I`VE GROWN ACCUSTOMED TO HER FACE.
I watched her from across the room, as I had done so many times. The way her lips moved, asking for another drink. The friendly smile to the bartender. The way her gaze moved to the rim of her glass. Her slender finger moved along the edge and I knew she would soon down the shot before asking another. I had seen the ritual before and yet could not make myself look away.
I knew that I should turn around and slip out before Alicia would have a chance to notice me. But one way of another I always found myself in a vacuum, in this eternal limbo, when confronted with the other woman. I felt eyes wander over the features she had grown accustomed to the last years, taking them in hungrily. The features that haunted my dreams, from bad to good… Too good… Every night.
Images of a history, words that had been spoken, in friendship, in harshness.
Sometimes I woke up feeling as if nothing had changed, as if Alicia and I still were friends, and then, always, the realization hit.
Sometimes I woke up, unnerved, trembling as I had been that day she had ordered me out of her office, or when she had, so coldly, dismissed me when I`d gone to offer her a beer. I still couldn`t believe how I could have been so stupid to believe that there was a chance, just this small window, that she could forgive me. For I knew I did not deserve to be forgiven.
But sometimes, and those were the worst, I would wake up sweaty, entangled in my sheets, my mouth dry and my center throbbing from seeing, feeling, experiencing all the ways my subconscious mind thought we should make up.
I knew her face, the face that now looked up to me and saw it struggle to get passed the initial shock of seeing me. I knew her lips, the way they pursed together when she was focused and couldn`t find what she was looking for, the way they parted when she was engaged in conversation about something she felt passionately about. I knew the nose that wrinkled up when she laughed and the eyebrows that frowned when she was disappointed in herself.
I knew her face better than I knew my own, which was not such a strange thing, considering the fact I had always had trouble looking at myself in the mirror. Lately even more so than usual.
The look that appeared on the face I knew so well, now, however, was not one I had expected. It was not one she frequented, in the workplace, or, if I knew her as well as I thought I did, outside of it. It was the look of defeat. A look of giving in. She smiled, a bittersweet smile, that made her features come out even more beautifully and indicated to the stool next to her.
My heart was thumping in my chest as I approached it, pulled to her by strings. As always my mind, Kalinda`s mind, was telling me to run. To hide from these feelings that overwhelmed me. That -let's be honest here- scared me. But once again my heart wouldn`t let me. I had never thought that organ could have so much influence on my actions. It never had before. I had never let it. But now I simply didn't seem to have the control I had always valued over everything.
I had noticed it the first time in this very bar, I realized. The power she had over me. She hadn`t even been there. It had been Dana who made me see, by blackmailing me. When she had uttered her threat about disbarring Alicia, my breath had been caught in my throat. I had felt stuck, and had needed more time than usual to come up with a plan and I knew why it was. I was bothered by the fact that, obviously, I was so transparent, that even Dana saw how Alicia affected me, before I did so myself. Before I had acknowledged it myself.
Now, there was no use pretending anymore. I noticed her everywhere, even as I tried to avoid her, tried not to look at her face, I felt her, I sensed her. It was like a Siren`s song. She called to me and I could not resist.
At times I would study her face so thoroughly during the day that, later, when I got to be alone and closed my eyes, I`d see her image burned, bright, into my retina, as if I had stared too long at the sun. Her face, the face I could sketch in my dreams, so close I could almost touch it. But then, as I opened my eyes, the image would vanish, leaving me with nothing more than my thoughts and the echoing silence in the apartment.
It hurt, the way her eyes looked at me with contempt these days, the way her voice sounded when she talked to me. No matter how hard she tried to not let the edge sound through, it was audible. At least to me. It hurt, but I had hurt her too. And, maybe, just maybe, it was good that she was trying to hurt me back. It gave me the glimmer of hope that maybe she still cared. Even if it was only a little.
I slipped in the stool beside her and waved the bartender over for a drink. Not that I craved the tequila I ordered, although probably I should, but more for the purpose of having an object to occupy my hands. I saw them trembling and, quickly, hid them under the counter, trying to calm myself. I racked my brain for something to say, something to show her I appreciated her gesture, something that would make her smile. Or… Even better… Laugh.
I knew her laughs, the polite `hahaha` she featured with clients or superiors, the more genuine one if she heard something she found actually funny, the sarcastic one she had uttered while mocking her own actions. But the one I wanted to aim for was different. It was… real. When she threw her head back and let the sound roll from her throat, causing vibrations in my abdomen. The one where she set herself free of boundaries, worries and every care in the world. I wanted her to laugh like that. But I knew it wasn`t very likely I would ever see it again.
I brought the glass up, pouring the burning liquid in my throat, hardly tasting it, but couldn`t help the fact the sour lemon made me shudder. Or maybe it was the fact that my arm had touched hers in the process of drinking. Hell, I was pathetic.
'I`m not gay`
The words exited my mouth without inhibition. I wanted to blame the tequila, but knew the intoxication I was experiencing had nothing to do with alcohol.
She looked at me, the eyebrows I knew so well, raised in surprise. Who could blame her? I was surprised myself. I felt my lips moving and seemed unable to stop them.
`Two years ago`
But it didn't sound dismissive, it didn`t sound cold. It sounded… surprised. And there was that edge. That edge that gave me hope.
She returned her attention to her drink, and still I searched for words. Words to show her that I was trying. Words had never been my friends. They just did not seem to connect with the thoughts and feelings in my being. It was like they had a different language, or a different frequency, and it was impossible to make the connection.
I glanced at her again.
`I`m not gay, I`m…`
I hesitated and she looked up. Those eyes piercing through me. She licked her lips and made me shiver.
Something, a glimmer of something in those amazing eyes I could not place. I had not seen it before. It crossed her face, just a second, before the stoic mask was replaced.
The word rolled of her tongue, so much easier than it had done of mine. And somehow, her repeating the words I had just said, felt like a kiss. A virtual touching of mouths. What was wrong with me? Was I going crazy?
When she asked me if my associations with Lana were flexible and adviced me against it, I heard something in her voice again. Something that made my heart throb with painful hope. She did seem to care, and not just as my lawyer.
But she would never care for me the way I wanted, the way my wretched, hoping heart wanted. And even though I knew that was for the best, I missed her. I missed her presence, her laugh… I missed her face. Her expression that could tell me more than a thousand words. I missed the way I was when I was with her.
`I`ll take it under advisement`
She smiled, but it wasn`t genuine. I could tell. I knew the movements of her face. The wrinkles that adorned the corners of her eyes. She now just continued to look defeated as she played with her glass.
`Do you love her?`
Her voice sounded soft, probing and I caught her eyes as she glanced at me.
For a moment I couldn`t speak. I couldn`t move. Hell, I couldn't even breath. It felt like the world had stopped turning. The intensity in which she looked at me… It felt like a burning torch was held to my soul.
`It`s not like that`
I looked away, unable to face her, and signaled for another round.
`Then what is it like?`
I risked a glance, and saw the face I knew had turned red. Not a scarlet-highschool red, but a slight blush across the cheeks. I couldn't be sure if it was from the alcohol or the conversation.
`Me and Lana?`
She bit her bottom lip. The full flesh I had dreamed of kissing. And for a moment all I could do was stare.
It was the only word I could think of that covered it. It WAS complicated the way Lana chased me. It was complicated when I slept with her, it was complicated when I did not. I tried to put those things in words, but Alicia just looked at me and nodded, surprisingly enough not annoyed with the shortness of my answer.
`And what`s it like… With a woman?'
I could not help but inhale sharply, not having expected the question. I wondered why that was for a short moment, as my eyes wandered over every curve of her face. When Dana had asked the question, I had not hesitated. But flirting, the only human language that came natural to me, did not seem the appropriate approach here. I wanted to answer, but somewhere in the way from my brain to my mouth, the words seemed to change.
She turned to me, her legs, crossed, the drink in her hand. I never had a way with words. But when she looked at me like that, her face relaxed, her eyes shining with an emotion I recognized but never had seen in her before, I doubted I would be able to utter a single one at all.
`You say you are flexible, Kalinda, so what`s it like for you, with a woman?`
I watched her lips move, and wetted mine. The sudden dryness, breathlessness. I felt powerless. Mesmerized by the Siren who had cast her spell on me. My Siren moved closer, placing her empty glass on the counter. Letting her fingers graze mine as she did so. I jumped back as if electrocuted, and saw vulnerability cross her features as she looked away.
`Soft… Like silk. It feels entirely different. When you let your fingers slide on a female thigh, making her sigh or moan in anticipation of your touch. When every slight touch feels like it traces fire…`
My voice was hoarse and I felt dizzy, placing my hand on the counter again, showing her I had not meant to pull away. It was instinct that made me act. I could no longer form coherent thoughts.
She turned back. The fire in the eyes, the eyes I thought I`d known, had not been imagined. She swallowed, her lips parted slightly, her pupils dilated. I had never seen her more beautiful. The vulnerability I had seen before flickered again, as a bolt of lightning, shortly showing her soul before it was hidden again. She looked at the rim of her glass when she asked the question. Her voice soft, so soft I hardly could make out the words. But I was so tuned in, I did. I always did.
`Did you ever think about…?`
She shook her head, deciding to rephrase the question and a lock of stray hair found it`s way to her cheek. Before I knew what I was doing I reached out and brushed it behind her ear. Her eyebrows made the arc of surprise again, but, as my fingers lingered on her skin shortly before I pulled back my hand and placed it on the bar again. My action had even surprised myself. But somehow it seemed to have given her the confidence she needed to ask what she`d wanted to know.
`Were you ever attracted to me?'
She didn`t look at me, and I guess that was good because I must have looked stunned. Not a very attractive look. I`d been asked the question before. And usually I could gauge pretty well with which intention such inquiry was made. But now I was just stunned. I couldn`t take my eyes of her. The fluttering eyes, I couldn`t seem to catch. The face I was so familiar with, but had never touched until a moment before.
My heart, my soul, my body wanted to scream. Yes. Yes. I am attracted to you when I wake up, I am attracted to you when I go to bed. I am attracted to you when I brush my teeth, when I see you in the office, when I touch myself at night. I am attracted to you like I have never been attracted to anyone before. But, being the person that I am, of course I found myself unable to utter any of it.
She glanced at me. And I saw it dawn in her eyes. The realization of what she had just said. The vulnurable position in which she had brought herself. I saw the wrinkle on her forehead. The defeat in the way she closed her eyes as she got up. I was frozen and it took me several seconds to recognize she was leaving. She had grabbed her coat and hung it over her forearm, grabbing her purse to cover the bill.
It took me until the moment she had the note in her hand to move. I had just sat there. Motionless. Watching the face, the face I wanted to explore. I wanted to evoke every possible emotion in those features. I wanted… I wanted… I wanted her. I had always wanted her.
She turned around and I reached out, grabbing her wrist in my hand and turning her back. I took it all in. The eyes, the nose, the silkiness of her cheeks. It was a face with which I was more comfortable than my own. But, I saw now, there was still so much more to explore. I stepped closer and her eyes grew larger.
`I have never been good with words`
I hardly recognized the hoarse voice as my own. I was crazy for what I was about to do. She could not mean what I had thought she meant. She didn`t even LIKE me. But my body was once again ruled by the organ that was now rapidly beating in my chest. My Siren had called out to me, I wanted to comply. I studied her face as if I was seeing it for the last time and took another step. Our bodies touched and I almost panicked as I realized what I was about to do.
`Let me show you`
I breathed the words against her lips, as my palm reached up to her eyes had grown darker, but I found I could not read the face I knew so well. I held my breath and closed my eyes, knowing this was my only chance. I leaned forward. Not caring anymore that this was a public place, not caring she would probably slap me. I needed to show her how desirable she was. And there was only one way I knew how.
As I tentatively pressed my lips on hers, I felt the jolt much stronger than I had ever been able to anticipate. I felt my fingers start a life of their own, exploring the face I had devoured before only with my eyes. She did not pull back. I let my lips linger on hers for a few moments more, cherishing the sensation of their softness before slowly withdrawing. I knew I had gone too far. I knew I`d have to face the consequences.
It took me a few moments until I had found the courage to look up, to meet the contempt in her eyes. To see her smirk. But then, as I did, what I saw made me step back. The smile, more radiant, more genuine, more ravishing than I had ever seen, enlightened her features. The features I had thought I knew, but wasn`t even close to understanding. She now covered the space between us. Her eyes twinkling she reached out her hand and touched my cheek. The touch made me want to cry.
`Actions speak louder than words.`
She had whispered the words softly, but I would always be listening. I saw the corner of her mouth curl up as she took my face in her hands and pulled me closer. Her fingertips grazed my face, familiarizing themselves with it`s curves and edges. She looked into my eyes and I saw how she took it all in. How she wanted to know my face better than her own. As she drew nearer and her lips touched mine, I dared to close my eyes. I dared to hope, I dared to wish, that when I opened them again, she would be there.
And she was.