Steampunk Spotlight: Zeppelin Dreams
Below is the first part of my latest short story. It’s a tragic romance that gets quite steamy in the second half. There is also light adult content in the first half, so be warned.
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She lay on the floor, a zeppelin between her legs. That was what the ladies called it at tea parties, an inside joke, as in “My last zeppelin ride was quite the adventure.” It was code for sex, mostly, but it also referred to the machines doctors used to relieve a lady’s hysteria. Ever since a psychiatrist had first helped her ease her own hysteria with a zeppelin, she kept one around. They had greatly improved over the past twenty-years; the clockwork driven machine now lasted much longer. Lilah’s was the latest style of zeppelin, shaped more or less like its namesake. It was not for insertion, after all, just clitoral stimulation. Handy little gadgets, they were. Especially when one did not want to go through all the trouble of coitus. After twenty-five years of marriage, it was mostly just a mess to clean up. Her husband showed even less interested in sex than she did, if that was possible. And it must be, for if they ever made love, she went to him.
But she tired of that.
She wanted to be taken, dominated. She wanted to be longed for, desired.
She had rarely used her zeppelin of late. Her interest in such carnal delights had waned considerably over the past few years. That is, until she met him.
“Joshua.” His name passed through her lips in an after sigh as her hips rested back against the floor and her muscles relaxed. She could already feel a soreness in the back of her throat where she had screamed his name, moments earlier, into her handkerchief. She looked around, eyes wide, ensuring she was still alone in the darkened attic. Her husband had gone for his daily walk, so it had been the perfect opportunity to ride her zeppelin. Still, a servant could hear her, so she was careful not to be too loud, just in case.
The iron vibrator, cool against her heated thighs, slid out of her hands. As she lay there catching her breath, images of him on that night invaded her thoughts. She tried to push them out, but he haunted her. All these weeks later, she could still feel his nearness. The single kiss he had placed on her neck had kept her heated for days. His warm breath, body pressed close, the volumes left unsaid had sustained her, allowed her to go on, counting every moment until she could see him again. Longing to see his lips, wet with Scotch, and aching to taste them.
She had held on to every detail and used the lingering ardor when she pleasured herself. The unrequited desire between them to fueled her fantasies.
“Stop it.” She chided herself, knowing it was wrong. She pushed him from her thoughts once again, but he returned. Her every thought was consumed with him, perhaps because it was wrong.
She wanted more. More of him.
More. More. More.
More than he could give. More than she could give. The more attention he showed her, the more she wanted. The less attention he showed her, the more she wanted. It would never be enough. Not until their desire destroyed them both.
Her passion had become an obsession.
She sat up and pulled her skirts down over her knees in shame. From desire to shame. Back and forth. Neither was ever far behind.
The silence of the early morning echoed her own emptiness. Middle-aged and aging further everyday. This entire business was far beneath her. She smoothed her skirts with trembling hands and sat up straight, feigning dignity for a moment before those hands covered her face. She wept. Her tears wet her cheeks and her palms, and she shook with her silent sobs. She longed to wilt into obscurity, fade from this world. Dissolve into a thin mist. Be as invisible as she felt.
She shrank back against the wall and hugged her knees close, willing herself to disappear into nothingness. Willing the pain to stop. Willing the desire to end. It had to end. She knew this in her fractured soul. Her very sanity was at stake.
What if her husband discovered her in such a position? Or the housekeeper?
Fear replaced the pain, as she pictured the look on her husband’s face. His astonishment confirming her pathos. His disappointment illuminating her worthlessness. She would be mortified beyond repair.
Yet her lust for Joshua engulfed her, again and again. She tried to keep it at bay. She tried to busy herself with needlepoint or reading or anything else, but the all-consuming need would not die. It overpowered her. Then she would return to the dark attic to take care of her needs. Alone.
She quite literally could not control herself.
The morning light, now well past dawn, filtered in from the solitary attic window at the opposite side of the room. After her eyes adjusted to the light, they caught sight of her hands resting on her knees. They were not the smooth, pale hands of her youth. They were her mother’s hands, perhaps even her grandmother’s. Thin skin hung too loosely over her fragile bones, and she swore even its brightness had faded over the years. Just as the rosiness in her cheeks had waned, except when she blushed from her own foolishness. Her shame colored her cheeks like that a rosy maid. It was less becoming on a woman her age.
Her thoughts retuned to Joshua, and she ran her withering hands down her body, trying to remember what it was like to be cherished by a lover, imagining him touching her. Her breasts, thought still full and relatively firm, were not what they had once been. They never would be again. Her hips and thighs, shapely, supple, and still quaking slightly from her phantom lover, were not those of a young woman. But they were not those of an old woman yet either.
By the time she caught her wits, her hands were again traveling up her inner thighs.
Back and forth.
“Stop it!” Her words sounded hollow in the empty room. After pulling her skirts down again, she tried to stand, but when she had risen halfway, the grief overcame her again and she collapsed back into herself against the wall. She muffled her agony by clamping her hands over her mouth. Reality, unforgiving and harsh, revealed her cell. The limbo of middle-age imprisoned her, for she would never be what she had once been. She would just continue to age, continue to become less and less appealing. A past full of promise and unrealized dreams haunted her. Her future…mediocrity, then death.
As images of Joshua returned, Lilah forcibly pushed them out, replacing them with that of her loving husband. She had been married at eighteen to a man twelve years her senior. She had been a maid, of course, and her husband was a good man. He had been a good father and provider, too. After three children and nearly twenty-five years of marriage, she certainly had thought the days of anyone yearning to touch her were long past.
Then Joshua came into her life, and now his lips haunted her every waking thought. They had only met a few times, but they had an indescribable connection between them that extended past basic lust. It was intellectual and soulful in addition to sexual desire, quite the dangerous mix. During the last social gathering, he had found a way to get her alone. They had just been talking, enjoying the other’s company as they had in the past. Innocent. Just conversation. A meeting of minds and wits.
Until that night.
He had led her to a remote garden and embraced her there to say goodnight. Nothing else was spoken. No words of longing or love, just an embrace and a single kiss on her cheek.
Then another on her neck.
They said farewell and parted. Simple. Brief. Yet it was this restrained embrace that changed everything between them.
His kiss on her neck still burned her skin. She still felt the building heat between them on that cold evening, even all those long nights later.
“Joshua,” she breathed. His face once again filled her thoughts, replacing everything else in her world. She caressed every angle of it with her mind. Dark eyes. Dark hair extending down into long sideburns along a strong jaw. His bottom lip fuller than the top, begging to be tasted and licked and sucked between her own.
—— -_Q ——
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