Freedom of the Sea
copyright 2003, by
These characters were created by Thomas
Harris. They are used herein without permission, but in the spirit of
admiration and respect. No infringement of copyright is intended, and no
profit, of any kind, is made by the creator, maintainer or contributors to this
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Clarice Starling stared out at the water from the top of the sea cliffs. A cool breeze tousled her hair and she closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. She felt complete. Nothing but the smell of the clean salty air and the roar of the breakers as they crashed against the rocks below.
“It’s not a matter of what he is anymore,” she told herself as her thoughts inexorably strayed to Dr. Hannibal Lecter, “It’s a matter of seeing him for who he is. Those puritans from the Baltimore Philharmonic Board were quite flattered to be in his company before he was incarcerated.” Clarice snorted in contempt. “Their puerility in classifying him and dehumanising him as some erratic mistake of nature, is only a futile attempt to distance themselves from those events which they enjoyed but are prompted to see as immoral, displacing all their helplessness and inadequacies onto him. It’s so unjust.”
She sat down on the rough coastal grass and sighed. “I’m with him because I want to be. I love him. No matter how they try to psychoanalyse my choice back home, they will never even touch the outermost boundaries of the truth. They taint me by association, or when their myopic minds cannot come to terms with the idea of us they write me off as deceased.” She frowned as she remembered Jack Crawford’s voice, ‘Never forget what he is..’
“I haven’t, Jack.” She said to the sky.
Clarice often came up here to think. She had done a lot of thinking since she and Dr. Lecter came to Buenos Aires, mostly over how her life would have been different if she had not made the same decisions at the Chesapeake lake house, and the unique complexities in their relationship. It was nothing like the short infatuations that had hit her hard and fast in her teens, nor the odd random moments of her twenties when she caught herself playfully fantasizing about true love in those rare quiet moments she wasn’t driving herself to the bone and immersed in her work. She always came to the same conclusion: it was better, more exhilarating, and intensely satisfying.
Indeed, she felt complete.
Picking at the grass absently, Clarice’s thoughts raced over her childhood and the death of her father, no longer feeling a painful stab of anguish in her chest, but a calm remembrance of innocence and good. She remembered the FBI and Jack Crawford the stoic, whose death a year ago had both stunned and relieved her. Caught between his drive to stamp out the serial killers and degenerates of the world and his looming retirement, he found himself slowly being pushed out and helpless as he spiralled deeper into the ‘used’ basket. True he had helped Clarice only where it benefited him, but in doing so she learned some valuable lessons of her own and took advantage of it to advance herself in the bureau. Clarice smirked. The bureau. ‘FIB the liar’ as it was known among those wounded by it. Promising justice and upholding the right, but delivering a mean scratch-my-back service for those weaselly enough to slither their way through the office politics. Her obstacles in the bureau were mainly due to the misogynistic malice of Paul Krendler. Paul Krendler from Justice whose brain she ate.
Clarice was not sorry to see him go. At first it had shamed her, the Lutheran principles printed into her as a child urging her that such feelings were wrong. In the end she realised had simply categorised him as evil, and she his nemesis.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter had not taken her pain away, but had altered her perspective on some things so that they were easier to deal with. It took time and emotionally exhausted her, but eventually she had gained a peace she had not known since her father died. And for that she had everything to thank him for.
She still remembered the electric sensation as their fingers brushed gently in Memphis.
In the beginning, Hannibal’s designs on her was to make way for Mischa. He and Clarice were both orphans, and they had both suffered a tragic loss. But in their suffering they leaned on each other and guided each other, so that there was no need for the physical return of Mischa or Clarice’s father, and Mischa remained as lovely as she ever was in Hannibal’s memory palace.
Clarice watched some surfers cruise the beach break, pulling off aerial stunts and riding small barrels. She never had the opportunity to visit the beach when she was younger save one short summer in her teens and perhaps one or two sporadic visits with Ardelia. Clarice mouthed her friend’s name. She missed her terribly, though that chapter of her life was certainly closed.
Wandering down to the beach, Clarice mused on what it would be like to surf. Of course those guys out there made it look so easy and had probably years of practice, surfing every day. The more she thought about it, the more she wanted to try it, something she wanted for herself.
‘Why not? I’m already wearing my bathers under my clothes,’ she thought to herself. Clarice wandered down to the beach shack by a tall palm tree and hired a mini mal. The vendor gave her some tips and she walked down the beach and placed her things in the sand. The waves weren’t too big this side of the cove so she strapped on the leg rope and walked into the cool water.
Paddling out beyond the breakers was a little daunting so she decided to walk the board in until she was in the breaker zone and catch the whitewater in to begin with. She spent a little time floating on the water, getting used to the way the ocean moved. Then she began.
As the wave gained momentum and broke, Clarice paddled. She felt the wave take her and she attempted to stand up, just as the young man had showed her. It wasn’t easy. The board wobbled from side to side like a kayak and she wiped out. Once. Twice. Three times.
She never gave up.
Finally, she managed to stand, only just maintaining her balance. It was a strange feeling, standing on the water. A rush of exhilaration surged through her as she rode the board out to the beach. She walked the board back in and managed to stand up again, a little more gracefully this time. Clarice’s agility and athletic body gave her a better sense of balance than most, due to years of training. She felt free and easy in the water, but didn’t feel ready to try catching anything larger or unbroken. Clarice surfed until her time was up and headed back to the beach.
As Clarice returned to the surfboard hire shack, she looked over her shoulder and watched the surfers out in the high water. ‘One day perhaps.’ She thought to herself.
The young man greeted her and congratulated her on her first day of surfing. He admitted to watching her and complimented her progress. He seemed quite friendly until he saw her slip her wedding ring back on. He seemed to redden and become awkward and shy, stuttering over his words. Clarice chuckled to herself as she headed home.
The Lecter residence is a grand two story mansion near the French embassy, with a terrace overlooking the sea. It’s surrounded by a large manicured garden, immaculately kept, through which runs a long driveway leading to a grand high columned entrance. Clarice’s modesty was still unaccustomed to such a large home despite it having been a year since they moved in, but she loved it nevertheless. It was her castle. Besides, anything smaller would have been insupportable to Hannibal’s fine sensibilities.
When she entered the house, there he was, just as she pictured he would be. Hannibal was sitting in a leather chair in the living room, with a translation of Aristotle’s discourse “On Dreams” written in 350BC and a flute of very fine champagne on the coffee table by his right hand. She stood in the doorway, watching him peacefully. He sensed her presence, but indulged her and granted her a few moments before he spoke.
Images flew to her mind: black velvet, Batard-Montrachet, cool silk, iron and silver.
He smiled and put his book down, resting it’s tired old frame carefully beside the champagne flute.
“Aristotle was a fine philosopher, though some aspects of his theories were incredibly naive. It’s amusing to glimpse the evolution of human’s intelligence within the context of that particular historical period. His attempts at psychology were charmingly puerile.”
“And has much changed since then?” asked Clarice playfully, raising an eyebrow.
“No, however I can vouch for a slight improvement the quality of care afforded in asylums today. They may leave you shackled in chains to die in a dingy basement somewhere, but at least you have the opportunity to contact your lawyer.” He said, dripping with sarcasm.
Clarice laughed, her eyes animated and mischievous as he rose and strode to her, panther-like. “And you should know.”
“Yes, I do know. Tell me Clarice,” he said, his arms encircling her waist, pulling her closer until the beautiful scent of his cologne made her weak at the knees, “How was your walk?”
“Refreshing.” Clarice was thankful that the sea cliffs were not visited by him, that they were a silent refuge she was able to enjoy where she could lose herself in private thought. It wasn’t that she didn’t love her husband - she couldn’t get enough of him – but sometimes, she needed a place all to herself. He respected that and had a similar place of his own, though she didn’t know precisely where it was. Somewhere in the old city, perhaps.
“I take it you went for a swim.” He said, smelling the fresh salty ocean in her hair. His head bent to her neck, kissing her tanned skin along the clavicle. She leaned into him, relishing the sensation, her hands creeping up his strong broad shoulders.
“I can just imagine your lithe body in the waves, my dear.”
She grinned, “And how do you find it?”
He kissed her mouth in response, gently at first and her grip tightened on him as the kiss deepened. Clarice felt her heartbeat race as she desired him more. A groan escaped his lips and she broke away, nipping at his lower lip.
“I surfed today.” She said, leading him towards the bedroom. His eyebrows raised and a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth in amusement. Clarice would never cease to surprise him.
“I never imagined you as a marijuana-smoking surfer chick.”
“You should know better than to categorise me, Hannibal.”
“Hmm.” He leaned in to kiss her again but she pulled away playfully.
“Ask me how I went.”
“How did you go, little Starling?” the maroon pinpoints in his eyes spun like pinwheels at her game, and Clarice could see how much restraint it was taking for him to maintain his control. They loved each other entirely too forcefully, in which Clarice found a pleasant security.
“I managed to stand up, but I’m still a little wobbly. I like it and I’m going to continue with it.”
“Is that so?” he challenged, backing her up against the wall, biting her neck.
He was pressing into her now, his face inches from hers. The tension was electric. She wanted him badly, and he knew it. She leaned in to kiss him, but he pulled back, teasing her with her own medicine. He was going to make her pay for trying his patience. Her eyes narrowed at him but she was grinning. “Ti amo.”
“Given the country we’re presently in, I believe the more appropriate phrase is: Te quiero.”
“But the sentiment is the same. Ich liebe Dich. Je’t’adore.”
“True.” Then with a grin that would frighten most, he added, “That’s my girl.”
“So you agree, that I’m right.” Clarice pushed.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter shook his head, “Brave Clarice.” He picked her up and carried her over to the grand four poster bed.
Later that evening Clarice, dressed elegantly, made her way down to the dining room where Hannibal was waiting. She could hear the beautiful arias of Wagner from her room and followed the music. The servants had set a brilliant table before they had been dismissed for the evening and her eyes lit up as she absorbed the pretty scene. Three candelabras lined the centre of the long mahogany table, beside which were placed gourmet roasts and side dishes on silver plates with a bottle of very fine Chianti. The lights were dimmed and the shadows created by the candles gave the dining hall a larger and almost Gothic appearance.
‘The vampire of Lithuania awaits me.’ she mused.
Clarice walked over to Hannibal and he took her hand and kissed it, lingering at the rich clean scent and smoothness of her skin. She smiled and stroked his cheek as he straightened. One of the idiosyncrasies she loved about her husband was his etiquette and his manners. That and his sharp intellect.
“I have a gift for you.” Clarice told him.
“What is it, my dear?”
She produced an envelope. He smiled as he opened it, knowing exactly what it was.
“Tickets to the opera. Tosca, by Puccini. I hear the cast is spectacular.”
“Thank you Clarice. It’s very thoughtful of you.”
The gentleman led her to her chair and when she was seated, poured the wine and served the main course, then sat at his own place at the head of the table. They spoke in Italian and German, and of places such as Vienna and its beautiful concert halls, of ancient Cordoba and Granada, and of course Hannibal’s beloved Firenze. Clarice knew he missed it and wondered if he could ever return one day, and if so whether they could enjoy the renaissance city together.
After dinner, they wandered out onto the terrace. Wagner’s masterpiece had ended and Hannibal had replaced it with Beethoven. Hannibal held out his arm in an invitation to dance. Clarice smiled and took it, and he spun her into the middle of the terrace. Clarice’s movements had become much more delicate and graceful since a year ago when she had been face to face with Evelda Drumgo. With every release she had become freer and more refined. Hannibal was lost in admiration at her transformation, congratulating himself on his own construction, and marvelling in those unpredictable changes that were entirely her own.
When Beethoven’s movement had ended, Clarice smiled and kissed him briefly on the lips, and moved to the terrace edge, pausing to take in the beautiful ocean panorama. Stars reflected in the dark water like a million diamonds strewn over black silk. The moon was high and full and cast the landscape in such a silvery lustre almost as if it was day. Clarice sighed and closed her eyes as Hannibal stood beside her and kissed her head.
“I’ve never been as deliriously happy as this. I’m just bracing myself for that awful occurrence which will cause it to end all too abruptly.”
Dr. Hannibal Lecter placed a reassuring arm around her. “It is not a dream Clarice. Do not presuppose that because your childhood was absent of felicity at times, you will never achieve blissful happiness in your adulthood and make it last. It would be a lamentable tragedy should you throw to waste what precious time we have with worrying. It is beyond my power to promise that nobody will ever find us, though I shall do everything I can to make it so. And after I am dead and gone I believe you have more than enough fortitude to continue on with your life.”
Clarice held up a hand and pressed it to his mouth to prevent any more talk about his death. Her expression was pained. Hannibal acknowledged her sentiment and kissed her hand before pulling it away, his maroon eyes as animated as fire, “If it was not within you from as far into your past as our first meeting you would not be here now. Between iron and silver Clarice, the most stable of elements. Yes, that’s how I shall remember you. You have more than taken my breath away, Clarice, you have given me something priceless in return. Know that I will not give you up so easily.”
At that moment Clarice ached beyond what words could express. She didn’t cry, she simply placed her arms around him and held him, and his arms encircled her in reciprocation. They remained like that for a long time, holding each other, with the sounds of the ocean and the city behind them.
copyright 2003, by
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