She didn’t seriously consider murder, a more problematic option than a simple separation, if ending 15 years together could be simple. Perhaps inclement weather had unsettled her nerves. The windstorm last night had ripped the tin roof off their shed, exposing the insides to the rain. Panels of metal lay bent and twisted on the sodden lawn, one floating in their neighbour’s pool, which they most definitely would have to retrieve. The pool water had turned green. Well past Labour Day, and her neighbours were taking their sweet time closing it down for the winter. Adrian had not emerged from the house yet. She wondered if he’d delay their departure for the college or collect the tin sheets after they returned home.


Tariq, a youth from Lebanon whose family had fled the wars, stopped by her office almost every morning for a quick kiss before classes began. Well, not quite a quick kiss because Tariq’s tongue probed as far as it could reach. She almost choked on its sensitive tip at the back of her throat. Yesterday morning, breaking free, she held Tariq’s face in her hands.

“Stop it, my darling. We can’t, we shouldn’t do this.”

“Yes, we should do it all the time. In class, I only think of fucking my favourite teacher.”

“It’s a good thing you’re not taking my class this semester. Now leave, I have to get my notes together.”

She hadn’t feared discovery because she arrived in her office before other colleagues appeared. Tariq always shut the door, and she never let him stay longer than an intimate kiss, even though he liked to wrap one of her legs around his waist so she could feel his excitement.

It began the summer before last when she had found herself only one of three adults in the community pool. An elderly couple side-stroked slowly up and down two lanes, pulling themselves heavily through the water. She swam a fast crawl for 50 laps before stretching out on her back, floating, letting the sun dry her face. Keeping her eyes closed, she paddled with her hands to direct her body and sensed it move towards the lifeguard’s stand shaded by a giant maple tree growing behind the fence. Opening her eyes, she saw Tariq staring down and smiling.

“You are a great swimmer, Madame Gautier.”

“Tariq! I hadn’t noticed. You’re a life guard here?”

“I have been fortunate. I was just hired, ma’am. Yesterday was my first day. You visit this pool often?”

“Four times a week, if I can manage it, during the adult hour when the pool is more or less free. Not many adults take advantage of it.”

“I think many of them have day jobs in the summer. They are not teachers like you.”

He said it jokingly so she didn’t take offense. Swinging off the seat and clambering down the side ladder, slender body, strong legs, elongated muscles, the elegant physique of a swimmer, the natural brown hues of skin deepened by a summer’s tan, the boy scintillated in the sun like a statue of newly washed bronze. How unlike Justin. He wore a black Speedo bathing suit, his stomach flat. The elderly couple were helping each other out of the pool. Tariq sat down, keeping his somewhat hairy legs separated. The famous manspread, which always attracted her attention. She found herself in a peculiar situation, her eyes level with his crotch, but she wasn’t certain if he had deliberately chosen to be provocative. Checking to see that the elderly couple had negotiated the slippery pool steps successfully, he gripped the edge of the pool and hunched forward, his dark eyes darker in the shade of the tree. She needed to make a decision: continue treading water and flirt, resume laps, get out of the pool and say goodbye, or chat with her student and sit next to his almost naked body. He had done quite well in her biology class in the spring semester.

Only once before had she ever indulged her fantasies for boys, especially of the slender and taut frames. That affair had lasted one winter. The student had been eager and grateful, then graduated and disappeared from her life. After he left the college, she didn’t encourage continuation. Since then, professional ethics, although weak, hadn’t prevented further dalliance as much as time-eating duties, responsibilities and, of course, Justin. It was officially frowned upon, affairs between teachers and students, and could lead to complications, so one had to be careful. Treading water, she regretted lost opportunities and became fiercely aware of passing time and yearning. Tariq kept staring at her and her head was perfectly positioned between his legs. Perhaps he’d flinch if she ran her fingers along the outline of his hardening cock. But she dove to the bottom and swam underwater to the other side of the pool.


Justin came out of the house and cursed when he saw the shed.

“I had better get the damn thing out of the pool. Put my briefcase in the car.”

He disappeared around the house. Moments later, she saw him reaching for the panel with the life-saving pole and dragging it towards land. The scummy water soaked his clothes when he lifted the sheet. He would have to change clothes. Already they were late and she’d probably miss Tariq this morning. He always wanted to text message or phone her cell, but she absolutely forbade it and, despite his lustiness and penchant for dirty sex talk (I need to fuck you, my cock gets big thinking of you, I want your lips on my cock), he respected her wishes. Since he had grown up in a household of many rules, regulations and correct speech, she understood Tariq’s desire to break free and express himself.

She had to teach him discretion, no easy matter for a horny boy. In compensation, she encouraged him to say whatever he wanted when they were alone together (you’re my fuck bitch, aren’t you, you need to be my fuck bitch), and even adopt a proprietorial attitude towards her in the apartment of his trustworthy Egyptian friend, who lived only a ten-minute walk from the college and obligingly vanished at Tariq’s request. She confessed to getting heated to his words, quite apart from craving his beautiful body. They had agreed to go out for lunch today. He insisted on skipping his two afternoon classes, meeting her by her car, then driving to cozy bistro in east end Montreal, not frequented by any one they knew. So involved with research and labs for the entire day in a part of the campus several buildings away from her classes, Justin wouldn’t be looking for his car until six or so, and he had promised to call her office just before he left his. After lunch, Tariq wanted to take her, in every sense of the word, to Mount Royal, the mountain rising above the city, for he knew the paths intimately.

“Against a tree,” he had said in a serious tone, as if he were ordering an execution. She thought of her silk blouse, and abrasions on her back. In her satchel full of lab reports, she had stuffed a sweatshirt to put on during sex against that tree. Justin was hidden behind the panel as he carried it to the shed.

“The rest will have to wait. Shit, I don’t have time to change, my pants are sopping, but they’ll dry soon enough. Let’s go.”

Lately, he had acquired a peremptory tone in his voice, no less commanding than Tariq’s. If she spoke favourably about another student in class, Tariq sulked in her office, and to humour him she agreed to his command that she not look at other boys (you belong to me, you will obey Tariq because he is your master). His bossiness charmed her still. What she forgave in the boy, however, she resented in the man. Oh, yes, fantasies of murder, which she fully understood, originated in the decay of love and desire and frustration. Still, as long as she remained with Justin, Tariq could only insist upon so much and no more.


For the rest of August, she tried to swim laps every weekday during the Adult Swim hour and Tariq successfully got lifeguarding duty at the same time. Another guard fiddled about the cabin with schedules for games and competitions. She knew perfectly well that Tariq was the kind of lad who fancied older women, older in her case being 39 years, which fit in her newly purchased bikini with only a modest roll of flesh around her waist. Tariq focused on her breasts and legs, the latter still firm and shapely, all of which the bikini displayed to excellent advantage.

One day, the weather being unseasonably cool and overcast, he wore a blue jacket on the stand while she swam 40 laps. The other guard busy with paperwork in the cabin, Tariq extended a hand on the steps and helped her out. He did not budge when she faced him dripping wet.

“I’m wet.”

“I believe you are.”

She could have laughed over the obvious innuendo, but was charmed by the breathy earnestness and utter lack of irony in his voice, charmed too by his youthful vigour, charmed by his accent, charmed by the lust burning in his black eyes. She could see that he wanted to kiss her, but had the sense to realize how risky the move would be at the moment. To his instant amazement and reaction, she deftly placed a hand over his hardening cock under the Speedo. He did not step back, and whispered, “I want to fuck you now. Say you need Tariq to fuck you.”

“I need to change.”

Then, winding the towel around her waist, she scurried into the Ladies change room.

“Walk,” he had laughingly shouted after her, “no running on deck.”


The swiftness by which the affair began did not astonish as much as fantasies of killing Justin. He had grown wearying, chronically bothered with one minor ailment or another, and sex had become both rare and indifferent. When Justin touched her, she hungered for Tariq. Now it was the ulcer again; last year bronchial pneumonia, which had rendered him homebound and tedious for weeks. His love of tennis had led to tendonitis. Over his breakfast, he also mentioned a sudden dizzy spell in the shower and heaviness about the chest. Spreading marmalade over her toast, she envisaged herself becoming a full-time nurse for a man old before his time, which made her feel even older.

She had wanted children, he did not, but for the past few months he had been loudly pondering paternity. He had changed his mind. “It would be good thing for us to have children, at least one child. Now is the time before it’s too late.” She, however, had also changed hers. What she hadn’t experienced, she longer desired. Sitting in the car next to Justin, who drove without talking and didn’t even like to have the radio on because it distracted his attention from the traffic, she imagined his sudden death.  Leaving remained an option, but she lacked the energy to make a decision and go through the motions. She didn’t want to enter into discussions over a division of the spoils, investments, goods and chattels.

The other morning Tariq had kissed, and then whispered that she belonged to him and no one else, fate had so decreed, conveniently forgetting Justin of whom he never wished to hear. She had found the boy’s possessiveness, once sexy, now presumptuous and tedious, but put it down to tumescent euphoria. If she were entirely free, perhaps Tariq would insist upon more than she wished to give. True, in the proverbial throes of passion, his curving cock deep inside her body, her legs wrapped tightly around his back as she begged him to fuck her hard, the way he liked to hear her speak, she sometimes cried out that she’d die without him. Really, ending a common-law relationship lacked the compelling interest of homicide, at least imagining how to accomplish it on a strictly theoretical basis. Only a fanciful thought, because in the end she’d have to come to terms with her very great fear of growing old and undesirable alone. Moreover, aware of subterranean currents in Tariq, an undertow that could drag her down and compromise her freedom, perhaps Justin could serve as a lifeline, should the need arise. Ah, the boy did so confirm her desirability, but for how long? She’d get older at a quickening pace while he’d remain young for years. “Run away with me,” he had several times whispered during and after sex. Where, she thought of asking, to what purpose?

Caressing his beautiful body with hands and lips, savouring the salty taste of his thighs and murmuring her passion to be overwhelmed ended talk of the future, and he rolled over to delight her in the present with his vigorous cock. She had taught him to take his time, how to please her body to make it yearn for his touch. He had at first been too eager, too rushed, making love as if racing and reaching the finish line in an explosion of expletives. Now, he paced himself according to her response, as she used her mouth and hands to arouse him to exquisite but controlled frenzy, while she luxuriated in the smoothness of his dark torso, hard like steel sheathed in silk.

Tariq ordered their meal in his precise French, but they ate in silence. His cologne or aftershave was a bit too strong, although she liked the fragrance, a hint of lemon. He seemed glum, some family trouble perhaps on his mind, visibly upset when she refused to let him pay the bill, arguing with her on the way to the mountain that she should not have paid for the meal.

“I am not your little boy that you should pay for me.”

Well, he was a student after all. She didn’t think he had excess cash to splurge on expensive luncheons, although his family had money. He was prone to moodiness, she had noted, tinged with anger, which she always attributed to late adolescent impatience, brain wave turmoil, and testosterone jitters. Perhaps he also evinced some kind of middle-eastern temperament, a history of male violence to which she was not privy.

She found a parking spot near a well-trod mountain path up which he led her. They veered off that and entered the forest where he knew one clearing or another, obviously having come here often. She and Justin at one time used to picnic near the famous illuminated cross. Tariq grabbed her hand and pulled as if she were reluctant to follow. Regretting her choice of heels, hiking upwards and over rough terrain presented difficulties. At last, there it was, suddenly before her, “our special tree,” he called it, against which he wanted to fuck her well out of the purview of the police on horses who patrolled the mountain. She guessed it was a red oak, indigenous to the area. In the distance she heard faint sounds of the city below, and the sky was somewhat obscured by the interlocking branches, the leaves already turning.

“I want my cock inside of you now, bitch.”

Breathing heavily, he pressed her against the trunk before she had a chance to change into her sweatshirt. His hand quickly found its way up her skirt, which she had been careful to select this morning because he had told her to wear a dress. He roughly inserted his fingers. She cried out.

“Shut up, you want me to fuck you, don’t you, say it, say you want me to fuck you, say it, you love Tariq, you will never leave your Tariq, you want Tariq to fuck you all the time. You belong to Tariq.”

“I love you, I love you, Tariq, I want you to fuck me all the time.”

No more than the evanescent truth of the moment, and no more truthful than all such words spoken in sex, and when he lowered his pants, raised her leg, held it under a knee and around his waist, adjusted position and pushed into her cunt, lifting her off the ground, her shoulders and back rubbing against the bark, she couldn’t stifle the groan. He wanted to please only himself this time. He kissed her mouth, eyes, sucked on her tongue, pushing as deeply into her body as he could manage, whispering “my cunt my cunt, all mine”. She burned, hurt, lusted, and panicked. Tariq now possessed a force she hadn’t previously encountered, and he’d take her as he desired. Clasping his neck, she didn’t resist. He drove thoughts of Justin from her mind. He drove away all reason and objections like meek cattle to the slaughterhouse until she became a vacant field.

Afterwards, Tariq insisted on driving her car back to the college, the first time he had done so. He spoke about his studies, graduating, engineering at McGill University, finding his own place to which he would give her the key, spreading his fingers over her thigh, she belonged to him and no other. He had been wanting to tell her this at lunch, but wanted first to fuck her against his special tree, he said. They cannot marry yet, for his family would disapprove, of course, but she’d always be his woman, for she loved Tariq, he would give her his precious seed and she’d have his babies, and she’d love him always, forever and day.

She realized that Tariq believed what he said, believed that she had neither reason nor desire to disagree, and couldn’t even if she wanted to. Pulling into a secluded spot a fair walk from her academic building, he leaned over and kissed her, held her face between his hands, his own face glowing even as she felt chilled.

“You love me, you will see me tomorrow morning in your office, do not be late again for I will become angry. I love you so much I will kill you and then myself if you do not love me back. You belong to me now. The tree has proven it.” His voice was gentle, good-humoured, announcing inexorable facts like a law of physics.

He walked way, looked back and waved. Thinking it unwise to be seen together at the moment, she waited until he disappeared. Emerging from a daze, she began thinking, ordering her choices to see them clearly. With Tariq gone, she wasn’t distracted the way Justin was by the car radio. By the time she reached her office, meeting no colleagues, and sat down, her back sore, her legs sore, her body smelling faintly of sex and Tariq’s cologne, it was past three. She tried marking papers, her mind occasionally lapsing into reverie, when the phone rang.



It was the dean, which surprised her. Justin had been rushed to hospital earlier around noon. They had been trying to reach her for the past couple of hours. She remembered having turned off her cell phone in the car. Some sort of heart seizure, a mild attack, the dean was certain, not to worry, and if she needed anything, maybe cancel a class or two tomorrow, let him know and he’d arrange matters. Thanking the Dean for his consideration, she didn’t know how she felt, but arranging matters now seemed, like the notion of fate, a futile attempt to control the irrational and harness arbitrariness.

It was anyone’s guess how long Justin would stay in the hospital, or how ill he was. What care at home would be required? Who would gather the sheets of roofing and recover the shed? She could ask Tariq, but wondered if that would give him the wrong signal. The tree had made him bolder than she had previously suspected him of being. Hiring a handyman would solve the immediate problem of debris in her yard, if she didn’t hoist up the roofing herself. Nurse to Justin, what choice had she? Tariq must be made to understand that she couldn’t desert a sick man in his many hours of need. Eventually, she knew, that Tariq would stop thinking with his cock and submit to the power of his family. He would move on and she would not.

A small leaf from the red oak tree stuck to the left upper arm of her blouse, the fabric seriously abraded by the tree bark. She would have to trash it. She had to phone the dean because it was best to cancel classes for the rest of the week, and not see Tariq in the mornings. Of that much Camille was absolutely certain. The leaf, once removed, left a stain on her white silk.