The Last Three Days by Willsin Rowe
Millions of romance novels celebrate the transcendent power of love. Love heals wounds, inspires heroism, overcomes evil. We’ve been taught to believe that finding one’s soul mate leads to both sensual bliss and enduring satisfaction.
Very few books acknowledge the fact that lust can be equally powerful, that it can transform lives, reveal truths, and trigger epiphanies as profound as those produced by love.
Willson Rowe’s novella The Last Three Days is one of those precious books.
The Last Three Days chronicles the intense sexual relationship between Opal, a cynical young woman frustrated by the way her unfashionably heavy body has stunted her opportunities for success, and Luther, a well-heeled lawyer stuck in a loveless marriage to a celebrity sex symbol. Opal and Luther aren’t in love; in fact they don’t like each other all that much. However, they’re irresistibly attracted to one another, from their very first meeting at the seedy bar where Opal serves drinks. Their connection is visceral, chemical, irrational and amoral. It encompasses all their senses, but especially taste and smell. When they’re together, they sink to an animal level where nothing exists except the body of the other. When they’re apart, craving drives them back together.
It’s easy to dismiss this sort of lust as superficial or trivial. Willson Rowe shows how complex and nuanced physical desire can become. Though it probably springs from some sort of physiological or neurological compatibility, a meshing of pheromones or a complementarity in pleasure receptors, it soon acquires cognitive and emotional dimensions. If that were not the case, the mutual need would vanish as soon as the couple separated. Instead, memory and fantasy take over where chemistry leaves off, perpetuating, and in Opal’s and Luther’s case, deepening their mutual dependence.
He swore he could still taste her. Still smell her juices on his lips.
Three days later, a dozen guilt-driven showers, and she was still all over him. Luther pressed back against the cubicle door, searching for strength. His hands were birds of prey, tearing open his pants,
eviscerating them, curling sharp talons around his cock. He felt her touch on him as he stroked himself. He leaned his hand on the wall above the toilet, all thought of hygiene displaced by the wordless blaze of lust within him.
In no time he was there again, with the heat and the sound and the feel of her mouth around him. How she’d salved her hunger; slaked her thirst. The reverence of her greed.
The Last Three Days has the most complex timeline of any book I’ve read since The Time Traveler’s Wife. Mr. Rowe carries it off brilliantly. The book begins three days in the past, with Opal entering a hotel room, knowing Luther awaits her. It jumps back to the point three months earlier when Opal and Luther first met. The chapter alternate, one temporal stream chronicling the development of their relationship, the other advancing through the last three days of the title—three days during which the two character plan to kick their addiction to each other’s flesh. The streams gradually converge toward the present and the ironic climax of the tale. Not only is this structure elegant, but it also mirrors the jerky, episodic nature of Opal’s and Luther’s encounters—the furtive blow jobs in lavatories and the few hours they steal from their separate lives to meet in anonymous hotel rooms.
Mr. Rowe’s language is full of raw energy and a lush attention to the senses. He is particularly skilled at conveying the sensuality of Opal’s abundant flesh.
The bed creaks as she moves and he glances over. Her knees are
kissing, her pussy almost invisible. His fingers vibrate as he pictures himself gripping her thighs, pushing them up and out. Filling her armpits with her knees, and her pussy with his tongue. The divinity of her ass taunts him. She takes a deep breath, her round belly swells, forces her hips back. For an instant he spies the dark little crater between her cheeks. His fingers, his tongue, his cock, all shiver with recognition.
He turns away again, locking onto the full-bodied and ravenous
concoction of femininity asleep on the bed. All flesh, fluid and
scent. He finds the kink in her nose, the tiny scar on her chin. He
follows the outline of her body with his eyes, hovering at the erotic
puddles of flesh where her breasts and belly rest on the mattress.
He grinds his teeth and scowls. The way she tempts him without
effort—without consciousness—should be illegal.
Opal constantly taunts Luther about how pathetic he is, fucking a fat girl, but the lawyer worships every bit of her. She has a grace she doesn’t even recognize, that tears him apart.
The feeling is mutual, however. Like him, she can never get enough.
He stood, naked, and she sat on her feet before him, lustful and reverent. She rose to her knees, took a handful of his hard cock and
rubbed her face against him.
“Mmm... you again,” she said, and slid her tongue up the hot rippled belly. She filled her mouth with him, let his heat glide through her body. Coiling his fingers into her hair he pulled, driving himself all the way home. She gagged on his length and he hissed the way guys do.
Opal pulled on his arms, dragging him back to the couch. She ran the round length of her body up over his shaft until they were face to face, hip to hip, cock to cunt. It just kept happening.
She was in free-fall as she glided herself down over his thick cock. For a second she closed her eyes and just sat in his lap, her body still and sober but her nerves squirming like eels. She rode the sweet burn inside and put her hands behind her head, wordlessly giving her breasts over to him. He rolled them, pounded them like bread dough, tasted their every pore and molecule as she stroked him with her hips.
With a cruel bite of her nipple he sent her mind flying through the roof of her skull.
“Bastard. Gonna. Come. Again.” If only he’d... “Fuck!” If just that one time he’d spoil it. Maybe she could walk away from him.
The erotic tension builds to an unbearable level as Opal and Luther struggle to spend three days and nights together without succumbing to their lust. The story’s ending—I hesitate to call it a resolution—is wonderfully ambiguous.
I have nothing against love and happily ever afters. However, I celebrate when I discover a book that moves off the well-worn track of romance to explore other avenues of desire.
The Last Three Days is that sort of book.