Sunday, September 9, 2007

Short story treasure box: A few stolen moments


The television faded into obscurity and the screen glowed eerily for a brief moment in the dimly lit room. Melrose Place had lost its addictive appeal. She no longer cared who was screwing whom. Her mind was elsewhere tonight.She hoped fervently that the stereo was a better source of distraction as she closed the CD draw and pressed play. Music filled the spacious, sparsely furnished lounge room as she retreated to the sanctuary of her rubber wood rocking chair.

Rocking gently to and fro, she allowed the forceful Pearl Jam lyrics to fill her mind and clear away the mental cobwebs of an old Whitney Houston song. The same snippet had played relentlessly, like a damaged vinyl record in her mind, since seeing him earlier.

"A few stolen moments
Is all that we share"

She drew her legs protectively to her chest, and reflected that fourteen months was hardly a few moments - or was it?

There were the couple of tortured, frustrating hours as they strove to keep up appearances in a nightclub every so often; a mosquito bitten hour, together, on a deserted beach to celebrate the New Year – a day late. Ten meaningless minutes here and there at college, talking about nothing in particular; awkward half hour "catch up visits" in his kitchen, when she could not force herself to keep driving past his house. Combined it was barely enough time to fill one normal day in the life of legitimate lovers. For her, every stolen second in the past fourteen months had been worth it – legitimate or not.

"I must be crazy!" she exclaimed with pent up frustration, agitatedly pacing from the stereo, to the fridge, finally deciding to open the bottle of wine she had bought to share with him later on in the night.

She rifled through the utensils draw until her fingers found the bottle opener. With professional precision she inserted the worm into the cork, twisting downwards and then gently levering the cork from the bottle. She noted the combination of the golden chardonnay in the large blue wine glass after she poured the wine. Held up into the artificial fluorescent light of the kitchen, the glass chalice shone a vivid evergreen.

Green for jealously, she told herself, as she crossed back to the security of the rocking chair.

She deftly rotated the wineglass and sampled the heady bouquet, inhaling the intoxicating promise of fulfilment. The wine splashed up to caress the insides of the glass, peaking lower and lower, until it was again a mill pool in her hand. The calm before the storm.The old waves of guilt washed over her, relentless and unforgiving, eroding away her moral integrity. The mouthful of wine she had just swallowed turned to vinegar in her stomach.

The gnawing, destructively consuming feeling of being the other woman came back to haunt her. The pain of her guilty conscience was constant, like the inescapable desire that tied her to him - a noose around her neck both terrifying and thrilling.
"I am the other woman," she breathed, her voice resigned - weary. Her body and soul deflating at the admission.

Her mind was branded - conditioned by the impropriety of her actions and the asphyxiating secrecy of her emotions. There was no escaping the truth - she was the other woman. No amount of time or justification in hindsight would ever change the stark reality of the situation.

Luckily, both she and his partner were strangers to each other - both just footprints in his bedroom carpet. She had no wish to change the status quo. She was incognito ... she didn't exist and sometimes she wished that he too fell into that category.

Pointing the remote control at the stereo she skipped through the songs and sipped the chilled Chardonnay, her hand shaking slightly now, as the raw acoustic guitar riff tore through the room.

"Hearts and thoughts
They fade
Fade away"

But never entirely, she wanted to add to the lyrical observation.

He would habitually leave the realm of her reality, hidden behind the routines of daily life; thoughts, fantasies and yearnings temporarily forgotten, but never entirely forsaken. How she'd tried to break the hold and resist the magnetism, whenever he was absent from her social circle. All the time accepting the concerned advice of her friends, but denying herself the peace of mind offered to her in their well-meaning words.So stubborn and determined, in the face of the knowledge that she had set herself on a course of self-destruction.

She had let other men pass her by and allowed blossoming romances to wilt and die, all because she could never let go of him. If he was in the back of her mind during these times, he was unconsciously in the forefront of her heart. Commitment of any type was impossible with his spectre her constant companion.She recognised, where previously she had been blind, the destructive nature and dynamics of their relationship.

Laughing a tentative, nervous laugh, she asked herself if she could be so bold as to call it a relationship? Was that presumptuous? Liaison ..affair ... addiction.

Countless times over the fourteen months she had shed tears over him. On each occasion swearing vehemently it was the last time. That it was all over between them. Time after time, after time. But it never ended ... just subsided, obscured by time and other preoccupations, until a chance meeting refuelled the insatiable fire.

On a rain drenched August night, dripping wet on his nature strip, she had pleaded desperately for him to end it with her – to set her free.

"I can't," he rejected solemnly, his face hidden from hers, rain cascading down the back of his neck, chilling him through his light shirt.
"Well I can't do this" she threw back at him, cold, saturated and emotionally wrung out.
"I can't do it. Just tell me to go and you will never see me again."

Unconvincingly, he recited the words in a barely audible voice and retreated into his yard. As the rain fell in torrents over them, the ring mesh fence and the latch gate seemed to her as impenetrable as the Berlin Wall had once been. He turned his back, walked wearily across the sodden unkempt grass and up the stairs to the front door. Blindly, in a tortured voice, she called him back ... but he was gone ... for that August night at least and the tense months of avoiding each other that followed.

Could lust hold you so tight in its grasp that you could not free yourself? Could it endure? Was love the only force irresistible enough to draw you to those tempestuous, illicit arms? Or, was it the powerful enticement of wanting someone that you cannot have. The thrill of the danger and deceit .. the temptation and desire for the sweet taste of forbidden fruits.

Naked beside each other, quivering with passionate anticipation and fear, they fought and encouraged the unbridled lust .. tried to rationalise their motives and suppress the conscious rising of the blunt reality of their circumstances.

The mind was always stronger than the flesh. The angel of morality would win out over the corruption of the demon desire and she would find her clothes and keys in the early dawn light, avoiding looking into his eyes – afraid of the contained desire in them and the unfulfilled lust within her. Her heart breaking each time, with the futility of the attraction, as she quietly slipped out the door and into the back yard..

"We do have a conscience," she told herself quietly, reassuringly, rocking a while before realising that the music had finished and her wine glass was empty.
"What if though," whispering words that she never dared give life to "if she was out of the picture?"

Preoccupations that would normally drive you to the brink of insanity and all the way back again – but tonight .. tonight he had told her that he had driven past wanting to visit her many times and had broken protocol by asking if he could come visit when his shift finished.

She looked at her watch and her stomach lurched. It was almost midnight - the witching hour. She mused to herself that it was really 'the bitching hour' tonight.

She crossed the room to peer nervously down onto the sleeping suburban street, bathed in the mellow, muted light of an almost full moon. Her fingers fidgeted with the hem of the almost sheer curtains, while her heart beat a wild African rhythm and her stomach clenched tighter than a boxer's fist. Moving from the window, to the doorway, she waited nervously - her shoulder resting against the doorframe to support her trembling body.

A single set of headlights broke the still portrait of the scene below. In the doorway he could see her still silhouette, as he drove past slowly. The slim curvature of her body against the rigid right angles of the opening. She watched intently as the small car drove by three times, before parking beneath the two sentinel palms on the nature strip.

A dark haired man stepped from the car, the sound of the car door closing punctuating the silence. He strode confidently along the street and made his way to the house, counting in his head the ten steps that bought him to her and her to him.

The digital clock in the bedroom read 12:01am as he crossed the threshold and took her in his arms once again - a minute past the lovers' hour and another flirtation with fate.

Copyright Jodi Cleghorn 1999


danae sinclair said...

oooooh Jodi this really pulled me in! and now that I've found your blog you don't need to answer the question left on mine :).

the details in this piece are what made it for me - the glass and its reflected thoughts about jealousy - I look forward to reading more...

Jodi Cleghorn said...

Ok - I need to get my self organised. I will read the chapter before I cook dinner and before ABC kids finishes for the arvo. No more distractions!! Considering today I decided that I'm going to give it a serious crack at being a writer ... as neither avenues of full time study or returning to the workforce excite me ... go the Solar Eclipse energy.