I stopped by the entrance to the museum and pulled my phone out of my pocket. Another message: “Take your time, I’m sitting on a bench opposite Nelson.” I took a final look down myself, feeling relatively confident in my tight jeans that accentuated my rounded bottom and a top that accentuated my waist and chest – giving me the hour glass shape I knew he couldn’t resist. I had also chosen my shoes wisely, because I knew he’d notice. To top it all off I wore my hair down, my dark red curls bouncing off my back as I approached him.
I’d pulled out all the stops. For old time’s sake.
As I walked down the stairs to the square itself I saw him on a bench across from the statue of Nelson, as promised. He was staring into his music player as I slowly walked over and stopped in front of him. Once he realised I was there he slowly looked up, taking in all the sights in the process, yanked the earplugs out of his lug holes and stood up. For a moment we just lingered. I bent my head backwards ever so slightly to meet his eyes as confidently as I could.
He didn’t say anything, just looked down at me over the bridge of his nose, before bending his knees and picking me up by snaking one arm around my back. As a reflex, I put my arms around his neck and took in the scent from his skin. It seemed like he, too, was trying to give me a trip down memory lane by putting on that perfume he knew used to drive me wild. He rested his mouth in the crook of my neck and sighed, hugging me tighter with the arm that held me up and slid his fingers through my hair with the other.
When I opened my eyes and looked over his shoulder, I realised that we’d attracted a curious crowd who wondered what was going on. I helped myself down, sliding slowly down his chest and torso, until my feet once again hit the ground. He still held me against him, refusing to let up until I took a physical step back.
‘It’s good to see you,’ he finally said, his voice dark and soft, like chocolate. ‘Thank you for coming.’
He looked how I remembered, but better. He’d toned up, his hair and beard had traces of gray and that “something” I’d never quite been able to put my finger on that made him irresistible… well, that was there too.
‘For old time’s sake, right?’
‘Right,’ he chuckled. ‘Shall we?’ he added and offered me his arm, like a proper gentleman. I slid my hand in between his rib-cage and his bicep, giving it a little squeeze. Probably as a reflex, he momentarily flexed his muscle, quietly reminding me that he still “had it”. A completely unnecessary exercise, as he’d already done that by lifting me off the ground using only one arm a minute or so ago.
We walked up St Martin’s Lane on route to Browns Restaurant, where he’d suggested in a previous message, in complete silence. He just touched my hand as I clutched his bicep, repeating to myself that it was “just a lunch”. That he’d married Rose and she was probably waiting for him somewhere, alongside their – probably – four kids.
‘Let me get that for you,’ he said as we reached Browns and opened the door for me. We were immediately shown to our table, that he’d booked in advance, and given menus. We both ordered beef with fries and salad. I made sure I got a glass of red while he stuck to Guinness with his upscale pub lunch.
‘What brings you to town?’ I finally asked, having gulped down a third of my glass of wine in one gulp.
‘I’m back at work, singing. Can you believe it?’
‘No,’ I said earnestly. ‘I didn’t know you’d started singing again. The last time we spoke…’
‘A lot has happened since the last time we spoke,’ he interrupted me. ‘I met a miracle worker that got had me doing yoga and breathing exercises. But don’t worry, I haven’t gone all zen on you,’ he grinned. ‘It took a while but for the past few years I’ve been welcomed back to the stages I never thought I’d grace again.’
‘I’m happy for you,’ I offered. ‘How’s Rose?’ I asked, getting it out of the way as quickly as possible.
‘I hear she’s fine. We haven’t had much to say to one another in the past four years or so.’
‘I’ve enjoyed being on my own, putting things into perspective, finding myself…’
‘I thought you said you hadn’t gone all zen on me.’
He laughed out loud.
‘Did you like who you found?’
‘As it turns out, I wasn’t that hard to find,’ he chuckled. ‘I’ve had a pretty good grip on who I am for most of my life.’
I smiled to myself as I filled my mouth with another piece of beef. I don’t know what I’d expected, but for some reason I was still surprised that he the whole process, the life-changing events of the past few years, hadn’t really changed him. Zen my arse.
‘What’s new with you? I heard you dumped what’s his face and that he married the most level headed woman I’ve ever met.’
‘I think what makes it work for those two is that they’re both as sedated as each other and happy with that. He’s a lovely guy but I swear to God, he provided me with the most boring sex I’ve ever had,’ I said without thinking, causing him to swallow his meat down the wrong way, followed by a coughing fit and eventually a belly laugh.
‘I’ve missed that,’ he beamed. ‘At least you can’t say that the sex we had was ever boring.’
‘This is true. So, when do you start rehearsals?’ I asked, trying to steer the conversation away from the past, which wasn’t all that easy as it was literally staring me straight in the face. I could feel the blood rushing through my body, my heart racing even though I wasn’t moving – and I had to uncross my legs to avoid any friction.
‘Next week. You look… stunning,’ he continued, trying to steer the conversation back to where he wanted it. ‘So do you?’
‘Do I what?’ I asked flatly as I threw back the rest of my wine, fighting the urge to lunge at him.
‘Remember when I tied you up in LA?’ he asked, referring to the last message before our meeting that I’d avoided replying to. With good reason.
‘Is that why you wanted to see me? To ask me that?’
I heard that my voice sounded irritated. What irritated me the most was that I liked where the conversation was going. I liked that he almost immediately steered me towards sex, towards our shared desires, towards our mutual lust for one another. At the same time, I was angry that he felt he could just make contact after six years of nothing, four of them as single, and expect me to just – literally – bend over by doing something as simple as remind me of what we used to do. The hot, steaming, moments of passion that still made my nipples harden just from the thought alone.
‘I apologise for taking liberties. Old habits, I guess.’
‘I should go.’
‘We should both go,’ he said and had settled the bill before I’d had the time to object. They were clearly interested in catering to as many people as possible during the lunch rush, so for once the service was quick. On the street I kept my distance. Not because I wanted to, but because I knew I needed to in order to not get sucked back into a whirlwind fuckfest with him that would – without doubt – end in tears again for me in the not too distant future.
‘Thanks for lunch,’ I said, turned on my heel and walked hastily back down St. Martin’s Lane, counting the seconds before he caught up with me. He came around in front of me and touched both of my shoulders, holding onto me, making sure I couldn’t rush off.
‘I’m not going to lure you with some speech about how I’ve changed and become a better man. I don’t have any guarantees, all I can say is that I’ve had time to get my ducks in a row. I know I was a prick to you on several occasions in the past. All I ask is that we go on a proper date so we can get to know each other again. Tomorrow night, what do you say?’
I looked at him. This gesture was slightly out of character. Maybe he had changed, maybe he hadn’t. Even though I leaned towards “hadn’t”, I figured I owed it to myself to find out – so I made eye-contact with him, gave him a quick nod and pushed him out of the way.
Rather than rushing, I got my hips swaying and my hair bouncing off my back as I walked away, making damn sure I had the upper hand when we met again the next day.