Poor Celeste

by Samantha Memi

We begin our story in Paris. It’s a sunny day and the cafés are bustling, cars are honking in the street, accordion players play, painters paint, and young men whistle at girls in summer dresses. The main character in our story, a young woman called Celeste, is walking down the street. She’s going to see her doctor because she wants an abortion. She doesn’t know it yet but her doctor will say…

No, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. There’s more to this story before she gets to the doctor’s surgery. First you need to know why she wants an abortion. I’ll tell you but you must keep it secret.

The child is her lover’s, not her husband’s, and as she loves her husband, the swelling inside her will have to go. Not a good reason, you may say, but it’s a decision many cheating wives have to make.

She has time to spare before seeing her doctor. She came into town early with the idea of doing some shopping but, as it’s a nice day she sits at a street café.

When she looks around for a waiter she notices a young man watching her. He is rather handsome in an effeminate youthful way. She thinks he has kind eyes.

He comes over and says, I’m sorry to disturb you but I couldn’t help notice your beauty. Are you a model?

She pretends to be flattered by this, but she realizes it’s just a chat up line. No one could possibly take her for a model.

What’s your name? he asks,

Why do you want to know? she replies, trying to appear demure and alluring at the same time.

Because I would love to photograph you. I have rarely seen anything so beautiful. Your skin is translucent, your bone structure aristocratic.

She knows she has sunken cheeks and spots, but she finds the photographer’s words flattering. She has never been photographed professionally and, forgetting all about her doctor’s appointment, she agrees to go to the young man’s studio.

She lies on a chaise longue, hot lamps making her feel uncomfortable.

Can you hitch up your skirt, he asks, reveal more of your beautiful legs.

The idea excites her. He comes over to rearrange her hair, and as he is stroking strands from her forehead, he kisses her.

Well, as you can imagine, one thing leads to another, and before she realizes what she’s doing, she’s on her back with her legs wrapped round him and moaning as he thrusts in and out of her. She smiles as his puffy face turns red with the exertion. She’s glad she came to his studio. She’d had doubts as to whether he was really a professional photographer, but the studio has dispelled such fears. And now her enjoyment with him brings a culmination to a perfect brief encounter.

As she’s looking at the ceiling, wondering what caused the stain there, she remembers the doctor’s appointment.

Oh wait, no, stop, she exclaims, but her lover carries on fucking her. He doesn’t want to stop.
Please stop. I have to go. She tries to push him away, but his hands slide round her throat and squeeze. Her eyes and tongue bulge, and he carries on fucking. She scratches at his arms. Her legs flail like a swimming frog. He squeezes and fucks and smiles. When he cums he grunts like a pig and flops on top of her, breathing heavily. She doesn’t push him off. She can’t. She’s dead.

After a few moments he realizes what he’s done. If only she hadn’t tried to stop him everything would have been all right.

He drinks whisky to calm his nerves, then he carries her body through to the garage and drives her out of the city. She is dumped ignominiously in the river. The water will destroy all clues that may lead to him. There is nothing to connect him to her Then he drives home.

Now I know what you’re thinking: That was a silly story, and a silly character. She should have gone to see her doctor, had an abortion, stayed with her husband, found another lover who was more careful with his sperm, and everything would have been all right.

But you see, had she done that, her doctor would have said, I can’t give you an abortion. It’s illegal.

And Celeste would have answered, I know, but I thought you might know someone who could help.

I’m afraid not.

But I heard you knew of people who help.

I’m afraid you heard wrong.

At this Celeste raises her voice, But you can’t do this to me. I can’t have this baby. Don’t you understand.

And she stands, shouting abuse at her doctor, who asks her to leave his surgery.

She screams at him like a raving banshee, You’re not a doctor, you’re a demon. You can’t condemn me to motherhood. (As if motherhood is a punishment for our sin of enjoying sex, or even not enjoying it.) Then, just at the moment the doctor leans forward to get up from his chair, she picks up his desk lamp and smashes his head with it. The doctor falls to the ground with a groan.

Outside the surgery the waiting patients listen to the argument, and when the receptionist hears the doctor groan, she rushes into the room to find Celeste standing with a bloodied desk lamp and the doctor lying on the floor bleeding. Caught in flagrante, as they used to say in Rome.

The doctor dies and Celeste is charged with murder, found guilty, and sentenced to death. She appeals, and has to wait five years for her appeal to be considered, and all that time, as a prisoner, sharing a cell with rats and cockroaches, she worries if she will be beheaded,.
Finally her appeal is rejected and she is led out to a courtyard, up a few steps to Madame guillotine, forced to lie down, and her head is chopped off.

So you see the ending I gave her was at least preferable to the ending she would have had if she hadn’t made the fateful decision to go to the photographer’s studio.

I say preferable because when she is guillotined she has the anguish of waiting in prison, with rats and cockroaches, then the walk to the scaffold – and lying down with her neck on the cutting block – can you imagine how awful that would be. But when she’s strangled, although it must have been horrible for her, it was at least unexpected, and as she was getting a good shag at the time, at least she got a bit of pleasure before she went.

And that’s the end of our story.





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