I used to be kept, you know. Flat-out boring. Everything was agonizingly quiet, dull and simply…not fun.
Until recently, when what happened to me happened to me. I realized not giving a fuck does not make lose anything. If I win, I’ll be happy; if I don’t, I’ll be wise.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about my life so far: playing it safe is the riskiest choice I can ever make.
I spent the day walking through the busy streets of Madrid. I ate a burrito, and —-okay, fine, I ate two burritos, and no it wasn’t enough. I spent the change tossing coins into seven lucky fountains, but no, I didn’t make a wish. I don’t do wishes. I don’t believe such bullshit no more. But I do hope. Hoping gets better results than wishing.
Anyway, I’m not religious, but I also payed a visit to that huge cathedral near that building with a horse and a rider statue. Just for the drama of experience, really. And no, the holy water didn’t burn my skin, thank you very much.
So, over all, I had fun. I guess I really needed that solo tour, after all.
Don’t worry, no big fights today, no arguments and it wasn’t a way of dramatizing things or emoting. I’d spent too much time doing that already, it was time I switched to a different way of trying to feeling better. Besides, I was away for quite some time, and so I thought a day out in the city would be nice. And it was.
Good to be back.
Very good to be back.
Anyhow, so half an hour before the sun set, after almost half the day out and about town, I began the long and winding walk back to the car. Nathaniel should be on his way from work, I believed, and so it was also time for me to head home. He didn’t like it when I went out for these walks alone, you know. He was a bit protective.
Oh alright, not a bit. He was fucking protective.
And annoyingly strict.
You must think he’s an ass now, huh. Well, he’s not. Not all the time, at least. Besides, I couldn’t blame him. I mean, after the—-um, never mind.
Don’t get me wrong, though, okay? I’m not angry. And no, I don’t dislike him, God, no. I care deeply for him. Pretty obvious, I guess, I wouldn’t be with him if I didn’t. And I owe him so much. Nathaniel, he’s a good guy. Deep inside, I know he is. Behind that walk-with-a-stick-up-his-ass facade, that tense, rigid, snob thing he got going, he has a good heart. It’s just that sometimes, he got a bit narrow-minded about things, because of his work, maybe, and me being me, the secretly free-spirited person that I am with all these flaws I don’t work on, we clashed. A lot. Like we did yesterday.
Hence, I deserved that solo time. I wanted —- needed that solo time. Besides, nothing wrong with a good walk, right?
Anyhow, so I got to that street where I remembered I parked. But when I reached the pedestrian fronting the landmark I set, I bumped into someone I didn’t expect.
He was driving with his car’s windows down when he drove past me. He waved, smiled, and signaled for me to stay where I was.
And then he pulled over.
And when I saw him get out of his big, black SUV and head towards me, I knew I wasn’t going to make it home on time.
“Thanks for the flowers.” I said as I glanced at it, sitting on the side of the table we were in.
He smiled. “You like it?”
“Are you kidding? It’s beautiful.” I said, lightly touching a petal. “And you just paid that guy a wad of cash for these, so what’s not to love?”
Sergio chuckled, his perfect white teeth beaming at me. On our way to the restaurant, we saw this man selling roses by the sidewalk. Nothing expensive, really. Actually, pretty cheap. My previous statement was sarcasm.
Oh but I do found it very, very sweet.
“And thanks for dinner.”
Sergio must have noticed my lack of enthusiasm when I said that. He also must have caught a glimpse of my momentary look at my now empty plate.
“What’s the matter?” he asked, “You didn’t have fun?”
“No, no, of course I did.” I replied, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. “It’s just—-“
“You feel forced into having dinner with me? I should have called and set it first instead of stopping you on your way home, is it?”
I laughed lightly. And I did because it was ridiculous. “Sergio, come on. You know I want to be here.”
A smile slowly formed on his face. Then without taking his eyes off me, he reached out for my hand. “That’s good. I’m glad you are.”
“Yeah.” I smiled. “Me too.”
Don’t get me wrong. I loved the flowers, the meal, everything. And I have…love-like feelings for this guy. But my emotional constipation was something I couldn’t control. Because I knew I shouldn’t be doing what I was doing. You know what I should be doing? I should be home eating dinner with Nathaniel. But then there I was, holding Sergio’s hand exchanging sweet nothings with him.
And the worst part? I didn’t even try to stop him. Or myself.
“So tell me,” he slowly let go of my hand. He took his fork and knife and continued slicing his steak, “What were you doing out in the city today?”
I shrugged. “Nothing in particular. I just —-“
“You always say that, don’t you? Nothing in particular, I guess, I think, maybe?” he laughed lightly.
“Oh, do I?”
“Yeah.” he wiggled his eyebrows, before creasing them. “You haven’t noticed?”
“I guess I haven’t…”
“See, there you go again…” he pointed at me, laughing lightly.
And I laughed, too, of course. He was way to charming, even if he was trying to be casually funny, it was still classily charming. “Fine, I’ll try not to say them anymore. It’s just a force of habit, I gue—-I’ts just a force of habit.”
We both smiled at each other, his eyes lingering a bit at me. He had very beautiful eyes, and it was so easy to get lost in them. Like they could get you pregnant or something.
“What’s wrong?” he must have noticed my inability to maintain eye contact.
“Nothing.” I uttered as I kept my gaze on my plate.
“No, come on, why?”
I sighed, trying not to smile. “I have a thing about being stared at. It makes me…uncomfortable.”
And honestly, yes it did. Very, very much.
I noticed he got quiet all of a sudden, thus I glanced at him momentarily. “What?” I asked.
“Nothing.” he shook his head lightly. “I just…I knew someone who was like that. She didn’t like being stared at, too. It made her conscious.”
“Yeah. Anyway, can I ask you a personal question?” Sergio set both his utensils down once more and leaned back on his seat.
“Personal question? You really think you still need my permission for that?”
“Honestly? No.” he smirked. “But I’ve noticed you kind of keep to yourself and you’re kind of hard to get to know. I just want to make sure I don’t invade your personal space or do anything that will make you feel uncomfortable. You might change your mind about seeing me again. And I can’t have that.” Sergio took the table napkin on the table and dabbed it over the side of my lip gently. ”I don’t want to stop seeing you.”
I felt my cheeks turn red almost instantly. But I wanted him to know he wasn’t the only one enjoying our time together, so I looked into his brown eyes and almost just shyly whispered, “So do I.”
Sergio paused to smile. God, he had a lovely smile. “So, my question is…why do you always insist on doing things on your own? I mean, you were alone when we met at the club, and then when I ‘accidentally’ rammed your car, you were alone, too. Then again at the side of the road in the middle of a thunderstorm, and now a solo tour of the city you call your home. You a loner or something?”
I chuckled. “By choice, I guess.”
I shrugged. “No particular reason. I just like spending time on my own lately.”
“Hmmm…” Sergio shot me a doubtful look. “So you’re just pretending that you’re enjoying my company, but truly, you don’t like it that I’m here?”
“No, of course not.” I replied quickly. “You’re…um…you’re an exception. I like your being around you.”
If he was smiling any more than he already was, I would have said he was fishing for a compliment or waiting to be flattered. “Isn’t it obvious?” I smiled. “Maybe I should ask you that question.”
Sergio took a deep breath. He ran his eyes through my face, lingering at each part, from my eyebrows down to my lips. It was very distracting. “Elena?”
“Tell him you got hungry.” he suddenly uttered. “Tell him you got hungry and so you went out to grab something to eat, then you went for coffee and got hooked on reading a book and the next thing you know, it’s twelve midnight.”
I suddenly wasn’t sure what he was getting at. But Sergio was looking at me with those eyes that pierced like lasers, every so intently as if waiting for my response.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any. ”Um…I don’t understa—-I mean, wha—-did—-why would I do that?”
“Because you want to spend the evening with me.” he replied, completely serious. “I mean, you do, don’t you?”
Ah, I thought. I get it now. And it was not that I didn’t want to spend more time with him, it was just that today was not a good time. Nathan and I just had a fight yesterday and I was pretty sure we would be having another one when I make it home, simply for turning off my phone. Not to mention he was probably at the house eating dinner by himself whilst I sat there with Sergio.
Thus, I bowed my head down, and smiled a ‘sorry smile’, if I may call it that. My way of letting him know that tonight, was a “no”.
“What are you smiling about?” he asked. “I’m serious.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you are.” I replied as I went back to eat the very complicated lobster he ordered for me. “Finish your food now, Sergio. I only have half an hour left then I have to go.”
“Elena, I’m serious.” he repeated. And his now smile-less face seemed to confirm it. “Tell him you lost track of time.”
I pulled my sight from my plate and I looked up. Sergio was still staring at me with those eager eyes. “Come on, stop jo —-“
“Tell him that.” he said again.
I took my fork and toyed with the vegetables on the side of my plate. “Obviously, I can’t. Unless you want your face slammed into the wall, which, I doubt.”
For some reason, he found my words funny. He laughed, coughed, cleared his throat, and smiled. “Elena, the only thing you have to worry about being on the wall is your back, and the only thing you need to worry about getting slammed is—- “
“Okay stop.” my voice raised a bit out of panic. I knew exactly what he was going to say, and I knew I had to stop it. Otherwise, that would be it. I’d be saying ‘yes’. With a man like Sergio, and the way he goes around like that, it was verrrrry difficult to say no.
“Serg, don’t get me wrong. You know how I feel about you, right? I’ve been pretty honest and vocal about that. But playing with fire is something not to be dealt with lightly. I think we should slow it down, tone it down a bit? Nathan is —-“
“I don’t care about Nathan.” his hand crawled across the table towards mine until his fingertips were again touching the back of my palm, stroking it, caressing it. “I’m taking you back to my place after this. You could tell him that, or tell him the truth, up to you. But from this point until twelve tonight, you’re mine.”
Seriously, how do you say no to a man like this? Please. Please just tell me how.
“I’m serious.” he uttered. This time, holding my hand on top of the table without shame or reluctance. “I don’t know what you do to me, Elena. But whatever it is, I don’t want it to stop.”
And so, just like that, I found myself leaning back, sinking into my seat as I sighed. I tried to remember the last time I had a nice dinner like this. A great meal, a few good laughs, awkward but meaningful eye contact, with a guy who stared at me like there was no tomorrow whilst he bit his lower lip.
And then I tried to remember the last time I got a bouquet of roses, so beautiful, each petal so perfect it almost looked fake. Damn, it was almost the perfect date.
Except it was not at all planned, totally impromptu, I wasn’t wearing a little black dress and no pearls were on my neck. I wasn’t picked up at home by a sleek black car, and I was going home the same way I got out. Without him.
Yes, indeed, I tried to remember the last time I had a good time such as this.
Then I realized, there was no last time. In fact, there wasn’t a time at all.
Nathan was a busy guy. And when he didn’t have work, he’d be resting at home because then he’d be tired. He wanted me around, yes. But we never had times like this, not that I remembered.
So really, you can judge me right now, if you like. But my time with Sergio was the happiest I’d ever been since I returned to this city from that fucking tour.
That fucking tour. That fucking tour that changed my fucking life.
Thus, I took another deep breath, looked into his eyes, and nodded. “Okay.”
With that, Sergio took my hand again and squeezed it. Moments later, he called for the waiter and footed the bill. Soon, we were on our way out the restaurant, and to his big black Land Rover.
“I know you find me peculiar.” I was looking into the empty space between us and the dark skies. The SUV’s sunroof was opened, and it was a starless night.
“I do, actually. A little bit.” Sergio responded, his eyes on the road. “…You’re a bit difficult to read.”
I smiled, because I agreed. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t thinking of him the exact same way. “I have my reasons. Why I’m like this.” I said. “What about you? You ask me questions all the time but you never talk about yourself.”
He was quiet for a few seconds, I even thought he was no longer going to answer my question. But as we drove into a darker road with lesser streetlights, Sergio broke the silence.
“I’ve been alone for quite some time, Elena.” he said with a low voice. ”I’ve forgotten how it’s like to get to know people.”
And just like that, the light, casual conversation we started just a few minutes ago slowly turned into a serious verbal exchange of emotions. Something that I was not supposed to be comfortable with. But to my own surprise, I found myself looking at him, willing to listen.
“I know I’m never physically alone.” Sergio shared. “I have people around me all the time, as you may have noticed. But I’ve gone through quite a lot lately, and really, it’s been hard not having what you used to have. I was still often sad.”
His words were meaningful, truly. But I’d never heard him talk like that. ”Serg, I’m not sure I follow…”
He slowed down as he prepared to turn the vehicle to the right. ”There are so many things I thought I’d lost, Elena.” he continued. ”You don’t see it now, but I was a mess for a very long time.”
I thought Sergio was interesting even from the beginning because he was mysterious. But not in this way, not in this nature. The wind blew and it seeped right into the vehicle from the open sunroof, yes. But more than the cool breeze, it was Sergio’s sudden openness that gave me the goose bumps. For some reason, although I had not yet fully understood what he was trying to communicate, I started to feel this pang of unspoken pain. I didn’t know how you transmit emotions, but I felt it. I really did.
“I like having you around.” Sergio admitted. And God, it sounded so sincere.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you’re familiar.” He uttered. He paused for a moment to sigh, to gather his thoughts maybe, or to decide on whether or not to continue sharing. Then he turned to face me. “I’m surprised you don’t know about this, or maybe you just don’t watch too much TV. But, well, if you didn’t know who I am or what I do before you met me, I guess that would explain it.” he slowed down the vehicle a bit.
“Elena, a year ago, I lost someone….very important to me.”
I swallowed. “Wh—who?”
He glanced at me momentarily, before looking back on the road. “My wife.”
“Oh God, Sergio, I’m so sorr—-“
I found myself unable to finish my sentence at the sudden feel of his hand over mine. He didn’t say anything, just squeezed it. Soon, I noticed he was slowing the vehicle down and pulling over to the right side of the dark suburban road.
The car soon came to a full stop, but even after it did, Sergio and I stayed quiet. We were just sitting steadily next to each other, his hand still one mine. But, no one was talking, no one was looking at the other, no one was moving.
Then, he killed the engine but left the keys in the ignition. “Elena…” he softly uttered as he turned to me. “When my wife died, so did I.”
My heart began to pound heavily. So heavily I was almost afraid he’d hear it. ”Sergio, why are you telling me this?”
It was very dark but I could tell he was looking straight into my eyes. “You may think this is too soon, and you might find it too much…” his other hand slowly reached out to hold the side of my face, “But when I met you…when I met you, Elena, I went back to life.”
No. No, no, no.
This can’t be.
I don’t want to open up.
Please don’t make me do this.
“Sergio, there’s so many things you don’t know about me.” I blurted. Unable to fight the urge to warn him about what he thought he wanted to get into, I just blurted.
“I know.” he uttered, getting closer to me. ”I feel it.”
He was inches from me now, inside the dark car, where no one could see us. He was so close. Too close. It scared me. “I’m sorry, I ca—-“
“I want to know things.” he uttered, leaning over me. His hand that was just holding my face, now on my right thigh. “I want to know you. Let me know you. Please, tell me. Let me in. Let me kno—-“
“I was in an accident, Sergio.”
I said it.
“Accident?” he repeated, his voice trembling. “Wh—what kind of accident?”
I really didn’t want to share. I wasn’t ready. “Sergio, I’ve never talked about this with anyone, I—-“
“Elena, what kind of accident?”
He was looking too deeply into my eyes I couldn’t have stopped even if I tried.
“The kind that almost killed me.”
Indeed, taking risks is a daring act. So if you’re not ready to open a door to the unknown, go ahead and open a window, right? Talk to a stranger. Trust someone you just met. Really like someone you barely know. And let yourself go.
You might be surprised.
TO BE CONTINUED…