True Love Pt. 03byangiquesophie©
John McCall sat on the low wall overlooking the beach. The island hadn't changed much. He remembered how the sand had been just as dazzlingly white, or how the sky had been as incredibly blue. He even remembered the clump of gnarled trees, close by the sea -- and how, one balmy night, he had made love at their ancient feet.
Wherever he looked he saw memories, and they all hurt. Sure, the pain had numbed by now, but it was still there after all these years. He guessed it would never leave him -- not back home and certainly not here. He wondered why he had decided to revisit the island.
Christopher was eight now -- my God, eight already. He saw the boy standing at the edge of the sea. His slim body looked like a question mark against the glittering sea. He was bending over a red plastic bucket, its content having his undivided attention. John thought how much the boy looked like the mother he never met -- his eyes, especially. They were a constant reminder.
Turning a bit to the right he saw a huge yellow umbrella and in its shadow the back of a woman. He knew that back -- how it felt, how it smelled and tasted. He knew each sweet molecule of it. He also knew the blonde, short hair, wet now from swimming. His fingertips could even at this distance sense the soft slope of her neck, her shoulders -- and parts of her body he could not see from here.
He had met Amanda ("never say Mandy, please, call me Manda") at a commercial shoot. She did the catering, having her own business ("Mmmmanda!" she'd named it -- who was he to call it corny? Besides, the name fit her even better than it did her cuisine. Manda was a delicious-looking, fun-loving, uncomplicated woman of 32.) Of course he had seen her before at productions, but he hadn't been very social at the time. At first he had buried himself in misery, then in work and in the worries of being a single parent. It must have been hard for a woman to penetrate the shield he put up around himself in those days. He guessed not many would bother anyway -- until Manda did, about two years after Olga left.
He and Manda had always been friendly in the happy-go-lucky way that so often develops during shootings. For Manda it had meant more, as she told him later. She had nursed a crush on John. She loved how he looked, but also his quiet sense of humor and his calm composure. John never knew she did -- he wasn't aware of things like that. Before he met Olga he could hardly believe any woman would be interested in him, period. Later on Olga was woman enough for him. And after she left, he hardly even acknowledged women through the blurred mist of his misery.
One evening, after sundown had made work impossible, John discovered that he hadn't had lunch. He'd been busy reconsidering parts of the script they were working with. He had also missed the usual afternoon snack, so his stomach growled when the crew wrapped up for the day. He saw that Manda had already closed her mobile kitchen, but he tried anyway. She was busy cleaning her furnace, blowing a strand of hair from her eyes. She looked up and smiled when she saw him.
"John! You're still around?" Her face was flushed from the exertion, her smile shone even brighter because of it.
"My stomach refuses to leave, Manda," he said. "It growls and calls your name. Is there anything you could do about it?"
They had sat together at a small table around the back of her kitchen. The air was still warm from the last sunrays. She had made him the most complete omelet he had ever seen and poured him a nice rosé wine to go with it. She sipped from her own glass, watching him eat.
The talk had been pretty shallow, with just enough lightness to avoid serious subjects. That seemed to suit him better than it did Manda. Her chuckles turned into increasingly weaker smiles until he felt that his words seemed to be bouncing off a wall of silence. What started out as silly banter amongst friends, had become an uneasy, one-sided conversation riddled with silences.
"Sorry," he said, breaking off another lame anecdote. "I must be boring you."
It shook her out of whatever funk she must have been sliding into. "Oh no!" she cried out, blushing. Her hand flew up to her mouth. "No, John, to the contrary. I…" She stuttered. Her eyes were never in one place. Then she leant in closer, touching his hand.
"John, this may become the most embarrassing moment of my life." She once more allowed seconds of awkward silence to rise between them. Then she swallowed and said: "But I'll never forgive myself if I don't tell you this."
He looked up from the touching hand to her fiercely blushing face. He was startled by the hoarse seriousness of her voice. "I am very fond of you, John," she whispered. "I have been for a long time. From the first time I saw you, to be precise." Her eyes wandered, then returned. "I've always been too scared to tell you. But I guess I have to, as you never seem to notice."
She giggled now -- nervously. Her eyes were wide. She later told him she had been praying while waiting for his answer.
"Um," he said eloquently. He hoped the last orange rays of the sun would explain away his own blushing. "I am sorry Manda," he went on, finding his voice. "It is my fault. I, uh, I know I haven't been very observant, lately. I didn't mean to be rude. I, eh, feel honored you even consider me." He tried a smile -- it didn't come easy. "I guess I have been very busy hiding it," he went on, "but I like you a lot too."
Thinking back he didn't remember how she got him to talk about his pain and his feelings, but she did. He had not opened up that way to anyone, not even his family. And she listened. She was like a sponge to his sudden waterfall. They talked and sat in silence, then talked a bit more until the sky was dark and the air turned chilly. He gave her his jacket and they went looking for a pub. They just didn't want the evening to end.
During the rest of the shooting they saw a lot of each other. And after the production finally wrapped up, he took her to his apartment to meet his son. Little Christopher had taken to her at once, and so had Manda to the boy. She told John of her own pain. She had been married for a short time when they discovered that she could not have children. Their marriage suffered from too much tension to survive after that. They divorced. She decided to call her child "Mmmanda!" and build a business that would distract her from the pain.
John and Manda married the next year. He knew there was a lot of pragmatism in the decision. For him, certainly, and for Christopher, too -- the boy took to Manda like a duck to water. And she could not have been a more loving mother if the boy had been hers. The marriage solved many problems. But John also knew that he loved Manda with a calm, profound intensity. Their love would never be a wild, reckless tsunami, he knew. It would be the strong, irresistible groundswell of an ocean. He loved oceans.
The woman under the umbrella looked over her shoulder. She waved. He waved back. Then he rose and walked to the sea through the hot white sands. He looked into the plastic bucket and remarked on the "huge" shrimp and the "giant" crawling crab. He turned around to the woman in the chair and smiled. Then he grabbed the squealing boy and threw him into the surf, diving after him.
They were having grilled prawns and a Kiddy Burger with fries under the huge awning of a restaurant's terrace when he saw her. Her hair was long now and whitish blonde -- it moved wispy in the ever-present wind. Around her eyes were thick, black lines of kohl and her body looked skeleton-thin. Long legs ran naked from her tiny skirt down to her whorishly heeled platform sandals. The tits on her narrow chest looked a lot bigger than he remembered. They were wrapped in a low cut, long-sleeved top. It left her belly free -- a jewel sparkled at its dimpled center.
The woman didn't look at all like the Olga he knew, but he was certain it was her. And when their eyes met, he saw that she recognized him too. He sat frozen for a second. Then he rose from his seat, dropping his napkin. But before he got around his table, the throngs in the busy street had already swallowed her.
Manda saw his reaction. She turned around to follow his gaze. "What is it?" she asked. John hesitated.
"Um," he said. "Just someone I know…or knew, rather. Could be a mistake, though."
"Someone I know too?" Manda asked.
He shook his head. "No, she's from way before we met." He sat down. "These are delicious prawns," he went on. "How are your fries, Chris?"
"She was a lady with spooky eyes," said Christopher, playing with his French fries. "White hair and spooky eyes. She was a ghost."
Manda looked from her stepson to her husband, puzzled. John felt himself blush. "I, eh," he mumbled. "I thought I saw Olga. She looked like a skeleton. Awful."
Manda frowned. Then she smiled a wide smile. "Good," she said. "Very good." She covered her plate with her napkin. "Enough prawns for now. Let's have a nap."
When they walked into their apartment, Manda turned around and embraced John. She pressed her soft body into his and kissed him hard. He tasted the spices of the exotic food. Then she took his hand and pulled him into their bedroom. From the sitting room came sounds of a cartoon-channel.
Manda let her colorful beach-dress fall to the floor. Then she went down on her knees and opened his cotton slacks. The lazy fan on the ceiling swooshed -- it had the exact rhythm of her sucking lips. John trembled as he looked down. He laid his hands on her blonde bobbing head-- softly caressing her hair. As always he felt the heat of embarrassment -- a flashing memory of Olga taking his cock in her mouth for the first and last time. He shook his head to chase the image away. He moaned -- Manda looked up. Her lips smiled around his swollen flesh.
They cuddled up after he left his sperm deep inside her. He listened for a while. When she breathed light and even, he slowly worked his arm from under her and slid out of the bed. He silently dressed, wrote a note and left the apartment.
The lounge of the hotel felt chilly after the moist heat outside. He let his eyes roam the place, starting at the reception. He had seen Olga walk purposefully to the entrance of this hotel. Seeing him had obviously changed her plans -- she had disappeared the other way.
Would she be a guest, he wondered. If so she must have married rich -- the hotel was very expensive. Or would she have had an appointment? Maybe, but then why run away and not just disappear inside?
He walked across the lobby to reach the bar. It was four in the afternoon and the place was almost empty. At the bar two men in shirtsleeves tested their stools with their obese behinds. They drank large beers and guffawed. A barkeep was busy at the register. Then he saw the black woman on a stool way back at the end of the bar. She was talking into a rhinestone-studded cell-phone. It was the way she looked that answered quite a part of his questions about Olga. Her hair was blonde and curly, although her skin had a deep butterscotch hue. Her pink top tried valiantly to control the abundance it hugged -- so did her short lycra skirt. He recognized the platform shoes and knew what Olga might have been looking for in the hotel.
He walked over to the woman. He never was someone to walk over to a woman like this and not feel self-conscious. She screamed cheap sex in such a blatant way that he felt embarrassed for her. He knew that "real" men don't feel such embarrassment -- they have this switch that allows them to safely put women into categories. They call them either "ladies" or "whores" -- and dehumanize the latter. Whores only have one dimension for them; they are business. "I am Dick," they say. "You are Cunt; let's make a deal."
John's brain had never quite mastered the trick of switching. So when he reached the woman he felt hot and tongue-tied. "Hi honey," she said. She had a rich alto voice and flashed a very white smile. "A glass of champagne, please." He hesitated. His line of thought was snapped by her breathy voice and the shameless bumps of fat nipples in her shining top. Before he could do anything, the hand of the barkeep already put an elegant flute of bubbles in front of her, asking what he'd have. He ordered a beer. The banality of the ritual freed his tongue. He sat down and smiled.
"I am new to your lovely island," he began. She smiled back and narrowed her eyes in their bush of artificial lashes. "I am not very familiar with, let's say, the various traditions here," he went on. "So please help me out. Is it at all possible to just have a conversation with you and ask a few questions, without getting your expectations up for more?"
Her smile vanished for a second. Then her heavily ringed hand patted his knee. "Fine with me for now, honey," she said. "But of course it is you who would have to get things up." She laughed a throaty laugh. "Although I could very well give you a hand there!"
They both laughed, making the fat men look over to them. "Shoot, honey," she then said and sent her body into a new jello-like fit of giggles. He took a sip from his beer. "You must know quite a few of the, eh, professional girls on the island?" he asked. "Especially the ones that share your, eh, territory?" He vaguely waved to encompass the hotel. She'd lost her mirth and moved nervously now. "We don't give that kind of information, sweetheart. No use to ask," she said, taking another sip.
He produced a crumpled fifty-dollar bill from the hollow of his fist and slowly unfolded it. Simple things like giving tips had always bothered him. It wasn't just the decision of the proper amount, but also the act itself. It felt degrading -- as did bribing or haggling. He also felt it when waiters were overly friendly, or when an ambitious assistant laughed too loud about a joke he made.
He slipped the banknote under her sequined purse on the bar. She was very good at seeing things without looking. At once her smile returned. So did her hand on his knee. "Still no use to ask, love," she chuckled. "But yes, I know most of the girls. Why would you want to hear about anyone special? We all aim to please." She chuckled and nodded to the barkeeper. A full glass replaced her empty one before John could even answer her question.
"One of them is my ex-wife," he said. "Her name is Olga."
"Ah!" she exclaimed. "Olga? My name is Shantelle, but it has been Denise and LaToya before that. It even has been Sue Ellen, but please don't remind me of that!" She laughed loudly at her private joke and squeezed his knee. Then she chuckled and took a generous gulp from her new glass.
"I saw her this afternoon, here at the hotel," John went on. "Long ash-blonde, wispy hair, very black eye-make up, long, tanned legs and a very thin body with big fake boobs. As to her outfit, let's say she, eh, dressed the part."
The woman slowly stroked his knee. Her fingernails were the same shocking pink as her lips and her top. "Honey," she said. "Let me explain this to a naïve stranger on my island. We, darling, are whores. We're not wives or ex-wives. We have no past, we are not even women. We are cunts and asses. We do what we are paid for and we only have names because we have to maintain an illusion. It is the same reason why they give names to rubber blow-up dolls. Mine is Shantelle, right now, so regulars can ask for me and dream they are with a real woman. Hers might be Olga, but you say it is her true name, so I doubt if she'll be known by it around here."
Shantelle emptied her glass and slid off the stool. It made her skirt ride up and her tits bounce. He reached out to stop her. "Shantelle," he said. "Please, give me a few minutes more." She hesitated. He went on. "I have her son with me. Olga hasn't seen him since the day he was born." He produced another fifty-dollar bill. She stared at it, then made it disappear. "One minute," she said.
He took a deep breath. "You don't have to tell me who she is or where she lives," he went on. "But I am certain you know her from my description. Ask her please to be here, in this bar tonight. Let's say around eight. Tell her to look out for John. She'll know, she has seen me today."
It wasn't eight o'clock yet when he walked into the crowded bar. There were a lot of tourists -- some business types too. And around them were a few women whose profession he knew by their uniform -- or the lack of it. Olga wasn't there yet. He wondered if she'd be in work mode.
Back at the hotel he had told Manda what was going on. She had listened and been quiet for a while. Then she told him she understood. She took him in her arms, pulling him against the softness of her chest. They had kissed. He'd asked if she wanted to go with him. "No," she'd whispered, closing his lips with a finger. "No, John, better not." Dinner had been a quiet affair. He felt too nervous to eat much. When he left to walk over to the hotel, she had once more embraced him. "I love you," she'd said. So had he.
He ordered a soda water and sat at the only free stool, way in the back. It was the one Shantelle had been sitting on before. From it he had an unhindered view of the entrance.
After twenty minutes Olga still hadn't arrived yet. Twenty minutes are an eternity when you watch the ice cubes melt in your glass. He asked the barkeeper if there was a message for him. There wasn't. So after ten more minutes and another soda he assumed his plan hadn't worked. Maybe she didn't want him to see her as a hotel whore. Then again, maybe she just didn't care. She hadn't given a damn eight years ago, so why would she now?
He threw some money on the bar and rose to leave. Right then there was movement at the entrance. A blonde woman in a gray sweatshirt and jeans walked in on pink sneakers. Her hair was in a ponytail; it gave her a young and natural appearance. She didn't wear make up.
It took him seconds to recognize her. She also hesitated before walking over. "John?" she asked.
"Olga," he said. He just stared and so did she. She looked pale, he saw, and yes, very thin. But apart from the white-blond hair she looked more like the Olga he remembered than she had done that afternoon. A weary Olga, he thought, with tired eyes. He saw there was an almost faded bruise on her left cheekbone. She didn't apologize for being late.
They sat down at a side table after he ordered a mineral water for her. He stuck to his soda. "How are you, John?" she asked. She sounded hoarse. He didn't answer her question -- he just stared, which embarrassed her. She started to fidget with the white laces on her sweatshirt. Then she looked up again. "I am sorry," she said. There wasn't much tone in her voice. He once more kept his quiet, just holding her gaze. She cleared her throat. "I am sorry I left you like that and took your money and never let you know," she went on. "I must have been crazy…I must have been… why else would I have run away from you and our child, leaving you like that and…" Her voice died, her eyes were down.
He still didn't know what to say. His throat was jammed with thoughts and emotions, insults and unshed tears. A full minute passed. Olga took a sip from her glass. When she looked up again, her face was even paler. "How is…how is little Stanley, John? Is he all right? I guess it was him I saw at the beach? I think…"
He cut her off. "His name is Christopher, Olga." The steadiness of his voice surprised him. Her lashes fluttered.
"Of course," she mumbled. "Of course, Christopher. How stupid of me."
"Olga," he began, not knowing at all where to go with this conversation. "Is it still Olga? Maybe you have another name now?" She shrugged and said Olga was fine. He went on. "I don't want you near Christopher, do you understand?" Her eyes closed before she nodded.