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Under So Many Lids

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After the scream hit, Cooper was alone in the blackout at the end of the road. Laura had cried out into the night, and the night could not hold her: this much he had seen before.

Night time is my time, she had told him, the last time she kissed him, and the low twist of her voice between the curtains had made him think of nights that came with a lurid moon overhead, those rusty moons that ran white at the brink like the tip of a woman’s fingernail. You will wake me up, she had said, and smiled.

Inside the car, there was a smell like smoked velvet, an unattended kerosene lamp, the kind of fire that could break out at any house in town. Cooper reached for his wallet and thumbed slowly through the folds of leather until he turned up a slip of paper that was still faintly warm with a perfume of pink rose and clove bud, the bloom and the burn of Audrey Horne in front of an early fire at the Great Northern. Jack with One Eye.

He had known a morning where he left the long night of the Lodge with Laura’s breath in his mouth and mist rolling down the mountains. Later, he had held fast to his memory of Audrey at the border, how she had turned her face up to his in a bedroom where the walls were dark with thorns. Far ahead of him, the road stretched black and wide, the emptiness at the end of electricity. He started the car, took the first right on the highway out towards the woods. If this was Laura’s night, then he would find her there.

 

 

Night in the woods, and he put his hands to the trunk of a single golden sycamore, the first light he had seen since the Palmer house. He let himself fall: out of the black and into the gray, to a castle on a rock, dim under a purple sky.

“You are far away,” a giant said to him there, and he flickered out, slowly.

 

 

Cooper was far away, and he stood at the foot of a staircase, in a tower made of steel. He didn’t try to estimate the height of the tower or the number of the stairs before he started to climb. At the top of the stairs, he opened a door onto a woman’s bedroom, fringed and delicate, and flooded with a soft gray light—that sense of gray that did not start behind his retina. A little way ahead of him, there was a bed made up in pale satin, curtained as high as a tree.

In the middle of the bed, there was Laura Palmer.

Her eyes were closed, but the set of them was easier than he’d seen them before, too slack and tender for death. She wore a satin negligee in a shade of white that Cooper could only remember from the filmography of Jean Harlow or the phenomenon of the tuberose, and her hair was combed wide over the pillow. Out towards the window, her black velvet dress was folded over a chair in front of a vanity table, and deep in the velvet, there was a sheen like motor oil through moss, the darkest thing in the room.

And by the light of the window, Audrey Horne stood in the castle of a giant and listened to the long rolls of the ocean, the surf that broke like nightshade on the rocks outside. She had her eyes closed, and her arms were folded around herself, her hands stroking restlessly into the occasional fine tremors of her own muscles. Cooper ached at each tremor he saw, the way a rock must ache left out at sea. “Audrey,” he said, at last.

Her eyes opened, pale and wide. “Shit,” she said, tight-wire over the surf. “Special Agent?”

“I’m here,” he said. Audrey closed a hand over her throat. Her nails were lacquered over with a red he felt but could not see. In another time, in this time, she could have been called a dame by any man who could stand to call her by anything less than her own name. “Audrey,” he said, “have you been here long?”

“Yeah,” she said. “For—for a while. I was at the Roadhouse, and then I was here. I heard you know how that goes.”

“That’s right.” Cooper smiled, bittersweet. “I wish I could have been with you sooner.”

Her lips shook a little. “Yeah? Well, so did I.” She looked down to the bed, to Laura, and slowly she loosened her grip on her throat. “It’s kind of funny, you know? All those nights when I was up at One-Eyed Jack’s, I used to think maybe there was some way Laura was there in the bed with me, like you’d come and find me, but really, you’d find both of us. And now here we are. I mean, what are the fucking chances of that?”

She was stroking at the curtain now, catching her nails on the satin. Cooper stepped in and took hold of her hand. “I’ve been thinking,” he said, “about the nature of awakening. About how often we all have been together, under those circumstances, and how much I would like to be awake with you both now.”

Audrey lowered her head to his chest, and he held her close, all of her tense from her neck to her shoulders. “Well, hell, I feel like I’ve been awake for a long time now,” she said. “One time I took a knife and a mascara wand to that dress over there to see if there was something in all that black that could make me sleep, but there wasn’t anything at all.”

When she looked up at him, there was a thread of velvet stuck to her cheek, dark in the track of a tear. Cooper brushed it away with his thumb, slow and wet. He could see more threads in her lashes.

“Audrey,” he said thickly, and she laughed.

“Isn’t that the most awful thing you ever heard? I wanted you here the whole time, with me, with her. I always did, wherever I was.”

Under the shadow of the curtain, he leaned down to kiss her. Past the tremor of her lips, she had a taste that could have been lilac wine, or smoke, or bruised juniper. Like the burned-out nights she’d waited for this, or like the sediment of her dreams. She swayed in his arms, and he held her to him with a hand spread wide over the small of her back. “I wanted that too,” he said, low over her mouth.

It was a relief, at last, to let this be about love.

“I asked Donna about you once,” Audrey said. “When—when you were both gone, you and Laura, and no one knew what happened to you. She said you met Laura in a dream somewhere.” He felt the clench of her fingers between his, a searching kind of touch that made him hold still for her while she found him over and over again. “What happened?”

“She kissed me,” he said.

His cheek was damp from her breath, and the wet flickers of her eyelids. “Don’t you think it’s time you kissed her back?” she said.

 

 

Cooper drew back the curtain. Down in the bed, Laura was warm over satin, lips the same gray as a rose on panchromatic film. Even in this light, he could remember what it was to be kissed by her, how she came to him each time like she was the rush of gold inside a mountain. When he knelt over and kissed her, he was dry-mouthed with the hope that he could pay back any of her revelations to her.

She opened her eyes to him.

“So, you got here after all,” she said, a husky calm, a soft voice in the night. “Guess I did too.”

“Laura.” He reached for her hands where they were folded under her breastbone. “Laura, is this where you wanted to be?”

Her eyes almost closed, when she looked down at their hands. “I haven’t worn white like this since my homecoming,” she said slowly. “Back when I didn’t even want a home at all, so long as it mattered what Laura was in there. But I liked it in that dream with you. I liked how much of me you could see when you weren’t anywhere easy. You and Audrey.”

She pitched up to kiss him, and he felt the slight part of her lips, the rise of her chest under his. Not like she was a secret under stone: more like a hundred white petals, opening out.

 

 

On the other side of the curtain, Audrey took off one heel, then the other. She slid onto the bed. When Laura kissed her, Cooper saw her come away smoky around the eyes, dreamy trails where she had been brittle at the lashes. He was still braced over the bed, dark in his suit, and aware, with each kiss, of the weight of his cock. Audrey took his jacket from his shoulders, sobbed into his collar when he bent his head to a wide, flushed aureole. He kissed Laura there, too, and her nipples were paler, almost, than the skin between her breasts—still that deep rose-gold tan from where she had lived, for a time, in the sun. Laura took him on his back, so wet she shone each time she raised herself up so he could see the fine, hot split of her. Over his mouth, Audrey had the taste of a narcotic, something that could make his eyes dim, heady and slick up to the hood of her clitoris.

The bed stretched on around them.

 

 

Over the satin, the surf beat on. Cooper could feel Audrey trace it out over his chest. “I would like to see you both,” he said, “by the light of the ocean.” A violet moon, perhaps.

Against his neck, Laura smiled.