It had only been a few years, and yet, somehow my first love was so different from my memory. Still, my body felt called to hers. In those arms, I had felt more pleasure than anything else in my life. I wanted to taste her, touch every curve, smell the delicate scent that came from her hair.
“Lila?” I said, meaning it more as a question to the universe.
Slowly, she turned, her head following her hips, as her green eyes slowly fell on me. There were thousands of reactions my lost love could have had. I had known her most of our lives. Our dads had been best friends, and I could guess at what Lila was feeling better than most. Though even I couldn’t have predicted what happened next.
Lila grew pale, even more pale than her typical ivory, which I really didn’t think was possible — her complexion was already a couple of tones up from milk. She swayed in a very alarming manner and swooned dead away into the arms of the startled looking stranger standing beside her.
A switch flipped in my mind. I had the sudden urge to get her away from the savage brute who was manhandling her. Even though my saner side could clearly see that he was as surprised as anyone and probably had no idea who my former lover was. The stranger must have seen me coming, all the fires of Hades burning in my eyes, because he gently put Lila down on the carpet and backed away, his hands raised in innocence.
I ignored him, focusing my attention on Lila, laying out like Snow White on the tasteful burgundy carpet of the office. Scooping her up like Superman, I carried her to the breakroom. An annoying, high-pitched sound seemed to be coming from behind me. I figured it must be the leftover ring from the most recent self-inflicted assault on my eardrums. I reminded myself, not for the first time, that I should be more careful, or the hum would become permanent.
It wasn’t until I got Lila onto the couch that I realized that the noise was the shrill objections being raised by a woman about Lila’s age who had somehow managed to keep pace with me all the way to the breakroom.
“You can’t be back here,” I told her sharply.
“I’m not leaving without my friend,” said the interloper, crossing her arms, looking the very picture of intractability.
“Really?” I asked, getting to my full six-foot height and looming over her.
“Yes,” she said unmoved.
“Shall we see what security has to see about that?”
We both looked at the couch as Lila came back around, glaring at me like I was coming at her with a goalie mask and a chainsaw. Out of nowhere, she basically launched herself to her feet, booted out of the room, and then the Sure Thing office. Her friend ran after.
I tried to follow, but they were surprisingly fast. Fear will do that, I guess. By the time I got down to the road, the two women were leaping into a silver sedan and speeding away like a couple of bank robbers with the friend behind the wheel. I did, however, make out a bumper sticker for an NGO.
I made a note in the Moleskine notebook I always carried, hoping it was a clue and not a campaign to save the world by getting a free bumper sticker.
Once I had seen Lila, I knew I had to see her again. There was just no choice.
It’s funny how things work out sometimes. In retrospect, I probably could’ve handled seeing Jinx again better. Fainting and running is not my status quo behavior. But let’s see how you take it when the man of your dreams just pops up out of the blue after years of no contact.
To be fair to Jinx, I have gone to his office, though to be fair to me, I didn’t know it was his office at the time. Aria and I had only really been at Sure Thing Graphics for a meeting with Chris, the Art Director, to commission the firm to do some advertising for our NGO, Desert Protect. We heard they were the best in town and figured it was worth a shot.
My hands are still shaking as we speed away from the building. The car is silent. Aria and I didn’t really talk to each other for a while, which is probably good because I don’t know what I would’ve said anyway.
My best friend and coworker glances over from the driver’s seat. I can tell she is worried about me.
“So that was definitely Carl? Like definitely?” I ask quietly, using Jinx’s real name. My body curls into itself. I put my hands on my own shoulders, trying to find comfort.
“Sure looked like him. I’d know those shoulders anywhere. Though keep in mind, I have never actually seen him in person. Only the picture you keep by the crib, so Billy knows what his dad looks like.”