your curiosity is piqued. nonchalantly, you turn in your seat and scan the club. you expect to recognize this admirer as soon as you see her. when this is not the case, you turn back to the bar and try to look as inconspicuous as possible. i recognize your amateurish attempt to play my game, but my expertise makes your effort child’s play. i note that i am not the only one amused by your display; the bartender has a faint smile on her face. she knows that tonight i will be the thunderstorm to wash away your naïveté.
you are frustrated. part of you wants to write this off as a practical joke, the women who brought you here setting up this little embarrassing situation. you would all sit around and laugh about it later. but there is a nagging voice inside you that will not let you discount the bold black slashes of my handwriting on the red napkin.
you get up from your seat at the bar and walk over to one of your friends. good. i have yet to lift a finger and already you are searching for me. i know the woman that you are conferring with only slightly, but she knows enough to play dumb. you would get the same response from every woman in the place if you had the patience to ask them all. at first, it seems you are going to do just that, roaming through the jumble of bodies, questioning a few random people, all the time holding the red napkin like a badge of honor. the women all glance at it knowingly, but each keeps my secret. the only person who would point you in my direction is the bartender. it would be your reward for having the intelligence to ask the woman who gave you the napkin in the first place. but you don’t think. you never do.
eventually, you give up. you slump in a booth not far from me, dejected, ready to toss the napkin in the trash. you contemplate ditching your friends and calling a taxi to take you home.
perfect. it’s time.
“leaving so soon?”
my voice is pitched just loud enough to carry over the blaring music. you look up quickly, surprise registering on your face. i realize that the picture of me looming over you is probably intimidating, so i take a seat across from you.
“look, i’m really not in the mood to--” you begin. i silence you with a look. embarrassed, you search for another ploy to make me go away. i wait.
“it’s just that i’m not into women,” you finally say.
i shake my head. “you’re afraid.”
you are quick to protest. “that’s not it!”
“that is it. if you don’t like women, why have you spent the last twenty minutes searching for your admirer?”
this revelation stops you short. realization spreads across your face, mixed with a touch of real fear. “what exactly do you want?” you ask, not sure if you want to hear my answer.
i smile like a shark who has just zeroed in on her next meal.
i take your hand. you have given up your protestations. every eye is on us as you follow me across the club and out the door. once we are outside, i stop for a moment to light a cigarette. i’m not worried that you will try to leave. you are too intrigued. you look at me hungrily as i take a long, slow drag on the cigarette. i laugh quietly.
you follow me to my black miata. i unlock the passenger door and hold it open for you. once behind the wheel, i turn the key and feel the engine roar to life. i press the gas pedal and we speed off into the night.
after an hour of wordless driving, we arrive at my house. it is a small cottage, meant to be a country retreat from hectic city life. you could say i use it as such. the exterior is simple, no gingerbread trim or intricate detailing. still, the place conveys a certain serenity that most find comforting.
i park the car and get out to open your door. you step out and walk up to the house wide-eyed.
“it’s beautiful,” you breathe. i open the front door and you hurry past me, eager to see the inside. although the outside of my house is spartan, the interior is luxurious. the furnishings are dark and gothic, the fabrics lush. i walk into the living room, lighting thick pillar candles that cast a warm golden light. you can’t seem to keep your hands to yourself, caressing the velvet curtains and satin pillows.
i move to stand behind you, close enough that i can feel the heat of your body on my skin. your hair smells like apples, fresh and sweet. i run my fingers across your cheek. you flinch at my touch, as if you had forgotten i am here. you are visibly shaking with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety. i thread my fingers through your curls and tilt your head back to meet my lips. i kiss you passionately, wrapping my arms around your waist as the strength leaves your legs. gently, i lower you to the sofa.
“stay here. i’ll be back in a few minutes,” i whisper. i have a few preparations to make. i leave you sitting in the living room.
i return with a bottle of red wine and two glasses. as i enter the room, i stop for a second, struck by your beauty. the candles seem to cast as much shadow as light over your opalescent skin. you appear as a flame yourself, aglow and dancing before my eyes. i am unsure why you are so attractive to me, more than any other. i’m not accustomed to this emotion.
i take a deep breath and approach you. at first, it appears you are asleep, but as i draw closer, you stir and open your eyes. when you see me, you sit up.
“so just how many women have you brought here?” you ask.
“good. you’re getting smarter,” i reply. you draw back as though stung, but i don’t apologize. instead, i sit at your feet and pour the wine. you hesitate before drinking; tradition is telling you there must be a toast.
i raise my glass. “to awakenings.”
“to awakenings,” you whisper, then, a little louder, “cheers.” the glasses clink together and we each take a sip of the merlot.