Nathalie’s Tailor

tailorIt starts like a low, slow rip of paper, just audible over the hiss of shower water on the slate tiles. A slow exhalation of sharp-edged things that tears her throat on the way up, making a larger hole for the louder sound that follows. Until she’s crouched in the corner of the glass stall, ragged curtains of wet dark hair covering her face, keening knives into the steam.

It’s not grief or fear or even pain in the way most people understand it.

No one ever says it, but I know they think it. They look at Nathalie and wonder why she’s with a man like me. She’s beautiful and clever. She dresses well and has a laugh like golden syrup. She’s got a good job. They see her, and then me, and can’t fathom it.

But they don’t see her like I do. They don’t see her like this.

Sometimes – rarely – it passes on its own. But not this time. I can tell, because the misshapen cries are now punctuated by the rhythmic thud of her head as she slams it back against the thick wet glass. Thud. Keen. Thud. Keen. As if she needs to soften up her skull enough to turn herself liquid, and slip out of whatever it is that’s holding her insides in.

When I come for her, towel in hand, she screeches like a wild thing caught in a trap. Don’t be fooled by her size. When she’s like this she’s strong. I have the scars down my arms, across my chest and back as proof. The towel isn’t there to wrap her warm or comfort her. It’s to pin her arms flat to her chest, so she doesn’t claw her own breasts to a bloody mess.

They’re very beautiful breasts, shaped like lazy tears just ready to drop. White as parchment, with a faint lace of blue veins when you see them in a certain light. And scarred. A tracery of pale pink ley lines of despair. Done in a moment of madness. Done in the presence, I suspect, of better men, richer men, more handsome men who watched her change and panicked. Grasped their expensive clothes and fled.

Nathalie is trapped in her skin in the world.

In lucid moments – of which there are many – she says that the world grows too thick. That she gets stuck in its suck. That it will pull her back into its smothering, bloody womb and digest her in stages. The world is a starving mother who will devour her children rather than give birth to them. It reeks of perfume staled with time, of dead birds and the awful things that are caught between its teeth. If Nathalie could just slip her skin, she’d be free of its dreadful gravity.

With all the handsome, rich, clever men gone, I’m the only one left to make the space, to ease the seams of her skin. Once I’ve carried her to the bed and tied her arms and legs with the cords she owned before I met her, she’s calmer. She still weeps, still arches her back and pushes rich sobs out her lungs, still whimpers beneath the tangle of wet hair.

“Not long now,” I tell her.

I take out the lovely, tooled scalpel I bought at an antique shop off the Bayswater road. Its red Morocco leather case is scuffed and torn in places. Made before my grandfather was born. Inside, nestled in cream velvet pressed flat with time, the knife glints, as if new. Lovingly sharpened on the small oval whetstone the texture of silk that sits above it.

It’s like drawing on her skin. I do it where it won’t show. On her thigh, or her upper arm, on her hip, on the convex sides of her belly. I cut and she watches the blood well up through the carefully parted skin.

“Breathe, love,” I say.

And she does. As if she’s snatching it away from someone who has more of it than they deserve. Greedy and quick. The crying quiets into stuttered whimpers.

I cut the little eases into her knowledgeable skin. Each rivulet of blood takes its own eccentric path over the nearest curve, sometimes interrupted in its course by a previous seam of scar. But they’re neat little scars, the ones I’ve made.

I’m a tailor, not a butcher. I take pleasure in my work.

I make my careful cuts, and when I’m done, I cover her with my body, slide my cock into her moist, fluttering cunt, and fuck her free of the world’s pernicious grasp.


  18 comments for “Nathalie’s Tailor

  1. March 19, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Wow, just wow. I have tears in my eyes having read this. This piece grasps me in so many different ways. It is heavy in my chest, tight in my throat and liquid in my eyes. Brilliantly enthralling. Just Wow.

    • March 19, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      Thank you so much for reading, Mina. I’m glad it resonated for you.

  2. March 19, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Beautifully written but so dark. A pleasure to read.

  3. March 19, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    A haunting, mysterious tale, filled with a delicious, desperate madness. One worth reading several times. Thanks, RG.

  4. Raz
    March 19, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    I very much like this. These characters are both instantly complex, but he more than she, to my eye. Perhaps that’s bias, but I’m more interested in what makes him tick, how his desires/needs are matched against hers, and how such a pairing (so fortunate for them both) came about.

  5. March 19, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    I can understand, because you have shown the inside.

    Via text. Beautiful text I might add.


    this was the invitation into another world RG from yesterday’s piece on writing

  6. March 20, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    beautiful and terrible, but very, very moving, thank you.

  7. March 20, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    I always want to comment on the things I read on here, but I never do because I feel like I must say something witty and worth noting, but I read this and had to comment. This story was… Great? Deep? Something that got a strong emotional reaction from me. I admire your writing a great deal (I was telling a few fellow bloggers that you give me literary wood. Embarrassing to say, but very true). This is that different kind of story that I enjoy. Evocative, arousing, but something else too. So… All that to say that I really liked this.

    • March 20, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      All I can say in response is that I’m so glad you said it. You know, I don’t expect witty or noteworthy comments on stories. Just honest gut reactions are perfectly fine. After all, isn’t that what we’re hoping to elicit in readers?

  8. Christina
    March 23, 2013 at 2:37 am

    Like Cara, I am an avid reader of your blog, but shy also..
    But this piece kind of put me over my threshold for that.
    I feel so in tune with this story it makes my head spin. It scares me.

  9. Sophia Blow
    March 25, 2013 at 12:06 am

    That is just a beautiful and formed story. It is rare that I come across a piece of writing that soothes me, has no sharp edges to trip up my Aspergeric mind, my eye smooth’s over the words and does not blunt it’s progress against a misplaced word or phrase. If I produced this I would be content and as a writer, perfectionist and, without pity, a lesser talent. We can’t all be Chekhov but some of us are nearer greatness than others.

    It reminds me of the scientific phrase for a perfect theoretical idea or concept, which they describe as ‘beautiful’.

  10. TFP
    March 25, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    I’m left with a little frustration when I get to the end. I want to know more…

  11. TT
    April 25, 2013 at 5:18 pm


  12. Anastaria
    July 4, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    i know people and I wonder if this is them. This strange girl so heavily medicated because life has been so cruel, I wonder if she explored herself, mentally, and then sexually, it could be so therapeutic for her. I want to show her these stories, and see if I can get her to read. At the same time I don’t want to put worse ideas in the head of the mentally unstable. I wish I knew what to do. She is an adult after all, and I wouldn’t show her anything specific, but more of only the blog. Still, I hardly know her, just a friend of her boyfriend’s. I don’t particularly want to advertise what I have been spending all of my time doing, so I can’t tell him to show it to her.

  13. Elle
    November 28, 2014 at 12:47 am

    This story speaks to me of that curious insanity – as most people would classify it – that treads on artistic genius. Whether or not the woman in the story produces art, she has the soul of an artist. Who else could be so perceiving and expressive.

    He embodies what it means to be human, at least to me. Compassionate and understanding, and the perfect curator for her art.

    • November 29, 2014 at 9:25 am

      Wow! What a gratifying reading of my writing. Thank you.

  14. Caitlinn
    October 24, 2015 at 7:34 am

    I love this. I can so relate to Nathalie. I just wish you wrote him as being a little less put upon. He sounds like he is doing voluntary work rather than someone who cares for her.

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