When I See Your Face, Part 26
She couldn’t understand why he was so emotional and furious, but she felt her own anger and hurt intensify when he made so clear what she had always known, that Mark hadn’t been any good for her and didn’t deserve her guilt and doubts or her reluctance to be happy in a new relationships. And yet.
“Don’t speak like that and get all worked up. Don’t say you know when you’re only guessing and assuming the worst,” she quietly chided him, wearily eying the fist lying on the counter that conjured up pictures of a similar fist raised to punch something or someone, to punch her.
He shook his head tensely.
“Believe me, I know. More than you probably do. I told you I was part of that business world before I began anew here. And I still hate myself for it, hate those who pulled me into it and now couldn’t care less.”
“Don’t hate when you can love instead,” she said, surprising herself with this piece of wisdom and realizing at the same time that she had spoken not only to him but to herself. Yes, she was ready now to completely leave that shadowy, stormy past behind and walk into the sunshine with Michael. She hadn’t deserved all the hurt.
When he gazed into her eyes, so many conflicting emotions flitting across his tense yet handsome face, the fist under her hand slowly uncurling, she smiled a shaky yet inwardly determined smile at him. Then, for the first time, she kissed him.
He sucked in a surprised breath when she timidly laid her lips over his. She applied more pressure and brought one hand up to his neck, trying to express with that one kiss that she appreciated his love for her, was willing to give him a chance, and maybe reciprocated his feelings. Perhaps he understood, for he pulled her flush against him, deepened the kiss and finally let her go, whispering her name against her ear.
“Cathy. My Cathy.”
His breath tickled her ear and his lips behind her ear and on her earlobe sent arrows of desire through her body, setting her every nerve on fire. All too soon, he drew back and let her go, though his eyes never left hers.
“I love you.”
Now it was her turn to suck in a breath of surprise. She felt her heart beating like a drum and her stomach feeling like a playground for a dozen butterflies. There, he had said it. Would she, could she?
Before she had resolved what to say, he took another step back and folded his arms across his chest, maybe bracing himself for her reply or her silence.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
For a moment, she was torn between two emotions: relief at not having had to answer, sadness that he was apologizing for having confessed his love for her, a love that she had sensed all along. He continued and she was able to breathe again.
“I’m sorry that I keep making the mistake of forcing your past into the foreground or dwelling on my own past despite claiming the opposite. Now let’s forget all the crap and live, shall we?”
The slightly joking tone was in his voice again, the sparkle back in his grey-blue eyes. She tucked a strand of hair behind the ear that was still tingling and picked up the salad bowl.
“What better way to start living than finally making yourself useful and carrying our dinner into the living-room?”
She indicated the steak, potatoes and dishes with her chin, grinning at him. He chuckled and obediently loaded his arms.
“I’ve told you before and I’m telling you again: Always at your service.”
He emphasized the word “always” and she actually found herself looking forward to always having him at her side, in her heart.
Cathy woke up, strangely alarmed, though at first not knowing why.
With bleary eyes, she gazed at the alarm clock on the bedside table, an old-fashioned, round metal construction without digital time. It was shortly past 10 o’clock. Reluctantly, she dragged herself up into a sitting position. Michael and her had devoured their first dinner together and snuggled up on the couch, watching a wildlife documentary and after that a 3-hour-long Bollywood romance into the middle of the night, feeling very much like a new couple in love.
She yawned through her smile and ran a hand through her hair, wondering again why she had felt so alarmed when waking up. Right at that moment, a voice cut through her sleepiness and sent her on edge. That sounded like—No, it couldn’t be. Her ears must be clogged from sleeping too long or she must be disoriented by her unfamiliar surroundings. This voice belonged into the past. And yet. The man spoke again, this time louder. The coolness and harshness and especially the familiarity of it chilled her to the bone.
Hastily, she got up. Wrapping her blanket around her, she left the room and padded barefoot into the corridor from where she could now hear Michael’s voice, also sounding oddly harsh and cool.
What she saw in the doorway made her freeze and for a second doubt her sanity.
Michael was standing with his back to her, clad in shorts and a white singlet. What shocked her, what pulled her eyes like a magnet and made her feel as though a giant black hole had opened under her feet to suck her in, was the sight of the person standing on the doorstep. A person looking like his clone. A person that she was 100 % sure had to be none other than her husband, Mark.
He was dressed smartly, as she remembered him, in pressed black trousers and a long-sleeved lavender shirt, as if on business. Had he come on business? That must be the only logical reason to show up here. My God, had he finally found her and come to cause her trouble or, worse yet, ask her to return?
She stared at his face, leaner than Michael’s, the hair shorter and neatly gelled back, not a single line visible though he looked clearly displeased. She cringed, wanted to run and couldn’t move a muscle.
She must be dreaming.
As if through cotton wool or underwater, she faintly heard his voice when he addressed Michael now, his manner of speech a well-known knife to her heart.
“Look, I’m not keen on seeing you again either, but I had no choice. Do you at least have the decency to let me into the house or does it boost your ego to have me standing outside and at your mercy, Michael? You do still go by your name, don’t you? I’d have thought you creative enough to come up with some alias or other because God forbid that you could be associated with me, with us.”
They knew each other! What…what was he saying, what did it mean?
(To be continued tomorrow.)
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