“She promised she’d text me when she knew what was going on,” I said weakly. “I mean, she’s given her flat away--”
“Matthew!” Jude snatched my phone away and tucked it into his jeans pocket. “She’s a big girl. She can look after herself. Don‘t you think you‘ve done enough, sorting out that fella of hers?”
I remembered the moment Joseph had put his arms around her in the street this morning. Tell her you love her, I’d said to him, knowing that it was what she longed to hear. What a sopping twat I am, eh?
Jude took a long swig of beer.
“All very Prince Valiant though, mate. If you love something, set it freeeee--!”
“Oh, fuck off.”
“We should go on to the Cathedral,” he suggested. “They’ve got a rock DJ on. We‘ll play Grab a Gash, find you a fit little piece in fishnets or something.”
“I’m not in the mood.”
Jude rolled his eyes. “You’ve been dumped, you wet shit. Not castrated.”
It felt like it.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Leila Vaughn: beautiful, addictive and the worst case of blue balls I’ve ever had.
Even in my own fantasies, she was still fucking me over.