It had only been three days since Tamira moved in with Mark Jones, but it felt like three hundred years already.
She called him for any slightest help she needed, on the excuse that she was just getting to know the house, like some kind of spirit animal that was slowly possessing its host’s body.
Perhaps it was time to get a help around the house, Mark wondered silently as he watched her under the mild sunlight at breakfast table, on the verandah facing his small rose garden. For Christ sake, she could barely even find her bread knife on the table, even though he had intentionally put it so close to her plate, right next to her teacup and saucer.
In just three days, he had saved her neck from breaking when she slipped on a wet floor, stop her from drinking a mango flavored dish washer and helped her with zips and buttons of her clothes. It was getting a little too much for him to handle.
But his house was small and cozy, just the way he liked his life too; close and private. However, fate took one good look at him and decided to throw him into a family where ‘small and private’ were forbidden words. They shared their lives with the public and did whatever was suitable in the eyes of the media.
All his life he wanted to be alone, to live alone, away from prying eyes and camera flashes. Since marriage was the only deal breaker to be separated from the rest of the family, when he turned twenty-six, one summer, he arranged to be married with Evelyn – a young orphan, who had lost her parents to a house fire incident – giving her sufficient money to survive in exchange.
He filed for a divorce six months after, on the terms of Evelyn’s inability to conceive a child. His mother wanted to keep this under the wraps and away from newspaper front page story.
So, as the ex-daughter in-law of the Jones family, Evelyn left with a remarkable settlement and of course, her virginity intact.
Four years of solitude later, nothing had changed. Home was the only thing he managed to guard and he wasn’t ready to share it.
Well, not until three days ago.
Mark Jones popped the last fork of hotdog into his mouth and cleaned his hands with a napkin. He stood up, shifting the oak dinning chair backward. Tamira managed to look in his direction.
“I’m off to work. Please don’t die before I come back.” With that, he began to walk back into the house.
“Wait! I can’t walk back in all by myself. At least take me to my room.”
Mark Jones rolled his eyes so much, they almost popped out of their sockets. He ran his hands through his thick curly hair and checked his wristwatch. He had only an hour to go to sell ‘Dianora’, a dinosaur sculpture he recently completed, what could be his biggest accomplishment yet.
“Eleven more days to go”, he cursed under his breathe.
The house smelled like dry Oakwood and lavender. Besides the fact that she had felt every single piece furniture in the cozy home the first day she walked through his door, Tamira spent most of her alone time in the woods back at the orphanage home, so through the help of Mr. Smith, she learned to differentiate woods by their smells.
However, she wished she could tell more about his home; what colors he used for his drapes and beddings, his choice of utensils, whether he was a ‘sunlight in the living room’ kind of person or if he owned a television.
Since that information wasn’t made available to her, all thanks to her failed sight and she was too shy to ask Mark himself, she just let her sense of smell and touch do the work for her. So, his curtains were sky blue, from the ceiling, all the way to the floor and his beddings were deep velvet black. His furniture was, of course, all wood, that consisted of his sculpting throughout the years.
When he went out to work, she sat down by the opened window in her room and she drew her imaginations. Although, he had been kind enough to buy her enough art supplies to fill her boring afternoons, it wasn’t enough. She longed for the evenings to come, when he returned and she irritated him some more with her whining and intentional clumsiness.
Tamira closed her eyes and smiled to herself as she remembered the feel of his fingers on her back this morning and his uncomfortable gulp, when he tried to fix her gown zipper.
Of course, she could perfectly wear her clothes by herself, but Mark avoided her like plague most of the time, so she seized every opportunity to make physical contact with him.
Tamira sighed heavily at what was within her grasp but she couldn’t get hold of. In a week, she would be back at the orphanage; back to the life she was familiar with and this reality would become a fantasy once again.
So, she painted away and drowned her self in the realm of what ifs?
“Who told you my drapes are blue?”
Tamira had thought about Mark so much she was beginning to hear him in her sleep. It sounded so distinct, so close… So present.
Mark watched her as she tried to locate his present location. He had gotten accustomed to the way her milky eyes wandered aimlessly when they had a conversation. At first, he would always look at his fork or whatever laid around, just to avoid the creepiness. However, as the number of days she had spent with him accumulated, he had caught himself smiling a few times as he watched those eyes roam.
It was cute.
He had come to her room to guide her to the dining table. But then, he had found her sleeping and the painting had caught his attention. So, he sat down there and went through her entire collection; a painting of his interiors, some abstract art only the artist can discern – and a painting of him.
Mark wasn’t surprised that she had painted his portrait; it was bound to happen anyway if she was truly an artist. What startled him was how she had delicately captured his key features; the low forehead, his small pointed nose, how one of his earlobes curved inwards than the other, and the deep green birth mark on his lip.
She had styled his curly hair in a ninja bun and made him wear a sullen expression. She must have asked a lot of questions about him to know this much details and she really wanted to stay with him. No wonder she was hurt beyond words when he rejected her.
He suddenly felt something. It wasn’t pity this time. It was a deep sense of respect for her, as an artist, a survivor and a woman.
He cleared his throat loudly, as if to call his own attention back to the present. She followed his voice too and he decided to ask his question his question.
“What makes you think my drapes are sky blue?”
“What makes you think you can barge into my room without knocking?” Tamira retorted.
Ah, Mark thought, the usual bickering – typical Tamira.
“It belongs to – “
He stopped short. Yes, the room had belonged to his ex-wife, but he was not about to share that part of his life with a person that wouldn’t be here in a few days’ time.
“It belongs to me. This room and the house.”
“What if I was naked?” the words coiled in her mouth as if she said it on purpose.
Mark shifted uncomfortably. He would be lying if he said he had not thought about her naked body ever since their zipper encounter. Her ebony back was so smooth, it has startled him. For a physically challenged person, she took care of her skin damn well! Since then, he had been fighting the thought to trace his fingers down her spine and spell his name on her lower back.
“Well, it is nothing new I haven’t seen.”
She gasped and placed her right hand on her chest dramatically, as if she was genuinely hurt. Mark tried in vain to stifle a chuckle. She smiled in return, at the thought of making him laugh.
A warm silence enveloped them for a while, each basking in the glory of the ice between them, that was gradually melting.
“You drew my face.”
Tamira froze, then she blushed deeply.
“You went through my stuff?”
She didn’t respond.
“It’s a really good painting. Almost accurate.”
“What do you mean by ‘almost’?”
“My birth mark is on my bottom lip, not the upper. My skin tone is two shades lighter than what you portrayed. And I never wear my hair in a ninja bun,” he smiled at the last part.
Tamira chuckled lightly.
“But you did a damn pretty good job. Who told you – No, who described me explicitly to you?”
“People who are head over heels in love with you.”
Mark threw his head back and let out an exaggerated sigh, “Ah, I see. Well, tell them I love them back.”
The silence got thicker this time. He wanted to say more, but he couldn’t just find the right words. It seemed like they had a longer conversation when they weren’t getting along. This peace between them was beginning to get uncomfortable. Besides, he didn’t want her to get attached.
No, you little liar, a voice in his head countered, you are the one who doesn’t want to get attached.
“Can I touch your face?” Tamira broke the silence.
He didn’t hear her.
“Can I touch your face?” Her voice was unsure now and it broke.
See what familiarity has caused, Mark thought gloomily.
“Yeah, sure,” he walked slowly to her bed and climbed on it. He crawled to where she was and sat right next to her. She raised her hands and it fell on his arm. She used that as a form of guidance to know where his body parts were positioned.
She trailed her hands up his arm, all the way to his shoulder, his neck, then her two hands rested on his cheek. It laid there for a while, as if she was seeking his permission to go on.
He never took his eyes off her face. He watched her intently as she smoothened his forehead and traced the shape of his brows and his eyes, trying to measure how wide they were. She held his nose like a sculptor who was studying her specimen before getting to work. She touched every inch of him that was left; his ears, his jawline, his hair, the fine wrinkles at the side of his nose.
Everywhere except his mouth.
Then she gradually withdrew her hands and placed it gently on her laps.
“You missed an important spot,” he wanted to know if she had done it on purpose.
“I heard it tastes better than it feels.”
The air in the room suddenly got hotter and not enough for two people to live on. Mark Jones didn’t like where this was headed. Well, he was curious, still, it her boldness scared him. So he shielded his fear with a shallow laugh.
“Come on, I made dinner.”
But she didn’t move. She didn’t ask him what he made or fuss over not including her preferences in the menu. She sat still. And looked straight at his face. Then she put her hands forward and touched his lips.
Mark couldn’t take it anymore. He drew closer to her until they were just a breath apart. One quick glance into her face, he captured her lips in a breathtaking kiss.
Mark Jones had successfully avoided Tamira like an incurable disease in the last three days. The only time he communicated with her was during breakfast and dinner time and he never sat on the same table with her.
Today wasn’t any different as she sat alone at breakfast. Tamira knew why. Their little encounter had left him dazed.
He wanted to stop at the kiss, but she had subtly encouraged him to keep going, until she was wriggling in pain and pleasure underneath him, as he sensually grinded his lower body against hers.
A feeling of being used began to creep in. However, she couldn’t blame him or even feel sorry for herself. It was something she had wanted since she hit puberty and Mark turned out to be the perfect man for it. He was so patient with her and he kept whispering in her ears, I wouldn’t hurt you, trust me.
But she couldn’t help feeling guilty of ruining what had begun to blossom between them.
The sound of the telephone echoed in the kitchen. She tried to eavesdrop when telephone stopped ringing. Only soft murmurs could be heard, so she stopped listening. After a few minutes, she heard his footsteps. He drew a chair out and sat on it. She couldn’t tell where he sat.
“Mr. Smith called”.
A beam spread across Tamira’s face. She had almost forgotten about her old life and mention of her favorite person in the world brought warmth to her heart.
Mark continued, “He is coming to pick you today.”
Tamira’s face turned white as blood drained from it.
“Pick me? To go where?”
“Back where you belong.” Mark replied dryly.
“What is going on?” Tamira swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat.
“I called him to come pick you up cos I couldn’t handle you anymore.”
Tamira tried to fight the tears that were stinging the inner corners of her eyes. This was exactly the same betrayal Jesus Christ felt and she wept for her savior and herself.
“Why did you do it?” Tamira sobbed heavily.
“I owe you no explanations,” with that Mark Jones stood up and began to walk away.
“Don’t walk away from me!” Tamira screamed.
“I am trying to protect both of us here.”
“From what?! What are you so afraid of that hasn’t been done already?”
Mark closed the distance between them and grabbed her arm, “Don’t you dare pin that on me. You wanted it.”
“And have I complained about having it?” Tamira couldn’t control the rainfall in her eyes now and they spilled without caution as she held his arm back.
However, she found the strength to continue, “Don’t let me go, please. I love you.”
Mark laughed bitterly, “In just how many days and you’re already in love with me. I just knew this was bound to happen. Some silly blind little girl trying to trap a successful young man for his wealth and her security. How does that sound for a front cover story?”
In that instant, the tears seized as if God had cut off the water supply in her body. She stood still and her arms dropped limply to her sides. He finally released her too and took few steps backward.
“I’ll go pack your stuffs.”
“I don’t want anything you have given to me,” Tamira said blandly.
“As you wish.’ And he was gone.
That night, Mark Jones laid in his couch with a bottle of whisky and he cried. Mr. Smith had come in his car and he and he had thanked Mark tremendously for putting up with Tamira and taking care of her.
Mark couldn’t shake off the sorrow as he watched Tamira get into the car, her expression chilled as ice. When he had tried to hug her, she held out her hands against his chest and told him subtly to fuck off.
Now, alone and tipsy, he began to think of how stupid he had handled the situation. But it wasn’t his fault. He had panicked and called his mother, who in turn had double panicked. She was the one that had commanded to let go of the burden before it became too heavy and made him swear to fix it before it got out of hand.
So, like the child that he was, he did the safest thing; get her out of house and life for good, without putting her feelings into consideration. He felt so bad, he couldn’t even ask her to promise him she wouldn’t tell anyone of their escapade. At least he owed her that much.
He cried because she would never forgive him. He cried because once again, he had let his family dictate his life for him.
He cried because he loved her and he let her go.