She was British. Eighty-five years old. White hair, and tactly curls. Thin, smart. Brilliant, in fact. Looked no more than sixty. Did everything right. Lived a long full life in hopes it would lead her somewhere eventually. These things don’t come naturally for everyone.
He was gruff, and American. Mid-forties. Dark black hair and a few greys, but nothing outstanding. Stocky build, had worked in every field he ever applied himself in. But they were friends. And they even loved eachother. Probably in a way most wouldn’t understand in the current climate. Oh, this was years ago. But back then, they couldn’t get enough of each other. They held out for eachother and reserved themselves with a class she wasn’t brought up with and a respect he had hard earned.
He could have laid her, if she asked. The age didn’t matter, and with her brilliance, it would be his honor, if she’d ever asked. But she didn’t. Never hinted, though he would. She was satisfied with everything they were, even though it never was, but yet certainly, it always was.
He lit his cigarette after taking a sip of whiskey.
‘My goodness. You’re still smoking? That is a nasty habit.’
‘Well if that’s the only thing nasty about me then it’s well deserved. Because I am a celibate saint in every other regard. As a matter of fact, the way you say nasty with such high inflection is probably worse.’
She smiled curtly, a small bow with her lips. They talked in a cavern pub he had showed her. It was rare a customer walked in, and if they did, they would order a drink, he would put the money in the register and the patron would usually walk out the swinging doors, sip quietly for as long as the moment required, then head back in to return the glass.
If you saw these two individuals though, the gruff man and the elderly woman, it wouldn’t make much sense and wouldn’t seem worth the trouble. Why would anyone smoke near such nice furniture? As the saying goes.
The hours were long that day. It was too hot to do anything, and too stale to stay inside. The rare moments of wind were the only saving grace. Even the ice in the whiskey ran warm too quickly. The only luck she had was in her old age, she was blue blooded as a lizard and as long as the sun wasn’t reaching her, she seemed to stay cool. He didn’t know it at the time, but her lack of perspiration, her cool intellect, the way she wore an icy dress that didn’t match the day; years later that would be all he ever wanted.
She knew he would make love to someone eventually, but never in a shabby way again after her graces. It was the least of her worries, and turned out to be a low priority on his. But those summer heats do keep making their appearance and you start getting stir crazy trying to cool down the civil way. Praying for a cloud or two. Maybe a summer thunderstorm.
‘What’s it to you anyhow? Had you picked up the habit years ago, you would have been happily dead by now and not stuck in this dustbowl with me and my need for the off chance I finally get inspired to take a dip in the lake.’
‘I enjoy the lemonade here. Maybe even more so than in Britain because it’s dreadfully hotter here. And it is a nasty habit. If you knew the work a person goes through just to clean a chimney. Don’t mind my lecture. It’s still so good to see you. It is. You’re not as lumpy as you appear. How you saved a sweet spot I’m not sure.’
It’s not sweet and you know it. Just as that lemonade ain’t sweet. You’re mistaking sweet for tart. And I’m plenty of tart. A little bitter, eh, but not really. I’m-… Who cares what I am or what you are. Well, shit. Pardon me, I mean, I care. You’re brilliant. I hope I didn’t hurt your idea about yourself.’
‘It would take a bit more to knock me down. A woman can take a lot more than you think. Even when insulted. We have navigations and springboards, loops and caverns of our own, strongly embedded that won’t ever tire. I can keep up with anyone and then some. And yes, I miss Britain, despite the lemonade in this heat, and yes I’d rather be at a nice table than this cavern, but I can’t picture you coming with me, and then again, I make no sense in here either. Why don’t you visit sometime?’
‘Eh. I wouldn’t want to put my body through that. Would be like trying on a new pair of shoes. I’m worn in and comfortably suited here. Now come on. We’ll go, I’m taking you to the lake. There’s a wonderful bench built to your standard. And even a dock so you can dip your feet if you don’t mind the tadpoles seeing what your toes are all about.’
‘That sounds more than lovely. But all I would need is some binoculars to checkout the setting sun behind you as you swim.’
‘Huh. Tadpoles aren’t doing it for you and me shirtless won’t do it for you either.’
‘They both would do. But the refusal of both acts would be a challenge that I accept myself. If I gave in to the peer pressure, the alluring points of my deepest fantasies, well, I’d just be a stick in the mud rather than have this deep inner joy of staying joyfully innocent.’
And they stayed together like that for many summers. And where she went when she passed away, either back home in Britain or in the hot summer, he didn’t know. But he somehow knew she would find a place cool. And that he always wished he could have made a place like that, welcoming in his arms. But he was too gruff and that he knew. And he drank that fact while they were together, and smoked that circumstance to the back of his throat. But once she left, he gave it all up, let the tadpoles nibble his toes, and swam in the cooling lake forevermore and a day, knowing he had loved her and himself the best he could while she was there, and even more so, when they parted.
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