A moment of passion

A moment of passion

By Alan Bull

‘So this is the coffee shop? I hope she is here?’ he mused as the familiar aroma of Arabica coffee drifted to his nose and the muted sounds of the customers could be heard getting louder as he got nearer. The shop was quaint from the outside and in keeping with this tourist village structured with wooden windows painted a sort of patina green or varnished to a shiny dark finish. A veranda sprawled onto the pavement with half a dozen green tables, but today was too hot so the guests had chosen the air conditioned interior.

He wiped his feet on the door mat and pushed the door open. A little bell rang heralding his arrival.

Twenty grey headed pensioners stopped talking, the teaspoons stopped stirring and cups stopped clinking and the hush was absolute as if on cue. They turned to stare and wonder about him as he entered causing him to feel a little uncomfortable and conspicuous, but the grey heads soon lost interest in him as he weaved his way to an empty table for two, while the babble increased in tempo and volume.

A pretty black waitress approached him dressed in a black dress with white trim, white waistband and a white cotton tiara. She effused welcome and handed him an expensive looking menu. Without looking at the menu and reciprocating with his generous smile all he said was “Cappuccino please — with cream’ and handed back the expensive looking menu and with that she darted away. Six minutes later she was back with the order and left with a smile.

The man gazed around the coffee shop and was pleased with what he saw. Yes, she had done a good job and way better than his expectations from the impression he had formed from her letters. A lady appeared from the kitchen and studied the cake array. ‘That must be her.’ he whispered. She had changed in the last fifty years and without knowing this was her shop, well… he would not have recognized her at all and he suspected the same was true in his case.

His reverie was instantly shattered as a lone fly entered into his comfort zone and caused him to machinate in the demise of the filthy creature. As the fly settled on the ice cream advert in the middle of his table, he clapped just above it and the fly fell to the table… dead. He picked it up between his fingers and dropped it onto the cream floating in his coffee.

He raised his hand to attract the lady who had just re-arranged the cake display. She glanced at him and then summoned the pretty waitress to attend. He shook his head and indicated for her to come over and in the meantime his neighbours were taking an interest in him again.

The lady arrived smiling. ‘Hello Sir, How may I help you?’
He looked at her coldly then he looked at his coffee and pointed to the fly without saying a word.
‘Oh my goodness! How did that get in here? I’m so sorry sir. I’ll just arrange for a new one… Gosh. Those flies are the bane of our lives. I think they are bred in the horse stables just down the lane and…’

‘Kate?’ he asked quizzically, interrupting her nervous babble of excuses.

‘Yes.’

‘You don’t recognise me do you?’

‘Sorry sir, I was somewhat distracted by the fly…’

‘Heh, heh, heh, I put it there you clot.’ He cut her off again.

Kate was confounded by this stranger who now had a familiar face … and those blue eyes she would recognize them anywhere and he called her a clot. Only one person did that and … No… no it couldn’t be. Her heart jumped and she felt momentarily faint. Kate grabbed the back of an empty chair to steady herself. ‘Brian?’ Her voice squeaked the question as her throat tightened with excitement and joy.’ Can it really be you — Oh it is, it is, it is you Brian?’

‘Sure it is — But what about my coffee’ he teased with mock concern.
‘Oh blow your coffee you fool, Come here and give me a hug. She opened her arms wide to let him in and they hugged each other as if they were on the dance floor swaying side to side with imaginary music. Gentle loving thoughts flashed through their mind as if synchronized by the gods, but their hearts beat furiously and their legs began to quiver.

‘Oh you fool. Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?’ She pushed him to arms length for a better look at him. ‘I would have baked a cake…How long are you staying. Where’s your family’ and the questions continued without abating and too fast to comprehend or to answer.The old grey haired patrons turned their heads as if in conspiratorial discussion and chatter broke out above the clatter of cups and saucers.

“Who is he?” they all asked, but the question was answered with looming conjecture and all knowing speculation as messages were passed back and forth at lightning speed and misunderstanding.

‘Hold on! Anchors girl! One question at a time. Actually I’m …’

‘Hello everybody’ she announced with her arm still around Brian’s shoulder ignoring the rest of what he had to say. ‘This is my friend Brian whom I have not seen since school — what’s that — fifty something years hey Brian?’

Brian nodded his head as a hot red flush of embarrassment crossed his face.’ I see you’re not shy anymore’ he said smiling.

‘Those days are long gone my friend. I had to learn the hard way through business and so how long are you staying?’

‘I’m just passing through so it’s only a few hours if you’ve got the time. Where is Ken? That’s your husband isn’t it? He works here too?’

‘Oh — yes to all your questions and he’s out of town on business. Come let’s get out of here so we can chat… I… your wife with you? She was two classes behind me at school…I remember her the lucky fish’

‘No I’m on my own.’

‘So let’s go up to the house then.’

Kate was full of questions quite unlike her letter writing that was usually brief and just enough to maintain contact. It was a short, but pretty drive past beautifully manicured blooming gardens, variegated Crocus plants and a million types of trees the tallest being eucalyptus and conifers.

‘That’s our house there.’

‘Not too shabby and just as I had imagined it,’ Brian said prizing himself out the little car with a groan and admiring the view as he did so.

The house was simple in design and surrounded by a beautiful garden with exquisite roses spread across the lawn and just breaking the view into the deep valley below. Coniferous trees bordered the back of the house and marched on all the way down the road to the bottom of the valley.

‘Tea?’

‘Love some.’

‘Take a seat.’ She indicated to the dining room table made of Rhodesian mukwa. 
Brian sat down and stroked the table in ardent appreciation of such fine wood. 
The conversation worked it way around the family questions and landed up broaching Kate’s impending move to Australia and her disenchantment with the new political dispensations and laws.

‘You know Kate.’ he said candidly as an austere frown worked its way across his forehead, his chin stuck out slightly and his stare chastised her before the words had descended upon her ears. ‘I am a little disappointed you are fleeing from Africa and can’t come to terms with black business empowerment — it’s a reasonable move to level the politico-economic playing field, I think. Blacks were so unfairly deprived of during apartheid and now you seem to begrudge sharing your business rights, ownership, privileged employment and accumulated resources with the very people you trod on.’

Kate looked back at him almost apologetically until the reality for her reasoning to quit Africa came back to her in a mixture of anger and pain. She had thought long and hard over her decision to leave and here was her friend whom she hadn’t laid eyes on for fifty years or more, accusing her and blatantly contradicting his sentiment expressed in his letters. She stood up abruptly from the dining room table surrounded by family photographs and expensive furniture, spilled her tea, pushed the dining room chair away vigorously, which balanced on two legs trying to decide whether to fall or hold ground, and stared at Brian while trying to wipe the spilt tea with a soggy paper table napkin “Do you honestly expect…”

‘And…’ he cut right back aggressively, left arm still resting on the table, not allowing her to finish her sentence and pointed an admonishing finger at her.

“And nothing. Don’t you point your fing…’ she spat back and again was overridden as Brian continued.

‘You have unfairly profited from your unmotivated, fraudulent, destructive, money-grabbing, selfish staff, and built a comfortable life of leisure and abundance.’ He finished on a high note of excitement with his neck veins throbbing. Kate stared back incredulously at the seemingly facetious accusation, but he stared back equally as hard bending her into submission with those piercing blue eyes. She could not believe this was happening. She cocked her head sideways, put her hand on her hip in a sort of resignation of this preposterous attack on her and looked up to the ceiling to find a response and noticed the whirring ceiling fan whose lights had become bedecked with fly crap. She thought to have it cleaned while she allowed her friend to finish his chastisement. ‘Do you have no conscience Kate? What will become of them? With more white people of your ilk leaving, South Africa will soon become a begging bowl and a barren waste. Capitalism! Bah! You people are so greedy and selfish. Your gains are ill-gotten and you know it,’ he berated with conviction although it all didn’t make sense. ‘And, they, the riches, should be shared by all who don’t have the privilege to think and create.’ he easily perceived that he had pushed Kate to her limit and would probably get kicked out now unless he played his cards right. He suddenly grinned and a twinkle rose to his eye.

For a moment Kate was gobsmacked and then her tenseness released itself with a rue smile as her shoulders dropped, her head dropped sideways and she stared from under her eyebrows in dark mock anger. “You’re baiting me aren’t you? What a sucker I am with you.’ She laughed aloud and the last bits of anger and indignation were lost as her self control and placidness exchanged places. ‘You are a damn nuisance with all your pranks and teasing. I never know where I am with you ‘she complained in exasperation and looked again at the ceiling fan. ‘Just look at all the dirt on that fan; really, I’ll have to speak to Nomsa.’

‘Wow! Does she still work for you? What’s that 20 years now more or less?

‘Ja, 22. We employed her when we first got here. She became part of the family and then all this political nonsense flared up and since then she has these untouchable airs and graces about her. God, you can’t tell her to do anything without her catching a boos face.’ Kate lamented as she placed another cup of tea on the table and wiped the remains of the spilt tea with a kitchen towel.

‘I think it is justification stress.’ Her friend said on reflection and rubbed his eyes hard bringing up a red glow to his skin. Kate was perplexed at the change in direction of the conversation. ‘Remember when we left Zimbabwe? We could do nothing better than to deride the country to justify our move. We left so much behind… our brothers and sisters, retired parents, capital, faithful staff, pets, and Oh — all those precious memories.’ His gaze was lost for a moment as he drifted with his memories.

‘Do you think you could go back Brian?’ She asked softly seeing his anguish and loss and looking him straight in the eye. Brian looked back with a saddened expression not only because he knew he could not go back now — he was too old — but also because he saw how age had gobbled up his pretty school girlfriend and rag princess and left a schoolmarm in its place. Her body was not fat, but had lost some shape especially around the hips, Craggy wrinkles spread from her aging, but gentle loving eyes and her hair had lost the lustre of youth and hung limply. Her face was fuller although she still managed to maintain those little dimples on either side of her mouth when she smiled. ‘God! I loved that smile’ Brian thought to himself.

Moments passed as Brian stared without focus, his head rested in his hands. There were too many memories lost in the jumble of time that left him speechless. His elbows began to hurt as they supported his head on the dining table and he was aroused abruptly as his mind returned to the present. ‘Nah!’ He scoffed finally as he broke out of his silent lamentation. ‘Nah! It’s over. The old generation can’t go back because nothing will be as they remembered. By the way, when is your husband getting back? Can’t say you have said much about him.’ He paused and looked down at the table to give her time to reflect on the next probing question to follow. ‘Are you happy Kate?’ He whispered in a husky voice and looked up and stared at her begging for the truth in silence. Kate felt the depth of the look and looked away her right hand inadvertently shifted to her generous, but tasteful wedding rings and fiddled with them, slowly turning them around and around mindlessly.

‘Damn’ she thought ‘He still had that power over me, that power I had long forgotten, that power that could search into my soul and dig out the truth.’

She put down her cup. The clink was the only sound in the room. She searched her soul for the right answer, but it never came and instead tears bubbled up to cloud her vision.
‘I’m sorry Kate. I didn’t mean to hurt you.’ He stretched his arms across the table and enveloped her small hands in his rough hard working mitts. She baulked as if to pull her hands away from this friend, this grey haired friend who had still remembered her after fifty years, whose blue eyes seemed to be bluer and wiser than she remembered, but then left her hands there trembling in this poignant moment.

The two of them sat there too afraid to break the spell. Finally Kate sniffed and the spell was broken. ‘Yes, I am happy.’ She confessed without conviction.’ I have my children in Australia and as for my husband we get along, but I have never been entirely fulfilled because I was foolish when I was young and had to get married. I regret that loss of freedom to this day. I think I would have been happier as a single mum with an expectation always to meet the man of my dreams. Ken has been good to me and is a responsible father, but…’ She faded off, unsure of how to proceed and then spoke in a dreamy voice with that dimpled smile.’ I dreamed of you often when you left for University, but my dreams were diluted with time and your happy loving face drifted into my memory chest that I only opened when I was sad. There were many times that I wished to turn the clock back and start again. I would have fought harder for you and I would have made it difficult for you to forget me. I would have made love with you. It was that that was missing wasn’t it Brian. That was why you never tried to connect with me again. A catholic virgin was too much for you…’ She accused.

‘I’m a dog…’ Brian admitted with a grumble.

‘I know you’re not from the letters you write. You have never been unfaithful to your wife and you have never suggested anything funny to cause a ruction between me and my husband. You have always been my friend. I know in my soul.’ The heat had been building in their hands and a flash of guilt crossed Brian’s mind. He released her hands gently with a final loving caress.

Brian stood up abruptly and his chair scraped on the floor. He dusted himself and patted down his frumpish attire. Clothes had never gotten in his way and his wife was at odds to see him dressed respectfully. After all he roamed about his farm in his boxer pants as if he were a person demented, but all who knew him had gotten used to his eccentricities. ‘Must go…’ he smiled that crooked smile and flashed his not so white teeth with a chip shared between the front two teeth. He wiped his lips with the back of his hand in preparation for a kiss goodbye.

‘Stay please’ Kate whispered. ‘It’s been fifty years.’ She too stood up and slowly moved toward Brian with her hands imploring to be touched by this dear, dear friend. She gently took his hands and kissed them then kissed him on the mouth. It felt good. It felt like old times when they were so young and in love. She was trembling with expectation in this enchanting moment and impulsively hugged Brian and searched for his lips which were found responsive and wanting. They kissed interminably just like in the school bus with their tongues exploring the depth of their passion. Their arms rose involuntary and they began to caress each other… she caressed his back and then his chest which still felt manly although not as hard as she remembered. Brian sweated the moment, his senses had become warped; his resistance feeble and his hands migrated from her back to her breasts which were now ample, yet shapely. It felt good. They kissed again and Kate rubbed herself voraciously against his body. ‘Mmmm’ she moaned and slid her hand to a hot and throbbing spot that she had never allowed herself to touch when they were young and dating. ‘Mmmm…’ she moaned in satisfaction. ‘Share that with me now,’ she whispered in a husky voice. ‘I have waited fifty years for this moment.’ They kissed. Brian was now so anxious that her husband Ken would walk in through the door at any moment that his first impulse on gathering his senses was to split and run.

‘Kiss me again’ Kate said demurely sensing his agitation as his eyes darted in the direction of the doors. ‘We are alone here until six.” With this advanced warning Brian relaxed and did Kate’s bidding. He kissed her tenderly and then again more forcefully as his passion arose he too began to grunt and groan. Brian was trapped in the past, his hands were tied out of deference to Kate, her principals and her god and did not know how to let the moment create itself, but Kate had dreamt this moment many times in her loneliness and was not going to let the moment pass unnoticed and unused as this would be her last chance to live her secret dream before parting to Australia. She placed her hand on his now inflamed embarrassment, grabbed it gently and pulled him to the sofa unbuckling his belt and unzipping his jeans as they went. He almost tripped and laughed aloud in embarrassment as he went in supplication.

‘This is going to be fun.’ he said jokingly as he grabbed her and threw her to the couch removing whatever got in the way of whatever was about to happen. Kate giggled at his intensity, the part she had never known, yet, only dreamed about. Brian could never have imagined Kate to be this passionate or reckless as they smothered each other in kisses and caressed to a point where there was no holding back, they were barely coupled when groans of ecstasy were released at the synchronised consummation of a lifetime of restraint. ‘ Amor , Amor’ whispered Brian barely audibly and collapsed on Kate momentarily as his mind drugged by the unbridled pleasure of passion fluttered from joy to dream sleep, but Kate was vigilant and chided Brian.

‘Come on old man. We are running out of time and I shall turn into a pumpkin in the next hour. Save me my prince until then. Give me one more hour of life is all I ask.’

‘I wish I was fifty years younger.’ Brian said still breathing quite hard.’ You were lucky to get that out of me.’

‘I know the feeling, but I’ll take the best you got. You savage.’ She teased.

They spent that hour as though it were their last hour on earth when the cuckoo clock struck the half hour. Kate whispered’ I’m turning into a pumpkin, my love, my long lost prince — you must leave now.’ She lay there in a dream state of ecstasy and guilt. “You must think I am a harlot?’ she finally said shamefaced, but Brian didn’t answer instead kissed her on the lips and left unable to fathom what had just happened. He knew it would never happen again and chuckled resignedly at how life dealt the cards. He was juxtaposed in this deal. A case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t, but it was worth the satisfaction of knowing the duration of love and that the event will be a secret locked away in Kate’s memory chest to treasure and to provide her with joy and fulfilment whenever she cared to open it.

Three minutes after Brian had left there was a gentle knocking at the front door. Kate awoke out of her trance and opened the door to find Brian poised with his hand ready to knock again.

“Ahem” he cleared his throat and was clearly embarrassed. ‘I’ve just had a senior moment Kate — I need a lift.’

‘Oh goodness gracious me. I must have had one also.’ She burst out laughing and Brian joined in. ‘Hold on I’ll get the car key.’

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