Lost Lovers

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The sameness of the urban landscape held no interest for Rowena as she sped down the Princes Highway between Melbourne and Geelong. She had managed to leave the office early that day before it had begun to get dark. It had been the bleakest winter day, grey and drizzling; it was also one of her own sharp-sorrow days. She made several attempts to avert her thoughts from Kurt Weininger as she drove. She let her mind dwell on her friends in the insurance office where she worked as an account executive. The girls there were not unlike herself, smart sophisticates in their twenties and thirties. Over the past few years she had dated several of the men in and around the office, including David Collins and Roy Samson, poor Roy, she thought. But she knew she now had to put down that albatross – regret. There was no point in defrosting the past.

Recently she had begun an affair with Kurt Weininger, head of a large property development company. Several times she had questioned her own motive in this relationship. She told herself that no man had excited her as much as Kurt. Somehow Kurt evoked a fear in her of herself, stirring an instinct so deep. She found herself breathing hard, her hands tightening on the steering-wheel. For almost an hour she weaved through the heavy traffic, overtaking an interstate transport truck as she entered the fast lane. On her left was a lot of open land, that was soon to be turned into yet another housing estate, and there ahead of her she spotted the buildings that was the turn-off into Geelong itself. It was a night that had neither moon nor stars. Dark streets – the blur of café lights. She watched the grey of the sky deepen to black as she drove to Western Beach.

Kurt had a large house at the edge of the beachfront overlooking Corio Bay. She looked out towards the headland across the bay, where the water was the colour of dark metal. She pulled into the open driveway alongside of the house with a balcony suspended over a double garage. There were sleek columns at the doorway and a wooden deck that ran the length of the house beneath the balcony. Leafless trees – oaks, maples, and sycamores white as a bone filled the garden. Rowena made her way up a paved path, where she was obliged to ring the doorbell several times, the door painted a violent orange, in defiance of local council regulations. The evening falling cold. ‘Hi! So you made it!’ Kurt was a man of about forty, over six feet tall, muscular, with curly blond hair, wearing a gaudy ‘art-silk’ dressing-gown and nothing underneath. ‘Sorry,’ he grinned, ‘just stepped out of the shower.’ His dark eyes roved up and down her figure. ‘It’s good to see you.’

His glance was shrewd but not penetrating. Kurt had the massive self-confidence that the knowledge of good looks and wealth give. Rowena lifted her head flirtatiously, ‘It’s – it’s nice to see you again, Kurt.’ ‘Come on in,’ he said, putting an arm around her, ‘I’ll show you your room.’ She followed him into a marble and mahogany entrance foyer and up a staircase to a landing. ‘The bathroom’s to your right. You can freshen up. Take your time. Take a bath if you like. Call out if you need anything.’ Rowena knew that it was the spare bedroom Kurt had assigned for her use, their use, she corrected herself. She was not to enter the master bedroom. Kurt had a wife somewhere overseas and two sons boarding at the local grammar school. Rowena ran a bath in the adjoining room and lay for a while in tepid water.

Her thoughts were pensive. Her man was not her man alone. Kurt had demanded discretion; theirs was the affair he could not show the world. Kurt had an easy way with women, and it was this which had attracted her to him, along with the athletic hardness of his body. He had said the first time they were together and he had cut the words clean. ‘The best loving is done on impulse. Sex must be spontaneous and quite free and quite apart from emotion,’ and she had been more than ready to accept this. A purely physical relationship meant never letting anyone get too close. Was she emotionally cold? she wondered.

Kurt was standing beside the window when she entered the bedroom. He held her close when she moved to him, his body telling her what she wanted, his hand brushing over her breast.

Her own fingers felt firm flesh. Kurt had touched a secret spot buried deep with her; she would give herself to him with abandon. Her body awakened tuzla escort by his rough hands was claiming its right. She had been aroused at the first touch.

The moon had risen. A shaft of light laid them both bare on the bed. His hand running down the arch of her back, across the curve of her buttock. Her breath quickening as she stretched supine. Pressing her fingertips into his biceps, he was in her hard and to the hilt, she tightening her thighs about him. But as for love – she knew it was the love of the wolf for its prey. Her body quivered in his hold.

In her sleep that night Rowena tossed from one side to the other. Once she woke to find the pillow wet with tears, but was unable to recall the nature of her dream. It was like a solitary voice calling out to her.

She lay on her back on her side of the bed. Touching her face, she felt the tears. She turned and looked into Kurt’s face … but he was sound asleep. She listened to his breathing, deep and regular. The house was quiet. She lay watching the patterned moonlight and shadows on the bedroom wall opposite. She could not think what had disturbed her. Perhaps the solitary voice was her conscience, returning to her body.

Then it came to her. She had a bad conscience about a man she had known in the office five years ago. Roy Samson had haunted her mind all that time. Roy worked in the same building as she, but not for the same company. He was an articled clerk in a firm of barristers and solicitors on the sixth floor. And now he was shadowing her like a bad nightmare.

The bad dream was real enough and she was still living inside it. I do have tremors of conscience, she thought. That what is going against me is my guilt. Guilt like a persistent vulture flying to my throat. But there now was no way to right the wrong.

She thought of the man sleeping beside her. She had begun the affair with Kurt soon after the first meeting, even though she knew he had a wife and family. He was a property developer on the Bellarine Peninsula and had business interests interstate as well.

The two men filled her thoughts. Kurt and Roy. They were as different as bronze from cast iron.

Roy Samson was the man who once told her he loved her. But she had been unable to respond emotionally. Her feeling was cold toward him. Roy was twenty-four but looked nineteen. He was clean-shaven with a baby-face and black hair, blue eyes.

She recalled the rainy afternoon when she made the mistake of letting Roy come to her room. She had stood before him, her russet-brown hair tousled, her green eyes alive. She had given him a teasing smile. She had even let him kiss her. Or rather her tongue had teased his. But she was not wanting to go the distance with him and tried to push him away. However, she did not want to be thought a teaser. She feared the adoration in his eyes.

Maybe I was sorry for him, she thought, got too involved. I let him fall for me, without taking steps to avoid it. Leading him on when I couldn’t love him.

A year before she had met Roy, another would-be lover, David Collins from the office where she worked, had once told her she was cold. She was not at all offended by this, and found it unexpectedly pleasing. So when Roy put his arms around her, she thought she could respond at a physical level if nothing else.

Roy’s fingers were gently touching the points of her breasts. Her body responding, urging him. But it was exactly awkward as she feared it might be. They undressed but he fell limp beside her. And she was not at all impressed by his pale string-bean body; she could no longer respond herself.

She remembered meeting Roy a day or two later, outside her office, recalled telling him how sorry she was, but her answer had to be ‘no’.

Her words fell on him like a terrible blow. He stood stunned. To her it had been like executing someone, but she had to refuse him.

She saw Roy a few more times after that in the lift where they worked. He kept on asking her out. He looked at her with stricken eyes, ‘You could have been patient,’ he cried. ‘It needn’t have been like that.’ He looked as if he was about to walk in front of a truck.

Soon he was beginning to irritate her. On one occasion she had laughed straight into his face; she had met his eyes with scorn. He turned and walked away from her and she knew she had gone too far.

It wasn’t until later that tuzla escort bayan afternoon she felt herself grieving because she could not love Roy as he loved her.

It was a moment that became fixed, frozen in her consciousness.

She climbed out of bed, careful not to wake the man sleeping beside her. She went to the big picture window and looked out across the street to the bay. The sea was broad and flat and glittered like polished metal beneath a milky wash of moonlight.

She recalled how everything seemed to break in her mind. She shivered in the cold night air, her thoughts drifting automatically to Roy Samson.

Emotion gnawed through her. She had rejoiced in having hurt Roy. She remembered how the following day he had walked past her. She tried to force his averted eyes to hers by calling ‘Roy, Roy,’ but he did not turn to face her. She had been completely rebuffed.

At first this had angered her, never thinking Roy would have the temerity to do this.

His love had turned to hatred, she realised. His features were as unmoving as a mask. This troubled her deeply.

She made several attempts to speak to Roy over the next few months. She was even about to ring his number, but her hand withdrew of its own accord. I’ll come apart if I don’t speak to him, she thought at the time. But she could not run after him.

But later that day she had broken down, bursting into tears.

For the next couple of years, the stuck needle of her conscience replayed her rejection of Roy over again.

Now five years later, standing before the window in another man’s bedroom, looking out onto the bay, she found it impossible to tear her thoughts from Roy. Her conscience still smote her. It’s as though I’m possessed of a self-lacerating madness, she thought.

Six months ago, on impulse, she decided to ring Roy and see if she could end the stalemate between them, hoping to exorcise him from her brain. Surely he wouldn’t still resent her after all this time, she surmised.

She was surprised when Roy’s phone was answered by a woman’s voice. ‘I’m afraid my husband’s not at home at the moment. Can I take a message?’

So Roy was married now, Rowena thought as she spoke into the phone. ‘My name’s Rowena White,’ she said. ‘I’m with the Eagle Star Insurance Company. Could you ask Mr Samson to return my call?’

The woman spoke rapidly. She had a pleasant musical voice. ‘Roy’s very busy at the moment. He’s just opened a law office in North Melbourne, and we’ve been flat out setting it up. But I’ll let him know you called and he’ll get back to you.’

But Roy never returned her call. She found his business number and called him at his office a few days later. But her nerve failed her. All she could talk about was insurance. ‘I’ve put together a package that might interest you, Mr Samson,’ her voice trembled. ‘Would you like to see it?’

‘No, thank you,’ he had replied firmly but curtly.

Lamely, she ended the conversation. Roy had made no acknowledgement of her, had spoken to her as though she were a complete stranger.

This unnerved Rowena greatly. It’s as though I were a sprig of poisoned ivy to be avoided, she thought.

She realised that sex could be a brutal, retributive thing, that out of his own hurt, Roy had sought to hurt her. The youth who should have become a man through her had in turn rejected her.

She went back to the bed. Kurt was still sleeping soundly.

Rowena shivered and moved over closer to Kurt, seeking some comfort. But he only pushed her away, saying, ‘Leave me alone. I want to sleep.’

She recalled how she had first met Kurt at a Chamber of Commerce meeting. This was several weeks ago and they were immediately attracted. Then they met up again at a party given by a mutual friend. And how they had returned to her apartment at two in the morning.

They had just made it inside the door. He had held her wrists behind her back and had forced her down on the carpet, until she moaned and cried out, until she was wanting nothing else.

Rowena had always known she had a secret submissive streak, a primitive desire buried deep inside. How good it could feel to have a man like Kurt take control.

But her thoughts were like waves crashing against hidden shoals. Kurt was tired of her already, she realised.

She went downstairs with the intention of preparing breakfast, escort tuzla but instead of eating, she poured herself a cup of coffee and made her way through the French windows out onto the patio overlooking the bay.

‘Sleep well?’ Kurt inquired, slipping into the chair opposite. He was wearing a form-fitting T-shirt that emphasised every muscle, displaying a tattoo on his right bicep. The strong slanting morning sunlight highlighted his deeply lined face making Rowena fully aware of the fifteen year age difference between them.

‘Not very well,’ she replied uneasily, thinking how she had lain awake more than half the night while he slept heavily beside her. ‘Are you coming down to the shops this morning?’ she asked to change the subject.

His mouth was sharp, like a line cut in stone.

‘I thought we agreed we’d be discrete. Too many people know me in Geelong. You can’t stop tongues talking.’

Rowena hadn’t realised how sensitive Kurt might be to what people might think. As CEO of one of the largest property developing companies in Australia, he had always come across to her as a decision maker. And now this concern for what ‘people might think’.

‘You said you were planning to take the cabin cruiser out on the bay this weekend?’

He looked at her steadily. ‘Plans change.’

A deepening silence lay between them and the moments passed.

Rowena stirred her coffee before saying, ‘What are you thinking about?’

‘That’s the question women always ask.’

‘That’s because we don’t like moody silences.’

What sort of a conversation was this? They were talking for the sake of it.

Eventually, the man looked at his watch. ‘I’ve got a couple of business associates calling in at ten this morning,’ then went on to say, ‘I’d appreciate it you’d not come back until late this afternoon.’

And that was where the iron had entered the flesh. It was an insult, she thought. It felt like a stone in her stomach.

Her attraction to him had turned to bile. Rowena could not even begin to sort out her feelings. Her face was suffused with anger.

He looked across at her, took in her silence. ‘These are men I simply can’t put off. We’re negotiating a hotel site in Torquay.’

He sighed. ‘Perhaps there are certain things you don’t understand.’

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘perhaps there are.’

Half an hour later Rowena left the house and walked along the foreshore. The raw, pinching coldness of the previous afternoon had gone. It was a bright clear day and the buds on the elm trees were opening.

She made her way along the path above the beach and was alone with her thoughts. Alone except for two pigeons attempting to mate on the pavement, the female ever turning away from the male.

Eventually she came to a park where a children’s playground was set aside in one corner. A boy and a girl were chasing each other around the slide and climbing structure. A man, the father no doubt, was sitting on a nearby bench, reading a newspaper. The children were squealing and laughing as they reached the sand-pit.

Rowena sat herself down on one of the swings, slowly swinging back and forth. She had imagined her weekend with Kurt would be romantic and fun. But she knew he was bored with her already and wanted her out of the house when his friends came.

The children building a sand-castle in the play pit reminded her of her own childhood. She recalled how other girls her own age couldn’t wait to grow up, looking forward to getting involved with boys and sex, but not her. Rowena had wanted to remain a child forever.

She realised she had been kidding herself, to imagine there could be anything more between herself and Kurt than a physical attraction. She saw everything in sharpest focus now, detached and clear, the cold impersonal way he would inform her it was all over between them. She had been made use of.

She struggled to hold back the tears, surprised she could be affected so emotionally. She had so prided herself in being ‘cold’. She was all tied up inside.

She had always had feelings of guilt, especially where Roy was concerned, and perhaps she had allowed Kurt’s casual mistreatment of her as a kind of atonement. Odd the way things were coming together in her mind.

It helped greatly that she had no real feelings for Kurt. It would be easy for her to make the break.

She looked across at the man sitting on the bench absorbed in the newspaper. Perhaps one day she might find a man she could respect as well as love.

In the meantime, she thought, she would be free, she would belong to herself.

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