Paths of Fire [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Fletchina Archer
eBook Category: Erotica/BDSM Erotica
eBook Description: Searing Novel of Women in War--and After! Paths of Fire tells the unforgettable story of three women who fought in the Spanish Civil War. It details frankly with their loves and passions, rape, submission, and death. Then it moves beyond the holocaust of war to follow their loves and fates in peacetime. Finally it shows how the spirit that carried them through the war is passed to succeeding generations, and unflinchingly shows how that spirit infuses their lives, romances and sexuality. Paths of fire is that rarity, a satisfying erotic novel that soars to the heights of literature. The Book Corner hails Fletchina Archer's work as "fast paced, graphic,thoroughly enjoyable--with well-written scenes, both explicit and non--strong writing--complicated characters--definitely to be added to the collection."
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/Sizzler, Published: 2005
Fictionwise Release Date: February 2005
3 Reader Ratings:
"They shall not destroy us," she shouted from the podium. "We will be here. We will fight. We will not disappear. We will not return to the control of the men. We will no longer let them give us as property. We will not let them control our lives, our bodies. We are here and here we shall stay."
Cheers and applause echoed through the hall as the last speech of the night wound down. Alma, Pilar, and Maria and the rest of the women of the textile plant were not going home. As good as the speaker's word, they stayed where they were, prepared to bed down in the meeting hall and spend another night of rumors, waiting, tension. No one asked when it would end. It had just begun, and they hoped it would never end.
The next day, in the building heat of the mid-July morning a breathless runner burst into the hall and said, "It's happening. The army is rising against the government. Franco is coming with the Moorish league. He's put out the call to everyone loyal to him and his cause to rise with him and put an end to disorder. Now we all stand together, now we take the streets, take the factories, take our lives."
Alma replied, "Disorder? All of us sisters from the textile factory are proud to be a part of the disorder, we want a bigger part."
Maria joined in. "For the first time women were standing up to have a say."
"Then come along," the messenger shouted as he left the hall.
Alma, Maria, and Pilar joined the throng as they poured into the street. They jogged the two blocks to the police armory where they met a group of miners battering down the door.
"Join us, sisters," one of them shouted, as the miners broke in and started handing out rifles, pistols, and ammunition.
"The rifle, Pilar, the rifles are much more accurate," Maria said.
"They are so heavy," Pilar answered.
"Believe me, it's worth it," said Maria. Alma and Pilar both believed Maria because they knew she attended a training camp with the Free Women. She knew what she was talking about when it came to weapons and how to use them. Pilar passed the pistol to an eager hand and kept the next rifle that came out of the armory.
Everywhere the three women looked they saw streets full of people like themselves, ordinary workers with weapons seized from the army and police storehouses throughout the city.
"Brothers!" Pilar and Alma looked up to find the origin of the shouting voice on a rooftop. Another woman. "Brothers, take off your uniforms, join us. We mean you no harm. You are our brothers, come join us." There were fewer and fewer soldiers in uniform as the crowds surged through the streets.
"All well and good," one of the miners groused, "But where are we going to eat when supper time comes?"
"Where have you been, brother?" another miner asked. "We'll eat where everyone eats."
"You have money for a restaurant? We haven't been paid in weeks."
"No need for money here, brother," answered the second miner, a smile breaking across his chiseled handsome face to reveal teeth that were white if not very straight. Crooked enough to give the mouth character, thought Alma.
"Join us, brother," said Alma as Maria and Pilar led the way. "We're on our way to the Cafe of the Knight of the Doleful Countenance."
"When's the last time the likes of you ate there?" asked the miner, an obvious newcomer to the city.
"Last night," Maria answered over her shoulder with a toss of her long black hair. Pilar and Alma wore their hair short having cut their long locks when they joined the Free Women. To them it symbolized useless femininity, femininity that had kept women enslaved for as long as any woman could remember.
"Last night, brother," echoed the other miner. "My name is George," he said to the women, "and this is brother Ramon."
"Maria, Pilar, Alma," Alma said completing the introductions as they walked down the broad avenue.
Shots rang out. Bullets zinged as they ricocheted off the stone buildings. People dove for cover. The five companions found shelter with another group of three behind a barricade that blocked a side street.
"They're firing from there," the young woman behind the barricade said pointing to the traffic circle just visible down the broader avenue the five had vacated.
"I see," said Maria, staring over the stones. "I see the soldiers there, standing in a line firing." She licked her finger, wetted the front sight of her rifle, lifted it to her shoulder, braced it, and squeezed off a shot and dove for cover again.
A barrage of rifle fire sent more bullets whining at the eight through the afternoon.
A voice from the avenue commanded, "Bring up the machine gun. Let them have it."
Then they heard the rat-a-tat-tat of the machine gun and the ricocheting bullets in a terrifying hail. Ramon stood and fired his rifle, fell with a red blossom spreading across his left shoulder, grasped his shoulder, a look of surprise crossing his face.
"Sons of bitches," Maria shouted, rifle to her shoulder, "You won't get away with that. You bastards. Die, you mongrels, die one and all."
Maria had a chance to squeeze off one more shot before another rag tag group jumped over a barrier across another side street and rushed the machine gun. They killed the gunners before they could turn the murderous fire on their attackers.
Then a column of disciplined uniformed soldiers came down one of the streets that fanned off of the traffic circle where the machine gun was. They stopped, fired, reloaded, stopped, fired. Methodically they cleared the street in front of them and re-took the machine gun. The erstwhile attackers fell back, running hell bent for leather for the barricade that sheltered the eight companions. Over it they jumped; around it they ran until they did a double take and saw the three women returning the soldiers' fire.
"Girls?" one of the new arrivals said, as though amazed.
Again, the hail of bullets from the machine gun ricoched.
"Free women, jerk," Pilar answered as she chambered another round and fired again. "Free women. And don't even start unless you want this weapon turned around on you, mister."
The new arrivals took their weapons and joined the others at the barrier, firing until the soldiers at the machine gun fell, until their line collapsed, until they turned to run and left the avenue in silence.
"Get the machine gun," Maria commanded as she leapt over the barricade, her full skirt flaring out behind her, her dark hair blowing in the breeze. "Don't let it fall into their hands again." She and four men ran toward the abandoned weapon while the others behind the makeshift wall covered them.
"So," Pilar said, behind the wall, "Ramon, how's that wound. It looks like we'd better get you to the clinic."
"Clinic?" he said, "How would I pay for it?"
"It's a people's clinic. The same with our restaurants, our clinics, our hotels, our factories. We've taken them all. We've organized the trolley system, we've organized everything. It's ours. We're free. It's ours at last."
"Brave words," Ramon answered as he tried to get to his feet and fell to the ground.
"Let's get him to the clinic," Maria said as she returned to her two friends. George picked Ramon up, slung him like a sack of potatoes over his broad shoulders, and started down the side street. "Clinic number three is just a block down here," Maria said.
When the five arrived, several other casualties were waiting in the well-lighted treatment center staffed by two doctors and five nurses. "We'll take it from here," one of the doctors said, dismissing the party that had brought Ramon in. "No need to wait for him."
The four companions resumed their journey to the restaurant where they sat together at a table.
My god, Alma thought, her heart still racing from the excitement of the day, this is what freedom is. Not having to worry where the next meal will come from. Not having to worry about being injured on the job or at home. Not having to worry that getting sick will destroy your family. Not having to worry about where you will work and how much you will be paid. Not worrying about who your father will give you to as a slave. This is what freedom is. This is worth dying for. This is worth living for. This isn't just words in a lecture. This isn't just ideas in a book. This is real. We are doing it. This we can live and breathe and feel in every pore of our bodies. Working together, being together, eating together.
After they'd eaten a hearty meal in silence, the four went to the kitchen to help with the dishes. At the sink, her forearms covered with suds, Pilar held forth, "The army will never win now. Not with everyone against them like this. We have the guns. We have the ammunition. We have the people. We are bound to win. There's no way they can take control from our elected government now. Not with everyone behind them. Not with us backing them with guns."
"I wish I felt your confidence," George answered, up to his elbows in soapy water. "But I've seen it too many times. We walk out, the army comes with guns. We go back to work. A year later our courage rises and we walk out again. Again the guns and back we go. Always the same. And here we are. More of us have walked out."
"But now," Maria answered, rinsing the dishes one by one, "now we are organized. We are all organized. And as Pilar said, we have the guns. They can never come back now. All we have to do is hold what we have. We can do that."
"How can we do that?" Pilar taunted, "When you won't get out of that dress and long hair. How can we do that unless we all change."
"You don't have to give up your femininity to gain your freedom," Maria answered with a broad smile and a wink at George. Alma noticed George blush as he looked down into the dishwater.
"It's just that attitude that's kept us in bondage all these centuries," Pilar said. "It's our femininity that has made us slaves to the kitchen, to the babies, to the bedroom, to the men--whether they were our fathers or brothers or husbands."
"No, Pilar" A more somber expression took over Maria's face. "It's not our femininity. It's the same people who take the freedom from the men that take it from us all. It's the owners of the factories, the army that backs them up, the police that support them, the clergymen that preach that they have the right to own everything and we should be satisfied with nothing. They're the ones who have kept us enslaved, not this." The broad smile returned to Maria's face as she lifted her skirt to show her petticoat. George averted his eyes and blushed again, Alma noticed.
"For me," Alma said, "it's just a matter of practicality. I cut my hair short and wear men's clothing because it's practical. It's part of the freedom we're fighting for. It's freedom of movement, freedom from brushing my hair all the time. But as for Maria? Maria must be free to be as feminine as she wants to be. And besides, Maria is too damned good a shot for anyone to tell her what to do."
They all laughed.
The childhood friends Maria, Pilar and Alma came together from their fathers' peasant holdings in the countryside to work in the textile mills to support their families. For months they attended classes and meetings of the Free Women. They grew up without schooling, but when the Free Women taught them to read, they devoured all of the manifestos, pamphlets, and books of theory and politics that they could lay their hands on. Maria went to the weapons class and taught Pilar and Alma what she learned. They were giddy with the ideas. More than the ideas, they were dizzy with what they had seen and what they had done.
A year ago would three peasant girls from the countryside have stood behind a barricade in the capitol and driven back a column of armed soldiers? Maria asked herself. Would they have faced down a machine gun with rifles? No. A year ago they would have obeyed any man who had barked an order at them. But not now, and never again.
* * * *
"So what is our virginity?" Maria asked Pilar and Alma as they lay on their three-tiered bunk bed in their small room of the worker's dormitory at their factory.
"It's our honor, the honor of our families," Pilar answered.
"And you are willing to throw away your femininity, your long hair, your dresses, and not your virginity with it?" Maria challenged. "I am still wearing my dress, I still have a woman's hair, and I'm willing to..."
"What," Alma challenged, "Willing to sleep with the first handsome miner that comes along? The first fast talking rail worker? Or maybe you'd prefer a doctor?"
The three of them laughed at the image.
"No, no, that's not it. Think like a Free Woman. Where does this come from? We learned this from the men, from our brothers, from our fathers, from the padres and the sisters at church. They told us, 'Keep your legs crossed or you'll go to hell. Don't fuck anybody or you'll dishonor your brothers and your father.' It was always 'don't, don't, don't.'"
"What is this treasure I am guarding between my legs?" Alma broke the long hush. "The Free Women taught us about contraception. We don't have to have babies just because we learn to enjoy our bodies. We are free from the church. We won't burn in hell. Our fathers and brothers are fighting beside us now, our equals, not our owners or masters. So what is this treasure we guard between our legs?"
"Can't you feel it?" Alma asked, "Don't you feel this great feeling of freedom ... I don't even know the words for it. I feel like a boiling pot with the lid removed, free to explode with force, with ... with life."
"Have you ever kissed a man?" Alma interrupted the quiet.
"No," came the two answers, "You?"
"Have you ever ... touched yourself ... you know ... down there?" Alma asked again.
"No," Pilar said, "That would be a sin."
"All the time," Maria said. "I've been risking hell ever since I was a kid. All the time. I'm doing it now." Hers was the top bunk of the three.
Like beads on a rosary Alma remembered the feelings she'd experienced in the past days. The heady freedom of moving through the streets with the others, clearing the city of the last of the soldiers, the feeling of power when people in the factory committee listened to her suggestions, the feelings of ... she couldn't put words to it, but she felt it in her body, in her heart, in her soul ... and she wanted to share it.
Pilar said, "Did you ever go to the big house and watch the bulls..."
Maria and Alma giggled.
"Often," Maria admitted. "And the horses."
"And the pigs," said Alma.
They giggled again.
Through the silence that descended onto the cell where the three women lived, Pilar and Alma heard Maria begin to sigh.
There was no more discussion that night.
* * * *
Alma met George again at a meeting of delegates from the workplaces. After the meeting they shared a meal and a long post-mortem of the meeting.
She saw the fire in his eyes, heard it in his voice. As she talked with him, she knew that within this young man were banked fires of passion as great as those welling out of herself. Passion for justice, freedom, fairness, equality. She admired the way he averted his glance when she looked him full in the face. She knew that his strength and determination matched her own. She searched his face as his eyes met hers, held hers. She felt the strength of his eyes percolate through her body, move through her heart, move like an earthquake down there and through her legs to her feet.
This time Alma blushed and tore her eyes away to look down at her empty plate.
"Do you think we should..." his voice faded to a whisper.
"What?" she whispered.
"Well, everything is unsettled. But maybe you could meet my parents. Maybe I could meet your..."
"And then what," she asked, feeling the fire in her eyes, "And then what? Get their permission? Get the permission of a priest? Get the permission of the government?"
"Permission?" he asked, puzzlement showing in his raised eyebrows and furrowed forehead.
"Permission," she reiterated, "permission from all the old men to enjoy our bodies."
"I was thinking of a family, of..."
"With me?" she laughed. "Do I look like breeding stock? I'm too skinny. My breasts aren't ample enough. My hips aren't breeding hips. For that, you need another woman, not this one."
Confusion passed over George's face. "Then, what ... I don't..."
"That's all the old way," Alma whispered fiercely at him. "We are free people. You are a man. I am a woman. We are free people. We can enjoy our bodies, our freedom together."
He stared at the table top. "Do you, ah..."
He cleared his throat.
"Do you ... that is ... have you..."
Alma remained silent. George cleared his throat again.
"I mean, do you ... know ... know how?"
"Haven't you ever seen a bull and a cow?" she asked. "It can't be that complicated. If they can do it, we can figure it out."
The fire was draining out of her body as the prospect of making love with this man became more of a problem in engineering than the prospect of the infinite pleasure she had imagined in the night with her hands between her legs and her mind on his face.
* * * *
She felt his hand cup her small breast, felt it squeeze and release her breast and explore her chest and stomach. She lay on her back, her legs open to him, waiting. His hand on her cheek, his tongue explored her mouth, her body on fire, she waited. And waited.
She thrust her tongue into his mouth, shifted her hips, and wrapped her right hand around his erect penis. She could see only shadows in the darkness of the hotel room, but this felt like grasping an axe handle. She marveled at it it's smooth length and girth, stroked it gently and ran her fingers gently around the smooth tip.
Then she felt the hot liquid drench her hand, felt his penis throb and felt another splash of heat on her hand.
"I'm ... I'm sorry," he gasped.
"Don't worry," she said, not knowing what to say, "That's what's supposed to happen. Here," she said, moving his hand between her legs, "It goes in here..."
Then she felt his finger probing her, felt the fire of his tongue in her mouth again as the finger found its way through her labia and into her inner core. He probed her again and again. He wasn't stroking the place she had just learned to caress with her own hands, this was deeper and more...
She stroked his penis, now slippery with his semen, and felt it becoming large and thick again. She grasped it, used it as a handle to tug him toward her as she guided it between her legs. She felt the head of the penis between her labia, parting them, probing. Farther in it went, a quarter of an inch at a time, searching, opening, burning it's way into her. She was wide open to receive him.
"That's right," she said, moving her hand to his butt to pull him into her. "Oh, that's right." She wanted to feel him fill her, feel him pushing through her, completing her. It began to hurt but she didn't care, she wanted him deeper and deeper inside her. She thrust up toward him, felt him fulfill her as he touched the mouth of her womb with the end of his penis. She heard him gasp as he filled her with hot essence of himself.
The pressure was gone, her thighs were covered with warm liquid. She hadn't felt what she had felt from her own hands the past few nights. But she gasped with something that was somewhere between pain and pleasure. She could find no name for it. This must be what the cows feel when the bulls come to them, was all she could think of. She lay her face on Geroge's chest and felt his hand stroking the back of her neck through her short hair. But I am no breeding stock. I am a Free Woman.
She reached between his legs, felt the heaviness of his penis on the palm of her hand, circled her fingers around it, and stroked. It wasn't more than a few seconds until her hand was full of the axe handle again, and again she pulled him toward her. They were both slippery and wet as he slid into her again. When he had filled her completely, she rolled him onto his back and straddled him, thrusting forward and back to please herself. His hands moved from her breasts down her waist and around her hips, pulling, guiding. She thrust forward and back feeling the shaft of his penis on her clitoris, filling her vagina, finally bringing her to the pleasures she had imagined alone in her bunk bed.
She managed to keep her balance as the first waves of her body's vibrations overtook her, thrust again and again until a second and third wave enveloped her and she collapsed onto her side. She lay her head on his chest and floated in a soft black emptiness she had never known before.