AN: Many thanks to my two lovely reviewers and the other three people who alerted this ^.^ I spent all day writing to get this out as quickly as possible for you. Again, please let me know what you think! :D Epigraph again © A Fine Frenzy.
'I cannot go to the ocean,
I cannot drive the streets at night,
I cannot wake up in the morning,
Without you on my mind.
So, you're gone and I'm haunted,
And I bet you are just fine,
Did I make it that easy to walk,
Right in and out of my life?
Goodbye my almost lover,
Goodbye my hopeless dream,
I'm trying not to think about you,
Why can't you just let me be?
So long my luckless romance,
My back is turned on you,
Should've known you'd bring me heartache,
Almost lovers always do.'
Giovanni's Point Of View.
Almost four years had passed since I had left Kia at the departure gate. At the time, it was the hardest thing that I'd ever had to do. It took every ounce of self-control to stop myself from grabbing her around the waist, slinging her over my shoulder and running all the back to my flat, never willing to let her go again. But I had, and that was the price that I had to pay.
At first, I don't know why I was drawn to her. I'd always found English girls attractive, starting way back when I had first joined the co-educational boarding school that I spent half the year living in. I didn't just find her beautiful, although she was; extremely so at that. There was something that enthralled me about her, the way she floated across the ground or perhaps how a faint blush would appear at the base of her neck whenever she became even slightly embarrassed. Either one, along with many, many more reasons, I still couldn't just quite put my finger on what it was about her. When I first saw her struggling with the case on the plane, I just simply wanted to help a fellow passenger in need, but then she turned around to thank me and from that moment on, she had a grasp upon me like to other. I couldn't resist myself from following her into the same row of seats, as if on some leash. To later find to that she actually knew of me, better still being a student of my old mentor, was something that I couldn't just put down to coincidence.
Over the week that we spend together, I fell for her so much more than I had ever intended to; I'll admit that. During that act of intimacy that had played between us, I couldn't help but whisper my feelings to her, regretting it as soon as the words had departed from my lips. It was soon washed away in a sea of both mental and physical ecstasy as she told me what I longed to hear back.
Almost four years had also passed since I'd arrived back to my flat, from the airport in a state of dark depression, only to find a letter on my doormat, holding even more bad news than my heart cared to take. My father was dying, and I had to return home as soon as possible. He managed to hang on for a few more months, wilfully battling against the last stage pancreatic cancer, until he finally passed just as the first buds of new, green life were beginning to appear upon the trees, as if in a mocking irony.
I sold up my flat without ever returning to it, as I had already brought my most valued possessions along with me, and moved in to look after my grief-strike Mama. With instructions to forward on any mail for me to the new owner, I then wrote yet another letter to Kia, sending it to the address she had given me. My five others that I had sent at that point were still unanswered, but I just secretly hoped that the replies were lost in transit, rather than face up to the true reality.
Mama lived for another three years until she finally left me to join her husband, as she had so often wished to. From the autopsy, the doctors said that she had simply died of a broken heart. Once more, I was overwhelmed with the sea of grieving pain, and could only think of turning my attentions to finding Kia. I found it unbearable to sell my childhood home and instead left it under the charge of the neighbouring farm, who's owners we has known for decades.
With the money from my flat, I bought the first plane ticket out of the nearest airport to Heathrow and made my way to the address that she had written down for me, on a now aging piece of paper, only to find that she had moved not soon after she had returned from Venice. The current tenants had received my letters and unknowing of what to do, had just thrown them away. It was only then that I realised how much of a mistake I had made coming here with no idea how to find her.
Still, I persevered. For months I tried every method of tracking that I came across, but no avail. It was as if she had disappeared off the face of the world, leaving no trace to even tell me so. My final hope was to go and visit Barnsey at his university classroom, and that was a very final hope indeed. I spent an agonizing half hour with him babbling on about my work, and his own, until I finally managed to splutter out the real reason to why I was there.
He stared at me, faint confusion hinting in his eyes. "You knew Kia?"
"Yes, I -" I stopped and frowned. "She never told you...?"
"Told me what?"
"The trip she took to Venice, four years ago -"
He broke me off, nodding to himself in the typical muddled Barnsey fashion. "Ah yes; the Venice trip. What a project that was. Made a minor London exhibition, you know. Such a shame that -"
It was this time that I cut him off. "... It made an exhibition?"
"Oh, yes. It was incredible. Not quite as good as yours ever were, dare I say, but tremendous comparing to her past work. Now, I think I have a copy somewhere around here." He began to bumble over to where he kept some of his favourite student pieces stacked at the back of the room. He flicked through a pile before finally drawing out a large, black leather portfolio case, blowing the dust off of it as he set it down on a desk. "Of course, the exhibition printings were a lot more spectacular than this, but it's a start." He unzipped the file and spread it open, all the memories from that one week flooding out upon glossy paper. It was mainly dark, soft lighting with the occasional splash of bright white. Never showing a clear face, but we were there. A pair of shoulders, head turned away, or similar to black shadows hiding the details a particular brooding one of myself that she had taken as a jokey "Smile!".
Unknowing of the pain ripping apart my chest, Barns carried on rambling. "Entitled Venetian Rain from what I remember. Quite the masterpiece; just like a book set in pictures. It wasn't exactly the subject that I had set but she ran with it on her own, and I don't think I've ever seen a love story portrayed so well by any student. Remarkable, don't you think?"
"Yes." My voice was thick and heavy as I traced the final picture with my fingers. The camera must have been set on a timer, as she had done throughout the entire week. A tangle of twisted sheets and limbs, bare skin in the flickering candlelight, and faces buried in pillows, protection from curled arms. It was all there; the same raw emotions that I had felt from the final night, captured so well in static colours.
"Very brave to use herself as a model, don't you think, especially in this type of work." I could only nod. "The man, she said, was just a local who was willing to help her with it. Fantastic on his behalf as well. I wonder if he knows what a success it was, despite what happened between them. Seems very real, but I suppose to some extent, it was."
"It was." I managed to choke out in agreement, upset as to why she'd told me as 'just a local'. I could understand how what happened would want to be kept as a secret, but seemingly, Barns knew what did.
"Giovanni, are you alright?" His hand landed upon my shoulder, giving it a reassuring pat.
"Greg, that's me."
"The guy -" I waved at the final picture. "is me. I met her on that trip, helped her with the project, fell in love with her, even."
"Oh..." He trailed off, looking a little shocked. "That would explain the exceptionality. You must have been very upset though when she stopped, though."
"Stopped?" I looked up at him, slightly bemused. "Stopped what?"
"Photography of course! I mean, it had to be done, due to..." He trailed off. "Well, you know... You must have been happy about that, but less so about her giving up her passion."
I frowned, faint fear blooming in my stomach. "But why did she stop?"
He just stared at me, an incomprehensible expression upon his aging face. "Why are you here again?"
"To find her. I haven't even heard from here since we parted at the airport."
"My dear boy, I..." He stumbled off, seemingly stunned. "So you don't know?"
Finally, my exasperation wore out. "Know what?"
"Well, I never... You must go and see her."
"That's what I've been trying to do."
I tried to keep the anger out of my voice as he flicked to the final slide of the case. "I believe that she wrote an address on the back, but I'm not sure of whether she still lives there."
"I'll go anyway."
He smiled at me determination. "Good for you... Now, ah! Here we are. Twenty four, Eastwood Road, South London."
I scribbled it down on the other side of the paper that still held her curly writing. "Do you know how I can get there?"
Two trains and many more buses later, I found myself outside a grey, bland terraced house, the address off which matched the one in my hand. I found utmost disbelief that Kia, my Kia; who was so extravagant and unique, could live in such a place. With all my precious world possessions upon my back in a rucksack, I drew my thin coat tighter around my body as a cold, typically English, splattering of rain blew against me. Walking up the steps, I nervously pressed the doorbell, expecting to come face to face with a stranger, which, in one sense, I did.
It was her who opened the door. Or rather, an almost unrecognisable version of her. Gone was the young, carefree girl that I'd so wilfully fallen for, and in her place was left a mere shell of what she had once been. The sparkling light in her eyes had dimmed into a barely flickering light. Even that couldn't deter the complete elation which bloomed at finally seeing her again. She just stared at me, only slight shock upon her face as I stepped forwards. "Kia, I -"
I stopped as I saw the toddler hiding behind her legs, gripping her jeans with his podgy hands and peering around the side of her thigh. He couldn't have been more than three years old and he stared up at me with a pair of wide, familiar, baltic amber eyes. I could feel my breathing shallow as her hand came to cup the back of his head, protectively caressing the mass of dark curls.
"Why are you here?" Her whisper shot through my shocked awe, and to my surprise, as I glanced back at her, her expression was stony. Part of me wanted to turn on my heel and run away from the truth, whilst the other part wanted to grab her, push her back against a wall and kiss her like there was no tomorrow.
"I... I just..." My throat constricted, unable to speak anymore as I stared once more at the boy, realising more similarities with every passing moment.
She crouched down next to him, kissing his forehead and whispering "Tell Daddy that I've gone for a walk with an old friend, okay? I'll be back soon."
He solemnly nodded and without a word, ran back inside the house. Kia took a coat from a rack just beside the door, pulled it on and stepped out beside me, pulling the door shut behind her. I meekly followed her down the path and silently up the road. She led me to a children's playground, currently empty and void of all happiness. Sitting down on a swing, she sighed, slowly shaking her head, repeating. "Why are you here?"
"I came to find you."
"It's a bit late, don't you think?"
She vehemence in her voice caught me off guard. "But you knew that I couldn't come any sooner."
"No, Giovanni. No, I did not know."
"I wrote to you, telling you so."
"And I didn't get it."
"I wrote more. I wrote forty-six; one every month."
She slowly shook her head, screwing up her eyes and scuffing her feet along the ground, as I sat on the swing next to hers. "I never got one."
"I sent them, I swear I did."
"And I didn't get them... Where did you send them?"
I pulled the precious piece of paper out of my pocket, handing it over. "To the address you gave me."
She sadly laughed, taking it. "I moved. Only a few weeks after I returned home. I wrote to you, telling you my new address."
"I never went back to my flat..." I paused, realising she knew nothing more than what she had the day we parted. I must have just seemed like a foreign bastard who took her virginity, promised her more than she could ever have, and then disappeared with no more contact. "My Father was diagnosed with cancer. I had to help Mama look after him, then when he died, I couldn't have left her by herself; she couldn't cope, Kia. She too passed late spring. I've been looking for you here ever since."
"And you found me."
"I did. I even went and saw Barns, in case he knew where you were... I saw the photos, from..." I trailed off, not wanting to mention it anymore.
"You got my address from that?"
I nodded in confirmation. "They were amazing."
"That's what they all said. For me, it was tainted."
"Why did you stop, Kia?"
"I had to do what was best for my son. Being in full time education wasn't part of that."
"Yes; his name is Russell. His third birthday was last month." The first real smile spread across her face. "He's my life."
"And..." I struggled with the words, unsure of wanting confirmation. "And he's mine?"
"God, how much of a slut do you think I am?" He voice was sharp. "Of course he's yours; he's the bloody image of you. I can't ever look at him without seeing you." A fat tear ran down her cheek and I wanted nothing more than to take her in my arms and wipe it away. I doubt she would have taken kindly to that, however. A deep blooming pride appeared in my chest as the news set in that I had a son, quickly being dashed with a heart wrenching ache as I remembered her earlier comment. 'Go tell Daddy.'
"You're... You have someone, don't you?"
I was already expecting the answer to be yes, but not to the extent that it was. "I'm engaged." A dagger stabbed though my already crushed heart. She hesitantly leant over and picked up my hand, tightly squeezing it. "I met Daniel when I was six months pregnant. He was so good to me. He never judged, or made assumptions. He loves Russell just like his own and I could never ask for anything more."
"Do you love him?" I looked sideways at her, aware of how pathetic I must have seemed.
"I do." She whispered, not looking me in the eye.
"And does he love you?"
"But... Kia, I love you too."
Her hand came up to stroke my jaw as she shook her head. "No, Giovanni. No, you don't."
"I do." I was practically on the edge of begging, a sob catching in my throat. "And you said that you loved me, back then."
"Back then, I thought that I did. I didn't really know the true meaning of the word." She stood up, slowly exhaling. "You can see Russell if you want; I'm not going to take that right away from you, but you're not what he needs. I'm sorry, but you're just not; he needs stability."
I too heaved myself up, every action feeling like an impossible task. "I don't think I can let you go again."
She gently cupped my face in her hands. "What we had was amazing, surreal, beautiful even, but it was never going to last forever. You have to accept that." Rising up on her toes, she softly kissed my cheek. "Goodbye, Giovanni."
As she turned, walking away from me, I couldn't help but call out "Addio, la mia piccolo tesoro."
He reply was whipped with the wind, coming to my ears fractured. "Addio, il mio quasi amante."
The hot, salty tears only streamed down my face as she disappeared for the final time across the blank stretch of concrete, and I came realise that that was probably the last time that I would ever see the woman whom I'd come to love and lose so in the London Rain.