I wanted to kiss her.
I’d never so wanted to kiss a woman in my life.
I couldn’t, because although she wanted me to, she would hate us both if I did. She would hate me, if not herself.
“In spite of believing we were destined to meet the way we met, I wish it happened in a different way.”
I wished she didn’t find me comatose at her doorstep, in a state of absolute and utterly embarrassing oblivion.
“I wish it didn’t happen at all.” The lustful trance she was caught in had been broken by my words, and she stared at me with a hint of annoyance. “I’m trying to be a better version of me and I can’t afford to mess it up with another quick roll in the sack.”
“How can you be so sure that’s what I want from you, a quick roll in the sack?”
I wanted her to be my woman, my wife, the mother of my children.
John, you are insane.
That thought was probably true. I was insane because I didn’t know Cleopatra Godson.
I only knew her name, what she did for a living, and that she lived in my thoughts in the same way food and water did.
I needed her for my existence, like I needed them.
“The way you’re looking at me makes me wonder what you’re thinking. Don’t tell me. I’m sure knowing won’t serve me any purpose. Let’s go inside.”
She turned and walked through the door, leaving it open for me to follow.
I had to pause to take off my loafers and padded barefoot into her living room. With the wall-to-wall carpet it was only right to do so. Plus, she was barefoot herself.
She’d redecorated, I noted from the only time I’d been inside her house. The sofa set was broad-arm leather seats where it had been smaller chairs covered in brassy velvet fabric. The plush carpet was a new addition, and while the flat screen was the same one, it had acquired a new dark wood stand. There was cable now too.
Drapes over the windows and the decorative art on the wall were also new additions.
“I like the new look. It’s simple, yet classy,” I said, turning to her with a smile.
“Mmm,” she said, and as if courtesy won whatever battle was going on in her head, she made a mutter and waved to a seat. “We might as well sit for that talk. Want a drink?”
I nodded. “I’d appreciate one.”
She repeated the ‘mmm’ before moving in the direction I recalled the kitchen was located.
It took only minutes for her to return with plastic bottles of soft drinks, handed me one and settled into a seat with hers.
“Talk. I’ve got to get back to work.”
I wanted to ask what she was working on. She was a number of things, ghostwriter, copywriter, graphic artist, and editor. All of which fascinated me.
But it was better to focus on the subject at hand.
“Until that night you found me on your backyard, I’d never tasted drugs. It was the first, and I mean for it to be the last time.”
“Good for you. So, why did you touch the stuff at all?”
Her tone was offhand, and it irked even when I could tell she was pretending to be uninterested.
“The string of poor decisions that led to that mortifying occurrence began with the bank, the third I’d applied to, rejecting my request for a loan.”
I spoke in a cool tone. It wasn’t because she chose to sound nonchalant. I didn’t want to put emotions on display like I was trying to manipulate her.
Because I wasn’t.
“It was a crushing blow on the hope I had of remodelling the hotel. Dispirited, and I guess desperate for something to lift me out of my forlorn mood, I went with a friend to another friend’s party.”
When I thought about it, it had been more of a shindig. And ordinarily I would have made excuses to avoid the raucous gathering. I didn’t, and perhaps fate wanted it so.
“Like most parties hosted by guys with money to burn, there was an abundance of alcohol, narcotics, ladies who were ready to put out, and food.”
“Must have been fun,” she commented.
Nothing in her expression still indicated interest, but there was faint amusement in her eyes.
It made me smile, a little. “In some ways it was. But I didn’t touch the ladies or the food. As if to make up for my abstinence from them, I poured down my throat disturbing amounts of whiskey and rum. And having altogether lost whatever good judgement I possessed, I experimented with some of the recreational drugs, mainly marijuana.”
“Sounds like you went all out for a first timer.”
“You can say that again.” I flattened the temptation to switch to her seat and kiss that mocking mouth of hers. “It didn’t take long though before I found myself in a euphoric state where I was king of the world, my own world if no one else’s. Every sense of failure and disappointment faded, the thought and memory of them totally gone. I felt confident, proud of myself for no explained reason, and I kept that feeling with more indulgence.
“Somewhere around three a.m., I figured it was time to head home, and walked down the street into another on the hunt for a taxi. I ended up at the back of a house that had to be mine. It turned out it was yours.”
“A coincidence I still wish hadn’t happened.”
A large part of her meant it, I realised as I watched her. She’d feel…perhaps more at ease if I hadn’t ended up in her backyard that night.
If I wasn’t in her living room at the moment.
“Patra, I’m not here for a few months of hot sex and then that’d be the end.”
“How do you know it will be hot sex?”
I blinked, surprised by the question, and then amused by it. “Sex is usually hot when the attraction is heated.”
“Sex is hot when the participants know what they’re doing,” she corrected blandly. Then went on in the same bland voice, “You’re not after sex. So, you want to get into a relationship, get to know me, as I get to know you, and see if we’re compatible enough for marriage. Am I right?”
“Yes and no.” I left my seat and came over to hers. But I didn’t touch her. “I want to get into a relationship with you. I want us to get to know each other. And I want us to get married, because I’m already sure you’re perfect for me.”
She started laughing.
I smiled, and waited. I loved her laugh, sort of deep, sort of strong, and sort of fun. Like a genuine happy sound.
“You’re a funny guy,” she said when she was done. “Do you think a line like that works on every woman?”
“I expect it doesn’t. This is not a line.” I took her hand in mine. My body reacted with a tingle even as hers tensed. “I feel something for you that will not go away so easily. It will not go away at all. I’m certain because of how deep my emotions go.”
“How can you feel that much when you don’t know me?”
“I’ve no answer to that question. I guess there are times we meet someone and just know they’re meant for us.”
“No, I can’t trust you,” she said, and pulled her hand free. “I can’t trust cheap words like the ones you just said. And they’re cheap words because there are no actions backing them.”
“You’re right. I’ve got to back my words with action. I will, Patra. I promise I’ll prove myself to you.”
“That is not what I want.”
Oh, by God, she was contrary. I wanted to laugh, laugh and tell her to stop doing her darnedest to make this impossible.
“You don’t want me to prove myself to you?”
“I don’t want you. Period. I’m on a hiatus from men, sex, love and all that. I told you earlier, I’m working on a better version of me. I’m focusing on me right now, no one else.”
“Are you telling me to walk away, Patra?”
She didn’t respond. In her silence, and her wary eyes, I read uncertainty.
I had to hold in my sigh of relief.
“If you ask me to leave you alone, I really will, Patra. I’m not going to stay when you don’t want me.”
“I just told you I don’t–“
I interrupted her. “You don’t want men, sex or love. I’m asking if you don’t want me to stay, Patra. Stay or go. You tell me.”
This time she hissed after seconds of silence. “Darn you. Why did you have to pass out in my yard?”
I smiled, leaned close and tortured myself with her scent. “I want to stay. I want to prove myself to you. I want you to be mine. Will you give me a chance, Cleopatra?”
“Okay. But I’ve one condition.”
My body tensed. It was my turn to be wary. “What is your condition?”
“No sex until marriage. I’ve already decided the next man who sleeps with me will be my husband.”
No, she couldn’t be serious.
I straightened up, and gaped at her.
She stared back with a dead serious expression.
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