My eyes dance over words on the page, their meaning escaping like steam from a mug. The pillow behind my back feels like a brick. I toss the covers from my legs as heat rises from my toes to my forehead. Escaping from my bed, I tip-toe to the kitchen for a camomile tea and accompanying calm. A PING from my iPhone draws my attention from the kettle.
I've been thinking.
Let it go.
My cheeks burn red as nails cut into my balled fists. A primal scream erupts from my diaphragm, creating a cacophony of whistling minus melody. Wrenching the cord from the wall, I stand watching my reflection on the stainless surface.
My fingers fly over the phone's keyboard, the words flowing from the tips.
I want to make this right.
Then I will let it go.
The chiming of my phone seduces my eyes from the mirror, where my reflection stares half foam half shaved. A message from Keitha flashes then flits away. My hand moves like an automaton over the topography of my cheeks.
I pad barefoot to my bedroom, choosing the less-rumpled shirt and trousers, dressed for the day but for a moment to rake a brush through my wavy hair. I wink at the reflected man, his blue eyes glinting with mischief.
Slurping my first of numerous black coffees my thumb opens Keitha's missive. The cup splashes coffee like a fountain as I slam it on the counter.
We MUST meet.
We will meet.
I will not let this go.
The urgency of the hour, and the necessity of work stalls my fury.
Tears blur my vision, a bitter blending of fear, frustration and fervour after finishing David's text. I smile at the bubbles rinsing away under the stinging spray of the shower like a baptism cleansing me of my hesitancy.
My crimson dress beckons, a favourite for its colour, its memories, how the fabric caresses my figure — the perfect gown for my atonement.
My ears tingle when the doorbells peal. The butterflies in my stomach cease to flutter, finding peaceful purchase. My feet, shod in ballet flats, speed to the door.
With a final glimpse in the foyer mirror, I swing open the door, drinking in the image of Fiona, from her dark wavy hair framing her baby blue eyes, that familiar petite nose and full lips; an amalgam of adolescent amour.
My breath deepens as I gently close my laptop, tidy my work surface before pushing in my wheeled chair for the day. My phone echoes again with no response from Keitha.
It is not your secret to spill.
It was long ago.
Let it lie.
David sits on my front stoop, his face a mask of menace, his arms wrapped around his chest like a shield. I seek his eyes, those azure pupils which continue to captivate. My green eyes feel pierced by his coldness.
He shadows me to the door, in the hall, through to the kitchen, where he perches in his favourite spot. I pull out two goblets, filling them with iced vodka.
"We need to talk, now!"
I take a long draw of my vodka, choking as it burns down my throat, watering my eyes.
"I hate when you're like this. Show some passion."
"That is precisely what got us in this mess."
"What have you done?" His palm lifts my chin, aligning our eyes, iris to iris.
"I told my story. I have begun my trek towards reparation."
Draining his glass, David replaces it on the counter.
Across the kitchen, the icy bottle burns my palm as I refill this liquid mindlessness. We both take a quick swallow, a thaw in our gaze. David's lips taste my lower lips, nibbling, nurturing that nascent flame.
"We were always good that way, we could be again."
"David, let sleeping dogs lie."
"For old times sake?"
"Tempting, but no."
"Well, then at least feed my stomach if you won't satisfy my lust."
My headaches like I have pounded it on a concrete wall. The whites of my eyes refuse to let go of their pinkness. A sandpaper sponge absorbs any moisture in the desert of my mouth.
Weary feet carry me to the kitchen, clicking on the coffee. Across the kitchen's island, I spy his head barely visible above a mountain of blankets.
I relish the warm water cascading over my head and body, jumping as the shower door opens. David joins me under the pouring water as he has done so many times before. Hi, arms envelop me in a fierce hug, our bodies stuck together stem to stern. I buss his nose before pulling away.
The plethora of alcohol awakens my senses to truths that I have worked to escape for decades.
"Are you cooking breakfast, like old times, or am I treating you?"
"How about we do it together."
"I love your naughtiness."
Keitha's lips leave mine before I am satisfied.
"I want you in my life."
"Me too. But there is a price to pay. Are you willing?"
"I am now."
Fiona sits across from David and me, curiosity shaping her features. Our hands meet beneath the table, our fingers mingling.
"David, this is my friend Fiona."
His voice sounds breathless, so unlike his tenor tones.
"Keitha has mentioned you a lot."
"Oh, that must explain my ears burning."
Our shared laughter fills the air.
"David, did you know Keitha's secret?"
"I was so angry at first, but after thinking, talking with my family and friends, I discovered acceptance, after all, you can never have enough love."
I catch David's glance, silent conversation streaming between us, noting that I honoured his mistake providence.
"So this is your daughter, Keitha. I'm so pleased that you have been able to reconnect after so long."
"Isn't she lovely? Shades of her father for sure."
My brow furrows, my lips stretch into a disingenuous smile.