"Carmen, go inside and prepare the necessaries."
Carmen lazily drew her legs together and stood up. "Perhaps you should ask her first, Mâitre?"
Gilles laughed and looked at Isabel. "It did not occur to me that our guest is..." He traced the tips of his fingers around the swell of one of her breasts, just at the waterline. "A little shy perhaps, but not unwilling. Ne c'est pas?"
Before Isabel could answer, Carmen pressed the point. "Ask her, Gilles." And, beautiful and lithe in blue glow of the pool, she turns on her heels and disappeared into the darkness of the house's overhang.
"Come," he said, leading Isabel by the hand, out of the water. "We have work to do also."
"Ask me what?" said Isabel, allowing herself to be led. She followed him, dripping water as she went, across the cool tiles of the courtyard, towards the kitchen.
The room was now, to Isabel's relief, empty of staff. She stood in the middle of the kitchen, hugging her arms to her chest. "What should you ask me, Gilles?"
He stood with his back to her, preparing something on a tray. Turning with a lychee fruit in his hand, he peeled it and held it up to her. "Do you like lychees?"
"Yes. I do. I'm always happy when the season for lychees begins." Isabel made to take the peeled fruit from his hand, but he pulled it away, teasing her.
"Carmen says they feel like the head of a cock."
Gilles touched the round, firm fruit against her lips, sliding it back and forth, painting her with its juice. He nodded encouragingly when she opened her mouth, clasping the dripping white fruit with her lips. A trickle of juice escaped the side of her mouth, ran over her chin and down her neck. Putting a hand to her face, he covered her mouth with the palm, crushing the fruit against her teeth and pressing it inwards. His warm mouth went to her neck, where the single dribble had become a stream of sticky juice as the fruit exploded.
Isabel moaned, almost choking as the juice flooded her mouth. The sensation of his tongue on her throat made her cunt flood in response.
Gilles stood back, wiping the juice off his face with the back of his hand. "Chassez-vous le dragon, Isabel ?"
Isabel took her time answering, swallowing the rest of the lychee flesh, and spitting the round black pit out into her hand. "Chase the what?"
"Have you ever smoked opium?"
"No. I've smoked weed, but not opium."
"It's very different." He turned back to face her, carrying a tray with all sorts of things on it: a carafe of water, fruit, a bowl of ice, a small, silver knife. "Would you like to try?" He left the kitchen, heading through the darkened house.
Everyone who lived in Vietnam had read something about opium. It had been the scourge of the Mandarin class under the French. Some people said the French colonial authorities sold it to them cheap, on purpose, erode away their power in the government.
"What's it like?" Isabel called after him, following him through the semi-darkness.
"It's like heaven."
"But... isn't it addictive?"
His laugh echoed off the dark walls as he led the way down a dimly lit hallway. "Of course it is, if you overindulge. But then..." He stopped before a pair of large oak doors. Turning, he pushed them open with his shoulder, careful not to upset the tray. "... so is Carmen."
The bedroom was cavernous. One wall was lined with French doors, open and overlooking the courtyard. But what dominated the room was the bed, a huge low piece of furniture - an old fashioned Vietnamese sleeping platform big enough for a whole family. The bed had been covered with a mattress and each corner was posted with a towering polished wooded post. Gauzy white netting cascaded down from each one.
Carmen lay stretched out on her side. She looked up from what she was doing as they came in. "Are you alright with this, Isabel?"
Nearing the bed, Isabel could see that Carmen was playing the end a long, thin needle through the flame of a small burner. There was a marble-sized glob of something dark and viscose on the end of the skewer.
Isabel watched, fascinated. "I... I'm not sure. I think I am."
"Did Gilles tell you about it?" Carmen asked, patting an empty spot on the huge white bed.
Hesitating a little, Isabel took a seat at the very edge of the bed. Suddenly, she felt a little out of place, like an interloper in this intimate setting. It seemed ridiculous, considering that her lips, beneath the taste of lychee, still held the ghost of Carmen's flavour. But still, she was feeling a little tentative. "He said it was like heaven."
"Bête!" teased Carmen, poking a polished toe into Gilles side. "You did not tell her everything." She sat up and transferred her attention back to her preparations. The blob of opium was now less solid. She picked up a pipe that lay beside her and skillfully deposited the dollop into the saucer-like ceramic bowl of the pipe.
"The first time you smoke it, it can make you a little queasy. But it soon passes." Gilles took the pipe from Carmen and stretched out on his side. His deep brown skin looked almost African against the whiteness of the sheets. Holding the pipe with both hands - one at the mouthpiece and one almost at the end, he inhaled deeply as Carmen held the burner at the pipe's bowl, waving the flame back and forth. He took short, deep sips of the pipe without exhaling, blowing out in a long, thick stream of smoke. Then he drew on it again, this time deeply, causing the pipe to bubble. He held the smoke in his lungs and nodded, smiling.
After what seemed like a very long time to Isabel, he exhaled. Almost nothing emerged, but the room had begun to smell sweet and acrid, like over-ripe fruit and smoldering pinewood.
"Encore, Mâitre?" asked Carmen.
Gilles shook his head, offering the pipe to Isabel. "A full bowl is not easy to take. Have the rest of this one."
Isabel took the pipe, and feeling a little silly, held it to her lips.
"Lie down, or you will fall down, ma petite."
She nodded and moved back, leaning on her hip, with her head resting on the bolster at the end of the bed.
"When you draw, you will want to cough, but don't," whispered Carmen. The woman tilted the end of the pipe a bit and brought the flame to the bowl. "Now... inhale just like Mâitre did."
Isabel took three quick puffs in succession. The smoke didn't feel like a cigarette - it was infinitely thicker. Her lungs fought to hold the vapour and her eyes watered as she tried not to cough. When it was too much, she expelled huge gout of smoke, spluttering.
"Again, vite!" Carmen pressed the mouthpiece back against Isabel's lips.
Obediently, Isabel drew on the pipe. This time, as soon as the smoke hit her lungs, she felt a creeping tingle that began in her feel and crept up the back of her thighs. It spread over her buttocks and pooled at the base of her spine.
"Oh, my god," muttered Isabel, still struggling to keep the smoke inside. But her lungs burned and convulsed and the smoke came streaming out as she gave up the fight.
It felt as if a huge, heavy snake had coiled itself around her loins and began to squeeze. The embrace inched up her body, making her nipples stiffen and ache as it passed over them. Suddenly, in a rush, it raced up her neck and pushed into her head.
"My...my...oh..." Isabel closed her eyes.
A cold wet cube pressed against her lips. She mewed and felt the cold slip into her mouth.
"Suck the ice and breathe through your nose." Carmen's voice seemed a long way away.
Something awful and huge lurched in Isabel's stomach. She opened her eyes and tried to speak around the ice-cube. Urgently, she spit it out into her hand.
"I'm... I'm going to be sick," she said, panicked, trying to sit upright.
An arm surrounded her - Carmen's - and cool wet fingers smoothed the hair away from her face. "No, no ma petite. It will pass. Just breathe deeply and..."
Carmen pressed the ice cube back into Isabel's mouth. "It's just the dragon fighting. It will pass."
And it did. After a short time, Isabel began to feel better, sleepier, and the snake inside her pushed into her face and made her smile. She sighed. "Thank-you, Carmen."
The woman smiled back and set about preparing the pipe for herself. Isabel watched through half-lidded eyes as Carmen smoked, and then Gilles, and then Carmen. Finally, in what seemed to Isabel like slow motion, Carmen pushed the tray of implements away and stretched herself out on the bed.
Please note: I put my writing online in order to have a relationship with my readers.