Monday, November 07, 2005

Chapter 6 - A Night to Remember

Forever after, Jeremy had a hard time being able to give a detailed account of that night, although he would tell you that every moment was indelibly seared into his memory. Everything around him seemed in sharp focus, yet at the same time far away, as if he were looking at it through a camera lens sharpened to crystal clarity, rather than being present himself. The smallest detail would impose itself on his memory alongside more obviously important things, garbling his attempt to make sense of it to others.

How could explain why the twinkle of something -- he never did discover what -- glinting in the gutter, reflecting the streetlights in a winking dance of light, was inextricably linked, for him, with Liliana's shapely ankles walking beside him, an ankle bracelet he had never noticed before sharing the same winking charm? Why did he notice a bright blue car going by on Grand? And why did the memory of it make him think of the feel of Liliana's hand in his?

They had dinner at the King and I, he remembered that distinctly. Liliana had never eaten Thai food, but had been agreeably adventurous. They started with the appetizer sampler, and Liliana let Jeremy order for her. She made a face at the bean curd, but seemed to enjoy most of it.

He gave her the necklace at dinner, and she told him he shouldn't have, but she put it on and declared it magnificent. He guessed that she'd had better gifts before, that she was the kind of woman men had lavished precious jewels and gold upon, but he was grateful that she treated his gift in the spirit with which it was given.

As they walked toward his apartment after dinner, he suddenly remembered the state he'd left it, and was embarrassed. What would she think of him? He was a slob. He didn't deserve the attention of such a beautiful and classy lady.

Just as he was getting jittery thinking about these things, she sighed and wrapper her arms around his arm, pulling in close to him and laying her head on his shoulder.
"You are a good man, Jeremy Morrison. You deserve this night, and don't think for a moment you do not."

"How do you do that?"

She looked up at him. "Do what?"

"Read my mind."

She laughed. "All women read minds, Jeremy. "Some of us are just more honest about it than others."

When they got to his place, Jeremy was bashful and awkward and hesitant. Liliana was patient and tender and gracious. The first time Jeremy lasted all of six or seven minutes, but she didn't complain or chastise him. She held him and told him how special he was to her and before long they were at it again. And again. Then they slept for awhile, then woke up and did it again. It was everything Jeremy had ever dreamed it might be, and more.

And when he woke up the next morning, she was gone.

Chapter 5 - The Gift

Jeremy's usual method of dealing with hangovers was to avoid them by sleeping in the next day after a drunk. It didn't always work. This particular morning, even a throbbing headache and mouth full of cotton couldn't bring down his mood. He was going to see Liliana tonight!

He decided that he wanted to give her something. Just a little something to let her know how special she was to him. It wasn't that he lacked the knowledge of social skills that would allow him to realize how inappropriate it was for him to be buying her gifts in this early stage in their relationship -- if you could even call whatever it was they had a "relationship." He was even aware that it bordered on the kind of too intense behavior that would scare many girls away. But he sensed somehow that Liliana was different from other girls, and that whether or not she appreciated the present, it wouldn't scare her away.

He had no idea what to get her. What do you get someone for your third -- really, the second -- date? Or was it the first? Could you really call either of their previous encounters a date? If he was picking her up at her home, he'd take her flowers, but he still didn't even know where she lived. If he took her flowers, she'd have to carry them around wherever they went, which wouldn't make much sense. Same with, say, a bottle of wine or a nick-nack memento of some kind.

The obvious thing to buy would be some kind of jewelry. A necklace, a bracelet, a ring. No, not a ring. Definitely not a ring -- that might send a message that would scare off even Liliana, and besides it was a message he wasn't sure he wanted to send. He hardly even knew this girl, for goodness sake. She still hadn't told him her last name -- and how weird is that? He distinctly remembered introducing himself as Jeremy Morrison when they met, and she had said her name after his. So why had she just said "Liliana?" Something weird about that.

Oh, but everybody had their own little eccentricities after all. It wasn't like she was dangerous or something. He chuckled. Weird but wonderful. Well, most people thought he was a bit weird himself.

He saw a beautiful necklace in a jewelry store that he was sure would look stunning on Liliana, but it was $1200, which was far beyond the means of a lowly library assitant.

He was on his second go-around through the mall, thinking of giving up on finding something and just browsing around one of those shops filled with all sorts of odd things with no particular rhyme or reason, except in this case they were all "exotic" in one way or another. Sort of like a miniature Pier 1.

They had a necklace made of silver, with a moonstone in the center of a complicated celtic design with crescent moons worked into it. It was more than $50, but as soon as he saw it he knew it was exactly the right choice.

* * *

She was sitting there on the rock, just as she had been the night before. He sighed as he approached her. He noticed that she seemed to be wearing the same black dress. He hadn't thought anything of it last night, but wearing the same dress two nights in a row, all three times he'd seen her, did seem a bit odd. He shook the thought out of his head. He'd already established for himself that she was unusual, and he'd determined that it was part of her appeal. He wasn't going to let the stuffy follow-the-rules side of himself to kick up a fuss about it now.

"Is it eight o'clock?" she asked him.

He looked at his watch, "Well, technically not yet. Seven fity-eight. Another two minutes."

"Then we must wait. Perhaps you should walk around the lake while I wait here for you."

Okay, that was definitely odd. Jeremy started to protest, then shrugged his shoulders and set off along the sidewalk that ran around the pond -- hardly a lake. Yes, she was definitely different, Jeremy said to himself. But she was so beautiful. And her lips were so soft and firm and yielding and demanding and her breasts --

He mentally slapped his own hand. Down boy. There will be time for that later. Or there won't. It's up to her. Keep your cool, don't press. Don't be too eager. Too desperate.

He knew all these things, but he also knew that it was easy to say them to himself but hard to do. The fact is that when he was with a girl he was too eager, precisely because he was desperate. And he ended up ruining everything, with the girl furious, or in tears, or worst of all laughing at him.

But with Liliana everything was different. He didn't think about himself when he was with her, even about what he wanted to do with her. He was content to just be with her, and see how things flowed together.

He glanced at his watch again on the other side of the pond, trying to gauge his walking pace so that he'd end up coming up to her just as the digital numbers turned from 7:59 to 8:00. As it was, he was pretty close.

"Is it eight o'clock then, Jeremy Morrison?"

"It is."

"Then I am yours for the evening."

Jeremy's heart jumped. "You did not hear what you think you just heard," he told himself silently. "So," he said aloud, "what would you like to do?"

She smiled, "Did you not hear? Whatever's in your heart, whatever entertainment suits your needs, I shall beside you walk, and share with you whatever schemes or plans you may have made with full gladness and vow to make no complaint, come what may."
Jeremy stared at her, slack-jawed. Why was she talking like some character out of a Shakespeare play?

She frowned. "Have I said amiss? What troubles thee?"

Jeremy shook his head. "Did you just say 'thee'?"

She looked down, abashed. "I'm sorry. I know 'tis not proper in this time. I mistook myself." She looked back up, staring deep into his eyes with anguish so real it stabbed his heart. "What troubles you, Jeremy Morrison? Have I done wrong? Am I not pleasing to you?"

"No! I mean, yes! Of course you're pleasing to me, I just . . . I don't understand what's going on. Why are you talking like this?"

"Does how I talk matter so much, Jeremy Morrison?"

"Please, just call me Jeremy. And no, I guess it doesn't, it's just . . . it'll take a little getting used to, I suppose."

She sighed. "I meant for this night to be joyful, for both of us but especially for you, but I see that my ignorance has caused a rift between us, so early on in this evening that was meant to be a happy time for both of us. Is there ought I can do to make amends?"

He took her hands, shook his head. "I'm sorry. You've done nothing wrong. I just don't know anyone who . . . where are you from, anyway."

A sly smile stole over her face. "Ah, that's a tale who's time has not yet come, I think. Let's just say that I now live close enough to this very spot that we have found each other, and not worry overmuch about what came before. Agreed?"

Jeremy nodded. "All right. I just . . . " he shrugged. "It doesn't matter. Can I at least know your last name?"

A look of panic flied across her face so quickly Jeremy wasn't sure afterward that he hadn't imagined it, except for the fact that he'd have no reason to imagine such a thing. "I . . . don't . . . " she looked off into the distance, bit her lower lip, then redirected her gaze to him. "Can you call me Liliana Dougal? That at least is not false."

"You mean that's your name?"

She looked at him pleadingly. "Why must you ask so many questions," she whispered. "Please. Can you not accept that I am yours?" She reached for him suddenly and kissed him, a deep hungry kiss that scattered his thoughts to the wind and left him breathless for more.

"If you promise to ask no questions of me, of my past or race or place or name, if you accept me as I am, asking nothing beyond what's given you, I promise you a night such as you have never had, fulfilling all your dreams and fantasies. Will you make that bargain with me, Jeremy Morrison?"

"Yes," breathed Jeremy. "Oh, yes. I'll make that bargain."

They sealed it with a kiss. A kiss that went on for a long time. When Jeremy finally came up for air, he said, "You are the most amazing woman I have ever known."

She smiled her enigmatic smile. "Perhaps," was all she said.

"Well, would you like to go to dinner?"

"Whatever you desire, I desire."

She couldn't possibly know what he desired, Jeremy thought, and yet she'd been pretty plain about it. He was actually tempted, after so many years of so many fruitless attempts, to take her back to his apartment then and there and have his way with her.

Of course, he might find that that kind of unseemly eagerness turned her off and she might call the whole thing off. But even if she was sincere in her desire to, well, fulfill his desires, he wanted it to be right. He wanted it to be a joy for both of them, not just some desperate fumbling in the dark.

"I brought my car," he said, leading her away from the stone archway. She stopped.

"You live close enough to this place that you walk here, yes?"

"Sure. But tonight I drove so that we'd have a way to go -- "

She took her hands in hers, and beseeched him with her eyes. "I cannot sit in your iron chariot. Please don't ask me why, or why I call it what I call it rather than what you are used to. Just accept that I cannot. Can you arrange your desires within that necessity, or will that spoil our evening?"

Jeremy stroked his chin, thinking. "You know, for someone who wants to do my bidding you're being awfully difficult." In answer to her stricken look, he grinned. "Don't worry about it, you're worth it. Yeah, it shouldn't be a problem. I mean, we can't go to a movie or anything, but there are restaurants all up and down Grand just south of the park, so eating shouldn't be a problem. After that, well . . . "

She put her hand on his lips. "After that, you will take me home to your abode and do with me as you have always wished to do with every woman you have ever taken on a . . . you call it a date, yes?"

Jeremy nodded, rooted to the spot, unable to speak or move until his trance was broken by her taking away her hand, standing on tiptoe to reach up to briefly brush her lips against his, then taking his hand and saying, "So, which way do we travel hence?"