Lost

This is the second story I penned this year. Alas it didn’t place in the Page and Blackmore National short story competition.

lost pic 2

Lost

‘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.

‘Please?’

‘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.

I  desisted.

‘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.

 

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