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Walking out the door was the hardest thing. Seeing you sleeping, hair tousled, chest bare, the sheet bunched at your waist. I cried, silently. I didn't want to wake you up. I couldn't disturb you. The quietest I've ever been in my life. The tears surrendered themselves from my eyes and dripped all over the carpet. I wanted you to get up later and feel that spot with your toes and wonder why it was wet. It had started last night.
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A reunion of old friends, colleagues. You'd showed me pics of your family. Your sister now a woman, your girlfriend now your wife, kids I didn't expect. It was all I could do to stop from bawling right there. You'd shown me your life in just three minutes, like on a platter. Three minutes of torture, you'd never be mine. You mentioned that the wife was out of town on business and your parents were looking after the kids. Said they were just like you when you were little – crazy. Needed someone to look after them when she wasn't around cause you couldn't handle it on your own.
You had your own business, worked yourself to the bone, didn't have a lot of time on your hands. You asked me about what I'd done, was I married, kids? I laughed a little at first. Took another gulp of my wine. No, not married. Don't want to. Not looking. No kids. Wanted to tell you I couldn't, wanted to say that I'd only have married if it had been you. You were the only one. We talked with the others, had a few jokes, a few more wines, starting smoking again – brought back more memories.
As I had the cigarette dangling from my lips and fumbling for a light you whipped out a lighter from your pocket. I smiled – just like old times. Then I realised the lighter looked familiar. That day we'd last been together, the whole gang, I'd given it to you. I'd quit I told you. Let you have it. Back in 2001 when I'd first got it you'd spent half the night playing with it, trying to do tricks. So 8 years ago I'd given it to you as a joke, a little memento. It looked brand new, never used, just waiting for me.
The words inscribed on the front – Ignoring me doesn't work – swirled my mind back to a time long pined for. You shrugged your shoulders and said 'When I came tonight I had a thought you might need it. Took it out of the dresser drawer and put it in my pocket. For old times sake.'
The dresser drawer. You kept a part of me that close? Then music was blaring from the speakers. We all shrieked with delight – it was Kylie Minogue – the soundtrack of our last big trip as a group. Mitchell was up there and dancing, singing his lungs out, such memories. Sarah was too, she was always one for a bit of a party, she dragged James up there and that was a sight to see. Shocked the hell outta him. Gai, Simone and Liz were a little more conservative (they always had to be). Lorrae, Bernard and Marie got up for a boogie. That left me and you. I smiled a little shy smile expecting you to say you couldn't dance, didn't want to, had an injury. You just stood up and grabbed my hand. It wasn't your type of music but you tried to dance to it anyway.
Gai eyed me suspiciously but I just laughed at her, always so curious. We all danced in a big group, the rest of the people in the bar looking at us with interest. It's not often you see a bunch of over 30s dancing the night away with the vigour of 18 year olds.
On a night like this. Just wanna stay forever, on a night like this.
I left you alone for a while. Let you hang with James, Bernard and Mitchell – relive old memories, boast about conquests, share stories about kids and families, moan that you've turned into your parents and settled down. Us girls hung out too. We did tequila shots for old times sake, made jokes about the word country, smoked even though we'd all sworn off them. That always happened when we were together.
We dragged out the book that detailed our first and only trip – laughed at the photos, remembered the hangovers, giggled over our nicknames. Had it been ten years? Had it really been that long? I joined James and you at the bar. We were reliving the time we'd done bourbon shots all night on tour. James caved first – he hadn't had the practise. But you and I, we went shot for shot.
Somewhere around 12 I stopped counting. Or maybe I couldn't count anymore. Everything was hazy I suppose you could say. We both couldn't get off the bar stools, let alone walk. We exchange addresses, phone numbers, instantly forgetting what the other had said. Got someone to write it down. For six years you'd been living two streets away from me. I'd never known.
Mitchell hailed us a taxi and gave the driver our addresses, made sure we had enough money and sent the cab on his way. We leant on each other in the back, barely conscious. Heads touching, arms entwined, mumbling about it being great to catch up, must do it again sometime. The taxi stopped at your place. I got out to open the door for you. You threw some money at the driver, said to me 'Come in for a coffee'.
The taxi left. I said yes. I don't drink coffee. You fumbled with the keys, pushing open the door. Your house smelled like cinnamon. Cinnamon and Lynx. It smelled like you. You dropped your keys on the hall table, stumbled to the kitchen and put the kettle on. We sat at the table for those few minutes in complete silence, just staring at each other. The kettle whistled and you stood up to get the coffee.
White with none. Is there any other way? Some seem to think so. We're sweet enough hey?
My mind raced with thoughts. I should have gone straight home was the one most prominent. I shook myself. Don't be silly. He's married with a devoted wife, kids that put their paintings on the fridge door, he'd never do anything. As I reached to your outstretched hand for the coffee you suddenly retracted. Put the coffees on the bench. Looked at me with such intensity. I stepped closer to you. Our foreheads pressed to each others. My hand on your cheek. Your hand reached for mine. You nuzzle my hand with your cheek, you push a strand of hair behind my ear. I close my eyes wanting this so badly and yet trying to turn you away. Our lips are millimetres apart. Our breath tainting the air.
Simultaneously we move that extra space. Our lips are joined. Ten years I have waited. Ten years and it's as good as I imagined it would be. I don't remember how we got to the bedroom but I remember everything else that happened. As we went to the bed you reached out to put the photograph of your wife face down on the bedside table. For a brief moment I felt sick to the stomach. What were we doing? But lust shone in both our eyes and we brushed the thought aside.
Baby did a bad bad thing.
I woke in your arms two hours later. I felt so warm, so safe. I'd never felt like that before. Just being there with you made everything seem right. Kinda ironic seeing this could be the most wrong situation I'd ever been in. I gently removed your arm from around me. I gathered my clothes from around the room putting them on, smelling you on me. I quietly padded into the kitchen and washed up the coffee cups. Dried them and put all the evidence away. Maybe you'd think it was a dream.
I came back into the room fearful you'd have woken when I was gone. I righted the picture of your wife. She had such trusting eyes, a gorgeous smile. The boys had told me you were a heavy sleeper, I relished that fact. I leant forward to kiss you on the forehead, the nose, the lips. Savouring each little touch as if it were my last moments before death. I took a mental picture of you lying there, then I turned on my heel and walked out the door. That was the hardest thing.
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You would call me later that day, confused. I told you we'd caught a taxi home, he'd dropped you off first, then me at my place. I said I'd woken up with a shocker of a hangover – how much did we drink last night? You said the alcohol had really sent you to sleep, you'd had weird dreams. The words stuck in your throat as you tried to ask me if anything happened. The best you could manage was 'Did we ah…go get coffee last night?'
I laughed, a sad laugh and said 'But you know I don't drink coffee'. You'd mumbled okay and I heard a voice in the background.
'Daddy, Daddy, watch me. Daddy, I'm gonna dive in. I know I can do it. DADDY!'
I said 'I'd better go' you echoed me. I said maybe we'd do lunch one day. Maybe.
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Author's notes: There is a sequel to this. It is called When Words Could Only Condemn Me...you can find it in my profile :o)