The knock on the door made Adele’s heart jump. She did not get many unannounced visitors, so who could this be now, disturbing her peace? She reluctantly went to open the screen door that guarded her and her house against the outside world.
“Are you mrs. Adele Harper”? The question came wrapped in a smile that was too much white teeth for Adele. “Miss” she said, abruptly. The man looked a bit taken aback by the almost unfriendly tone of her voice. Adele remembered her manners and said in a more neutral tone: “I am miss Adele Harper”. But her light blue eyes remained frosty. What business did that man have standing on her porch smiling, anyway? If he had to deliver a package, he should just do his job, and get on with it! Adele was much more impressed by work ethics than smiles. And this man seemed to be all smiles. There had to be something unnatural about that, she thought, as she invited him to step inside, her heart fluttering. Why did she have to invite him in? It was automatic. It was part of the old Southern hospitality she had been taught by her grandmother.
The man looked lost, or “mal placé” as the French would say. A Neanderthal in a doll house. Not that his features were primitive, oh no, quite the opposite. But, a tall, rather muscular man, in her living room of light pastel colors and fine fabrics… just standing there… It looked kind of pitiful, Adele thought.
“Please, have a seat”, she said in her most polite tone of voice. She didn’t want him to know that her heart was fluttering, her mind in chaos, having this strange and handsome man under her roof, all of a sudden. “Can I offer you something to drink?”, she said, automatically. Her smile felt automatic too, like it had been programmed into her by those darn hospitable Southern ancestors hundreds of years ago. The stranger accepted and she went to pour him his drink. He had said he preferred Scotch, so that’s what she poured, but not without a questioning wrinkle between her eyebrows. After all, it was only early afternoon; was he drinking on the job?
Adele showed nothing of her doubts of the man’s character, as she served him the drink. He insisted that she’d have one too, so she went to pour one for herself.
As they were both seated, the man introduced himself as Kenneth. Adele’s first instinct was to hate the name, and the man. But she found she couldn’t. When she looked at him more closely, she discovered he had blue eyes with a hint of green in them. The most dangerous thing weren’t the color of the eyes themselves, but the utterly irresistible crow’s feet surrounding them, no doubt formed by all those cursed smiles, she thought. Adele sighed as her thoughts continued: What is he thinking, wearing that boyish hair style! His hair was almost completely blond, but cut in the style a younger man would go for, which annoyed Adele.
Kenneth started to speak. He came to inform her that a long lost relative of hers had left her a bit of money. Adele could not figure out who this relative was, cause she hadn’t been paying attention. All the while that Kenneth had been talking, sometimes adjusting his suit (nice, navy blue, tailor made, Adele noticed), she had been caught up in some physical detail or other, about him. Adele chastised herself, within. What was this? She was no school girl, to be defenseless like this? And yet… she was. A woman in her sixties who wondered if it showed that she was blushing, or if that was only on the inside. The exquisite blend of blue and green in his eyes, the way he carefully told her all the details, the way his smile so often showed, like he possessed the secret to the joy of life…. It was all too much!
“I have understood the terms!” Adele suddenly exclaimed. She demanded to know where to sign. Kenneth’s smile faded. Adele signed, swiftly, and said it was time for her to do some errands.
They shook hands. Adele felt a jolt that made her whole body, no, her whole being and soul, come alive. Kenneth’s eyes searched hers, with a question. She ignored that, stubbornly looking down at her feet. She didn’t dare look up, after being almost rude, to this nice man. Kenneth was patient. He waited. She finally looked up. Then he grabbed her chin, firmly, not in a hard grip but a determined one, and looked her in the eyes. He said: “I’m not letting you get away that easily, miss Harper”, with the grin of a boy with mischief on his mind. Adele was in shock. What on Earth did he mean by that? But she didn’t have one more moment to think, because Kenneth had made up his mind. His face got closer to hers, slowly, as if giving her a chance to back out, still. But she didn’t. Adele suddenly felt like someone else had to take over. She had lost all of her usual strong willpower.
She had not been kissed like that in a long time. If ever. The kiss was so many things at once; a promise, a swim in a dark forest lake, the spark that starts a revolution! Adele closed her eyes and let herself fall into the darkness. The logical, strong woman, was now all senses; the heavy fragrance of the jasmine bushes outside her open windows mixed with faint traces of masculine after-shave. The heat and softness of his lips against hers, consumed all her thoughts in dancing, whirling flames…
They both looked at each other, lost for words after the kiss that could change everything. Adele was furious! How could this…. this… person, show up here, at her door, and pretend like he was some sort of movie star! Just cause he looked sort of nice, did he imagine that he would just magically be allowed to fall into her bed?! Adele abruptly told him he had to leave. Kenneth’s eyes shifted to a darker shade of green and blue, but he quietly said: “I’ll go. If you want me to”. His shoulders which were so strong a minute ago, seemed to sink a bit. Like he gave up. Adele nodded. And he left.
After Kenneth had left, Adele studied herself in the mirror. Usually she would get a confident nod back in the mirror. Now, all she saw was wrinkles of worries and a decidedly sad expression all over her face. It was like a grey veil had been draped over it. Even her hair, usually fair and shiny, now looked dull and lifeless.
She suddenly knew. She had made a horrible mistake, letting Kenneth go! She hadn’t asked for his last name or any contact information. And he had only said his first name, like they were already so familiar that he couldn’t stand being formal with her. He had been the first man she had been interested in, since.. those awful days. She was afraid to count back to those days. That all seemed a lifetime away, but in real time it must have been little more than eight years ago.
Adele tried to keep busy, she had dinner, watched TV, wrote some letters. Her thoughts still wouldn’t let go of Kenneth. She didn’t know what to do about this, about him. The one that was now gone.
To be continued….
(image borrowed from Here)