A Culpable Innocence

Chapter 11: The Vung Tau Trip (pg. 164)


. . . the door quietly opened, and Regis watched a ghost-like figure enter the room and painstakingly close it without clicking the latch. The faint moonlight highlighted Michelle’s white silken robe, but not her head or bare limbs so that she seemed a headless apparition gliding toward the bed. The only sound was the slight swish of the robe as she discarded it. When she reached for the bed sheets, Regis caught her hand and held it firmly.

 “Michelle, does Linh approve of us?”

“I know he doubts you come for him alone. Humility is part of Uncle’s nature.” She tugged at the sheets. Regis held onto them firmly.

“Michelle, stop . . . I don’t feel right about us.” She released her grip on the sheets and, instead, sat down on the bed. Turning to face him, she lowered her body unto his. He could feel her breast through the sheets.

“Why do you resist pleasure we give each other? Do you not find me attractive anymore?” Her lips touched Regis’ ever so softly as she continued to speak. “Is not girlfriend in U.S.?” Again she caressed Regis’ lips with hers. “She is not here and cannot know about me unless you tell her?”

Regis was becoming aroused. He clenched his fists in an effort to squash the feelings welling up within him. Then he placed a hand on either shoulder and gently pushed Michelle away.

“Is Michelle’s beautiful American boy feeling guilty?”

Regis detected a note of sarcasm in her question and knew he should feel guilty. Although he had never committed himself to Sharon, their last night together, he had to admit, would have led her to believe so. “Not exactly guilty . . . just empty inside.”

“How is this so?” She brusquely shrugged his hands from her shoulders. “Ta naïveté s’étendrait-elle également aux relations sexuelles?” (Does your naiveté extend to sexual relations?)

Regis deduced from her tone that Michelle had just cursed him, even though he had no understanding of French. “Michelle, it isn’t you. You have been . . . more than I could ever have imagined. It’s just me . . . I feel like I’ve jumped in the water before I learned how to swim. Perhaps I should feel guilty for not honoring the trust my girlfriend put in our relationship. But, until now, I never really acknowledged any accountability to her. I just know that, if I allow myself this luxury, I will regret it. We cannot be together again . . . not ever. Do you understand?”

Michelle rose from the bed. She stood by the small ornate table that functioned as a night stand. Regis’ pistol rested there. She casually removed it from its holster and cradled it in both hands, its barrel inadvertently pointed Regis’ direction. “I think Michelle’s beautiful American boy loses innocence. Do you think you can kill one of us with weapon?” She shifted the gun into her right hand and pointed it at the floor as if she was preparing to fire it. “Suppose VC come in dark with gun pointed at head, you kill him before he kill you, no?”

“Michelle, please, put the gun down. It’s loaded.”

“Why do you bring loaded weapon into Uncle’s house? Do you think Uncle or I mean you harm?”

“It’s not mine. I’ve never fired it. An officer loaned it to me for my trip to Vung Tau. It means nothing. I never intended to use it.”

Suddenly, Michelle turned the gun on him, holding it in both hands with her arms extended, and pointing it directly at his head. “If you have weapon right now, you not use it?”

“Michelle, please, put the gun down. It could go off accidentally . . . something could happen.”

“Yes, Regis, something could happen. You could kill Vietnamese. The gun is already in Regis’ hand.” She competently slipped the gun into its holster, reached down to pick up her robe, and left the room.

Regis lay motionless in the turmoil of his own thoughts. Part of him was convinced he had made the right choice. Another part of him was bewildered by this woman with whom he had shared such intimacy. The one thing he was sure of was that he really did not know Michelle.

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