Friday, September 23, 2011
Derwisch left in the morning, just as the sun came up. It was a peculiar farewell, soft and silent. If Rose has any doubts as to whether their relationship would continue, they end as the door clicks closed. She begins to cry big, salty crocodile tears for a dream that isn't a worth pursing. She cries because she supposes a man like Derwisch will have no trouble finding another woman, to replace her.
What follows is a day spent wandering aimlessly in an unfamiliar city. Eventually, Rose stops at a pub. She orders a gin and tonic and a bowl of cashews. Rose eats cashews delicately, one by one. She pulls Roman's white business card from her pink handbag. What would it mean to contact him? What could she tell him?
Sipping on her second gin, Rose is aware someone watches. There is a man in an old-fashioned booth by the window. His mouth is strong and full. On the table, an iPhone lies forgotten, adjacent to his beer. A dark tan hides inked artwork that snakes around his bicep. Close-cropped, short dark hair frames his face.
The man smiles, an open, genuine action that splinters the severity of his otherwise handsome face. Rose finds herself returning the gesture. She shrinks from grinning too broadly and turns away to sip her drink. The barman raises an eyebrow. Rose concentrates on pressing and trapping salt crystals at the bottom of her plastic cashew bowl. She licks them from her digit one by one, savouring the contrast. She traces the ink on Roman's stiff business card. Perhaps if she called him it would pass the time?
The stranger from the window brushes her wrist with his fingertips. Rose jumps, her thoughts stolen away.
Rose forgets about the business card. His brown eyes sweep her face. Rose swallows, aware her throat is suddenly dry.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
His accent is local. He's built like a tree house, all muscle and tanned flesh. Rose quivers.
“Gin and tonic please.”
He clips his vowels and swallows them with a comic-seductive, New Zealand twang.
“What's your name?”
A big upturned palm extends towards her.
Rose slots his hand into hers briefly, takes a long sip of her slightly bitter beverage.
“That's kind of cool.”
“You're one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life.”
“Thank you.” She manages, cheeks aflame.
Rose puts her drink down.
“You're not so bad yourself.” Seconds pass. She claims her fresh glass.
“Do you drink here regularly?”
“I have a studio around the corner. You're welcome to come and have a see?”
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Rose is relieved to be flying business class, leaning back in her seat with her eyes shut she hears the rustle of fellow travellers taking their seats around her. She tries to focus on the reason for her trip and the man she is to meet for the first time tomorrow. Derwisch is a dream, an idea concocted a few months ago, founded on conversations in cyberspace, first over the clamour of forum conversations and later by personal message.
Until recently he has been almost a complete mystery; then his offer. Based on Derwisch’s proposition, Rose assumes he is older than she, perhaps in his 50's. He wants a companion with whom he can travel, a privilege for which he is willing to pay.
It seems far too good to be true, he talks of Egypt, India, Canada and Mongolia, all the places she ever dreamt of as a child. They were offered now, by this man she barely knows, with strings of course. Rose intends to spend the next few days with Derwisch, testing the relationship's potential. If it all goes well, he has said he will arrange everything.
She curses herself quietly. Circumstances have transpired to make her unsure. Perhaps she will forget the sexy foreigner from the airport lounge. Luckily, she has no way of contacting him. Rose opens her eyes, perturbed. By her side, a woman arranges personal effects: a book, tissues, glasses and water. The cabin crew begins to close above-head lockers; in-flight TVs flicker and twitch. One hostess bends over Rose's chair, she smells of marigolds and fairy floss.
“I have been asked to give you this.”
It's a business card; she pats Rose's arm before she rises and moves off down the aisle. Rose glances at the crisp, white card.
Business Intelligence Manager
M +61400 253 363
Rose clasps and unclasps her hands in her lap to stem her elation. In-flight safety demonstrations commence. Derwisch, she tells herself. Rose sighs loudly. The woman at her side offers her a tissue. Rose shakes her head politely, remembering to breathe out slowly through her nose.
The flight lands in Auckland and Rose disembarks. She catches a cab to her hotel. Her room is tastefully appointed in muted blues and creams. It's also large. No beige, she thinks happily and kicks off her shoes. Rose runs a bath, wandering through the adjoining rooms. She steps out onto a balcony, amused to discover that Auckland isn't a pretty city.
A knock sounds at the door. She opens it hesitantly.
“It's ten past twelve.”
“It is Ma'am.” The teenage in hotel uniform bows his head, avoiding her eyes.
“A Graham Derwisch asks to see you?”
“Yes Ma'am, he said he would wait. If it suits.”
“Oh.” Rose is flustered, tired.
“Tell him no. I want to stick to our arrangement.”
The teen looks quizzically at Rose.
“And why didn't you just place a call?”
“The gentleman asked me to come.”
Rose closes the door, she tries to re-establish her sense of calm. She wonders for the umpteenth time if it was a smart decision to come to Auckland. Finally, Rose sinks into her warm bath. She ducks her dark head under the water.
Half an hour later, feeling refreshed and relaxed, Rose orders a fruit and cheese platter and a bottle of crisp, white wine from room service. So much better she thinks, than the aeroplane or her empty flat across the sea.
A noise at the window catches her attention. A scrabbling, followed by a dull thud. Rose thinks to put on a sweater, hating the idea of being caught out in the dead of night, her pale breasts swinging freely beneath her cotton pajama top. 'I'm a prude' she thinks and then laughs, remembering sex and Roman at the airport, with relish.
“Shit” She whispers, alone.
The hair on the back of Rose's neck rises. Sounds of scuffle drift in from the balcony. Earlier, Rose set the door ajar, letting the fresh night air flow to her rooms. Right now it makes she feel foolish and shaky. Perhaps there is something to be said for locks and caution?
Rose takes a breath and turns on the terrace light. The decking illuminates and she can make out the cause of the noise. A man, his shirt torn and his shoes missing, gets up from where he has fallen. He limps and is missing a shoe. He holds up his hands in surrender.
“I'm Graham.” The man says softly, looking her in the eyes. “Graham Derwisch.”
Relief fuels Rose's reaction and she laughs, clasping her hand over her mouth to stifle her rude response. She hiccups. Her stranger rakes a practised hand over his chin and the start of a 5'o'clock shadow.