You married me, and little more than two weeks later, you do that! How would you feel? Had I really just said that? His eyes widened, and his look seemed to bore right into my mind. He pulled away his hand, only to cup my cheeks and hold my head steadfast. Anything at all! I swallowed hard, nodding as good as his strong grip allowed me to. Something in him had shifted, I realized, and I saw a fire burn behind his eyes that I had only seen in the throes of our lovemaking.
There was still that betrayed rage flickering, but I could also see a primal arousal, a part of him I had only seen glimpses of. It unsettled me. And it flowed over me like hot silk. The power in his eyes, the force and determination in his look wrapped around me like a tight net. His cock had become erect, a stiff, big flagpole at the front of his pajama pants that gave away his own excitement at the thought. It was more than just the need for revenge that drove him. So far, I had always managed to get around giving him head. But now, kneeling next to him with all that guilt mixing with the shame and forbidden excitement, it somehow felt incredibly right.
I pulled down the waistband of his pants with one hand and slowly leaned forward. His eyes grew big, but then he caught on to my intentions and let go of my face. He was rock hard. The tip was dark and swollen and glistening with a drop of pre-cum. The fantasy - no, the knowledge of this future depravity - was arousing him faster than I had ever managed on my own. I parted my lips and slid them over his silky cock-head. He groaned softly. I ran my tongue along the ridge on its underside, and his breath shuddered.
But he was right. I started twirling my tongue all around his cock, slowly bobbing up and down as I had seen others do when I watched them go at each other at these wild parties in my college days. He moaned again. He knew that my jealousy of her would run knifes through my heart and that all the insecurities about my too-small breasts and too-wide bum would surface with force if I had to compare myself to her perfect shape. His cock grew slick with spittle, and I bobbed further down, trying to relax my tongue and breath evenly through my nose as I had read. His hips started to twitch.
I was doing it right. More salty pre-cum covered my tongue. Fingers wrapped themselves in my hair and encouraged me to go faster and deeper. I fought not to choke. Saliva dribbled down my chin and along his shaft. This was messy and possessive - and sexy like hell. Suddenly, his hand pressed down hard, and his rod slid all the way into my mouth, past a gut-wrenching moment where it touched the back of my throat, but I swallowed in reflex and felt it slide deeper.
My forehead touched his thigh, he growled his delight above me, and with hard jerks of his hips, he filled my throat with hot cum, spurt after spurt after spurt. When he had spent himself and let go of my head, I gasped for air. A part of me felt used and cheap, but there was no denying the fluttery warmth between my thighs. Patrick was studying me, a look of bliss in his eyes, and my heart stumbled with happiness.
I had stammered and offered excuses for my jealousy, but Marietta had acted guarded and hesitant to accept my change of heart. Or, perhaps, she was consciously trying to make it hard for me. She had always had a petty streak. He said he misses having you around. Should I bring anything? She had no idea. That kind of banter was so not me, and she knew it. My mind swirled. My best bet was to try and play along. It would be highly improper to have debauchery run rampant between our guest and my newly-wed husband.
That night, Patrick fucked me. I was lying on my back already when he entered from the bathroom, and he pulled aside the cover, knelt down next to me and pulled my panties wordlessly down to my ankles. I loved when he did that, slowly adding pressure until my juices came freely and coated his digit. Then she joked about coming without clothes. I said anything between you and her would be… improper. I moaned.
Then he guided my legs back further and further, until I was folded almost all the way. My bum lifted off the bedsheet. We had never done this. It felt lewd. I could feel my pussy lips open. He shuffled right in front of my spread pubes and pushed his cock against my slick entrance. I knew that he was going to use me tonight. And I was hot. He pushed home with a single thrust, and his hips slapped loudly against my buttocks. His cock seemed to fill me deeper than ever before. My moans became a garbled mess of hitching breaths, and he grunted and moaned in ecstasy.
My body shook and the bed creaked. The headboard thudded against the wall like a bass drum. His eyes narrowed, fluttered, and I started to sweat. It was carnal, intense, exhilarating - and then he pushed in hard, I felt his cock throb inside me, and his cum spurted into my womb with a mighty groan from his throat. Then he pulled out. My pussy screamed in disappointment. I think I whimpered, but he guided my legs back down on the bed, gently turned me onto my side and spooned me from behind. Normally, he made sure that I received my please, worked through that desire to fall asleep all men appeared to be cursed with and gifted me with an intense orgasm through the second round.
Not tonight. I want you horny. I know how high your sex drive is. Moments later, his breathing evened out and was accompanied by a soft snore. It took me a lot longer to fall asleep. I wanted to hate him for it, tried to not let these feelings deep inside me get stirred awake by his forceful treatment, but I failed. Each morning, I kneeled on the carpet in the entryway to send him off to work with his cock buried in my throat, embarrassed and thrilled, and I was still finishing swallowing his spunk when he tugged his softening tool away, closed the zipper and left with a satisfied grin.
I was busy all Friday, preparing an extravagant three-course menu, decorating the table in the living room with flowers and candles, polishing silverware and searching through the stack of CDs for the most romantic tunes. Patrick was still finishing his shower and I had just put the last touches on the salad with roasted seafood and candied pumpkin seeds when the doorbell chimed. My heart beat all the way up to my throat when I opened the door to let Marietta in.
She wore open-toed sandals with needle-thin heels and her dark hair, cut above her shoulders and held in place by elaborate lace bows, shone in the light. Her eyelids and lips were done in dark, seductive red. You look stunning! Here, let me hang your vest! I felt my knees wobble for a second. She looked me up and down, then stared hard into my eyes. I tried to back up, but my bum bumped against the narrow wardrobe. Her eyes narrowed, and I swallowed.
Of course there is. Far from this forced giggling and these shallow phrases! And the street mariachis at every turn? They have pushed my patience to the edge of despair. Fate will take care of us, let us surrender to it.
Everything we do at a certain moment is fate, just ask the Arabs. Who knows, maybe we get married and have seven children, maybe we become bank robbers or something else. Just go! She laughed and said yes. Just like that. There was something roguish in her voice, no doubt, but her answer was yes. Perhaps most likely she read me; she knew I was bluffing, and she set herself up as my mirror. Without a doubt, she was interested in how I would get out of my own hole. Of course, this gesture was a pure challenge. Nothing short of a major, decisive challenge. Now it was up to me to find out if our roles might have switched — if she was the one bluffing now.
I had already sold hundreds of such stories, and from them I have never got anything more than a placid smile and a pat on my shoulder. What could I do now? The worst thing would be to do nothing, because the timid player was even worse than the empty bluffer — not to mention the unpleasant rumors that would start circling around.
There was, therefore, the possibility that she was simply provoking me. To see how far I would dare. I could check this in only one way—by raising the stakes with an empty card. They say that you can only fight a bluff with a bluff. I know one very good restaurant in Casablanca; what do you say? In less than an hour, we were driving.
That mystical place haunted me for years, so my disappointment on my first visit to Casablanca was terrible. The hotel itself was not actually a boutique at all—it was only small, with typical colonial facades. But it did have a great view. From an old man on the street, we bought a liter of bad red wine and a large plastic bottle of Coke; the ice we picked up from the machines in the corridor.
In the room, I first poured half the cola into the toilet bowl, then filled the plastic bottle back up with red wine. I mixed it well and buried the bottle in the ice. It might be called sangria for the poor, but who cares? She sat on an ancient armchair, her legs twisted beneath her, and watched me silently. Then she said something that sealed the course of events for the night.
That surprised me completely. For the second time. I explained to her that we play poker for money. Just for money. Otherwise it makes no sense. If you want to see a card, you have to pay. If you want to stay another round, you have to pay. Even if we play chips, coins or matches—we play with them and not with cards.
Then this is just another game. For kids. Totally pointless. Someone says that wild boar have been found on the railway line linking Geneva and Zurich. Can I get an article out of that? Of course. Just as I can out of the phone call I receive from an eighty- year-old woman protesting about the law banning smoking in bars. What am I doing working at this newspaper? I know: we love our work and we want to save the world.
I drive away toxic emotions like pride, disillusion, jealousy, ingratitude, futility. I fill that space with humility, gratitude, understanding, consciousness, and grace. I leave aside darkness and despair and invoke the forces of good and of light. I remember every detail of my lunch with Jacob. I chant a mantra along with the other pupils.
I wonder if my boss is right. Is Jacob being unfaithful to his wife? Is he being blackmailed? The teacher asks us to imagine ourselves surrounded by an armor made of light. We have to find a middle path, where there is neither joy nor suffering, only profound peace. Duality of existence? A middle path? That sounds as unnatural as keeping my cholesterol level at seventy like my doctor is always telling me I should.
So why am I bothering with him at all?
The exercises continue. If she knew what she was asking. But then who am I to judge a technique that has lasted for centuries? What am I doing here? I go back to bed and lie staring up at the ceiling. After all, he never suggested he wanted anything more than someone to talk to about Saturn and the frustrations that all adults face sooner or later.
My life is like a film endlessly repeating the same scene. I took a few classes in psychology when I was studying journalism. In one of them, the professor — a very interesting man, both in class and in bed — said that all interviewees go through five stages: defensiveness, self- promotion, self- confidence, confession, and an attempt to put things right.
For example: the world has stopped.
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Not just my world, but the world of everyone around me. When we meet with friends, we always talk about the same things and the same people. Everyone is trying to control their own unhappiness. Not just Jacob and me, but probably my husband, too. In my dangerous confessional state, these things are beginning to become much clearer. My neighbor. Probably even my boss, as well, and the man sleeping by my side. After a certain age, we put on a mask of confidence and certainty. But we no longer cry, except in the bathroom when no one is listening. Nor do we smile at anyone other than our children.
Sleep is the best remedy. I once had lunch there with a correspondent from the Financial Times. We ordered martinis and the waiter served us Cinzanos. He can smoke freely here, because we have a private view of everything around us. We can watch the people coming and going. At the moment, as a journalist. He was the one who encouraged it, because we were both bored with our marriages. And is the affair still ongoing? My wife knows about it.
Am I missing out? Time can often make things worse. Everything is following the Swiss pattern of quality and excellence. Can we move on to another subject? And why I wanted to know if you were happy. Only if you want to tell me, I reply, in order to provoke him and destroy, once and for all, that arrogant air of his that makes me feel so insecure.
I pretend to be unfazed and point at the waves on the normally calm surface of the lake below. Similarities attract. You may be mentally exhausted, convinced that your nonexistent problems — problems you know are nonexistent — are draining you of all your energy. And that makes me feel useless. She says that if anyone found out, it could ruin my career. I agree. Instead of going to a nightclub, I could sit down with him and tell him everything.
How would he react? No sex, no great romantic affair to bring a little sunshine into the gray Geneva afternoon. He just wants a support group, the kind of thing alcoholics and drug addicts have. I get up. Besides, medical confidentiality would guarantee that no one would find out. I have a friend who was cured by taking pills. Does he want to spend the rest of his life haunted by the specter of depression just to be reelected? Is that what he wants for his future? He looks around to see if anyone is listening. I say that negativity feeds on itself. He needs to look for something that will give him a little joy, like sailing, or going to the movies, or reading.
I do understand. Well, I do — a lot! I came here in search of a complicated story involving adultery, blackmail, and corruption. I give him a long kiss. He hesitates for a fraction of a second, then responds. Immediately, all my feelings of impotence, fragility, failure, and insecurity are replaced by one of immense euphoria.
From one moment to the next, I have suddenly become wise, I have regained control of the situation and dared to do something that before I could only imagine. I have ventured into unknown territory and dangerous waters, destroying pyramids and building sanctuaries. I am once again the mistress of my thoughts and my actions. What seemed impossible this morning has become reality this afternoon. The wind has ceased to bother me and has become instead a blessing, like the caress of a god on my cheek. I have my soul back. Hundreds of years seem to pass during the short time the kiss lasts.
And we find exactly what was there before. Now with the addition of a stupid, irresponsible gesture that, at least in my case, will only make matters worse. We spend another half an hour together, talking about the city and its inhabitants as if nothing had happened. We seemed very close when we arrived at the park, and we became one when we kissed. Now, however, we are two complete strangers, trying to keep the conversation going just long enough so that we can each go our separate ways without too much embarrassment.
Our marriages are safe. After all, it was only a kiss. No one asks me how I am. I continue to struggle. I remember when my high-school class organized its farewell party; we laughed for two hours and then, at the end, we all sobbed because we knew we were parting forever. My husband goes upstairs to put the children to bed.
I pour myself a glass of wine and go out into the garden. Tomorrow it will be sunny. I keep thinking about the conversation in the park, that kiss. I feel no regrets at all. I finish my glass of wine and refill it, and for the first time in many months, I feel something other than apathy or a sense of futility.
My husband comes downstairs dressed for a party and asks how long it will take me to get ready. I race upstairs, and when I come back down, I see that our Filipino babysitter has arrived and has already spread her books across the living- room table. She seems to have an aversion to television. What does it matter? I need to celebrate. I WAKE to the sound of the wind rattling the windows. I blame my husband for not shutting them properly. And yet something stops me. Is it because I had too much to drink? I start to think about the waves I saw earlier at the lake, about the clouds that have now dissipated and the person who was with me.
I remember very little about the nightclub; we both thought the music was horrible and the atmosphere extremely dull. What about all those things I said to Jacob this afternoon? This room is suffocating me. I wonder if the mistral has woken him up, too, and what he and his wife will talk about now. Where do they live? I can find out when I get in to work tomorrow.
I wonder: Did they make love tonight? Did he take her passionately, did she moan with pleasure? The way I behave with him is always a surprise. Oral sex, sensible advice, that kiss in the park. I seem like another person. My provocative adolescent self. The one who was once as steady as a rock and as strong as the wind ruffling the calm waters of Lake Leman. I spend an hour thinking about him obsessively.
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My mind repeats the moment of that kiss over and over. And I realize that my unconscious is transforming an imaginary problem into a real one. I never want to see that man again. I need to stay focused and hold negativity at bay. I must stand firm and wait for the crisis to pass.
Otherwise, I run the risk of really falling in love, and of feeling permanently what I felt for only a fraction of a second when we had lunch together that first time. No, the suffering and pain will spread everywhere. I lie tossing and turning in bed for what feels like ages before I fall asleep. After what seems only a second, my husband wakes me up.
I suggest. I pick up my smartphone and check what things I have to do today. The longer the list, the more productive I consider my day to be. And then I realize that nothing on the list is actually very important. When I go downstairs, the table is perfectly set with fruit salad, olive oil, cheese, whole-grain bread, yogurt, and plums. A copy of the newspaper I work for is placed discreetly to the left. My husband has long since given up reading print media and is consulting his iPad.
There is a large photo of Jacob, one of many he must have sent to the press. He looks thoughtful, reflective. In fact, while I was at my meeting with Jacob, the editor-in-chief rang to say that I could cancel because they had received a communique from the Ministry of Finance and were working on the case. It also made the front page, but without the banner headlines. I tell my husband that we need to have a talk — tonight. How can people possibly like that? I was sitting in a corner of the playground that was usually deserted and studying the tiles on the school wall.
I knew there was something wrong with me. On the contrary. I made my mother keep buying me expensive clothes and taking me to school in her pricey foreign car. But that day in the playground, I realized that I was alone, and might remain alone for the rest of my life. Even though I was only eight years old, it seemed like it was already too late to change and to prove to the other children that I was just like them.
Now, summer. I was at secondary school, and the boys were always hitting on me, no matter how hard I tried to fend them off. The other girls were green with envy, but pretended not to be and were always hanging around and cozying up to me, hoping to pick up any rejects. And I rejected almost everyone, because I knew that if anyone ever managed to enter my world, they would find nothing of interest. It was best to maintain an air of mystery with a hint of unattainable pleasures. On my way home, I noticed a few mushrooms that had sprung up after the rain.
They were perfect and intact because everyone knew they were poisonous. For a fraction of a second, I considered eating them. Soon the leaves will change color and each tree will be different from all the others. On the way to the car park, I decide to take a slightly different route. I stop in front of the school where I studied. The tile wall is still there. A bird flies across the sky, playing with the wind. It flies back and forth, rises and falls, its movements obeying some logic I cannot understand.
Perhaps the only logic is that of having fun. I am not a bird. I work, I fill my time, I feel useful and able to justify my existence. One day, my children will be proud of their mother, and my childhood friends will be more frustrated than ever, because I have managed to build something tangible while they have devoted themselves to looking after the house, the children, and their husband.
As long as I manage to preserve my world exactly as it is today. I like the food, the wine, and the atmosphere, but I always feel that we eat better at home. I dine out only when my social life requires it, and, whenever I can, I avoid it. I love cooking. I have enough imaginary problems without adding the real problem of unrequited love. The feelings I had are long over. We can now proceed into a future of peace, hope, and prosperity. But eating out is a ritual.
He asks if we want the same wine of course we do and hands us the menu. I read it from beginning to end and choose the same thing as always. My husband opts for his traditional choice, roast lamb with lentils. It goes down very quickly, among talk of work and complaints about the man who was supposed to come and fix the central heating but never turned up. We talk about other recent news items.
The increase in the number of voters at the last election for the Council of States. A woman who was run over in a crosswalk. The train that broke down and blocked the line for more than two hours. And other such pointless topics. I pour myself another glass of wine, without waiting for the appetizer and without asking my husband what his day was like. We exchange a few more meaningless words, wasting precious minutes of my life on pointless niceties. My husband orders another bottle of wine. Then I begin. Like I just said, you seem much happier.
My sadness has become so routine that no one notices anymore. I cry alone in the shower for no reason. When I finally finish my housework each evening, an endless dialogue starts in my head. My thoughts keep repeating themselves uncontrollably. For example, did you notice the mistral last night rattling the windows? I notice when you turn over in bed and when you talk in your sleep.
Just to be clear, though: I love our children. I love you. I adore my work. But saying these words has already filled me with an enormous peace. My secret is out. The wine is having its effect. I am no longer alone. Thank you, Jacob Konig. I need to learn how to resolve my problems on my own. Thank you for telling me. I was thinking today about my childhood and teenage years. Does the root of all this lie there?
I come from a normal family, I had a normal upbringing, I lead a normal life. I think that if you could sleep properly, then you would gradually regain control of your thoughts. Perhaps we should exercise more. The children would love it. Despite what you think, the idiotic articles I write help me keep my mind occupied and drive away the wild thoughts that overwhelm me as soon as I have nothing to do. To run until we drop with exhaustion. And perhaps we should invite friends round more often.
Having to talk and entertain people with a fixed smile on my lips, listening to their views on opera and traffic. Then, to top it all, having to clean up afterward. We eat in silence. We make short work of the second bottle of wine. What can I do to make her happy?
I would hate it if he arrived home bearing a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers. I telephone my mother-in-law and ask if the children can sleep over. Because the answer is nothing. If only I had some serious problem. Even a friend of mine, who spent years feeling depressed, is now getting treatment. After reading about ten of those self-help books, I saw that they were leading nowhere.
They have an immediate effect, but that effect stops as soon as I close the book. Everything is a symptom. Can you imagine a kind of spongy black hole? He assures me that I will get out of this situation. I really believe that. He asks for the bill, he takes my hand, we call a taxi. Something has gotten better. Trusting the one you love always brings good results. You should be working. What are you doing in my dreams? I did exactly as you suggested; I talked to my husband, and I felt the love he feels for me.
And afterward, when we made love more passionately than we have in a while, the feeling that happiness had been sucked out of my life disappeared completely. Please go away. I have to get up early to take the children to school, then go to the store, find somewhere to park, and think up something original to say about a very unoriginal topic — politics. Leave me alone, Jacob Konig. I wish I had someone here with me tonight to tell me stories with happy endings, to sing a song that would send me to sleep. But no, all I can think of is you. I hope you understand. I knew it. Or am I deceiving myself, trying to make my life a little more interesting with problems?
Problems require solutions and I can spend my hours, my days, my weeks, looking for them. Perhaps it might be a good idea, after all, if my husband asked our doctor to prescribe something to help me sleep. I have a friend who says he hates weekends because when the stock market is closed he has no way to amuse himself. My husband has persuaded me that we need to get out of the city. He tells me to wear my jogging pants. I feel embarrassed going out like that, especially to visit Nyon, the ancient and glorious city that was once home to the Romans but now has fewer than twenty thousand inhabitants.
The less said, the better. His wife must have spent a sleepless night, but for very different reasons from mine. She chooses the best of everything, without worrying about the cost. Then she might take her car and drive to Satigny to visit one of the many vineyards that are the pride of the region, to taste some of the new vintages, and to decide on something that will please those who really understand wine — as seems to be the case with her husband.
She will return home tired, but happy. Officially, Jacob is still campaigning, but why not get things ready for the evening? Oh, dear, now she realizes that she has less cheese than she thought! She gets in the car again and goes back to the market. Is it worth popping in to one of the shops and buying something new to wear? Or would that appear ostentatious? Best to wear that Moschino outfit she bought in Milan when she accompanied her husband to a conference on labor laws.
And how will Jacob be feeling? He phones his wife every hour to ask if he should say this or that, if it would be best to visit this street or that area, or if the Tribune de Geneve has posted anything new on its website. He depends on her and her advice, offloads some of the tension that builds up with each visit he makes, and asks her about the strategy they drew up together and where he should go next. If he continues on his brilliant path, he will one day be president of the republic.
It will open doors, bring invitations to conferences in far-flung places. Some large company will appoint him to its board. The future of the Konigs looks bright, while all that lies before me at this precise moment is the road and the prospect of a picnic while wearing a hideous pair of jogging pants. Our children race around, laughing. Now that my husband knows everything, I feel relieved. My husband spots a couple family friends sitting on a nearby bench, eating ice cream with their children. We can buy them ice cream, too. Before we go down to the shore of Lake Leman — which all foreigners call Lake Geneva — he buys the ice cream for the children and asks them to stay with our friends while Mommy and Daddy go for a run.
My husband goes to the car and fetches the stupid thing. From that moment on, the screen will be the best possible nanny. We start running. On one side are gardens; on the other, seagulls and sailboats making the most of the mistral. It must be nearing its ninth day, when it will disappear and take with it the blue sky and the good weather. We run along the track for fifteen minutes. He keeps jogging circles round me. Do it for me, for the kids. He stops jogging, takes my hands, and gently shakes me.
I do as he asks. We run together for the remaining ten minutes. Among the photos is one of Jacob Konig, smiling at the camera. I run more quickly. My husband is surprised and speeds up. We get there in seven minutes instead of ten. Despite the beautiful surroundings — the mountains, the seagulls, the Alps in the distance — they have their eyes glued to the screen of that soul-sucking machine.
My husband goes to them, but I keep running. He watches me, surprised and happy. He must think his words have had an effect and are filling my body with the endorphins that fill our blood whenever we do some physical activity with a slight intensity, like when we run or have an orgasm.
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Why do I have to have such wonderful children? Why did I have to meet my husband and fall in love? I should run straight to the nearest mental hospital, because these are not the kinds of things one should think. But I continue to think them. I run for a few more minutes, then go back. But there they are, smiling at their loving mother and spouse. I embrace them all. Despite what I feel. When I arrive, the first results are just coming in.
More than forty-five percent of the electorate voted, which is a record. A female candidate came out on top, and Jacob came in an honorable third, which will give him the right to enter government if his party chooses him. The main hall is decorated with yellow and green balloons. People have already started to drink, and some make the victory sign, perhaps hoping that tomorrow their picture will appear in the newspaper. Jacob spots me at once and immediately looks the other way, searching for someone with whom he can talk about matters that must, I imagine, be extraordinarily dull.
I need to work, or at least pretend to. I take out my digital recorder, a notebook, and a felt-tip pen. Someone blocks my path. Jacob has told me a lot about you. Her other clothes must have been made exclusively by the best couturier in Paris, whose name must be kept secret in order to avoid copycat designs.
I try not to look surprised. Jacob told you about me? I did interview him, and, a few days later, we had lunch together. She must know more than she is letting on. Would Jacob have told her what happened during our meeting in the Parc des Eaux-Vives? Should I mention it? She probably knows it all by heart, anyway. I ask if she has anything to say. She replies that as an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Geneva, she would be delighted to comment, but as the wife of a reelected politician, that would be absurd.
I say I admire her dignity. Not even when it appeared in the newspapers just before the elections. I say that according to the rules of journalism, people should request that something be kept off the record before they speak. The journalist can then agree or not. Asking afterward is like trying to stop a leaf that has fallen into the river and is already traveling wherever the waters choose to take it. The leaf can no longer make its own decisions. Feeling embarrassed, I agree to treat her statement as off the record.