Imagine a humid autumnal day, a woman feeling sticky and grubby after working in the garden through the cloying heat of the afternoon. She slowly strolls down to the small pond at the edge of her property, shedding clothes as she walks into the beautiful golden and orange trees which surround it. The first step into the lake is a shock, she gives a shiver at the blissful relief of the soothing cool water. Goosebumps stand out on her skin, her nipples harden as she continues to wade out until the water is level with her aching shoulders. She relaxes and falls backwards, allowing the water to support her as she closes her eyes and concentrates on the sensation.
I had followed that routine every day that summer and continued through into autumn, waiting for the long hot days to grow cooler. I don't know what drew me to the ramshackle farm in France, but I knew as soon as I saw it that we belonged together, that I would find peace there. The farm was extremely private, and I liked the fact that I could be so antisocial without it causing comment. In London if I switched my mobile off for an hour's peace one of my friends would walk round and knock on my door to check what was wrong. This seclusion was my haven, a chance for me to recover from a series of bad jobs and worse relationships.
I wasn't accepted in the small village, so in some ways my solitary life was forced upon me, but I didn't care. The farm had been for sale for almost thirty years according to local gossip, and nobody could understand what would draw me to it. To be sure, it needed huge renovations, but I've always found that throwing money at a project ensures timely completion, so by the time I'd sold my house and packed my belongings into my car the main house was fully completed. Yes, contractor after contractor had walked off the job for reasons my grasp of French wasn't good enough to work out, but it had all come together at last. I loved the old pale stone of the walls, the cool of the tiled floors, the old wooden shutters at every window. Most of all I loved the pond, the soothing bliss of easing my naked body into the water each day, a touch as intimate as a lover's as the water lapped at my skin.
I moved into the house in March, and ever since I had been adapting to the quirkiness of my new home - the eccentricities of the plumbing, for the most part. In London I had bought bottle after bottle of French water: Volvic, Evian, Perrier. The water from the old tap at the farm was beautiful, soft, cool and refreshing, and I couldn't drink enough. I was growing my own vegetables and keeping chickens and geese, quite the proud landowner. As the days grew shorter (though no cooler) I loved the way the leaves turned to a riot of colour, the rich earthy smells of autumn in the country. I never noticed the smell of autumn until I got away from my city life.
All the work in my vegetable plots saw me change from a pasty weak Londoner with rounded shoulders and bags under my eyes to a formidable, almost Amazonian bronzed goddess. I looked at myself in the mirror sometimes and didn't recognise myself. Strong tanned legs, toned arms and shoulders, my teeth white against my tanned skin, my mousy brown hair streaked with gold from the sun. I felt the power of the land flow through me and rejoiced in it. My friend Adele came to stay with me in late May and took dozens of pictures to show my other friends. As she rightly pointed out, nobody would believe it without seeing proof. Now that I wasn't weighed down by stress I stood taller, moved more confidently, claimed a place in the world.
Adele was meant to be staying for a fortnight but left after a week. She couldn't sleep, the noises of the land were so alien to her that she found them unsettling. It didn't help when we went to buy bread in the village and she caught an old man making the sign of the cross as we passed. No matter how many times I explained that such traditional communities weren't used to single women living alone - he probably thought we were lesbians, for goodness' sake - she was still uncomfortable with the lack of acceptance. There were some silly superstitions about women living alone, the sort of superstitions designed to drive weak and feeble females into the arms of big strong men, the sort of superstitions that infuriated me but seemed to have an impact on Adele. From then on she heard voices in the whisper of the trees and in the gentle clucking of my chickens, footsteps in the creaks of the floorboards as the house settled for the night. She made light of them to me, worrying I think that she would spook me. Nothing would spook me - I'd never felt so safe as that house made me feel.
Every day I would be outdoors, working on the land. I had big plans for the farm. I remembered Jeremy, my ex, laughing at me when we first visited France and I stated my intention of retiring out there. His dismissal of my plans was pretty typical of the whole relationship, but it still hurt. As I thought back over my relationships I realised that not one of my boyfriends would ever have supported me in such a lifestyle change. They wanted me trapped in my humdrum miserable office job, in my humdrum miserable life, not here, where the land loved me.
The thought drew me up short and I laughed at my imagination. The land can't love or hate, the land just is. I loved the farm, loved the house and the land and especially loved the pond at the end of a hot sweaty day, but the land cared nothing for that.
"Ah Chris, enough, you're going mental. Time for a quick swim then let's see what's for dinner". As normal, I strolled down to the pond and slowly walked in. The touch of the cool water against my skin was like the soft caress of a woman, intimate, soothing and exciting. As the water lapped between my legs I giggled at the sensation, and thought I heard a whispered girlish chuckle quite unlike my own. I quickly looked around in case someone was there to see me, but when I couldn't see anyone I dismissed it as my own imagination.
As I floated on the surface of the pond I could feel the dappled sun warming patches of my skin through the shade of the beautifully vibrant trees, the cool supporting water taking my stresses and washing them away. Once again I reflected how right I was to come here. I stayed in the water until I started to shiver, then made my way back to the house, carrying my grubby clothes rather than putting them back on. As the sun was setting I closed the chickens into their shed and opened the barn door so the geese could sleep in there if they chose.
I'd made my mind up to walk into the village that night for a glass of wine in the one bar that was there, but as I showered and dressed I felt strangely reluctant to leave the shelter of the house. I forced myself to put some makeup on, and marched down the drive and out into the village before my nerve failed me and I ran back home. I couldn't explain my reluctance, I've never been shy and certainly had nothing to fear from this little village. Even though it was Halloween the village was so quiet it was unlikely there would be a single trick-or-treater, much less the hordes of unruly demanding teenagers that would routinely show up at my flat in London demanding sweets with their hard faces and cold eyes.
As I stepped into the bar the smoke made my eyes water a little, and as I made my way to a table I nodded hello to Jean, the owner. He brought me over a glass of wine and we exchanged some pleasantries.
"Is all not well at the farm?" he asked in French.
"Everything is fine, I just felt like a walk this evening"
"You are not finding it... solitary? Scared to be alone on Halloween?"
I laughed loudly, drawing a number of glances our way as I explained that after sharing houses in London I loved having my own space, and Jean walked back to the bar. I couldn't put my finger on the expression that had crossed his face for a moment, but I thought it might have been disappointment. With a snort of annoyance I took a sip of my wine. Were all these slack-jawed yokels just waiting for me to fail and to scurry back to London with my tail between my legs? How DARE he assume that I wouldn't cope! As for Halloween… I chuckled again at the thought of my being superstitious enough to put any store in the old childish stories.
As I finished my wine I stood up to leave, and nodded goodnight to Jean. So much for company, I thought to myself, Jean was the only person who had spoken to me all night.
As I pushed the door open a shadow on the other side of it made me squeak in fright. A rich, deep American voice apologised, and I stepped out to see who had spoken.
It was a man I'd not seen before, tall and muscular, with dark hair and eyes so dark they appeared black. He was smartly dressed yet still appeared scruffy, mostly due to his unkempt hair and couple of days’ worth of stubble. His face was friendly as he smiled at me, and I smiled back before standing aside to let him pass. Instead of walking into the bar he carried on looking at me before asking "Say, I don't suppose you speak English do you? Parlee vous onglay?"
"I do speak English because I am English. How on earth do you survive here if your French is so bad?"
He laughed softly, and the hair at the nape of my neck prickled to hear it "Well I don't survive too well and that's a fact. Yours is about the only friendly face I've seen in this country. Dominic Simpson, at your service ma'am."
As he took my hand I couldn't help teasing some more. "Ma'am? Lord, now I do feel old. Really? Ma'am? OK then Dominic, I'm Christine Pascale, and honestly, please call me Chris if it stops you calling me ma'am!"
After we'd shaken hands (his hand warm and dry against the coolness of my hand), he considered me once more before asking where I was going.
"I live up the road, at the old Bové farm. What brings you to this backwater?"
"A driving vacation, but I couldn't bear to be in the car any longer. Is there a hotel round here?"
I couldn't help laughing. "Not unless you fancy another couple of hours in the car, you're a way off the beaten track. Look, I've a spare room, you're welcome to stay the night if you'd like. It's not exactly luxurious, but it'll save you driving further."
I was trying, even as I said the words, to think of a way to retract them. Yes, this was a safe corner of the world, where people didn't even have a lock on their doors, much less bother to use it if they did have one, but this man was a perfect stranger and I'd just opened my house to him. I looked into his eyes while I waited for his answer.
"Well ma'am, I mean Chris, that's a generous offer and I'm very grateful for it, but it would feel like I was imposing on you. Are you sure you don't mind?"
In answer I linked my arm through his and set off for home. As we walked we chatted easily about the area and his holiday, until we got to the driveway of my home. Dominic stopped and looked up the drive. From that angle it did look a little ominous, thick with trees and with no sign of the friendly welcoming house that lay at the end of the shady track. I stepped forward and felt Dominic start walking with a little reluctance.
The conversation was stilted as we walked the length of the drive, with Dominic simply asking me what had brought me to such a remote spot. I decided against sharing my disillusioned past with him and instead talked about the house and the land, the feeling of contentment and security it gave me. As I finished speaking we rounded the last bend of the drive and he saw the farm for the first time. He shivered, and as he realised I had noticed he gave me a rueful grin "someone must've walked over my grave. I can see why you love the place, it's idyllic".
I heard a rustle and before I could turn to see what it was a dark shadow launched itself at Dominic. For a moment all was chaos, flailing arms and awful squawking noises mixed with his shouts. As the moon came out from a cloud I saw it was one of my geese that had flown at Dominic and was attacking him savagely. I grabbed at it, to try and wrestle it away from him, but it was incredibly strong. As Dominic fell he landed with a sickening crunch, and as everything grew quiet I realised his fall had broken the goose's neck. I helped him to his feet and we made our way shakily to the house, leaving the poor dead body in a heap of feathers and disturbed earth from the struggle.
As we sat on the sofa in front of the fire I poured us both a strong drink and tried to clean Dominic's cuts. "I don't understand it, nothing like this has ever happened. Dominic I'm so sorry, I just don't know what is going on"
"Chris I'm not going to lie to you, it really shook me up, but if you think about it sensibly people use geese like guard dogs. They're very territorial creatures". A long pause developed before he added "you ever bring a man back here before?"
Unwilling to admit how solitary my life here had been I answered evasively, "not since the geese have been here. I suppose you're right, but it was just so strange. Oh and look, it's torn your shirt. I'm so sorry. If you take it off I'll do what I can with it, but I'm no seamstress"
As Dominic pulled his shirt off he took another mouthful of his drink and seemed to relax a little. "I reckon a shirt is a small price to pay for you putting me up for the night. Sorry about your goose, but I think it was him or me"
As the silence deepened I blushed, realising I'd been distracted staring at Dominic's broad chest, the sprinkling of dark hair across his chest, tapering across his stomach into a fine trail leading to- I forced my eyes upwards to find Dominic looking at me, his expression unmistakable. As he leaned forwards I felt the same reluctance I'd felt on leaving the house, and I put it down to nervousness. I closed my eyes and tried to relax my shoulders, but the touch of his lips on mine drove all rational thought from my head. He muttered into my mouth "if the goose was the trick then you could certainly be the treat… it is Halloween, after all…"
We sank into the sofa, our mouths never parting as our hands explored each other's bodies. Dominic stripped my clothes from me, his gentle hands stroking my skin, cupping my breasts, his thumbs playing across my nipples and making me gasp into his mouth. As he moved his hands lower I felt a rush of heat through my body, and could hear my blood pounding in my ears. Except that the pounding noise didn't sound right, it sounded like... running water, a gush of running water.
I broke the kiss and shakily stood up, barely noticing Dominic's puzzled expression as I followed the sound of water into the kitchen. The taps were both running at full power, the sink overflowing over my cabinets and all over the floor. I turned them off and opened the kitchen door, trying to sweep the worst of the water outside as I shouted an explanation. Dominic came through to help, but as his bare feet touched the wet tiles he slipped and fell hard. I rushed to him to make sure he wasn't injured "nah, the only injury is to my dignity, and I reckon I can do without that for a while! Weird though, does your home attack all men or is it just me?".
We both laughed as I helped him onto one of my wooden chairs while I finished mopping up, and when everything was as dry as it was going to get I closed the door, took Dominic's hand and led him up the narrow stairs to my bedroom. I had seen him watching me as I cleaned up, still naked from our earlier fun, and I'd made sure to bend over more than was absolutely necessary. It had had a predictable effect on him, and as I lay on the bed he kicked off his trousers and stood naked in the moonlight. I was glad I hadn't closed the shutters, as his pale skin looked unearthly in the bright moonlight, his eyes so dark against the paleness of his face it was impossible to tell pupil from iris.
He lay next to me on the bed and laughed shakily "It's been some night, huh?".
I turned to face him and rolled my hips forward so I was straddling one of his legs. I kissed him gently as I brushed the palm of my hand over his hard cock, loving the way his breath caught at the sensation. I ran my nails over his sac, lightly scratching, causing him to moan. I brushed my breasts across his chest, feeling the hair scratch against my nipples. His hands moved down my back and one dipped between my legs, pushing through my damp curls to stroke my sensitive clit.
As his fingers made contact my body jerked and I felt my core grow damp as a tension started to build in my stomach. I was too impatient to allow foreplay to carry on for long, and I moved so I was lying on Dominic, his hot shaft pressing into my stomach, leaving a trail of precum on my skin as we kissed deeply. I moved my hand down and positioned the blunt head of his cock at my entrance, then rolled my hips and sank all the way to the base of him. I felt like a Diana, taking what I wanted from this man while the moonlight played across our bodies. I was powerful, invincible, and as I raised my hips I laughed delightedly at the expression of bliss on Dominic's face.
His hands moved to my hips and he gripped tightly, trying to speed up my movements. I took his hands and moved them to my breasts, and continued to move at my own pace, grinding my clit against his pubic hair as I rode him. I moved my hands from his shoulders to his chest, and lightly scratched my fingernails over his nipples. He was jerking his hips up at me in his increasing excitement, but I wasn't ready for the session to end so quickly. I moved away from his body, my pussy feeling so empty it ached. He hissed as the cool air brushed his wet shaft.
As we lay panting, our skin damp with sweat, gleaming in the moonlight, I had an idea.
"Hey Dominic, you ever been skinny dipping?"
"Sure, loved it"
"Well I have a nice secluded pond, a perfect location for it. I'm out there most afternoons but haven't bothered at night yet"
He gave a long low moan, then reached for my body "not yet baby, we have some unfinished business first..."
I had my back to him, and wriggled against him so the heavy weight of his cock slid between the cheeks of my bum. As he moaned he reached down again and stroked my clit as he rubbed himself against me, humping at my backside as we spooned.
"Put it in me again, I need to feel you moving inside me"
I felt his thighs tense as he guided his cock back to my waiting pussy, then I gave a moan of satisfaction as I felt him push into me, filling me once more. He rolled me onto my stomach and I felt his weight pressing me into the bed as he lay on top of me. He gripped my hands, twining his fingers with mine as he moved inside me, and I turned my head to find his mouth with my own.
As we kissed deeply his movements became more frantic. He let go of one of my hands to push under my body for access to my clit, and as his deft fingers started to stroke and flick it I groaned in pleasure, my body bucking under him. My body spasmed, and as he felt my walls contract around him his orgasm overtook him. He threw his head back and moaned loudly as he thrust as deeply as he could, four, five, six deep hard thrusts until I felt his seed flood into me.
As we calmed down the stress of the evening caught up with me and I fell asleep in his arms almost immediately. I felt as though all of my strength had deserted me and I slept a deep, dreamless sleep. Within an hour Dominic woke me up with an urgent whisper "Chris! Chris! CHRIS!"
I sleepily opened my eyes to see his panicked expression, and I tried to make myself more alert. "whasamatter?"
"Who else is in this house?"
I rubbed at my eyes and tried to make sense of it. "What? Is this some sort of Halloween joke? We're a bit old for ghost stories baby..."
"I can hear someone, who else is here?"
"Oh Dominic, there's nobody here, it's probably the trees. Try to sleep, mkay?"
As I snuggled back into my cosy bed I felt Dominic get up. As I heard him walk downstairs I drifted back to sleep. By the time I woke up his side of the bed was stone cold, and I couldn't hear him moving. I didn't want to leave the comforting warmth of my bed but dragged myself to my feet and padded downstairs. There was no sign of Dominic other than the discarded torn shirt. As I stepped into the kitchen I saw the open door into the garden and a shiver of foreboding ran through me. I stepped outside but all seemed calm.
I strolled down to the pond just as I had on so many afternoons. The moonlight changed everything, made everything seem slightly sinister, and suddenly I found myself wishing I lived just a little bit closer to the village or that it was any other night than October 31st. I wanted to giggle at the thought that if this had been a movie the ominous music would have started by now. As I stepped into the trees I saw a glimmer of light, and I hurried through to the pond to see what it was.
As I stepped out at the edge of the pond a figure rose from the water. It wasn't Dominic, it was a woman, but a woman unlike any I've seen. She was stunningly attractive, her hair a pale silvery sheet reaching past her shoulders. Her skin was so pale it appeared to glow, and her eyes were such a startling blue I could see the colour even at such a distance, in the dark.
She was naked, slender and fine-featured. As she stepped out of the water I realised her skin didn't even appear damp, but I couldn't take my eyes off her beautiful face as she walked towards me. She stood in front of me and reached her hands to my face, her eyes looking deep into mine. As her skin touched me I shuddered at the coldness of her touch, yet felt oddly soothed by it. I knew this creature, and she knew me, and there at the side of the pond we recognised each other.
She let her hands flow over my body, and as her eyes dropped to my breasts I recovered sufficiently to ask "Where is he? What has happened to him?"
"He should never have touched you, you are mine. I've marked you as my own, he shouldn't have come here, not a man, not tonight of all nights."
"I don't know what you're talking about, please, what have you done-"
Before I had a chance to finish the creature laughed, an unearthly sound that terrified me. She took my hand and led me into the pond, and as she touched me my worries drifted away as they always had at the first touch of the water.
"You have drunk of me, swum in my pond, unburdened yourself to me. Did you think there was no price to pay? Foolish child, the spirit of the water always demands payment from the unwary. You are mine, for no other to have."
As she spoke her hands flowed over me once again, soothing and caressing, leading me deeper into the water until I was floating as I had so many times before. As the creature lay on the water beside me she turned and kissed me, her lips cool against mine. As we sank into the water I continued to kiss her, her hands reaching between my legs, her long fingers pressing into my soft skin, the combination of fingers and water bringing me such pleasure that even in my trance-like fuzzy state I could feel familiar stirrings.
I tried to run my hands over her body but struggled to tell her body from the water of the pond. Was I feeling her fingers stroking at my thighs or was it the water? Were the two different? I gave myself up to the pleasure she offered, and as her fingers entered my body I climaxed once more.
As I drowned I never struggled, I accepted the blissful comfort of the water as it took all my troubles from me. I would always feel at peace now; it was a huge gift to be given and I received it gratefully and willingly paid the price. I watched the moon fade as my vision grew cloudy, and the last thing I saw before I died was Dominic’s body under the water, a look of absolute terror on his face in contrast to my own blissful expression. I had got it wrong that afternoon, the land didn’t love me but the water loved me just as I loved it.
The farm fell to ruins again as time passed by, and I watch as man after man comes to look round it over the years. Men are no good to me; men merely deplete a woman's strength, and I know what I need to do. One day a woman will arrive, a woman seeking escape. I will soothe her and ease her troubles, and one Halloween night she will come to me strong and alive, ready to receive the same gift I received. There is nothing quite so comforting as cool water on a troubled body...