Supernatural Ch. 05byTonyDowse©
'Are you sure you don't want me to come Carol? You know I would much rather be there with you, and without the car how will you get there?' her mother said in a voice that couldn't hide her genuine concern.
'No thank you Mum, I think I'd prefer to be alone, at least at this stage. It's early days yet and it's quite likely the whole thing will just prove to be a false alarm. I know how hard it is for you to get a day off, especially at such short notice, and the 349 bus goes right to the door. Anyway I'm planning on going to see that movie afterwards, you know, the one you said you didn't like the sound of.' Carol replied with an attempted smile.
'Well be sure to ring me, you know I'll be worrying, even if you want to pretend you're not.'
'OK. Now you'd better get a move on or you'll be late.'
A look of resignation replaced the worried frown that had previously creased the older woman's face and she hurriedly moved the last few items from one handbag to another before bending to kiss her daughter goodbye, leaving Carol alone with her thoughts while she finished her toast.
The brave front she had been putting on for the few people she'd told was finally tiring and it was a relief to know that before the end of the day she'd at least have a time-table to add to her other all too often weakening defence mechanisms. Her doctor had outlined what she could expect from the specialist, then what procedures would follow if the worst came to the worst. But of course what he couldn't do was give her precise time-scales for each step she'd be taking and in some ways it was the indefiniteness itself that was at the heart of her concerns. She felt certain that once she had a series of dates she could mark on the calendar the whole thing would somehow become much more bearable.
But the timetable wouldn't help her with Martin, quite the reverse. She still wasn't sure just why she had excluded him from the short list of people she had confided in, so had been unable to answer that question when the others realised he didn't know. Each had in their own way told her how supportive they felt sure he would be, how certain they were that it was precisely times like this when she most needed to allow his all too apparently sensitive nature to come to the fore. Assuring her she'd feel better equipped to deal with whatever eventuated if she let him cosset and care for her.
What they didn't know, because she hadn't yet told them, was that she and Martin had an unresolved issue of their own, and she felt sure that he would, at least subconsciously, see this as yet one more reason why she was still unwilling to do as he'd suggested. And as at that stage they had been sexual partners for nearly a year Carol really didn't know exactly why she was unwilling to agree to move in with him.
Seeing him several times a week and nearly always having sex was fine, going away together or stopping over at his place for the occasional weekend was too. She enjoyed their lovemaking, but actually moving in implied a quite different commitment, at least in Carol's mind it did, and there was something, something as yet indefinable, that made her hold back.
Perhaps this morning provided her with a good opportunity to seriously think through just why she was having such a problem with making the decision. There was the bus trip, then the probably lengthy wait in the consulting rooms, and right then the idea of using that otherwise time of foreboding to think about something other than the possible outcome seemed like a very good one.
That decided; she cleared away the breakfast things, made a final touch-up to her make-up, collected the referral letter and her x-ray, then headed out the door and walked to the bus stop.
It gave her an usual feeling to be standing on the opposite side of the road to where she would have been normally, to be heading away from the city rather than towards it. From that position even her view of the all too familiar street was somehow strangely disconcerting, almost foreign. Not only were the selection of shops different but their frontages seemed oddly misaligned, and even the street signs and the advertising hoardings' content were unfamiliar. Then of course the frequency of outbound services was minimal by comparison with those going the other way and Carol found herself wondering where those missing buses actually went to. When there were so few heading out of town what actually happened to the almost continuous stream still heading into it. Was there perhaps some subterranean parking area where they spent the working day, waiting.
As her thoughts seemed to prefer idly wandering it took a positive effort of will to make herself concentrate on what she had earlier decided she should do, consider what reasons might be preventing her from doing as Martin had suggested.
Not only her mother but also every single one of her girl-friends said she'd been incredibly lucky to meet him; he was kind, considerate, undoubtedly affectionate and seemed to think she was the best thing that had ever happened to him. He was intelligent, already had a very good job and felt confident there were excellent prospects of early promotion that would give him an even better income. Although they didn't agree about everything in life they had both already proved they were each quite capable of tempering their attitudes to things where they did differ.
So what was her problem? What held her back from giving him the answer he wanted? After all it wasn't as if he had asked her to marry him, to make that strong a commitment - though she felt sure that would follow in due course.
And on top of all that, why hadn't she told him about this appointment, why had she confided in others, but not him?
But she was no closer to resolving even the simpler of the two questions when she finally caught sight of a bus coming towards her and having confirmed it was going the way she needed it to she gladly put the vexatious issues to one side while she stopped and then boarded it.
There were very few people travelling but those who were had scattered themselves amongst the seats and as she searched for one where she could sit on her own she found her eyes caught by a young man who was already blatantly staring at her from the very back of the bus. Although pale his blue eyes were so bright they gave the impression they were lit by some internal light, and his gaze was so fixed that even from that distance it gave her the feeling he was attempting to see down into her very deepest thoughts.
Perturbed and unsettled she hurriedly looked away, but as she turned to sit down several rows ahead of where he was she found her brain had still retained an image of more than just those piercing eyes. His general appearance and choice of clothes would normally have meant she wouldn't have even noticed him; the short, spikily gelled hair and garish T-shirt branded him as exactly the kind of male she wanted nothing to do with. Even being close to someone like that in a queue or confined space always made her uneasy. Yet even as she glanced out of the window at the increasingly quickly passing buildings she found herself unable to dismiss either the latent image, or the sensation that those eyes continued boring their way into the back of her head.
Those feelings continued to disturb her all through the luckily relatively short ride to where she needed to get off and as she rose to ring the bell Carol forced herself to resist the temptation to give a quick backward glance to see if in fact he was still watching her. But as the bus began pulling away she weakened and turned to look up at its back window, she was more than surprised to find that the rear seat, the one where he'd been sitting, was in fact totally empty.
With a strong sense of unease she swung around to see if he'd actually had the impudence to get off after her, but no, she was alone. Puzzled, she even checked to see if he'd covered his intentions by crossing the road, but again, no, other than a pair of young women pushing their prams into the small park, there was nobody.
Giving herself a mental shake Carol walked the short distance to the clinic but even once inside, after the administrative formalities had been completed and she had the time to do what she had originally intended, to think through her problems with the Martin decision, Carol found herself instead still perversely recalling the image of the young man at the back of the bus.
The most disturbing aspect of her involuntary recall of his image was just why it should be so firmly imprinted, why his vaguely menacing likeness should be virtually haunting her. There was nothing about him, except perhaps those piercing blue eyes, that triggered anything but unease, and she could not remember a time when any other all too brief memory had become so firmly stuck.
She forced her thoughts out of that rut and did her best to concentrate on Martin instead. Sweet Martin. She couldn't imagine him ever causing any woman the sort of anxiety that the young man on the bus had created in her. Martin still believed in those now old-fashioned values; opening doors for women, all too ready to give up his seat on public transport, and not just for women but even obviously frail, elderly men, and still peppered his language with many 'please' and 'thank-you's'. All in all he was a caring, kindly considerate man, and although he might not actually spark lustful emotions in most of her friends, he quite obviously adored her and they certainly envied her relationship with him.
And that brought her back by a meanderingly circuitous route to her original question, why was she so reluctant to give a positive answer to his all too reasonable question?
But try as she might to find a single reason for her uncertainty, she couldn't and she was no closer to a resolution when she eventually heard her name called by the clinic's receptionist.
A motherly looking nurse took her through to the surgeon's room and having once again checked her details and examined the x-ray he carefully explained both the procedure and what would happen later. Once certain Carol understood the details of what she'd been told he left his nurse to assist her to remove blouse and bra while he made the preparations necessary for the needle biopsy.
Apart from the sting of the local anaesthetic Carol found the actual procedure far less uncomfortable than she'd previously imagined, but just being there, in that place, with those people doing what they were, brought the reason for her appointment much more sharply into focus than until then she had allowed. Breast Cancer! A savage disease; if not always actually life threatening, then at least potentially, physically disfiguring. And she could well have it!
A thought suddenly crystallised - was this why she'd been reluctant to tell Martin what she was doing this morning, or perhaps the reason why she had delayed answering his question? Was she uncertain of what his reaction would be to the prospect of her becoming either sick and incapacitated or damaged and scarred? But even as she thought it she also felt certain that was one question she actually knew the answer to. A crisis like that would bring out even more strongly all those underlying attributes she'd already counted. He would see it as a perfect opportunity to fuss over her, to indulge and molly-coddle her, in fact he and her mother would undoubtedly come together to form a compassionately caring team.
But perversely that thought sent an involuntary shudder through her body, just the idea of being the object of their cloying attention was the very last thing she wanted. Although she had no clear idea of exactly what she did want, she certainly knew what she didn't.
Carol was brought back to reality by the sound of the nurse's voice telling her the procedure was over, that they would be sending the biopsy for testing and that she could ring to talk to her about the results on the following Monday.
Even though both the surgeon and the nurse had treated her gently and kindly, and their words and voices had been nothing but sympathetic, there was still a matter of factness to what had happened. But then, Carol knew, to them it was no doubt just one of many, many similar procedures they'd perform during the day. She also knew that there was no point in letting her emotions take over, that could wait for the intervening days to pass, but even so, as she left the clinic a little of the control she had been maintaining slipped just a fraction and she felt the tears trying to well up from somewhere behind her eyes.
The combination of just those few drops plus the sudden glare of the sun made her vision blurry and resisting the temptation to wipe her eyes she had to stop and blink hard several times to clear it. But when she had, and she looked up, the first thing she saw clearly, was him. The man from the bus, standing on the opposite side of the road, and he wasn't just standing there, he was looking directly across at her, staring, apparently waiting.
Of course she would have to cross over so she could catch the return bus, at least that was what she consciously told herself, but even as she mentally recited the words she knew there was another, albeit still deeply underlying reason for her action. Then as she stepped up on to the footpath he approached her. 'How are you feeling?' he asked in a voice that implied he somehow knew exactly what she had been through.
Carol was both confused and bewildered by her own reactions to this total and potentially unpleasant stranger; under normal circumstances she would never have even crossed the road, but having done so, when he attempted to speak to her she would have brushed him off, walked briskly away, but she did neither. Instead she looked up into those piercingly blue eyes and quietly admitted. 'A bit shaky.'
'Is that all?' he asked with a quiet smile, but, not waiting for an answer he reached for her hand and added. 'Let's take a little walk, the park looks nice.'
She looked past him, into the park, seeing it for the first time. He was right, it did look nice, less formal, less sterile than most suburban parks, and although she really didn't know why she did so, she turned and went along with him. They walked in silence and Carol was conscious of the warmth of the sun shining down on them, of the woody scent of the surrounding trees and shrubs in her nostrils, of the reassuringly firm feel of his hand-hold. But there was also something else; she could feel some other, still indefinable sensation slowly, almost imperceptibly spreading through several different parts of her body.
And to add to that oddly disturbing feeling was the fact that the further they walked the more she was forced to admit that her first impressions of the little park had also been wrong. Although there was no noticeable change to the structure of the pathway they were following the area of trees seemed to have become extended, what she had taken to be a small suburban park now appeared to have led in to a long established woodland.
'You must be feeling thirsty.' he said as he pulled a small silver flask from the back pocket of his jeans. 'Let's stop and sit over there for a while.' he added, pointing to a patch of thick grass that Carol hadn't previously noticed.
She readily went with him and as they sat he passed her the flask. Carol drank a little, hesitantly at first, but then, finding the liquid coolly refreshing, gratefully took a little more. 'We haven't told each our names.' she said as the passed the flask back again.
'That's true, but then names are only labels that someone else has hung on to us, aren't they. What name would you like to give me?' he replied with the same quiet smile he had given her earlier.
The question amused her and Carol returned his smile. 'I'd have to think about that. But don't you want to know what my label is?'
'Oh I don't much care for labels; for one thing they're too small. You can't take in the totality of a person with just a small group of letters.' he replied, his blue eyes fixing hers with an almost hypnotic intensity as he continued. 'I see you as; strong, self-assured, intelligent, and also very attractive - but as yet also uncertain, tentative, unsure of your own ability to make the right choice. How could a one name-label possibly encompass all of that?'
'I see, and you know all of that from just looking at me?' Carol replied, feeling her cheeks flushing faintly as she absorbed the more complimentary attributes he'd mentioned.
'I have a reputation for having a skill with such things.' he answered. 'And for having ways of guiding people like you to reach down inside themselves to draw out those qualities that will hopefully either enhance or further enrich their lives.'
His voice had dropped to an almost mesmerisingly low-pitch and as he finished speaking he reached one hand forward to slip it behind her, then as she felt his fingers slowly combing through her hair, they also gently turned her head. Carol felt herself shiver as his lips brushed lightly against her cheek then a strengthening tingle as they moved to her mouth. They were warm, soft, moist and although their pressure was feather-light she felt her own moving, unhesitatingly parting in welcome.
The kiss felt so good, so divine, so altogether perfect, that she just wanted it to continue, wanted there to be no end to either it or the indescribably blissful feelings it sent spiralling through herself. Yet even through those first few moments of unexpected and completely unsolicited pleasure she couldn't help herself comparing this kiss with the others she knew, Martin's. His gave her undeniable emotional pleasure, she couldn't deny that, and sometimes even succeeded in beginning to arouse her passions. But, if she was totally honest, it more often than not took a great deal more than just a few kisses to stir her enough to get her physically ready for him. And she'd never, with anyone, ever felt the way she did at that moment, after just a kiss, after merely a few seconds of contact.
To prolong those sensations, and perhaps, to somehow, maybe, even intensify them she turned herself towards him, leaning forward as she pressed her own lips against his, then, cautiously at first, sneaked just the tip of her tongue between them.
She felt his tongue snaking forward more determinedly as their mouths opened wider, its impetuous movement was both delighting and thrilling, so, when she felt the slight pressure of his hand against the still tender curve of her breast, she shuddered with pleasure, and not as she might have expected, discomfort.
His kisses and caresses continued; those electrifying lips moving to her eyes or her ears whenever one or the other briefly broke for a quick breath of air, his fingers all that time maintaining their slow and gently undemanding fondling. Carol was suddenly aware that while he had been doing that she had somehow unconsciously dropped her free hand down on to his thigh. Even through the rough material she found she could still feel the ridge of muscle beneath, and discovered she was also asking herself a series of disturbingly strange questions, questions that had never before even entered her head. If his kisses and caresses were so potent, then what could be expected if she allowed things to go further? Then, what exactly lay beneath those jeans? And how might he compare physically with Martin? Would it be longer, thicker? She found she was even allowing herself to wonder exactly what he might do with it?
Even while the questions were continuing to chase around each other she felt the sensuous touch of his hand on her leg, felt it moving under her skirt, felt his finger-tips tracing patterns on her skin, felt them slowly moving even higher. Her fingers automatically tightened, gripping his thigh as the liquid flame of his touch licked upwards, worked its way down through her flesh, searing its way to the very depths of her.