Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Rosary of Memories
Eighteen hours into my long-awaited and well-deserved vacation, I was sipping espresso on a hotel terrace overlooking the Swiss Alps, inhaling the brisk mountain air, and daydreaming about soft mohair sweaters.
Minutes later, my blissful tranquility was shattered by the sound of a cultured musical voice, and my mind scrambled to calculate the likelihood of packing up and checking out before the owner of that singular voice found and confronted me.
His palm on my shoulder dashed all hope. “Good morning.”
I kept my eyes on the delicate cup in my hands. “Morning, Professor.”
“I thought we’d moved beyond the bullshit of titles and formalities, Elisabeth.”
“No more than we’ve moved beyond the bullshit of childish behavior and churlish exchanges.”
“Funny you’d choose the word childish, considering that you’re so hung up on my age.”
A waitress slid a carafe and mug in front of him.
I glanced at him, watching the strong steady hands lift the mug, watching the mug press against his lush lower lip, watching his rugged face relax as the warm bitter brew slid across his tempting tongue.
His crisp blue eyes caught me watching and he smiled. “Give me ten honest minutes and I’ll put my luggage back into the car and let you vacation in peace.”
“That’s your plan? Get right down to brass tacks? Okay. You’re twenty years older than me.”
“Eighteen, I never made a secret of it, and there’s not a damn thing we can do to change the fact. What else you got on your mind?”
Nothing. I blinked, catching flashes of memory when my eyelashes collided, and flashes of the present when they fluttered open. I saw his eyes dark with passion the afternoon he first kissed me and now, those eyes were cool, cool though not detached, as if he was holding back the turbulence beneath the calm blue façade.
Voice lowered, he said, “We’re all dying, beautiful, and sometimes, that knowledge makes us do crazy things. Like developing a crush on someone we perceive as inappropriate.”
“So that’s how you see me? An ‘inappropriate crush’?”
He reached for my hand. “No, woman! That’s how you perceive me. Inappropriate because of the age difference. A crush because it’s inconvenient to examine your feelings more closely.”
I jerked away from him. “What do you know about it? Maybe I just don’t want to waste my time with someone who’s going croak a month or two down the road.”
That cool confidence kept him from engaging in my outburst. “I’ll tell you what I know about it but you’re not going to like it. You call me ‘professor’ to create distance between us. You refuse to verbalize your affection to keep from admitting it to yourself. You use our age difference as a weapon to wound me in hopes of driving me away.”
I sighed and leaned back in the chair. “I must be doing it wrong because so far I haven’t been able to shake you.”
“Did you ever stop to consider how I felt? Getting involved with you put me in that clichéd group of rich old man and sweet young thing. Not a club I ever wanted to be in but I wasn’t about to walk away from you. But you walked away, didn’t you? In the ninety seconds we have left before our ten minutes is up, can you do something for me? Can you tell me whether our affair was real? Or were you just in it for the thrill of my celebrity?”
I pushed back from the table and looked at him. Those hands had touched archaeological wonders and cradled my face as though it was the most priceless artifact. Those lips had lectured to thousands of captivated students and kissed me in ways I’d never dreamed possible. Those eyes had seen historical wonders few people would ever know about and studied me in such intimate detail that my body flushed with the memories.
I stood up and paced in front of the table. “It was real, Walter, but I got scared spitless that one day you weren’t going to wake up and I didn’t know how I could get through that.”
“Answer me this: do you love me?”
I responded without thinking and my heart stuttered when it heard my voice say, “Yes.”
He held out his hand, and when I took it, he pulled me into his lap. “Then let’s enjoy the day.”
“And then what? We string the days together, one at a time, so that if tomorrow ever comes, we have a rosary of memories as an ally against the pain?”
“You’ve been listening to my latest lecture series, hmm? So, what kind of memory do you want to make today, lovely?”
I put my mouth to his ear and said, “The kind that reminds me just how much life there is in every breath of your fifty-three years.”
His arm wrapped around my waist, holding me tight against him, so that I could feel his life pulsing against my hip, and then his mouth closed over mine.
I lost myself for a moment before pushing away. “Just one more thing. The only thing that comes close to the passion of our lovemaking is our bickering and I need you to promise that we won’t lose that.”
He nipped my jaw. “Trust me, cupcake, there’s no way we’re going to stop bickering. Take this precise moment in time, for example. You’ve finally admitted you love me and I’m rock-hard for you, but suddenly you want to chit-chat.”
I glared at him. “Oh, now that your precious ten minutes is up, you’re done talking?”
He came to his feet, lifting me with him, and heading inside the hotel, indifferent of the staff and guests staring at us, and briskly walking to my room at the end of the hall. When he reached into my pocket, his fingers slid against my waist, my hip, my groin, in slow little thrusts as if searching for but not finding the keycard.
I fisted my hands in his shirt collar and dragged him closer but he moved his mouth out of reach and said, “You want to keep talking, cupcake? You got it.”
I growled in frustration.
He chuckled, “I’m not going to stop talking until you are spent beneath me. I’m going to tell you everything I’m going to do to you, moments before I do it. Or maybe I’ll tell you what I’m going to do to build your anticipation and then do something different and catch you by surprise. Either way, you can be damn sure I’m going to keep talking -”
Right there in the hotel hall, I took matters into my own hands, and what a nice ripe handful it was, and when we finally made it inside the room and the door closed behind us, two things were certain: there was not going to be anymore talking for a good long while and we were going to add a hell of a lot of beads to our rosary of memories before sundown.
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A reader by birth, paper-pusher by trade and novelist by design, story-telling in my passion. If you enjoyed reading today's story, please consider checking out my blog bullishink.com, joining my creative community sweetbananaink.com or participating in the madcap twitter fun @bullishink.