When I See Your Face, Part 22
She told him how her father worked himself into an early grave, his heart not being able to handle the pressure of a job that demanded all and then some. Of how she had left her mother to go to university, planning to find a job as soon as possible to support both of them. Of how, while she was still studying for her Bachelor in Business Administration and hating it, her mother had remarried and they had lost touch as though they had never been one family.
She told him of how she had found a job as a junior secretary in one of the glittering, glass-windowed high-rises in the financial district. Of how she had felt like an outsider while playing the part expected of her. Of how one day during lunch, Mark Nolan himself—one of the most famous real estate agents, manager of Nolan House & Property and heir to a family fortune—had sat down opposite her and asked her out for a date.
She fought hard at keeping any feelings out of her voice when she told him of how Mark had overpowered her with his charm, his confidence, his position and the promise of what a life with him could be like. After two dates and a load of flattering attention, he had proposed and she had accepted, not minding the age difference of more than ten years, not minding that his snobbish parents terrified her and that she didn’t know how to behave around him, at that time lying to herself that she loved him.
She felt the first tears slide from her eyes when she related how Mark had told her to quit her job, quit her studies and stay at home, enjoying the luxuries of being his wife. Though she hadn’t planned it and it couldn’t be useful to him, she also told him of how after the marriage, Mark had quickly turned abusive on some days while being the impersonation of a perfect husband at other days.
Not knowing that by now her voice was trembling with her effort not to sob, she told him, “So, that’s why I’m absolutely useless at everything. I never grew up. I never lived. I’m an introverted, talentless bookworm who was forced into studies she didn’t like, a job she didn’t like and later a marriage she wasn’t suitable for. I wouldn’t be good at any normal job now. I only like reading and baking cakes and now it looks like even the latter is something I can’t do. I’m useless. Unlovable.”
She stopped, the last word bordering on a shout, fighting the first sob that wanted to break out. She hadn’t realized that Michael was standing right behind her. His arms came up around her and he pressed her to himself.
His voice was rough with emotion, as though he felt like crying too. It was the push that sent her over the edge. Turning around and sinking against him helplessly, she broke into tears. She sobbed for the years when she had denied herself, the months spent being treated like a thing instead of a human being. For the recent days of freedom with all their joys and woes.
When her crying subsided, awareness of her situation slowly dawned. Michael’s arms were wound tightly around her and it felt so perfectly right. He had tucked her head under his chin, one hand cupping the back of her neck in a protective gesture. The other hand rested against the small of her back, stroking softly and rhythmically. He hadn’t spoken a word, none of those banalities that people were usually bound to mutter, that everything would be all right, or not to cry. His embrace filled her with warmth and care. She felt as though she belonged exactly to this spot, in this man’s arms that were as strong as the person himself appeared to be. Sniffling quietly, she told herself that she should step away now, apologize, say something, do anything. She simply couldn’t.
When he noticed that she had calmed down somewhat, he spoke for the first time in minutes.
“Thank you for telling me.”
Now she did move back an inch, craning backward as well as upward to read his face. The expression on it was so serious bordering on grave. It spoke of pain.
“I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry for whining and complaining. It’s my life and my mess and now it’s over anyway and I should forget it,” she stuttered, now earnestly trying to get away from him. His grip around her didn’t loosen, though. He looked at her, stared at her face as if he were seeing it in a new way.
“Don’t say that. I needed to know this. You…we need this to move on.”
Her voice shook slightly, her heart beating faster while she waited for him to go on.
“Yes, we,” he said.
And then his mouth was on hers and nothing else mattered.
His kiss was full of love, tender yet at the same time loaded with feeling. When she responded to him, stood on her toes and grabbed a hold of his T-shirt, he increased the pressure of his lips. They were cool and hard against her mouth, but didn’t remind her for one second of other hard, cool lips that had kissed her not so long ago.
The kiss grew more urgent when he realized that she kissed him back. His tongue begged for entrance, and she parted her lips. With a husky moan, he pulled her closer, the fingers of one hand tangling in her hair. When his other hand crept under the hem of her blouse and his fingers brushed over the bare skin of her back, she shivered with desire. How strange that everything else was far away. That she lost herself in this, in him, like she had never lost herself in previous moments of physical closeness. She felt like floating and was glad that he was holding her so tightly because her legs were weak with desire.
When his kiss grew more passionate and he nipped lightly at her lower lip, a hardly audible sound escaped her. It brought him back to his senses, because all of a sudden, he let go of her and took a step back.
She was reeling, one hand rising to her lips, feeling colder and lonelier than ever with the loss of his closeness, warmth and touch.
His eyes were a deep, dark grey with hardly any blue sparks in them and his breathing was going as fast as hers. For a few seconds, they stared at each other. He slowly reached out and brushed his fingers across her wet cheek, wiping away the tears that had such a cleansing effect.
“Cathy, sugar, don’t ever say that again, that you’re unlovable. You’re the loveliest and most lovable person on earth to me. I know that sounds crazy, but ever since I got to know you, I feel like I can’t live without you anymore. I want you by my side. I want to get to know every part of you and want you to get to know me too.”
When she made to say something, he lay a finger across her mouth, his eyes darkening another shade when she kissed it.
“I know you aren’t ready for a new relationship and that I look exactly like the bastard who ruined your life. I’m not like him, I want you to know that. I would never take advantage of you!”
She nodded, overwhelmed. Was this wonderful man professing his love for her or was she dreaming?
(To be continued tomorrow.)
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