Laura came to the door in a bathrobe, wet hair piled into a towel atop her head. Her face was pink as she gestured him inside. “Sorry babe, sorry, lost track of time. I’ll just be a minute, promise!”
Robert watched her duck into her bedroom and couldn’t help the tiny smile on his lips. She was late every time he picked her up – it felt like part of the date itself. She also hadn’t invited him in, asked him to follow; she understood. The flat itself was quite nice, all in all; there was minimal furniture, but no shortage of lucky charms and dreamcatchers and herbs and shit. He didn’t understand much of it and didn’t really care to; it made her happy, at least. Vanilla incense was heavy in the air and his heart. She had always loved the smell of vanilla, too.
She reappeared a moment later, leaning up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. He kissed her back and led her to the car. They drove for about an hour – “we can go somewhere closer, you know; save at least a little on petrol” – before he finally parked up. The car park was nothing special, but it was framed with trees and the cafe it belonged to shut at 5pm, so they were completely alone.
Laura unfastened her seatbelt, facing him with a devilish grin. She understood. Maybe she was sick of the stares too. “Shall we?”
They made love in the backseat, wrapped in hot, sweaty air. She moulded herself perfectly to his touch, but there still wasn’t quite enough room. The buckles dug into her back, and he smacked his knee against the handbrake hard enough to halt his rhythm. Laura laughed, told him she loved him, urged him to continue. Her smile lit the whole car up and he captured it with his own.
Afterwards, she stayed sprawled across the seats, her feet propped in his lap. He traced patterns down her leg. “I love you,” he promised.
She swatted him away with her other foot. “I love you. Come on, we should probably get dressed.”
Something caught in his chest again. He ignored it long enough to pull his clothes back on, but it returned when he glanced back at her. She was wearing her dress, but no shoes; the neckline plunged down her cleavage, with only her hair covering it up.
“You don’t wear tops like that,” he managed.
She raised an eyebrow, red lips curling into a smirk. “Don’t, or shouldn’t?”
The lump in his throat solidified. “I don’t want you to. And next time, less make-up.”
Laura rolled her beautiful blue eyes, offering him a half-hearted salute. She didn’t replace her shoes before climbing through into the front seat; she also didn’t bother fixing her skirt. He closed the door so he couldn’t see. When he took his place in the driver’s seat, she gestured at her chest.
She had pulled the neckline a few inches higher. He nodded stiffly, trying to smile. “Better. Thank you.”
She nodded too, swinging her bare feet up onto the dashboard. “Sorry, I always forget the modesty thing.” When he didn’t – couldn’t – reply, she clapped her hands. “Right, are we going or what? We won’t have time to make dinner, and you know I don’t like ordering in.”
“Neither do I.”
He hadn’t meant to say it out loud. He shouldn’t have, but her eyes had snapped to him before he could take the words back, gleaming silver. There was steel in that stare. Every sentence he tried to form died somewhere on his tongue, so it was a blessed relief when she let out a long breath and turned to the window instead. It took half the journey home before she spoke again.
“You’re a right catch, aren’t you.”
At least she pecked him on the cheek when they arrived at the flats. Her hair fell into his face, the silk tickling his skin. Vanilla. It was cloying in the air, in his lungs, and he suddenly longed for something fresher. He would have to ask for less next time. Laura kissed him again, deeper this time, and gave him a shy wave as she retreated into the building. It was silly, he knew, but he still waited to see her lights come on before he drove away.
His own flat was admittedly haphazard. Last night’s dishes waited expectantly on the table; the counter had been filled the day before. The bread was still soft enough to make good toast. He slathered it in a tangy jam, then slumped onto the couch. One new message from Laura: forgetting something? X
The groan sounded too loud in the empty room. He was trustworthy, he had never forgotten before. Surely she could give him an hour to straighten himself out. But she couldn’t, wouldn’t, and he didn’t want to push her. She could call the whole thing off if she wanted. She didn’t need him, but he needed Laura and she knew it all too well. He transferred the money quickly, before she threatened to raise it. She didn’t need that either; there were plenty of idiots like himself who were desperate for her. Desperate for love, whatever kind it was.
thanks babe! same time next week? X
The phone shook in his hand. There were worse addictions, dammit. He loved her. Loved her more than he had ever loved anything, ever would love anything, even now. Was it really so bad if he gave into it out of love? He just needed to see her face, hear her voice. People went to her for worse, he was certain.
He stood wearily, his bones leaden. A photograph on the mantelpiece glowed at him, but he didn’t look; if he stared at the real thing for too long, the discrepancies became too obvious. They were already becoming troublesome. A freckle on clear cheeks, a birthmark missing from a hip, her mouth slanting the wrong way when she smirked. Laura was good, but she wasn’t magical.
of course babe, see you then xxx
Next time he would bring a hip flask, to dull himself a little. Next time would better. She would make it better. She would remember what to wear, he would remember what to say. Next time, it would all be back to normal. There was nothing wrong with wanting to believe.
There was nothing wrong with love, however he handled it.