This is the second story I penned this year. Alas it didn’t place in the Page and Blackmore National short story competition.
‘Please let me stay with you,’ pleaded the strawberry blonde with pounamu eyes.
I’d met her two hours earlier and although she was only eighteen, of beautiful figure and face, I hesitated.
I wasn’t single; although technically there were only seven days separating a love lost cohabitation from emotional freedom. I was twenty eight and my long term partner of seven years and I were splitting.
‘I’m sorry,’ I replied, draping my arm over her shoulder, leaning in closer. ‘I’m staying in a hotel room with three other guys. It just wouldn’t be right.’
‘Please,’ she insisted. ‘I need to be with someone, I feel lost. Sorry, I don’t want to have sex with you, I just need to be held.’
I felt fragility in the wavering warm arm she’d wrapped around my waist. I saw the brittleness of her gaze, the pain behind her eyes. When she spoke I heard the emptiness of her heart.
‘But this is a rugby trip, the guys are going to assume the worst. Tomorrow morning, at breakfast, girls taken back to the hotel tonight will have to be introduced and presented to the rest of the team. It’s pretty degrading.’
She looked up defiantly, ‘I don’t care.’
Just as she finished someone grabbed my right shoulder.
The hand on my shoulder guiding me to the right, toward the bar, away from my bemused new acquaintance.
‘Roly, you sly dog, have a beer. C’mon, come and have a beer with the boys, c’mon get it down ya!’
A shaky hand passed me a spilling pint.
‘Jesus Pat, you bastard, I was in the middle of something over there!’
‘Yeah, getting far too cosy for my liking, what would Megan think?’
‘Pat, you don’t know anything alright, I’ll finish this drink, then I’m going back, okay.’
‘Whatever you say Skip,’ Pat replied, a mischievous smile painted all over his cheeky and annoying face.
Two of my team mates were snoring nearby, another was trying unsuccessfully to make love as quietly as possible from the bed closest to the door.
We lay together on a single bed, her curves and closeness welcome relief from the hard mattress and thin pillow. Her freckled face barely an inch from mine we kissed, her thin lips warm and inviting, her eyes now smiling.
‘You’re sweet,’ she murmured.
Under the sheet my hand traced the contours of her firm shapely body.
‘Please, no,’ she asked politely.
‘Let’s talk,’ I whispered trying to distract my mind from fervent physical desire. ‘What’s your story angel; how the hell did you end up here with me?’
She paused, spoke slowly, deliberately; ‘well two months ago my boyfriend killed himself, hung himself from a tree. I didn’t see it coming and I don’t know why he did it. Now I don’t know who I am. Now I don’t know anything. I can’t feel anything anymore. I’m lost.’
Instantly my erection died; instinctively I drew her closer.
‘Jesus,’ I replied. ‘Fuck! Have you spoken to anyone about this? About how you feel?’
‘I’ve tried but no one understands,’ she answered. ‘They try to, but they don’t get it; not my family, not my friends, no one. But honestly, if I don’t understand it, how the heck can they?’
‘I get it,’ I volunteered nervously. ‘I understand.’
Her body stiffened, she looked at me sceptically.
‘My younger brother topped himself six years ago and I’ve been struggling ever since. Afterwards, I didn’t know what to feel, I didn’t know what to think. Was it my fault, was I somehow to blame? Did I miss something?’
‘And you know what, I still feel that way. It’s been like I’m on a never-ending journey. A journey I never wanted to take and a journey I want to get off but can’t. So I really do understand and I do feel for you. I am so sorry.’
She hugged me tighter and kissed me. It wasn’t a kiss of passion, it was deeper than that. It was a heartfelt kiss of empathy and tenderness.
We didn’t sleep much. I spooned her back, occasionally she rolled over and we kissed. There was no touching beyond this.
Saturday morning rays of sun started peeking into the smelly room of four boozed up men and two young women. The concoction of stale beer, sweaty bodies, menthol cigarettes and sweet cheap perfume overpowering everything. I jumped up, pulled the curtains and opened the window.
A chorus of blasphemy and cussing erupted within the room. I walked over to the bed closest to the door.
‘Jimmy…, Jimmy,’ I said louder, shaking him. ‘Wake your girl up. It’s seven o’clock. Get her up and I’ll take her downstairs with mine, get them into taxi’s before the other guys are up. Breakfast is at eight, she doesn’t want to be here then.’
‘Fuck off Roly,’ Jimmy retorted curtly.
‘Yeah fuck off mate,’ came a raspy shrill voice from beneath Jimmy’s sheets. Swearing quickly replaced by giggling as Jimmy reached down, grabbing something soft and ticklish.
I led my bed buddy out of the room into the hallway. As we were about to make our way down the stairs an adjacent bedroom door opened. Pat strode out wearing only his y-fronts.
Standing in the hallway he scratched his balls, then his head.
‘So where are you two going?’ He asked sarcastically, ‘you know the rules Roly, any overnight guests need to be presented to the team at Breakfast.’
‘Not this one,’ I spat, ‘fuck off Pat.’
When we reached the street I handed her twenty dollars, grasped her hand, kissed her cheek and said goodbye. For unknown reasons last nights’ intimacy evaporated into clumsy daytime awkwardness. Out of courtesy I asked, ‘will I see you again?’
‘Oh yes, ‘she smiled, ‘sooner than you think.’
I turned away quickly, walking back into the hotel and making my way to the dining room. There were already a few guys there sitting heads in hands, all of them looking worse for wear. How were we ever going to play rugby today I wondered?
Sporadically small groups of hung-over men scuttled and shuffled into the dining room. Jimmy and three others had brought girls back to the Hotel, as each one entered the dining room they were introduced to the team. After every introduction howls of laughter, hoopla’s and whooping exploded, the girls turning red hanging their heads in sober and sombre humiliation.
At the customary court session after breakfast I was charged by Pat for failing to adhere to the Law of Respect by not introducing my overnight guest to the team. Pat insisting the judge make an example of me; I was fined $50.
The game was fierce. Playing against country boys on their home ground always bringing an extra edge and extra bruises. The experienced country boys wanting to demonstrate to the city slickers, the ‘townies,’ that manual labour resulted in bigger, fitter, stronger bodies; bodies practiced in the art of handling and administering pain.
Hangover’s aside, we won, barely. The ‘townies’ speed and agility eventually gaining the upper hand.
At the after match function, I unexpectedly felt a tug on the back of my shirt. I turned. To my delight it was my companion from the previous night.
‘What are you doing here?’ I asked enthusiastically.
She smiled, ‘my father is the captain of the team you played against.’
‘So you knew last night but didn’t say anything?’ I quizzed.
‘Yep,’ she smiled again.’ At first it wasn’t important, I hate rugby, but after you were so nice to me I thought I’d turn up today and surprise you.’
‘Well you’ve certainly done that,’ I replied, smiling, then nervously running my fingers through my hair.
We were interrupted by someone speaking on a microphone, calling the two captains to the stage.
I made my speech; thanking the opposition, thanking the referee, the linesmen and the ladies in the kitchen. I nervously shook hands with the opposing Captain, presenting him with our club badge. He reciprocated.
After the formalities I shared a drink with him. He was a nice guy. A big guy. It was civil, it was pleasant, and it was going well; then Pat came over.
I introduced Pat, small talk following until Pat recognized my affaire de coeur standing at the bar.
‘You see that lovely piece of arse over there,’ Pat motioned, gesturing luridly.
No! I screamed silently, no!
‘Well Roly here,’ Pat started, ‘our captain, well he shagged her silly last night, then tried to sneak her out of the hotel first thing this morning, but I caught ya didn’t I Roly?’
I watched the big man quake. I felt sorry for him, I felt for his daughter. I wanted to tell him the truth, but knew he would never believe me.
I looked at him, he looked at me, we stepped apart and backed away.
Within a crowded noisy club room suddenly we had both become lost.