All of a sudden, she was there. Like lightening, or a flood. He'd known she would come, he just hadn't expected it would affect him very much. Without wanting to, he felt skittish, agitated. Thrilled, in fact. He realized, that there was much he had forgotten about her. The way she looked, how she carried herself. She had something unpredictable, polymorphous. You wanted to smell her, to touch her, just to see what it was like. Whether she would change you. He realized as well, that she was not arrogant. Somehow he had thought that she was. And he could tell -not without satisfaction- that she was not indifferent to him. Not at all. It seemed, that his memory had deceived him.
Memories... He hadn't thought about her all that much, though, there were a couple of times when she had reappeared in his mind. It usually happened in the early hours of the morning, just after the fog of a recent dream had cleared and just before the sharpness of reality had come crashing down. During those short, gratifying interludes, he had allowed himself to fully indulge in her. Quickly, greedily, he would scan through the imagery of his mind and enjoy the sweet sensation of his body heating up in response. That was all. That was enough.
And yet, here she was. Suddenly very near. His eyes followed her as she walked through the hall, but she didn't look up. She didn't seem aware of him at all. Though, as he observed her, he saw her carefully turn her gaze. Just a fraction. Then, upon catching sight of him, she corrected herself immediately, pretending she hadn't even tried. The sudden tightening of her shoulders gave her away. He felt the corners of his mouth turn sharply upwards and quickly cast his eyes down and bit hard on his gum. The body never lies, he thought, and straight after, an uncompromising restlessness started to take shape in the pit of his stomach.
For a while he tried to get on with his work, but it was futile. Farcical. He wanted, he needed to be near her. He wanted to look at her. See, whether it would change him. Impulse led him to grab a bunch of keys -his alibi- and start walking. His tread was hasty, the keys cold and sharp in his hands. What if he was too late? He stopped at the end of the hall and opened one door, then the next, until he heard a voice. It was a muted, slightly delayed sound. She tended to talk slowly, as if she turned each word over in her head before allowing it to be shared. Sometimes, he remembered, she would leave unfinished sentences hang in the air. Like quiet balloons, slowly giving way to gravity. It was a vexatious thing to do. Disorientating.
A door opened. There was a quickening in his chest. He reckoned they couldn't see him, but if they did, what of it? He would make something up. He had every right to be here. He stood very still and listened to goodbyes being said. Hands being shook. There seemed to be a certain formality about it. She didn't like formalities, he knew that. The first time they had met, he had addressed her by her surname and she had waived her hand at him. “No no,” she had said, irritably, and insisted he use her first name instead. He heard her name in his head and traced along his lower lip with his thumb. A warm sensation spread inside of him.
The door closed. He made sure to wait a few seconds, and then he followed the sound of her footsteps. It didn't take him long to catch up, though she walked fast, with a certain resolve in her pace. She looked neither left nor right and let her feet pound loudly onto the floor. There was something relentless about it. A small bag moved along her hip as she walked. He first looked at the bag, then, he allowed his eyes to travel over her body. She was strangely complete. Curiously perfect. She was a varmint, a treasure.
He surmised she was headed towards the wardrobe. If she did, she'd have to go down the stairs. He could catch up with her there. Stop her. He saw her make a half-turn and push open the door leading to the stairwell. He had been right! His feet increased their speed, he had to reach the door before it fell into the lock. As he approached, there was a brief moment in which he asked himself whether what he was doing was absurd. Possibly illegal. He was following a woman, chasing her! But he couldn't leave time for a conclusion, there was no thinking this over. He was almost there.
His hand reached for the door just in time. He slipped through the crack and caught her five, maybe six steps down the stairs. She stopped in her tread. He stopped too and, instantaneously, a sense of victory took hold of him. There she was! Then, with a sudden panic, he realized he had no plan. He had no idea what to do, what to say. She turned and tilted her face upwards. There was something dark in her expression...was it anger? His grip on the doorhandle tightened.
He smiled quickly and, at a loss for something better, he simply said, “Hello”. She responded with a stiff smile, “Hi”. A stitch of time passed between them before she added, in a flat voice, “How are you”. He relaxed. The sound of the door falling into the lock echoed through the stairwell. His feet descended the stairs, each step bringing him closer. He could see her now, finally. He hoped she wasn't angry, though at the same time, it didn't really matter anymore.
When he stood across from her, he let his hand reach up and touch her arm. Her muscles tightened in response, but she didn't move. “I'm good,” he said, and without meaning to, he felt himself break into a smile. She met his gaze and he saw a reciprocating smile starting to play around her mouth. “It's..,” he looked at her arm, his fingers touched the skin of her hand, “I'm...I'm happy to see you”. As he spoke the words they sounded daft. Incredibly stupid. And yet, saying them made him realize that what he felt was, in fact, happiness. Perhaps he hadn't been happy, purely happy, for quite a while.
She breathed out sharply through her nose and shook her head. “Okay,” she said and almost rolled her eyes, “Well, I'm happy you're happy”. After that she laughed, then she blushed, then she looked away. He took another step closer, pulled her hand towards him, and surprised himself by kissing her. He had never considered kissing her before. He simply didn't think he could, but, from the moment he tasted her, and touched her, and held her, it seemed like this was exactly what he should have been doing all along.
As they stood in the stairwell and kissed, his words kept going through her mind. He's happy to see me, she thought, happy to see me. A warm sensation had started to spread in the pit of her stomach, telling her that she too, was happy. Happier, perhaps, than she had been in quite a while. It seemed that her memory of him had deceived her. He was not arrogant, even though, somehow, she had thought that he was. And he was not indifferent to her. Not at all... The feeling arose in her then, as she tasted him, and touched him, and kissed him, that this was exactly what they should have been doing all along.
© Elzemieke De Tiège, all rights reserved. Please do not alter, crop or copy. Thank you ♥
Please note that this is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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