Resolution - Excerpt
It was late on New Year’s Eve, a very bad time to shop.
Vanessa pushed the empty trolley to the nearest bay, a good 300 yards from where she had finally found a place to park her car two hours ago.
Her heels tapped a staccato beat as she strode along the pitted tarmac. It was bitterly cold; the wind bit through her faux-fur-lined winter coat, through the blazer, blouse and skirt and thick black tights which had become her corporate attire, through her pale, where-is-the-sun winter skin, right to the marrow of her bones. Chestnut hair was finally escaping from the tight roll she customarily wore and fine tendrils whipped her face and neck, stinging her exposed, chilled skin.
She’d had enough of crazed last-minute shoppers, vying for the last pomegranate, piece of pork, packet of grapes, bagels, whatever they felt would bring them luck for the New Year ahead. She only wanted to go home, curl up in front of the fire and forget about it all for the holidays. Vanessa sighed and shook her head in frustration, releasing another coiled strand. There was no rest for her at home.
She sighed as she pushed her trolley into the end of the line of parked trolleys and extricated her token with gloved hands.
“Fumble fingers!” she muttered, searching the ground for the token which had so elegantly slipped from her gloved fingers to the tarmac below. It didn’t help that the token was a dull grey colour, and with the poor lighting, rendered almost invisible. Still, she hoped to catch a glimpse of its dull sheen – or at the very least, a coin-shaped shadow.
Miracle! She found it! She bent to retrieve it and was promptly rammed by a trolley.
“Oh! For goodness sake!” Teetering on high heels, she lost balance and fell on to the trolley, catching her face on the way down.
“I am so sorry!” His warm, liquid voice, contrite and apologetic, cut through her chilled brain. “Here, let me help you.” And as she made to resist, “Can I at least take you to the light, make sure my absent-minded clumsiness hasn’t caused any damage?”
She would have snapped at him, but something in his voice triggered a memory of happier, warmer days, and so she allowed him to lead her back to the light.
“Here. Let me see.” Surprisingly gentle, warm fingers sent a blast of heat through her frozen body as he tilted her face to the light, blinding her, and so she missed the startled expression on her rescuer’s face.
However, she didn’t miss the quick intake of breath and she stared up into his face. It was in shadow, the golden halo around his head preventing her from defining his features.
“Is it bad?” she asked, her voice catching a little as she feared the worst.
She froze, a rabbit caught in headlights, heart pounding, breathless.
“Kevin…” she exhaled, remembering to breathe in.
“It’s been so long…”
“Twenty years… more…”
“You didn’t write…”
“My mum said you’d left a message … Didn’t want me to.”
An accusation left hanging…
An awkward pause…
“Can I buy you a drink? We can catch up.”
“I have to get home. My husband… kids…” Her voice trailed off and she lowered her eyes, the only part of her body she still controlled.
“Of course. How insensitive of me.” Still he held her chin, gently. Caressingly. Playing her. His touch awakened dormant thoughts and feelings which flowed through her deadened body, threatening to erupt in a symphonic explosion.
“Just ... ok…” She caught her breath as his lips brushed hers, warming her, yet sending delicious shivers through her body. She trembled uncontrollably. His warm breath stroked her lips inches from her own as his ocean-blue eyes held her hazel ones. Questioning. Promising.
Kevin smiled, the slow, easy smile she remembered, and released her chin, capturing her shoulders. He led her to the Hog’s Head, powerless as a lamb to the slaughter.
“Kevin, maybe I should just…” Her voice trailed off.