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Kissing the velvet Kissing the velvet
by Abigail George
2021-10-10 10:47:55
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‘You’re the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Giza,’ he whispered in her ear. Allan lit up a cigarette while Caroline fell asleep beside him in the early hours of the morning.

There’s a finality in him leaving her. On impulse Allan changes his shirt. The previous evening, she had made spaghetti. There had been a lightness in her step as she danced around the kitchenette in her flat or ‘apartment’ as Allan liked to call it. He had always known it would come to this. That he would do the leaving, and not her. Not Caroline. He thinks of the faded upholstery in the lounge. Allan and Caroline watched a documentary on the television eating Chinese. Al ate his with a fork. Caroline with chopsticks. She smiled at him now and then. Asked him if he was enjoying himself. Apologised that she didn’t cook. There was nothing in the tiny flat. She didn’t make a grocery run but she would pick up a few things in the morning, that is if he was staying. And then he thought of how Caroline’s limbs, neck, bare shoulders became like a pale fire in his arms.

In Allan’s eyes, Caroline became an old woman in his hands. The pot of boiling water with the spaghetti had burnt at the bottom, so Caroline ordered Chinese takeout. When Caroline had first met Allan, she didn’t know what to make of him. He seemed aloof and cold. They had met at the library. Walked together out the door. Caroline first, Allan second. Caroline had dropped a book. Allan had picked it up for her. This gesture had surprised her. He smiled. She smiled back and they had talked about William Styron. Allan had read him before. He was surprised that she had chosen that book, and said so. Caroline had muttered that he was a brilliant writer. Allan had agreed and they had gone for coffee. She wanted to meet new people. She had seen the ring, known that he was married, but she had just moved to a new city. Didn’t trust herself.

romanc1_400She had moved to Port Elizabeth, didn’t know a soul and she wanted to make a friend, and Allan seemed kinder and more approachable after he picked up her book. Then there were other coffee dates, dinner in a fancy restaurant, and a thin needle of desire pulsed up within her whenever she thought of him. Anticipation. Nostalgia. She began thinking that he belonged to her, not Betsy, his wife, or his grown children. Two sons and a daughter. Allan became a philosopher in her bedroom. After their furious lovemaking, it seemed as if her skin was soaked in his kisses and caresses. It seemed as if she was a satellite in orbit. It seemed to her as if each of her vertebrae were on fire where he touched her. Her hair tasted like salt and light. She felt how water must feel when it changed from river to sea. They had been seeing each other for nearly a year.

‘Everything becomes a race, doesn’t it in the end, Carol.’

‘You sound so morbid, Allan. Don’t talk like that. You’re going to make me feel gloomy, and I don’t want to feel gloomy right now. Eat. Go on, eat. I picked this up specially for you. You used to rave about eating Chinese at least once a week when I first met you.’ Caroline smiled again.

‘Do I depress you, Carol? Is that what you’re saying?’

‘Darling, everything these days depresses me. My elderly parents, my brother and the terror he has for a girlfriend, their small child, a daughter who looks like her mother and who is most probably going to follow in her footsteps, the news, the politics. The politicians. The cabinet. The administration.’

‘And then you say, you don’t read for pleasure, Carol. That I don’t get when you’re so articulate and so elegant when you use words like ‘administration’.

‘You look like the Cheshire cat smiling like that.’

‘The Cheshire what?’

‘Honey, are you for real right now. Don’t you know the Cheshire cat?’

‘Never heard of him. Who is he? Some famous actor who died when they were 27?’

‘No, no Caroline. The Cheshire cat is out of a very famous storybook. Alice in Wonderland. You never read it I gather.’

‘My head was always stuck in Nancy Drew and Enid Blyton. Not the classics. Just Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. My mother pushed those classics on me.’

‘I don’t really get that Carol. How’d your mother miss Alice.’

‘I don’t know, Al. I don’t know. Are you watching this?’

‘It’s okay. It’s too late to change it now, you know. It’s interesting. I always find cities interesting.’

‘No, dear. I didn’t get around to doing that. Reading Alice. I’m not too educated about books. You know that, Al.’ Allan watched the television screen, eating away. Trying not to think about his diabetes and heart disease. Carol stroked his arm.

‘Are you still hungry? There’s more in the kitchen.’ Allan shook his head, studied Carol’s head, watched her mouth as she formed her next words. There was something very sensuous about her mouth. ‘Ever think about eternity, Al? What comes after death. The hereafter. The ethereal.’ She said slowly, forming each word as if it were made out of liquid, or imagined pain.

‘No, I guess I haven’t given it much thought. It’s dangerous to think too much, Carol.’

‘Stay, why don’t you, Al. You know you can. Stay until morning. The morning light always hurts my eyes.’’

‘Okay, honey, I’ll stay, but just until morning. Then Al has to leave to get back to his other life,’ was on his lips but instead he said, ‘I’ll see. Betsy doesn’t like it when I stay out all night or come home too late.’

‘You have an excuse. Say you had to work late, out of town and stayed overnight in a hotel. She’ll believe you. I mean, you’ve always had an excuse before.’ She smiled then. Her thin uppermost lip made for a more beautiful smile, Al always said.

‘You’ve travelled then.’

‘Some. I’ve travelled to Europe. Spent some time in the States.’

‘I haven’t travelled. Have I missed out on something, do you think?’

‘Carol, it’s important what you think. Not what I think about what you think.’

‘I want to make you happy. Does Betsy make you happy? Do you think of me when the two of you are together in your big, spacious house, entertaining, living it up, when you’re smoking your cigars and barbecuing?’

‘Carol, I don’t smoke cigars.’ Caroline laughed then. ‘I’m so happy that you’re staying the night.’

Caroline looked at Allan. He wanted to watch an old film on television. This was Allan schooling Caroline again on Bertolucci and Zeffirelli. She noticed that he tried not to make eye contact with her. That he ignored her when she tried to hold hands with him. She explored the hair on his hand with her fingernail. The dishwater was dirty in the small kitchen’s sink but Allan was staying so the dishes could wait until tomorrow. Caroline wanted to ask him what was wrong, what was the matter. Caroline wanted to ask him if she had done something wrong. She tried to read his body language. That’s what the psychology textbooks said. Allan was withdrawn and solemn. She thought that perhaps he wanted her to kiss him. She leaned over and stroked his cheek with her index finger, but he ignored her. She drank her glass of wine, distracted when Allan stood up suddenly, commanding all of her attention.

‘I have something I want to tell you, Carol.’

‘You do. What is it? Is something wrong?’ Caroline looked worried. Allan thought to himself how this was killing him. The last thing that he wanted to do was break Caroline’s heart.

‘We’re lovers. That’s all that we are to each other, Carol, honey. I can’t marry you.’ Allan tried to placate her. Tried to take her in his arms but she stared at him with such hostility in her eyes.

‘You can’t marry me. But I’m expecting your child. Does that mean absolutely nothing to you? I must mean something to you, Allan. After all these months. It has nearly been a year. Don’t I mean anything to you. Don’t you love me?’ But Allan didn’t know what to say to her. Betsy had had a health scare. Cancer. How could this young, vivacious girl standing before him understand that. That Betsy had stood by him during his near-financial ruin, and he had stood by her through her two miscarriages. Caroline could never understand the depth of the relationship that he had with Betsy. Betsy was his life, but it was his Carol that gave him the energy to get out of bed in the morning.

‘I have kids, Caroline.’ He tried again to keep the whine out of his voice. He didn’t think his Caroline was capable of making a scene.

‘Don’t you want a baby with me? Don’t you want a life with me, Allan? I love you. I love you.’

‘I love you. Please don’t leave me. I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want to lose this child. I want a life with you. Don’t you want a life with me?’ Caroline stood there blinking back fresh tears in her eyes. All Allan wanted to do was take her in his arms and hold her for just one last time. He decided to man up and be honest. Perhaps he could still fix the situation.

‘Betsy’s sick.’

‘So, the children will be able to take care of her while you’ll be with me. We’re having a baby.’

‘You don’t understand. It’s cancer.’

‘Oh. So, that means you’re leaving me then. Leaving me for good.’ Caroline took a deep breath and wondered why did it have to hurt so much. Allan was leaving her. ‘So, this means you don’t want me and you certainly don’t want this baby. What this means is that you want me to have an abortion.’

‘You can still have this child if you want to.’

Caroline gathers Allan in her arms. He was crying. She was crying. He was crying for Caroline. She was crying for the baby. For their future.

‘What you mean by that is that I should have this baby alone, unmarried, out of wedlock? What do you think my parents will say, my brother? I am walking down the same road that my brother walked down a few years ago.’

‘I can look after you both.’

‘But what you mean is not in the way that I want it to be.’

‘I can’t have this baby all alone.’

‘I know, Carol. I know.’

‘I’m crying. You’ve made me cry, Allan. I want you to leave. Go. Now. I guess there’s nothing left to say.’

‘Let me stay. Just for tonight.’

‘No. I want to be alone. I want to think. I want to forget you.’

‘And the baby? I don’t want you to do something irresponsible.’

‘I’m done with you, Allan. No, I’m not such an idiot, Allan. I’m keeping her.’

Abigail George has two books in the Ovi Bookshelves,
"All about my mother" & "Brother Wolf and Sister Wren"
Download them, NOW for FREE HERE!



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