When He Returns



Kauji Tsuru / Unsplash


I am a dreamer. That’s what they say. Friends, family, acquaintances. 
But I do not imagine him. Not this time. I sit in our shared garden with the potted plants and freshly mowed lawn. I recline on my beige sun lounger with green circular patterns woven into its body, tracing those circles with my pointer finger. 
In my peripheral vision, I see him again, clear and youthful. I turn my disbelieving head slowly, as though it may fall from my neck and roll to the ground if I move too fast. I give him my full attention. He blushes and disappears back to his own house, as he did when we first met.  
It was during our first encounter together that I knew. I had privately concluded I may have been the object of his desire. Suspected I was irresistible to him. Seeing his bashfulness confirmed his attraction. The power I had over him was so delicious and vast I felt dizzy with it.  
The following morning startles me. I stretch and yawn and peer from my window to see a second lounger in the garden, next to mine. Navy blue and with no circles, squares instead. He is already there, sprawling on his own lounger, reading a novel. Looking remarkably relaxed in his fa├žade. His bare pale chest illuminated in the daylight, ghostly and glistening as the sun cream reflects off the beams of light. I clean myself and pull on my bathing suit, shimmy it up my body until I am modest. My heart pounds in my throat, between my legs. Thudding with every footstep I take to reach him.  Do not leave me.  Stay.  Oh stay oh stay. I tell him, my voice reverberating inside my head. 

When I reach my destination at my lounger next to him, I say hello and then begin to read my own novel until my heart has returned to its normal state. The words fly from the page, to my eyes but do not make it into my brain to decipher them. I cannot concentrate on anything other than the closeness of his arm to mine, the proximity of him. 

I want him to fold into me until we were one again, to hold me, feel skin upon skin.  I am desperate to be desired, desirable, touched. He turns to me as though reading my thoughts. As though the thoughts he has formed in his head are of his own doing and not telepathically put there by me and my mine.  
He strokes my arm gently with the tips of his fingers, a smooth motion up and down, forwards and backwards, and I feel my body give in as I close my eyes. An awakening rises inside me that has been mute. The hum of the neighbouring radio plays in the distance as he soothes me. I gasp and dare to open my eyes, to investigate his chalky blue eyes. He is staring back at me. He looks at me as though my face is a painting that he likes, as though it is lovelier than I believe it to be.  
‘Charlie,’ his mother calls him from inside the house. He retracts his fingers and bows his head in shame.  A shift of lanky limbs and he is gone. 
I lie there, bitterly disappointed by his brisk departure feeling waves of pleasure and shame flow through me in equal measure.

I wait for him to return. I am patient. It is another week before I see him again. I am asleep on the lounger; the sun has turned my shoulders to a prickling crisp, and my skin will soon peel away from me. I sense I am not alone, and when I open my eyes, he is beside me. This time he is closer, and his hand is on mine. He is not wasting a moment with coyness. I feel the weight of his palm, the size, the dampness. 
I turn to him and he smiles without teeth, shy and unsure of himself. He looks beautiful to me. His oversized eyes captivating, the youthfulness of skin, the fulness of parted lips. My fingers trace them for a moment, brushing forwards and backwards as his fingers had done to my arm. We are treating each other, I realise, a mutual desire of equality. 
‘You’re beautiful,’ he whispers as he takes my finger in his mouth.    
‘Charlie,’ his mother calls for him again. I retract my finger and lie back on my lounger.
‘Sorry,’ he mumbles.
He stands. I cannot let him leave. I cannot wait, unknowing when he will return. The desire presses down on me in ways I do not know how to control.  I need him.  
‘Come to mine,’ I say, my voice hoarse, strange, ‘Tonight.  If you want.’
He watches me, his eyebrows raised, his jaw tilted sideways as though contemplating my offer.  I want to curl my limbs up into a ball and disappear. If he says no, I will be a lesser human. Eaten and spat out and tossed aside.
‘Okay,’ he says finally, ‘I will come for eight.’
I watch him go, limbs slight and boyish. He has remained a child while I continue to grow.

I answer the door to him. He stands smiling, smelling of mints and chlorine and coffee and cologne. I have tried; my hair falls smoothly, my face is improved by make-up, my dress flatters my curves, my neck and wrists smell delicious.  
‘Wow.’

I smile. My efforts have paid off and my stomach flips in excitement at his approving syllables. I hand him a glass of gin mixed with tonic. I do not know if it is what boys drink, but I know I enjoy it and it is my house. 
He thanks me and sips before his face contorts into an expression of disgust. My stomach turns, hoping I don’t see the same expression later when we are entangled in limbs and lust and cotton. He looks young, in his shorts and t-shirt and boyish charm. He tells me he is celebrating his eighteenth birthday next week and I should come. I smile weakly and tell him maybe. But I know I won’t. Know he won’t either.
Pleasantries and small talk are exchanged and then I lead him upstairs.
We stand awkwardly in my room, my place of solace. We both know why we are there. I slowly remove my summer dress, feel it brush against my ankles as it falls. He moves towards me, cups my face with his hands, and kisses me. Softly at first, and then savagely. As though my lips are his and only his and he has been dreaming, wanting, the way that I have found myself needing him. He knows me, he has not forgotten. My body folds into his as I knew it would.  
My body awakens with the way in which he treats me.  Misused and passed around and wrongly treated by so many men, much older than him, for so many years. I am unsure how to react to his gentleness, as though it has forgotten, as I too have forgotten, how fulfilling it is to be treated so tenderly and precious.  
‘You’re beautiful.’

I let myself believe him. Feel his words settle on my skin, soak them into my veins, my blood. Let them run through my body, filling it with pleasure. I am his and we are the only two people on the earth.  I wonder if I may cry, as though all my emotions may burst from me, leaking, desperate to explode. Veins bursting with tears not blood. 

When we rest, he strokes the contours of my face, gazing deeply into my eyes. He kisses me softly and I can feel my eyelids drooping. Do not sleep. Do not. I tell myself. For when I do, this moment will be over, and I will be unable to get it back. I want to live in it forever, with him, with me. 

But I let myself down. Falling into the darkness of my slumber, I am gone.
I awaken the following morning to the heat from the sun beating in through my open window, the limp curtain undrawn. I already know I am alone. When I open my eyes, my disappointment is confirmed. I bury my head into the pillow where his head lay, smelling for mints and chlorine and coffee and cologne but his smell has long since faded. He has been gone too long.  

I wash and dress and walk down to our shared garden, to my lone sun lounger and I wait.  Come back to me and wrap your arms around me. That cannot be the last time. But as the summer sun fades, so does its promise and I know I will not taste him again. There will be no more.

I glance at his house. Boarded up and empty. No mother shouting Charlie. No dim radio sharing its distant melodies. No laughter nor life. It has been eight years since our first encounter. Our summer of love when we were eighteen. I am twenty-five. 
Reality hits me violently and I feel myself turning cool despite the warmth.
I could search the whole earth and still, I wouldn’t find him.


____
Hannah is a writer based in Scotland and is working on her debut novel. Her prose is published in Product Magazine and her forthcoming prose will be in Fahmidan Journal. She is on Twitter @hannahwrites88

Comments

  1. With the way you write, I wish to give you a literary kiss. This is beautiful!

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  2. Beautifully captured. The suspense is tight and I can hear that voice Charlie in my brain. I can smell the mint and chlorine and cologne and coffee.

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  3. I liked the way i kinda felt like i was the dreamer, needing and wanting a lot of things in different dimensions. But why did he have to leave?

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  4. Beautifully written, I was hooked the whole way through. A very thought-provoking story with such vivid descriptions you feel like you are there. Thank you for the pleasure of reading your work.

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