If one door slams…

 

I gripped the letter with such force it split down the middle. The paper fluttered autumnally to the ground. I was as discarded as the carpet of leaves outside.

Watching the raindrops roll down the glass I allowed the heavens to do my crying for me. I was too angry to acknowledge the sadness pulsing behind my eyes. The years felt brittle as yesterday. When did I start pinning my dreams on Richard? I had always been fiercely independent. My Father had predicted that I would be an old maid if I kept it up. Men wanted to feel needed. Nothing good could come from an independent woman. And I thought I could cheat destiny even if I had to contort myself to avoid it.

Richard hypnotised me with his azure eyes and his toothpaste commercial smile. He was everything I had avoided for years. Popular, beautiful and irreverent, he radiated confidence and had a following reminiscent of a messiah. I prided myself a loner, following anyone or anything except a story, was not a possibility.

The night we met I was sipping a cocktail surrounded by the journalists of the newspaper I served but immersed in my own thoughts. My colleagues had learnt to give me a wide berth. The war had made it starkly evident that all was not equal and I was still bristling from the meeting with Doug.

“Too dangerous!” Douglas, our editor had bellowed, his handlebar moustache trembling with indignation. “God, woman, look around. Men are getting blown to bits and you want to join them? Bring me the fashion piece I asked you for days ago. Women will never make war correspondent on my paper.” And he dismissed me with a flick of his wrist.

I was peevish with disappointment and observed this man in uniform strut like a pigeon. My face must have been as dark as my thoughts because he broke from his adoring disciples and marched over to me.

“Hello beautiful lady, why so serious?” His face crinkled into a lopsided smile. I struggled to maintain my scowl. “Point out the rascal and I will sort him out.” He said smacking his fist into his palm.

His gaze never wavered that night. It was a light shining onto my face. I felt seen for the first time. We spent stolen moments from his military engagements intertwined like vines. I resented his easy comings and goings. I felt rooted, earth bound by him. No man had ever entered my soul as he did. I was trapped as surely as a gazelle in the jaws of a lion.

Years of screaming sirens and distant explosions muffled the waiting, nights of passion amongst the bleeding and the pain. I never realised how much I waited. How could I put my life on hold for something so prosaic?

“Colette, God sake, woman where are you? Dreaming into space. That’s why women would make God awful soldiers.” I had been miles away dreaming of languishing in Richard’s arms. I resolved to put him from my mind until his jaunty rat-a-tat on my door but he remained on the periphery of my thoughts always.

Now he has put me outside his life. The letter informing me of his impending marriage was sour with memories of his kisses. I turned back to the window. The rain had stopped and a shaft of sunlight lit up my desk. I shifted my chair and sought the heat on my face.

I read once ‘It is better to have loved and lost than to never to have loved at all.’ One day I may feel that way but for now I needed to erase the smell of him. I closed my eyes and breathed slowly as if breathing in the rays of the sun.

“Colette!” I opened my eyes with a start. “You still want to be a war correspondent?” Douglas’s protuberant eyes bored into me.

“Ye…Yes.” I stammered.

“Stupidest idea ever but the board want a woman on the front. Woman’s perspective my arse…! Apologies, Colette but you want the job, it’s yours.”

Abruptly the gloom of moments before was bleached by sunlight. This was my destiny. The one I had always longed for. One door closed as another opened. The invitation was to step through this open door.

I didn’t hesitate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kisses from strangers.

She had forgotten what it felt like to breathe. This man had unleashed something in her. She didn’t even know his name but he had laid bare all her secrets and freed her from them. She turned over to look at his beautiful face as he slept. His dark lashes emphasised his ivory skin and his mouth was parted. She recalled that mouth exploring her body and the unusual stillness of her mind.

They had seen each other across the crowded club and she had gravitated towards him as if being pushed by an invisible force. She had indulged in a couple of tequila shots only moments before with Carla and the girls but it would normally take much more than that to throw herself at someone. But she could not resist the lure of his gaze. Was it his smoky eyes that drew her or the amused incline of his mouth? She flushed when she remembering standing in front of him.

“Hello.” She had said as though it held hidden meaning.

“Hello.” He said and his smile splintered into a grin. His teeth were white and straight and she longed to kiss his generous mouth. “Drink?” He said and she nodded. He laughed and it was strong and masculine and unbelievably captivating. She remembers having to sit down on a barstool. Her knees were wobbling. I am absolutely friggin’ weak at the knees, she thought, wondering whether Carla was watching her make a fool of herself. “What can I get you? Beer?” He said, his eyes like the ashes of fires. She nodded again not trusting herself to speak although she hated beer.

They took the beers with them and stood outside leaning up against a car and he kissed her. The beer dropped from her hands splashing up against their jeans but they barely noticed. His tongue teased and probed her mouth until she felt all of her disappearing.

“My car is around the corner.” She said and he nodded. Her keys were in her pocket but Carla still had her bag. She thrust it from her mind and concentrated on driving. His hand was on her thigh, which felt feverish. All thought was driven away by sensation. She parked the car outside the apartment building and they were quiet for moments. She stared out of the windscreen acutely aware of his gaze on her. His hand was still on her thigh and he flickered his fingers further up her leg. She gasped and flung her arms around his neck and they kissed once more. He broke away and looked intently into her eyes.

“Should we go in?” He said.

“Yes.” She said and it came out strident as though she was trying to convince herself but she needed no convincing. This felt more right that the three year relationship with Drew.

She was gratified that she and Carla had tidied up before they left and the flat looked attractive and inviting. Her sketches were on the pegboard and Carla’s photographs fanned out over the walls.

“Do you want something to drink?” she asked although she couldn’t remember if they had anything. He shook his head and she opened her bedroom door. She had left her nightlight on that she’d had since she was a kid. Complete darkness still made her uneasy. It gave the room a pink hue. He sat on the bed and pulled her down next to him. He was unhurried, his fingers leaving a trail of warmth on her skin as he peeled the clothes from her body…

She slept better than she had in years.

“Morning.” He said smiling up at her. He smelt of dew and sunshine. She leant over and kissed him.