Where do I begin? Was it the storm itself? I mean the one outside, raging and roaring like some ill-tempered child. Or was it the storm in my head, the whirlwind I constantly found myself in? Or did it really begin, like so much else – far earlier. Suffice it to say that I was confused; nothing made sense – least of all the weather. Where did that storm come from? I watch, as you know, 24 hour news – well – almost 24 hours a day. And the weather is every half an hour. But was I really taking it in? For the life of me I cannot remember any storm warnings, no amber bars on the screen, no violent wind arrows streaming across the land like some Norman invading army. So that night, when I woke in a blind panic with the branches of the old chestnut tree lashing my window and the sky lit up by flashes and rolls of thunder – to say I was confused was an understatement of an understatement.
“Where has this awful weather come from?” was my immediate thought. No, before that even it was “Am I awake?” You see, I keep having these violent dreams, where I am lost, abandoned, searching desperately for the house or the room where you are. Or at least the house where you might be, because, just as in reality, or at least the reality I have been forced to accept – not the one I would have chosen – you are, as elusive as ever. At least when you were here, on the other end of the sofa or in the kitchen fixing us a meal I had some idea where you might be. But even then, and yes, actually, especially then, I was never sure if you were really there. Your physical self? Well, at least I could see that, but what went on in your head, what you were really thinking – was as unknown, and, indeed, as unknowable as anything I had ever encountered.
So maybe we have to go back to that other time, that very sunny day, the day we met. In fact, the weather seems to have affected both you and I far more than I had realised. Was it really Summer when I first saw you? Early Summer – it might have been the first week of May. That very verdant time, when the fields, the hedges, the trees are all a brilliant, almost impossible green. Colour is exploding everywhere you look, obscenely pink blossom on the trees and wild flowers all striving to be noticed and, of course, just like young lovers too – striving to be pollinated. Was I simply trying to pollinate you? And were you sending out your scent, hints of the sweet nectar I would find enfolded in your arms?
Whatever…best not to over-analyse these things, complicated as they always are. But it seemed to me, at the time, and yes, even now, that we were destined for each other. Though just as the male spider approaches the female with caution – I was wary of you, my dear. I had been bitten before, I had tasted love and lost it too. I wasn’t even what you might call ‘on the rebound’. It had been three years since my last encounter. I had been living an ascetic life, spending frugally, wearing old clothes even when they were threadbare and burying myself in work – to stop me thinking how lonely I was, perhaps. And then you broke through the cloudy barriers I had hoisted for my protection, bringing all that promise, all that sunshine with you. Ah, what is the use of all this reminiscing? None of it can disguise the fact that I never knew where you were.
Of course, the truth is that I never even knew who you were. I said that you were elusive, and though that was part of the attraction, I could never pin you down. And maybe that was what I really wanted to do. To capture you, still your beating butterfly wings, fill your veins with embalming fluid and pin you down like some exotic specimen under glass and mahogany. To stand back and admire you, to look at you from every angle, to finally see what lie behind those bewitching eyes, to finally understand what and who you were. But maybe you were just that bit cleverer than I, you saw the net I was constructing for you; you slipped away just as it was closing it in on you.
For you escaped. Well, as you know only too well, you had escaped long before you actually left. Oh, you left your body behind, you let me hold you, unfold you, cover your body with kisses. You never resisted my touch, but all the while I could feel the unspoken word hovering between eye and lip.
“Traitor”. You never spoke out loud but I could hear it nevertheless.
You discerned far before I even admitted it to myself, that my love was false. My words of love were simply words, my caresses were for my satisfaction not yours. And you escaped. You rolled your eyes back into your head and eluded me.
And then, the night of the storm – you actually left. Maybe it was the very delicate sound of your dress swishing against the nylon of your tights as you tiptoed down the hall? Maybe it was your muffled breath as you wound the scarf gently round your neck? Maybe it was the click of the front door as you let yourself out? But despite the raging storm I was suddenly alert to your leaving. Above the howling wind, the lashing rain, the roar of the thunder – I heard you leaving. And I was suddenly up and dressed before you had even left the garden. I stood in the dark at our bedroom window and watched as you turned for one last look back. I saw you turn left. The town – of course. I walked calmly downstairs, my mind more rational than at any time for weeks. I put on my heavy Berbour and a waterproof hat. I rummaged for a torch and my keys. I quietly closed the door and started silently after you. I had to reach you, to talk maybe, to stop you from leaving.
You kept turning to look back; you didn’t see me in the shadows though I had you in my sights all along. I was watching you my dear, and even then a small part of me was hoping you might escape and find the peace you were seeking. I kept a safe distance behind, biding my time, savouring every moment of your flight. The wind whipping your coat and flapping it behind you like some huge eagle’s wings, your hair coming loose and flying in wet strands, the tendrils dragging me closer to you. Ah, you never looked so beautiful. I breathed in and caught the merest whiff of your scent, borne on the wicked wind. I knew that just a few yards ahead the houses peter out. The street lights are far apart a few hundred yards here before the real town begins. The safety of the town, that was where you were heading, wasn’t it? Just this short patch of wasteland between me and safety; houses, restaurants and shops, people, the railway station.
But you never quite escaped, did you my love? Did you really suppose it would be so easy? Leaving me, I mean? Why, we should have talked things over. Come to some compromise, shouldn’t we? But no, you chose to leave, to desert me, to try and slip away while the storm raged around us. Oh, how I wanted you to stay.
But I forgive you. Yes, that may surprise you. Here am I, the wounded one, the man you left with nary a word and after all I had done for you too. And yet I feel no anger towards you now, in fact as I forgive you, I find I love you even more. And now my love is true, no more pretending, no more searching your eyes for lies, for signs of betrayal.
Your eyes are shut now darling, no more accusations, no more lies. The storm is over, no more rain to drench your perfect hair – no, the rain has even washed the slight pool of blood away. Strange you didn’t bleed that much at all my dear, I soon staunched the wound. Thunder stole your faint screams; lightning lit the fear in your eyes. ; no more rain on your face – just my kisses. No more those eyes accusing me of betrayal, of falsehood. Your eyes are shut now my sweetest love, you are free now. In fact, we are both free now. No more confusion, just calm. And just outside the window the sun is breaking through. No more storm outside – or inside my head, just calm now. I am so tired, let me sleep beside you one more time.