When I See Your Face, Part 13
At first, his mouth brushed hers lightly, soft as a butterfly landing on a flower. When she didn’t scream or flinch or shove at him, his other hand came up to cup her right cheek. He withdrew a fraction, tilted her head up and claimed her trembling lips in a more insistent kiss. His lips were firm and cool, massaging and pressing, slightly open. Instinctively, her mouth answered his beckoning, their lips soon dancing with each other as though they did this all the time and were made for it.
Her eyes had fluttered shut at the first touch of his mouth, but when the tip of his tongue flicked out to brush over her lower lip, they flew open in surprise. She looked at him without actually seeing him, yet before her was a face all too familiar and the hardness of his lips against her mouth felt familiar, as well.
With a gasp, she drew back, her hand flying up to her mouth, her heart hammering against her ribs.
He looked dazed and slightly wounded as well as strangely angry when she stepped back hastily.
She stuttered, “I’m sorry. I…that shouldn’t have happened. It’s…I can’t! When I see your face, I see him. I see my husband and it all comes back. I just can’t, I can’t let you in. I can’t trust you!” She sounded close to frantic.
“I am not him,” he ground out, and she was astonished to hear how much feeling he put into the sentence, as though the last thing in the world he wanted was to be associated with or taken for her husband. It hurt to see him so obviously affected by her words, and hurt even more that she had given in to this temporary weakness and let things come so far.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, barely registering that once again, she had done something to him that called for an apology.
Without waiting for his reaction, she ran up the stairs, inside, up the next flight of stairs and into her apartment. Kicking the door shut behind her, she sank to her knees, buried her head in her arms and let the tears run freely. Somewhere at the back of the mind, she asked herself why she was crying so much now that she had left behind a home and husband that should have been much more cause for tears than what she was facing now.
* * *
Cathy had cried herself into sleep the previous night.
This time, no nightmare starring Mark in it or overwhelming her with memories woke her up. Instead, she dreamt of Michael and herself walking through a garden full of roses, holding hands. They came to a small pavilion with a fountain bubbling away happily, almost too idyllic to be true. He swept her off her feet, turned a quick pirouette with her in his arms and stood her back down before planting a firm, happy kiss on her lips.
“So, are you giving us a chance?” he asked.
Before her dream self was able to answer, she woke up.
She stared at the ceiling, her fingers rising to her lips where she could swear she felt his kiss. What was this? Was she falling in love with a man whom she knew hardly anything about and who looked like the one man she had probably ever been in love with and who had ruined her life?
For God’s sake, she was nearly 30, had been married and was now planning a divorce! She should be able to get a much better grip on herself, should know better how to steer clear of new temptations that would only leave her bleeding.
She got out of bed and fired up her laptop. While it warmed to life, she washed her face and brushed her teeth. Her gaze settled on her face reflected in the bathroom mirror and she froze in place.
It was the first time after she had run away from Mark that she looked at herself in the mirror. Her reflection stared back at her, a slightly dazed look in the eyes that were ordinarily brown and rather big for her fine-boned face. It was a commonplace face, neither beautiful nor ugly, somewhat delicate and more girly than feminine. Devoid of any makeup—oh, how she had hated painting a mask on her face for her husband all these days—and with her hair mussed from sleep, she certainly didn’t look practical and confident. Not only were her eyes on the large side, but her full mouth seemed out of proportion too. It gave her that sense of vulnerability that had probably alerted Mark to her being easy prey. She remembered the many times those lips had been split by a slap of his or bitten until they bled while she fought with tears. And yesterday, they had been slightly swollen from Michael’s kiss. The woman’s eyes in the mirror widened in surprise and darkened in an emotion she didn’t recognize.
What was it that this fascinating, forbidden stranger saw in her that made him desire her? For surely it must be physical desire that had made him kiss her. There was nothing attractive about her character and she hadn’t exactly shown him her nicest side anyway.
Frowning at her reflection and deliberately raising her pointed chin, she resolved to seriously work on her future instead of letting past and present worries drag her down.
Hadn’t Michael himself said that she should get a move on and learn to fend for herself? Well, she would prove to him and herself that she could, even if it meant forgetting the very person who had told her to start over.
Yes, never mind that inside her heart, she already cared for him more than she should. Never mind that her mind came up with too many things that made him different from Mark and thus provided a reason to get closer to him.
She was not in love. She would not fall in love.
(To be continued tomorrow.)
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